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Rock n Roll Discount!
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Archive for the ‘Inspiration + Motivation’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Did I run #58 or was that just my imagination?

Wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to do this, and frankly, if I even should.

Chicago, I don’t know why but I love visiting you. My running here has rarely been great, but I come back for more.

Between my mom’s accident, my own health, and the fact that the last time I ran here was right after Chris died, I wasn’t exactly sure how this was going to happen, if at all.

Without burying the lead, this was 3rd worst finish time of 58 half marathons (and two of the three times I’ve run RnRCHI have been some of my worst finish times.) So there’s that.

But. I finished. I did cross that finish line. Despite everything. The heat and humidity was worse two years ago, but still, we started at 70 degrees at 6:30 in the morning. But RnR was well prepared, extra water stations, a cold wet sponge station, multiple large water sprinklers to run under or through, a couple of cooling buses if folks needed them. And extra medical tents. Here’s the good news (especially compared to two years ago), the staff at most of the medical tents looked almost bored. That’s a good thing – it means they weren’t tending to as many people as they could’ve been.

My system isn’t on par given the last few weeks but I managed to eek this one out. I could’ve, yes, skipped it altogether, but after the first week of my mom’s accident and then last week going full tilt each day to help get her set up for success at home, part of me needed to have this outlet. Even though, if I’m honest, part of me also just wanted to get it over with. I don’t like that feeling, I much prefer being excited and looking forward to every moment leading up to the race, and being present enough to notice so much going on around me. Hell, I forgot a ton of stuff for a race weekend as I was packing and didn’t even realize I did until far too late.

I don’t recall much of the race, because I was in the mindset of wanting to simply get to the finish line. It felt like the longest miles ever recorded. I managed the first few miles runinng, and then I took walk breaks and nearly every mile, if not more frequently. I was not a strong runner for any of it, in fact came close to hurling (not because of effort) more times than I can count (what fun photos those would be.) At one point at mile 10, I was extremely wobbly. Weaving a bit, saw a few concerned faces glance my way. As we started to go up a hill – and I was walking, I noticed my legs practically marching themselves, not by my effort, simply whatever energy was coursing through me. It happened a couple more times, but thankfully I never needed assistance to cross the finish line. Now I get how many times I’ve seen that in other people, what that very odd feeling is all about.

It was a slog. I love the city of Chicago and when I was able to pay attention to my surroundings, I loved where I was running – it was a fabulous course this year. More live brass bands than any other city. Great architecture and sites. Classic windy city streets. Incredible volunteers cheering folks on. And clearly a lot of people making their best efforts to have their own good race and great experience. Even Katherine Switzer was there – while I didn’t get to meet her, just knowing she was there was inspiration enough.

I definitely ran for my mama, not because she would be running, but because she’s been so incredibly supportive of this running journey of mine including picking a race location each eyar to join me at. I’m hoping we get her wholly healthy to the point where she can again join me this Fall.

So yeah, I did ‘run’ it, I did start it and yes, I finished it. While it doesn’t exactly inspire me like so many other run experiences have, it counts for something I suppose, to cross those two markers yet again, in spite of everything leading up and around it. Here’s hoping this 2017 halfway mark (five done, five to go) is the beginning of a real, sustainable, happy turnaround.

PostHeaderIcon Celebrating 20 Years of RocknRoll San Diego (and #56)


In celebration of Global Running Day, a little review of half #56…

Been a while. Needed this. Another starting line and eventually, another finished line crossed. Yup, #56 is done. And it was a celebration of RocknRoll’s 20 years of running, starting in San Diego. It was a blast to be there, part of the celebration in SD, honoring all things running and RocknRoll.
Really wasn’t sure I was going to cross that finish line, to be honest, and really really don’t like the 6:15am start time. I actually felt good going into the race – if tired – and was hoping for this one to help me kick back into gear from earlier in the year. For it to be in San Diego – I first ran here in 2011 – and to be able to spend time with two of my dearest friends and their two amazing girls (including my goddaughter) made it all the much sweeter.


It’s infamous June Gloom time in SoCal and that was certainly the case this weekend – I don’t think the sun came out at all on Sunday. But it was also a bit muggy to start the race. For no sun or heat, I was sweating from the first few steps run. That did me and my muscles no favors going forward, which made me feel more sluggish than I would’ve liked. At this point, I run through the gamut of thoughts as always from I could PR to I could break 1:50 to I want to come in under 2 hours to maybe just make sure I run the whole thing to how about I just find a way to cross the finish line in one piece? I ran the first eight miles, not fast but decent even if I struggled a bit, and then the wheels fell off. I walked a few hills, ran into Anne and Jim Ryun who I look forward to seeing at any races – to run into them with big smiles all around on the course was the boost I needed at that time. And then mile 10. I don’t know what happened or rather, why, but I threw up. More than once. And went super wobbly and walking in not-a-straight-line. I apologize to any runners who had to see me heaving. And I apologize to the disc golf course bushes I practically dove into. Took a while to get my feet back – and I was willing to walk the rest of the way – but somehow I found the strength to attempt to run (more like shuffle) and I did eventually keep going, and yes, I did cross the finish line. And under two hours (mystery to me as to how and don’t totally remember the last couple miles.) It took me a few hours of sitting in a tent to get my real strength back – I was weak and mentally vanquished. But eventually I did and boy did it pay off to be able to chill out for a couple hours and then re-engage with the celebration in front of me.

Before I get to all the fun people I got to meet which turned my race day experience completely around, a couple more observations from the course itself. First, I got to pass right by St. Joseph’s Cathedral on my long walk to the starting village – I took it as a sign that my dad was with me – that being his middle name and how I’ve always connected it to him and his faith. Second, I saw not one but two firefighters in full gear running the course. Say what? Yes and it’s the first time in 56 races I’ve seen that. Incredibly impressive for sure. Third, it’s truly the most alcohol I’ve ever seen along a route – at mile 4.5 there was a whole bar set up. And I lost count of beers, tequila, vodka, champagne and whiskey people were offering up to runners. I couldn’t and wouldn’t and didn’t see too many takers but clearly enough for folks to want to offer it up? Fourth, a couple good signs again, you clever current event sign makers: “Run like covfefe?!?” and “Run like United Airlines wants your seat!” Lastly, I got to see my friend John at the start. Literally at the start – they move people in front of each corral to stall the wave start and I was on the far right and right at the front of pack when I looked up and saw John who works at Competitor as one of the line holders – to be able to get a hug and high ten and a “good luck on your 56th!” from a friend literally right as you’re about to take off is an awesome way to start.


Over the last couple of months, as I’ve fought some health battles and some other things, I’ve considered and even offered to “give up race weekends” and even more “give up running” in order to appease something. And people I’ve shared that with, who really know me, have each time unequivocally stated “oh HELL no! It’s who you are, it’s one of the best parts of you and how you commit and enjoy and inspire is so important. Keep doing them, don’t give them up!” And after this last weekend – finding myself in my happy place of a running race weekend and being quite comfortable in my skin no matter how the race goes, and just generally feeling relaxed and happy in it all, no way. It IS a part, a big part, of who I am and whatever adjustments I need to make to keep this alive and well I will do. It’s too important. This is me, this is who I am, this is what I love to do.


And, finding my way to finish the race up and take time to take care of myself then allowed me to meet: Roger Craig (sorry my fellow Seahawks fans, I had to, for Tracy) who really changed his whole physical and mental self to go from an NFL physique to a running one; got a congratulations from Meb again – so incredibly gracious with his time and energy before and after races, looking forward to seeing him at a race again soon; Joe, an incredibly inspirational runner who was the first person to run 100 RocknRoll events – again, I look forward to seeing Joe again at a race soon (I think Philly for my 50th RocknRoll event?); and finally THE Michael Franti – wow. Just wow. Again, so very gracious with his time and energy – first, his concert was amazing and he’s so giving to his fans, really engages in a way I don’t think I’ve ever seen a musician do and then to be able to spend a minute with him, and receive his warmth and kindness, his enthusiasm for life is infectious. He took yoga from my sister in SF and remembered her – and he has a son who has a rare auto immune disease and is an AI warrior himself.

Thank you, RocknRoll and whatever divine guidance occurred to make this 56th half marathon go from some pretty big lows to rising above even the best of expectations. Awesome sauce. Anything is possible and every damn step counts.

PostHeaderIcon First half was in SF and now so is #55, 7 years later

AKA This one was personal.

Be the runner that waves at kids in the windows as you run by. That’s what I did this morning. And that made it for me.

I didn’t share with anyone “hey I’m running my 55th in SF on Sunday!” because it was such an early race, the weather iffy and I just didn’t think, unless you’re running, people really get up super early on a Sunday to spectate. Definitely saw a *few* people on the course but with a 6:15am start, one of the quieter (noise ordinance) races I’ve run. (and in the future, if you’re someone who really would’ve gotten up to be along the course or finish line, let me know, I won’t keep it to myself next time)

Plus, honestly I’d given myself permission to do a DNF. As in, pull off the course if I need to. I’m no where near where I’d like to be or have been in the past (especially last year, which is disorienting) and frankly, the hills are intimidating whether it’s your first time or many times running it.

And so I ran it, not knowing at all how I’d feel and just willing to get up and try. Get up again and try again, test my will and resiliency.

Not so fun when you get about two hours of sleep the night before. Went to bed early to be able to get up at 2:30am to make, from Sonoma, all the parking and shuttle cut off times. I’m not sure I’ve ever consumed so much coffee pre-race.

As we’re running along 32nd Avenue, I look up to my right and see a big picture window with three or four kids in pajamas waving wildly at anyone who will look and wave at them. Brought a huge smile to my face, so glad I saw them. Bit of a boost.

And because I knew this was more a try-race and scenic at that, decided to run with my phone so I could get some photos. And I did. Well, starting in the dark (which is so discombobulating) it had to wait until it lifted to light. But I got a few goods ones, including along memorial mile where the Wear Blue To Remember folks stand with their American flags, honoring the soldiers we’ve lost. It is one of my favorite, if emotional and reverent, part of the RocknRoll race courses. This one majestic as you came up the hill and began to spot the Golden Gate Bridge.

Speaking of the bridge – as I was running across it I suddenly realized, hey, the first half nearly seven years ago was in San Francisco too. And we ran across the Golden Gate Bridge (yep, quite a few photo opps) then too. It felt apropos to have number 1 – the one that opened up this whole new world to me – and number 55 connected this way. 55. Yep, 55 starting lines so far.

As we’re running along the bridge, the bridge workers are high fiving people if you wanted. At one point, I’m cresting (efforting) up a hill and must’ve had a determined look on my face cause one of them called out to me and I looked up and smiled and waved and he says “there you go, there’s a beautiful smile.” Hee.

Seriously one of the quietest races I’ve run. And I kind of like that. It felt personal in a way. And I was realizing along the course that two years ago I ran it, and ran it with someone I was a bit intimidated to be running with even though I had a lot of races under my belt. And I say ‘ran with’ lightly because I think I let him take off at the first half a mile – as in not even a full mile together. Man that took the wind out of my sails. And I was pushing so hard that race, trying so hard, was in better shape and wanting to prove I too was good. And the race sucked for me, I didn’t enjoy it and it didn’t feel good. This race, I had my head on a swivel, taking it all in, all the beauty of the city, the happenings around me, the military band at the northern bridge turnaround, and I just settled into making it an enjoyable race, by mile five figuring yeah, I should be able to finish this (still giving myself an out just in case cause…the hills.) What a difference a couple years made in terms of this course. I’m not the runner I’ve been, certainly not recently compared to pretty much all 2016, and still finding something to dig up and take another step. It was interesting to reflect between the two race experiences. One example – two years ago when I would stop to walk, it was bad, I wasn’t pushing hard enough, wasn’t enough effort, doing it wrong, not proving I was strong – this time, when I walked, not only was I taking care of myself and listening to my body, it made the running more enjoyable and free and felt better.

As we come off the bridge and head into the Presidio, the Khalifa/Puth song “See You Again” that came out right after Chris died comes into my ears. It startled me as it’s an emotional song because of how I connect it to Chris. What are the odds it starts right as I head towards where we first became roommates? Sigh.

Heading along Marina Boulevard past Chrissy Field and I am looking up at the beautiful homes to my right. I spot a big brother and his baby sister watching everyone run by, but no one else sees them. He sees me see them and shoots his hand up to wave wildly, his other hand grabbing one of hers and making her arm wave – I give them a huge smile and wave excitedly back. Happy heart.

Spot a car as it suddenly pulls up along us, curious as to what he’s doing. He hops out to get the cup of coffee that was on top of his car, while he was driving. I yell out ‘nice save!’ and he laughs and gives me a thumbs up.

And then you run up Bay to Polk. That’s an effort in itself. But then up Polk. Holy Lord. As I’m taking a right I hear audible groans from people as they realize the last less than two miles just are tough. Like rolling hills but no downhill, just crest and go up again. Up the first one I hear this woman grunting, no, more like shouting to herself, willing herself up the hill. It. Was. Awesome. It was as if she willed all those around her. I’d already given myself permission to walk as much as I wanted up the hill(s) but her commitment and awesome determination inspired me and then some. Her energy was on fire. The hills after that was off/on for most, and eventually you do get a lot of downhill. My legs are tight, my body is wanting to seize up but I’m also wanting to finish strong since I enjoyed stopping multiple times to take photos. The finish felt pretty good and I find myself wondering where she is, how she did. I get my medal and a bottle of water to down and look up to see her with a giant grin on her face. I walk over to her and tell her “you are amazing. congratulations on your finish. loved how you were getting yourself – all of us – up the polk street hills. congratulations!” and we fell into a sweaty runner hug typical of the camaraderie one finds on race day, especially at the finish line (oh the emotions.) She’s SO ecstatic with her finish, she keeps walking in circles, yelling with personal pride. She thanked me and told me her name is Rosaria, it was her second half marathon, she laughed about how she got herself going uphill. I want someone like her at every race.

Then I met Walter post-finish line, a guy who was thrilled with his race. Cause he swam a couple miles on Friday. Biked 46 miles yesterday. And then ran a hilly half this morning and beat his time by a lot and still felt good on tired legs. Cause he’s training for an Ironman. Walter is 60+. And his enthusiasm should be bottled.
And so, another finish line is in the books. #55. I couldn’t have predicted it, including, oh yeah, I somehow was only a minute slower than the SF course two years ago. So there’s that.

Then I took myself to go visit my Daddy in the Presidio National Cemetery, this race being in the backyard of where he was born and where he is buried, and thank him for whatever he passed on to me that allows me physically and emotionally to do this. I swear I felt a hand on my shoulder as I was knelt down in front of his marble gravestone. It was a quiet moment and the perfect way to reflect and close another race day.

PostHeaderIcon First race of 2017…oh boy really?

This was either sheer will and perseverance or stubborn stupidity. Or all of the above. I ran a super cold half #54 this weekend. Didn’t exactly let too many people know, ‘cept for my lovely local DC friends and a handful of others who just knew. T’was ugly.
See, I haven’t run since 2016. It’s mid-March. And I don’t mean like some runners say they “haven’t run” but still do 2-3 miles 3x/week, but it’s “not really running.” Truly not running or hiking or training or anything. Physically I lost endurance, strength, boldness, lung capacity, form, speed, and of course, inspiration. My gut, my joints, my lungs are out of whack and my pd numbers have climbed again. So as I write this on a plane back to Denver just hours after I crossed a finish line (which was in doubt for much of the race), I am marveling that I actually walked onto the damn plane. Let alone ran Saturday morning.

Seems I took one too many life gut punches last Fall and while for a bit I continued to feel physically strong and kept going (think I was attempting another fake-it-till-you-make-it which so does not work as a lifestyle), I ran out of gas, and then some. And can’t seem to find the next filling station. Jan and Feb didn’t exactly start the year off great either. It’s been a rough few months to say the least. Hard to find much get up and go. Not running has had nothing to do with being lazy or needing a kick in the pants.
A few good things from the race did happen – including, yes, crossing the finish line. Well meaning folks had encouraged me to hey, pull a DNF if you need to, just take care of yourself. It’s gonna be tough no matter what cause you haven’t run AND out of control cold, right? Top 3 coldest races I’ve run.

Speaking of coldest races – third of three cold races where there was ice at the water stations. As in, spilled out of cups onto the ground, turned into ice that one had to step lightly around (or end up on your ass.) My friend Adam told me that at one water station, the volunteer pulled back the cup he almost handed him because *itwasice*. Yes, ice. The next cup he got was slushy water.

Speaking of Adam – somehow the what-are-the-odds of running into him in the corral at the start of the race last year was topped by not seeing him in a corral (keeping to myself a bit these days) and then seeing him at MILE 10. As in, he was ahead of me running and I looked up and thought, hmm, I think that’s Adam. And used a surge to pull up to his left, confirmed my suspicion and gave him “fancy meeting you here!” And we ran for a minute. As in really just a minute or two. Adam is super fast and given that I haven’t run, I am not. By mile 10 every fiber of my legs hurt and my lungs were hanging on. Trying to keep up with speedy Adam made my lungs nearly jump out of my chest so I said “go get your finish time, I’m gonna hang back but let’s connect at the finish line.” And true to his word we did meet up. Thank you Adam, you made those last few miles more buoyant.

Before I ever saw Adam, I saw whiskey. At mile 7. Every ounce of me wanted to spike left and throw a dixie cup shot back, for warmth, for shits and giggles, for curiosity. But by mile 7 I was fairly light headed consistently, with a frozen face and remember that one time a race had wine-tasting at mile 10 was awful so I opted not to. #nexttime
And after that, the Balata DC drums corps at mile 8. Wow. Even in my woozy non-whiskey state I was able to focus briefly on the energy and intensity of the swaying group. Best yet.

Back and forth this requiem goes, kind of like my brain during the race. The scenery. Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, cherry blossoms, Georgetown, heading down North Capitol Ave and running towards the Capitol. All gorgeous on this sunny, clear and ridonkulously cold running morning.

Oh! Speaking of scenery, Rock Creek Parkway, beautiful. But then it turned mean – the hill. Thankfully the Run to Remember folks in blue were there. Having spent Friday afternoon at Arlington National Cemetery feeling overwhelmed, in a good way, at the sheer enormity and emotion of it all, I burst into tears seeing all the parents, friends, siblings, children of fallen soldiers holding American flag after flag. I walked that hill partially because of my lack of strength and partially to pay respect.

Judy. Judy. Judy. I love that you were there, running too. You are amazing. Was this number 9? You make it look effortless. You inspire me and your compassionate non-judgmental support for where I’m at these days is incredibly humbling and kind. Thank you for meeting up with me for a healthy pre-race dinner and walking back post-race through cherry blossoms in our tired, cold, shivering mylar shawls. The new piece of race jewelry stating “You Are Enough” is something I’m wearing each race from now on (and perhaps more.) Thank you my friend.

And Sara, Bryan, Audrey – to be able to spend quality time with all three of you in the days leading up to the race – you will never know the appreciation I have for you each, for your compassion, laughter, kindness and inspiration. You made these last few days brilliant and even happy for me. Thank you for letting me be fully me, accepting me no matter what, and giving me a bit of hope and light. And for grounding me in order to be able to run, foolish as it may be.

Speaking of appreciation – dear sir and his lovely wife who were in the VIP tent when I got there. I stumbled in and crawled over towards the heater but on the other side of a bar table. I sat on the ground on my mylar post-race shawl, desperately wanting to change out of my wet cold clothes (it was so cold, the water I got at the finish line had begun to turn icy a few minutes later, I was beyond shivering) into something, well, not warm but maybe dry. I began to shiver uncontrollably. I got my first two layers off and they asked if I needed help, my pride shook my head no and smiled thank you. I got my new layers on but by then my fingers had lost all feeling and color and dexterity. Couldn’t even put my gloves back on. I had a packet of hand warmers and tried mightily with my teeth to open both sides. No such luck. I hear again “do you need some help?” I look up and with tears in my eyes, I nod. He appears squatting next to me and rips open both packets and I put them in my hands. He giggles and takes them back to shake them and then puts them in my hands, shaking my hands to get the heat in the packets going. It’s the only body part moving at this point. A minute later he comes back “there’s more heat on the other side, I’m not taking no for an answer, we’ll help you up” and he and his wife help me up and move me around to the other side of the table and I sit back down on the ground to try to warm up. Everything but my hands do start to warm up (those took another hour or so.) I looked around to say thank you once the feeling came back to my face and brain (seriously, this is a whole new concept of brain freeze!) and my kind friends were gone. Whoever you were, thank you thank you thank you. I will pay it forward, I promise.

This race had lots of entertainment along the course, including:
The. Best. Signs. Ever.
“You’re Running Better Than the Government.” Yeah, saw this sign FIVE TIMES. And pretty sure there were more along the way.
“Run Like Steve Bannon is Chasing You.” And then I promptly pictured the grim reaper from SNL chasing me.
“Nevertheless, She Persisted.” Yeah, that one gave me a little boost every time.
Ok, this one I gave her a high-five for, laughing out loud: “Don’t Worry, I Called Russia – You’re Going to Win.” Weeheeheehee.

Everything hurts. Every muscle I knew I had and others I didn’t know I had. Including my face, cause of a wee case of wind burn. Why did I run? I don’t know. It was far from easy, in fact the complete opposite. Both physically and more mentally. Who am I without running? I’ve wondered about even sharing this, writing about this, given the state of our communities and society right now, the urgency of the work ahead. That it feels selfish to even hint at the idea of needed support. I’m learning to not wear my heart on my sleeve so much – it’s not serving me, moreover it’s crushing me more often than not. Then again, as we talk about at Allegory all the time, we’ve been raised to just stuff it and get over things (and that’s advice I’ve been given too many times.) How’s that working? And coincidentally much of my health stuff rears it’s raging head whatever I’m stuffing for whatever reason. I may feel wary and far more cynical than ever, and I also know I’m horrid at asking for help.

I’ve prided myself on being the resilient one, helping others, trying to prove or show my strength and ability to rise again (and again and again.) And in being honest with a few key people who encouraged me to share this because it’s real, it’s raw, it’s honest – it happens to nearly everyone and people rarely talk about it. And so I am. There’s so much more I could divulge about the last few months, the naïve trust I had in certain things – people and life, how I feel like the raw end of a boxing glove. what I haven’t done for myself, how I have trouble taking real care of me and how I’m paying for it now. Yes, perhaps I needed a break – but I didn’t take it for real, cause beating yourself during said break means it’s not a break, really. Self sabotaging isn’t exactly helpful either. I’m not great at asking for help, stupidly prideful about holding the piano by myself, stuffing it to prove something (God knows what) to someone, something. I have another race in two weeks. I’ve signed up for a few this year. I can honestly say I have no idea how they’re going to go, or even if I’m going to do them let alone finish them. But something in the last three days tried quietly to get my attention, in a good way, and maybe just maybe, this is still who I am. Or, post the big goal last Fall, a new version of the next phase. What I do know is despite an avalanche of damn good reasons to check out and chuck hope out the window, I got up and ran-ish and crossed finish line #54. If you’re still reading this, thank you whoever you are for taking the moment to read this raw, real account. Feeling incredibly grateful right now.

PostHeaderIcon Doing something good for humanity

“I can’t stand marathons and my pet peeve is people who spends hundreds of hours “training” to run long distances. What if people spent those hundreds of hours doing something good for humanity (like volunteering, working on social justice issues, etc)?”

So went, verbatim, a post I saw recently on someone’s Facebook page. An acquaintance had asked people what their unpopular opinion was on anything. Perhaps it was meant to be fun, in that some people said oh, I don’t like Beyonce or pumpkin spice lattes. This entry took a whole other spin. And jumped out at me immediately.

There was exactly one response to it: “Some people train for marathons literally to live. I have a loved on with cystic fibrosis (an incurable lung condition.) He runs 50-100 miles per week as part of his treatment to prolong his life so that he can be healthy enough to volunteer for and donate to his charity in addition to the other contributions he makes to the community. I understand what you are saying, but please know that there are endurance athletes out there who put those hours in for a much larger purpose than vanity and self-righteousness.”

This was a great response. A great start. Admittedly, I don’t know if there were others or people simply glossed over this one reply and enjoyed the others and/or added their own bits. I will also admit, that first entry made my blood boil. My heart race. My stomach tighten. For a whole lot of reasons.

First, of course there’s my own personal reasons.

Before that, can we talk about the use of quotes around the word training? That alone sent me pacing in my kitchen. Why use quotes around training? It felt demeaning, condescending or patronizing – which based on what this person wrote was probably the point. But still. Adding insult to injury I suppose.

And to say “I can’t stand” and “my pet peeve” is. That’s pretty strong in it’s emotion. To take that kind of stand, in a broad sweeping statement kind of way. The vitriol she must feel and project when coming across someone training their heart out or a race in her town, goodness. And to make such a generalization about a very large, and growing, group of people who find solace – for whatever reason – in running. It’s immediately an us versus them. And a one way is better than another way. What if there was room for both?

We aren’t all cut from the same cloth or grow up with the same experiences. Thank God. And that means not everyone should go into finance or run for President or own a restaurant. There are different ways to give to your community and share kindness. One way, for some people, to give back to their community is simply by being a good, compassionate person and smiling at every one they meet in a day, potentially brightening that persons day who will then pass that good feeling on. Butterfly effect.

Just like not everyone is cut out to be a runner. Some people have physical bodies that mean they cannot run, and for some, mentally or emotionally it. is. just. not. their. thing. I’ve attempted various things in my life to test them out and some I’ve incorporated even though they pushed me out of my comfort zone, and some I quickly came to realize were not for me. This also can mean trying out different ways to give back – some people believe they’ll make their difference through being activists and engage in politics, and others wouldn’t tough it with a ten foot pole.

But back to the original statement. Yes, within the world of running, there absolutely are people who do it for the vanity or the ability to show off and one up others or who have no other reason to run and race other than to share on social media and soak up the acclaim for their fit bodies or speedy times. Yup. And, I know for a fact there are people who spend inordinate amounts of time volunteering or doing charity work so that – whether they admit it or not – they too receive acclaim, accolades and recognition for their sacrifice, good deeds and hard work. Guess what – both are okay. More than okay. Why does one person’s motivation have to affect mine – especially negatively? I’m glad there are people doing hard volunteer charity work out in the world – in their way, they absolutely are making the world a better place. I almost would say, who cares why they’re doing it or what their motivation is, they’re doing it! Great! Good on them. Of course, I’m also not going to spend all my time genuflecting to them because I recognize it’s their choice to do these things. If they want genuflecting for their work, they’ll have to look elsewhere. Same goes for the folks running and doing races for the vanity reasons – they’ll be no faux worshiping from here.

I’m also grateful there are people doing good charity work that takes a lot of their time and effort. It’s not my thing – not in the way of volunteering hundreds of hours. I do it in other ways – raise money, volunteer a day here or there, connect people to good non profits where they can make a difference. That’s for me. Just like other roles are for other people. I used to beat the crap out of myself for not doing ‘more’ and sacrificing more. But again, we each have a unique role to play and there are different ways to play it. And, to be sure, the majority by far of people who do good volunteer work do it because they love it, they’re fulfilled by giving back in that particular way, and this is the way they’ve chosen to make a difference – I’ve seen it first hand, one of my dearest friends is this. It’s a beautiful thing. They don’t go around assuming everyone should do it like they do nor do they judge others (God I hope not) for not doing the same things, in the same ways, they do. Again, they recognize there are different ways to do something good for humanity.

Same goes for running. Clearly not everyone does it for vanity reasons. Not by a long shot. Obviously, some are professional athletes. As in they’re aiming for the Olympics or some other elite races. That is their calling. Why would anyone take that away from them, just like if spending all your free time volunteering on projects is your calling, why would anyone take that from you? Why judge what each other’s callings are? Frankly, again, who cares what someones motivation to be healthy is, to do anything, so long as the intention is good and pure? And for what it’s worth, I know one elite runner in particular who is from Kenya and now runs in Colorado Springs. He spends, yes, hundreds, of hours training for races…so he can place, earn money, and send it back to his family in Kenya. Clearly he has a purpose that is greater than him there.

And when you broaden the scope from the professional athletes and elite runners, you get a whole lot of stories and reasons for running that will renew your faith in humanity, whether they raised a dollar for charity or gave encouragement to another runner along a course. You see, with running, it’s a way to improve oneself not because you think something is wrong with you now, but because you believe you can do even better. So, being able to run after being told you could not, using running to combat debilitating depression and anxiety, losing 100 pounds to be able to run one race, running a race after a getting out of a bad relationship to feel strong again, running after cancer treatment to feel whole again, running while going through a divorce after an abusive marriage to feel empowered and show your daughters there’s more to aim for, running after becoming a double amputee to embody the spirit of anything is possible and keep your life vibrant and moving forward, running and qualifying for the Holy Grail two years after brain surgery, running to keep your Iraq PTSD in check, running after major surgery to feel alive and excited again, running to feel less suicidal, running to stay strong in the fight against auto immune diseases, running because someone told you you could not, running because someone didn’t believe in you, running because someone does believe in you, running because you just got in an emotional fight with your spouse, running because you are proud of your town and want to show it off by paying for a race that benefits the local kids group, running just to see if you can, running to support a friend who wants to run for the first time, running because it’s the only sport that feels inclusive to your shy (for any reason) self, running because it keeps you mentally healthy, running because someone inspired you to run, running because you thought you had nothing left and you’ve found out you in fact do, running to keep your cystic fibrosis in check.

Yep, all these people are people I know or a reason I’ve experienced myself. And clearly there are far more many reasons people run. They can be simple, they can be for physical reasons, they can be for mental reasons. They all count. Everyone is, in a way, trying to better themselves. You better believe that’s a way to give back to humanity. A healthier humanity, a kinder humanity because I’m taking better care of myself if I’ve chosen running as my method.

As well, many many people use running as a way to raise awareness and money for various causes. There are many veterans groups represented in races I’ve seen, many people using their time to guide a blind or disabled runner through a course, and every race I’ve seen a family member or friend pushing the adaptive wheelchair of someone who for whatever reasons (accident, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury) cannot run and this has given them wings. Not to mention all the money raised by individuals and groups for each race, whether that particular group is a sponsor of the race (like an ASPCA or St Judes or disease-specific non profit.) Personally, I’ve raised thousands of dollars over the years for over five groups I’m proud to have been a part of.

This lit a fire in me. The statement of Facebook. It’s not for me to judge how you spend your time. I wouldn’t judge the charity you spend your time with (can you imagine? “well, you may volunteer but this group does more so…”) nor whatever part you play in how you help. Everyone does what they can in their own way. Why not encourage that – do what you can – instead of a broad sweeping judgment of a rather large swath of the population? What is this feeling us versus them – I mean really, is it really runners versus people who spend the same amount of time runners do running and racing in the volunteer capacity? Goodness, what about the volunteers helping runners on a course – do they count too? By no definition am I knocking anyone who spends many brilliant hours doing volunteer and charity work – if anything, I admire it and appreciate it. And would like to do more myself – but in the way that works for me. Not because someone is shaming or judging me into it. So what purpose does it serve to have your pet peeve or emotions that strong around a) something that doesn’t affect you and b) frankly, something you may actually have a bit wrong in terms of who is running and why they spend the time running.

Ultimately, I come back to there’s room for both. Personally, my running keeps me sane and I love and relish the opportunities I’ve had to use it to help others 1:1 and to do good work specifically for charities and non profits. Heck, I’ve even had a dream of starting an exchange program between young kids in America and Kenya to give Kenyan kids a chance to see America and American kids a chance to see Kenya and see running as a very different way of life – an actual mode of transportation and something loved within a culture (rather than punishment in PE class.)

So, running is good for humanity – it’s keep a whole lot of people healthy and happier which absolutely spreads out into the world, and many of those runners give back in various ways and even have their lives saved by the ability to run. Let’s not take that away from them by making them wrong for spending their time this way. It’s a beautiful way to give back, it’s a way or a path they’ve, we’ve, chosen to give back to humanity. And a thousand thank yous to all those who spend the time I spend running and racing, volunteering and doing direct impact work to make the world a better place in your beautiful way. We can do both, there’s room for us all.

PostHeaderIcon Gretchen Schoenstein Was Told Not to Run, But She Didn’t Listen

Listen to Podcast here

Today I’m going a few easy miles with Gretchen Schoenstein,who was told 10 years ago that she’d never run again.

Gretchen Schoenstein

Gretchen Schoenstein

Fast forward to today, and she recently finished her 10th race of 13.1 miles of 2016, and the 53rd of her career.

Gretchen’s First 13.1

Gretchen has had issues with auto-immune diseases for most of her life, and after a serious flare up she was told she really shouldn’t think of running in her future.

At the time, Gretchen wasn’t much of a runner so she didn’t mind that diagnosis very much.

However, after 4 years of living in fear of another flare up she decided she didn’t want to live life cautiously anymore.

Despite the objections of her doctors, Gretchen signed up for a half marathon.

She was only planning on running the one, but 53 races later and she’s still going strong.

Living and Running with Auto-Immune Disease

In the 6+ years that Gretchen has been running, she has had to be hyper focused on taking care of her body to try to prevent a flare up.

While flare ups can never be prevented 100%, she has learned how to be proactive in her training and with her lifestyle to keep the flare ups in check.

Between monitoring her diet, prioritizing cross training, incorporating yoga, acupuncture, and a whole host of other preventative measures she’s able to keep going one day at a time.

And while running was feared by her doctors 6 years ago, Gretchen thinks that running may have actually helped her body to be stronger and to limit the flare ups of her disorder.

Gretchen Shoenstein is Still Running Strong

Gretchen Shoenstein is Still Running Strong

Running at Night

Gretchen recently participated in a night race for the first time. And as it is with most runners, it was a different challenge for sure.

The Rock and Roll Las Vegas race, her 53rd race, was her first non-morning race.

Gretchen Schoenstein Finishing Her 53rd Race

Gretchen Schoenstein Finishing Her 53rd Race

Between the change in routine, being more tired later in the day, spending time on her feet throughout the day, and a whole host of other factors this wasn’t Gretchen’s greatest race.

I asked if she’d ever run a night race again, and she said she would but thinks she’d rather do it some place other than Vegas. Because, well, Vegas.

Stop with “Half”

Gretchen is writing a book that will likely be released in early 2017, and when we were talking about the book we started talking about the word “half” as it relates to the half marathon distance.

In her experience as a runner, she’s often heard runners talking in a condescending tone when it comes to comparing the half marathon to the full marathon.

While a half marathon distance is obviously half of the distance of a full marathon, one isn’t half of the race as the other. Each race is it’s own beast, and running each distance is demanding in and of itself.

So stop talking down to other runners that are running 13.1 miles instead of 26.2. Stop asking if they are “only” or “just” running a half.

And most importantly, if you ever catch yourself saying you’re “only” or “just” running a half, stop.

Stop It

There is nothing “only” or “just” about running 13.1.

PostHeaderIcon Ain’t nothing but a G-thang

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“It’s crossing those finish lines when times are tough, when you don’t even feel like trying, that’s a measure of your commitment and courage.” That’s the words my friend Joanna wrote to me when I shared with her how tough this last race was for me to find motivation to run it at all. I almost sub titled this post “broken hearted run” or “running at night is bizarre” but had to go with the Snoop theme…

And it’s helped ground how I will think about the 53rd half-marathon finish line I just crossed. The 10th of the year. How I was able to do that, I really can’t say right now. I ran 11 in 2011 and then no more than 8 since, usually 6 or 7. Somehow I gutted out 5 just since September 18. Things to remember and recall how strong my resilience, persistence, get-back-up-and-keep-going is.

Ran Vegas with a heavy heart and apparently that makes me run slower I guess? It wasn’t the finish time I hoped. Or even felt during the race I was going to end with. I mean, at one point I passed the 1:45 pacer so even though he was clearly struggling, I thought maybe? And in some ways, this being 5th in less than 2 months, I’m in the best shape of the year, and so I thought I’d finish with a strong time. But it was warm, and at night and had been in and out of casinos and lots of smoke for a couple days leading up. Plus I was wearing a Seahawks tank top so that should have made me run fast? Not so much.

Couple more things:
I’m a dork but I couldn’t help but think at least this race had a good omen since 5+3 = 8, one of my lucky numbers.

I have a whole new respect and understanding for athletes who have games in the afternoon or at night. To get up at a fairly normal time (as opposed to 4am to eat) was nice and odd. But then to have a normal morning, still knowing you have to prep and get race-ready later in the day… I tried to do a similar routine to my morning races but it didn’t work out quite the way I wanted. Felt suddenly frantic at the end and not well prepared. And mentally to stay with it through the day wasn’t easy and frankly, wasn’t into it. By the time mid day came around, I really didn’t want to run. I train a lot in the afternoon in the heat but those are short runs and not 13.1 miles – after being on my feet all day long (got my 11K steps in looooong before the race ever began.) Tired feet, legs, body before the 4:30 start. Again, whole new understanding and respect for what kind of training and aptitude it must take for athletes to stay in the zone and be game ready in the afternoon or evening.

Some things that helped were as I’m walking down the strip to get to the starting line: I call my friend Judy who’s also running the half and see where she’s at. She’s just leaving her room to make her way down – what hotel are you at I ask? She says Tropicana and I look up and that’s the hotel I”m staring at. So we met right outside and I had the lovely surprise and gift of walking into the runners start village with her. What a treat. And then, as I’m in my blue wave start and making my way to the corrals, I run into a fellow runner/blogger and start talking with him. He’s already run his 50th half and Vegas was a marathon for him. He and his girlfriend do a lot of these races together and I keep running into them. Being able to get in the zone and get excited for the course and the race by talking with him and having him share his experiences was super and truly helpful. Thank you Andrew.

In the elevator heading out of the hotel with my dear friends Dawn and Bill – fellow runners in the lift and one looks down and asks about the hospital ID bracelet. Quick share and they’re excited for me. I’m contemplating continuing to wear it for more races – it helps me appreciate my why. Bummer but Dawn, who was running the 10k, and Bill had to go to the opposite end of the strip to get to that starting line so we parted outside the hotel. Cool thing was, part way through my course the half met up with the 10k course and since she was long finished before me, multiple times I had the thought “Dawn ran here, Dawn saw this too!” That was fun.

Speaking of smoke – I’m still nursing a sore throat and lungs from three days in Vegas. I guess I just don’t go there enough to experience that but holy hell that was a lot!

Per the earlier post of meeting Meb – that was outstanding. It happened suddenly as I saw a small line of people at the expo and wondered what it was for. I looked up and realized people were waiting for Meb – to sign bibs, meet, take photos. I’ve always wanted to meet him and say thank you for being such a great ambassador to the sport of running. I stood in line and then started to feel nervous – partly cause I’m a fan and partly cause I didn’t know what exactly to say, other than thank you. I contemplated more than once getting out of line – oh what does it matter, he won’t care, I have nothing to offer him. But I knew I’d regret not taking the chance right in front of me. And I’m not a quitter. I felt the fear – really allowed myself to feel it, and did it anyway. And I may have been goofy and clumsy a bit, I am so glad I followed through and got the chance to meet the legend that is Meb. What an incredibly gracious, lovely, welcoming human.

Can we talk about Snoop Dogg being the pre-race headliner? I’ve never gotten that close to an artist before so that was incredible. And yes, I wonder if he runs. Somehow I doubt it. He definitely still has “it” in terms of swagger and talent and delighting the crowd. And, cough cough, never seen nor smelled that much weed before a race. Bizarre dichotomy for sure. (speaking of, did anyone get a photo of me using my inhaler as someone blew weed smoke in face?) But damn he was good. Just didn’t ever think I’d hear before a race, after playing Young & Wild & Free, “So much love in this crowd tonight, you guys are so great. So, I have just one thing to say: Go smoke some weed, motherf@#*ers!” Hahahaha. Lotta people were laughing. Still giggling over all the songs.

The cannons shooting fire off the start line – a first and awesome. I’d like someone to install those at my house to go off every time I step out the front door.

The amazing announcer Anne at the start line – I see her beautiful self and wave and as she is in game mode, announcing and getting the crowd ready with energy and stories, as I cross the start line and hear “And there goes our girl Gretchen, we’re moving her to Colorado!”

I forgot to play Gonna Fly Now from Rocky before I ran. Didn’t do much of my routine in my room for that matter. At about mile 3 I realize I didn’t do listen to my pre-race song. At mile 4 there was a performer on the side with the spectators playing the horn. And what was he playing loud and clear? Gonna Fly Now. Yup, that happened.

Another first for a race, other than being at night and the sensory deprivation of that – never seen so many drunk spectators! LOTS of drinks in hands and stumbling around. But damn they were cheery! And it was cool running down the strip with the overpasses full of people cheering runners. At one point I saw a huge group of Seahawks fans, including a 12 flag and ran over to point out my tank – they erupted in cheers and “GO HAWKS” which was an awesome boost.

One thing not cool: I saw a spectator sign I’ve not seen before. “Running is stupid.” Really? Even if it was a joke, really? It made me sad and mad at the same time. While running isn’t always easy, I work hard to look at it as something I get to do, that’s it’s a gift that keeps giving, not as something to hate or battle with or struggle about. Running isn’t stupid. Not for the people on that course that gave their all to cross a start line, and eventually a finish line. Even if it was a joke, it’s about perception and how we view things and seeing it as a chore or stupid or whatever isn’t going to make it more enjoyable or successful. And hating on running doesn’t make me a better runner.

Back to the good parts: the moon. Oh my God the MOON! It was gorgeous and full and bright and so very close. I don’t run with a phone or camera so I got no photos but running down the strip with it rising up on the right was just so spectacular and awesome. That alone was wroth the entire run. Supermoon indeed.
Whoever the Cher impersonator was early on the course on a small stage was incredibly talented. WOW!
It was an odd course in that it was at night. Some parts I felt good, some I was quite tired, some I felt like I passed a lot of people, some I felt like I was running in molasses, some miles went far faster than others. Very interesting how everything I thought I knew was upended. At least I did see a heads-up penny at mile 9 to give me a smile and a boost. And yes, I saw many Penske trucks along the course and exactly when I needed to – thank you Chris.

One thing that gave me a big burst was the last few miles coming back down the strip towards the finish line at the Mirage. Along the side of the building is a big advertisement for their Cirque du Soleil show about the Beatles. It’s called Love. So there was a big sign in my line of vision for the last few miles that was lit up in the words LOVE. It’s hard for me to believe in love sometimes, but seeing it all around me at the course, in couples, friends and in human interactions, seeing that giant neon sign shouting LOVE was a beautiful thing and brought a light energy lift for me to run in.

At the finish line, I met a nice older gentleman who congratulated me on my 10th race of the year. You see, I got an extra bib to wear on my back that is a “gold medal” bib for running 10. I said thank you and noticed he had one too, only it said 22. Holy crap! He’s run both halfs and fulls to get that in one year. I remembered there was another older guy on the course wearing one that said 24 – I’d seen him in LA too and had tried in vain to not compare myself as ‘haven’t done that many’ – and suddenly he comes walking over to his friend I was talking to. We all introduce ourselves and one guy explains he’s run 134 marathons in his life. 134. Wow. I said goodness, I can’t compare to you two even in this one calendar year. His friend who first congratulated me says, oh no, you’ve done a great job! And then asks his friend of the 134 marathons he’s run, how many halfs has he run. And he says “oh, I don’t count, or I mean, keep track of the half marathons.” And my heart sank. We continued a brief conversation, I congratulated them both on their finish lines for this half and said thank you and that I look forward to seeing them at another race soon. And as I walked away I thought about that. How many accomplishments do we not count or keep track of, and by not doing so, diminish or minimize the accomplishment?

Then I thought, I’m proud of my halfs. All of them. The weird ones, the strong ones, the hard ones, the cold ones, the hot ones, the intense ones, the slow ones, the fast ones, the fun ones, the surprising ones, the meaningful ones, the goofy ones, the ones I bounce back from, the ones I struggle in recovery from, the ones I’m prepared for, the ones I am not, the ones I do solo, the ones I have support for, the ones I wish I could do again, the ones I never want to do again, the ones I barely got up for, the ones I leapt out of bed for, the ones that dismay me, the ones that inspire me. I draw inspiration, courage and appreciation from ALL of them. All 53 in 6.5 years. The 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 or 11 in one year. All of them are worth it. Goal is to stay open and curious as throughout these runs and the training for them; I am always learning, always growing. Grateful.

Ain’t nothing but a G-thing.

PostHeaderIcon All Hallow’s Eve Run in LA

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Calling this an experiment gone way better than expected. Still more than a little fried physically and mentally but feeling pretty good about it all. And LA did not disappoint in terms of s cast of characters!
First, having this race in the middle of LA’s ComiCon and right around Halloween makes for a pretty entertaining course. I saw lots of superheroes, people dressed as tacos and pizza, chickens and Big Bird, a mom runner dressed as a cop and her spectator husband and kids dressed as prisoners, a guy running with a Yoda backpack (somehow that worked), Thing 1 and 2, a number for Where’s Waldo (including an itty bitty little boy spectator, he and his dad dressed both as WW – so cute!) and a couple of zombie stations at mile 6 and 8. I do not like zombies and let’s just say they’re glad they didn’t try to mess with me like they did with a few other runners. There’s a few things I can’t unsee: the guy in only a leopard print bikini bottom and the other guy in a loin cloth, running, with nothing underneath. Yep. Or the barefoot Elvis runner who was also Cap’n Jack Sparrow. Say what? And my particular favorite – the grim reaper. He ran past me and I didn’t see him again so there’s that. And of course, my favorite for the race itself – and I only saw one of each of these: a Forest Gump and Richard Simmons. Both perfect costumes.

Happily I saw my Chris-sign early in a Penske truck in mile 1. Then mile 2, I saw a sign that my amazing friends from Ottawa who’d I’d just spent a couple incredible days with were there too – I took a left where I’ve run before and saw for the first time a giant concrete FROG! 😉 This one I’m still trying to wrap my head around: at mile 3 there was a band, the enlisted Navy band. In uniform. Playing “Cake by the Ocean” Which just seemed odd in their jazzy version of it.

Really impressed with the police presence everywhere – friendly, helpful (including with downed runners), supportive – and saw lots of runners heading to them to give a high five.
Anyone else ever thought of the Expo as adult trick-or-treating?

Favorite sign this race? “When you can no longer run with your legs, run with your heart!” I get that. Was pleasantly surprised that I had relaxed legs for a lot of the race, but still felt like I had to push hard breathing and moving and don’t know if that was travel fatigue or ?

Again a meaningful experience shared with my friend Judy. Got to see her right before we started, big hugs and smiles and encouragement. Then, along the course, as I’m crossing 11 or 12 and it’s an out an back, this gorgeous, vibrant, jumping for joy Wonder Woman comes towards me and I realize it’s Judy, having the best race of her life, so excited to see each other! Yay! You totally gave me a burst of energy up that last hill – what an awesome surprise. And then to get to cheer her in and meet her family and deliver the news that she surpassed her PR goal by more than 4 minutes was incredible. You rock Judy, can’t wait to see you again in Vegas!

There was a guy who paced me up that last couple hills, between mile 10 through mile 11.5. He had on bright pink knee socks and glasses. We kept interchanging running next to each other or pulling the other along. He helped me immensely that last bit as I was struggling to maintain my breath. And this time, I got to run into someone who helped me along the course after the finish and thank him properly for being on the course and being an inspiration to me. He lit up knowing that he’d been able to be such an encouragement.

Standing at the start, in the corral, in the dark, next to a guy dressed as Superman. At one point he stretches his arms up and out and almost clotheslines me. He apologizes and I say, no worries, you’re prepping to fly, Superman! 😉 (I’m a dork) We are standing there, and he then taps me on the shoulder and says “I see a hospital ID bracelet on your shoe…what?” And so I briefly explain to him the “why” I run and what this race is (and the concern I have being that I just flew across the country the day before.) He tells me he hasn’t trained at all for this race, doesn’t know how it will go. We talk about how the fact that he will cross the finish line in some fashion and that will be his to claim, and he says thank you. I guess you could say Superman validated me a bit and I got to give some support and perspective to him as well. Speaking of that, a ran (no pun) into a woman walking back to the hotel and we were wearing the same tank top and so we got to talking about the race and I asked her about her experience. She said it was her worst race ever. I asked her “did you cross the finish line?” She said “yes…” And I reminded her what a rock star she is, that no matter how she crossed it, she did and she got her medal and it’s hers no matter what. She grabbed my arm and thanked me for reminding her what the accomplishment really was for her.

Here is another piece on the opposite side (could do well to take my own advice above): feeling pretty good, rather happy actually about my 1:49 finish time – after a lot of travel, I had no idea how fast I would/wouldn’t run. Ran into Richard Simmons and as we were talking, asked him about his finish time. He stated he did much more poorly than he wanted, ran too slow, far off his goal. He was quite disappointed. I asked him his time and he says “1:49.” Oh. Wow. Talk about a difference in perspectives. I hid my own disappointment in a gulp of reality of my own time, encouraged him to not be too down on himself, that he still had Vegas to run fast. I can’t help but think about this and the danger of comparison. The thief of joy indeed.

So, this is the fourth time I’ve run Rock n Roll LA. Haven’t run it in a few years. The course is a little different. And it’s the fastest I’ve run it. In fact I broke 1:50 for the first time here (sneaked in with 1:49:55 officially.) Maybe it’s a different course so it’s faster. Maybe it’s a different runner. Maybe it’s both. But the experiment worked, even if I’m a more little disheveled than usual. The experiment was worth it to be able to experience all of what the last 36 hours involved. Including working out in the hotel gym with some Phoenix Suns players this morning and one of them saying “Damn Girl!” after I finished one of my circuits. So there’s that. One more for the year to go!

And yes, I took a two hour ‘nap’ post race. No choice and glad I did!

PostHeaderIcon How to motivate for #51…

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Did you think I would stop running? 🙂

Must admit – this was one of the hardest races I’ve run. Ugliest in multiple ways. Both the parts I ran and the parts I walked. I mean, I definitely wondered about what my motivation would be now that the 50th is just barely in the rearview mirror. Fearful that it was gone, what is my reason, where do I find new purpose. Was happy to find it still relatively easy to get up early and get into my routine and eventually get excited. And then nerves set in. A lot of them. My stomach was wrecked, my heart pounding and my limbs shaking. I wasn’t cold, but everything was trembling.

The race started and I looked forward to shaking it out and settling into the run. Surprised at not being overly sore from Brooklyn just one week prior and enjoying being out on the course. I will say, aside from the altitude, Rock n Roll Denver is one of the prettiest courses in the series. A well planned course for runners.

But then the wheels really fell off. In fact, I don’t remember much of the race. I began wheezing around mile 5 and it turned into a desperate gasp for air (the first of four or five attacks), thank you to the girls at the water station who gently patted my back as I held onto my knees and leaned over trying to not let it turn into an anxiety attack. I got back into running and immediately felt the weakness in my legs, that I rarely if ever feel. Like the muscles and blood pumping through them leaked out and disappeared somewhere. As I came around the corner and looked up the hill, I opted to walk. It wasn’t an option really. It was necessary. I normally love hills because I power past a lot of people when running, but something told me to pull up and not push.

Don’t recall much between that and the next few miles, other than starting to allow myself to take it one mile at a time, not think of the whole race cause this was going to be slow and slogging. And at the beginning of every mile, I walked. And started to notice something that scared me. I was becoming the wobbly runner that bobs and weaves along the side that I see at nearly every race. The one who is steps away from falling down. The disoriented person without a clue of where they are. I felt incredibly weak and on the verge and yet every time I passed a medical tent, I was feeling moderate, and every time I would’ve stumbled into one, they weren’t around. It was a weird juxtaposition.

Throughout all this, I wasn’t tracking much, I was merely concentrating on looking straight ahead and one foot in front of the other.

And so I made a deliberate choice – walk as much as I needed to or keep running and be scraped off the street on a stretcher. Now, I know some people see that as “leaving it all out on the course” but I don’t. When I think about having no regrets, it’s not that. I would regret the damage I would do to both my body and heart if I pushed it to that extent. I would not regret being thoughtful about taking care of myself. Yes I can dig deeper when I think I can’t, and find out what I’m capable of – and I did by doing it this way.

In the walking, I met up with the kind of runners I think/hope I’ve been before – the one who slows up beside and says some encouraging words or gives an encouraging smile or thumbs up. Again, I don’t remember much, they’re a blur of humans and miles and trees. One I recall vividly and wish with everything I could’ve gotten his name. A much older gentleman who when I started to walk at mile 10, ran slowly beside me and said “you got this, you’re almost there my dear, you can do it.” And I smiled weakly and nodded and began to run a minute later. When I hit mile 11 and had already been walking up a hill and decided to use the mile marker as a ‘start running’ cue, guess who I found beside me again? There he was, telling me we were at mile 11 and a quarter. So close. Keep going my dear. We are almost there. I know he said some other beautiful words but I don’t remember them. I would like to tell you that I waited for him at the finish line to shake his hand and thank him, but I did not. Because my body shut down once I crossed the finish line, the finish line I tunnel visioned across.

My head exploded in pain and I couldn’t track anything or anyone. I did somehow get my medal and waters to drink. And then I stood there. Staring at the ground. Unable to move. Organizers yelling into megaphones for runners to keep moving to keep the area clear. I stayed put, rooted to the ground. And scared of how my body was reacting. Eventually I blinked and walked forward, drinking water and wanting to get away from people and crowds. And then I saw my crew, family and friends and tearily fell into their arms. I don’t remember how I got to the grass but they all worked together to get a blanket down, me on the ground on my back and then I tried not to pass out or worse. Had they not been there taking my pulse, calming my body down, I would’ve found my way into a medical tent, like I did in Maui 2011 where I passed out to awaken to an IV of help. I knew they would take good care of me and eventually I stopped being on the verge of whatever weakness was threatening to take me down and was able to begin to sort of track activity around me.

We got some sustenance in me and eventually I could rise and walk again. But I was definitely shaken (still am a bit, if I’m honest) and not able to take a lot of care in, where someone’s best intentions of helping to stabilize you aren’t as well received as when you’re not acutely unstable. And I understand cause I was still a wobbly walker at that point. Thank you thank you thank you, all of you, for your encouragement, care, and support – I can’t imagine that race without you.

Here’s what I know from this run – first, a really crappy victory lap for the achievement of #50. Ha! Seriously, maybe the major activity before during and after Brooklyn was still taking it’s toll. Maybe it was the altitude, even through I have a routine to deal with this kind of elevation and the toll it takes on my body. Maybe I won’t know and don’t need to know and just need to see it this way: I crossed another finish line of a beautiful course. With slow but determined perseverance. Every step counted, even the wobbly ones. I’m also proud that I took in the information my body was giving me on this one (getting better at this and trusting it all) and paid attention enough to not end up with far more serious problems or injuries. That I get to try again and do this again soon. I mean, I have had a few bad races, with tough finishes that weren’t intentional (sometimes a slower race is very on purpose) and this is top three for sure. And in the scope of 51 (so far) starts and courses and finish lines, if three or four are brutal and inspire some reassessment or new curiosity – I think that’s pretty damn good. No matter the experience, I’m always appreciative for the opportunity to be able to do this at all.

And one of the lessons from this – it may not go how I want it to or how I imagined, and it may take a little longer, but one step in front of the other (no matter how clumsy) and I will still get to the goal. Perfectly imperfect.

So, I am fine now, recovering, still in the post-race few days of recalibrating my brain and body back to baseline strength. And grateful for the care I received from people who love me, that I didn’t have to go through all that alone, and for the community I am continuing to expand in this little world I run in. #wontstoprunning

PostHeaderIcon Going for gold for race #50

Surreal. It is still so very surreal. That I just ran the 50th half of the last 6.5 years of this crazy journey. Me. I did this. I’ve crossed 50 fricking finish lines. And it feels, um, surreal? Admittedly I have hesitated to write this all up and post it. I don’t know exactly why. Maybe I don’t want it to be over. Want some time to take it in. What it means/doesn’t mean. (thank you to those who tell me to keep celebrating and carry this with me) Maybe I’m afraid it’s too long and/or I won’t capture it all. But…here goes one part of it:
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Absolutely blown away (in fact tearing up writing those words) by the love and support I was surrounded by for this millstone, this mile marker. The efforts made by so many to be part of this (and Dawn for recognizing the significance and being organizer extraordinaire), to make me feel like this was special, to help me to know I “got this.” My word, how lucky and blessed am I to have these kinds of friends, humans in my life. Gobsmacked really. I keep pinching myself. And so many didn’t know each other ahead of time but it felt, at least to me, seamless, and then to have so many make a point to say about the other “I love your friends!” is a testament to how fricking cool everyone is.

Even the bib was gold (50.) My shoes, the color of the bib too? What are the odds? Signs I love.
To be tweeted at by the band A Great Big World. Um. Wow. Pretty much turned me into a giddy school girl/fangirl. Means the world to me, kindred spirit in some way.

Trust your training. That might be one of my favorite signs along a course. There’s an exhale the occurs in my system when I see that. Permission to let it all be okay. And that my body and I have a good enough relationship to be able to know when to pull back and when to push forward. I did take a moment at mile 12 to walk, to take this all in, and that’s when a whole lotta tears came up.

50. There will never be another 50th race. It was beyond special and somewhat different than what I expected. Some of that is due to the course and the narrow, closed off finish. For the last year or so on probably 80% of the runs I’ve taken, I’ve imagined or pictured various scenarios of the finish line. The finish line moment. Now granted, it’s New York and lots of security so it’s a far more restricted access for spectators. And still, I missed leaping into the arms of my friends. And. It also felt appropriate to see them right before the chute where I crossed the finish line and then had quiet (well aside from being surrounded by hundreds of fellow runners) time for me in the finishers chute, getting water and medal and chocolate milk, wandering slightly wobbly on my own.

When I saw this crew at mile 11, it lifted me beyond what I could’ve predicted. For me? These people are here for me? How special!!! It was loud, and boisterous and happy. And then again at nearly the finish. It was an instant boost that leapt me through the finish line FAR stronger than I had felt for much of the race. (side note – bad NY air quality plus humid start make for a struggly kind of race)

The t shirts – of course that made it easy to spot the crew from just about anywhere. And. They were awesome shirts. Still smiling at those.

Saying the serenity prayer at the beginning of the race, and also explaining it helps. Letting go of things I can’t control (security lines, humidity/weather, past training) and things I can (how fast/slow to run, how to hydrate, when to push) and wisdom to know the difference. Still working on the last part… 😉
Wrote a couple things on my hands for this race – “No regrets” on my left index finger and “Don’t give up” on my right. Places I could easily spot and be reminded while running. Been reading a bit about sports psychology and wanted to allow the possibility that it might work, despite so much experience. And it did – it made me a much more thoughtful runner and in the moment as well as helped me push when I wanted to.
Question I get asked a lot: Why? One of the reasons: Because one of the most powerful motivating forces I’ve found is realizing I can, despite evidence to the contrary. Therefore I. Must. Keep. Going.

When you live with a ghost, or ghost(s) there is something about the doing this now that feels important. To be honest, I sometimes feel like I’m living on borrowed time or at least my body is. I wonder sometimes how long I can feel strong and/or bounce back from another setback. That maybe the next time will be more devastating or debilitating. Or that it could take me out. Or that it could be something I don’t actually know how to get through, heal from, be stronger because of. And so, I want to do this now. Before it’s too late. And maybe it never will be, maybe I will always have a chance to come through any health adversity. But it’s not a chance I’m willing to take – therefore, it’s time to take the steps now.

What now? Is it over? Hardly. Right? I don’t want it to be over. Not by a long shot. I will keep running. I get to. I want to. It’s my pleasure. In fact, even in the run up (no pun intended) to Saturday morning, as I occasionally felt overwhelmed by my emotions or the activity around me, I would blurt out to someone, anyone, “all I want to really do is be on the course on Saturday morning, I want to go for my run, I want to feel what it is that got me started doing any of this in the first place.”

I ran with my hospital ID bracelet on my left shoe, timing chip on my right. Trippy to look down occasionally and see it there, reminding me of how very far I’ve come, and what this journey means and what I still can be challenged by. 10 years TO THE WEEK ITSELF I was in the hospital, I’m running #50. Holy Shit. It also did not escape me that the date on my hospital id bracelet from UCSF was October 5 2006 (via the ER to start an 8 day stint) which, unplanned, was the same day I flew from CA to NY for this 50th. 10 years apart. One was entering the hospital, one was flying out to a new next step.

Every time I felt anxiety or nerves before the race on Saturday, someone would say “you’ve done this 49 times before, you know how to do this!” And it would help me exhale.

My favorite number 8…the house number on the VRBO we rented in Brooklyn was 44. Added together is 8. So there’s that.

The lead singer at the post-race finish blurting out as we’re all standing there that really, it’s not half of anything. It’s a whole frickin distance, a whole race. It’s like he was reading my mind.
So much emotion that came through the lead up. Including joy, massive gratitude, sadness. And cried myself a bit to sleep the night before, tears streaming out the sides of my eyes and pooling in my ears. But it’s ok. I wanted to release that. And. The emotions of Saturday morning were nearly all pure joy, happiness, delight. I cried far less than I thought I would and stayed in the moment appreciating it all as much as I possibly could.

Had Dawn write HALF and #50 on my left and right calves – then when I had decided to walk for a bit, to take it in, slow it down, enjoy it, a runner passed by, gently clapped me on the left shoulder and said “you got this, almost there, go 50!”

Can’t lie – one of the smelliest race courses ever. And I don’t mean sweat. My fellow runners Sara and Jimmy mentioned it, unprompted, too. Also known as it smelled like poo for 70% of the race. If that doesn’t make you run faster, to get away from it, I don’t know what will.

Forgot to play “Gonna Fly Now” on the way in, distracted by so many awesome things. And somehow it worked, cause sitting in an Uber SUV with 6 of your friends and playing it in the car for all post-race made better sense.

Gonna say something that might make you roll your eyes or flip me off. I still don’t think of myself as a runner. That might sound crazy but it’s part of this journey that I bring with me. Sure, I’ve crossed 50 finish lines and I get the absurdity of that statement. And here’s what I was reminded of recently – comparison is the thief of joy. The reason I don’t think of myself as a runner is because I compare myself to the accomplishments of others. And then I feel like an imposter runner. She’s running 15 in one year. He’s run 47 in four years. She’s running fulls and halfs and ultras. He’s older and faster than me. They’ve run 100 marathons. And so much more that I’ve beat myself up about and allowed to diminish what I have done, how I have done it. But by sharing, and maybe normalizing it a bit, perhaps it releases.

I thought about Chris a lot, knowing that without a doubt, he too would’ve made the effort to be in NY for this milestone, to support and celebrate. And so when I saw more Penske trucks and vans than I’ve seen along a course, I knew he was there in his way. And my dad too – no doubt he was there with me, he is a big part of why I do what I do in the first place, having battled decades of his own autoimmunity.

Couldn’t help but laugh at the timing of my playlist – and a song that’s new to the queue. I’d toughed it out through about 8-9 miles and at the next water station I decided to pull up and walk through it while grabbing some water. As the song I was listening to wound down, right as I’m debating how much more to walk, “Won’t Stop Running” starts it’s very obvious-to-me beginning and I laugh out loud and thing “well, okay, guess it’s time to start running again right now!”

Lastly, I got to raise a good amount of money for Operation Shooting Star. Maybe it will make a real difference. And not only did I get to raise money, but connected with dynamic, strong, funny, fighter girl, ai warrior, badass Audrey. Who no doubt will be in my life going forward – I not only raised money but gained a friend and collaborator. Watch out world, this team is making a impact.

There’s more write up to come – I’ve been tracking all the life that happened and miles run and cities experienced in the 6.5 years, oh yeah, and am writing a book. And I’ll be answering a popular question – would I do this all again knowing what I know? And in case you were wondering – no, I won’t stop running.