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February 2018
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"Happiness does not come from having much, but from being attached to little." ~Cheng Yen


Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Oh San Antonio, you restored me and my faith

Ok, it’s a week late. But not really late, cause I kind of just needed to savor my last race weekend of the year before writing about it.

First, this race was ALL about gratitude, thanking everyone I possibly could for whatever part they play to make these races come to life the way they do. It was also about celebrating all the good that is the Rock ’n’ Roll event series, especially since 53 of my 63 halfs are on one of their courses!

Is it possible to fall in love with running all over again? And in the weirdest, hardest way possible? To be sure, this year has been hell for me. Especially for running. That I still ran 10 half marathons is slightly beyond comprehension. But I really wanted to do San Antonio, and end the year on a high note.

Frankly it couldn’t end much lower than last year. I needed this year to end on the upswing, something to build upon for next year and reenergize my confidence in running. Part of that included shifting a whole lot of habits and revisiting a few old and trusted methods. And, another part of that was to challenge myself and do a Remix Challenge weekend by running a 5k on Saturday and my half on Sunday. I was nervous but also know that often doing a shake out run the day before a race – provided you don’t go out too hard or fast – can be incredibly helpful.

And so the good news is, despite the immediate post-finish line involuntary medical tent visit, it is in fact my PR for 2017. That’s not saying much, considering it’s slow for me for 2016, 2015, but it’s as I wanted it – to feel that I’m heading in the right direction and I can use this as momentum to keep striving for more and learning different ways to (still) improve my running. I’m loving the fact that after this many races, I’m still curious, still learning, and able to apply lessons to shift both performance and experience. You can’t step up to this many starting lines, keep running throughout, and cross this many finish lines without learning a thing or two about the human body and condition.
A few key highlights from the races (in addition to the previous post about All the amazing people I adore):

*did I mention I ran the fastest for this half race than all of my 2017 races? 🙂 Ok, okay, that is not the only reason to run. Here’s a few of the others…

*It was my favorite expo, perhaps because it had the energy of the last one of the year and the transition of the merger shifting staff and next steps and feelings of who knows what it will all look like next year. In fact, I went two days in a row just to see all my favorite people: runners, vendors and staff. Oh yeah, and got to meet Meb’s awesome brother Hawi and Meb signed my Gold Record bib again.

*bound and determined to make this race weekend not only count but be worthwhile and feel good. took really good care of myself inside and out to make sure I was prepped.

*Right before the 5k, I ran into Ann doing her thing and she reminded me “the people running hard and fast today are not running tomorrow!” after I mentioned I’d never done a remix weekend before and wanted to have the half go well too.

*wore my Operation Shooting Star tank top for the 5k, to honor Audrey and OSS and to stay connected to my WHY I do this at all.

*With Ann’s words in my head, I made myself run a little slower, and came in happy with my time, certainly slower than my fastest 5k and still, probably could/should go a little slower. It was the perfect distance – I still had to get into it, but also knew it was almost over right when I was feeling my legs truly relax into the race itself.

*As I’m about to round the corner to the last .2 of the race, Meb comes around running upstream on my right, so I got a low five from him – he was on his way to run in with a crew and without a doubt it gave me energy to kick it up for the last bit of the race and cross the finish line with a big smile.

*Got some rest, took it easy, met up with a big group of awesome runners to celebrate briefly at the Black Sheep event (thank you Al, that was powerful) and then to bed to feel strong for the half. Couldn’t help but laugh when my Garmin had told me the 5k I just ran needed a “47 hours recovery”, so yeah, that wasn’t going to happen.

*did everything I could possibly do to take care of my body and mind to start the half race morning off well – feel super good about that and knew it would make a difference, even if simply to ENJOY the race more than I had all year!

*It couldn’t have been a better start to the morning, in terms of finding all where I needed to be, running into friends, feeling set and ready. The weather – okay, that was not awesome, a bit strange in it’s humidity and lack of breeze. Ah well, I’ve run in weirder conditions. And yes, started the thank yous – there was a volunteer wearing one of those awkward “Ask Me” signs attached to her backpack – she looked askance at me, so I said it again “thank you for being out here and helping us all!” and she nodded. Made me think we could all say thank you a little more.

*I had a goal for this race, to actually meet Kathrine Switzer and say thank you for all she did. Given my post-race condition, that didn’t happen. But, lo and behold, at around mile 1.5 I saw her and her crew running. So I ran around to the left and in front of them and turned around, clapped my hands together and said “Thank you, Kathrine, for everything you’ve done to elevate this sport!” And she smiled and said “you’re welcome!” Little did I know I wouldn’t get to see her again but damn, that was cool.

*Took a cue from my friend Joe to thank all the many police along the course. I didn’t get them all but I got a lot of them. Some I got to shake their hands. I swear one of them started to reach for his holster he was so startled. Some of them got big grins on their faces, thanked me for thanking them. They’re making a difference, keeping us safe in a myriad of ways, not simply standing there to look hardcore. They probably should all get thanked a lot more than they do for being on the course for us. Thank you Joe, for the inspiration for that (and for always being such a wonderful friend every time I see you, it’s truly a joy to hang out with you.)

*Ok, here’s a little reality – I don’t remember all of this race or the course. Sure, that’s not too unusual given what happened at the end of the course, and it’s why I try to write down as many thoughts and memories as soon as I get back to my phone in my gear bag – but still, it feels kind of strange to only recall a few key points. But what beautiful key points they were.

*I love the San Antonio course, so many running teams from Mexico representing – I love seeing all the teammate shirts runners are wearing, really helps you grasp the scope of the sport.

*Here come the thank yous for volunteers – any and all volunteers, including the ones handing out gatorade and water and also all the folks helping pass out food at the end, those helping the general organization of the course to run as smooth as possible, and certainly, all of the medical volunteers (fascinating to learn how some of them are learning about the field and may become nurses, doctors, EMTs and many other professions – what a cool way to learn the ropes.)

*The Run to Remember mile. Wow. Somehow I timed it perfect, cause the weather had begun to shift and the humidity began to lift. Well, right as I’m running along all the pictures and then it turns into all the family members of fallen soldiers holding American flags on either side of the course, the skies absolutely and completely opened up and poured down on us. Somehow it seemed entirely right for that to happen, the downpour splashing on my face and mixing with my inevitable tears as I thanked over and over each of the family members – their beautiful faces clearly feeling the emotion of all the runners appreciating them and their sacrifice as they ran through it all. That mile is always incredibly powerful, this particular day even more so. Mother Nature played a little role in that, connecting with family members too. Thank you for this Run to Remember portion of so many of the courses – it never fails to make an impression or to make me feel a deep sense of appreciation.

*Can’t quite recall which mile it was, maybe around 10 or so? But I passed a firehouse. Initially my brain said “oh, you already stopped in Savannah, you did what you wanted” and I kept running – at this point, I was pretty happy with my running time. I was feeling a bit off a few times but for the most part, I knew I was on pace to run my fastest 2017 time, just go for that one part of my brain urged. Just 15 steps past the fire house, I couldn’t keep going. I had to stop and go say thank you again. I knew I would regret not doing it, not be oaky with not saying thank you. So I literally pulled up, did a 180 and ran upstream back to the firehouse (I’d already waved to them as I ran by, which just wasn’t enough given everything in Sonoma) and ran up to about eight guys in uniform. I stopped, a bit breathless and admittedly through some choked up tears, and said, hey, I know Texas didn’t technically send anyone to CA for the wildfires in October, but I want to say thank you for ALL that you ALL do to save lives, property, communities. And showed them my Sonoma Strong shirt I was running in. Every single one of them high fived me, said thank you – beaming – and said it meant a LOT to them that I took time out of my race to come say this to them. I could’ve stayed there talking with them longer, but they shooed me back to keep running. It was the best thank you I’ve been able to give to first responders. That memory I’m tucking in my heart forever, and so damn glad I doubled back to share my gratitude.

*Was that mile 12 or so? The dancers on the pedestrian overpass? I loved that. Seriously, they were AMAZING and so talented, it was delightful. I was actually feeling okay, and despite the hill to run up under them that I knew I could tackle at that point, I had to slow up for a walk, just to enjoy the Mexican folk dancing and the music. THAT is a first for a race, and unique to San Antonio. Brilliant.

*I lost count, in the best way possible, of how many thank yous I had the opportunity to shout out and share. It was amazing how it really lit me up every time, it actually made me run better and faster after each thank you. Seems appropriate.

*As per the previous post from last weekend, sure my immediate ending after the finish line wasn’t what I expected and I still have some questions about the why. (I still say it’s a barometric pressure incident) And sure, I missed a lot of my ‘normal’ routine post finish – no finish photo, no chocolate milk, no banana, no wandering happily and deliriously through crowds of equally happy and delirious runners. Instead I was running over ankles in a wheelchair. And, as noted, while the experience was super scary at the time, it was also incredible because I was able to experience – for the first time – the absolute remarkable medical help at a Rock ’n’ Roll race. While the experience of it pretty much sucked for me physically, I was continually blown away by everyone I came in contact with.

*And finally, being able to hang out at the finish line and cheer marathon runners in was just simply the icing on the whole day. And yes, I cannot help it, I have to admit I cry – when you see someone’s emotions of such an accomplishment, and THEN you see them connect with their loved ones who embrace them with such pride and happiness, and then they all start crying together… It’s just so incredible. My friend Lisa, who was cheering people on despite being on crutches and unable to run herself, noted “oh you have a tender heart! and you’re going to make me cry!” The tall young son, who crossed the finish line of his marathon and found his mama and his auntie on the side and collapsed into their arms with tears running down his face. Damn, I’m tearing up just thinking about it. THIS is why I run, why I love supporting other runners, why I keep going to race weekends.

And so, it was another race of firsts. And at 63 finish lines, that’s pretty freakin cool. First time with that kind of finish being wheeled into the med tent, first time doing that many thank yous and really experiencing the lift of it, the first time for the Mexican folk dancers, first time with a down pour in the middle of the race with sudden puddles everywhere, first time doing a remix weekend with a 5k on Saturday, first time meeting Kathrine Switzer, first time for lots of things. And perhaps the end of one kind of era, in that Rock ’n’ Roll is in the transition from the merger that happened, Ironman purchasing them. Things are bound to change, staff already has, and the look and feel will be different and I’m committed to going to practice approaching it all with an open mind and a willingness to offer feedback.

I’m forever grateful for this race weekend – somehow it restored my belief in my running and my why. It reinvigorated my goals and potential for what else I can do. It renewed my excitement about race weekends. I so wanted to end on a high note, believing that I can again improve my running, and that absolutely happened. OH YEAH – it IS in fact my PR for 2017!!!

Let’s GO 2018!

PostHeaderIcon Leaving the smoke behind in Savannah

Have to laugh that as I’m about to post about Savannah, Facebook sent me a ‘memory’ of running in Savannah four years ago in 2013. It was race #27 I think, and rated it a very high race experience. That’s a lot of races and life that’s happened since. My affection for the city of Savannah has only grown.

2017: Feeling grateful for Savannah and the ability to still somewhat run. It’s taken a few days to really digest the experience, and what it means to me.

It was a race I couldn’t imagine doing, and I couldn’t imagine not doing. I struggled mightily with whether or not to fly all the way to Savannah. Considered not doing the race right up until the end of the first of three flights (meaning, I nearly walked back to a ticketing desk to fly right back home.) I didn’t want to leave Sonoma, my community, or the feeling of togetherness. And, I also knew that a few more days to be home and get rest and connect could be useful, and knew the race would be hard to do. I also knew that I would be having serious missing-out feelings during race weekend, in a city I’ve been wanting to go back to since I first visited to run four years ago. I also knew I would ultimately regret not running, not trying, not seeing what was possible. So I somehow packed (thankfully I have a race weekend pack list) and got myself to the airport – the driving of which I do not actually recall. Once in Savannah, it felt right, even if still daunting to try to run. In a way, it was good to be so far removed from everything and be so incredibly distracted by a city that begs you to be present and be fully there.

Thankfully before the race, I ran into friends like Joe and Yinka who immediately knew what a big deal it was for me to be there at all and who were glad I’d made the trip and was attempting to run. People asked about my #SonomaStrong shirt(s) and were impressed I’d made it out to run as well. Everyone seemed to agree in some way that the run could be healing, fun, a distraction, cathartic, inspiring. It felt good to start that way, even if I was still anxious about the actual running.

Experienced a few firsts in this course – the beginning started with the moon setting and then moving into the sun rising at the same time. I think it was either a full moon or close to it and it was a spectacular way to begin. It was a nice contract to the severe grimace I had on my face as I tried to take decent breaths with my run. It’s rarely easy but this time I could feel the strain in a different way. And I had no idea if I would be able to continue, if I would feel this the whole run, or adjust as I have so many times before to a pace and breath that only I seem to be able to make happen for me. And the first music station, oh, bagpipers – there’s something that gets my heartstrings every time upon hearing them, and it seemed fitting given the devastation to the area I live in, and also caused the first of many more tears to fall. Ok, I admit, I cried at the start line too, a mixture of fear, grief, and gratitude. That continued throughout.

Another first – one of the bands was covering Johnny Cash. My grimace turned into a grin, at least for a bit, as I’m a big JC fan and to hear someone pulling of a near flawless impression, well, that lifted us all. And along all this run – a lot of police presence, lots of protection for us all. Now, not all cops seem to enjoy this part of their job, whether looking bored or disinterested or hmmm, maybe even envious in some way. Every once in a while, whether buoyed by those who thank them or just plain enthusiasm, you will see them cheering runners. Well, I pass a female cop who’s solo on her position and she’s is clapping and hooting for everyone – it was truly awesome and so appreciated. Then another first – a medical tent completely engaged and cheering on all the runners enthusiastically – it was amazing. Usually they’re quiet or attending to something or even slightly bored looking, and frankly, I think a bored medical tent is a good sign. That said, for these folks to use their time on the course to cheer on the runners in such fashion, well, I’ll take it, it was pretty awesome.

My favorite first: well, I don’t know if it really is a first. I would imagine out of 62 races I’ve had to have passed a fire station before. But I happened to really notice this one along Oglethorpe Avenue, given recent events and the fact that the front of my tank said #SonomaStrong and the back said “The Love In The Air Is Thicker Than The Smoke” and I felt proud to be wearing it even if most people on the East Coast weren’t 100% aware of what it was about. And then I see the fire station right there. I took a few steps past it and then knew I couldn’t keep going so I stopped, turned around and went in. There was a group of them out there all day cheering runners along. And I HAD to stop to say thank you – they were not in fact a fire station that was deployed to the wildfires in CA. I don’t believe Georgia was one of the 17 states but I wasn’t sure so I wanted to stop regardless. To stop and say thank you, appreciate them for who they are and what they do. That was not simply sweat that ran down my face while I stood there with them.

And this happy little silly event – I’m lucky to have some very dear friends who live in Colorado that I don’t get to see often enough. But I know they all support my running. And there was a runner who I kept seeing along the course who had knee high socks on that had the famous Colorado ‘C’ along the top of them, right underneath the back of her knee. Now, I did not run this whole race at all. I walked a lot of it. I had no choice at times, and at other times, I made the choice to walk – to pause, to breathe, to look around and enjoy the moment. And throughout the race, I would continue to see this woman (I had no real pace, so how could this happen?) and her socks. Towards the end of the race, I began to think it was my Colorado friends saying hi, encouraging me to just keep running.

Speaking of just keep running, ever since I saw Finding Nemo (I think I was the last person on earth to see it), I’ve turned just keep swimming into just keep running. And right as I had rounded a corner in the last three miles and started up a small crest, I thought hmmm, how on earth will I do another three miles? And I look down and someone had written in chalk “just keep running” right where my feet were stepping and so I took yet another sign to enjoy this race, and, yes, just keep running.
I truly love Savannah and need another trip there soon to take more of it in. Never have I met so many people who live in an area strongly driven economically by tourism who really do love tourists and appreciate them and welcome them so warmly. All along the route, no matter the neighborhood, we were cheered along. And every store, bar, restaurant, tour and more I encountered the very definition of friendliness and kindness. And lots and lots of stories I could spend days listening to.

Thank you Savannah, for the reset and compass recalibration, and for the healing distraction, and for the realization I can get up – no matter what is going on – and just keep running. For a moment or two, I felt like myself again, even if painful or emotional at times. I found some strength and comfort in that. Thank you running, for giving me the motivation to try again.

PostHeaderIcon Half #60 and Rock’n’Roll #50. Damn.

A week ago I ran my 60th half marathon. That is, frankly, very strange to write. My 50th Rock’n’Roll half marathon. Not sure it’s really sunk in. None of that makes sense in my logical brain, but certainly my heart recognizes the journey it’s been. Never did set out to run this many. Of course, people have asked “So, is running 100 on your list of next goals?” and honestly, my answer is no. When I was running the first few, if 50 or 60 had been in my brain, it would’ve felt too far away, it wouldn’t be the motivator one would expect. Sure, once I was nearing #40, suddenly 50 was THE goal. And, actually, it kind of took me away from enjoying each race for whatever it was. Instead it was knocking another one down so I could get that much closer to the goal number. And so, no, 100 is not on my brain at this time. Perhaps when I’ve run my 88th or something I’ll think about it. And even that sounds absurd. I have three more to enjoy the rest of the year around and that’s what I’m focused on. That and my health and ability to do these at all, whether my joints and muscles are along with me or my lungs are cooperating. That’s what matters. Maybe an ability to push myself during a race at some point, but not how many I”ve run. And supporting other runners. Their stories and reasons why and own moments of celebration are what I turn to more and more.

Now, as far as #60/#50? It’s hard to express how much I enjoyed it, especially considering what a crap finish time it technically was for me. Yes, it was a big goal to run 50 halfs with Rock’n’Roll. And that my first Rock’n’Roll was in Philly and the 50th also in Philly. And that I was born in Philly and it actually truly is one of my favorite courses of all the cities I’ve run for RnR. But something clicked for this race and I’m enormously grateful for it. I will admit to feeling like I was getting through a lot of the races this year. The expos weren’t inspiring me with energy like they normally do. I just wanted to get the runs over with. But this one, it was different. I walked into the expo and initially I thought “oh, here we go” with a down tone and I stopped and thought “what are you doing? You are actually totally looking forward to this – don’t go default, this is a race you’re excited about, let’s go for it!” and my energy and approach totally shifted. I wasn’t just trying to grab and go, I wanted to actually experience the expo.

The race itself? Physically I was not up for it. I’d been at a conference in DC for a few days and took a train the day before to get ready for the race. My body was tired, I was not rested, and I woke up with a major headache and bilateral joint pain. I knew it would be more of a shuffle than a run. And I was okay with that. I actually wanted the race to last longer, so I could enjoy it all. Now, I’ve had races before where I think “oh, I don’t care about the finish time” and yet while on the course I either try to push when I can’t or get frustrated with myself because it’s not going to go well, I can’t find the extra gear to in fact pull off a good finish time. I never had that feeling come up on this race. Yes, I had to push myself to keep the run up, but the fact that I wasn’t running fast, that it would without a doubt be a slower finish time, really truly did not bother me. I simply wanted to take it all in.

I was taken a bit aback by the looks I got when I pulled out my inhaler shortly before the race start – and realized I guess it’s not something you see too often. And then, while prepping for the race, I wrote on my left calf “50th” and on my right “RnR Halfs” and sure enough, a couple people along the course said to me – as they were passing me – “way to go” or “congratulations” or “impressive!” and that felt awesome. And then the kicker – after crossing the finish line, had a guy come up to me and ask if it meant I’d run 50 Rock’n’Roll halfs. I replied yes. He said he kept seeing me on the course and was pacing to stay up with me, telling himself “if she can run 50 of these, I can run this one.” We congratulated each other and I felt happy for that interaction. And someone else throwing out “you don’t look old enough to have run that many!” Bless you!

Speaking of feeling happy – what are the odds you run into your childhood friend and neighbor right around mile 5? Now, I was hoping to see her every time I do a race here, but it hasn’t worked out. Suddenly at mile 5 I hear a “Gretchen?” and she’s suddenly on my left. SO FREAKING AWESOME to run into you Carol!!! I love how it happened. We ran for a few minutes, me breathless, cause, well, that’s how I run. I wasn’t running fast and encouraged her to get back to her own race. But it was so cool to, in the midst of how many thousands of runners, have her spot me and come say hello!

Mile 5 is heading along boat house row, one of the many best parts of this course. When you’re then running along Sckuykill River for miles at a time, seeing crew teams on the river doing their thing, and getting into your groove while dodging acorns, it just all makes sense. Running. And then you want to see a bunch of adults get goofy giggling grins on their faces? Have a grade school cheerleading group and a 5 year old girl with a sign that says “hit this for more power” and she’s holding it up against her torso. Basically, including myself, a bunch of people suddenly tip toe while running over to her (so as not to scare her) and lightly tap the sign, while she smiles broadly and a bit shyly. Literally heard a guy behind me “awww” and then giggle. Too cute.

Heading back across the bridge to run the west side of the river, I wanted to stop and just enjoy the river view. Such a pretty view. Somehow I kept going and along the west side, while recalling that my dad had a snarky nickname for this river, I ‘asked’ him to join me, to hop on his bike and ride alongside me. This might seem weird to you, or too woo woo or whatever. But it worked for me. I fell into a rhythm of one foot in front of the other, and while often feel alone, for a few miles I did not. I have so much gratitude for my dad, for Philly and my start there, and all he instilled in me including pushing myself physically, real resilience, connecting with others.

It really is one of my favorite courses – sure it was a bit soupy (I do love that October race weather from 2015) and warm, but the iconic streets and buildings and history, including the state pen, and the river course with acorns every where – it’s just a spectacular course with a slight push to finish (uphill) and finishing at the bottom of the the Rocky Steps. Even if I end up running only one race per year, I would do everything I can to make it this one.

And then my favorite signs for this race: “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” and. “Own every mile, celebrate every moment.”

Thank you Philly and Rock’n’Roll, for a brilliant experience.

PostHeaderIcon 93% humidity and half #59

When it’s 93% humidity and your hair is wet before you’ve even arrived at the starting line, when your head is still gushy and warm from yellow jacket venom, when you’re not entirely sure how this one – #59 – will go since the last year of running (for various reasons) has been so tough and you’re wondering what you’re doing – NONE of it matters when you start the race with a sunrise like this over the Atlantic Ocean.

Yes, I had to adjust my running hat to accommodate my the part of my head that’s still apparently a bit swollen from those a’hole yellow jackets, but it’s SO much better and the doctor said while it may get exacerbated from the run meaning I’d feel it warm up (I did), I should be fine to go ahead and do it. So I got my butt on a ridiculously early flight to Virginia Beach on Friday and headed straight to the Expo – seems I actually had forgotten to sign up officially for this race. Given the Summer chaos, I’m not entirely surprised, I was surprised I didn’t realize it until 36 hours before my flight. But since I had a flight and hotel booked, I checked to make sure it wasn’t sold out and got myself to the East Coast. (and by the way, signing up last minute when you have the Global Tour Pass, meaning you can do any and all races for one price – meant I didn’t have to pay the last minute entry fee, which was very nice.)

Slept most of Saturday because I didn’t have the pressure of having to go to the Expo, which was lovely – and then met a fellow runner that has one of my favorite PR stories ever. Richard is an English teacher in San Antonio, running 10 RocknRolls himself this year. His wife runs, his sister is trying, and he’s getting his kids into it too…Oh and as an English teacher, instead of listening to music when he runs, he listens to books on tape – brilliant! Anyway, a few years ago when his son was about 6 months old, he ran a half marathon (he just started running less than five years ago.) He decided to run this half with his son in a running stroller – which in and of itself, is a feat. His son is blessedly asleep for the first 7ish miles, which makes Richard’s run pretty easy. Then the little guy wakes up and wants to be fed, so Richard bottle feeds him on a quick pit stop with one of the bottles he brought with him just in case this happened. But it happened earlier than he expected. Now, it’s mile 8 and Richard realizes he has no change of diapers for his son in the stroller, just back at the car at the finish line. He’s thinking, there’s no way this kid doesn’t blow through a diaper after just eating and I still have 5+ miles to go. So he kicks up his speed and essentially races with his son wide awake and giggling in the stroller, running the last five miles as fast as he can for the sole purpose of a potential diaper change. And yes, he crossed the finish line faster than he ever had (or has since.) If you’re looking for new motivation, that’s one tactic.

Couple other observations from RockRoll Virginia Beach – it felt good. For the first time in a very long time – and entirely regardless of my finish time – this one felt good. I felt fairly strong and grounded – I’ve made a couple big changes in the last month or six weeks and it seems to be paying off (more to come on that) in ways I am so far happy with. It’s been a long time where the majority of the run didn’t feel like a struggle – and while I had moments of “OH LORD!” on this course of course, the balance shifted, the majority of it felt good and joyful. So so grateful for that. Learned and learning a lot from that – including sometimes a dip in motivation can last longer than expected and still worth it to follow through with the commitment and eventually come out the other side.

In the first couple miles, a fellow runner taps me on the shoulder and asks me about the Tour Pass bib on my back, how much it is and is it worth it. I share the information, and of course I say yes, and am also struck by the fact that I can talk while running. This is a new thing – I mean, I am not entering a Gettysburg Address recitation contest while running, but the fact that I could talk a brief conversation and not get lightheaded for a while afterwards is pretty cool.

At one point along mile 4 I was feeling this surprising light and good feeling and looked to my right, as I was appreciating the feeling, and saw a mail box with angel wings on either side, as the postman flag. I love the divine timing of that. And right after that, a big group of Texas Longhorn fans and signs and something about giving them a quick Hook ‘Em Horns greeting was uplifting to both sides.

Now, mile 5? Why, sir, would you have a sign at mile 5 that says “you’re almost there, the end is near!” and I thought “Dude not cool – it’s mile 5, not mile 12!” and his partner next to him, she kept screaming at people “pick it up, pick it up!” So, here’s the thing – maybe that works for some people but probably more so for if you’re running alongside as a coach or something. Maybe something more encouraging like “you can do this, dig deep, you got this, keep going!” or something along those lines. It was jarring and not just for me – I heard a few people tell her to join them on the course and pick it up herself. Ha!
It’s beyond cool to run and get support from the military, and to run near military housing – and then there’s running through Camp Pendleton where the Virginia National Guard is cheering you on, followed by a couple female MPs. Felt like sacred ground we were running on (didn’t hurt that the one house address happened to look at was 88!) It was awesome to run through CP.

Yes, it was some of the heaviest air I’ve run in, although a couple of very welcome strong breezes helped. Also yes, it was the best I’ve felt in a while and that’s incredibly encouraging and motivating for the next big race. That feeling wasn’t 100% expected – I am just excited I ran the whole race, aside from some water walk breaks. I haven’t run a full course since maybe Philly of a year ago. No, I didn’t get to jump into the Atlantic ocean post-race like I’d hoped to, but I did get a chance to connect with some really freakin amazing people and that, as you may know, is really the reason I keep doing these. Thank you, Virginia Beach and RocknRoll, for surprising me in a number of ways – I’m truly looking forward to my next run and next race.

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 Ain’t nothing but a G-thang

“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

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!