Monday, September 16, 2013

Crazy-Fun on the Pinellas Trail

Partying along the Pinellas Trail

It was about a year ago that I started seriously thinking about running ultra-marathon distances, but not for the same reasons I run road races. I wanted to experience the JOY of running again and not feel pressured into fast paces. I had a love-hate relationship with running in the past, but decided to subtract the hate from the equation. Now I have an abundant love for running, as can be seen by my attempt to run a 40 mile trail.

I began my ultra journey yesterday, trying to run as long as I was having fun and not to tell myself "You cannot do this anymore; you don't have it in you!" I spent the week making sure I stayed active so that I went into the run feeling strong. I ran my normal marathon training mileage during the week and took a long bike ride in between, which helps my hip flexors for running. I ate a lot of lentils and veggies a couple days before. I rested and hydrated on Friday with some stretching, electrolytes, and lots of water. Here comes an over-share: I peed about two dozen times that day!!

I packed multiple bags full of a Nuun electrolyte tablet, 3 Hammer gels, a granola bar, pretzels, banana pancakes, pumpkin seeds, pb & banana sandwich, cinnamon pita chips, B12 Odwalla smoothie, 3 bananas, 1 mango, 1 peach, pasta salad, iPod, Garmin, phone, chargers, hat, change of running clothes and shoes, ID, sunscreen, hand towel, my handheld water bottles, and my "Green Bible" (a.k.a. my agenda). 

The alarm went off at 4:45 a.m. jostling me into reality. I had all my gear and food organized and ready to go on my dresser before bed, O.C.D. style. I said something to my Dad as I held my riverstone from his memorial service and dropped it into my pak. Once dressed I prepared the coffee, packed the car, and we were on our way to meet the FUR group for some "crazy" miles. I was looking forward to my first 10 miles with J.M. Signed in, received my numbered wristband, went potty, and we started at 6:40 a.m. following the attached route: Map of Challenge

Finishing up with J.M.
While maintaining a 9:30-ish pace, J.M. and I chatted about life and running. Running with friends = bonding time! THANK YOU J.M. for the magnificent miles and the bridge repeats you did at the end of your miles..BEAST! Not far past the bridge we arrived at J.M.'s stop and my first pit stop. Tony and Shay were happily waiting for us, cheering us on, and taking pics. 

At this point, I just wanted to eat something, but Shay told me I should take my shoes off and wring my socks. LOL..then she complained how nasty it was to see so much sweat being squeezed out. I tipped my shoes up on the curb only to find a puddle had formed when I went to put them back on. Feeling waterlogged, I spent about 10 minutes drying my feet while Tony ran into the nearby Publix to reload my bottles. I ate a couple bites of a banana pancake and drank quite a bit of water as I relaxed. I have read many times that if a runner sits during an ultra they take the chance of getting stuck, but not this girl! I was ready to get back on the trail, with my camelbak loaded and my mango in my hand, I set back out after a 15 minute stop. 
I mixed one bottle with a lemon/lime Nuun electrolyte tablet and munched on my mango. I let my tummy settle for the next quarter mile before I began a slow run. Surprisingly, I was in good spirits - not wanting to stop despite the increasing temperature. The first 20-ish miles were shaded enough to run more than walk as long as I had enough hydration. The trail started to get boring as I started through the downtown Clearwater area, and it took some twists onto sidewalks after the Mile 17 aid station. I turned the corner from Magnolia and was happy to hear clapping and see smiling faces. 

I wanted inside that cooler!

Asking me if I needed anything, she listed everything she could offer...and I said YES to all of it! Really though, I reloaded my water bottle with cold water and the other with ice & Gatorade. Next time I'm gonna stash a couple fig newtons and a banana in my bag, but at that moment some food sounded good and some did not appeal to me at all. Plus, I knew I would be running into my family, a.k.a. my crew at mile 20. Encouragement, hydration, and fueling offered with smiles boosted my love for this sport even more. So many people sacrifice time and energy to serve others, as we all are called to do! 

20 mile pit stop
Next stop - at almost the 20 mile mark at W. Bay Dr., I perched myself on the curb, peeled my shoes and socks off, and awaited instruction. I was drenched and hungry, very HUNGRY! My eyes had started to have a hard time focusing, so I knew it was time for food and electrolytes.I had been eating a little bit here and there - mainly pretzels, pumpkin seeds, and a banana pancake, but as I took a bite of my pb & banana sandwich I suddenly did not want to eat anything else. I did drink an Odwalla B12 smoothie.

Crew member #2 requested that I change clothes as planned. She accompanied me into McDonald's to change, or to make sure I carried out her complete instructions. In other words, she took great care of her Momma! I felt rejuvenated in dry clothes and shoes. I ran in my wider Brook's Pure Flow for the second half on purpose. I knew my feet would swell a bit with all the running. I just didn't realize it would be mainly the thick skin on the bottom of my feet.   

After a good 30 minutes, I was sent on my way as nicely as my crew could, encouraging me to run, but to be careful! I had been listening to music since mile 10, even though I normally cannot stand to have ear buds in when I run. I had one ear bud in and the other tucked out of my way. The music I chose varied, from J.T. (new & old), to Building 429, to Group 1 Crew, to Creed. 

Still having fun, but HOT!
Between 20 and 30 miles, Mr. Garmin died, the trail shade was dwindling, the heat was rising, and my phone was almost dead. However, I received quite a few encouraging text messages from family & friends and Facebook posts, all helped to keep me moving. I know God placed all of those messages strategically in my lap to keep me going. I draped a hand towel over my hat to shield my face from the scorching sun. I was still running more than walking until the Mile 30 pit stop at Tyrone Blvd.  

My crew pulled out the chairs, told me to take my shoes and socks off, and provided me with food and drink options. There was no asking at that point, as Tony demanded that I drink and eat right before running into Target to get G2 and water. I never had any tummy issues during the whole run, which surprised me. I remembered that we brought pasta salad for the bbq at the end and it sounded wonderful. I wish Tony would have captured my LOVE of this pasta salad. As I sat in a chair, without shoes and socks on and my feet up on another chair, I feasted - picking out the pieces of pasta and tomatoes - while hugging the bowl like a long lost friend. It was the best pasta I have ever tasted. 

At this point, I felt like this is going to happen, but looking back I realize it WAS ALREADY HAPPENING..the whole way. Nobody ran next to me past mile 10, nobody yelled at me to run, nobody was next to me for miles and miles. During these times, I would normally hear that little voice saying "you can't do this" or "you can stop, it's no big deal". I did not hear that voice along that whole trail, even after running out of water at mile 34. I get ahead of myself.

I will never leave my pack again and not sure why I did - not thinking clearly apparently. I left my pack and took my hand held with a gel and my iPod in the pocket, since I had just eaten. No phone, no Garmin, and no camelpak. Tony went to try and charge my phone before the next stop, which was suppose to be at 49th St S, about 4 miles away. However, for whatever reason my crew was not at the rendez vous point. The temps were very high, I was out of water, and started doing way more walking than running. With limited options to fill the bottle, I just kept walking, albeit a bit slower than normal. 

Various thoughts went through my head, from Tony being lost, to something bad happening to him and Shay, but I never became angry (which would not be beyond me when I'm stressed). I had made it about 7 miles when I heard "Mom!!" and a horn. I turned to find my crew yelling at me, but flipped my white towel at them and started crying. If I am being honest, I have to say I know exactly how toddlers feel when they have been at pre-school all day and when their parents finally get there they well up with tears. I became a toddler for almost 5 minutes as I walked to the nearest intersection for Tony to park. 

I sat on the curb of 31st S and the Pinellas Trail. The event director had already called Tony to check on me and he reported that I was still on the trail. He was so distraught that he lost contact with me for so long and was worried out of his mind. My eyes were not focusing well and I my feet were aching oozing sponges. Tony mentioned that it was just before 6 p.m. and had been without water for 3 miles. I wanted to finish, but decided against it with the help of Tony. I'm guessing I didn't look so well either. Of course, Tony forced more water and G2 on me.

We called the director and informed them that I would be stopping at 31st St S and Tony drove me to the finish. I did NOT regret my decision to stop at 35 point 5 freaking miles as I thought I might if I stopped. As I rode along in the car, I could not even grasp what I had just done. When I walked up to the runners and volunteers they started clapping and yelling for me. Then they proceeded to force food on all three of us. They were breaking down the tents and tables and we went home loaded with plenty of food. I cannot say a big enough thank you to the director for checking on me and all the runners who stayed until the very end. I am grateful!! 

I thought I would have to be carted into the house when we arrived home, but I was able to gingerly get out of the car and take myself inside. I took an inventory of my body: some thigh chafing, a red face, and a bruised big toenail bed. I showered, drank more water, did some light stretching, and had a beer with my husband to celebrate before eating more food. I thought I'd be ready for bed, but stayed up until almost 11 p.m. On Sunday morning, when I woke up, I stretched in bed. I felt great!! I had no foot, calf, thigh, hip, or back soreness. NOTHING was nagging me, which must have been due to good posture. It is Monday and I felt good enough for a 24 mile bike ride.

I know I have missed a few things along the way, but I would like to share my Nutrition:
Eating a little at a time: 1 banana, 1 mango, 1 peach, 1 espresso Hammer gel, pretzels, pumpkin seeds, Nuun electrolyte, banana pancakes, Odwalla smoothie B12 blend, G2 grape, ICE, soooo much WATER (but only peed once during the run), and pasta salad.

Here are a few miscellaneous photos:
20 mile bridge

Meeting my crew!

J.M. & I finishing her 10 miler.

Bay Pines Blvd bridge

Things I would change:
I would not carry my big Camelbak, but would carry one half that size. My crew would have a cooler with ice, G2, water, and loads of fresh, cold fruit. I would charge my phone and Garmin at each pit stop possible. Finally, I would try to get someone to bike alongside of me. 

Lastly, I would like to share some inspiration and encouragement for others that went through my mind at some point on that trail. Never doubt yourself. Never hold back from something that displays your passion. Be real with yourself and others. Do something that scares you. Think positively. Always make forward progress.  BELIEVE YOU CAN!! 

"No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is God will never let you down; he'll never let you be pushed past your limit; he always be there to help you come through it." (1 Cor. 10:13)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Iron core finally uncovered!

Predawn Potty Pic before their FIRST half ever!!
 I woke up ready for a bridge challenge, or two..or maybe three or four!! I was so excited to be running the Iron Girl half marathon for the first time. I always opted for the 5k, but this time I wanted a long run over some bridges! Race day ritual always includes multiple potty visits before the start, where I found some Iron Girlfriends before their first ever half marathon. Jen was nervous and emotional, but ready to rock some bridges. We made it to the start just as the gun went off, exhilarated!

Pit stop to hug my sis at .3m!
I gave hugs and kisses and went on my way, promising that I would come look for them after I finished. Always encourage people along the way, whether you know them or not. It will come back to you a hundred-fold! I love cheering people on, it has always motivated me! As I reached .3 miles I hear hoots and hollers and see my sis and some Strider friends and had to stop for a quick hug before my lil' sis ran her 5k and ran on.

The Memorial Causeway is NO joke for sure. If you ever want some bridge training and you live within an hour of this bridge, DO IT!! You can have many thoughts as you look to the top of that bridge at any mile, 'I will never make it' or 'Let's rock this mountain!' I chose the latter and relaxed my shoulders back, taking a deep breath, and bounded up that bridge. And just like a kid running down a hill, I smiled and did some controlled falling, a.k.a. getting a great quad workout!

The morning scenery was delicious as we ran toward the beach and along Gulf Blvd, over the Sand Key bridge. Yes, another bridge to challenge all those Iron Girls powering their way over these obstacles. It is like life, we can stop and complain about the obstacles OR we can power through them with confidence that we WILL make it to the top feeling like a conqueror! It felt amazing and again I was exhilarated.

After running through Sand Key Park and to the turn around on Gulf Blvd, I was on my way 'home'. However, I made sure to STOP at the top of the Sand Key bridge and stare into God's beauty for a quick prayer and a good morning to my father, who's presence I could feel along the way. Walking through the water stations always helps me revive my energy and made the difference as I climbed the Memorial Causeway for the finish.

Smiling at my Strider family zealously cheering me on!!
As I came off the swirly decline, we were directed onto a sidewalk. I increased my speed, but was slowed by someone taking the whole sidewalk. So, of course, I said "Come on girl, let's do this!" We both sped up as we were directed back out onto the road to the finish line shoot. I finished in under 2 hours, making my goal, and stopped my Garmin - only to look down at a registered distance of under 13 miles. The distance was my only complaint about Iron Girl, everything else (packet pick up, race day organization, course marshals, finish line announcer, and post-race celebration) was near perfect.

Running with Jen & Leah to finish strong!!
I reset my watch, accepted my medal, grabbed some water, said hello to my Strider family, cheered for them when called for age group awards, and made my way backward on the course to find my pre-race potty line They were both amazingly tough as we climbed the Causeway for the last time, running the swirly decline, and encouraging Jen all the way. We were met by my sistas to bring them to the finish line triumphant! Iron Girls!!

Post race gathering at Frenchy's on the Beach, but not until after some shenanigans in Rachel's van...but what happens in the van, stays in the van!! We emerged in our bathing suits and ready for FOOD! To celebrate accomplishments of all these beautiful ladies, I had the pleasure of sharing some white sangria. It was delicious and a must make for ladies weekend! So many awesome journeys taken and stories written that Sunday morning in Clearwater and I am very proud to have been a part of all of it. WE ARE IRON GIRLS!!

Monday, April 8, 2013

First time for everything...Guppy's Beach 5k recap

Never tell yourself, "One day I will get to do that!" Instead, get out there and try something new and exciting. Don't tell yourself to do it "when and if" it is possible. MAKE it possible!! I remember telling myself in 2006, when I first started running races, that I would love to try out a beach run. Here it is 6 years later and I finally had the chance to experience what I have been missing all these years. Here is my blast recap:

Third place Women's Overall!!

I drove into the parking lot and saw my brother, who Ninja registered for the race. He likes to surprise people like that. It was certainly a pleasant surprise, as was meeting up with a few more friends at the finish line. As I prepared for the race to begin, I did a little warming up. It was cool enough to warrant a long sleeve shirt for this FL girl. The shirt/number pick-up was smooth and the volunteers were cheery despite the breezy weather. This is the first year the race is chip-timed, which made me a happier runner. We all lined up on the packed sand, due to the previous days' rain, and had to start through a 8 ft wide start shoot, which was also the finishing shoot. I thought at first it would be a problem, but that was not the case.

I started southbound alone the shore with a few hundred runners and easily found my rhythm. The hairpin turn slowed me a bit, but I was well on my way to at least an age group win. I did not pay attention to how many females were ahead of me, since stepping on a sand hole could have tweaked something. One water station at the turnaround was provided. The last mile I looked behind me and noticed a large gap and allowed myself to slow by about 10 seconds/mile. I dug deep for that last 20-30 feet sand pit and crossed the finish as the third female overall, first in my age group, and 17th over all runners.

I only had to wait a couple minutes before I turned and saw my brother barreling toward the finishing sand pit. He ran a 5k PR on the flippin' beach. Dang Aaron! I was so excited for him and hope he remembers that he placed 5th in his age group. I also had a chance to cheer on Laura and Ben, who will be getting married soon, as they came across the finish line. It is always good to see people you know at the races.

My take home prize!
Chase bank provided the water and coozies and post race foods included bananas, oranges, bagels, and loads of cookies. Yes (eyes rolling) I did take home extra bananas, oh and a few cookies for the kids. The race awards for overall categories were personalized with a few touches of paint. I always enjoy the awards ceremony, but I certainly would like to hear the times along with the awarded runner's name! My brother and I had a chance to hang out a bit and chat about the race and our planned future races.

Lesson: Do NOT procrastinate with something you truly want to do...because your true desire to do IT will be shown by "if/when" you do it!! Try something new!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Shortened Hare Race 5k with my lil' princess

My lil' princess insisted on running this race because she likes the XC feel of it and all the spoils at the end. The packet pick up was a little confusing because they assigned Shay an elite number and already gave someone her chip. making us wait to get an unclaimed chip. The chip table seemed a bit chaotic and the race started very late.

The course was a double loop, with the second loop taking a slightly different route before ending at the USF Bulls track & field. However, the leaders veered from the intended 5k course and cut off .4 miles leading us toward the track just after we passed 2 miles on my Garmin, registering only 2.69 miles at the finish. I did a few more laps waiting for Shay. She did such a great job

The director of the Hare Race always has loads of sponsors, providing muffins, cookies, bananas, granola bars, cookies, danishes, muffins, etc. You get the picture. Shay enjoys post race spoils just as much as her Momma! Suddenly I realized the awards ceremony was being held behind the bleacher outside of the entry way. I don't even remember them announcing the start of it. We made our way over just in time. They announced me as #1 in my age group and Shay asked about hers. She came in 5th in her age group. I am so proud of her accomplishments!!

Lesson: Sometimes you just have to let your kids do their own thing and trust they will do their best!! (Lil' Miss Independent!)

Lost in Trout Creek

Ready for the trail!!
On that beautiful morning, I decided I would rather run a 15k with my younger brother, Aaron, than stay at home in bed. I registered on race morning to spend just under two hours with him for his VERY first trail run. He likes adventure I'd suppose, never running a trail race, let alone a trail run. He was excited for his first attempt and seemingly happy to have me there. I was excited because I knew I would be having a blast, which ended up being an understatement!

The sign-in for me was easy, and as a race day registrant I did not get the awesome race packet Aaron walked off with. The white cotton shirt has a beautifully designed trout on the front. Potty stop two times before the start of the race, gum in mouth, and water bottle strapped onto my hand. We were ready to go.

This way to the bananas!!
The first 20 yards we ran up a 45 degree hill and onto the berm of packed shell and dirt. There were only 4 water stops along the way, but I came prepared. Along the trail we went, and I talked to Aaron to distract him from the challenge of running in the woods, over roots and tree limbs. He was concentrating on not tripping until...."OHHH" and I quickly turned to see him in a ballerina pose with one hand almost on the ground. I instantly started laughing. Needless to say I had a great ab workout that day.

As long as I ran, he just kept following me!

It was extremely windy up on the berm and Aaron had me laughing yet again by being his normal comical self. Those of you who know Aaron, know what I am saying. My abs were solid by the end of the race. We stopped for photos, walked along the lake, and enjoyed cold water from an energetic family. We finished in just under 2 hours and found that many runners had already left the park. The awards were given and most of the food was gone, but they did have some bananas (wink, wink). Unfortunately, they did not provide food for vegetarians. The food provided was rice covered in a meat sauce, leaving me only eating bananas for my post race nutrition. Those of you who have seen me at the end of a race know that I LOVE to acquire a serious amount of bananas and I did!

Lesson: Sometime, even though you may really want to do something for yourself, sacrifice that for doing something for someone else and accept the JOY that comes with your sacrifice seven fold!!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Strawberry Classic 10k Recap

Yep! First Place age group medal is real!
I cannot recall how many times I  have set my alarm before the crack of dawn to get ready for a race an hour away from my home. You know I was excited to run in my neck of the woods. I woke up less than an hour before the start of the Strawberry Classic 10k start time. The Tampa Bay Runners leader, Ron Tiller, put on a great race, including an inaugural 15k race, and a fabulous after party to benefit the Pediatric Cancer Foundation with loads of bananas and strawberries, but I get ahead of myself.

My daughter wanted to run this race, but had a softball game a few hours after she would have finished. Instead, she came to cheer on the Striders. She and my sister, Rachel, are my biggest fans - I just know it. Lol. My brother, Aaron, participated as the Strider's self-pronounced professional photographer and gets plenty of "thank yous" for capturing some of the good, the bad, and the ugly moments of our running.

I started out the race feeling okay, but found that I couldn't hang with a few friends. I ran 2 miles having to go potty and finally found a port-o-potty. I am so happy I do not have the intense, "I will die if I have to go into one of those!" phobia of port-o-potties (like my OCD sis - j/k Rachel, you know I love you!). I was running about a 1/4 mile behind the pack for those 2 miles, but lost them after the potty. I was upset and decided I was not racing anymore. It was then that I settled into my rhythm. I looked up at mile 5 and saw a couple of my peeps. I remember thinking stay strong and breath and had I not then my actions would have responded to that voice in my head that told me, "You're tired, slow down!" I finished within 8 seconds of the friends I was chasing, in 51:47.

As I crossed the finish line, I was disgusted with my race attempt and finishing time. I wanted something under 50 minutes and to take home age group bling. It felt like all this slipped away from me as I crossed the line, tired and out of breath. I threw myself a huge pity party, even as my favorite cheerleader (my daughter) met me at the finish line with a huge smile. The disappointment in myself melted away as she hugged me, sweaty and stinky as I was. How could I remain upset? I softened my mood and we went to check the results. OMGOSH, the first place in my age group medal now rests on my medal shelf. And, I was given a box full of bananas to take home...ahh, the spoils of racing!

Lesson: It is what it is, so do what you can and everything will work out fine!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March Racing Madness Part 1

After missing the Long Play Half due to car troubles on the morning of the race, my March Racing Madness started with the Armadillo Classic 10K on the waterfront streets of Oldsmar with lots of Strider friends. (FYI: the Long Play race director was gracious enough to transfer my registration to next year's Long Play race!) Packet pickup had long lines, but they moved quickly and there were public bathrooms for those of us who have a phobia of port-o-potties. 

Hundreds of runners were there and apparently an abundance in my age group. While I did not get an age group award this year, I did have a great racing experience. I started off with my sis and a few friends, but slowly pulled ahead to get some alone time. As I passed a few others I knew, I made sure to say hello and offer some sort of encouragement. Somehow these encounters energize me as much as it may encourage others. I enjoyed the course as the sun warmed my poor icy hands (yeah I'm a Florida girl!). I kept a steady pace while making sure my sis did not slow down. I knew she had the strength and determination to finish with me. At the straight-away she pulled up next to me, in her speedy Brooks driven wagon, and powered ahead and crossed the finish line one second (count it) ahead of me. 

We heard the screams and cheers of so many people as we raced down the home stretch. I am so proud of my sister, making sure I told everyone that she beat me by one second. I will admit to NOTHING Rachel! She came away with an age group award and I went home empty handed, but we all need to be humbled by the ability of others and learn from it. When we do our best, but feel knocked down, we get back up, brush ourselves off, and celebrate other's accomplishments as if they were our own. With my sister, her accomplishment WAS my own. I felt like I won an award that day!

Florida Beaches Series Bling!!
FL Beach Halfathon was my second March race. While the bulk of our running group spent their morning on the streets of Sarasota, my brother Aaron and a few Striders enjoyed the sun rising behind the Sunshine Skyway Bridge - it was gorgeous. I finished the FL Beaches series (4 races) and have the bling to prove it. 

What other race director would fall and bust his eye open before the race even begins and refuse to go to the hospital? The answer is Chris Lauber. He has such a passion for the running community that he would sacrifice his own comfort to make sure his runners were cared for at the post-race party and awards ceremony! Thank you Chris for all that you do for the running community, despite other race directors infringing on your predetermined race dates. You are truly appreciated!! 

My brother, Aaron ran a PR by almost 4 minutes. After I finished my race and spoke to a few other Striders, I went back for him and found him running strong. We knew he was going to get a PR and I cheered him on all the way through the finishing line. Again, I found myself extremely proud of a sibling. He is creeping down in his race times and will see a sub-2:00 half in his future! We enjoyed an abundance of post-race nutrition while cheering on award winners before making that hour trek back home. 

LESSON: These two races showed me that I must take the time to focus on encouraging others in every aspect of life. As a result, I am energized and inspired by the accomplishments of others and he or she do not even know it was HIM or HER that encouraged ME! 


Friday, March 22, 2013

Iron Girl Weekends Past & Anticipating the half this year!

Come find your Iron Core!!

My very first experience with Iron Girl was back in 2006 with my sister, Rachel. I had been running for about a year and a half and found a postcard advertisement for this race and thought it would be a great one to get my sister to join with me. She took the bait and we set off for the 5k. I was so very proud of her for completing this challenge and in a time of 38 minutes. We both still have this photo to remind us of the bond we share, not just because we came from the same loins, but because we share the same passions - a.k.a. being a great Mom and running. Both of us have come such a long way since then, and as with any journey one accomplishment leads to another challenge. We will both return this year to display our sharpened Iron Core and at a MUCH quicker pace.

My daughter's very first 5k!!

My 2007 Iron Girl date was with my daughter, Shay, who was 6 years old at the time. I had started running a year before my initial Iron Girl with my sister due to a challenge to run the Gasparilla 5k with a friend. I quickly became addicted to races and I enjoyed Iron Girl so much with my sister that I signed up for the Mother/Daughter 5k team run and we were anticipating a beautiful run. My daughter talked about running the whole thing and all I said was, "Let's have some fun!" We had loads of it as we climbed and descended the Memorial Causeway with our hats and sunglasses on for the warm journey ahead. There were struggles, laughs, some piggy-backing, and some tears as we took each and every step TOGETHER! I feel the welling up of tears of joy as I remember those 3.1 miles we spent together, just my daughter and I (and a few thousand other girls). In just under 58 minutes we sprinted across the finish line like we were in first place with someone hot on our tails. I saw her IRON CORE that day!! Ever since then it has been showing itself more and more with each accomplishment she reaches!!

These two past Iron Girl races are what plays in my mind when I think of Iron Girl, dominating many other races I have run since then. This year I am registered for the half marathon and I look forward to the challenge it provides to show my IRON CORE again!! I encourage you to sign up for either the 5k or the Half marathon and find your Iron Core!
Happy running my friends!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Running for the Booty at Gasparilla

2013 Gasparilla Weekend Festivities

 At first I wasn't feelin' Gasparilla weekend because there were many friends and a brother who could not run their registered race. As I arrived late to the start of the 15k on Saturday morning, I found another brother Aaron pulling into the same parking lot right after me. After our taking pic we set off to find our Strider friends at the start. Literally at almost the last minute we found our friends and grouped into our pacing abilities to walk to and cross over that starting line. Thousands of people set off to see what they had.

Sister catching up to me at mile 9 = priceless!!
Races test us, but we love them. They test our determination to start, our muscular abilities, our desire to be alone or surrounded by others, our determination to finish, and our mental stability. These tests come about throughout the course with no warning at all sometimes. In mile 1 I wanted to be alone (as much as that is possible with thousands of others), so I sped up. I find that in races if I start out at a faster pace it is easier for me to keep that pace up as long as possible than to start slow and speed up.

As I passed my brother-in-law, he told to me I was running well and to stay strong, but that second comment was for my sister, his wife, who  just then realized that I was not far in front of her. She caught up to me, touching my shoulder, and said, "Hey" with a smile. I got so excited I wanted to stop and hug her, but we were on our way to a double PR. We ran the last bit together and STRONG, finishing with a 1:15 personal best. Then the hugs ensued! Also, my brother Aaron was pacing a Strider and PR'ed. This reminded me that it pays off to sacrifice your desires to help others in any aspect of life. The post race food was good, as I always leave with my hands full of bananas.

Next on the agenda: the half marathon on Sunday. Still feeling the pounding on the legs from the day before, I decided to run a comfy half, which ended at 2:11. The weather took a turn toward hot and humid for the weekend and I sweat like a dude. Therefore, I carried my water bottle, walked through water stations, and even made a potty stop. Highlight of the race was running with birthday boy, Mike, and then running with him again for a deja vu conversation.

Jodi reaching out to pull me in!!
Feeling the miles on my legs told me to stop and walk..that it would be okay and nobody would care. You know there are times when you it is good to stop, but this was not one of the those times. I rolled me eyes at that little voice in my head and kept on until I heard some awesome Striders yelling at me and then later saw this hand reaching out for me with Jodi & Gene's smiling faces. You know it is ALWAYS awesome to have someone yelling your name, telling you that you look great and to finish strong coming up to the finish line. Always love seeing their happy faces, especially multiple times along the course.

Finishing the Half!
Always happy to see familiar faces and hear those encouraging voice cheering me on. It reminds me that smiles and encouragement are contagious and we should always remember to pass it on!!

Made my way through the food line before changing and forcing myself to get back out onto Bayshore to find my friend, Jen. She had to change her race from the 15k to the 8k due to the passing of a very close friend of hers. From what I have heard, I wish I had been blessed to know Anne Marie. She must have been an amazing woman. I found my struggling Jen two miles out from the finish. She looked up and screamed my name, excited to see me. I decided this was the opportune time to "Pass It On!" and stayed with her, stopping when she felt the need or yelling at her to run strong if needed. Yes, it was hard, but SHE did it and I am extremely proud of her perseverance even under the tremendous stress of grief and loss. We all can learn a lesson from this strong woman of God. Faith and love carried her through. Love you JEN!

Next up, Long Play Half marathon in the frigid, windy 40's temps. While I could have used that last weekend at Gasparilla, I am going to enjoy it in the Withlacoochee Forrest. For sure I will be the one with four layers, a beanie, tights, and gloves under that race bib!! Bring it on!

Happy running, encouraging, and loving to all!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Rock & Roll Half Marathon Recap

Caught by the paparazzi!
The night before my race mornings begin something like this: go to bed around 10 pm,  wake up five times before my alarm goes off, and go pee at least 4 times through the night. Then in the morning I lay in bed and check FB, eventually drag myself out of bed wondering why I even signed up for this, brush my teeth and wash my face, make my coffee after getting dressed, pack up for the trip still wondering why I registered for this, eat something small, and with everything in hand try to quietly stumble out the door. Only in those instances, the night before and morning of the race, do I wonder WHY!

Sometimes I catch myself wondering why I continue to run the races somewhere between the middle and end of the race, but at Rock & Roll I did not. I love running in downtown St, Petersburg, FL. Remember when you were a child and your parent(s) would get crazy if you went out in the road. Now, I get to run in the roads and my Mom, family, and friends even cheer me on! Once my potty issues were resolved I made my way to the start line with some amazing Suncoast Strider athletes, many with a PR (personal record) in mind. The St Pete Rock & Roll half had no hairpin turns, had a few corners, and only a couple bumps in the road. We ran a PR style course.

With 4000+ runners and walkers there were enough corrals to reach the Gulf of Mexico, but I started in #2 with a few of my closest Strider friends. We all chit chatted about our aspirations for the course, mine being that if I felt good then I would try for a sub-1:50 (a PR). Part of me wanted to try and stick with my buddies, like any other running day, but this was not what happened out on those streets.

My decision to make sure I warmed up and to run a moderate paced race was exactly what my body needed last Sunday. It took about a mile to warm up my right hammy, which seemed to not want to be active at all. I was able to motivate others along the course, which in turns motivates me. Do you think about something while you run, bike, or exercise? I do not and never have been able to focus on anything long enough to justify it as thinking. Every once in a while I have a passing thought of something or someone - mostly someone, but for the majority of the time I am out there breathing heavily, throwing one foot in front of the other, my mind is quiet - listening for that still, small voice. This is how I spent about 1:40 of my race, completely enjoying the scenery and music.

Music is a language of the soul, which is something my Dad always reminded me. Every stage played music I knew, taking me back to different points in my life. I went through the rolodex of memories of my Mom raising nine children on her own, my Dad guiding me through difficult life events, my only sister not knowing she was as beautiful as she always has been, a few of my brothers battling for the position of patriarch and other brothers being playful siblings, my own children unconditionally loving me, and my husband and his sometimes overbearing work ethic. Don't you love how music can bring about appreciation for our past?

My brother & I after his finish!
After I finished the race in 1:51:13 I turned back before leaving the finish line shoot to look for friends. Knowing my friends were still out on the course kept me there and provoked some cheering out of me. I worried about my friend Christina and waited for her, meeting her at the line I grabbed the medal from the volunteer and put it around my friend's neck to let her know how much I admired what she just did. She struggled and pushed through a race that was not ideal in her mind. After making sure she made it to the "S" reunion area I went back for my brother Aaron. He turned the corner at about 1/3 of a mile out, stopped to stretch his legs and saw me. His legs were tightening up, but I told him he could do it and to just put one foot in front of the other. He kept moving but wanting to stop. He explained the pain as a million screaming babies. Continuing to tell him not to stop we ran through the finish line. I was so excited that I do not even remember what his time was, but found out later that he made a 7 minutes and 7 second PR for his half marathon. WOW!!

I know some people would think that the free Sean Kingston concert could be the highlight of the morning, but for me it was not as important as being there for my family and friends on the streets of St Pete. After the running, cheering, and dancing I NEVER wonder why I get myself into all of this.

Christina, Me, and Kim..the three amigas!!

"Remember the feeling you get from a good run is far better than the feeling you get from sitting around wishing you were running." 
-Sarah Condor

Thank you to my family and Strider friends for making life more enjoyable!!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Best Damn Recap

Best Damn mismatched gloves
I noticed that there were a lot of bloggers and Striders running this race only after I finished. I must have been in la-la land during the week approaching this adventure. I have a habit of not researching the race course - I have my brother Aaron for that. He likes to dump things on my like "This course has hills!" with a roll of the eyes. Had he not mentioned this little known fact to me I may have bolted off the line and beat my legs to death within 2 miles. Thank you Aaron for saving me 11 miles of agony.

My daughter, a Strider runner and cheer professional (lol), decided at the last minute (5:25 a.m.) not to come with me, which allowed me to jam to whatever I "damn" well pleased on the way to Safety Harbor Resort & Spa. Picked up my packet after some circling for a parking space. Warm up job to get my bib & chip, found a few friends and chatted about our strategies, and used the potty too many times to count.

The Best Damn first half of the year for me - my goal is to run 13 half marathon during 2013, which is also being done by a few friends. It is not too late to start this journey for any who finds themselves called to join. The more the merrier! All set to take off, Christina, Josh, and I started slow to warm up the muscles. There are some races that will put you in a stupor in the first 4 miles and this one - with all its hills - was attempting to pull me down. All three of us began to struggle by the third mile. Little complaints began to pop up over and above Josh's whining about not being able to work his Garmin like a teenage girl. Haha. We were constantly questioned about our pace, because HE wanted to try for a PR - ON HILLS!

When we came upon the four mile marker I thought, 'No way we have ONLY run four miles!' and wanted to turn around right there. Sometimes you find yourself running with others who may be struggling, as well as yourself, and you can make one of two choices: get pulled down and feel terrible for the next couple hours - OR - you can decide that you are stronger than that and pull your torso upright, take a deep breath, and think this is going to be an Awesome training run. I chose the latter. I kept me eye on the pace to stay under 2 hours for my friends, called Christina's name multiple times, and threw pace times at Josh to keep him subdued. Through the woods and over the hills we went on our journey.

The scenery on the course was beautiful and challenging, the volunteers were blessings (even those who needed more at their water stations), and I spent just under two hours with a few of my closest friends along Tampa Bay. After the last water stop I lost sight of my running buddies, but knew they were close behind me. and coming up to the turn for the finish line sprint, I had the joy (as can be seen in the pic above) of being cheered on by my Strider family and my sister. There is something invigorating about having people yelling at you like you can understand what they are saying, other than to GOOOO!

I bolted and as I entered the shoot I hear a man's voice say my name. I turned and saw one of my many older brothers (Eric) standing next to my Mom yelling at me to run faster. Oh the joy and what a perfect way to end 13.11 awesome miles in 1:52. I turned and waited for my friends to congratulate them on a stellar performance. They pushed through despite the hills and the physical and mental struggles they encountered. Despite not getting a PR, we all pushed through those tough spots and made that CHOICE to continue and give it our all until we crossed that blue mat with our arms raised high in triumph!!

Shawn, Rachel (sis), Me, Amber, and Aaron (brother)
The food and after party was spectacular. Being vegetarian/vegan there are usually not many foods I will consume at post race parties. I do make off with loads of bananas though. The Best Damn after party served Jimmy Johns vegetarian sandwiches and I thought, 'Oh man, this has to be the best post race spread I have seen since becoming vegetarian!' I usually eat a lot of fruit right after and then go home starving. Only one thing that was missing at The Best Damn race - my husband and kids!!

My challenge to you is to analyze your choices, make it, and ACT right away. It is how I was able to have a Best Damn run with some Damn good friends!! We are stronger than we think we are!!

Next on my schedule is the Rock & Roll half this coming Sunday in downtown St Pete - another place I love to run...stay tuned for what I hope to be a spectacular race!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Life in the "slow" lane

Ready for some life changing miles.
Looking back, have you ever felt that some days could have and should have been enjoyed more??

The week before the Clearwater Marathon I was "recovering" from the Disney Marathon. Let me just interject that active recovery is best for me, but not for everyone. However, the week before the Disney Marathon I tapered according to other's suggestions and I was bored out of my wits. I have found that recovery is a mindset in addition to physical rest. The week before Disney I ran low and slow mileage three days and did yoga four days. Mind you my normal week is filled with running, yoga, P90X, and Insanity (more on that in another blog). 

The Monday after Disney I settled for yoga, stretching, and a massage. On Tuesday morning I was ready to get back out for a date with my running shoes and opened my stride a bit to stretch out the hammies. I felt good and decided more yoga would help with tired muscles. Again, active recovery. I inserted a session of yoga, P90X Shoulders & Arms, and Ab Ripper into my Wednesday study schedule. An early appointment kept me from running on Thursday, so I opted for Insanity's Pure Cardio and more yoga. You can never do enough yoga. Friday I was able to get out for some quick miles to power up the legs. On Saturday morning I decided to do Insanity's Cardio Recovery, which helped me tighten and prepare my legs for some ground pounding miles. I lightly stretched throughout the day, inserted whenever possible in my busy-ness with family and schoolwork. 

In preparation for the "race" I was reminded to react with calm and use positive logic to think through my situation. Not many people can understand why someone would run even 3 miles for the shear pleasure of it let alone 26 point freakin 2 miles. I was ready for a pleasurable experience with thousands of my closest friends and even my family - my brother ran the half. For those of you who do not have experience with Chris Lauber's races, he loves the running community and shows it through his insertion of bridges into his races. What's one, two, three, or six inclines over 26.2 miles? Eh, no problem. LOVE IT!! 

I began the race with a few friends and spent the first 1/5 of my journey chatting with my friend Heather who was running the half and would make her turn back over the Sand Key and Clearwater Memorial bridges. We both have a goal of running 13 half marathons in 2013 and she is ahead of me already. We agreed to stay together until the Suncoast Strider's water stop at about mile 5.5 after conquering the two bridges. We talked about stride rate, breathing techniques, and our running goals for this year. I was held accountable to my decision to begin my journey slow, which does not always happen especially when my legs are warmed up and ready to GO! I held back and enjoyed the atmosphere, which is difficult for me when running a race. 

My own personal cheering section!

One of my favorite highlights of the race was the Suncoast Strider's water station going into and out of Sand Key Park. This amazingly crazy group of friends and family (my sister, hubby and daughter - the youngest but not the smallest) spent the morning setting up and serving water to runners, but most of all cheering on every runner with the same enthusiasm as they would for their favorite professional sports team during the championship game. With so much yelling and waving of pom poms I had to stop and enjoy this naturally occuring party zone, which ended up being about 5-7 minutes even though I had another 20 miles to cover. Tearing myself away I set off for my adventure with hydration bottle in hand. Didn't want a repeat of the Disney medic tent adventure. 

Over the next 20 miles of asphalt (love running in the road, never could do it as a kid) I met countless people running for various reasons, some struggling, some plowing through, and some happily talkative. I met a woman who had physical issues she was determined to overcome, a young Russian Scientology volunteer from Palestine named Yuri, and some Marathon Maniacs just putting one foot in front of the other. I truly believe, even more so now, that if we slow down enough to enjoy the environment and people with which we are blessed we can learn countless lessons and witness the manifestation of purely organic happiness. 

We all have struggles, limitations, or obstacles that we think will hold us back. For me, it is all in my head - that menacing little voice that tells me that I should stop and walk, that my knees or ankles are hurting, or I am not strong enough to do this. Have you heard this voice? I say punch that voice in the throat and claim that it has no control over what we want to accomplish. I had a few fights with this voice during my journey and decided to drown it out by encouraging others who seemed to be fighting with that same voice. I think women's struggles are more visible and easily shared with others than men. I was reminded by encouraging others that even though I struggle in a race when someone praises me for my "accomplishment" I should accept it and be proud of what I just did - fast or slow. These terms are relative and not to be compared to other's speed, distance, or opinion. 

My biggest fan coasting across the finish line with me.
After spending enough time walking I began running and found that I was close to the finish line. Tears began to well up in my eyes and emotions started to flare. Let me say it is very difficult to run and cry at the same time. I look at this photo of my daughter and I crossing the finish line and knowing the emotions I was feeling and the excitement and love she unconditionally poured out into my depleted cup I sped up and came to the end of my 26.2 journey - for that day. Cheers from my husband, son, daughter, and strangers were met with joyous tears of "that was hard", "I had fun", and "my family is happy for me" among other emotions. My husband covered me with a towel and a family hug ensued. Little things show us how proud others are of our accomplishments, take it when it comes and enjoy it. Next step is to have...

A few brews from the Veterans with my Marathon Maniacs!
....a drink with my husband then some awesome ladies. Celebrating life should be done at every moment, even if you just want to lay down and sleep, physically and metaphorically. I will add life to my days so that when I look back on my years I won't feel that I could have / should have done this or that, but more to just enjoy TODAY! Speaking of enjoying today, my friend Cindy (below) accomplished her very first marathon at age 59 with her husband/coach by her side throughout her journey. 

Cindy & Clark partying across the finish line of JOY!

NO EXCUSES!! They came around the corner running and he crossed the finish dancing and she came across smiling as we cheered on her accomplishment. It is a magnificent feeling to have friends and family at the finish line and we wanted to share in her joy as she accomplished something she felt was beyond her reach just a year earlier. Nothing is beyond our reach if we continue to keep moving forward toward our goals (see Smart Goal blog post). 

My first 26.2 Starfish....What a beauty!
The goal for the day accomplished, medal and bananas acquired, and time with family and friends enjoyed. I look back and realize I could not have enjoyed this day more. No regrets for taking time to enjoy people, passion, and life!!

Next race - Best Damn Half.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Lessons from the Disney Marathon

Disney Marathon 2013

With an entry in the 2013 Disney World Marathon, I found myself extremely excited and nervous to embark on this magical journey with two very close friends. Our Plan: stick together as long as possible, but if one or more feel so inclined then they GO! Race weekend was upon us and we made our final arrangements for food, sleeping, and race day transportation. 

My daughter (11 yrs) and I made plans to stay with my step-Mom for the evening. After packing everything thing I found necessary to bring, and more, we set out for Orlando going straight to the Wide World of Sports Expo. Amazingly, we found Striders everywhere..they are a force to be reckoned with, anywhere they run! The race packet was full of goodies and a beautiful royal blue race shirt. We walked around the expo checking out the wide array of running apparel and paraphernalia. HP provided free printed photos of the runners and their friends and families placed in a protective sleeve. After talk about strategic race day plans, many of the Striders parted ways. 

After an intimate "no phones on the table" dinner with friends (mushroom ravioli and loads of bread) and a visit to the Nike Outlet store, my daughter and I made our way to Nana's house, where she opened the door with a huge smile. We talked about the race day agenda and my needs as a runner. All the sudden, she tells me we should go to the sporting goods store for a running hat. She is so wonderful, and not just because she bought me a hat that just about saved my life (more about that later)!! She took us to dinner at TooJays, where I fueled up with a Portabella mushroom cap "burger" and fresh fruit. I think my daughter ate more than me. After we returned home and chatted for a while, checking out what was on the tube, I noticed how late it was - about 10 p.m. Yup, our wake call was at 2:30 a.m. 

Quietly, my daughter and I dressed and packed our things, tip-toed out the door, and ate breakfast on the way to the All Star Music hotel. We took the provided shuttle about dark : 30 a.m. with our friends. Disney sure knows how to throw a party, or should I say an extravaganza!! Upon arrival, Disney employees greeted us and directed us to the pre-race party area. A live DJ, a dancing area, hundreds of port-o-potties, and twenty thousand of our closest friends. Nerves slowly built to a rolling boil as we moved into Corral C and approached the start line. High fives all around and the fireworks let loose as Mickey Mouse counted down and said, "GO!" 

The three of us were on our way. I am not one to recount every single mile of any race I do because frankly I do not remember specifics while running, but would like to mention a few things about the race itself in general. (Nor do I do math while I run!) Disney is the happiest place on earth and they want runners to feel the love. Every mile marker had characters available for photographs and high fives with a Disney backdrop. Running through all four Disney parks with over twenty thousand people and look what is posted on the RunDisney site:
Striders doing what they LOVE!
The three of us passed the half marathon split at 2:04 and feeling good about our pace. Over the next few miles we split up, with me lagging behind. I started feeling tired quickly and found myself walking through water stations and in between. Looking back, I would contribute it to my lack of fueling on race morning and during my magical miles. My legs began to cramp, feet began to hurt, and I felt like stopping after attempting everything I could think of to focus and GO! Walking was my only option, or STOP! I told myself that if I could just walk I would end up at the finish line and cross over for that coveted 20th anniversary Mickey Mouse medal. I walked, stopped, sat down a few times, and walked more and all the while I had people passing me saying, "we are almost there" and "good job", which seemed to be the only thing that kept me off of that bench along the Epcot walkway. Totally dehydrated and experiencing heat exhaustion, I ended up in the medic tent with my daughter as my nurse forcing electrolytes in me every 15 seconds. What a pushy lil' princess she is.

The medal is absolutely beautiful and I am extremely happy to have done the Disney Marathon. The characters induced excitement in everyone, the employees made sure everyone's dreams came true (i.e. keeping them hydrated), and most of all the camaraderie of 20,000+ runners breathing, sweating, and struggling for their own goals and still making that extra effort to encourage each other is why I LOVE to run in these races. My experience at the Disney Marathon was inspirational and educational to say the least. While I did not reach my goal, my dream of completing the Disney Marathon did come true! Thank you Disney World for putting on the "happiest" race on earth.

Next up....Clearwater Marathon - 1/20/13

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

S.M.A.R.T. Goals for 2013

I sat down with my family for our goal setting dinner on December 31st for some brainstorming on how to develop goals. We came away with full bellies and over about two dozen goals for individuals and our family as a whole. We are all very excited about this year, as we listed personal goals, things we want to do, places we want to go, and books we want to read.

A few from the kids included:
* Read one book a month (11 yr old)
* Take SAT and apply for college (16 yr old)
* Go ice skating (11 yr old)
* Visit South America (16 yr old)

A few from the parents:
* Graduate with a degree (both)
* Read a Biography (Hubby)
* Run 2013 miles (Me)
* Take a trip to California (both)

These are only a few of what we wrote down, which is extremely important to do. If goals are not written down there is less of a chance that they will be accomplished. So get out that piece of paper, whiteboard, chalkboard, smart phone, etc. and get ready to start brainstorming!!

The S.M.A.R.T. way to set goals. Links to multiple goal-setting websites can be searched, but I choose to simplify the guidelines like I did with my family.

Specific Be very specific about what you want to accomplish. For example, say you want to run more. Think about how often, how long, what days, where, with whom, etc.

Measurable  Be sure that you can measure your goals by established criteria. Ask questions such as how much or how will you know when you have reached the desired goals.

Attainable Be careful to develop goals you can attain during 2013, even if those goals may continue on to grow into bigger goals. Write down the specific steps required to reach your goals.

Relevant Make your goals relevant to your lifelong aspirations. Examine whether the goals are worthwhile for you and your family.

Time-Bound Set a time frame requirement to attain your goals. Answer the question: What target date do I set to accomplish my goals?

With all these guidelines in mind, brainstorm your goals, write them down, and post them somewhere you look everyday. When you reach a goal, CELEBRATE!! I will be celebrating along with all of you!!

Happy Goal-setting!!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Bean and Barley Salad

This is a Vegan dish with loads of protein and carbs...ENJOY!!
2 cups cooked barley
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 can whole kernel corn, rinsed and drained
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
Optional: may add any chopped veggies
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced

1/2 cup olive oil
12 cup red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala (can be found on grocery store spice aisle)
pinch crushed red pepper flakes

In a large bowl, stir in barley, beans, corn, chopped veggies, and cilantro. In a small bowl, combine the dressing ingredients and whisk. Pour over salad; toss and coat. Chill until serving.


My purpose with this blog

The FitRunninMomma Blog has a purpose - to challenge you to take lessons from life and grow in a positive way. Without growth we are stagnant and happiness slips out of our grasp like we dipped our hands in oil before taking hold of it.  Have you ever had a mind-melt trying to figure why a certain situation has happened to you or someone you love? Or have you felt someone wronged you or that your children just like to be bad? Stereotypically humankind finds it easiest to focus on the negative, but my challenge to you is to spend time focusing on positive thoughts and actions and see where we go!