Christmas Eve Run

I was supposed to run with a group at Chestnut Ridge park this morning, but late last evening I got a text that my friend I usually go with couldn’t make it, and that the people we usually hang with while running all had to cancel for various reasons.  I happened to mention this to another runner friend at a Christmas party last night, and he invited me to join them at Losson Park to run the trails this morning.

It turned out to be one of my most awesome runs this year!  It was a chilly 20 degrees, but there was no snow and very little ice, no wind, and it was gorgeously sunny.  I’d run at this park before, but never back on the trails (since I typically run alone and that doesn’t seem the safest idea to me).  We ended up running just over 7 miles through the woods, past a pretty little creek.  We had hoped to see some deer or fox, but ended up only seeing a few ducks hanging out in the water.

Afterwards, we all went back to one guy’s house for bagels and fruit, tea, chocolate milk and …… he gave each of us a package of sponge candy for Christmas!! YUM!!

The best part: another newcomer, Mark, joined us this morning too.  He was super friendly and told us all stories of running Boston and many other marathons.  We realized at the end of the run, though …. none of us actually knew who he was!  Throughout the seven miles, we each figured that one of the others had invited him along.  What I loved was how a perfect stranger could join up with our group, fit right in, and feel right at home with all of us.  I think that level of acceptance and openness is one thing that defines a runner.

Happy Holidays, all!


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Posted by on December 24, 2011 in Uncategorized


My 2012 Running Plans & Goals – including a big announcement!

I’m mostly writing this for myself,but if anyone else is interested in reading, the more the merrier!

I ran three marathons in 2011. My first, second and third, between the end of May and the beginning of December.  I thought that by the time I finished my third marathon, I’d be ready to take a break. Maybe run less in 2012.  Instead, I feel exactly the opposite.  Every day since the marathon I’ve felt like I would literally pop if I didn’t get out for a few miles.  You know that feeling … you just HAVE to run.  I’m forcing myself to take it a little easy, though… maybe an extra rest day here or there.. for the next few weeks, because my plans for 2012 are BIG.

Marathons four and five are in the plans.  In May I will likely run Buffalo.  Although I don’t want to repeat marathons, there’s something about running my home town. I also have my sights set on Chicago in October.

In March I will run in Columbia, SC.  I am debating whether I want to run the half or the full but am leaning heavily towards running the half.  More importantly, one of my dear friends is running her FIRST 10K the same day!  That makes that race extra special.

Aside from a bunch of 5K races, the usual Shamrock and Turkey Trot 8Ks, and hopefully a 10K in there somewhere, at the end of March I’ll run the Around the Bay 30K in Hamilton, Ontario.  I also plan to give back more to the sport. I’ll start by volunteering for a local ultra, the Beast of Burden 100 miler here in January (yep people actually run 100 miles in Buffalo in January).  I’m really looking forward to that.

But my biggest plan for 2012  ….. I decided to train for and run my first ultra!!  Beginning the first week of January, I’ll embark on a 24 week training plan that will lead me to the completion of the Niagara 50K in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario.  This idea had been cooking for a while, but since I have become extremely excited about it recently, I know it’s the right thing to do.  So, .. I’m going to give it a shot!    I found a training plan that builds up slowly, with plenty of cut-back weeks, so I can be careful to avoid injury.  Training through the winter in Buffalo is not for the faint of heart .. but … I do believe it makes me tougher by the time spring rolls around!

I chose this race because it seems to have just what I want in an Ultra.  It begins in Niagara on the Lake and goes down to Niagara Falls and back.  I’ve driven this route before, and it is incredibly scenic and beautiful.  The race is on an asphalt footpath that is traffic free the entire time.  There are well-stocked aid stations every 5K, and from all I’ve read online, the volunteers are some of the best around.

So…. here goes …

What are your goals and training/racing plans for 2012?


Posted by on December 12, 2011 in Uncategorized


St. Jude Memphis Marathon Race Recap

The St. Jude Memphis Marathon on Saturday, December 3, 2011 was my third marathon.  Again, I had high hopes and total determination to come in under four hours, but again I finished just shy of that (my Garmin had me at 4:16; I am awaiting official results).  I was, however, happy with my 4:16 considering the following  reasons excuses:

  • This was my third marathon since May, and my second marathon in seven weeks (#2 was Columbus, October 16).
  • I was plagued by an annoying injury starting the beginning of October (SI joint misalignment).
  • Due to things that came up and the above mentioned injury, I hadn’t done a long run longer than ten miles between marathons.
  • I did not sleep well at all the week leading up to the marathon, and I woke up Saturday morning with a cold.
  • This course was not, in any sense of the word, flat.  At least not to this girl from the land of flatness known as Buffalo, New York, who PR’d in her previous marathon in the land of even more flatness known as Columbus, OH (seriously there was one teeny hill in Columbus).  I seem to have blatantly ignored the “rolling hills” part of the course description and believed my friend when she said Memphis was flat (compared to Eastern Tennessee, I guess??).

Overall, I have nothing but good things to say about this race.  The start was fantastic.  We were divided up into corrals, and each corral started two minutes after the previous one.  This made for an amazingly un-crowded start to the race.  No dodging people.  No hopping up onto sidewalks to get around slower people.  It was awesome.

I started out the race with the 4:00 pace group.  The pacers, Bob & Carolyn, were great. They were super friendly and chatted with all of us.  I stuck with them through the first 10K or so.  Then I noticed that while they said their goal was 9:09 miles, the past two had been about 8:30-8:40.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold that pace and not tank later in the race, so I chose to drop back.

The road to mile 2 brought a beautiful view of the Mississippi River.  The highlight of the race, for me, came around mile 6 or 7, where a lone teenage girl danced on the sidewalk singing about how “frickin awesome” we all were.  It literally made me laugh out loud (the other highlight, for me, was the volunteers basically lifting runners onto the steps at the stadium after the finish).  Around mile 5 you get to run through the St. Jude hospital campus.  The reception there was overwhelming.  What touched me most was a young woman holding a sign that read, “because you are a runner, I am a survivor.” (in case you don’t know, all proceeds from the marathon weekend benefit St. Jude Hospital).

Things got a little more lonely after the half marathoners turned off.  I understand there were about 3,500 people running the marathon, and about 13,000 half marathoners (I could completely be making that up).  We ran down Beale Street again and headed back out East of the city.  After the halfway point I started to feel a little tired, so I decided to walk the water stops, to make sure I was staying hydrated (it had warmed up a lot, and the sun was pretty hot!), and I figured that if I took short walk breaks, I would be able to keep up my 9:00ish minute mile pace.  That actually did work for a while, up until about mile 20 where, for the first time ever, I had to use the porta potty during a race.  I was getting uncomfortable and figured if I gave in and stopped really quick, I’d have an easier time running.  I ended up taking a walk breaks a little more frequently after mile 20.  Miles 23- 25 seemed to drag on forever, and at one point I recall thinking, “I am NOT running up another hill. I’m just not.” (the crabbiness usually hits me between miles 21-24).   However, somewhere between miles 24 and 25, I saw a young boy with his mom and dad walking the grounds of St. Jude.  He was bald and was wearing a mask.  My crabbiness disappeared and I felt a little more perspective.  I made myself run again.  Because I could.

As we neared mile 26, a spectator said that the mile marker was right around the next turn.  I asked her if she was lying.  I was desperately tired at this point.  She reassured me she was a marathoner herself and would never lie about something like that.  I smiled and carried on.

The finish was along the first baseline of Autozone Park. It was really cool to run into the stadium and see it filled with cheering spectators.  Crossing the finish was, of course, amazing.  No matter how crabby I get, how down I get on myself for not meeting a specific time, or how many times during the race I swear I am never running ever again, there is no feeling in the world like crossing that finish line and knowing I have just run a marathon.  And now, of course, I can’t wait for the next one!  It will likely be Buffalo, possibly Pittsburgh, in May.

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Posted by on December 6, 2011 in Race Recaps


Turkey Trot Race Recap and My List of Thanks

The Buffalo YMCA Turkey Trot, which hails itself as the ‘oldest road race in America’ (116 years!) was this morning and it can be summed up in four words: way too many people.

Admittedly, I am a ridiculously competitive person. I take every race way too seriously and have a hard time running a race just for fun, especially if I have some arbitrary time goal in mind. Today was no different. Today I decided I would break 40:00.

By the time we got to the start line we were way back where the walkers were lining up.  Took a little over four minutes to get to the start.  Turkey Trot is a really fun point to point race and lots of people dress up in costumes.  It’s an awesome community race that attracts people of all levels.  Especially walkers. Who like to walk at least five abreast in the middle of the road.   This wasn’t completely unexpected, but I felt I did a lot more dodging than in recent years. Since I had that time goal in mind I felt a little torn between being annoyed and wanting to just have fun.

All in all, I missed my goal by less than 30 seconds.  My “official” time was 40:27.  I ran a couple sub-8 miles and as soon as I crossed mile 3, I had run 1,200 miles in 2011!  I also got to hang out with good friends before and after the race.   So …  I think it’s time for me to learn to celebrate what DOES go well in my races, instead of focusing on the negative.  This is a goal for Memphis:  run my best, but ENJOY what is going on around me. I feel like I missed out on a lot in Columbus in October because I was focusing solely on maintaining my pace.

Would love to hear your thoughts!  Ever have a hard time in large races or racing just for fun?

This is a good segue into my list of things I am thankful for today (and every day of course).  First, I’m thankful for running!  It makes me feel awesome, I have met amazing, supportive people, and it seriously keeps me sane.  I’m thankful every day that I have the ability to do something I love.  I’m thankful for my running “Tweeps” who provide me with a forum for “bragging” about my accomplishments, give me support when I need it, cheer me on, and answer all my running questions.  I’m thankful for my “real life” friends, too.  I have been blessed with amazing friends: some I have known most of my life, which is comforting; some new friends who I really enjoy getting to know; some live far away; and some I don’t get to see often but I know will always be there.  I’m thankful for family, especially my parents, who are amazingly generous people who have made me the compassionate, generous person I try to be.  And I’m thankful for my job.  I actually really like my work and the people I work for directly (don’t let that get out!).  They are kind and good to me … and I know I am one of the lucky ones to have a good job in today’s economy.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

What are you thankful for?? 

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Posted by on November 24, 2011 in Race Recaps


Columbus Marathon Race Recap

So, here it is.  My first ever blog post!  I shall regale you with a race recap about the Columbus Marathon, October 16, 2011.

None of my friends could make the trip with me this weekend, so Saturday morning I packed up my car with several running outfits (I still couldn’t decide what to wear), my trusty jar of peanut butter, and my beloved pillow (seriously, hotel pillows are awful; way, way too fluffy for this girl!).  I plugged in my ipod and started out into the monsoon that had befallen our city that morning.  i figured the rain would let up once I drove a little ways out of the city; I was right, in a way. It did let up by the time I passed Cleveland.

When I finally arrived in C-bus I headed straight for the expo. I picked up my number, browsed for a while, then bought all the mint chocolate Gus I could find, right after telling the girl behind me in line how yummy they were and how she just HAD to try them (sorry, guess I meant you really have to try them another day).  I spent the rest of the afternoon checking into the hotel, stuffing myself at Olive Garden, and going to bed at 7:30 p.m. (thank you to my lovely neighbors who had a screaming match at 5am on Saturday, allowing me to be tired enough to fall asleep so early!).   I also, thankfully, got to talk to my best friend for a little while.  She couldn’t make the trip because she has an upcoming trial this week (she’s an attorney) and I was feeling pretty lonely without her around.

4:30 am came really fast.  I woke up Sunday morning with THAT feeling … those mixed emotions of  “what am I about to do?/Am I crazy?/I’m so excited/nervous.  I decided to wear my shorts, and a tank top, and waffled for a while about the arm warmer issue.

Ready (pretty much) to go!

The race was to start at 7:30, so, my horrible sense of time being what it is, I decided it best to leave the hotel by 5 am.  I didn’t want to risk being caught in traffic or getting lost in the city.  Neither happened, of course, so I ended up hanging out in my car in the ramp for about an hour. About 6:20 I decided it was time to get in line for the porta potty.  Thankfully the wind from the day before had died down.  It was a little breezy, but not bad at all.

A little after 7 am I fought the crowds and headed to my corral.  I quickly found the pace team leader for the 4:00 pace group.  My plan was to hang with them until about mile 25, then take off and  finish under 4:00.  What really happened was I lost the pace group before we even crossed the start line (is it just me? I needed to be chained to this guy or something!)  It was ridiculously crowded in the corral.  Some guy actually pushed me out of his way in order to get near the pace group, telling me that was “his” group and he needed to be there.  Then he tried to convince me he saw me at a clinic a few weeks ago ….. me telling him I’m not from Columbus didn’t phase him at all.  Passing him around mile 24 made my day.

National Anthem sung, wheelchair athletes off (they are amazing!), and then the Statehouse cannon was fired to start the race.  It always seems a bit anticlimactic when the gun goes off and you stand there for several minutes ….

I crossed the start line about 3 minutes later and I was off!

What struck me about this race was how fast it seemed to go by.  The crowd support was awesome.  The volunteers were amazing.  Somewhere around mile 4 I saw two guys in Sabres jerseys at the side of the road, so I of course had to cheer for THEM!  Before I knew it I was at mile 7, where they were handing out Clif Shot Gels.  I tried grabbing one, but the guy was holding it way too high in the air, and it ended up falling to the ground.  No big deal, as I was carrying a few of my own, but a minute later I felt a tap on my shoulder – another runner had picked up my gel for me and ran to catch up to give it back!  What awesome generosity other runners show each other!

I cruised comfortably through the first half. I am not that great at sensing my pace, so I had my watch set to beep at me every time I went faster than an 8:45/mile.  That happened often, and I was feeling good about holding such a strong pace. I had to tell myself several times not to push it too hard the first half (a big part of my problem with my last marathon).  The race director made it a point to have a “second start line” after the half marathoners turned off to their finish, and I found that really helpful in fighting that demoralizing feeling you get when you realize THEY get to be done.  However, I also felt proud that I was continuing on to do the full 26.2.

Somewhere around mile 17 or 18, my heart soared when I saw an angel holding a bowl of grapes.  She saw my happy look and jogged with me for a few feet while I grabbed a handful.  Grape Girl – you made my day!   I had dropped my other gel (yes, again. Not my day for holding on to things) and some solid food was greatly appreciated!

I was feeling really good and really strong though Mile 22.  Then I just don’t know what happened. Maybe I hit The Wall?  Though I really felt I had hydrated and taken in enough food (3 gels, gatorade, the grapes).  Maybe not?  Maybe I was just tired or hadn’t trained enough?  I realized then that I probably was not going to break four hours and got really disappointed with myself.  It’s something I struggle with a lot in regards to running. I get a number or idea in my head, and just can’t see past it; I can’t think about how I’m running a marathon, or how I ran that marathon a hell of a lot faster than I ran my first one.  I could only think I was a failure for not reaching an arbitrary goal.  I started to get a little teary.  I took a couple short walk breaks.  Around mile 24 a stranger on the side of the road spoke specifically to me, calling me by name (on my bib), and I started to feel a little better.

Suddenly, there I was at mile 25.  I couldn’t believe how fast the race seemed to go by.  I kept chugging along as the crowd of spectators got thicker and thicker.  I saw the flag marking mile 26 and gave it all I had.  I turned the corner and there it was – the finish line!  There is no feeling in this world like seeing the finish line and knowing you have completed something so, so huge.  I grinned as I crossed it.

I finished my second marathon with a time of 4:09:13 which is exactly forty minutes faster than my first marathon (4:49:13, Buffalo, May 2011).  I went through the 20 mile mark in 3:05, which is ten minutes faster than I ever ran 20 miles in any of my training runs.  I was # 592 out of 1,887 females, and # 119/326 in my age group.

I didn’t run negative splits, or break 4:00, but I felt so, so much stronger this time around, and I know I have even more improvement in my future!  Next up – Memphis Marathon on December 3!  : )


Posted by on October 17, 2011 in Race Recaps