“Stay home slowpokes”

8 hours.

In 8 hours I am boarding that plane and taking off to a country I have never been to. To run a race I have no business running in. To prove to everyone and no one that you shouldn’t fear the unknown. Or something like that. Ok. I probably just lost my marbles and haven’t realized it yet. Don’t tell me until I get back ok?

2 Days, 17 hours, 47 minutes, and 51…50…49..48 seconds

In 2 days, 17 hours, and some change, I will line up with 510 other individuals to climb, stumble, and suffer up the Carpathian mountains for the 3rd Annual Subcarpathian Ultramarathon. Yeah. Definitely lost my marbles somewhere……. I bet they are some where on a race course.

I have been training….mostly. Getting my runs in. Doing a serious amount of squats and lunges every 30 minutes or so while at work (desk job). I have even gotten a smidgen faster. Although truthfully nowhere near my 2011 PR busting times. I have been feeling a little more confident about my upcoming race and being able to beat the clock and the 5.5 hour cut off for this 30k up the mountains.

And then I read this. Plodders Have a Place, but Is It in a Marathon?

Basically some woman (a coach, no less) is calling out marathoners who finish in over 6 hours or stop to walk. These “participants” are not “racers” and should basically not be competing in the events. They are lessening the sport. How dare they?!

Obviously I am a slow runner. And obviously this coach misses the main point of modern marathons. Every one of those individuals is racing. Not against each other, but against themselves. They are going for a personal best. They are racing against obesity. They are running for a charity that is near and dear to their hearts. They are setting an example for their children and every single person who lines up and cheers. They are telling people that they refuse to sit by and become another statistic of heart disease or any other disease that states lack of exercise as a risk factor. How dare they try to get healthy?! The nerve….

The only thing that coach should be mad about is the slow runners who line up in the front, because honestly that is just dangerous. Totally legit thing to be mad about, but don’t pick on us back of the packers who know our place. The front of the pack may be racing for a win, but the rest of us are just racing for ourselves. Our health, our pride, our families, and the joyful exhilaration of crossing a finish line exhausted. We crossed every inch of those 26.2 miles the same as you did and while it may have taken longer, it certainly didn’t mean less to us. Ask me. I finished last in a 50 mile race that was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. The conversations I had with myself that day are practically legendary (at least I think they are….my brain was kinda hazy after the first 30 miles).

Just ask Patrick Downes. No one seems to have a problem with his 6 hour marathon. People are applauding him. Adrianne Haslet too. Despite spending nearly 10 hours “running” the Boston marathon she received a tweet from the president himself on how strong she was. These people are out there proving something to themselves. They don’t care who finished first.

The moral of the story? Don’t discount someone else’s journey just because it took longer than your own. Most of us will never be elite runners and we just want to enjoy the ride at our own pace. Even if it is a 16 minute mile one.

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It’s all uphill from here.

Literally.

So in my last post I mentioned that I wrote a letter to try and run a very special race. Most of you probably thought I was trying to beg my way into the Boston Marathon. HA! The only way I will ever get into that race is by donating millions to charity. I hope I win the Powerball someday…..

Anyway, let’s start at the beginning. A few months ago (January) I got one of those lovely notifications that I had been tagged in a post by my mother. Not unusual. The woman loves her some Facebook. Her friend was looking for runners from the Buffalo area that had completed an ultramarathon, so of course she showed off some motherly pride and tagged me (love ya mom!). Well this person was a gentleman involved with a group called the Buffalo-Rzeszow Sister Cities Committee. Apparently they were looking for Polish runners from the Buffalo area that could run considerable distance. If you were interested you needed to write a letter to the committee explaining what is wrong with you why you love running and your background.

Somehow on the plane back from the Arizona I was convinced I was invincible and could conquer anything they threw at me. So I wrote to the committee and explained my crazy history with running.

Then they wanted a meeting. They are selecting individuals to compete in the Rzeszow Carpathian Ultramarthon. In Poland. In May. This May. And they are paying for you to go.

As in you have 3 months to train your butt for this once in a lifetime chance.

Fast-forward to one breakfast meeting later and some awkward photographs (did I mention there will be media coverage) and here I am signing up to go to Poland in a few short weeks to run a 30K. Luckily for me it wasn’t really an ultramarathon. They have a special division for us and it is only in the 30K race. Yeah. Lucky. But here is the kicker. There is a 5.5 hour time limit. No sweat right? WRONG. Someone (meaning me) should have read the website before agreeing. Two little things that can make me miss that time limit?

  1. It is a trail race. 2. The elevation chart……

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HAHA. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate hills?
Needless to say there has been some serious panic coming my way. And I have been working my booty off to get myself up and down that mountain in the time given. Including some seriously painful hill workouts on some of the most notorious hills in town.

Guess we will find out on May 7th what I am really made of. I hope it is something stronger than pierogi. If not, well I am the only runner that got selected so I guess I will just make my city look bad. No pressure.

Wish me luck!

The other side of the road

The grass is always greener right?

Well for runners the other side of the road is always smoother. Less sloped. Less potholes. In the shade. Has a better view. Even if none of those things are true, we are totally convinced.

I am about to share something totally personal. I thought my life would be complete once I was a mother. Totally and utterly complete with a tiny pair of feet in my life. I would need NOTHING else. Ever. If I could just have a little bundle of joy I would never want anything. Imagine my great surprise after having my daughter in June that I would want to run. Long for it. Wistfully watch my neighbors trotting around with their  dog. See running advertisements and get annoyed. I would hold my darling little girl and wonder why I wanted to be out there when she was so incredibly perfect and I could stay in that living room with her forever. Clearly, I was bordering on mad.

Then I realized that even though I finally had the thing I wanted for so long, I couldn’t, and didn’t have to give up what I use to love. I didn’t have to reform my identity from RUNNER to MOM. It didn’t have to be absolute. I could be both. Sure, the part of running I loved the most, racing, would have to take a hit. I can’t do 30 races a year and blow through half marathons every weekend. But why I can’t I do both? Why can’t I be that mom who takes an hour for herself to hit the streets; more importantly, why can’t I do it without feeling guilty? Call it a work in progress.

Luckily I was able to reignite my passion. Last weekend I did the Phoenix Half Marathon. My first half since I got married in October 2014 (yes, it was part of our honeymoon). I will admit. I didn’t train. At least not really. I did some workouts in my office at lunchtime because it is too easy to be lazy at home. But I wouldn’t say I did much “running”. No matter. I finished. It was glorious. Covered in salt, slightly dehydrated, sunburnt, and sore. My heart was beating so fast I could hear it in my ears. Somehow, someway, I have found something that I didn’t know I was missing. I am hooked again.

So much so, I wrote a letter to a committee to attempt to run a very special race. I won’t say anything else yet, but hopefully it works out!

What did I really learn? Running can’t be escaped. It soaks into your soul and becomes a part of you. Like a best friend you can never let go of. Sure you may lose touch. You may change. But if you need it you can reach right back out and it is there waiting for you. Just like it was waiting for me.

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Oh, and by the way. Phoenix half marathon is worth the trip. Best finish line set up I have seen. I mean, they give you french toast, pulled pork BBQ, popsicles, and free massages! How sweet is that?!

Making a comeback isn’t always easy…

A couple weekends ago I had what I am dubbing my comeback race. The Buffalo Marathon, which was suppose to be my first marathon back in 2011, stood as the marker for my return from injury. Blowing out your LCL and IT Band really makes for a scary comeback. Any tightness and I freak out thinking it is going to tear again.

Anyway, I agreed to do 10K as part of a 4 man relay team. Even though my running had been slow and recovery PT painful, I was feeling pretty good at the start-line. I had a successful 5K a few weeks before (placed first in my age group! It was a small race) and a comfortable 10K with my mom the weekend before at her first 10K and my favorite race, The Chocolate Race! I headed to the line with a friend I knew from work. We agreed that we both needed a bit of a push to keep a steady pace for this race, so we decided to pace each other. I warned her about my knee and she warned me that she was slow. As if Jill!

Off we went, me without a watch (a rarity to me but I had broken mine a few days before), and her calling out the splits at the mile markers. First mile flew by. 10:40 she called out. I was impressed. I had been hitting 11 on a good day during this come back.

Mile two we had some wicked hills. We struggled a bit crawling over the overpasses and passing above the highways. Approaching the water stop she called out 10:08 for the second mile. No way! Even better, I was feeling good. I walked through the water and continued on.

Mile 3 passed in 10:27 and I was feeling the sunshine beating down. We kept pushing each other. Talking and egging each other on. I could feel some struggle but didn’t want to be the first to walk.

Mile 4 was 10:24 and Mile 5 10:30. As we came through the houses and condos on the water I got to see a good friend I hadn’t seen in a while and then passed through the cheering section down in the marina. I saw more people I knew and it fueled me into the last mile.

Mile 6 (11:00) had our last water stop and we definitely needed it. Then we tried to kick it up, racing into the exchange point and handing off to our team members running the next leg of the relay.

I stayed to cheer a bit and thank Jill for keeping me going. We definitely were a good match for each other when it came to pace. I then headed off to the finish line. My tri club was volunteering and I didn’t want to let them down. I spent the rest of the race handing out Gatorade at the finish and eventually Mylar blankets to the marathoners finishing. It was definitely a chilly morning for those not moving a whole lot and I got cold almost immediately.

When our final racer came across the line we celebrated. We all had great times and I believe that I got a 10K PR. I still have yet to look up past 10K times to verify but I’m pretty sure.

Mostly I am just impressed that my body is handling recovery well. There is nothing scarier than seeing your body change for the worse while you try to get over an injury. You never realize how much you rely on running and exercise for stress relief, appetite control, and just general good feelings.

I’m officially back on board with running and will start training again in July for a fall half marathon. I am trying to cut back a bit on the racing to give my body more time to heal. I have a marathon on the schedule again in March 2014 and am considering an adventure race in September this year. I’m going to work on getting stronger and faster so that I can do more of the races I want, with less of the injury that keeps me down.

Cheers to happy running!

From FlintLand: Hey, Fat Girl.

Original Article Here: FlintLand: Hey, Fat Girl

This one warranted re-posting. We have all felt like this at one time. I feel inspired by my No Boundaries people every time I run with them because they too are making strides towards a healthier tomorrow.

Yes, you. The one feigning to not see me when we cross paths on the running track. The one not even wearing sports gear, breathing heavy. You’re slow, you breathe hard and your efforts at moving forward make you cringe.

You cling shyly to the furthest corridor, sometimes making larger loops on the gravel ring by the track just so you’re not on it. You sweat so much that your hair is all wet. You rarely stay for more than 20 minutes at a time, and you look exhausted when you leave to go back home. You never talk to anyone. I’ve got something I’d like to say to you.

You are awesome.

If you’d look me in the eye only for an instant, you would notice the reverence and respect I have for you. The adventure you have started is tremendous; it leads to a better health, to renewed confidence and to a brand new kind of freedom. The gifts you will receive from running will far exceed the gigantic effort it takes you to show up here, to face your fears and to bravely set yourself in motion, in front of others.You have already begun your transformation. You no longer accept this physical state of numbness and passivity. You have taken a difficult decision, but one that holds so much promise. Every hard breath you take is actually a tad easier than the one before, and every step is ever so slightly lighter. Each push forward leaves the former person you were in your wake, creating room for an improved version, one that is stronger, healthier and forward-looking, one who knows that anything is possible.

You’re a hero to me. And, if you’d take off the blaring headphones and put your head up for more than a second or two, you would notice that the other runners you cross, the ones that probably make you feel so inadequate, stare in awe at your determination. They, of all people, know best where you are coming from. They heard the resolutions of so many others, who vowed to pick up running and improve their health, “starting next week”. Yet, it is YOU who runs alongside, who digs from deep inside to find the strength to come here, and to come back again.

You are a runner, and no one can take that away from you. You are relentlessly moving forward. You are stronger than even you think, and you are about to be amazed by what you can do. One day, very soon, maybe tomorrow, you’ll step outside and marvel at your capabilities. You will not believe your own body, you will realize that you can do this. And a new horizon will open up for you. You are a true inspiration.

I bow to you.

I pledge allegiance…to my running store?

“I pledge allegiance the store
at which I purchase my shoes
and to the customer service for which they give,
one store, under warranty, non-negotiable,
with shoes and gear for all.”

In the land of Buffalo running there are two sides of the road you can be on. Two running warehouses that preside over the thousands of runners in the area. Anyone who lives here and runs knows this. There is Fleet Feet in North Buffalo and Runner’s Roost in Orchard Park (Southtowns). Recently the third store that shared business with these two, Tri Spot in Williamsville, closed its doors without much ceremony stranding its loyal customers with a tough decision: Where do we go now? Logically they turned to their running buddies for recommendations.

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Did you ever stumble upon a conversation and wish you didn’t? Recently there was a behemoth debate sparked by this question in one of the local groups (brought to my attention by a friend). A flurry of responses ensued with most of them completely bashing one store and elevating the other to a divine level. On BOTH sides of the debate. What was perhaps most interesting to me was that no one admitted to shopping at both places. Apparently it had to be one or the other! Does this mean that if you frequently shop at one store that you cannot go to the other? Moreover I had one person express guilt over buying something at an expo sponsored by the opposing store. In this area with the only two selections at opposite ends of the city you would think that the divide would be geographical only. People in the North go North, Southtowns people go South right? Not so. I’ve heard both sides offer up that they’d rather suffer the 45 minute drive to the store of their choice then visit the opposing one.

Now, tell me true:

  • Do not both businesses support your local community instead of some CEO at the end of a dotcom site?
  • Do not both improve the community by providing a valuable service of fitting people with running shoes so they can achieve wellness?
  • What factors could possibly ignite such passionate love/hate for a local specialty store?
  • Does it have to do with how accommodating they are to the local running community? Is it just how low their prices are? How often they offer sales or discounts? Or is it just plain and simple customer service that keeps you beating feet in?

Running with a Significant Other

I had the hilarious coincidence recently to read two articles in the same day on the same topic. One was an article on Brooks Running’s blog touting the wonderful benefits of running as a couple. The other was in a magazine and mentioned all the troubles you can (sometimes literally) run into while running with your spouse. Stating specific meltdown examples to the point where you might consider running FROM your beloved as a safer course of action.

runloveSo there is the good:

  • 66% of runners believe they have more sex when they run with their significant other.
  • 47% of women are more likely to talk about their relationships during their runs. Including the happenings and any dissatisfaction in the bedroom.
  • Couples who run together tend to be more physically active overall which leads to better overall happiness and satisfaction in daily life. Which of course spills over into relationships as well.

And then the bad:

  • Someone is generally faster in the relationship. There will be some trouble brewing if you start to pull away from your running partner or leave them gasping in your dust. Even worse is when they ask you questions like “can you run faster?” or say things like “warm-up is almost over” and you are already gasping.
  • Racing becomes an issue. Females are more likely to be mentally down on themselves when their significant other takes off at the gun and leaves them at the start. Plus the aftermath of large races it can be difficult to locate your partner adding to even more frustration.
  • You run into the problem where your partner thinks that every run has to be a run together and you end up missing your alone time. Even worse, try explaining that you want to be alone without hurting their feelings.

Reality:

Communication is key in any relationship right? The thing that struck me about the articles is that it seems like no one is really talking much. If you are both going into a run knowing what you are going to get out of it, then no one is surprised or angry at the end. Admit to yourself that you may not be as fast as your spouse. Tell your spouse that sometimes you need a running meditation session. Plan ahead and most of the problems about running can be avoided.

Personally I am all about the running with another. Since my fiance and I met at a race it was pretty much a given that running was going to be a huge part of our lives and relationship. That being said, his PR in the half is a full half hour faster than mine. More surprising still? We run together. Not everytime. Not always together in the traditional sense. More commonly we will meet in a place and run in opposite directions. Or we will warm up together and then he will go on ahead. We even race together. Sometimes for our own goals. Sometimes just to go the distance. We have run many races as part of a weekend get-away where he will run his race and me mine. We have also run races together. The Turkey Trot 8K and the entire Disney Marathon. Leaning on each other when we needed to got both of us through that grueling race in the happiest (or hottest) place on earth.

How do you feel about running with your love? Is it a disaster in the making or do you make it work?