Rewind to November

November came and went in a flash. The Sunday after the Manchester City Marathon my friend M and I ran a local race, the Clarkdale Farms 12K. It was a nice fall day, a new distance, and a pretty course with rolling hills.

I blinked and Thanksgiving had arrived. In 2010 after completing my first half marathon I decided to do a solo turkey trot and have continued the tradition every year since. This year was a little different though. I went to my favorite reservoir and ended up going off the main trail onto a trail I had never ventured on  before. Soon I ended up doing more of hike as I wound my way up a steep trail which led to a lovely view.

I wandered along the trails hiking, running, and cautiously navigating some leaf covered trails for nearly 2.5 hours. In the end I had covered 10 miles.

I convinced my mom to go out for Thanksgiving dinner this year since it was just going to be us, my mom, her husband and one of his granddaughters. She vowed last year that she was not cooking Thanksgiving dinner again. I love to cook and my husband enjoys my cooking, but I am not skilled at preparing large meals for many people nor does everyone care for my style of cooking. Plus I think my mom and her husband are secretly terrified that I will serve tofurkey in the shape of a turkey. So we made reservations at the Hotel Northampton. We were certainly not alone. It was very crowded, but the buffet was plentiful and offered something for everyone. After dinner we returned to my mom’s for coffee and dessert though no one ate much more.

Thanksgiving is our least favorite holiday because we remember it as our last holiday with my stepfather. He died on 12/2/1996. Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday. My stepfather had a larger than life personality and everyone adored him. He made every day a happier day. The holidays in general have never been the same. My mom seemed to like the change of pace this year, but as always there is a quiet sadness that accompanies my mom’s mood during Thanksgiving and the days that follow. It is hard to believe that it has been 20 years since he died. I still wonder what life would be like if he were still here. He would have enjoyed Carlos and Orlando so much.

I don’t want to end this on a sad note. So here’s a picture of Carlos in work mode at this awesome local program that teaches kids coding, robotics, and computer programming amongst other tech topics. It’s a hidden gem and also free. In this particular class they created these remote control vehicles.

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Manchester City Marathon

I can’t believe it has already been a week since I ran my 7th marathon. I feel like a lifetime has happened since last Sunday. Last weekend was a whirlwind, but it was a much needed getaway. Even if I could discuss the nightmare that is my job right now, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I halfheartedly tried to quit this week, but my boss refused to accept my verbal resignation. I wouldn’t really do that to her or to my team. She told me that because all of the issues are completely out of my control I need to let go of my personal expectations and high quality of work. It’s difficult to do for me, but after talking with my boss it helped me to slow down a little bit and not stress as much about how backed up I am. This is a statewide problem that is affecting all of the nursing team.

Back to the weekend…M and I got up to New Hampshire in the early afternoon. I picked up my race packet at Millennium Running Store. Not five minutes from packet pick up on the same road was LaBelle Winery. We did a wine tasting and enjoyed some of the wineries unique wines like Cranberry, Virginia Mae Sweet Blueberry, Spiced Pear, and Harvest Apple. I am not a wine connoisseur and I enjoy wine on the sweeter side. These were fun wines, not overly sweet, but light and refreshing. After our 10 tastes we had a delicious lunch in the winery’s cafe. I left with a bottle of the Spiced Pear and the Gerwurtzaminer

We relaxed at the hotel. It was nice to have absolutely nothing to do. I left my work computer at home, and I vowed not to do any school work. Since we ate a late lunch we didn’t venture out to dinner until about 8pm and I wasn’t the only in search of pasta at Fratello’s Italian Grill. There was an hour wait so we sat at the bar and had a glass of wine. I haven’t done anything like this in a very long time. I would miss Carlos and Orlando at the finish, but they attended fall clean up at Carlos’ school and they were in need of boys only weekend. My bowl of pasta was perfect. Then us wild women went back to the hotel and got ready for bed!

I didn’t sleep great because I was worried the time change would somehow screw up my alarm. The marathon has a late start at 8:50AM. The weather was gorgeous for early November in New Hampshire. It was a relatively small crowd especially in comparison to my last marathon.

There were eventually a few more people at the start! I have never run two marathons so close together. My training for the last few weeks since Chicago was not heavy in mileage because I opted for extra hill work due to the course in Manchester. I was a little nervous at the start, but I quickly settled into a nice steady pace telling myself it was just a long run with new scenery.

This marathon course is the complete opposite of Chicago. It’s a very hilly mix of road, trail, and bike path. The foliage is fading fast in New England, but it was still a beautiful sight to see in many places along the course.

Just as I came upon the halfway marker the weather got a little cooler and breezy. We had to run past the finish line for the first time. It’s a mix of emotions when you run a full that also has a half and you run by people finishing their race knowing you are only half done.

I have an affinity for running over bridges and this course did not disappoint. It was a quiet race in contrast to the 1.7 million spectators that lined the Chicago course. I took in the scenery and did a lot of thinking. I was practically alone for long stretches.

I had an internal conversation going on throughout the first 15 miles about how magical it would be if I could will myself into feeling that great until the end of the race, but by mile 16 there were twinges, mile 17 the aches started to creep in, mile 18 my feet were screaming at me, mile 19 mental math begins to fail me as I try to add up how much longer I need to run, mile 20 I just want this to be over because my legs hurt, mile 21 I can hear my yoga instructor in my head telling me to unclench my toes and breathe into the pain, mile 22 breathing breathing breathing, mile 23 I got this, I can do this, mile 24 I’m running my 7th marathon what?!! wait we have to go up that huge hill we already climbed at mile 4.5 well that’s just cruel, mile 25 hey it’s the finish line and I have to run right by it for the second time, back over that bridge we already ran over around mile 5 and back the other way, oh not another hill, that’s it I want this done…as though a mighty wind blew from behind suddenly my legs took on a life of their own and I ran as hard as I could for those last two tenths of a mile. Mile 26.2 tears!

4:45:53 was my official time. I am not at all disappointed with this time given the challenging nature of the course. I really didn’t have a time goal in mind for this race. I was meant to do this race with my friend M as her first full marathon. She was injured very early on in our training. She is still injured. I contemplated dropping out of the race, but I am so glad I didn’t. M was gracious enough to join me and cheer me on, and we enjoyed a fun weekend getaway. I can’t wait until she is healed and ready to run with me again.

This year has been all about learning to run with new friends after years of solo running. I have done more trail running this year. It is great charting new routes in different places. It is motivating to have a friend who will meet me at 5AM and run with headlamps and LED shoe lights. It’s fun to go for a run and then out to coffee. My two running friends are not competitive or concerned about pace. We have proved over the course of long runs that there is no shortage of conversation. I am grateful for a wonderful, healthy year of running. I have some new goals in mind for 2017 including running the Big Sur Marathon in April. 2016 isn’t quite over. There is still some time to enjoy more early morning runs and maybe a race or two before the new year.

 

Chicago Marathon 2016

The scene on the way to Grant Park this morning was exciting. There was a buzz of energy in the air. The sky was clear. The temperature was cool, but not cold. I followed the crowd and finally located corral H. It took about 40 minutes from the time wave 1 started at 7:30am to get to the start. There were 40,000 runners! To put it in perspective, 27,488 runners lined up at the start of the Boston Marathon this year. Despite Chicago’s massive number of runners and more than 1.7 million spectators, the race went smoothly.

I ran a really strong first half. I had no clue what my time was along the way because I forgot to look at the clock when I crossed the starting line, but I sensed it was a good pace. I don’t think I went out too fast. I’m not a negative split runner no matter how hard I try. At a race I go with how I feel and inevitably in long distance races my second half is slower. I keep working on it though. Today everything was in sync for at least the first 15 miles.

Side note: I was having major iPhone battery issues prior to today. I bought a Mophie charging case so my battery wouldn’t drain during the race. I have worn my wireless Plantronic headphones for long runs and last year’s Hartford marathon with no issues. Darn it if the headphones didn’t die around mile 15! I had warnings from around mile 11. I know they were fully charged going into the race, but maybe they are getting warn out. This was good practice for Big Sur next April. That marathon prohibits headphones. However, I don’t think Big Sur has the incredible spectators that line nearly every inch of the Chicago Marathon. They are fun, loud, energetic and very supportive.

I may have lost a little pep in my step, but I kept chugging along, smiling, and high fiving spectators especially the little kids. The aid stations were plentiful. I got a kick out of the vaseline offered at nearly every aid station and then I started to feel like the body glide I had used on my bat wings under arms was no longer effective. I thought aha vaseline will be coming up soon!

Two things happened in the last 8 miles which made me slow down as well. My feet hurt all over, nothing I couldn’t run through, but an awareness that these shoes need to be replaced. I knew I was taking a chance with them. The other issue was my stomach was not enjoying all of the sweet options on the course, Gatorade, shot blocks, and Powerade strawberry banana gel, my least favorite flavor. I drank water, but could no longer tolerate the Gatorade. I had brought a Larabar which I ate earlier from mile 6-10. I grabbed a couple of pretzels from a kind spectator who had a bowl of them out for runners. They were difficult to chew and swallow. Then at mile 24.5 like a glowing light saber appeared a cherry freeze pop in the hands of another angelic spectator. It was a little sweet, but the cold icy treat hit the spot.

Other than that nothing major happened. I ran the entire way save for 30 second to a minute walk through aid stations towards the end. I finished in 4:34:02. This represents 9 minute improvement on my 2015 Hartford Marathon time. I’m proud of it. I trained really well during a very hot summer while balancing work, Carlos on school vacation, and beginning grad school. I worked hard during the race too. I enjoyed myself and can honestly say I did the best I could.

We hung around for a bit after the race. Then walked the mile and a half to the hotel. In all honestly I probably did the equivalent of 2 full marathons since we arrived in Chicago! After a luxurious shower (because seriously every shower after a marathon is the best!), we  went out to dinner. We decided to go back to the Chicago Diner because it offered something for all of us, it was open, and we didn’t anticipate that we would have to wait for a table since it’s a little bit removed from the race area. Also many restaurants were closed. I had cauliflower curry soup and the Soul Boul – blackened tofu, quinoa, flashed greens, mashed sweet potato, black beans, chimichurri. I really wanted this decadent peanut butter dessert, but I couldn’t even finish my meal it was so filling yet not heavy if that makes any sense.

We stopped by this Millennium Park on our way home to check out this interesting illuminated photo exhibit. The photos were stunning and all were captured with a mobile device or tablet.

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I think he wanted to fall in!

It has been a truly wonderful weekend. We leave later tomorrow so still have time for a little exploring, but we all agree Chicago is a place we would love to visit again!

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday in Chicago

Carlos and I were up early. We went for a walk to Whole Foods to pick up my pre-run necessities – chia, banana, oats and nut butter.

Before heading out to brunch I got the final text announcing my training partner had just finished her first half marathon. She ran the Hartford half and did a fabulous job. I cannot wait to hear all about her experience. It was my first half marathon too so I have a soft spot for it.

We’ve joined  modern times and took our first Uber to the Chicago Diner, an iconic diner that has been meat free since 1983 and survived!

Practicing our selfies in the back of our Uber

The Chicago Diner was delicious. Going out to breakfast isn’t all that enjoyable since I started eating a plant based diet. It’s cheaper and honestly I make a much tastier breakfast at home. This was a delightful splurge. It’s a good thing I’m running a marathon tomorrow!

Vegan cinnamon roll – AMAZING!
Mexicana Tofu Scramble

Then a much needed walk to work off breakfast and enjoy the gorgeous day! First stop, a park to swing 😀

Sitting pretty
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Family selfie practice and a 9 year old who loves to make goofy faces

We walked along the lake while we searched for a Divvy bike station.

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We finally found a Divvy station and rented some bikes so I wasn’t on my feet too much before the race. It was such a beautiful day to outdoors. There were so many people out. We rode for a while and docked our bikes across from Maggie Daley Park. There was a huge playground for kids (and adults I might add). I’ve been to a lot of playgrounds in the last 9 years and this was probably the most creative, family friendly playground I’ve seen.

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We walked back to our hotel through Milenium Park. I was looking down from an overpass out towards the finish line. Seeing everything set up gave me goosebumps. I still cannot believe I’m running the Chicago Marathon. I swear if you had told me 10 years ago I would be running marathons I would have been able to comprehend that as a reality for me.

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We went back to the hotel for a little bit. I had a few supplies to get like more blister bandaids, some gloves, and a throw away long sleeve shirt. The weather looks perfect for the race, but it will probably be really chilly in the morning. I ended up with a $5 thermal shirt and a $1 pair of fuzzy socks from Walgreens. They didn’t have gloves out yet so I grabbed the socks to use as mittens! I’ll end up throwing them to the side anyway when I warm up on the course.

We left in search of more Divvy bikes and we continued our bike ride. There is a 30 minute limit on the bikes or you get charged a fee for each additional half hour. We returned the bikes on time, but we were unable to find 3 bikes to continue on our ride. With 40,000 runners, their families and friends, and all of the Cubs fans in town the bikes were a hot commodity. We walked around the Shedd Aquarium in search of bikes. Unfortunately the next two stations we found were out of bikes too.

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It was nearing dinner time so we caught an uber to Lou Malnati’s per Biz’s recommendation. Deep dish pizza for the guys and a bowl of pasta with marinara sauce for me. I keep it simple.

It’s easier on the stomach!  It’s an early tonight tonight. My race clothes are set out. I scared Carlos and Orlando with my anti-aging face mask! I am relaxing in bed watching a little Netflix.

 

Marooned

When I was 13 my bedroom walls were plastered with posters of Bon Jovi, Poison, Motley Crue, and numerous other men with enormous hair. My love of live music began when I went to see INXS. I was obsessed with Michael Hutchence, the lead singer, and I was hell bent on moving to Australia. I finally made it to the land down under in 2014!

I’ve seen so many concerts from my early days of the 80s hair bands to U2, Pink Floyd, Madonna, the annual outdoor DMB show, phish festivals, and lesser known international acts like Angelique Kidjo and Oliver Mtukudzi. In recent years I have rarely gone to concerts because they are ridiculously expensive. This summer I had the opportunity to see Pitbull with a friend who had a last minute extra ticket she bought for $20 on Groupon.

Last weekend I went to see Maroon 5. Am I too old to say that I love Adam Levine? Well I do. Orlando is well aware of my feelings! This was definitely not a $20 Groupon ticket, but it was worth it. The Worcester, MA show ended up being the last on their tour as they cancelled the rest of the tour due to the impending birth of Adam Levine’s first child.

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The show was fantastic. No frills, just music. They played all of my favorites. It was a much needed break and distraction from studying and writing papers.

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Bridge of Flowers 10K – 2016

Bridge of Flowers (BOF) 10K in Shelburne Falls, MA is my favorite race. It’s challenging, but forgiving as well. The spectators along the way are cheerful and encouraging. It’s an extremely organized and well managed race. The water stations are plentiful and the offerings at the end of the race are generous for runners and family members.

The race stands as my 10K PR although that happened pre-Achilles injury and I’m not quite back to that pace. I am working on it and was feeling pretty good going into this years BOF race. I  wasn’t expecting a PR, but I was hopeful that I would beat last year’s time.

By the time we arrived to Shelburne Falls it was clear that Crittendon Hill was not going to be the only challenge at BOF this year. The race starts at 9AM and it was inching towards 80 degrees. My crazy hair was an accurate barometer of the ridiculous humidity level! The start was delayed by 10 minutes because the family friendly 3K race that takes place first was taking longer than usual due to the weather conditions.While we waited I took a couple of photos from the iron bridge where the race starts.

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Already dripping with sweat  when the gun went off, I knew I had a decision to make about my race goal. I know this course well. This was my 5th time running the race. Despite practical running advice to never go out too quickly in a race, I tend to start this course at a swift pace. I’m slowed a little bit right after passing through the downtown as the course goes up a slight hill. I run hard after the hill. I grabbed a water at mile 1 and kept pushing my pace until I reached Crittendon Hill. Now I run hills all the time, not little rolling hills either, but Crittendon is a beast. It is steep and winds up for the distance of nearly a mile.

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A photo does not do Crittendon Hill justice

I tried so hard to run it the first year only to come to a screeching halt about a minute up. I felt defeated, but now I know better. I power walk it to the best of my ability, drink some water and breathe a sigh of relief at the top, and then I soar down the shady backside until my pace evens out around mile 4.

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Celebrating the top!

By the time I reached the hill this year I made a decision to adjust my goal. It was hotter than it’s ever been at BOF. The humidity made it feel as though I was running through a sea of sweat. It was gross. People were stopping, dry heaving, and vomiting. I made a wise decision to run it conservatively without worrying about my time. After careening down the hill the race opens up to a long stretch on open road with zero shade cover. Unlike years past I did not try to make up for lost time walking the hill on this flat road. Instead I stuck to a nice comfortable pace.

The race seemed to fly by. I stopped at each water station and gave lots of thanks to the awesome volunteers standing out in the heat. I ran through every sprinkler kind spectators held out for the runners. I smiled as I reached my favorite sign of the race “last half mile, you’re almost there!” Despite the heat I suddenly felt a surge of energy and I let it all out for the end of the race. I love running over the iron bridge again with spectators cheering as each runner’s name is announced when they near the finish line.

I finished in 1:03:18. I felt great at the end and was excited to cheer for my friends who finished not long after me. One of my friends ran it last year for the first time. She had a horrible experience due to some health issues, but she has been feeling much better and running really well. I was so proud of her for coming back. She ran a much better race this year even in the heat. One of my running partners ran BOF for this first time this year and she did an incredible job. I think the race gave her just the nudge she needed to finally sign up for her first half marathon. She’s been thinking about it and she’s half way there! I’m thrilled for her and looking forward to helping her train for the Hartford Half Marathon this October.

A walk down memory lane…

Bridge of Flowers 2010 (pre-blog) – 1:07:36 (10:52 pace)

Bridge of Flowers 2011 – 1:04:16 (10:21 pace)

Bridge of Flowers 2012 – 1:01:53 (9:58 pace)

Bridge of Flowers 2013 – 56:01 (9:01 pace)

Bridge of Flowers 2014 – I did not run due to Achilles injury.

Bridge of Flowers 2015 – 58:51 (9:29 pace)

After the race I took Carlos and his friend to visit friends who are spending the week on the shore in Milford, CT. It was a perfect beach day. We made it down to their beach house around 3:30 and jammed in a full day’s worth of activities. The kids played and swam. My friend and I took the kayaks out for a ride. It was such a great way to unwind  after the race.

 

Running thoughts 

I just finished an awesome six mile run with hill repeats at the end. I went after lunch. It’s really hot and humid. My legs weren’t feeling great at first but I pushed through it and ran faster than I have in a while. I went up that hill with a vengeance. 

No sooner did I finished the run did I suddenly I felt tears in my eyes and a huge rush of emotion. I have no idea what that was all about. I think about so many things when I’m running. I usually forget most of them by the end of the run and even if I don’t really work out what’s bothering me or what kind of heavy and weighing on me for the day I generally feel 1000 times better. Today that wasn’t the case and when the tears came rolling down my cheeks they just blended with the sweat. I must’ve needed it. I am feeling much better now I must’ve needed it. I am feeling much better now and as always I never regret a run.