Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Baby, the Boston Marathon, and Other Good Things

Hey all, I’ve since upgraded to the double jogging stroller since the last time we met.
Jingle Jog 5k in December

We welcomed our sweet little boy, Bryce, via scheduled c-section on 11/12/13.

He is the snuggliest, most chilled-out baby ever. His big sister just loves him to pieces too.
Having a scheduled c-section made it easier to have everything in place for his arrival. Mr. Blondie could schedule his time off, and we had family come to help out. Also, having a frame of reference for all things newborn took some of the first time parent anxiety off our shoulders. Fortunately, both my c-sections were fairly easy to recover from, but having the scheduled c-section took some of the trauma out of procedure.

Within about 3 weeks I was able to walk/run a 5k race with my mom and the kids. I competed in a true 5k race around 7 weeks post-partum.

She got 3rd in her age group. Go Grandmom!
 It seemed a little crazy at the time to hit the “Submit” button on my Boston Marathon application when I was almost 8 months pregnant. I had the qualifying time from the marathon I ran in November of 2012, although I had no intention of running Boston again. Then the tragic events of last year happened, and I knew right away this was an event I had to be part of this year.

I set the bar extremely low for this race. All I wanted to do was finish. I could barely run 6 miles without stopping when Emily was 5 months old, and here I was about to do 26.2 miles 5 months after having Bryce. When pressed for an estimated finish time, I told people I thought it would take about 5.5 hours.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while you might recall me talking not doing a long run over 13 miles to prepare for marathons in my younger days. However, I was running 50-60 miles a week so my overall volume was high. This time, not so much. I peaked at about 35 mpw in the beginning of January while I was still on maternity leave. After that, whenever I started ramping up the mileage something would get in the way. Injury, weather, family emergency, illnesses ….the list goes on.
This is where the magic happens...typically at 4am.

My typical workouts were 4-6 miles on treadmill (about as much as I could tolerate on there), topped off with some time on the elliptical or bike to reach full hour of cardio. My goal was to do an hour of cardio 4-5 days per week. Some weeks I did more, some weeks I was lucky to do just one. My longest run was a 13 miler the second week of March. After that I took 2 weeks off from running, and only did the bike and elliptical while I rehabbed some calf cramping issues. Shortly thereafter, starting with the baby, our whole house was overrun with stomach virus shortly. Never a dull moment around here.

Sooo....Race day started at 4:30 with a pumping session. Our hotel was in an awesome location, both within walking distance of the finish line and Boston Common. I left our room around 6:45 and stopped at Dunkin Donuts on my walk to the common. I ate my blueberry muffin and small half-caf while waiting in line for the bus. I had intended to eat it on the bus, but they wouldn’t let me bring the paper bag into the bus loading area and it was awkward to hold with my other gear. Security was no joke.

The bus ride felt like it took Like really, I’m about to run this distance back?

Once we arrived at the Athletes Villiage, I set up camp with an airplane blanket and ate one of the bagels from the refreshments area. I played on my phone for the next hour and a half, then it was time to head to the corrals. It’s also when I finalized my race strategy.

I knew from my lone 13 miler that I was capable of running the first half in about 2 hours. My plan was to come through the half in 2 hours, and then just hang on for dear life. I assumed I would mostly be walking the second half, taking pictures, and enjoying the crowds. When I came through the half in 1:57 still feeling strong, I had to quickly reassess.

I wanted to keep that same pace for a long as possible. Although I had been taking in a half cup of Gatorade at each mile, my fueling strategy wasn’t very good. In fact, I hadn’t brought any fuel with me at all. Since I expected to be going slow, I figured the course Gatorade would be enough, then I’d grab some of the PowerBar Gels they were handing out at mile 18.

Will I ever learn? I was already behind the 8 ball on fueling by that point, and knew I needed something.

I started taking candy from strangers. Thank you generous spectators for your sugary aid.

Tossing back a handful of warm jelly beans when you have cotton mouth is not the best idea. I was gagging like I had a hairball as they got stuck in the back of my throat (Twizzlers went down a little better, so I started taking those instead). It was not my finest moment. But at least I was getting more carbs in my system.

Don't worry, I didn't take anything from them.

I hit the wall HARD at mile 16. My quads seized up and each leg felt like a lead weight. There was still so much of the race left to go, walking was going to take forever, and it hurt almost as much as running anyway. If you’ve ever hit the wall, you know the complete frustration of having no control over your legs.

Mile 16 is also right around the point where I passed Team Hoyt, as well as a woman on a prosthetic leg. The whole experience was so emotional, but at that point, TEARS. It was more like a shuffle, but I willed myself to keep up a running motion until I hit the 20 mile mark. There were people with more obstacles than me.

As soon as I hit the 20 mile marker, relief and elation washed over me. I was almost there. I was “allowed” to walk now. I walked all of mile 20, which included Heartbreak Hill. For miles 21 and 22, I alternated between a ¼ mile run and ¼ mile walk. It was at mile 23 that I realized, not only was I going to break 5 hours, I was going to break 4 ½. Game on!

Right on Hereford. Left on Boylston.
 The adrenaline washed over me and I was able to pick up the pace and run the last 3 miles. Right on Hereford, left on Boylston. The roar of the crowd in the final stretch was deafening. Cue more tears. I managed a smile for photographers at the finish line. But after I passed them…..more tears. I was so overwhelmed by the intense joy and energy all around me. At the same time, I was in shock that I dug out a performance I thought was impossible.

We were funneled quite some distance from the finish line before the barricades ended and we could join the spectators on the sidewalk. I took my first step up onto the curb and literally crumbled. Fortunately, a man behind me caught my arms and helped me back up. Five days later and my legs still feel broken. I expect to be climbing stairs again in about five years give or take.

 My time of 4:09 was almost 45 minutes slower than my BQ Marathon time, but one of my proudest finishes of any race I’ve run.

Refueling with a bacon cheeseburger and pint of Guinness, of course.
 I also have some BIG news about some changes that will be affecting our family in the upcoming months. I'm not quite ready to discuss those yet :) #vagueblogging

So lucky to have this guy by my side for support every step of the way.

Monday, June 24, 2013

From the Sidelines to the Starting Line

We started off the month of June by heading to San Diego to watch our friends run the SD Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon. Elijah and Adelle were kind enough to house this whole brood at their house for the weekend.

Outside the Race Expo at the San Diego Convention Center

This was our first time bringing Emily along on one of trips to San Diego. She did exceptionally well on the long flights there and back. It was a little more rough on me, between our late night flight there and the time change, I spent quite a bit of the weekend napping.
We ate a gluttonous amount of Vietnamese, Korean BBQ, and sushi, and took Emily to see the seals at the Children’s Pool and dip her toes in the Pacific while we were there.

Seals at the Children's Pool

First time dipping her toes in the Pacific

On race day, it was a little bittersweet watching the runners pour into the finishers' chute. I still have fond memories from when we ran this race 2 years ago. However, I didn’t think it would be an enjoyable experience trying to lumber through it in my current state though. It was still fun to be part of the festivities, and a motivator to be there again. Hopefully next year?

Congrats to Elijah, Kurt, and Brent on a great races! And thank you again to Elijah and Adelle for being awesome hosts (as always).
Seconds to the finish line. Sorry EJ, that's the best pic I got.

Our gracious hosts and Emily's new BFF Norah

Even though 13.1 is too much for me to tackle right now, I can still plod my way through a 5k. The following weekend I decided to go for it since Mr.Blondie was home and I could have the morning to myself.
It was another small race with only 120 runners total, but everyone looked fit and intimidating. By that, I mean a lot of ladies looking cute in just sports bras and little running shorts.

I ran my little race, felt good, and only had to walk a couple times when I got to the top of a hill. I took a little break to drink some water and headed to the gym. Averaging a pace of 9:04/mi, I figured it was safe to leave as soon as I was done in order to make the 9:15 spin class.

Apparently looking fit and trim in your running gear doesn’t necessarily mean you’re Speedy McSpeedster. But I can still be completely envious of you for pulling off just a sports bra and running shorts so well.

Somehow I was 1st in the 3-34 age group when the results were posted later.

Normally I’d let it go, but I swung by later to pick up my medal. It’s a nice momento to have for the baby book.
Since I don't have 17.5 fingers, we'll round to 4 months here

Blurry glamour shot for the blog courtesy of my 4 yr-old

Doing my best to keep on keeping-on for as long as the bump allows. And enjoying the races from both perspectives.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Run for Life 5k

Well it’s been a few months since my last race, but I’ve been upping my mileage again these past few weeks and was just itching to get back out there again.
It was pouring rain when my alarm went off Saturday morning, but I wasn’t going to lose out on my registration fee. It mean it cost a whole $20 y'all. I’d deal with getting a little wet.
Emily had the easy part. She was a happy camper riding inside the BOB, cocooned under the rain cover. Running in the rain was actually nice and refreshing, now that the heat and humidity have finally started ramping up for the summer.

The rain scared a lot of runners away. The race director said they had a little over 250 runner registered, but only about 100 showed up. Did I mention the race cost a whole $20? Geez, these people must use $20’s to wipe when they run out of toilet paper too.
Even though it’s been awhile, I still got that familiar adrenaline rush when the gun went off, but I told myself I was going to go faster than a 9:00/mi pace with the stroller. Not being able to push hard in a 5k is frustrating. that's what your supposed to do in a race this short. And surprisingly, I was also bothered a little more than I expected to have people pass me, especially those that I recognized and normally beat.
But it was nice to be part of the racing community again. I chatted with the people around me. I joked with one guy who looked like he was struggling on a hill and told him he better pick up the pace. After all, I’m 14 weeks pregnant and pushing a jogging stroller.... Gonna let me beat you?!  That got him moving.
We finished in a respectable 28:53, without me being tired and out of breath.  I get winded so much easier now and really have to pay attention to what my body's telling me.  I've been using the "talk test" to help gauge my effort during exercise.
Being a small race, it actually got me for 3rd place in my age group.

Emily also was the first little girl to finish in the kids run. Not long until that kid is leaving me in the dust.
Her debut the race company's Facebook page

I love that we can still do this together, and she seems to enjoy it as much as I do.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Quick Hello - Welcome 2013

Just wanted to pop in and wish everyone a Happy New Year!!!

I'm not going to do a long post with lots of link-backs and pictures, but I have to give credit to 2012. It was a quite an amazing year for our family. Lot's of new places, races (even some PR's), and fun times together. We were happy and healthy, and checked a lot of items off our lifetime to-do list.

We have lots of personal and professional changes in the works for this upcoming year. I'm sure we'll be presented with our fair share of challenges, but if 2013 can be half as blessed as 2012, we'll be in good shape.

Wishing all the best to you and yours in the upcoming year!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Respectable 5K & Thankful Day

When we stayed with our friends Kurt and Krysti for the Soldier Marathon, naturally we talked a lot about running. Somehow during the conversation, we managed to con convince them to join us for a Turkey Trot couple weeks later.

I didn’t have any goals in mind for this race. It was my first run in the 10 days since the marathon, and I was still battling some extensor tendonitis in my left foot. I probably should have sat the whole thing out, but my competitive side always gets the best of me.

I was figuring I’d finish somewhere in the 22-23 minute range, so I was pleasantly surprised….. Anything below 21 minutes is a pretty good time for me, and I finished with an official time of 20:46. Despite what the photographic evidence shows, it didn’t feel completely dreadful either. Guess I was still riding the tail-end of the marathon training wave.

Always the bridesmaid, I finished 2 overall female by just a hair.

5k's are never cute

This was Krysti's first 5k road race ever, over half of which she did pushing her son. She claims she hates running, but she's coming around. Girl's got a real competitive side.

After I finished, I looped back to meet up with Krysti, and took over the stroller duties for her so she could really race it in.

No, I didn't just snatch some random kid...

Posing with the 2nd place finisher for the 30-34 age group

Mr. Blondie did the 1 mile race with Emily. She’s not even 4 years old yet, and they finished in just under 15 minutes. More importantly, she said she had fun! I’m so proud of my little turkey.

Since the race was near our house, which meant a super-early wake-up for them. After the race everyone came back to our house. And we spent the rest of the day in a cooking, eating, napping cycle. It was perfect.

Kurt and Krysti are transplants to Georgia as well, and they were going to be on there own as well.

In the early years, we would try to visit our all our family members during the holidays, in an attempt to make everyone happy. In the end, we would end up stressed-out and exhausted. Now we’ve all come to the same agreement……when traveling is your job, that’s the last thing you want to be doing on your holiday. We’re very fortunate we can visit as often as we do during the year, but everyone needs a little down time at home too.

I’m very thankful for our adoptive families here in Georgia. Our holidays are still overflowing with laughter and fellowship.

I broke out the good china and candlesticks to dress up our tiny little kitchen table.

 lthough our Thanksgiving didn’t fit the traditional image, I couldn’t have asked for better day.

Overall: 20/886
Women: 2/516
AG (30-34): 1/76
Chip time: 20:46

Monday, November 12, 2012

Soldier Marathon 2012 Recap

Phew, what a relief to have this marathon in the history books! If you’ve ever experienced taper madness in the two weeks leading up to marathon, try adding an extra, unexpected week on top of that. The pent up anxiety will really have you climbing the walls.

I’m very happy with how the race turned out. My marathon PR was set back in 2003 during my senior year of college, so it was long overdue for an update. My finish time of 3:25:09 is a 10+ minute PR.

I was really impressed with the Soldier Marathon. While it was no NYC Marathon, it was a lot more than I was expecting. I’ve done races nearby at Callaway Gardens and was expecting something of that caliber….maybe a few hundred runners, lonesome stretches of trail running, and a few orange wedges and bottles water waiting at the end. Nothing wrong with that, just no pomp and circumstance.

Combined with the half marathon, the Soldier Marathon was a fairly decent sized event (about 2,000 runners total), and had a very professional feel to it. While I wouldn’t go so far as to advocate this as racecation destination, I would highly recommend it to runners in the Georgia/Alabama area. It had enough of production value to make it feel special, plenty of runners and cheerful spectators to keep things interesting, a variety of foods and beer at the finish, and even nice little touches like women's cut Nike dry-fit tees.

The Details:

The night before the race we stayed friends who live about an hour outside of Columbus. They were going to watch Emily which made it easier for us to get out of the house on time, but we hit a lot more local traffic than we expected near Ft. Benning. Once we parked the car, I had about 30 minutes to pick up my bib number, use the bathroom, and get myself situated. It was a little more chaotic than I would have liked, so my adrenaline was already pumping hard well before the gun went off.

My solution for carrying extra gels/chews

My goal for the race was just to break 3:30, and anything below that would be icing on the cake. I lined myself up slightly ahead of the 3:35 pace group, with the intention of staying just ahead of them for the first few miles.

The announcer said it was 40 degrees at the start, but I think it was lower. I normally love the cold, but I could see my breath, and my nose and eyes were watering.

The 3:35 pacer took it out quick, and instead of being in front of the group, I felt like I was working hard just to hang with them. A few minutes into the race I developed a side-stitch and a sloshing ocean-belly that continued to nag me for the first few miles. I was already doubting myself due to the extra week of taper, and this did nothing to help my confidence.

Add an extra ~30 secs to mile 9, my watch auto-paused there

Mile 5:
Nope, still wasn't finding my groove. Even though I was holding a steady pace and making progress on pulling away from the 3:35 group, I was severely doubting my ability to keep it up for another 20+ miles.

Miles 6-7:
One of my failures in previous marathons was my fueling strategy… in, I didn’t have one. This time around, the plan was to start taking in carbs early and often. I took my gloves off to get my first dose of Shot Bloks out of my pocket, and dropped the left glove in the process. I didn’t want to stop and go back to pick it up, so I just let it go. Then I tossed the remaining glove. Big mistake.

Oh gloves, why did I forsake thee?

Mile 9:
I could no longer ignore my bladder and the fact that I really had to use the bathroom again. And by “bathroom”, I mean a large tree to cop a squat behind. The marathon will make you redefine your sense of pride in every way.

My hands were completely frozen stiff. Cursing about the time I was losing, I struggled to pull my tights back up. I ended up tying the drawstrings in a big knot since my fingers couldn’t manage a bow. Exasperated, I shoved my iPod down the back of my pants because clipping it to my waistband required more dexterity than my Captain Hook hands could provide.

Mile 11:
My left shoe came untied. What mystical force causes a tight, double-knotted shoelace to come undone only during a race? Well, opposable thumbs aren’t something to take for granted. Tying a shoelace is rough when yours don’t work.

Miles 12-13:
I popped a couple more Shot Blocks and had a cup of Powerade at the next aid station. I came through the 13.1 mark around 1:44 and change. I figured it was over at that point, I was barely hanging on to 3:30 pace and was only halfway finished. I grabbed a pack of GU the volunteers were handing out, and gulped it down.

Miles 14-19:
It was like someone flipped a switch. There’s no other way to explain it, the sudden burst of energy was so dramatic. I finally felt warm and loose. Maybe it was the sugar hitting my bloodstream? The rising temps? The adrenaline rush knowing I was over the half-way point? Whatever it was, the pace suddenly began to feel easy and I had a renewed sense of confidence.

In a huge race like the NYC Marathon, the only thing mere mortals like myself race against is the clock. In a sea of thousands of runners, it doesn’t really matter to me what anyone else is doing.

However, being that this was a smaller race, there was incentive to pass other runners. I began targeting the ponytails off in the distance, and challenged myself to reel them in. I was also high-fiving spectators, cheering for the lead runners who were coming back in the other direction, and smiling for the cameras….

The miles clicked by, and I felt like I was on top of the world.

Mile 20:
Seeing this marker is always exhilarating. No matter what, even if you have to hobble, you know you’re going to finish once you see that marker.

Up until Mile 20, it’s a balancing act of pushing the pace but keeping enough in reserve to finish. With 6 miles to go, there's no little voice telling you to hold back anymore. It’s time to let it all hang out and give it everything you’ve got.

Miles 21-26:
After freezing in the beginning of the race, now it was getting HOT. There was no more tree cover, and the sun beat down on us. I broke out the last gel from under my hat, and gagged on the first mouthful. Despite taking in Powerade at every aid station after Mile 10, I was SO thirsty and it felt like a glob of glue in my mouth. Blech.

“Just keep putting one foot in front of the other” was the mantra on repeat in my head. I was hot, tired, and my lower back ached, but I never hit "the wall" the way I remember in previous marathons. I was almost done!

The last .2:


Instant gratification. They posted the results as soon as they came in.

Anxiously awaiting my turn

Chip time 3:25:09, 8th oa female, 2nd age-group

 Now I can give up running…well, at least for a few days :)

Monday, November 5, 2012

So, About That Marathon.....What's Next?

As you know by now, I did not run a marathon this weekend.

We were on the highway just north of Washington D.C. when our phones started blowing up with the news of the cancellation.

Up until that point it had been a pretty nice trip. Of all places, we lucked out and Mr. Blondie had a layover in North Carolina on Thursday night. It made a good half-way point to stop, and YAY! for a free hotel room. Emily and I slept in, had a nice breakfast, and waited at the hotel while Mr. Blondie flew back to Atlanta in the morning. His trip was over once he got there, so he just hopped on a flight back to N.C. to meet us. We continued on our merry way from there.

To be clear, I’m not upset at all that I didn’t get to run the NYC Marathon. Obviously the resources were needed elsewhere, and I’m glad to see it could be re-allocated.

What I am very upset about by the way it was handled. Us (now vilified) runners were working on Mayor Bloomberg’s bold reassurances of that everything could go on as planned. Sadly, those bold assurances were based on a hugely egregious miscalculation of resources. Hate the game, not the players. It was just an all-around crappy situation.

But as I said in my last post, this trip had two parts. We continued on after we got the news of the cancellation, and made it to my parents’ house in South Jersey. Em got to spend some time with her grandparents , and we got to drop off the supplies we brought.

It’s business as usual in South Jersey and their primary residence is fine. My parents were surprisingly zen about their situation on Long Beach Island. They’re still working simply with aerial photos, but whatever happened…well, it’s only stuff. It can be replaced. That’s why they pay for good insurance right?

The rest of our friends and family in North jersey and Long Island spent Sunday night drinking wine and eating pizza by the light of their generators, while streaming TV shows on their laptops. My inlaws will need to have the tree that crushed their garage removed. Others will need their siding or shingles replaced. Inconvenient? Yes. Extreme hardship? No.

Yep, they are very, VERY fortunate. So many others are still in dire need. The shore areas, Staten Island, Breezy Point, etc. were completely devastated and they lost EVERYTHING. It’s surreal to look at the pictures, and heartbreaking to hear the stories. My mom is bringing the supplies we brought with us to her church, who will in turn pass them on to the people who really need them. I know it’s only tiny drop in the bucket, but if enough people give, soon you have a full bucket.

Since there’s no way to smoothly transition to something that seems trivial and petty in light of what we just discussed, I’ll just jump right in. Talking about running doesn’t mean I have any less compassion for what’s going on in the Northeast.

So after getting word of the cancellation, I immediately pulled out my phone and started searching for alternate marathons within driving distance. I tried registering for the City of Oaks Marathon in Raleigh, but they were mobbed after the announcement. By the time I got to speak with anyone, the race had already sold-out. I also tried to get into the Manchester City Marathon in New Hampshire, but by the time the race organizer verified they could hold a bib for me, it was already too late on Saturday to make it there.

Instead, I’ll be running the Soldier Marathon this upcoming Saturday in Columbus. GA. womp womp

It's not what I had envisioned, but it means I still get to run a marathon. Waiting another few weeks to do a different one is just not in the cards. I have to note the organizers are being super gracious though. They are allowing displaced NYC Marathon runners to enter for FREE. How cool is that?!

So there you have it, The Marathon: Take 2, this weekend.