Sunday, April 12, 2015

Finish Strong

I've never bailed on a race before. I register/pay, I train (hopefully well), and I drag my ass out to the starting line and go; even when I don't want to. I was always taught that you must finish what you start.

Well, today for the first time, I bailed on my race. I was supposed to run the Negative Split Half Marathon, but I couldn't find my strong through my tears. I was disappointed in myself and knew I had people who were cheering me on (thank you). I had a friend, Traci, who was running in memory of her husband Aaron who she also lost to Leukemia similar to my friend Andrea.  (Photo: Pre-race photo of Traci in her memorial shirt.)

I was well supported on the outside, but my heart wasn't in it. I felt like I was letting so many people down.

I'd woken up early, gone through my race prep routine, gotten dressed, and when it came time to leave the house, I just couldn't do it. I was emotionally and physically exhausted from Andrea's memorial service yesterday and my heart still hurt. 

I knew my 8-year-old son would also be disappointed as I'd promised him I'd bring him home another medal. Instead, with all my race clothes still on, I climbed back in bed and closed my eyes. 

When my son woke up and saw me he was so excited, thinking I'd already finished my race. I told him I was very sorry, but I didn't feel well enough to run 13.1 miles today.  To my surprise, instead of being sad, he hugged me and said, "I love having you more than a medal." I burst into tears at the power of those words. 

In the meantime, my friend Traci found her superpower STRONG, and ran an honorable 2:14 race! Afterwords she texted me, "Sister, I had a 36-year-old guardian angel use me as her pacer.  It was her first half marathon...but she was a God Send...At mile 12 we introduced ourselves, LOL...[her name was] Michelle."

Later in the day, I was glancing at Facebook and saw that my Facebook friend, Shannon, had posted pictures of her friend crossing the finish line of the same race today. Her friends name? Yep, you guessed it: Michelle! And there was Traci with her in the photo as they crossed the finish line! Small world! (You should have seen my face when I saw the picture and texted Traci to tell her!)

Traci and Michelle have now connected on Facebook, thanks to their angels! Here's Traci with her finisher medal!

Someday, I will be as strong as Traci and run a race in Andrea's honor. Unfortunately, that race wasn't today. Thanks for all the prayers, miles, cheers, and virtual hugs. They mean a lot to me! Soon, I'll find my strong again....

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Keep On, Keeping On

I believe God has a plan for every one of us. However, that doesn't help lesson the pain when you are grieving a loss. God took home another beautiful angel this week on Holy Saturday relieving her of her fight with Multiple Myeloma/Leukemia.  His new angel is a spunky, witty, talented, athletic, woman named Andrea, and with her new wings I imagine her flying around like she is Wonder Woman.

My purpose in writing this blog is not to wallow in sorrow, but to honor the grieving process and love on those who were closest to Andrea. As everyone processes differently, I will never question how someone reacts to grief. I just pray that my friends have more happy days than sad days and more energy filled days than angry "why" days. I pray they move through the whole grief process and don't get stuck along the journey. 

Andrea has crossed the ultimate finish line, and before doing so positively impacted so many lives including mine. I was lucky enough to meet her when my cousin, Cathy, signed us up to run a marathon relay together a few years ago. Our team was bundled up in a car for hours on a cold day as we each waited for our turn to run. Andrea kept us laughing and cheering with her wicked-funny humor and positive encouragement of others.

I was lucky enough to run more races with Andrea, including suffering through almost 3 hours of negative degree weather at the Snake River Half Marathon, and having her swat me on the butt with a "come on, girl, let's do this" in the last two miles of the Coeur d'Alene Half Marathon (which she went on to beat me)! 

As her supporters, we dedicated races and triathlons to Andrea. 

Her friend ran over 140 miles as a one-man relay for charity to raise money for her medical treatments! More friends designed and sold shirts and held a charity race. (Props to Ben at Tran Creative for his shirt design and photos of Andrea.)

Authors sent her a personally signed book to read in all her spare time at the hospital and during dialysis treatments. (Thanks to Jim and Anne Weatherill for donating their book, "The Blades Carry Me.")

She had so many visitors at the hospital they had to stop visitation so she could get some rest! (Once they were kind enough to let my boys and me sneak in to deliver a cookie bouquet we'd made for her.)  

I was lucky enough to pick her up and give her a ride in the "Batmobile" the day I got it and go to the Clark House to enjoy amazing food and entertainment.

Finally, I was blessed to ring in the 2015 new year with Andrea, Cathy, and friends.

Andrea gave it her all and lived up to her motto: "Keep on, keeping on."  That is how I want to live my life--to the fullest. I don't want to leave anything undone. No regrets. Every day is a gift and must be treated that way. Her friend, Ben, also made this amazing tribute to her:

Now, we must move through this and move forward. My heart and legs feel heavy, but I can only imagine the hurt her closest friends and family are feeling. I can't wait to see and hug my cousin, Cathy, again. 

We will all gather for a hike/run on Saturday in Andrea's honor and she will probably have it rain so she can have the last laugh. 😉

Meanwhile, we will all find our own way to honor her life and "keep on, keeping on." 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Start, Finish, and Have Fun

March 21, 2015
For a second weekend in a row, I show up to run a five mile race alone-- well, with hundreds of strangers-- on a cold, blustery, and rainy day. Today, however, the Weather Gods appear to be kinder as the wind gusts move the rain clouds through the sky quickly, teasing us with brief clearings and intermittent glimpses of blue skies. 

Also, for a second weekend in a row, I pick up my bib number and head back to sit alone in my warm car, hoping my seat-heater turned on high will qualify as an adequate pre-race "warm up."

Different this week is that I'm here today just to log five miles, with no pressure of a specific finish time.

Start, finish, and have fun. Those are the requirements of today.

I got a great race number: 111.  Oh, the pressure of wearing a cool number! It makes me feel like I need to run a faster race, perform at a higher level. Yes, I have weird thoughts like that....

Surprisingly, I feel better today than I have in a month. This morning, I finished my last dose from 20 days of antibiotics; not my kind of good time.  Yesterday, my boys and I devoured a whole box of Girl Scout Cookies on the way home from school; not the best idea for carb-loading!

Regardless, I was ready to run!

I gauged my pace based on my breathing and body inventory, and tried not to look at my Garmin. Five miles flew by and I focused on each runner in front of me, attempting to pass as many as possible. One by one, I passed a dozen people before finishing with an unofficial time of 48:18. 

Before leaving, I gave my ticket for the prize drawing to a girl (who I guess was about 10-years old) hoping that my ticket would be lucky for her and she would win a prize. 

I walked to my car, stretched, and drank my post-race recovery shake. I drove home happy and felt like a superstar as my phone phone screen and email began filling up with notifications of kudos from members of my AMR Nuun Year: No Limits training team. 

Thanks to all of my friends!  You have no idea how much your support means to me! Hugs and kisses to you all!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Going for Gold

The starting line was vacant as I sat in my dry, warm, comfortable car listening to the rain pounding down, daunting me to give up now and go home. 

Ten minutes before race start, it was like magic...

Just like the end of an awesome game of hide-and-seek, runners of all shapes, sizes, and physical abilities appeared out of nowhere; strategically they had been hidden in coves, corners, and cars sheltering themselves from the downpour of rain until the very last moment. 

I sat and watched the people, the rain, and the clock in my car tick the minutes by. Two minutes before the gun, I took a hit off my Abuterol inhaler and left my serenity. 

I was running naked; stripped of my ideal sunny, dry running weather. I was wearing none of my normal accessories of my wedding ring, earrings, and makeup, substituting them for a rain jacket and a plastic zip-lock bag as my phone's carrying case. I was out of my element, but I would not melt in the rain. 

"Don't think; just go" was my mantra for the day.  As I ran, I found myself sucking for air. I was pushing myself hard while thinking the faster I ran the sooner I would be done and out of the rain. I also wanted to run a qualifying time for a Yellow seeding start in Bloomsday.  It would require everything I had and even then I would be cutting it close.

I focused on my form and breath as I increased my pace. I turned up the tunes on my new playlist and focused on keeping my footfalls with the music's tempo as I ran up the inclines. 

Like most races, I found myself running next to a loud runner: a runner with loud, heavy steps, or extra loud breathing, or music I can hear, or non-stop loud-talking with a friend.... 

Then, it hit me. I wasn't running next to anyone. The extra loud breather was me! Oh God, I really am sucking wind!  And as the miles past, it didn't get any better.

Pushing into the finish I was watching my time. I was going to miss my cut off! As I rounded the last bend, I sprinted to the finish (which really was a regular running speed for everyone around me). I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch.  I couldn't believe it. It was too close to call! I'd have to wait for the official results to see if I ran in under 47 minutes to qualify.

So, I waited and waited for what felt like an eternity for when the official results were to be posted. I stretched, texted people, and talked to others I knew. Then, the moment came. The moment of truth. A row of paper was hung on the wall and I quickly joined the flock of people searching for their results. I found my name on the sheet and read my time: 46:48! I made it with 12 seconds to spare! Talk about cutting it close!

Looking back now, it was dumb for me to run. I was sick with an upper respiratory tract infection and my asthma was rightfully angry. I would advise others to do as I say, not as I do. Maybe someday I'll start taking my own advice....

Sunday, February 22, 2015

My Running Journey

Recently, I had an opportunity to write about my running journey. Many of the questions were similar to what some of you have asked me in the past, so I decided to share them here.

Age at which you started running:


Officially, at age 34.  I first attempted to run in high school, but suffered with undiagnosed, untreated asthma.  Not surprisingly, it hurt to run so I stopped.  As an adult, with an official asthma diagnosis and proper meds, plus the help of a nutritionist, I ran my first race ever…the 2008 Portland Marathon!  Go big or go home!



Reason you started running in four sentences or less:


I started running because I was told by a doctor that because of my asthma I couldn’t run, and like advice that I heed from my mother, I challenged it; I wouldn’t settle for less than what I believed in my heart that I could do.  I ran because I wanted to step out of my comfort zone (and my head) and open myself to new experiences enabling myself to conquer illogical thoughts and fears that I was harboring.  I started running because I knew people who were struggling through bigger obstacles than me, and I wanted to be an inspiration for them.



Number and distance of races you ran in 2014:


(5) Half-marathons (One of which was -6 degrees at race start and another I ran too soon after having a lumpectomy. I do not recommended either choice!)

(1) 12K

(1) 10K (trail race)

(1) 5 Miler

(3) 5K

(1) Olympic Triathlon (I was the run leg of our team)

(2) 1 mile Kids races (My boys ran with me as my support crew.)



A bit about your running journey in 400 words or less:


My running journey began in 2008 when I persevered through 7 hours of rain and 26.2 miles of the Portland Marathon, all while being passed on the final stretch to the finish line by a hunched-over, blue-haired, lady speed-walking with a cane.  

In 2009, I scaled down to “run” my first half-marathon (second race ever) and finished in just under 3 hours.  I trained at night when my son was asleep by jogging around our horse pasture logging “manure miles” towards my training goal. 

In 2010, I rallied 32 friends creating a team of “Sole Sisters” who traveled 7 hours to run a half marathon with me.  In 2011 with a few more races under my belt, juggling a full-time job, and after giving birth to my second son, I needed a stronger purpose to run so I signed up for the American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation Race Team for the Rock n’ Roll Phoenix Half Marathon. January 15, 2012 marks the first time I EVER ran an entire race without stopping or walking!  From there it was game on; I’d caught the running bug!


In the spirit of continuing to make a difference and run with a purpose bigger than myself, I volunteered for the WISER Sister Study through the University of Pennsylvania. This 7-month exercise study required me to run five hours a week.  What’s the best way to rack up those hours?  Run races!  And I did.  In 2012, I completed eight half marathons in six different states; one I wore a full-body sock monkey costume and another I wore a sparkle skirt with “Bad Ass” socks while cheering on my sister and two friends who completed their first race!  I also ran four other shorter-distance races; one of which I won 2nd in my age division while pushing my son in the stroller!  I tend to take multi-tasking seriously.


The 2012 Missoula Marathon brought me my sub-2:30 PR dream come true and I returned last year to rock a 2:21 PR finish!


In 2013, I ran my 2nd full marathon in 5:52:52 and crossed the finish line with my 6-year-old holding my hand!


Now, I’m headed to meet my sister in New Orleans this weekend to run my 20th half marathon (her 3rd-- we have run all three together).  Wish us luck!



Where do you Find Your Strong when it comes to running?


My STRONG comes from my fiery Italian roots and my parents instilling in me that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. My STRONG comes from the proud and excited look in my children’s eyes when bring home my race medals and tell them that I didn’t win the race, but won because I finished what I started.  My STRONG comes from dedicating every race I run to someone; sometimes that dedication is made public, sometimes it is not, and one day I will dedicate a race to me.  My STRONG comes from inspiration from others and my hope that I can then inspire to help others Find Their STRONG!



Your running goals, in brief, for 2015:


For 2015 I will:

1. Beat my 2:20 half-marathon PR (I’ve already signed up for four half-marathons in three different states).

2. Qualify for a second seed start in Bloomsday 12K and beat my 1:17 PR.

3. Run over 500 miles.

4. Run at least three races with my boys.

5. Volunteer at three or more races/events with my boys to teach them the benefits of giving back.

6. Inspire ten people to run a race with me this year, hopefully help some, if not all of them, conquer their first race!

7. Step out of my comfort zone whenever a new challenge faces me and conquer it!


Answering these questions helped me to find my inner "why" again. It helped me to refocus on what my bigger goals are. What are your goals for this year? What is your "why?"

Monday, January 26, 2015

New Orleans Rock n' Roll Half Marathon

As soon as we arrived in New Orleans we were off and running; seeing as much of the town as we could during our stay. We started our fun and games at the race expo where we captured a couple photos.

We went on a walking tour of the French Quarter and a cemetery which was fascinating!

We loved the "character" of our hotel and the many messages we found.

The food was delicious and the music of the night life was fantastic.

But, before we knew it, it was time for the main event: the New Orleans Rock n' Roll Half Marathon (full marathon for our friend Paula)!

It was a blustery 46 degrees on race morning when we walked out of our hotel and aimlessly followed the stream of people wearing running clothes and race bibs who seemed to know where they were going.
We left our room as late as possible to minimize our "freezing time" before the race started.  (The fact that I chose to wear a sparkle skirt and a tank top didn't help the situation.)

The mood in our starting corral was positive and the energy in the air was palpable. Coming off of miles and miles of walking around town as tourists the previous days and nights, didn't exactly leave us rested with fresh legs for our race. Nonetheless, there we were, cozy in the sea of runners waiting in corral 7, staring ahead at the starting line--we were ready to go!

For the first time ever, my sister and I were running together side by side!  We've lived a lot of years and have had a lot of experiences together, but this was a first for us!

The race course showed us a sampling of the New Orleans neighborhoods, markets, and city, and in true tourist form, I snapped photos all along the way.

Then, 13.1 miles later and more tired than when we started, we finished the race together clocking in at 3:07:03!

What a great trip and even more amazing memories we have made! I can't wait to decide where we will go next year!