Thursday, November 30, 2017

Route 66 Marathon recap and more to be thankful for

So, the Sunday before Thanksgiving I earned this "Goddess of Speed" medal. I traveled to my 14th state and completed the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa Oklahoma. I was nervous but optimistic going into the race weekend. I had a lot going on at work and at home and the thought of preparing a Thanksgiving feast when I got back was stressing me out. My training had gone OK, which now that I type that seems kind of funny considering I was running in 'OK'(lahoma). I did a half marathon two weeks prior to the marathon and felt really confident about my potential for the marathon.

So, Tulsa.......not a whole lot to say about it. It sort of felt like a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Big city buildings and modern amenities, but there seem to be a lack of people and cars the entire weekend like a virus swept through the week before and wiped everyone out. I could literally stand in the middle of Route 66 for several minutes waiting for tumbleweed to blow by and not see a single other person or vehicle go by. It was very strange.

The was perfect, low 40s to start warming up to 60 throughout the day, no wind, mostly sunny. The first half of the course was well supported by cheering crowds and a lot of free booze offered. Once the course split and the half marathoners continued to the finish and the full marathoners made their way to the second half of the course, the crowds thinned, the course quieted, even the volunteers seemed a little less enthusiastic. I ran a really strong first half and felt pretty good. Then it was like I had been running on a treadmill set to zero incline and someone just slowly added 0.5. It wasn't 'hilly' per se but there were noticeable long gradual false flats as I like to call them. The roads looked flat, but had every so slight inclines that over the last 13.1 miles of the marathon slowly defeated me.

The race was advertised as walker friendly and course open for 7.5 hrs so I thought I was pretty safe even if I had an off day. Well, they really closed the course at 6.5 hrs gun time and kept the finish line open for 7.5, but cleaned up and opened roads after about 6 hours. I wasn't too concerned until I got within maybe 3 miles of the finish and there were NO cones and NO course markings and all the volunteers gone too. So I foolishly followed the person in front of me thinking they knew the way. Turns out they did not. We both got lost in the last 2 miles and meandered helplessly through an industrial park type area until we found a police car and got back onto the course. After that, the girl I was following opted for the additional detour they offer for the world's shortest Ultra marathon and I opted to just finish. Still no course markers so I pulled up a map of the finish area on my phone and did my best to navigate there. I am pretty sure I missed a few turns on the official course, but my Garmin said 26.3 when I finished so I'm calling it completed.

Anyway, all things considered, I was faster than Little Rock and felt relatively good afterwards. Normal soreness and lack of energy, but nothing excruciating. I flew back to Boston and met a lovely woman on the plane who even donated to my Dana Farber fundraising page. Got home and snuggled my kittens and then had an awesome Thanksgiving with a pot roast instead of a turkey (because turkey and all the fixins is a pain in the ass). I recovered nicely after a post race acupuncture treatment and started my Dopey training the next weekend with a 4 mile run and a 7 mile run and both felt amazing!

Now that I am home and have a few things checked off my to-do list, I can refocus again and start thinking about Dopey and Boston. My fundraising is still going really well. I hope that I can keep up this pace and reach my goal to raise $20,000 by April. Right now I am just over $9000.00 and my company just started a matching program so as soon as that kicks in I should be close to $13.1K. If you're reading this and you have not donated yet, please consider giving a little or a lot, 100% of every dollar raised goes to innovative cancer research. It really does make a difference.
Someone asked me recently "why $20K, why not just $10K, isn't that enough?" My initial response was "why not?" and then upon further discussion with the person I explained that this is a cause I am passionate about and it has touched my life in multiple ways. I have lost loved ones and gained extended family through the Dana Farber team. And unlike other charitable organisations that give only a small portion of the money that is raised to the cause, the Barr Program for the Dana Farber Marathon team was specifically set up to make sure 100% goes to the cause. AND because of the unique location of Dana Farber in the heart of Boston's medical community they can treat and study the disease in the same location. AND they have proven success at doing both!

So, I'm not just running a marathon or asking people for money, I genuinely feel like I am making a difference in the fight against this disease. Yes, a big part of that is asking people for money, but I try to be creative about it and find different ways to say thank you and different ways to make it fun. One of those ways is through Mile Dedications. For donations of $100 or more I offer mile dedications and so far all but 4 miles are dedicated to friends and family members that are fighting cancer or cheering from heaven.
Here's my link  Please help me reach my goal and let's make a difference together!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The journey continues......

It's been 11 years since I went to a Halloween party that changed my life. I saw an image of myself that didn't match the mental image I had of my body. I knew that throughout my 20s since I graduated college and started working my clothing sizes gradually increased, but I still thought I looked good and was healthy. Until I saw these photos:
I vividly remember getting ready for that party and doing my hair and make-up and lacing up the  fake leather corset and looking in the mirror thinking to myself "DAMN, I look good!"

I made the decision the day I saw the photos to start working out and eating better and a year later I had lost 100lbs. A year after that, I ran my first marathon - Marine Corps Marathon 2008.
I have since completed 27 marathons and more half marathons than I can count, but in the last 4 yrs I have gotten slower and running has gotten more difficult and it is because of something I never ever thought would happen. I gained back most of the weight I had lost. I know exactly how it happened. It was a gradual process like the slowly increasing clothing sizes in my 20s, it did sort of sneak up on me, but I was aware the entire time. First my jeans got a bit tight, then they didn't fit at all. Running got more and more difficult and didn't feel effortless anymore. The more difficult it got, the less I enjoyed it.

There was a series of events that nudged me in the wrong direction and down the path I have taken. First was the bombings and the nightmares that followed. I started drinking A LOT to try and shut off my brain and cope with anxiety and fear that I couldn't shake. Then a year after that I got laid off from my job and was unemployed for several months. A year after that, one of my cats died suddenly. All of these things just added up over time pushing me into a very unhealthy head space that I am all too familiar with - depression. I continued running the whole time, trying to maintain my weight and sanity, but slowly slipped little by little.

Through all this the journey never stopped, I am still moving forward and still running (even if some people can walk faster than my current pace), I am struggling, but I am still fighting through that struggle.

Reflecting back on my journey thus far, has helped me refocus and restart down a better, more positive path. I have made a conscious effort to stop drinking in excess. Which means not consuming an entire bottle of wine for dinner every night or a 6-pack of beers. In the past month I have only had maybe 2 beers and 3 glasses of wine total on 4 separate occasions. I admit, some nights are more challenging than others and I really really want to have a glass (or bottle) of wine and fall asleep, but I resist the urge and get a glass of water instead.

I have started keeping a food journal again to keep myself accountable for the calories I consume and avoid mindless eating. That also helps me avoid the empty calories of alcohol. I am making it my goal to get to the gym at least twice a week. I just need to make it a habit again. Just doing long runs on the weekend is not enough. So far in the month of October, I have lost 14lbs. I had gained back about 75 of the 100lbs I lost 10 years ago so I still have a ways to go, but it is a great start. If I can lose 10lbs per month between now and next April when I run Boston again that will be a huge accomplishment and I may actually be able to run it faster than recent marathons and feeling better about the race and myself.

So, the journey continues. As a friend recently told me, "it is always a journey, a lot of days are tough but we power through and always give love to ourselves no matter what stage of life we are going through." No truer words have ever been said. Some days are extremely tough, but I power through. That is what makes me who I am. That mental toughness is what gets me to the finish line more often than not. I may not always give myself the love I deserve, but I am trying and I will not give up.

This year's Halloween costume, still think I looked amazing, but also see some room for improvement. It's not as shocking as the "not-so-little" red riding hood costume photos. I definitely know looking at these that I am bigger than I'd like to be and look forward to next year in a smaller costume.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Off to an amazing start

Just one month into my 2018 Dana Farber Marathon Challenge fundraising and I am one third of the way to my goal to raise $20,000 for innovative cancer research! I have been busy, busy, busy - training for the Route 66 marathon, thinking of creative fundraising ideas on my long runs, sending out emails, and social media posts, and letters, ordering photo cards with my link and my message on them, and I ordered DFMC mittens to sell as a fundraiser. HUGE THANK YOU to everyone that has donated already!!!! I cannot do this without the amazing support of my friends and family and coworkers.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and I have been blasting my social media accounts with facts about the disease and including my link. I've also seen other fundraisers going on for the month for other charities. BIG difference between all those other charities and DFMC - Dana Farber's Marathon team raises money specifically for the Claudia Adams Barr Program and that program requires that 100% of every dollar raised goes directly to researching innovative treatments and cures. No administrative fees, no money for advertisement or promotional materials, no money for salaries of executives, no travel and expense money for program staff. If you look into the details of all the 'other' charities out there a very small percent of the money you give them actually goes to the cause you are supporting. One example I saw yesterday after a little digging on their website, gave only $800,000 out of almost $3 million to grants for breast cancer screenings.

Here is a direct example of how your donation to my DFMC page can make a difference:

Discovering New Treatments - Explaining how drugs like Tamoxifen have improved breast cancer survival rates by 33% in significant numbers of women, leading to the possible discovery of additional treatments with even better outcomes for people with breast cancer.
Myles Brown, MD, used Barr funding in 2002-‘03 to make the first genome-wide map of all genes that estrogen controls. This has enabled scientists for the first time to understand why certain drugs have been so effective in treating breast cancer, including the marked improvement in survival for women whose breast cancers respond to tamoxifen and other drugs that block estrogen. Dr. Brown’s work is now expected to lead to new drugs and treatments for cancers that target critical pathways in breast cancer. His team has used this information to discover new ways to treat breast cancers that don’t respond to Tamoxifen.
Tomorrow morning I am planning on going out for a 16 mile training run. I have 5 weeks left to train for my next marathon. 185 days until I line up in Hopkinton with 36,000 other runners to make the 26.2 mile journey to Boylston St. It will be 5 years since the bombs went off and I plan on crossing that finish line triumphant not only in completing the race, but doing so for a cause much bigger than personal achievement. I want to make a difference. Together with the support (and yes, donations) of everyone I know and even people I don't know, we all CAN make a difference. Please consider giving whatever you can, share my link with your friends, whether it's $5 or $50 - EVERY dollar can make a difference! DONATE TODAY!

Friday, October 6, 2017

I'm running Boston AGAIN!

Hard to believe it has been another 4 years already and it's time for me to lace up for my favorite charity team (aka my extended family) - Dana Farber Marathon Challenge. Raising money for innovative cancer research that might not otherwise get funded and kicking cancer's ass one dollar at a time.

It's also hard for me to believe logging in to post this that my last update was my race re-cap for the Little Rock Marathon. Geez, I have really been slacking off. Well to be fair, after Little Rock I did feel a little burnt out and needed a break. But enough about that and back to my original reason for posting......
192 days from today I will be in Hopkinton again getting ready to make the 26.2 mile journey through 8 towns and over a few famous hills, around a few really fun turns, onto the most amazing finishing stretch of any marathon in the World. But as I like to say, "the race is the reward for the training". April 16th 2018 WILL be an awesome day, but it will be even more awesome and special because of WHY I run and the team I run with.

I began running almost 10 years ago. I lost 100lbs in 2007, ran my first marathon in 2008. I went to the 2009 Boston Marathon to cheer for friends and was so inspired I decided that day to apply to run with a charity team the following year. I ran my first Boston marathon with Dana Farber in 2010 not knowing it would change my life.  

Long story short - through my fundraising efforts with Dana Farber, I repaired a fractured relationship with my mom who had only recently recovered from her own battle with breast cancer. I ran that year in memory of my mom's father, my grandfather, Howard Burdwood. He died from acute leukemia when I was in college. I made so many friends through the DFMC team that I now consider them my extended family. I vowed that year to continue supporting the team’s efforts however I could and to run again with them every 4 years (as a nod to my mom's political career, even though she reminds me her terms were 3 years and I really should be running every 3 years).

In 2013 I was a block away from the finish tracking and cheering for many of my DFMC family and waiting for a friend to run her in the last 2 turns. That day for me, like any runner, any Bostonian, and anyone that was there, had a profound effect on me. Fireworks still startle me. I still occasionally have nightmares. I get nervous in large crowds or public events. But none of that has stopped me from running. I'm slower and have gained back some of the weight I lost, but I AM NOT STOPPING. As planned, I ran in 2014, with new meaning and determination to make a difference and I raised just over $16,000 for Dana Farber. 

Last year, my mom's best friend and someone who was like a second mom to me, Gloria Miranda, lost her battle with lung cancer. I'm running in memory of her and in support of my mom and too many other people to list that have been impacted by this disease. My hope for 2018 is to make it a really big deal. It will be my 30th marathon, about a month before my 40th birthday, and I hope to raise at least $20,000 for Dana Farber.
 So far I am off to a great start, almost a third of the way to my goal of $20K. I’m currently training for the Route 66 marathon in November and already logging lots of miles. I will follow that up with another Dopey Challenge at Disney World in January before turning my training focus on the Newton Hills and the Boston marathon.

Please consider making a donation to help me reach the ultimate finish line - A World Without Cancer!  My personal fundraising page THANK YOU!!!!!!! 100% of the dollars raised support innovative cancer research (and are tax deductible). 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Marathon #27 - Runalicious Little Rock was a new record for slowest marathon ever, but I still managed to drag my ass across the finish line after 26.2 challenging miles. I had pretty low expectations going into the race because I really only had about 4 weeks of training because I got really sick after Disney and lost half of an already shortened training schedule to the most ridiculous lingering couch/cold I think I have ever had. In the 4 weeks I had to train, I only managed to get in a few 10 mile runs. One of them was in soft squishy snow so it felt like I ran 20 miles, but really I just didn't get to a good place where I felt confident about the marathon I had to run.

In the week before the race I was seriously considering just not going. I was not prepared physically or mentally to tackle the 26.2 mile journey and I knew it. My cat was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and she has a bad heart so surgery and many of the medicinal treatments are not an option. I'm basically trying to keep her comfortable and monitor her for any signs of distress. She has days or weeks of life left and I am doing my best to make those days the best days they can be, spoiling her with treats and as much food as I can get her to eat. It's incredibly difficult and emotionally draining to watch a pet fade away and try to determine the most humane time to let her go. I do not want to rob her of good days, but I do not want to make her suffer through any bad days either. Worrying about how she would be and if she would eat while I was away weighed very heavily on me and almost made me stay home and skip the trip all together. I would only be gone 2 and a half days and I had a good friend checking on her and feeding her so I decided to go.
I tried to do some research and find things to see and do in Little Rock for the day and a half I was there and not running and came up with nothing. There is not a whole lot to do in Arkansas. There is a presidential library, but I really don't care about seeing a bunch of books. Little Rock is the state capital but their state house looks pretty much the same as any I've seen - big dumb building with a dome in the middle and maybe some gold ornament thingy at the top of that dome. Pretty boring. There were some parks and local hikes and trails nearby, but I didn't want to do a whole lot of walking the day before I was going to do a whole lot of walking (let's be honest, I knew I couldn't really 'run' the whole marathon with little to no training).

They did have a bunch of local breweries and a passport program that if you visit X number of breweries and collect stickers in your passport you get 'free' stuff. The minimum was 10 breweries and that got you a soapstone coaster. I figured why not. Friday when I arrived in Little Rock I needed to get lunch and then later would need dinner so I started to collect some stickers. I wanted to get most of the 10 done on Friday so that I didn't have to do much on Saturday. I succeeded in collecting 7 stickers Friday and my head Saturday morning felt like it was not so much a 'success', but whatever. Saturday I went to the packet pick up and expo then to a Walmart Super Center for some Gatorade and water (because Walmart was founded in Arkansas and it seemed like a mecca I should visit). Then I got a late lunch and my last 3 stickers for my passport and called it a night.
Sunday morning I got up wicked early because I learned the day before that the 'continuous shuttle' from the hotel to the start/finish area was not really very reliable and even less consistent about where it stopped and how frequently they came, so I decided to drive to the start and park. Problem was the rental 'car' I got was a Ford F-150 and all the parking near the finish was on street parallel parking or garages with wicked low clearance. I wanted to get there early enough to be able to pull straight into a spot on the street. I managed to find a space a block away from the finish and was able to stay warm in the truck for a while before heading to the start, which was nice because as luck would have it, it was pouring rain and really windy.

The race started at 7:00am. It was still raining despite the fact that accuweather said it was supposed to stop. The first half of the race felt pretty good, then there were hills and more hills and never-ending hills, oh and also some really brutal headwinds too. I'd say by about mile 18 I was done. I wanted to bail. Everything hurt, it seemed like there were not enough water stops, the miles did not go by fast, I tried to shuffle for a little bit and walk for a little bit. I would look at my Garmin and try to do math and figure out if I could at least maintain XYZ pace, I might cross the finish line in a certain amount of time plus or minus a half hour. There was an 8 hour time limit so I figured I was pretty safe to assume I could finish. I had in mind a time I wanted to see at the finish but accepted the reality that my finish time might be a lot longer than that.

As different pacers passed me with their projected finish times on poles my ideal time faded away in the distance with them. Each mile I fought the internal battle of quit now or keep going. At what point is the amount of pain ahead of you too much to continue? And when have you gone too far to even think about stopping? One foot in front of the other, keep making forward progress, even slow progress is progress. No matter how long it takes your feet are still carrying you the distance of a marathon and you may consider it a failure because it doesn't meet certain time goals you had in mind, but it is still an accomplishment that few can say they have completed. It's almost more impressive to complete the distance despite incredible pain and pushing through mental barriers when every ounce of you wants to stop. So.....I continued on and I finished!
I learned some things - Little Rock is wicked boring, Arkansas is NOT flat, and I am one tough and determined badass that cannot and will not quit no matter what. Although it was my slowest race ever and it was pretty much the combination of all of my worst races in one - rain, wind, hills, plantar fasciitis, back spasms, not enough water stops - I still managed to make it to the finish line and collect my medal. And what a "sweet" medal it is......pun intended.
I could not have been more happy to be done with that race and headed home. No offense Arkansas, but I'm not a big fan and will probably never go back. I made it home and my cat is doing ok. For now she is stable, not eating as much as I'd like and her most recent x-ray shows the lung cancer is a large defined mass in one lung that is causing her some difficulty breathing, but no pain. I brought her to the vet and we started her on a low dose of steroids to try and help her breath easier and feel a little better, hopefully even eat a little more. I'll keep an eye on her and hopefully give her a few more weeks of quality time, lots of treats and brushing and love. I worry about her and struggle with when is the right time to say goodbye. For now, my vet assures me that she has some pep in her step and still has some good days ahead. I'll stay close to home until she's gone. The next marathon I am registered for is Disney 2018. I want to do a fall marathon, but haven't decided on which one and I really need to get back on track with training and nutrition so that I am ready for another 26.2 miles. I have a bunch of half marathons over the summer hopefully those will keep me motivated and help me get back into shape.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Wow, 2017 already, how did that happen?

I was looking yesterday and realized I hadn't posted any update since my Portland marathon re-cap. That was in OCTOBER! November and December kind of flew by in a blur and I didn't even really do a whole lot. I tried to train for my 4th Dopey Challenge and hit a few bumps and snags. My Plantar Fasciitis came back and slowed my training to a crawl. My longest run before Disney was 14 miles and my back to back runs were almost all complete failures. The first run would go great and then I would bonk about 8 miles into the second run.

Anyway, even though my training was less than ideal, I went to Florida and ran my 4th Dopey Challenge and the Gods were smiling on me because as luck would have it, severe thunderstorms threatened the half marathon causing Disney to cancel it. That gave me an entire day to rest between the 5K-10K and the full marathon. So, I didn't technically complete the entire Dopey Challenge, but it didn't really matter to me because I DID finish the marathon and I wasn't sure that would happen if I had done the half the day before.

As usual, I had a lot of fun running all those magical miles. Unfortunately, this year I didn't make it to Animal Kingdom early enough to jump on Everest mid-race, but I had noticed last year that the end of the marathon wraps around the World Showcase in Epcot and the last country you go through is Mexico. Lots of people were finishing with margaritas in their hands and I thought what a brilliant idea. It's not like I'm fast and I'm looking to break any records. I just want to finish feeling good about it and smiling. So........this year as I approached the finish and was about half a mile out run-walking through the world showcase, I stopped with a little cash in my pocket and bought myself the strongest most magical margarita ever! Cheers Disney!
 Damn, it was really good, but also really strong. I had to sip it.

As you can see, I succeeded. Had fun - check. Finished feeling pretty good - check. And smiling - check.

As soon as I got home from Disney I caught the plague that has been going around and have been ridiculously sick. I have been resting and sleeping A LOT. I am hoping that maybe after this weekend, if I rest a little bit more and let my body fight this horrible cold I will be better and ready to start training for the next event. I NEED to start training. Only about 2 weeks until the stair climb and only 44 days until my next marathon. With an already shortened training schedule and missing two weeks of it, Little Rock could be a bit of a challenge, but I'm up for it.
In the meantime, I have been getting better at pottery and I did glass blowing again over the holidays. I'm looking for some more non-running things to keep me busy, but I've been completely useless with this cold and not doing much of anything. Hoping that I can start filling my jar of awesome for 2017 and checking some things off my list again soon. The grand total for 2016 was 52 things including some pretty awesome things - Try blacksmithing, attend opening day at Fenway, Ride in a glider, Go to Iceland, Fly a helicopter, go white water rafting, eat a Voodoo donut.

Can't wait to see what awesome things I do in 2017!