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5 Reasons You Should Add a Half-Marathon to Your Training Schedule

If you’ve ever run a full marathon, you know what the training can feel like.

Monotonous.

Mostly because you’re running (much of the time) on the same paths, on the same days at the same times.

But, running a full marathon rarely happens on those same paths. It’s important to switch things up.

With that in mind, I recently signed up for the America’s Finest City Half Marathon in San Diego, California this August as a mid-training schedule prep run for the Marine Corps Marathon in October.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve run a half marathon while training for a full marathon…and one when I hadn’t even trained (whoops!). It was the race distance I LOVED and did over and over again until I took the plunge into 26.2 miles.

Here’s why I’m adding the half-marathon into my marathon training schedule:

1. It gives you another milestone. Just like marathon training, you’re constantly looking ahead to the next mile marker to keep you going. By giving yourself a race to look forward to within the three- to four-month training slog, you can successfully break things up so the time frame isn’t so daunting

2. It keeps you on track. There’s no cheating your mileage or long runs when you have this run intentionally built into your training calendar. Having a half-marathon smack dab in the middle of your full-marathon training schedule will help you stick with your long runs week after week so you’re prepared for your first race.

3. It gives you a glimpse of your weaknesses. If you time your half-marathon correctly during your training calendar, you’ll begin to notice a few things during the race. Maybe hills were a disaster during the race. Guess what you need to incorporate into your workout regimen prior to your full marathon race? Hills! Maybe you didn’t have any gas left at a certain point or felt off with your hydration. Guess what you need to practice or retool more? Your fluid and electrolyte replenishment!

4. It gets you excited. There’s nothing better than the day of a race! While nerves might kick in initially, the joy you feel as you run in a different area, take in the sights and breathe in the energy of so many other fired up runners will give you the highest runner’s high that you’ve ever experience. Talk about inspiration to take your training to the next level!

5. It’s practice. Practice really doesn’t make “perfect,” but it will certainly help you feel more mentally prepared for racing conditions and what it will be like on race day, especially if you have to travel to get to your full marathon race. (That’s a post for another time!)

So, if you’re ready to incorporate the magical 13.1-mile race into your full marathon training schedule OR you want to try it out for the first time ever, take a peek at this link where you can see upcoming half-marathon races.

You can also search for other races across the country here.

Happy running, friends! 🙂

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10 Ways to Get Motivated to Run (Again)

How I rediscovered running again

It’s really easy to stop running.

I mean, REALLY easy.

Your toddler woke you up for the umpteenth time last night. You ate the wrong thing the night before. It’s dark. It’s cold. It’s hot. The bed is comfy. My favorite running pants are dirty. I’m not sure where my socks are. My running shoes are worn out. I don’t feel like it. I’m tired. It’s going to be a long day….

…you get the picture.

And, in full honesty, this has been my life since completing the Boston Marathon early last year. Between injuries, stress and just plain ol’ ordinary excuses, I made it very easy on myself to stop running.

So, I did…mostly.

Without any real training commitments, I had no real motivation to get up and go…until I decided to try my luck and put in for the Marine Corps Marathon.

BINGO!

In February, I received the email notification and my fate was sealed.

And I had to start this whole get-back-into-running-shape thing ALL.OVER.AGAIN.

Okay, so if you’ve been struggling to get motivated to run again (like me), here’s my best advice now that I’m two solid weeks in.

10 Ways to Get Motivated to Run (Again)

1. Ignore the weather. Yes, I get it. It’s muggy or freezing or hotter than h*@l where you live. Guess what: unless you live on the beach, the weather will NEVER be perfect so forget about checking the weather app.

2. Run early. I’m sure all the night owls are going to hate me for this one. Yep, I make myself go to bed EARLY so I can get up at the crack of dawn. You know why? Because the end of the day is a HECK of a lot harder to make sure my workout happens than at the beginning when the kids (and my husband!) are still asleep. It’s “me” time, y’all!

3. Eat lighter at night. Overall, the “eat lighter” concept is one that I’m taking to heart as part of my “get-my-butt-in-gear” goals anyway. Let me tell you though: eating steak the night before a run (whether it’s 3 or 13 miles) is NOT a great way to prep for a workout. Meat takes forever to digest and one of the things that drives me insane is having to make a pit stop at a gas station while I’m en route to my destination. Ain’t NOBODY got time for that!

4. Tell everyone. Do you know how many people ask me how my running is going? Um, just about every friend or colleague I know. Why? Because I tell them. It’s not about bragging; it’s about accountability. Who LOVES to admit when they’re failing at something? Neither do I.

5. Pick (and Post!) your schedule. I trolled Google, printed out a bunch of blank calendar sheets for the next three months (up until marathon Sunday) and wrote out how many miles I needed to run on particular days. Then, I covered it in magnets on the fridge and mark on it every time I complete my run. It’s a constant reminder and also a great way to feel like you “checked the box” for the day.

6. Don’t overdo it. Runner’s high is pretty amazing, I’ll admit. In fact, in my first week back at it, I hardly wanted to take a day off, especially when the weather turned and it was *suddenly* 73 degrees on a Saturday morning…in July…in Arizona. (MIRACLE) Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to rest up in between runs. Your muscles and joints are taking a pounding. A good rule of thumb is to never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10 percent. Try running two or three times in your first week, but gauge it by how your muscles are doing.

7. Roll out. That lactic acid is going to creep in as you get back to running, so your job is to push it out of your unsuspecting muscles so you’re not extra crampy. Get a foam roller, the Stick and even a golf ball (you’ll thank me!) so you can get to work. I actually like to roll out my quads and calves prior to a run to help loosen them up and make them a little more flexible before I hit the pavement.

8. Focus on drinking (water). Ugh. Who wants to drink boring ol’ water? I’ve tried filling up a giant water cup and drinking out of a straw; scheduling water breaks to get up and fill up…nothing seems to work. Then, I brought a personal water infuser to work, a cucumber, and some lemons. Voila! Insta water excitement. The flavor was a lot better than nasty Arizona water so I drank quite a bit more. There’s something out there that says to “drink 1/2 your body weight in water,” but as a person who has suffered from hyponatremia multiple times, I don’t like that at all. You should judge your hydration by two things: the color of your urine and the amount of fluids you lose during a workout. Basically, the lighter the urine, the better. If it’s clear, back off on hydrating. If it’s amber colored, you’re majorly dehydrated. Always weigh yourself before your run and after. You’ll get an idea of how much you were sweating and you should aim to drink that amount plus the norm. As a native Arizonan, hydration has always been a critical component in distance running, but I haven’t always done it well. Learn from my mistakes!

9. Find a buddy. I admit; I’m a bit more of a lone wolf when it comes to running. I love the quiet opportunity to reflect or zone out and running with a buddy can be a bit distracting in good and bad ways. Sometimes, especially at first, you need a buddy who can get you going, meet up with you and push you. Find someone who’s at or just above your fitness level and you’ll be happy and inspired.

10. Get happy. If you’re feeling like you’re dragging yourself out of bed and hating your life before you go for a run, it’s time for a perspective change! Take a few moments before you head out the door to think about why you’re doing this and what you hope to see outside on your run. Load your iPod/iPhone up in advance with some of your favorite songs and speed ahead to a favorite one to get your run started. If all else fails: SMILE. It’s super hard to be a Negative Nelly with a smile plastered across your face.

Happy running, friends! 🙂

Unfriended: The Dangers of Running Groups + Social Media

4 Quick Tips for Managing Your Running Group in Social Media

It came out of left field.

Before heading out for a run on a beautiful spring day, I realized I hadn’t seen any posts in my Facebook newsfeed from the local running group I had joined about a year earlier. While I hadn’t been able to make it out in a very long time because of a nagging Achilles injury following the Boston Marathon, I enjoyed interacting with other runners and getting little bits of inspiration watching them accumulate medals and revel in another trail run.

Searching for the running group, it dawned on me…

They had unfriended me.

Just a few weeks prior, I had finally been able to compete in a race again. A half-marathon under my belt and excitement bolstered, I blogged about my experience and shared it with the group.

It was promptly deleted and I then received a message from one member who wrote saying he enjoyed the post, and another from the group’s facilitator:

“I didn’t see you at the Phoenix Marathon. Will you be joining our group?”

I responded with my story about my injury; that I was getting back into running and was intimidated by the pace and the morning runs didn’t work with my work schedule at the moment (smiley emoticons sprinkled throughout). 🙂

No response.

Of the 689 members, apparently, my not showing up or properly introducing myself to one of its organizers was enough for me to get booted.

I was shocked. I felt rejected and upset.

In 20 years of competitively running (even with high school girls!) I had never experienced this before. The runners I knew were friendly, welcoming and cheerful, doped up on runners’ highs and sports gels.

I wrote her back asking for clarification, wondering if posting a blog about running wasn’t okay or if I had broken some other rule. Nothing in the rules on the group page mentioned anything about not posting articles or requiring that you pay a membership fee or show up to workouts in order to be part of the group. In fact, the message on their page says, “Please do not be intimidated or afraid to come out and meet us!”

Though that had been my exact response, she never returned a message to me encouraging me to feel otherwise.

It’s tempting to want to shut down and stick with being a lonely canal runner, I’m reminding myself that this is just ONE bad experience; that there are plenty of other runners I’ve encountered who are friendly and welcoming regardless.

I choose to run happy.

I share this story not to come across as a whiner or say “woe is me,” but to encourage awareness, especially when it comes to social media and how you choose to interact with potential group members.

4 Quick Tips For Managing Your Running Group in Social Media:

1) Be Exclusive or Be Inclusive. You can’t be both. If you choose to be exclusive, make sure you are clear about the parameters you expect for someone to be part of the group. Whether it’s a mile pace, membership dues or the fact that you must love Star Wars, just be sure to write it down somewhere and share it openly.

2) Unfriend Cautiously (and Kindly). The running community is truly a small one. I’m respectfully keeping the group’s name out of this article, but it will be difficult for me to speak highly of the group or feel good seeing them at upcoming races. It’s a small world; be careful of who (and how) you unfriend someone.

3) Share Group Guidelines. If you’re just a Facebook group of runners who interact, be sure to post what’s okay and not okay to include in the group. Whether it’s offensive material, self-promoting blogs, or trying to sell something to the group, spell it out and then encourage new members to read the guidelines.

4) Have Grace. If someone happens to break a rule you’ve stated, manage the post and message the person to remind them of your guidelines. Ultimately, don’t make it a deal breaker unless it truly is one. People make mistakes so start by giving them the benefit of the doubt.

The SMART Half-Marathon Recovery Plan

How to recover from a half-marathon even faster

phoenix half marathonJust a few days ago, I ran my first half-marathon (the Phoenix Marathon) in more than five years (I’ve been on the full-marathon track).

And I didn’t train for it.

In fact, the longest run I had done, which was admittedly sporadic at best, was about 4 miles on a trail.

What’s more surprising/miraculous/crazy is that a) I didn’t get injured and b) actually ran the majority of it.

Now, only three days later, I’ve completed a trail run at lunch and it felt phenomenal

How did this happen???

Here’s what I’m thinking happened and why my legs felt so good only three days later:

Race Day

  • I eased off my per-mile pace. On race day, I dropped my pace by more than a minute per mile and went in with zero expectations and all the permission in the world to walk. This was about completing the half-marathon, not PR’ing.
  • I wore a tried-and-true workout outfit. Most runners will tell you not to eat or wear anything new on race day. Well, when you haven’t prepared at all, this concept is kind of thrown out the window. The second best thing to do is choose a workout outfit that consistently performs on your training runs…including your worn-in running shoes rather than your new pair (Asics vs Hokas in this case).
  • I supplemented heavily on the course. I have a history of dealing with hyponatremia (basically throwing your body’s natural balance of sodium and electrolytes off because of too high of a water intake or use of an over-the-counter pain reliever, which affects water absorption), so every time I train for a distance race, I carefully supplement. As an Arizona runner, this means going for Gatorade rather than water and Gu instead of fluids. This race included two caffeinated shots/drinks as natural energizers.
  • I used my compression socks. Since implementing compression socks into my training and races, I’ve noticed a little more control in my legs and feet, which comes in handy when fatigue begins to set in.
  • I played “happy” music. Nothing can stand in my way when I hear Pharrell’s “Happy” start bumping on my iPhone. Keep your phone stocked with happy, upbeat (but not overly energized) music for the natural mood lifts you will inevitably need.

Okay, so that was race day. Next up: the recovery, which really begins the second you cross that finish line. I’m not an expert or a physician, but here is my SMART Half-Marathon Recovery Plan and what I did to speed up the rebuilding process (along with a cool acronym…that always helps, right?).

SMART Half-Marathon Recovery Plan

SMART= Socks, Move, Assess, Replenish & Time

Socks. Yep, those compression socks again. Time and time again, I hear runners sing the praises of these wonderful socks and boy, do they help! The compression is thought to aid in circulation. Increased circulation means blood flow; better blood flow means getting that yucky lactic acid build up out of there and the good stuff in. I wore mine all the way home, showered and then put on a fresh pair for the rest of the day.

Move. The best way to keep your legs loose and blood flowing is to do the counter-intuitive…the exact OPPOSITE of what your legs want to do after running 13.1 miles. MOVE. Walk around the house, do whatever you can; just don’t lay down for the rest of the day and be a couch potato. Enjoy a lazy bout a few days later or you will truly regret it.

Assess. Half-marathons and other long distance runs can do damage to your muscles. The bad habits your feet have picked up along the way (landing on the side of your foot or on the back of your heel, for instance) are more pronounced as you’re continually doing it for miles and miles. Assess the aches and pains and make sure they’re not injuries. Ice baths (yes, get 10-pound bags, dump them into bath tub, and sink those tootsies and your body into it–or simply go out to the pool if it’s unheated in a colder climate) can help with inflammation, but if you’re still hurting, you may have done something. Go easy.

Replenish. Your body expels fluids through breathing and sweat and your muscle tissue breaks down as you run. Replenishing your body immediately following the run is critical. Gatorade or a similar electrolyte-infused drink as well as a protein-rich drink such as a bottle of chocolate milk (yum!) or even Muscle Milk-like products can do WONDERS. I downed a sample bottle after my race and I know it made a difference in my recovery! You want to get that protein into your body within 30 minutes of completing your run. If you are already used to a protein supplement, consider stashing it in your gear check bag and mixing it up after your finish.

Time. This is probably the hardest part of recovery for many people. Anxious to capitalize on that banked endurance, some of us get a little too excited and decide to tackle a 10K run or maybe even another race following the half-marathon. Please know that while there are some die-hards out there who thrive on ultras and running race after race, most of us haven’t prepared for that. Give your body time to mend. Some people recommend giving yourself a day for every mile run, but I would suggest to you that that’s overkill. Go for a walk every day following the half-marathon and see how you’re feeling. Run on a softer surface like dirt or grass for your first run back at it to give yourself a little more shock absorption.

Congratulations on preparing for and completing a half-marathon! It’s a huge accomplishment and one everyone should pursue at least once in their lifetime.

Run happy, my friends.

Follow me on Instagram

#marathonforgood

10 Reasons Why Millennials are More Anxious & Lonely Than Their Parents Ever Were

Millennials are great at having friends. In fact, some of us have over 500 of ’em.

We’re so connected that we know what Steve had for breakfast; what Mary wore to New Year’s Eve; what Kim did at the gym.

We weren’t even in the same room! In fact, we haven’t seen Steve, Mary or Kim in ages.

We’re out to dinner with friends and family and, instead of interacting with them, we’re messaging a friend in another state or down the street.

We Millennials are growing up in an era where being connected virtually has never not existed.

What began as innocently connecting with strangers in chat rooms and gleefully hearing the phrase, “You’ve got mail!” has morphed into so much more.

oprah

Are we better for it?

The latest statistics indicate that we definitely are not compared to previous generations.

So basically we’re more connected, more stimulated and more constantly stimulated than ever before.

Yikes!

While there’s no definitive study that proves why Millennials are more anxious and lonely than their parents, here are 10 reasons why I think we are:

1. We don’t “fast” from food or harmful substances like our parents did…we fast from Facebook.

facebook status

2. It’s just not possible to simply do ONE task at any given time. Millennials have to do at least five things at once.

juggling

3. Forget about exercising without electronics.

brad pitt

4. …the Wii and housework count as exercise, right?

wii exercise

5. We can’t sit still without some kind of noise or stimulation…for any length of time. A trip to an “out-of-service” area could potentially set off a panic attack.

bart

6. We feel depressed if our Instagram failed to get “favorited” enough to turn into a digit.

phone gif

7. Rather than getting together with a friend for coffee to complain about our spouse, our job, an unfair situation or an injustice in this world, we just update our status. (Don’t do it!)

facebook status 2

8. Being “unfriended” feels more offensive than being dumped in high school.

gosling breakup

9. Magazines used to make us feel fat. Now using the wrong filter on your phone does…or getting tagged in a friend’s unflattering photo.

chris farley

10. An argument starts because of something your mom/best friend/sister/coworker/husband/girlfriend saw on your Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat account.

right

Let’s resolve to connect more genuinely with people in the new year and lay off the electronics a bit. Maybe then we Millennials will feel more connected, more fulfilled and less likely to quit Facebook.

Photo credits: Giphy.com, CDN.theatlantic.com

The Envelope in the Mail

It’s been a month since the 2014 Boston Marathon and my unforgettable race day experience. In the months leading up to it, I had been living life at full speed with very little margin, and believe me, I was so completely ready for a “normal” life again.

I can’t tell you how freeing it has been to have a weekend with absolutely no plans. Zero. Nada.

I’m able to finally try to make our new house feel like our comfortable home; the laundry isn’t as piled up; the counters remain (mostly) clutter-free.

I see my kids for most of the weekend instead of just fractions of it.

Yes, life has moved on, and I’m grateful that I can now relish it.

I had mostly filed away the buildOn fundraising and marathon experience and moved on, until the other day when I was caught off guard by a simple manila envelope that arrived in the mail.

Here’s what was in it:

photo (5)

Fifteen handwritten thank you notes from the buildOn teens who leave for Malawi, Africa in less than a month. Each letter is filled with gratitude, excitement and love.

I stood at the counter completely in awe and nearly in tears reading each of the notes.

This is why I sacrificed all that I did. This is why you sacrificed all that you did.

Because you’ve accompanied me on this journey, and no doubt financially and otherwise supported me, I wanted to share some of these words of gratitude with you. They belong to you as much as they belong to me:

“My name is Alaine….I am 18 years old and I am from Haiti. I want to thank you because you are making one of my biggest dreams come true. Since I was little, I heard that my ancestors are from Africa and I was always wondering where Africa is. (sic) And now because of your generosity, I can get the chance to go to Malawi, Africa this summer…”

“My name is Joan…I believe its (sic) truly amazing how you decided to fundraise for our trip to Malawi this year. Not only are you giving us, students, the opportunity to help others in need, you are giving us the chance to make something truly amazing for Humanity (sic). I appreciate your effort.”

“My name is Orman…I was born in the Dominican Republic and my parents moved to the U.S. so my siblings and I could have more opportunities for a better future. BuildOn is one of the opportunities that I came here for, and you made possible. Thank you for your hard work and generosity.”

“…Growing up, I have always known the importance of education and the change it has had in my life. Through your help I pass on the power of knowledge and open the doors of opportunity. The work you have done is amazing and I am honored to represent that work and our program. Once again, thank you!”

“I am from Honduras…this trip is my first opportunity to see and live in another country to build the foundation to a school for children wanting to change the world with the most powerful weapon in the world, education. I am excited to have the opportunity to build a school for children. This is the most beautiful gift. Thank you very much for your hard work.”

“…This is going to be my first time seeing another country. Kids should have the right to learn and make something of themselfs (sic) just as we do. The school you have fundraised to build will help do just that. Thank you so much for your generosity.”

“…Everything you have done really matters. Since you have fundraised so much money, you are allowing me to get an experience of a life time (sic)! I haven’t ever left the country, I was born in America and stayed here my entire life. Most importantly, my first time out of the country involves giving back to my world community. Thank you from a 17 year old teenager who is getting an opportunity she won’t ever forget.”

“…Thank you for running to raise money for BuildOn…We will build a school, bring children knowledge and we will break the cycle of poverty!”

 

So, once again, THANK YOU. Thank you for praying and pouring into us as we raised money not only for a worthy cause, but to impact the lives of these students who are on their way to Malawi, Africa very soon. I know this will be a life-changing experience for each of them and I pray that this impacts the course of their lives so they give back and see the world for the great opportunities and needs that exist today and always. May they become leaders who create a mighty ripple effect to truly change the world for the better.

Please continue to pray for the students as they head out on this Trek in June. They’ll be in Malawi for about 10 days and believe me, this will not be a picnic. No electricity. No bathrooms. Hours and hours of flying, riding on a bumpy bus and then settling into huts. The elements, the rodents and the realities of Africa will certainly provide a big dose of culture shock, but I hope they also deliver change.

God bless and thank you again for all that you’ve done to support me and to support these kids.

buildOn_960

Stop the Noise

by Jennifer Pinner

Click.

Swipe.

Double tap.

Bing-bong.

Ding.

Zoom…Snap!

He’s eating a blueberry muffin,

She’s eating a scone.

She’s trying Paleo,

She’s trying the Zone.

“Feeling lonely…”

“…so over that.”

“WTF is wrong…”

“I don’t want to put up with that.”

See why your eating is all wrong,

Look at this girl’s hat,

What do you think of my selfie?

What a silly Grumpy Cat.

Over and over,

This constant newsfeed.

Nowhere to unplug,

Because it’s plugged into me.

Life is too busy so I’ll take the substitute,

Find a connection in between the long commute.

Radio blaring

This is my favorite song!

Did you  hear about the latest diet?

You’re eating is all wrong.

Her hair changed color,

She’s dating this other dude.

I heard she was his lover,

Did you hear about the ex’s feud?

Fueled on garbage

So sick of the noise.

How do I tune it out

And fill the addiction void?

Take a break?

Disconnect?

Un-tether the leash?

Break up,

Uninstall,

Somehow tame the beast.

Finding a balance in the limited 24,

Superficially connecting with others, but craving more.

Time to reinvent,

Renew.

Rediscover.

Go back to the quiet place,

Stop the noise and recover.

-j.pinner 05.07.14

Miracle Monday: My 2014 Boston Marathon Experience

boston strong

It was a Miracle Monday.

But it certainly didn’t feel that way when I started the day.

Friday, April 18

After overcoming jet lag following a red-eye flight and then catching up on many, many hours of missed sleep, my body was on East Coast time and I finally felt more like myself. My sister and I were lucky to have a comfortable, fun place to crash for several days (thank you, Jeremy and Ambrosia!) that included more control over our meals and rest times than you’d normally get staying in a hotel.

I had been struggling with a calf strain that set in just a few weeks before arriving in Boston. But, after dry needling (sort of like acupuncture, but with electric stimulation added in) and a shot of a more natural version of a cortisone shot, it seemed like my angry calf had pretty much calmed down.

So, like my podiatrist recommended, I suited up for a gentle, shake-out jog along the shoreline with my sister.

Unfortunately, the angry calf reared its ugly head less than 10 minutes in.

I knew it was bad.

I called my podiatrist who then recommended a higher dose of ibuprofen, more acupuncture if possible and a massage.

Two days before the 2014 Boston Marathon.

Crestfallen, I called my husband.

“So, what does this mean?” he asked me.

“It means I will likely be walking the Boston Marathon,” I replied.

Only a miracle would change things at this point.

Saturday, April 19

We decided to be Boston tourists. The day before, we had maneuvered the T (with the help of our friendly local, Ambrosia, of course), picked up our race packets and scored special scarves knitted by congregants across the country and given out at the “Church of the Finish Line,” Old South Church, located only feet from the official Boston Marathon finish line. It had been a special day.

old south church scarf

Now, we were ducking into a dive-bar to have a late breakfast, complete with a Guinness for me (what? Carb loading!) before exploring the famed final stretch of the Boston Marathon, Boylston Street, and then beautiful Boston Common.

dive bar

We saw memorial flowers hung in the two spots where the bombs went off the previous year. We saw the restored storefront for Marathon Sports, whose window was blown out during the blasts. Now, it had the iconic blue and yellow Boston Marathon colors painted across the plate-glass window. Yellow daffodils and blue flowers dotted both sides of the road and ribbons and banners adorned street every pole.

marathon sports 2

The streets were teeming with people; many wearing the bright orange Adidas 2014 Boston Marathon Celebration jacket (mine was safely tucked away in plastic…I’m superstitious enough not to put on a finisher’s jacket until AFTER finishing the race).

Then, we came upon the one spot my heart and my mind had been on through all the months of fundraising, physical therapy, long training runs and conversations.

The Finish Line.

finishline

There was really no way to get a clear shot, but I managed this one, and it’s one of my favorites captured during the course of my visit to Boston.

I said a prayer, gave a smile, and said “see you Monday afternoon, Finish Line.”

I knew I would…no matter what.

Sunday, April 20

The day before the Boston Marathon, I found myself sitting in the waiting area on the top floor of a hotel in downtown Boston. My friend Michele sent me the contact info for a masseuse and, thankfully, he was willing to squeeze me in at 7 a.m.

It was Easter Sunday.

massage

For me, it was fitting. It was a beautiful day to celebrate a big moment in my Christian life. I was also standing at a crossroads and clinging to prayer at every turn. I had let go of the hope of a personal record-breaking time. I had let go of the hope of running much of the race.

Now, I was just hoping for enough relief to make it through the race so I could fulfill my promise to that Finish Line…and to myself.

My masseuse Jeff was great. It wasn’t by any means the best massage I’d ever experienced, but at the end of our session as I thanked him in the room, he shared with me that he was grateful to be able to help the runners and he was happy to help me, too.

He continued, “Don’t be afraid to push yourself. This is the event. Don’t injure yourself. Just visualize how you want to feel and send that relaxation down to the muscle when you feel the twinge. Notice it, but see what you can do to work through it.”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but as my eyes welled up with tears, I knew that my $57 was well spent. That’s all I really needed from him. Or anyone.

Monday, April 21

Around Boston, this annual event is only known as “Marathon Monday.” It’s Patriot’s Day, a day commemorating Paul Revere’s ride through Boston. To my knowledge, nowhere else celebrates this day. The entire city of Boston is alive and buzzing, infused with thousands more people than usual and the energy is palpable.

My sister and I were up by 6 a.m. to have breakfast, use the restroom a million times and mentally prepare for the journey ahead of us.

The night before, we’d enjoyed a fun (and delicious) pasta dinner at Ambrosia’s boyfriend’s family’s house in Ashland, which is the original starting point for the marathon and near the current finish line in Hopkinton. We made a quick trip to see the original starting line.

original start

Now, we were checking our gear, waiting for Ambrosia and Jeremy to wake up (yes, I was the least patient one, I’ll admit it) to take us downtown to Boston Common at 9 a.m. so we could get on a bus bound for Hopkinton and Athlete’s Village.

race gear

9 a.m.

I was nervous and tried to hide it by cracking jokes and watching the scenery go by. I prayed often, asking God to just help me run my race. To just enjoy the day, no matter what. To not feel discouraged or look back on the experience with disappointment.

The car slowed near Boylston and Arlington and we quickly agreed that if for some reason our phones died or we had difficulty finding each other, we could meet right on the corner of the two streets, just outside of Boston Common.

With a quick honk and a wave, Jeremy and Ambrosia drove away and we turned to head toward the bustling transportation area, which was complete with security checking our gear and our numbers before releasing us to the busing area.

I was surprised by how organized everything was and how easily we were able to find spots on the bus. That definitely wasn’t my experience in 2011 when I ran the Boston Marathon for charity.

9:15 a.m.

On the bus and making our way to Hopkinton, my sister made small talk with the runner next to her. I tuned in and out, silently hoping for complete quiet to calm the nervous wondering of my brain. What would today be like? How would my leg do? How would everything else feel? Was my left foot being funny because I was overcompensating because of my right foot?

10:30 a.m.

Arriving in Hopkinton, we made our way through the crowds to Athlete’s Village and quickly found the line for the Port-o-Potties. Honestly, half your time spent in Athlete’s Village is waiting for the toilet. I kept my phone off trying to conserve every ounce of battery life just in case.

athletes village 1

I honestly hadn’t worried about someone trying to copycat the previous year’s bombing tragedy. The way I figured, Boston was going to be the safest place on the planet on April 21. With military police at every turn, along with Boston police and firefighters, helicopters overhead and the constant eyeing of your race number to make sure you were in the right place, there wasn’t much room for sketchy stuff to happen.

cindi athletes village

Cindi in Athlete’s Village

10:50 a.m.

It was time.

As my sister and I gathered ourselves, the tears welled up again and I kept clasping her hand. I was so grateful to be experiencing this day with her. To be in Boston. To be here on this day on one of the biggest years in Boston history.

selfie with c before start

And, I was proud to have sacrificed and worked so hard to get through the previous injuries that had plagued me.

I had turned on my phone and quickly checked my Facebook status from earlier in the morning, reading through the encouraging words of friends. My eyes rested on my former (and let’s face it, my forever coach), Dave Montgomery’s words. “Go get it. Run smart.”

(Thank you, Coach).

The phrase immediately triggered the memory of another phrase he and my other coach, Karen Maas-Smith used to say “Run your race.”

Today, it was MY race. No one else’s. And that, was what I was going to focus on.

11:25 a.m.

The gun goes off and we bob our way through the sea of other charity runners. The downhill is noticeable. Within five minutes, the same familiar pain in my calf has returned and within moments, my sister is out of sight. In this moment, I thought for sure I would feel sad. That I would feel alone.

That I would feel defeated.

But I didn’t. And I wasn’t.

I began to walk, texting my husband the message “Bad calf. Walking.”

As I began what I believed to be my 26-mile walking journey to Boston, my eyes focused on the little, 80-year-old woman ahead of me. They glanced at the tall, gorgeous trees around me. At the hundreds of runners darting around me.

I was tempted to feel sorry for myself or push myself again to run. It was humbling and slightly humiliating. But, I was there.

My husband replied via text, “Oh, I’m sorry, babe!”

And I sent back “It’s ok. It’s beautiful. Taking it in.” My response was genuine.

1 p.m.

A few miles later, something had changed. I still can’t explain it.

Maybe the walking worked the calf strain out (but why hadn’t it for weeks before?).

Maybe my adrenaline kicked in (while walking?).

Or, maybe it was God.

Whatever it is, my friend’s prayer from just a few days before the race echoed in my mind.

It was Miracle Monday.

8 miles done…running with no pain.

mile 8

Then,13, the halfway point.

mile 13

Past 18.

I vowed to run across every mile marker. My walk-jog couldn’t keep pace with my previous marathons, but I was beyond elated to be running. I was going to take full advantage of my healed leg.

Things began to change around mile 19. I felt light-headed, dizzy, weak and like I wanted to lay down and take a nap. My kidneys seemed to be screaming for relief, but when I stopped by the Port-o-Potty, nothing.

Something was going on.

Before steering myself to the medic tent, my brain finally registered what was going on. I was dealing with an old foe from my high school days: hyponatremia.

The 64-degree, humid Boston weather had taken a stronger toll than I’d realized. I’d also been taking ibuprofen, a NSAID that can interfere with how your body handles fluid and electrolyte absorption. Between the distraction of my healed leg and the unquenchable thirst I had been experiencing, I had managed to overhydrate myself while forgetting to keep up with my salt and electrolyte replenishing capsules.

I knew I was in a bad spot, so I walked and hoped to regain control. There was no way I was ending up a DNF (Did Not Finish).

Two pretzel rods and a handful of salty potato chips later (thank you, strangers! The ONLY time I’ll accept food from people I don’t know haha), my salt began to rebalance. I took in another capsule and stayed away from fluids for two miles. Though the slow down was costly for my time (I wasn’t paying attention anyway), I felt better and was proud to have been able to recognize the symptoms and turn things around.

4:30 p.m.

Five hours after starting the race together, my sister crossed the finish line. I still had about five miles to go. I took in my caffeine energy shot and felt the boost kick in. As I made my way into the final four miles, I high-fived spectators and yelled “Boston Strong!” I hugged the high school students from our charity, buildOn, who had come out to cheer us on.

buildon supporters

I ran next to “Elvis” and past a double amputee as he made his way to the finish line (tears!).

I’ve finished many races in my lifetime, but nothing compared to this one.

My heart leaped for joy as I turned right on Beacon and then left on Boylston.

My pace picked up and I felt light, free.

Tears welled in my eyes and the biggest smile spread across my face.

The spectators behind the metal barriers roared with enthusiasm, cheering and yelling out “Go buildOn!” (I wasn’t wearing my name, but I did have the charity shirt on).

I passed people on my way to the finish line, my eyes laser-focused on the enormous yellow and blue banners hanging over the finish line.

This was the moment I had been waiting for and working for.

As I crossed the finish line, you would have thought I had won the race. My arms went up in victory, my smile facing up toward the bright blue sky.

This was my Miracle Monday.

finish the race

****

There are so many people I need to thank who made this experience possible. The list is likely miles long (probably longer than this marathon was!). I’m going to focus on a few key individuals and teams who spent countless hours with me during this journey and made this possible, but oh how I wish I could list everyone because, man, I had a VILLAGE behind me on this one!

Dr. Mark Forman, Tracy and Sharon of Put Your Feet First podiatry in Scottsdale, Arizona. Thank you for cheering me on from start to (literal) finish. You gave me my first glimmer of hope during visit 1 and kept encouraging me every literal step of the way. I can’t express how much your encouragement, guidance and resources meant to me. You weren’t just medical staff; you were my coaches and personal cheering squad. Every doctor’s office take a page from your book. Thank you!!!

-Keith Fandry, Kinga Olasky, Chelsea Mieszala and Clyde at Back in Action of Scottsdale physical therapy in Scottsdale, Arizona. Thank you for drilling me over and over again to strengthen my legs, stretch me out and help me stay on top of my Achilles and calf injuries. Your expert knowledge and advice helped me push my boundaries and be strong enough for this race. Kinga, you saw me on some dark initial days when I was completely overwhelmed and not sure how this was going to turn out. Thank you for listening and being more than what is really required of your position. I am truly blessed to have had you by my side for much of this journey. Keith, thank you for  sharing your knowledge for dry needling- I’m a believer! Thank you also for helping to prepare me to overcome the mental aspects of this injury. And Clyde, thank you for patiently enduring my questions every week…and for forgiving me when I had to ask you to remind me of your name. (“Henry” is still pretty close to Clyde, right?)

Me and the physical therapy team at Back in Action of Scottsdale

Me and the physical therapy team at Back in Action of Scottsdale

-Coach Dave Montgomery of Highland High School in Gilbert. Coach, thank you for continuing to be my mentor all these years later. I give you and Coach Maas-Smith so much credit for making me mentally tough and enhancing my discipline, especially regarding running. I would not be the runner I am today without you. Thank you for answering my Facebook questions, sending me an incredible training plan (even if I wasn’t able to ultimately follow it!) and encouraging me throughout this journey. I still selfishly hope you’re still running and coaching 10 years from now so I can send my son to Highland to be mentored by you!

Michèle Audet. Thank you for connecting me and my sister to buildOn and for connecting me with an amazing masseuse. This was such a crazy, but worthwhile journey that I never in a MILLION years thought I’d ever get to experience again. You are a gift and I appreciate your support from across the country!

Thank you to everyone who donated their money, time and prayers to our efforts! You have no idea how much your support meant during this journey!

-To my parents, Sharon and Dan and my in-laws, Colleen and Joe: thank you for supporting my crazy dreams. Whether it was watching kids, helping with garage sales, working tireless hours on treats and decor or simply being an ear, you shouldered a lot to support Cindi and I. We are beyond blessed to have you in our lives and in our corner.

-To my husband, Obadiah and my kids Elijah and Zoe, thank you for sacrificing to help make my dream a reality. I missed many Saturday mornings lounging around with you or having fun at family outings. I was gone countless early mornings for physical therapy and podiatrist appointments. I was often grumpy, on edge and not always very gracious. Thank you for your relentless love in spite of me. You are the biggest blessings bestowed upon me and the greatest treasures I will ever have. You are priceless. Thank you.

e with medalz with medal

-And, to my twin sister, Cindi. There’s no way I would have survived this journey without you nor would I have wanted to experience this journey without you. I’m glad you’re just as crazy and tenacious as me. I’m grateful you accept me for me on my good days and not-so-good days, especially as we journeyed through this together. You were my rock in so many moments. We’ve run many miles together literally and figuratively in life and you will ALWAYS be my best running buddy. I value our friendship and our kinship more than you will ever know. I love you, Wombmate!!!

taxi with c

 

 

 

 

 

Raffle for Good Winners Announced

raffleticketsHundreds of you purchased tickets for our Raffle for Good and it did a WORLD of good for our charity organization, buildOn. We estimate that somewhere around $2,500 was raised for buildOn through Raffle for Good ticket sales — that’s HUGE!

So, THANK YOU for your support. HUGE thank you to the business owners who donated to our cause and this raffle as well. We couldn’t have done this without you and we are so proud to partner with you and promote you!

We wish everyone could have received something in this raffle…we even added a few prizes at the last minute!

Thank you again and, without further ado, here are the winners and the prizes they scored:

Raffle for Good Winners (Congratulations!)

Item
Est.Value
Winner
Tan & Hydro Massage 65.00 Hayley Ringle
Tan & Hydro Massage 65.00 Angela Carder
Life Lock (1 Yr membership) 750.00 Hayley Ringle
Gardening pkg w/Garden Guy
Signed Book (NEW!)
100.00 Jean Reid
Dolce Salon & Spa GRAND PRIZE 350.00 Destany Burch
Leather Coach Purse GRAND PRIZE 300.00 Lynn McGovern
Hilton- San Diego (1-night stay) GRAND PRIZE 250.00 Tina Juaire
Isabel’s Amor 25.00 Hayley Ringle
Wildflower Bread Company 15.00 Mary Mendoza
Wildflower Bread Company 15.00 Tina Juaire
Wildflower Bread Company 15.00 Stuart Wong
Facial 50.00 Kim Shields
Over Easy 25.00 Andy Stockel
Over Easy 25.00 Sheri Jones
Cheesecake Factory 50.00 Tom Pitts
Mind over Batter w/4 cupcakes 40.00 Adna Huren
The Parlour- Haircut & Style 45.00 Cristin Self
L’Mage- Haircut & Style 45.00 Jami Asanovich
L’Mage- Haircut & Style 45.00 Cristin Self
Personal Training-3 Sessions` 120.00 Sharon Girardin
Beloved Lily Floral 25.00 Christina Dugie
Starbucks Gift Basket 35.00 Cristin Self
Starbucks Gift Basket 35.00 Crystal Sage
1 Yr Membership Botanical Gardens 90.00 Doug Monroe
Scentsy Pkg 60.00 Carolyn Pattison

If you’re one of the lucky winners, you’ve likely already been contacted. If we haven’t connected, rest assured that you’re fabulous prize will be on the way soon!

Thank you, thank you again!!!