Wednesday, October 26, 2011

And sometimes it's nice to get a high five!

The committee places this on your lawn as a surprise
to let EVERYONE know about your award!
I had a great morning today. I was nominated and chosen as a 2011 Frances Young Community Hero for my work in the community. It's truly an honor.

Frances Young was an extremely active member of the Scottsdale community for many years. For nearly a half century she mentored, advised, assisted and championed numerous local organizations and causes — simply for the good of the community.  According to the committee press release, Frances summed up her life by saying, "I’ve gained far more than I ever gave. That’s what I want everyone to know."  Frances died in 2009 in her late 80s.

For 13 years a committee has received nominations and selected three people to be honored as "community heroes" -- I was selected for 2011 along with two other AMAZING people.
Matt Mays is a sweet spirit who advocates for people with disabilities and for
the arts as well. Pam Berges spent 50 years every Saturday volunteering at
Scottsdale Healthcare to make suffering people more comfortable. Inspiring! 

It's an honor but also quite humbling. I'm so happy that I'm able to inspire people and that I'm able to actually make a difference with my time and energy. But I look at so many other people doing so much more and feel like this "high five" was a nudge reminding me what I still can do. I've got more in my tank.

My parents had a BLAST and reveled in my praise this morning. They are so cute. And a little bit naughty ... but after I get copies of some of the pictures I might humor you with parent stories later.

Now off to bed. I have a Charity Chicks event to fret about all night. Ticket sales and Facebook RSVPs don't reflect the numbers I was hoping to see tomorrow BUT I expect a lot of last minute attendees and think the event will turn out GREAT. But I have some graphics and signs to build tonight.

You'd think with all the praise I get and awards I win, some day someone is going to figure out I don't really know what I'm doing!!  It always works out somehow ... !

(By the way, my nominee Jan Horne is also an incredible woman. She has such a warm heart and ever since we started working together has been very generous for all our ventures. High five, Jan!)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Topics only a runner would love

The problem with hanging out with mostly athletes all the time is that certain topics become commonplace. When I met my Ragnar teammates last year as I climbed into the van that would be home for the next 27 hours, it didn't take long before we were comfortable and sharing facts about our bodily functions. It was easy and funny.

FYI, when you put on a dress and show up at an event where they're serving pink drinks from a punch bowl, they probably do not want to talk about how early you have to get up before a run so you can poop.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Objects in San Francisco Are Larger Than They Appear?

Just a couple random pictures for you ... things are HUGE in San Fran!

Found this apple in a market and had to share.
I tried to show perspective with the Vita Coco water -
I couldn't wrap my hand around it!

Biggest, fattest slice of pizza I've ever seen!
Even with my pre-race and post-race recovery off-plan time
I couldn't justify eating this. So to the chagrin of the man
behind the counter, I took a picture instead.

Please to enjoy!

Nike Women's Marathon 2011 - a Snapshot

When I put my name in for the marathon earlier this year, my thought was "if I'm meant to run, my name will get picked." And then I kind of put it out of my head. I think I was looking for the luck of the draw to tell me if my body really should continue to pursue this running thing.

This year's drawing couldn't have come at a better time. I had just had to put my beautiful dog Anna down after a tough struggle with Cushing's Disease the day prior. And it was my birthday. Receiving that email from Nike was really what I needed. I was meant to run and I had something to focus on!

I booked my room/flight package on my own in May since I wasn't traveling with a team and wanted to make sure I got a room close to the start line and as affordable as possible. I figured I would figure out my cheering section later. But October came MUCH faster than I expected and found myself traveling solo, which was a new experience for me. I wasn't worried. My hotel was going to be in the heart of the activity of 20,000+ women all doing the same thing. I knew I wouldn't be alone. And I wasn't.

Pinot: the secret weapon? I looked up restaurants near my hotel in advance and had picked out a place called First Crush that looked like a nice place for a pre-race dinner. When I arrived, there was a seat at the bar and I sat with another woman traveling solo for the race. I really wanted to have a glass of wine ... but drinking before a race? I do beer but usually just one. I couldn't help myself and ordered a "All Pinot All The Time" flight because it looked simply yummy. My new teammate I discovered had already ordered the same flight for herself. We were later joined at the bar by two other women preparing to run the race and the girl next to me ... also ordered the Pinot flight. Perhaps this is a secret pre-race nutrition trick I never heard of? I got a PR the next day, so I'm not disputing it!!

Nice things about being alone in a hotel room for a race?
You can lay out and fidget with your gear as many times as it makes you feel comfortable. If you don't want to tour around too much and just want to relax and focus - you totally can.

You can use the bathroom as often and whenever you want. I kept going until it was time to head out to the start line and I didn't need to use a port-a-potty until mile 13, which was awesome!

Enjoying my coffee and bathroom!

No waiting for the shower after the race. Already showered and now you want a bath? Go for it!

I wandered around the Expo and tried out things. I talked to random people and we shared our stories. It was super relaxing.

The start line was energetic and exciting. And then a little overwhelming. The "corrals" for pace groups were pretty loose, just some people holding a sign and then it was a free-for-all in the street for racers and spectators alike. There weren't any breaks to go to the Gatorade table or the gear check buses and so people just had to shove their way through the crowd to go anywhere. I was sure they were knocking all my necessities off my race belt. I found myself right before they finally started to race starting to panic a bit and saying in my head "never again ..."! But I focused on conversation with another solo runner to keep calm and to capture the energy for positive vibes.

CROWDED @ the start!
Since the corrals weren't obvious or enforced, I don't think people made much effort to organize themselves by actual pace group. Honestly in races where the corrals ARE organized people still don't heed the pace groups. I often wonder why someone who plans to walk the whole race puts themselves in Corrals 1-5 sometimes? I guess it's the fear of being slower and needing to start sooner?

Team in Training does a GREAT job getting first-timers ready to run or walk their first full or half marathon. They make them feel like a team and they raise amazing amounts of money for a very important cause. People are excited to be there and it's exciting to be amongst them.

That said: they really need to focus some energy talking about race etiquette. Walkers should move to the right and runners to the left. Runners should be courteous enough to give a verbal warning before passing on the left or right. Walkers should not span out 3-5 across and create a practical wall across the path. If you want to get things out of your fanny pack or stretch, look behind you before thrusting out an elbow or throwing out your arms. Step aside to stretch? Look behind you before entering the run path again. Simple concepts like that.

Everybody trained hard for this. Many took it on as a great act to do for someone else. So continue that consideration of others into race day. It would be a shame to injure someone on such an important day just because you weren't thinking about sharing the space.

The weather?
Couldn't have been MORE perfect if it tried! It was cool in the morning, but not cold. It stayed overcast the entire race and so it never got too hot. Beautiful. I felt SO blessed!

The course spectators, cheerleaders, volunteers, power song stations? Awesome. A few signs made me tear up a bit!

I loved the energy around me but have to admit feeling relief when we split off from the half and a bit of panic when we briefly rejoined the half as well. So many people at such different paces was challenging to maneuver for sure. My first 10k was much slower than the last portion of the race because I was so restricted.

The course itself was pretty nice. Scenic, lots of cheer stations, hills to make it interesting but not impossible, flat enough when you were tired at the end of the race -- I loved it.

And despite my few complaints - I had an awesome race and all memories are now fond as I look back!

My amazing finish
Found this shirt someone had made @ NikeTown - one of the reasons why we do it!

Some of the other perks of the race!
Unwrapping to see what this year's charm looks like
Post-race mess

Battle wounds!

Now it's as if you were there with me! You're welcome.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I Run To Be ... Better

Last weekend I completed marathon #3 in San Francisco and it was probably one of the proudest moments of my life. On Sunday October 16, 2011 at 41 and a half years old, I realized that I could be anything I want to be and that I am truly capable of greatness.

It's an interesting concept and something most won't understand. I should already feel accomplished. I've been fairly successful in my educational and work worlds. I achieve my goals and I receive accolades. I work hard and am well respected by most ... (those who don't see that are just jealous - ha!).

I am proud of who I am. I'm proud of the work I produce. I'm proud that my charitable side has touched some people and inspired others. Even though I invest a lot of work into it and experience a good deal of frustration, I also am aware that it comes to me pretty easily. I am lucky that I'm creative and logical. It's a gift that I'm able to communicate my ideas and influence people to see what I see. I make good human connections and that allows me to pursue my charitable ventures. But I feel that it's simply who I am - and I'm just following the direction I'm meant to go. I've been given these gifts and I'm merely putting them to use.

But this running thing ... this is a whole new side to me. It's athletic. I was an asthmatic baby/toddler whose eyes were always glued together with some crazy infection. I was the child who got pneumonia at least 2 x a year, had chronic bronchitis & pleurisy of the lungs and probably missed 50% of my elementary school years from illness. I was the teenager with scoliosis who spent her high school years in a full back brace. I was the woman in her 20s struggling with addictions. I was never an athlete.

I've been active. We hiked and camped as a family. I've taken kick boxing and hiked regularly in town. I've enjoyed aerobics and weight training and have been in various states of "in shape" over my years. I've also been in various states of "out of shape" over those same years. The yo-yo of life!

This running thing came to me through that charitable arm of mine. I received a flyer about a marathon program to benefit the American Stroke Association and decided to check out an informational session. I heard statistics about people who suffer from strokes and learned the importance of knowing the signs. I heard about how the coaches could take you from couch to marathon in this time period. They gave fundraising tips and said people would help us with that. And then ... they brought up a family and their toddler son who nearly died from a pediatric stroke and told me I would be doing this for him. Check written. I registered. I was about to train for and run my first marathon.

The first 3 mile training run was my very first run. It was hard. My throat burned. My head hurt from not knowing how to relax my jaw and simply breathe. Over the course of the training I suffered many pains. I learned proper shoes were important. I learned bad clothing choices could leave you missing patches of skin. I learned running through the desert as the sun rises can be awe-inspiring and running through the desert as the sun beats down on you can be brutal and lonely. I learned you REALLY can't escape yourself out there pounding the pavement mile after mile and I shed many a tear while working through personal issues while my brain had nothing else to do but focus on them. It was amazing. I met a friend who was also dealing with some issues and we shared ourselves raw -- and developed bonds like I had never experienced before.

I ran my first marathon on May 5, 2002 in Vancouver BC with my new friend Rhonda. We completed it in 5 hours and 52 minutes. It felt great - and I was hooked. I was happy with my accomplishment and never anticipated being in the front of the pack. It was rewarding just to have run and completed a marathon.

I went back to the Stroke Association to participate and help mentor the next group of runners. Through that experience I met my now long-time running partner Laura who worked for the Stroke Association. We have been running and sharing and laughing and venting and crying together ever since. I've run consistently at times -- and let work and other priorities take over other times. Each time I come back to running and each time it's like starting at square one. But even when it was difficult, it's been rewarding in some way as well.

In 2006 I decided to run another marathon and I don't go small when I do things. The first time was complete couch to marathon in 3 months. This time I wanted to travel to Greece and run the ORIGINAL marathon! Rather than just train on my own, I decided to pour my energy into helping others run their first marathon and signed up as a mentor with Team in Training to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. As a mentor, I'm assigned a group of people and I make sure they attend training runs, help guide them through fundraising and wake up at 3 am Saturdays all summers to help the coaches set out water stations along the canal. It's no small task but find I do best when I'm focusing on helping others and not relying on my own willpower to push me through. It's motivating and rewarding.

I ran my 2nd marathon in Greece (from Marathon to Athens) in November 2006 and completed it in 5 hours and 25 minutes. I was pretty pleased with my time considering the course was 13 miles uphill. I was still toward the back of the pack but I knew it was an accomplishment just to have completed it (according to Wikipedia, the Athens marathon "is perhaps one of the most difficult major marathon races: the course is uphill from the 10km mark to the 31km mark - the toughest uphill climb of any marathon."). Plus I had shaved almost 30 minutes off my first marathon time - I did well.

It was after that race that I stated my next bucket list goal: some day I think I have a sub-5 hour marathon in me. I felt like doing one in less than 5 hours would make me an official athlete. It was the first glimmer I had where maybe just participating wasn't enough, I could actually improve and truly PARTICIPATE.

Unfortunately after Greece is when I really started to experience foot/ankle pains. I could focus another long blog entry about what I've gone through with injuries but this isn't the time.

I threw my name in the hat for the Nike Women's Marathon in 2007 (you have to be chosen through a lottery drawing) and had my name drawn! I signed up again as a mentor with Team in Training and helped guide a whole new group of people towards their first race. About a month or so prior to the race, I was sidelined with injuries and unable to attempt the marathon.

From the end of 2007 to end of 2010 is full of stories of injuries and small comebacks and perseverance and heartache. And when I thought running was completely over for me, I turned to Crossfit to work on my fitness and to see what else I could do for myself through strength ... and learned how strong my body can be. Through hard work and less dependence on technical shoes to control my motions, my body became stronger. And I started to run again. And I started to run more and more. And then I started running with a group of FAST girls who ran consistently, happily and loved to push and encourage each other.

I learned to push myself. I learned to celebrate victories and not let a bad day dictate the next day. And I started to get faster. I ran one evening with a 3-hour marathoner (Jake) who had some advice: he told me you have to be uncomfortable to progress. I've taken that to heart. I think of all the times I've probably held back to make sure I still had something in the tank at the end and probably kept myself too comfortable. And so I push. Some days the "I can't" in my head is stronger than I'd like and she wins; other days she does not.

I've made a lot of progress this year but I don't think I fully comprehended how much. I ran the San Diego Rock N Roll Half Marathon in May and got a PR of 2:15. Then in June I ran the Bryce Canyon Half Marathon and got a NEW PR of 2:07 (but it was mostly downhill, so it feels a little bit of a cheat to call it a PR).

I knew I had a sub-5 in me some day, but I honestly didn't think San Francisco was it. There were more hills than I wanted; I hadn't done a lot of long distances in training; etc.

I think it was mile 15 when I started to really hit my stride and looked down at my Garmin and realized I was doing well. At 18 I started to think, "I could DO this." And by 20 I finally figured out: "I'm GOING TO DO THIS!!"

I neared the finish line comfortably and started to realize that I didn't just meet my goal, I had CRUSHED it. I completed my 3rd marathon in San Francisco on October 16, 2011 in 4 hours and 39 minutes.

I couldn't stop smiling. I am an athlete. I was in the top 23% overall and 20% of my age group. I did it.

And ..... now I need a new goal.


The Nike campaign that drives this whole race is all about "I Run to Be ..." I run to be sexy. I run to be fearless. I run to be a survivor. I run to be free. After a successful completion of the marathon, you earn a Tiffany necklace unique each race year. On the back of my charm it reads "I Run To Be" and you can take it to the Nike Store to be engraved with your own personal mission.

Mine reads: I run to be better.

Better. Better meaning faster. Better meaning less pain. Better meaning a healthier me. Better meaning making healthier choices. Better meaning how I see myself. Better meaning I run to clear my head and make me a better me. Better meaning I wonder if I can do better next time?

I ran to be better - and was.