Sunday, May 11, 2014

Fargo 1/2 Marathon Race Re-Cap

 Yesterday I completed my 6th half marathon of 2014 in Fargo, ND. It wasn't not my finest hour, (I am not sure what is happening to me during races), but it was a fun experience and a really well organized race!

Fargo is about 5 hours northwest of where I live, so it was quite a drive to the race. My sister and I left for Fargo on Friday. It was a LONG drive, but we made the best of it, and I tried to keep Anne entertained with my AMAZING singing!! At one point, I was laughing so hard I was crying, mainly because my singing was just that bad! Haha!

When we got to Fargo, we went directly to the expo and packet pick-up. Picking up our race packets was the easiest thing ever! They just wanted your bib number, and didn't even ask for any identification, not a waiver in sight! 

Lines were short, but there were a TON of people at the venue. After picking up our bibs, we made our way to pick up our race shirts. Again, there was hardly a line! The race shirts are probably some of the most unique shirts I have ever seen! They are very colorful (remind me a little of the 80's), and have the official race artwork on the back! This war the 10th anniversary of the Fargo Marathon, and everything had a giant 10 on it to celebrate! 

We also received an Under Armour backpack with the Fargo logo on it! This was a great "extra" and was nice for carrying everything around the expo!

Under Armour had a huge area at the expo with all of their clothing, and lots of race specific merchandise. It was fun to see another brand representing at a race! 

We made our way into the expo area, and while the packet pick-up and shirt pick-up areas were wide open and spacious, the expo area was jam-packed with people. It was really just too small of a space, for all of the vendors and people. It was hard to enjoy it because you were literally just being knocked around. It was VERY hot in the arena too. 

There were 2 Fargo based running stores at the expo that were selling some really cool race merchandise. One (I completely forgot the name of!) had everything printed on Nike gear, and had some really unique logos, etc. I was going to buy a DryFit shirt with really cute Fargo logo, but the crowds were making me crazy, and I just wanted to get out of there.

Before leaving the expo, we just had to stop and see my hometown girl, Stacy, from Punkeelove Headbands! She is always so much fun, and such a sweetheart! I seriously love this lady, and love her headbands!! They are made in the U.S.A and her business is located right in Kato! We talked racing for a bit, and I found out that she will be running Wine and Dine in the fall!! Woot! This is amazing news, and I am so excited to see her down there and have her meet a lot of you! 

After buying a couple of Punkeelove headbands, we headed to our hotel. During check-in we asked about the possibility of a late check-out, so we could come back to the room and shower after the race. We were met with a big "NO!" which meant that we would have to figure something else out. We were, to say the least, a little put out. 

After studying the maps for parking, we decided we better drive around and figure out how we would be getting to the race the next morning. The map provided to us was so messed up!! We drove around in circles for quite sometime. Google maps on my phone would not recognize Fargo, and kept telling me I was in California (I wish!!). My sister's Garmin seemed to be drunk and also would not accept the addresses we tried to feed into it. So, we were stuck with the map, and my navigation skills. 
We did eventually figure out how we were getting to the race, and where we were going to park. I felt better knowing we had a plan, because race-morning-Anne can be quite a stress, and I don't need anymore stress pre-race then I already have!!

We ate dinner, got our race clothing set and went to bed, after watching a little "Say Yes to the Dress". We had decided to get to our parking spot early, so we would miss the traffic and be sure to get a spot, so we were up really early, and were one of the first cars in the parking lot. It was only 37 degrees and I was worrying about my outfit choice. Luckily, I had saved my space blanket from DC and happily napped under it while we waited in the car. 

According to our map (the one Fargo provided us with) we were only about a block away from the starting line…hahahaha! We were about a mile away! It was a nice walk to the Veteran's Bridge, the sun was shining, which is something I have not seen since I was in DC two weeks ago!!! 

Runners needed to be on the bridge an hour before the start of the race! It was super crowded, and the whole corral-system they were using was pretty much not working. Anne and I decided to just jump the fence into the corral, instead of walking another 2 blocks in a hugs crowd in the wrong direction! 

                                                                                             I followed Anne up to her corral (there were no formal corrals), this was mistake #1 for me!! Anne is trying to run a sub-2 hour half, so we lined up there…. I am nowhere near this! The wait for the start of the race was so long and so cold! The wind was blowing and my tinfoil blanket wasn't providing enough warmth. I was freezing! I was also super nervous! I had suffered charlie horses in both calves throughout the week, and my calves were so tight! I have also been battling allergies, and am just really run down from trying to breathe in enough oxygen to survive!! I knew from the start it was going to be a rough race! 

It seemed like an eternity until the starting gun went off, but once it did we took off fast!!! There was no way to slow down, the course was very tight, and since there were cars parked on the sides of the road, there was really no place to pull over and try to get into my pace! I was just pushed along. My legs were burning, and I was having trouble breathing already by mile 1. I knew I was going out too fast, but there was nothing I could do, there was simply not enough room to slow down! 

Miles 1-6 went by really fast, but I was suffering, I was hurting and I was getting scared, knowing that I would never be able to keep this pace up for the rest of the race! 

The course was really interesting, it is mainly run through residential areas, and was TONS of crowd support! Lots of people were having parties on their lawns, and the course was lined with music and bands! It was quite a scene!! There were many corners on this very flat race, which made it interesting because you never really knew where you were headed.

At mile 7 the 2:15 pacer ran past me!! Holy shit! I was going TOO FAST!! This is where I mentally fell apart! Running for me is such a mental struggle, always has been, and I have a lot of negative self talk that I have to block out. I was unable to block it anymore and it kind of took over everything. 

I stopped to use the bathroom at around mile 7.5 and thought I had pulled myself together a bit. Mile 9 came and I was feeling better, I was finally settling into my own pace and relaxing a bit. But by mile 10 I was done, I just didn't have anything in me, nothing left. 

I glanced at my Garmin and was on point for a PR, if I could maintain a 10 minute mile for the next 3 miles. Normally this would have pushed me, but I was seriously done. Mentally and physically, I was beat, I just wanted to lay down in the street and take a nap. 

I ended up walking a good majority of miles 11, and 12. I just couldn't get my body to go….it was so frustrating! 

I made it to mile 13, and was overcome with joy that soon this race would be over! I powered through the finish line with mixed emotions. I was proud that I finished, but upset, knowing I could have done better. 

Anne was waiting for me at the finish line, she had run a PR..again!! I am so proud of what she has accomplished, but at the moment, it only made me feel worse about my poor finish. 

All I wanted to do was sit down and get away from the crowds. 22, 000 people ran this race, and it was super crowded from start to finish. I just wanted some space. BUT… we had to walk to our car, which thanks to the fucked up Fargo map, was over a mile away from the finish line, even though the map shows it being just across the street!!! 

After finally sitting down, I was happy to have finished another half marathon, and proud of myself for pushing through all of my negative self talk. I was very proud of Anne for her strong finish (2:03). 

The day had heated up really fast, and it was in the upper 60's and very sunny when I finished. We both stunk, and needed a shower! Remember that we couldn't get a late check-out at our hotel? Yeah. It would have really sucked to drive over 5 hours home in stinky! Being very resourceful, the night before the race I decided to see if Fargo had a Planet Fitness, as a member I can use any Planet Fitness in the country!! Luckily they did, and we were able to shower at the gym before having a quick lunch and heading home!

Overall it was a good experience, and a lovely race. Both the course, and the weather were beautiful, the race gear was amazing, and the expo, while too crowded was plentiful! 

Now it is back to training for me, my next race is in 21 days!! After completing that, I will be 1/2 finished with my 2014 goal of running 14 half marathons! Woo!! 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Nike Women's 1/2 Marathon DC

After an amazing and very full day in Washington DC with my BRFF Meg, it was time to settle in, get things prepared for the next day’s race, and get some sleep!

This is where everything started falling apart for me! Pre-race I stick to a very strict routine, LOTS of sleep, LOTS of water, and LOTS of bland food! I pretty much threw all of my rules out of the window, and did not prepare for this race in the way I would if I were at home.

After eating a very heavy Mexican meal, I laid out my outfit for the next day, noticing that I had forgotten to pack/buy my very important pre-race food!! ACK!! I was nervous about fueling on different foods in the morning, but knew I needed to eat something! Meg had a package of crackers with peanut butter, and I figured that would have to get me through the race.

I did not sleep very well that night, I was nervous about the run, and my stomach was acting up – nothing new, as it has been a complete wreck for about the last 3 weeks! Grrrr.

The alarm clock went off at 4:30, but we stayed in bed until just after 5am. It was nice not to have to wake up at the butt-crack of dawn for a race! We quickly dressed and made out way to the metro. It was crowded, as I suspected it would be, and we stood the entire ride to the race. I ate my crackers and tried to convince myself that I would be okay without my normal oatmeal and banana!

Things went really fast once we got to the starting line! This was definitely my very favorite and least nervous wait for a race I have ever had! There were so many people to talk to, and so many hugs as friends found Meg and I. It was really exciting, and my normal corral-panic never set in!!

We met the 2:30 pacer group, and had a blast chatting it up with him! This diversion really helped me calm down and not think about the race! I had decided that I would run with Meg and Carolyn for the entire race, I really wanted us to finish together. It would be my first ½ running with someone, and I was excited to have some running buddies!!

It wasn’t long until our corral was at the front of the start line and off on our journey through Washington DC! 

It was a beautiful morning, about 55 degrees, sunny with a cool breeze. I was loving life for the first 3 miles. I was running slightly ahead of Meg and Carolyn, trying to fall into a pace that was comfortable, but allowed me to stick close to the girls.

We had decided on taking “Monumental Selfies” along the course, pausing, but not really stopping for the major sights! I tried to fall back and get in the pictures, sometimes waiting for a short time on the side of the road for my girls!

The first 3 miles flew by! We didn’t walk even once, but I just couldn’t find my stride. My stomach was acting up by mile 4 and I knew a bathroom stop was in my future. Even with the pain I was feeling in my gut, I was loving this race, and the company of Meg and Carolyn!

At mile 5, I decided it was time to stop and use the bathroom. I told the girls to keep running and that I would catch up. I didn’t think it would be a long wait, there were about 10 people in line ahead of me. Unfortunately, the first two people took over 10 minutes to use the bathroom, and I was getting nervous that I would never catch up, plus I really didn’t want to lose anymore time! I left the line and started sprinting, this was probably the second mistake I made during this race! I sprinted until mile 7 according to my Garmin, I was running 9 minute miles!! ACK!!! Sprinting like this is NEVER good during a ½ marathon…..especially when you are only ½ way done!!

I caught up to Meg and Carolyn around mile 7, and we took our first walk break. I was beat and my stomach was screaming at me!! I actually felt sick, I have never, ever felt like throwing up during a race, but I was pretty sure that I was going to make this my first. We walked for awhile, they were so sweet allowing me to catch my breath and relax for a bit, I knew they wanted to get running again.

Once we started running, I knew I would not be able to keep up unless I USED the bathroom!! I was bent over in pain, and feeling so sick!

At mile 8, I was lucky enough to find a REAL bathroom and again told the girls I would catch up! The line I got into was only about 8 people long, YES!! I soon discovered that it was the men’s bathroom and that men were using it as well as the ladies! Haha! Waiting in line, I was in a lot of pain, but it was amusing watching the men run to the bathroom and get nervous when they discovered they would be using the urinals in front of a line of women!!

The line went fast, and I was quickly out and sprinting again (didn’t I learn my lesson?). I still felt sick, but I wasn’t in pain. Sprinting was not as easy as it was the first time, it actually sucked… a lot! I started panicking that I wouldn’t catch up, and that made me feel even worse.

At mile 10 I was finally able to catch up, it was such a relief, but I was shot, I was ready to be done.  It kinda put a downer on the entire rest of the race for me. I didn’t want to hold Meg and Carolyn back, I didn’t want to finish the race without them but I was feeling so awful, I didn’t think I could keep up.

Mile 11 was the Whole Food’s Chocolate mile! Sounds wonderful, right? It would have been amazing, had I not felt like throwing up! Meg and Carolyn enjoyed the chocolate (which was given out the entire mile!! So cool!!), while I tried to get my shit together and finish the race!!

I know Meg was ready to run faster, and Carolyn was looking strong, but again, they were so sweet and slowed their pace for me.

The last mile was run in a tunnel, and this is where I almost lost it completely. In the tunnel there were drummers, and it was loud!! The beat was fast, causing me to quicken my pace, and the constant pounding was only adding to my nausea! I wanted out of that tunnel so fast!!

The tunnel ends at a hill, and even though I had powered up each and every hill before then, my legs were just dead. I had to walk. It was depressing.

I don’t really remember the rest of the race, besides Meg actually stopping before the finish line to wait for me. I was focusing on not passing out in a pool of my own vomit! Meg and I crossed together, holding hands. It was an amazing feeling! I was beyond emotional that she had waited for me, it was a really special moment.

I was so happy to be done! It was finally time to collect that Tiffany necklace!! Woo! We were first handed chocolate milk – my favorite post race recovery – and then we picked up Nike bike bottles of water. There was all kinds of food to pick up, and as we moved through the line, we received space blankets to warm up in.  The volunteer who wrapped me in my blanket, was the only one to see my complete break down! I just started bawling as he wrapped me in my blanket!! I have no clue what triggered that response, but it was such a release of emotions!

I think the epic-ness of the entire weekend hit me all at once, with this man’s kind act of wrapping me in a sliver blanket. It was truly a dream-like weekend, something I never thought I would experience, the wealth of friendship, the ability of my body to carry me through, and the sense of accomplishment. Words fail me when I try to express how much this weekend means to me, it was honestly that awesome.

Luckily, I was able to pull myself together, the sun glasses hid my tears, and no one knew about the embarrassing break down I just had!

We made our way through the finish chute, and collected our Tiffany medals/necklaces! I still wasn’t feeling the best, but I was living in the moment and soaking in the experience! It was so much fun receiving our little Tiffany boxes from the tuxedo-clad men!

We waited in a photo op line to get lifted by two of the men and hold a platter full of Tiffany boxes, this line took FOREVER!! I started feeling sick again, and drank my chocolate milk. I knew the sickness was partly being hungry! I had not fueled well before the race, and it was a good part of the reason I was so sick.  The milk helped, but I was getting impatient and just wanted to get back to the hotel room.

The next part of the finish chute was the ONLY part that I disliked. Finishers were funneled through a “Finisher’s Tent”, and everyone was excited, saying that we were getting finisher shirts, this was not the case, the tent was packed with women using foam rollers, stretching and freshening up at the mirrored stations. We were like a herd of cattle moving through the tented tunnel, it was hot and sticky and stinky!! We did not take part in any of the stations in the tent, and I wished we would have been given the opportunity to walk around the tent. The tent, however was BEAUTIFUL!! Again, Nike really knows how to impress and there were chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and the atmosphere was really posh/VIP.

After exiting the tent, we got in the HUGE line for finisher’s merchandise. This was again, not the best use of our time, as  we found out (after waiting in line for about 25 minutes) that we could just go to the Nike store (on even online) to buy our finisher’s merchandise!!

We met up with some #Runnerslove ladies, and congratulated everyone on their finish! It was nice to end the race in the way we started!

After saying “hi” to a few more people we know from various facebook groups, we made our way back to the metro and back to our hotel room. Meg showered right away and I ate my cupcakes from the previous day. I was starving!!

We ended our day by visiting the Nike store in Georgetown again, and eating lunch at a WONDERFUL Irish Pub! Yum!!

We then made the LONG (9 hours!!) drive back to Meg’s house in CT. While the drive was super long, it was nice to have time together! J

Overall this race was fantastic!! I made some mistakes that hurt me (not fueling properly before the race, and sprinting!!), but the race itself was amazing! There were water/Nuun stops every 2 miles, orange slices, ShotBlocks, and Luna bars were given out along the course, and then there was the chocolate mile!!

The weather could not have been better and there were spectators at all points along the course. The course was beautiful, and the on-course entertainment was really fun! This is one of my very favorite courses ever!  It was well organized, and the finish line moved quickly!

I am so sad that this race is over, even though I felt really sick on the course, I have quickly forgotten the pain, and only re-live the pleasure it was to run this race! I would go back in a heartbeat!! I highly recommend this race to anyone looking for a beautiful course!  It would make a great first ½ marathon!!

This race has inspired me to put my name into the lottery for the Nike Women’s ½ in San Francisco! I cannot wait!

Thank you to Nike for giving me the ability to run this race, you are an amazing company and I am truly grateful for this opportunity!
I have to thank Meg and Carolyn for hanging in there with me, even when I felt like I couldn’t finish. I had a blast running with you two, and hope we get more opportunities to run together in the not so distant future!!

Meg, my RBFF, you made this weekend so special! Thank you for everything, and for being my friend! You are my inspiration! Love you girl!!

Thank you to all of the #Runnerslove ladies, you are an amazing group of women to call friends! I love you all so much and cannot wait for our next meet-up (where ever that may be!! J)

Saturday, May 3, 2014

#RunnersLove DC

After a very successful #Runnerslove PHM Weekend Meet-up, and after being given the unbelievable opportunity to join my bestie Meg in DC for the Nike Women's 1/2 Marathon, it was a given that we would hold a #Runnerslove DC meet-up!

It took Meg and I a long time to figure out when and where to hold our 2nd meet-up. In fact, for awhile I questioned if we would even make it happen! Neither one of us knew anything about the DC area, and we were at a loss for a place to hold our meet-up.

Thanks to Google Maps, and a little inspiration, I searched the area in which the expo was being held and happened to find Sprinkles Cupcakes just a block away from the Nike expo and store!! A meet-up was born!! I was so excited to put together the meet up and start advertising it!

A bunch of #Runnerslove ladies were running in DC, and they were so excited about another chance to meet-up! I could not wait to see all of these amazing women again, and have a smaller meet-up than our HUGE PHM meet-up!

This meet-up was going to not only be smaller, but without prizes to giveaway, Meg and I would have a chance to just visit with our #Runnerslove friends!!

Our meet-up was scheduled for 10:45am, a cupcake brunch, if you will, and Meg and I arrived right one time -- toting our freshly purchased Georgetown Cupcake bags…ha!

There were already quite a few girls at the shop! It was a complete hug-fest, as we all greater each other! Meg and I are BIG huggers!!

We headed into the TINY shop and took over one of the two tables in the store! Many of the #Runnerslove ladies had brought their husbands and boyfriends along, and it was great to see them being so supportive of our meet-up!

What happened next, makes me LOVE this group of ladies even more, everyone claimed that it was a "no judgement zone" and ordered at least 2 (some ordered more!) cupcakes! LOVE!!!

The cupcakes were HUGE and delicious!!!  In my opinion they were better than Georgetown, and the people working at the store were MUCH nicer!!
I ordered a Chocolate Marshmallow and a Vanilla cupcake. We ate, laughed, talked running and blogging, and had an amazing time!
Jj wasn't even running the race!
She just wanted in
on the #Runnerslove!

As more runners arrived, it got crowded and hot! We moved our little party outside to a neighboring green space, and enjoyed the warm sun and each other's company.

I kept looking around at all of the amazing women surrounding me, each with their own running story, and I felt so blessed to have them as part of my running community. It was very special.

Meg and I created #Runnerslove out of the love we share for running, but more importantly out of the love and support we have for each other, and we want to share with other runners. Sitting in that park, laughing and smiling with people who I probably never would have met w/o #Runnerslove, I was beyond happy!

We took some pictures, wished everyone good luck on their race, and went our separate ways. Meg and I had planned on heading to the Alex & Ani bracelet store, and both Lauren and Cheri followed. It was fun to spend more time with them, and get to see all of the bracelets!!

This meet-up was so perfect and so sweet. I loved every minute of it, and am so excited for our next #Runnerslove meet-up at Disney's Wine & Dine 1/2 Marathon in November.

If you are interested in our meet-ups or becoming part of this amazing group of runners, please let me know, I would LOVE to have you join us!!

Nike DC Expo Re-Cap

As many of you already know, Nike gave me the AMAZING opportunity to run the Nike Women's 1/2 Marathon in Washington DC last weekend. Not only was I invited to this race by Nike, but I was able to spend the weekend with my best friend Meg!

The entire week leading up to the race was so hard! I was so busy at work, and had very little time to actually prepare myself for what was sure to be a very busy weekend!

Friday finally came, and it was only a short 2-hour flight to DC. As I made my way out off the plane and through the airport, I was filled with emotion! I was practically running…because Meg was meeting me there and taking me to our hotel! It was so amazing to see her again!!

After getting settled in our hotel room, which Meg had fully stocked with all of the very important "girl's weekend" food groups!! (She seriously rocks!), we headed down to the bar for a few drinks! I enjoyed my very first bourbon drink, a Cherry Blossom -- I thought it was fitting for the event! It was very tasty, and very strong!! I think I got a little drunk! ;)

Meg and I had so much to talk about and catch up on that falling asleep was hard… I think I finally shut my eyes at about 2am!

The next morning we headed to the Nike Expotique. We took the Uber car service and it was a great idea… we arrived very quickly and did not have to wait long until we were in the doors and picking up our bibs! Beating the crowd is always a bonus for me!

We picked up our bibs, shirts and goodie bags, and headed into the Expo. 

This is not an expo like other big races, mainly because this is a Nike race, and they don't have other companies selling merchandise at their race (do you blame them?!).

Pretty much the expo consisted of a few picture ops, gate analysis, a sneak peek of the Tiffany necklace, Nuun sampling and hair braiding. While there wasn't much to look at or buy, the venue was BEAUTIFUL!! It felt very posh and girly! I loved it!!

After walking around for awhile, Meg and I made our way to the Nike Georgetown store. This is where all of the official merchandise was sold for the race.

Before arriving at the store, we searched for our names on the giant wall of runners. Meg found her name right away, but my name was not included. Probably because of my extremely late registration!

The energy in the store was infectious, and just added to my excitement of the entire weekend!!

I seriously loved all of the merchandise, and ended up buying way more than I had planned on! My favorite purchase being the tribal-print leggings….they actually match the design on the necklace and are AMAZING!!

We had made our way through packet pick-up, the expotique and the Nike store in record time, and had some time to kill before our #Runnerslove Meet-Up at Sprinkles Cupcakes, so we headed to the Georgetown Cupcake Store. We had heard that Georgetown Cupcakes was better than Sprinkles, so we just had to have our own taste-test!! We waited in line for a good 30 minutes before getting our cupcakes.

Overall, I LOVE this expo! It really got me excited to run the race! Nike was so well organized and everything was so beautifully done, it really made me feel special! I wish I would have had more patience and had gotten my hair braided, but the time saved at the expo allowed us to visit Georgetown Cupcakes, and that was quite an experience too!