The 2022 Chicago Marathon

I applied for the Chicago Marathon lottery in 2021 although I knew that my chances were slim. To my surprise I, along with a surprising number of athletes, was accepted. At that time I would only have a few months to train and I just finished my 52 week half marathon challenge so I chose to defer. Covid19 was still relevant so I wasn’t sure how the crowd support would be. Also, I just wasn’t in the mood for serious training and it was the best decision I could have possibly made.

After I completed my registration for the 2022 event I took advantage of the amount of time I had to prepare. I read the posts on the FaceBook group that I belong to and chose a hotel based on their recommendations. I booked a hotel within a five minute walk of the start and finish lines. All of the best hotels were already booked so I settled for the only one with an available room. I was told that it wasn’t the most modern hotel but it was extremely convenient. I will elaborate on that a bit later. My husband booked our plane tickets in the following weeks. We saved a lot of money because the gas prices were low at the time thus the plane tickets were reasonable.

I had started my weight loss journey in February to limit the amount of weight on my knees during the marathon and also to be faster on the bike without having to train harder. In June I had reached my target weight and in July I lost a couple of extra pounds. I wasn’t dieting, I was simply eating less fat by making better food choices. I tried to lose even more weight but I couldn’t because I was eating to fuel my activities. I knew that eating less really wasn’t an option. Every pound lost is an extra two seconds per mile gained. I gained twenty five seconds per mile. Although extra time would’ve been amazing, it wasn’t in the cards for me.

I came up with a 20 week training plan for my long run distance that I kept in the notes app on my phone. I put a check mark on the completed runs. It was all going very well until I realized that, halfway through, I had the timeline wrong. I contacted a coach that I know for help once I realized I screwed up and he was able to offer very good training advice. He helped me revise my long run plan and advised doing/not doing a couple things. I am extremely grateful for his help! After that I screwed up again and had to run my 20 mile long run twice but I figured I’d be twice as prepared…..

When my long runs got really long I was surprised at how quickly my body was moving at a lower heart rate. I mostly felt good after my longer runs and my knees were never sore. The last time I ran a marathon my knees were sore afterwards and they were sore after my long training runs as well. I was very optimistic about my performance for this marathon.

I was extra careful over the entire course of my taper. I didn’t train that hard to have something happen and wash away my dreams of running this event. The last week of my taper was a blessing in disguise. It rained every day so I couldn’t ride my bike outside. I was forced to ride the trainer on my birthday. It’s easier to control my legs and go easy on the trainer. It was probably the best thing for me……

A few days before the marathon my wallet was stolen and tension was rising at work. I did everything that I needed to do to get my affairs in order. I knew then that everything would be alright because I’ve already experienced my bad fortune. I was definitely right about that. The day before I left for Chicago I received the news that my application went through with Civil Service and I was officially hired for my new position.

The day before I left for Chicago I took the day to get ready for my trip. The weather for the marathon would be almost ideal running conditions. It would start in the low 40s and rise to the mid 60s by the end of the run with clear skies and sun. It would be cold while I’m in the corrals awaiting the start. I read in my Facebook group that people were buying cheap bathrobes from the thrift shop to wear in the corrals to stay warm. I went to the thrift shop and found a ridiculous looking fleece lined onesie. It was the tackiest thing I’d ever seen but it was very warm and it was my size so I bought that funky onesie.

The day before the marathon I woke up early to get my shakeout run in before heading over to the airport. I knew I’d be doing a lot of walking at the expo and during my travels but I needed to take that time to breathe and get my mind straight. Also, I’m afraid of gaining weight. Our flight left on time and our luggage was safely aboard the plane with us. I had all my race gear and nutrition with me in my carry on just in case of foul play with the checked bag. We landed in Chicago ahead of schedule and headed over to the train. We would be using mass transit during this trip.

There was a large banner welcoming the runners in the train station. The line to get our tickets were very short, the people that traveled the day before experienced long lines. I suppose it pays to come a day later. The train tickets were even marathon themed which got me excited. The train ride was uneventful and we arrived at our hotel around noon. Of course our room wasn’t yet ready. We left our luggage with the concierge and then went to lunch close to the hotel. I knew I had booked a hotel close to the race but I didn’t realize that it was literally across the street from the gate that I needed to access my corral through, gate three. I was so excited, this event was going to be awesome!

We took the train to the expo. The lines were also very short at the expo, many athletes experienced long lines the day before. After we collected my bib and gear bag we walked around collecting samples. My husband doesn’t drink so I got to drink his beer sample as well as my own. I bought a cute Chicago themed Under Armour tank top and I took a few pictures in front of the various backdrops. The expo was pretty cool but it paled in comparison to Disney. Nothing beats Disney. We took the train from the expo to the market to buy a few things before heading back to the hotel.

When we got back to the hotel we were told that our room still wasn’t ready and that it would be another hour. We explained that we were here earlier and couldn’t believe that they still didn’t have a room for us. I was very concerned because I needed to put my legs up. Upon re-checking the gentleman at the front desk realized he had a room for us after all on the tenth floor. The elevator was outdated but very fast. The tenth floor hallway had a very horror movie type of look to it. The hotel was never updated, it had the same classic look that it likely had when it opened. The high ceilings were cool though. Our room was small and felt hot. The sun coming through the blinds heated the room. To our surprise the windows opened and we were able to get some cool air into the room. The bathroom was tiny and the shower had poor water pressure. And to top it all off every few minutes we could hear the passing train. We just had to deal with it.

We went to an Italian restaurant for dinner so I could have my typical pre race pasta meal. When we got back to the hotel I prepared my breakfast and my race nutrition. I trained effectively eating peanut butter, honey, and banana sandwiches and drinking Tailwind. I no longer take in processed sport bars or beverages with unnecessary ingredients in them. I went to sleep early. Although I thought I wasn’t nervous about the event, I had a nightmare that I couldn’t get ready in time for the race and I couldn’t find my corral. Needless to say I didn’t sleep soundly.

I woke up two and a half hours before my corral would close. I wasn’t sure how long the security lines were so I left the hotel an hour before I had to be in my corral. It was surprisingly easy to get through security and I had plenty of time. I filled my bottles and walked around to find the trash. I was spotted by someone from the FaceBook group in my ridiculous onesie. We chatted for a few minutes and then I decided to use the restroom while there was still plenty of time. The line for the porto potties were long and I wouldn’t make it in time if I stayed in line. I, along with about five other women, went into some bushes that we had found. I conveniently had tissues in my pocket. I accidentally peed on the hood of my onesie. The good thing is that the clothes are laundered prior to being donated.

I made my way into my corral and waited patently with thousands of other participants. They were taking off their throwaway clothes and placing them on the fence. We still had about twenty minutes before we would be released from the corral so I held onto my onesie for as long as I could. Once our wave started, we began slowly walking to the start line. About five minutes before we were to start I finally took the onesie off and placed it in one of the bags that a volunteer was holding open. I was gonna miss that tacky peed on onesie but it had served it’s purpose.

I had finally made my way to the start line. I started to run and started my watch as soon as I crossed over the timing mat. It was a nice slow start as there were thousands of us crowded together. After I passed through the tunnel it started to thin out and I could see the blue tangent line that would have my focus for the remainder of the event. Because of the tunnel my Garmin was confused and recorded the first mile ridiculously fast, for me anyway. Until I reached the 5k timing mat I wouldn’t have any idea of my actual mileage. About 2 miles in I saw a guy carrying a sign that said “Almost There” and I boldly called him a liar. He laughed and said something funny back.

My husband was waiting for me at mile 2 but I didn’t see him. There were over a million spectators so, unless I knew his exact location, I would surely miss him. I didn’t get my kiss at mile 2 but we was going to meet me with a fresh bottle at mile 13. The crowd was so hype, I had never experienced anything like this before. At no point was I not surrounded by runners or people cheering wildly. I loved the signs they were carrying, they were funny as hell.

Although my legs were fresh and ready to go I kept an even and sustainable pace. If I felt good later on I could always pick up the pace. Mile after mile I stayed as close to the blue line as I could but I had to go around so many other runners. The metal on the bridges were slippery so I had to run over the carpet on the opposite side of the blue line. I knew I would be over the distance by about half a mile, also taking into account the way my Garmin recorded the first mile. None of it mattered though because, no matter what, I would have a PR. I hadn’t run a marathon in over 2 years and I was in top form for this event.

I wish I could give you a breakdown of what I did during each mile but it’s a bit hazy. I ate a quarter of my sandwich each 5.5 miles and I drank liberally. My husband text me with his exact location when I reached mile 12. I used Siri to read and write messages, I even spoke with him around the 5k mark using voice commands. As I neared mile 13 I started looking at the street signs, searching for his location. I was carrying my bottle in my hand to facilitate the exchange. He was standing near an intersection where the crowd had thinned a bit. I was so happy to see him. I stopped while handing him my empty bottle and got the kiss that I had missed at mile 2. I took off quickly taking the fresh bottle with me. I had a bottle and a half to last me the rest of the way.

I was getting a lot of encouraging texts from my friends and family who were tracking me on the app. At the 30k mark I remembered to look up and wave at the photographers. I was having a great time but I was counting the miles down all the same. I didn’t see the beer fairies but I did see their empty cups on the side of the road. I was going drink from them but I missed them. I didn’t even know that there were college boys handing out jello shots, I would’ve had those too even though they’re not technically vegan. I did see the guy handing out tequila shots but I knew that was a terrible idea. I saw a Selden Hills jersey and knew, without even seeing her face, that it was someone I knew. As I was pulling up to her I put my hand on her back and called her name. We chatted for a moment before I ran off. She had been running the blue line just as I was.

Around mile 18 I could feel my aching quads and it was starting to get warm out. There was little shade on the course. I could see a row of tents on either side of the street. As I was running through the volunteers cheered us on, I finally saw the sign that this was charity row. It was very cool. Some of the runners had stopped and were taking pamphlets and chatting with volunteers of the various charities that were present. Although I considered stopping every mile from then on, I was a woman on a mission. I wanted to PR on this course. I didn’t have to run fast, I just had to run.

I ate the last of what I had at mile 21.5. I didn’t realize that I did remember to put my emergency gel in my pocket. I grabbed a gel from a volunteer to have just in case but I would have to save it for the last few miles as I wasn’t sure how my stomach would react to it. Around mile 22 I started dragging my feet. Around mile 23 I considered walking for a bit as I had seen so many others do over the duration of this event but I didn’t. I didn’t have to run fast but I did have to keep running. I thought I had seen my name in neon but it had to be just a mirage. A spectator called out my name and I looked at him but it was nobody I knew. He must’ve been cheering on someone with the same name.

Around mile 24 I considered eating the gel but it wouldn’t metabolize in time to give me a jolt to the finish line. I was confused by the runners on the opposite side of the street. Would there be a U-turn in the course to the finish line? At mile 25 I knew that there was no turn. I was seriously dragging my feet but I knew that this would all be over soon. There were signs announcing the last 800 meters, then 400 meters. And there it was, Mount Roosevelt taunting me up ahead. I made it over that small hump that appeared to be a mountain. It was just 200 meters more to the finish. I picked up the pace and finished just as strong as I could possibly finish. It was over and I had survived my very first big city marathon.

I started walking with the rest of the runners down the finish line row. I started crying when I thought of what I’d just accomplished and I was thinking about my mom. I saw some volunteers wearing red jackets and I started walking over to a woman but then she started helping someone so I walked over to a young man and started hugging him while crying on his shoulder. He held me back and let me cry for a few moments. He was really very sweet. After I had my cry I thanked him and walked down the row to collect my medal.

After collecting my medal I took a water and then posed for the photographer. I had bought the photo package on an early bird special so I wanted to ham it up a bit. I took an apple, a banana, and some of the other offerings including a bag to put it all in. I took a mylar blanket and then, finally, I saw the beer being handed out. I walked right over to it and a nice gentleman opened up a can and gave it to me. It wasn’t the best beer but it was extremely refreshing. A nice lady and I were chatting as we walked while drinking our beers. It was very nice speaking with her. We parted ways and I found a bench to put my things down on and was talking to another nice lady while I stretched. My muscles were really stiff and it felt amazing to stretch them out. Although my quads were on fire my knees weren’t sore at all which was a first for me. My husband called me while I was stretching and told me where he’d be waiting. I was going to bring him back to the finish line party for my second free beer but I was in no mood for that. I wanted to shower and grab a beer after.

I met up with my husband and we walked across the street to the hotel. We went up to the room and I did a couple things on my phone and used my massage gun. The shower was hot and felt really good although it lacked pressure. I got dressed and then headed down to the hotel bar for a drink before having an early dinner. I told him all about the race and then my dad called and I told him about it. I had PRed by about eight minutes. If it didn’t get warm towards the end of the race I would’ve done better but I was very happy with how it all went.

The event was run very smoothly and all of the volunteers were pleasant. The crowd exceeded my expectations and there was a huge party in the streets! I had a great time on the course except for maybe when I was somewhat catatonic at the end. It turns out my name really was flashing in neon and there was a picture of me on the screen at mile 23 so that guy really did know my name. Despite having a good time I wouldn’t run this marathon again because, in my opinion, it’s just too flat. There’s no variations in the terrain to keep things interesting for my legs. I prefer to have more variety in my runs.

Thank you for supporting and encouraging me throughout this journey to the finish line. I’m truly lucky to have your love and support. I’m not really sure yet what the next challenge will be but I look forward to starting the next chapter in my professional life. After twelve years with the same company I look forward to a fresh start in a brand new field. I encourage you all to chase your dreams and accomplish things that you may not have thought possible. This life is short and you should really truly live it!

Moving Forward

I haven’t been myself for quite some time. I was always pushing myself to be better but I think I pushed too hard. In 2021 I had such a mediocre season and it turned me off. I had no interest in becoming better or even trying. I had extra weight on me and I hated myself. I had succumbed to living in the shadows.

When my mom died I gained more weight and hated myself even more. I slipped even further into darkness. I lost all hope of becoming the half decent athlete that I once was. I hated seeing myself in the mirror. I hated the way my clothes felt. I hate seeing that everyone and everything around me were moving forward while I fell behind.

One day I woke up and realized that life is short. I realized that my mom had spent too many years not being herself and that I shouldn’t make the same error. I was tired of self loathing. I started by losing weight. I wasn’t dieting but making healthier, sustainable choices. I started cycling for the simple joy of getting outside and breathing fresh air. I ran with the intention of improving but without any expectations.

I bought new equipment to make small gains and make up for my lack of strength. To my surprise, through weight loss and effective training, I started to improve. It was more than just athletic improvement, I was improving. My resting and active heart rate started to come down. It actually came down considerably, to the point that I have new heart rate training zones.

Somehow I managed to dig myself out of this black hole and become a person that I can be proud of. My interest in improving has become a healthy interest that doesn’t exist in the realm of obsession. I’m not the best athlete, wife, daughter, and so on but it’s ok because I know that I’m trying to be my best at all of these things. I’m working on being ok with not having more financially. The wealthy aren’t necessarily happy and I have to remember that.

Through all of this I managed to piss my best friend off and for that I’m sorry. I would like her to come back but I’m not going to force my way back into her life. Hopefully, in time, she will grow to miss me and want me back. I get that it’s hard to be around someone that’s lived in the shadows for as long as I have but that chapter in my life is over. I’m ready to move on.

I’m writing a brand new chapter in my life. I’m currently training for the Chicago marathon. The only problem with training for an event is fighting the primary urge to envelope myself in bubble wrap and enter hypersleep until the start of the event. If the technology existed and were affordable I would consider it. Until then I will just pray that everything goes well and that I make it to the finish line on October 9th.

Every mile I run towards this event is another mile I run from the self loathing person that lives in the shadows of self doubt. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Every day is another opportunity to turn it all around.

Thank you all for supporting and encouraging me especially during this extended dark period of my life. I still have a journey ahead of me but I’m finally on the right course. I hope that you all are doing well in body, mind, and spirit. Thank you all so much for reading.

If My Mom Were A Cyclist

As long as I’ve known her my mom was always a matronly homemaker that wore dresses with socks and sneakers. She had countless housecoats, she never wore makeup, and only did her hair on occasion. It never occurred to me that that wasn’t who she really was.

I know more about her now than I ever knew about her when she was alive. I had no idea that she had once cared very much about her appearance. When she was younger she dressed to the nines. Her purse, shoes, and hat matched perfectly. She could’ve been a runway model.

When I first started cycling I bought a lot of cheap crap. I was broke so I bought what I could afford. It was only when I went to Wisconsin that I felt what it was like to cycle in premium materials. Even then I wore sport ankle socks that weren’t specifically for cycling.

I started to replace my cheap cycling crap with premium gear at an affordable price. I buy good stuff cheap. Eventually my sunglasses got all scratched up and I replaced them with designer imposters. I ditched those mountain bike shoes and replaced them with top of the line carbon shoes and road specific pedals. I stopped wearing those thick ankle socks and started wearing thinner, more breathable cycling compression socks. I’ve always kept my tech up to date. I change my cycling computer and running watch every couple of years. I have all the coolest gadgets.

When my mom passed I started realizing that I won’t be young forever and that I should enjoy putting outfits together. I look forward to my weekend ride. After getting through the work week it’s very special. I pick out the kit I want to wear, choose the helmet that closely matches it, and I try to pair it with fun socks. The road is where I let myself shine. I put a good amount of thought into my weekday rides but it’s just a different feeling.

I wore the same designer imposter sunglasses for a couple years before realizing that I really like them. If I like the knockoffs I knew I’d love the name brand pair even more. I ditched the cheap imposters and bought the real deal. I absolutely love them!

So now I pose the question: What if my mom were a cyclist? Well, if my mom were a cyclist she would’ve been the most glam woman on two wheels. Everything she wore would’ve matched and she would’ve had such a sense of flair and swag. She’d have all the latest tech and kept up with all the latest trends. More importantly, she would’ve been tough. She would’ve gotten right back up if she fell. She would’ve taken pulls at the front and waited up for riders that fell back. She would’ve shared gels and food with anyone that didn’t bring enough to eat.

I realize now that I’m much more like her than I ever thought. Because our personalities often clashed, I fought tooth and nail not to become like my mother. I guess it escaped my attention that she had so many other amazing qualities. I’m proud to say that I’m very much like my mother and if my mother had been a cyclist then she pretty much would’ve been me…..

I Wish

I’ll start by saying how angry I am with you. I really wish that you had taken better care of you. I wish that you had not let your health greatly decline. I would do anything to hold, again, your warm hand in mine. Why the fuck did you have to leave me and your family behind?

I wish I could unsee that time that you were a complete bitch to me. You knew who I was and that I would forever hold a grudge. I wish that I’d had a few years more to resent you. I wish that I had more time to have been ungrateful for you. I wish I didn’t inherit your obstinate nature, but at the same time, I’m glad that you made me the woman who I am.

I wish I could go back in time and observe you when you were young and thin. I wish I could’ve seen all of your confidence, the woman who knew that she carried the world in her hand. I wish I could’ve seen the woman who knew her shit did not stink and knew that any man would’ve fallen to his knees at her feet.

I wish I could relive when I was a kid and you had instilled in me wonderful things. I wish I could relive when you taught me never to fear. I wish I could once again see the woman who would’ve stood up to fight if someone fucked with her kids.

Most of all I wish that I could unsee the sight of you lying still, your last breath recently stolen from you. I wish I could unsee you with all of those tubes that had failed at doing their job of bringing life back to you. I wish I couldn’t still feel your hand cold and stiff.

I really wish it didn’t happen so fast. I wish I’d had the chance for you to hear me cheering you on to stay alive. I would have begged you with all of my heart to stay with us here on this earth. I would’ve told you how very much I loved you before you floated away.

I want you to know that I still have in me the many things that you have passed onto me. I am the fearless woman who stands strong and tall. I am the woman who, if provoked, will be ready to fight. I’m also the compassionate woman who will come to anyone’s aide. I’m the kind woman who will feed those in need. I’m the loving woman who will give all of her love to just one man. I’m also the free spirited woman that loves the feeling of her toes in the sand. I am the woman who you molded me to be. I am extremely proud to say that you were my mom.

In time we will learn to go on without you. You may be gone but you will never be forgotten. Your memory will live on by all those that you have touched. You were an amazing woman that will be loved and missed very much. It is my wish that you be forever delivered from pain and that your soul may rest in eternal peace. Until the day that we again meet, you will continue to have a very special place implanted deeply within my heart.

Alexa’s Thunder Run

Before COVID-19 hit I had planned on racing the USA. My plan was to run an official half marathon or further in every state. I got the idea in San Diego. I ran behind a guy who’s shirt stated that he ran a marathon in every U.S. state. I asked if it was true and he said that he actually did it twice over. I was in love with the idea. I decided that a marathon in every state was too spirited a goal but I could bang out a half marathon on a whim. It’s my preferred distance. I would love to be one of the 10% of Americans that retire in an RV but I doubt I’ll be able to sustain that type of lifestyle. Why wait until I retire to tour America?

A couple of weeks ago I ran a local trail half marathon and it was fun. I enjoy trail running. Although it requires more of an effort, I find it relaxing. My mind doesn’t run as much because I’m very focused on the natural obstacles in front of me. I like trail races because I don’t have to think about where I’m going, I just follow the arrows that mark the course. I don’t actually race at trail races, I just go to have a good time.

I found a website that lists half marathon events that are going on in every state. I found a trail race in NJ. I had attended cycling races in NJ, but I never did a running race there. It was very inexpensive so I signed up. By doing smaller, lesser known races, I can save a bit of money and see more common parts of that state.

I drove an hour and a half to Newton, NJ. It was a small, pretty town. The event was to be held in Kittany Valley State Park. There were many warning signals that this race would be tough but I chose to ignore them, plus I was already there. The first thing I noticed was that this park was in the mountains. When I opened my race packet I was delighted to see that it was loaded with goodies. It’s the best goodie bag I’ve ever received at a race! I knew then that this would be no cake run.

I left the car to use the porto potty before I put my bib and hydration pack on. There was a sad looking young lady walking by. She told me that she must’ve dropped her gloves as she was leaving the house. I told her to come to my car in a few minutes, that I always carry more than what I need. When she came to my car I loaned her the spare pair of gloves that I had in my bag.

As the start was drawing near, two ambulances came and parked in the spots closest to the finish line. I probably should’ve bailed then but I decided to give it a shot anyway. There weren’t many participants, possibly forty. This was basically an event for hardcore trail runners. Before the start they briefly explained the course. The first mile was a climb up to the radio tower! We started running and, as we were making our way up, it got steep and those before me started to walk up. I never walked during a race before but I followed suit because these people had experienced this course before. After I was situated at the top I started running. I heard someone fall behind me. I asked if they were ok but I didn’t hear the response, it was a female voice.

Not long after that, I fell for the first time. I wore a long sleeve top and pants. I knew I’d be a bit warm but, after falling for the first time at the last trail race, I decided to protect my skin from another possible fall. I wound up falling three times. The final fall would be the worse. This was a very technical trail course. There were rocks, tree roots, large stones, downed trees, steep climbs, narrow paths on steep cliffs, and steep descents. Although I wore my trail running shoes, I still twisted both feet. A few times. I did a mixture of walking and hiking through this tough course.

I had choices. I could’ve bailed at mile five when we looped back to the starting line before continuing on to the next part of the course. I could’ve bailed at mile seven when I came back to the main road. I could’ve bailed at mile eight when I made a wrong turn back to the same spot. The volunteer informed me that I had made a wrong turn and to go back to continue around the lake. I kept eyeing the road that went back to my car. She knew my thoughts and told me that she knows it’s hard and that’s why she’s not running.

I continued on. I whimpered at times, bellowed out in pain when I twisted my foot. Each time I fell I quickly got back to my feet. I was alone in the woods calling out “Medic!” as I continued on. After the last fall I got up but couldn’t breathe. I stopped to assess myself. My ribs weren’t tender and I felt nothing out of the ordinary so I continued on.

In the last couple of miles I saw two runners ahead of me. I was close but I was running my race at my pace with no desire to catch up. I saw the young man fall and not get back up. I went to him, he said he had a cramp. I helped him work the cramp out of his calf as he cried out in pain. He told me that he didn’t want to slow me down. Although there was a three hour cutoff, I couldn’t just leave him there. I got him to his feet and we walked together, arm in arm, over all of the rocks, stones, and roots. When he seemed better I let his arm go. When the terrain changed to smooth I ran on. He ran with me until he couldn’t anymore. That’s when I went ahead.

In the last mile I caught up to the other runner, an older gentleman. We chatted until his friend, who had run the 10K, came to run the last portion with him. I went on ahead of them to finish with an official time of three hours and three minutes. The timing mat was still there and, even though we didn’t make the cutoff, we were still considered finishers and received a medal. The young man came later, after the timing mat was taken down.

When the race director awarded me with my medal I cried. I explained that I didn’t know that I was capable of completing an event like this. I was the 33rd out of the 34 people who had completed the course and the 16th out of the 16 women that finished but I did it! I took a beating on the course but I stuck it out all the way to the end. I proved to myself that I can do extraordinary things. When I got back to my car, I saw that my gloves were put into my door handle. They didn’t feel damp. I wonder if that was the young lady that fell and if she had finished the race.

Over the course of this event many people encouraged me. The trail running community is a very supportive group of people. If I had more trails like this one closer to me, I’d run on them and get better at it. I could get into this type of running, it’s challenging but I would really enjoy it once I got accustomed to it. It’s beautiful and peaceful in the woods. I should’ve taken some pictures, especially when I was by that beautiful lake. I’m sorry about the lack of pictures in this post……

This event was run very well. The course was well marked. The volunteers were very helpful and encouraging. There was a good selection of food at the end which included vegan options. As I mentioned earlier the goodie bag was top notch. I was very impressed with this event.

As always I thank all of the people that believe in me and encourage me. I don’t know if any of this would be possible without that support. Thank you all very much for reading!

52 Weeks

Back in March I was supposed to run three half marathons, I referred to it as March Madness.  I signed up for two and then gained entry by way of lottery into the third.  I ran the first race in upstate New York and even had a PR (that I’ve beaten since).  That was the last mass start event to go off before everything shut down due to COVID-19.  

The following week the race that I was supposed to run was cancelled.  I got together with a few new friends to run at the hilly college campus.  I was well accustomed to running hills at that point.  I didn’t intend on running a half marathon that day but I already had over 12 miles by the time I was making my way back to the car so I decided to run a half marathon.  The week after that I thought why not just run another half marathon.  

All of the events I was signed up for were cancelled.  The college campus closed their gates to the public to aid with COVID-19.  I had already decided to run half marathons on Sundays. Although running in parks offered the security of shelter from cars there was more of a risk in contracting the virus.  I decided that I had less of a chance of getting hit by a car on the road than I did of contracting COVID-19 in the park.  Because of that decision, I was never alone.  It was a regular occurrence that I saw my bike friends at my regular running spot.  I had been riding and running alone so Sunday was the only time that I was interacting with the people and groups that I used to ride with.

After more time passed, I became invested in running a half marathon every week.  I had decided on a goal of 52 weeks.  I was out there in all kinds of weather.  In the beginning every Sunday morning was cool, ideal for running.  As the months passed the weather got warmer and Spring offered slightly warmer weather that was still ideal for running. In the summer I ran early in the morning to beat the heat but it was still very warm and difficult to run in. I prayed for a cool rain shower or a sprinkler to run through. The fall was my favorite. All the heart rate training over the previous months had me in prime running shape. That’s when I had the PR and nearly hit my goal of a sub 2 hour half marathon at my tempo heart rate. Thats when I got sick with lectin poisoning and I was back to square one. Winter came and I ran in the freezing cold. It was hard because the poisoning robbed me of a lot of running fitness but I managed. The hardest thing about running in the cold weather were my cold, stiff hands.

There were times that I was hurting so bad that I nearly ordered an Uber or asked my husband to come get me. I decided that there would be no dignity in that so I found the strength to go on. On very hot days I contemplated ending my challenge. I asked myself “What would Scott Jurek do?”. Scott Jurek would go on and complete what he set out to do and that’s what I did. There were days that it was so humid that I could barely breathe but I made it through. There were times that I thought I’d pass out but I never did. Then there was that one day that I thought I’d beat the rain but got caught in the snow. My eyelids were frozen and my eyes were blurry but I somehow made it to the end of my run. In fact, during the last couple months of this challenge, I had doubts of being able to finish because of the snow and icy weather.

There were times that it was almost effortless. I’d glide up and down those hills. I’d take in the world around me and smile the whole run through. There were times that I wished I had added more miles. I felt amazing and could’ve run around the world. I was extra jubilant when I saw my friends. I took extra notice of everything around me and payed attention to the beautiful mansions and properties that I passed. I took in the aroma of the flowers and just kind of got lost in those moments.

Having this goal during this crazy time of uncertainty got me through. Some Saturday evenings when I thought about having a few drinks, I had this as the reason not to. Some Saturdays when I thought about spending the entire day on my bike, I had this to save my legs for. When I thought about taking a risk on a gathering, I had this as the reason not to risk my health. That, and wanting to see the people I care about the most.

Sunday half marathon gave me a deeper understanding of commitment. It has shown me who I really am. It has shown me what both my body and my mind are capable of. I now know that I’m no quitter. I know that I can follow through on the things that are important to me. I have learned more about myself in this past year than I have in the past seven years. People have told me that I have the strength to persevere but it was something I needed to see for myself. For the first time in my life I know for a fact that I am a badass!

There was no better feeling than approaching a finish line banner that was a year in the making. I was filled with pride and overcome with emotion. I feel a huge sense of accomplishment and have a new feeling of calm. Thank you to the special people that chose to share that moment with me. Thank you to everyone that encouraged and supported me through all of this. Thank you to everyone who believed in me. Thank you to everyone who wouldn’t let me give up when I was on the verge of abandoning what I was setting out to do. No goal is insurmountable. Believe in yourself and embrace your own journey no matter where it may lead.

Plant Based Living (main course)

Miss Ann’s Plant Lovers Chili

I love a thick, hearty, and “meaty” chili. I love a chili that sits atop the brown rice without seeping to the bottom. Lentils give the chili that “meaty” consistency that I love so much and they take on the flavor of any sauce.  I recently joked that lentils are the new ground meat!   

What you will need:

  • Small yellow onion (1)
  • Cloves of garlic (2-3)
  • 15oz can of tomato sauce (2)
  • 15oz can of dark red kidney beans with the liquid from the can (2)
  • 15oz can of cannellini beans, drained (1)
  • Red lentils (1/2 cup)
  • Cumin (1 tsp)
  • Habanero pepper, seeded (1)
  • Pink himalayan salt (1 tbsp)

How to make it:

In a high speed blender puree one can of the tomato sauce, the yellow onion, the garlic cloves, and the habanero pepper. Put the mixture in a large pot along with the rest of the ingredients.  Cover the pot and bring it to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes until the lentils are tender.  Remove from heat and let it sit for about 5 minutes.  Then serve it over brown rice or nachos.  Top it off with vegan cheddar cheese if you like chili and cheese.  It makes delicious nachos and pairs well with sweet potatoes.  

Play with the recipe a bit.  If you enjoy it a bit more spicy then throw another pepper in there or don’t remove the seeds when you blend it.  I puree the ingredients to add thickness to the sauce but if you enjoy a thinner chili then you can just chop the onions, garlic, and pepper instead of blending them.  If you don’t have a habanero pepper then any hot pepper will work well.

I hope you enjoy it! Stay healthy and safe. Thank you all for your continued support and encouragement.  Thank you all so much for reading!

 

Plant Based Living (main course)

 

Penne A La Vodka

This is one of my favorite dishes.  It’s delicious and easy to make.  Someone recently asked me how I live without eating my favorite foods.  People just assume that I’m making a huge sacrifice because I’m eating a plant based regimen.  I replied “I don’t.  I eat all the same things that you do, I just prepare it differently.”  In my opinion the non dairy version is soooo much creamier.  My husband even loves it.

What you will need:

  • Raw cashews (1/2 cup or 60g)
  • Organic canned tomato sauce (1 cup)
  • Yellow onion (1/4 cup)
  • Garlic cloves (3)
  • Vodka (1/4 cup)
  • Penne
  • Peas 
  • Basil leaves
  • Salt
  • Non dairy parmesan cheese (1-2 tbsp)

How to make it:

Soak the cashews in hot water for half an hour and then drain the water.  Combine the sauce, cashews, onion, vodka, and garlic in a high speed blender and blend on high until all the ingredients are blended together stopping occasionally to scrape the sides of the blender.  Put the blended ingredients in a saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally.  Add salt to your preference.  The sauce will thicken as it cooks.  

Cook the penne as per package instructions.  I didn’t specify the amount of penne because that’s a matter of preference.  I personally eat 85g of penne measured while dry.  Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.  Add as much sauce as you like to the pasta.  Add the basil leaves and peas to your liking as well.  Stir it together until it looks awesome.  Put it in a pasta bowl and sprinkle it with the parmesan. 

You can also use the sauce to make pizza a la vodka which is just as delicious!

Prep time: approx 10 minutes, cook time: approx 15 minutes.  Makes 2 cups of sauce.

Bon Appetit!

 

Plant Based Living (dessert)

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Mug Cake

I’m a chocoholic! I can’t live without chocolate and I don’t have to. These little single serving cakes are big enough to satisfy my craving but small enough that I don’t have to loosen my belt.

What you will need:

  • Whole wheat all purpose or pastry flour (2 tbsp)
  • Organic unrefined sugar (2tbsp)
  • Peanut butter powder (2 tbsp) 
  • Baking powder (1/4 tsp)
  • Apple sauce (1 tbsp)
  • Finely chopped banana (1 tbsp)
  • Vanilla extract (1/2 tsp)
  • Non dairy semi sweet chocolate chips (2 tbsp)
  • Non dairy milk (3 tbsp)

How to make it:

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a mug and whisk them together.  Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the chocolate chips, and stir them together with a spoon.  Add the chocolate chips on top of the mixture.  Microwave for 1 minute and 15 seconds. Eat it as is or top it off with non dairy ice cream and/or non dairy whipped topping.  Enjoy!

Prep time: 10 minutes, cook time: 1 minute and 15 seconds

 

Independence

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I’ve got a lot of baggage, who doesn’t? I’ve amassed emotional damage from my childhood through my thirties.  What I didn’t realize is that I was still, at the onset of my forties, collecting emotions that were detrimental to my psychological well being.

Since I started reading “Finding Ultra” I began seeing into my soul.  I started evaluating my emotions.  I didn’t realize it when I started reading but it’s a great self help book.

In 2017 I was riding strong with some really strong cyclists.  I was on top of the world.  A couple of people suggested that I race.  I really wanted to but I was nervous, and uninsured.  In 2018 I got onto an insurance plan and so there was nothing holding me back.  Despite my weight gain and lack of fitness, I decided to try racing anyway.  You all read how that went but I’ll summarize it briefly by saying that I embarrassed myself.  Yes, I did try, but I came up short repeatedly.  I’m a has been that never really was.

In the winter of 2019 I bought a bike more suitable for racing as well as the new team race kit.  I spent good money on a matching racing helmet.  The helmet even has my name on it.  I had every intention of racing in 2019 but something happened over the course of that winter.  I fell in love with running and decided to pursue a longtime dream of running a marathon.  I had abandoned my cycling goals to focus on my running goals.  

Before I started running I had always admired runners.  In cycling speed is not only dependent upon fitness but many other factors such as the bike, it’s wheels, aerodynamics, etc.  Running is pure in that nothing, except for training, will make a person run any faster.  Many sneaker companies will claim that their sneakers will help you run faster but they really won’t. In running you are the bike, the machine that you must will forward faster.  

Now that I’ve run two marathons my goal is to bring it all together.  The more I read and fuel myself with clean energy, the more interested I become in cleaning out my emotional closet.  I didn’t realize it at the time, I didn’t realize it until I sat down with my girl that the cycling races were about chasing a moment.  I didn’t experience that moment but I acknowledge it now.  Why does anyone want to race? For some it’s a moment, for some it’s a form of validation, for some it’s a rush.  For me it was all of those things.  I wanted to feel like I was on top of the world again.  Although I entered many running races, it was never a moment that I was chasing.  The running races were always about finishing and having a blast along the course.  

I’m only now regaining some of my bike fitness along with overall fitness.  My appearance is becoming more lean and muscular.  I’m gaining confidence.  This past weekend I was confronted by my racing kit in the closet except this time it wasn’t laughing at me. It’s fabric is lightweight and breathable, the chamois was made to last even the longest road races.  I never wore it because of the shame I experienced in cycling races.  I simply stopped competing after only one season of racing.  I was not good enough to wear the team kit.  This past Saturday, Independence Day, I put it on and saw myself in it.  I really saw myself and I liked what I saw.  I saw a woman not only facing her insecurities, but wearing them proudly for all to see.  I did a long, hilly ride in that kit and it felt like heaven.

I’m done with chasing a moment.  I want to enjoy the journey.  I love training even though the world is currently on pause and racing seems uncertain.  The more uncertain it seems, the harder I train.  Eventually normal life will resume and I will rise like a phoenix from the ashes armed with fire ready take the world by storm.  I now realize that the race is not just the event, but the entire journey leading up to that moment.  I’m now ready to fully experience every moment from every run, every ride, and soon every swim. 

We all have something going on.  Now may be a good time to confront it and stop the demons from haunting you.  Release yourself from the hold that they have on you.  Fight back and come out victorious.  We only get this one life.  If it all ended tomorrow would you be happy with the way that it all went? I’ll leave you with that thought…..

I hope you are all healthy and safe.  Thank you for your continued support and encouragement.  As always, I thank you all very much for reading.