Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Mifflinburg Turkey Trot '13 Recap & CJ's Resolution Update

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope you had a wonderful day full of the people you love and that you had time to reflect on the things that make you thankful.  I know I did!  My day started off with a local turkey trot 5k.  The event isn't officially timed but there is a clock at the finish that you can take note.  The real objective is to beat the turkey (aka person dressed in turkey costume) to the finish.  I had no plans on running this race hard, it was more of a way for me to spread the word about CJ's Resolution Challenge.  I wore a race bib advertisement on my back, hung a large poster at the snack station (with permission, of course!), and personally handed out flyers to as many folks as I could.  I hope I was successful in attracting some runners. 

My friend Des on left, Me on right

Advertising as I was, I got there early at 7:30 and the race didn't start until 9:00.  It was so cold outside and there was a dusting of snow on the ground.  Unfortunately I had to walk through that snow so my feet got wet.  My legs and feet were just about numb when we finally started running.  It felt really bizarre!  I was nearly to the halfway point by the time my legs finally stopped feeling awkward.  But I noticed I was hanging with the front of the pack of over 300 racers, which felt pretty cool!  At the end there was this kid who had kept about the same distance from me from the start but I was closing the gap.  In the final stretch we were next to one another and he looked spent.  So I said "C'mon, step on the gas!  We're almost there!  Don't let me pass you!"  We both picked up the pace and brought it home.  My time was 23:17 (current 5k PR 23:09), so pretty darn good!  Had I known the result I might have pushed to get a new PR.  But there's always next time!

2013 Turkey Trotters
After the race I went home and made a broccoli cheese casserole for my dad's side of the family, which is gigantic.  I used nine pounds of broccoli, six pounds of Velveeta, and two entire boxes of Ritz crackers.  We got there, pigged out, and reconnected with beloved family members.  I got to share a lot about CJ's Resolution Challenge and I'm looking forward to the support from my family. Speaking of, I'd like to give a little update on the race. 

The race has been nearly all consuming, but I'm loving it!  I feel like I am constantly emailing or calling somebody about something.  Always organizing and reorganizing.  Planning and writing out my to-do lists.  But I believe its going to all be worth it.  I've been quite touched by the outpouring of support.  Family members, friends, local businesses, and complete strangers reaching out to help me in whatever way they can.  We've received food donations for our racers to enjoy and gift certificates and items to include in our basket raffle.  Kindness, caring, and generosity.  Its truly amazing.

I also wanted to share one of my mom's contributions to the cause.  She has been sewing these adorable CJ Elephants.  Almost all of the materials needed have been donated to her.  She charges just $10 per elephant and 100% of that is going to the beneficiaries.  If you'd like one just message me here or find my mom on facebook here- CJ Elephant     

Adorable & Squeezable CJ Elephants!

Medals are in production.  T-shirts are in the design stage.  I'm lining up times to speak with local radio stations.  I think I've put CJ's Resolution Challenge on every race website there is.  We're collecting great items to be part of the basket raffle.  Things are really coming together.  All that's missing is you!!!  Discounted registration ends on December 15th, take advantage and register today!!!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Harrisburg Marathon 2013 Recap

I don't really know where to start with this recap.  Even now, just as all through training, I am preoccupied with my Operation Jack project, from here on out to be known as CJ's Resolution Challenge.  But I'll try to focus on the awesomeness of Race Day.  Aaron and I dropped the kiddos off at his parents the night before.  So Race Day we got up and were out the door around 5:30am, picked up Mom by 6, then it was off to Harrisburg!  There was zero traffic, finding where we were supposed to be was easy, and parking was no problem.  We got to packet pick-up which was really only shirt and bib pick up.  They offered virtual race packets with coupon codes in an effort to decrease their impact on the environment.  Pretty cool, right!?  Then to the port-a-potty line.  There was 26 of them so the line was fast moving.  We brought a poster I made with info about the Resolution Challenge and we were asked about it by two runners from Pittsburgh.  They didn't sound like they'd be out to run my race, but they did make it sound like they knew people how were looking for an autism charity to support.  Serendipity?  It sure would be nice to hear back from them!  Then we made our way to the start.  I had devised a plan to meet with the 3:55 pacer.  My "A" goal was sub-4 hours, and I thought if I could hang with the 3:55 pacer, then I would have a buffer for anything that might come up along the way.  So I met Mike the Pacer.  We talked about my first marathon, my goals for this one, and the training in between.  Then I went back to Mom and Aaron and debated about losing my long-sleeved shirt for a short-sleeved.  Ultimately I decided to keep to the long sleeves.  I put on my bib while Aaron fastened my Resolution Challenge bib on my back.  Gotta get the word out whenever I can, right?!  Thanks for the idea, Cape Cod Runner !! 

Got my music and Garmin ready and it was time to go!  The beginning of this race went by so fast!  It starts on City Island, you cross the bridge and turn left at the intersection.  This intersection is packed with spectators and a band playing awesome music.  You loop around and come back to this intersection and head the opposite direction.  You do another loop and come back to the intersection then cross the bridge back onto the island again, do a loop on the island, cross the bridge to the fun intersection one last time, then head away.  By this time 7.5 miles are already done!  And it was so much fun!
Around Mile 6.5

I had been keeping ahead of Mike the Pacer, but I knew he wasn't too far behind.  I  connected with a girl who also wanted to sub-4.  I'm not sure of her name, Alicia or maybe Felicia, but I'll call her Orange Shirt.  I first noticed her around mile 5.  Around mile 8 I noticed she was there to stay.  I didn't mind her being at my hip.  Honestly, I tried to pretend she was my best friend Crystal, but it wasn't working because she was so quiet and had her music blaring, two things Crystal would never do!  Mom and Aaron were doing a great job of on-course support.  I ended up seeing them at the start and around miles 6.5, 10, 15, 18, 20, and the finish!  They were busy keeping up with me!  So back to the race.  I would say the whole first 15 miles were pleasant, fun even!  At some point toward the middle Orange Shirt's friends found her.  They asked how she was doing, and she said "Pretty good!  This girl is keeping a really good pace for me!"  I said, "Aw, thanks!"  I thought about disclosing my difficulties with pacing, but then thought better of it.  I had a friend for the time being and even if she wasn't chatty, I liked her company. 
Me & Orange Shirt

It was around the 15 mile area on Industrial Park Road when the wind started.  And Industrial Park Road is aptly named.  It isn't very scenic or nice.  So I was happy to get to Wildwood Park, even though I knew that's where the biggest hills of the course would be.  The hills were tougher and more numerous than I thought they would be!  Initially it felt great to my legs to use different muscles, but then it just started to make me tired.  I had walked through every single water station (every two miles) except for the one at the end of hilly park at Mile 20.  Aaron ran over to give me my water bottle with nuun in it, so I drank it on the move, set it down, and kept moving, never realizing that I had just gone through an aid station.  After this point the rest of the way is on the same road we traveled out to the park.  I have to say, community support for this race was pretty awesome!  Strangers out there in their front yards holding signs, ringing cow bells, offering snacks and tissues.  It was something really special.  So Orange Shirt and I keep trucking along and with maybe four miles to go a runner from Danville I met at the start of the race in the 3:55 pacing group passes us, and she's moving.... fast!  So I panic!  Is Mike the Pacer right behind me too?!  Do I have to pick up my pace?!  Can I pick up my pace!?!  He doesn't pass us, so I settle down and keep trucking.  Then all of a sudden another Orange Shirt appears, who apparently is my Orange Shirt's friend.  There are about three miles to go now and we're back along the river.  There isn't really enough space to run three wide on the river walk, and I got elbowed out.  It was a low point in the race for me.  I was so tired at this point.  I was convinced the pain in my left foot must be from a dislocated toe, and now my BFF Orange Shirt just dropped me like a bad habit, after eighteen miles together, just like that!  So through the tears (I'm exaggerating, there weren't really any tears) I go run on the road instead by myself.  With less than two miles to go Mike the Pacer really does pass me, eek!!!  And I'm just about out of gas.  I want to keep up with him, but its all I can do to keep moving.  As I approach the bridge I lose sight of him.  I'm pushing ideas of walking out of my head.  Thank God for all the people standing on the bridge and cheering.  I run under the bridge to the ramp that I must climb to get up on the bridge.  Its just a short spit of a hill but it represented a mountain in the moment.  The spectators must have seen the desperation on my face because they came to the rescue.  I hear from behind me, "Go Green Socks!!!"  Then I'm getting a high-five on my left.  Then someone up ahead shouts, "Yeah, c'mon 8-3-4!!!!!"  I couldn't help but grin.  I reached the top, set foot on the bridge, and saw it- The Finish!  Spectators on the bridge were amazing too.  After 26 miles, I felt like I was soaring for that last 0.2.  I did it.  I surpassed my "A" goal with an official chip time of 3:55:29.  Marathon #3 is in May, so watch out for a new Marathon PR!

I ran into Danville Runner on our way back to the car and congratulated her on a race well run.  She noticed my CJ's Resolution Challenge poster so I gave her a few registration forms, told her to check out the website (because my brain cells weren't firing all too well), and pass it on to her runner friends.  What a successful, amazing day!  There is a lot to be said for human potential.  I really wasn't sure that I could run 26.2 miles in under four hours, until I did it.  I wasn't sure that I could run a marathon at all, and now I've run two.  So when I have doubts about my ability to organize CJ's Resolution Challenge and make it a success, I remind myself of the other things I wasn't sure I could do.  Then I can't help but grin.

Friday, November 1, 2013

1000 Miles

At the beginning of the year I set some very specific fitness related goals.
1). Increase the number of push ups I can do in a row to 35.
2). Run one race per month, including a marathon.
3). Be able to do 5 pull ups.
4). Improve my one mile time by ten seconds.
5). Goal weight of 130#
6). Run 1000 miles.

I thought it'd be neat to check in on those goals.
1). A year and a half ago, I couldn't do full push ups.  None.  Today, yes, I can do 35 in a row, and not on my knees.  Pretty cool, right?!
2). This goal morphed from one race per month to 12 races for the year because of some bad knees and training issues surrounding my first marathon.  To date this year I have already completed 13 races, including a marathon.  In fact, I have Marathon #2 in eight days!
3). Okay, my previous attempts of doing pull ups were laughable, and I still can't do five, but I CAN do three!  And that's something!
4). My test mile for this goal was an even 8 minutes.  My fastest mile since then.... 6:56.  Goal met then SMASHED!
5). When I set this goal I was around 144 pounds.  Today as I write this I'm about 137 pounds.  And you know what?  I.  Honestly.  Don't.  Care.  I mean, seriously?  This was a goal??  WHO CARES?!  I am so much more than that number.  Honestly.  And I think that fact has a lot to do with accomplishing Goal #6.
6). Yesterday I ran my 1000th mile for the year during an eleven mile tempo run.  It was the perfect moment for reminiscing, reflecting, and offering thanks.  These miles mean so much more than the physical distance covered.  These miles built me up, and tore me down.  I have returned from miles feeling unstoppable, and from others feeling vulnerable.  During the last thousand miles I have found myself becoming the person I was always meant to be.  And while I was pondering this, I found myself praying.

Dear Jesus,
Thank you for the 1000 miles my legs have carried me this year.  These miles are a gift to me.  Thank you for the way you've used them in my life to help me solve problems, realize truths, stay healthy, and focus on what matters.  I am wildly blessed; this I know.  I pray you bless my life with thousands more miles. Amen.

Fitness goals are great.  I think for me what has been better is the confidence (and humility) I have developed along the way, growing into this person who can take on anything.  And it all started with just one step.  May God bless you!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Midd-West Fest 5k 2013 Recap

The Midd-West Fest is a homecoming event for my old school district.  They have an auto show, craft and food vendors, and a 5k as part of the festivities.  This was my first running of the Midd-West Fest 5k.  I had my eyes on a new 5k PR coming into this one, knowing I was capable and excited to see how well I could do.  I was pretty sure it was a small race, so I thought placing might be a possibility as well.  Part of the draw of this race for me was the fact that my sisters-in-law would be running it and at the end there would be a One Mile Kids' Fun Run.

Present in the crowd are a few of my old classmates as well as Buff Fitness Girl from the Dam Half.  With her there I had a new goal- keep her in sight!  So I line up at the start, and I was right, it was going to be a small race.  This is the first time ever that I literally toed the starting line.  I was front and center at the start of this one which was super cool, but I think I let the excitement get to me.  Once we started I took off like a shot and was in second place for nearly a quarter mile.  It was a completely unsustainable pace for me and by the half mile two or three men and one woman had passed me (and I was ready to vomit!)  But I kept putting one leg in front of the other, knowing Buff Fitness Girl was behind me and closing in fast.  I was right about her closing the gap because she passed me right before the one mile point.  For the record, my pace that first mile was 6:56!  This was an out and back course and I felt like I would never get to the turn around point!  But eventually I saw it, went around the cone, and who should I see but Erica!  She's the next lady behind me..... and she's in my age group, eeek!  I picked up the pace again fearing that she wanted to pass me as much as I didn't want her to!  I kept hearing these footsteps behind me, and I kept working to outrun them, but they kept coming and kept coming until eventually I couldn't outrun them anymore.  As the owner of those footsteps came up beside me I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized that it wasn't Erica!  Phew!  I was so tired at this point, I still felt like I was going to puke from my way too fast start, and I still had half a mile to go.  Buff Fitness Girl was about to leave me in the dust when I remembered my starting line goal to keep her in my sight so I picked up my pace for the last time.  I crossed the finish line with a time of 23:09, a PR by 1 minute 21 seconds!!! I was the third woman finisher, second in my age group (Buff Fitness Girl was first), and I learned a valuable lesson about pacing one's self.

Sisters Celebrate! Alania, Erica, & Me
While walking around at the end I chatted with Michele, the valedictorian from my high school class who is now a physician assistant and mom to two.  She told me that she really liked my blog and that it inspired her.  I told her thank you and that hearing that inspires me to keep at my strives for a healthy life.  We later talked about her doing a guest blog, so keep a look out!
With the 5k over it was time for the Fun Run.  I was going to be running with my four-year old for his first ever race.  I had concerns.  What was he going to do?  Would he even do it?  I tried to pin on his bib but he wasn't having it.  So I pinned his bib onto my shirt above my own bib.  Ready, set, GO!  He's off!  And he's...... giggling!  He ran until he was tired, then he walked a while and he repeated this until we got back to the finish.  And he smiled and laughed the whole time.  It wasn't lost on me that I was sharing something I love with one of my people I love most.  I tried to soak in the moment and imprint it on my brain, the way he smiled, how his laughter sounded, how much fun this was for him.  They tried to give him a medal at the end but he wasn't having that either, so I took it and hung it and his bib in his room.  Maybe someday he'll have a whole big collection of them.  Maybe running will become something that he loves too.  And if it does, I sure hope he lets me be a part of it with him.
My Sweet Love!  It doesn't get any better!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Operation Jack 2.0- Part 2

I wanted to update you on what's going on with my Operation Jack project.  If you need a review, check out my first post on the subject.


I had originally thought that I wanted to donate all money raised to a charity that could potentially benefit Cullen.  But I decided now that I will split money raised between two charities.  First, the Geisinger Autism and Developmental Medicine Institute.  Cullen was seen by Dr. Thomas Challman at the Geisinger Bucknell Center for Autism in Lewisburg and it felt like we were FINALLY where we needed to be.  We will continue to follow up there so it seems fitting that I raise money for them.


Second, is Operation Jack.  Sam (Jack's dad) has been majorly supportive in getting some of my ideas off the ground.  He's done a lot of good on his own for the cause, and if not for him, I probably wouldn't be doing this in the first place.


While on a run an idea occurred to me- wouldn't it be neat to organize my own running event as a fundraiser?  People do it all the time.  No matter where you live, if you wanted to run a 5k this weekend I bet you could find one (or two or three!)  Therein lies a problem..... how do I make mine stand out?  Answer- have it when no one else in the area is having one- New Year's Day.  But will that be enough?  How about making it different than a 5k?  Something that die-hard competitive runners and walkers could both enjoy.

Introducing The Resolution Challenge!  A three hour event on New Year's Day in which your objective is to complete as many laps as possible.  Great!  The concept is finalized.  Now for all the major and minor details.  I have already learned a lot from talking to Sam at Operation Jack and to Tara at fitforfunds.com.  For instance, I'll need a permit ($).  I'll have to purchase insurance ($$).  If I want a timing company, be prepared to pay $500  ($$$).  Its going to be cold, wouldn't outdoor space heaters be great ($$)?!  And music would sure make it fun ($$).  Don't forget publicizing, t-shirts, medals, food, hydration, portapotties, emergency personnel, prizes, etc, etc, etc ($$$$$).  Now I'm feeling overwhelmed.  I barely have the cash to pay my bills!  How will I front the money necessary to pull off The Resolution Challenge?!  Answer- I need sponsors.  And I need YOUR help getting them.  How great would it be if a local insurance company covered the cost of insurance?  If a local coffee shop provided coffee and donuts at the start of the event and a pizza joint fed us at the end?  If a grocery store provided snacks and beverages?  If some EMTs volunteered their time?  If a DJ came and set up so we could have some music?  I know there are people out there willing to donate their time, talents, and cash.  I need YOUR help finding them!  If you or someone you know can help me get this thing going, speak up!  I'll take all the help I can get.  Sponsors are the first step.  With much gratitude in my heart, til next time!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Hardcore Mudd Run 2013 Recap

On Saturday I participated in the Hardcore Mudd Run in Philipsburg, PA with Aaron, my sister and her boyfriend, and their two friends.  Their website describes the event as such, "HMR events are neither a competition nor a race but instead about the person next to you; helping your team and other fellow mud runners through the course. Each event will push a person to his or her limits in a 5 to 10 mile mud run with a unique combination of land and water obstacles designed to promote skill building, camaraderie, physical fitness, mental stamina, social communication and interaction."
And if you're interested in their website, here is the link. 


We registered for this event back in March.  With a coupon code we still paid $70 a person to participate.  I felt (and still feel) that it was a lot to pay.  But I had never done any kind of mud run before so I was excited and optimistic.  I'm going to go straight to the punch and say that I will not do this event again and I would not recommend it to anyone.  With that out of the way, I can begin my recap. 

We registered as a team of six and named ourselves Hakuna Macruddy, a play on the song from Lion King.  The night before Brandi and Teresa made these awesome shirts for us to wear.  We all selected Lion King related nicknames too, except for Aaron (see below!)

From left to right- Zazoom, T-Moan, sKar, Rafi-B, Runfasta, & I'm too Hardcore for a Nickname

We were in the 9:30 start wave, we were pretty sure.  Some on our team received a cryptic email saying waves had been eliminated and that the first email didn't reach all intended participants.  But we started at any rate.  This particular location for the HMR was 6.5 miles and was to have 18-20 obstacles.  Obstacle #1- Fire Hose Gauntlet- two fire hoses at the start, brrr and ouch!  Then there was a lot of running.  I was surprised.  I thought with 18-20 obstacles in 6.5 miles that they might be one after another.  But we ran, ran, ran until we got to a swamp, Obstacle #2.   And man did it stink!  Once through the smelly swamp we made our way to Obstacle #3, Up & Over- a series of three walls that got progressively higher, starting at 8 feet and rising to 12 feet.  High enough that you could not get over by yourself, you had to rely on others.  The first two weren't that bad, but the third was seriously hard to get to the top, and seriously scary once you were there.  How the heck were you supposed to get down?!  But we all six made it.  We learned after the fact that the ONE event staff standing there had dead batteries in her walkie talkie.  Glad none of us broke our damn necks falling off the wall.  Obstacle #4 was a dirt tunnel that was pitch black at points.  The worst part about that was the way all the rocks you couldn't see chewed up your knees.  Then it was another long run to Obstacle #5, Lost in the Woods.  You knew you were there when you saw orange arrows pointing in opposite directions.  We weren't lost all that long before coming to Obstacle #6, Paint Ball Run.  This was a very short stretch of hay bales that you could crawl through and avoid being hit, or try to sprint through and take your chances.  But these guys were snipers that train all year for this moment.  Our whole team slithered.

Then it was run, run some more to Obstacle #7, Sand Bagger.  You guessed it, one mile with big heavy sand bags.  However once you dropped your bag at the end of the mile you were rewarded with an aid station offering bananas, water, and a gigantic bag that once held candy.  Sadly, we only saw it empty.  Just down the hill was Obstacle #8, Cargo Mountain.  Teamwork in action already when we came upon it, there were five people per side anchoring the nets.  We were told it was nearly impossible to get up without the human anchors.  So we took peoples' places so they could climb and then people took ours.  This was fun.... til I got to the top and had to swing over to the other side to make my way back down.  But, once again, we all survived.  Obstacle #9, Out & Back, which was simply run up and over a hill, then turn around and run it again, yawn.  Then run, run, run to Obstacle #10, Beam Me Up.  This one was neat.  Two narrow beams placed over water parallel to one another, three sets of them with landing pads in between.  Some people teamed up, some balance beamed it, my team members and myself put our feet on one beam, hands on the other, and shuffled across.  Then a short jaunt to Obstacle #11, Electric Avenue.  This one I despised.  We got to slither through the mud under electrified wires that were unavoidable.  Imagine those pretty Christmas icicle lights strung one line after another only inches from the mud.  Aaron and I were both shocked only four times each.  The last time I got shocked it was in the face and a few choice words flew out of my mouth.  We talked to a few people who had been shocked 12-15 times, and to three people who had lost consciousness.  Fun, right?!  Also worth mentioning is that there was a bottleneck of people waiting to be electrocuted and a man comes up running his mouth, "You can go more than one at a time here!!  I'm the race director, let's move!!!"  A-hole.  Next was another aid station, water, ripped up bagels, and another empty bag of candy.  And a volunteer too busy shoving stale bagel down her throat to do any volunteering.  Unimpressed.  Obstacle # 12, Down  Dirty.  This was a very sloppy, muddy pit you had to crawl under barbed wire through.  Not too bad, and actually the mud was soothing to the cuts I had acquired to this point.  Obstacle #13, Mission Impossible, two walls set at 45 degree angles in a V-formation.  The one you approach to start has a rope to help you get up (hard), then you slide down to the ground (easy), then a rope on the second wall to get up (semi-hard), then no way down but to jump to the ground (hard).  Zazoom, Rafi-B, and sKar all suffered minor injuries thanks to this one. 

Obstacle #14, Hands & Knees- two long stretches of chain link fence staked to the ground that you had to crawl under.  Chain link gives a little, but not much, so this one was physically challenging.  We chose to go on our backs because our knees were so cut up.  So we slithered under, pushed the fence up, shifted our bodies, repositioned our arms, etc, etc.  This is when T-Moan got a bad cramp and wanted out.  It took a couple minutes to get her out, then several more minutes for the medic to arrive.  The event staff was more concerned about getting her bib than about her well-being.  Heaven forbid someone who isn't "Hardcore" get the two Busch beers and the $0.50 dog tag at the end.  Whatever.  She and Zazoom left the course but urged us to finish.  Obstacle #15, Hay!  Just three of those big, round hay bales in pyramid formation you had to get over.  Cake!  Obstacle #16, Welcome to the Jungle (aka Mystery Box!)  This one was probably my favorite.  A plywood box that was pretty dark inside.  You crawled through one hole close to the ground, then through another hole high in a wall inside, then another low hole, then over a bunch of 2x2s criss-crossed to the final hole in the upper corner.  Final obstacle, Obstacle #17, Fire Jump, two rows of fire to jump over before crossing into the finish area.  There was a live band playing (pretty cool) and a sign saying "Welcome to the Hardcore Army."  You were handed your HMR dog tag and your "free" Busch beer (let's not forget, we did pay $70 for this.)  Zazoom and T-Moan were waiting outside the finish area since they weren't "Hardcore" enough.  The other four of us chugged some of our beer, none of us took our second "free" beer.  Then we took some photos, and hit the showers.  They get a few extra points for the showers.  Unfortunately, they only had two porta-potties that were out of TP and totally covered with mud and urine.  Eww.  Anyway, we got reasonably cleaned up, changed, and found a pizza place in Philipsburg to eat.  We were RAVENOUS!  All in all, it wasn't an awful experience, but I personally will never participate in another event put on by Hardcore Mudd Run LLC, and I won't recommend them either if I'm ever asked.
P.S. In case you were paying attention, that was only 17 obstacles.  Apparently the three progressively higher walls each counted as a separate obstacle and the two rows of chain link fence each counted as a separate obstacle = 20. (Lame.)

We Are Hardcore!!!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Milton Harvest Festival 5k 2013 Recap

Yesterday was the day of my mom's first ever 5k!  Running has become such a huge part of who I am, so I was extremely excited to be sharing it with her.  My sister was joining us, as well as my two sisters-in-law, my good friend Kelli, and several other running acquaintances.  I was surprised by just how many people I ran into at the start, a few people I never even knew were runners! 

Me, Mom, Brandi @ top/ Erica, Maddie, Alania on bottom right
We had a couple of snags before we could get started.  First of all, parking!  There were cars everywhere and no one directing us where to go.  We pulled into the McDonald's parking lot and headed to packet pick up, got our bibs and shirts, and headed back to the car.  Once there an employee came out and told us we had to move.... of course we do.  So we head back out of the parking lot where I see my friend Kelli walking by, I shout to her and ask her where to park, but the lot she was in was already full.  We find someone in a safety vest and they direct us around and we end up parking in some grass, but we never got ticketed or towed, so its all good. 
The next snag?  Bathrooms.  There were no port-a-potties anywhere!!!  This is a festival with food and vendors, I couldn't believe they didn't have any bathrooms!  So we stood in a very long line to use the borough building restroom.  That left us about ten minutes to the start of the race, so we headed toward the start.
Mom was nervous.  She also had been having pain in her left leg and was worried that it might keep her from finishing.  I had no worries.  This is my mother we're talking about here, I gotta get my stubbornness, I mean, determination from somewhere!  So the air-horn sounded and we were off!
I tried to take some selfies while in motion.... not too bad, right?!
We ran at the start, Mom telling us later that that was the longest distance she had ever run without stopping.  Once we hit the second mile we ran some more, and Mom was looking strong!
Go Mom!
After that second run we walked until we were in sight of the finish line, when Mom said with a grin, "I'm doing another one."  (YAY!)  And then we were off one last time.  We crossed in 48:05, and in the words of my mom, "We weren't last!"  We hugged and had just a few happy tears.  Here's to the beginning of something wonderful!

Steps from the finish!  I'm so proud!



Friday, September 20, 2013

Race Day Jitters

This post is to celebrate my mother, Lori.  Tomorrow morning she will be participating in her first road race, the Milton Fall Festival 5k.  She is nervous, says she is going to puke.  I know that feeling.  I still get it a little bit before every single race.  My heart rate picks up just at the thought of an upcoming race! 

She has recently lost over 20 pounds.  If you've ever had weight to lose you know what an accomplishment that is.  She is at the beginning of her journey, and it is my hope that she one day looks back at this race and thinks with pride about how far she's come.

She posted this on her facebook and I hope she remembers it tomorrow.  She doesn't have to live up to anyone's expectations tomorrow.  Although if I'm being completely honest, I do expect her to start, and I expect to be with her every step of the way, and I expect to cross the finish line right by her side.

Photo: That's me! How about you?
I love you, Mom!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Operation Jack 2.0- Part 1

I'm very excited to finally add something to the "Fundraising" tab in my blog!  I've often thought about how I could combine running with raising money and awareness for something important to me.  People do it all the time.  I just wasn't sure how to get started.  Then Crystal brought something to my attention, something called Operation Jack 2.0.

If Jack's dad can run 61 marathons in one year, I can certainly run one to further the cause.  Most of you already know that my son was diagnosed with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) in July.  And in another post at another time I'm going to write a lot more on the subject.  Suffice it to say that raising awareness and money for research and support for autistic children and their families is a cause that is important to me.  
So the basics of Operation Jack 2.0 are simple- I raise at least $100 for the autism charity of my choice, and Operation Jack 2.0 pays for my marathon registration.  They will be doing it for one runner every week of the year, so that's 52 runners raising money and awareness in the fight against autism.  It is Operation Jack 2.0's hope (as well as my own) that I raise more than the required $100.  I have decided that I will look for a charity that directly benefits my son, and if I can't do that, then my autism charity of choice will be Operation Jack.  I've chosen to run River Towns Marathon (May 3, 2014) again for a couple reasons.  One- I've already done it, two- its close to home (which is good for SOOO many reasons), and three- registration is less than $100, so more of the money I raise can go to charity.  Aaron has also decided to be one of Operation Jack 2.0's 52 runners!  He will be running Mt Nittany Marathon, date TBD. 
It is my hope to be wildly successful with Operation Jack 2.0, as well as my second running of RTM.  I will be posting updates and a link to a fundraising page in the near future.  In the meantime I will be brainstorming ways to make donating more appealing, perhaps a one-on-one training session, a running training schedule personalized for your goals, a pot of soup, free hugs...... I don't know, just in the thinking stage for now.  All I can say at the present time is that I'm excited to be a part of Operation Jack 2.0, excited to have the opportunity to connect my love of running to my love for my son and have the chance to run with a greater purpose.  Please consider supporting me in this venture.  There will be more to follow.  With gratitude in my heart, until next time!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dam Half Marathon Trail Race '13

I love trail running.  Even though my pace is slower, I feel like I'm in flight.  I guess its because of the swift passing of the woods that are so close around me.  Plus time moves so quickly.  I think that's because my mind is so focused on where I place my feet (you know, so I don't fall on my face) that there is never opportunity to get bored.  Today's race was my fifth trail race but my first trail half marathon.  I was still on a bit of a runner's high from my sub-2 half marathon the weekend before, so I was excited.  I knew this race would be no joke though.  See the course description below.

  The Dam Half and Dam Full courses are all situated within Bald Eagle State Forest, and you really get the feeling of being far removed from civilization when doing this course! Mostly narrow single track trails with some jeep trails and a little bit of dirt road mixed in to relax your legs (but not too much). The Dam Half has a total elevation gain of 2,500 feet, while the Dam Full has a total elevation gain of 4,600 feet. The courses have several climbs with a few boulder fields mixed in to test your legs (and wits)! In between the climbs though, there are some nice flat and rolling sections winding through beautiful hemlock and pine forests with some stream crossings here and there. Both courses have the toughest climb of the event near the end, the dreaded Stairway to Heaven. Stairway to Heaven is a brutal single track climb with 700 feet of elevation gain within a half mile straight up the side of Naked Mountain. But once you summit, it’s 1.5 miles all downhill to the finish!!!

I had picked up my packet the night before.  Running with me would be my husband, sister-in-law, and a couple other running acquaintances.  I was ready to go!

 A pretty big crowd of runners gathered near the start and listened to some announcements.  Once they were over we started to move to the starting line.  Then I guess someone said "go" because the crowd started to move.  There were a lot of people!  Aaron and I did our best to break away from the crowd, but there were just so many!  The race was going great, until a had something sharp sticking me in the heel and since it was so early on I decided it had to go!  I couldn't shake it loose so I stepped off to the side to get it out.  Aaron left me in the dust without so much as a, "are you okay?"  I couldn't dig it out with my finger, so I ripped the shoe off.  It was a piece of wood stuck in the lining of my shoe, so I yanked it out and tried to shove my foot back in the shoe, which of course is double knotted so I can't.  I tried to untie it and made the knot worse, and worse, and worse.  Eventually, after what seemed like ten minutes (it was probably more like 2.5) I got the shoe debacle cleared up and started running again, cursing that I would have to once again, re-pass all the people I had already managed to pass with much difficulty on the single track trail.

Amazingly, I caught back up to Aaron when he eventually pulled off to the side to take off his long sleeve t-shirt.  (I tried to tell him he would regret wearing long sleeves.)  I figured he would fall in line behind me, so I kept going.  A little while later I passed one of my runner acquaintances and was pretty pleased about that.  She is a very buff, fitness instructor and runner, so it felt good to catch her.  She had done the course before and was hoping to come in under 2:30.  She stayed hot on my heels until we got to the last boulder field after the final climb where she then passed me and vanished down the hill.  How she took that descent so quickly I will never know.  I hope she accomplished her goal!

The trail was very tricky.  The elevation was exactly what I expected and I felt prepared for that.  I was not prepared for quite so many rocks.  We got so few breaks from them!  I nearly face-planted on several occasions.  And the boulder fields mentioned in the course description above???  They are aptly named.  How some runners managed a 7:40/pace on this course is something I will never understand!  Those folks must be part mountain goat!  Literally, it was fields of rocks and boulders.  And some giant boulders that you think will never move when you step on them in fact do shift when stepped on!  Very tricky!

I hiked up the dreaded Stairway to Heaven, feeling like it would never end.  Once to the top you are "rewarded" with a boulder field before you can begin your rocky, steep descent.  I had made a new friend from a State College running store.  We chatted quite a bit and he encouraged me to go ahead and get the trail shoes I've been wanting.  I had confessed to him how my feet were killing me in my non-trail shoes.  I always just wear the oldest sneakers in my possession for these things.

Brooks Cascadia- Come to Mama!!!
 Anyway, back to the race.  I got to the finish and was super pleased with my time.  A respectable 2:34:08, 6th place of 45 in my division (F 30-39), 17th of 143 women, 100th of 343 runners overall, with a 11:46/pace.  I turned around knowing that I had distanced myself from Aaron a little bit, but I began to worry after a few minutes.  It seemed like forever until I finally saw him walking/ hobbling toward the finish over thirty minutes later.  His knees were really hurting him and I understood why.  The final descent was a doozy!  While I was waiting I too started having severe pain throughout my legs.  I have never experienced that before.  It didn't matter if I was standing, walking, or sitting, they just throbbed.  It was so bad in fact that I started asking around for some ibuprofen.  I was directed to the ambulance.  I had a feeling they wouldn't give me any, but I was desperate.  Unfortunately, I was right and they wouldn't give me any.  So I downed five cups of Gatorade hoping it was just an electrolyte issue and massaged, massaged, massaged.  I ran into buff fitness girl at the end and it turned out she finished in 2:32:11.  A great time even if she didn't break 2:30!  She paid me a very nice compliment by telling me she thought I was a "very strong runner."  Something like that means a lot when it comes from a person you admire. 


Once Aaron felt up to it we went to get something for him to eat.  I had already downed three slices of pizza from Larry's Pizza so I was good, but I stood in the chicken line with him anyway.  We ran into one of Aaron's coworkers (who had ibuprofen- yay!) and sat down to eat with him as well as one of the full marathoners.  I would run this race again in a heartbeat!  It was a fabulous day!  Mid Penn Trailblazers really know how to put on a great event!  I've done one other trail race put on by this group (Smith's Knob Scramble) and it too was fantastic!  Check them out if you're looking into trying out trail races!  http://www.midpenntrailblazers.com/index.htm

This is how I felt later!

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Beginning of my Love Affair with Running

I ran one race before my on again off again run-mance truly began in 2008.  It was a 5k with my friend Marissa, and if I remember correctly, it didn't go all that well.  Believe it or not I was able to find the results!

343.Janell Weaver        Canton, PA          25 F     39:15 12:38 148/183   F25-29:16/20      
344.Marissa Piazza       High Bridge, NJ     25 F     39:15 12:38 149/183   F25-29:17/20  

Don't get me wrong, I know we were both pretty happy and proud of ourselves for finishing, but looking back, it should have been easier on a pair of 25 year olds!  That was the Run with Rotary 5k April 29, 2007 in Montgomery, NJ. 

Why did I want to run it?  To be honest, I'm not completely sure.  I have always held an admiration for runners.  Their endurance, athleticism, physiques, and mental toughness are all things I wanted to have.  So maybe I thought I would just jump in and give it a try.  I did not know about training.

Fast forward a few months and I have met my BFF Crystal.  We both had just left our homes to accompany our husbands to U.S. Coast Guard Station Oak Island.  There was a 5k and 10k held every April on the island so we decided to train for the 10k.  Okay, so this time I knew about training, but we still had no idea what the heck we were doing.  Nevertheless, we survived and I think that race sparked something within me.  I finished in 1:11:10, an 11:28 pace.  That pace was better than my first race, but I wanted to get better at running- faster, stronger, tougher. 

The four of us (Joe, Crystal, Aaron and myself) continued to sign up for races here and there, I believe only 5ks.  Our next race was the NC Freedom Run 5k, June 27, 2008.  I finished in 32:11, a 10:22 pace.  So despite my lack of understanding of training, my persistence was paying off.
Next up was the Inaugural Go, Jump in the Lake 5k, August 30, 2008.  I actually placed 3rd in my division for this one!

Our next 5k was the Oyster Fest 5k October 18, 2008.  I finished in 29:27, a 9:28 pace!  Getting speedier!  (I got to say tougher too.  This race was cold, wet, and poorly organized!)
Crystal and I did a 5k run as part of the Soldier Ride through the Wounded Warrior Project on October 25, 2008.  If it was timed I don't know, but it was a pretty nice run and we hung out on the beach a little bit afterwards.
Next up was the Bald Head Island Maritime Classic Road Race on November 8, 2008.  Joe, Crystal, and I ran the 5k and Aaron did the 10k.  My time was 29:26 with a 9:29/pace.  Aaron (of course) kicked butt and got 2nd in his division with an 8:15/pace WHILE carrying all of our junk in a backpack AND running twice the distance as the rest of us.  That was my last race before finding out I was pregnant with Cullen, but I did run two races while pregnant.
My first pregnant race was the Steve Haydu St. Patrick's LoTide Run 5k on March 14, 2009.  I was 4.5 months pregnant and finished in 38:10 with a 12:17/pace.  I remember this finished on the beach in some very-difficult-to-run-in sand! 
A month later I did the Oak Island Lighthouse 5k.  I finished in 35:58 with an 11:36/pace.  This was my last race pre-baby. 
An amazing thing was happening through all this running and racing.  I was beginning to not only look better, but I was also beginning to feel a lot better.  It was as if I found a piece of me that I never even knew was missing.  Running did make me faster, stronger, and tougher.  It lifted my mood and made me happy.  Having a baby definitely changes everything, more on how that ties in to running later!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

100 on 100 Relay Recap - Part 3

Okay, so I was taking off on my third, final, and toughest leg.  It was 6.7 miles of only up.  It looks pretty terrible as an elevation profile on paper, but I gotta say.... it wasn't that bad.  I think I had built it up so much in my head that during the run I remember thinking that at any moment I would turn a curve and be faced with a wall of a mountain.  Now don't get me wrong, it was absolutely tough.  I was passed by several "elites."  But I had my most "kills" on this leg with a total of eleven.  I just kept my legs churning.  Then my head started getting in my way and I started thinking about walking.  I kept that thought at bay as long as I could.  The Cabot Cheese runner came up to me and said we're almost there.  I said I sure hope so, then he passed me.  I didn't mind, especially because he gave me delicious sharp cheese later.  But not too long after I submitted to my weary legs and began to walk.  And gosh darn it we really were almost there!  I realized that the transition area lay right ahead of me so I ran to hand off to Jamie.  I gotta give a shout out to the police officer directing traffic at this crazy intersection.  She was commanding the entire area, and I felt completely safe.

I was officially done and totally proud of my performance on my last leg, a 9:21/pace.  I was also thrilled that I was D-O-N-E!!!  Jamie was off on her last leg, an unofficial costume leg for which she borrowed Crystal's rainbow tutu.  This leg was a four mile run that continued the upward climb.
We laughed our butts off at some of the costumes runners were wearing.  One poor runner was dressed as Daphne from Scooby Doo and was carrying a pretty large inflatable Scooby!  Jamie managed to keep her smile even after that brutal climb with a 10:55/pace!  She handed off to Aaron who would now be running an extreme down, because after all, what goes up (and up and up) must come down. 

You could smell the brakes from all the vehicles once we reached the transition area, the downhill was no joke!!!
Poor Aaron handed off to Joe one final time and hobbled off to the van, still pulling in a 9:33/pace.  Joe was heading out on his longest leg, a 6.2 mile run.  Because he didn't have any means of carrying water we came up with a plan to give him some midway.  That worked out well then we ventured to our next transition area.  Joe came in to hand off to Crystal one last time finishing his last leg with a 9:11/pace.  It was starting to get dark, so Crystal donned her reflective, blinking safety gear.
She would be running five mostly flat miles along a lake.  She had been pretty nervous about running in the dark, but she killed her final leg, flying in with an 8:16/pace.  She handed off to Mikey one final time.  He would be running a mostly flat 4.8 mile leg.  Somehow the way wasn't clearly marked and he ended up running the wrong way near the finish.  Fortunately Crystal spotted him and the six of us flew into the finish!  He wrapped us up with a killer 8:01/pace. 

Receiving our medals!
We have done it!!!

We finished the 100 mile race in 14 hours, 14 minutes, and 18 seconds placing 70th of 160 teams and our team average pace was 8:41.  The race was epic and I can't believe its over.  I seriously want to do it every year! 
P.S. I totally stole all my photos for all three recaps of this race from Jamie and Crystal.  One of these days I will own a phone from this decade and take my own pictures.  Thanks, ladies!

100 on 100 Relay Recap - Part 2

So Mike just killed his first leg and I was off for my second leg, a 6.6 mile run with the first 3 being DOWN and the rest with an easy climb up. 
I was feeling like the downhill was never going to stop, until it did.  I ran through a little town and the folks directing traffic were really great.  I got to run across a nice covered bridge.  And then the uphill started.  I made it to the transition area with an average pace of 8:20 then learned of all the excitement with the van.  Apparently the Check Engine light came on and it had started making a weird clunking noise.  Fortunately we have a gifted mechanic on our team (so what if he's a flight mechanic?)  But Joe got the van up and running again.
I handed off to Jamie and she was off for her second leg, and the longest of the whole relay at 8.3 miles.  I was thinking it was really hot at this point and feeling pretty bad for her.  I thought that maybe we should stop to give her water, but ultimately we forged ahead to the next transition area.  She of course conquered this tough leg with a 9:17/pace.  She handed off to Aaron who would be running a flat and short 3.5 mile leg.  We quickly piled into the van to get to the next transition area ASAP knowing it wouldn't take Aaron long to get there.
We were right and he came flying in with a 7:42/pace to hand off to Joe.  His would also be a relatively flat leg with a distance of 4.2 miles.  He nailed it with an 8:10/pace and handed off once again to Crystal.

She took off for her 7.3 mile leg, and it was still hot but I think we were all beginning to adjust to that.  We discussed stopping to give her some water but we got the go-ahead signal as we passed her, so we went ahead to the transition area.  She made it there in no time at all with a 8:50/pace and looking strong.  Crystal handed off to Mike for his second leg, a mostly flat 5.3 mile run.  We all anticipated that he would kill this leg too so we booked it to the next transition area.  We were right because he made it there with an average pace of 8:03.

I nearly killed myself by tripping over that dumb cone into a moving car, but crisis averted and I survived!  I was very excited about my third (and final) leg.  I knew it was going to be the hardest for two reasons.  #1- I already ran twice this day and #2 it was my longest leg with the toughest terrain, the Vermont mountains!  To be continued....