Monday, November 30, 2015

Dream Big

DREAM BIG


I started out 2015 by signing up for a few ultras and a bunch of marathons, hoping for some PR’s and a few new shiny medals and  belt buckles.   I’d like to say I achieved all my goals but that didn’t happen.  At one ultra, I quit at mile 50, crying because of a combination of pain from an injury and frustration from being lost on the course.  At another ultra, I had to forgo finishing my race to help another runner in distress.  I’ve had a few highs and lows with running this year, these are two examples.

       Hallucination 100 Mile Race: I threw in the towel at Run Woodstock.  I turned in my race bib at the 50 mile mark of the 100 mile race.  I gave up, just quit.  I thought I was in too much pain and was too cold to keep moving.  I was not on pace to finish the 100 mile race, but I could have kept going and got a 100K finish at least.  My brain just said quit and I could not resist.  What was worse was that I likely dragged my friend Jeff into quitting with me.  I think that talking about quitting only made it easier for him to quit as well.   And that is exactly what we both did.  If you are going down, why not drag someone with you?  A few hours later we were both rested, fed and warm.   Then the hurricane blew through.  And by hurricane, I mean Matt.  Matt is a firecracker of an ultra runner.  He stopped by our RV to get some gear and found out that I had quit.  He was taking none of my excuses and told me in the nicest possible way to, “Get your ass back on that course and finish something.”  He shamed me into going back to the RD and persuading him to let me have my bib back and to finish the race.  Surprisingly the race director didn’t take much convincing.  Well, if I was going back out there, I wasn’t going to do it alone.  I figured if I was likely the fault for Jeff quitting, then I could also be the reason he went back out there.  I gave him some of Matt’s tough love and he said he would finish that last 16.6 miles with me even if we walked every step.  We saw Matt about 5 miles later and the smile on his face made it all worth while.   Another three miles later Jeff and I reached an aid station.  He had been in a real low spot, I gave him his space but kept an eye on him.  We sat at the aid station a while and he ate some soup.  I filled his water bottle with coke to help give him energy and wake him up.  He looked like he didn’t want to go on.  I told him that there was no way I was going to let him DNF (Did Not Finish) the same race twice in one day.  He let out huge laugh and I knew we would get it done.  Looking back I am still so disappointed in myself for just giving up. I asked Jeff to read this before I posted it, his comment was that I didn’t cause him to quit at 50 miles, I caused him to finish the 100K.But I am thankful for friends like Matt that push you and friends like Jeff that will stick with you through the good and the bad. 

     
       The Great Allegheny Passage Marathon: Even a marathon finish is hard earned some days.  After not finishing the C&O Canal 100 Miler in Maryland, I searched for another race in the state so I can continue my progress on finishing a marathon or ultra in every state (currently at 32 states done.)  I found this reasonably priced marathon that landed on a Friday and signed up.  The race was capped at 75 people, which included a half and full marathon.  Some of the full marathoners dropped to the half after seeing the course.  It ran alongside a railroad track on a crushed stone surface.  It was 6.55 miles out and back, repeated twice.  It was all downhill on the way out, which felt wonderful- but the uphill return trip was rough.  The total elevation gain/loss for the marathoner was 2,072 feet.  Forty-nine of us started the race.  Twenty-four of us finished the marathon and twenty-five finished the half marathon. The first out and back of the race went by pretty uneventfully.  On my second trip out I started paying attention to how many runners were still on the course.  I realized that there were not all that many people ahead of me.  Now I’m not a fast runner, I’ve done a few good times at marathons, but this wasn’t going to be one of them.   I was within a half mile of the turn around point and a person running the other direction said to me, “Way to go first lady!”  I gave him a puzzled look.  At the next water stop I saw the race director.  He said the same thing to me.  I still didn’t get it and asked him what he was talking about.  He informed me that I was leading the race for the women’s division.    Well, now that is a new one.  Never had that happen before.  I ran along to the turn around and with shortly over a 10K left in the race I saw the next female runner and she was only a mile behind me.  Then I saw another lady right behind her!  It occurred to me that this might be my only chance to win the female division in a marathon.  So I ran as hard as I could to the finish.  I could hear the crunch of gravel behind me.  I didn’t want to look back.  I was afraid it was another lady runner, so I just kept pushing.  I crossed the finish line and a few seconds later so did the guy behind me.  He thanked me for being a rabbit for him to try to catch and pushing him along.  I was told that I was indeed the first female finisher of the marathon and fifth place overall!  Everyone asks what special award I got for finishing first.  I tell them that I didn’t get anything but the bragging rights.  I laughed later when I realized that the first place finisher’s time was two hours faster than mine.  

To sum up my year for 2015, I finished 8 marathons and 2 ultras this year.  I DNF’d two races.   I had a personal worst time at the hardest trail marathon east of the Mississippi River and I won a marathon.  I learned that your friends will push you and pull you along when you need it, even if you don’t deserve it.   I’m looking at new races and distance for 2016.  I have high hopes and big dreams.   If anyone says I dream to big, I just say they think too small.  If people aren’t laughing at your dreams, then your dreams aren’t big enough. 


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

My Favorite Thing!



It's time for another giveaway from Skirt Sports.  As most of you know I was fortunate enough to be chosen as a brand ambassador for this wonderful company.  This is an incredible opportunity for me to spread the word about products that I love and would praise even if I wasn't affiliated with them.  This time they are allowing me to give away a product of my choosing.  It only took a second to know that I wanted to give away a Gym Girl Ultra Skirt.  It is by far my favorite product that they make.  I probably own twenty of them, yet every time a new pattern comes out I can hardly resist.


Thanks for taking the time to read this short post, if you haven't already done so- I hope you convert to the skirt!

You can check out the web page for Skirt Sports and watch a short video that pretty much shows what this skirt is all about.
Click here to see the Gym Girl Ultra page


The Fine Print: This giveaway is made possible by Skirt Sports; when you enter the giveaway through the widget below, you agree to the rules of the giveaway. Skirt Sports will collect the emails of all giveaway entrants (but you can later unsubscribe from future email communications). The value of the giveaway is $67 and sales tax, if applicable; the winner will not be required to make any payment. Should the winner choose a print that is currently on sale, they will not receive the difference between the above amount and the actual cost of their product in any form (store credit, coupons, or otherwise). This giveaway ends at 12 a.m. (midnight) Eastern time on November 9, 2015. If you cannot wait until then and want to order your Gym Girl Ultra skirt, or any other Skirt Sports product, ASAP, use this 20% off code for your shopping pleasure:SSTUF20 a Rafflecopter giveaway


***Disclaimer: I am a brand ambassador for Skirt Sports.  They provide me with discounts on their products.  Regardless of this, I would wear their products and sing their praises.  It's a company I believe in and am I'm proud to be a part of their family.  

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Get Out Of My Way

GET OUT OF MY WAY
The Old Farts Marathon
Lowell, MI
8-15-15

     I needed to get out of my own way and forge past a summer of unhealthy eating.  I can’t help it that pizza tastes good and ice cream calls my name.  I enjoy a cold beer or a glass of wine in the evening.  But too many of these indulgences packed on ten extra pounds that just didn’t want to go away.  

It was time to do something about that extra weight and get healthier.  I found a local gym that was having a weight loss challenge and I joined.  I’m three weeks into the six week challenge.  They provided me with a diet plan to speed up weight loss and I go to their boot camp classes five days a week.  I can feel tons of new muscle in my arms and my core is getting so much stronger.  I’m also down 10 pounds so far.  I can see and feel the changes in my body in just three weeks.

     I decided to test out my new found strength at the Fallsburg Old Farts Marathon in Lowell, MI.  They advertise it as the toughest trail marathon this side of the Mississippi River.  It was 26.2 miles of the steepest climbs and descents I've ever seen. Lots of water crossings, sand, mud, steamy prairie and fallen trees to climb over or scurry under. Oh and did I mention it was 91 degrees? To put it this way, it was HARD.  The hardest marathon I have ever done so far.  Here’s the thing, I felt amazing.  I felt strong as I tackled these hills.  I was steadier on my feet when I crossed the streams on wobbly rocks.  Even though my time was not anything to brag about, I  felt great the entire way and I had a smile on my face as I ran across the finish line.  I even scored an award for placing in the women’s masters division.  I’m glad I finally realized that nothing was going to change unless I changed myself first.



 



Friday, June 26, 2015

Sisterhood of the Traveling Skirt

Sisterhood of the Traveling Skirt
Skirt Sports 13’er
Louisville, CO
June 14, 2015


      Skirt Sports put out a post on Facebook a few months ago that they were having a contest to name the “Big Hill” on their race course.  The race is called the 13’er. It took place in Louisville, Co.   It is a half marathon, 13.1 miles.  But they chose to call it the 13’er because 13.1 miles is not half of anything.  13.1 miles is a big achievement.  Especially when it is at 5,500 feet of elevation and then you hit the big hill.  
I submitted my idea for naming the big hill.  I saw their course map and realized it was similar to  something I run on a regular basis.  It looks like a giant letter “U” if you see it on an elevation chart.  I call my hill the “Bad Relationship.”  I call it that because when you’re in it you can’t really see how bad it is, but anyone else looking at it from the outside can clearly tell it is really, really bad.
The Bad Relationship

Skirt Sports received tons of entries but I was fortunate enough to have mine chosen!  Everyone now refers to the hill as “The Bad Relationship.” They even printed it on a tee shirt and gave me one.  I was pretty excited about this, but then they decided to have a retreat for the ambassadors during their event.  I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.  So I took my first solo trip in almost 20 years and spent the weekend with dozens of people I knew only through Facebook.  One of the other Skirt Sports ambassadors (Marilou) said she would room with me.  I have known her for almost two years through Facebook.  We both hoped the other one wouldn’t be a creep or annoying.  Turns out we got along great, we both run ultras an have a love of dogs and as it turns out, we both enjoy to put back a good local microbrew.

So I left my Border Collie babies and hubby and flew to Colorado.  I spent the weekend in Boulder and Louisville with my Skirt Sisters.  We started with a meet and greet, dinner, and tour of the Skirt Sports Headquarters.  I met Noelle Wilson and Nicole DeBoom.  These two are the beauty, brains, voice and heart of Skirt Sports.  They took us all in like we were their family.  They invited us to their home, introduced us to their husbands and children and did everything in their power to make this weekend about us, even though they had a big race to organize.  They took us hiking in the mountains and had a BBQ by the lake.  We had cake (and quiche) for breakfast while we brainstormed with them about the future of Skirt Sports.  They asked us what we liked, what we would change, what direction we would take.  I’ve never known a company that was this interested in feedback.   I am so thankful I was chosen to be a part of this amazing group.
Race morning was fast upon us and we arrived at the event early for photos and to meet up with the rest of the ambassadors.  Noelle and Nicole had provided us with new tank tops sporting the ambassador logo.  Real Women, Real Bodies, Real Inspiration!  We met with lots of the ambassadors before the race and took photos.  It didn’t matter if you were had not met someone before, that ambassador shirt let us all know who was part of this group.  It let us know who our sisters were.  
      The course was amazing.  A few of the spectators were livestock and I felt they were mocking me for my heavy breathing at mile 2 of the race.  I live at about 600 feet of elevation and this course started at 5,500 feet.  My time was pretty good until I got to my namesake.  The Bad Relationship.  Well, it wasn’t kind to me.  I decided to make the best of it and take some photos so I could show people my hill.  After I “got over it”, we were treated to a beautiful trail run that had mountain vistas like I have never seen before.  After leaving the trail it was a few miles of slight downhill and then the finish.  Then the cake.  Not just any cake.  Kim and Jake’s Cake, a local gluten-free bakery.  This was the best cake I have ever eaten.  At the finish of the race they had a red velvet with a cream cheese icing and a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.  I enjoyed my chocolate cake while I watched and cheered in the final finishers.  I had heard some of their stories and knew the obstacles they had overcome to get to this finish line.  But funny when you think about it.  That finish line to them was really the start line for other things, bigger things, greater things.  That finish line was only the start of their next chapter and next goal.
What the weekend boiled down to is that I named a hill, I stepped far outside my comfort zone and traveled half way across the country solo to meet a bunch of people that I barely knew.  When I left, I left with a feeling of sisterhood.  I felt that I had made a bunch of new friends, people that I will likely be bonded to for a very long time.  
This whole weekend happened because of a clothing company.  Really?  A clothing company has changed my life.  I don’t know any other clothing company that has a sisterhood, a camaraderie, a common bond that makes you a part of it just because you wear their products.  Skirt Sports is an amazing company.  I would scream their name from the highest mountain (The Bad Relationship) even if I wasn’t an ambassador.  I did before they chose me (or as they stay, before I stalked them.)  
I traveled home on the plane, back to the real world.  Knowing that the weekend had changed me.  Made me a better person.  I felt like I belonged and that I was with my people.  I always joke that I was not the cool kid in high school.  But in my running life,  I sure feel like the cool kid.  




***Disclaimer: I am a brand ambassador for Skirt Sports.  They provide me with discounts on their products.  Regardless of this, I would wear their products and sing their praises.  It's a company I believe in and am I'm proud to be a part of their family.  

If At First You Don't Succeed...

If At First You Don’t Succeed...
Kettle Moraine 100 Mile Endurance Run
June 6, 2015



Shortly after seeing a cougar cross the trail in front of me I had decided my race was done.  I made it to mile 93 of the Kettle Moraine 100 Mile Endurance Run in 2013.  This year, I only made it to mile 47.  I had high hopes that this would be my year but nothing went right and nothing felt right from the beginning.  My breath felt more labored than it should on the climbs and my tendonitis was flaring up in my right calf way earlier than expected.  I didn’t have the day I wanted.  
My pace was slower than it was in 2012, I was chasing cutoff times early on.  I had felt pretty confident about this race until I was actually running it.  I wish it was easy to explain why things happen the way they do at an event.  But sometimes, simply put - you have a bad day.  Somewhere after the 50K mark I saw a group of hikers that were standing off to the side of the trail with their kids, dogs, and day packs.  I smiled and said hello as I ran past them.  Almost a mile further down the trail I came to an intersection that did not have any markings.  I knew there should be yellow flags to tell me which direction to go.  I found a nearby trail map and realized I had made a huge mistake and missed a turn.  After yelling some choice words to the nearby squirrels and birds I headed back to retrace my steps. When I found the turn I had originally missed, I realized that the day hikers had been standing right in front of the sign that was supposed to tell me to turn.  I tried to run faster to make up time but managed to trip on a rock, fall onto a downed tree limb and land with my face only inches away from a patch of poison ivy.  
I made it to the next aid station and my crew was not there.  I guess my pacing was so far off where it should be that they didn’t even know when to expect me.  I moved onward but each step I could feel myself losing my motivation.  I also felt the tendonitis pain and some pretty good blisters growing.  The cougar crossed my path and I didn’t even flinch.  I just looked up and said, “Huh, you don’t see that every day.”   When I got to the Emma Carlin aid station and saw my husband, I just fell apart.  I cried and told him that this day was not working out.  I knew that with the pain that I was in, I would not be able to keep going and finish within the cutoff.  Typically he tells me that quitting is not an option, but I guess even he knew that this day was done.  We packed up my gear and went home.  
Do I feel like a failure?  Yes and no.  Yes, because I did not finish.  But I did the best I could on that day.  No, I don’t regret my decision to quit.  I did the best could with what the day delivered to me.  In the words of Henry Ford, “No one really fails, who does his best.”  
I am going to find out if the third time is the charm in 2016.



Wednesday, May 20, 2015

It's Not Whether You Win or Lose, It's How You Play the Game

It's Not Whether You Win or Lose, It's How You Play the Game
C&O Canal 100 Mile Race
April 25, 2015


When does it become real?  For some people it is when you sign up for a race, for others it is at the start line.  For me, it got real when I least suspected it.  
I signed up for the C&O Canal 100 mile race with hopes of crushing my previous 100 mile times.  The course suggested it was mostly flat, except for going up and down a very large hill twice.   The race director even advertises that there are only two climbs and how hard could that be?  I grossly underestimated the hill.  I’d hate to see what the race director calls a mountain.  
Race day started with temps in the low 40’s.  I’m pretty sure the entire day it didn’t fluctuate more than a few degrees.  From the start line we crossed a field, then along a road followed by a gentle downhill.  What came after that was a long decent on single-track switchback trails.  At the bottom of the trail we crossed a small stream twice.  If you were nimble enough, you could make it across mostly dry.  But I’ve never been accused of being nimble. 
Shortly after the water crossing we started out on the canal towpath.  The first 20 miles were pretty uneventful.  Unless you count me constantly questioning why I sign up for these races and how I could possibly run 100 miles when this already felt so hard.  Thankfully the next aid station distracted me with waffles.  That was a new one for me on race day.  But I subscribe to the theory of if it looks good, eat it.  

     The towpath edges along the Potomac River.  It was flowing fast and I was surprised to see a few kayakers and paddle boarders out there.  We passed by Harper’s Ferry and connected with the Appalachian Trail.  It was pretty cool to be running on this historic Section. One of the most beautiful things I saw along the path were the fields of flowers I had never seen before, Virginia Bluebells. They were so thick at times they appeared as a blue haze hovering over the ground, like something out of a dream.  

I had decided that this would be my first race I would run solo, with no outside help from friends or family.  Some people refer to this as either running a race “crewed” or “screwed.”  I knew by doing this on my own, I would need to rely on my drop bags and the help of the aid station volunteers.  This was the perfect race to try it out as I quickly learned that the aid station volunteers here were as experienced and efficient as any NASCAR pit crew.  When I approached an aid station someone would grab my drop bag and get out whatever I asked for while a another person would take my water bottle and fill them.  Then a third person was busy getting food ready for me.  It was very impressive.  
Doing a race without crew and pacers can be lonely, but sometimes you get lucky and meet another runner and forge a friendship.  As I was munching on hot pierogi and making my way down the trail, I came upon a fellow that was walking at a brisk pace.  I ran up to him, introduced myself, and asked him how his race was going.  He said his name was Charlie and he offered me a piece of bacon to go with my pierogi.  Bacon?  Sure, why not.  At this point I didn’t know that he would turn into my race partner for almost 40 miles.  There is something funny that happens on the trail. You are stripped down to the most basic version of yourself.  You let your guard down and will tell a virtual stranger more than you might tell most people.  They see you at your best and your worst, sometimes only minutes separate the two.  Our conversations distracted us from what we were doing and it made the time pass more quickly.
We came into the 50 mile aid station well on our way to a sub-24 hour finish.  After replenishing our food and water, we grabbed our rain coats and headed back out on the trail.  A cold rain started and the cloud cover made it darker out earlier than expected.  Within a few miles we had to use our headlamps to see the path.  Charlie got a call on his cellphone from his wife to alert us of a runner about 3 miles ahead of us that was in distress.  The man had called his wife and said he was very cold and he that he could hardly stay awake.  We covered ground as fast as we could to get to this runner.  The temperature continued to drop below 40 and the rain and wind made it seem colder.  When we were moving at a decent pace it was ok, but when we slowed down the cold was quite noticeable.   We finally caught up with the distressed runner.   His flashlight had died and he was trying to make his way on the path in the dark.  He was wearing a trash bag over his clothing trying to stay warm.  He told us several times that he just could not keep his eyes open and he only wanted to sleep.  He was not shaking and he seemed confused.   I know the signs of hypothermia, he was exhibiting several of them.  
Charlie and I both realized at this point we would have to bring this runner into the next aid station.  There were a lot of rocks and roots in this section and I couldn’t even imagine him trying to cross the stream and make it up the big hill without any light in his condition.  We slowed our pace to a moderate walk so he could keep up with us.  I walked a few feet ahead to light up the trail and called out if there was a rock or root that he might trip on.  Charlie stayed back and walked next to him.  We brought him about 4 miles into the aid station.  We were happy he was safe now and could get some help.  He dropped from the race here, it was mile 60.  A term commonly used in ultra running is Did Not Finish (DNF.)  A lot of people also say it stands for Did Nothing Fatal. 
I soon realized that I was shaking beyond control.  Someone brought me a cup of soup but it all splashed out of the cup because I couldn’t hold my hand still.  The race director brought me a blanket to try to warm me up, but it did little good.   They had a fire going at one point, but the rain put it out.  There was no place to get out of the wind and cold, only an overhead shelter so we could get out of the rain.  I sat with Charlie while he got ready to head back out.  I knew that that the next aid station would be another 7 or so miles and I would need to have some warmer and drier clothes to get to it.  I didn’t have that luxury.  Charlie was ready to head out and I told him I made the decision to call it a day.  I knew if I went back out I might be in the same position as the runner we brought into this aid station.  I wished Charlie well as he headed back out on his journey.  I called my husband to pick me up and told him my race was over.  The weather ended the race for a lot of other people that night.  About half of the runners dropped out.
The rain had finally stopped by morning and we found Charlie along the course.  We went to the path to meet him and walk a little together.  He was very happy to see us.  After big hugs he told me that I was the reason he was able to get as far as he did.  I told him to keep going that his journey wasn’t done yet.  
At the finish line it warmed my heart to see Charlie come flying up that big hill one last time. His face was filled with determination, pride and joy.  He was all smiles as he hugged his wife and collected his buckle.  He hugged me again and thanked me for helping him achieve his goal.  
I had hoped to finish this race.  I had also wanted a shiny new belt buckle to add to my collection.  Instead what I got was the satisfaction of helping someone in distress and getting them to safety. 
In the end I know that it isn’t whether you win or lose (not that I was going to win.)  It really was how I played the game.
Charlie and his wife Mary at the finish.



Thursday, May 7, 2015

The 13er

The 13er




      Here is your chance to enter to win something from Skirt Sports!  It is my favorite brand of running gear.
       They are having a race in Colorado on June 14th, it is called the 13er.   It is a 5K, 10K and a half marathon- which is not half of anything!  The giveaway will be for either a real or a virtual race entry.
       This raffle will be for the Basic Entry ($85 value).  It includes a $50 gift certificate to Skirtsports.com, a race bib, a finisher's skirt, and sponsor swag.
       The contest will start on May 13th and run for one week.  Good luck to the tens of people that read my blog!



a Rafflecopter giveaway


***Disclaimer: I am a brand ambassador for Skirt Sports.  They provide me with discounts on their products.  Regardless of this, I would wear their products and sing their praises.  It's a company I believe in and am I'm proud to be a part of their family.  



Sunday, May 3, 2015

#REALwomenmove

#REALwomenmove

Real women move.  Yes, they sure do.  But what does this mean to me?  It means that it doesn’t matter what your body shape, size or fitness level is.  It means that you are getting off the couch and doing something.
When you think of an athlete do images of super fit people in Runner’s World come to mind?  Do you think of someone with either huge muscles or no body fat?  That is what media wants us to think.  But to me, it is someone that is strong.  Someone that has the willpower to get out there and try to weather their storm.  Someone who will try  to run their first 5K or a marathon, it doesn’t matter as long as they are becoming a better version of themselves.
There is a giant tree near my home.  I run by it as much as possible.  It is America’s largest Bebb Oak on record.  Some call her Grandma Bebb Oak.  She has her own Facebook page.  To me, she is strong.  Her limbs are heavy and her bark is brittle, but she still stands.   She is said to be well over 200 years old. To me she is strong and she is real.  
I used to be a slave to the scale.  If a certain number didn’t come up, I wasn’t happy.  If my pant size wasn’t the right number, I was disappointed.  Now I realize that my body is strong.  I might not have the perfect amount of body fat.  I might be slightly overweight at times.  I have never been accused of being skinny.  On the flip side, I have been labeled as determined, hard core, and relentless.  My legs are more like tree trunks, like that Bebb Oak tree.   But those tree trunks get me to the finish line of 100 mile races.  I think that if you can believe it you can achieve it.  
So get out there and do the impossible.  Do what you think you cannot do.  Don’t let others establish your limits because they see you in a different light.  Redefine yourself. Accept yourself, love yourself.   Prove people wrong.  Be strong and prove that #REALwomenmove!

#REALwomenmove is a new campaign by my favorite clothing company, Skirt Sports.  It is based on REAL women, REAL bodies, REAL inspiration.  Skirt Sports believes we all can and should embrace fitness and health.  We should be strong, confident and not judge, but rather encourage other women.  You can read more about #REALwomen move and check out their great running skirts and other great clothing items at skirtsports.com/realwomenmove


***Disclaimer: I am a brand ambassador for Skirt Sports.  They provide me with discounts on their products.  Regardless of this, I would wear their products and sing their praises.  It's a company I believe in and am I'm proud to be a part of their family.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Be Fearless


BE FEARLESS



The Boston Marathon is iconic.  It is the Holy Grail for most runners.  When you tell some one you run marathons, they almost immediately ask you if you’ve run Boston.  My answer has always been, “No I’m not fast enough.”  
What if one day I gave up the fear of failure.  What if I decided I was fearless and that nothing was impossible?  That is exactly what Katherine Switzer did almost 45 years ago when was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon.  I have seen the legendary photos of her wearing bib number 261 and being attacked by a man trying to remove her from the course because women were not allowed to run the event.  She had to have been fearless that day.   
In honor of Katherine’s fearlessness that day, Skirt Sports (skirtsports.com) launched a clothing line called 261 Fearless.  Some of the clothes are modernized versions what Katherine wore.  Her baggy, shapeless gray sweatsuit is now super cute and fashionable.  Her classic wrap shirt is transformed into a tank so cute you could wear it to dinner.  Skirt Sports is also having a virtual run on April 18, 2015 called the 261 Fearless.  I’ll be joining the movement and doing my virtual run on a trail near my home.  Skirt Sports goal is to unite with women everywhere to express their freedom to run. No matter if it is your first mile or your 100th mile, be fearless and be free.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Bigger Picture - Destin Beach 50K

THE BIGGER PICTURE
Destin Beach 50K
February 15, 2015



Running can be a selfish sport.  Training for a marathon takes several hours away from your family each week.  Long runs typically take place on a weekend when you could be doing something else fun with your loved ones.  Sometimes it requires your spouse to watch your children (or in my case border collie puppies) while you run for hours on end.  Then you get home and all you want to do is kick your feet up in your recliner and relax.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy running.  The time I spend on the trail or road is my church, time to reflect on life.  I’ve always ran for my own benefit, until this year.
       I decided to sign up for the Destin Beach 50K Ultra Run.  It takes place in Florida in February.  My original plan was just to sign up and run on the beach in Florida and get away from the cold and snow of Michigan.
        I knew that the race benefitted a charity, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.  As an Army Reserve veteran, I felt this charity fundraiser was something I might want be a part of.  I looked into the organization and saw it rated very high on CharityNavigator.com, it scored higher than nearly 98% of all other charities in the United States.  That was important to me know know that almost all of the money raised whet to the cause.  In this case, the funds go to provide scholarships to the children of special operations personnel that have died in operation or training missions.  It also provides assistance to severely wounded special operations personnel and their families.  
There was no requirement to take part in the fundraising. You could raise as little or as much money as you wanted.  You could just sign up for the race and not fundraise, even most of your entry fee benefitted the charity.  
I have always been reluctant to fundraise because I didn’t want to ask all my family and friends for donations.  I had read about other running events and that you had to raise so much in donations to participate.  Some events require you to provide your own credit card and whatever you don’t raise will be charged to your card.  I was not comfortable with signing a contract and securing an amount upwards of  $4,000 on my credit card for a race such as the Boston Marathon.  Don’t get me wrong, they have great charities involved, but I just wasn’t in a position to pay that amount if I was only able to raise $1,000 or so.  
       A few months prior to the race I set up a fundraising page through the  charity and the race websites.  I made a post on my Facebook page and informed everyone that I was going to be doing a fundraiser for the next few months.  I gave a brief explanation of the charity and let my friends and family know that any donation was appreciated and no donation was too small.  The donations trickled in at first but closer to the event they came flooding in.
There were 152 finishers in this event.  Forty-five people in the group took part in the fundraising.  The previous year the event raised over $34,000.  This year the race director set a goal of $55,000.  I set a personal goal of $1,000.  There was no penalty if I didn’t reach my goal, so I set it higher than the amount I expected to raise.  As incentives, the race director said he would refund half of your race entry fee if you reached $1,000 and all of your entry fee if you reached $2,000.  If you were able to reach $5,000 he would refund 100% of your entry fee and give you a free entry to the event next year.    
The event was amazing.  The entire race took place on the beach.  It was a beautiful sunny day and the temperature was close to perfect.  The waves rushed in and splashed on my shoes.  I felt a part of something bigger, something better.  When I crossed the finish line, the race director handed me my medal and a lady approached me.  She said her husband was killed in the line of duty and she thanked me for my participation in the event.  She told me that her children had benefitted from the college scholarship provided by the charity.  The look on her face was enough for me to know that I made the right decision to fundraise for this charity.   She more than willingly accepted a hug from this sweaty runner.  
At the awards ceremony, the race director announced that as a group we raised  $55,000.  Due to the generosity of my family, friends, coworkers, employers and a few total strangers, I was able to raise $2,330 to help this amazing cause.  I cannot believe that I achieved more than double of my goal and at the time of the event I was the third highest fundraiser for this year.   
I was afraid to try something different.  I was alway running for myself.  It felt really good to raise money for fallen brothers and sisters.  That day we all ran together.  We were runners, military and civilian and part of the special operations family.



Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Born to Read - My Top Picks for Running Books

Born to Read

People have often asked me, “What do you think about when you run?”  Oddly, the answer is that I think about everything but running while I am doing it.  I think about what I am going to have for dinner, what I need to buy at the grocery store, and sometimes I think about nothing at all.  The opposite is true when I am not running.  If I’m driving to work and I see someone running, I wish that was me running.  If I hear a marathon is being held that I am not at, I am jealous that I’m not there.  So what do I do to pass the time when I cannot be running?  I read about it.  Here are my top picks I feel every runner should read.

Marathon Woman: Running the Race to Revolutionize Women’s Sports by Katherine Switzer
I’m amazed by Katherine’s courage and passion, she paved the way for women in the sport of running.  The journey through her training and racing at a time when women weren’t even allowed to participate in some running events is mind boggling.  She proved to the world that running will not make your uterus fall out.  






Flanagan’s Run by Tom McNab
This is the lost classic of running books. It is fictional, based on an actual footrace across america that took place in 1929.  The tale involves two thousand hopeful participants that will race through incredible terrain and weather to try to win a large cash prize.  They come from all around the world to accept this challenge, each one with a different dream and hopes for a brighter future if they win.  The author was an olympic coach and he did an amazing job capturing the mental and physical pain of the runners. 


Running Through the Wall: Personal Encounters with the Ultramarathon by Neal Jamison
I read this book while training for my first ultramarathon.  I’ll admit these stories scared the pants off me.  I could only read one chapter at a time as my butterflies would get the best of me and I’d break out in a sweat just thinking about my upcoming event.  If you want to learn more about why someone would run fifty or one hundred miles, run all day, night and then part of the next day, then this book is for you.  





Duel in the Sun: Alberto Salazar, Dic Beardsley, and America’s Greatest
Marathon by John Brant
This story is running rivalry at it’s best.  Somehow I missed out on this book until a few years ago.  I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it.  It chronicles the two men training and competing in the 1982 Boston Marathon.  They each have their own personal struggles prior to the event, but the aftermath of drug addiction, accidents, and depression was shocking.  The author did an amazing job describing the race, it almost felt as if I was there watching it unfold.

To the Edge: A Man, Death Valley and the Mystery of Endurance by Kirk Johnson
Badwater is commonly known as the World’s Toughest Footrace.  It is 135 miles across Death Valley.  The race takes place in July and the course starts at the Badwater Basin, 282 feet below sea level and ends at the Whitney Portal, 8,360 feet in elevation. It’s so hot that the participants have to run on the white painted line on the road to keep the soles of their shoes from melting.  The author’s brother, a runner, committed suicide.  Johnson then started running to try to cope with his brother’s death.  He had not even run a marathon prior to Badwater.  This is basically his couch to Badwater account.   



Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes
This book is the single reason I got into running ultramarathons.  I absolutely devoured this book.  Who knew a mortal man could run these crazy distances?  Who thought you could have a pizza delivered to you while on your run and you could roll it up like a burrito and eat it while running?  Dean is an inspiration. His book helped push myself out of my comfort zone and complete distances that I had before thought would have been impossible.  

Each of these stories embrace the physical and mental toughness involved with running and completing challenges.  Through sheer determination and grit you can accomplish whatever you set your mind too.   There should be no limits on where your running can take you.  Create your own story.  

Convert to the Skirt - Why I Wear a Running Skirt

CONVERT TO THE SKIRT

I’ll confess, I’m a t-shirt and jeans kind of person.  Getting dressed up is not my thing.  Dress clothes make me feel uncomfortable and don’t event talk about high heels.  I am not a “girly” girl.  
So why do I wear a skirt when I run?  I don’t remember how or when I stumbled upon the Skirt Sports brand of clothing. I’d never even seen someone run in a skirt before.  But when I saw the “tattoo” print skirt, I knew I had to have it.  It was pink, had slits cut up the side, and the hem that was well above the knee.  It was nothing I would ordinarily pick to wear ever, let alone for running.  I was not even sure I had ever owned anything pink in my life.  
The package arrived and I tried it on.  I instantly felt like a different person.  Then I went for a run.  The sides swished up and gave a little flip at the end of my stride. It felt breezy and light.  It was fun, cute and a little sexy. Did I mention my husband loved it?
How can a piece of clothing change you? Well, I’m not rail thin and I don’t like the way typical running shorts put everything out there to be seen.  Every lump and bump visible to the world.  Running skirts made me feel different about myself, stronger and more confident.  I felt like the cool kid in high school, which I assure you I probably wasn’t.  I started wearing the skirt to races, and eventually to my first 50 mile trail race.  Sometimes when a girl passes a guy on the trail he will say he was “chicked.”  I heard one guy say when I passed him that he’d just been “skirted.”  
     My friends now can tell it is me from a great distance on the trail because of the skirt.  I’ve even been recognized from behind, I hope that is a compliment.
I know that I am a better person when I run.  It clears my mind and refreshes my soul.  My Skirt Sports running skirts have helped define me.  They created an even better version of myself because I feel great when I wear them.  
     To sum it up in the words of Nicole DeBoom, the Skirt Sports founder, “When you look good, you feel good.  And when you feel good, you perform better.” 




***Disclaimer: I am a brand ambassador for Skirt Sports.  They provide me with discounts on their products.  Regardless of this, I would wear their products and sing their praises.  It's a company I believe in and am I'm proud to be a part of their family.