Running 4 Boston #Run4Boston

Yesterday I watched in horror as the bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. *THE* Boston Marathon, I should say. As a runner, Boston is the most prestigious and historic of all races. It is the ultimate goal. We even have the common running lingo acronym, BQ, which means you ran another race fast enough to qualify to run Boston.

Boston is also a city I deeply love. My family has deep deep roots there. My grandparents both grew up there, my grandfather went to MIT and my grandmother went to Boston University. They married there and the house my great-grandfather built in 1928 is still there and now I get the privilege of paying the bills on it. (That’s kind of an inside joke.)


Anywho, I’ve spent a great amount of time in Beantown. Plus, of course, I’m now a runner. So you can imagine how yesterday felt.

The thing about runners though…we are tough. We are incredibly resilient. We know how to punch fear in the face. If the terrorists thought this would deter us from running Boston or any other marathon again? They were wrong.

We are also family. Mainly because we’re crazy so we stick with our own brand of crazy.

Which is why my local running community IMMEDIATELY banded together to create our own tribute run tonight, in honor of those in Boston yesterday. We will meet at one of our regular gathering spots at 6:30 tonight and run 4.09 (44) miles (the race time the bombs went off) in solidarity with the runners (and spectators) in Boston and beyond. We apparently are even having tech tshirts made up because our local print shop, Brammers, who sponsors our running club, Katy Fit, is freaking awesome.

But this run isn’t limited to Katy Fit runners. All who can come are welcome. And some who can’t make it have decided to do their own virtual tribute runs in their own neighborhoods. I’m sure we aren’t the only ones with this idea, but we are good and springing into action. I hope the entire community of runners throughout cyberspace will join us.

Join us in person at the Cop Shop on I-10 in Katy/West Houston, just past the Barker Cypress Rd intersection at 6:30 tonight. All are welcome.

Join us virtually by wearing your race shirts and running where you are and tweeting with the hashtag #Run4Boston. Snap a photo and Instagram your group!

It’s All About the Race

Pre-race photo with another Houston Blogger, April. 

I’ve been seriously slacking in the running department. Well, really, the fitness in general department. Since the end of February I would say I have averaged a run once every ten days. It’s not so good.

Couple that with my husband’s amazing homebrewing and my jeans are a little tighter than they should be. I had been avoiding the scale but I hopped on last week and didn’t like what I read. No surprise.

It seems that I really really need a hard and fast goal to keep on the path to fitness. My schedule isn’t THAT different lately, but I haven’t prioritized the running like I used to. I used to run first thing in the morning after dropping my kids at school. I admit that getting bit by that dog has deterred me from running that time of day…but I should just go a different direction.

Work has been busy. My grandparents have taken up a lot more of my time lately too. I have also been spending a little more time with my adoption community via social media lately. The main thing I haven’t been doing is running. Certainly not going to the gym or yoga class either. I haven’t done that since I went from working three days a week to five. I knew I would be making that sacrifice but the extra income is really important when paying for a crazy expensive adoption. Worth it, too.

This past Saturday the weather was perfect and my morning was wide open so I dragged myself out of bed at 5:30 am and met a handful of folks from my running club to get some miles in. It was tough but exhilarating. I loved every minute and only wished I had kept it up so that I would be faster and stronger by now.

Fast forward to Sunday night when my friend, Jennifer Patrick, asked if I wanted to run the Green 6.2 race with her in two weeks. Jen only recently started running herself and she has busted through all kinds of personal limits recently. She is fierce and determined and I love it.

I thought about running this race both last year and this year. I forgot when it was until she threw down the challenge. It’s very close by, very flat, and has the cool premise of being very eco-friendly. The environmentalist in me loves that.

The more I thought about signing up for the race the more excited I got. There’s a neat finisher’s medal! It would be only my second piece of running bling. I think two weeks is enough time for me to get ready to run 6.2 miles…not fast but I’m sure I wouldn’t die. Ha!

I’m sure I can get some of my other friends to do this race with us too. Running in community is awesome.

Run 4 The Children Recap

Run4theChildren13-109A runner’s high is more than just a momentary flood of endorphins during a run that make you feel good. It can be an overall sense of increased energy and elevated mood that last a whole day. Especially when you achieve a new goal or break through a new barrier.
That’s pretty much how I felt all day Saturday following Run 4 the Children.

Run 4 the Children is the four mile race my adoption group holds each year to raise money. The money goes towards families who want to adopt but need financial help as well as to sponsor a bunch of orphan children in Zimbabwe. This weekend was our third year to host this event and it really is a big celebration of adoption. The race combines lots of things I love: adoption, my church, families and running.

Things flowed very smoothly from packet pickup to sponsor booths to registrations and volunteers. Minimal bumps meant less rushing around and much more enjoyment than in previous years. Also this year my whole family planned to run the race, with Mike and the boys doing the official two mile short-cut. I practiced running intervals with my five and eight year olds a few times last week to make sure they could do it, and that only made them more excited about it.

Run4theChildren13-8Over the past few weeks I waffled over whether I would run the full race for an official time or just run with my family. Last year I hit a PR (personal record) of a hair under 48 minutes, or 12 minutes per mile. Since I trained for the half marathon I’ve been running much slower than that, only hitting about 12:15 on my best shorter runs. So I had it in my head that there was no way I’d do as well as last year.

My awesome husband challenged me on my negative self-talk. He encouraged me to just run my own race and not worry about the time so much. He promised me he’d handle running with the boys.

So I did plan to run the full race, but my mind stayed on everything else. I focused on helping out where needed, which included working the registration table the morning of the race. I even registered Roger (The Rocket) Clemens! That was an odd experience. I focused on the social aspect of the day, excited to see SO many people I know from my running group and my church. Even my friend April from my Houston Bloggers networking group came all the way from Kingwood to run! I was so grateful for such a show of support for our cause.

So I ran. I wasn’t sure at what point I would start walking but I knew based on last year that I could start out fast and it would help make up for some walking towards the end. I set my Runkeeper app to target a 12 minute per mile pace, even though I didn’t think I’d be able to consistently stay above that based on my recent runs.

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I didn’t quite as fast as last year, but after five minutes my pace was in the low 11′s so I was happy with that. It wasn’t long before a million people passed me and a lot of folks turned off for the two mile short cut and I was running alone. I hate that part, but I determined to run my own race and not worry about anyone else.

So I ran and ran and ran some more without feeling the need to walk. It really surprised me. My pacefinder kept telling me I was way ahead of my pace, so I knew I had some room if I bonked near the end. I began to believe I really could break last year’s time.

So I kept shuffling my feet and trying to keep my body up tall. The breeze and cool air REALLY helped me. I knew the last leg of the race down Peek Rd was deceptive and agonizingly long. I figured at that point, even if I slowed to running a 13 minute pace I’d PR, as long as I didn’t walk. But my legs got comfortable and felt pretty strong. Once in awhile I’d start to feel slightly winded and I’d see that I was running in the low tens or even high nines, so I’d back off and be fine again.

Seeing that clock at 47 something when I crossed the finish line was so exciting. My chip time ended up being 46:35, which means I was about a minute and a half faster than last year. My average pace was about 11:39 min/mile…definitely a new record for me. Shocked and thrilled, I walked around the rest of the day on a cloud. I wasn’t even sore…I hadn’t even left everything on the race course, which tells me I have faster races in my future.

It was the first time I’d ever run four miles continuously, with no walk breaks except to grab water.

I also beat Roger Clemens.

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My family didn’t fare as well as I did. They started the race near the back of the pack but only got about 200 yards before Nathan tripped and fell face first on the pavement. He had a huge goose egg on his forehead when I got back, and apparently Alex cried even harder at not being able to finish the race. Poor guys. They decided to fake crossing the finish line anyway :)

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I promised the boys we would keep training and enter them in other races in the future. Meanwhile they enjoyed the post-race party with pizza, froyo, water ice, Muscle milk and moonbounces.

I don’t have the final dollar amount raised, but the race was a huge success. A slideshow of lots more photos can be found here. Thanks to everyone who came out or sponsored or supported us! See you next spring.

How Marriage is Like Training for a Marathon

As a follow-up to my last post I wanted to let you know that our adoption dossier was not accepted by the Haiti department of social services last week. They are sticking to their one dossier per adoption agency per month quota for now. We are told we should be submitted before June, so now we have nothing to do but wait, pray and trust God.

Thankfully our lives are full of distractions during this waiting period. We have two happy boys who are growing like weeds, jobs and ministry activities and our hobbies. Not to mention my grandparents who still haven’t moved. I just took over their mail and bill paying again because they were getting buried.

In the meantime, this weekend Mike and I attended a Marriage Summit at our church this past weekend. It was called Marriage 101, Back to the Basics.

Some might wonder why we would want to attend a class on the fundamentals of marriage when we’ve been happily married for fifteen years. Let me tell you…having a great marriage is a treasure and something worth investing in. Like anything in the universe, if you don’t put some energy into it, it will naturally head towards entropy and that isn’t good.

Mike and I have been to a number of marriage seminars and classes over the years and we always come away better for it. We may not learn a ton of new material, but it sparks a lot of good conversation and we usually learn something about each other.

Plus this one was cheap and convenient, with childcare provided. Can’t beat that.

Our marriage is far from perfect. FAR far far from perfect. But we are really good at resolving conflict quickly. The more years that pass, the more experience we have, the more quickly we can diffuse arguments and move past them. Having a history of resolving conflicts also makes me increasingly hopeful that when a fight does come up it can be worked through and things will be better on the other side. Looking back at the pattern makes the desire to give up and quit very small.

It’s a lot like training in that regard. It took me more than six months of consistent training to run that half marathon strong. Some runs, especially in the beginning, were pretty hard. But after they were done I felt pretty accomplished. Repeatedly struggling and working through a run that seemed maybe impossible or just daunting taught me that it was possible and I was getting stronger and growing new muscles because of it.

Working through conflicts in marriage is the same way…I don’t just avoid them now because I know that as challenging as they are, they usually lead to renewed and even stronger connection. I know it’s worth the effort, the pay-off is great.

2013 Aramco Houston Half Marathon Recap

Well I did it. I finished my first half marathon in under three hours. I feel great about that. I can’t say this one was fun, BUT I *might* even do another one someday.

I had been checking the weather five times a day for the week prior and it did not look good. Cold, windy and rainy. I hoped it would magically improve by race day, but it did not. So I had my pasta dinner, drank a ton of water, and went to bed super early Saturday night. Everything was laid out and packed to go at 5am in the morning. I drove to the Cop Shop and bummed a ride downtown with KatyFit head coach, Amy. Our conversation was pleasantly distracting.

Of course when we got there I realized how cold it was, and the wind blew right through me. A drizzle had started up, so I determined I would wear my jacket and my poncho. In the KatyFit team area I handed out four extra ponchos I had purchased and brought with me. It turned out to be a vital piece of equipment.

After a few photos, a banana and a potty stop we moved through the mass of people to our starting corral. It opened up and POURED on us as we stood around waiting in the back of the open corral with the 13 minute pacers. One more trip to the port-o-potty and some stretching. We lost one of our fellow Turtles, the amazing 74 year old fireball, Judy Loy. That was sad, but she ran on her own and finished strong. I determined to stick close to my coach, Angie, and follow her pacing.

It took us nearly 25 minutes in the pouring rain to get to the start line after the gun went off. I had to hold my poncho hood on my head for a long time. We ran up the long hill of the Elysian Viaduct and it was kinda cool crossing the interstate from way above. I don’t really like downhill runs in the rain though, I’m so paranoid of slipping that my shins work extra hard to brace myself.

Everyone at the race was jealous of this guy's matching yellow shower cap.
This is how the first half of the race was. Photo courtesy of Randall Pugh on Flickr

The first couple of miles did go by very quickly in the rain. Not so many spectators out for that part. As a group we decided to yell “Go KatyFit!” every time we crossed a mile marker. I saw my friend Stephanie all by her lonesome in the rain around mile 3 and that was so encouraging. She trained with me in the 5k group last winter and again in the beginning of marathon season till she injured her IT Band (sound familiar?) and couldn’t continue.

I spent much of my time running through The Heights looking for my friends Sam and Karen who said they’d be there cheering on his brother. No luck finding them, but I enjoyed passing the KSBJ booth and the Vineyard Church booth where a band was playing Everlasting God. As I ran down Studewood past my friend Christine’s old photography studio I got several encouraging texts, including one from Mike telling me where he’d be waiting with the boys not far ahead. I was so glad I’d be seeing them soon.

Also around mile 4-5 the left side of my back started to tighten up very hard. I’ve never had that happen before. I stretched it out a lot during our walking intervals and after awhile the cramp went away.

I took off my sopping wet jacket to give to him but left my poncho on. My bib had been hidden under the jacket till then, so once my bib was visible I heard a few folks yell “Go Vanessa!” to me. (I was wearing my friend Vanessa’s bib!)

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I told my group my family was up ahead and I was so happy to see them. The boys jumped up and down and Mike gave me a quick kiss as I handed him my wet jacket. I think the Turtles enjoyed seeing my kiddos.

As we entered Montrose there were a ton more spectators and the rain finally stopped. After awhile I decided it might be done raining for good so I tossed my poncho. It was still cold though as a north wind blew hard through our wet bones. At this point in the race I was passing a LOT of walkers. We still walked our intervals but we walked fast and ran fast (for me). Coach Angie kept slowing us down so we wouldn’t burn out too soon. I had a tendency to want to run 11:30 or 12 min/mile but she kept us closer to 13 as much as possible.

Marathon-16

I was pleasantly surprised to see Mike and boys again, not too much farther up Montrose! They hustled to be there for me. I figured they would also cross the street so I knew I’d see them again after the turn around.

Some of the funniest and most encouraging signs and spectators were along Montrose. I have to say that the most encouraging to me were the signs and people who said “YOU are SO inspiring to me!” That means so much to me. That’s a huge part of why I do this. I want other people to know that they, too, can set a huge goal and work hard to accomplish it.

Marathon-22

Right around the 9 mile turnaround is where I started to really feel tired. I saw Mike and the kids one more time around mile 10 and gave the boys a high-five as I ran by. Mike got a photo of that. After that we turned onto Allen Parkway. On the one hand, the downtown skyline seemed so close. The idea that we only had about three miles left was great. But around there I started sucking wind during our runs and I would get light-headed at the start of our walks. Same thing happened during my 14 mile run in training but I had attributed it to the heat and my being off due to injury for so long. Now I think I’ve decided my sports beans may not be enough fuel for the race. I may need to start experimenting with Gu in the future.

High-fiving Nathan. Coach Angie is in red behind me, religiously checking our pace. 

I kept up with Coach Angie and our group until we hit downtown. She mentioned that we were way ahead of the three hours finish mark and that even if we walked the rest of the way we’d beat that goal. She was trying to encourage us to make the right choice and press on with running, but that was all I needed to hear for permission to walk a little more. I let them go ahead and walked and ran when I could. I wanted to save my energy for that final turn towards the finish line, and that’s what I did. At the finish I raised my arms up high, smiled wide for the cameras and crossed. I looked down to stop my Garmin and saw 2:55:32, which was very satisfying. According to my stats I actually passed 254 runners in the last four miles. That’s amazing.

The second I stopped running my legs and back started screaming in pain. I hugged and congratulated all my fellow Turtles who finished close together and stopped to get an official Finisher photo. I hobbled inside, grabbed a banana, a bottle of water, and a rice krispy treat before getting my Finisher shirt. Mike texted me that he was in the Reunion area waiting so I decided to skip the huge line for a hot breakfast. The pain in my legs was so bad I started tearing up as I walked over to grab my checked gear. I just kept walking, knowing that if I sat down I might not ever get up! I saw my pal Joe (who fell off a bridge during training and broke a couple bones) waiting for his wife and also got a hug from my injured Coach Walter.

I really do owe so much to the support and encouragement of my coaches and fellow runners of KatyFit. I know I would not have done all this without their support and camaraderie. I made a whole bunch of new friends through training.

The boys were so excited to see me and really loved my medal. Alex said “You got a silver medal! Did you come in second?!” They were great. I changed into my warm dry clothes and shoes and we abandoned the race area to walk another mile to the car. I knew that the extra walking would probably do me good to keep my legs from stiffening up and hurting too much later.

So I can’t really say that it was a fun race, despite the smiles I showed the cameras. The race and cold made the first half miserable. I just kept thinking how great next year’s race will seem, because no way could the weather be that bad again. I am though, totally grateful to God for the health and strength that allowed me to complete it despite multiple training injuries. The glory goes to Him, not me.

I don’t think I’m going to run the USA Fit Half Marathon in Sugarland in two weeks, which I thought I might. After today I’m not ready to torture myself that much, that soon. I am thinking about running the Woodlands Half in March.

I want to thank EVERYONE who has been so supportive and encouraging during the training and race. Hanging around so many marathoners makes it seem like no big deal, but then my non-runner friends remind me that it really is. The feeling of accomplishment cannot be beat.

Somebody tell me it gets easier after your first? :)