Monday, December 31, 2012

And when I dream I run...

When I was a kid growing up, the SNICK show Roundhouse was like a dream come true for a budding improv actress & singer to watch. It was like all the stuff I wanted to do. I sang the theme song as my warmup (still do to this day, as superstition subscribes). There was this one song from the episode SPORTS that always stuck with me. This year, the song has echoed many moments for me.

They call me foolish one, for dreaming all the time. Races I will never run. But I wish (I wish) I could tell them how, my dreaming makes me feel. It may be true. I can't win now. They say I never will but I can dream, and when I dream I run. If I know that I can do it, it's as good as done and I know (I know), things are never hopeless as they seem, but it won't worry me, as long as i can dream. Hey look I'm running now. I'm really getting fast, I'm moving like the wind. I'm going to run my race, at last. I know that I can win. Cause I can dream and when I dream I run. If I know that I can do it it's as good as done, and I know (I know) that things are never hopeless as they seem, but it won't worry me, as long as I can dream.

2011-2012 mileage totals.
313.7 miles of running, 6.7 miles of walking (mostly to get my car after an evening of drinking)

How do I feel about that?

It leaves me proud but unsure.

That is what the thought of me running over 338.1 miles this running season has done to me. I often start my season in March and run all the way though December. This year I am questioning when I should pick up my training again. I say that perhaps I’ll pick it up after my birthday in January. I mean I’ve run outside in the snow before, as March is usually still snow covered grass months.  I also think about snowshoeing, especially since the Saratoga state park lets you rent snowshoes and there are trails in the park that I love, and many new ones that open up due to the blankets of snow.

However, my lacklustre attitude is stemming from the fact that I’ve been sick since almost thanksgiving. I’ve been on antibiotics since the beginning of December and I’ve been fighting a sinus and kidney infection. Most of my energy had been previously provided by sugar and caffeine. Two things that I was starting to get worried about my massive amounts of consumption.  

See, I had planned for a break, that from October to December, I would just run for fun and just have that and Laramie Project rehearsals. However, an opportunity presented itself. To stage manage and have it be a paid position. When I had said yes, only the show dates had been given to me, I thought I’d just be calling a show in order to give my friend a break, I didn’t know it was the whole things start to finish, so at the time,  it fit into my schedule and gave me a bit of time to rest still. That was until I asked about rehearsals and found out that my rest time was no longer there.

There were some days I was waking up early to run, going into work from 9-5, and then driving right to rehearsal at 6pm, from Sunday to Thursday. Then having my schedule shift from Thursday’s – Sunday’s for the show…While it worked for the actors and the directors, it didn’t really work for me, so I was swept up into a rigorous schedule maybe three weeks after my half marathon. The show, theatre, and actors were a great experience and I enjoyed my time there. It’s just that my body did not enjoy the time.

I lived off caffeine and faster food options.  Sundays & Tuesdays, I rehearsed for Laramie. It left me with the occasional Friday or Wednesday open. While I wanted to sleep, I kept having to cancel social engagements left and right with people. So I started feeling the need to schedule in relationships. Everything was pre-planned, arranged, and blocked out for weeks, everything except rest.

I thought I was getting better through my first round of antibiotics but Christmas Day came and so did a second round of sickness. I called in and took the rest of the week of using y vacation time. I tried for two days to be a trooper and then I called my parents to come and get me and take care of me. I couldn’t make decisions, couldn’t cook for myself, and couldn’t travel further than 100 feet.

So I know I’ve got to take a break. I’ve got to be OK with not running right now. I’ve got to be OK without knowing what races I want to run this next year. There are many staples to my race season and I am not sure if I’ll get to run them this coming year. So I’ve got to find new things, new races, new ways and places to run.

I’ve got miniature goals I am dreaming about, being able to fully run (not run/walk) a 10K, running the BoF again, finding a half marathon to run, seeing if I can run a 10K in 80 minutes, I’d like to do the trail running series with ARE. I like keeping track of  how many people around me start to get into running and August 2013, which is if I stay on track with just my food journaling, is the projected month for me to hit my big goal of weight loss.

So I’ve got some goals, I just can’t really think about all of them. I need to just rest.

And if you know me, that is my biggest challenge.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Get the motherfucking PR

I'm running a random 5K tomorrow. Saratoga Springs Firefighters Veteran's Day 5k. Spur of the moment decision of the week. Honestly, $30 race fee makes me feel better than $30 at the bar. So it's money well spent since my life does not feel like my own right now.

So this 5K, while I will have a friend at the race, is to see how much I can push myself by myself. I don't think I can come close to the 35 min false 5K PR time but I do think I can beat the 41 minute PR. I want to try and break 40 minutes.

Since I'm on my own and within the Saratoga State Park, I am ok with using headphones and music. So I created a playlist titled "Get the motherfucking PR". The tempo of the playlist should have me pushing a 12/13 minute mile most of the race. Is that fast for me, yes, way fast. But I asked Jenika what our pace was during the Maddie's Mark 5K and she told me "According to my Garmin, our avg. pace was 12:43.  The first mile was 12:24, second was 13:06 and last, had it been a full mile, was on target for a 12:40."

If you want the playlist, or just want to listen along, check it out on my account or it's embedded below

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A little light in the loafers

Dapper Dan Strikes Again!

It's taken a bit of time, 2.5 years to be specific but I earned a super important badge over this past week. That, coupled with feeling like the most dashing of dapper gentlemen with the suit that used to be too small now fitting just right. Well, it makes me feel good.
Badges, maybe I do need those stinkin badges.

However, my great news doesn't stop there. I last wrote about how I didn't know if I would run The Great Pumpkin 5K or if I'd just cheer on Kathy. The game day decision was to run it and that if things hurt, that I'd walk more of it. I forgot to pack my GPS watch and my gymboss timer, so I couldn't do intervals. I figured I'd just run until I couldn't. I ended up running the first mile the whole way and thanks to people next to me found out that I did it in about 13 minutes. My 5K PR time was 44 mins, back in the day from the first time I did the Troy Turkey Trot. When I came around the corner for the finish line, the clock just turned 43:00 so I sprinted it. When I got my results, it was awesome. I had set a new PR for a 5K. 41:21. My goal was to have broken my 5K PR by the December run. I set a new bar. Run a 5K in under 40 minutes.
Great Pumpkin 5K
My foot hurt a bit after The Great Pumpkin 5K but I nursed it back to health and knew that I would be running another 5K at the end of the weekend. This one would be a challenge because I was sick Monday & Tuesday. Did I say sick, maybe I should rephrase it. I was medically exhausted. I woke up only for a total of 2 hours each day in order to eat. My lungs were heavy from the remnants of battling sickness & exhaustion. I was using my rescue inhaler and my steroid inhaler. I thought, great, this run is going to be awesome. I knew I'd see Jenika at the race and I was looking to break 40 minutes, so I knew I needed to keep a 13 minute pace to do so. She asked me if I'd like her to pace me and I said yes. She's tough as nails and knows too many ways to trick me into running harder. Never telling me my times, kind of telling me my distances left, pointing out people to "kill", making me have to catch her....all tricks of her trade. 

As we approached the finish line (which I had a negotiation of when to start running again [top of hill or flagpole]) I saw the clock and am pretty sure I dropped an F-Bomb. Jenika told me to gradually increase the speed to the finish and then told me to sprint it out and was shocked by my sprinting. I crossed the finish line, blowing away the 41:21 from the previous weekend. I actually was there when they started handing out awards. [I've never made it to an awards ceremony, I've always still been running]
Maddie' Mark 5K
On the Albany Running Exchange Facebook page, there was some debate on if the race course was actually 3.1 miles. Everyone's GPS came in short (2.7), including Jenika's. So there is this doubt within me, that I still had .4 miles left to run.  I've got the Turkey Trot and the Last Run in my schedule still and I may try to find a race to throw in Veteran's Day weekend. 

It's funny, because I went back and looked at my old journal to see when I started my serious lifestyle change. It was September 2009. My short term goal was to run 1 mile and my long term goal was to be able to run 3 miles. If I could only go back and tell that Hollie, that she would and could do all this. Perhaps, that's why I write these posts. So some other "Hollie" out there can see that it's possible. 

Sometimes, I do stop and look at how amazing it is. So Troy Turkey Trot, I'm coming at you. I'm gunning for as close to that 35 minutes as I can get, running the entire race. Then Albany's Last Run, I want to try and push it and break a new PR.

Friday, October 19, 2012

13 Days

You are supposed to take off one day for every mile after you run a big race. 13.1 miles = 13 days. Which is good because my doctor had said 2 weeks no running. I had a possible soft tissue injury and needed to keep impact to a minimum. So I attempted biking and some weights. I used to be so proficient biking on a recumbent machine. It's hard that I actually like mine over the fancy ones at the gym. Too bad it's permanent home is at my parents for now. (I don't have space for it, nor do I want to carry that beast up two flights of stairs)

Today Tiny Buddha hit me with three articles that struck right to the core of what I have been thinking and feeling lately.
Those 13 days spent "resting", were more like 13 days "just not running". Work has changed. I've become bolder, more confident in my skills, more honest with my intelligence. I gave a presentation to my whole building explaining what my team does and how it's a viable profession. I got a lot of positive feedback, not only on the content but on my presentation skills. I managed to bring a committee conversation that was getting off topic back to where it needed to be by politely shutting down a very difficult faculty member. The position I've been dreaming & scheming of being created here is potentially possible and I made it very clear that my intentions were to apply for it. The media lab I manage is expanding and I am in charge of some really big items now.

All of this however has been taking it's toll on me. I'm on the verge of getting the sickness everyone else had last week. I'm "living on a latte and a prayer" (that whole song is really how I feel currently) . I'm fighting my inner demons left and right. Fighting the fear that success is something I can't handle.

All through training I knew what my priorities were. Run, eat healthy, stay hydrated. My social life struggled, my theater world put on hold, work was a necessary evil. I like that life. It is hard to admit that. Now that I have to start to bring things & friendships back into my life, it's just fucking hard.

This is my November:

This is my schedule and I haven't even put all of the rehearsals in for the show I'm stage managing and if I get into a show I'm auditioning for in November, well that somehow has to fit on the calendar too. Plus, I'm preparing to teach this January term (so it's reading the chapters and looking at the assignments in advance)

I had to run from work to a read through rehearsal last night. I had 20 minutes to get food and eat it. Like an addict to its dealer, I went right to McDonald's. I always talked to my running friends about a theater lifestyle, how different they are. Now, I'm facing trying to have all three things at the same time. My healthy life choices, success at work, and a vivid theater life. It is terrifying. Its also doing all this and trying to reach out to my core group of friends, instead of depending on just one or two people. I'm exhausted and I don't have a break until next Thursday evening.

I'll run a 5K tomorrow. Tomorrow marks the 13th day. I know it's not the smartest way to come back but it's my favorite local race. I might be even slower than usual, or I might have to walk more of it than I want but that's what happens when you are coming back into the fold. It's also Kathy's first 5K, so I'm super excited for her. It's nice to have that perspective.

As my friend told me. Deep Breath, PB & J, Letterman, repeat. I'm throwing in Chocolate Milk in there for good measure too. I guess I'm training for Life now. Boy, I thought a half marathon was tough.

Monday, October 8, 2012

My first half marathon

So many options
I had laid out and packed all of my stuff for the race the night before. Jenika was picking me up at 7am the next morning to bring me to the start line. I had gotten up, checked email and checked Facebook. I got the nicest and most unexpected Facebook message from Keri F., it made me smile and started my day off well.

Everything I did yesterday was as by the book from my training as it could be. 20oz of water upon awaking. Almond butter on my pumpkin spice waffles. Vaseline all over my feet. I got ready and bit by bit it started to shape together. I put my orange bandana on and looked at myself in the mirror and said "this is what a half marathoner looks like."

I waited for Jenika to pick me up out on the street. I had in showtunes on my little ipod so I could try and have my nerves calm down. We parked at the start line and as crossing the street I hear Mary Wit. shout from her car hello at me. It was chilly out, which was great for the race but sucked for the waiting around. For a bit it was just Jenika and I waiting around. All around us "running gangs" started to form. So many runners know each other and it was more than evident as the day went along. Soon, Colleen, Mary W, Nooch, and Kim (Mrs. Nooch) found their way to us and our own little running gang was formed. Ed and Kate and Kate's parents were all around too. (I'm waiting for the official running gang photo to come so I can put it on my work desk)

They were all really good about my hugging rule, they let me come in for the hugs. It was a hug-a-palooza.

I couldn't help but compare emotions to the half starting line to the boilermaker starting line. it's really different. The half, while longer and harder for different reasons was full of nerves. The boilermaker, is still nerves but it's more logistics that I'm always worried about.

It was eerie quiet during the Star Spangled Banner and we walked up to the start, almost all of us pressing our watches, and then started off running. I had a plan. Break the race down into 4 mile long races. Officially, I didn't have a time goal. Unofficially, I knew what I wanted to beat was at least 3:30:00. I started out with my fleece on since Jenika said she'd be a few miles down to grab things from everyone. I told myself I HAD to stick to my intervals. HAD TO. I did for the most part, there was never a time where I walked both intervals, but there were a few times when I ran 7:30 instead of 3 mins run, 1:30 walk, 3 mins run.
The Handoff (the chatty ladies in the background)

Once I got onto the actual bike path, I knew I'd be a lot better. I remember the tunnels would be there, I could think back to the training day we ran the first 2 miles on the start of the half route. There were these two ladies who were in front of me. I knew that I would collect those "kills". I had just passed them as I came up upon the spot where Jenika was hanging out. She started to cheer spell my name. Quite embarrassing but quite lovely at the same time. I handed off my fleece and then quickly stated I wanted to stay in front of these two ladies because they would not shut up on the course.I kept running and was approaching the last tunnel. There was this car over the top of it that was honking. Then I saw that damn orange cap from out the window and I just laughed and waved and kept running.

My intervals made it really close for the chatty ladies to catch back up to me. The one woman (the pregnant one) asking if I went to Mount Holyoke. I assured her I didn't. Then she stated they were just going to follow my lead, that I would be their pacer. I didn't say anything because I was saved by a run interval. They were looking for a porta potty. I knew there was one coming soon. We were out of the first 4 miles and I saw one, on the side of the road, at the beginning of the city 4 miles. It was all downhill, I knew they would stop, I knew it was my chance to screw the intervals and keep running to put some distance between us. The volunteers at this stop were having a competition on who was going to give away more things. I remember the one girl saying "but it would make me feel better" - it was just really poor logic on her part. At the bottom of the hill I had my first surprise. My mom, dad, brother and Krystal were at the bottom of the hill. My dad put a water bottle in my pack for me and I kept running.

Before the race, while looking at the route, I thought the 4 miles on the city roads were going to be the most difficult for me. It was the reverse, it was my favorite part of the race really. Kathy & James were on the side of the road and I picked up a gatorade from them. The traffic and the intersection were an odd and interesting challenge. One car blew right past a cop telling them to stop, it was great when he was turning my direction. Another guy at a gas station played the I can pull out faster than you can run game with me. But at 6.5 miles the volunteer holding traffic said, you are half way finished. I shouted "IS THIS 6.5 MILES?" and she said "YEAH"

Splits from the half
The whole time I knew that I would need to keep a 16:01 average pace in order to finish before 3:30. At each mile my runkeeper went off telling me my pace & total time. I was astonished when I hit mile seven. I was doing really well with my pace. A few nights before the race I looked at my old 12 mile training run. My splits were all over the place. So I knew I needed to keep up the pace the entire race. Joel had sent me a nice note over email that said, "if you reach the point where you just want to walk, say fuck that and keep your arms pumping."So I just kept doing that. I didn't think about my feet, I just thought about my arms.

I saw my family once again at the 7 or 7.5 mark and when my brother said "you're halfway there!" I shouted back "MORE than HALF!" Mile 8 started back into the bike path and the Kinderhook Running Club housed the water station just prior, they were great sports. Mile 8 to 9 was just pretty, I really think it's the only time on the course that I actually looked around. Just prior to hitting the 8 mile mark, the motorcycle leading the first marathon leader passed me. The rest of the race it was just a lot of men passing me, then a few ladies, then I lost count.

Miles 9.5 to 11 were hard.  I was passed by power walkers, who didn't know to get out of the way for marathoners and stayed two abreast the entire time. I knew I'd see USAFit coach Jennie at the Team in Training water stop which was around mile 11, I think. I heard Cheryl shout out first and then I couldn't help but smile. Dude with the wig and mickey mouse hands, thank you for the high five.

Jennie, Cheryl and Jeff all gave me big high fives and shouted me through the water stop. It was awesome, and just what I needed at that moment. All of the signs at the water stop started to make me cry. It made me think about the organization itself and what they do and they people they do it for. It also made me think of Team in Training Brooklyn, so Rachel & Joel - you were there in spirit with me!

There is just something about Orange
It was all about the arm pumping to get to mile twelve. My achilles was killing me, there was a bit of tension right at the back of my right heel. Mile twelve to thirteen was a dedicated mile for me. I planned on only having one mile be dedicated. Both Joel and Jenika helped talk me through a lot of hard things during my half marathon training. A lot of technical things and a lot of personal things. When I got to mile marker 12, I knew the next mile was for both of them.

The only prescription is a little more cowbell

During that mile, I ran into Jula. There was a sweet pink kids bmx bike next to her and I asked her if it was her ride. She walked besides me and sang the Rocky theme song. I was getting closer to the finish line. I HEARD COWBELLS! I saw Mary Wit. and Kerry shouting for me. I was all big smiles.

At this point in the half you are like "ok, where the hell is the finish line?" You know it's close but you can't see it. I had people all around shouting out "Looking good 2601" (All I could hear was 24601 and think am I Jean Valjean?)

Running right at you Jenika

The finish shute is lined with spectators. I focused on the finish and then all of a sudden, I see a person step out. It's a white fleece and an ORANGE HAT! Then I was like, who the hell just stepped in front of Jenika, then in my head I was like that's Kathleen & Nik! I saw Carla and Chad, and Kathy, James, & Collette and my family. They all stepped back and I just ran straight at Jenika. She was taking pictures. I asked her as I passed "Where the hell is the finish line?' and she just pointed. The clock said something around 2:23:30. I was freaking out. The announcer said my name and I put both my hands in the air. I finished and I blew my goal time away.

My official net time was 3:22:53, 10 people were (behind) eaten by zombies before me. 

Superhero's always smile
I got my superhero cape a.k.a emergency space blanket and the woman placed my medal around my neck saying congratulations Hollie. It was at this point that I literally didn't know what the hell to do next. I hoped people would come and find me because I literally could not think for myself. Jula handed me a water, Jenika gave me my coat and I reapplied the space blanket. I saw Marey at the results table and she gave me a big ol hug and was so excited for me. 

Everyone did find me and I gave hugs all around. I kept looking at Jenika saying, I don't know what I am supposed to do. After I said all my goodbyes to friends and family, we made the walk back to the car. I wanted to walk because I didn't want my legs to be super stiff, as I knew I had stairs to conquer back at my apartment. 

I can't explain everything that happened at the race (even though this is a long post) and I'm not sure I want to explain everything that happened. It was hard work and it was just awesome.
I cannot say thank you enough.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Tracker Jacker

If you want to track me on my race on Sunday you can go to the activities tab at my runkeeper profile. The race starts at 8:30am and I'll finish somewhere between 11-12.

Tomorrow I'll go over and pick up my race bib and then lay out every possible clothing choice I'll have to make on game day Sunday. It's gone from 70%, to 50%, to now 30% chance of rain on Sunday, so this threw a few wrenches in my race gear.

So I've got to lay out a rain race outfit, a cold race no rain outfit, and an average normal temperature run outfit. While I know I'm glad I'm not doing this race in like July, this whole rain, fog, low barometric pressure junk is a whole other beast. 

Am I excited? At this point I'm not sure. I know I will be on race day. I'm telling myself after mile 7 to just enjoy the run because I'm half way through.

My shin has been tight the past two weeks so my foam roller & ball and I have been in an exclusive relationship with each other the past few nights. I've been gradually increasing my carbohydrate consumption during the week so I didn't have to eat a huge thing of pasta the evening before. I can now understand why I try to limit this normally, because it makes me want to eat anything and everything. I'm just going to get raspberry pancakes & potatoes on Saturday morning and then just eat a normal dinner.

I have this calm feeling about everything.  I'm still nervous but I can't do anything to change my readiness for the race. If anything, I know to just keep moving my arms and my feet will follow.

If you plan on being at the race to cheer me on you can use the tracker above to let you know when I'm approaching where you are at. If you don't plan on being at the race, maybe you'll be around when I have my celebratory cheeseburger. I plan on eating every one of the 2015 calories estimated that I'll burn. 

Now Hollie, all you need to remember are all the other rules of Zombieland and pretend that you are in a horror movie or the hunger games.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

32 Discordant Metronomes

Science fact; If you put metronomes together on a moveable surface, they will eventually sync up and all be at the same tempo.

When I first started to run without music, I hated it. I disliked the silence that was always surrounding me while I ran. I could hear everything. Sometimes I still run with ear buds in my ear playing a good selection of music. Sometimes I make playlists for races to keep me in the right beats/steps per minute.

As I've continued to run this season, I've gone without music more often. Mostly as a way to recognize my pace without the use of a GPS watch. I started to notice how my breathing matched my footfalls and where my arm swing landed when taking a breath. I could hear my feet slap heavily when my body would reach the point of exhaustion.

I make a slight noise when I am running at a quicker pace, or if I'm focusing on my running. I vocally push forward my exhale. My exhale and footfalls create a metronome like state. I can focus in and get completely lost but if I am running with other people or within a race, I hear their rhythm. It will throw off my pace slightly, same with if I'm friendly and say hello. It makes me nervous for the half. I don't want to spend all my gas at the beginning, matching everyone else's rhythm. It also makes me nervous for when the super fast and fast marathoner's will start to pass me. I don't want to speed up to their tempo because I am hearing it all around me. I needed something to focus me.

These past few runs I have gone back and "beat" things that were difficult to me when I started running. I "beat" the "hills" in Saratoga Springs State Park, that I often was intimidated by. Last year I made it up one little hill (because more seasoned runners would call these small hills, I call them big hills - but not BOF hills) That one hill has a short downhill and then another hill. When I ran it on Saturday I wasn't afraid of it, I was excited for the challenge and I left my intervals behind and used the time to run up the hills.

Last night I went back to the crossings. I knew I had a 30 minute easy run scheduled. I knew keeping my pace, I should be able to get two miles in. About two loops of the yellow trail. I knew I run a 15 minute mile. I wondered if I could run it, not walk/run but run the full 15 minutes. I know. I'm not supposed to do anything different, I'm not supposed to change anything. Still I have to do things to shut up my own doubts. So I ran the first loop, ran the whole thing. Then I walked the backside of the Ciccotti Center to catch my breath and continued to run.

Why was this important to me? Last year at this time of year, I couldn't run the entire yellow trail. I could only run/walk it. I would be happy when a walk interval came at the bottom of the "hills" on the yellow trail. On one of our timed 5K's with BeRunning, Mary was right at the top of those hills shouting encouraging words to me. Every time I run those little hills, I think of her right at the top. This time, I did it and was smiling the whole time, mentally high fiving Mary.

On the second time around, I was faced with faster people on the trail throwing me off, or the largest congregation of dogs with friendly owners saying hello. My brain started thinking I couldn't run the half. I knew I needed to get rid of that thought. I started in with my metronome adding the words "I.CAN.DO.THIS" I kept going. After saying it a few times, I realized how easy it would be to change can to can't during the race. So I changed it. I started chanting inside "I.WILL.DO.THIS." It started on the back part of the yellow trail, the part a little bit before the post, near the gazebo close to the bathrooms. I kept going until I finished.

It felt nice. Not to just believe I am in better shape than last year but to actually experience it. Others can say it, can tell me I am ready. I just needed Saturday's run and last night's run to prove it to myself. Thursday's run will be my last before the race, I just want that run to be pretty (if it's possible) and relaxing.

Race day will come and I will line up and I will do this.

Monday, October 1, 2012

to remain selfless, cold and composed

Anxiety: A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Desire to do something, typically accompanied by unease.

Visually, every time I think about anxiety and being anxious I think of the Alvin and The Chipmunks episode 30b Court Action. See, Alvin's plagiarized his paper and he's got a big basketball game coming up. Theodore is the judge in the student court trial of Alvin. Simon, keeps telling him to do what is right. Theodore has a crazy dream performance of Pat Benatar's song Anxiety. In my mind, I'm running down a floating keyboard and my head is indeed a basketball. 

Why am I anxious? The Hudson Mohawk Half Marathon is this coming Sunday. I've got three small training runs left on my schedule. Now, I'm playing a purely mental game. I went out for my long run on Saturday, tackling 5 miles. The first 3.1 of that run felt like crap. My shin was tight, my legs were heavy, my desire to run was not particularly strong but the last few miles of my run felt good. Every time I run in the Saratoga Spa State Park, I think about where I was last year. How I was fearful and avoided the hills on East West road and the Picnic Loop. Now, I go up them slowly but I run up. It's the small things that have me feeling accomplished.

I am no stranger to this feeling, it's similar to stage fright. I am hardly ever vocal about performance anxiety. You can't "see" that I am scared, I just get quiet. Though I've put in the time, I'm always fearful of forgetting a line of a song, or a cue line. It's happened before and I'm pretty decent in figuring out how to get out of a jam. Still, that feeling of worry because you don't know what will happen is one of the worst feelings alive.

I've tried visualization about the race. Imagining the route, watching the video, I've even driven the rate route (well the main roads of it) I've got my hydration plan down, I'll need to fill my pack possibly two times, and I'll have three gels in my bag. Take in a gel every 4 - 4.5 miles (which is about an 1:15 for me) Get cups of water at mile 4, fill pack at mile 6.5, cups of water at mile 13. Plus extra hydration may come from friends along the road, but that's my basic plan. I'm breaking the race down in 4 mile increments. First 4 are on the bike path, next 4 are through the city, last 4 on the bike path. Last 1.1 miles, just take it all in.  I have no doubt that my body will handle the distance. Still, inside there is doubt. It's part of who I am struggling with, part of the "changing the foundation, changes the house".  It feels unnatural to be confident and sure of yourself. So, I'm at odds with it. People can be all sorts of confident for me, but I'm the one who is running.

It's funny because in theater, the week before the performance you ramp up, you have just gone through tech week. You might have gotten a dark day of rest but it's unlikely. Running, you taper, you perform less, you save yourself for race day. My heart feels like every day this week will be full of stage fright. I'm staying occupied with cooking something new tonight and maybe squeezing a run in today if I get dinner prepared quickly (then I'll eat it later). I'm trying to watch movies that are comforting, or listen to techno house music. (the beat goes as fast as my thought process does)

It's just six days. Six days til race, seven days until the next adventure sets sail.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Listen all ya'll its a sabotage

Last three weeks
I keep a food journal. I've kept this food journal for about two years. Frankly, family members and friends probably get annoyed by it. I take it out either before or after every meal or snack. I work with about 1,800 calories a day and know that I need to hit at least 90 grams of protein each day. I have been doing really well, but some things started happening about two weeks ago. The picture above shows the last three weeks.  The first week, I was under by like 1,300 calories. The next, only by 300, then this past week I was over a whopping 1,600 calories.

Pizza is my kryptonite and when I am exhausted and stressed it is the first thing I will eat. Ice cream being the second. So last week there was a lot of ice cream and a lot of pizza.I know what caused my poor decisions. Exhaustion, indecision, and stress. However, there are times when I think it might be sabotage. It's a word that has come up a few times in conversations the past week.

I had gone out with friends this weekend after Color Me Rad. I knew I wasn't going to watch the calories, I let myself be OK with that in the moment. I had beer. I had a lot of beer. Those of you who have known me for a long time would be surprised. I had a total of 5 beers over the span of six hours.  I've been known to drink more in a shorter span of time. I also had BBQ pork egg rolls and two sliders with blue cheese and later I had chicken wings. I ate like I used to eat and drank similar to how I used to drink.

I texted a friend while I was out, asking to remind me that I couldn't live the lifestyle I was pretending to live on Saturday. Now this doesn't mean that I didn't have fun. I had a blast. I just rarely drink that much anymore and I rarely eat that rich any more.

I didn't put any of my food from Saturday in my journal while I was out. However, Sunday morning came and I felt the need to put in everything I could remember. I was disgusted and felt ashamed of my food choices. It's not a feeling I often experience anymore. Am I sabotaging myself by thinking I can't be healthy and sociable? Am I making it OK to not chose myself when life gets hard? Am I dumbfounded by my success and trying to keep myself from thinking I can be better? I'm not sure. All I know is that I don't have a time machine and I can't go back and take away what I chose the other day. So all I could do was have a fresh start.

I'm on track today. There are still a few things I could have done differently for my choices today. Most of them revolving around sugar. Tonight marks two weeks until my half marathon. So I want to get my hydration and healthy choices in balance.

While talking to another friend today, she is excited for me about my race and made the comment that it will be good to see me more often and that it will be nice for me to have a break from running. I answered back stating that I didn't know how much of a break from running I would have this year. It felt kind of neat to say that. To have the belief that I'd continue on and try to get running, theater, work, social life and love life all in cahoots with each other. Funny how I ordered those things......

Monday, September 17, 2012

Let Love Move You

I have been reading a lot of inspirational items lately and watching a lot of inspirational training videos. Today, there was one with 18 motivational tips - the last one was "Let Love Move You". It hit me hard and sparked me to write this post, which I will also send out as an email.

Last night with USAFit, we had a send off party, some of our team were heading off to their respective races, others are tapering. My Half Marathon is in 20 days. I have been training for 5 months. It is something that I am very proud of.

My tapering started this Saturday, running just 8 miles and following it up the next day with a 3.5 light run. This coming Saturday is Color Me Rad, which is a 5K and I am not supposed to run it full out - to avoid injury. I'll run 3-4 miles the next day to keep my conditioning. The week following that is only 5 miles. Then it's race day.

So while I am winding down, I do hope you might ramp it up. What do I mean by this? I can't tell you what spectator support does for a runner. I can liken it to theater, how when you see your friends in the first few rows and try not to break character. There is something about a friendly smile, a person with a cowbell, or crazy signs. It's just awesome.

For instance, I was totally jealous of and jealous that I wasn't there for the "Joel Patrol". My friend and via distance coach Joel ran his first IronMan. His team, friends, and family were out there supporting him. Rachel wrote a post about the IronMan and it shows pictures of the Joel Patrol and some great signage for cheering on runners.

What can you do to support me on race day? You can do a couple of things. The largest thing you could do is volunteer - it takes a lot of backstage players to put on a large race. Packet pick ups, aid stations, directing people where to park, etc. Please think about volunteering if you have the time.

Secondly, you can come out and see the race. It's Sunday October 7th, starting at 8:30am. I run approximately 15 minute miles. So that can help you gauge when you'd need to be at a spot. Example, you want to cheer me on at mile 5 at the Maplewood School (32 Cohoes road Watervliet) then you should get there by 9:30 and hang out until 10:30 to cheer me on. You want to see me just over the half-way point at mile 7, then get to the Price Chopper Plaza at 1804 Second Ave,Watervliet between 9:45-10:45.

Holding signs, curing my fever with a little more cowbell, having small 8-10oz bottles of gatorade fruit punch, high fives, and lots of shouting my name are all awesome things you can do.

Being at either of those viewing stations, gives you enough time to travel down to the finish line . Or if you want, just go right to the finish line at the River Front park at the Corning Preserve. Be there between 11-11:45am and you'll get to see me be the proudest emotional wreck you'll ever see. For a map of the race route check out the Hudson Mohawk race page or look at their spectators guide, just remember I'm running the HALF marathon, cause I'm only HALF crazy, the spectators guide gives you notes on the whole marathon & half route.

Why do I want you there? Because I love you and I want you to see me happy, proud and accomplish something that is personally challenging. I want you to know what I sacrificed our Friday nights together for. I want you to experience my joy when I finish. I want you there with a hug. I want your love to move me further and faster than I've ever raced before.

Friday, September 7, 2012

What's in my pantry?

This weekend I face ten miles again. Jenika was there the last time, asking me what's in my pantry in order to get my panic attack to slow down. But tomorrow I will have ten miles of asking myself what's in my pantry? My pantry.

Canned Goods
Pasta and Rice
Baking Needs
Spices & Seasonings
Paper & Plastic

My pantry has it's staples, it's non perishable items. Heart and courage, canned and ready for long term storage. Humor and common sense, stiff when stored but flexible under hot water. Love and joy, sometimes mushy when left to sit for a long time. Friends and team support, when I need a plan and help to rise. Affirmations, when I need to pepper my journey and a wall of race bibs to show me what I have done.

Joel told me before to "get the fuck over" the fact I ran ten miles. I'm still astonished by it. It's not a "how did I do that", or an "I can't believe I did that", anymore. It's a I ran ten fucking miles. 

My pantry holds everything I have been storing up since March. In 30 days, I will test how well I have prepared. I have ten miles this weekend, next weekend I will face twelve, then I will taper with eight, then five.

The twelve, is the last time I'll get to run with my group. I have Color Me Rad on the weekend of eight miles, and then I have a commitment the next weekend as well. When talking to Jenika I said it as "it's just five miles and I can take that on my own."

Joel told me there would be a day when that would happen.

I face my ten miles with my group but on my own. I get to prove to myself that this all isn't a dream.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Know that where there’s fear, there’s power

It's funny because on the drive into work I was thinking about fear. Thinking about how I am not afraid to die, I had to make peace with that when it was very unknown. My fear is that getting better is improbable, note I did not say impossible.

Then when I got into work there was an article about fear in my news feed. The article "A Simple Process to Turn Fear into Power" by Leanne Kallal over at Tiny Buddha, was a welcomed read this afternoon.

On November 3, 2008 I had written the following in my LiveJournal:
I am terrified and using humor a bit too much to make light of the situation. I had a few doctors appointments on Friday. I was just expecting simple things and maybe some tests for my back. But my eye doctor noticed that I had some swelling in my optic nerve of both eyes.Thursday at 2pm I have an MRI to rule out a brain tumor. I am getting pretty low because I am beating myself up over my weight. but i am also scared because I won't know if it's a brain tumor or not until later in the week. In the mean time I am in a lot of pain with my head and my back. I'm still at work and still trying to keep myself moving and doing things with people. but i'm scared. I know things will be fine in the end but it's this journey i am scared of and just may need a little support through it.
Look at those first words. "I am terrified".  Until January of 2010, I was in a doctor's office at least twice a week. I was taking upwards of 12 pills each morning. I was fearful of everything. I didn't know if I could survive through a night of karaoke with friends because it was so loud and I didn't know if I could act and sing because it might be too loud in my head and hurt, I didn't know how to answer friends when they asked if I was going to die. I was closing myself off from people, I was stressed out from work, I became sick of being sick. It's taken a lot of patience to be OK with having this disorder that causes me chronic pain. I don't talk about it much with people and often I can block it out on a daily basis, I've just gotten used to the pain. I've been stoic or humorous more often than honest.

After my last few long runs, where I was running over 2 hours or pushing myself up a giant hill, I could feel pain. There are many things that can cause the pain to be more noticeable. The change of the seasons, change in barometric pressure, stress, or just the disorder itself. I noticed it before the Bridge of Flowers run and quickly made a comment to my counterparts of what I was allergic to, just in case.

I forget that others haven't had four years to process this. When I explain what occurs for me on a daily basis and what things can potentially happen (due to them occurring in the past) it can be terrifying. Often, I am treated as a sick person. I no longer am Hollie, I am a liability or a burden to bare. I made the choice to be honest with my coaches. A lot of things happened afterward, some good and some bad but most based out of fear. Fear for my safety, fear for the liability of the program, fear that this was another thing that had to be handled.

I get it, I honestly do. I am very casual about the extremes I can go through because I went through my stages of grief after being diagnosed. I cried, got angry, and felt let down. As I learned more about my disorder and how to listen to my body, I was able to go off a lot of medicine and manage most of the pain through quitting my stressful job and taking nine months to rest (thanks car accident, I'll always be thankful for that) - but I didn't get to explain that, that I am a lot better than I was. Once again my perception became that, I was a sick person, no longer Hollie, a liability and a burden to bare.

It hurt me. I know that wasn't the intent. Believe me, I know it. Safety was the intent. Doing the right thing was the intent. So I took time off from work and scheduled doctors appointments. I was fearful of what they would say. I was fearful that they would tell me that I can't, couldn't, or shouldn't run. But they heard me, they heard me tell them everything I was doing to make sure I was being healthy. I was already doing everything they would have prescribed.

So now, I just have to wait. I have to hand in my doctors notes and wait. Is there fear associated with that? Yes, there is a lot of fear associated with that. I had made statements over the weekend, things like "I feel like my friends have been taken away from me in one fell swoop", "I feel like all my hard work is just being thrown out the window", "I feel like this is just something I can't talk honestly about", "I feel like someone else is making the decision that I can't run". Do I still have all those fears? Yes. Yes I do.

All that fear, it pushed me. To take action and responsibility for myself. To get all the information requested as quickly as possible. To handle things differently. That fear was with me when I attempted my 9 miles on Monday.  It's what drove me to prove I could do it on my own, that as long as a doctor said I wasn't hurting that myself, that irregardless of the decision from my running group - I could still make it to my half marathon, team or no team.

Monday, August 27, 2012

On my own?

No, I'm not talking  Les Misérables, nor am I talking about the Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald song. I am talking about something else. 

This weekend I had some things come up that caused me to make different choices. This time I chose time with friends over running. I had a really bad day on Friday. I felt let down, irate, and abandoned. Things that are not so great for someone who's survived abuse, anger management issues, and abandonment issues. 

I took my time that I needed, went to the batting cages and got out some of my anger.  But because I took care of myself, because I did the right thing, now I'm forced to look at some hard truths. 

I missed a 9 mile run. I need to make up those 9 miles. I need to make up those 9 miles on my own.

The thing that is hard about the run I am facing tonight is, that there is no one waiting for me to finish. It feels like going out for a hike in the woods without telling anyone what mountain you are hiking. For reasons lately, that's a little out of my comfort zone. 

I've been appreciative that each weekend I have had a spot for a finish line where these new friends are waiting for me. I have a great coach who runs with me almost every weekend, but she won't be running the half with me. I will be running that on my own. The group, well they'd send out a search party if I didn't make it in. For reasons lately, that has been a sense of comfort for me.

However tonight, I will run on my own. It sounds dramatic, I know. At the same time, it feels dramatic. I know the path I will take. I know I'll keep my runkeeper live! on (
I will have my phone on me and there are constant park patrols out. It just feels like my sense of safety has been taken away.  I know it's not true and I know I'm really not going into details, so I don't make much sense.

It's funny because I used to run on my own and scoff at group running. Now look at me, terrified to go for a run on my own. It's not the running part that's frightening, it's the distance. But i've got my plan. I've stayed well hydrated all weekend, I'm taking in a fair amount of salt today, for the run itself I've got 96oz of nuun, 40oz of water, a bag of some salt, and a gu packet. I've got my recovery beverage plan too.

Now, this post isn't to solicit partners in crime for my run tonight. It's to get some things off my chest, for myself, not for anyone else. That's why I'm running - for myself, not for anyone else. So tonight, there is no can't being said, there are only my have to's and want to's.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Everybody's got a darkside

Saturday morning was my regularly scheduled group run with USAFit Albany. It was a 10 mile run that was scheduled. I had only run up to 9.3 miles before and that was the Boilermaker and I walked through so much of that race. I had been talking to Joel asking him about what he does for nutrition on his long runs and he mentioned he was more concerned with my hydration over food intake. He asked if I knew what my sweat rate was and if I was a salty sweater. I said I didn't know what my rate was but I knew that salt crusts on my face during a run. He suggested I do a sweat rate test and keep track of my data.

Thursday I was supposed to run a tempo run so I figured I could do a sweat test on that run. I was only drinking water, not nuun. I weighed myself, ran for an hour, then weighed myself again and measured how many ounces of water I had drank.

Starting weight: 247.4
Finish weight: 234.4
Difference of: 13lbs
13lbs = 208oz
Ounces drank: 14oz
total of 222oz

It seemed crazy. Loosing 13 pounds from sweating. I mean I know it's plausible but it still seems insane. Joel and I emailed back and forth about the data and he sent me back some stats.
So, 222oz lost. that accounts for 5.7% of your weight. A max of 3% weight loss is considered safe. So over the course of the half marathon, you need to maintain no more than 3% loss. So for an hour of running, you'll need to take in about 120 oz of water/electrolytes per hour. that's a lot, i agree. but that's what the math is telling us.
We agreed that I'd do the sweat rate test again because I felt there were too many inconsistent variables.  So we agreed on at least doubling the amount of hydration I do in an hour. Originally, I would carry my 20oz bottle and I'd be finished with that in an hour. So I was supposed to drink 40oz an hour. Which means I'd need to carry a second bottle, use a fuel belt, or a hydration pack. Joel was coming up to the area so he brought a fuel belt and a hydration pack for me to try out.

I settled in on the 60oz hydration pack.

On Thursday's run, my legs were cramped, I didn't feel strong, I was trapped thinking about some of my physical health concerns.

So Saturday's run was scaring the shit out of me.

I arrived at our start location and I could feel the angst and dread in me. I was publicly cranky and moody. Every fucking negative thought was winning that morning.

We started out running and the first thing I had to tackle was a hill. It was a cooler morning but it was still damp, which makes my lungs hurt more. I had my inhaler with me, I knew if I needed to use it I could. I just started hearing CAN'T. I prepared longer and better hydration and nutrition wise for The Boilermaker and this run was longer than that. I was trying new things, new foods, new flavors, using the hydration pack. I was trying to fight it all and I was getting discouraged and slower and then I just kept shaking my head - very ready to give up. Jenika kept looking back and checking on me, asking me what was going on. I can't even describe it. I know it was a panic attack. I know she was trying her best to get me to think about different things. I wanted the negative to win very badly. I wanted to stop.

After Jenika got me to slow my breathing down, she started asking what I did the other day, which I replied that I went grocery shopping. So she asked me what I got. Pantry items, I replied. So, what's in your pantry? she asked. I mean I knew what she was doing, it's the same way I get rid of people's hiccups by getting them to focus on something else. Little by little I battled up the hills, we started to throw out small personal conversations, and eventually we were at three miles. Every walk interval I was sipping out of the hydration pack and every run interval I was running. I didn't skip any (on purpose). In the Boilermaker I walked most of mile seven to mile nine. When I've been out on my own, I've let exhaustion win and I've walked additional run intervals. By mile 4.5 Jenika commented on my salt buildup on my face and I knew that when we were back in the Crossings, that if we stopped near the yellow trail bathrooms, I could eat a salt packet that I had in my bag and an almond nugget.

We continued on and went past Lisa at the water stop, who was shouting out great positive things. I had checked my hydration bladder when we stopped before and I thought I had enough. We were on mile 7.5, I thought I had enough in there. However at mile eight I tapped the bag. Was I worried? Yes and no. It was only two more miles, I thought about how I don't take water in a 5K so I should be fine. Yet, I was exhausted, depleted, and at the end of my run.

My watch didn't say 10 miles, Jenika's did but she heard me saying how I needed it on my watch, to know I could. So we kept going. My watch ended up saying we ran 9.6 miles, hers said we did 10.8. Jenika's watch has had better accuracy consistently, so I conceded and stopped.

Coach Jennie's parents made us some pancakes (from the batter blaster can's and they were great!) and I had chocolate milk, a salt packet, 20oz of Gatorade, and an almond nugget. I was exhausted and got in the car. My stomach didn't really want food but I knew I needed to put food in it. I was nauseous, and I was starting to get a head ache. When I googled later, headaches caused by salt depletion I certainly scared myself even more. Loosing that much salt puts me at a greater chance for a seizure. Seeing as my headache syndrome also has me at good odds for seizures, it's not a good game of chance. One thing I can control, the other I cannot.

Joel and I talked Sunday morning about what I was experiencing. So I have to increase the amount I drink on the run, by like a lot. I need at least 40oz each hour but honestly, probably more than that.  Our math from earlier says I need 120oz each hour. That's two full hydration packs! So it's crazy to me and scary. Also he wants me to increase my calorie intake during the run to 400 calories. And now I have a run recovery plan. A large V8, 20oz sports drink, 20oz water, and then some form of protein/carb (normally I do chocolate milk but that and V8 don't sound so great together) All of this needs to be consumed within 30 minutes of the end of my run. Then throughout the rest of the day, I need to be taking down a gallon of water baby sip by baby sip.

Knowing all of that and experiencing my second headache after a hard run just made me scared. I have been so happy lately, so it just feels like I'm trying to find ways to negate that happy. Being sick and being worried about getting sick, who sees it, who doesn't - it's just so hard for me. It's hard to say it out loud because it feels like you are loosing control and letting a disorder win.

But I am going to try. I made a promise to try. To let people know more about what happens when I have an attack. What to tell an EMT, where to tell an ambulance to go, having my emergency medical information on me.

It's just so hard. I am excited and proud that I ran 10.8 miles. I want to hold onto that happy. But it makes it that I am walking a fine line, dancing around diminishing odds. Something that makes me feel so strong also makes me feel so weak. Happy and terrified. Mentally, I am unsure of how to battle that.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Give me fuel, give me fire.

What is my least favorite aspect of running? Nutrition. It's because it's so individualistic. No one thing works for everyone. Also, since I'm a heavier runner, I have different needs than the average runner.

The typical statement on calories burnt during running is that running one mile burns about 100 calories. However, it's based more on your own body weight. Net calories burnt while running is .63 x your weight in pounds (walking it's .30 x your lbs) So for me, I burn approximately 155 calories per mile. We've been doing some long runs lately, which leads to some large calorie burns. While, yes there are times it feels like "yeah, I can eat anything!" I know that isn't really the case.

Now, let's think about what my running schedule looks like. Saturday morning for these longer runs I will run starting at 6am. I try to have a bagel with almond butter before I leave the house, 30 minutes before I run. A Thomas' Honey Wheat Bagel is 250 calories. Justin's Maple Almond Butter is 90 calories. So that's 340 calories for my traditional pre-race breakfast. I will burn that off in 2.15 miles. If I'm running a 5K that's perfectly fine, it just keeps me on track and it let me have a very delicious bagel that morning. It's when I'm running longer than 3 miles that I have to contend with now.

So it's around every 45 minutes or 3.5/4 miles I need to have something small to give my body something to work with or replace the stuff I've sweat out. Larger runners sweat a great deal, so we are loosing a large amount of salt. I can't tell you how gritty my face is after a long run from all the salt evaporation on my face.

Nuun - Tri Berry Flavor
 I drink Nuun instead of water or Gatorade. It's not as sweet as Gatorade and it has less sugar but it has electrolytes that water does not. The only downfall is the Nuun comes in compressed tablets, when you drop it into water a certain amount of effervescence occurs. The effervescence along with the more air you intake when running hard (a.k.a. too fast too quickly) then the more belching occurs. It's not pretty.

I've been trying out all sorts of items on my long runs to help refuel and maintain. During the Boilermaker I used a Mocha Clif Shot and a Honey Stinger Shot. I should have tried the Honey Stinger first because it was too sweet. I've used the Cherry Lime Gu before and I like that too but if I take in too much gel at one time, I have a bit of a gaging reaction.

From stalking Rachel (a member of  The Brooklyn Boilermaker Team Hardcore) on Facebook, I saw the use of small salted potatoes. This had me intrigued, real food instead of synthetic gels, gummies or sport beans? The hard part is everyone's stomach is different and reacts different when you are running. I emailed her about them and she shared the preparation method. I'm going to try them out either this weekend or next weekend.

There are lots of other things to consider about nutrition too. We've been looking at recovery items and fueling options at group runs with USAFit. Uncrustables, "crack" otherwise known as peanut butter filled pretzel nuggets, chocolate milk, and cherry juice. I had tried the cherry juice (it's good for inflammation) after the 7 mile run and honestly, I felt better. So I figured this required more investigation. I walked across the street from work to the natural food store and looked around.

For Earth's Sake - Energy Nuggets
I found the cherry juice and then decided to look around because I had never been in there.  Then I saw these items listed as Vanilla Almond Energy Nuggets, and Carob Energy Nuggets. I talked to the sales women and we chatted about what I was looking for, which was different real food fueling options I could carry. She let me try samples of both items and I picked up a bag of the Vanilla Almond Nuggets.

I figured I'll give just about anything a good old fashioned try during these longer runs. If anything the nuggets were good little snacks that offered a slight sugary finish and a lot of nut power.

Still, there are lots of things to think about. Salt tablets and are those the answer to use along with plain water? Will real food be OK in my stomach while running? What will be the easiest thing to pack in my little pouch and access during these long runs and races? It's all a system that I just don't have figured out yet.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The BoF

Over the weekend I did something that I had always wanted to do. I was asked if I wanted to go on a little running road trip with my running friends and tackle The Bridge of Flowers (BoF) 10K, in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. Now, I know what you are thinking "Hollie, The Boilermaker is a running road trip." That it is, but the Boilermaker started out as a running trip with friends I had before I started running. When I joined BeRunning, I saw these groups of adults making friends and doing stuff outside of BeRunning. I was super jealous.

When I was asked if I wanted to go, I said yes instantly. I actually think I stopped listening to the rest of the race description. As the weeks crept up towards the race, I would ask how some of the hills we were running compared to the giant hill. The word "worse" kept being repeated. Still, I pressed on thinking, really how bad could it be?
This is the elevation

I looked at the course elevation profile. I don't know why it didn't register with me. Perhaps those little stick figure men running at the top of the hill had me in disbelief.

It was an early morning as we headed out of Albany at 5:30am to get to Shelburne Falls by 7:30am for the race at 9am. It was a lot of normal pre race jitters that were going through my head. I made the comment several times that I thought I would be finishing in dead last place. Prior to getting our packets I was given the option to see the "hill". I am glad I said no, because if I saw it, I doubt my mind would have battled it and I would have given up too soon.

There is this thing that happens prior to races (of all distances) - hardcore runners do a little warm up run. I have never done a warm up run. Why? Because I am usually tired after .5 miles, so doing that before having to run 6.2 miles seemed counter intuitive. However, I was peer pressured into a little warm up run of the beginning of the race route, which has an incline. Hollie is not great at hills but I trucked along giving it a shot.

I'm on the right in the purple, camel back guy passed me later.
The race started and as usual the distance between the pack and myself lengthens very quickly. We ran up the incline and it "looped" around a neighborhood in town. It was at this point that camelback guy passed me and I could hear the faithful sounds of the diesel ambulance truck. I went up around the corner and the ambulance went straight. When I approached them on the loop, I waved and shouted "come on boys!"

The race volunteers were really great and very supportive. As we ran back through town to approach the hill, my name was shouted out from the announcer. I was last place and my name was still shouted out (it's the little things I love) The day was hot and very humid. My asthma was sure to flare up at some point, so my inhaler was in my little silver pouch.

I made it to the beginning of the Crittenden Hill. I haven't been able to effectively describe this to anyone. Even the video I took does not describe it. The amount of curse words that come out of my mouth when talking about the hill give you the gist. There were several points in the hill that I just kept pumping my arms with the notion that my feet would indeed follow. I used my inhaler several times. I doubted myself, several times. My calves were burning. Each level of the hill was followed by an even more abusive section. For fit and fast runners, it seems like I'm making up how hard this hill was. However, I challenge any fast runner to strap on the amount of weight needed to make them the same weight as me and try to run up that damn hill.

When I got to the top of the hill I was relieved. Until, I realized how much strength it would take for me to run down the angle of the hill. It didn't feel as steep as the incline but it was much steeper than the Boilermaker hill. It was also dirt/trail terrain, something I'm not used to. The police car was right behind me the entire hill with his silent siren on.I was glad I couldn't hear him but still aware that there was someone driving less than 3mph to make sure I finished the race.

I had to use my quads more in the last 3 miles of the race. My calves were so tired and heavy. My intervals were all way off base. We had to run on grass for part of the race (i don't like running on grass). There was one point of the race where I got to see Kim running towards me. It was after the hill, so I'm sure she was relieved to see I had made it through that.

Kim, Jenika, & Me
I kept saying, it's only 3 miles, a total of 6.2 miles, you ran 7 last weekend, why is this so hard? At this point, cars were let back on the race route. Some were nice and honked and shouted support, others flew by me very close to the orange cones. Race volunteers were applauding me and shouting out things like "I'm so glad you are running this race!" or "I wouldn't have even made it up the hill, I'm proud of you!" I kept checking my watch to see how many miles I had left. Somewhere around the last .5 mile I just stopped doing my intervals and I ran slowly.

I was coming back into town and I could see the Iron Bridge I ran over earlier. People who had finished the  race a long time ago and their race supporters just stopped and started clapping for me. This cause a surge of clapping to start at the finish line. I rounded the corner and there was the orange and the green! Jenika and Kim met me on the bridge and started to run me in. Then somewhere I found enough energy to pick it up to the finish line. The announcer fully shouting my name the entire time. It was like I was the first place finisher!

I crossed the finish at 1:45:10 - For me, that was an awesome time. My regular 10K time is around 1:35:00 so that damn hill only added 10 minutes.

We took a little time after the race and walked over the actual Bridge of Flowers. It's an old railroad bridge that the town decided to plant trees and flowers on. While we walked on the bridge people congratulated me by name. Like a miniature celebrity, I said thank you and smiled at them. Not going to lie, it was a really cool thing.

Actual view from the Bridge of Flowers
After the race, both Kim and Jenika were dedicated to running The Bridge of Flowers again next year. I could not make the commitment out loud yet. However, I fear it will be similar to The Boilermaker. How I sign up for it again but have no idea why and I curse at myself halfway through the race.

It was the toughest race I've ever run. For me it was tougher than the Boilermaker. Still, I finished it. The trip was worth it in so many ways.