The Climb: Coming to Grips with RA

“There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose
Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waitin’ on the other side
It’s the climb” – Miley Cyrus

at some point you just have to let go of what you thought should happen and live in what is happening.:


Yes, I know this song was featured in a Hannah Montana movie and I’m okay with that. Carly loved her some Hannah Montana back in the day.

I spent the spring since my last marathon training for a half marathon. I didn’t set any PRs and I struggled mightily. One really apparent thing during spring half training is that I was in some serious pain after every long run and every morning whether I ran the night before or not. My training partners are all getting faster and I’m getting slower. I emailed by Ironman Rheumatologist and he ordered some more tests, blood and x-ray and an ultrasound of the joints in my feet. The bad news is that my Rheumatoid Arthritis is getting worse. The swelling in my joints can be seen on the ultrasound. I’m hobbled if I sit for too long or get up too quick in the morning.

I saw my doctor yesterday. I was dreading the appointment. I knew it wasn’t going to be good news but I’m in pain, y’all, so I went. Rob is a great doctor and a good guy. He is pragmatic but honest. We went through the options. I told him training for Chicago starts on June 17. He sighed. He said we’d been avoiding the higher dosage drugs because I didn’t want the side effects. He said I wouldn’t be able to train for a marathon on what I was currently taking. I made the difficult decision to begin taking methatrexate. It’s a chemotherapy drug. It’s given, in higher doses, to breast cancer patients. In folks with RA, it’s given in lower doses but packs a list of side effects, most commonly nausea, that are longer than I like. I have to take folic acid every day. I have to take the methatrexate every Wednesday. I won’t feel relief for 8-12 weeks but training starts before then. He told me I’d have to gut it out until then. I’ve been gutting it out since before Kiawah. I’ll just do it because I’m stubborn AF and it’s what I do.

The worst part? When he handed me my after visit summary and I was walking to the lab with my orders for three more vials of blood for more tests, I looked down at the paperwork and saw he had coded my RA as “moderate” and no longer “mild”. My mom had a very serious autoimmune disease and, through a series of mishaps, that disease eventually took her life much too early. My dearest, oldest and most special friend’s mom (my second mom who I had known my whole childhood) died from complications of RA. I am really good about taking my kids to specialists, chasing down diagnoses for them and getting them all the help they need while pretending like I’m fine. I told the kids mom was going to be taking some nasty medications and we were going to have to band together in our little pre-existing condition world and hope for the best.

Rob asked me if Chicago would be my last marathon. I told him we’d have to see what the future holds. If the new meds work, I’d like to keep doing this with the recognition that there will be a day when I can no longer do this and that day may come before I can run another marathon. It may come later as I still have a couple of marathons on my bucket list. Am I deluding myself? No. I like to think that I still have this thing called “hope” and, despite the really crappy things that have been happening in my personal life and this new escalation of my disease, I need to be positive because with no hope there is only despair and that just isn’t my style.

So, here’s to the beginning of another marathon training cycle. I’ve started regular work outs with a strength coach. I like him. He makes me push myself and he is a fabulous cook and has inspired me to get back on my homemade eating kick. Training should help me get to the starting line with no injuries, it should make my running more efficient (which hopefully means a new marathon PR) and it helps build up my muscles to take some stress off the joints in my feet.  As always, I am so grateful for the wonderful people in my life. We’re going to make this work.

Getting Inside My Own Head — The Aloha Files. What happens when a mental panic starts to take over and how to overcome it before a race.:

Nobody Knows: Reflections on Marathon #3 and What’s to Come in 2017

“Nobody knows how the story ends

Live the day, doing what you can

This is only where it begins

Nobody knows how the story ends

Nobody knows how the story ends.” – Nobody Knows, Lumineers from Pete’s Dragon Soundtrack – STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND LISTEN TO THIS SONG!!!

Nobody knows how a marathon will go until you are running it. Kiawah went about how I expected up until mile 17 and then things started to quit on me. Nothing too bad, nothing I couldn’t deal with but issues all the same. I finished. I didn’t end up getting IV fluids in the medical tent  and there was no puking so we’ll consider it a success. I’m not thrilled about my time and continue to feel like I’m not a real runner because I can’t run a decent time (I make rules for myself that come from some weird place of inadequacy within myself but are not based in logic. I use logic all day at work but rarely in my own brain when it applies to myself, so go figure). I was thrilled with the company – there couldn’t be better training partners than Jessica and Melody. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Sadly, neither of them is ever planning on running a marathon, again, so I am on my own for anything over 13 miles from here on out!


Our Fleet Feet group 

Kiawah would be a terrible marathon for a first time marathoner who didn’t have company. The course is sparsely populated, there is nothing but a lot of marsh grass to look at and the only thing you can speculate about is the cost of the houses on the island and what people must do for a living in order to afford $8 million beach houses that aren’t even on the beach. Melody and I talked and talked and talked some more – we’re really good at talking and never run out of things to say. I won’t do this marathon, again, but then, I don’t plan on repeating any of the marathons I’ve run because, if I’m going to run 26.2 miles, I want it to be somewhere new. I’m considering running the half at Kiawah this year because Melody already signed up and I will follow Melody wherever she goes because I love her to the moon and back and because we think we can hit the magic half time we’ve told each other we want to beat (we’re too scared to say it out loud right now)!


We earned these beers. We also took two more in the car back to condo and I drank mine in the shower. Shower beers are the best! 

As most everyone knows, I got into the Chicago Marathon via the lottery for October 2, 2017. I’m excited but I wonder why I keep doing this. I’m 99% sure my body isn’t cut out for marathons so what do I do with that information other than continue to ignore it? As many of you don’t know, I was diagnosed with an unspecified autoimmune disorder about 3 years ago. Basically, it meant that I had some sort of autoimmune disease but it wasn’t severe enough yet to tell us which one. All the women on my mom’s side have some sort of autoimmune disease so I wasn’t surprised. Well, in 2016, my body decided to tell us which one – I have Sjorgren’s Syndrome and Rheumatoid Arthritis with Raynaud’s Syndrome as a symptom of the first two. The Sjorgren’s caused me to lose almost all the hearing in my right ear because my antibodies attacked the nerves in my ear when I had a bad cold. I also got a salivary stone in my salivary gland which is a key symptom of Sjogren’s. It was fun, just like a kidney stone. The Raynaud’s makes me completely unable to tolerate severe cold and my fingers and toes turn completely white and lose all feeling. It is one of the freakiest things you will see – Carly says I have “cadaver hands” when it happens. The RA is causing joint pain and stiffness. The stiffness is so severe that it takes a solid hour hobbling around in the morning before I can walk normally and the knuckle on my left hand is constantly stiff. I take a very mild medication that only sort of helps. The next level up medication has a lot of side effects I don’t want to deal with. As long as the pain is manageable with what I currently take, I’m not bumping up to that next level shit. We won’t even talk about the chronic anemia associated with autoimmune disease and the fact that my primary care doctor told me to eat liver with a straight face.

My Rheumatologist is an Ironman. I picked him for this reason. I figured (correctly) that he wouldn’t tell me to stop running because he would fundamentally understand why extreme sports make smart people do stupid things. He laughed when I told him I assumed that the stiffness was just related to running. He told me I had been running marathons for years now and, unless I was trying to run like a Kenyan (I’m not), this level of stiffness was far from normal. At my last visit, faced with a flare up two weeks before Kiawah, he looked at me and said “You can keep running marathons if you want but understand that there will come a point when you will no longer be able to do it. When will that be? When you decide the pain outweighs whatever benefit you get out of doing this. Until then, just keep running. You’re the only patient I have with RA who runs full marathons.”

Armed with that knowledge, I promptly entered the lottery for Chicago and the odds were ever in my favor. I’m just going to keep doing this until I can’t do it anymore. I made some mistakes in training this past season-I lost some weight which I needed to do but not this way (because I wasn’t eating for several months – see, prior post about eating disorders), I bailed on my strength training routine, I suffered from really severe insomnia with about 3-4 hours of sleep per night for months on end, I quit committing to speed work. Lucky for me, I had built up enough of a foundation of excess fat, muscle and residual speed to get me  and my usually unhappy hip/SI joint through Kiawah. I still question my commitment to my sport. Then, I look at my life – a full time attorney with two special needs kids who handles 95% of childcare and household issues and whose life is about to get a whole lot more real (not being intentionally vague – just not ready to go into detail) dealing with RA and an unhealthy body image and I think that maybe my marathon time is as good as it gets. I still finished, right? Everyone who knows me knows I’m not going to settle for that. These are not excuses. They are shit to be dealt with, managed or handled. They are hurdles to jump on my road to finally getting this right. What does “right” mean to me? I don’t know but I’ll tell you when I figure it out. An under 5:30 marathon? A sub-9 minute mile? A new half marathon PR? Nobody knows. Least of all, me.


My race day mantras. One courtesy of Oiselle and the other I had custom made on Etsy

So, armed with a new color coded, tabbed, sticker adorned training journal, a new Fleet Feet training season, a packed race calendar for the entire year, the Chicago Marathon training plan already penciled in on all the days from June until October 2 and a renewed commitment to strength training so the muscles on this old tired body can take the pressure off these aching joints and a hearing aid in my right ear, I am ready for this crazy trip, again.


If only you could see the beautiful stickers but it will never be as awe-inspiring as Torrie Edwards’ training journal. She is the Queen of journal making. I bow down in her presence. 

Rise Up: Richmond Half Marathon Race Report 

“You’re broken down and tired
Of living life on a merry go round

And you can’t find the fighter

But I see it in you so we gonna walk it out

And move mountains

We gonna walk it out

And move mountains

And I’ll rise up

I’ll rise like the day

I’ll rise up

I’ll rise unafraid

I’ll rise up

And I’ll do it a thousand times again

And I’ll rise up

High like the waves

I’ll rise up

In spite of the ache

I’ll rise up

And I’ll do it a thousands times again” – Andra Day, Rise Up

I chose this song for a reason. Hillary used it during her rallies. When we saw her in Raleigh with the Mothers of the Movement, the mothers joined hands with Hillary at the end and raised their arms high. If there is anyone who rises 1000 times, again, it’s those women. The song resonates with me. Everyone is weary but not everyone rises up. I’ve been listening to it on repeat a lot in my car.
I felt raw this week. I’m not going to pretend a lot of it doesn’t have to do with the election but there are other things, too. If you don’t understand why I’m gutted about the outcome, I’m probably not going to be able to explain it to you. If you completely understand why I’m gutted, you’re my tribe. It goes so much farther than my candidate not winning. So many Americans rejected everything I stand for and voted for everything I don’t. Y’all voted against decency. Everyone always thinks their point of view is the right one but I just don’t understand how you can not think equal rights and acceptance for everyone is not a good thing. It isn’t even about Hillary losing it’s about what won. It’s about the fact that half the country voted for misogyny, racism, xenophobia- for a man who publicly stated you have to treat women like shit.
My life, much like my running, is about relentless forward motion. I feel like we’ve stagnated and that doesn’t sit well with me. A lot of people tell me I’m resilient as fuck. That I take things in stride. Make no mistake, I’m not resilient because I don’t feel or I don’t care. I’m resilient because I feel too much and I get hurt and I rise up and let myself feel again. When you come into my life, I love you. I love the people in my life with ferocity and I believe in so much good. Oftentimes, this leads to getting hurt but resilient people move in a relentless forward motion despite the risk of getting hurt, again. I never half ass anything. I whole ass it all. I go all in during the first couple of hands. Sometimes it really hurts and a lot of things hurt right now. There are a lot of things to be grateful for in life and I’m just going to have to focus on those. Nowhere is my gratitude greater than for my female friends. There is nowhere else in this world where I can turn for the strength, love and acceptance I get and give amongst these wonderful women. Women are the strongest and most resilient people I know. We don’t really have any other choice and this week reminded us of this in the most painful of ways. I’m also very grateful for my running family. I’ve met the best people through running.

Which brings me to Richmond. I came here because the Fleet Feet group was running this race and I love these people. We’ve run together all season (many of us have run together for years) and they’re achieving their goals. After the election and some serious issues with Colin this week and some other bullshit in my life, I wanted to run so hard I couldn’t feel anymore. Marathon training is winding down, getting closer to the big show, and I’m tired. I haven’t raced a half marathon this training season and I wanted to see what I can do. I wanted to put in my headphones, blast the music until I couldn’t feel a fucking thing and run free. 13 miles should feel easy after all the long runs. I wanted to PR but only told two people I was going for it before the race. You never know how it’s going to go until you get out there. My PR is 2 years old and I hadn’t been able to come close to it in well over a year.

Sleeping with kids

Apparently, this is what I look like when I’m really cold.

I brought my kids with me to the race. Carly is a great race spectator and she goes all in with the sign making and the cowbell. Colin has only been at the finish of one of my big races. I wanted my own cheering squad plus my Fleet Feet family knows my kids so I knew it would be okay. We woke up at 5 (after about 3 hours of sleep for me because sleeping with children sucks) and headed out into the cold. Damn, it was cold. I couldn’t make either the Fleet Feet group team picture or the Oiselle team picture because….well, kids. I situated them on a very populated corner surrounded by police and headed down to my corral. I ran into my Oiselle teammate, Michelle, which was such a much needed boast. Did I mention I was cold?

Soon enough the half started and my corral crossed the start. I saw the kids right at the start but it was still too crowded to be moving fast. I wore my watch for my intervals but I decided not to look at my pace during the race. I decided to run by feel. Once the crowd thinned a bit, I hit my stride. Judging by how many people I was passing (my corral had an estimated finish of 2:30) I was pretty sure I was running faster than the the folks in my corral. I flew past the 2:30 pace group. It was a harder than normal effort but I felt good so I kept going. By mile 4, I could feel my hands again so I ditched my gloves. I normally don’t race alone but it was just what I needed yesterday. Running felt wonderful and mentally, I didn’t doubt myself  once on that course.

This was a beautiful course. Richmond is a pretty city and the crowd support was great despite the cold. I smiled and laughed at the signs. I high fived all the kids. I thanked the volunteers. By about mile 5, I felt really happy and had a runner’s high. Maybe, things weren’t as bad as they seemed. Runners are the best people and everyone was so happy. The spectators were happy, the volunteers smiling. Many neighborhoods set up their own aid stations and were out on their lawns playing music and dancing. Mile 9 had beer so, of course, I took one! My pace started to hurt by mile 10 but I didn’t doubt I could do it so I kept pushing. Tom, a Fleet Feet friend, caught up to me and we ran a bit together. It was nice. I knew the Oiselle Cowbell Corner was at Mile 11 and that the kids were between Mile 12-13 and it was mentally great to have something to look forward to for pushing the pace. My pace fell a bit between miles 10-12. My Beats headphones decided to suddenly disconnect from the Bluetooth on my phone so I stopped to fix it. Apple, you really need to improve those damn things. I also stopped for hugs at the Oiselle Cowbell Corner. I saw the kids between 12-13. I tossed Carly my water bottle and said “I think I’m going to make it” she said “Yes, you are! Go, go!” because she had gotten my Mile splits via text and knew my pace.

The finish at Richmond is an epic quarter mile downhill. The streets were lined with spectators. People were yelling for the runners and music was blasting. I ran as fast as I could down that hill and it felt like flying. It was the best finish, ever. I saw the time on the finishing clock but I didn’t know what time I’d crossed the start mat. I stopped my watch and when I looked down, I saw 2:24:26. A PR of over 2 minutes. Sustained paces I haven’t been able to hit in over a year. So, yeah, I cried a little. Tom congratulated me and we got a photo. I headed back up that epic downhill (ouch) to reach the kids at the corner to cheer in the rest of our Fleet Feet crew.

I’m a terrible selfie taker

The kids and I were joined by Jill, Dana and Josh and we cowbelled for all of our Fleet Feet runners who were still out on the course. We saw all of our marathoners come by. Everyone had a great day (many of us PR’d) on an amazing course on a beautiful day. We rang the PR bell!

Carly is the best spectator

I ran my best race and I did everything right. I’m not going to get overly confident because I have the Kiawah Marathon in 27 days and the marathon can be a grueling death march. I have no idea how it’s going to go but I know Melody will be by my side and our Fleet Feet crew will cheer us in. All that is certain is yesterday went better than I expected. I struggled to come back after the Marine Corps Marathon and I didn’t know why. My spring race times were not what I hoped for and I feared I wouldn’t get it back. I needed yesterday. I feel renewed on so many levels. Is Trump still going to be President? Yes. Is my life still full of bullshit? Yes. But, for two and a half hours yesterday (and the rest of the day) none of that mattered. All that mattered was running and taking it all in. I feel better prepared to deal with all the crap. They say if you want to renew your faith in the human race, go out and watch a marathon. It’s true, and that, my friends, is why I run.

Sissy, ringing the PR bell

Only part of the crew

Fight Song: Another Marathon Training Cycle

“This is my fight song. Take back my life song. Prove I’m alright song”. – Rachael Platten

So, I’m back. Did you miss me? I didn’t have time to blog through the spring and summer. I wrote plenty of posts in my head, which made me feel better, but I didn’t put it out there for y’all to read. So, what have I been doing? I’ve been running, of course. I’ve also been dealing with some real lemons that life has handed me. I’m trying really hard to make lemonade (not the Beyonce kind) but my proverbial pitcher keeps breaking and the lemonade keeps spilling out.

In late April, I ran the Tarheel 10 Miler for the third year. It wasn’t any easier but the free Blueberry Wheat at Top of the Hill made it worth the trek. Heather and I paced her mom, Sandy, on her longest run.


In May, I ran the Biltmore 15K. It was fabulous. I ran with my Oiselle teammates. This course was the most beautiful but also the most difficult I’ve had the pleasure to run. I think for folks who live in the mountains “rolling hills” means something different than it does to us lowlanders. I felt like it was 7 miles straight up a mountain and about 2 miles down. My splits look crazy and it is obvious when I was climbing. It was also cold. So very, very cold. I never warmed up. The company was the best, though, and I forgot how miserable I was because my teammate Sarah and I talked the whole way.



I ran the  Running of the Bulls 8K. It was hot. I spent the summer in Fleet Feet’s Summer Speed Series or Monday Crew. I was the slowest runner in the crowd but we were on the track so it didn’t matter. I trained with Melody, Danny and Jenni and we called ourselves the Half Ass Crew because we could only do about half the workouts in the amount of time it took the fast folks to do the whole workout. I got a little faster. I sweated a lot. Like more than I’ve ever sweat before. I definitely stepped out of my comfort zone. I’ll do it again next summer. I ran the 4 on the 4th again to prove my speediness. I was about 1 minute off my PR but it was hot and I stopped to help a fellow runner on the course so I’ll take it.



I’ve struggled a lot about what to do about a third marathon. I signed up without hesitation or regret in December. Coming off the MCM, I wanted redemption. Running through the spring, I struggled. I don’t know why I could never find my groove. I began to doubt my ability to finish another marathon. Do I really want to suffer so much and for what? See, Kiawah also has a half so I could still go with everyone but not run the full. I decided not to do it. However, as the new training season drew closer and as I planned with Nora, Kirsten and Melody, I didn’t want to say I was “only training for the half”. So, I’ve decided to go for it. The training is later in the year, it won’t be so hot, Kiawah is flat, it has a longer cutoff than MCM. I can talk myself into anything. I also think because of some of the things I am struggling with in my personal life, I want to physically exhaust myself. I want to punish my body but I also want to prove that I can do hard things. I need to train for a marathon to clear my headspace. I also still want redemption.


I love when a new training season starts at Fleet Feet. Each time, I feel like there is so much potential and possibility. I’m determined to make this work, to find redemption. Now, if I can just get over this horrible case of bronchitis that made me cut my long run short by 2 miles yesterday, I can make this work! I might also be tricked by these fancy new Brooks Glycerins because y’all know I am always motivated by new running shoes. They just look like they will make me run fast.


I’ll Be There For You: Not So Normal Half Marathon Race Report (and a bit of spectating at the Rock N Roll Raleigh)

“I’ll be there for you
(When the rain starts to pour)
I’ll be there for you
(Like I’ve been there before)
I’ll be there for you
(‘Cause you’re there for me too)” – The Rembrandts, Theme Song to “Friends” (side note: Carly has been binge watching Friends on Netflix and it has brought back a lot of memories and the original definition of #squadgoals)


What a difference a year makes! I ran the NSN Half last year and it was miserable. It was hot. I wasn’t wearing the right gear. I didn’t have the right nutrition plan. Did I mention it was hot? There were a ton of hills. We got off course (yay, an extra hill) because the course wasn’t marked clearly. It was hot.


We ran into Becky, another Oiselle teammate, at the start. 

This year, the race was 5 weeks earlier in the year so the weather was beautiful (aside from the pollen). The weather was perfect, sunny and cool. My Oiselle teammate and great friend, Rose, agreed to run this with me so I wouldn’t be too lonely. Rose just ran the Tobacco Road Half Marathon with our teammate, Caitlin, where Rose earned a 12 minute PR. Rose has had hip trouble over the past few years but she fought back by being very diligent with her PT exercises and not giving in to the temptation to “run through injury”, which is the temptation I give into every single time. I really admire her perseverance and badass attitude. She also has a wicked dry sense of humor that I love! Plus, I’m pretty sure she loves me for me and you can’t beat that.

I chose the NSN over the Rock N Roll Raleigh largely because I hate the Raleigh course. It is cruelly hilly. Like so hilly there is no need for it to be so hilly. I’ve run it two years in a row and said to myself “Why in the hell I am doing this? This is not fun”. Hills are not my friend or, maybe, I’m just a wimp but why do this if it isn’t fun?  I also like the fact that the NSN start is 7 minutes from my house, it supports local charities and, Jay, the race organizer is a Fleet Feet participant in the training programs and an all around great person.

Carly recruited many of her friends to woman the water stop near her middle school so I knew there would be friendly faces on the course. Mike isn’t really a race spectating kind of guy. In his defense, I spent the first 20 years of our relationship as a couch potato and I don’t think he ever thought spectating marathons would be part of the deal and he was there for my very first marathon so I think that counts for something. I wish I could be one of those women whose kids pop up all over the course with funny signs and a smiling husband but it isn’t going to happen and Carly makes up for it in spades so I’m good. It was extra nice to have Rose out there, though.


The Snapchat crew

I really had no idea what I was capable of during this race. My pace has slowed, a lot, since my PR days last Spring (ironically, my half marathon PR is from last year at RNR Raleigh on the hilly course). I’m not really sure why. I’d like to figure it out. Was it marathon training in the worst of the heat of the Southern summer for MCM when I had to slow down so much or risk puking on the side of the ATT? Was it coaching the interval run/walk group at Fleet Feet and running a significantly slower pace for most of my runs this Spring? Was it not running longer than 13 miles? I really don’t know. I just know I am much slower and a part of me is sad about this. Most of me is happy because I loved coaching, I loved my interval people and I love Fleet Feet. I’m pretty sure it was worth it.

It is all relative. I wasn’t happy with my pace when I PR’d. I called myself slow, then. I am even more slow, now. Almost back to my pace for my first half marathon, the Disney Princess, where I was so proud of myself, me, a non-runner for 40 years, completing a half marathon! My other dear friend and our Oiselle regional leader, Allie, asked me on Friday why I am so hard on myself. I really don’t know. Intellectually, I know that every run is a gift. Things could change in an instant and I might not be able to run 10 feet much less a half marathon. I still strive for the ever elusive perfection. I’m sure if I met my current definition of perfection it still wouldn’t be enough. I pause to appreciate my success for about 5 minutes and then move on to the next goal.

Rose and I ran and chatted, chatted and ran. The double loop course flew by until around mile 11. Then, my asthma was bad (I took my inhaler from Carly at mile 8) and my hip was so very cranky. I took a few more walk breaks but dear, sweet Rose stayed with me every step of the way. I normally feel like I am holding people back or they are only staying with me our of pity or they run off and leave me. I didn’t feel that way with Rose, at all. I felt like she wanted to be there with me. I felt like a team, which is what Oiselle is. We brought it in strong and I beat the time I set in my head as totally unacceptable by about 5 minutes so I’m going to call this race a success. Any run that doesn’t end in the medical tent, is a plus! My PT (and let’s be honest, here, my friend at this point), Smurti, was at the finish. She realigned my hypermobile hip and made sure I was on her schedule for the week. We ended up doing a lot of Graston on my Soleus and Achilles at my appointment, again, and discussing what to do for my hip joint that will not stay in place. It is becoming abundantly clear that this hip, in its current state, will not be able to handle a marathon so I have to fix this problem before Kiawah in December. I’m getting custom orthotics to help out but the old mare just ain’t what she used to be!




It really pays to have your very own PT at the finish line! 

This past Sunday, Heather, Lauren, Danny and I spectated for our Fleet Feet participants in the pinnacle race of the training season, the Raleigh Rock N Roll. Heather and I  know what runners need so we set up shop at mile 8 of the race. We held up funny signs (yes, they were political but if you don’t know where I stand by now, you don’t really know me), we passed out Red Vines, we played Taylor Swift and we shouted encouragement to everyone. After the back of the pack half marathoners came by, we packed up and moved to mile 22 of the marathon, which is at a very desolate place on the course. There was no one, and I mean on one but me, Lauren and Heather out there.


Our sign game was on point and we got a lot of laughs. 

When we got there, the under 4 hour runners were coming by. They looked great. They didn’t pay much attention to us because they were focused. As the 4 hour pacer passed, the runners started to interact with us. They laughed at our signs, they waved, they said thank you to us for standing out on the desolate stretch of road, cowbelling, dancing, joking. Some of our Fleet Feet folks came by. We cheered them on. As the 5 hour runners came through, we really started looking out for our Fleet Feet people. Runners were coming by pretty much one at a time.

The first Fleet Feet person we saw cried when she saw us. I know from experience that mile 22 of the marathon is a shitty mental place, especially when you are running alone. You’ve come so far but you still have a ways to go. I know that 4 miles doesn’t sound like a lot but after being on your feet for over 4 hours, it sucks. Heather jumped in and ran with her. Our next runner came by and she looked great. She smiled and waved. The runner after that looked wonderful and is someone I have been running with since I started at Fleet Feet. She was focused, she was fast and she looked great. I jumped in and ran with her but she didn’t need me! We waited for our final two runners who came by and were hanging together. They were actually smiling! I ran with them a bit even thought they didn’t need it, either. We waited on our corner until the very last person in that race came by. We cheered for her and rang our cowbell and she smiled. The sag wagon was on her heels. The literal street sweeper was behind her, picking up trasj. She smiled and plodded. I tip my hat to the last runner in any race but the last runner to finish a marathon is a rock star in my book.

My summer holds a new chapter for me, a speed series to focus solely on track workouts twice per week in the oppressive heat of the Southern summer. How will it go? I have no idea, but for the 4 of you who have read all the way to the bottom, hang on for the ride with me and I’ll tell you all about it! I’ve got the Tarheel 10 Miler and the Biltmore 15K left this Spring but my racing schedule is pretty clear until my next half marathon in September. A couple of small races and marathon training begins in August. I hope I have what it takes to get her done, again.

Standing Outside the Fire: Tobacco Road Half and Full Marathon Spectator Report

“Standing outside the fire, life is not tried it is merely survived if you’re standing outside the fire.” – Garth Brooks

I used this quote because I went to see Garth Brooks last night after race spectating. It was  a great show and he ended it with this song which has always been one of my favorites. I think we have to take chances in this life and risk failing in order to live.I saw a lot of people in the first yesterday, really trying at life.  I was also, literally, standing outside the fire yesterday because I wasn’t racing. And it was hot and steamy, y’all. Really steamy.

The NC Oiselle Volee arranged a Cowbell Corner for the race because we had ten teammates running the race. I also wanted to go because several of my Fleet Feet friends were running including half of the group I am coaching this season. For several of them, it was their first half marathon. We set up on a corner where we could see the half runners at mile 2.5 and 10.5 and the full runners at mile 2.5, 14.5 and 23.5. It was the perfect spot.

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The crime scene tape really makes this extra special. 

The day was overcast but really humid and warm. In North Carolina, our weather in the early Spring can be 45 degrees one day and 80 the next day. We had a warm week last week so we were expecting it to be hot. I don’t run well in the humidity so I was really glad I wasn’t running the race but worried a bit about my trainees for their first time racing at this distance.

I have made myself the official NC Volee team photographer at events when I am not running because I enjoy trying to improve my photography skills and my family are not willing subjects but I also like being the one BEHIND the camera because I don’t have to be IN the picture. One of the leftover side effects of my disordered eating days is that I can’t look at pictures of myself without immediately launching into horrible negative self talk and deleting it. One of my homework assignments in my eating disorder group back in the day was to take a picture of myself each week and bring it to group where I was required to say something nice about the photo. Sorry to tell the therapist that exercise never stuck! I hope he isn’t still using it after all these years! I prefer to be behind the camera so I had a lot of fun with my camera and we connect through the team quite a bit on social media so pictures help. I also think it is cool for people to take pictures of you during a race so you don’t have to buy those really expensive and usually awful race pictures. If someone is going to take bad pictures of you, they might as well be free! I would really love to take a photography class because my skills are lacking so I guess I’ll have to fit that in during all my free time.

I realized pretty quickly that my vantage spot on the corner wasn’t lending me the appropriate angle to capture folks, especially the fast ones, so I left the group and headed down the trail a bit. I largely missed Allison and Michelle because they were so fast. I ended up standing next to a really nice man with a full Ironman tattoo on his leg who was a relentless cheerer. His enthusiasm was infectious and pretty soon there were about 4 of us cheering all the runners. We were probably really obnoxious but we got lots of laughs so I think we may have been doing our job well. He eventually jumped into the race with a young woman who turned out to be his daughter and told everyone all along the course how proud he was of her to be finishing her first marathon so he pretty much wins the Father of the Year award in my book.


Michelle looking amazing in her 3/4 top and going too fast for me to get a good shot! 

Sarah was our first runner after the two super fasties. I saw her coming up the trail  because you can spot the singlet from afar, especially with the bright Roga shorts so it made it easy. I called her name, she saw me and smiled, and headed around the corner to the rest of the crew. Up next was Randy from my Fleet Feet group and he looked great. He was concentrating so hard but high-fived me once he saw me. Kelly Partner from Fleet Feet, too, came by next right with her pace group and she made the whole thing look effortless, she was barely sweating! Turns out she had bronchitis and still got a PR so she is a beast!


I love the determined look on Sarah’s face. She told us later she was trying not to pass out because she wasn’t feeling well but you would never know! 


Randy, one of the nicest people I know! 

I was really hoping to see Brooklyn, Rose and Caitlin on the back from the out and back leg of the course. They all came by at the 2.5 mile mark at a faster pace than we expected and with the heat we were worried about them. Julie joined me down on the trail and we waited together. Julie is approximately 8 months pregnant and had loaned Caitlin (her regular running partner) out to Rose to train this season so we were especially excited to wait for them. The Ironman was still giving it his all with the cheering so Julie and I helped him keep it up. We saw Rose and Caitlin coming up the trial and they looked great. I mean really, really good like they were just out for a casual long run. I had a feeling it was going to be a good day for Rose, which she totally deserves because she has worked so hard to come back from injury. We high-fived them and they ran on to the rest of the group.


My favorite picture of the day – look how happy they look! #squadgoals

I saw Brooklyn coming up the trail and I thought she looked great. She looked hot but she smiled and raised her arms in the air when she saw us. When she got to us, though, it was clear she was struggling. We embraced her, asked her if she was OK, told her it was going to be OK and walked her to everyone else. I asked her if she wanted me to run with her for a bit and she said no. After she continued on, I just worried about it so Allie told me to follow her. I threw my camera at Allie and chased her down. I heard someone coming up on my left and Andie was right there beside me chasing her down, too. I ran up next to her and told her we were going to keep her company for a bit.  I ran for about a quarter mile with her but wasn’t wearing a sports bra so had to drop out. Andie, one of our elite team members, agreed to stay to the end and got her to the finish. You know it is love when you are as endowed as I am and run without a sports bra!


Beautiful Brooklyn, smiling through the suffering! 

I want to take a minute to talk about how much having a friend jump in with you can really help. Jumping in had never occurred to me until I was running the Marine Corps Marathon. Heather had left me by the time I puked right before I started across the Bridge from Hell. I felt the worst I had ever felt in a race. I think if there had been a medical station on the bridge I would have quit. But there was no aid station, only misery. As I was coming down off the bridge, a sad song that reminds me of my mom came on my iPod and I just started to cry. I rounded the corner and there was the DC/VA/MD Volee. I spotted Emily and made a bee line to her for a big hug. Julie took one look at me and jumped in to run with me until I got to the thicker crowds around Crystal City so I wouldn’t be alone. I fully credit the team for getting me to mile 23 of that race. At mile 23 there was no quitting so it was just the boost I needed. Those are some Squad Goals, people, and one of the reasons I will always remain a member of this team for as long as they will have me.

I headed back down the trial to wait for my Fleet Feet trainees. I think I’ve mentioned before that, while I love being a part of the Volee and have never been made to feel like anything less, I am much, much slower than all of the runners on our team. My runner people are all at Fleet Feet. The people who stay with me long run after long run. I don’t feel like I am holding them back. I just feel like they are there with me, step by step, for the long haul. Not to take anything away from my teammates who are nothing but gracious and supportive but there is something to be said for people who run at your pace. I wanted to bring my folks home.

I saw Debbie and Donna first. They were both running their first half and they looked amazing! They were out in front of everyone so they must have been having a great day. Clearly, they are better at pacing than their coach because I never look that strong at mile 10.5 of a half. I am so proud of them! Next up was Carolyn, one of our mentors. I think I might have embarrassed her because I was so excited to see her, I started shouting her name way down the trail. Next up were Marion and Lynda, Lynda is the greatest mentor and stayed with Marion for the whole race since it was Marion’s first half. They looked great, too. I’m so proud of all our runners. They stayed positive and stayed on pace for a great race. There is not much else a coach can ask for.


Debbie and Donna right in the middle of the frame! 


Marion and Lynda streaking by so fast it was blurry!


I went back to man the corner with Julie who was waiting on a friend who was finishing her first marathon. My Fleet Feet friend Jeanne had passed me at mile 14.5 on the out for the full and said she thought she might DNF. I waited with Julie to see if Jeanne was OK. The rest of our team went for coffee per the plan but I wanted to stay and cheer in all the runners. Becky on the Volee team was doing the full and she looked to be on about a 5:30 to 6:00 pace (my pace, btw) so I wanted to see her head down the trail. I saw her headed out and cheered for her loudly. I think I startled her with my cowbell.

Carly headed farther down the trail with her cowbell and was cheering her heart out for the middle to back of the pack marathoners. I manned the corner and cheered them all on, as well. They were coming by in one and twos so there was a lot of opportunity to interact. I got a lot of people to smile so I think I was doing my job. I have been at the back of a marathon. Most spectators have left by that point. There are cups littering the course and you feel pretty damn defeated. Mile 23 is a hard place. You’ve come so far but you still feel like you have so far to go. Seeing a smiling, enthusiastic spectator can help so Julie, Carly and I kept it up because all runners in a race are family. I don’t have a lot of crowd support at races so I have often relied on the kindness of strangers who stay to the end to cheer us on. Those of us in the back of the pack are truly grateful for your support.

Carly spotted Jeanne down the trail and called me on my cell phone to tell me she was on her way up to me. I ran down the trail to meet her. She didn’t look good at all – very sweaty, red faced and she told me she wanted to quit. I offered to give her a ride back to the finish if she really wanted to quit. She thought about it for a minute but said she was going to tough it out. I ran-walked with her to the next aid station and sent her on her way. She chased down the 5 hour pacer and finished the race because she is an amazing athlete. In true mother runner fashion, she said to me that she couldn’t let the 5 hour pacer get too far ahead of her because she had to get home to relieve her babysitter and needed to stay on pace!

I’m really glad I spent so much time watching this race. I love seeing people achieving their goals by reaching a PR and I love seeing people dig deep on a hard day and finish under tough conditions. I think there is a quote about restoring your faith in the human spirit by watching a marathon and I completely agree. The love I feel for the two running groups of which I am so very lucky to be a part of is immense. I saw my friends giving it their all and I feel immensely proud to know all of them. I learned one very valuable lesson during my marathon spectating session – always wear a sports bra in case you have to jump in and support a friend!

I Wish I Was In New Orleans: Rock N Roll New Orleans Half Marathon

“Hoist up a few tall cool ones, play some pool and listen
To that tenor saxophone calling me home
And I can hear the band begin ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’,
And by the whiskers on my chin, New Orleans, I’ll be there” – Tom Waits, I Wish I Was In New Orleans

Last Friday, my husband, Mike and I left our children sleeping in their beds (no worries, my dad was there to watch them) at 4:30 AM and headed to the airport to board a plane to New Orleans. The original intent of the trip was for me, Heather, and a few more of our running friends to run the New Orleans Rock N Roll Half Marathon but, after the last month or so we’ve had, it was really just to get away from it all. Running was secondary on this trip.

I love New Orleans. I know people say that about cities all the time but I can’t really adequately express my feelings for that city any other way. I wouldn’t want to live there full time because I think it would lose some of its charm but I visit any chance I get. This was my sixth trip. My first trip was right after I finished graduate school and I went with my very best friend, Karen. We had a fascination with the city since high school and it lived up to all of our expectations. I’ll never forget that first trip or any of the ones in between. I had my bachelorette party in New Orleans.

I used to be a bit wild (you’re shocked, I know). Since I have a grown-up job, two children and I have been adulting for some time now, I gave all that up. I’m the first one to suggest we go for a beer after run group and I have a glass of wine with dinner but we’re the people who are home on a Saturday night eating a $5 pizza from Aldi and watching the backlog of shows on our DVR, asleep by 10:30. Mike and I needed to have some fun. Heather and I needed to have some fun. We’ve known each other for years but we’ve worked for the same company for the past three years and we just solved a huge, all-consuming problem here and we wanted to cut lose.

It was less than an hour after our plane landed that Mike and I were at our favorite place on Decauter eating boiled crawfish, fried alligator tail and drinking tall draft Abita Amber beer. We then headed over to the Expo (Mike kept eating and drinking Abita because he doesn’t run) to get our race numbers.


The Expo was pretty small, as far as Expos go, but that was probably a good thing since I tend to overspend at these things. We had to hurry because our group was headed out on the Cocktail Walking Tour. We had a blast on the tour and I highly recommend it if you go to New Orleans. We walked a total of 12 miles on Friday. Rest wasn’t really part of the agenda!


At Antoine’s, waiting on our Sazaracs

Saturday we were supposed to “take it easy” but Mike and I ended up eating a fabulous breakfast at The Old Coffee Pot (poached eggs on crab cakes with creole sauce and callas cakes). We walked around the French Quarter for a bit and then ended up at Deanie’s Seafood to eat crawfish and drink some more Abita. (This will become a theme). We met two drunk guys at the bar who had been drinking there since 11 AM (it was 3 PM) who were in town for the one guy’s bachelor party. We talked to them for an hour and it was a hoot, giving all kinds of marriage advice. I think he might have ended up deciding to call the whole thing off (I’m kidding).


Don’t they look yummy with all their legs and eyeballs? 

Somehow, we found ourselves on Bourbon Street (haha) which is not my favorite side of the French Quarter. We ended up listening to the house band at Huge Ass Beers (yes, that is the name of the bar) and drinking these beauties – 48 ounces of delicious Coors Light.


Huge Ass Beer (we didn’t keep the cups but should have)

For the record, it took me well over 2 hours to drink that much beer. The bar had an ice cooler built in the bar for one to put their Huge Ass Beer on because, apparently, Huge Ass Beers become Really Gross and Warm Beer over time (especially when you are drinking Coors Light which is Kind of Gross to Begin With Beer). We left to meet for dinner at the pizza place where we were carb loading and were in bed by 10. I wasn’t asleep by 10 because New Orleans is a noisy place and we were staying right beside Jackson Square, which is only slightly less busy than Bourbon Street.

A mere 4 hours after I actually fell asleep, I was up and out the door to walk to the corrals. There were 22,000 people running this race and  you could tell. Crowds were everywhere. We made it to our corral and waited 45 minutes from the first gun to cross the start. Heather and I decided before we even landed in New Orleans that this race was just going to be for fun. We didn’t really know what that meant other than that we were just going to see how it went. This was my 14th half marathon. I know I can run this distance so I just wanted to have fun. Each runner was going to do her own thing but Heather and I pledged to stick together since we didn’t care about time.


Me, Heather, Jen and Sissy


Corral Selfie

The course started in the Central Business District and turned down St. Charles Street and into the Garden District. The run down St. Charles lasted FOREVER and was, mostly, in full sun (we all ended up sunburned). We could see runners making their way back up St. Charles but we had no idea when the turnaround would come. It was boring and there were practically NO spectators. The few who were out were making an effort with costumes but it was sadly disappointing. I really thought New Orleans would bring it but I guess no rich white people want to get up early on a Sunday to watch strangers run by. Finally, we turned around and headed back up St. Charles. There were also no port-a-potties. I rarely stop during races to use them but when I saw one at mile 7, I waited in line because there were not many other chances. The bands were also pretty scarce. At this point, we were really bored. The course was just trees and the street car lines.


Preservation Hall Jazz Band – best band on the course

CAVEAT: The rest of the race report is NOT how one should run a half marathon. If you are trying the distance for the first few times, do not do this. Also, if you are a lightweight (no shame in that) do not try this. If, however, you give zero fucks, you have a relatively high tolerance to alcohol, you’ve run several races and are in a place where drinking on the street is legal, I say “Go for it” because this is the most fun I have ever had during a race. 

Once we left the Garden District, the course headed into a less prestigious neighborhood but the crowds got a little better. Folks were out on their balconies drinking mimosas and a couple of folks had kegs of beer and were filling Dixie cups for the racers. Of course, Heather and I took free beer. A little before mile 9, on Magazine Street when the course was winding back to the French Quarter, we came up upon a crowd of women runners (they looked like moms) who were drinking mimosas and Bloody Mary’s while speed walking. We were like “hey, who was handing out those drinks and how did we miss that?” They said they stopped at a bar and bought them because they were trying to PR in Most Number of Drinks during a half marathon. Heather and I know each other so well, we didn’t even have to ask the other if we wanted to take this challenge. The next bar was just steps away so we stopped, ran into the bar and ordered our first mimosa!


Mimosa #1 – Bar on Magazine Street – We timed the bartenders and this one was the fastest!


OK, so rookie mistake, we forgot to get STRAWS! What?! Who knew running and drinking out of an open container was so challenging? This was our second-to-slowest mile because we pretty much had to speed walk and chug the drinks. We call it The Mimosa Mile on our splits. The spectators on the course were cheering and laughing at us. I would have, too, if I had seen someone like me.

Our slowest mile was the Casino Mile where we stopped to play the slot machines, because, hey, why not? In a city where gambling is legal right in the middle of downtown, you should visit all the sins while running.


PR in Fun but no luck in the casino!

Mimosa #2 came around mile 10 at a bar at the start of Decauter and the French Quarter.  The bartender was slow but we got straws this time so our mile split was faster. The mimosas were on special so they were much smaller than our first and we finished them, quickly.


Cheap mimosas

We switched to Bloody Mary’s at The Gazebo Cafe at mile 10.5 near the French Market (the mimosas WERE small, I said). This bartender was pretty fast but I don’t recommend the spicy version if  you are running so that was rookie mistake #2. It was also hard to eat those olives off of toothpicks while running.


We should have bought some of those tie dyed t-shirts in the background.

The Bloody Mary’s lasted for a while. Tomato juice just doesn’t go down as well as OJ. Heather let a couple of fellow runners try her drink. They were appreciative. At this point, the spectators started to pick up or Heather and I made our own fun. It is hard to say but the race really improved at this point and we were having so much fun. We talked to fellow runners. We talked to the cops on the course. We talked to the crowd.


These girls refreshed us with champagne.


This dude had the best sign of the day. Maybe, the best race sign EVER.


Not THE raunchy end of Bourbon Street but still fun.

By mile 12ish, we were out of alcohol so we stopped at bar and ordered a pitcher of beer when we saw a sign that said “$5 pitchers with race bib”. I’m pretty sure they meant AFTER the race but we weren’t sure we would come back that way so we took advantage of the sale. They let us take the pitcher.


$5 pitchers of Abita

Out on the course, we were now so off pace that we were with some people who were really struggling. We offered them beer because we had extra cups and a lot of beer. We filled this woman’s hydration bottles with beer. I sure hope she made it to the finish. She was running the full. We met a nice man named Donny who we also gave beer, too. He rushed past us after we gave him the beer so, clearly, we are responsible for his PR.


Hope this lady made it!

We crossed the finish line with an empty pitcher of beer and a head full of memories. This was my worst finishing time but the most fun I have ever had. There is very little chance that I will EVER do anything like this, again, so, although I didn’t take the running part very seriously, I am glad I had this experience. This isn’t my goal race this Spring. I’m not even sure I have a goal race. I’m just running for fun this Spring since training for the Marine Corps Marathon in the heat sucked all of the joy of running out of me. I need to find some joy in this, again, and New Orleans certainly helped. It also reminded me how much I love fellow runners and meeting new people.


This will probably be my favorite finisher picture of all time. 


YOLO! We kept that pitcher as our trophy.


We met up with our friends who took this seriously and did not drink on the course. Sissy, Jen and Heather’s mom, Sandy, thought we were insane (we probably are) but I think Lesley thought it was funny. Everyone had a good time and enjoyed the overall experience even if the course was a little more boring than one would expect from a city like New Orleans.


The whole crew – all the other runners were serious. 

After the race, we all went to rest and then Mike and I went out for more crawfish and beer! We headed home on Monday morning. I have the Not So Normal Half Marathon and the Tarheel 10 Miler in April so I got back to real running last night with speedwork on the treadmill. No drinks involved. It wasn’t nearly as much fun.