Friday, February 26, 2016

My First Marathon (2005)

My first marathon was kind of an accident. I didn't contemplate running one for months and then register with excitement. I didn't train for 20 weeks learning how to run long or fuel properly. 

I was in my final year of undergrad in the Spring of 2004 when I decided I wanted to try something new. I heard about Team in Training through a pamphlet in the mail and after attending an informational meeting I was signed up to raise money to fight blood cancers and participate in an olympic distance triathlon in 5 months.

I purchased a bike and with the help of my brother (a very talented cyclist) I learned how to ride and trained with my team on transitions, swimming in open water, and everything else that goes with triathlons. 

A few days before the race my team and I flew to Orlando to get situated and prepare for the race. I remember checking into my room at the hotel and literally as I turned around to walk to the room I saw 3 of my teammates with devastated looks on their faces. The triathlon was cancelled. Hurricane Jeanne was about to hit Florida and there was no way the officials would allow us to compete in the event. If you google that hurricane, the first sentence that appears is: Hurricane Jeanne was the deadliest hurricane in the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season.

As quickly as we landed, we were put back on a plane and evacuated from the state back to Pennsylvania. We were all so crushed. I worked HARD to raise money for an organization, and that was before the convenience of social media. I worked hard at training too. 

Back at school I was pretty grumpy. So many people knew about the race and I was afraid they thought I scammed them out of money with their donations because I promised an update after the event. Well TNT decided that we would get a chance to compete in an event and sent us a list of different races that year to choose from. The next triathlon was almost a year away and I couldn't wait that long. I had no desire to ride my bike 100 miles. So a marathon it was. The New Orleans Mardi Gras Marathon in February 2005.

I registered through TNT and that was that. I had 5 months until the race and kind of pushed it to the back of my mind. I graduated in December and decided to take a semester off before grad school. When February rolled around I kind of remember running 5 miles a few mornings a week on my parent's treadmill in the basement. I never even met my new team until the day I boarded a plane to go to New Orleans. 

The 2 days leading up to the marathon I remember walking ALLLL over the city in some cute boots that were pretty uncomfortable. I tried shrimp, gumbo, jumbalaya. I remember the day of the race wearing a new pair of cotton shorts I had never worn running. I had some cute pink Nike shox to run in. And I had a single Powerbar for the entire race. Obviously I had never done this before.

The morning of the race my teammates handed out garbage bags claiming they would keep us warm at the starting line. I went along with it.

When the race started I got really excited. The streets were lined with spectators and the energy from the crowd got me pumped to run. I ended up running with one of the mentors for the first half of the race adopting his plan: run to the water stations, then walk through them for 2-3 minutes. The plan was working and I survived 13.1 miles. 

At the halfway point my knees started to ache and I ate my entire PowerBar at a water station. I told the guy I was running with to go ahead because I was slowing down. I kept up with the race plan but I was beginning to hurt. I was also hungry but sick to my stomach at the same time. I know I took handfuls of snacks from spectators along the course for temporary energy. 

Our team coach, Chris, found me somewhere around mile 20 and decided to run with me til the end. We stopped numerous times to stretch on the sidewalk and he basically saved me on that course. He talked me through every mile and told me I would be a marathoner that day.

The finish line was inside the Superdome (a few months later Hurricane Katrina came through). I can absolutely still picture what it looked like as we entered the Superdome. Crowds of people lined the stretch of pavement leading up to the finish line. Complete strangers cheering, music blasting and an announcer said my name right before crossing the finish line. And someone captured that exact moment, when I realized I just ran 26.2 miles! 

I didn't know I would get a medal when I finished and you better believe I wore it out on Bourbon Street that night! 

That race. The race that changed my entire existence on this earth and I didn't even know it at the time. In 11 years I have finished 19 marathons (soon to be 20!), 16 half marathons, and have run in 15 different states.

I have run on 2 Ragnar Relay teams...

And eventually trained with Team in Training again to complete a triathlon in D.C.

Through running I've raised $6,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and $600 for Team Red White and Blue. 

I had one DNF (did not finish) at a marathon in 2013...

And I started a blog and was selected as a Nuun Ambassador for 2015. I've met awesome people. Traveled to places in the USA that I would never have considered visiting before running. 

Running has changed my life. I feel good about myself when I run and when I accomplish things related to the sport. I enjoy reflecting every year on my running story. And I love adding to it.

My 50+ medals hang between 3 racks in our bedroom. I wake up and see them every morning. Each one a reminder of a race, a special story, and amazing people that I hold very dear to my heart. Pick out any medal and I can recall vivid details of that race. All because a hurricane canceled a triathlon back in 2004. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Purple Chicken Recipe

Dinner. It's a struggle for me because after a long day of work I don't feel like standing in the kitchen creating a yummy, healthy meal. Luckily Brad enjoys good food and does a lot of the cooking (winning!). I wanted to share this inexpensive, easy, and delicious recipe that we have so fancily (new word?) named "Purple Chicken". 

You will need 5-6 ingredients from the grocery store:
- chicken breasts (3-4)
- zucchini
- squash
- vegetable oil
- grated parmesan cheese
- Ken's Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette

What I love about this is you can prep the food the night before. First butterfly the chicken (optional, but it absorbs the dressing better), place it in a container and poor the Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette dressing over the chicken to marinate overnight.

Cut the zucchini and squash into chunks and store in a container in the fridge. 

The next day when its time to cook preheat the oven to 375, place the chicken in a glass pan and cook for approximately 45 minutes. 

About 20 minutes before the chicken is done cooking, put vegetable oil (we use a little less than a tablespoon) in a pan on the stove over medium heat, sprinkle pepper over the vegetables and cook until golden brown. 

Once the vegetables are cooked, sprinkle parmesan cheese over them until the cheese melts. 

That's it! Once the chicken is done you are ready to eat. It is delicious and your house will smell amaaaazing.

And if you're lucky, someone will do the dishes too :) 

Hope you enjoy this meal, it is one of our favorites. Let me know what you think! 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

State #15 Alabama: Mercedes-Benz Marathon Weekend

I came to Alabama to run my 19th marathon and 15th state in my quest to run a full marathon in all 50 states! I took travel plans to a whole new level of crazy. I woke up at 3am Friday and drove 12 hours solo to Birmingham! I will fly, but I don't jump at the opportunity so if I feel I can make the drive you better believe I will. And I did.

First on the agenda was straight to the expo at Boutwell Audotorium. It was a nice size and I felt like I could breathe and walk around freely. Maybe the crowd came later but it wasn't busy when I was there. They provided lots of great vendors and I said I wouldn't buy anything but that was a lie. 3 shirts later...

Probably some of my favorite race swag to date because I've never had a cape and M&M's are my favorite candy. Plus you didn't have a million papers of coupons flying all over the room because they did a virtual race bag for those items.

After the expo I checked into my hotel. I literally unpacked all my things and laid out running stuff for the next 2 days. And then I slept for 9.5 hours. In a big giant bed that never felt so relaxing! :)

Next morning I arrived at the starting line of a VERY cold 5k! I didn't pack well so I wore shorts and Procompression socks to save my pair of pants for the marathon. I looooved this 5k! The majority of the course was flat and it wasn't too crowded. Lots of little kiddos running which was great. 

Lots of capes flying around!

We got a cute super hero medal at the finish too. I didn't stick around because I was freezing and needed a hot shower ASAP.

For the rest of the day I watched some of the Olympic Marathon Trials and hung out with another 50 states runner, Rebecca. We had dinner and talked running for hours! So fun and glad I met a new friend to hang out with during the trip.

The next morning I met up with Rebecca before the race. It was soooo cold again! I almost didn't bring my cold gear but was really glad I did! 

I also wasn't feeling well and literally could barely stomach water. I sipped some Nuun and became really nervous that I would crash at some point during the race. Any other marathoners look at this sign during a race and wonder why you didn't sign up for the half? Haha, I do every time but then am so happy I ran the full! 

I really liked the course and it was 2 loops. I always get nervous about courses like that because I'm afraid I will get bored, but I really liked this one. The only thing I would change is more spectators. I feel like a lot disappeared for the second loop!  

I did end up crashing soon after mile 20. I made it to that point pretty strong and ended up slowing wayyyyy down. I just had nothing left in me so at that point I was just surviving. Taking all gu and sports drinks offered to me. I crossed the finish line freezing, with swollen hands, and burning quads in 5:30:30. But also a big smile on my face because I finished my 19TH marathon!! 

After crossing the finish line I couldn't eat anything. I went back to Rebecca's hotel that was near the finish line to chat about the race and snap a pic with our medals. She ran a super speedy PR that day!! How awesome! 

 I drove home super early the next morning and arrived home to a wonderful surprise from Brad! He really is the sweetest :)

Overall it was a great weekend. I love meeting new running friends and traveling to new states. I would definitely recommend the Mercedes Marathon for anyone looking to run in Alabama! 

Next marathon is Little Rock in Arkansas in less than 3 weeks and hoping to get a short run in tomorrow.

Happy running! :) 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Virtual Nuun Year Dash 10K

I have participated in a lot of races but one type I have never tried is a virtual race. That changed on Saturday when I completed the first ever Nuun Year Dash! 

I signed up for the run back in December so I almost forgot about it until I was notified that race packets were in the mail. I was so excited to see what participants would get! Isn't race swag the BEST?! Nuun was pretty awesome about sending an email to track the package so I stalked the mail the day it planned to arrive. 

The packet arrived about a week before the event and they sent out a shirt, bib (with pins), Nuun tattoos, a race medal, and samples of their hydration tablets.

If you've never run a virtual race, here is a quick breakdown of how this particular one worked. Nuun sent out an email to runners to make a profile in order to submit their times and race photos for chances to win prizes. Then runners could choose to run either a 5K or 10k from February 5-8. The best part is running any time you wanted at any place. Indoors or outdoors. Solo or with friends! 

After hydrating with some Nuun it was time to head out for the run! This virtual race was so convenient for me because I worked all weekend so I squeezed 6.2 miles in after work on Saturday evening. Brad decided to run with me so we ran along a trail near the Ohio River close to our apartment. I was pretty exhausted from work and with a marathon in 8 days we decided to run nice and easy. The temperature was dropping as we ran but overall it was a perfect day and the views of Pittsburgh as the sun was setting were more than perfect. Yes I wore my race bib :) 

While running I started thinking about the pros/cons of a virtual race and thought I'd share:

-no early race starts
-flexibility to run when/where you want
-the race won't be cancelled due to bad weather 
-your choice to run indoors or outdoors
-receiving happy mail with your race packet
-freedom to design your race route
-price is comparable to small local races, sometimes even cheaper
-social media connection with other runners
-choice to run solo or with friends

CONS (not too many)
-no spectators cheering you on
-the risk of your race packet getting lost in the mail
-no hydration stations (can you tell I dislike carrying fluids when I run? I promise, I'm working on that)
Overall I really enjoyed my first virtual race. Much love to Nuun and FitFam for a great virtual event! Rumor is another one will happen this year so I'll be sure to share it with you when I know! :) 

Congrats to everyone who ran and please share your thoughts on virtual races and any of your favorites!

Happy running, friends!