Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye 2012...Hello 2013!

I know I say this every year, but I can't believe how quickly this year has flown by. I have to say that 2012 was a pretty good year for our whole family. Chad started a new job earlier this year, and luckily it's been very busy and steady for him. I put in my first full year as an Inside Sales Representative with the Education Group at Scholastic, and hit my goal! This sales year has been off to a strong start, as well. Thomas started high school this year (YIKES!), and loves it so far. He's at the high school I graduated from, so it's a neat connection. Matt is in his last year of elementary school, and Nathan is doing great in 4th grade. We've stayed very busy with life in general, which is good...and bad. Luckily we had a wonderful beach vacation in North Carolina in June!

It's also been over a year since I hit my Weight Watcher lifetime goal! I've managed to stay within a couple of pounds of my goal weight, although with the way I've eaten the last couple of weeks it's a shock I'm still there - haha! I do try to go to meetings at least once a month, for the accountability. But if I have a run planned with friends or a race on the books, those come first.

January 15, 2013 will mark my second "runniversary". What a wild and crazy ride it's been! I actually think I ran more races in 2011, but 2012 marked some big firsts for me. I set some PRs, ran a few 10K and a 15K races, and to top it off - I completed not one but TWO Half Marathons!!!

The first one I got to enjoy with my great friend Michelle. It was in early June, along the lakefront in Chicago. That time of year should be a fairly comfortable time to run weather-wise. Little did we know that was just the start of an incredibly HOT and HUMID summer! It was about 90 degrees when I finished...limping and shuffling the last couple of miles due to bad calf cramps. Oy....those were brutal! But seeing Michelle at the finish kept me moving, and I earned that darn medal.

The second Half was the Fox Valley Marathon Races Half. It started and finished in my hometown of St. Charles, IL, and it. was. incredible!!!!! I've run on the paths that the course took many, many times, so it felt like being home. Plus the race is so well organized, and the support along the course was fabulous. I felt great through the whole race - although I won't lie...the final loop through Mount St. Mary Park was rough lol! Right as I was coming up on the 13 mile mark I saw my friend Sue. Let me tell you...that hug she gave me was exactly what I needed at that point! I pretty much cried my way through the finish, and then got to stay to cheer on the rest of my friends.

Sadly, though, my running has suffered some this year. I admit that I got a little burned out early in the summer, and between vacation and a business trip I had several weeks where I didn't run much at all. I was also dealing with some hip/glute issues, so I had to take some time off to rest it. I can tell now how much that's helped, as I've started running 2-3 times a week this past month or so.

2013 will start off with me running a 5K on 1/1/13 with my friend Sue! It's supposed to be about 15 degrees, so this might be where I start my speed workouts...hahaha! I have some big goals for this year. I'm planning on running at least 3 half marathons, and I also will sign up for the Chicago Marathon. I'm planning on running to support Team Ronald McDonald House Charities, so the miles will bring funds their way. I'd like to improve my times, as well. I'm pretty proud of how far I've come in two years, and can't wait to see what year 3 brings for me!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Amazing inspiration!

Today I had the honor of getting to cheer on Michelle, Kyla and Bobbi at the Chicago Marathon. It was a beautiful day for the runners, and not too shabby for those of use watching. Luckily my good friend Christine is an expert on where to go, and how to figure out when we'd see our runners at the different spots. We did a good amount of walking, but nothing even remotely close to what the runners went through.

To say I was impressed is a HUGE understatement! I loved the runners who had their names on their shirts so I could cheer them on by name. I received so many "thank you's" and high fives from the people I was yelling for, and even some emotional tears (especially around mile 20). The determination in all of them was amazing.

So I'm putting this out here now that I WILL run the Chicago Marathon next year, as a charity runner for Ronald McDonald House Charities. That is such a meaningful charity, and while I've never had to stay at one of their homes, I know friends who have. I figure if I'm going to give my blood, sweat and tears over for this I can also raise money for them at the same time.

So now on to training for Chicago Marathon - 2013!!!!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

13.1 miles - a recap of the incredible Fox Valley Half Marathon

Today was my second half marathon, and it couldn't have gone better! Okay, maybe I could have run faster, but overall it was such an incredible experience.

My day started off early...woke up about 4:45, and ate my protein bar and a banana, plus chugged down some water. I got ready to head out, and left the house a little bit before 6:00 am. It was dark and pretty chilly, so I was glad I had thrown on a long-sleeve t-shirt to keep on until close to the start. I had no problem parking, and made my way over to the Race Village. This was the view that greeted me on my way there:

I met up with my great friend Michelle and her awesome sister Bobbi, after getting my gear bag dropped off at Gear Check. That's one of the wonderful things about this race...lots of local friends to keep each other company as we shake off the pre-race jitters. It was so exciting to see all the racers there, getting warmed up and ready to rock!

As we got closer to the start, I ran into Lesley and crew, then Jen found me in the pace lineups. We also saw Pat and Jill, and exchanged "good luck" hugs. It really helped to settle my nerves to see all of them.

The race started at 7:00, but since we were towards the back of the pace groups. Jen and I finally crossed the starting line about 7:17 (not that I was I was able to settle into a great pace as we spread out on Route 31, and felt awesome! I think I started around a 12:30 or 12:45 min/mile, but around mile 2 I fell into a great groove, even through the hills at the Kane County Government Center.

We hit the Fabyan Villa Museum, where we got to get our miles in on the Fox River Trail. This was about mile 4.25, and my husband Chad and the three boys were all there to cheer me's amazing how that support puts an extra boost in your step. I was so happy to see them :-).

At this point I was still running strong, and apparently was just a hair under 12:00 min/mile for that first 5 miles. I still felt great, and kept on running. Around mile 6 or so I did take a short walk break to eat a couple of Shot Bloks, and refuel. It was still a comfortable temperature, so I actually wasn't that thirsty, but those Shot Bloks are awfully gooey haha!

The rest of the miles continued to fly by. There were tons of spectators and incredible volunteers, plus aid stations all along the course. It was the best staffed race I've ever been part of, and while I didn't need them it was comforting to see medical aide in several spots as well. I did slow down some around mile 11, and that last loop through Mount St. Mary's was tough. Not physically, but more mentally - it's hard doing that when you know you are this.close to the finish. The shade was nice at that point, though!

Right about mile 13 I saw Sue (who made the best aid captain EVER!!!!), and we exchanged a hug that seriously gave me that last little bit of energy I needed to finish. I think we were both in tears, so I was kind of crying/grinning/laughing the last 0.1 miles. I also saw my oldest son and brother, and they cheered me on. Let me tell you - this was such an awesome finish!!! I heard them announce my name, and welcome me back. The smiling volunteers at the finish congratulated me, and handed over my medal (or as I call it - my "statement" necklace). I saw Tom with the committee and Dave as well, and I'm pretty sure my grin was splitting my face. My official time is 2:47:07...over 6 minutes faster than my first half!

I reconnected with my family, and loved getting hugs from all of them. Oh, and the ever important chocolate milk...I seriously swear by that for recovery after a long run. And the steak was fabulous, too. I also ran back into Lesley, and we got a picture together:

Now I'm ready to rest the legs for a few days, but my running days are definitely not over! We have the Hot Chocolate 15K coming up in about 7 weeks, so I'll need to get back out there soon. Thank you to everyone for all of your support, and putting up with me going on and on (and on....) about this race, and running in general. It means more to me than you can ever know!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Second Half Marathon coming up

I just realized that I haven't blogged at all since right after running surviving my first half marathon. I could say it was because I've been incredibly busy all summer (pretty much true), or that I didn't have anything exciting to blog about (sort of true). But the main reason is that I was embarrassed...ashamed...mad at myself. I completely fell off the healthy wagon, and I fell HARD.

We took a quick trip to Kansas after the half, and came back home just long enough for me to tie up some loose ends at work and head back out of town for a beach vacation in North Carolina. Healthy eating and exercise pretty much went out the window. Looking back, I'm sure I was a lot better than I would have been two years ago. But it was still bad, for me. Luckily I only put on about 1 lb after that! Unfortunately we came back to kick off the hottest summer I've ever been through.

That heat translated to me turning into a sloth. The only time it was really cool enough to run was about 5:00 a..m., and anyone who knows me will tell you that I am NOT a morning person. Even running in the gym was brutal. #1 - I hate the treadmill with a passion; and #2 - it was nearly as hot in the gym. I probably took a good 6 weeks before I finally got back into the running groove I had worked so hard to maintain. I went from running at least 2-3 times a week to barely moving.

But I knew I had the Fox Valley Marathon Half to train for. I so want to cross the finish line under the time of my first, which was about 2 hr 53 min. So I dusted off the running shoes once I got back from my business trip in mid-July (which was incredible!), and started logging the miles again. I'm slower than I was 3 months ago, but my times are getting a bit better each week. I also finally got an inhaler since my allergies have been awful. That's made a world of difference!

I had a great 10 mile run with my friend Jen and her incredible friend Draga a couple of weeks ago, and it felt  so good to have that under my belt. Last weekend I did a 10K with my friend Lesley and her awesome friends. Without them to support me at the end (since they are all way faster than me!), I would have walked it in.

Now we're down to the final days of training for the half. I am so, so excited to run this one! I have so many great friends running it as well, and my friends Michelle and Kyla will be doing the 20 miler to get ready for the Chicago Marathon. Normally after a race we head back out pretty soon after the finish. But this year I plan to live it up, and really celebrate with all of those who have supported me and spurred me on to do more.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

13.1 miles doesn't sound THAT bad!

I really should be sleeping now, after the exhausting day I had. But I wanted to go ahead and put my thoughts down before I wake up tomorrow.

First off - I have to thank my incredible friend Michelle for encouraging me to actually sign up for the Allstate 13.1 Chicago Half Marathon. I was disappointed I wasn't ready to run the Great Western Half Marathon in May, and I missed the cut-off for the Schaumburg Half a few weeks ago. I knew with having to leave for a wedding in Iowa around 1:00 it was going to require some extra planning, but I say "what the heck - sign me up!".

I was feeling okay with the training I had under my belt, although I hadn't run in well over a week before today's Half. But really my goal was just to finish - and hopefully in less than 3 hours.

I was up before dawn (3:50, to be exact) to eat a little something, get my gear on, and wait for Michelle so I could drive us down there. We had to be at the Museum of Science and Industry by 5:45 so we could make the 6:00 shuttle. Luckily we made it with a little time to spare, and got to enjoy the beautiful sunrise over Lake Michigan and Chicago.

Unfortunately Michelle and I had to split up at the corrals, but we gave each other big hugs and I wished her good luck, as she did to me. I actually wasn't too nervous. It was a hot day, so I kept my expectations fairly minimal (basically - finish and don't die).

I finally started about 34 minutes after the first runners took off. There was a great crowd of spectators to send us off, and we were on our way. I kept a pretty steady pace for the first 6 or 7 miles, and that's when the heat started to kick my butt. At least at that point I was about halfway there, so I just kept telling myself to put one foot in front of the other, and sucking down Gatorade and water at the stations set up every mile.

Once I hit mile 10 I was pretty much toast, but the beautiful views and knowing that I was nearly there kept me going. And I knew that Michelle had already completed her race (and did AMAZING!!), so she would be waiting for me at the finish.

Around mile 11, my right calf was NOT happy with me, and so I would run a bit and then it would just sort of die on me. I'm sure I was an interesting sight ;). But I was nearly there, so I just kept plugging along.

FINALLY I could see the South Shore Cultural Center where the race started and finished. I nearly cried, knowing I was almost there. I ran/walked/limped until I hit the 13 mile sign, and then I just took off. Luckily my calf cooperated, and as I crossed the finish line I heard them announce my name. I admit - I did get a little choked up. If someone had told me a year or so ago that I would complete a Half marathon, I would have never believed it.

It was so wonderful seeing Michelle at the finish line!! She got a great picture (which I'm totally going to have to steal so I can put it up here) as I crossed the finish line, and then we hugged once she could get through to where I was grabbing all the food and drink I could manage. We flew back home right away, and I managed to make myself look halfway decent in about 20 minutes for Lauren's wedding - no small feat, I tell you!

All in all, today was an incredible day. Exhausting, exhilarating and painful at time, but it was incredible. And with that last note, I'm going to go collapsed into bed!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

What an incredible Spring this has been

It's so hard to believe how quickly this year is going so far. The boys are nearly done with school, Tom will graduate from 8th grade in three weeks, and we're getting our final plans together for our beach trip to North Carolina. With everything going on, I had to push out my plans for the Half Marathon I was going to do last weekend. My training was just too tough to keep going, between the boys activities and Chad's new job he started earlier this year. So I'm just going to focus on some of the other races I'm planning to do, and have been able to participate in a couple of 5Ks already since the Shamrock Shuffle.

This past Saturday I participated in the Bridge To Bridge 5K in Batavia. This race was the first 5K I ever did, last May. Oh, what a difference a year makes! Last year, my goal was to finish with a time under 40 minutes - I came in at 39:59...just barely squeaked that in. When I ran it this year, I could remember exactly where I stopped running after the initial start. Let's just say it was pretty darn quick ;). But I was just so happy to finish a 5K back then.

Fast forward to this year - I almost didn't sign up for this one. But after the great 5K I had in DeKalb at NIU (finished in 30:06), and looking at the results from last year, I thought "hey, I might actually have a shot at finishing pretty nicely for my age group". So I signed up and went yesterday.

It was kind of funny - the weather was almost exactly the same as it was a year ago. Although this time instead of it raining before the race, it rained during the race. Luckily it wasn't too bad, and the trees covered a lot of the trail. But Lord....the humidity was AWFUL!! It's been several months since I have to deal with that, and let's just say I haven't missed it. But I pushed through the oppressive air, and ran the whole thing. My finish time was 31:51 - over 8 minutes faster than last year!! I hadn't gone as fast as I had hoped, but it was fast enough to get this:

Third place finish for my age group! I never, ever thought that would happen. Hell, 18 months ago I also never imagined I would be a runner and lose 60+ lbs. Funny how these things happen ... Of course, I was upstaged by Matt and Nathan running the youth mile - Matt ran the whole mile in about 8:24, and Nathan pulled off a 1st place finish with a time of 7:06:

One of the other things that has made this Spring so wonderful is I've gotten to know an incredible woman I'm honored to call my friend. Michelle Dragoo and I have been friends on Facebook for awhile now, and finally had a chance to meet up this past Wednesday for a run. She is amazing! She's been training for a Half marathon, while working full-time and taking care of her family. I'm so thrilled we were able to log some miles together, and then met up again Saturday night for a girl's night out and another run today. It was wonderful to find out how much we have in common!

So as I wrap up this very long-winded post-Mother's Day blog, I just want to thank everyone out there who has supported me (and my family in turn) through the last year. There is no way I could have done this without everyone cheering me on!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Shamrock Shuffle 8K - then and now

This past Sunday I was lucky enough to be part of the biggest timed 8K race in the world - the Shamrock Shuffle 8K. I was one of 34,000+ runners to take to the streets of Chicago and kick off the spring and summer running season. If you've been reading my blog, you might have read my post I did a couple of days after running the Shamrock Shuffle 8K 2011. It was the first race I had ever done, and at that point I'd only been running about 3 months. Little did I know how much different my life would be almost a year later.

Had someone said to me last March that I would: a)still be running; and b)loving it I would have laughed at them. I knew it was great exercise for me, and that coupled with Weight Watchers helped me shed over 20 lbs before last year's race. But here I am - one year later - and I am still going strong...and down over 60 lbs from my starting weight.

The Shamrock Shuffle is the race that bit me with the race bug. While I've loved running it both years, they've been very different experiences. Last year I had nightmares leading up to the big day - in one I was put in a corral with elite runners and I got lost in my dream! No such dreams haunted me this year. I had fun sharing the experience of the expo with my mom and younger sons Matt and Nathan (they loved all the freebies!). The best part was that I was totally relaxed for race day. It was wonderful to be able to take in the experience more this year, and really treasure the fact that I was lucky to be there. I was grinning from ear to ear as I ran the first mile, and kept on smiling as I ran on. The 4.97 miles seemed to fly by, and I actually RAN the entire thing. Well, minus the second water stop - I wanted some Gatorade and I am NOT coordinated enough to move and drink at the same time. Last year I reeked of lemon-lime and I didn't want a repeat of that this year. 

I saw my family near the finish line this year - right on the bridge we had to go over to hit the downward finish. It was the perfect spot, since that last hill seems to go on forever. I went nuts waving to them and yelling to them. Somewhere there are also pictures floating around of me chucking my water bottle at Chad's head :-)...I didn't want to be holding it as I crossed the finish for the pictures they take. I vain!

What a feeling it was to sprint towards the end! There were still a lot of runners around me, and we were all cheering as we hit the line. I didn't feel like I wanted to die this year. In fact, it was the exact opposite - I have never felt so alive! Had I not taken my weight loss and exercise seriously a year ago, I wouldn't have been crossing that start line again.

This was the view before the race started - a little cloudy, but we were getting more and more blue sky as we moved closer to the start 

Some of the 34,000+ runners - waiting to hit the start line

I survived!! 56 minutes and 42 seconds after hitting the start, I finally crossed the finish line!

The weather yesterday was perfect for running - the sun came out right about race time and it was in the mid 50s. Quite a change from a high last year of 85 degrees! I am already looking forward to next year...let's hope the race gods continue to smile on me with the perfect Shamrock Shuffle weather!!

Oh, and just for the sake of comparison, here is a picture from last year:
Shamrock Shuffle 2011 - finished it in 1 hr 10 min 28 sec

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Coming out of my running/tracking funk

I've been struggling for the last couple of weeks to find my happy place, in just about every aspect of my life. I think it started when my dad had a small heart attack just a little bit over two weeks ago. I was so incredibly scared at the thought of losing him, and it threw me completely off-kilter. Luckily he's recovered very well, and didn't have to have surgery.

I felt like I had lost any control I had in my life. I know that essentially I'm not the one calling the shots, but I come face-to-face with that reality was rough. After all of that I just shut down - I stopped running except for a couple of runs early on, stopped tracking what ate, and didn't focus on eating the things that were good for me. I went for whatever was easiest, and I could feel how it was figuratively and literally weighing me down.

But today I'm back on track! I weighed in at my Weight Watchers location, and was happy to find out I hadn't gained any weight. And even though it was cold and a bit icy this morning, I still got out for a great run with wonderful women. It was wonderful that my friend Lesley joined us today. I'm so excited for her to run her first Half Marathon this fall. I know it's a huge step to sign up and commit to the Half, and it'll be wonderful to share this with her. Of course, first I have to survive the Half I'm running in May!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Let the training begin!

Today was a gorgeous Sunday, filled with lots of sun and mild (for February!) temperatures, so even though I have well over 12 weeks before my first Half marathon I decided to kick off my training today. This was my first "long" run, and I was supposed to do 4 miles. The last run I did this week felt a little tough, and it was just over 3 miles, so I wasn't sure how today would go.

I only had 45 minutes, since we were heading over to my in-laws for a Super Bowl party once I was done and showered (and on a side note - that's what I hate about running mid-day...the second shower/doing the hair and makeup thing). I picked a different route through Kingswood and Majestic Oaks, and it actually felt great! I honestly felt like I could have run at least another 10-15 minutes. I mapped it once I got home, and it turned out I did 4.05 miles - and didn't die!

I have been so, so happy that the weather has actually been nice this winter. I finally did buy a pair of Yaktrax, but I haven't had to break them out yet. Here's hoping I won't have to this year!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Did I seriously just do that???

Earlier this evening, I signed myself up for my first Half Marathon - and then promptly had a mini panic attack! If anyone had told me a year ago that I would be doing this, I would have laughed in their faces. I couldn't even run 500 feet, much less 13.1 miles. And, even if I did walk most of it, it would have taken me half a day to cross the finish line. I would be the person that the cops follow to a)let everyone along the route know that I was the end and b)make sure I didn't die.

But now I've paid my registration fee, so there's no going back. I'll run this race, and even if I have to be dragged across the finish line I WILL finish. Luckily now that I'm running faster than I did a year ago, I hopefully won't be the last one to cross the finish. I've printed out a training program to follow, and plan to kick it off this weekend. I've got a few races to run in between now and May 6, and I am looking forward to seeing a big improvement over last year's times. Now if only the weather would get and stay warm for the next 4 months...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

One year ago today

Today marks my one year anniversary as a member of Weight Watchers. I am so incredibly glad I went in there for the first time last year. I know it sounds so cliche, but it honestly has changed my life. I feel like a brand-new person. I used to be so outgoing, but I felt like the weight was holding me back. Now I'm so much more comfortable speaking with people, and being in situations where I used to feel so uncomfortable - like everyone was staring at me because of my size.

I know I never could have done this without the support of my family, my friends, and my wonderful leader Laura. I know she thinks I'm stalking her, since I'll find other meetings she covers and go to those if I can't make my usual day :). Without everyone of you, I wouldn't be where I am today.

So now what...??? This year I'll focus on eating healthy foods, staying active, and pursuing new goals. I had originally wanted to run a full Marathon, but after talking to some very wise friends I've decided to work on increasing my endurance. So this will be the year of the Half Marathons! I'm looking forward to training for them, and hope we have great running weather again this year. I have to say I never thought I'd be running outside in January and NOT have to bundle up, so here's hoping!