Coastal Delaware Half Marathon: Placing my Exclamation Point on Race Day

When this training cycle all began back in January, I wasn’t trying to accomplish anything. My only goal was to recommit to my training. I saw gaps in my previous training cycles, and I wanted to over come them. I wanted to conquer early morning runs so family time in the evening wasn’t sacrificed. I wanted to tackle tempo runs that terrified me. I wanted to be invested in myself and my family, and I knew my running shoes would take me there. I knew those early morning wake ups would result in better days. I knew tackling my tempo runs would add vibrancy to daily interactions.

#theyearofwakingup was born.

With each training run, I felt more alive. I became more engaged. Work flourished. My commitment to the running community took off. Every corner of my life felt fulfilled.

When life is good, running is good.

While the weeks between the Shamrock Marathon and my race in Delaware were not picture perfect (hello Flu and goodbye husband who was out of town for work commitments), my coach was quick to remind me that there are many chapters that make up our race day story. I was ready for race day.

I was confident. I was scared. I was excited. For the first time in a long time, I wanted a personal best. I didn’t just want a strong race and a happy race, I wanted to be my best.

There is no better time to risk failing than when life is good. I had nothing to loose. I finally had the confidence to recognize that I do want a 1 as the first number of my half marathon PR. I’ve never doubted that my legs have the ability to move so much faster than they ever have, but I have always doubted that my training was perfect enough, that my body felt strong enough or fast enough for it to happen on race day.

Going into this race I still wasn’t sure, but I didn’t care. I wanted to try. I wanted to take the risk. I needed to take the risk.


Race day arrived. I had nerves, but I knew this was good. It was a sign of my desire to reach for something just out of my reach. I knew I could do it. I felt it. It was mine to claim. With my dear friend Karen by my side, our race started as corral 2 was released on to the course. We made our way north along the coastal highway. The weather was perfect. The light breeze felt refreshing. The course that was waiting for us was gorgeous. It was going to be a great day.

We were running. My body felt engage. I wasn’t having hip pain. As doubts appeared, I quickly pushed them away. But something wasn’t right. I had no energy to give. I hoped that mile 1 was a liar, but mile 2 told the same story. So did mile 3, 4, 5 and 6. By the time we crossed the 10k mark, I had used every trick I knew to keep myself going. All I wanted to do was nap. I wanted to stop, lay down, close my eyes, and try again. My legs felt great, my breathing was easy, but I was so fatigued.

In my self proclaimed year of waking up, the last thing I expected to feel on race day was a deep desire to sleep. When I couldn’t will myself to move forward any more, I walked and all those ugly doubts I’ve spent a lifetime telling to move on took my break as an invitation to move back in. I was sad. I was embarrassed. I was disappointed. I felt like I let everyone down. At mile 11 after run/walking for the last 3 miles, a sob came out of nowhere.

I wanted that 1:xx half marathon time not just for me, but for my husband who has supported my crazy love of running for longer than our marriage. I wanted it for my coach who has invested so much into me as a runner but even more so as a person. I wanted it for my boys and my parents who give up weekends so I can race.

My race plan was to place an exclamation point at the end of this training cycle for myself but also as a thank you to everyone who invests in me. At mile 11 I felt like the opposite of an exclamation point. I just felt sad. And tired.

I crossed the finish 11 minutes later than I had hoped, and I knew I needed a few minutes to digest everything that had just happened on the race course. After a few intentional inhales and exhales, I wiped the tears off my face and joined my husband (who just so happened to place 2nd in his age group at the 9k) and friends for a celebratory beer!


The disappointment clung to me on Sunday. It followed me to dinner and to coffee and to a walk on the boardwalk. It hung out through dinner and while playing scrabble with my husband. I fell asleep with my sadness, and I slept more deeply than I have in ages.

I woke up on Monday with a fresh perspective. I woke up with gratitude for everything that went wrong the day before. I woke up and loved every moment of the 2 hours and 11 minutes I spent on the race course.

On Sunday, I showed up to race day ready to take the risk. I took the leap. I didn’t fly this time, but I showed up to the race with the courage to try. I showed up with the desire to want more.

This race brought me right back to the reason why I run. I’ll always run happy. I’ll always run for the community of running. But I also run for me. I run to be the best version of myself. I run to polish my heart. Chasing dreams is what I’m made of. This race connected every dot for me. In my failure to fly on race day, I saw all the beauty around me as I made my way back to the ground.

Aiming to be your best does exactly that. It makes you your best. Just like I knew my running shoes would deliver me to my year of waking up, my running shoes will also deliver me to be the best version of myself. Whether I snag a PR on race day or not, its the journey of wanting it, going after it, and showing up for it that matters most.

Running is never just running for me, but it is also just running. This entire training cycle has been layered with so much success. My worlds are colliding in the best possible ways and this race brought that all into focus for me. I’m awake. I’m engaged. I’m loving this life of mine.

Revisiting the gorgeous course on Monday

I wanted an exclamation point on race day. I didn’t get it. What I got instead was a training cycle and a life worthy of ending with a exclamation.

Perfection is found in the process. 

Our best is found in trying. 

Give me a life of striving! 

I’d much rather enjoy the journey than simply celebrating the finish line.

Happy Girl

The Year of Waking Up

Every season of life I gravitate towards a new word. I’ve lived them all. Let it go. Rooted. Breathing room. Thrive.  I am strong. And so many more. More often than not my seasons of life are attached to a training cycle. 

Running imitates life. 

Life imitates running. 

As I welcomed the new year, I also welcome a new training cycle. The goals are the same, but I knew I needed a mental change. Chasing sub 2 hours in the half marathon has grown stale. Three years of the same goal supported by a ton of mental growth and maturity (but no PRs) makes the goal less exciting. I’m not chasing numbers anymore. I’m chasing feelings. 

I know when I’ve run a strong race. I don’t need a time clock to validate my effort, but I’d be lying if I said I’m not frustrated with not pushing my potential. 

Now is the time to layer back in consistent training. Now is the time to layer back in the drive and motivation to make my training plan work. I’m notorious for hitting snooze instead of waking up long before sunrise. When I get home from work, life happens. Homework. Dinner. Family. 

I’ve come to recognize the gaps in my training, and while discussing it with my coach this week I mentioned that I needed to find the spark that would get me out of bed in the morning. I needed my word. 

No sooner then I set out to find it, it found me too. In fact I’d argue that I already had it. 

“Awakening is not a thing. It is not a goal, not a concept. It is not something to be attained. It is a metamorphosis. If the caterpillar thinks about the butterfly it is to become, saying ‘And then I shall have wings and antennae,’ there will never be a butterfly. The caterpillar must accept its own disappearance in its transformation. When the marvelous butterfly takes wing, nothing of the caterpillar remains.” ~Alejandro Jodorowsky

All I need to do is wake up and just be. 

As a dream chaser this concept can be hard. Just be. Just wake up and run. Don’t focus on a goal. Just run the day I’m given. It is all I need to do to succeed. 

As a working mom sometimes the hardest thing for me to do is to be 100% committed to a training plan. There are philosophies and approaches that work for everyone in every stage of life. It’s never one size fits all. There is also a difference between making excuse and prioritizing life appropriately. It’s all a delicate balance. 

This year my goal is to make sure I’m throwing my rock in the right direction which means I need to find the right space for my running. If I’m going to push my potential, it’s time to quit hitting snooze on my alarm and on my running. It’s time to wake up. 

#trainjanda. My support system.

Why does this even matter? 

Because running imitates life. 

Life imitates running. 

Waking up is so much more than doing mile repeats in the dark. Waking up is an enhanced form of living. It’s mothering with an awake heart. It’s loving with an awake heart. It’s living with my eyes open. 

“Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment. The eternal makes you urgent. You are loath to let compromise or the threat of danger hold you back from striving toward the summit of fulfillment.” ~John O’Donohue

Welcome to my year of waking up. 

Sea Isle, NJ with my girls

Norfolk Harbor Half Marathon

“The more I pushed myself in running, the more I discovered the weaknesses of my mind. These were the same dragons lurking in my life. To compete is to voluntarily come into contact with your dragons so you can learn to slay them.” ~Lauren Fleshman

After watching my husband, my parents, and my son compete in the Norfolk Harbor 5k and 1 mile race on Saturday, I felt completely overwhelmed. All the race nerves I didn’t feel the entire week flooded my body.

Watching my husband set another new PR (and inching closer and closer to my very own5k PR) filled me with motivation. Nearly a year ago, he was overjoyed by 10+ minute miles. On Saturday he ran in the low 8s. Seeing my dad smile as he crossed the finish line for the very first time in a sport he taught me to love validated everything I’ve been chasing. Seeing my moms joy as she ran reminded me why I love this sport. Witnessing the fight in Cole as he out kicked another boy for 2nd place fueled my competitive fire.

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As we left the race on Saturday morning, the motivation and surge of joy was quickly replaced by nerves. On Saturday I was a spectator. On Sunday it was my turn to compete. Having committed to competing (against myself) early this season, I knew there was only one goal to chase. Would Sunday be the day that I finally broke 2 hours in the half marathon distance?

I wanted it.

I was confident.

And when the nerves settled, I was ready.

I read Lauren Fleshman’s quote later in the afternoon on Saturday, and I wanted to shout out “Yes!”. I am competing (against myself) because this is how I always become a better version of myself. It was time to line up beside myself to see what work needed to be done.

There is no point in rehashing all my failed attempts at breaking the 2 hour mark on race day. I can tell you about every race. I can tell you when I fell apart. I can tell you what was going on in my life that left a void in my race day strategy. I can tell you what work I needed to do, and I can tell you what work I’ve done since each of those races. But none of that matters. Not really.

All that mattered was Sunday and the two hours and three minutes and ten seconds it took to get from the start line to the finish line.

I didn’t break two hours, but I won this race. In those 123minutes and nine seconds, I realized I’ve made it. I never let the dragons join me on the race course. When my ankle started hurting during the first mile, I thought “not today”. Today my ankle will not hurt. When my hip buckled at mile 10, I thought “not today”. My hip will not hurt today. When a doubt about my ability crept in, I thought “not today”.

I ran strong.

I felt in control.

I fought back when the wind knocked me over.

When the miles got tough, I kept going.

I finally didn’t fall apart in a half marathon.

I finally fought for my race regardless of time.

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Crossing the finish line was the exact opposite of what it’s intended to be. I am no where near finished. The finish line was my welcome home mat. The finish line delivered so much more than a finish time. I finished with the same group of friends I’ve been running with all season. Our team (J&A Racing and #team9ja) ran strong because we ran together. I finished fully aware that I gave my all to race day. I finished with a renewed sense of confidence in my own ability. I finished eager for so much more.

“A glimpse is enough to initiate the awakening process, which is irreversible.” ~Eckhart Tolle

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And if you’re curious, here is what my race looked like according to numbers:

8:56

9:15

9:12

9:07

9:05

9:02

9:13

9:12

9:20

9:26

9:25

9:22

9:11

Final push 9:01 pace (.4 miles according to my garmin)

Official Time: 2:03:09

Stay tuned. There is so much more to come. 

 

Crawlin Crab Weekend – Crushing and Conquering

This won’t be a typical race recap. There truly are no words that can capture the magic of this weekend, but I’m going to try anyways.

Wednesday evening when I had about given up on running for the week (because it just felt impossible to make it work) I asked both boys to go for an evening run with me. To my surprise, both said yes. Cole put on his running shoes, and Chet got in the stroller. While my husband made dinner, we ran 2.5 stress free miles. I was shocked that Cole only need to take one walk break during the entire run.

A seed was planted.

My husband was already racing Saturday. There was a kid’s 1k offered after his 5k. Both boys enthusiastically said they wanted to run.

Saturday – Crawlin Crab 5k

The boys and I arrived at race just before the 5k kicked off. We were ready to cheer. My husband has had quite a transformation over the past six months. He’s lost nearly 40 lbs, and his fitness level has sky rocketed. Last weekend we ran a trail 5k in Richmond, and he set a PR. I had no doubt he’d do the same on Saturday (and I was nervous he would beat my summer 5k time).

It didn’t take long for the lead runner to make his way to the finish line. Soon I saw friends. Our good friend Jon ran his first race ever, and showed up sooner than I ever anticipated. Just behind him was my husband. Right on Christian’s heels was Debbie (the woman responsible for his huge transformation!). As much as I was cheering for him, I was also cheering for her to pass him. He’s already surpassed everyone’s expectations,  I need to be able to hang on to one last bragging right. It was a show down to the finish line, and Debbie walked away the winner by one second. I’m sure a rematch is coming soon!

Christian’s Finish: 27:21 (8:48 minute mile)


As much as we compete, as much as I like winning, to say I’m proud is an understatement. Watching my husband come back to life over the past six months has been the greatest gift to our marriage. (Now he just needs to slow down or I need to get faster! or he’s becoming my pacer!)

Saturday – Kids Kilometer

The kids race started after the 5k finished. Cole toed the line in the front of the pack, and Chet and I stayed near the back. Given Cole’s running history, I knew he had a chance to be in the front of the race. It’s almost time for him to advance to 5k races, and the boy can run.

As Chet and I made our way down the course, I could see Cole in front of us. He was about ten kids back. The next time I saw him, he came around a corner in first place. The tears came falling out of my eyes instantaneously as Chet and I cheered for him to RUN! I absolutely loved that he was in the lead, but I loved it even more that I saw him thriving. It wasn’t too long ago that Cole was a little boy walking and crying his way through the shamrock final mile. It wasn’t too long ago that he shut down any time he was in the spotlight. It wasn’t too long ago that he didn’t see his own potential. Saturday was different. Saturday he thrived. Saturday he pushed himself. Cole conquered himself during Saturday’s run.

And Chet! Saturday was his first race. He loved wearing a race bib. He loved the start line. As we ran down the course, he held my hand and said Mama this is so much fun. He held my hand the whole way until he saw the finish line. When it finally came into view, he took off and ran so fast! As soon as we crossed the line, I scooped him up and covered him with hugs and kiss.


This mama couldn’t be more proud of her boys! It was the perfect family weekend!

Cole’s Finish Time: 4:20 (6:59 minute mile)

Chet’s Finish TIme: 6:25 (10:19 minute mile)

Sunday – Crawlin Crab Half Marathon

Sunday was a race like no other. A few weeks ago one of my dearest friends was diagnosed with Lymphoma. This girl is a fighter. She always has been. Now that she has cancer, her fight is on fire. As one big “F You” to cancer, she committed to still running the half marathon regardless of the fact that she’s receiving chemotherapy. She also decided it was time to debut her beautiful bald head.

A few days before the race, she texted me her bib number. It was hard to digest that a girl who was supposed to be pacing the 1:52 pace group was being forced to slow. She told me she was supposed to crush this race. In that moment we decided to redefine crush. Crushing the race was no longer about race times or placing. It became about having fun and enjoying every mile. Redefining crush became about drinking orange crushes on the course.

My husband jumped into action. We got my mother in law to babysit so Christian could provide bike support. We hit up the liquor store for the appropriate ingredients. Christian provided us an orange crush break at miles 4, 8, 10 and 12.


As we made our way down the final hill towards the finish line, our friend’s husband was holding a #teamkaren sign. Our pack of friends was lined up around the last corner. I felt her happiness. I felt her strength. I felt her accomplishment. As we made our way down the finish line chute, I told her to take it all it. It was all for her. Every cheer and every teammate, they were all for her.


Official Finish Time: 2:26 including 7 minutes of Orange Crushing!

Sunday’s finish line was the epitome of crushing a race! It wasn’t the 64ozs of orange crushes we consumed (with a little help from our friends). It was Karen. It was her determination to take ownership of her life and her diagnosis.

This entire weekend was filled with inspiration. It was filled with hope. It was a reminder to fight for yourself, your goals, and your dreams. It was a reminder that family and friends matter the most. It was a reminder that the only way to crush a race (or life) is to conquer yourself.

Crawlin Crab Weekend – you will always be my favorite!

Celebrating Running 

Richmond never disappoints. I love this city every single time I visit. This weekend I kicked off Friday with a day date with my husband – enjoying sushi at our favorite spot, walking to Belle Isle, racing up stairs, and visiting a local brewery – before I was joined by my two best running buddies for a girl race weekend. 

 

Up and Over to Belle Isle
 
Saturday morning started just how I like it: chilly. We navigated our way to a parking garage, walked a few blocks to the started, took one last bathroom break, and jumped into the race a few corrals behind our scheduled started. No PRs would be chased at this race. It was simply about having fun, feeling confident, and most importantly, welcoming my friend Leah back to the running world after taking a year and a half off to have a baby. 

The race course was gorgeous. The miles flew by. We laughed. We talked. We sang along to music. I may have thrown my fist into the air one too many times. And we crossed the finished line feeling better than when we started. This race will always be a favorite. 

 

Mastering my running photography skills
 
As my fall “racing” comes to an ended, I’m filled to the brim with satisfaction. Every race delivered exactly what I needed. Running is fun again, and winter training has some really exciting things in store. My favorite half marathon is waiting to be conquered. PRs are ready to be broken. I’m taking on an exciting new role on the J&A Racing Team (more to come soon!). I’m adding an exciting new strength regiment to my weekly routine. 

I have big dreams for this sport I love so much. I’ve always had big dreams, but now I’m ready to do the work to make it happen. I’m ready to push a little. I’m ready to see what these running legs can do. 

Reunited!

In the Process

I had no intention of running the Shamrock half marathon this year. I was planning to be on a work trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I thought I’d be in the heart of Africa working with patients doing something my heart loves. Plans changed. When my own personal safety came into question, the heart of my family became my priority. These very deserving patients will get treatment even if I’m not there, and my boys don’t have to worry about my safety.

There’s a saying floating around in this world that joy is found in the process not in the finish line. While I won’t be traveling to the DRC, a shift changed inside of me by working on this project. The story of these patients is so closely entwined with my heart. Who I am as a person and the beat of my heart directly connects me to their story. I rediscovered a passion inside of me over the past few months. I’ve found confidence in my own voice and in my own story. I’ve been using my voice to capture my story on paper. I’ve revisited places of shame and guilt that existed within me, and I conquered those doubts. I wanted more than anything to bring strength to these patients. I wanted to bring compassion and courage. In order to bring it to them, I had to find it for myself.

This process has changed me. In some ways it’s been subtle. In other ways it’s been intrusive. Rearranging the components of your soul is messy. It’s chaotic. While some parts have emerged, others have left with a fight. There have been days I’ve felt emotionally unstable as I’ve struggled through this transition: old doubts and insecurities struggling to hold on while new-found strength and courage fought to take over.

Through all this change the one place I’ve been able to sort through all my thoughts is in my running shoes. I’ve worked through it all, celebrated it all, and finished every run feeling like a polished version of my self. Shamrock race weekend feels like the perfect place to shine. This year I’ll be running the Shamrock half marathon instead of traveling to Africa, but I’ll be carrying this entire process with me. The finish line isn’t the one I anticipated, but the process has been the same.

I’ll be running with these patients close to my heart. I’ll be running with the courage and determination I hoped to bring to them. The best way I can honor them and myself is to show up to my life with my heart exposed filled with strength and courage.

When I do board a plane this spring for a different mission site, my heart is going to have nothing to give but love that is rooted in my own strength. My foundation will be built on strength and courage.

 

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You can’t Fake the Core

“If there’s one thing I believe more than I believe anything else, it’s that you can’t fake the core. The truth that lives there will eventually win out. It’s a god we must obey, a force that brings us all inevitably to our knees.” ~ Cheryl Strayed

All year I’ve been peeling away the layers. I’ve been seeking out breathing room in nearly every aspect of my life. After a period of my life that felt nearly suffocating, I needed to breathe again. I changed jobs. Our house is being decluttered. I simplified our family life. I took a step back in nearly every aspect of my life. This is what I need. I know it deep inside my core.

I’m meant to live a simple life. I’m meant to live a life full of love. It’s impossible to accomplish this when your life is full of clutter – both physical and emotional.

And yet my running has struggled. I’ve struggled with my relationship with running all year. Injury. Emotional baggage. Mental weakness. I just can’t get over the hump. With my fall race season approaching, I started to panic. I need a training plan. I need to get faster. I need support. My running continued to spiral downward. I don’t want to give up on running. I love running. Should I even be racing at all? I can’t function without running. I’m working on redefining my relationship with my running shoes. Isn’t that enough? Spiraling spiraling downward. And then I bounced back up.

What I need is breathing room!

I already know exactly what I need. My body has been telling me for months (years?).

I need to trust myself. I know how to run. I know how train. Creating my own plan, trusting myself to get me to the finish line, is exactly what I need. I need to empower myself. I need to put my faith back in my own ability. I don’t need a time goal. I just want to do my best.  And I need to listen to my body.

While I was so busy trying to control the outcome of every race, I was ignoring the screams that were coming from my body. I’ve run my body into the ground based on it’s current fitness level. My hips have been rebelling. I feel weaker every time I put on my running shoes.  My body was screaming at me that something needed to change. It was reminding me what I always forget: my running legs aren’t like everyone else’s running legs. They were broken at one point. My femur, my tibia, and my foot broke. They are pieced back together by titanium rods and screws. My hip and knees have been dislocated. I have scar tissue. I have to take care of them. I have to support them. I need to get stronger if I’m going to keep running.

So my training plan is blank minus the few races I’m running this fall. I’ve left space each week for two easy runs, one speed work out, and a long run. I’ve left space for strength workouts. I’ve left space for yoga. How I fill in the space each week will be based on my life – family and work. The blank spaces make me feel alive. The blank space feels like a vote of confidence in myself. I’m smart enough to know how to build mileage. I have run enough speed workouts to select ones that challenge me. I am now smart enough to recognize that my focus has to be on strength and yoga. The running will fall into place.

I’m excited about this new plan. I’m excited to find a balance that works for me. I’m excited to listen to my body in a truly authentic way. It feels amazing to let go of trying to control the outcome. Instead I’m focusing on today, right now, and exactly what my body needs. I have a feeling I’m building the foundation for a very happy running relationship.

I hear you body! I am finally listening!

I finally feel like I am breathing!

 

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Running and life: always a reflection of each other

Flying Pirate Half Marathon, Time to Fly

“I don’t know where you rightfully live, but I know that there’s something in this world that you love more than you love yourself. Something worthy, by the way, so addiction and infatuation don’t count, because we all know that those are not safe places to live. Right? The only trick is that you’ve got to identify the best, worthiest thing that you love most, and then build your house right on top of it and don’t budge from it. And if you should someday, somehow get vaulted out of your home by either great failure or great success, then your job is to fight your way back to that home the only way that it has ever been done, by putting your head down and performing with diligence and devotion and respect and reverence whatever the task is that love is calling forth from you next. You just do that, and keep doing that again and again and again, and I can absolutely promise you, from long personal experience in every direction, I can assure you that it’s all going to be okay.” ~Elizabeth Gilbert

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Tomorrow is race day. Everything that I love has come together for this race. When I start my 13 mile race tomorrow, I am building a home on top of foundation I have always struggled to build.

I have a race plan. I have race goals. But I’m not worried about this race. I haven’t analyzed or scrutinized every work out (too much). Maybe it’s because it’s my tenth half marathon. Maybe my head is finally catching up to my heart and body. Maybe it’s because I’ve done nothing today but sit on the beach. My parents kept my boys so I could have a stress free weekend. Maybe it’s because I finally have a foundation. Maybe it’s because I have absolutely nothing to lose by trying. I just feel ready and relaxed.

The race plan: Run smart until mile 8. Change gears between mile 8 and mile 10. The last three miles of this race are on trail. When I hit the trail, I plan on taking a risk. I plan on leaving the safe zone I always run in during these middle distance races. If it’s going to hurt, I might as well finish faster. A teammate of mine shared her mantra the other day: when the miles get hard, run harder. That is my plan for the last three miles.

The race goal: If I hit the times my coach wrote down on paper for me, I’ll finish in 1:59:20. It’s time to say goodbye to the two hour half marathon. My personal goal is to see how much further I can push that time once I hit mile 8.

As I’ve watched the waves crash on shore today, I’ve had plenty of time to visualize my run. My thoughts keep taking me back to how extremely grateful I am for right now. I have a lot to celebrate tomorrow. A wedding anniversary (four years on May 1st), two awesome boys, a supportive family, great friendships, and a dream job. These are the things I love more than myself. Life is as close to perfect as it gets right now.

This moment, this point in my life, it all feels like a starting point. This is my beginning. I am ready to fly.

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After all, I am running on a course that passes by the birthplace of aviation. The Wright Brothers created flight here!

The flying pirate half marathon kicks off at 7am tomorrow morning!

Shamrock Half- Marathon 2014 Race Report

The story of race day didn’t start the moment I lined up (rather late) in the corral before being welcomed on to the race course. It started back in January when I knew I shouldn’t run any more miles on my ankle. It started in February when I took three weeks off from running to let my ankle heal. During that break, I wondered if I would even find myself on the race course this year. It started in the beginning of March when I ran my one and only 10 mile run since the beginning of December.

Saturday night as I was laying out my clothes for race day, I got a last-minute call from my coach. He was calling to remind me of what I’ve known this whole time: the shamrock half was my starting point. It wasn’t my finish line. He gave me a conservative pacing guide that would allow me to push for a sub 2 hour half marathon if my body was ready for it, but it would also allow me respect my ankle injury and lack of training. I was told if I ran anything faster than a 9:45 for the first mile, he’d knock me upside my head. After the first mile, I was to settle into 9:30s for a few miles, then 9:15s. When I reached the lighthouse, my plan was to ignore my garmin and run whatever my body had to offer. Whether it was a ten minute mile or an eight minute mile, my coach didn’t want me thinking about pace at this point in the race.

I arrived at the oceanfront with just enough time to check my bag and use the bathroom. By the time I made it to the starting corral the first four corrals had started, so I jumped in with the fifth corral. My friends Leah and Laura took off in front of me, and Laura’s husband Travis settled in next to me. Since I was three corrals back from my original corral, the runners around me started slower than my normal. This was perfect for me. I settled in and avoided weaving. After the first mile the crowds thinned out, and I settled into a very comfortable rhythm of running.

10:02

9:29

9:20

After the third mile, the race course takes you down Shore Drive. It’s probably my favorite part of the course. It’s tree lined streets are welcoming. During the fourth mile, I saw my dearest friend Sara (the girl who inspired me to run my first half marathon!). She’s pregnant and was cruising along. It was so great to see her on the course. As I approached the end of Shore Drive and the turn to Fort Story, doubt tried to creep into my head. What if I can’t do this for 13 miles? What if I am in over my head? And as quickly as the doubts appeared, they also disappeared. Another friend showed up in that moment on her bike in her sparkle skirt waving her cow bell. Go Kristy! was all i needed to snap me out of my mental funk.

9:14

9:10

9:10

As I made the turn on to Fort Story, I was greeted by wonderful wind gusts and an overwhelming sense that my race wasn’t about me. I knew my husband would be at mile 10 waiting for me. My mom and dad were at home watching my boys so I could run. I had friends all over the race course fighting for their own personal victories. My race was a joy ride. I was running a half marathon when three weeks earlier I hadn’t run in 21 days. I was contemplating deferring to the next year. Yet here I was running anyways. My body is strong enough and healthy enough to run 13 miles without much training.

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The wind was strong on the base. Instead of fighting against it, I decided to let it welcome me. At this point, my legs were getting tired, but I knew I owed to myself, my husband, my parents, my kids and all my friends running that day to push to the finish line.

9:23

9:34

9:07

maybe my favorite race photo ever!
maybe my favorite race photo ever!

The turn off of Fort Story may now be my favorite part of the course (sorry Shore Drive!). After running through the quiet streets of the base, the residents of the North End are a happy sight. I had ten blocks to go before I knew I’d see my husband. As I approached 81st street (our street – the street we lived on, the street where he proposed on the beach, and the street where we said I DO), I realized he wasn’t there. It was okay. The kids were probably a pain in the morning. I’d find him. As soon as I accepted that he wasn’t there, he was there. Blue bike, shamrock hat, and cowbell. He was there to cheer me on. He got a quick high-five, a smile, and a thumbs up. I had run out of steam, but I had to keep going for three more miles.

9:12

9:51

I found Christian again as I made the turn at the Cavalier hotel. There was no more energy for high fives or smiles even though I was beaming on the inside. He got a thumbs up as I held on to the finish line.

9:13

8:21 pace

I was so relieved to make it to the finish line. I was filled with gratitude the moment I finished. I almost gave up on this race. I almost never showed up. I have a running coach who wouldn’t let me discuss it, I have friends who pulled and pushed me along the course. I have a kick ass husband and family. And I just set a PR in my half-marathon. Sure it wasn’t the 1:55 half marathon I intended to train for when I started this journey. But the success of this race is by far sweeter than any I have experienced so far.

I ran happy. My heart was engaged. My legs burned. And I finished feeling oh so very happy!

Official Finish TIme – 2:03:19

Knowing that this is my base for the rest of my running this year gives me hope that I have some really amazing races waiting for me. The post race was filled with so much celebration: goals accomplished, lessons learned, and some really big achievements (both clock related and not clock related) by all of my friends. I really feel so lucky to be part of this amazing community.

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Next up, Cherry Blossom Ten-Miler in 20 days!