Saturday, September 26, 2015

Omaha Marathon Turn A New Leaf Over Somewhere In The Middle of America

The Omaha Marathon 

Getting it right this time in Nebraska!

Race Week: 

Somewhere in the middle of America. Get right to the heart of matters. It's the heart that matters more.  Omaha--Counting Crows

Things were not going in my favor leading up to the Omaha Marathon. I started feeling sick on Wednesday and things went downhill from there. As I became sick, life would get busier with teaching and coaching. Rest was limited due to my busy schedule and not being able to breathe led to even less sleep. I coached cross country on Saturday morning as FCHS cross country boys finished first among 30 teams. The ladies ran fast enough to move them up to a top ten state ranking along with a national elite qualification. I left the meet happy but anxious about the work I had ahead of me in Omaha on Sunday. Driving to Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport for my flight to Omaha via Dallas, I tried to change my focus from coach to athlete. It was time to get to the heart of matters. In route, I focused on hydration and relaxing. After picking up my rental car and checking into the hotel, it was 11:30 pm. I got roughly five hours of sleep and woke up feeling congested but knew this was no time for excuses--I had 26.2 miles of work to do.

First Half 13.1 Miles Of Omaha and The Missouri River

Run past the heather and down to the old road. Start turning the grain into the ground. Roll a new leaf over. Omaha--Counting Crows

I drove to the TD Ameritrade Stadium, picked up my packet and napped in my car. I quickly did a few plyometric drills and lined up at the start just in time for the singing of the national anthem. A couple of runners asked me how I wanted to finish and I told them 3:39 but I knew that would be tough to sustain. My breathing was heavy the first 5k because of my congested state and I knew this past week's busy schedule would catch up with me sooner or later. Other than breathing issues, I could not believe how great I felt for 13.1 miles. The course had us running three miles in downtown Omaha before it took us to a beautiful bike path adjacent to the Missouri River and along a few grain mills. It was perfect weather mixed with wind. When I ran in Lincoln and Valentine, Nebraska it was upper 80s to low 90s. I did not take this beautiful day for granted. We left the scenic bike path along the Misouri River and toured through a few suburban neighborhoods before turning around to head back to the TD Ameritrade Stadium in downtown Omaha.

The Countdown To Finally Checking Off Nebraska 13.1 Mile Return To Omaha To Get It Right This Time

Say, Omaha on a Sunday morning I'm Coming Home Today  Omaha--Counting Crows

I came through the half split at 1:44. Three different spectators commented on my perfect running form. A mile after I received the last compliment I could feel my form start to fall apart. Something happened around mile 17 on the bike path and I broke. My form started falling apart and I know when that happens it is bad news for me. I can sustain my pace as long as I can hold my kick, stride and run tall. It could have been the concrete course, lack of sleep or sickness. What was causing the breakdown was irrelevant. I would have to battle the last 10k to the finish in downtown Omaha. The last six miles was a struggle as everything from my right knee to lower back started to hurt. I finished in the stadium upright but did not stay that way for long.


Start running the banner down. Drop past the color. Come up through the summer rain. Omaha-Counting Crows

It was my joints and not my muscles which were hurting. Not just my knees but my lower back and shoulders. Every joint in my body was aching. I iced my knees as the medical staff came over to check on me laying on the grass. It took me about fifteen minutes to ice and pull myself back together. The medical student working in the medical tents kept me company as he was also a cross country coach. We talked coaching, concrete courses and what it takes to Boston qualify. I picked myself up--called it a day and went back to the hotel to shower. My finish would be easier to take it I had not felt amazing up until mile 17. I am not used to hitting the wall like I did and the coach in me needed to analyze why it happened to make sure it does not occur again. I finished in 3:46 which was good enough for 17th female overall. This was my third marathon in Nebraska. I ran in Lincoln in 2012 and took a DNF in Valentine, NE after temperatures reached the 90s the summer of 2012. I spent the afternoon in Omaha discovering the Old Town Market and chatting with the locals happy to have checked off my 44th sub four hour state in Nebraska.

Time to Chase Down Those Final 6 States!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Two Half Marathons & A 15K PR

Week 1 Post Boston Qualifying in South Dakota: Hotlanta Half Tempo Run

A week after earning my second Boston qualifying time in one month in Colorado and later in South Dakota I decided to get in a tempo run in Atlanta at the Hotlanta Half Marathon practicing my race pace for the Omaha Marathon. I finished 4th in my division on a hilly course and top 20 female with my marathon target pace of 8:10. The Hotlanta Half is the second largest half marathon in Atlanta behind the Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon so I was pleased with how I placed with marathon legs from the previous Saturday and with using the race as a tempo run. I was racing at about 85% effort. Although the race is known to be a hot race in the summer it rained for most of the 13.1 miles this year. The course is one of the best designed courses in Atlanta in terms of ATL sightseeing but it is in no way a fast course.

Week 2 Post Boston Qualifying Time In South Dakota: Iron Horse 15k Podium Finish & 15K PR

The following week I raced the Iron Horse 15K. I finished on the podium at the Iron Horse 15k. I ran a 7:37 pace on hills for the 15k which turned out to be a solid effort. My coach and I decided to use the first four miles as a tempo and then race the final five miles. Once again, it was a hilly course with most of the hills coming on the second half of the course. I enjoyed the tempo to race strategy.

Week 3 Post Boston Qualifying In South Dakota: Labor Day Half Marathon Podium Finish

I actually raced this half marathon which turned out to be 13.3 miles instead of 13.1.  The race directors verified this was the case. My pace for the 13.3 miles was a 7:53 which was good enough for third female overall. It was a typical humid morning in Atlanta in early September but I still ran eleven minutes faster on the same course (although a little longer course) than I did on the same course in April of this year five months after my surgery. Within five months I have taken over eleven minutes off of my 13.1 time.

One Week Out From The Omaha Marathon: No Racing Just Tapering Down For 26.2

Two podium finishes and a 15K personal record after a Boston qualifying marathon speak well for my fitness heading into the Omaha Marathon. However, 26.2 miles brings upon many challenges.  Being fit is not always enough. One must also be rested with semi-fresh legs. I will spend the next week preparing to race by recovering from the past month of races and training runs. This weekend I will begin my taper as I am now one week out from my third marathon in two months--The Omaha Marathon.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Leading Ladies Marathon--South Dakota "Cowgirl Up"

Pre-race high five from Jimmy
The Leading Ladies Marathon has been a bucket list marathon for me for years. The Leading Ladies Marathon is not only a beautiful course through Spearfish Canyon among the Black Hills of South Dakota but it is also all about the ladies. This was my first time running a female only marathon out of my 69 marathons. On Friday night, I flew into Rapid City after work, rented a Mustang, and checked into my hotel. The next morning I discovered a quaint city with a presidential vibe, a street covered in art known as Art Ally, and a friendly community in Rapid City. I loved the presidential statues on each street corner, the vibe of the town and the people I encountered. It was a brief visit before I began my adventure to Spearfish, South Dakota. I got a pre-race high-five from Jimmy Carter and had Starbucks with George Washington before heading to the expo in Spearfish.

The race director of the Leading Ladies Marathon
While at the expo, I met the race director, Elaine who has run 125 marathons herself. Elaine is such a strong woman (7 children) who has really lived life through running, survived cancer and several marriages due to an unfaithful husband and death. She is an example for all of us to be strong ladies through the storms of life.  As the race slogan suggest "Cowgirl Up" both in running and in life. I really respect the strong women among us. After chatting with Elaine a few runners suggested I take a road trip to Wyoming's Devils Tower.

Dinner With Amy Yanni

I returned from my Wyoming day-trip to meet Amy Yanni (another amazing lady) for dinner who was my inspiration for running my 24 sub four hour marathons in 2011. She is the only lady to have ran more than 24 sub four hour marathons in 24 states in a year. Needless to say, Amy is a role model but not just in running.  Amy, has a Ph.d in EDU and spent most of her life being a service oriented attorney who retired to participate in the Teach For America Program to help educate children in the poverty stricken areas of Mississippi while racing really fast marathons around the US. We had so much in common as we discussed not only marathons but the challenges of being an educator. Amy Yanni is also a cancer survivor who discovered she had cancer through a benign tumor just as I did. After dinner, we returned to our respective hotels and set our alarms for 3:30 am. I went to sleep inspired and empowered from our dinner conversation.
Devils Tower, Wyoming

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Revel Rockies Marathon--Colorado. Comeback Complete.

Revel Rockies Marathon--Colorado
Reflecting on the journey. I had already fought and trained my
way back to the top. It was time to fight my way down
the Rockies.
Three years, three months, and two weeks. That's how long it had been since I ran a sub four hour marathon in a new state. Since my last sub four marathon my life has changed drastically. I sold a house. Bought a new house. Left Peachtree Ridge High School to build another cross country program. Had surgery for a tumor. Discovered I had cancer. Overcame the largest setback of my life. My life has changed drastically since I ran the Ocean Drive Marathon in New Jersey in March of 2012. Since my last sub four hour state--New Jersey I had been unsuccessful in Nebraska by a few seconds of hitting a sub four hour marathon, a DNF in Colorado with a wrong turn, and three minutes short of a sub four hour marathon in South Dakota at Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon. Unknowingly, I was very sick and did not know why my body was working against me. Getting the answers did not make things easier. Getting the news I had a large tumor that looks like cancer on an MRI was one of the most frightening moments of my life.

Needless to say, this comeback marathon in the Rocky Mountains meant a lot to me. I wanted to return with a Boston qualifying time and pick up right where I left off before I started getting really sick in 2012. I wanted a BQ to feel like just another marathon as it did in 2011. However, my body had been through Hell and my ferritin level is still drastically low. It was a long road back to the starting line with 90-100 mile training weeks with low ferritin. This is my last workout before the marathon:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I am not obsessed with running...okay maybe a little obsessed

"As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others." -- Bill Gates

It may seem like my entire life revolves around running or perhaps that I don't really have a life outside of running at all. Most would be surprised to know that running is just one small aspect of my life but the one I enjoying sharing with others the most. I am very private about a lot of things but running is not one of them. I want people to know where I come from with sharing on this blog, my constant social media updates with inspirational running post, running pictures and running videos. Here is the Cliff Notes version....

For two years I traded in racing bibs for hospital wrist bands. It was two years of MRIs, blood test, ultrasounds and doctor's visits. I didn't give up on my running goals or my dreams but my body temporarily gave up on me. I pushed through 67 marathons with low ferritin for years, I struggled with the occasional running tweaks from plantar issues to uncooperative IT Bands, I balanced multiple jobs with my training while earning three degrees with little to no energy. These are things we can balance in our lives and overcome. However, sometimes life hits us so hard we have no choice but to take a step back. That is precisely what happened to me from 2012-2014. Unknowingly I had a fast growing tumor and cancer simultaneously.

During those moments over the last couple of years when I was uncertain if I faced death, chemo, or never running again I never questioned God. I never lost my faith. Did I miss running? You bet I did. I was a little lost to be honest. For years, I never trained for marathons because I never had the energy to do it right. Instead, I opted for a fun approach to the sport and set goals that seemed attainable for my ability and health issues. I missed the fun races, the friends I had met during my 50sub4 journey around the US and the traveling through runcations. Surgery not only saved my life but it gave me a chance to be able to not only run but to train harder and more efficiently. It also made me stronger mentally.

Age group award at the Braves Country 5k
When I toe the line at races, I think to myself no one has been through what I've been through. Maybe something else but not exactly what I went through. I never want to forget certain things about the last couple of the time I tried to get out of bed and fell head first into a huge pile of pillows on the floor next to my bed. I  just decided to sleep on the floor because getting up seemed too painful.  That was only six months ago. I have willed myself to get in shape, to race again with a very humble start (my first 5k back was slower than my marathon pace) yet to not loose sight of lofty goals in the process of humble beginnings.  The way I see it, if I can keep the humbleness and humility of that woman who fell head first onto the floor into those pillows and ran that dreadful 5k back in February, the athlete who through determination alone willed herself to win four age group awards in the last two months and set two personal best times, and the Christian who never lost faith in God but that feels His presence with each rainbow that appears during her workout, with each sunbeam that shines down on her and with each sunset she sees on her evening runs then the best is truly yet to come. Success takes all of those things: humbleness and humility, determination and faith.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light and not our darkness that most frighten us.  We ask ourselves, who am I to be great, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you NOT to be? Nelson Mandela once said, Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that others will not feel small around you. We are all meant to shine. We were born to manifest the glory of God within us; it's in everyone. As we let our own light shine we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fears our presence automatically liberates others. 
This my friends, is why I share my passion of running and why I coach- to inspire, to encourage, to liberate others from their fears and to teach that humble beginnings can have happy endings.

Hope you enjoyed the Cliff Notes and here is my latest workout video:


Friday, June 19, 2015

The 37th Possum Trot 10k In Preperation For 26.2 In Colorado

There were a couple of goals for this Atlanta tradition--The Possum Trot 10k which takes place in the beautiful Chattahoochee Nature Reserve in Roswell, Georgia. I am racing through these shorter distances to prepare my body for 26.2 in Colorado. I "tapered" the day before the race with a 15 mile run. Needless to say, I am training through these shorter races as they are a means to accomplish a marathon goal. I went into this 10k with tired legs that put in 90 miles the week prior to this 10k which has been an Atlanta tradition for 37 years.  I had two goals going into the race: (1) to get my personal best time in the 10k which is still nothing to write home about  and (2) to make the said goal happen over the last three miles with a fast finish. I have been training to finish faster in my races. I am happy to report I got everything I wanted out of this race. With that said, I would have loved to have chased down a few more ponytails but with the two hills the last mile and the humidity taking a toll on my body, it didn't happen. I finished top ten overall which with all things considering (my weekly mileage and that my target training is for 26.2) I will take those results and move forward.  I did manage to win my third age group award post surgery.

Looking ahead to 26.2 in Colorado in July, I would say I am getting close to being able to race a Boston qualifying time again. I had seven Boston qualifying times in 2011 before my health went downhill in 2012. My body knows this Boston qualifying pace as my average pace in 2011 when I ran 24 marathons was only three minutes over the Boston qualifying time. I was registered for the 2012 Boston Marathon but could not run it due to my health. It would be great to return to racing 26.2 with a BQ! The reality is that I am only seven months out from my surgery which took a toll on my body and only a few months into marathon training. My doctor said it would be a complete year until my body was fully recovered. My ferritin levels have increased from a four to a ten. Although I am excited to see double digits for the first time since 2009,  a ten is not close to where I need my ferritin to be for training. To get my iron stores which is stored in bone marrow in the normal range, I am taking iron supplements.

You can watch the race highlights here:

Below is a video of my Workout Wednesday after the 10k on Sunday. The workout started with a seven mile warm-up. I completed five mile repeats. I hit pace on the first four and was 10 seconds slow on the fifth. The goal was to do three and keep going as long as I could hit my target pace.  It was 94 degrees the evening of the workout. I am satisfied I held onto pace for four of the five miles. Summer training in Hotlanta is a challenge when targeting a specific pace!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Marathon Training: "Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don't wish it were easier; wish you were better."

"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." -- Arthur Ashe

An inside look into a few of my workouts as I prepare to return to 26.2 post surgery. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

It's Not About Where You Are, But Where You Are Going On Your Journey

It is the end of the school year which is always a time of reflection for me personally and professionally. Our new principal--Mr Young asked us to reflect on three things as a teacher, a coach and as a school (Where have we been? Where are we now? Where are we going?) at the beginning of the school year.  After all it is about the journey in most everything we do, right?  I now apply this approach to goals in my personal life.  Here is a little insight into my life, a decade of running with a tumor, the year I discovered I had cancer, and where I stand with my 50sub4 journey.

I hope you don't suffer but take the pain. Hope when that moment comes you will say---I swear I lived!

Where I've Been
First of all, it feels great to back to running and blogging about my journey. After a three year hiatus I am finally back into training mode with a marathon on the schedule for 50sub4 in Colorado. I still have nine sub four hour states remaining. I don't want to play the victim but I get asked often about what exactly happened last fall. It was the day before the Peachtree Road Race on July 4th, my doctor sent me to get an ultrasound.  A few days later I was told I had a large tumor.  All fall I did not have the energy to get through the day.  I got called into the principal's office one afternoon.  Just like most students who are in trouble--I knew where this was going.  My athletic director and assistant principal told me to proceed with the surgery now. Why? A recent MRI had shown an abnormal tumor which would not allow me to have a non-invasive surgery. It looked like cancer to each doctor who read the MRI and report. I finished out the cross country season not knowing for an entire month if I was dying or had a long road of chemo ahead of me. I put my heart and soul into coaching last fall. The team finished 5th in 5A which is the best finish for FCHS in our 59 years of existence. We also won our first region championship. The week after the state championship I was scheduled for surgery.
FCHS--Region Champs & 5th At The State Championship

The last thing I remember Dr. Allen saying to me before the anesthesia kicked in and I fell asleep, "Enough is enough. Let's get this tumor so you can get back to running." The surgery went perfect. Dr. Allen called in a second surgeon to do an impromptu surgery on my large intestine as there was reason for concern. The only news we received in the hospital--the tumor was part calcified and also in a state of rapid growth. It took a week for the pathologist to send the final outcome to Dr. Allen. The phone rang. Dr. Allen had finally called to tell me the direction of my life. The tumor was benign! I gave my mom the thumbs up with a smile of relief. She fell to her knees sobbing and giving all thanks to God for our answered prayers. Dr. Allen went on to reveal details which changed the way I look at everything in life from that moment forward. The pathologist found cancer in my uterus. It took Atlanta's top three pathologist to give me the all clear which explains why I had to wait so long for the results. They determined they had clear margins on the cancer I never would have known I had if not for the tumor.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Sometimes It's Okay TO Look Back (An excerpt from what I wrote last year) As Our Team Approached The Region Championship

In May of 2013, I found myself sitting in the parking lot at Forsyth Central High School going into a job interview I had not foreseen coming the previous week. Upon parking my car I had a sense of peace and calmness I can’t yet explain as I walked into the front office at Central. I whispered to myself, “This is where God wants me right now.”  Everything inside this high school looked so different than “The Ridge” the name given to a modern, large, and very successful high school established in 2004 in prestigious Suwanee, GA which is known for success in academics and sports. FCHS was much older—established in the 1950s. “God loves humility and humbleness echoed in the back of my mind." There was no wall to wall cherry trophy case that read "The Standard of Excellence" filled with annual state championship trophies. There were no flat screen televisions displayed around the school playing the sport’s highlights and success along with announcements of the week. I did not really care to take a tour of the rest of the campus which is a rather large-two buildings connected across a large field that makes this 5A high school seem more like a college campus. It felt right and that was all that mattered. I was not moving out of my comfort zone because of a building. I was more interested in what went on inside of the building or in this case--campus.  I knew this was where I was called to be. This was not about what was easiest or best for me.  After the interview I felt confident this is where God wanted me to be. A few days later, I got an email followed by a job offer. After building a cross country program and learning from the standard of excellence for nearly a decade, God had called me to Forsyth Central. I had no idea why…

Our Home Meet At FCHS at Mary Alice Park On Lake Lanier
I recall my last luncheon at PRHS. I fought back tears through most of Dr. Tashlein’s speech. I was leaving behind a special place with a lot of cross country and teaching memories. I had poured my heart and soul into building this running program from the ground up beginning in 2005. PRHS was the longest chapter of my life—longer than my high school days, college days (even with my two consecutive degrees from University of Kentucky) and my traveling days in Spain, Mexico and Sydney, Australia. A huge chapter of my life was coming to an end. It was a chapter that molded me into a cross country coach and a teacher but more importantly where I found God’s calling and purpose for me.
Onto Central…

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Preparing For Surgery Is Like Training For A Marathon

When I discovered I had a four inch tumor (the size of an orange) living inside my body I was in shock. This meant surgery. I have never had surgery before and really thought I had escaped the C-section and labor pains most women go through to deliver a beautiful baby. I would get to deliver a tumor and experience surgery. Just great! I wanted this tumor out of my body now. It has caused low iron, fatigue and made racing 26.2 even more challenging then it already is.

I immediately asked my doctor when I should schedule this surgery. He mentioned it was slow growing and I had been living with the side effects for at least five years. He also reluctantly mentioned the three to four day hospital stay with two months of recovery.  This meant I could wait until after cross country season when I will be on winter break. The downside--I have a whole fall to prepare In the summer and fall most runners are preparing to peak for a fall marathon. I will be training this year for surgery.

Knowing I ran two marathon in one weekend in New England with the
 2nd day faster and the following week placing 3rd in Iowa almost hitting
my personal record. I know the better shape you are in the
faster you recover.
Once the initial shock passed and I Googled WEB MD to see the horrific pictures of how they are going to slice my stomach open to remove a large tumor (possibly more smaller tumors ) connected to arteries and blood vessels, I immediately started to pull myself back together. What can you control in this situation. Focus only on what you can control.  You can control your mental and spiritual state. You can gain strength from your faith. Okay, what else? You can control your fitness to a certain degree. You can train for this surgery like a marathon. Go into surgery super fit and lean. You can eat healthy. (Starts researching every healthy food that helps fibroid tumors. Goes to store to buy said food--Brazilian nuts, steel cut oatmeal, beet juice, pears, berries for the oatmeal etc.)

My focus is no longer on the surgery and those awful pictures I saw (do not google them-it's really gross and you've been warned) but on what I do going into surgery and what I will face coming out of surgery. The doctors said for this specific surgery it is usually three months of no exercising but they are estimating it will only take me two months before I can return to training. I recovered for 24 marathons in a year. Although that does not make me superior than the next person it gives me confidence in my ability to recover. Truthfully, when I was beginning to think my racing 26.2 days were in the rear view mirror, I got answers. It puts into perspective that everything I did in 2011 was with a four inch tumor--probably not as big then as it is now but enough to make my ferritin remain a 4-10 from 2010-present. I am thinking my best running days may be ahead of me sans life/iron/ferritin sucking, orange-sized tumor.

Time to focus on my "tumor surgery training."