Pittsburgh Part 2 of 3: A Race to Remember

I was already awake when the hotel wake-up call service pierced the silence with the insanely loud ringing of the telephone at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday. My alarm clock never did go off.

I took a quick shower to wake up, got dressed, laced up my shoes, put on my Grace Band, woke Michael up and headed down to the lobby to meet Suzi, Duane and my family for breakfast. Somehow I was late too. I ate a non-toasted English muffin with some peanut butter with some watered-down orange juice (not my choosing) and downed about three glasses of lemon water.

Clearly, I was not really ready to be social or to run or anything at 5:30 a.m. on what was only the biggest race day of my entire life:

Seriously, am I really about to cry?

Not to mention, my stomach was a mess. Thanks, Bravo! Or, should I say, thanks nerves!? Regardless of which to thank, I was seriously wondering if I would even be able to make it to the van without using the bathroom, let alone run 26.2 miles. Just my luck, right? Just my worst nightmare. Bathroom issues.

We loaded into the car and headed back into the city. We were supposed to meet Laurel and Kim – two of out MIT teammates – at the Westin, but traffic was stacked up (again) so we grabbed a spot in the first parking garage we came to. My stomach was literally turning in circles. I don’t think anyone could have said anything to calm me down.

Duane followed us in his car and parked near us (not that my eyes weren’t glued to his car or anything).  We all got out and got our bibs situated. I think I stabbed myself with the safety pin about three times before Suzi helped me. I wore the bib in honor of my mother in my back. Suzi pinned in on straight for me and we caught the elevator to street level. It was misty and cool – perfect weather in my opinion. Too bad my stomach wouldn’t cooperate.

Thank you Races 2 Remember

There was the traditional paparazzi photo extravaganza. My mom would have taken 17 pictures with 42 cameras for all of us. Thankfully, Michael, my Dad and Mollie managed without a hitch:

Duane, Me and Suzi.


Me and my sister Mollie

The sun was rising and the humidity began to rise only slightly, still, I was slightly worried. I didn’t want to be hot. Clearly, I decided to stick with my blue theme, which is why I am wearing pink. Thank you VSX for a super-comfortable, super-light, feels-like-you-are-running-naked race outfit. I picked it out just Friday and wore it Friday night in order to not have to wear anything new on race day:

Me before the big race!

I checked and re-checked myself. Bibs? Check! Grace Band? Check! Suzi to run the Half? Check! Duane running with as much as his calf would allow? Check! Garmin?! Check! Whew. I thought I forgot it for a second. Sister? Dad? Check! Check!

My mind was spinning. I didn’t want to run today. Not at all. Not this race. Not without my mom there to cheer me on. It hurt. Bad, almost unbearably. I wanted to go home. The thing is, I knew everyone would understand if I did. I knew I had the most acceptable reason in the world for backing down – for running the half at the last minute – for calling it quits. I knew people, especially my family, would understand. My dad told me three weeks ago if I wanted to skip Pittsburgh, he would understand, the money didn’t matter, the time and travel were trivial. I even thought my mom would understand. I, apparently, was the only one who would not.

I pondered my options, I mean really thought about calling game over.

So, there I was, standing alone on a crowded street – runners everywhere – when out of nowhere someone tackled me from behind in a bear hug, arms clenched around my neck. Then another, and another, and another. Four of them. First instinct when this happens to you in a big, strange city with your friend, family and coach staring at you mouths hanging open in disbelief? Run for your life!!!!!

Or, on seond thought, try to figure out what is going on. If you do this, you will be unbelievably and pleasantly shocked! It was the LUCKY 13’s!!!!! I could not believe my misty-eyes as reality sunk in. They came to cheer me on! I was in total shock:

They told me the story piece-meal and it was impressive to say the least. A very pregnant and very ecstatic Mandy drove them from Columbus to Pittsburgh at 2:00 a.m. to make it in time for the start of the race. “I thought you guys might come to the Finish Line, but I never expected this!” I exclaimed. They had planned to surprise me, but amazingly in a sea of over 17,000 people they ran into me on their way to the start line. What?!?!?! Mandy said there was no way they could not tell me they were there. I was thrilled – they were even wearing MIT shirts so I could spot them on the course. Brilliant!

And so it began. My crew it tow, we filtered through the racers and spectators to the start line. We couldn’t find Corral E. We asked about a thousand people before we discovered it was way on the other side of where we already were. They were checking bibs to let people through. It was time to part from our friends and my family. Me, Duane and Suzi set off into a city of strangers. I was nervous.

Then, from out of the blue we heard familiar voices calling our names? What?! It was Laurel and Kim! How was it that we randomly ran into our racing partners at the last minute? Unbelievable. I looked to the Heavens and thought, “Alright, I get it, I’m running this race whether I like it or not. Done deal, no backing out now. Clearly that would be unacceptable to You.” Suck it up, Wyen and run. Got it.

We waited in our corral for what seemed like forever – I do believe it was like 20 minutes or so. I was annoyed that I left my hat at the hotel and it was drizzling harder. Who runs in the rain without a hat? I visited the porto-john again (just how do you spell that?). My stomach was twisting. It was not good.

From what we could tell the race started. We waited some more. We walked, we jogged, we heard screaming spectators. Then we were off. I crossed the start line and started my Garmin. No turning back now. Duane? Check! Suzi? Check! Laurel? Check! Kim? Check! We broke free of the pack. We were flying. Like a 9:50 or something crazy. My mind was screaming, “Rookie mistake! Rookie mistake!” It was too easy to get caught up in the excitement. We kept running fast. I stopped trying to slow down. I think I was enjoying the moment, damn the consequences, this was my day.

Our pace eventually evened out to a 12:15 or so – still a little quick for me with so many miles ahead. That resolved itself with the first hill (or, so I thought it was hill at the time, but it was more like a slight incline). We slowed again. We were feeling the burn. We kept running. Our little pack – just like on Saturday mornings is what I kept telling myself. In the back of my mind, there was worry – what was I going to do when I was alone? I focused on my Grace Band, Mile 2 was for my Mom. I ran it strong. I threw a kiss to the Heavens when it was over. I kept running.

The hills were rough. We started walking them. I remember Laurel telling me it was okay, just keep moving. Duane reminded us to take the inside path. We tried to. Kim pulled ahead, cruising at a nice race pace, but not without waving to us first. It had begun. We were each running our own race.

I slowed considerably. I had way more to go. The pack pulled away. I was cheering them on in my mind. Duane drifted back to run with me. I asked him how his calf was holding up. He said it was great. I believed him – why wouldn’t I? He was running strong.

We were coming up on the first relay exchange – between Miles 5 and 6 maybe? Duane said, “I don’t know about you, but I’m about to call this race quits.” I know I looked at him like he had lost his mind. “I don’t know about you, but I have 20 more miles to go, Duane!” I thought. He slowed again; I thought I saw him limping. “Yup, I’m about done with this,” he said. He almost stopped. “This is it,” I though, “Operation-Run-Pittsburgh-All-By-Yourself-And-Take-All-Day-Doing-It-Too starts right now.” You’ve trained for this, Sara, you ran 18 miles alone and you succeeded. This is just 18 miles with 2 more tacked on.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Deb on the sideline. I screamed to Duane, “There’s Deb – look!” Hi, Deb! Nice to see you, Deb! Duane took off his bib and I remember thinking, “Man, when he is done, he’s done.” I waved goodbye to them. Then, all of a sudden, Deb was running towards us. She grabbed the bib from Duane and put it on. She said, “Hi, I’m Diane today, the bib has a typo in it!” I stared at the two of them in disbelief. “What are you doing, Deb?” I asked. “You didn’t think we were going to let you run Pittsburgh alone, did you?” she answered.

I started crying. I looked behind me and saw Duane cruise to the sideline. He was grinning for ear to freakin’ ear. I wave at him again and again. I looked at Deb, tears in my eyes, and told her I had goose bumps. “How long,” I asked her, “How long did you have this planned?” She said for a couple of weeks. She recounted the planning in great detail. She told me about the ones who couldn’t be there, but wanted to be. She told me all about the people who were rooting for me. It was a perfect plot. She called it Operation Pittsburgh:

Operation Pittsburgh Sign Making Party!

These ladies even thought to get a picture with their Cap City medals, which I wanted, but wasn’t able to get after the race:

Deb, LeDawn, Sarah, Amy and Mandy

Deb ran with me and chatted about the Operation. It was awesome. I got chills every time she told me more about it. Deb kept me laughing through about 5 miles. It was magical for me. The half runners eventually turned off and I was more than thankful for my running partner. Deb said, “What she [Sara] didn’t know was that a Lucky 13 was waiting for her at every relay exchange, so one of us was running with her the whole race. I got to be the one to meet her first. The look on Sara’s face was priceless as she slowly figured out what was going on!! The section I ran was supposedly one of the flatter sections, but there were still a LOT more hills than we’re used to in Columbus. We walked some of the hills, but kept a good overall pace. It was a good run.”

Leg number three – Amy! She was smiling for ear to ear. I got tears in my eyes all over again. The switch of “Diane’s” bib was seamless. People were actually screaming – “Go Diane!” Amy powered forward. No hesitation. I started jogging to keep up. Then, I remembered one thing for our training season – Amy loves hills. This must mean hills. Lots of hills.

And then there was Mt. Washington. Almost a mile of straight up hill. We walked it. Amy in front, literally pulling me along. I was tired already. And I was worried about finishing the race. Amy kept smiling, kept persevering. She never faltered. I told her she was the calming presence of our group. If I could just follow in Amy’s stride, I was golden. She rocked it out to “I Gotta Feeling” up Mt. Washington. Literally. It was amazing. Amy, run Pittsburgh. You already got this course nailed. She made me laugh, but mostly, she calmed my nerves for the next five miles. Amy recounts our trek together beautifully, “So honored to be able to run part of this marathon with Sara! I was lucky enough to be the one to be with her going up Mt. Washington…the killer hill of all killer hills! We decided to walk it! I am soooo proud of her out there today. For her, it was tough mentally and physically, yet she persevered and finished! My time is not exact, but we also did a lot of walking around Pittsburgh trying to figure out where to go!!! I think I got in a good 13 miles today. Amy – run Pittsburgh. Run Pittsburgh and never look back.

Stay tuned, friends, for my half-way-done-life-saver and the miles where I almost fell apart…

Until the next mile marker,

Are There Really ONLY TWO DAYS Until Pittsburgh?

Countdown to Pittsburgh = 2 Days. In a little less than 48 hours I will be running this:
Please do your best to ignore MOUNT Washington somewhere around Mile 7
I’ve never been more scared for a race (although I might have said that before my first half, at least my husband seems to think I did).
I don’t even know what to wear anymore! I think I want to change my outfit and I have to pack and make sure I have all of my running gear! I’ve never made sure to pack my running gear before – I have never run this far away for any more than a 5k!?! Ack! And my stomach is queasy – must be the nerves – my throat is slightly sore – pray to the Heavens that I am NOT getting sick! I need to remember my camera and my cell phone charger and my laptop – right?!
Calming down, in major freak-out mode here!
The support and encouragement I have received from my running buddies has been amazing! Today I do also feel a tinge of excitement. I expect Pittsburgh to be a rollercoaster ride of emotions for me. The tidbits of encouragement and advice you have been sending to me this week have been wonderful – THANK YOU!
Here is just a little of what has been keeping me going:
“You will do great! You have trained hard for this & you’ll have friends & family supporting you.” Laurel, MIT Lucky 13ish (she’s fast!) who is running the half on Sunday
“I just wanted to let you know I will be thinking of you and your journey at your first marathon. I wanted to make sure you lube the following put a ton of lube on these areas:
nipples ( I would even wear nipple guards)
under your arm pits
your thighs
between your butt cheeks
and right where you sports bra is around your chest upper and lower.
You have big boobs like me and let me tell you after so long the bra does start to move and cause friction EVERYWHERE! Be prepared to go through every emotion you have. For some reason I went through it all Excitement, I almost started crying at one point because I got to thinking about way to many things. You are going to want to stop but you just keep trucking and look toward that finish line! I know you will be awesome. Be prepared for every single one of those emotions to hit all at once, once you cross the finish line and they put that medal around your neck. This is your first marathon so always expect the unexpected.” –Adrianne, my friend (Thanks for the tips, girl!)
Me, Bart and my Mom
“I will be thinking about you in the marathon. Start out slowly and enjoy the day. Your Mom will be looking down at you with a very proud smile.” – Bart Yasso, um, only my RUNNING HERO!
“Sara, wishing you great weather and a terrific run this weekend in Pittsburgh. You can do it and your mom’s spirit will be the angel on your shoulder running with you the whole way! You will be in my thoughts and prayers.” – Karen, a family friend
“Every day can be a bad day. But every day can be a good day. Suck it up Wyen and RUN! Make it a GREAT day!” – Wendy, my training partner for most of this MIT season, hero and my friend.
“You rock! Remember to savor the experience because there will be many more marathons in your future, but there is only ever one first marathon!” – Heather, MIT running buddy
“Good luck. I will be thinking of you Sat. I cant wait to hear about your stories. You inspire me.” – Darlene, MIT Lucky 13 
“Good luck in Pitt my friend! This will be epic and you my dear will be AWESOME! I cant wait to read your blog!” – Shana, my friend
I am so excited for you! You are going to be awesome tomorrow. Simply fantastic. You can so do this. Have fun and good luck!!” – Keri, MIT Lucky 13
You’re getting so close to your Marathon! I’ll be rooting for you from afar like a crazy girl. :)” –Jen, my blogland buddy
I could go ON and ON……….!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love you guys!
2 days and counting…During the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 15th, I will be thinking of:
Mile 21: YASSO did it!
“Never limit where running can take you.” My mom and I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Yasso earlier this spring and hear him speak. It was unbelievable. He came to run with MIT and even though I was sick that weekend and could not run, meeting Bart is one of the coolest people I have ever met! At Mile 21, I will be thinking about all of the amazing things he has achieved through this sport that we share. I am humbled by his sheer determination to run and overcome the biggest and baddest of obstacles – Death Valley in the middle of summer, a charging Rhino is India, the onset of Lyme disease in the oxygen-deprived atmosphere of Mt. Kilimanjaro, drug and alcohol addiction, bicycling across the U.S. alone, and training ex-cons to run their first relay. Talk about not limiting yourself! 
Bart was a hero to my mother too. We had plans to look for him in Pittsburgh on Sunday (he will be there)! I told him when I met him I would keep an eye out towards the finish line. Bart was even kind enough to remember me and send a message, “Sara, I’m so sorry to hear about your Mom. I remember meeting her at Fleet Feet. I’m sure yesterday [Cap City] was a tough day for you. We never got to run together in Columbus. I hope our paths cross and we can go for a run together someday. Bart” How cool would that be?!? I hope to run with you too, Bart, but don’t worry, you’ll be running Mile 21 with me in spirit!
Mile 22: Terri did it!
“Human beings can accomplish anything they put their minds to. All they need to get started is someone to show them it’s possible.” Mr. Terry Hitchcock – another running hero of me and my family and the star of his own personal story My Run. At 57 years old Terry Hitchcock was left to raise three small children on his own after losing his wife to breast cancer. Not long after his wife’s passing, Terry also lost his job and soon found out how difficult raising a family alone could be. He decided, against all odds, to raise awareness for single-parent households and the struggles that are faced each and every day, by running 75 consecutive marathons in 75 days on an over 2,000 mile cross country trek. If Terry can do it, I can do it. I don’t have a single right to complain about even one single mile in Pittsburgh.
Terry reminds us of the obstacles we face every day – the marathons of life – and that we can overcome them with determination, self-confidence, belief in the extraordinary, and the will to succeed. Right now I am running more than one Marathon in the race of life. Since my mother’s passing, Terry’s story means more than it ever did before.
Mile 23: Don’t Stop Believing
“Hold on to the feelin’?” I will not give up. I will not give up. I will not give up. I will cross the Finish Line! What are 3.2 more miles? Just about a 5K! Why stop now? You’re practically there!
Mile 24: Pain is Temporary
 This moment, however you are feeling, is only temporary. Savor the moment. The pain you feel now, will only be secondary to the big finish. 
Literally this time. The God-honest truth, for real. Just one more mile to go! Don’t give up NOW! If you run just one more mile, you will be done!
Mile 26: Finishing is Forever
(See Mile 24). You will not regret this – you know this to be true. Running has changed your life. Cherish this moment. Remember it always; you only get one first marathon! Your family and friends will be there to cheer you on!
You went from never even exercising to running a marathon – time to celebrate!!
Until the next mile marker, 

Countdown to Pittsburgh: What to Wear in Only 12 Days!

Look what came in the mail today! (I am apologizing in advance for horrible photos – my digital camera broke [gasp!] and I had to use my [gasp!] cell phone.)
I’m confirmed.
Indeed, this must mean I am running Pittsburgh.
I’m not going to lie. I am thinking I am terrified of Pittsburgh. I feel ready, but not exactly prepared. Does that make sense? I know I am running the marathon no matter what. I just feel like so much has happened this training season that I am not as prepared – physically – as I want to be. I’ve taken time off, missed out on a couple of long runs, and abbreviated my weekly runs from time to time. I know, I know, do as I say – not as I do, right? Is it too much to hope that adrenaline just kicks in and I can make it with minimal pain and no injury? I completed a 20 mile run. I’m feeling pretty confident about that. If I have to walk some, I have to walk some. My goal is to finish. I am completely satisfied with that as long as I cross the finish line.
I mean, I was terrified of my first half – even skipped the last long run (oops) and went on to run 4 more half marathons. Then, why all of this anxiety? Fear of the unknown? Fear of failure? How about just fear? I need to take my own advice
Over the weekend, my mother-in-law was more than kind enough to take me shopping and to dinner. Operation: Find New Clothes for Pittsburgh and You’re Not on a “Diet” This Week! So, we went to Target and Johnny Rocket’s. Burgers and fries plus a chocolate-fudge brownie for desert. I inhaled it – I haven’t been eating much the past week.
Clothing-wise, I couldn’t be more ready for the race, thanks to aforementioned mother-in-law. 
These are all coordinating/matching blues and turquoise. Turquoise was my mother’s favorite color so I am wearing it for her. These are all made by Champion, which I have run in before and enjoyed. I have not tried their Duo Dry fabrics, though, and am excited to do so!  Supposedly, Duo Dry wicks and speeds evaporation to help you stay cool and dry. I was impressed by all the variety and styles that were available in complimentary colors.
First piece that caught my eye – Duo Dry Stretch Jacket with collar. LOVE this!
Duo Dry Lite Performance Tee with UV Protection; Gold Toe cushioned socks (my favorite! and two color choices); Duo Dry Stretch Fitted Capri (with a matching blue stripe!)
Duo Dry Power Workout Tee (Lightweight Polyester for comfort and performance); Duo Dry Stretch racer back tank (in case it is warmer)
So, what do you think? Plus, my shoes, sports bra, Garmin, Grace Band and Fuelbelt. Any suggestions?

12 Days and counting…During the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 15th, I will be thinking of:
Mile 14: Downhill Slide Now!
As I enter the second half of the race, I will have more done than I have to go! The first half of the race is the hardest part! It’s all downhill from here.
Mile 15: Bubba
Bubba (Slovak for Grandma) is who we called my grandmother on my mother’s side. She passed away over 6 years ago and I still miss her everyday. She was the most kind, loving, caring and generous person I have ever known. My mom was so much like her. She helped make my childhood the best it could have been with her love, encouragement and enthusiasm. She always believed in me no matter what goal I was working towards. This mile is in memory of her. From her, I developed my compassion for animals, nature, the outdoors, and helping others. I have fond memories of spending long summers at her house working in the yard, playing in the sprinkler, rescuing stray dogs and shopping.
Mile 16: Wendy
Read: My Hero. Wendy and I started training for Pittsburgh together. She got me through my first 16 mile run with a smile on her face. I will always remember her words running up the hill at mile 15.5, “You’re so close, you’re almost there. You are wonder woman she said. You can do this.” Wendy moved out West (read: lucky) and I miss her everyday – especially as Pittsburgh gets closer since she won’t be running it. I know it won’t be the same without her here, but I know our paths are not meant to be forever divided. And I know, especially in running, we will always have each others support and encouragement. After all, last time I checked, you don’t ever really lose a hero. Mile 16 is for your, Wendy. I know you’ll be there running with me in Spirit.  
Mile 17: Rebecca
Always believes in me no matter what. Rebecca is one of my best friends and has been there for me during the tough times when others have given up on me, especially when it comes to running, fitness and health. She listens to me, values my opinions and reminds me everyday not to give up on my dreams. Not to mention, she’s gorgeous and inspires me to want to look my best too. I really admire Rebecca for the positive outlook she has on life – it impacts me everyday. Rebecca’s training is founded on the principle that a strong mind leads to a strong body.  And through her positive coaching and encouragement, I have begun to change my mind. Rebecca will be cheering me on Pittsburgh!  
Need I say more? I completed my first 18 mile run alone and while I was bummed at the time and not sure if I would make it, I did. Looking back, I think I am a stronger person for having completed a long run solo. I am so glad I did! I can do it.  
Mile 19: Just one foot …
This thought kept coming into my head as I was running 18 miles. It really is just one foot in front of the other. As long as I keep moving, I will keep getting closer and closer to the finish line! If I can take one step, I can always take just one more step.
Mile 20: Get Off on the Pain
I must admit, part of what I have enjoyed about marathon training is pushing my body and mind to extreme limits and beyond. There is a part of me that enjoys the pain and enjoys overcoming it. It is the ultimate high – the runner’s high. More is never enough! In the words of country musician Gary Allan, “Cause I love the long shot, and the left out lost causes; Hanging out in the back of the pack with the dark horses. I ride the wrong road just as fast as I can, God knows there’s no one else to blame. Sometimes I think I get off on the pain.” I also love running to this song!  
Until the next mile marker,

A Message from My Mother

Today we laid my mom to rest with her mother, father and brother. She is wearing her running shoes. Rest in peace, Mom. I miss you already and I love you so much. I know I’ll see your smiling face in Heaven again someday; but until then, I will cherish the times we had together and all you have taught me since I was a child.

My mom wrote this testimonial a couple of months ago for her Zumba Instructor, Pamela. I found it tonight as I was reading some of her emails to me. She would want everyone to hear her story and her message.

My Mom after her first race! Panerathon 5K August 19, 2010

My journey to good health started November 1, 2007 when I was scheduled to have a cauterization of my heart after a stress test and a CT scan.  During this procedure, the doctor inserted three stents in the artery they call “the widow maker” – because a severe blockage can lead to certain and sudden death.  My artery was 80 percent blocked.  While I had no apparent symptoms or heart problems, a family history of deadly heart conditions lead me to get my own heart assessed just to be safe.  A routine assessment very well could have saved my life, and I have since come to believe that it truly does pay to be your own advocate when it comes to your health – only you can initiate the steps to take care of yourself and get healthy!

After the surgery, I completed cardiac rehabilitation and laid out some goals I wanted to accomplish to further improve my health.  For example, I wanted to lose weight and I wanted to jog – a lifelong aspiration of mine.  I had tried to run several times in the past, but felt that I didn’t know how (breathing, pacing, good form, proper fuel and clothing, etc.), and was never successful.  My oldest daughter, Sara, got me involved in the No Boundaries 5K training program through Fleet Feet Sports.  Last summer, I not only learned to run, but trained to run a 3.1 mile race over a 10 week long program.  I found that with a manageable training schedule and helpful coaches to answer my questions and provide me with the support and encouragement I needed, not to mention the support of fellow beginning runners just like myself, I was on the track to success this time.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a lot of hard work especially with the extreme heat last summer but, I was determined to get to the START line and then the FINISH line!  Quitting was never an option for me. On August 19th, 2010, I completed my first 5K in under an hour, with the rest of my training group – and my goal was just to finish!  Crossing that finish line, I gained a sense of achievement that I have never quite known before – it truly changed my life and as I enter 2011 a much healthier person, my next goal is to run and finish a 10k.

In August of last year, I also joined Weight Watchers.  Combined with making smart food choices, drinking water, and continuing to run and participate in ZUMBA regularly, I have successfully lost 20 pounds on their program. Another goal crossed off my list and an extreme sense of accomplishment! 

However, the ultimate test for me came when I had routine blood work done in December 2010 to evaluate the health of my heart.  When I read my results I knew all my hard work had finally paid off!  In five months’ time my total cholesterol dropped 9 percent; I raised the HDL (good cholesterol) 19 percent, lowered the LDL (bad cholesterol) 14 percent, and dropped the triglycerides by 43 percent.  For the first time since my stint procedure, I can’t wait to see my cardiologist this coming March.  The doctor was striving for my LDL (bad) cholesterol count at 70 percent and I got it lower than that.

So, between Zumba, running, eating a healthy diet and exercising at least five days a week, I am so proud of myself.  A person once commented to me about how slow I am with my running and while my feet may be slow, everything is working together for the results that are undoubtedly keeping me healthy.

My message to anyone that is thinking or trying to change their health, it can be done!  I am living proof.

21 Days and Pittsburgh Will Never be the Same

I don’t even know where to start. I can’t even believe I am writing this. I don’t even know if I can write the words, but I am hoping to find some comfort in doing one of the things I love.

My mother, Darlene, passed away suddenly on Thursday afternoon. She is gone – ripped out of my life – of all of our lives – entirely too soon. What do you even say?

Mom, Mollie & Me

She was training for her first Quarter Marathon on May 07, my sister is running her first half the same day, and I am running the Pittsburgh full, my fist too, a week later. The three of us were going to Walt Disney World in Orlando to celebrate – her favorite place – a few days after Pittsburgh. Running brought the three of us closer than I thought possible. It changed our lives – dramatically. My mom ran her first 5K in August of last year after training with the No Boundaries program. Her whole life she wanted to be a runner – and she was. She was a firm believer and would tell everyone John Bingham’s words, “The miracle isn’t that I finished.  The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” The Quarter was her big race, she was ready.

She was so excited with the way her life was going this past year. She was healthy and made changes in her life that not many people can.

Mom’s First 5K 2011

The sun was shining when she went to the park Thursday afternoon to run 4.5 miles. She was wearing her No Boundaries training shirt (her favorite) and her new shoes. She had her Garmin, her water bottles, and her iPod. She completed her run at a 13:30 pace. I know she would have been ecstatic. If she had the time, I knowshe would have sent me a text. She was hoping to run with me and the Lucky 13’s with MIT next session and train for a half, but thought she was too slow. She wasn’t.

Something happened, maybe with her heart, – on her cool-down walk, which she did without fail – and she didn’t make it. Someone started CPR after they saw her fall, but she was gone instantly. We never got to say goodbye. She would say she died doing the one thing she loved the most. We will bury her in her running shoes and socks that she was wearing. She would love it. Tell them in Heaven that you’re a runner, Mom, when they ask about the shoes. You earned it. 

Pittsburgh will never be the same for me. She was so excited for me to run this race; it breaks my heart that she is gone. It breaks my heart that I won’t see her at the finish line. It breaks my heart that SHE is the one that doesn’t get to go. This all seems so unfair. 

She just emailed me about it on Wednesday:

I wanted to send you a note to see what your plans are for your run Saturday, what it is your distance? I was planning on coming over to run another 6.55. Once I know your plans I can then time mine to try and meet you again like I did a few weeks ago. Let me know what your thoughts are.
Also, let us know when packet pick-up is for Pittsburgh then we can make plans for leaving Columbus. Is Michael going?  Wow, your race is not far off. We have all the faith in the world in you that you will complete this goal that you have had for so long. You will succeed!!!!  
Love you guys and the puppies! 
What kind of potatoes for Sunday,   home-made mashed or cheesy ones? Love you angel! Talk to you soon!
Love, Mom

I asked her to make the cheesy ones.

21 Days and counting…During the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 15th, I will be thinking of:

Mile 8: Grace & Sadie 

My puppies! I love animals and if I must say, these are two of my favorites. They make me smile and laugh and their unconditional love is sometimes all I need to get through a long or rough day. If I could carry them in Pittsburgh (okay, maybe not carry!) I would!

Mile 9: This is one day!

Whatever happens in Pittsburgh – good or bad – it is one day of my life. It is one day and it is only one day. Pittsburgh is a day I will always cherish – especially now that my mother is gone. And I will make this day the BEST I can, but at the same time remember it is only one day and there will be other races. I have one day to make the most of and I have one day to create a lasting memory, regardless of how well or not-well I run.


My grandmother on my father’s side passed away at the beginning of last year. I feel like I didn’t know her very well as a child, but got to know her better as an adult. She was always proud of me and always said she loved me. She was at my wedding in 2007, which is something I will always treasure. She would say, “WHAT!? You’re RUNNING HOW FAR?!” and then she would ask why!

Mile 11: CHRISSY

Chrissy is THE Original Running Partner and my dear friend and coworker. There will be no other quite like her. We trained with MIT together for our first half marathon in August 2009. It was awesome – have you ever found the perfect running partner? If you have, you know what I mean. We went from knowing next to nothing about one another to finding out EVERYTHING about one another on our runs. I literally walked into work one day and said, “I’m going to run a marathon.” Chrissy said, “Okay, I’ll do it with you.” I was thinking, “Great, now I have to run it!” We showed up for the first group run of the season and the full marathoners were running something like 7 miles – the half runners were running 2. We quickly decided to run a half! At Mile 11 in the our first race, I told Chrissy I was done and was going to sit down on the curb and wait for someone to come get me. She said I better keep running because she didn’t know who would come pick us up – it for sure wouldn’t be her husband, Chad. I kept running. Chrissy gets me through Mile 11 a lot even though we aren’t training together anymore. 

Mile 12: Blogland Friends

This means YOU! I am so grateful for the running AND blogging community I have found online. You guys are amazing and although I don’t know most of you in person, I consider you my friends. Sometimes a word of advice, encouragement or understanding will come through on my blog at just the write moment to remind me I am never alone. I wish I could take you all to Pittsburgh and I will, in my heart. Writing is something I have always enjoyed but I never decided to go “public” with it until last year. I am so glad I made that decision. Thank you, friends, for the little things you do everyday to keep me running strong!

Mile 13: MIT LUCKY 13’s

Ah. What can I say about you guys? You ALL – each and everyone of you – mean so much to me. I am so thankful that Duane asked me to help coach with him – it has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Your support, encouragement, excitement, friendship, successes and hard times have carried me through many a Saturday morning run. Coaching you guys this session has been an unbelievable experience for me and words cannot express how grateful I am for each and every one of you. I am so excited for your Half coming up and I can’t wait to cheer you guys on at the Finish Line. I wish I could take you all to Pittsburgh too – wouldn’t we have fun? Although Mile 13 is “officially” dedicated to my runners, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the MIT training program and all of the people and coaches I have run with there. Thank you MIT for changing my life “one mile at a time.” 

HALF: Brain in the Game

At the halfway point, I must remember to get my brain in the game. NO NEGATIVE THOUGHTS! This training season has really taught me a lot about the power of positive thinking and how much it can empower me to succeed! If at halfway I can keep my brain on a positive track to finishing strong, I know the last 13 miles will fly by. No matter how good I am feeling, if my mind says we’re done, we in fact are. I will not let this happen on race day!

Until the next mile marker,