The end is nearing…..

Not indefinitely…..just the end of 2015. I like to think I have had a successful year. Did a decent amount of events, not as many as I had planned but life happens. Here is a recap of my 2015:

  • 1- mile in the sand
  • 9- 5ks (one AG placed)
  • 1- virtual 5k
  • 1- 7k
  • 2- 8ks
  • 1- 10k
  • 1- virtual 10 miler
  • 1- virtual 11 miler
  • 7- half marathons
  • 1- marathon
  • 1- polar plunge
  • 1- kill that 5k
  • 3- GoRuck Lights
  • 1- GoRuck Tough

That doesn’t include all the training miles and fun runs with friends. I feel like there are more, I didn’t complete my goal of 10 half marathons this year but I stand at 11 half marathons total in my almost 2 years of running. Many lessons learned and many challenges completed/overcame. Next year this list might be shorter, besides beating my marathon time I would like to do a 50k and I forsee a ton of GoRuck events since my boo-nugget has decided to start doing them too. 

How was your 2015? Did you complete any goals and have you thought of any for 2016? Feel free to share as I am always looking for things to do! 

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Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Marathon Review

IMG_5275When I woke up the morning of Sunday October 18, 2015 everything in my mind and body told me to stay in bed. It was 4:15am, I laid there and debated whether to go back to sleep or get up and get ready. It was nice and warm in bed, I could just “oversleep” since I haven’t been sleeping well. It seemed like it would be a good idea, but I forced myself to get up and begin to get ready.

My mom drove me downtown and was going to try to show up at random spots along the course to cheer me on. She was at my first half marathon and now she was going to be at my first marathon. I am very close with my mom, having her there made me happy. We arrive downtown and find a parking garage, then begin our walk to the starting area. I had so many feelings, nervousness was the predominant feeling. Could I do this? Well I decided that I would quit if I felt like I couldn’t. I didn’t have anything to prove to anyone except myself at this point.

I line up by corral J, which is what corral I had been placed in. I try calling the true athlete, who was at drill for the weekend. Voicemail. Try again. Voicemail. I text him telling him I had tried calling but it went right to voicemail. Then he calls me. The only thing I cared about was hearing his voice and him telling me good luck before I embarked on this 26.2 mile journey around Detroit and Canada. He told me good luck, to not push myself to where I got hurt, and that he knew I could do this. I cried. He was supposed to be there with me. He was supposed to be telling me this face to face, then sitting with my mom while I ran. It made me so sad he wasn’t there.

They called away to start the Canada National Anthem to be followed by our National Anthem. I take off my hat and stand with my hand over my heart. Being a Veteran, it really irritates me to see people walking around and talking during the National Anthem. This was the first race in a long time that I saw so many people being downright disrespectful. I made a comment to someone afterwards and they just ignored me. Such a shame.

I join the rest of the runners in corral J and say a quick prayer before the race starts. Then I look around and see a couple other runners with green bibs like mine. The green bib means it is your first marathon, those with more marathons under their belt had a blue bib. I walk over and tell a fellow newbie good luck out there. While waiting for the other corrals in front of us to begin we all look up and what do we see? Snow. All I could do is shake my head, Michigan never ceases to amaze me anymore. It was a chilly 30 degree start, around 26 degrees with the windchill. I hadn’t ran in weather like this since the winter lol. The day before I ran a 5k at Chene Park in Detroit so I had an idea about the weather. I bought gloves and a pair of cheap sweatpants that I could discard during the race if I needed to.

Finally our turn to start. We begin at a nice pace, just trotting along taking in the sites of Detroit around us. Then, the girl that was running next to me falls. I run and pick her up, asking her if she is alright. She shakes it off and continues along. I felt bad for her, tripping early in the race, hopefully it didn’t cause her any problems later on in the race. Everyone was talking and laughing while we began our journey towards the Ambassador Bridge.

The cool things about this race are this: you run across the Ambassador Bridge into Canada, then you run around Canada for a bit before running a mile underwater in the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel to get back into Michigan. You then run around Detroit before running across another bridge onto Belle Isle, run around part of the island then take the bridge back before beginning your journey to the finish line.

Running across the Ambassador Bridge was fun. You could see pretty far, would have been beautiful had the sun been out but it was a cloudy morning. We get to Canada and are welcomed by border patrol and a man with a microphone. He was a pretty funny guy, that announcer. He told us that strippers were included in our race fee, but they were afraid of shrinkage. I have always said, anything goes in Canada. As we round the corner from the bridge I decide its a good time to lose the sweatpants. I mean, I wanted to be able to say I lost my pants in Canada. On the Canada side of the race, the views of Detroit were great. I love Detroit skyline. The crowds cheering were a lot of fun. It seemed like Canada went fast because in no time we were coming up on border patrol again.

The tunnel was my favorite part of the race. It was warmer than it was outside. I could make loud sounds to hear the echo. Then we came up on the dividing line. Of course I took a picture pointing at both flags on the line. The we come out from underwater to be greeted by some of the most energetic border patrol ever. They were high giving us and telling us we got this. Round the corner to the street and were greeted by a crowd of people cheering us on. It was a cool feeling. All these people were braving the cold weather to cheer us on. Then we cross the timing mat and the announcer said my name and city over the speaker! I felt like I was famous. Crowds cheering and my name being called out. Really kept my head in the game. We ran along the freeway, which was a little boring but I was still feeling good from the tunnel so kept chugging along. I was looking for my mom along the way, I hadn’t seen her since the start but figure she went to nap in her car.

The amount of support along the course was great. There was a water stop every couple miles, restrooms were plentiful, people cheering in all the right places. We came up on a huge cheer station where Team RWB had their tent. They were handing out bacon and bourbon. Well we all know this wouldn’t work for me so I kept chugging along while people got their treats. We finally made our way to the halfway point. I was feeling good. Decide to call the true athlete to tell him I am at the halfway point and I am going all the way. Then I saw my mom! She was there cheering me on, I run over to her hug her and tell her Im doing good and going for it. She tells me I got this and I continue on my way.

It had been awhile since I felt good after a half marathon. I crossed the halfway point at 2:48, which was 12 minutes faster than my last half marathon. All things considering I was proud of myself. The next stretch was rough. It was a long lonely road. Not many people cheering, just the people at the water stops. We lost a large number of people, the international half marathoners finished. The US only half marathon had yet to begin, they were lined up waiting. We kept chugging along the lonely stretch of road, turning into a neighborhood. There was polish music, more alcohol, a huge “wall” we could run through, people cheering, kids laughing. It was a nice change of pace. Even the cops blocking the roads were happy and cheerful. Take a couple turns and then we are headed towards the bridge to Belle Isle. At this point I was tired. My body was sore. I had yet to hit the wall. I had all kinds of snacks and candy from people. Belle Isle itself was well supported. Nice cheering crowds and water stops. The wind on the island though was rough. Cross the bridge back and continue along. Then I hit the wall. I had been warned about what could happen. I was walking. I physically could not get my body to run again. It wouldn’t go. I felt helpless, but all I could do is laugh about not being able to run. We walked a bit more then I tried again. My knee had been hurting before. Then it started switching from knee to knee, I knew it was in my head, wanting me to quit. Telling me I couldn’t do it. But I had made it this far, I knew I would finish.

By the time we were heading towards the finish, other runners were leaving and telling us we only had a little bit further. Then I look up and see my mom again! Telling me to run, I tell her I can’t run anymore. She says she will run the last mile with me so I hobble to start my slow run. Then she stopped and fell behind on the phone. I just needed to keep going to finish this race. I could see the finish. Hearing the crowd. I cross the finish line with tears in my eyes. Crying. He was supposed to be there. He was supposed to rush to me and put my medal on me. Kiss me. Tell me he is so proud of me. I come up on the people handing out medals and I look at the girl, while I am still crying, and she says “I want to put the medal on the newbie.” Still crying I choke out a thank you and she hugged me. I get my heat blanket and I really feel like I did something. I did this. I ran a marathon. I get my picture taken, my snacks, then I wanted to hear his voice. That was all I cared about. He answers and says well??? I say I just finished. I am an international marathoner! He says congrats babe I am proud of you. Im crying. He is happy. I wish he was there. Despite everything. All I wanted, all I needed was him there with me.

Before we could leave I had to find my mom again and exchange my race shirts. I always seem to have issues with getting the right size. Every tech shirt seems to be different. These ones were small. Luckily I was able to get it exchanged after the race at the New Balance tent. I wanted the next size up, which they didn’t have so my shirt is a little big. I would rather it be a little big than too small. Heck, I just ran 26.2 miles, I was going to flaunt this shirt.

I was an international marathoner. I was part of the 1% of the population that has completed a marathon. I did it. Despite all that life had thrown at me in the last week. I did it.

My Journey to 26.2

How does someone get to the point where they decide they want to run a marathon? Well let me first answer the number one question I am always asked…….How far is this marathon? Every marathon is 26.2 miles. That is what a marathon is. A half marathon is 13.1 miles. A 10k is 6.1 miles, an 8k is about 5 miles, a 5k is 3.1 miles. Okay, that is out of the way now. Why would I ever want to run a marathon? Well why not? How will I ever know if I can do it if I don’t try? Well here is how I got to that idea…….

I was in the Navy for 6.5 years. Honestly, I loved it. I was happy. The job I had was awesome. Sadly that is what everyone thought and my job was overmanned. Mr. Barack Obama decided to downsize the military. The Navy had a system called PTS (perform to serve) which would help downsize the overmanned rates (jobs). Pretty much, I got denied re-enlistment and could not change jobs. So I had to get out. At first I was bitter, then I got over it. Wait……where am I going with this…..So while I was in the Navy, I did everything humanly possible to get out of PT and I hated running. I think it was more that I hated being forced to run. Near the end of my service I would run on my own. It wasn’t until I got out that I found my love of running.

I moved back to Michigan and back into my parents house. My little brother decided to join the Navy so I would run with him to get him ready. Then I got a job in Virginia Beach and moved. Its hard moving to a place you have never been, where you only know 2 people. But I did it. Shortly after moving I had to check in at the Veterans Hospital to start my claim and other paperwork. I was assigned a rep because I am what they consider a combat veteran. I had to go check in with her every so often, she was a very nice woman. She determined that I have issues with re-integrating back into the civilian community. Makes sense because everyone I hang out with is military, I moved to a military town, and I worked back on base as a contractor with the Navy. I feel more comfortable around people like me, people that understand me. I don’t like people to thank me for my service or hold me higher than anyone else. So as part of my re-integration issue I had to see a counselor. It started out I was going once a week. Shortly after I got upped to 2 times a week because through counseling she learned of my drinking issue. So I quit drinking, was going to counseling 2 times a week, working, and about to start college. You would think I was a busy person, but I was still struggling with loneliness from not knowing anyone. As part of my treatment, my counselor recommended I start working out. I decided to start running again because I remembered when I ran before I would be able to sleep better and was in a better state of mind. So I ran. On my way to a counseling session one day I saw a sign for a 5k for Breast Cancer. My counselor asked how running was going and I told her well, I was sleeping well but still hadn’t met new people in school and was feeling really lonely. She said, there is a 5k this weekend right across the street. I want you to go. To see how you do with a crowd. We had talked before about my issues with crowds of people. I will walk out of a store if it is too crowded. So I agreed to try the 5k.

I paid my registration fee. I picked up my packet. I laid out my outfit with my bib pinned on the front. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience. I showed up, alone, and walked towards the starting area. I immediately felt overwhelmed. I walked all around and couldn’t keep still. I paced, while looking around at all the people dressed in pink attire. My eyes welled up, I had to get out of there. No. I had to do this. I wanted to do it. I had to overcome this feeling. I call my mom. She answers the phone and I couldn’t say anything. I cried. She asked what was wrong, I had never told her of my issue with crowds because I don’t think people will understand. They will laugh and tell me I am being stupid. So I tell my mom that everyone is wearing pink and just being happy and that is why I was crying. Inside, my anxiety was causing so many overwhelming feelings. They call the start of the race and I go line up near the back, surrounded by strangers in a sea of pink. I put headphones on and look at the ground, breathing deep like my counselor told me to do to calm myself down. If I look down I cannot see all of the people. Now, I cannot be sure at this moment, but I believe that race was my PR (personal record) for a long time. I ran as fast as I could because I wanted it to be done. I wanted to get away from all the people. Retreat to my apartment where I would be safe and alone. I get my medal after the race and start walking towards the car. I get stopped by a lady asking me to take a picture of her. I agree, she starts telling me all about her race and where she is from and why she showed up. I tell her its my first race, she asks if I want a picture so I agree and thank her. We talk a bit then I leave. Somehow I come across her on Instagram and follow her. I see her at races from time to time and we say hi. She is the first person I met at a race.

So after that race I report back to my counselor and tell her how it went. She recommends I stick with it. Races will help me overcome my anxiety of crowds, so she says, I still have issues to this day but I love races and always look at the ground and deep breathe…..I think out of habit now. After that first 5k I decided I wanted to make a goal for myself. I wanted to run a half marathon by the end of the year. I decided this in February and started looking for which one I wanted to do. I decided on Women Run the D, one because it was funny, two because I wanted to run my first half in my home state, where my mom could come and watch me. It was decided and I registered and began training.

Training for my first half I was very vigilant. I ran almost every training run I was scheduled to run. All summer long I was dedicated to running and remained dedicated to my very first half marathon being in Michigan. My mom and grandmother were going to be there cheering me on. I was very excited. I decided on running a couple half marathons after my first, I wanted to do them in Virginia. So even before I had ran my first half I had signed up for another 2 weeks after the first, one a month later and another 2 weeks after that. So my plan of running a half marathon by the end of the year turned into running 4 half marathons.

Now, I am not super competitive, I run because I like it and because I can. I finished my first half marathon September 21, 2014. I felt great and was proud of myself. Then, I learned my cousin and aunt signed up for a half marathon…..they were going to walk/run it. Back up a little bit, I am not SUPER competitive. But no way was I going to let this happen. I feel like (even to this day) I have to be better. So my second half marathon was faster than my first and my third half marathon was faster than my second. My half marathon PR is 2 hours and 23 minutes. I am still happy with that time. I ran my fourth half marathon (in 2 months) with a friend and helped her cut 15 minutes off her PR time, also running it nonstop. December hits and its time to start coming up with a New Years Resolution. Most people make goals they never achieve but I am pretty good at keeping mine. Ive been a vegetarian for almost 6 years. Pretty good at resolutions. I talk with some friends and research some races. Then it was decided. The race my aunt and cousin ran also had a marathon. An international marathon. I decided, I would do it.

New Years Eve most people are drinking and partying. I was playing a board game with friends, eating snacks, and waiting for midnight to hit so I could register for my first marathon. HAPPY NEW YEAR and I am battling a slow server to register (lower prices to the first however many to sign up). Submit. I am in. Then it hits. I just registered for my first marathon. 26.2 miles. In Detroit. Detroit Marathon. What was I thinking? Well I have time to train, I can do this.

Train. Train for a marathon. Train for an October marathon in Detroit, over the summer in Virginia Beach. Humid. Hot. Needless to say, my marathon training was NOTHING like my half marathon training. Life happened. I got a boyfriend (also a runner) but did not get in nearly as many long runs as I would have liked to. Did not run nearly as much as I should have. How in the world was I going to conquer this goal of mine. This 26.2 mile goal. My longest run was 15.6 miles. I had began running the trails and loved it so much more than road running. But this marathon was not on a trail. It was on the road. It was on a bridge. In a tunnel. In Canada. In the United States. On an island. But no trails. I hadn’t been in Michigan in October in I can’t even remember how long. What to pack? What to wear? What to expect? These were all things I couldn’t really be prepared for. Things happened in life that threw me for a loop. I wasn’t eating properly, I wasn’t sleeping properly. Plans suddenly changed. How was I going to tackle this? Should I not do it? What was I to do? Why did I think this was a good idea?