Running Season 2022

Running season 2022 is officially here! I rarely do spring races, but when I do, it is for charity. Fall races are my preference, as they are easier to train for with the weather conditions. This spring, I am running a half marathon benefitting Ukraine.

Proceeds from my spring half marathon are benefitting UnitedHelpUkraine.org. If you would like to support my efforts, please consider a donation to a reputable charity providing aid to Ukraine.

For the fall, I am very happy to announce that I am officially registered for the Italian Stallion Challenge as part of the Rocky Run 2022! I will be chasing down a hat trick of medals as I go 13.1 miles long.

The Rocky Run has been on my bucket list for quite a few years. This year is going to be really special. Once I complete the Italian Stallion Challenge and earn all three medals, I will have reached my goal of 8 medals from Philadelphia. I currently have 8 stars surrounding my Philly Marathon tattoo on my right arm. My goal has been 8 Philly medals.

This year is also significant for another reason. Once I have completed my Ukraine race and the Rocky Run, that will add four medals to my total this year. By the end of 2022, the goal is a total of 24 medals!

In recent years with my health, disability, and the pandemic, I have been looking at the reality of retirement from the competitive running circuit. My goal is to earn and achieve 26 medals when I enter retirement. 

If I am able to earn and achieve all 4 medals this year, then I only need to earn 2 more medals in 2023 to retire. Retirement does not mean that I will stop running or that I will stop racing. For me, retirement means that I will not need to push myself to compete at the same level I have been competing. To be honest, I’m not sure how many more miles I have left in me. Of course, I am going to keep running until I die or otherwise cannot. 

For me, retirement means that I will not be chasing down medals. I may do more 5k races than marathons. I will do more charity runs. I will not worry about my speed, time, or placement. If I am lucky enough to earn more medals than 26, that is fine. It is my competitive racing days that will be over. Once I’m retired, every mile will be the frosting on a cupcake.

Of course, this is all wishful thinking. I currently have 20 medals. I have to earn 6 more medals to achieve my retirement goal. All of this is dependent upon remaining healthy and COVID-free. 

The big excitement is that my goal is in sight. If I can achieve the 4 medals I have planned for this year, then I only need to earn 2 medals in 2023 to reach my goal.

In addition to my action packing running season this year, I am also working on my memoir, titled: Always Pee Downhill: Tales of Running, Life and Love. I am about halfway through the first draft. My goal is to finish as much of my memoir this year as possible. Each chapter details one of my marathon medals. Not only does it look at my training and race day itself, but also the events in my life that were happening at the time. 

To add a little excitement to this year’s running season announcement, here is a never before published sneak peak of the first few paragraphs of my forthcoming memoir, Always Pee Downhill.

November 18, 2007

Philadelphia Half Marathon

Time: 2:21:29

Age: 28

Medal # 1

At mile 6 of the 2017 Philadelphia Half Marathon, the infamous runner’s grid kicked in. I was at the furthest point from an aide station or a porta potty and I had to pee. On one side of me, cars whizzed by at 70 mph on Interstate-95. On the other side of me there was a sea of runners in the race. Right up ahead, I saw a small grouping of trees. I could squat behind one and hide myself from the other runners. I would still be in full view of I-95, but those cars are going 70 mph. They will go by so fast; they won’t have time to register someone squatting to pee on the side of the highway. 

I ran over to the tree, and squatted to go as quickly as possible. I just needed to get it done and hope I was not arrested. Just as I was almost done, someone ran past me and stopped at the tree next to mine. The back of his shirt said “FBI.” I was pretty sure I was about to be arrested for public urination and indecency. 

The man did a double take look at me, apologized, turned, and whipped his out to pee on the tree in front of me. I was done peeing, so I pulled up my shorts as quickly as possible. I got back into the race. Little did I know at the time, this was common practice for marathon runners to just pee as discretely as possible where and when you needed. Runners in sanctioned races are exempt from public urination laws, yet we are still supposed to use a porta potty as much as possible. Peeing where needed is for emergency use only. 

I ran the next mile like I was being chased by the cops. I was still thinking there might be a slight possibility of getting in trouble for my little pee break. But then I figured Mr. FBI man was doing the same thing. I just kept running. I ran like the cops were chasing me. They weren’t, but I had not seen the guy in the FBI shirt pass by me yet, so you never know.

This has been your exclusive sneak peek at my memoir, Always Pee Downhill! Thank you for reading. It’s time to Cowgirl Up! For running season 2022. 

Will Run for Peace

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Ukrainian President Zelensky announced that if anyone wanted to go to Ukraine to help them fight, they would give you arms. I would love to go. The only things preventing me from going are my cats and the fear that they would not take me to fight in Ukraine.

Ukraine is worth fighting for. Their freedom is worth fighting for. Would I fight for America? No, I would not. America is not worth fighting for anymore. America put me on their euthanasia list.

Both the President and the CDC say that I am they type of person that should die in the pandemic. They want me to die. As part of the vaccine mandate, there was a euthanasia plan for those medically unable to be vaccinated. My euthanasia appointment was immediately canceled as soon as the Supreme Cout struck down the vaccine mandate. The hospital told me that as medical professionals, their first duty is to “do no harm,” and they did not want to euthanize anyone if they were not mandated by politics.

In America, I am condemned to die. In addition to the euthanasia list, we have not had a single mask mandate or lockdown. America is trying to make our COVID death toll as high as possible. I don’t want to die of COVID. I would rather die fighting for something in which I believe. I would rather die fighting for Ukraine. Those people deserve freedom.

I try not to get political on this blog, but it is hard with the times in which we are living. However, it’s a wonder Putin does not have the chutzpah to invade the USA. If the USA was invaded, I would not fight. A country that has condemned me to death for my medical conditions is not worth fighting for. If we were invaded, I would surrender. The healthcare as a POW would be a significant improvement over American healthcare. It would be free.  

Healthcare in America is not accessible. It is not affordable. Whether you realize it or not, as soon as the USA declares the pandemic over or downgrades it to an endemic, millions of Americans will lose their healthcare coverage. We will all be back to paying for healthcare 100% out of pocket. We will continue to die because we cannot afford basic care we need.

My life goal is to leave the USA once the cats are gone. If I could figure out how to leave sooner and take the cats with me, I would leave in a heartbeat. I am 100% willing to relinquish my American citizenship to leave the country. 

Immigration to other countries is impossible for low-income Americans. The immigration regulations for American citizens moving to other countries is strict because other countries know we are leaving because we don’t have access to healthcare here. We can’t afford healthcare. I would love to be able to access the NHS or any other functioning health system. As I stated earlier, even healthcare as a POW would be better than what we have available in the USA.

I digress.

I want to help Ukraine. They are worth fighting for. Since I can’t take my cats to a war zone, I need to come up with something else. So, I’m going to do the only thing I know how to do.

I will run for peace.

I have registered for a virtual half marathon this spring benefitting UnitedHelpUkraine.org. This non-profit organization helps provide medical supplies to Ukraine. 

I am a fall racer. I don’t typically run spring races, but when I do, it’s a charity race.

Medal # 21 will be arriving this spring as I prepare for another half marathon. Please consider a donation to UnitedHelpUkraine.org to support my efforts and assist the people of Ukraine.

Ukraine is worth fighting for. Their people did not ask for this. If I did not have 3 cats depending on me, I would volunteer to go fight. I doubt they would accept me, since I am on the American euthanasia list. Or maybe they would, since the USA wants me to die anyway. However, my cats are my only family. I can’t abandon them to fight.

So I will run. I will run for peace. Here comes another half marathon training. This one is for Ukraine.

Medals 19 and 20

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Medals 19 and 20 have been earned! The 2021 running season was one of my best in nearly a decade. For the first time in my running career, I ran two half marathons in one month. While I have completed two half and/or full marathons in a year before, I have never done two in one month. My races have always been spaced several months apart.

This year, both races were virtual and I ran them roughly 6 days apart. I completed both races at the very beginning of November due to concerns about weather and some other things that were going on in life. 

My first race this year was supporting one of my favorite charities for homeless humans, Back on My Feet. Back on My Feet has chapters in several large American cities. I know of their program in Philadelphia.

My second race was the virtual Philadelphia Half Marathon, While I have officially completed the race, I am still waiting for my medal. They were supposedly sent out at the end of October.

The Philly Half was done in support of homeless animals. If you remember from my prior post about the 2021 running season, you could donate to the Humane Society in Honor of Jude, the ASPCA in Honor of Jolene or a small non-profit animal shelter in Honor of Simon.

I am especially antsy about my Philly medal not being here due to it’s meaning. 

In 2007, Philadelphia was my first half marathon. In 2008, Philadelphia was my furst full marathon. In 2021, Philadelphia was my 20th medal. Out of the 20 medals I have earned, 5 are from Philly. 

You just never forget your first.

So, I am anxiously awaiting receipt of medal 20. I will feel much better once it arrives. I have plans for the special medal as far as photos and display. 

This also brings me that much closer to my goal. Once I achieve 26 medals, I plan to “retire” from the professional race circuit. I will still run. I just won’t be as competitive or as adamant about earning medals.

I have already chosen my race for the 2022 running season. It is one that has been on my race bucket list for quite a few years now. 

The miles are in and complete. Medal 20 has been earned. Now I am just waiting for it to arrive. 

Running Season 2021

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It’s official! Training has started for running season 2021. It does not seem possible, as we are still in the grips of a deadly pandemic. Thankfully, the race for which I am training is virtual. It is way too dangerous and completely irresponsible for any races to be held in-person.

As we all know, the Philadelphia Marathon was my first half marathon and then my first full marathon. Of my 18 medals, 4 of them are from Philly. I love that race so much that their logo was tattooed on my arm in 2012.

When I originally got my tattoo, my intent was to have a star for each medal. Well, I have 8 stars and 18 medals. I do not see the possibility of adding any more stars to my tattoo. So now I have to be creative with the meaning of the 8 stars.

I have decided that I want the 8 stars in my tattoo to represent 8 medals from Philly, since it is the Philly logo that is the design. I currently have 4 medals from Philly, so I am half way there.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that this year for the first time, the Philadelphia Marathon has offered a virtual option! I can still run and do it safely!

I am currently registered for the VIRTUAL Philadelphia Half Marathon this November. I will be participating from my home area and using my Garmin to confirm my mileage and time.

My 19th medal overall and 5th medal from Philly will be coming this fall!

Training has started this week. I take longer to train due to my disability. I build my mileage more slowly and have more rest weeks built into my training schedule. 

I have always used my races to support some sort of charity. Whenever I have ran Philly, I typically support their homeless services programs. The city of Philadelphia has some of the most innovative programs to combat homelessness in the country.

This year, since I am participating virtually, I am fundraising for a cause near and dear to me – animal shelters. I am still running Philly for homeless services, but this year is for homeless animals, not homeless humans. The cats are the only family I have and my only goal in life right now is to be able to outlive them so that I can care for them and keep them all together.

Therefore, if you would like to “support” me in running the VIRTUAL Philadelphia Half Marathon this November, I ask that you do so in one of the following ways by making a contribution to a no-kill animal shelter:

  • Jude was adopted from a local Humane Society. If you choose to make a donation to a Humane Society near you in order to “support” my race, please do so “In Honor of Jude.”

  • Simon was adopted from a small, local non-profit animal shelter. If you choose to make a donation to a non-profit animal shelter near you that is not associated with either the Human Society or the SPCA, please do so “In Honor of Simon.”

  • Jolene was adopted from a local SPCA. If you choose to donate to a SPCA near you, please do so “In Honor of Jolene.”

Finally, I would like to bring your attention to a great program that gives beds to shelter beds that you can use in conjunction with any shelter. There is a USA company called Kuranda Beds that makes chew/scratch resistant, orthopedic beds for cats and dogs. Consider giving a shelter animal the gift of a good night’s sleep by donating a shelter bed so that they are not sleeping on a hard floor.

If you go to shelterbeds.org, you can choose a local animal rescue near you (Humane Society, SPCA, non-profit). Each shelter has a “wish list” of what size beds they need for their residents (ie. cat beds, large dog size, etc.) Choose a bed size on their wish list and checkout. The bed will be delivered directly to the shelter with a card saying that the bed came from you. It is a wonderful program that gives pets some comfort while they spend time in a shelter waiting to be adopted.

We have been overwhelmed with how much kindness total strangers from across the country and all over the world have shown us in the few months I was unemployed after losing my job. I would like to make my race this year as a way to give back for all the love and support we received.

My only wish in life is to outlive my cats so I can keep them together, cared for, and loved.

Please consider either adopting a furry friend or making a donation to your local no-kill animal shelter. I would be honored to “celebrate” my race this year with you by having donations go to shelters in Honor of each of my cats – Jude, Simon, and Jolene. 

Here’s to hopefully a safe, fun, and productive training season for my November race!

Pandemic Winter Running

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Jolene in the cheese toy.

We have been getting a steady series of ice storms the past few weeks. I don’t mind snow. Snow provides traction. I can run and walk in snow. Ice poses extreme challenges. I do not balance well to begin with and ice is very hazardous for me.

One of the goals for the pandemic is to not fall down. When I fall, I have a tendency to get hurt. With the status of our health system, the goal is for me to need as little health care as possible. 

Last winter, I had a gym membership so that I had treadmill access for when it was ice outside. That all ended in March once I was put into quarantine and am still not supposed to be indoors with anyone else. That means I must run outdoors.

In trying to figure out my pandemic winter running strategy, I have felt a little like Goldilocks when she was trying out porridge. It has taken time for me to figure out how to safely run when there is ice outside.

Last week I was fortunate we had a brief warm up. I was able to run outside on December 30 for my last run of 2020. We have since been continuously pummeled with ice.

A few weeks ago, in an ice storm, I decided to run inside my house. I ran through the various rooms upstairs, This was a disaster. It was slow because there was a lot of weaving in and out of rooms and around items in the rooms. It made me dizzy because there was a lot of turning around. I only got 1 mile in on that “run.” Running inside my house was not going to cut it.

I thought about running around inside the garage, but the car needs to be in there for the men to come help me with the snow and ice. So inside the garage is out as an option.

Since running upstairs did not work out, I decided to do the opposite and try running downstairs. I figured the basement would be ideal because I could just run in large circles around the entire footprint of my home. 

While this was a great idea mentally – no dizziness, no boredom, it was a horrible idea physically. The basement has a concrete floor and it literally killed my knees. I was in pain for days after. I only got in 2 miles on that run. Basement running is out because my body can’t take the pounding.

A treadmill is out for numerous reasons. First, this house is over 100 years old. While everything is up to code, it is in the older end of code. I know that neither the electrical nor the flooring would be able to take the pounding of a treadmill. Second, I looked at treadmills online. They weigh at least 50 pounds. Even if I had it delivered to the house, I would not be able to get it inside and set it up. I am unable to handle anything more than about 20 pounds or so. Even when the cats’ Chewy boxes arrive, I have to open them outside and bring in the contents one at a time because I cannot lift the box to bring it inside.

With upstairs, the garage, the basement, and a treadmill all out, I was running out of options.

Then, somehow it dawned on me. I am not sure if it was inspiration from other people in quarantine across the world or what, but as I was looking out my front window at the ice covered street, I got the bright idea to run around my front porch.

The front porch is one of the reasons why I bought this house. I have a glorious front porch that fully spans the entire front portion of the footprint of the house. It is probably as large as both my living room and the cats’ play room combined. It is wood, so no concrete floor. It has a carpet on it, so no ice.

I ran outside on my front porch today and it was just right!

I successfully got in my first 3 mile run of 2021. Yes, I had to run circles around the porch, but it is large enough that it did not make me dizzy. I was sure to change direction every once in awhile like you do on a track. I was able to be outside in fresh air, which I love. While my running pace was a little slow, it was only about 30 seconds slower than if I had been running on the roads. So the fact that I was running in circles and doing frequent turns did not slow me down that much.

I can’t tell you how happy I am to have figured out my running in winter dilemma. 

I am pretty sure that the front porch took the pounding of my running fine. The front porch feels a lot more stable than some of the floors inside my house. Even if the front porch did have problems, it would be easier and cheaper to have the front porch floor repaired than the floors inside my house.

Not only did my run on the porch go well, but I also have a light on my front porch. So I will be able to run either before or after work, even in the dark, just by turning on my porch light. It will be a lot safer than running in the dark on the roads. Safety running outside is always a challenge this time of year due to daylight hours.

My pandemic winter running plan is to run outdoors on the roads as weather permits. As long as there is not ice, I can run the roads. If there is ice, I will run on my front porch.

Another plus to my front porch running was that it started to rain freezing drizzle on my run. Luckily, I was on the front porch, so the precipitation didn’t bother me one bit. I did not get any on me because I was on the porch. My footing was sure and I had a great run.

I have always said that as long as the cats are ok, I am ok. This is true.  My second saying is that as long as I can run, I am ok.  I am so glad to have figured out a winter running plan. If I can do my 3 miles a few times a week, then I know I’m okay.

Running on my front porch is just right. I didn’t get bored or dizzy, and the surface worked well for my body. As long as I keep the snow off the front porch (I do), then I do not typically get ice on the porch due to the carpeting there.

What strategies have you found for pandemic winter running?

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Medal # 17

Last weekend, I participated in my first 5k in about a decade. I started out running 5ks back in the early 2000s, and when it got to the point that I was running over 30 races per year, I figured that I needed to run longer. I have been running half and full marathons for the past 12 years.

The 5k last weekend was a fundraiser for a program very near and dear to me, given my educational and professional background. The 5k raised funds for our local community policing initiative. Having completed the Run to Remember half marathon a few times, and numerous other races that support our emergency responders, I was totally on board to do a 5k for community policing after a 10-year hiatus from the shorter distances. Plus, this one supports our local community police officer, who is an all-around amazing person.

I just ran the 1812 Challenge half marathon a few weeks ago, and signed up for this race totally in support of the cause. I did my Canadian 10:1 run:walk method that I instituted this year. This meant I had two walk breaks for a 5k. I also had an unanticipated third walk break in this race, as there was a hill on one of the streets. I don’t do well with hills, so I walked up it. In total, I had 3 walk breaks over a 3.1 mile run.

The weather was perfect. It was 55 degrees at the start, which is my favorite temperature in all of life, and also optimal race weather. Given my hiatus from the 5k distance, I was just treating this as another 3 mile run. I was not expecting any certain time or accolades. The only expectation I had for myself was to finish in under 30 minutes. Based on my race pace a few weeks ago in my half marathon, I was hoping for about 27 minutes, but I figured under 30 minutes was a reasonable expectation.

My fastest 5k time back in my 20s was 25:10. Now at age 40, I knew I would not get near that. I just wanted to run a decent 3 miles. 

I crossed the finish line in 26:17, far exceeding even my wildest expectation of 27 minutes. 

When checking the boards for race times, which were marked “unofficial,” I was surprised to notice that I had placed 2nd in my age group!

I was surprised and elated! While I consistently perform in the top 10% of runners in half marathons, this was the first time I have ever placed in my age group in any race ever. Well, not in the top 10 anyway. 

At age 40, a 5k time of 26:17 is a new PR (personal record) race for me. Placing in my age group was the icing on the cake. When I turned 40 this year, I have now entered the Masters category of running, and I finally feel like I am coming into my own. I may not be as fast as I was in my 20s, but I am a well-seasoned, experienced runner, and to place in my age group felt amazing. I was so excited. I could not wait to tell everyone.

Running awards were announced at the end of the race. The first place finisher in each category received a prize. As second in my age group, I knew I was not going to receive anything, and I was totally okay with that. I was so happy to place second and have bragging rights. I ran a good 5k and then stayed near the finish line to cheer for everyone who came in after me. It was a great race and just a happy day to be part of the running community.

Imagine my surprise, when the female age 40-49 age group first place finisher was announced and it was me! Apparently, the other woman in my age group was the first overall female finisher, which bumped me up in the standings to be the first finisher in my age group. When I looked online later this week, I also noted that I was the third overall female finisher for the race! 

Welcome to medal # 17! This is my first 5k medal and the only medal that is for a distance shorter than a half marathon. However, I am so honored to have placed first in my age group! I am so proud of this 5k! I had a great time and a great run on an awesome course with amazing people! 

I will now officially say that my 2019 running season is over and I am in the off-season. Medal # 17 was a complete surprise, but definitely one of my most favorite medals. I am so looking forward to planning the 2020 race season over this winter and to resume “recreational running” for the duration of the off-season.

Thank you so much to all the volunteers, the spectators, and every one who has supported me in the 2019 race season. This is the best race season I have had in 5 years and I am so grateful to be able to continue to compete in this sport. I truly consider my ability to run to be a gift from God and every step I take is a blessing. I love all my medals and consider it an honor and a privilege to have earned each one. I’m so happy! Medal # 17 rocks!

Five Reasons the 1812 Challenge Rocks!

So if you haven’t heard, I ran the 1812 Challenge half marathon on September 1, 2019. It was my comeback race. It was amazing. This race is so awesome, I decided it needs its own “Rocks!” post similar to the Garmin one. In random order, here are the five reasons why the 1812 Challenge is my new favorite race. 

  1. Volunteers

Any runner from 1 mile to a full marathon will tell you that every race is about volunteers. We cannot run without them. No volunteers, no race. Kind of like mornings – no coffee, no workee. Yeah, yeah, we hear it all the time. 

Seriously, this race has the best volunteers. It has an army of volunteers. The race field was 1,200 runners. There were 200 volunteers. Our every need was taken care of in every way possible. Not only were the volunteers plentiful, but they were insanely happy. You could tell they genuinely wanted to be there and cared that we had a great race. 

These volunteers did not need coaching to smile, cheer, or encourage us on our way. They just did it and it was genuine. They wanted to be there and the runners were the center of the universe. I have never before gotten that vibe from race volunteers before. 

By the way, have you ever volunteered for a race? If you haven’t, then you should. Don’t be that runner that just races all the time without giving back by volunteering for someone else’s race. We’re the ones that know all the little tricks like how the person with the box of kleenex is an angel because when your legs run, your nose does too. If you are racing, you should be volunteering too. Give back. Pay it forward.

  1. Spectators

This course has the best spectators. It was the first time I ever had people say “good morning” to me on a race course. There were people outside in their yards with a mug of coffee (as in the ceramic 12 oz mug from your kitchen, not a travel mug) enjoying watching us go by. People turned up their stereos for us. 

One person was playing violin on course. Another person played the bag pipes. None of these people needed to be outside. But they were. They were cheering us on. They were awesome. I especially enjoyed all the Disney characters at mile 12. There were people of all ages from children to adult, and everyone was happy to be there. It wasn’t like in the big cities when you get the feeling that the spectators are just there to party. These people were spectating the 1812 race for us. Now, its possible some of those coffee mugs held vodka, but I don’t think so. 

This course was pretty rural. If it wasn’t for the spectators, it would have been lonely and boring. Thank you to everyone who came out to sit in their yard and watch us. You’re awesome. 

  1. Organization

The 1812 Challenge has flawless organization. From the expo to the finish line, everything went off without a hitch. I’m sure there was a lot going on behind the scenes, but from the runner’s perspective, this was a perfect race. 

First, the Expo was held on Saturday at the same location as the start/finish for the race. I’m so glad this was the case. I probably would have gotten lost on race morning if I had not been to the Expo the day before. The Expo had plenty of things to do and was not boring like some other expos. There was swag, music, and running gear sales. 

Parking was surprisingly easy, free, and did I say easy? For both race start and also for leaving the race location afterwards. One of the most stressful moments of race weekend is getting to the starting line on time. It can also be stressful trying to leave a race to get back to shower, rest, and have a full meal. The parking for this race was amazing. It was easy in, easy out. A big part of why race day went so well was that I was not stressed and frustrated trying to get to the start line. Finding the start line was easy, so I could relax and focus on my race.

Another impeccable part of organization with this race was directions. You would not believe how many marathons I have been in and the runners are frustrated because we get confused on turns and where we should go. This course was very well marked and very well staffed. There was no question at any point in time regarding where we should be. We knew at all times that we were on course and were well aware of turns. 

Especially for a race with multiple distances where the 13.1 runners sometimes diverged from the 18.12 runners, there was no question about who was supposed to be where. This is in marked contrast to large races I have ran where we get confused on where the full marathon splits from the half marathon. If it’s not organized well, that’s a horrible mistake to make. Luckily, the 1812 Challenge is organized with precision at every aspect.

Another thing that was impressive was porta potties. Porta potties were plentiful and had short to no lines. I used a porta potty at mile 5 and really appreciated it. This was one of the very few races where I did not just run behind a tree somewhere and squat. I am super impressed with the porta potty situation for this race. 

  1. The Course

When they say this course is flat and fast, they mean the course is flat and fast. I have ran races listed as “flat and fast” only to have the huge hill from miles 10-13 completely slow me down and cramp up my legs. The course map was also posted well in advance of the race. I often use course maps when considering a race to decide if it is something I can do based on elevation. 

The course was also well laid out. I was not bored. I had plenty to look at. I enjoyed having multiple turns. I tend to get bored if I’m just running a straight-away for 4 or 5 miles. We were able to see the beauty of Lake Ontario, the tranquility of cows on a farm, and the gorgeously quaint main street of Sackets Harbor. One of my favorite activities is learning about a new place by running their race. This course definitely allows you to see the sights.

  1. Timing

Apparently, this race used to be at the end of August and was moved to Labor Day weekend this year. Some people have complained about the change, but personally. I love it. Even though the change is only one week, pushing it a little into the fall brings me hopes of lower temperatures. My optimal race temperature is about 55 degrees. If it is 70 degrees or above, then I need to use my MS cooling vest and we may be looking at physical problems/symptoms.

The weather was perfect for this race with 56 degrees at the start and a high of about 72 for the day. I liked having it Labor Day weekend because the end of August tends to be feast or famine – everyone is either running around trying to get ready for back to school or every one is on vacation. For me, Labor Day weekend was perfect because I had the time to enjoy the race without needing to worry about idiots around me. 

I was really happy with the 7:30 am race start time. Again, this is for temperature reasons related to my functioning. Some half marathons start later in the morning and it is too damn hot! The 1812 Challenge has nailed the timing aspect. 

I was also impressed with the on the course race timing. When finished, I was able to punch my bib number into a little machine, and it printed me a slip of paper with all my race stats. This is one of the most incredible pieces of technology I have seen in the course of my running career. I love it! No more standing in front of boards and saying excuse me to the group of people around you trying to find your bib number and times. Then try to find a pen to write it down because who carries a pen to a marathon? I love the new timing technology. That race stat slip is my favorite piece of paper.

Bonus Reason why the 1812 Challenge Rocks! Because I could not stop at just 5 …

Bonus = Theme/Swag

I love how this race commemorates the 1812 theme. From the medals to the race swag, the theme is just awesome. The visuals are great. I love the artistry of a patriot from that time period. 

This race also ties in with the 1812 beer and has pint glasses and other swag that goes with the theme. Not to mention, an 1812 beer is included with the race. The beer ticket is attached to the bib. 

The challenge theme is awesome because 18.12 is an unusual distance. It’s more than a half marathon, but less than a full marathon. It’s the perfect way to challenge yourself for those scared to make the jump between distances. While everyone else has stickers that say 26.2 or 13.1, you can have one that says 18.12. Just so that people are like what? And it will be cool. Do the 1812 Challenge. Put the 18.12 sticker on your car. You will start a thing. You’ll see. 

I am so looking forward to returning to the 1812 Challenge in 2020. I can’t wait to figure out which challenge is in store for me next year – 13.1 or 18.12! 

The Comeback Kid Runs Again

A half marathon is just a 5k with a 10 mile warm up. 2008 was a rough year. In February of that year, I broke both arms at the same time in 4 places. I spent the winter training for a spring race in casts. In May, they sawed my casts off on a Tuesday, and I ran a half marathon that Sunday. Little did I know at the time, but my race in Ottawa qualified me for Boston. When I finally figured that out, I did indeed run Boston – in 2010.

In the fall of 2008, I ran my first full marathon in Philly. It was my third medal. The day of the race, it was 23 degrees for the entire event. It was so cold, the air horn would not work to start the race. At every water stop, as soon as liquid hit the pavement, it was instantly ice. Shortly after I crossed the finish line in Philly, my running coach passed away from cancer. Since then, I have trained myself.

When I ran Toronto in 2009, I was stoked. Toronto had perfect weather and I had a great training season. Even though PRs (personal records) are technically only good for two years, my time in the Toronto Marathon is the PR of my entire running career. It was my best race ever for the full marathon distance.

While in Toronto, I was fortunate enough to meet and have deeply personal conversations with some of my running heroes. I had the privilege of spending quality time with Roger Robinson, Kathrine Switzer, and “Boston Billy” – Bill Rodgers. Kathrine Switzer was the woman in the iconic Boston Marathon photos that the race director was trying to pull off the course because there “wasn’t supposed to be women in the marathon.” Bill Rodgers won the Boston Marathon four times. He also won the New York City Marathon four times.

In my conversations with Bill, I learned a little about running and a lot about life. I told him of the challenges I had in the 2008 running season and how I was so happy and excited to be running in Toronto. The race was bittersweet, as it would be my first full marathon without my running coach. Bill gave me great advice, words of encouragement, and called me “The Comeback Kid.” I definitely came back. Toronto was my best race ever.

Fast forward a few years.

My 2015 running season was okay. I did a half marathon in the spring. Everything went normal. I ran the half marathon in under 2 hours (typical for me). I ran a full marathon in the fall of 2015. It was my worst marathon ever. It was my slowest time and I was starting to have physical issues.

Those physical issues would persist into 2016. I ended up in the hospital. The 2016 running season was completely lost. They thought I had a stroke.

I struggled through 2017. I did a small, local half marathon with about 100 runners. I was happy to get a medal, as it was unexpected for such a small race. My time was well over the 2 hour mark. It was one of my slowest half marathons, but I did it.

In 2018, I had more set-backs. My 2018 running season was completely lost. Between 2016 and 2018, that is now two years where my running season was just plain gone and I was not liking the pattern. I changed doctors and have been pushing them for answers. Why is my body betraying me? I have 15 medals – 10 half marathons and 5 full marathons. Something is definitely wrong here. 

In 2019, I have found out that the stroke diagnosis was wrong. I have a neurological disability. They are looking at MS. I am still technically “pending diagnosis,” but after having three different doctors tell me they all suspect MS and “failing” all the MS tests, getting confirmation from the neurologist is almost just a technicality at this point.

With MS in mind, I got a cooling vest to help with my symptoms – which was actually prescribed by one of the doctors who thinks I have MS. It helped with my physical symptoms enough for me to train. Previously, it would take me 9 weeks to train for a half marathon. With my new neurological problems, it has taken me 4 months to train for a half marathon. I also changed my training plan for the first time in my career. I now use Canadian John Stanton’s 10:1 method for both training and racing. 

On September 1, 2019, the Comeback Kid Runs Again. 

Given that my neurological condition (lets just go with the MS thing, since I see the neuro in October, mmkay?) affects my vision and my driving, I took a short trip north to the Watertown, NY area. I needed a “big” race that was close and easy for me to get to. I also needed one with a medal, because we all know, it’s all about the bling. 

I ran the 1812 Challenge Half Marathon, which was my biggest race in four years, and my first “official race” back on the race circuit. In the words of Neil Diamond, it felt “so good, so good.” I love being an athlete. I love being a runner. Most importantly, I love being a marathon runner. I do not remember the last time I was as happy as I was during 1812 race weekend. It has literally been years since I have been this happy.

First off, the people are amazing. I even met the race director. The 1812 Challenge is only in its 8th year, but it is run with a level of organization, thoughtfulness, and love, that I am sure this is a race we will see going for 40 or 50 years like the big ones in the cities. As a comparison, the 1812 Challenge allows 1,200 runners. Philly allows 40,000 runners the last time I ran it. I am used to big races. Not only does the 1812 Challenge rival the big cities, but it has a lot of extras that big races don’t have. I never would have guessed a smaller race could be so beautifully done. 

Hands down, the 1812 Challenge is the friendliest race I have ever completed. Keep in mind, this was medal # 16, so this is saying a lot. There was so much support and everyone was happy to be there. Even the NYS Trooper who was stopping traffic for us at one of the intersections was in a great mood. There was a violin and bag pipes on course. 

I even saw Cinderella and a bunch of other Disney characters at about mile 12. They completely rival the Scream Tunnel at the Boston Marathon. Sorry, Wellesley, Sacket’s Harbor has you beat on this one now. 

There were people standing in the front yards of their homes cheering us on. This was the first time I have ever ran a race and had people say “good morning” to me as I ran past them.

Not only are all the staff, volunteers, and spectators friendly, but somehow this race draws the best of the running community. I don’t understand how that is possible, since runners are a pretty great bunch of people to begin with, but the people who ran the race with me exceptional. I had conversations with other runners while we were on the course. It was awesome.

Even though this race is in a rural area, I did not miss the crowds of spectators in the cities. There was so much hometown pride in the people who were spectating from their front yards. I did not go a single mile without seeing someone. The water stops were plentiful and well staffed. 

Yes, I did run by a barn full of cows and it was awesome. I would much rather run past cows then spend 3 miles running on a lonely bridge in a city with no spectators. I was a little worried at the start about not running with music, as I usually use the city crowds to “carry” me through the race. Races are so exciting that I never run them with headphones because I do not want to miss a single moment. I have had times at larger races when I wanted my headphones because there would be stretches that were so lonely. 

I had no need and no desire for headphones in this race. I always had either something to look at, someone to talk to, or people cheering for me. It was amazing. I ran my race. I ran a good race.

This is the first race I have completed in a long time that reminds me why I love to run. I know I love to run. Sometimes I get caught up in the competition, trying to beat the clock and get the PR. This race I just ran for the love of running and what made it better was that you could tell that everything about this race was designed with love. The staff, volunteers, and spectators were all there because they loved being there. This was not just another race or a notch in the running belt. 

My goal next year is to return to run the 18.12 portion. It will depend on how my doctor appointments go and how I’m feeling through the winter on whether I do the 13.1 or the 18.12. I had some troubles in the morning with the shaking (I have tremors came up in my last doctor appointment) and my right side was having troubles about mile 11 (my right side overcompensates for the left side that is being attacked by the MS). One thing is for sure, I am definitely running this race again.

The weather was perfect. The finish line was beautiful. I love the theme and the medal is one of my personal favorites. I feel so honored I get to wear my medal this week. I can’t wait to show it to everyone. 

The Comeback Kid ran again. I cannot wait to do it again next year. The 1812 Challenge is my new favorite race, and you will see me again at their race in 2020. I’m not sure if I will be in the 13.1 or the 18.12, but I will be up for A challenge and toeing the line. 

4 years, 1 month, 28 days

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Normal (noun): The usual, average, or typical state or condition – as defined by google.

I’ve had this un-diagnosed neurological condition since at least 2016, but probably longer. 2016 was the year I was in the hospital and my symptoms not only worsened, but whatever disease I have decided to ramp itself up to the Next Level like a video game on steroids.

First, I was told it was a stroke. Now, they are looking for multiple sclerosis. I’m having problems getting medical care, which does not make life any easier.

Going with the idea that I might have MS, pending neurology confirmation, I ordered some MS cooling vests to see if they would help at all with some of the “imaginary” symptoms I get when it is hot out. Imaginary is according to the primary doctor, who does not seem to take me seriously (even though she was the one who referred me to neurology).

I took great care to measure myself for the MS cooling vests and I am glad I did. When I put one on, I discovered that the phase change packs were situated so that there are two on either side of my spine. I say phase change packs because that is what they actually are – these are not ice packs, but some other technology. The placement of the phase change packs is key to their efficacy, which we will get to in a moment.

I wore the cooling vest for my run tonight. I had this idea that it would just keep my body cool similar to air conditioning. Boy, was I wrong.

But I was wrong in the best possible way.

Those phase change packs are situated on both sides of your spine not to cool your body, but to cool your central nervous system. Apparently, in people with MS, if that is what I have, heat causes your nerves to misfire. By cooling the central nervous system, your nerves are less likely to misfire, and you are less likely to have heat-induced symptoms.

My central nervous system was definitely cooled by the cooling vest. My spine was cool. My brain inside my head was cool. It was the weirdest but also the best feeling. It felt similar to an ice cream headache, only without the ice cream and without the headache. I did not have a headache. Nothing hurt. Yet my brain inside my head physically felt cool while the outside of my body was sweating buckets.

It was 86 degrees out when I went for my run. Not the best running conditions, even if you do not have a neurological problem.

It was the best run I have had in 4 years, 1 month and 28 days.

It’s been a long time since I have been this happy to be that miserable.

I was sweating buckets. I was uncomfortable. But it was a “normal” uncomfortable. It was the type of uncomfortable that you get when you run 4 miles in 86 degree weather like a crazy person. It was the best feeling.

What made it so great was that it was the first run I have done in 4 years, 1 month and 28 days where I did not experience any of these neurological symptoms while running. I was not dizzy, I did not feel like passing out, my vision was not blurry, my vision was not black, I did not trip, I did not fall. I had no brain fog. I was able to think clearly for the first time in a long time.

I felt normal.

I felt like any other idiot running 4 miles in 86 degree weather, because, really, you shouldn’t do that.

I basically wanted to see if this cooling vest would work. It does. It doesn’t work in the way I thought it would work. It works even better than that.

I thought that the cooling vest would cool my whole body down and kind of give me a competitive edge to run in that heat. The vest did no such thing. The vest cooled down my central nervous system so that I could run normally. I had no neurological symptoms. I was just a crazy runner sweating buckets on the outside. Only my spine and my brain inside my head were cool.

The cooling vest makes me normal per the definition at the beginning of this post. The cooling vest puts me back on level playing field again. It was just me and my body pounding the pavement on the road minus all neurological symptoms.

Now granted, running in 86 degree weather is completely stupid.

The point is that if the cooling vest lets me run normally again, what else can I do like a normal person that I have not been able to do for the past four years?

I’m excited to find out.

I want to surf. I want to drive further than 8 miles. I want to be able to go back to the beaches. I want to go to a baseball game without getting all these neuro symptoms where my body feels like it’s drunk when the only thing I have had to drink all day is water with lime slices in it.

I want to feel like a normal person and not have my body betray me every time I try to do something.

Tonight, I had my first normal run in 4 years, 1 month and 28 days. I cannot say how grateful I am to have this cooling vest. I feel like I might be able to actually get my life back.

With the doctors around here being absolutely stupid, I may never find out whether or not I have MS. Whatever it is that I have, this MS cooling vest is looking like it is alleviating all my heat-induced symptoms.

I can’t wait to use the cooling vest more and see what else I can do like a normal person again. Summer is one of my favorite seasons and I have not been able to enjoy it for years.

Bring on summer. With my MS cooling vests, I’m ready.

Update:

So, I’ve had some people ask me about which cooling vests I chose. I went with these really great vests called Under Cool from Therm Apparel in Rochester, NY. Many people have asked me recently if I’m wearing my vest because they don’t see it. Yes, I am wearing it! The fact you can’t see it is the whole point!

The Under Cool vest goes under my shirt. As a runner, I chose this vest because it weighs just under 2 pounds. Other cooling vests I researched were about 6-8 pounds. When I run 26.2 miles, I don’t want to feel like I’m in Marine boot camp lugging around a bunch of extra dead weight.

Sizing was a huge selling point for me. I weigh about 96 pounds. Most cooling vests I researched were bulky and only available in S,M,L sizes. Under Cool was available in XS (which I have), as well as youth sizes. Some of my baseball shirts are actually youth sizes, so having a wide range of sizes was key. Measure carefully, and your vest will fit well. XS is doing it for me.

Please note, I do not usually push specific items, but since you guys have asked, it is definitely Therm Apparel. I have not received any sort of compensation for giving them a plug, but if you need a cooling vest for neuro issues and run marathons like I do, then this is the vest for you! I also got the “adventure bundle” so I have one vest for running and one vest for “every day use.” I have two sets of phase change packs that allow me to be out longer. So far, I have only been out in my cooling vest for a maximum of 3 hours, but that is only because I get so tired.

I will be sure to post another blog on my vests!

Master of Two

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The kids (indoor only cats) safely enjoying fresh air outside on the porch in a borrowed dog crate.

Jack of all trades; master of none. This was my mantra for a good many years. Spending almost two decades working 2-3 jobs at a time while completing 4 degrees means that I have a breadth of experience.

It was significant and exciting when I completed my master’s degree a few years ago. I was so proud to finally be able to shout: “Jack of all trades and master of ONE!” I am very proud of my forensic psychology degree. It would be even better if I could use it. I digress.

I am now a master of TWO!

Apparently, once you turn age 40, you automatically enter the “Masters” category of running. There are other categories beyond Masters for higher age groups. For now, I am a master of running.

After 12 years and 15 medals, it’s about damn time. Masters runner? I’ll take it!

I am currently in training for a half marathon this year, which will only be my second distance event since getting out of the hospital a few years ago. I’m super pumped. I am also using the Canadian method of training this year to hopefully contribute to the longevity of my running career. Instead of taking 9 weeks to train for a half marathon, I am now taking 17 weeks to train for a half marathon. I’m going with a slower build.

A slower build will allow me more time for rest and hopefully decrease my chances of injury.

Another factor in this choice is that I am now training solely on paved roads, as opposed to a packed trail bed. Paved roads are a pounding for joints, so I’m trying to be gentle. It would be quite a drive for me to get to the packed trail bed now.

Last year it was a huge deal because I finally broke down and bought a Garmin, which I chronicled in 5 Reasons why Garmin Rocks!

This year, I am proud to report, that I have completed my longest run since obtaining the Garmin. When I did my long run last week, the watch cheered as I reached a new goal – longest run with the Garmin. It was only 5 miles. The fact that it’s taken me over a year since I have done a 5 mile long run … well, I’m not happy about that. I am happy that I am now back to doing 5 mile runs. I am completely fine with them.

This week’s “long run” is another 5-miler. I’m looking forward to it. I’m enjoying the slow build with this new Canadian style training plan. If I truly plan on being a master of running, then I need to be sure to preserve my body for the long run.

I may be considered a masters runner at age 40, but I want to be sure that I am still doing this at age 70. I may be running a little bit slower now than I was 10 years ago, but I’m running smarter. I’m riding this masters thing for as long as I can.

I am always stoked when I enter a new decade and get to change age groups in running. Entering the masters category is one of the best privileges I’ve had in years. I am really looking forward to being able to race in the masters runners category this year.

Respect, people! Respect!

Jack of all trades, master of TWO!