Thursday, May 19, 2016

Broad Street Run, Race Day

The first alarm went off at 4:45. My first thought was, "Why does it have to be so early!"

We all started to slowly move. I looked out the window and it didn't seem to be raining.


We ate, got dressed and headed down to the lobby to meet our team for 5:45.

It was raining.

In the lobby.

We walked to the subway which was already crowded.  We were on it for, I think, twenty minutes. It felt like a life time. The stop we got off was just a couple blocks to our D-Nation tent. The beauty of being part of this team was the tent, the food, the water, the gels, private porta potties and personal bag check.
Subway station silliness.

Because the rain was so bad, most people huddled under the tent which made it very difficult to move around.  I really just wanted to start running and was getting annoyed at all the standing around.

Pre-race picture.

Our corrals were colored coded and again, one of the really nice things about our tent, it was placed at the starting line.  I learned from last year that I didn't have to actually line up in our corral, we could just walk to the start when our color toed the line.
Will and Stephanie

Me and Stephanie

Brandi, Stephanie, Jeremy

Packed like sardines!

Andy, Larry, Stephanie

Linda being interviewed.

Larry being interviewed.
Brandi and I

Because of the rain, one of the D-Nation volunteers gathered each color together by waving a corresponding flag and walked us to the start. It was very nice!

We cheered on the first runners and I waited patiently until the yellow flag was flying. When we got to the opening of the fence to get in, the very tail end of the gray corral was running past us. And then I saw three pink bibs, which were supposed to be in the last corral, pass us. That was my green light. With enough room for us to get in, I said to Therese and Brandi, "Let's go." Honestly, I couldn't wait another minute.

Because we were in the very back of the gray corral, there was a lot of room. We didn't go out too fast and we weren't being held up because it was too crowded like last year.

Brandi is a coach and she really wanted to help me reach my PR. I was happy to have her there. Therese was my saving grace at Philly and I was just so happy to have her running with me again.  I wanted a PR, but this is a really fun race and I still wanted to have fun.  You all know me, I talk. So I started up a conversation mostly to get to know Brandi better. I literally only met her the night before.

I am guessing it is hard to "coach" someone you don't know.  What was great was she kept me focused on running. I rarely looked at my watch and didn't need to. She knew exactly where we were, where we were going, and how we needed to get there. She was perfect at keeping me on pace.

I started the race with my rain poncho on. Why not stay as dry as possible for as long as you can, right? When it came time to toss it, she took it from me so I could keep running straight and not have to dodge people to get it to the side of the road.  I really appreciated that and know she will be successful as a coach.

Pretty much the start of the race.

I have to say, the people cheering were awesome despite the rain. My favorite sign of the day read, "There is a 30% chance that it is raining right now."

I ran really well for the first four miles with a fuel plan of taking a gel at miles four and seven.

Mile one,  10:28
Mile two,  10:26
Mile three, 10:31
Mile four,  10:32

Mile five you have to go around city hall. It seems the road got more crowded here.  We had to dodge a few people. It was my slowest mile, 10:43.

Clearly, having a good time.

Beautiful day!

Pretty sure, we have the best bottoms and socks on the course.
Love this pic of Andy and Will with our Sub 30 Flag.
I think that fueled me for mile six. I picked it up and ran a 10:09.  I guess we were still chatting. I think I talked about growing up in Philadelphia and I know I told them I may get emotional when we pass my old neighborhood.  Mile seven, I slowed back down to a 10:28 pace. Not really sure why but I do know in my head I was going over the last three miles and how I wanted to run them.

I wanted to finish strong and also negative split the last part of the race.  I do know I looked at my watch and the girls said to just focus on running. I know I sneaked a peek a couple times and even ran ahead a bit before getting hit with "traffic."

Mile eight was back to a 10:30.  But Brandi knew and let me know that a PR was in the bag baring any major hiccup. I felt I still needed to run faster though.

At this part of the race, it started to get crowded.  The last three corrals, gray, yellow and pink, are the biggest ones. Even though we technically started in gray, people were slowing down. Some were even walking. It was so challenging getting around everyone but we managed and mile nine we ran a 10:02.

Brandi or Therese or maybe it was both of them said, "One more mile!"  I knew from last year that running on the left appeared to be less crowded, plus we run past our team tent and people may be there cheer us on.  That is where we ran the last mile.

I felt good mentally and physically. I knew I could continue to run well. With the finish line in sight, I was all smiles.  Mile ten, 9:55.

I have to tell you, we hit the mat and traffic stopped. I had to push, very nicely, two girls out of the way to make sure I got across it.  This is the problem with 43,000 runners.

Therese, Brandi and I hugged and took some pictures.  My official finish time was 1:44:32.  That is a 1:26 PR. Remember though, I thought my PR was 1:48. At this point, I thought I had a four minute PR and I told everyone!

Finish line!

Immediately after stopping, we got cold. This is the worst part of the race and where they really lose me. You are in a traffic jam for at least ten minutes before you get water, food and medal.  Once we got into the field and headed to our tent, we finally saw a volunteer handing out heat sheets.  In my very humble opinion, on a day like that, that should have been one of the first things we got, especially with the slow moving crowd.

Warm in the tent.

Once back to the tent, it was so nice to see other team members and hear about their races and PR's. We had a lot! Finally in dry clothes, (thank you D-nation for the changing tents) we got food.  While we were eating, one of our teammates and my roommate was calling to say she was lost.  Well, forty minutes later, we got Emily to the tent and in dry clothes. Honestly though, that should have never happened. There needs to be a better way. More signs and higher signs would be a good start.

From there we did the trek to the train station. I remembered that the walk was long, so I packed an umbrella with me. One of my better decisions.

We packed in like sardines on the last express train. I didn't really feel warm again until after my shower.

The plan was to meet in the pub at two and celebrate and talk about our races.  More on that in the next blog...

Run Strong, Think Big! ~ Nicole

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Nice Try, See You Next Year!

As most of you know, for the last five years, I have run the Narrow River 5K.  It was one of my first 5K's when I was a new runner.  It is just a few miles from my home and I run part of the course daily. It has a small field, with prizes just for the overall first place finishers and first place age group finishers. I love small, local races in this beautiful town that I live in. I guess that is why I keep going back year after year.

The course is not easy. It has a few challenging hills and it starts at 10am.  It is also the height of allergy season for me, which has it's own set of issues. Leading up to the race, there was talk of cool weather and rain. Something I knew would be good for me. We had been doing hills and I felt ready to reach my goal of sub 30.  I wasn't going for a 5K PR, which BTW is 29:42, just sub 30.

BRF#1 finds it curious that I have picked this race as my goal race each year. Maybe I like a challenge? Maybe I just don't know any better? Maybe I am blinded by the fact that I know the course?  Whatever the case, I show up every year.  I am never registered because that gives me an out. An out I have never taken. This year was no different.

Michelle, who coached me to a twenty six minute PR at my last marathon, has always been someone I have felt comfortable talking to when I needed running advice.  As I was putting my race plan together, I had questions about warm up miles, which I know are important and I didn't want any mistakes.  After talking with her, the plan was two slow miles and a few strides at the end.  Race pace should be 9:35 or better.

I fell asleep fine, but was up at 4am. I had a very hard time falling back to sleep. I eventually did but was up before the alarm. Despite the lack of sleep, I felt good.  I had a nice breakfast and time with the family before I had to head down to the beach. To my disappointment, it had stopped raining and the sun was shining. It was a beautiful day, if I wasn't racing.

George came with me. I knew he would have friends there and would be ok while I was running.  Once I registered and he was off playing with friends, I headed out for my two mile warm up. I paced myself perfectly but it got hot fast.  Back in the parking lot, I grabbed water and stretched while I waited for my shuttle to take me to the starting line.

Special K was there and running the 10K and it was so great to chat with her until my shuttle left.

Special K, Me and Jennifer

Smiling before the race.m

I was on the last shuttle, so by the time I got to the start, I had just eight minutes to spare. Michelle was there. We talked about how hot it was already and how that may be a problem.  We wished each other a good race and the horn went off.

I decided to listen to music, which I don't normally do. I thought something fast and loud would help me keep the pace I wanted.  I realized, about twenty seconds in, that I was behind Michelle and was running an 8:35 pace.  I needed to slow down and get on track. I found the pace that was good for me and settled in.

The first hill is not very big and I kept on pace.  There was a water stop but I didn't feel thirsty and I didn't want to take the time anyway.

I was starting to really warm up and the sun was beating down on me.  My watch buzzed and mile one was finished, 9:37.

Feeling good at the start of mile two, I am not sure what really happen, but things started to go wrong. I started to slow down and I struggled up the second hill.  Once up the hill, I had to talk myself down from the ledge. I was on flat land with a a big downhill coming up. I knew I could make up time there. I picked up my pace and flew down the hill.  On flat land again, my watch buzzed for mile two, 10:07.  That can't be good.  Doing the math in my head, I knew I had to run faster than planned to make that up.

Much faster than planned.

I didn't want to let anyone down. I told myself that if I reached my goal, I would never have to run this race again.  With the last hill in sight, I ran my heart out. I grabbed a cup of water to dump on my head but didn't even slow down.  Mile three buzzed on my watch, 9:44. I saw the finish and the clock already read 30:xx. I didn't make it.

I didn't make it.

George was put to work taking the tags from our bids. I gave him mine and he hugged me.  I didn't cry this year, but I did get angry.  I got water and a few orange slices then headed back to the finish to cheer on Special K and a few other friends.

I held it together. It was nice to talk to so many friends and cool down.  Then I saw the official results.

30:38, which was a 9:53 pace.  Sixth in my AG,  and twenty second female.

Not even a course record.

I know there is a lot to be proud of. I still ran a decent race and I never gave up, although the thought crossed my mind, twice. Once I knew I wasn't going to make my goal, I had to keep trying.  There is always a chance, right? I can honestly say, I left it all out there. I did what I could and gave it everything I had.


Will I run this race next year? Probably, but I am not saying yes or no right now. A lot can happen in a year.  I am working on a 5K plan now with a new PR in mind for the end of the summer.  I will keep you posted on that as it all comes together.

Thanks for lending me your ear. I am disappointed but that is a part of life. It is what will fuel me to eventually reach my goal.

For those of you waiting for more about Broad Street, it's coming. I just needed a little closure on this years Narrow River.

Run Strong, Think Big! ~ Nicole

Friday, May 13, 2016

Broad Street Run: Pre-Race Shenanigans

The Philadelphia Broad Street Run has easily become my favorite race.  You hear about races that are giant parties down such and such road or such and such city, but this race is the best definition of what that truly means.

I joined Team Low and Slow again this year and we have, to date, raised over $43,000.  A big thanks to all of you who have helped by donating to our cause.

Andy started this team with just three people a few years ago.  This year we had sixty four running down Broad Street!
Our team captains, Andy, Stephanie and Larry.

When I was deciding on what my goals were going to be for Broad Street, Andy mentioned that he and William would be running with the Sub 30 flag and support and encourage our back of the pack runners. They were going to do a run/walk, which is not something I am used too.  Knowing I get very little time with Andy and that I was really interested in getting to know William better, I said I would run with them.  Also, I love helping others reach their goals. We had a lot of new to Broad Street runners and some of them running their first ten mile race.  I would have been happy to help them.

As the weekend got closer, the weather changed to 100% chance of rain and 50 degrees.  I know for some, this is bad news. For me, I was happy about it. I knew I could run well in those conditions.  And it didn't hurt when BRF#1 said if I wanted to PR, I could and she could see me running a 10:22 pace.

My PR was 1:45:58, my new goal became 1:44:00. (Side note: I thought my PR was 1:48:58. I did not catch my mistake before the race) We had a spreadsheet of our teammates and the paces they would be running. I hooked up with Therese and Brandi and we planned on running together.  With a plan in place, I finished packing and headed to the train to Philly.

About an hour into the ride, we picked up Sarah and it was so nice to have the company.

We look a little tired.

Getting to the hotel was easy and when we arrived, a lot of our team were already in the lobby waiting to head to lunch and the expo.  We dropped our bags and were on our way.

Nice care package that Stephanie put together for all the out of towners.

Lunch was at the Reading Terminal, of course. And yes, I did stand in line forty five minutes for a doughnut.  I had excellent company though.

Beilers Doughnuts

The expo was fun. Lots of cool things to see, but I didn't buy anything! I did leave with a few cool giveaways.

From there, we headed back to the hotel to unwind a bit and get ready for the team dinner.  I was sharing the room with some great friends who spoiled me with some awesome snacks.

Pretty sure there are a few things missing from this picture. 

This year, we were able to walk to the team dinner and I just love these pictures of us.

There was a cocktail hour first which made it nice to mingle with everyone.

Dinner was very good and also very emotional, once again.  Hearing the stories and seeing the pictures just tugs at your heart strings. Knowing I was running for such an amazing cause made me want to PR even more.

Back at the hotel room, we laid out everything we would need in the morning. We headed back out quickly to sign the Sub 30 Flag and Emily and I were in bed early.  Therese and Sarah followed shortly. Alarm set and lights out...

Flat Nicole, Flat Emily, Flat Therese and Flat Sarah
Part two soon!

Run Strong, Think Big! ~ Nicole

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Well, Hello There!

You may have noticed, I haven't blogged since January. I guess I owe you some posts.

I never considered myself a writer. I am guessing most of you reading this can tell I haven't fully grasped the English language. But here I am, writing again.

I enjoy my blog. I love looking back and reliving some of my memories. I absolutely love reading your comments. That is what makes me want to continue writing and sharing this journey with you. So many of you have said, "Thank you for inspiring me." But honestly, it is you that inspires me.

So, where have I been? No where really. I had one horrible race since my last post. It was a half marathon that ended up being 13.5 miles. And no, it wasn't just me. The race director went in and corrected everyones mileage so that it matched our times. I struggled with that race. It was not pretty and it really threw me off for the next several weeks.
Forcing a smile for Beth who snapped this pic.

My asthma has been kicking my ass. This time of year really gets me. I struggle with getting my breathing under control. I keep on trucking though and todays run was really good. It helped that it was actually chilly today. Crazy New England weather!

BRF#1 ran Boston! Of course I had to be there.  BRF#2,  Professor Badass and I went and cheered at mile ten in Natick.  Wow, so much fun! It was my first time and I loved every minute. I got to high five SBS who was also running, which was a big thrill for me.  But seeing BRF#1 smiling as she ran passed us made my whole year.  Congrats again, my friend.

The Philadelphia Broad Street Run is this Sunday! I love this race and can't wait to get there. Our team has raised over $35,000 and still going. Thank you to everyone who has donated.

Two weeks after that, I have the Narrow River 5K, my nemesis. Remember last year? Honestly, I am not feeling like I am in shape to reach my goal but I am going to give it my all and see what happens.  It's not an easy course and being allergy season, I am not sure why I picked this one to be my goal race each year.  I have been running hills and have some track workouts coming up. Hoping that is enough.

I am also contemplating a third marathon in the fall. Still thinking and will keep you updated. The decision to say yes is not coming as easy as the last two. Is that a sign to hold off? Not sure.

The I Run 4 program is still going strong and I still run for Wyatt. He continues to motivate me and his smile is infectious. I love this program and I am so proud to be his runner.

I am also still a Skirt Sports Ambassador. This is such a wonderful and fun group of women.  Well made products that make me feel good and stay in place. There is a big sale going on now if you need anything.
Mr. RWM, George and Gracie are all doing well. We had a lovely Easter and a nice Spring break. I worked on the fourth grade yearbook for George's class which was a lot of fun. It is hard to believe that he is moving on to the middle school in the fall. He has learned how to play the flute this year and joined the church choir. Two things I thought would be short lived but he is enjoying both.

Gracie joined the school choir and loves it. Hearing her sing brings a huge smile to my face. She is so kind and sweet and just a joy to be around. My baby will be eight in June!

It's so true when people say don't blink, they grow up so fast. It is a good thing to see them mature, make friends, learn and experience life, but man, I do wish I still had a little baby to hold.  They are still little, I know. I have friends with teenagers and kids in college. I do have to remind myself sometimes to slow down and just be together as a family. I think we are making good memories, or at least I hope so.

George in his happy place.

Books and stuffed animals. Gracie's happy place.

I hope you are all doing well. What are you training for and how is it going? I plan to get back to regular blogging, but just in case, follow me on my FB page. I do update that a little more frequently.

Thanks for still being here. I appreciate all of you!

Run Strong, Think Big! ~ Nicole