Monday, October 27, 2014

One Bridge and 3500 of my Closest Friends

The Citizen's Bank Pell Bridge Run has been on my calendar for the last four years.  I starting running in 2011 and that was also the first year of this race. I knew I had to do it.  I loved every minute of that first time and knew I would go back every year that I could. Sunday, I ran it for the fourth time.

You can read here about the first time I ran this race. I think I have come a long way as a runner and a blogger.

The race is early. I did not sleep great but got up with no trouble.  I had coffee and headed out the door to meet Elaine, KB and Tyra.  We carpooled over. As soon as we hit Newport, we were in a long line of traffic trying to park. We had plenty of time though and got a good space.

We got the first shuttle we saw. It was so nice and warm on the bus.  We got dropped off at the same spot we have the last four years but they had the coffee and PP's in an access road to the left.  We headed in there, saw some friends and then lined up.  They had signs posted for your pace, including walkers.

Once everyone was lined up, they had us walk out of the access road, to the main road and line up again, no signs there.  This, I feel did not work well. Once we finally got in what we thought was our pace group, we noticed that a women with a cane was in front of us.  Obviously, the line up to line up again method did not work.  Although I think it would have if they had us line up backwards in the first spot and had the walkers out of that area first, followed by the 12 minute mile pace people, then the 11, etc.  Or, just had us line up on the main road with the signs there.

We were running for fun and it was pretty crowded, so we decided to stay where we were and just work our way around everyone.  This took more work than we had anticipated.

It took us 2:19 to get to the mat and then we started running. Well, dodging walkers was more like it.  This happened until we were through the tolls and heading up the hill. The first year I ran this race, I think there were just under 1000 people. This year, there were 3500. I am happy to see that a race I love has succeeded year after year.

Tyra lined up ahead of us and was running at a faster pace.  Elaine, KB and I stayed together for the most part.  KB has been dealing with a hamstring issue and it made an appearance during the race.  It was fun to talk and laugh and watch the sun come up while we were running.  Once we got up and over we pulled to the side for pictures and waited for KB to catch up.  We got some great shots and started running again.

This is now a downhill followed by a pretty flat course.  As we started approaching the exit ramp, I looked at my watch.  My course PR for this race was 45:02. I wanted to get rid of that two seconds, but I was pretty sure I would be able to get more than that.  I had five minutes to do it and asked Elaine if she thought it was possible.  Not being able to see the finish, we had some doubts.  However, one turn and there it was. I knew I would get a new course PR and maybe even a new PR for the distance.

I ran into the finish smiling, Tyra taking pictures and Elaine doing a jump-up, spin move that was just awesome!

KB was right behind us.  We saw some friends and chatted. Got a bagel, snapped some more pictures and checked our times.  My official time was 43:09, just 8 second off my PR. It was, in fact a course PR.  Imagine what my time would have been if I did not stop on the bridge to take pictures!  It's all good tough, this is my fun race of the year and I was just so happy to be there again and with such good friends.

I would like to thank the race directors and volunteers for putting together such a fantastic race once again. I will see you in 2015!

Now, for the first time in two years, I do not have a race on my calendar.  I have an idea of what next year might look like but I am not registered for anything yet.  I actually felt relived when I first realized this.  In 2013, I ran 19 races including a marathon. This year, I ran 16 including a half ironman.  My family is tired and I am tired.  I plan to approach the next year with a smarter schedule and learn the word, "No."

Don't worry, I will race but I don't need one every month.  I am going to think about what is most important to me and my family and put my schedule together based on that.

I am feeling confident that 2015 will be a fun and successful running year.

How far in advance do you plan out your races?

Run Strong, Think Big! ~ Nicole

*most photos credited to Elaine

Friday, October 24, 2014

Newport Half Marathon and a Little PR

When I started to plan my race schedule for 2014, I had one major goal. To run the United Healthcare Triple Crown.  Three races in three Rhode Island cities, Providence, Jamestown and Newport.  Newport was going to be my 'big goal race."  However, you all know that all changed when I won the free entry into the Rhode Warrior Half Ironman Distance Triathlon.

For most of the year, I focused on swimming and biking with some running thrown in there.  My goal of a 2:20 half marathon had slipped away. That is, until I started to really think about the race. Could I actually still pull it off?  With every run, I kept thinking it was possible.

The Saturday before the half, I ran with Beth.  She was going to run the race with me and we talked about her pacing me.  After that run, I was pretty confident that I would give it my all and shoot for a new PR.

The morning of the race, Beth and I met and drove in together.  Traffic was a bit crazy and I was getting worried we wouldn't make it. Of course we did and since it was cold, it wasn't the worst thing in the world.  We were able to watch the full marathoners start and then we lined up.

I was doubting my choice of clothes and was wishing I had throw-a-way gloves.  Once we started, it did not take long to warm up.

To get my 2:20, we would have to stay under a 10:41 pace.  Pacing is not my strong point. I was happy to have Beth just tell me what I needed to do.  After each mile or so, she would tell me what we ran and if we needed to slow down or speed up. We had a couple fast miles which left a few seconds in the bank for the slower ones.  Beth was right on!

Things started to hurt at about mile nine.  Beth would not let me give up.  I am pretty sure if I was alone, I would of taken a walk break here.

I was so happy to hit mile ten, just 5K to go! I have to say though, I wasn't sure at this point I was going to make 2:20.  I did know that it would still be a PR though. My last PR was 2:24 which I also achieved with Beth, and I knew we would at least beat that.

To my surprise, I was able to hit negative splits for the last 3.1 miles: 10:52, 10:51, 10:00 and the last .1, 9:02.

I have never been so relived to stop running before.  We crossed that line and hugged and not only did I get my PR, I finished in 2:19:29!
Absolutely love Beth's smile in this picture!

I cannot thank Beth enough for all her help and encouraging words.  If you run with me, you know I am a talker. I can go on and on and on for miles.  I am pretty sure if we added up how much I talked to Beth during this race, it would be less than 15 minutes.  I know this really surprised Beth, but I was just so focus and all I could do was think about running, so, that is what I did.  I ran my heart out, fueled right, and just kept putting one foot in front of the other until we crossed the finish line.

We got our medals, and then found our way to the table that was giving out the Triple Crown shirt and extra medal.  I almost cried when I got it.

I was exhausted, Beth was tired too. We did not stay for the free beer. We just headed to the shuttles and drove home.

I felt high the rest of the day. So happy to have the best running friends and family.  When I got home, I was greeted with big hugs and a card that the kids made me.  There may have been tears again...

This is me running.

I can't really say that I trained for that PR, but I did train all year for different races and was pretty much half marathon ready the whole year.  With a little help and determination, I did it!  It was my eight half marathon and one of my favorites. I am not sure I will do the Triple Crown again, but I will at least run Newport.  The course is beautiful, and it is well run.

Coming up on Sunday, I will be running the Newport Bridge run for the fourth year in a row.  This is the fourth year for the race and it is just such a good time.  I plan to be there as many years as I can.

I have some really exciting things coming up and I can't wait to share them with you. I am still working out the details but will blog about everything soon.

I hope you are all having a great weekend!

Run Strong, Think Big! ~ Nicole

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Little Expo Fun

Hey guys!  Sorry I have not been blogging much.  I have been having some computer issues again and they are in the process of being fixed.  I have not done too much since the Rhode Warrior.  I have been running, of course, and the Newport Half Marathon is this coming weekend.

I did want to share with you a cool thing that I was able to do last month.  I was invited to work the Another Mother Runner table at the Zooma Cape Cod expo.  Oh my gosh, so much fun!

I did this with Michelle of For the Love of Running and our friend Erica.  We stayed in the cutest little hotel right near the beach.

The expo was Friday from 2 to 8 and Saturday from race time to noon.  We were on our feet a lot but I can't think of a better way to spend the weekend than by surrounded by runners, talking running all day.

I enjoyed meeting all of you who came up and introduced yourselves.  You all had amazing races and I was so happy to hear all about them.

Here are a few pictures from the weekend.

Beautiful morning for a race!

Nice way to end the weekend!
Lunch on the beach.

Were you there?  How was your race?

I will post after Newport.  So far the weather looks good.  I do love this race and I will be running with Beth.  My PR for a half is 2:24 and I would love to better my time.  We shall see...

What has been going on with you?  Any big fall races coming up? 

Run Strong, Think Big! ~ Nicole

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Rhode Warrior, the Run and Why I Hate the Number 23

So I headed out for my run, eating my banana. I ran through the flags and onto the street. I had to get to the other side of the road.  There was a cop at the cross walk directing traffic and the runners. This was a two loop course and the cross walk was also where you would turn around.

The cop put his hands up to stop a car that was coming, I took a couple steps and the car did not stop. I had a moment of panic, and the cop shouted at the driver. I was a little shaken and pissed. This stupid driver almost hit me and in front of my family to boot.  I shook it off and headed on my way.

First thing on my agenda was get to the first water stop and use the bathroom.  As soon as I started to really run though, I felt a rock or something in my left shoe. You know, the one that did not get the sand and gravel rinsed off.  Shoot!  I hoped it would just move and not bother me, so I hung in there until the first water stop.

I was moving slow but felt ok.  I had high hopes for the run. I thought it would be my strongest leg of the day. This is a flat course but no real shade and the sun was just beating down.  I grabbed some water and saw that someone was in the porta potty.  I waited. And waited some more. I finally knocked and a voice said, "I'll be right out!" Ok, so I sat down and took off my shoe and sock and fixed the gravel problem. Stood up and she was still not out. I gave up and just prayed that there was a PP at the next stop. I wasted a lot of time there and that second mile was my longest split of the day.

I got to the end of Atlantic Ave. and a left was coming up but I saw a PP on the other side of the road.  I didn't want to take any chances that I would not see another one in time, so I crossed over and then continued on my way.

The cool thing about running up the stretch of Atlantic Ave., was I go to see some of my friends who were also racing. It was great to cheer each other on.

I was pretty much alone, but I was able t see people ahead of me and I knew there were some behind me, but most of them were on their second loop.  I was behind a guy with a huge ironman tattoo on his leg and we chatted a couple minutes.  

When I turned onto Clifford St. he pulled away but Bethany had caught up to me.  Again, so very happy to see a friendly face and I was thrilled to have someone to run with for a couple miles.  She was on her second leg and was having a pretty good race. 

Once Bethany had about two miles to go, I wished her well and told her how jealous I was that she was about to finish and I still had to loop around.  I was tired.  She wished me well and picked it up for a finish that I wish I could of seen.  

Right after that, Mike pulled up next to me in his truck and cheered me on. I told him I still had to go around and he said that he would see me up ahead.

I was alone again, and Atlantic seemed to never end.  I know I said earlier that the turn around was right at the start, but for some reason, at this point, I though it was sooner.  I was running and getting upset thinking I would never finish.  And then, I saw my family. I started to cry, I was so happy.  The kids started to run with me and so did Mr. RWM.  Beth and Mike were there too cheering me on.   I think I said something like, "Where the hell is the turn around!?"  It is no fun knowing the finish line is right in front of you and you can't cross it.
Thanks for getting these pictures, Beth!

Gracie, George and Mr. RWM and me shuffling along.

Thank you Mike! This was one of the best moments of my run.

Finally, the cop and the turn around. Mr. RWM stayed with me as we crossed over and Mike started running with me too.  It was awesome to have them there.  My son was tailing behind and Mr. RWM had to go back with him but Mike stayed.  This was the best part of my run.  I was able to hold a conversation and I actually had fun running and chatting with him.  Mike stayed for almost two miles.  I was sad to see him go but this was the best I was running since I started and I felt good with just five miles to go.

When I approached the end of the road, the volunteer was cleaning up the cones. When he saw me, he said, "Oh, I am so sorry, they told me I could clean up."  Wow, well, I told him I think I am the last one. He asked if I was alright and I told him I was fine.  I continued on my run and hoping that other volunteers were still there as I was not sure I would remember which way to go.  I got to the next water stop and no one was there. The table was still set, plenty of water, oranges and pretzels, but no people.  This crushed me. I know it is a long day, and trust me, I appreciate all the help and time that each and every volunteer put in for the day, it just took me by surprise.

I knew a left was coming up.  The flagger was gone but the arrow sign was still there. Ok, I guess if the signs are there, I won't get lost. However, with each turn and water stop, I prayed that there would be another person.   There wasn't.  At a larger intersection, I even had to wait for the light to change before I could cross.  

At mile ten, I pulled out my phone and texted Mr. RWM, "At mile ten.  Walking."

Here's the thing, I trained to finish and finish only.  I knew with all the problems I ran into during training and the missed workouts, that I may very well come in last.  If you know me, last does not bother me. It really doesn't. I have never done anything like this before and I knew my training wasn't perfect. What got me though, is the fact that I was not prepared for the loneliness of the day.  Of course I have some runs that are alone and I have been in plenty of races without friends, but in those races, I have always been around other people. There was always a friendly face at a water stop.  Those though last miles are when, I think, most people need the smiles and the way to go's the most.

I never once thought of giving up, I just kept moving forward. When I got to the intersection that would take me back onto Atlantic Ave and to the finish, the volunteer who had cleaned up the cones was still there!  When he saw me coming, he stopped all the cars, put his water down and applauded me as I approached him.  I started to cry. When I got close he held out his hand so that he could shake mine.  He told me I was doing so good and I thanked him from the bottom of my heart.  He was an angel to me and I will never forget that moment.  

I was really watching the time all day.  I wanted to finish in eight hours or less.  It wasn't going to happen.  All the time I saved on the swim and bike, was gone.  I couldn't believe the run had taken me this long.  A flat, fast course and I was still on it.  I felt a little defeated but again, the only thing I could think of was getting to that finish line.  

A man on a bike passed me and said good job.  A minute later he was riding next to me.  He asked if I was ok which, actually, I was. I was still moving and I was going to finish. I was just moving slow.  He said I was breathing fine and was happy I could hold a conversation with him.  Wow, I must really look like shit if a total stranger was concerned. We actually had a nice conversation and he told me about doing the NYC triathlon a couple weeks ago.  As he was talking, I saw Mr. RWM running towards me.

I was so happy to see him.  I thanked the man on the bike for sticking with me and he went on his way.  Mr. RWM said he was tracking me and I was really slowing down so he was worried and wanted to find me.  This is funny because mile twelve was my second fastest mile of the day.  I didn't care, I had company and I was less than a mile to the finish line.

You guys have to know, that Mr. RWM does not run, ever.  This was the second time he was running with me today.  I was so proud of him and so happy to have him by my side as I was about to complete one of my biggest challenges to date.  

It wasn't long before I saw my family. My parents, my kids. They were cheering and smiling and jumping up and down.  They were loud and I loved it!  I ran into the finish, got water and my medal and my kids came running over to hug me followed by my parents.  I couldn't stop crying.  I was so happy to stop moving.  Once I cleared my eyes and started walking to my bike, I noticed that it was not the only one on the rack.  I was in shock. There were still people on the course?!  I felt a mix of emotions here.  I wasn't last but that did not make me happy per se. I felt sad that I didn't look back, how far were they?  Could we have run together for a bit?  I wondered how they felt. Did they have the same lonely feelings as I did?  Were they staying positive?

I got over to my bike and started to pack up when Bethany came over. We hugged and congratulated each other. She was heading to the beach with her family.  I was heading home for a shower and food.  

I got my stuff and the kids and I went to the finish and cheered in the next two runners.  Two women, both amazing.  All together, there were four people who finished after me.

The run took my 3:13.  My finish time was 8:23:23. I was 70 overall.  The 22 women and 6th in my AG.  

My goal was under eight hours and not die.  Well, I went over and I was pretty sure I was dead.  I have been trying to wrap my head around what really went wrong on the run.  The course was flat, but it was very hot.  I was tired and wasted energy feeling bad for myself.  What I really needed to do was suck it up and run.  I had a faster pace in me, I know it.  I walked most of mile ten and that really hurt me.  However, I finished and if I really think about it, that was the main goal.  

In January, I didn't know how to swim.  I hurt my arm and ended up in PT for six weeks, no swimming.  I not only didn't own a road bike, I never even sat on one until my friends loaned me theirs.  I could run, that we know, but I may have been a little over confident in that department.  My first triathlon was in June, my second was July and they were both sprints.  Then come August, I take on a half iron distance tri.  Clueless and a bit crazy got me here.  I am so very proud that I finished but I probably should of taken on this distance next year with a little more experience under my belt.  I didn't though, and I will proudly display my 70.3 sticker on my truck. But you know, this race was actually, 72.1 miles.  No sticker for that distance!

After a fantastic shower, the family and I went out to dinner and boy did I eat!  When I got dressed, I couldn't think of a better shirt to wear.  My Another Mother Runner, I am stronger than I thought. And yes, I wore my medal to dinner.

So why do I hate the number 23 you ask?  It's silly really. I wanted to finish this race in eight hours and I finished in 8:23.  I wanted to finish my marathon in five hours and I finished in 5:23. What kind of crazy, weird coincidence is this?  I know I need to be happy that I finished and I am, but I think I need to get rid of the :23 for both of those distances.  It won't be next year, but it will happen. Stay tuned...

Run Strong, Think Big! ~ Nicole

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I Am a Rhode Warrior, The Bike

So I set off on my bike smiling.  I couldn't believe that I had just conquer that swim.  Again, the part I thought would be the toughest.  I was so happy setting off, but knew I still had a lot of hours ahead of me.  

I saw one bike ahead of me and thought I would just follow her for a bit.  There wasn't too much traffic at this hour in the morning and crossing over the biggest intersection, Rt. 1 was no problem.  Police were there to stop the couple cars that were waiting. 

I had started the day thinking about the last ride on the course and how bad it was but at this moment, I was feeling good and riding at a really good pace for me.  Still behind the bike I saw at the start.  

At one point we were close and we chatted a few minutes.  Her name was Colleen and she was part of a relay team, however, she was the swimmer and the cyclist.  I passed her at one point, which is not what I wanted to do, but kept right on riding.  The first ten miles flew by. 

Colleen rode up beside me and we chatted for a minute and then she was off.  However, right after that a car pulled up beside me and slowed down. It was Mr. RWM!

He told me he had left the beach, ran into Home Depot, and thought he had enough time to see me ride by at an earlier intersection.  He was tracking me with our iPhones and he was surprised that I had already passed that particular spot on the course.  I knew I felt good and was happy to be ahead of pace.  He rode next to me a minute more and we said our goodbyes.  He had to get home and rally the family.  I had forty some miles to go...

This course is full of some crazy hills.  We are talking a total of 2400 feet of elevation.  There were times I struggled and I cursed a lot on this ride.  Of course there were plenty of down hills too and that is always fun.  At the bottom of one hill, mile 18, my buddy Michael was there with signs made for all his Rhode Warrior friends.  It was so awesome to see him although I just smiled and waved. I felt pretty good here and didn't want to lose my momentum.  I so appreciated seeing him though as there were no bikes around me.  I was pretty sure I was last.
Coming down the hill. Hi, Mike!

Ok, best sign ever!!!  Thanks, Mike!

I had practiced my hydration and fuel with each ride.  I had two bottle holders on my bike but knew I would need a third.  At mile 35 there was going to be a bottle exchange with just water.  I made sure I drank my electrolyte drink first and planned to exchange that one.  

I also kept looking at my watch.  The cut off for the bike was 12:45 at about mile 50 on the course.  I needed to be past that before that time.  I was ahead of schedule but couldn't stop looking at my watch and doing the math in my head.  I knew I would make it but still couldn't help but worry about something going terribly wrong.  I rode a long time without seeing anyone. I couldn't wait to get to the bottle exchange just to see people.

I hit a road that was quite bumpy.  My empty bottle started to shake and it hit my right leg. I reached down and put it back in place and then it hit my left leg. Apparently, being empty did not keep it in place as well as when it was full. I am not gonna lie, it was the first time I used this bottle and I know,  I know, nothing new on race day! I honestly did not think a water bottle would be a problem.  And now we know.

One more bump and bam, my water bottle was rolling away.  Oh well, there is a stop at mile 35 and I was getting close.  Finally, I see the stop, people, water jugs and police at the intersection.  I hadn't so much as seen a car in about ten miles and I was so happy to see people up ahead.

I stopped at the table and they told me I could fill up. I said I lost a bottle and hoped they had one and guess what, no freaking bottles.  A girl at the table said they were not given enough bottles for as many riders that passed by.  Now, I know I should not rely on other people, but what are the chances that they would not have just one bottle.  I had just one bottle with water so I drank some, filled up and headed on my way.  Pissed off!

I was feeling tired and defeated just a bit.  I crossed through the intersection and then I started to see Rhode Warrior water bottles along the side of the road.  People drank that fast and just threw the bottles? I had 28 more miles to go and one bottle of water. I was pretty sure I would be fine but hated to not have the cushion.

At mile 40, I had a GU and some water.  Right after that, I hit a difficult spot on the course.  I don't know if it was just me being tired but I felt like for about 8 miles or so all I did was go up.  I was praying for the hills to stop. Negative thoughts took over. "Who did I think I was that I could do this?"  "What the hell were you thinking?"  "You have no right to be here!"  Yeah, that happened.  

But through all that, I kept moving forward.  I just kept peddling and I started to think about all the kind words and messages that people had sent me over the last couple days.  I didn't want to let anyone down. I just had to keep going forward and before I knew it, I hit mile 50 with more than an hour before the cutoff.  I was thrilled!

Now, one thing you all need to know is the course was not 56 miles. It was 58.2!  This was not a surprise, everyone knew this going into the race, I'm just pretty sure I didn't mention that to you.

I really wanted to stop peddling at this point. I decided that if I never see this bike again, I would be ok with that.  I have to add here a huge thank you to my friends Lori and Sean. It was their bike I have been riding the last six months.  Without them and the bike, I am not so sure I would of made it this far.  The bike is beautiful and after a couple changes to the stem and seat, it fit perfect.  However, at this point in the ride, I was practicing telling Mr. RWM to put the old seat and stem back on and please drive it back to their house so I never have to see it again!  The bike and I are over!  This would be our last date.

The cop stopped traffic on Rt. 1 and I shot across right into a bunch of beach traffic.  No shoulder. I actually unclipped here for fear of not being able to catch myself. I felt trapped with no where to go.  I saw the flagger ahead and it only took a minute to get there, but I felt panicked none the less. I was so happy to make the right onto 1A.  Not as much traffic as this road was parallel to the beach.  I knew I would be making a left to get to Atlantic Ave and finish for the bike, but it was never coming! I started to  panic as I didn't see a painted pink arrow on this road like I did the rest of the course.  Did I miss my turn?  Am I going to far?  I kept on going and finally saw the cop who held traffic so I could make the left and then one more left onto Atlantic Ave. 

Now, not only were there so many cars, there were people everywhere with their chairs and coolers making there way to and from the beach. No one cared that I was there, but how were they to know I was in a race. I was a lone biker on the road who was interrupting their fun.  I had not seen or talked to anyone since mile 35.  I was feeling very lonely.

Finally, I saw the TriMom flags and a really cute little girl hanging on the fence.  As I got closer, I couldn't believe it, it was Gracie! My family actually made it and I was coming in earlier than I had expected.  I got tears in my eyes and heard everyone cheering me on and then was like, no, no, don't crash now! Get the tears out of your eyes so you can see where you are going!
This is how Gracie entertained herself while waiting.  Thanks Beth for the picture!

Love this one also courtesy of Beth.  My mom, dad and Mr. RWM.

Smiling! I was just so happy the end was in site, my family was there and I was going to get off the bike!

I dismounted and I so very happy to have both feet on the ground.  I rode 58 miles in 4:18:28.  I waved to everyone and headed to my rack. Bike hung up, helmet off, sneakers and race belt on.  I grabbed my banana and for the life of me, I could not peel it! I was teary as my family was yelling over to me and I wanted to just run to them and hug everyone.  I finally got the banana peeled and decided to run and eat it. I gave everyone one last wave and started out for a little 13.1 mile run...
T2 2:51

Stay tuned for the run recap.

Run Strong, Think Big! ~ Nicole