Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Unleash Your Inner Spartan!

I am pleased to announce that I will be giving away a free entry to any Reebok Spartan Race in the USA again.

This has been a fun partnership for me.  I never thought of myself as a fire and mud kind of girl, but we all know to never say never. I already have my 2014 goals lined up, but maybe 2015 will be my year...

I am also happy to tell you, that on November 17th, our first winner and fellow RWM, Kristy, became a Spartan in Boston.  She said she had a really fantastic time and shared these pictures with us.

How cool is that! Way to go Kristy! You are amazing!

With our last giveaway, I told you about their upcoming show, which will air December 7th. Well it is a quickly approaching and I hope you will watch.  I will be watching with George, who I know, will think it is super cool!  I can't wait to watch with him and with all of you virtually.

Click here for a teaser video.

If that didn't' inspire you, than I don't know what will.

So on to the giveaway!  Use the rafflecopter form below to enter. This will be open through the weekend and I will announce the winner on Tuesday.  From there I will email you a code that you can use when you register for any Spartan Race in the USA.

(P.S. comments don't post right away, I have to approve them. Don't panic if you don't see it!  I will get to all of them, just might be a little slower during the holiday. Promise!)

Good luck!

Run Strong, Think Big and, of course, Happy Thanksgiving! ~ Nicole

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 25, 2013

Skirt Sports Sweepstakes!

Well, guys, this is a little last minute and I am sorry.

Some exciting news though. A few weeks ago, Skirt Sports emailed me asking if I would want to partner with them and help promote their sweepstakes.  Now, even if you are new to this blog, you have seen my pictures and in almost every one of them, I am wearing one of their skirts.  (Yes, I know I have to update the pics above, but I don't know how! No, really. I don't know how.)
Just me, finishing 26.2 miles in my favorite skirt.

My first reaction was "Holy Cow!!!", then I cried, then I showed the email to my mom.

I emailed then back right away that I am on board!

Well, things got a little delayed with me running 26.2 miles and all, and I am sorry to say it ends tomorrow! There is still time though and you won't want to miss out on these great prizes.  The list below is the Grand Prize!  So cool!

You can enter by clicking here!

I hope that this is just the beginning of a beautiful relationship with Running While Mommy and Skirt Sports.

Good luck!

Run Strong, Think Big! ~ Nicole

I Run 4 Wyatt

Some time ago, I learned about the I Run 4 Michael program. It was posted about in one of the running groups I am part of on FB.  I looked at it, but wasn't sure it was for me.

You see, you get matched with a child or adult that has special needs.  I have been known to get upset for a child with just a cold, so I wasn't sure I could handle something serious.  I moved on from the post and then a few weeks later I saw this.

Deb's post inspired me to look a little closer into the program. I signed up after just a few minutes.
Then you wait.

I was six weeks out from my marathon and thought it would be so cool to have someone to run for.  Right before I left for Philly, I found out I was in the top 300 to be matched.  I would not have a buddy for my marathon, but there were plenty of children I could dedicate my miles to and that is what I did.

This brings me to Sunday. I got an email saying I have been matched with Wyatt.  I immediately sent an email to his mom telling her a little about me and how excited I was to be able to run for her son. While I was waiting to hear back from her, I googled the name and found this.

I just read and watched the video in tears, but happy and sad.  I was sad because I can't even imagine what this family had and is going through. I was happy, because look at Wyatt go! This kid is a fighter and nothing will stop him.

He is adorable with a contagious smile.
Seriously cute!

Love that face!

Proud big brother and sister with Wyatt!

Later that night, I IM'ed back and forth with Wyatt's mom, Abby.  She told me a little about her family and that Wyatt is such a happy baby.  You can clearly see it in all the photos she has posted.  He has Transverse Myelitis.  I am still trying to wrap my head around it.

He has permanent damage to his spinal cord.  His doctors have not put a limit to Wyatt's recovery but they can't say for sure how much function he will regain. Wyatt is just one year's old but his young age is an asset.  He is in physical therapy and his parents make sure to move and stretch his legs to remind his brain that they are still there.

Abby has made a FB page that I hope you all check out and follow.

So, starting today, every mile, I run, walk or bike is for Wyatt.

I gathered up 3 of my running friends today and headed out for my first run since my marathon. We met in our usual spot and the only reason we all showed up in the 19 degree temps was that we didn't want to let each other down. It was hard to not run at the gym. My running buddies are the only thing that makes sense sometimes.  Besides, it's only cold if you are not moving, right?

Since it was my first run, I thought I could do 3 maybe 5 miles. The girls were on board with anything. I forgot my Garmin.

No worries, that is not what this run is about anyway.

I started talking right away. So much to tell everyone plus I wanted to hear what was new with them. I also told them all about Wyatt and how this was my first run for him.  At one point, Steph said we were at 2.9 miles. Oh no, better turn around!  We ran 6 miles and with the four of us running our miles equaled 24 for my new buddy. Not a bad first run back!

Jenn snapped this pic of me so that I could share it on the I Run 4 page with Wyatt.
Cold and happy. Not a usual combination.

I posted when I got home and I think we are off to a good start!

Doubt I will have another post before Thanksgiving, so have a wonderful holiday! Enjoy your family and friends.

Run Strong, Think Big! ~ Nicole

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Philadelphia Marathon Part Two

So yeah, I slept good and was sound asleep when my alarm went off at 4 am.

I jumped up, realized what day it was and got right out of bed. I wasn't sure what to do first.

Bathroom first, brush teeth, wash face.  Make coffee and toast my bagel.  Yes, I packed my toaster and my own peanut butter.

I struggled with my bagel. I was only able to eat half of it and I didn't even try to eat my banana. I had a cup of coffee and a bottle of water.

I got dressed, pinned my number on and looked out the window. It was dark but you could see lights everywhere.  Especially the flashing lights of the police cars that blocked the roads.  It was a spectacular sight.

Mr. RWM woke up and asked how I felt. I told him I was good just wondering what the temp was outside. He asked Siri, how convenient.

It was 52 already and going to be 60 by the time I was finished running.  There was no way I was keeping the long sleeves on. I quickly changed to a short sleeve top.  I still put on my throw away pants, jacket and gloves.

Mr. RWM said he would be at mile 6, 13 and finish.  Good enough.  He wished me well and I walked out of my room to find Barb already at the elevators waiting for me.

The lobby was buzzing with runners. You would never know it was five in the morning.  We headed out and started our mile walk to our corral.  Security was very easy. We didn't have any bags.  The phone started buzzing and soon we met up with Diane and my friend Chris.
Diane, Barb, Me

We snapped some pics, stretched a bit and then waited in line for the potties for 30 minutes.  Not cool. From there we walked to our corral.  I ate my banana and had some more water. Waiting, I need to use the potty again.  We were moving though and I was afraid to get out of my corral.

The National Anthem was sung and was done beautifully.  I was very proud.
Waiting to go!

One of the things I liked about the start, was that each corral got a gun send off.  The mayor was also there high-fiving us and wishing us luck.  They started out with the theme from Rocky and then went into Sweet Caroline.  It was just so cool!

As soon as we crossed the line, we saw porta potties, no line. We decided to get it over with and stopped.

In and out and on our way.  About a half mile in, to our left, Mr. RWM and Randy were at the corner cheering us on. This was a surprise to us, and of course, I had to hug and kiss Mr. RWM.
Love these two pics that Mr. RWM snapped before heading down to the start. 

The start was crowded but very exciting.  I can tell you right now, and some of you already know this, I went out too fast.  In fact, Barb said we should slow it down a bit a couple times.  I was feeling so good though and couldn't help myself.

In mile two we saw this girl.  We didn't stop to ask at the time but happy to have found her story.

The crowd was really cool.  So much cheering and fun signs.  In mile three, we hit our first beer stop.  For real.  8:30 in the morning and some guys were handing out shots of beer.  Cops standing right next to them and no worries.  You got to love Philadelphia!  Oh, and no, we did not partake.

In mile four, something really exciting happened.  A girl running by said to me, "Are you the blogger?"

OMG, yes I am!  I couldn't believe she recognized me, especially since I change my outfit from the one posted on my FB page.

Her and her friends said they loved my blog. It was so nice to hear!  I asked her name, which BTW, was Nicole. No way!  I love when I get to meet one of my readers in person, but having someone know who I was in a large race, well, that is just something I will never forget!

She pumped me up and I may have run even faster. Ooops.

We were pretty close to the pacer for the 5 hour finish. I was happy with this.  I truly thought a 5 to 5:10 finish was possible.

In mile six, we saw Mr. RWM and Randy. They had a sign and big smiles.  Some pics were snapped and hugs and kisses were given.  It just thrilled me to see them on the course.

Remember our names were on our bibs?  Well, right after we left the guys, a man shouted my name and told me how good I was doing. He was the first of many strangers who would call out my name and cheer me on. It was so nice.

Miles 8 through 10 were the toughest miles on the course.  They are the hilly miles. I did not conserve any energy here. I ran up and down each one.  Still behind the five hour pacer and feeling good!

As we were approaching mile ten, I saw a little girl in a stroller with her dad holding a sign. I was sure it was Diane's husband and daughter. Diane, BTW, was in the corral in front of us.

I was about to say are you Diane's husband and ask how she was doing when who came up behind me? Diane!  It was so nice to see her and she looked great! I ran on as she got her picture taken and hugged her family but ran slow enough for her to catch up.  We got to run a little together and talk about our races. I was so excited for her to be so close to finishing her first half marathon.
This is me with the look of is that who I think it is? Didn't even know Diane was behind me.

Here is me saying, OMG, yay!!!

We ran together until we had to split up. Full marathoners to the left and half marathoners to the right.  I will be honest friends, it took all my courage and mental strength to not go right.

It only got harder as we got closer and could hear the crowd and the announcer.  I still had 13.1 miles to go and was wondering what the hell I was thinking when I signed up for this.

I started to feel better once we were away form all the excitement but disappointed because I did not see Mr. RWM. Turns out he saw us but I was not on the same side as him. They did get some pictures though.

Can you find me?  

At mile 15, I needed to use the potty, again.  I stopped and Barb waited for me. I ran up and saw an open one and headed for it the same time a man was going for the same one. A non runner.  Technically, he was there first, but come on, I am running a race!  He realized this before he went in and said, oh, you go ahead, you are running.  Thanks stranger.

I ran up to Barb and we went on our way.  The five hour pacer was ahead of us but still in sight.  Barb started to run ahead of me and I couldn't keep up.  I didn't know it at the time but she was having some issues and just felt better not slowing down.  I was no longer running with her but had her in my sights.

We were on Kelly Drive and this has us going to Manayunk and on the other side of us were runners coming towards us with only a few miles to go.  I watch them as they all passed. I tried to read names and check out some of the cuter outfits.  I started to beat myself up when a pregnant women passed me and a women dressed in a Rocky robe, complete with boxing gloves.

I know, run your own race.  You don't know their story, well I didn't care. I was mad.

By the time I was in mile 17 and crossing over the falls bridge, I was feeling like I had enough. I couldn't see the five hour pace guy anymore. I was discouraged. Then Barb ran past me going the opposite way.  I lost my running buddy.

I had music, but was fine without it. I was getting closer to a cheer section and heading into Manayunk.  I knew when I hit the 20 mile mark there would be a turn around and then just 6. 2 miles to go.  I was regaining my composure here and enjoying the energy from the crowd.  At one water stop, I was offered a brownie, something I don't usually enjoy.  I took it anyway and it hit the spot.

Manayunk was cool because of the crowds, sings, the cheers and the music.  I was feeling good again and realized that the 5:30 pacer did not catch me. I was still ahead of him and I ran on not sure if I would be able to catch up with Mr. 5 Pacer.

That hope was dashed when I needed to find a porta potty and quick!  I have never needed to go the bathroom this much during a run before. In fact, I didn't even stop once when I ran my 20.  This third stopped killed me.  I had to cross the road to get to them. I was quick but knew I lost even more time. What the heck!

This was mile 22. I felt better and at this point I turned my iPod on. I listened to three songs and turned it off. It just wasn't what I needed. I turned my thoughts to all the messages I got from my friends and readers. So many wonderful and l encouraging thoughts and advice. I tried to remember all of them.  This got me through for most of the last miles.

As I was approaching mile 23, I was running behind a man who I hadn't seen before.  He was running towards a guy who was standing off to the side cheering him on. He pulled over and hugged this guy and just started crying.  This got me all choked up.  The marathon is a very humbling experience.  It is true when they say the person who starts the race, is not the same person who finishes it.

I was in tears passing this man, real ones.  I was running past a group of Black Girls Run who were there to cheer on their running friends.  (BTW, they must have a huge chapter in Philadelphia because they were everywhere on the course and they rocked the cheering!)  This group was close enough to see my tears and they cheered for me like I was part of their family.  They knew I hurt and was struggling but they also knew how close I was to the finish.  I thanked these ladies for being on the course. I needed them at that moment and will never forget them.

I did talk to a few people once I stopped crying. One of them was a girl who was running a marathon in each state.  She was about halfway through the country but had not run in Rhode Island yet. We talked about some of the races here and we went back and forth passing each other until the finish.

While running, I had so many thoughts going through my head. There were definitely some negative ones, but for the most part I focused on happy things.  How in 2011, I couldn't even run one minute. And here I was, mile 24 of a marathon.  I thought about all the people I have met along the way.  So many special running friends. And with every new milestone of my running, I became a stronger and more confident person.

I thought about my family and friends at the finish line.  They endured so many hours of my non stop running talk.  So much time away from them getting in my miles.  My one track running mind.  They supported me every step of the way without any complaints.

I wondered how the kids were holding up. How long had they been waiting for me? This worried me bit.

When I saw the flag for mile 25, my head was spinning. I hurt, I was tired, but my adrenaline was pumping. I was on fire.  I was going to finish. The volume of the crowed was incredible and I couldn't get enough.

I was running. I was crying. I was looking for my family.  I saw the finish. I heard my name.

I looked and saw Mr. RWM waving his arm at me trying to get my attention.  He had it! He started snapping pictures and I just ran.

I was very focused on the finish and did not see anyone else even though they were right next to the mayor screaming for me. I high-fived the mayor for the second time of the day and crossed the line in 5:23:10.

It has been hard for me to come up with the right words of how I actually felt in that moment.  Some are obvious, I was so very happy and I hurt.  But that is just a small portion of what was really going on in my head.

I did something I truly dreamed impossible.  Something I said, I would never do. I was a changed person.  There are very few things I worked this hard for and for so long.  This was a year in the making.  Not just the 18 weeks of training, but from that moment in San Francisco, when I watched members of Haley's Sweet Sixteen cross the finish line of their marathon, I knew, without a doubt, I would run a marathon in 2013.

Picking the right marathon was another story.  I had said after Nike that I had missed my chance to train with a group and run with friends. But when I decided on Philadelphia, it was my friend Connie who told me that Philadelphia was MY race.  I was meant to be there with my family and friends, in a city that I love so much.  Not running the Nike marathon was not a mistake, it just wasn't the right one for me.

I was filling out a a running question and answer for AMR and one of the questions was, What is your dream race?  I had to be honest and say that I had just run it on Sunday.  I know there are beautiful and amazing places in the world but for me, running on the streets that I grew up on, knowing my family and friends were there to cheer me on was exactly what my dream race consisted of. So many memories and good times.

Once I was in the finish area, the first thing handed to me was my medal. It is so big and so beautiful.  Then I got a space blanket. I was so happy to wrap it around me.

My sister, who had Gracie, was still cheering for me. They couldn't get through the barricade but they walked along with me on the outside.  I was handed a Macy's bag filed with food. I thought this was a great idea. At a few races, I found myself struggling with my space blanket, trying to hold my water bottle, and eat a banana all at the same time. The bag made it easier.  There was still a tent with food and more water and chicken broth which was nice.

Gracie had flowers for me and she ran over to the barricade and climbed through to give them to me.  I was so surprised to get flowers. She stayed with me and together we walked to the family meeting area.
Nothing was stopping Gracie from getting to her Mama!

Another great moment.

Once I was with everyone, I just broke down and started crying. There were tons of pictures taken and many, many hugs.  The love and support that I was given cannot be matched.
My reasons for everything.

One of my greatest and oldest friends, Dawn who took time out of her day to see me finish.

Tired and happy finishers.

Me and my dad. There were plenty of pics with my mom but for some reason, I don't have any.

My favorite photo of the day.

We had a half mile walk to the car. We were moving to a hotel closer to my Mom and Dad's house.  We went straight to the hotel for a much needed shower.

I couldn't help but think about my time and where exactly I lost it. I felt good, physically, for most of the race.  It did get hotter than I would of liked. The sun was beating down from Manayunk until the finish. This did not help me and I think slowed me down.  A few negative thoughts crept into my head too. That also did not help.  Could I have finished in five hours? I don't know. Would I do it again?  Right now, I say no, but I have learned to never say never.

My Garmin, BTW, read 5:16.  Three potty stops really hurt my time.

I was moving slow but feeling better than I expected.  Once we were all together again, we ate Philly cheesesteaks and had a couple beers all while watching the Eagles game.  I can't think of a better way to end the day.
Yes, I ate the whole thing.

Barb and Randy were driving back to Ohio Sunday night.  I wished they were able to stay longer but they had to get back to the kids.  I don't know how Barb did it.

I was in bed at 7:30 and asleep by 8.  I am pretty sure I smiled the whole night.

We are home now and it took me quite some time to get through all the messages and emails.  The virtual support was just as amazing as the live support.  I have said this before, but thank you for being there for me and following along on this amazing journey.  I started this blog as a sort of diary but it makes me smile that so many of you are here and reading.  I love meeting you in person and hearing your stories.  Please continue to share your journey with me as well.  You keep me going as much as I hope I keep you going.

Run Strong, Think Big my friends! ~ Nicole

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Philadelphia Marathon Part One

It's done!  I am a marathoner!

Thursday, I spent most of the day packing and stressing about what to pack.  I ended up bringing 5 different race outfits, but better safe then sorry, right?

Friday morning we started our drive to Philadelphia. I started to calm down as there was nothing more I could do. I just wanted to be there.

Barb and her husband Randy were also driving in from Ohio.  We got there first and checked in.  With about an hour before Barb would be there, we decided to go to the expo and get the kids' and my numbers.  George and Gracie were racing on Saturday.

As soon as we walked into the expo, I was just amazed. It was big and I wanted to see everything, but didn't have time. Plus, Saturday was going to be my expo day with Barb and my friend Diane.

I went to get my number first.  I got in line and was handed my bib and to my surprise, my name was on it!  I was shocked and cried.  This was the first time I have had my name on my bib and I loved it!

From there, I got my shirt and bag.  Really great shirt and nice bag. Not too much in it, but I was happy none the less.

The kids numbers were in a different spot. We headed in that direction and again, to my surprise, their names were on their bibs too!  Well done Philly, well done!

They got really cool shirts too and some fun stuff in their race bag. Yes, they got swag to!

Back to the hotel and we were soon reunited with Barb and Randy. It has been about two years since we saw each other. Big hugs all around.

We stopped in our room before heading to dinner and again, to my surprise, there was champagne and flowers on the table in our room. Shocked once again, I opened the card.

It was from my TNT team, Haley's Sweet 16.  Shawna and the gang got together and sent this to my room with a beautiful note. More tears.  I have the most amazing support.

From there we met my parents for dinner. When I saw my mom, she gave me a huge hug and told me it was from Shawna. They had been talking back and forth setting up the flower and champagne delivery.   Thank you Haley's Sweet 16, you were a huge part of my weekend. I love everyone of you!

We ended up in China Town and had a fabulous meal. Conversation was good and it was just so nice to be with everyone.

I was tired by the time we got back to the room, but the kids were wired. Took a while to calm them down. We laid out their race outfits for the morning and finally they were asleep.  I think we all slept well.

George and Gracie woke up excited. They got dressed, we found breakfast and then we met my parents, Barb and Randy at the start of the kids race.

George was doing the mile and Gracie, the half mile.

The start was great. They even had a real clock. The start and finish was the same that the half and full runners were going to use the next day.  They had a fun warm up and then the half mile runners were off!  Gracie was one of the last runners in but she was smiling the whole time.  I love that she had fun and wore her medal for two days.

George was up next.  He seemed more nervous for some reason.  We cheered him on and I was surprised to see him coming into the finish when he did.  The clock above his head read 8:34!  That was a fast mile for my little guy and I am so very proud of him.

That is the look of a little man who just ran his heart out!

Before heading to the expo, Barb wanted to see the Rocky statue and run up the steps.  We got some great pictures and it was fun to see the statue again. Barb ran up all 70 steps and back down.  Woohoo my friend!

Yo Barbara!

The kids, my parents, Randy and Mr. RWM headed to lunch and the Franklin Institute. And finally, Barb and I were on our way to the expo.  I was very excited to get there and I was also going to meet my friend Diane in person!

BTW, the weather was really nice.  I got warm in my jacket. I started rethinking my race outfit for the hundredth time.
Barb snapped this when we were walking to the expo. I think I look like a lion.

Once at the expo, my heart was racing.  There were so many people and the excitement was contagious.  I was in heaven!

We found Diane and hugged.  It was so nice meeting one of my virtual friends in person.  She was running the half and it was going to be her first.  We spent two hours shopping and looking around. We also listened to the speaker who talked about the course.  I think it was good for us to hear.

Believe it or not, I did not get crazy with shopping.  I got exactly what I wanted. I did want the Philadelphia Marathon Finishers jacket but they were out of my size.  It will be a nice Christmas gift though and you can order it online Mr. RWM and kids.  Hint, hint.

By the time we were finished shopping, Barb and I were starving!  Not good.  So far I had fueled poorly and walked too much.  I actually felt terrible by the time we got to the hotel.  We headed to the hotel bar and ordered some food and a beer.  As soon as I started to eat, I felt better.  Lesson learned.

Soon after that, the family got back from the museum.  My parents were taking the kids for the night and I am so very thankful for that.  We said our goodbyes and for some reason, I couldn't help but cry.  I was sad to see my kids go, but knew it was for the best. I also knew as the night went on, that this was it. When I see my kids and parents again, it will be at the finish line.  It scared me a little.

We had a little down time before our dinner reservation.  I put my feet up and just relaxed. It felt good.

Our reservations were at the Marathon Grill. They had a special menu for the runners, plus their normal menu.  Our food was fantastic and I would definitely go back.

We left stuffed and happy, but on the walk back, my hands started to shake. This was it. Once I got back to the hotel, I would lay out my race outfit and everything I needed and go to bed. I was freaked out.  Really freaked out!

We walked slow.  I think on purpose. Barb and I had the same feeling.  Even though this was her fifth marathon, she was still nervous too.

We planned our meeting time, hugged and said goodnight.

I laid every thing out, took a pic and got in bed.  I watched a little TV but felt very tired.  Believe it or not, I slept great.

Part two tomorrow.

Run Strong, Think Big! ~ Nicole