The Race Is On

Race planning is a lot like marathon training, setbacks are a given, but so are rebounds. Just when I felt beaten down and discouraged about Brattleboro turning down my permit application, plan B occurred to me, I moved forward with it, and now I have a race!

Most days after work I run at Wantastiquet State Natural Area. It’s so close to my house, only a one mile run over a bridge over the Connecticut River to the trail head in Hinsdale, New Hampshire. It’s kind of cool to live in Vermont, work in Massachusetts, and run regularly in New Hampshire. Wantastiquet has two trails from the Hinsdale trail head site, one that goes straight up a mile or two to the mountain summit and another that goes north along the river passing 4 waterfalls on a lovely, scenic, flattish, wide, wooded path. It’s stunning, quiet, and majestic. I run there all the time and maybe I didn’t think about it for a race since it’s one of those right in front of your face things.

I was running there last Monday evening with my boyfriend and as I was venting to him about what happened with the Town’s reaction to road closures, it occurred to me that a race right there on the very River Path that we were running at the moment would be absolutely perfect! In fact, it’s even better than a downtown race because there’s no traffic, more foliage, more scenery, and it’s much more manageable for a first go at directing solo. Why didn’t I think of it before?! In a matter of days I made all the calls I needed, wrote a few emails, and I have all the ‘okays’ that I need to proceed with planning a race!

The Hot Cider 5K and Fantastic Wantastic Mountain Trail Race are on! (I just thought of the name Fantastic Wantastic, how’s that for a name?) Two events! In addition to the scenic 5K on the River Path, I’m going to coordinate a race to the summit of Wantastiquet Mountain too! I have a feeling that will be very popular with the locals. I’m so excited and I can’t wait to get started on planning it.

Forever missed, always remembered

It was a beautiful day to run! There were gorgeous, clear, blue, sunny sky and low 60s temps as I ran through residential back roads of Hinsdale, NH. I tried a new route that I quickly mapped out just before leaving my house. I rolled the dice on scenery and terrain and got rolling hills and amazing vistas! Only downside was the road was narrow and curvy and there were many times I wasn’t visible to traffic. That aside, it was an excellent day for a run and I picked a beautiful route to run 12 miles in honor of my mother. Every step today was for her as today marks the 5th anniversary of her death. She is forever missed, always remembered.

I’m not going to be sappy. She wouldn’t let me be if she were here. “No blubbering!” she would say; for a lady she wasn’t very soft. I think I inherited my disciple and endurance from her. She never made excuses for herself. She rarely complained. She just did what she needed to do and got on with things. I feel motivated by her still, every day, if only because she wasn’t the sit on her butt type. That’s why I went out for a run even though I was more in the mood for a long nap. She never like us kids hanging in the house on a nice day.

Today I am thinking a lot about my mother. Five years later I miss her a lot, but I’m not upset about it like I was. She lives on in me as her legacy and I hope I make her pound every day. She always said all she wanted was for her kids to be happy and I think I’m getting the hang of that concept finally. I love you, Mom!

 

A PR in the Rain

Usually I would feel guilty for being so lazy on a warm, spring, sunny Sunday afternoon, but I skied 5 hours yesterday and ran a half-marathon in the rain this morning so chilling in my bed already in PJs at 4pm is okay just this one time I suppose. I wish I got a picture at any point this morning at the race and I would have proof that I was drenched, soaked through to the bone. This is why I’m relishing being cozy and toasty warm in bed typing away while sipping on electrolyte enhanced water out of my new Moose on the Loose Half Marathon pint glass!

You might already know that I really don’t like being wet; it’s often a running deal breaker. I started the race reluctantly, but I got into it quickly. Most of the course was beautiful, tranquil on dirt foot paths with ponds and streams and tree canopies through Mine Falls State Park. The rain sort of worked with the setting. It was chilly at the start, but once I was running, I warmed up. Even though my legs were tired from skiing hard yesterday, I found a swift pace and got comfortable in it. It was a double loop course and I was very happy when I crossed the halfway around 57 minutes or so. I picked up the pace in the second half and finished in 1:51:10 setting a new PR (personal record) in my 6th half marathon by a couple minutes.

I didn’t win my age group, though I stuck around for awards just in case, I felt like I ran fast enough to maybe win. Instead I was in the right place at the right time to receive a race pint glass, reserved for winners and for those that paid for one at the time of registration. The race director and owner of 3C Race Productions, Michael, was happily bouncing through the crowd handing a few out to those around him. He was super funny and light-hearted about the weather setting a tone of humor about the unexpected rain showers. Later we spoke very briefly. I’m going to try to connect with him about working with 3C. I could learn from him about race directing for sure.

The winning female beat me by about 15 minutes! That’s only a little over a minute mile quicker than I ran. Folks were saying they thought the course was challenging, mostly because it was on packed dirt paths. I thought it was great! I run on dirt paths frequently enough that it didn’t catch me off guard. It wasn’t at all too hilly, just one good one that I could remember, that we repeated of course, but it wasn’t that bad and there was a water station at the top (perfect placement) so I felt motivation to hurry up it. The race started and finished on the area’s high school track which adds to the thrill of running a race, especially for the finish and even more especially because I could see the finish a tenth or two of a mile in advance on the track as I ran up a tiny hill approaching school grounds.

It was a great race and a personal triumph over rain. I had to fight some mental demons to start this race and I’m so glad I did because it was beautiful, and I was fast, and that makes for a perfect race and a well-deserved lazy afternoon.

 

Ignore Fear, Welcome New Possibilities

This entrepreneurship venture is feeling a lot like marathon training. It’s 2 steps forward, 1 step back and loaded with doubt every step of the way. Just as soon as I feel a tiny bit confident that I know what I’m doing then something happens and I’m reminded that I’m barely a newbie in this game. I have to keep choosing this goal every day, especially on the days with setbacks, like the day before yesterday… My permit application wasn’t approved. The Hot Cider Run featuring the perfect sequence of the least hilly, most scenic roads in Brattleboro will not come to be… not this year anyway.

The main reason the permit was denied was because of road closures, specifically Main St. I didn’t get the impression that they were willing to work with me, but rather that road closures are such a big pain in the ass and super expensive that I should just give up because I’ll be given a hard time about any route that involves traffic detours. Traffic detours are inevitable in creating a running route of Brattleboro that showcases the very best streets and vistas this town offers. So what does this mean for me? It means back to the drawing board. A downtown Brattleboro road race may happen one day, but that day isn’t in 2014. I return to the brainstorm phase reluctantly, but necessarily since I want to see launching a business through. It’s the same thing with marathon running, constant experimentation with different training methods and running tactics before landing on a system that works for you, and even then it’s a moving target. Marathon running has taught me to push through disappointment and not give up. I’m tapping into that now.

It’s not easy to stay focused when I feel beaten down. Then again I didn’t expect it to be easy. Part of me wonders what I want more, working in the running industry or self-employment. Do I really want to be involved in coordinating every level of a race? Maybe I could specialize in one aspect. Maybe I could just work for a company that already does this and get going on race directing already. Alternatives are floating around in my head, including backing out and getting comfortable in my desk job and hang out there by day and enjoy free time by night. Why am I bothering with such a time consuming goal when I don’t really “need” to, I make a good enough living.

Is ‘good enough’ enough? I feel too ambitious, too energized to settle down and be complacent right now, it’s too soon; I haven’t tried hard enough yet. I feel empowered by running to ignore fear and step into new possibilities by trying challenges I once thought out of my capability zone. I got started on running by just asking myself to give effort only, just try, and I surprised myself big time with how far I could go. I’m curious if I can do the same thing in another area of my life. I don’t want to look back and wonder if I could have done it. Just like running marathons, I’d rather know that I did it or I tried like hell to do it. Success or failure, no regrets!

So, I’m slightly bruised from being knocked off my pre-maturely too high race director horse, but I’m recovering quickly by turning my attention to the next task –or race rather – the Moose on the Loose Half Marathon in Nashua, NH tomorrow! I have been studying the races in this region, getting to know and being inspired by [my] competition, and this one is put on by 3C Race Productions, a big shot in these parts. They either completely organize or partially support a couple hundred New England races. There’s a lot I can learn from them, plus Sunday is going to be a lovely, sunny day, one of the first beautiful spring-is-finally-here days of the year. But first, today is still winter to me and I’m heading to Killington; this may be the first time I ever ski and run a race in the same weekend! Happy spring… tomorrow!!

Hills, Humidity, and a Leprechaun Hat

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It has been almost two weeks since I ran the Georgia Marathon and I’ve been non-stop busy since then, but I still recall it well, I think, it was mostly hills. I didn’t see that coming. Really? Georgia! I guessed flat. Turns out the race had a total elevation change of 3,076 feet! That is more elevation diversity than when I ran the Memorial Day Marathon in the Berkshires Mountains of Massachusetts, one of the hilliest marathons I’ve ran to date, and it had a total elevation change of (only?) 2,757 feet! Jeez! Atlanta was hillier than a mountain marathon! And humid like a steam room too! There was a mist in the air from a threat of rain; it was overcast, but it never did pour. At least the heat didn’t get out of control; it stayed in the 60s throughout.

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GeorgiaMarathon (6)Hills and humidity aside, this was a great course, it showcased Atlanta quite nicely. I saw downtown, college campuses, and skyline views, had a history submersion, and went through the City of Decatur, several beautiful parks, and a final stretch through Midtown. This race was an excellent foot tour of Atlanta. But the best part of the race was that I ran it all in a Leprechaun hat! It was an itchy hat and it was hot and I thought about tossing it at every water station, but the cheers from spectators and laughs from other runners made it worthwhile to keep hanging on to the tall, green hat, and besides, it might have rained at any time.

GeorgiaMarathon (11)The race began in Centennial Olympic Park and thanks to prolonged insomnia since the Spring Forward time change, I arrived at the start at 5:00 a.m. with 2 hours to spare. I got a nearby parking space right under the humungous SkyView Atlanta Ferris Wheel while it was still lit up brightly in the dark night sky. I was one of maybe 3 early bird runners walking around the start and I felt like a celebrity when event photographers kept asking to take my picture. Later those pictures will be sold online to runners at premium price; after all, it’s difficult to capture your own sweaty portrait while running…

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I’m entertained by runners in costumes, tutus, glitter, pompoms, tiaras, and stuff. As much fun as it is to see others have fun with the race, it’s even more fun to be a part of it. The hat made me feel like I was in a parade for the whole race! I heard “nice hat” easily a hundred times. “It’s my lucky hat!” I called back. “I’m going for the win!” Spectators were taking my picture and kids were saying, “It’s a leprechaun!” So fun!

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Running over the Jackson Street Bridge was a highlight with an incredible skyline view. I was side skipping while taking this picture.

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The hills made for a slow pace, but the race was amusing, especially through the college campuses of Georgia State University in the beginning, in the middle through Agnes Scott College where “Intelligent Women are Hot”, and in the end through the Georgia Tech campus. Students were out and fired up with signs, cheers, and noise makers!

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It was inspiring running past Martin Luther King’s birth house and through the Old Fourth Ward Historic District with the massive Ponce City Market building and an oddly placed old water tower. They keep the neighborhood looking lovely, especially for a city.

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Candler Park was stunning! I thought it was a castle at first.

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Probably the most memorable part of the marathon was running through the City of Decatur. For about a 3-mile stretch or so the streets were lined with motivational signs, so many signs, it was almost like reading a book, that’s how many signs! It was wonderful!

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I always do…

Ever wonder what a water station looks like during the middle of the pack rush?! This is why I thank every volunteer! They put up with sticky, icky, sweaty, and slippery conditions. And they cheer for us while they do it! My heroes!

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I love when the runners get a view of the race from the side. Clearly I’m not first, but gladly I’m not last either.

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The midtown neighborhoods were very scenic.

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The field thinned out after the half marathon split off; Atlanta full marathoners are not as chatty as half marathoners so I took more pictures.

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I thought it was going to rain at any time.

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The spring feel to the race gave me cabin fever when I got home. Look at those buds on the trees. We still don’t have those 2 weeks later in New England!

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Piedmont Park

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 And to the finish via Marietta St GeorgiaMarathon (70)

The race was great! I finished in 5:03. I hope for faster times in my spring and fall races, but for an end of winter race on a hilly course, I feel good about this finish.

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 And I really liked running in a hat!GeorgiaMarathon (73)

 

 

How far can one go?

Two weeks from Sunday I will run my 30th marathon in Atlanta, Georgia, my 24th state. As I look forward to running this race I am reminded of a quote that motivated running for me in the beginning.

“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” T.S. Elliot, American publisher and playwright

I wonder if I would be looking forward to a 30th marathon in Georgia had I listened to those who doubted whether I can or should run so far so often. Not that I thought that they were wrong about my capabilities or the health and safety risks, or that I was right that I was fine and that I could do it, but rather I wanted to try and see if I could. I started on this venture as an experiment in how far I can go.

My guess was 12 marathons. In between my first and second marathons, when I knew I could run the distance, and I also knew it was really really HARD, and I knew it was a really wild experience that I wanted to do again and again, way back then I thought that at best I’d be able to do maybe 12.

12 marathons came and went and I was still running. I was warned by well-intentioned people that I was doing too much. People would tell me stories about their aunt, uncle, brother, friend, or cousin that ran X number of marathons and now he/she can’t run ever again and their hip/knee/foot has never been the same. A nurse told me that, “it’s not good for the body to be in constant training.” Low immunity, inflammation, cardiac stress, and so many ways things can go wrong in a lofty marathon pursuit. Maybe I’m stronger? Maybe I’m healthier? Or maybe I’m just luckier.

I think what it really comes down to is that I took a chance. I’m still taking chances. I’m pushing my limits and every time I do I find out that my limit is farther out today than it was yesterday. I’m constantly surprising myself. I was and still am ready to back down at any time I find I can’t do it. But I want to be convinced that I can’t do it before I don’t even try.

That’s how I got to (almost) 30 marathons, I tried, I took a risk in going too far. But since I’m still not as far as I can go, I’m going to keep risking going too far. Someday I’ll find the limit and at this point I’m sure that limit is after the 50 states… maybe after the 10 Canadian provinces too, and hopefully the 7 continents and 196 countries as well.

It’s an exhilarating journey, and I don’t mean just the marathon running, but in the risking too far part. Through doing this I am learning about me and my capabilities, I’m strengthening my strengths and weakening my weaknesses, building confidence every time I push back that limit. Most of all I’m learning to take chances on the unknown and I’m pleasantly surprised that I’m still alive, breathing, and walking. So long as I can keep running marathons, I will.

Consider taking chances with yourself; push your physical and mental limits. It’s how you find out what you are really capable of doing. What’s the worst that can happen?

The Traveling Marathoner on a Budget

I knew early on that my goal to run a marathon in every state would be as financially challenging as it would be physically challenging. It’s no wonder that people are curious how I do it. If money were no object, I’d run a marathon most every weekend! Since money is a major factor, affordability plays a big role in the races I choose. At the moment I’m only registered for the Publix Georgia Marathon in Atlanta on March 23. Money is tighter than ever now that I’m working on my Empower Races LLC startup. As I begin to consider my next few races, I’ll be using all the tricks up my sleeves to keep them as low cost as possible. Maybe if money is the barrier that blocks your marathoning or travel goals, feel free to pick and choose among my techniques as they may work for you too.

Flights are the most expensive part of travel for me so for starters I drive to races when I can. It was 12 hours and 800 miles round trip to run Dover, Delaware. I choose races in a drivable distance to airports that have low rates; I look for under $300 round trip. I’m on every major airline’s email list for specials and I get alerts from airfarewatchdog.com so I take advantage of deals regularly. Searching on Tuesdays and Wednesdays seems to have lower rates than the same flights would if I searched over the weekend. I ran St. Charles, Illinois because I first found round trip tickets to Chicago for $198 then I searched for races within 3 hours drive. I’m a member of a frequent flyer rewards programs for 3 airlines and for Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program I earn extra points by taking surveys through e-Rewards.com. My flight home from Atlanta was paid entirely by taking surveys!

Hotels are the next biggest expense so for starters I avoid them when I can by staying with family or people I know when possible. The next best thing to that is staying in a hostel. Hostels aren’t nearly as prevalent in The States as in other countries, so this is only a good resource in cities. For about $25 a night on average, I really enjoy these social accommodations where I rent a bunk bed in a dormitory type room and share bathrooms and common spaces. Hostels have full shared kitchens and being able to cook expands my affordable food choices. It’s also a great way to meet other solo travelers and runners. I did this for two races in Canada and Philly, Lake Placid, and Cleveland. Where there aren’t friends, family, or hostels, I go for budget-1-star hotels and I search best rates thoroughly usually using Booking.com or Hotwire.com’s name your price, and either way, I limit hotels to $50 a night including all taxes and fees and I give preference to those with continental breakfasts.

Car rentals from airports are always affordable and this is especially true when using Hotwire. I’ve also gotten good deals from Priceline’s name your price. I always reserve an economy or compact car for the efficient gas price as well as the lowest per day rate. I bring a GPS, never rent theirs and I never get the add-on insurance (my regular insurance covers rentals). I’ve had car rentals for a as little as $15 per day for the Indiana and Missouri double marathon weekend, St. George Utah, and the Mississippi and Alabama double. I got even lower per day for Arkansas and Illinois!

Race registrations are lowest when I register well in advance, so I register as soon as I know I’m doing the race. I’ve also volunteered for a race and got free entry (Melbourne Music Marathon). Membership with Marathon Maniacs has gotten me several entry discounts too (over $100 total to date). And, as you may have already read in my blog post here, simply being from Vermont got me in the Louisiana Marathon.

I keep my costs very low when I travel and this is especially easy to do when I travel alone because I hardly ever eat in restaurants. I go to grocery stores and find all the nutrition I need at no more an expense than I would have if I were home. If I have access to a kitchen, it’s even better because I can cook my food too, but even if I don’t, the produce section never fails to have plenty of healthy selections that don’t require preparation. I pay admission to some attractions along the way, but I choose things that are priced reasonably. I’m not a shopper or souvenir collector, so I don’t lose money in the tourist trap gift stores.

In between travel, I keep my expenses few and low. I don’t have any kids, pets, or even plants or a garden, and these seem to be the biggest time and money drains for most people. I’m a minimalist when it comes to possessions and lifestyle. I do without many things that some people consider essential, like I don’t have a TV (no cable), microwave, smart phone, or designer handbags. I do without many routines that some people consider essential, like beauty regimens with high-end make-up and moisturizers; I don’t get manicures, pedicures, maintenance massages, or expensive hair-cuts. I re-wear clothes a long time before I get new ones and when I do buy new clothes I get them at discount and thrift stores. I buy last season’s running shoes on online outlets. I love coupons and discount codes! I drive a super gas efficient car, rarely eat out, and shop at 4 different grocery stores for the best price on items I regularly buy.

My marathon travels are kept exceptionally low cost because I’m a travel deal hound with relatively low standards on accommodations. It’s worth the effort to look for the best rates and to choose races based on the affordability of getting there and staying there. I also take great care at keeping my regular life affordable too so that I have more extra cash to direct to travel. Where my thriftiness and resourcefulness fall short, admittedly, I whip out the credit card and this honestly is my biggest offence. Since starting a new job 10 months ago with a much better salary than I’ve had in previous years, I haven’t increased my credit card debt, but I haven’t reduced it either. In the coming year, I won’t be traveling as much so that I can whittle that down a bit, as well as focus on Empower Races LLC for a while.

The races that I’m looking at for 2014 are mostly local. I’m going to repeat the Race of Champions Holyoke Marathon in early May, the Mad Marathon in July, and the Clarence Demar in September. I’m going to try the Shires of Vermont in Bennington this May too and if I have energy on Memorial Day weekend after that and Holyoke, they I’ll also repeat the Memorial Day Marathon in Lenox, MA. Also for July, I’m looking at trying out a trail marathon for the first time in Allenstown, New Hampshire. Then in the fall I’m looking at the New Hampshire Marathon in Bristol, the Maine Marathon in Portland, a new, small race in Goshen, NY called the Hambletonian, and the Myles Standish Marathon in Plymouth, MA. The only distance races that I have plans and ideas in the works for are the E.T. Marathon in Rachel, Nevada in August and the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon in April.

With the three marathons I already have completed in 2014, it looks like I’ll have as many as 6 new states, same as last year, and no problem reaching my 12 marathons goal for the year. The big question is which race will be an ultra! This is a big whopper of a goal for 2014. Whatever race that will be, it will be in the fall and probably the only fall race I travel to get to. If I’m going to run greater than a marathon, it will be in a new state… with round trip flights under $300, maybe purchased with rewards points, I’ll be staying in a hostel or cheap hotel, renting an economy car, registering early, and keeping expenses low till then. Like I said, being a traveling marathoner is just as financially challenging as it is physically challenging, but all the best things come with hard work.

Leadership Training: A 26.2 Mile Course, Part 2: Self-Discipline, You have to work for it!

A couple months ago I started a short guest blog series for The Center for Nature and Leadership (CNL), an organization that empowers lives and careers of purpose through experiencing nature as a platform to unleash your creativity and unique contribution. CNL and I are a great match!!  This is the second of about 6 posts that I am making on www.natureleadership.org. This is the one from December. I will post the old one on my site when the new one is posted on CNL’s site. So check out the blog there too! Hope you like this.

“Self-discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments” -Jim Rohn, entrepreneur, author, motivational speaker

Fox Valley Marathon (33)When I was little and said I didn’t want to or like to do chores, my grandpa used to say (a lot), “you don’t have to like it, you just have to.” I couldn’t wait to grow up so I wouldn’t have to do anything I didn’t like to do. In early adulthood, liking something was a bit of a prerequisite for doing it. Self-discipline was an acquired taste that I did not have. This was most evident in my love-hate relationship with college. It took me 10 years to complete my undergrad because I started and stopped classes, switched majors and schools, dropped and re-enrolled so many times I lost track. Although I wanted the degree, I was off and on committed to doing the work and making sacrifices in other areas to do it. Eventually, somewhat begrudgingly, I did it. Immediately after I graduated I started an MBA degree that I quickly dropped from after 2 classes. I barely had enough discipline to spread over 10 years of a bachelor’s degree, I didn’t have any left to follow through on a master’s. Four years later I started up an MBA again and I picked up running during the second term. I finished the MBA uninterrupted and on schedule. When asked how did I work, go to grad school, and train for a marathon at the same time, I say I did it because of running, not in spite of it.

Running actually helped me to finish the MBA because along the way I acquired a taste for self-discipline. Training for a marathon taught me how to break down a big goal into small weekly goals. I learned to run even when I didn’t want to. I learned to be consistent, even when I’m tired and even after months of training. I won a victory over myself and not in the form of running, running was the conduit, but in gaining self-discipline.

Good ideas, grand ambitions, and hearty goals are worth nothing without follow through. It’s lovely to dream, idealize, and talk the talk. But no matter how well intentioned one is, an unfocused, half-committed, undisciplined approach results in all talk and no action. Major goals of life-changing and society-changing caliber often require complicated, multi-step processes to achieve. One must be committed to the goal from start to finish and every little minutiae detail and step in the middle. Running taught me that I have to work for it. It’s like my grandpa used to say, I don’t have to like, I just have to. I have to work for it if I want it.

“The ability to discipline yourself to delay gratification in the short term in order to enjoy greater rewards in the long term, is the indispensable prerequisite for success.” -Brian Tracy, motivational speaker and author

What have you had to do in the past that you didn’t want to do? What helped you accomplish that goal or task? What do YOU want so badly that you ARE willing to work for it?

If you enjoyed this, then return to read January’s post on Persistence, If at first you don’t succeed…

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Presenting: Brattleboro Hot Cider Run on Oct 12, 2014

Brattleboro is a charming, sweet, little town in the southeast corner of Vermont on the border of MA and NH. To the east there’s a stunning view of Mount Wantastiquet, it’s just over the Connecticut River which Brattleboro sits on. The foothills of the Green Mountains spill into Brattleboro from the west creating multiple rolling hills throughout this very quaint New England village. It’s the gateway to Vermont, the first town you pass entering from Massachusetts at the south by way of Interstate 91. It’s a quirky melting pot with an eclectic collection of residents each with an unusual story as to how or why they arrived here. Brattleboro embraces individual expression, it’s not uncommon to see men in tutus, pet pigs on leashes, modern day hippies, and you name it on Main St. Brattleboro is home to so many different organizations that naturally there’s a mix in the culture that evolves from them. Here we have the Strolling of the Heifers Parade, the annual Slow Living Summit, Brattleboro Retreat, a nationally acclaimed 180 year old psychiatric hospital, The New England Center for Circus Arts, Vermont Jazz Center, The Austine School for the Deaf, Union Institute, Marlboro College, a small and very liberal arts college, World Learning’s School for International Training, Brattleboro Music Center, the Vermont Theatre Company, and the New England Youth Theater. The dense art culture is most notable on the first Friday night of the month when Gallery Walk takes over downtown as people walk from business to business to see armature artists’ works displayed and sometimes a mini-street fair sometimes opens up organically on the sidewalks. Brattleboro and the surrounding towns have about 12,000 people and the community often feels much smaller with the way talk can spread like wildfire, but that comes with the territory of a close-knit community where people actually care about each other. Brattleboro is a great small town, but don’t take my word, it’s listed #9 for towns under 30,000 population in John Villani’s book The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America. Brattleboro’s got it all, right?! All except for one thing: A ROAD RACE!!!

Brattleboro is an incredible small town and I personally think it’s more than just a great small town to live in; it’s a great small town to run in! I want to showcase Brattleboro in a road race this fall and I’m already working on making that idea become a reality. It’s official as of tomorrow, Saturday, February 8, 2014, I am the owner of Empower Races LLC. My long term goal is to produce and direct several annual road races in the southern Vermont area. I’m beginning with the first annual Brattleboro Hot Cider Run 5&10K! There’s a long to-do-list, a very, very looooooong to-do-list to making my new business take off and assembling the details that go into a road race, but this is something I’m excited about and I’m looking forward to. So far, I have the race name picked out, the date selected, and the logo is already designed (many thanks to my creative boyfriend and biggest fan, Chris). Choosing the course and getting the permits are next. Race directing is an exciting journey and I’ll keep you posted as this race comes together. For now, save the date folks, Sunday, October 12, 2014 is the first annual Brattleboro Hot Cider Run 5&10k presented by Empower Races, and you are the first to know.

Baton Rouge By Luck

I got into Baton Rouge by luck and I finished Baton Rouge by luck! It was an interesting journey from knee injury to finish line in less than a week.

“Are you running Baton Rouge next Sunday?” asked Cade a Maniac from Iowa at the start of the Mississippi Blues Marathon on Saturday, January 11th. We were making conversation as we waited in the lobby of the Museum of Arts in Jackson, Mississippi. It was the first of two back-to-back marathons I was running with First Light Marathon in Mobile, Alabama on following day. “No, why? I’m here for a double, that’s enough!” Enough financially, I thought, but if money were no object I’d run a marathon every weekend (at least that how I felt at the startline). Cade tells me, “they have runners from 49 states, Vermont is the only holdout!” He explains how sometimes races will give complimentary entries to runners in these cases. Apparently having all states represented is a big deal for races because it shows the kind of reach they have as a race. Cade’s guess was that Baton Rouge would be willing to do even more than an entry since it’s down to the wire for them. We talked about this for a while as we waited for the start of the Mississippi Blues Marathon. I let it roll around in my head during The Blues race too, but when I finished The Blues way off my target time and with a very painful left knee, I was more concerned about my chances the following day at the First Light Marathon than I was about the potential of squeezing in Louisiana with a last minute complimentary entry. Still, it never hurts to inquire, so I sent an email to the Baton Rouge Louisiana Marathon race director the night between the Blues and First Light marathons.

Within 30 seconds of pressing send my phone rang. I never get return calls that quickly! “We’re VERY interested in Vermont!” said Daniel, the marketing director of the race. He said he could give me 90% off the entry (it couldn’t be free to count towards registered states) and he’d get me vouchers to local restaurants for while I’m there. So I looked into flight prices with him on the phone, but tickets were pushing the $800 mark. I said I never spend that much; I generally limit flights for marathons to $250 round trip. I was looking online quickly and I can usually find something more affordable with time to search different airports. I told Daniel that I had this other race the next day and I’d look into more Baton Rouge flight options afterwards. However, I couldn’t get flights below $600 later the next day either no matter what airport. And when I finished First Light Marathon after 7+ hours of mostly walking on a painful knee, I wasn’t excited anymore about another one so soon. I sent an email to Daniel saying that flights were far out of my range, but I’d check on Tuesday or Wednesday as prices sometimes fall a little midweek. He replied with an offer of $300 towards my travel! Enticing, it was tough to not think about how much fun it would be to run Baton Rouge. But, I was feeling super worried about my knee questioning if I had done permanent damage, wondering how long this would take to heal. It felt stupid to consider another race in a week, discounted or not.

My first self-diagnosis was that it was a strain or sprain to my lower IT band right above the knee. I usually heal quickly and I’m good about taking care of my injuries. Beginning immediately after First Light Marathon, I iced my knee, used Biofreeze and Aspercreme, and compression with elevation. Soon as I got home I started using sports creams with Arnica (the key ingredient that heals wounds and muscle inflammation like magic). I focused on healing foods that reduce inflammation, like pineapple, turmeric, and ginger. I took Epsom salt baths a few nights, used an electric vibrating massager on my legs, and slept well each night. I boosted my vitamin and vegetable intake. I did everything I could; I did everything right. I pulled out all the stops to get my knee healed in time for another race, but I didn’t feel much improvement on Tuesday when I read another email from Daniel. He went up to $450 and a hotel room. It’s an offer I couldn’t refuse! So on Wednesday, still limping, still hurting, but in true Marathon Maniac form, I booked myself on the cheapest flights with the worst times from an inconvenient airport. I was locked into the Louisiana Marathon in Baton Rouge on that coming Sunday, January 19th.

I really wish I could have enjoyed the week in between the races more, but the injury to my knee had me seriously worried. I was being optimistic about the race and hopeful about a finish, but I was also scared I’d end up running on a painful knee again and risking my joints. I wanted to be realistic and accept that finishing may not happen for me, but I was going to show up and try and have a good time exploring a new city either way.

Thursday was the first good day, the pain was subsiding, and by Friday I was walking normal and my knee was feeling fine. I didn’t run or workout at all the entire week. I felt total rest was my best option to be healed in time. So when I left for Baton Rouge early Saturday morning I was walking alright, but I really had no idea how it would feel to run. I was thinking this was likely a strain or sprain so any amount of running could bring it right back. Considering how the race went, I think my self-diagnosis was wrong.

At the start of the Louisiana Marathon in Baton Rouge, I was as prepared as I possibly could be. I left my comfy complimentary hotel room with a stomach full from a delicious southern home-style breakfast and I walked less than a half mile to the start with my knee in a compression wrap and Kinesio tape under it. I hoped for the best, was prepared for the worst, and was sure I’d have a fun day in the sun no matter what.

IMAG1099As the only Vermonter, I proudly represented my state from the far back of the start line coral well behind the IMAG11027000 total half and full marathoners. My plan was to start off walking and take it from there, I really had no idea what to expect. The day was beautiful, the forecast was for sunny skies in the mid-60s. I was looking forward to a lovely day no matter my running performance. As I waited for the race to begin I met Ray “The Gear Guy” who just finished the Savage Seven three weeks prior. Ray is a Marathon Maniac and he gets comped entry into lots of races for being the dude at the expo that sells Maniac gear. He sure could use comped entries as he has almost 200 marathons completed including seven in a row between Christmas and New Year’s in the Savage Seven Marathons in Oscal, FL. Ray said it took 4 days for the swelling in his ankles to go away! When I asked him what compels him to run so many marathons, he said he likes meeting people. “It’s a party between every start and finish line!” I agree! We talked about how it’s fun just to come out and meet folks on the course and without any other expectation of the race. Ray was a cool dude to talk to just before the race, he put me in the right attitude for running… be grateful to be there, everything else is a bonus. For sure!

IMAG1104Gratitude is an easy thing to have on a marathon course. Especially this one where in the early parts I was side-by-side with a very fit elder lady (early 60′s, maybe) pushing a wheel chair with a full grown disabled woman in it. Inspiring! Gratitude for my working legs! There were dozens of benefit shirts showing how people are running to cure cancer, lymphoma, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, other diseases, to feed the hungry, to educate the poor, to cloth the homeless. Gratitude for my healthy body and education! And, of course, gratitude for being in a race I wouldn’t otherwise be present at if not for my steeply discounted entry and travel. Gratitude for being from Vermont!

IMAG1105Running a marathon can sometimes feel a lot like running by myself and yet not alone at the same time. The Louisiana Marathon felt exactly like that the whole way through. For the first four miles I kept to a very brisk walk with the back-of-the-pack runners and walkers. I had no idea how much or how far, if at all, I’d be able to run this race so I felt an easy start was my best option. It worked to my advantage as I got a really nice walking tour of this charming, small capital city. I doubt I would have caught as much detail if I were running.

IMAG1112I walked fast, continuously wondering how my knee was doing. I wasn’t feeling any pain or even discomfort so it was tough to judge if running would be okay. I was back and forth between being in my head and making small-talk conversation with people around me. I spoke with a couple of overweight girls telling stories of losing weight by training for a half-ironman. I spoke with a young couple running together, one of them with a boom box blaring from in his backpack. I spoke with an elder lady with a lucky stuffed animal hanging from her Camelbak; “Bobo” has helped her cross many finish lines. And, I even chatted with a Marathon Maniac runner I first met from the back-of-the-pack at First Light Marathon. Off and on I chatted with people, so I wasn’t alone, but mostly I was in my head and I felt like I was running by myself.

IMAG1141Around mile 4, I saw the lead men running towards me on an out and back; they were around mile 10 at the time. The guys were working hard, running fast, dripping sweat; it made me antsy about wanting to run. My knee was feeling fine and I had energy so I started to run. I ran about a mile, then walked a little bit, then repeat through mile 8 when a dull ache returned to my knee and I felt I might have sabotaged the entire race by running so soon. I ran into Ray again! “How’s the knee?” he asked. “Not so good, Ray, I was feeling fine, but maybe I ran too much too soon,” I said. Ray said I shouldn’t be concerned yet, “give it more time, if you didn’t run for a week it will take some time to work out the aches and pains.” He was in a very good mood having recently stopped at an unofficial aid station serving up beer and liquor. “I’m feeling great!” Ray said with a huge smile, “I just did a shot of Jack! Like I said it’s a party between every start and finish line!” I can’t argue with that!

IMAG1133I pressed on with a walk-run strategy changing it up based on how I felt. Around mile 11, I ran into Frank on the course! He’s one of my Angel Runners from First Light. “It’s the sweetheart from Vermont! You are looking stronger this time. How are you doing?” He was running with this older guy (70s+), AL, who was taking it very slowly because he ran a 5K too fast the day before. I told Frank that at the moment I felt fine, but I really couldn’t tell. I walked till mile 4, ran till mile 8 feeling good, but it’s been a walk-run since then because it feels so achy. “Still though, Frank, I’m in much better shape today than last week. You really helped me through that race!” I stayed with Frank for just shy of a mile and he filled me up with encouragement, compliments, and enthusiasm. It was just before mile 12 and thanks to Frank, an Angel Runner for the second time, that I broke into a run and sustained it for most of the rest of the race. I saw Frank again on an out-and-back when I was at mile 21 and he was at mile 16, “You look like a superstar!” he called out as I passed him with a big ole smile on my face, “I’ve been running since I left you and the knee is fine!”

IMAG1169All the way through to the finish my knee really was fine, achy at worst, but no more so than any other muscle ache in a marathon. It was the strangest thing how I could barely walk just a few days ago, but now I’m fine running a marathon. I couldn’t believe it. My guess is that I didn’t have a sprain or strain, it must have been a contusion, which goes away quickly, though hurts like hell while it’s there. How strange and glorious this marathon journey can be. At the start I’m scared, overly concerned about my knee, and walking as everyone passed me. But, in the second half I’m confident, feeling strong, and passing runners left and right.

Most of the second half was an out and back and seeing runners coming at me is so exciting as we cheer each other on “You’re doing great!” “Looking strong!” “Wow, you’re fast!” I really love this part of running a IMAG1180marathon with an out and back. This race was especially fun because there were significantly more Maniacs here than at other races because it was a special Maniac reunion race. Whenever I saw a Maniac coming towards me we traded thumbs up and a “way to go, Maniac!” It’s worth wearing the Maniac gear if only for the recognition towards the end when the cheers are needed most. All the way through to the finish line, including the last point 2, I was still passing people keeping a very steady pace. Cheers from the sidelines powered me through to the end feeling better than ever and I crossed the finish in 5h7m, significantly faster than both races the weekend before. I was so happy about this finish! I feel back in the game and without hardly a setback. This race couldn’t have gone any better.

IMAG1188I walked to the special food tent for just Maniacs smiling and glowing in disbelief about my miraculously healed knee and ecstatic about the strong finish. I was enjoying my personal victory surrounded by Maniacs and recounting my story of how I got into the race at the last minute for being a Vermonter when I was approached by this tall and freshly showered man. I didn’t recognize him at first, but it was Cade from Iowa! He finished sub-4 and was already cleaned up. “Dude! Thanks for the info last week, I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you!”

Running Baton Rouge was meant to be. By luck I meet this guy at the start of one race who tells me about this other race looking for a Vermonter. The price wasn’t right at first, but the offer to be there became very sweet. My knee wasn’t even letting me walk during the week, but by luck it let me pass runners in the second half of the race. Everything went so well. With luck I got into Baton Rouge and with luck I finished it. The best part: meeting people. It’s what got me there, it’s why I did well, it’s why I keep going to marathons, and it’s what makes them fun.