Monday, March 28, 2011

Running on Faith

When I injured my knee three weeks before the Gate River Run, I spent a lot of time asking God for ONE thing - let me run the River Run. That was all I wanted - period. And if anyone asked what I wanted for my birthday, which was the same weekend as the Gate, I said I wanted to run. I asked my family to pray for me and I asked my "angel" Karen, to pray for me. I call her my angel because her prayers really do get answered and she's always taking care of me. I've never seen anything like it.
I'm not an outwardly religious person. I'm Catholic and we're not the preachy type. Besides Karen, I never really talk about religion or God with anyone outside of my family. I'm a C&E Catholic these days - only attending church on Christmas and Easter. But that doesn't mean I'm not a believer. I talk to God a lot, especially since I started running more. Being out in His beautiful world is quite extraordinary. I spend a lot of time thanking Him. Even if something hasn't happened yet, I thank Him. My mom taught me that a long time ago. Just believe.
So I believed. I had faith. I kept an eye & ear out for signs. I got them.
I ran with my phone because I use it to map my runs but also, on that day, race day, in case something happened and I couldn't go on. I wasn't taking any foolish chances - but I still believed I could do it. My final sign came right before the race was to begin - Karen sent me a text that she had just prayed for me. I knew then I was going to be ok, no matter what.
I ran on faith - and I ran like I've never run before. Yes, there was some pain but nothing to stop for. Once I reached the Hart Bridge I felt like I could fly! And for the first time in any race (this is my longest so far) I sprinted to the finish without any strain. I felt amazing!
Today I got the results of the MRI on my knee - totally clear. Obviously I couldn't have run if it wasn't. I told my parents that I think I pounded my knee back together running the Gate. I'm still waiting on my foot to feel better, which I strained a few days AFTER the River Run. I haven't been able to run for the last two weeks. But the doctor seems to think a little bit longer and I'll be fine. So I'm waiting (im)patiently one more week and then I'll try again.
But I have faith, it will heal soon and I will be stronger and better for it!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My First Gate 2011

My first GATE - that's what us runners call it. I call it the most amazing day of my life - so far!
It was cold - very cold. But no wind. Thank goodness! I left a little after 6am. I am so glad I did! I got downtown quickly and barely hit any traffic. There were going to be 17,000 runners out that day. Traffic was going to be worse than any Jaguars game! I wound thru the back streets and right up to the Sports Complex parking. Nice close spot, perfect! I sat in my car to keep warm until a little after 7am. It was time to meet up with everyone.
My group of friends all met up at the Jacksonville Track Club tent. We checked our bags. We gathered our stuff, Sports Beans, Ipods - discarded clothing and went to meet the larger group for warm ups. I was feeling good. We started to warm up and then went for a quick run - I had to stop, it hurt. The "injury" to my knee was acting up. But I could keep pace with my walking. I've always been told I walk too fast! ;-)
Soon it was time to head to the starting line. I was seeded and so all alone in my corral. No horses, but lots of runners. No one I really knew though. It was warming up fast. I was overdressed. I ran in shorts and a tank top in the cloudy 49 degree Beaches run and here I was in tights and long sleeves. Oh well, lesson learned!
We started a little late but I ran. I immediately hit my pace and kept it there. My body fought me. It complained. But it didn't get bad enough to quit. I was going to have to hurt bad to stop. We hit the Main Street Bridge and all the way up I kept thinking "this is nothing, I've done this a jillion times." Self-talk got me thru it all. I talk too much too - but in this case no one was bothered by it but me! :) We ran down the bridge and into San Marco. Donna Deegan came up behind me. I love her, but she is slower than me and my brain went "Oh no, she's not going to pass you is she?" I never saw her go by.Checked our times later, and she finished about 30 seconds after me! ;-)
When we entered the neighborhoods of San Marco, St. Nicholas and then Riverside, it was truly amazing. The people were all out of their homes in their front yards - tailgating and cheering. It was incredible and I've never seen anything like it. It reminded me of those lovely little SEC towns on football Saturdays in Fall. I loved it. Tree lined streets, beautiful homes and cheering crowds. We had lots of water stops and people were even giving out oranges and other snacks. As we got closer to the Hart Bridge and the end of the race there also seemed to be an increase in beer offerings!
I knew right where I was. I had never run it before but when I hit Mile 7, I knew the bridge was next. I Run For Life came on my Ipod. I was strong. I could do this.
I came out of the neighborhood and we wound around Atlantic Blvd. and up onto the exit ramp. I couldn't see the bridge yet. Our last water stop was there. I grabbed a quick sip and kept going. By the way, I was still running. I had a few aches but again, nothing worth stopping for.
Finally, I could see the Green Monster. It was a climb to get up to the actual bridge - but the Acosta, my training bridge, was worse! Dig a Little Deeper played in my ears. I dug. Suddenly I had a smile plastered on my face. I got up to the bridge and figured I was delirious because I ran right up to the side so I could look out over my city. I didn't think I could do that either. During my training I felt very uneasy looking out over the bridges. I enjoyed this view more than anything though! On the bridge they had a cadence from the Marines - must be my military family background, but I fell right into that and loved it. It helped to get me thru. I was still smiling! When I hit the flat top of the bridge, it felt like I was flying. Unstoppable by Rascal Flatts - the Olympic version - came on in my ears, I was unstoppable! There was no pain, no fatigue. I had made it. I was a mile from the finish line. I came down the bridge and when I got to the flat land, my legs took off. I can NEVER do that in 5ks. Alison will run with me and yell - but I always feel too spent. Not today. She would have been proud!!!
The finish line was outside the stadium and surrounded by cheering friends and family. It was amazing - I had done it. I had run all the way. All I wanted in the whole world was to run today - And I got it. My prayers - and many of my friends and family's prayers - were answered - in a BIG way!!! And I am so very grateful!
Official time: 1:37:44 - pretty good for semi-injured and lack of training the final 3 weeks! :-) Can't wait to beat it next year!!
Oh, and my Half-Marathon training - starts NOW! ;-) Wine & Dine Half Marathon, here I come!!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

River Run Training 2011

I started running again in the Spring of 2010, racing again in October 2010. I was in love. Did a few runs on my own, then buddied up with dear friend, Alison, in December for the Festival of Lights race.
She challenged me, and said I could do it. The Gate River Run. Honestly, I thought she was crazy. But when someone gives me a challenge... It's hard for my competitive spirit not to say OK!!
Like any good student, I started researching. Soon I found out thru my new favorite place to go at the beach, 1st Place Sports, that they had a River Run training program starting January 4th - talk about a New Year's Resolution!
So I joined up. When we got back to school on January 3rd from Christmas break, the first thing I did was talk to my kids about goals. I decided to call them goals, not resolutions, because I wanted us to actually achieve them. So we all wrote down 1-3 goals. I told them mine. They already knew about my obsession with running since I made them run everyday. Now that might sound harsh, but they also had their teacher running right along with them. And when we had our Mile Run test just a few weeks prior, they all had amazing and record breaking (for themselves) times!
The program started on a cold Tuesday night in San Marco. We went for a 5k run thru the neighborhood. When I left, I felt excited at the course ahead.
Over the next few weeks, we met regularly ALL over town for Saturday morning runs and sometimes races and always downtown on the river on Tuesdays. It was a cold winter. I don't like to be cold. I sometimes wore obnoxious amounts of layers! But I was warm!! I met wonderful people and made many new friends. Many that are teachers. Guess we all need that stress release! It was a wonderful experience. I was increasing my mileage and amazing myself with ever better race times. I was a runner! I hit TEN miles February 12th out in Black Creek - I never thought I could do that! And then I did 10.5 the next week!
But then I hit a roadblock. While pulling up some of the dead plants in my garden after our cold winter, I felt something pull in the back of my knee. I was done for the day. I iced it and took Advil. I had a race the next day at my alma mater, the University of North Florida. I had to be there! It was Homecoming! And I was there. I hurt, but I was going to warm up properly and run. I got to mile marker 2 and quit. I couldn't go any further and limped back to the finish line. My first DNF. And at UNF. Not cool.
The pain was intense and for the rest of the day I could barely walk. I had no idea what it was because the pain was in such an odd location on my leg. I researched the internet but nothing. I iced and Adviled until I thought I'd turn in to both!
The next week, I didn't go to my training class on Tuesday. Everyone was running in Saturday in the Ortega River Run, a 5 mile race thru beautiful old Jacksonville neighborhoods. But I wasn't there either. I sat at home with an ice pack and graded papers...
March 1st was FCAT Writing for my kids. Stressful, tiring day. I needed my friends - and a run. I went to the meeting spot early and walked 3.5 miles and over both bridges. I met them for class and then left before the run. Saturday came along and we were out in Ortega again. I hadn't even tried to run for the last 2 weeks, praying hard that I was healing. It did feel better... We started out and soon I was alone. I was walking. Thankfully there were slower pace groups who I was able to keep up with or I'd probably still be lost in Ortega! I tried jogging just a little bit and it didn't hurt!! I tried a few times, but never very much. I had one week till my BIG DAY.
Tuesday came along and I met my group. They again left me in the dust as I walked, but this time I pushed it a little more - I ran a lot. Then I'd walk, still not wanting to risk Saturday. I did both bridges - walking them only - even though everyone else was avoiding them this week. I felt I needed the endurance push. I hurt on Wednesday - but not too bad. Just muscles that were mad at me! :)
I was encouraged - feeling strong and confident - until Friday afternoon when my legs felt tired and achy. The negative thoughts started and I kept pushing them away. I kept my normal pre-race Friday night routine. I packed my race bag - way too much stuff! I went to bed and prayed for sleep. I got it! Saturday morning I awoke excited but still a little scared and worried I wouldn't be able to run the whole distance...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Well that's just fabulous!

My first blog post that isn't all teaching - just a third of it! I've been toying with this idea for years, annoying my friends on Facebook with forever long posts about either my running, my cooking or my teaching for the last year, and of course, like any good wanna-be blogger, was inspired by Julie & Julia. So here I am.
I'm in love with three things - Running, Cooking & Teaching. Not necessarily in that order and on any given day that order may change!
I've been a "runner" since I graduated from college and began teaching - hmmm, link? But never really serious about it until I got back into the racing end of it in October 2010. I had done a few races for fun back in the late 90s. But now it is like an addiction! The Race for the Cure 2010 here in Jax was all it took. The people, the city, the fun and the adrenaline rush that I had completed a 5k race was amazing. I'm not fast - at all. I don't race, I run. I can see Alison shaking her head right now. Ok, ok, I'm getting faster. And maybe I keep trying to beat my times...
So with each race my times were getting better, but it didn't seem like I could really last longer that a 5k. I had never really run more that 5 miles and I had never run that distance at race speed. But I had been given a challenge. Alison, who is an amazing runner and super fast, said I should do the Gate River Run. I took the challenge. I completed the Gate last weekend. I finished stronger and happier than I had ever been in my life! So now I've challenged myself to the next distance - Half Marathon. I know I can do it!
Cooking - haven't had a lot of time for that with all the training I've been doing for the Gate, but I love cooking. People go out A LOT to eat but I would much rather stay in. Perfect date scenario: Cooking a meal together and enjoying it at home. I think most people I have cooked for would say I'm pretty good. I've never had any complaints. My parents would probably hire me as their personal chef if I had the time for that! My favorite thing to cook is Italian dishes but I also veer off into other cuisines occasionally. I guess Italian is easier and safer for most people. I would love to know more about Indian cooking but don't really have any guides to help in that arena other than a cookbook or two. If I could split myself into several different people, being a caterer or personal chef would be a fabulous career choice for me. I would have to own a winery too, on the side. Somewhere in Temecula, California. Oh, and the running I could do there... up and down the glorious hills, thru vineyards...
Back to reality - Teaching - Usually an absolute dream for me. I thought we, as teachers, were also pretty protected as far as job security goes. Have you seen the news lately? Well, we're not. I've been teaching for 15 years and hope to teach for at least 15 more! I would love to stay at my wonderful little school where everyone seems to know me. I would love to have the perfect classes of children like I have had for the last few years. I teach my kids for 2 years which is called "looping." I take them in for 4th grade and let them go at the end of 5th. It's an incredible experience but also a heartbreaking one. Sending "my kids" off to middle school and never really seeing them again is hard!
So those are the loves of my life - Teaching, Running & Cooking - see? New order! And now I can write about all of them in one place! And well, that's just fabulous!!