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Saturday, August 1, 2015

I'm Back!

After Boston, I guess you could say that life got pretty much turned upside-down. I really wasn't sure where I stood with anything, so I decided to take a step back from blogging, and life in general, to figure out who I am, what I want, and what is really most important to me. The last part of that question was easy; my boys. Always and forever, Ryan, Nick, Connor & Bailey will have my heart. To see them happy, healthy & following their dreams always has been, and always will be, my #1 priority. The first two questions were a little more challenging though, and the path to finding the answers has been a long, and at times scary, journey.

In the end I realized that I crave independence. Running has taught me that I am capable of accomplishing things that I never dreamed I could do, in large part because I was living my life according to everyone's else's expectations, and never even stopped to consider what I might be passionate about. Experiencing the tragedy in Boston, and then going back to finish the race a year later taught me so much about what is possible when you surround yourself with positive people and have a positive mindset. It taught me that I can do hard things, and the satisfaction that comes from overcoming fear and negativity is truly priceless. In the end, it gave me the courage to take the steps I needed to take to lead a happier life.

Life is simply too short to put happiness off. Dream big, and begin chasing those dreams now, even if the road to achieving those dreams includes hurdles you'd rather avoid. Believe me, I am a master at avoiding conflict. Once I finally believed in myself enough to jump those hurdles though, they became less of an obstacle, and more of an incentive towards a new happy ending that I alone have the power to write.

So write I will. I'm giving this blog thing another shot. No promises on how often I'll post, but if my running, parenting, or reading adventures can inspire, or simply entertain someone else, then it will be time well spent.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Because of Boston

It's been three weeks since the terrorist activity in Boston, and outside of the occasional nightmare, life is slowly returning to normal. My boys have all resumed doing the things that typical 11, 14, 17, and 19 year old boys should be doing. I have successfully crossed the finish line in two 13.1 races, which has alleviated some of my fears and has allowed me to once again feel safe as I follow my passion. Most importantly though, I have had time to process and reflect on all that has happened. In true marathon style, here's 26.2 milestones and moments that I have come to appreciate now more than ever...
because of Boston.

1)  Because of Boston I know that there is a reason for everything. There is a reason I qualified for the Boston Marathon by 48 seconds. There is a reason that when I qualified, the 2013 had miraculously not yet filled, so my time would count for both the 117th and 118th Boston Marathon. There is a reason I stopped for water breaks when I usually run right past. We don't always need to know what the reasons are, but we should always make the most of the moments we have.
2) Because of Boston my kids have learned that acts of kindness are more powerful, and more plentiful, than acts of terror.
3) Because of Boston help has come in all shapes and sizes from one of my kindergartners baking cookies for Bailey, to the daughter of Newbery Award winning author, Cynthia Lord, offering her help from her home in Boston.
4) Because of Boston I now have an entire collection of new t-shirts, bracelets, posters, and headbands in support of the victims.
5) Because of Boston I have proof that there are angels among us one being the stranger that led my family back to me three weeks ago.
6) Because of Boston little things like kicking the soccer ball around with Bailey, have become big things.
7) Because of Boston I have become buddies with several members of the BPD and FBI as the search for my luggage continues.
8) Because of Boston what was supposed to be my last marathon, has now become my motivation to run without limits.
9) Because of Boston I have now joined my son Connor in being a Red Sox fan. (Unless they are playing the Cubs.)
10) Because of Boston my love for running has jumped from passionate to obsessed. (I may seriously need a Runners Anonymous intervention soon.)
11) Because of Boston I have formed friendships in the running community that that have not only made me a better runner, but more importantly, a better person.
12) Because of Boston each finish line will be a victory against terrorism.
13.1) Because of Boston I was motivated to run faster and stronger than ever in the Nike Woman's half-marathon on April 28th, earning a new PR of 1:50:07.

14) Because of Boston I know that if one of my boys was in danger, the others would be there in a heartbeat.
15) Because of Boston I have an even deeper respect for local, state and federal authorities who put their lives on the line everyday to keep us safe. In addition the Boston Athletic Association and the many marathon volunteers each deserve a medal of their own for their ongoing commitment to everyone affected by the bombings.
16) Because of Boston I believe more than ever that teaching students how to be kind and respectful, is so much more important than test scores.
17) Because of Boston I make sure that the people I love, never doubt it for a minute.
18) Because of Boston I have learned that taking 3 hours to finish a half marathon with friends, is just as meaningful as beating a PR. (Wisconsin half-marathon, Kenosha, WI 5/4/13)
19) Because of Boston I know firsthand, that people really are more important than things. I will never forget the outpouring of texts, calls, messages, emails and unending support from friends, family, co-workers, students and their parents.
20) Because of Boston towns that a year ago I had never heard of including: Hopkinton, Ashland, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and Cambridge, now have a special place in my heart.
21) Because of Boston I have inspired others to try things that they didn't think they were capable of.
22) Because of Boston I have learned how to face my fears head on.
23) Because of Boston I know that Walt Disney was right. It really is kind of fun to do the impossible.
24) Because of Boston I now wear a lot of blue and yellow.
25) Because of Boston it is so much easier to not sweat the small stuff. (I no longer freak out about a sink full of dishes, or not being able to check my email every hour.)
26.2) The big finish! Because of Boston my two oldest sons, Ryan & Nick, have become runners! They have always been athletic, but they never understood the point of running just to run. Until now.  This text from Ry may be the most meaningful gift I have ever received. Wether he pursues this challenge or not, I could not be more proud of the person he has grown up to be, and his three younger brothers are following right behind in his footsteps. (Disclaimer...Ry entered himself in my contacts as "favorite son!" I, of course, love them all equally!)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

I am a Boston Marathoner

I am a Boston marathoner. I have always dreamed that if and when the day came that I could actually say those words, I would feel nothing but pride and exhilaration. While I certainly experienced those two emotions on Monday, they were accompanied by a whole host of others that no one could possibly have imagined. Fear, disbelief, anger, pain, and heartache just to name a few. I'm hoping that by writing about my experience it will help me, and hopefully others, to begin to heal and get stronger. You might want to grab a cup of coffee. It's going be a long post.

I arrived in Boston with excitement, anticipation, awe, pride, and a sense of accomplishment. As a relatively new runner, I never dreamed that I would ever qualify for this prestigious event. It still astounds me to realize that the what once seemed impossible, is now a reality thanks to a lot of dedicated training and the unwavering support of family and friends.

My husband and three youngest sons departed Chicago early Friday morning. We were looking forward to exploring the wonderful city of Boston, and taking in a Red Sox game at Fenway. Our "Geidner Field of Dreams" tours take us to different stadiums each year, and my son Connor was especially excited about seeing the Green Monster in person. We had rented the first floor of a house in Cambridge through airbnb. Our wonderful host, Erin, provided us with everything we needed to get the most out of our visit.

Of course the first thing on my list was to check out the expo. We maneuvered our way into the city using the T, and despite the chilling rain, we had a great time. The first thing that we all noticed was how friendly the people of Boston were. When asking strangers for directions, they didn't just walk away or give us a short reply, they actually stopped walking and took the time to make sure we knew where to go. The expo was as phenomenal as I knew it would be, and I was overcome with emotion picking up my race bib.

My oldest son flew in from college to meet us on Saturday. I am still so touched that he wanted to spend so much time traveling to be with me for the marathon. We wound our way through Cambridge and Harvard in the morning, and then traveled back into Boston in the afternoon for lunch at Cheers and a walk through the Public Gardens and the Freedom Trail.

Sunday was game day, and despite the freezing winds and gray skies, Fenway lived up to our expectations.  The Sox beat Tampa Bay 5-0 with a no hitter throughout 7 innings. Of course we had our usual heated mound ball game going with my husband and Nick each winning $24. Dinner Sunday night was at Durgin-Park, a centuries-old restaurant in downtown Boston that my mom had recommended. I would travel back to Boston again, simply for this restaurant alone.

Of course sleep did not come easily Sunday night as there was no way to contain my anticipation of race day. I awoke at 4:30 AM, and took a cab to claim my cozy, warm seat on one of two CARA busses, (WITH bathrooms on board) filled with Chicagoland runners. We traveled just over 26 miles to Athlete's Village in Hopkinton, MA. Once there, we had several hours to wait before race time. The time passed slowly until just before 10:00 AM, when suddenly it all became real. No matter how many marathons I run, I can't seem to shake the doubts that I always get just before the race begins. I had no finish time in mind. I simply wanted to enjoy the experience, yet still I was a nervous wreck.

At 10:40 my wave took off on the journey from Hopkinton back into Boston; 26.2 miles away. The streets were literally lined with spectators throughout the course. The Patriot Day parties had obviously started early and would continue throughout the day. It was amazing to have so many strangers yelling my name. (Which someone had written on my leg with a sharpie on the way to my corral.) It took me about 2-3 miles to get into a groove, and I was seriously questioning how I was possibly going to run another 24+ miles. I had dropped my headphones at the start line, and I wasn't sure how I was going to survive without my music. Fortunately, friends who had run the race in previous years had told me that the crowd woud carry me, and they were absolutely right. Before I knew it, I was approaching mile 16 and the series of hills that lead to Heartbreak Hill.

I knew my family was at the top of Heartbreak Hill by Boston College. It was the perfect motivation when I needed it most. As soon as I saw them my youngest son, Bailey, came running onto the course in his socks yelling "run mom run!" To have him  by my side was priceless even if it was only for a short stretch. There have been so many days when I didn't want to do my training runs, and he is always the one one who gets me going. Best personal trainer ever! His enthusiasm stayed with me until I started hitting the wall around mile 23. Since I wasn't racing for any particular finishing time, I allowed myself to alternate between running and walking until I reached mile 25. At that point I saw the infamous Citgo sign, and knew I was going to finish my first Boston Marathon. Boy was I wrong.

As I approached the tunnel under Mass Ave, I saw few runners stopped, and police in the road. I thought maybe a runner had collapsed. When I reached the police line, I realized that they had blocked off the course, and quickly runners were backing up behind me trying to learn what had happened. I was fortunate to have my phone with me, and was able to text my husband and sons. Waiting for their response felt like a lifetime, but within a couple of minutes I received their text saying that they were together and safe. Many others asked to use my phone to text loved ones at the finish line and it was heartbreaking to watch them wait for replies that never came. Cell phone signals were iffy at best.

None of us knew what was going on or what to do, but everyone was helping each other to try to stay calm as we waited for news. We were told that two bombs had exploded at the finish line and that the race was cancelled, but there was no where we could go. My family was approximately 200 feet from the explosions. My son Connor found his way into the nearest hotel, while Bailey was swept by the crowd and separated from his dad and brothers. Within minutes he found he was actually in the same hotel as Connor, but that was long enough to leave him traumatized. My older sons, Ryan & Nick, realized the little guys were gone, and my husband quickly set out to find them. They were all reunited in a courtyard of the Mandarin Hotel, but were soon moved to a mall by officers for safety. I texted them my location, and they asked a young women for directions. She was clearly our guardian angel, and led my family through a back entrance out of the mall for .7 miles down side streets to meet me. All I could do was hug them through my tears. I feel awful that I never even expressed my thanks to this very kind stranger, but I will never forget her.

Each of my boys showed amazing strength and courage. Ryan realized I was freezing and gave me his sweat pants. Nick fielded calls and texts from concerned friends and family. Bailey and Connor remained calm. I have never been more proud of my boys. I hate that they were exposed to such a horrific scene, and that they were there because they were supporting me. I love that their first instinct was to be there for each other. I have never been happier to see their four faces!

We knew we were going to miss our plane, and I knew I couldn't travel anyway without my license which was in my runner's bag, on the busses, near the finish. After about an hour the police re-routed us to the busses so we started following the crowd. I was able to retrieve my bag just before another group of police came in and announced that there were more devices being found, and we needed to clear the area. We walked aimlessly in a fog as my husband attempted to contact the airlines about getting us on another flight. They were phenomenal, and eventually we found a bus that would take us to the airport and get us home.

I returned home from the marathon without:
  • finishing
  • my medal
  • my luggage (which was abandoned at the scene of the explosions)
  • Bailey's shoes (also abandoned)
I returned home with:
  • my family, shaken but safe
  • endless love and support from concerned family, friends, fellow runner's, co-workers, authors, book reps, etc...
  • a finisher's necklace from my husband
When I reflect on the past few days, I continue to be amazed by how lucky we were. Had I not walked for 5-10 minutes, I would've been at the finish line when the bombs went off. Had my family been on the other side of the street, they might be recovering from shrapnel wounds or worse. Had they not stumbled across such a kind stranger in the hotel, we would've had a much more difficult time finding each other. Had I gotten to the buses 3 minutes later, I wouldn't have gotten my license so we could fly home. The list goes on and on, and it is clear that God was with myself and my family on marathon Monday. Meanwhile as I continue to count my blessings, and wrap my head around everything that has happened since Monday afternoon, I am heartbroken for all of those that lost lives or were injured.

I saw a quote on BAA's facebook page that read, "If you're trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to target." This could not be more true. As I get ready to run the inaugural Nike Woman's 13.1 in DC on April 28th, and the Kenosha half-marathon on May 4th, I know it won't be easy. I won't be able to just focus on the run and my music like I am used to doing during races. I will be scared and will be on full alert of my surroundings. Regardless, I will continue to run because no one has the right to use terror to steal my passion, nor my child's innocence. I will run for the victims that lost their lives or were injured in Boston. I will run to show my sons that no matter how much evil there might be in the world, goodness and kindness will always prevail. I will run 26.2 more miles for Boston.

As President Obama said, "We WILL finish this race." I hope to be in Boston on April 21st, 2014 to do just that, because I am a Boston marathoner.

Friday, April 12, 2013

March Reading Madness!

As a huge Indiana Hoosier fan ('89 alum), I was inspired to bring some of the NCAA March Madness excitement into my library for my k-5 kiddos and staff. Congratulations to the four books that
were crowned champions this week! The road they took to get to the final four is shown below. The students absolutely LOVED this challenge, & listening to them debate about why one book should beat another was priceless! We are already looking forward to March Reading Madness 2014!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

March Running Madness!

March was a crazy month for sure filled with highs and lows. The highlight of the month was logging my 2nd highest monthly mileage ever: 207 miles & mile 5,000 since starting running 40 months ago! This was especially meaningful to me, as early in the month I was suffering from some serious lower back pain. I was really worried that my Boston training would be compromised, and that definitely freaked me out more than a little! Luckily, I was able to get through it (see previous post,) and was able to stick to my schedule.

I had a GREAT 20 mile run on the treadmill early in the month, and then a terrible 20 miler outside two weeks later.  Definitely wouldn't have predicted that, but that's how it goes sometimes. As much as I hate "bad" runs, sometimes they remind me not to take running for granted.

I ran two 1/2 marathons in March and PR'd in both, which was clearly another highlight of the month. The weather was great & the running Gods were with me. I just hope they stick around a bit longer & help me finish Boston! I was exhausted at the end of each, and it crossed my mind more than once that if I was that tired after 13.1, how was I going to run 26.2?

Speaking of tired, one of the low points of the month was discovering that my thyroid continues to be unstable. Since thyroid troubles are pretty common, I'm guessing many runners are familiar with the effects of hyper or hypo-thyroidism. I have taken synthroid for about 30 years, but suddenly my TSH levels are jumping all over the place. Unfortunately while the doctors try to figure out the right syhtroid dosage, I am left feeling exhausted. As in come home from work at 4:00 and could sleep through the night exhausted.  Since running a marathon and exhaustion don't go hand in hand, I am stocking up on energy drinks, chews, etc...!

Countdown to Boston is 9 days! Weather forecast looks perfect! Hopefully I can calm my nerves enough to eat and sleep this week! I am bib #19800. Send a text to 345678 with the word "runner" for text updates diring the race!
Happy running my friends! Stay healthy & strong!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

2013 13.1 Race Recaps #1 & #2

As I sit with my legs up against the wall at a 90 degree angle letting gravity force the lactic acid to flow through my legs, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to update my blog with my most recent race recaps!

One of my goals for 2013 was to run 13 13.1's during the year. The 1st two races are now officially in the books, and each included a PR!

13.1 #1:

On Sunday, March 17th I ran the March O' Madness half marathon in Cary, IL. This race comes with many challenges.  Due to it's hills, it is the #1 Boston training race in our flat state of Illinois. Even more challenging than the hills though, is getting into the race before it fills up. Registration opens at 6:00 AM on New Years Eve, and this year it sold out in 38 minutes! Let's just say I was really glad I didn't give in to temptation and ignore my alarm clock that morning like I wanted too!
Race day temps were in the 30's, but the skies were sunny and there was very little wind. I always dedicate each race I run to someone special, and this one was co-dedicated to both my friend Joe "Bones" Thompson, who passed away on St. Patrick's Day in 2011 at the age of 50; as well as the father of a very good friend of mine, General Harry Cochran, who passed away suddenly a couple of days before the race. Both of these incredible men inspired me to tackle this hilly course head on, and I ended up running a 1:55:44, which was a half marathon PR in my book.

Overall race rating:


Positives: Super friendly people, inexpensive registration fee ($43), close to home, easy race day packet pick-up, great pre-race & post-race atmosphere in a local high school with indoor bathrooms, awesome race hoodie, raffle (I won a coffee gift pack), fun medal, excellent volunteers, and the best post-race soft pretzels!

Negatives: The course is a road course that is not closed to vehicle traffic, making it a little dangerous at times.

13.1 #2

Today (3/30/13) my son, Bailey. & I ran the Egg Shell Shuffle in the beautiful Busse Woods forest preserve in Elk Grove Village, IL. I dedicated this race to my grandma who passed away in 2010, but would've celebrated her 100th birthday yesterday. As a bonus, my husband and son, Connor, volunteered at the race and presented Bailey & I with our medals at the finish line. Bailey ran the 5k with no training outside of soccer, and came in 98/418 runners with a time of 28:25. He thought he could've done better, but I was totally impressed!
I ran the half marathon, and from the start I could tell it was going to be a great race. My #1 goal with Boston coming up in 16 days, was to avoid injury. I ran my 1st mile at a pace of 8:11, and knew I had to slow down to prevent burning out. I settled into a pace of 8:35 and surprised myself by maintaining that pace throughout the race, taking 2+ minutes off of my PR from 2 weeks earlier with a chip time of 1:52:02. I thought my time might be good enough to place in the top 3 in my division, but I ended up in 5th, missing 3rd place by less than 2 minutes. Nonetheless very happy with my finish! Following the races, there was an Easter egg hunt for kids and adults.  Totally fun and well done! Bailey even ended up winning a $20 gift card!
One of the highlights of the day was meeting a fellow runner who proved once again how amazing runners really are! We were taking turns passing each other during our 13.1 today, & finally I passed her up for good for the final four miles. We bumped into each other getting water afterwards & instead of being mad, she was full of compliments. It made my day, and was a perfect example of how running truly isn't about winning. It's about inspiring, and being inspired, by others who share the same passion! One of the countless reasons I ♥ runners & running!!

Overall race rating:


Positives: Beautiful scenic course with live elk (seriously!), reasonably priced ($54), great volunteers (especially the ones who share my last name), egg hunt, variety of races (5k & 13.1), parking, ease of same day packet pick up, fun medal for finishers of both races.

Negatives: Lack of porta potties & tp, would've preferred last year's race hoodie rather than the shorts we received, post-race food options were limited.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Running Lucky!

For me "running lucky" means that after 3 years, 3 months, and 29 races, I continue to be injury free. (Especially since according to my son, I am "so old," and I definitely don't stretch or foam roll like I should.)  However, after wrapping up week 13 of my Boston training last weekend with a 20 miler on Saturday followed by an "easy 8" on Sunday, my luck seemed to have run out when I woke up Monday with alarming back pain. My 1st thought..."it's okay. It's a rest day anyway. Just ignore it, take lots of ibuprofen, and it will go away."  Mind over matter.

By Tuesday the pain had lessened a little, but even as stubborn as I am, I knew my early AM run wasn't going to happen. (I could hear my mom reminding me that "there's a fine line between between stubborn and stupid" loud and clear.) Tuesday night I bargained with myself that I would try running slowly, and if it got painful I would quit.  I survived the 5 miles, and woke up Wednesday to run 5 more. With a half-marathon coming up the following weekend, and Boston just over a month away, I was terrified to stray from my training.

The pain had dropped from a 9.5 to about a 6, but now I was starting to worry because I knew I had changed my normal running gait in order to accomodate the back pain. There was no ignoring the reality that if I didn't seek help, I was probably just making things worse rather than better. Of course my doctor had no convenient appointments available, but luck stepped in again when I stumbled upon a 6 year old gift certificate for a one hour massage given to me by Ethan; a sweet, curly-haired, former kindergartner of mine. The certificate had no expiration date (thank goodness) & I discovered that the founder/director of the massage therapy center happened to be Ethan's dad.  He couldn't have been nicer, and went out of his way to schedule me for a deep tissue massage that would get me in shape to run my upcoming race.

I have had a few massages in the past, and I have loved every minute of each one. I quickly learned however, that a deep tissue massage, is NOT a regular, relaxing to the point of almost falling asleep, massage. John, who has been in the business or over 30 years, and has worked on numerous professional athletes, could not believe how contracted my muscle tissue was; not just in my back, but everywhere. It was 75 minutes of pain, but it was good pain, and it was exactly what I needed.

During my visit her are a few things I learned...

  • Good-bye Water Joe. Even though I drink 4-5 liters of H20 daily, I discovered that I was dehydrated.  How can that be? I don't drink coffee, tea, or pop, but I do drink a liter of Water Joe (equivalent to two 8 oz cups of coffee) to wake me up each morning for my commute to work.  John said it takes 4 cups of water to undo the dehydrating effects of one cup of coffee. I had no idea. Needless to say, no more Water Joe for me!  (Except on race days!)
  • Sleep in a fetal position. While I already tend to sleep on my side, he said that by sleeping with one pillow behind me, and one between my legs, I should notice a big difference.  He also recommended splurging on a therapeutic neck pillow. Sounds well worth the investment to me!
  • Unstable thyroid is nothing but trouble. I've had thyroid issues since high school, but for the past year my levels have been all over the place.  (Pre-menopause?) Never did I think this would affect my back, but I was wrong. Hopefully my endocrinologist will have this stabilized sooner rather than later!
As luck would have it...
  • My back pain was NOT caused by running!
  • I WILL be able to run the March O' Madness 13.1 in Cary, IL tomorrow. (Considered in IL to be the best training run for Boston.)
  • Pain has gone from a 9 to a mere 1.5. (Hopefully to soon be non-existent!)
  • By shifting a couple of rest days around, I won't lose a single mile of training due to this little setback.
  • I discovered an amazing massage place & therapist! If you live anywhere near the north Chicago suburbs, check out the Message Therapy Center of Winnetka! Phenomenal!
  • Most importantly, by making a few small changes, I will be healthier & stronger than ever!
I feel so lucky to have discovered running just over 3 years ago, and even more lucky to have essentially remained injury free.  I am determined to keep that streak going, and one of the ways I do this is by actively engaging with other runners to share advice, tips, and resources.  (I will be visiting John, and breaking that foam roller out more regularly too!)

What do you do to "run lucky" & stay injury free? If you do happen to be sidelined from running with an injury, I highly recommend the book, The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanin. So inspiring!