July 4, 2009

Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Marathon!!!

Full marathon - complete!! Nothing can compare to the feeling of crossing that finish line after 26.2 miles and 5 hours, 27 minutes, 46 seconds... This weekend has been absolutely incredible, I don't think I could've asked for a better experience! After months of preparation, anticipation, excitement, and anxiety, the big day has come and gone.
Getting to Seattle was a whole day's ordeal. My flight was out of LAX so I took a shuttle from Santa Barbara on Thursday morning. The views from the plane were incredible as we flew over the Cascades, passing Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, the Three Sisters, and Crater Lake. I finally arrived in Seattle and met my parents, who had flown in from Sacramento. We headed to my hotel, the W Seattle, which was absolutely amazing - it had such a retro, cool vibe. Our room was incredible, too - so luxurious! Sarah arrived with her mom later that night and we eagerly got some much needed sleep in our wonderfully comfortable beds : )
Mt. Rainier? I honestly don't know!
These beds were even better post-race : )
Friday we went to the Health & Fitness Expo at Qwest Field to pick up our race packet and bib and to browse the official race merchandise. We took our coaches' advice and didn't stay too long, but we didn't leave empty handed - Sarah and I both bought a race shirt for a souvenir and hats to wear during the race. Next we headed to Pike's Market with our parents for a quick lunch, and then it was back to the hotel for Sarah and I to rest our legs until dinner. I have to admit I was a little disappointed we couldn't explore more...it was such a beautiful day and I was really loving Seattle!
Friday night was the Team In Training Inspirational Pasta Dinner. While we loaded up on carbs we watched an inspiring slideshow of honored teammates who have conquered cancer, are still fighting, and those who sadly lost their battle. It was great to be reminded of why we were all there and who we were really running for. After dinner we had a couple of wonderful speakers. First was John "The Penguin" Bingham, author for Runner's World magazine and national spokesperson for LLS. John told us his story of how he became a runner after years of being a sef-proclaimed "couch potato". The great thing about John is that he truly represents to average runner, and proves that pretty much anyone can run a marathon if they set their mind to it. My favorite thing about him is that he proudly declares that he is slow - and couldn't care less! For him, it's all about enjoying the experience and crossing the finish line, no matter how long that may take. He pointed out that although the elite runners will finish the marathon before many of us are even halfway, none of them has ever run for as long as we will to finish our marathon.
The purple and green TNT crowd waiting for dinner.

Mmmmm carbs!!

The next speaker was meant to inspire us, which she certainly did, but not without bringing a tear to eye of everyone listening. The woman told us the story of her son, Luke, who was diagnosed with Leukemia when he was just a few years old and is still battling it. Her heart-wrenching story was followed by a wonderful slideshow of Luke and his family, a smile always on the little boy's face. You could easily see what the cancer had done to his little body, and imagine the struggles he'd been through. This became my mantra for the race: If they can fight cancer, I can run another mile. After a very emotional evening, Sarah and I were more than ready to head back to our hotel and get some sleep before our 3am wake-up call!!!
The "me" I layed out the night before so I wouldn't forget anything!
The big day was finally there! I woke up reluctantly when my alarm went off, not having slept very well thanks to all my nerves and excitement. We dressed carefully, making sure we had everything, and then headed up to our teammate Peter's room for team pictures. It was still dark out as we hopped on the shuttle and got to the Start area in Tukwila around 5am. Our team huddled together to stay warm while making frequent bathroom breaks along with every other nervous/anxious runner : ) When it finally neared 7am we all headed to our corrals, only to wait almost 50 minutes after the start gun went off to actually start! In fact, our corral was so far back we couldn't even see the start line!

Trying to stay warm!

My teammates and I waiting in Corral 27 to start.

Finally getting closer to the Start Line!

Things went quite well at the beginning, as I tried to get in my stride. Tom and I stuck together as planned and encouraged each other. The quaint little neighborhoods we ran through were so cute and many of the residents were out there cheering and offering there support. A unique feature of the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series is that there are live bands every couple miles so we had some great entertainment along the way : ) From about mile 5-9 the course took us along the beautiful shores of Lake Washington with spectacular scenery! We saw my parents for the first time at mile 7 and it was just the encouragement I needed at that point. One of the highlights of the race was along this stretch - a bald eagle was perched in a tree right above the course! Tons of runners paused to take a quick pic - it cause quite the traffic jam! At that point my feet really started to ache, and would continue to do so throughout the race.
One of the bands entertaining us along the way.

Tom and I at mile 7!

My dad running with me for a minute at mile 7.

The famous bald eagle!

Miles 10-12 split the half and full marathoners and took the latter along a "floating" bridge over Lake Washington. It sounds much more fun and beautiful than it was - it was like running on a never-ending freeway! The bridge was like an optical illusion, the miles looking shorter or longer than they actually were. At that point it was really starting to warm up to I started pouring full cups of water on my head to keep me cool. Along the way Tom and I passed a woman whose shirt said she was a recent survivor - nothing like that to keep you moving forward : )

The next few miles got us to the halfway mark and then the course took us toward downtown Seattle where we met my parents again around mile 14. Then around mile 15 Tom began struggling from the heat and lack of fluids. He decided to walk a few miles so I reluctantly moved on ahead by myself. I have to say that I'm pretty proud of myself for running almost half the marathon by myself. It definitely tested me mentally and physically. But honestly, it hurt more to walk so I had to keep running! Miles 17-19 were on a steady incline and were pretty difficult, but I just kept telling myself that at least the next few would be downhill! I started running with this old TNT runner, Stu, and had some great conversations with him about TNT, running, and life. We kept passing and catching each other all the way til the end! Passing the 20 mile marker was a weird feeling since that was the most I'd ever run up til that point. The next 6.2 miles would really be a mental test. Around mile 22 I spotted Sarah's mom, Karen, and her friend up above the freeway and that pushed me through another mile.
Tom and I at mile 14.

The view of Qwest Field heading back downtown on the highway.

And then there was miles 23-26. Not only did this stretch take us right past the Finish Line, but they continued on a long, straight road, right past a railroad depot, with no shade and awful scenery. Clearly not the best part of the race. Around this point Sarah and I met up and ran mile 25 together, both in shock that we were so close! The last half mile took us down a freeway offramp and into Qwest Field. Despite my throbbing feet, I started sprinting as fast as I could down that hill and toward the finish line. One of our mentors spotted me from the crowd and started running with me. I checked my watch and saw that I could make it under my goal of 5 hours, 30 minutes, so I kept pushing! As I neared the finish line I glanced at the sideline and saw some of my teammates and my parents cheering for me. And then I was there, arms raised, smile plastered on my face, emotions running high, body ready to collapse. AMAZING!!
Sarah and I trudging up the last incline at mile 25!

Laura running with me at the end!

Nothing like it.
After the race everything was a blur. Race officials gave me my medal, and then I hobbled over to the ice tent to ice my knees. Sarah finished just behind me and joined me at the recovery booth. Our parents finally found us and there were lots of hugs and pictures. Then we headed to the TNT tent to sign-out and relax with our teammates. Everyone from our team finished, even though a few had some challenges along the way. We couldn't be more proud of each other. Eventually we realized how tired we were and headed back to our hotel to clean up and nap.
My coveted medal!
My dad stretching out my sore muscles post-race.

I don't know if a shower has ever felt so amazing in my life...it was glorious! Despite being exhausted, napping wasn't as easy as I'd hoped. Every part of my body ached and throbbed, making it almost impossible to fall asleep. Eventually I napped a little and then we headed out to a team dinner at Mama's Mexican Restaurant. We enjoyed some much-deserved margaritas and stuffed ourselves with delicious food to replenish all the calories we'd burned. It really was a great night, with amazing people and good conversation. I couldn't have asked for a better team to experience this with.
The team celebrating at dinner!
Mmmmm margaritas!

That night Sarah and I spent our last night in our fabulous hotel, and then said goodbye to Seattle the next morning, which was in the midst of the wonderfully colorful and exuberant Pride Parade. Lucky for me I didn't head home right away. My mom and I headed to the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington to stay with my grandparents at their vacation home. It was just what I needed, a relaxing and peaceful week in a beautiful place.

Here are some statistics from race weekend:
- From the Greater LA Chapter, TNT had 59 athletes and raised over $289,559!
- Nationally TNT had 1,400 participants and raised $4 million!
- The event weekend saw 25,000 participants, 20,000 running/walking the half and only 5,000 running/walking the full
Instead of posting a lot of pics here, I decided to include the links to various photos.
p.s. I have to say that I've been bitten by the running bug! I have several half marathons planned this year, starting with the Disneyland Half Marathon on September 6, 2009. Wish me luck! And once again, thank you all for tagging along on this wonderful journey and giving me so much encouragement and support!!

June 24, 2009

Almost There!

The weeks following the 20 miler were a little hectic with finals, moving out, and heading home for a week. The last couple weeks were all about tapering as far as training goes which meant an easy 90 minute run the following Saturday, which also marked the last long training for Sarah and I since we were heading home at the end of finals. After training the team got breakfast to send-off our two participants heading off to the Alaska Marathon that following weekend. Erin also delivered our jerseys, except there was a little mistake with mine and Sarah's - we had ordered men's smalls but were instead given women's smalls!! They were so tiny I couldn't even fit into mine! Luckily Erin had some extras and we were able to sort it out so I now have the right one. At home I did some easy 40 minute runs at home and a 60 minute run along the river with my dad along side on his bike with my puppy. While at home I also started stocking up on the necessities for race day - a ton of GUs, a running pack, and (finally) a watch. I decorated my jersey for race day with iron-on letters for my name and puff painted "Fighting cancer one mile at a time!"

Alaska send-off breakfast at Shoreline Cafe.

Tom, you look photoshopped!

Haha, Sarah in our teeny tiny jerseys!

I drove back to Santa Barbara Monday night and then headed almost immediately to our Seattle Team Send-Off Party. One of our teammates, Denise, welsomed us into her beautiful home and we had a delicious potluck Mexican feast! We got our goodie bags filled with things for race day and played a Seattle/marathon trivia game with some awesome prizes. It was definitely a fun way to close out the season with amazing coaches, mentors, and participants : )

Chowing down on some amazing homeade tacos!

Trying to explain the "wave" start used by the Seattle Marathon - I won the trivia question!

Tuesday night was our last track practice. It was sort of bittersweet. Coach Neal gave us an easy workout: 3 warm-up laps then 4 laps of Swedish relays with the whole team! It was fun to sprint down the whole line of my teammates as they cheered each other on, everybody keeping pace together regardless of each individuals usual speed. I'm really gonna miss the trainings and, especially, the team!!

Coach Neal leading the Team!!

Finally, I have some exciting fundraising news!! Thanks to a couple last minute donations and from my Nite Moves funds, I have reached my goal of $3,900!!! I have to confess I had doubts during the last 6 months that I would reach this goal, and I never could've done it without the immense generosity of so many people. To all those who supported me in this challenging endeavor by donating to the cause of fighting blood cancers or even just by offering me words of encouragement, THANK YOU!! And while I'm on the subject of thanks, I would also like to express my gratitude to my incredible coaches Neal, Nicole, Tek, and Heather, my wonderful mentors Kaylan and Peter, the fabulous Erin who was in charge of it all, and finally my incredible teammates who inspired me everyday. I couldn't have done it without you all.

So tomorrow I'm off to Seattle. I'm filled with a mix of excitement, anxiety, and nerves. I know I'm physically prepared so from here on out it's all in my head, a mental game. I can't believe it's finally here! I'll try and post from Seattle before my race if things aren't too hectic. For now I'll leave you with a quote that I'm focusing on til I cross that finish line:

"In running, it doesn't matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say, 'I have finished.' There is a lot of satisfaction in that."

Wish me luck! 26.2 or BUST!!!

June 6, 2009


Well I can now officially say: 20 miles, DONE!!! What an amazing, accomplished feeling... I honestly feel like I'm finally ready for my race! The morning started out with a light drizzling that soon burned off to become one of the most beautiful days we've had in a while here in S.B. Coach Neal explained the course to us - starting at La Mesa Park we ran to the preserve, did the loop, headed down that awful steep hill to Hendry's and then back up to La Mesa.
I'm the white speck, dragging my ass up that awful hill!
From there we headed to Shoreline and down to Leadbetter, across to East Beach, into Montecito toward the Biltmore, and finally to the turnaround point at Crane School. Initially Neal told us when we got back to La Mesa we'd be a mile short and would have to go beyond the park for a half mile and back to complete the 20 miles. The run started out easy enough and I forced myself to start out slow. Halfway through the preserve loop, however, the back tendon of my knee began to feel pretty tight. Considering that it's not an easy part of the leg to stretch, it was difficult to do much about it. It continued to feel tight for the whole run actually and eventually forced other parts of my leg to compensate so those soon became sore. I was in a great mental state for this run though - I knew from the start that I could and would finish it - nothing was going to stop me, let alone a sore knee! Ironically, my knee kept me running at several points because I quickly found that walking was much harder and more painful than running. In fact I only walked up a couple hills and for one minute after mile 19, again going up a steady incline. The weather got quite warm as our run went on, but thankfully there was a steady breeze that made it somewhat more bearable.

Just a quick, fun anecdote from the run: as we got into Montecito we saw a weenie dog run into the street. We kept going, but as we looked back we saw that she was clearly not aware of cars and there was no owner to be seen, so we ran back and called the number on the tag. It turned out to be for an animal hospital, so not knowing where the cute little thing belonged we gave her to Neal and Heather as they headed to Crane School in their car to try and figure out what to do. Not 5 minutes later an Escalade pulls up to Tom and I and asks if we saw his dog, saying that he just saw someone driving away with her! We reassured him that she was safe and could find her at the School and we only picked her up because she was running in the street. Dog and owner were reunited and he thanked us as he drove back with her. What a sweet little dog though -anyone who knows me knows I'm obsessed with weenie dogs - so this was a treat for me!

We finished in 4.5 hours and ran about a 12 minute mile pace. I had to stop a bit longer at the SAG stops to stretch out and roll my knee/leg so that added on some extra time, but I'm still happy with our final time.
Ugh, so painful!
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
It must be said, however, that without the team today, I would never have been able to do this! I have to give huge thanks to Tom, who slowed his pace to run with me for most of the 20 miles. Not only does it make a world of a difference just to have someone to run with, but Tom always keeps me interested and distracted with tales from his fascinating life and great running advice. He also shared his Gu with me, since I was ill-prepared and had none. So thank you! Also I want to thank Coach Neal, Tek, and Heather and Erin, too, for staying out there for 5 hours and running with us, motivating us, and keeping us all going! Today I really learned the meaning of the Team and am ever so grateful.

Stretching out post-run.

My body aches like never before, but I'm icing frequently and popping pain meds so hopefully I won't be hobbling too badly tomorrow. At this point we are basically trained and ready for our marathon (3 weeks and counting!!) so the next 2 weeks will be taper weeks with easy track workouts and short Saturday runs. I'm honestly SO EXCITED for my race and feel like it won't come soon enough. Like Coach Neal told us today, this 20 miler will most likely prove to be our greatest challenge. When we run our marathon we will be pumped with adrenaline, surrounded by tons of supporters cheering us on, running a beautiful and new course, and running with huge groups of people, some TNT and others not, so we will never be alone. All of these elements were absent today, adding some challenging elements that we won't face in the race. I also remind myself that if I can run 20 miles with a sore knee, very little could stop me from finishing my marathon! Seattle, here I come!!!!!!

June 4, 2009

Congrats San Diego!

Wow, I can't believe it's already June! Only 3 weeks til my race in Seattle...yikes! Lots of exciting news and updates though. First I want to give a shout out and huge CONGRATULATIONS to all my teammates who finished the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon last weekend! Their pictures and stories are all incredibly inspiring - I sort of wish I had picked that race now! Tuesday night a bunch of them came to track hobbling to show off their medals and share their stories. The biggest advice I got was to run with someone and to rely on TNT runners and staff for motivation because they are there to support you and get you to that finish line. After seeing and hearing my teammates I'm now more than ever excited for my race. For the first time I feel like, although it will undoubtedly be challenging, I'll totally be able to finish my race. Here are some great pics from the SD marathon, courtesy of Tom Wells and Peter Crawford : )
The infamous "running Elvises" of the SD Rock 'n' Roll Marathon!

Such a great face!

Ready to cross that finish line!

Backtracking a bit, last Tuesday was the last track practice for San Diego. Coach Neal had us do Swedish relays again - 4 800m (2 laps). Although they are a bit harder, I actually kind of like speed workouts because they're such a change of pace (literally) from my usual running. At the end of practice we took a team pic and wished all the San Diego runners luck!

Swedish relays!Single file!!I'm going to miss these guys!

Last Saturday May 30th was our final taper training before our 20 miler. Our team is so much smaller now that San Diego is gone, and it felt a little lonely on the course : ( We started out at Goleta Beach and headed out along the Obern Trail. The first exciting surprise was NO KNEE PAIN!! I iced like crazy the week before and took Ibuprofen regularly and it worked! I ran with Tom for the first and last part of the run, which always makes for good, distracting conversation. Although the route is nice and flat, it's also pretty straight and at times can be a little mentally challenging. We got in 8 miles though and then relaxed the rest of the day!

Sarah and I switched our cross-training from Sunday to Monday and decided to hit the gym for the first time in a long time for both of us. It was kind of fun trying to figure out all the different machines and it felt good to be doing something other than cardio. I only wish I had started earlier in the season! Not surprisingly, however, I'm still sore.

This past Tuesday at track we did another timed 5k like earlier in the season. This brings me to a funny story : ) I was feeling pretty fresh and inspired by the San Diego finishers so I just started out booking it! Tom caught up with me and helped me maintain that speed, but he hadn't been here for the first one so we were relying on my memory to know when the turnaround point was. I remembered from last time that it was a big rock on the left past the pier...so when we passed the pier and saw a big rock, we turned around. Well at that point we were at about 8 minutes...which seemed faster than it should've. We didn't think much of it though and started our run back, passing our other teammates who seemed quite surprised to see us heading back already. When we finished we saw that our time was 18:08. Although this made no sense considering our pace and my previous time of 27 minutes (no way could I have knocked off 9 minutes), we didn't think about it much, until some of our teammates finished a bit later and informed us that we had turned at the wrong rock! So we had basically cut off .6 of a mile, but I rationalize this mistake by focusing on our pace, which was between 7:30 and 8 minutes per mile, which still would've cut 3 minutes off my time and is a huge improvement! I totally should've known that my memory was unreliable.

BIG NEWS in fundraising! I recently reached $3,400!! This means I'm 87% of the way to my goal of $3,900. Special thanks for helping me reach this point go to:

Danny & Sally Michael
Brian & Kathleen Pfanner
Gabi Kuftinec
Phil Pantages

I also received another anonymous donation...for $400!! So thank you to this special person, too ; ) With a few more donations coming in and the money I'm getting from volunteering at Nite Moves, I should get pretty close to my goal by final finds. Speaking of, my deadline for final funds is 9am on Friday June 12th, which means all donations must be in by this time!!! Of course donations will still be accepted after this date and posted to my website until mid-July, but I would really love to get as close as possible by final funds! Please visit my fundraising website (see the link on the right) and consider making a donation - every little bit helps and goes toward a really amazing cause!

This Saturday is our last long training, the big 20 miler!! Basically if you can do 20, you can do the 26.2 miles in a marathon. After 6 months of training, this marks the peak of my running before race day so I'm pretty excited to get this under my feet because then I'll finally be ready for the marathon! Wish me luck, I'll let you know how it goes!

May 25, 2009

A Pain In The...Knees

Friday was the San Diego Send-Off Party at Pepe's Restaurant in Goleta. It was great to see everyone outside of training (I didn't recognize some people sans pony tail and spandex!) and the excitement in the air was just about tangible! The coaches, captains, and mentors all spoke, giving us practical as well as inspirational advice. After hearing all of that, I realized that as glad as I am to have an extra month of training, I'm a little jealous that they're done with training, their race is so soon, and there's so many of them doing it! Good luck San Diego and GO TEAM!!
Erin and her famous purple wig!
Coach Neal offering his words of wisdom, giant margarita in hand : )
Coach Tek brandishing the TNT "wand of wisdom".

This week was a taper week after our super long runs last weekend so that meant just 60 minutes for San Diego and 90 minutes for Seattle/Alaska! This would have been a breeze except for my knees (didn't mean to rhyme!). Like I mentioned before, my joints, especially my knees, were really hurting me last weekend - most likely because my shoes had worn out. So anyway, they became inflammed and have remained so since, despite lots of icing and meds : ( I bought new shoes (the updated version of my old ones) on Thursday and my goodness, what a difference! They are sooo much more cushioned! I guess it took a comparison to realize what I was running on. The run Saturday still hurt though. The new shoes definitely helped, but they obviously couldn't do anything about the inflammation that was already there. After the run Coach Nicole helped me get a good, deep stretch which helped quite a bit. Slowly but surely they're starting to feel better! And on the brightside, at least it's not a serious injury! Oh, and we were also joined by the newest team for the fall season - running just 30 minutes! Hah!!