Tag Archives: Running

My 2016 Chicago Marathon

17 Oct

On Sunday, Oct 9, 2016, we woke up to a beautiful 50-65 degree, sunny, happy day. Perfect for running 26.2 miles!


After going to sleep at 10pm and falling asleep around 11:00pm, I woke up at 4:30am. My alarm was set for 5:30am, so I was pretty happy that I slept for as long as I did! After the 8pm-12:00am slumber/freakout of the 2013 NYC Marathon, I was thrilled with my 5 and 1/2 hours of sleep!


First things first: Facebook – check. Priorities – check.

Over the next hour, I ate my Chocolate Mint Clif Bar, drank some water, got dressed, made sure I had train money, and took pictures with my sister, who was doing all of the same things in the next room.


At 5:40am, my dad drove us over to O’hare, where we caught the Blue Line to Monroe St, just down the road from the starting line. Heather and I just followed the crowd. It isn’t hard to spot the runners – weird, unmatching throwaway clothes, munching on bagels, an excited and nervous look in their eyes, running strides down the sidewalk, etc.

(At this point, I realized that I deliberately didn’t bring my phone, because I can’t call anyone anyway….I totally forgot that I would want to take pictures ALL day! Thankfully, my sister had hers.)


We ducked into a coffee shop so Heather could get coffee and so that I could use the bathroom. I forgot to get Gatorade for my fuel belt, so I was on the hunt for some. Up until that morning, I couldn’t decide if I should use my belt. I run better without it, but I was always forced to use it in my long runs, because unfortunately, there are no encouraging volunteers handing me cups of Gatorade and water during those 20-milers! I came across a CVS and a Walgreens, but neither of them were open until 8am! What a managerial mess-up on their part. In a race of 45,000 runners, I know I wasn’t the only one in need of something on race morning!


Then we made our way to Grant Park. It was ease-to-the-pease to get into the starting village. We just walked through the gate and they made sure that we were weapon-free. We weren’t checking any bags, so it was all quick and easy.


*Getting to the start:

                        Chicago – much easier.

                        NYC – more long and difficult, but scenic and memorable. (aka: worth the hassle)

Next up- portapotty’s. Yes, I know that I was just in the coffee shop bathroom, but I am a nervous race-starter, and I wanted to make sure that I was as empty as possible before I embarked on a 4-hour journey! However, there were about 30 people in every. single. line! There were about 50 portapotty’s all in rows and every single one had a line like that.

We waited in a line for a long while, but then we realized that our corrals were going to be closing soon, so we hugged and parted ways. Heather went back to her corral. I waited in line a few more minutes, but then I heard that there was Gatorade inside the corrals, so I bailed on the portapotty in favor of hunting down some Gatorade for my fuel bottle. I crossed through my F corral, and what did I see on the other side? A glimpse of heaven, that’s what. Another line of 50 portapotty’s and not one person in line at any of them!!! I felt like I needed to grab the microphone right out of the announcer’s hand and announce to the hundreds in line that I found the mother load! I was never so happy to be in a portapotty.

Anyway, I never found the Gatorade, so I went ahead and ditched the one bottle, just to make my run a little easier. My other bottle was about half-full with water, which was just enough to take my GU with. I figured that I would just use the aide stations for the rest of my hydration needs. I took my first GU while I waited in the corral. Our wave started right at 8:00 and I crossed the starting line at 8:02.

*Starting line

Chicago – easy, comfortable, short wait,  but anti-climactic. We were waiting, and then we were running.

NYC  – long, windy, and cold wait. But they start you off with the National Anthem, cannons, and “New York, New York!”

We crossed the starting line and went to work! I started my Garmin, but I had heard that GPS watches don’t work so well in the city, so I got a 3:50 pace tattoo from the Nike desk at the Expo.


Speaking of….


Chicago – Great! 

NYC – Also great. Neither race wins this category. They were equally fun and exciting.

Back to the race! I was a mess for the first mile. My belt was bouncing all over the place, which caused my shirt to come up and my pants to fall down. My bib started to come off and I had to re-adjust it. My Garmin said that I was running a 5:47 mile, so I knew it was already flipping out. I was super stressed about my pace. The last thing I wanted to do was bonk in the later miles, so I didn’t want to go to fast. But I also didn’t want to go too slow, as I was working toward a sub-4:00 goal. But I was pleasantly surprised when I passed the first mile at 8:36 – 10 seconds faster than my pace tattoo said. (My Garmin said 7:37 and was .3 mi ahead of the course.)


There weren’t many spectators in that first mile, but that was good, since I looked like I was running through a bee farm with all my flailing about. Thankfully, I got my belt figured out and my clothes in order. I didn’t feel like I was having my best racing experience, but I was going at the pace I wanted and felt OK. Each mile, I was cutting another 10 seconds off the pacing bracelet, so I was set up to finish in the 3:40’s!

Those early miles clicked off quickly. I was just taking in the sights and looking at spectator signs.A lot of the best signs were the same classic ones that I saw in NYC. But there were also more currently relevant ones, like “If Trump can run, so can you!” and another about running fast because grabby Trump is chasing you. Also, with all the scary clown drama that has been in the news, I saw a couple of signs with a picture of a scary clown saying, “Run faster! He’s behind you!”

* Spectators

Chicago – Lots of spectators lining the almost the entire course and lots of great signs. There were some spectators that high-fived me or gave me a “Way to go, Val!” But for the most part, people cheered for their own people.

NYC – So many spectators, and so encouraging. I was personally cheered on for 4 straight hours! NYC wins this one, and specifically those folks in Brooklyn!

A couple of times, I was surprised when another mile marker showed up. Very pleasantly surprised!  I took my second gel about 4o minutes in. In between gels, I would grab Gatorade at the aide stations. The volunteers were spectacular!

Probably my favorite part of the course was in mile 5-6, where we ran through Lincoln Park. It was just beautiful and different than the skyscrapers and city-look of the rest of the course. I wore my hat, which was great for shielding the sun, but no good for spotting landmarks and beautiful architecture! I totally missed Wrigley Field at mile 7!

At this point in the race, I was not thrilled to feel just a touch of fatigue in my legs. It was way too early for that! I had to turn on my music at that point. In NYC, I didn’t need music until mile 14, so I was a little nervous that I was already in need of racing help! I took my third gel around 1:10:00 and continued to get water or Gatorade about every other station.


Mile 9-10 was a straight shot of beautiful brownstones. I was able to get lost in my thoughts, wondering what it would be like to live in one.

In order to get my mind off of myself, I started to pray. I prayed for everyone! I prayed for people who I knew, then I started to pray for other runners around me. Then, if I saw on their shirt that they were running in honor of someone, I would pray for that person. At one point, I saw that a guy was running in honor of…Biggie? Then I saw that he was running for PAWS, so I found myself praying for a dog. I also started quoting scripture that encouraged me to feel strong, able, and courageous.

Before the halfway point, my legs were feeling pretty fatigued, and I almost started panicking! I figured that my legs were using the same muscles over and over on this flat, flat course, and they weren’t get their usual breaks that uphills and downhills provide. I had read somewhere that speeding up can change your stride enough to help them get that change-up that they need. So I sped up, did some high-knees and butt-kicks, and it actually helped! It was almost as satisfying as walking. Almost.


Once I passed the half-way mark and knew that it was all downhill, so to speak, from there, I calmed down a little. The sights and sounds didn’t do much for me, which was unfortunate. We ran through Greek Town, Chinatown, and Little Italy, and all I could think was how annoying it was that I wouldn’t be able to try all the yummy food that I’m sure was in there!



* The Course

             Chicago – A great tour of the city! It is pancake flat, which can be good or bad. I loved seeing all the different neighborhoods, skyscrapers, and landmarks.

              NYC – I LOVE love love how the race is split up into the five boroughs. It breaks up the race nicely. There is more variety to the course, with the bridges and boroughs, different cultures, and famous landmarks. Nothing beats running in Central Park. The course is harder with more hills, but I think I prefer it?

I love this very Chicago-y photo of the Willis Tower behind me. (Not enough to purchase it, obvs. I know, so tacky.)


Even though I wasn’t feeling so confident and strong, the first 18 miles really did pass rather quickly. I was still holding strong on my pace. At this point, I was two minutes ahead of 2:37:54 that I was supposed to be at 18 miles! I was happy about that, but still intimidated. That’s a hard point in the race, because you ONLY have 8 miles to go. But hello, that’s 8 miles!

I knew I was starting to slow down, but I didn’t want to be discouraged, so I never looked at my pace again on my Garmin. After that first freak-out, it seemed to be calculating my pace correctly, but I still didn’t want to know. I did, however, still watch my time, and compared it to the pace tattoo. At mile 19, I was no longer two minutes ahead, and at mile 20, I was just even with it at 2:55:27! That was discouraging, but I knew that I could slow down and still come in under 4:00:00, so I dug in and got to work.



I’ve heard that the first 20 miles is the first half of a marathon and the last 6.2 is the second half. I definitely felt like that in this race. Those mile markers weren’t coming up so quickly anymore! Since I wasn’t feeling great at the beginning of the race, I was terrified that I would experience the all-of-a-sudden bonk that so many running experience at this point in the race. Thankfully, while I was getting more and more exhausted, I never felt one spectacular wave of exhaustion.

Around mile 21, I decided to walk through the water stations. I’ve never wanted to do that because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to start running again. But it was actually a great break and just what I needed! I had a bit of a second wind then and was thrilled when the 22 mile marker popped up sooner than I thought.

It didn’t stop me from firing imaginary daggers at the girl who bounded past me in her tank top that read, “My 1st marathon!”

At mile 23, there were a lot of encouraging signs reminding us that all we had left was a 5K. We’ve run a million of those! It was another weird battle of, “It’s JUST a 5k…..but it’s STILL a 5K!” I walked through the next aide station and was so appreciative of the volunteer at the end of that station who said, “C’mon Val. You got this. You’re almost there!” He gave me just enough energy to get going.

I hope those volunteers know how effective and awesome they are, because I know we exhausted runners don’t thank them enough at the time! I think I may have given that man a small and exhausted smile, but his encouragement meant the world to me. Now that I’m rested and recovered, I would love to go back and thank him and let him know what a big part of the race he was for me, but at the time, all I had in me was that small smile.

* Volunteers/Event Staff

              Chicago – SO so helpful, efficient, and encouraging. And everywhere! It was always easy to find someone to answer questions.

NYC – Word for word, the same.

They had a huge photo station between 23 and 24, so I made sure that I “dabbed” for my kids. They would crack up if they saw me doing that during the race. Unfortunately, it never showed up on my marathonfoto page. Probably because my face was hidden. This was the only one that popped up from that section.img_3099

My kids would probably prefer this one anyway…


Then I saw mile 25! It didn’t give me a huge burst of excitement or energy. To be honest, it was more like, “Good. One mile until this stupid thing is over!” But at that point, I’ll take any kind of motivation that I can get! I knew that unless I decided to crawl to the side of the road and suck my thumb in a fetal position (which I was considering), I was good to go on a sub-4 marathon, so it was hard to make myself run!

Finally, I saw the 800m sign! Less than a kilometer to go! I started working in track laps at that point. We turned right and I saw the hill that I had heard about. It’s minimal, but Illannoying! (Shout out to you, Jen!)  It feels like Everest. At the top of the slight incline was the 400m sign! One lap around the track.

Then 300m!

200m – half a lap!


The Finish Line!

I remembered to put my hands in the air for the camera instead of stopping my watch. Then, it was over. As I heard so many shouts of, “You guys are awesome. You did it! Congrats! You killed it,” from the volunteers,  I started tearing up. Nothing crazy, just enough to get a second look from the nearby nurse.




Chicago: Chicago wins this one, hands down. It was shorter, more swag, and warmer. Our minds were taken off of the exhaustion as they handed us, one at a time during the walk, our medals, hydration, snacks, heat sheets, ice packs, and took our pics.

NYC: Kind of a long, cold, and lonely walk after the excitement of completing the marathon.

My favorite pic!


After I exited the finisher’s village, I had to walk about a mile to the Runner’s Reunite area! If I had a phone on me, I could’ve just called my family and set up a meeting spot, but we had prearranged to meet up by the “P”. If I had known it was that far of a walk for both my family and I ,  we would’ve set up a better rendezvous point!

Anyway, once I got there, I plopped down on the grass for a much-needed rest! I drank my Recovery formula and finished my apple (which was off the chain, btw). My mom and Jen found me about 15 min later and had lots of celebratory hugs and stories!



We decided to duck into Dunkin Donuts for a coffee, donut, and to make a plan for cheering on my sister!




They left me alone with a phone while they went to find a bathroom…

My sister has her own awesome finishers story! She worked hard for 6.5 hours! I called her when she was mile 17 or so. She was verbalizing all the negative thoughts that I had at the same point in the race. I told her that she was doing awesome, that her thoughts were totally normal, and that she could push through it one step at a tijme. At one point, her entire family (including my dad) jumped on the course and ran with her! I wish we had a picture of that.

It was a terrific reunion when she exited the park. Jen and I were waiting for her and got the first hugs.





Heather had done some fantastic research and realized that there was a Magnolia Bakery just a few blocks from us!!! We went there after the NYC marathon, so we now officially have a tradition! I  thought marathoning was a test of discipline and determination….it’s nothing compared to saving two of these cupcakes for Josh.


The train was just a block away, so we (slowly, thanks to Heather and I) made our way to the station.


When we got back to the hotel, mom and dad went out to pick up some more deep-dish pizza (for the second night in a row), and Heather, Jen, my nieces, and I all headed to the hot tub.

Against our better judgement, I might add. It felt AMAZING on our tired muscles and joints, but my body was just saying, “Oh, ok. We’re doing heat after intense activity? I’ll go ahead and flood all that lactic acid and other inflammatory juices into every inch of your body. You’ll pay for it for the next three days, but go ahead and enjoy these 30 minutes of comfort.” And I did.


That was the first time I took off my sneakers, and I realized that I had a nice blood blister on my toe. Thankfully, I never felt it during or after the race. On the same toe on the other foot, I’m pretty sure that I’ll lose the toenail. Again, it never bothered me during the race, so I don’t mind!



After talking about blood blisters and toenails, we chowed on some pizza. No holding bakc this time!


Then, just like that, it was time for Jen and I to pack up and leave! It was 7:00pm, and we had a 5 hour drive ahead of us, so we popped in the Hamilton soundtrack and hit the road! I kept telling Jen that I’ll never run another marathon, but then I’d start talking about “next time.” What in the world!?

It was such a fantastic weekend!

Chicago does not disappoint in any way!




We’re Best Together!

18 Jul

My sister and her family arrived in town just over a week ago! We had such a blast together. Her girls are so adorable! They are hug monsters and say the funniest things. We kept telling my sister to write them all down, because you think you’ll remember your daughter saying, “Mom, I have to whine. Whining is my thing!”, but you forget!

Anyway, the cousins all loved being together 24/7. Here they all are, piled together on a tablecloth, eating Klondike bars.IMG_1594

The day after they arrived, my sister and I ran the Belmar 5-miler together. It was down by the ocean, and such a great course! Unfortunately, the weather was crummy. Or rather, it was crummy for my tropical blood. Everyone there LOVED the cool air and light sprinkle. I warmed up once we started running, but the wait was brutal for me!



Our family was waiting for us at the finish line! We thought that we’d see them sooner on the course and when we didn’t, my sister yelled, “Where are my people!?” But they were there, cheering us on to the finish, with towels and hugs for us!



This sign was waiting for us in the elevator when we got home. Oh…yeah….my parents house has an elevator.


The girl cousins all got together and had a tea party with Grandma’s fine china! My mom is Canadian, and they love their china up in the Great White North, so she has some of her own, some of my grandma’s, and some from other friends and family. It doesn’t get used much, so a girls tea party was long overdue!


A couple of nights in, Grandpa huddled all of the kids together for a team meeting. He was eloquent and loving, but I could’ve said it in 4 words—Stop breaking my stuff!


We discovered that the beach was the perfect place to take all of the kids. It’s constantly changing, which keeps them engaged. There is no clean-up (if you don’t count the sand in the car, their clothes, the shower, their room, their hair, their shoes…need I go on?). The best part— It burns all kinds of energy!


We went a bunch of times, but the first time was in the evening. Actually, it was at 8pm! I still can’t get over it, how great the light night’s are.



The twin-cousins loved playing on the shoreline together.


I was chilly, of course. It was 75 degrees, but feels so cold at the ocean! The kids were playing in the water, but my toes weren’t going close to the waves!

The mansion has a great little playground in the shade of a big tree, so even when it’s sunny and hot, the playground is very pleasant! Simmy loves his personal swing.


This picture was just seconds before my little nephew discovered a wasp nest under the slide and got stung 5 times on his leg! Poor little guy!


And…to wrap up this post for now…a snapchat beauty.


That’s It!

7 Jun

School’s finished for the year! The last week of school was a little bit crazy with class parties, concerts, chapels, etc. To finish out the year, Josh, Bella, Deacon and I went up to school to cheer on some of our favorite seniors as they got their diplomas.

Bella made a beeline for her camp counselor from last summer!


I also got to see one of my friends from high school….and middle school….and elementary! In fact, he was my first big crush and his name is Josh, so I’ve writing Val + Josh in my notebooks for a long time now!

I told my Josh to get in the picture so I could have a pic of my first crush and my last crush!


Now that school is out, all my focus is going to packing. Or, it’s supposed to be on packing, but I’ve just started official Chicago marathon training so I find myself thinking about that, pinning articles, and planning routes a lot!

This was after run #1 – 3 miles at 8:09 pace


I’m so excited to train in the US!!!



25 Apr

Not only did I get into the Chicago Marathon, but my sister did too!



I’m so excited, with a trickle of why-am-I-doing-this-to-myself-again?-ness. My sister is so excited, with a trickle of mary-and-joseph-what-did-get-myself-into?-ness.


Either way, we’re planning to train in our respective countries and cities, and meet up together for an unforgettable Chicago weekend in October.


I signed up for the Chicago lottery for a few reasons:

  1. I’ve already done one World Major, why not make it two? Maybe someday I’ll get to scoot over to Tokyo, London, Berlin, and of course, Boston, for the other four majors.
  2. I have to take my mind off of not coaching volleyball this season. They are going to be great and I’m super annoyed that I don’t get to tag along for their ride.
  3. I run so I can eat. I’m going to land ‘o plenty and I’m planning to EAT. Ergo, I must run.
  4. It’s the fall! Running in the fall in the US is the bees knees. (Unfortunately, I have to start training here in the PI, and work through the summer in the US, so I’ll definitely pay my dues!
  5. Boston is on my radar!
  6. I want new sneakers?

I’m excited to have a marathon under my belt as I train for this one! Now that I know without a doubt that I can do it, I can focus on other things!  I’m still trying to decide on a training program, but for sure it will include speedwork. I’m also incorporating some strength training. Not a lot, just a lunge here and there. Maybe I’ll clench something now and then. I can’t take up too much time, because Netflix isn’t going to watch itself , I have 5 kids to transition back to the US!


I have a few goals for this marathon. One of the running women I look up to (wink, Elisa) encouraged me to have multiple goals for a marathon. Start with a goal that, barring a meteor striking the course, you will reach. Add a realistic goal or two, maybe a PR. Finally, shoot for the perfectly-lined-up stars!  It makes sense, because who wants to train for 1/3 of a year,  then feel like a failure because an expected bathroom break, or a surprise leg cramp, or an unusually hot day,  kept you from reaching that highest goal? A marathon is a huge accomplishment, and a runner should feel nothing but joy when they cross that finish line!

With New York, my goals were:

  1. Finish!
  2. 4:15
  3. Sub 4:00

I finished with 4:12:53, so I was thrilled that I came in under my second goal time!

For Chicago:

  1. Finish!
  2. PR
  3. Sub 4:00
  4. BQ (Boston Qualifier), which, for me, is 3:45 (Ugh, it’s about as hard to type as it is to run!) UPDATE: What?! I just double checked and my qualifying time is 3:40:00. ick.

Now check this out:

NYC’s course elevation:



And Chicago’s:


Oh. Baby.


I’ve Never Been So Excited to Place 3rd!

12 Apr

On Saturday, Josh and I ran the Batman v Superman Run down by the bay. The reason we signed up for it a couple of weeks ago is because we saw that the race kits included all kinds of fun stuff for our kiddos! They each ended up with a medal, a superhero shirt, or a sling bag.

Anyway, since we only registered 2 weeks ago, Josh hadn’t trained at all before that, and I just started training for a possible 21k in June, so we weren’t sure how we’d do. On top of that, my hip had just started hurting a couple of days before the race. I didn’t do any running in the two days before the race, and I rehabbed like a mad woman! Foam rolling, icing, stretching, strengthening, compression wrap, Ibuprofen, and rest..Forget RICE, I’m all about FRISSCWIR!

Even with all of that, it’s hard to not set a racing goal! So while I kept hush-hush about it, I wanted to come in under 50 minutes for the 10k. (8:02/mile) It was a lofty goal, as I had just started aggressive training and I had the beginnings of an injury looming over me! But I also knew that race-day adrenaline always helps me go a bit faster!

So Josh and I woke up at 3:30am and started our traditional race-day activities. I ate a bowl of oatmeal and Josh downed a handful of expired Advocare vitamins. We left a little later than we planned and had to wait a long time to get into the parking lot. The assembly time was 4:30, but we arrived in the corral at 4:50am, just in time to do a little dynamic stretching, but too late to get to the front of the line.

Then we were off! It was very crowded at first. I didn’t look at my Garmin, but I’m pretty sure it was much slower than I wanted to go, but I didn’t stress about it, because every last racing strategy says, “Don’t go out too fast! It’ll bite you in your exhausted butt at the end of the race!” (I came up with the second part).

However, I didn’t look at my Garmin until 11 minutes in, and I was in the 7:30’s! I thought, “Oh shoot, I’m burning through all that adrenaline in the first third of the race!” I made myself slow down just a bit,  but then that I noticed that there weren’t so many people in front of me, AND there was a race marshal riding a bike next to me. At that point, we were heading to a U-turn, so I watched to see how many girls were in front of me as we passed each other. The first blazed by with a bunch of the speedy guys. The other was just in front me a ways. Josh and I passed each other at that same turnaround, so we high-fived each other.

Mile 1: 7:58

Mile 2: 7:47

Sometime in the second mile, I caught up to the second girl, and we stayed together the rest of the race! I would’ve talked to her a little, except that I was only capable of grunts and animal noises by then, and I wasn’t even half-way!

Mile 3: 8:00

There were water stations along the way, but I don’t usually drink during shorter races, so I kept going. The girl racing with me walked through two water stations. Both times, I thought, “Sweet, I’ll gain on her a little.” But no, after her little rest, she’d sprint up to me and settle into the same pace. It really is a good idea to walk through water stations, and I should try it sometime.

Mile 4: 8:03

The course was different than what they had printed up for us, so I really never had a clue what was next. A couple of times, I almost took a wrong turn and the marshal had to correct me! We both slowed down in the 5th mile, but continued to stay together.

Mile 5: 8:17

I got a bit of a second wind once I knew we were close to the finish line. However, at this point, we were on the same stretch as the 5k and 3k races, so the road was much busier and there were a lot of walkers! At one point, we were surging ahead, but the other girl darted around some walkers, but I got stuck behind them for a few precious seconds.

Mile 6: 8:04

As we approached the finish line, which I swear was moving away from me, we both powered up, but she had more gas in the tank than I did! I think she finished about 10 seconds ahead of me. But I was just so excited to have placed, and to have beat my goal, and to be pain-free, and most of all, I was so excited to be finished! I even got a high-five from Superman as I came through the finish line. When I saw the other girl turn around, I waved at her and gave her a thumbs-up. She ran over to me and shook my hand and said something to me, but I still had my music on so I didn’t catch what she said. I told her, “You kept me going!!!!” It was so true! Everyone is capable of more than they think, and it usually comes out if someone else is pushing you.

.2 mile: 7:50

Finish time: 49:10

Josh came in a little ways after me, so I cheered him on through the finish line. We usually leave right away after a race, but since I had placed 3rd, we needed to stick around for the recognition. It would have been fine to wait around, but we needed to get home and get the kids to Saturday morning basketball! Thankfully, we only had to wait an hour, and they did our division first, so I got called up right away. It was really fun! The only thing that would have made it better would be a podium….maybe a national anthem while my flag was raised….perhaps a wreath of grape-leaves placed on my head? Ok, I guess I need to get a titch faster before I can hope for those things…


I didn’t realize that I would get an entire bag of prizes! In addition to a Batman cake, I got P1500 ($32) in gift certificates! I also got a superhero calendar, a superhero mug, a superhero necklace, another sling bag, and another Batman shirt!

The first thing I did when I got home? Looked to see when the next race would be!


Mackenzie’s 1st 5K!

12 Jul

Mackenzie has asked me few times in the last year if she can run a race with me. Once school got out, I figured that the summer would offer a good training schedule, and signed us up for a race. My criteria for races here are 1) must have online registration and 2) is ideally in BGC (a good running area in the city). Today’s race had both, plus they gave out medals for the 5k, which I figured Kenzie would like. (Who am I kidding? Hardware is fun for everyone!)

So we started training. About a minute into running, she would start negotiating shorter distances and walking breaks. I remember being like that well into my 20’s, so I guess I can’t fault her. We also did the jump training that my volleyball girls are supposed to be doing this summer, so I didn’t force too much running.

The most we ever ran was 1.5 miles, so I was interested to see how she’d do on race day!

So we all woke up at 3:30 am to make sure Kenzie and I would be at the start at 4:30. All the kids were so excited to cheer us on, which I thought was so sweet. Caleb told me that he was on my team.

Josh dropped us off at the starting line and then he went to park. Oh right. We departed from the regular running gear and went as superheros in tutus! Mackenzie’s doubled as her Captain America costume at camp last weekend. It lost a little flounce in the wash!


Mackenzie and I wandered into the corral, hit the bathroom, and just hung out until race time. We saw a group of waiters who were planning to run the 5K with trays of water glasses and coffee cups. (Apparently, it’s a tradition in France?) We actually recognized one of the waiters from our favorite restaurant!


Josh and the other kids found us in the starting area, so we got to hang out for a few minutes. Josh swung by the Circle K to get the kids frosters at 4am!


Bella and Deacon made us signs to cheer us on! Caleb made sure to wear his Captain America jammies.

I don’t usually carry my phone in races, but since this was a short one, it was no biggie to hold. Plus, it was fun to document the entire race.


Captain America ALWAYS limbers up. The race emcee pointed out our costumes. Along with the waiters, we were the only ones in costume.


All my photos along the race are kind of blurry!

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Kenzie did great! She was distracted because Josh’s shuffle kept turning off on her in the first km, so I finally just gave her mine because she was missing all the fun of the race by messing with the ipod.

We walked through the water stations, which was a good plan because it was kind of crowded. When we got to 3km, I told Mackenzie that this was the farthest that she’d ever ran! She was kind of tired by then and kept asking for walking breaks. I told her we’d only walk if we saw water stations. Fortunately for her, we had to stop for traffic twice! The thing is, she wasn’t even out of breath! It’s all in her head. I texted with Josh during the race. It was a pretty slow pace for me, so it was easy to just enjoy the course and the race excitement.

In the last 1/2 km, I started to have some….hmmmm….GI tract issues? I told Mackenzie, “Let’s just dart over to Starbucks so I can use the CR.” She said, “Can I just go ahead without you?” But I really wanted to cross the finish line together, so I sucked it up, clenched a little, and ran the last 1/2km. There was a little waterfall to run through in the last corner, so Kenz loved that.

When we turned the corner and saw Josh and the sibs, Mackenzie turn it on full-force and started sprinting! It took me by surprise, but it was fun to sprint to the end with her!

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We got our medals and immediately made a beeline for IHOP, just two blocks away. Our slow pace actually worked out perfectly, because we ended up at IHOP just as it was opening for the day. We had to laugh because here we are, a family of 7 on a fun family outing, sitting next to a group of 20-somethings, who had clearly just come from a night of partying at the club. They were still in their clubbing clothes and looking pretty tired!

Mackenzie had fun, but did not fall in love with running! Whenever people tell me I’m a runner or that I love running, I’ve always corrected them, saying that I’m definitely not a runner and I really don’t love running. I just love its effects. But I think I actually really do love it? I can’t say that when I’m in the middle of a run, I’m all rainbows and unicorns, but I do miss it if I skip a few days.

If I was on a date with running, I’d want to show it a good time.

Results or It Didn’t Happen

11 Jun

I ran my 3rd half-marathon last Sunday morning (or was it Saturday night? It’s hard to tell when you’re running in the middle of the night!) Wake-up time was at 2:15am, so everything was on auto-pilot.


We swung by and picked up another friend who was running her very first (of many now, I think) half-marathon. We zipped right out to Mall of Asia, as there is little traffic at 2:30am. Surprisingly, there were still quite a few cars out on the road! Don’t they know that “nothing good happens after 2am?”

We got to MoA around 3:10 and immediately found the port-a-potties. There were about 40 people lined up in front of two port-a-potties, so we weren’t sure that we’d make it in time for the 4am gunstart! Thankfully, an event staff member announced in Tagalog that there were many many more port-a-potties just around the corner. The only folks to leave the line were us Americans! But he was right. We found about 30 toilets without any wait in front of them.

I took my (expired) GU gel about 2:45am. It was a cherry-limeade GU Roctane leftover from my 2013 marathon, so it expired last June. I rarely throw out anything expired, and I read that expired GU’s will still work, they just might not taste quite right. Indeed. It did not taste quite right.

Finally, we lined up with 5000 other runners!


When we got to starting line, it was still very very crowded to where people were walking through the starting line. I didn’t want to start yet, so Josh and I hung back. However, it really didn’t ever thin out, so we just went for it. I spent the first km weaving through all the walkers in the dark!

When I was finally in the clear, I looked down at my Garmin and saw that I was running 8:30 min/mile, which was too fast to start out. I felt great at that pace, but that it the motto of every runner who bonks at the end. I tried to slow down a bit, but finally just said “whatever” and stuck around an 8:40 pace. This was my first race since the marathon, so I really wasn’t at all intimidated by the distance. In marathon training, you run a half marathon (or close to it) every Sunday for 3 months! I just wanted to beat my last official half-marathon time of 1:57, so even if I couldn’t carry that pace the entire way, I’d still be in good shape.

The race itself was hmmm….ok. It was flat, which was great! The only hills that we had were three overpasses that were a quick up-and-down. I loved it because flat=easy, and when it came time to climb, it felt very familiar. Plus, they were followed by a downhill, which is always nice (if your knees can handle it).


It was dark for most of the race, so there was very little scenery to distract. The street lights were completely blacked out in front of the US Embassy. I don’t know if that is standard, or just obnoxious special for this race. The sun rose around 5:30, just in time for my last 5km!

Much of the course ran along side a river that is more sewer than river. It’s challenging to fill the lungs with life-giving oxygen when said oxygen smells like stale urine!

I was able to maintain my pace for the entire race! I chose not to use my hydration belt this time, and instead grab water at the water stations. I was spoiled at the NYC, because they had volunteers handing us water on the run. In this race, I had to worm through a bunch of runners who were standing or walking through the water stops. Once I grabbed a cup, I managed to get half a sip in my mouth, and the rest of it splashed up in my face! The water stops slowed me down just a touch, so I only got water 3 times and Gatorade once. I took my two gels at 40 minutes in and 1:10 in.

They stopped us for traffic one time in the last 2km. I was annoyed because I just wanted to be done! I stopped my Garmin (of course), but my chip time will show the 30-40 sec stop. While it’s nice to be forced to rest, it’s hard to get back going!

When I crossed the finish line, I stopped my Garmin and it said 1:53:07!  It was a 4 minute PR! I was pretty excited. They put a medal around my neck and then an event staffer came up to me and asked me to verify my first name. I thought that was odd, but it was squashed by the much heavier thought of, “Ahhhh, PR’s feel gooooood. Being done feels goooood.”

I knew Josh and my friend wouldn’t be along for a while because I had seen them twice during the course, so I knew about where they were. I walked along the course to an opening and stretched.

Josh was the one who made us sign up for this race! He wants to stay in shape and having a race looming over your head is a good motivator. However, he pulled a groin muscle in a softball game 1 month into training. That kept him out a couple weeks. Then he got a parasite that knocked him out as well. Finally, the week before the race, he put in a 2-mile run and a 3-mile run. That’s it. I didn’t think he’d be able to run the half, but he went for it! I’m proud of him, and thoroughly disgusted that he can not train and go out and run 13.1 miles!

During the race, he saw me while we were on opposite sides of the road. I was at about 11 miles and he was at about 8. He jumped up on the median and leaned over to give me a high five. It was just the push I needed!


It was fun to cheer Josh and my friend on to the finish line! Once we all got our finishers bags and t-shirts, we headed back to the car. I asked them if they had their names verified when they crossed the line and they said, “no.” Then my friend said, “Maybe you were a top finisher?” I thought that would be fun, but weird, as my time was great for the average runner, but not so much in the running community. However, the podium prize was a vest. So…I’m guessing the hard-core runners will save their early-morning races for something a little more worth their while.

Sure enough, when the results came out, my time was the 3rd best among women!



My name is no where to be found. Like, anywhere. Even with the traffic stop, my time was faster than ol’ Helen’s.


There are 113 pages of results, and I’m not there. Josh and my friend are both there. I’ve vanished into thin, urine-smelling, air!

I would question if it was all a dream, but my oh-so-sore legs remind me that I definitely pushed myself to that finish line!

This was on the results page:

For results with missing or incorrect details kindly send an email to the race organizer at feedback@runrio.com with the subject heading 2015 Run United 2 Race Results. ….so I wrote to them, asking for clarification. Not surprisingly, they haven’t emailed me back. My theory is that Helen is friends with someone on the inside who was more than happy to “misplace” my results, bumping her to 3rd place. Wear your orange vest proudly, Helen.

I feel like Unilab should make it up to me. Like…..sponsor me in the next NYC Marathon? Or any World Major would do. Ok, at least give me free entry into the next Unilab Run United race here! I paid, I ran, and you lost me!




PPD #?

23 Jan

It’s been so wonderfully lovely out recently. Low 70’s in the morning and mid-80’s in the heat of the day. Perfect, IMO. I’m trying to soak it all up because it’s a-comin – that unwelcome witch called hot season. It’s the time of year when I’m way more faithful about icing after a workout because that’s the only way I can enjoy my morning coffee!

But right now? Right now, I’m hugging a hot cup of coffee and wearing a hoodie. (Yes, I realize that it is still 75*, but that’s COLD for us tropics-dwellers!) My knees won’t get their ice pamper, but….this is where I would use #yolo, right?


Simeon has been all about his piggies recently. It’s always impressive to me how babies can comfortably kick their feet up to their mouths!


It’s passport time for Sim! It’s an organized, but still annoying, process to get our babies passports here. After loads of paperwork, which Josh graciously takes care of, we all have to make the trip out to the embassy. There, we have to take oaths and answer…hmmmm…interesting questions. For example, when we went to get Caleb’s passport, they asked us, “Where was the baby conceived?” Josh and I looked at each other and forced ourselves to not reply with something snarky like, “Well, it was around the time of that trip to Hong Kong, so it could very well be somewhere above the Pacific Ocean…” It’s probably not even required information. The embassy employee just likes to add a little spice to their monotonous day!


Our friend gave us a big ol’ package of construction paper, so every day after school, the house gets showered with the confetti of crafts from the kids! Can I just say that watching hours of TV requires zero clean-up???


This isn’t a great shot, but we were all enjoying Simeon’s huge giggles when Bella was tickling his tummy the other day. I think he really loves when they all get home from school and play with him. It keeps him from having any kind of napping schedule, but as long as he’s getting chunkier every day and sleeping all night, I’m A-OK with no schedule.


The kids just celebrated their 100th day of school. This is a big deal in kindergarten! They each make something out of 100 pieces of anything. Deacon, of course, made a 100-Lego creation.

The other exciting part of this photo is the absence of Deacon’s front  right tooth! It came out in school the other day, and now he talks so adorably!! He has that little lisp that only comes from missing front teeth. I love it!


I just completed Jillian Michaels 30-day Shred on YouTube. I worked out every, stinking day, except for 1 when I was sick. The workouts were only 20-min so they weren’t hard to get motivated to do. I lost about 6 lbs. and an inch or two here and there. My core tightened up, which I really needed!

I started it on Dec. 18, so I may have had even more results if not for holiday eating! I have to say that I was skeptical to expect results in just a 20-minute workout, but that Jillian knows what she’s doing! Level 1 was easy from the start, Level 2 started off hard, but got easier, and Level 3 kicked my booty right up until the end! Those plyometrics and push-ups are from the underworld, but they get results!

So here are the before and afters!

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In the pictures, I really only see a difference in my core, but I can feel new definition in my triceps and inner thighs (ahem….jumping lunges!) It’s inspiring and motivating to see and feel results!

I didn’t run at all during the shred, which I kind of liked. However, when it was over, I decided to hit the road, and I was shocked at how much my running had improved! Before doing the shred, I could barely crank out 2 miles and was miserable the entire run!  But my first run out after completing the shred, I pounded out 4 miles and felt great in that I’m-dying-but-it-feels-good-to-work-hard way. I was shocked and excited. I’m guessing it is a result of all that core work+conditioning.

So I was totally up for it when Josh said he wanted to train for a race. He wants to be in better shape, but doesn’t like to run for no reason. So we’re going to run a 10k together in March. He wanted to do a 21k (half-marathon), but I wasn’t up for hard-core training this time around. I’m doing the Hal Higdon 10k intermediate training plan (although we started it a week late.) It includes cross training and strength training, so I’m planning to work in some other Jillian videos.

I’m hoping that this will get rid of those last 10 baby lbs!


PPD #6

12 Dec

I know I’ve taken pictures from this spot before. It’s high up on a hill-that-feels-like-a-mountain-when-I-run-up-it. Anyway, it has one of those binocular deals set up, so you know that the view has the potential to be pretty amazing! On this day, though, the pollution was so thick, I couldn’t even see the closest skyscrapers! Sick.


I also found myself in the middle of a parade during that run. It definitely made the run more interesting!


I probably won’t take very many photos during a run anymore, because….I have my Garmin back!!! After months of struggling with a humidity-damaged watch, I sent it into Garmin, and they sent me a replacement to use for the marathon. They weren’t able to repair mine, so they just let me keep the replacement! Thank you, Garmin!

I love hands-free running, and if I could wine and dine my Garmin, and buy it a summer house in the Hamptons, I would do it in a heartbeat. I finally got to see the details of my marathon! Did I ever mention that my Garmin clocked me at 26.42 miles? I didn’t feel like I weaved too much, but I know I didn’t take corners as efficiently as I could’ve, and it adds up! I have to say, when my watch hit 26.2 and I STILL had another quarter-mile to run, I was pretty ticked! Check that out – I burned over 3000 calories. If I could just do that every weekend…


During my marathon recap, I said that my Garmin went berserk on the Queensboro Bridge due to its coverage. You can see the blip on the blue graph. At the largest discrepancy, it said that my pace was 59:00 miles! I’m not even sure I could walk that slow!


I have a puzzle kindred spirit in Miss Bella! She loves doing puzzles with me and she’s pretty good too! Remember the Coke puzzle, Mom? I was sneezing the first night we worked on it from all the mold or dust or whatever had accumulated on the pieces over the years. Unless my mom did this puzzle in the last few years, we figured out that the last time it had been done was when Josh and I came for Christmas before we were married!


While Bella and I were working on the puzzle, Caleb found some paint,


Look at those hands covered in black paint!

This is why I LOVE having an iPhone! Someone delivered this to my house, and I had no idea what it was. Josh was out of town on a ministry trip, so I took a picture, texted it to Josh, and got a reply in seconds. It’s a replacement piece for our generator that Josh sent down to Tacloban to help with typhoon relief, so it needed to get down there ASAP.


Josh and I LOVE cranberry tea. In fact, I should probably have a tag labeled, “Serenitea,” for all the times I mention it in my posts. Anyway, I saw this at the grocery store, so I bought it, took a pic, and sent it to Josh to make him smile. It’s good, not Serenitea good, but good.


Here I am, trying to pick out the right accessory for a fancy night out. Too much?


My 2013 NYC Marathon

10 Nov

For the last 2 years, I’ve been blog-stalking other people’s NYC Marathon experience, and NOW I GET TO WRITE MY OWN!!! That thrills me almost as much as living the experience. I have lots of tidbits about the rest of our weekend in NYC, but this post is extra specially dedicated to the marathon. IMG_0797 So, November 3 for me began the moment it began at all. I had gone to bed at 8pm to “get a good night’s sleep.” I woke up at midnight and could not go back to sleep. It was the most frustrating night of my life! I tried everything: reading my Bible, praying, deep breathing, playing Candy Crush, etc. I watched all the clocks in our hotel room automatically adjust to DST at 2am. I think I would start to doze off and then I would abruptly wake up in almost a panic. It was horrible. I finally went to the bathroom to call Josh at 4am. I told him that I was freaking out. The most important thing I could do for my marathon at that moment was sleep, and no matter what I did, I couldn’t do it. I was sabotaging my race before it even started!!! I was afraid that my mind wouldn’t be very strong after such little sleep, and in the race, when the legs want to give up, the mind kicks them into high gear to propel them to the finish! If my mind was asleep, there would be no propelling! When I walked out of the bathroom, Michele and Susan were both awake and had heard me. We talked it out and I had a little meltdown as I realized the weight of what I was feeling. I had put so much time, money, energy, committment, thought, and prayer into this experience, and it was all weighing so heavily on me! Susan and Michele prayed with me and I felt so much better after that. However, I still never went back to sleep! Susan and I watched Full House for the next couple of hours and at 6:45, I started getting ready for the marathon. Tip #1: Get a good night’s sleep 2 nights before the marathon, because you probably won’t sleep that great the night before. It turns out that was exactly what I needed. Once I started doing something, the nerves started to dissipate. It was the laying in bed thinking and thinking and thinking that was killing me! Anyway, I got all my gear together and was ready to go long before I needed to make the 6-minute walk to the Staten Island Ferry. IMG_0803 As soon as I sat still, the nerves fired back up big time. So Susan and I just decided to head to the Ferry early, about an hour before my scheduled 8:00am ferry. It was about 48 degrees out, which is frigid for me, but I had about 4 layers on, so I was feeling good. I ate my Clif bar on the way. The Whitehall terminal was crawling with marathoners! IMG_0805 Some were chatting with others, lots were taking pictures, and everyone was just being herded to the next place. Susan hung out with me until it was time to board. Then I hugged her and parted ways. I ended up getting on the 7:45 ferry. IMG_0808 The ferry was really crowded with runners and I was one of the last few to board, so I just grabbed a spot on the floor. I watched the Manhattan skyline get smaller as we headed across the harbor. It was exciting and intimidating! I wanted to save my legs, so I just sat down for most of the 20-ish minute ride. We went right past the Statue of Liberty, but I didn’t get a pic of the ol’ girl. IMG_0814 When we arrived at St. George’s terminal on Staten Island, we all herded over to the buses. This was probably the longest wait of the morning. They were efficient in bussing everyone, but they were moving 50,000 runners, so it was bound to take a while! IMG_0818 IMG_0830 This is the view of Manhattan from Staten Island. Looks pretty far away to be running to! IMG_0827 When I finally got on a bus, we took about a 15 minute ride to Fort Wadsworth. As we exited the bus, we had to go through a security check that is new this year. Each runner was examined with the wand and our approved plastic bags inspected. I just followed the crowd to the ginormous start village. It was about 9:30 by now, and I saw that the UPS trucks for baggage check closed at 9:40, so I booked it over to the green village, where I was to hang out until my corral opened for my 10:30 start. I found the UPS trucks and got my bag checked. My bag had clothes and other items that I would want at the finish line. It felt good to get my hands free! I had bought those hand warmers to tuck into my gloves and they were a life-saver! It was still in the high-40’s, very windy, and still cloudy. Tip #2: Layers, Layers, Layers! You’ll want extra clothes on right up until go-time, so wear throwaway clothes. After checking my bag, I went to the food area and grabbed a bagel and a Gatorade pre-race fuel. I could only stomach a few bites of the bagel, but I downed the Gatorade no problem. Then I hit the bathroom for the last time before the race. I still had a few minutes before lining up, so I took the time to stretch and get my muscles warm and loose. When I heard the cannon boom for the start of the first wave, everyone cheered loudly, and it made me choke up a little (the first of a million little choke-ups that day!) There’s the starting line on the bridge!!! IMG_0834 When they announced that the Green Wave 3 corrals were opened, I shed all my extra layers and put them in the Goodwill bin. It wasn’t too cold at this point, and I had my hand warmers, so I was pretty comfortable as I found my corral. Then we waited until the 10:05 wave cannon boomed, and those runners took off. AND THEN IT WAS OUR TURN!! We all walked to our area on the lower level of the Verrazano-Narrows bridge. I was more excited than  nervous at this point, and I just wanted to get going. I knew I would feel perfect as soon as I started running! However, we were in the shade of the upper level and it was very windy, so we were all cold! Thankfully, all the clothes that the previous waves had shed were thrown on the sidewalk, so we all grabbed a warm-looking jacket and put it around us until the start. I took my first GU gel right then. (I had three in my hydration belt and one tucked into each glove.) Marathon, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge new_york_city_marathon1 All of the hoopla was up on top level, so we didn’t get to see the singing of “God Bless America,” or the cannon, but we could hear it. Then at 10:29, the cannon boomed and we heard the start of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” This was the first amazing feeling of, “This is happening!!! You are here! Finally!!” It was incredible and yes, I got choked up…again. Tip #3: If possible, get on the top level of the bridge. There isn’t anything wrong with the lower level, but I feel like we didn’t get the entire starting line experience. (You can move to the Orange or Blue on the top level if you start with the next wave. ie: I could’ve been on the top level if I skipped my 10:30 start and moved to the 10:55) I crossed the start line about 20 seconds in and took off up the 1-mile incline up the Verrazano bridge. I knew I didn’t want to start off going too fast, but because of the crowds, I was actually going too slow, according to my Garmin! As we got further on the bridge, the wind got intense! It was so cold and powerful! It was coming in on our left side, so it didn’t make running any harder, but it just was biting cold. At one point, I hopped up on the sidewalk area to pass people, but the wind was so powerful, it blew me off-balance so I had to step back off the sidewalk. Mile 1: 9:46 The 2nd mile was downhill off the bridge, so I just let gravity carry me a little faster. I was very, very conscious of not going too fast, because I definitely did not want to bonk at mile 20. I’ve read horror stories about hitting the wall, and I did NOT want to experience it! I wanted to enjoy this day that I had work so hard for. Mile 2: 9:06 We got off the bridge in Brooklyn and stayed there for the next 8 or so miles. Brooklyn was INCREDIBLE! There were people lining the streets  the entire way and they made me feel like rock star. The most frequent piece of advice I had heard from past NYC marathoners was to have my name on my shirt, because the crowd will cheer for you the entire way. As soon as I hit Brooklyn, I heard my first, “You got this, Val! Looking good!” Of course, it made me cry! Not hard, just a little lump in my throat and glistening eyes, but I just loved it so much! It was insanely awesome. Running felt effortless and my pace naturally increased. However, I made myself hold back on pace, because I knew that if I sped up now, I would bonk later. Tip #4: Definitely put your name on your shirt!! You will feel like one of the elites as the crowd cheers for you. Those first 10 miles were incredible! I stayed on the outside of runners, so that I could high-five everyone who stuck their hand out. I would have a run of 10 people sticking their hands out and I’d hit them all. It was amazing!! The kids were the best! When we hit the first hydration station at mile 3, I moved to the middle of the pack because so many runners were walking through the hydration zones. I’d stay in the middle of the street for a while, and then I’d realize that I needed an energy boost, so I floated back over to the outside for another blast of high-fives and “Go Val’s!” It was so interesting how outside energy just filled me up and made everything easier. Mile 3: 9:28 Mile 4: 9:14 Mile 5: 9:27 When we were in the residential areas, I felt like I was running right past the Huxtable house! That’s what all the brownstones looked like. So fun! I took my 2nd GU around mile 5. There were bands all along the course, and I’d give them a thumbs-up as I passed them. Another piece of advice that I had heard was don’t have headphones in your ears because you will miss out on so much. I completely agree!!! I told myself that I wouldn’t use music until I really needed it, but I wasn’t sure how that would go because I ALWAYS have music. But it was great! I just let the sights and sounds of NYC keep my senses engaged. Tip #5: Don’t use music until you need it. The crowds give you more energy than music can. The signs along the course were entertaining and clever! “You run better than the government!” “You have more than the NSA watching you.” “No littering” (in the hydration zone, where we would all throw our cups) “It seemed like a good idea 4 months ago…” enhanced-buzz-12060-1383582566-33 enhanced-buzz-16513-1383582970-6 “Chafe now, party later.” “Run like Ryan Gosling is at the finish line.” “Run like someone just called you a jogger.” “I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling like 26.2” “Smile if you peed a little.” (reading the sign, of course, makes you smile, which looks like…”) …and a  few others that I can’t repeat on here, but made me laugh. Tip #6: Take in the sights around you. Don’t just think about pace, mileage, or how tired or thirsty you might be. All the sights and sounds of NYC will distract you and the miles will just fly by! Mile 6: 9:22 Mile 7: 9:20 I loved seeing folks on their stoops or hugging coffee mugs while they cheered us on from their balconies. At mile 8, it got more crowded when the three waves all came together for the rest of the race. We had previously been on three different roads. Along the way, a lady yelled, “Val!” When I looked over at her, she looked me right in the eye and yelled, “YOU GOT THIS!” I yelled back at her, ‘Thank you!” Mile 8: 9:23 Mile 9: 9:28 Mile 10: 9:02 At Mile 10, I saw the Bishop-Loughlin high school band playing “Eye of the Tiger,” which is NYC Marathon tradition, so it gave me an energy boost to see them. I took my 3rd GU around this point. Mile 11 was unlike anywhere else on the course. All of a sudden, the cheering got quieter and as I looked around, I saw everyone dressed in modest black apparel and going about their day. I had read about this mile, where the Satmar Hisidic Jews live. They didn’t cheer for us, but were still out on the course watching us. It was an interesting part of the course, for sure! marthon Mile 11: 9:17 I tried to remember to find all the landmarks that I had read about, but my senses were all totally engaged with all the sights and sounds of Brooklyn. I couldn’t possibly take it all in! Mile 12: 9:22 Mile 13: 9:25 At Mile 14, we crossed over the Pulaski bridge into Queens, my 3rd  borough of the day. I was so excited to cross the halfway point, and it didn’t terrify me to repeat all of the mileage I had just put in. I would say Queens was pretty similar to Brooklyn, with the fantastic crowds, signs, and buildings. At this point, I was still feeling strong and looking forward to seeing my family in 3 miles! Mile 14: 8:54 Mile 15: 9:19 I took my 4th GU to power me up for the upcoming Queensboro Bridge. At Mile 16, we hit the infamous Queensboro Bridge, the spot known for making or breaking the race for a runner. It is here that you realize if you have strategized your race correctly and will power through the rest of the race, or if you will be out of gas before mile 20. It is a hill that comes at a tiring part of the race, where we’re over halfway there, but still have another 10 miles to go. There are no fans allowed on the bridge, so any energy must come from within. The bridge kind of snuck up on me. I must have been in a zone, because all of a sudden, the crowd was gone and we were climbing the quiet bridge. I was kind of pumped for it, because I knew that all of the hill training that I was forced to do here in the valley naturally prepared me for this. marathon-to-queensboro-bridge I had told myself that I would turn on my music at this point, but with my gloves on, it was next to impossible to find my headphones tucked in my sports bra, get them into my ears, and flip my shuffle to “on.” All of those steps distracted me halfway up the bridge! Alot of runners used this time to walk, get a break, and mentally prepare for the final push. I dug in, passed those walkers, and gained more energy with each person I passed. It was awesome! I didn’t find the Queensboro Bridge to be anywhere close to the challenging reputation that it has! Don’t get me wrong, it’s still an uphill.  I was just surprised when I got to the top and it was already time to go down! Choked up? Just a smidge. Tip # 7: Hill training will make the Queensboro Bridge a snap! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA My Garmin went berserk on the bridge, probably because of it’s tall buildings and coverage? I’m not sure, but I would speed up, but my pace would go down. Even as I let gravity propel me faster on the down slope of the bridge, my pace didn’t improve. I didn’t mind, though, because I knew it would just reset on the next mile. Mile 16: 11:19 Once we conquered the Queensboro Bridge, we were rewarded with a down slope into Manhattan, our 4th borough, where we were welcomed by a canyon of sound! It is a major highlight of everyone’s NYC Marathon experience. 1st Ave. was heavily lined with people on both sides, all cheering us on as we began the last 9 miles of our marathon. I put my music away so that I could soak up every thrilling aspect of it. mile17 I was exhilarated at this point, because the Queensboro bridge was conquered, we only had single digit mileage left, and I knew that my family would be somewhere on 1st Ave. 1469797_10152063095362059_1930571384_n They had previously been out at the same spot to watch the elites come through. They said that it was incredible to see the pro athletes speed by in a blaze of glory, NBD. That’s one thing that’s so special about the NYC Marathon. Us amateurs are out there, running on the same course at the same time as the best runners in the world! (just a few hours behind…) I started looking for them right away, and I was terrified that I would miss them, with so many people lining the streets. I kept my eyes open for the signs that my sis-in-law had made. 1390492_10152034331832059_850552427_n I stayed in the middle of the street, because I didn’t know which side of the road they’d be on. About a half mile down 1st Ave., I heard my brother yelling my name!! It was so exciting. He yelled for me to get over to the left side where my family was waiting. I quickly looked over my left shoulder to make sure I didn’t dart in front of somebody (MAJOR marathon faux pas!) and headed over there. 1467262_10152063095902059_240097776_n Seeing my family surged me down 1st Ave. I was so happy to see them, and the support overwhelmed me. Shockingly for this day, I DIDN’T get choked up! 1395272_10202865748508158_1825799795_n 74921_10202865748708163_2062598630_n Even after I passed them, my brother kept running through the crowd with me! I don’t know when he finally stopped, but it was fantastic to have him running along with me! 1st Ave felt great, as it was mostly downhill. I had little milestones or moments to look forward to throughout the race, but seeing my family around mile 17 was the highlight, so after that, everything got a little more challenging. I knew I’d see them again at mile 25, but that seemed like a lifetime away! Mile 17: 9:49 While I was running down 1st Ave, I saw a TV camera on a jeep, filming a blond girl while a guy with a microphone ran next to her, interviewing her. I thought for sure it was Pamela Anderson, but as I passed her, I saw that it wasn’t. But I knew it was someone worthy of being interviewed on TV. When we watched the marathon footage later, I saw that it was Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis, one of the heroic teachers at Sandy Hook who protected her class from the horrific shooting outside her classroom. She ran under the motto: “A mile for each of the 26 lives we lost, and 0.2 for me.” I decided to turn on my music at mile 18 to give me an extra boost. I also took my last gel in between 18-19. After I swallowed it, I realized that it was my last one and it would have to sustain me for the last 8 miles! They had handed out PowerGels at mile 18, but I didn’t grab any because I hadn’t ever tried them before and it’s a big no-no to try something new on race day. I figured that I would just grab Gatorade at each hydration zone after that to keep up my glycogen and electrolytes. Mile 18: 9:16 We headed into Harlem, where it was just one big block party. It was pretty fun, but at this point, I was getting to the point where it was harder and harder to be distracted and I was very aware that I was nearing the “halfway” point of a marathon. They say the first 20 miles feels like the first half of a marathon and the last 6.2 feels like the second half. What?! Mile 19: 9:42 Mile 20 took us over the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx, which I found to be the hardest bridge for me. It wasn’t long or steep, but at 20 miles into the race, I felt that uphill! But it was encouraging to be in our 5th borough. I was pretty excited to see my Garmin go over 20 miles – a first for me! I decided to grab one of the bananas that people were handing out. I was nervous about it having an adverse effect, since I had never done it before, but it went down fine! Mile 20: 9:41 Mile 21: 9:51 Mile 22 found us back in Manhattan and heading up 5th Ave, and I do mean “up.” These 3 miles were the hardest part of the race for me. It was just long and gradual uphill. I kept wondering when we’d enter Central Park for the final push! I stayed with a girl who’s shirt read, “Go Rainbow Go!” I have no idea who she is and we never talked, but for about 6 total miles, we would keep each other in sight with both of us taking the lead at different times. It’s an interesting racing dynamic. Mile 22: 9:43 I missed a lot of popular landmarks along this way because I was just trying to keep one foot going in front of the other. In hindsight, I wish that I had taken out my music and let the crowds and the beauty of Central Park energize me. But I was mostly just focused on getting to the next stoplight. I kept repeating to myself one of the signs that I had seen. “Pain is temporary, but pride is forever!” I also prayed a lot over the next 4 miles. Nothing eloquent, just a lot of “Lord, please give me strength!” My pace slowed down for a couple of miles, but I don’t really consider it a “wall.” I was more just discouraged by the uphill and the fact that I still had 4 miles to go. As far as my legs felt, I was thrilled that I didn’t have any cramps or joint pains, just muscle ache from running for 3 and 1/2 hours! Mile 23: 9:40 In Mile 24, we finally veered right into Central Park. This was a pick-me-up for me. A lot of people get discouraged by the rolling hills of Central Park, but I welcomed them! It meant that my finish line was close, and I just like rolling hills because they use different muscle groups, so one gets a rest while the other is being used. Tip # 8: When the going gets tough, find someone ahead of you and make it your goal to pass them. As soon as you do, find another person to pass. Mile 24: 10:24 Mile 25: 10:03 There were all kinds of fun landmarks to see in Central Park, but again, I was thinking “finish line” and nothing else! In fact, I saw my family, Susan and Michele again around mile 25, but they said I looked a little weary! 1425532_10152063094972059_590136370_n I waved, but I know it wasn’t much of a gesture! Along the way, I heard one girl yell, “Val! Val! She’s our gal!” It made me smile. 988754_10100281650058069_1370039168_n 1459872_10152063095462059_150769188_n 1425576_10152063095427059_197553732_n From there, we turned right onto Central Park South by the famous Plaza hotel. I’ve run this stretch before and I’m here to tell you that someone lengthened it just for the marathon! I didn’t even realize until Michele and I took a carriage ride two days later that it was totally uphill the entire way. No wonder it was so hard! I kept looking ahead to see when we’d get to turn right again at Columbus circle for the final stretch to the finish line, but all I could see were hundreds of tired runners going straight straight straight! There were so many people cheering us on, but there was just one thing that I wanted at that moment, to cross that finish line. Mile 26:9:48 I thought that after I hit the 26th mile marker, it would be smooth sailing for the final .2 miles, but oh my goodness, that was the longest .2 miles of my life. I knew that I was going faster than I had run the entire marathon, but the finish line wasn’t getting any closer! It was crazy. .2 miles: 8:34 And then. THE FINISH LINE! What an incredible feeling to cross that NYC Marathon finish line! I threw my fists into the air and it was just like I had pictured during the many training runs leading up to that moment. It felt SO GOOD to stop running! One of the race volunteers looked me right in the eye and said, “Congratulations!” I started tearing up again, of course. Then they handed me my hard-earned medal and took my picture. These were my final splits: 5K/3.1mi – 29:27 10K/6.2mi – 58:48 15K/9.3 mi – 1:28:06 20K/12.4 mi – 1:57:20 Half/13.1 mi – 2:03:51 25K/15.5 mi – 2:27:32 30K/18.9 mi – 2:57:04 35K/21.7 mi – 3:28:07 40K/24.8 mi – 3:59:31 Finish: 04:12:53 We had a loonnnggg walk in the park, but I know it’s so good for the legs to keep moving. I called Josh in the Philippines and we talked until I finally said, “I know this is weird, but I really can’t hold the phone up to my ear any longer. My arms are so tired!” I was shocked at how sore my shoulders, arms, and traps were! But I guess the 4 hours of arm pumping with do that. They gave us a recovery bag with snacks and Gatorade Recovery and a heat sheet to keep our body heat trapped in. 1452092_10152063094677059_663774901_n   Then we split up and the no-baggage people got to exit the park early. The rest of us kept going further into the park to pick up our bags. TIP #9  : If at all possible, go for the no-baggage option! Having your stuff at the finish line isn’t worth the extra walk. If I could do it again, I would just have my family meet me with clothes. When I finally got my bag, I was able to exit the park. I was on the phone with my mom and brother as we tried to figure out where to meet up. I was right near the Museum of Natural History (from Night at the Museum), and I smiled as I walked past the statue of Roosevelt on a horse. To my left, all the runners who had selected no-baggage were all wrapped up in orange hooded ponchos. My sister-in-law said that it looked like some kind of zombie cult, with everyone walking slowly and mechanically in matching orange hoods. 558941_10152063094702059_2130391596_n My family and I made our way towards each other and I started to get so cold! The wind was fierce on the cross streets and since I wasn’t working hard anymore, the sweat on my body was just making me colder. I finally saw my crew of people in Dunkin Donuts caps and we all shared many hugs! It was so wonderful. As we walked further away from the park, I ate the apple from my recovery bag. I wasn’t at all hungry, but all the research says to eat soon to get recovery going. 999766_10202865747988145_468484226_n 481006_10152063094897059_1852020091_n My sweet mom bought me gorgeous flowers! IMG_0848 Somehow, our legs carried us to Magnolia Bakery!!! My sister-in-law, Sarah, asked me what flavor I wanted. Yellow cake/chocolate frosting or Chocolate cake/Chocolate frosting? Sophie’s Choice. Thankfully, she didn’t make me choose and treated me to both! Now we’re talking recovery!! IMG_0846 It was hard to get around the area because of all the marathon security. We didn’t think that we’d be able to get into Carnegie Deli with it being so close to the finish line, but we decided to give it a try and we got right in! This marathoner was happy. Susan, Michele and I all shared one Reuben sandwich! Then we parted ways and my family went home while us girls headed back to our hotel. I got to ride the subway for free! I’ll go ahead and deduct that $2.50 off my entire trip cost, thankyouverymuch. Somehow, we ended up on the wrong subway, and found ourselves back in Brooklyn (for the second time that day for me!) But Susan and Michele found our way back to the hotel in the financial district. When we got back to the hotel, I got to read all of Josh’s real-time facebook statuses that he posted during the marathon… * 29:27 on the first 5k… Good job Valerie! * 10k time is 58:48… Looking good! * 15k is 1:28:06, which is a 9:27:15 minute mile * Almost halfway, 1:57:20… Doing great!!! * Valerie  half way point of the NYC marathon time is 2:03:51, doing awesome… So proud of you!!! * 25k is 2:27:32, right on pace…keep it up! * Less than 10 miles… Doing awesome! * 30k time is 2:57:04 – amazing effort!!! * Almost 20 miles… They say the wall comes at 22 miles… That’s where you find out what your made of… She’s got this… If she can put up with me for 11 years, this should be a piece of cake * 7k to go, 3:28:07 for the first 35k… Almost done! Enjoy the home stretch… A walk in the park! * She’s made it to Central Park at this point… Just a couple miles to go! * 40k in the books… 3:59:31 with 2k to go… Cheering her through the last few minutes from the Philippines!!! * Less than a quarter mile to go… One time around the track… * SHE DID IT!!! 4:12:53, My Hero!   After an amazing, memorable, and incomparable day…. I showered and was sound asleep by 8:00pm! IMG_0850 I am so incredibly thankful for the amazing experience that I got to be a part of! It has been at the forefront of my hopes and dreams for a long time and to finally achieve it was pure bliss. I’ve been riding the wonderful wave of accomplishment for a week now! I’ve made up for 4 months of no desserts in 1 week. =) Two years ago, I said that after I ran the marathon, I could tell you which was worse: Natural childbirth or a marathon. Drumroll, please. The marathon was easier than natural childbirth!