Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Is that a Bengal in your lap?

Or are you just happy to see me?

It's been some time and I am trying to get caught up in general before the holiday's officially start (tomorrow) and we all get swept up in the chaos...

So where to start?


Now that Marine Corps is over, I have my sights firmly set on a few goals.

1.) Take off this extra weight and then some....
2.) Run a sub 2:45 at this year's 2008 Myrtle Beach Half Marathon (FEB'08)
3.) Get back to TRIATHLON training with IRONMAN distance in mind.

I would say the simplest goal on this list might be Gaol #2 but the speed needed to make this goal is directly tied into Goal #1 and will enhance the overall progress of Goal #3. I don't have a particular IRONMAN race picked yet with legitimate reason.


I have been pretty quiet about it in general but some of you more dedicated readers may have noticed the lack of swimming and biking that has been mentioned on the blog since about late August. There is a reason for that and it wasn't just that I was focusing on my running.

An MRI done this past Friday, confirmed this week what my Orthopedist has been suspecting for about 12 weeks now. I have a torn Rotator Cuff in my right shoulder. The pain it has been causing has been quite remarkable and has pretty much eliminated swimming and biking from my routine for the moment. The MRI also found that I had some very mild/minor cervical disc issues which are adding fuel to the fire by aggravating some nerves and giving me flare-ups of pain every once in a while. At least it has not hurt when I run so I am thankful for that.

So the next step with the Rotator Cuff tear is to continue physical therapy and get a second opinion on if surgery is necessary or if I can simply use therapy to strengthen the muscles and tendons around the shoulder and get back to the business of being a TRIATHLETE!

The MRI also revealed that my right thyroid lobe mass (which I have known about since my first CT scan back in 2005) has decided that it was not content to stay stable and had shown some growth in the last 6 months. Obviously it wants some attention - so it will get some.

The good news - 95% of thyroid growths are benign AND the odds of Melanoma metastasizing to the Thyroid gland are so rare that you can only find 2 instances on google... (I know, I looked, of course - wouldn't you?) so I expect nothing remarkable to come of this bit of growth. Just one or two more "procedures" to "knotch in my belt" if you know what I mean.

I HAVE A COLD (snif, snif)...

These last two days have SUCKED! I have a mini FLU or some kind of virus running through my system that has cause Fever, aches, pains and a very raw sore throat. Funny how dumb-struck I was when I thought "Man, I feel awful" and then thought "I can't believe that I used to feel like this 3 days a week for a whole year?" Oh the joys of Interferon, naturally made by your own body...NOT!

Talk about being reminded of how far you have come and how LUCKY you truly are?

Giving THANKS comes in many unexpected ways.....

I'll leave you now with a lovely picture of Ms. Grommette - doing what many of you will be doing tomorrow afternoon around 4PM, stuffed to the gills with good food and good company!

Life is GOOD! LiveSTRONG! Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Ironman Florida Vacation Pictures

If it seems I have been absent these last few weeks of November, it is because I have been taking a much needed break in general. The weeks leading up to the Ulman Race, Cancer to 5K Fall program's end and the Marine Corps Marathon took alot out of me and I need some time to unwind.

Part of the RX for unwinding included a little 5-day trip down to Panama City Beach, FL in the first weekend of November. We went down to cheer on Linae to her IRONMAN glory! There were some *rumors* that I was going to sign up for IMFL 2008 but my right shoulder is currently in rehab so that rumor never came to pass...for this Ironman race, anyway....

Here are some pictures! I hope you can enjoy them as much as Jim and I enjoyed the mini-vacation! Spectating a full IRONMAN race is a long day but definately worth it! The inspiration you come away with could last you the entire cold, dreary winter (at least that is what we are hoping!)

Once again a heartfelt CONGRATULATIONS TO Linae for ROCKING her first IRONMAN in a finish of 14:19:15!! We were thrilled to witness your TRIUMPH in person!

Ironman Florida, Nov 3, 2007

The swim....

Linea, heading into T1 - a swim PR!
"Find your Happy Pace..."

Holly & Debbie cheering folks into T2...

Jim & Shawn cheering folks into T2...More CowBell!

Sunset on Ironman Florida...

Linae at special needs, mile 13.1 of the Marathon!

Shawn, Mollie and Debbie awaiting Linae's finish!


Second sunset, the day after IM Florida...

DR. IRONMAN (aka Linae) debuts her guitar playing for a select crowd...

Linae & Shawn..."After 9 shots of Jose Quervo..."
(that was the song they were singing, not that many shots themselves...)

Holiday Inn Sunspree - the view from our pool....

The view of the pool....

After calm seas on race day... this was the Gulf just two days later....

Run AWAY from the waves.....

Friday, November 16, 2007

I know it's not even Thanksgiving...

but this is simply the funniest thing ever! Many thanks to my sister Heather for her creative talents (she on the right end) and of course my sister Cathy for her ability to laugh - in spite of her crazy sisters!

Enjoy! Oh and if you make one yourself, share the link in COMMENTS so we can all enjoy!

Life Is GOOD!! LiveSTRONG!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

CANCER to 5K Race Report: Ulman Cancer Fund's 10-THE RACE

After 12 weeks of training in all kinds of weather on the local running trails in Arlington, VA on Saturday mornings and at the Stuart High School track every Tuesday night, it was finally RACE DAY for the Fall 2007 Cancer to 5K Team!

And the rain came pouring down...

We arrived at the Merriweather Post Pavilion at around 7:30AM to set up a meeting spot for our Team of runners and volunteers. I was expecting 15 people total and they all showed up!

The main group included myself, Coach Bob, and our first time 5K runners Ben and Cheryl. Unfortunately our third runner Jess was unable to make it because some scheduled surgery was pushed up by more than a week. She had surgery two days prior to the race and her sister came out to join us and race in her place. Along with our core group of 4 were all the Workout Pace Leaders (5 in all) who had been training with us all season. These volunteers are seasoned runners who came out to offer support, advice and company for the entire 12 week session. Having them at the workouts gave the new runners some folks to train with and gave Coach Bob the flexibility to work individually with people as necessary.

Added to the this core Team of 9 were an additional 6 volunteers. These are our Race Day Sherpas. They are running volunteers who didn't necessarily have the free time to workout with the group for the 12 week period but who were willing to come out and race with our runners on race day. The job of the SHERPA is to escort the Cancer to 5K first time runners on race day, providing support, maintaining a good pace and keeping an eye on the runner throughout the race itself.

So on a rainy morning, in Columbia, MD - 15 members of Team Cancer to 5K toed the line along with Lance Armstrong, Doug Ulman and a few hundred other runners to run the Ulman Cancer Fund's 10-THE RACE 5K. The event was a celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.

Team Cancer to 5K: pre-race
with a spot in the middle front for Jess, with us in spirit on race day.

Ben and his PaceLeaders/SHERPAs

Cheryl and her PaceLeaders/SHERPAs

After a brief speech by honored guest and fellow competitor, Lance Armstrong, the 5K was underway. My sister Heather, boyfriend Jim and I stayed at the finish line coral so we could get pictures and award some medals to our runners as they finished their first 5K.

First medal recipient to cross the line, in a solid 4th place, was Lance Armstrong. I asked him if I could present him with a Cancer to 5K finishers medal and a team shirt and he said "Of course" and so Lance became an official Cancer to 5K runner and teammate.

Lance Armstrong finished the 5k in 4th overall...

Lance recovering from his race effort

Presenting Lance with a Cancer to 5K Finisher's Medal

Next across the line about 4-5 minute behind was Doug Ulman. He was also presented a Cancer to 5K finisher medal and team shirt. He stayed and talked with me for a few minutes, congratulating us on getting the program started and thanked us for being part of the race.

Presenting Doug Ulman with a Cancer to 5K Finisher's Medal

A hug of congratulations from Doug on the program.

Third medal recipient was our very own Coach Bob who finished solidly in the front of the pack. He is a fellow skin cancer survivor and was not expecting a medal. It was wonderful to be able to surprise him after all the hard work that he has done for the program.

A hug for Coach Bob after presenting him a Cancer to 5K Finisher's Medal

Coach Bob then turned around and headed back out onto the course to find our first group of SHERPAS and Ben. While Heather, Jim and I rang our cowbells and cheered many 5K finishers into the finish line. Just as the race clock hit 39 minutes, I caught the first glimpse of bright yellow and white at the top of the last hill. It was Ben and Monica (Jess's sister), accompanied by Coach Bob and 6 of our 9 Pace Leaders/SHERPAS.

The sight of Ben, coming over that last hill and up to the finish line, sent chills down my spine. I was so proud of the hard work that he did over the last 12 weeks to get to this point and so happy that I could have been a part of that accomplishment. Ben crossed the finish line with a big smile on his face and then nearly fell into my arms as I presented him with his Cancer to 5K medal. He left nothing out on the course and laughed later when recalling all of the hills on the "scenic" course.

Ben crossing the finish line - looking strong and happy!

Ben and his group of runners headed just beyond the finish line to cool down and grab some water and refreshments. Coach Bob, again, headed back out on the course to join Cheryl and her group as they approached the finish.

With more cowbells passed around the Team rang in the Kid's Fun Run while we awaited the arrival of Cheryl and her SHERPAS. Just as the last child crossed the finish line, we saw that tell-tale flash of yellow surrounded by white that was Cheryl, Coach Bob and her 3 SHERPAS. With florish of cowbell and big cheers, we cheered Cheryl into the finish. She even ran the last 200 yards uphill to the finish line! I presented Cheryl with her finishers medal and we took some groups pictures at the finish and then everybody headed to the tents for food and water as the rain finally began to let up.

Cheryl approaching the finish line - also looking strong and happy!

It is nearly impossible for me to put in to words, how it felt to watch Ben and Cheryl cross the finish line. They're smiles said it all. They came to the group 12 weeks ago, not sure that they could finish a 5K race, worried they would be too slow or last. All that worry was washed away slowly by the weekly workouts and that early morning rain on race day and I know that crossing that finish line opened a whole new world of possibilities for both of them.

Holly, Ben, Cheryl and Coach Bob, post race.

Our wonderful group of Workout Pace Leader and SHERPA volunteers!

Team Cancer to 5K - Fall 2007 at Ulman Cancer Fund's 10-THE RACE

While it was sad that Jess was not able to join us on race day after 12 weeks of training, while undergoing chemotherapy. The surgery was an important step in Jess's fight with cancer. Jess plans to join the Spring 2008 training program - to finish what she started and race 5K with the Team. Ben is talking about "what his next race should be" and hoping to go faster and then longer next time and he wants to volunteer as a Workout Pace Leader for the spring. Cheryl is considering joining the Spring team again, to keep working out with a group and do another 5K.

This is exactly the outcome that I dreamed of when the Cancer to 5K program was just an idea in my head. A program that for 12 weeks, introduces cancer survivors to running/walking and regular exercise and that in the end, opens them up to the endless opportunities that exercise can bring to their lives, in spite of cancer.

Life is Good! Live STRONG!

RR: Marine Corps Marathon 2007

Race: Marine Corps Marathon
Date: Sunday, October 28, 2007
Location: Arlington, VA
Race Type: Run - Marathon
Age Group: Female 35 - 39
Time: 6:41:34
Overall Place: 20217 / 20674
Age Group Place: 1313 / 1350

Comment: Report from the BACK OF THE PACK

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This race report is LONG just like my race was LONG!

I knew coming into this race that I would be looking at a long, long day. Longer than my first MCM in 2005. That year I ompleted the race in 6:10, while on chemotherapy. If you had told me that 2 years later, cancer-free, I would finish the same race nearly 30 minutes later, I'd not have believed you.

This is a lesson on how "weight" changes your pace and it was a lesson learned. It was also a lesson in perspective. While I don't ever want to race a Marathon this slowly again, I worked HARD to *Beat the 14th Steet Bridge* so I am very satisfied with my Marathon finish. I finished, got to enjoy the wonderful company of my friend Shawn and was on the race course along with my younger sister for her first Marathon attempt. (She finished in 4:37!! Not too shabby for a first marathon, at all!)

So race morning was typical - PB & Jelly on whole wheat and a large glass of water. Nancy Toby, Shawn, Heather and I left the house at 6:30 and jumped on the Metro to the Pentagon. We got there right at 7AM and walked to the start area. Nancy headed over to the UPS drop and we got in line at the Port-o-Potties. I took a GU and drank some more water while waiting in line and eventually we got to the front of the line, right up to 7:45AM. Just enough time for quick hugs to Heather and she jogged off to the 4:30 corral while Shawn and I walked to the 5:30 coral and found the Cliff Bar Pacer Group.

The plan was simple and NOT RECOMMENDED if you are trying to race any kind of PR but with several half Ironmans and a few marathons under my belt, I knew this unorthodox method would be what I needed to get to Mile 19 on time. The plan was: stick with the 5:30 pace group for as long as possible - ideally up though the half marathon point. Even if I blew up,
I'd have a buffer built and I knew the course by heart after mile 13 so I could keep moving, even if I was hurting at the point.

The race started and we crossed the start with about 19:12 on the race clock. I was able to hang tight with Shawn and the 5:30 group up through the start of Mile 2 and the climb up Lee Highway and then I watched them slowly pull away.

Okay, looks like I am going to have to readjust my plan! No worries! So at Mile 2, I was on my own. I shortened my stride and just focused on the runners around me. Knowing that Mile 4 would be a nice long downhill on Spout Run. The runners in the back of the pack were happy and cheerful, early on. Lots of cheering and smiles and encouragement - Lots of TNT runners and other charity runners around - my kind of people!

The exit ramp up to Key Bridge was a bit of a shocker! Holy Cow - forgot about the course change. I started to try to emember from bike rides, what I could expect for mile 5-8 on Macarthur Blvd and River Rd and I knew there had to be an few climbs but I had forgotten the doozey where Macarthur and River Rd split! That was probably a good thing.

Just before Mile 6, I saw a familiar pink shirt ahead of me - SHAWN! I yelled "GO SHAWN!" and she laughed and said, "I though you were ahead of me!" Seems the 5:30 group dropped Shawn on the hills too. I told her I had just started my intervals 2:30R/1:00W and she said that sounded good to her, so we settled into the intervals together.

I spent much of my time trying to play tour guide for Shawn as we ran - "Up ahead, we have the Kennedy Center - to your left is ...ummmm... Nixen, darn it....WATERGATE!" Along we rolled, clicking off the miles - one by one, heading down the mall and onto the half marathon point. Our pace was good for our goal - to beat the 14th Street bridge cutoff with at least a "miles" worth of time on the clock. Shawn started having some trouble just before the half marathon point. We ran into my friend Arnetta at just that time and she had a bag of salty pretzels that she gave us! Just about the time we were close to the next water stop, I detoured for a potty break and Shawn just kept going.

It took about 4 LONG minutes to get access to the port-o-potty (felt bad for the girl in there ahead of me, she looked BAD when she came stumbling out) and then finally I was back on the road - trying to double time my pace to catch back up to Shawn. In that mile, I also got a chance to see my friend Ben and Amy - Cancer to 5K Teammates who both ran their first
5Ks the day before. Amy took my picture and Ben gave me a lovely hug of encouragement! Boy, I needed that!

It took me nearly a mile but finally, I could see her pink shirt about 500 yards ahead of me. It took some internal arguing but I finally convinced my legs that they simply had to work harder to catch Shawn and finally I was back at her side. She was going a little better after taking a bit of a walk break and we resumed our run/walk intervals just prior to Mile 15.

About this time, we hit the GU stop but neither of us took one. We had both pocketed enough food for the race and were taking a GU or Cliff Blocks about every 4 miles or so. Still running through the GU stop with the occasional full GU package bursting under your foot fall was bizarre... You faster runners sure are messy (LOL!!) We rounded the GU stop and rolled up and around the Tidal Basin and on towards Haines Point. There was some grumbling as we watched, with ENVY, all those runners already headed for the 14th Street Bridge on the other side of the road. But we just kept on moving forward, keeping an eye on the clock and trying to run more than we walked.

At this point, Mile 16, Shawn and I were both suffering a bit. Shawn was still having some nutrition issues and my left Achilles seemed a but tighter than I liked. At this point, I knew exactly where we were in the race and what we needed to do to keep ahead of the 14th Street Bridge cutoff. Shawn was a trooper - the best running partner anybody could have. Every time that I said "Hit it" she picked up her stride and ran until I said "Walk" Being the "time keeper" gave me the something to do - which help keep me from panic. We joked about all the freaking photographers - who we smiled at before but who we now thought were totally unnecessary. We both had our cranky moments and seem to swear alternately - never in tandem - but we NEVER stopped moving forward and kept trying to pass the very annoying ladies in front of us who seemed to be "taking too much to possibly be working hard enough" (see what I mean, CRANKY!)

Just prior to Mile 19 we talked about how good those SPORTS BEANS were going to be and then we saw it.....Strewn all over the road ahead of us like road kill - thousands and thousands of sports beans and empty packets! There were no Sports Beans left for us. Unless, as I joked to Shawn, "You'd like to lick the pavement - there are plenty down there..." Talking later with Heather, it turns out that they were handing out 3-4 packets of Beans per person early on. So no beans for the Back of the Pack this time around.

Finally ... Mile 19! It is a little deceiving because the Mile Marker is not actually on the Bridge but prior to it and that was hawn's next question. "Holly, where is the Bridge?" I think I might have sounded a little harsh but I didn't dare try saying "only around the corner because I was sure it was still about a 1/4 mile from the Mile Marker so instead I said " We are almost there Shawn, just come on!". Then we took the right turn out of Haines Point and the right onto Maine Avenue and eased through the underpass, where I let out the loudest HOOT and HOLLAR I could as we turned right again onto the HOV on-ramp! "Shawn we beat the Bridge!!" at just about 4:58 on the official race clock - 17 minutes left on the clock.

Shawn and I walked the 14th Street Bridge but we were not alone by any stretch of the imagination. At this point on the race course, the number of people still running was maybe 1 in every 25. The HOV lanes are a wasteland of pavement that sucks the life and energy right out of you. Shawn and I just kept moving and I tried to keep her motivated when she began to ask "
if the bridge ever ends." I assured her that it did and that she would feel much better when we got to the other side of the river. Finally, we reached the end of the 14th Street Bridge and Mile 21. Shawn needed a rest stop at the nearest blue box so I continued on alone, hoping she would catch back up.

It was at this point that I had the funniest moment of the race. I had chosen to wear my bright yellow "Cancer to 5K" race shirt and throughout the day, I had gotten plenty of "Go Cancer!" and "Thanks for racing" from spectators on the side of the road. As I approached Crystal City, I passed a "home-made rest stop" with a bunch of folks there cheering runners on. One of the gentleman there said "Way to go Cancer to 5k!" and then he smiled and said "Are you sure you signed up for the right distance race?"

That made me laugh at loud and was just the boost that I needed for those last 4 miles. Shawn had a longer stop than she hoped and so we passed each other on the out and back, gave each other big hugs and continued on. I tried to resume run/walk intervals but at this point in the day, it hurt more to try to start running again than it did to power walk, so I did just that. I must have passed a good 20 people just by focusing on quick short steps. Soon enough I was at Mile 25 and I thought, you have got to try to run most of this last mile. All was well until I got to the base of Iowjima only to realize that, here too, they had changed the course and I still had to run out to Roslyn, turn around and come back. Well that just took the wind right out of my sail and I stopped running for the next 1/2 mile. Finally at the last turn around, just behind a group of TNT runners, I found the energy to again pick up my pace. The finish line was close (FINALLY) and I just wanted to get off the course. I saw Shawn for the last time, on her last mile! Cheered for her and headed towards that final climb. I walked the last climb, knowing that I could walk it faster than I could run it and once a the top, slowly jogged those last 500 yards into the finish and up to a handsome Marine to collect my finishers medal.

I waited at the end of the chute for Shawn and then we headed back to the Family Meet Spot to find Nancy and Jim and the rest of my family. Another MCM in the books.

Having two days to digest this weekend, I am glad that I toed the line on race day. I knew going into the race, that it was not going to be a PR or even a "great" race day for me. But races are what you make them. The weather was perfect for a marathon, I had friends on the course and on the sides cheering me on, my younger sister ran her first Marathon on the same course and I was in my full colors representing my CANCER to 5K Runners the day after their first 5K race. There wasn't anyplace in the world I would have rather been - no matter how long it took me to get to the finish line!

Life is Good! Live STRONG!