25 February 2015

DONNA recap - day 3

Sunday, February 15: Race Day!!

So, the main reason I came down here had finally arrived, but let me tell you, up to this point I had an amazing time and was so glad I made sure to be in town for EVERY event leading up to the "MAIN" event. When I originally was chosen to be an ambassador, I intended to run the full and get redemption from last year's race. But after my goal race in the fall, I sort of slacked off. Like, only ran 10 miles in ALL of December slacked off. When I realized it, I knew there was NO WAY I was going to be ready to run a full in February. So I mentally set myself up for a fun half, with no real time goals, because my "A" race for the spring is Cherry Blossom.

What worked out really well being the "ambassador slacker" was that I had the distinct honor of driving Dave McGillivray (uh-hem, the Race Director for Boston, if you didn't know) to the airport after the race. I keep getting ahead of myself though...

Race morning always comes early. And I am NOT a super fan of mornings. But we headed down to the start, bundled up for the cold that we THOUGHT was going to chase us all morning. But it ended up being a beautiful day for a run. I enjoyed getting there early and grabbing some Dunkin coffee and munchkins before the race, as well as hanging out with fellow ambassadors, Krissy and Marcia. We got to chat with a few other folks before it was time to get started. Oh wait - one last port-a-potty stop before we line up. Meet you guys over there... except, when I came back I couldn't find them, which was fine because like I said I was the slacker ambassador "just" doing the half (Joanie, as she is affectionately known, Joan Benoit-Samuelson, would KILL me for using that word - 13.1 miles is no joke!) it wasn't as important to line up with everybody.

So, here's something about me you may not know - I wear glasses. I am nearsighted which means I don't need them to read books, but I do need them to drive and see further away. Except I NEVER wear my glasses when running (or riding my bike for that matter - bad, I know). I don't have any "sport" frames, and I sweat SOOOO MUCH they won't stay on. Plus, I have sensitive eyes (yes, like in that commercial), so I have to wear sunglasses even on the most overcast days. So, I'm heading to the front of the pulse start, trying to find the 2:00 hour pace group for the half, except I can't read any of the signs! I made it up near the 4:30 marathon pace team, and the first pulse started taking off, so I was just like, ok, here's where I'm going to be! I was planning on 2:00/0:45 intervals, which means running for 2 minutes and walking for 45 seconds. I had my watch ready to go, and kept to my intervals for the majority of the race, only walking a little extra thorough water stops and when needing to take my fuel (NOT forgetting it this year!).

The first few miles of the race are amazing - got to see Hal Higdon around mile 2.5 and give him a high 5! The people were out in full force cheering and there were so many "pitstops" where people had food and drinks set up in their driveways for the runners. We got to enjoy much of this same atmosphere at this point last year, because the weather didn't turn until later in the day. But these people really know how to turn out! I kept playing leap frog with some of the ambassadors in the 4:30 pace group (shout out to Holly and Elisabeth) and was super pumped when we made it to the beach. It was a beautiful sight and sadly my attempt at a photo without taking my phone off my armband sort of failed. As a half-marathoner, I only spent a mile on the beach and soon enough it was time for the split.

We were off the beach and heading back towards Mayo. Much of this is the same as the marathon course, but of course after a few more miles. I was feeling good, but wasn't trying to push it too hard. I was set on an "easy" run for my training plan, and aiming for a 10:34 average pace.  It was a little breezy on the beach, and I wasn't looking forward to how windy it would be on the bridge to Mayo, but that wasn't going to be for a bit.
But it came up SO fast! After running the full last year, the ramp up to JTB seemed to come quickly after making that turn off the beach. I had all kinds of memories of last year come flooding back - Linzie and I struggling up the ramp and across those last few miles, seeing the course go to black and the buses heading up the ramp from Mayo to go pick up runners behind us. But the sky was blue, the temps were AMAZING, and there was a little wind but it wasn't awful, as I came up to the final push over the bridge. The ZTAs cheering at the top of the bridge were GREAT (we missed them last year... ) and helped really get me over the hump. Oh, and I forgot to mention about this time the elites ran past us like it was nothing they had completed TWICE the distance in the same amount of time it took us to "just" run 13.1. And they made it look so easy clicking off those miles. In fact, when the first elite passed me, I was on a walk break, but when I was back running and the second elite passed, I thought briefly, "let's see if I can match his pace." Uh, NO! Damn they are FAST!
The REAL champions,
Donna and Dr. Edith Perez

Coming down the ramp and making that turn to head to the finish chute, I knew I wanted to push and run the last bit. I did end up taking one brief walk break so I could cross strong, but it was an amazing finish for me. No PR, no major speed, but this race wasn't about that for me. This race wasn't about feet to the pavement - it was about making a real difference in the race to a cure. It was such a great feeling to hit $500 and even see more donations come in once I got down to JAX. I still want to hit that $1000 total raised this year - and being at Mayo, learning about the work our donations are supporting, being around the people of JAX that get it, that see everyday what DONNA does for the community, running that route where Donna herself struggle with her demons of being diagnosed for the third time and deciding to create this amazing race to finish breast cancer - THAT is what this day was about.

So, I crossed the finish line, I grabbed an AMAZING spread from the VIP tent before rushing my pal Dave to the airport - that was super cool, and we had a cool conversation about all things running. And hopefully I'm able to head up to Boston next month and run the prep run with Adam and say "hi" to my cool new friend. But I wanted to get back to the party, to hang out with my super awesome friends, and enjoy more of the amazing atmosphere of what was happening at Mayo. Sadly, I didn't get back in time to watch Krissy (the speedster) or Marcia finish (I admit it, I stopped and showered before I got back - but also, traffic was a little crazy because JTB was closed for the race and they were rerouting people right where I needed/wanted to go), but I did get to see them in the tent and celebrate their amazing races.

I also got so see the girls finish the DONNA 110 - yeah, I missed speedster Dave who finished the marathon in 3:28! What a ROCKSTAR! And chatting with some of the other ambassadors - Krissy, Elisabeth, Dawn, maybe others(??) - we're considering doing the 110 in 2017!

Oh yeah, and I managed an average 10:23 pace. Not bad. Not bad at all. ;)

To help us continue to race #CloserToACure, please consider donating.
Some of the AMAZING DONNA Ambassadors after the race

24 February 2015

DONNA recap - Day 2

Saturday, February 14

Forget the fact that it was Valentine's Day. This was THE day for the fun to REALLY get started. Most of my ambassador friends were off to downtown JAX for the 5K. I got a little bit of a reprieve sleeping in before heading over to the start of the DONNA 110. Y'all - that's 110 as in 110 MILES to be run by these amazing runners!

Only 6 people had the GUTS to toe the starting line that fine morning. Three sisters: Kelli Smirnoff, Carrie Neveldine, and Heather Jones-Proctor, as well as  Christian Lisowski, Dave Krupski, and Tim "Salt Shack" Purol. Dave was tapped as the frontrunner, having been the only finisher of the race the previous year (although one other runner would have finished if conditions hadn't gone to black, as she was 3 miles from the finish). I got a chance to chat with Dave before the race started. Here's a bit of what we talked about (paraphrased, as I stupidly forgot to record the conversation):

K: How did you get into running ultras?
D: back in 2009, Boston filled up really quick, so I was looking for something else to do. Ended up registering for the North Face 50 in San Francisco, which I ran in December 2010. Since then I've run 15 races over 100 miles
K: What is your plan for the race today?
D: Average about an 8mm pace for the first 30 miles. Aiming to finish the day between 13 and 14 hours. Hoping to get a full night's sleep before the marathon start tomorrow (at 7:30)
K: What is your fuel plan for an ultra?
D: Easily digested calories, so mainly liquids.
K: What advice would you give to someone considering getting into ultra running?
D: Slowly build up miles in training, just like you do for a marathon. In a race, just keep going - it's not like a marathon where minutes count. You can recover from a bad moment in an ultra.

Dave was so humble and really open to talking about running. But it was getting time to get started on that trek of 110 miles, so he headed over with the other runners to line up for the start. Salt Shack showed up about 2 minutes before the "gun" so he missed out on the pre-race photo op. But my favorite is the nonchalant nature Christian had for the start of the race - check out the video!

I got a chance to see the runners a few times throughout the day up at basecamp, set up by RD Caleb Wilson. This great set up allowed the runners to refuel after each 6.7~ mile loop, use a REAL bathroom (seriously, people, you don't realize how much of a luxury these things are as runners), and get out of the sun, even if only for a few quick moments.  If you really want to know about how the race went from a runner's perspective, check out Dave's recap of the race (a spectacular read in my opinion!). I would have loved to see them all throughout the day, but there was another event I needed to head off and get ready for.

We were invited to dinner at Mayo, for a "state of the research" sort of dinner. My favorite part, as a giant science nerd, was the tour of the labs where Dr. Edith Perez and her team are working on genomics to better understand and treat cancer. And somewhere in that lab, the cure is waiting to be found! I was also really excited to hear about the work they are already doing around other cancers and know that this is cutting edge, leading research being done because of our fundraising support. Every dollar makes a difference and leads to some significant advances. One of the ambassadors joked that he wanted something in the lab named after him for the donations he helped raised - me, I just want to keep supporting this amazing race and this amazing foundation for the work that is being done at Mayo. Yeah, the food was fabulous - scientifically determined to be great pre-race fuel for runners - but the highlight of the day for me was listening to Dr. Perez tell us about the continued research being done and hearing from one of the women who has been supported by the DONNA Foundation as she has undergone treatment for breast cancer. THIS is why we do it! 

It was a great day, but tomorrow was the main event, and it was time to head to bed and get some zzz's before the big day.

Oh yeah - while we were off dining on yummy food and enjoying company of amazing doctors, the DONNA 110 folks were STILL RUNNING! Dave was the first one in, managing to hit his goal of 13:26 for the first ~85 miles, including a stop at Lynch's Irish Pub for a quick (read: 5 min in and out) beer. He had a PR for the 50 mile distance - the man is INCREDIBLE!

On Sunday, I caught some of the finishers after the race... needless to say, they were exhausted, hungry, and ready for a shower!

The reason we all do this craziness - whether a 5K or the monster 110 miles - is to get us #CloserToACure. You can help us #finishbreastcancer - consider making a donation today.

**As I previously mentioned, if I hit $1000 by the March 31 fundraising deadline, I'll sign up for another 13.1 in honor of DONNA (I'll pink out my outfit like I did for the race) and YOU can help me choose the race!

23 February 2015

DONNA recap - day 1

I found DONNA HQ
It was some awesome to be an ambassador this year for the race! I had to make sure I made myself available for all the ambassador fun because the Social Media Butterfly had BIG plans for us!

I ended up heading down to Hilton Head/Bluffton on Wednesday to stop in and see my parents. Got in a great little run through the neighborhood Thursday morning before I left for Jacksonville. It was chilly and breezy, but great for a few quick miles. I was keeping an eye on another ambassador's incoming flight so I could pick her up at JAX. Holly had made the trek all the way from Washington state and I wasn't going to let that girl spend too much time at the airport. I scooped her up and we were off.
Hey look what I found at HQ!
 One of the things I love about being an ambassador for this race is getting to know the other ambassadors and their stories of what brought them to DONNA. Holly is a survivor and had the amazing pleasure of going on one of Jeff Galloway's Greece trips, where she met Chris Twiggs, one of the DONNA board members, and the rest, as the say, is history! Holly is so positive and full of light and it was great to spend bits of time with her during the weekend. I agree with Chris Turner that next year we need to all be able to stay in closer proximity so we can hang out more and get to know each other! Holly had a series of flights bringing her cross country, so she was ready for a nap and a shower after I picked her up, so I dropped her off at her hotel and went the DONNA Headquarters to meet up with the Social Media Butterfly herself to see how I could help out.
We headed to an event at a local school before saying goodnight and getting ready for the fun in the morning - what I'm really calling "Day 1" - the Social Shakeout Run!

Must. Have. Coffee!

Marcia scooped me up and we were off early to Lillie's Coffee Bar to get ready for all the runners and CELEBS! Yes, running royalty was on their way to our party. Joan Benoit-Samuelson, Jeff Galloway, Dave McGillivray, Alana Hadley, and of course, Donna herself. It was great to run with Jeff and his wife Barbara for a bit - Barbara even gave me some awesome reading recommendations! It was definitely cool to start the morning, but after a quick 4 miles, it was feeling warmer and we all hesitated to go inside.
I spy Dave McGillivray

But soon enough we were inside the coffee shop enjoying our hot coffee and yummy pastries and some amazing conversation with people. Seriously - this was THE event to be at for the weekend. Little did I know that the DONNA 110 Champion was also in our midst - humble Dave Krupski, who I met briefly since I knew I would be covering that race starting the following day.

We had a great morning to start the festivities, and then Krissy and I were off to the expo to grab our bibs, check out all the fun vendors, and maybe see a glimpse of the Butterfly in action! The expo was full of great vendors, and so well organized. We got in a got our bibs really quick, then had some time to really explore each aisle and see the vendors we wanted to see - did someone say CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN?!?!?! - then we were both SOOOO hungry, that we headed off for some off-site errands and lunch at Pei Wei.

About that time, it was time to start getting ready for our fabulous evening at One Ocean, a sort of cocktail hour affair for the "VIPs" and a chance to really see all the ambassadors (well, most of them anyway... we did have some stragglers. Life gets in the way of fun sometimes on race weekends). This was a super fun evening, and while we had planned to go out for pizza afterwards, most of us were so stuffed from the awesome buffet, and exhausted from the amazingness of the day, we ended up heading home. Needless to say, we had a good time!

I'm still aiming for my total fundraising goal of $1000 - needs to be "in the bank" by March 31. And I've committed to run another 13.1 in honor of DONNA if I meet that goal - you can help me choose! To help us continue to race #CloserToACure, please consider donating.