Before I get too immersed into my blog post, I just want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for all of the love and support you have shown me. I love words as they help convey your thoughts and emotions, however, in this case I feel they are limiting as my heart is overwhelmed from all of the wonderful things that have come out of sharing my story. It is a very scary thing to put yourself out there. I want to share the reason that I wanted to start this blog. I am on several RA boards and one day I read that a woman was considering suicide because she couldn’t get her family to understand her pain and fatigue. That was the wake up call for me to do something. If this blog can help one person, can inspire one person, can provide someone something to cling onto when someone needs it the most, then I am truly doing what I was called to do. Thank you all again from the bottom of my heart.
I am currently in the middle of training for my 3rd marathon this year. The training is the most grueling part with the race being the sweet, sweet reward. During marathon training I try to limit races because you can’t race all out on Saturday and throw down a fast long run on Sunday. I tried that last year and it earned me a torn groin and hamstring. However, I do try to put a few key races into the mix or ones that hold a special place in my heart. I had the pleasure of racing one of the ones near and dear to my heart this past weekend. In a tiny little North Carolina town called Albemarle, the craziest running store you have ever heard of called Vac N Dash puts on a half-marathon called Run the Valley every year. Vac N Dash is a running store that also sells vacuums because you know you are always thinking about cleaning your floors while running. It is an eclectic mix of things in this store, but the owner manages to put together some of the best, most entertaining races out there. I have raced Run the Valley every year since 2013. I won it in 2013 and 2014, so I felt a lot of pressure going into this race. I had so many thoughts swirling in my head. What if I have a flare up? What if I have a bad fatigue day? What if climbing the mountain gets the best of me this year? What if some speedy girl comes and I just can’t keep up? Will I pull off a 3 time win?
With stress being a catalyst for a lot of flare ups, I tried to just “trust in my training” and know that I have been working so hard, but I wanted the win. I wanted to prove mainly to myself that I can, in fact, doing anything I put my mind to. My friend, Andrew, paced me last year and he had signed onto the task again this year. I have a tendency to let my mind dictate my run instead of my body and Andrew is great at telling me to “shut up and run” which is exactly what I need. So I tanked up on Turmeric (life savor for inflammation) and we made the hour and a half drive to Albemarle. We say hello to the wonderful person who has agreed to be my “official” photographer and we hit the porta potty one last time. It was almost race time. The nerves were really kicking in! I toe the line and share a few laughs with people standing in the the start corral. The countdown begins and with that there is no turning back. Miles 1-4 are gently rolling with most of them downhill. Andrew and I clip through the first mile in 6:22 and that puts me 3rd overall and 1st female. The next two miles we went through at a 6:43 pace and I felt great. We were still talking and smiling. Mile 4 is rolling and we were on cruise control at 7:01. Mile 5 is where you start to climb. I remember the first year I did this race I was thinking, “oh this is the mountain people warned me about”. Oh how very wrong I was. That mile is the introduction to the mountain you are about to climb. It’s like a warning hill, if you will. We got up it in 7:19 and then we entered the park and took mile 6 at 7:18. Mile 7 is the mountain. I am not the best uphill runner so Andrew always backs me off so I don’t redline. But we start the climb and I am feeling good. Andrew had been sick and taking antibiotics and they were starting to affect him. So, I pulled away when we still had half a mile to climb, which also happens to be the steepest part of the mountain. When I made the left hand hair pin turn I could see the number 2 male just up ahead walking. And I knew he is was faster than me, so then I got a little worried (ok fine, I was REALLY worried) because he is so much faster than me. I’ve raced against him before and he always finishes ahead. I was feeling so great that I decided he may just be having an off day and just keep pushing. So I charge on and finish the climb with a 8:40 for that mile. Now comes my favorite part, to fly on the downhill. I have big quads and I cannot lie! So, I put my big quads to use and came barreling back down the mountain at 6:20 for mile 8. That feeling you get when you are barreling downhill is unlike any other. It almost feels like you are flying and the wind takes your worries with it. Leaving you only with a stripped down version of yourself. It’s a freedom I can’t fully explain, you have to experience it. You have to feel it to know it, to understand it. I ended up negative splitting miles 9, 10 and 11 (7:10, 7:08 and 7:06). I was beaming with joy. I actually felt great and was smiling the entire time. This was some of the hardest part of the course (rolling hills, absolutely no shade and the temps were climbing). Would this last? I tell myself it doesn’t matter that I only have about 15 minutes left and I can do anything for 15 minutes. Miles 12 and 13 have ample uphills and the road camber is hideous. I came through those miles in (7:29 and 7:16). The final .21 (course measures a little long) in 6:34. I finished! I had done it! I was the 1st overall female and 2nd overall! I literally got choked up. The race director, Peter, grabbed me and hugged me. And it was everything I could do not to just start bawling. I couldn’t believe it. I won the race 3 years in a row!!! One that is described as the hardest in NC. And I felt great the entire race. It was truly a surreal moment. I’m sure several people were like what is up with that nut job smiling like a Chesire cat with her eyes welling up. Several things to note about this race. Albemarle is one of the friendliest places on earth. Every single runner from the leader of the pack or the final rockstar runner says, “good job” to each other coming up or going down the mountain. Everyone cheers you on. It is a running family. There is nothing but admiration and love for one another. And egos do not belong. It is an amazing place to race and an incredible experience.
When I finished the race and once I got myself together (remember I was almost bawling) a few runners started to come up to me. They had mentioned that they had read my blog. So many people called me an inspiration that day. At one point, I had to excuse myself to the porta potty so I could wipe away my tears. I had just had the most amazing victory and it all of a sudden paled in comparison to the sweet words I heard from so many runners. At least 10 people came up to me and spoke to me about my blog. If you are reading this and you are one of those people, thank you. Thank you for putting yourself out there. Thank you for giving ME the courage to continue. Thank you for making me feel like I can make a difference and letting me know that you care or were inspired. There are a few times in my life where I can say it was a best day ever. My daughter being born will always be the best, but this day made my top 3 best days ever. And it wasn’t the win, it was the people that opened up to me and shared their thoughts and feelings. So thank you everyone. I hope you will stick by me on my journey. I promise to cover the good and the bad with the utmost honesty and transparency. I hope I can continue to inspire and do what I feel like I am being called to do. Thank you for taking your time to read my journey. You all are a huge part of it.