Living life Outloud

Posted: May 23, 2012 in Uncategorized


While I was running tonite I was completely struck by one of the most amazing sunsets i’d seen in awhile. I’ve been having a lot of “God moments” lately and I thought this was truly one of those moments. The sky was vibrant orange, pink and purple behind some palm trees, water and buildings. It was simply amazing. The temperature was perfect with a nice breeze, the cicadias were humming and I felt amazing out there. While I was taking in the beauty I realized (as I do so often) that I was completely blessed to be out there enjoying God’s earth.  And I understood perfectly why God made me an endurance athlete. I’m not stuck in some arena, court, or stadium. I get to be outside enjoying this incredible planet. I get to see amazing sunsets, ride some awesome hills & swim in the beautiful ocean practically every day. i get to challenge myself pysically &mentally. He gave me friends & access to other athletes who would encourage me and push me when I needed it. God gave me this wonderful gift because he wanted to make sure I “lived” this life!

The Race to Mediocrity

Posted: May 10, 2016 in Racing
{Rated PG for occasional strong language} 😉
Those who knew me in my racing life years ago know that I was a nut about my racing. I had become VERY, very Type A and competitive. i have said for many years that one of the reasons I stopped doing tris was that I didn’t like the person I was becoming. Don’t get me wrong, racing competitively got me fit, I was confident, I met people I wouldn’t have otherwise met, and had experiences I wouldn’t have been able to have if I wasn’t an athlete. I can attribute a lot to racing. There was just a piece of me that I wasn’t very fond of anymore.
Those who knew me before and immediately following the Boston Marathon bombing could see how that affected me. There’s no doubt how it affected my running and attitude. Everyone who knows me knows that I kept running so those bastards wouldn’t win. It was the only thing that kept me going.  It literally saved my life. Once, I was stronger mentally, it was pretty obvious that my running was not at a level I was used to. 2013 and 2014 were horrible for me and my running. Physically, I felt like I was having to start all over. Even though I had returned to Boston in 2014, the rest of the year was shit. I don’t think I ran any other races that year. At the end of the year, I decided I needed to re-qualify for Boston~ it was going to be the true test for me. it was the only way to prove to myself that they did not win. I set up a plan, I focused and I trained my heart out. In March of 2015 I re-qualified to go back to Boston in 2016.
You’d think that would have been enough to set me back on track right? Not so easy there buddy. Let me back up a bit. In 2013, I had also moved from flat Florida to Maryland, where runners ran hills and mountains. What? Much to my dismay, I soon learned that I was no longer a mid- to- front of the packer, but I was going to be pulling up the rear in all of my races and training runs. Add this to the after-effects of Boston, “running” just to run~ not being concerned about times, or training plans, or pace, my wanting to enjoy everything and all the beauty of my surroundings, stop and take pictures, not waste a moment of life, and just be in the moment, and you get a runner who just does whatever. There was no longer a plan, or set training regimen. I had no desire to push myself like I used to. As long as I was able to be out there, I was happy.  Much to my dismay, I was beginning to accept mediocrity. I soon started seeing the three letters that athletes hate to see …DNF…Did not Finish.  Some races, I “timed out” meaning I didn’t hit certain cut offs to continue. This was an acceptable DNF to me. I had a couple of races where “I just wasn’t feeling it” and didn’t want to prolong the misery so I dropped out. Every race where I had a DNF, I was ok with it. I knew I went as long as I could, or, I made the right decision to stop.
When Jeffrey and I ran Zion 50k, I was not a happy camper. The wet, cement-like clay made it impossible to move. 17 miles of that race were what I would deem as my version of purgatory. The clay stuck to our shoes and wouldn’t come off no matter what you did. The RDs told us we’d be running with 5lbs of clay on our feet and they were not joking. My feet would stick to the ground and often, more than one person had to help pry them away from the ground. I lost my shoes an unknown number of times. If it weren’t for Jeffrey there to keep me moving, I would have become a “permanent fixture” in the landscape. I’m so thankful he did what he could to make me laugh or to get me out of the funk I was in. I know I was no joy to be around. He has the patience of a Saint. When we were 1/2 way thru the race, we had an opportunity to stop if we wanted. We were cold, wet and not making good progress. We kept checking with each other on what we wanted to do and without uttering the words of quitting. No matter how we were feeling, Neither one of us wanted to “call it” so we continued on. That was our longest 50k ever, but dammit, we finished. Hell, we even passed 7 people in the last 6 miles to the finish making sure we weren’t DFL. =)
So this past weekend we ran a 6 hour race. I had no plan~ zero, nada.  Jeffrey was going to “race” it. I wanted him to. I love nothing more than seeing him excelling out there. The Marwaulkee’s Beast is a fun, winding course with lots of ups and downs and so.effing.runnable. Due to the layout, you never really know who is in front or in back. It just so happened that Jeffrey and I caught glimpses of each other a few times as we came around curves in the trail. Eventually he caught up to me and lapped me (I knew he would, and was happy he did- it meant he was having a great race). we quickly chatted about how we were feeling and where we were on the # of loops and what we thought our course of action would be. I wasn’t sure if I’d stop at 3 or go for 4. It was going to be tight going for 4 with my current pace. I was feeling good, yet I didn’t have a strong desire to do the 4th. I didn’t want to push myself “that” hard. I didn’t want to go from feeling really good to wondering why I forced myself to go on. When I came into the loop, I still wasn’t sure and puttered around trying to make a decision. I kept thinking I was ok to stop. So I finally walked up to the timing area and told them I was done. I had about an hour and a half so it was possible for me to run another loop. But like I said, I didn’t want to push that hard. What the hell was wrong with me? I feel like I was a slacker but on one level I was still ok with the decision. The results were kind of wonky at first and it showed I was 17th for the 6 hour race. Then when we checked them later I had the big DNF next to my name. Ugh. Really? So I knew that really should have been the case but my thinking was last year’s results posted only laps completed and I thought I’d show with laps completed. grrr. There had been an announcement to the 12 hour people that if they didn’t complete a certain number of laps or if they had time left on the clock and that time was greater then the average time of their combined laps and they choose not to continue then they would be disqualified. But there wasn’t anything like that stated for the 3 and 6 hour racers. Looking at that again, that’s exactly what happened for me. =/
Needless to say, this set something off in me. I got a DNF SIMPLY because I was LAZY. This is NOT the person I am. I am NOT a quitter and I DON’T stop things simply because “it’s hard”! I guess I needed a big, bad wake-up call. I got the designation of DNF because it’s what I did. You can’t look at it any other way. There are no excuses, no one to blame but myself. So now, I’m going to focus on becoming the person I once was. I’m not going “all Type A” again, but it’s time to focus, time to take my running seriously, time to be the runner I know I am. There won’t be another DNF because I didn’t want to try or was too lazy to continue. The only time you’ll see those letters are if I’m pulled from the course or there’s a medical emergency.
For a long time, the time spent outdoors was healing for me. I liked not worrying about my time or anything that competitive runners worry about. However, there have been quite a few runs where I told Jeffrey that it was hard for me to reconcile where I was as an athlete and where I am now. I didn’t know if I could “let myself” enjoy it if I started focusing too much on the run itself. so I was settling into mediocrity. I think I know now that I was trying to reconcile that I had become a mediocre runner and I was afraid that I’d lose the happiness I had found and wanted. the reality is,it’s not about reconciling anything.  I DON’T Like being a mediocre runner and I CAN enjoy running hard and doing well at races. I CAN still enjoy everything around me while pushing myself.
My next race is Highlands Sky~ a 40 mile race in the mountains of West Virginia. I only have 5 weeks to get there. Even tho I’ve finished 50 milers in right around 12 hours, those were not mountain races, so the only true gauge I have is that I got to mile 40 of The Ring in the Massanutten Mountains in 15 hours and mile 56 of MMT100 in about 17. I’m really going to have to step it up a notch and focus if I want this finish. I’ll work hard to get it. I’m NOT a quitter and I hate the look of DNF next to my name. It’s going to take some work and I’m ready for the challenge. Bring it On!

Boston Marathon 2014 Reclaiming MY Race

There are things I learned ( or re-learned) in Boston
1. Unless you are serious about re-qualifying in Boston, start in a corral (not wave- as you can’t jump back a wave) slower than your qualifying group. Otherwise, you’ll burn yourself out quick.
2. The crowds are insane. Their energy will keep you going.
3. That race is to enjoy. We bust our butts to get there. Have fun. Give kids high- fives, take Popsicles, drink beer. Show the crowd as much love as they show you.
4. Pay attention to your nutritional needs, salt etc. despite how the energy from the crowd makes you feel like you are invincible.
5. Wonder Woman CAN save the day!

If you are reading this, chances are, you’ve followed me all year. You’ve read my struggles as I coped with what happened last year. Mom and I both knew almost immediately that we were going to have to come back. We needed to come back and reclaim our day and Come hell or high- water we were going to be there! We had to look fear in the face and say “FU” to those who tried to destroy us and our race. Everyone deals with tragedy differently, thankfully we both needed to go back.

The “darkness” I felt combined with the crazy winter left me physically unprepared to run like I like to run marathons. But the thing I needed was to get through the marathon. As you may know, I originally thought the best thing I could do to heal was the multi-state memorial run into Boston. As I realized how overwhelming it was to plan an endeavor like that, I also began to realize I needed a celebration. I needed to make it my race. I had to reclaim my race. As soon as I made the decision to have fun and celebrate, I became less concerned about my time. I knew it wasn’t going to be a stellar performance and I didn’t care. This time Boston was about enjoying that race as much as possible. And I did! Since I was looking for a celebration, I began thinking about what would make me the happiest. I’d always wanted to run in costume, but my ego and competitiveness always got in the way. So this year, I was running in costume. I was running as Wonder Woman. And that was the best decision I could have ever made. Running in that costume made me forget the pain surrounding last year.

Prior to the start, a woman told me that she had run as WW in the Las Vegas RNR marathon. She said, “it sounds silly, but it’s like I became Wonder Woman. People were cheering for Wonder Woman.” I thought “that IS just silly. You don’t become Wonder Woman.” Little did I know…

I’m not going to give mile by mile for all 26.2 ~ especially since the recount of them would seem like the same thing. And really, the most important thing was how I felt during the race.

Me and Heather

Heather and I at the start of the race

Heather and I started together. She’s my little angel, my sole-sister. We made a pact that while we would love to run the entire thing together, that if either one of us felt the need to pull ahead or back we would and not feel bad about it. We got to run quite a few miles together and I’m grateful for those miles. We didn’t talk much during those miles as we were both caught up in the pace of those around us. If I would pull back or we’d get runners in between us, it was funny to watch her. She always knew I was around because she could hear the cheers for Wonder Woman and she’d always turn and look for me. I knew I couldn’t continue the pace we were running and eventually pulled back. She was too far ahead for me to catch back up and to wish her well so I gave her a silent cheer and well wishes. I was already feeling the love from the crowds but little did I know how their energy was going to get me through and feed my energy throughout every step of that race.
As the miles increased, watching people’s expressions as they saw my costume was priceless. And by this time I was totally eating it up. Men, women and children were just giddy with excitement in seeing Wonder Woman. I got so many fist pumps and “rock on” acknowledgements. People would have huge smiles on their faces. It seemed like everyone wanted to give me a high-five. The more I gave, the more people wanted them. It was insane! When I went through Boston College, I had thought I’d hit everyone possible and more people appeared wanting a high-five. It was exhausting! But soooo much fun! And I don’t care what any one says, the women who saw me were THE most encouraging. We “get” Wonder Woman and what she represents. “Girl Power” you know it. You understand it. You own it. Fist bump.

For as much love as the crowd was giving me, I was giving it back tenfold. I ran near the edge so I could give high-fives, blow kisses at the crowd, give someone a “point” and acknowledge them however I could. I got a kick out of all the “touch here for power signs” and made it a point to touch them- all of them. I mean if anyone can use more power it’s Wonder Woman right? I made sure to give all the kids I could high fives or take their Popsicles. There were times the crowds were so nuts and I was having so much fun that I’d do an upward swoop with my arms to rile more cheers ~and I’d get them! I often threw my head back in laughter as I was having so much fun.

Me. Reclaiming my race.

Me. Reclaiming my race.

Ironically, the fun in being Wonder Woman also caused some crazy surges in adrenaline. These surges were so much greater and longer than in other races that I burned myself up quicker. I wasn’t paying attention to my salt intake either. I was drinking plenty of water and Gatorade but only took endurolytes once during the race. A HUGE no-no for what my body needs. There were times I thought I was going to yak, but I squashed those thoughts as soon as I had them. I was wearing a Wonder Woman costume for God’s sake! That’s all I needed was to have my pic taken as I was vomiting on the side of the road. And because of the costume, I felt twice as bad when I wanted to walk. You could just hear the difference in the cheers. I couldn’t disappoint them! 😉 I know. It’s silly right?

As I’m getting closer to Boston and the crowd is even more insane, I started having really silly thoughts. Here I was taking back MY marathon~ having the time of my life. They were taking back their city and race. I’m dressed as a super hero and the crowd loves it. They are absolutely nuts. Super heroes save the day. Let me for today, save your race. Let me save your city. Silly. But those thoughts crossed my mind.

we took back our race. We took back our finish line.

I am so grateful for every moment of pure joy that I experienced out there.

Any one who has run Boston or who shows up on race day understands “Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston” -the direction to the finish line. As soon as I saw the sign for Hereford, my heart sank and I took a pause. Here we go. Let’s finish this up. Normally the last half mile of a race is golden. I can find energy from out of no where. Making that turn on Boylston was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I didn’t want to go. I remember some folks cheering for me at the corner and all I could think was “I can’t do it” but I also knew if I didn’t go it would let those assholes win, if I didn’t finish, everything else was just a waste. I had to take back MY race. I had to do it for me, for mom, for the people who died, the injured, those of us who had emotional scars and for every single runner. I was taking back my race.  Going down Boylston took forever. I felt like I was in super slow-motion. I was scanning the crowd, making note of where the police officers were, looking at their feet, looking for anything out of the ordinary. Gawd. This is not how you finish a race. Just get me across that finish line.

and then


I took back my race! FU you no name brothers I DID IT! I EFFING DID IT!

After I got my medal and heat cape I called mom to let her know I finished. I was tickled that Wonder Woman finally had her cape. =) Mom said she saw me finish. We would meet back at the park where we finally found each other last year. I wasn’t feeling the best but I’d be ok once I could lie down. As I’m making my way thru the long section for runners I start to notice that my lips were tingling. Ok that’s not normal. After a min or two I decide to take in some endurolytes- maybe that would help. Then my fingers started tingling and the sensation was traveling quickly up my arms. I realize I’m going south and quick! I was able to get the attention of a volunteer giving out food. I asked her to get the medical people as I couldn’t move. My speech was slurred. Oh God! What’s happening? This year I couldn’t protest. They had to get me into the medical tent and quickly. Unfortunately, I had wandered far enough away from the finish line and med tent that wheeling me into the tent took waaaay too long. This year they had a 2nd tent which is where the woman took me. By the time I’m in the tent, my hands had clenched into fists. I couldn’t open them. I couldn’t feel my feet or my legs. I was in so much pain and I was begging them to do something. The doc kept telling me to stop hyperventilating. I couldn’t. I didn’t even realize I was hyperventilating. somehow managed to let them know I was in the medical tent last year when the bombs exploded. Any communication I was having after that was with nods as speaking was too hard. I remember one of the medics looking me in the eye and telling me she was in the med tent last year too. That may have help “ground me”. They finally put in an IV drip, got me positioned on a cot, and had a counselor come talk to me. It took a while for me to feel my legs of feet. The hands were still clenched tight and eventually loosened. Having that counselor there helped me so much especially as I was able to start talking normally again. At one point the doc asked how I was doing. I said “I’m talking, so I have to be good!!” those who know me know I can be quite the Chatty Cathy. I don’t think he understood my humor but I knew I was ok if I was talking up a storm. =)
I think I went in with dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance or both. But everything else was a full-blown panic attack and probably even a body flashback. I could share with you every bit of conversation I had with that counselor. It was just so good to know that from the way she talked, others who were in Boston last year felt the same and experienced the same things I did. I wasn’t crazy after all. =) In looking back on that day, I’ve said to a few people that I think I needed to go back into that medical tent to face my fears head on. It too, was part of the healing process.

Boston is the most incredible race there is. I want to go back again next year. I was overcome with emotion the day after the race when I realized how far I’d come. During the last year, I felt every emotion so intensely and I hit lows and a darkness I never experienced before. Hopefully those days will now drop to a minimum. On race day, even though I had a few rough spots, my day was filled with pure joy. Pure joy. I reclaimed my race. I reclaimed my run. I reclaimed myself.
Thank you God!

I couldn't have made it through Boston without these 2 ladies.

I couldn’t have made it through Boston without these 2 ladies.

As the planning for my run to honor Boston is gaining momentum, I going to attempt what I’ve started so many times before… My race report of the Boston Marathon 2013. I’ve struggled for so long to extract the happy moments of that day and so many times, I’ve come up short as I could no longer extract the good from the bad. I felt too guilty to talk about the amazing day I was having prior to the bombings. But in my heart, I’ve known that healing would come from sharing that day and to appropriately honor Boston, the 260+ who were injured and the 4 people who died (that’s including the MIT officer later), I have to talk about the good. So here we go.
The Boston Marathon. It’s the dream race for so many. Some people grow up hearing about the race. Others realize it’s importance once they start running. For me, I don’t remember when I was first introduced to it. I just remember the first time I saw the coveted blue jacket. I remember seeing it and saying to myself that one day I would have my own. The first time I tried to actually qualify, I missed the qualifying time by 5 min. And while some tried to pass along their sympathy that I missed it, I was thrilled because I had taken 40 min off my first marathon time and I knew that it was within my reach. When I qualified in 2012 to run in 2013 I was below the qualifying time by about 9 min. So I was going to Boston!!! When I moved from FL, a lot of folks asked me if I was still running  and I’m sure they got a look like “is there any other answer other than ‘yes’? The move did make it difficult to think about the financial side of it, but I was going! And come hell or high water, my mom was too.

Me and Katherine Switzer~ My biggest inspiration!

Me and Katherine Switzer~ My biggest inspiration!

Fast forward to race week… Mom and I fly into Boston and do the racey and touristy stuff. I had 2 goals when I got to the expo. 1) get my jacket 2) to talk to Kathrine Switzer again. She is the first woman to have officially entered the Boston Marathon and was tackled by the Race Director because he “didn’t want a woman running his race”. That was only 1967. She has become a champion and leader in women’s running. She was the force behind getting the women’s marathon as an Olympic event. It took her until 1980 to get the women’s marathon a recognized event. She is by far my biggest inspiration. We got to the expo and found our way to the “official” Boston Marathon gear and there were the jackets! The minute I tried mine on, tears rolled down my face. “That’s it! I’m an official Boston Marathoner! My mom cried too! Those of you who know my mom can say you’re not surprised. =) we made our way thru the maze of people and I knew that Kathrine was only going to be there for so long and I hoped we’d catch her.

We came around the corner and I see a line of people and the infamous pic of Kathrine being tackled. Mom and I stood in line and at one point Kathrine walks down the line to do a “count” of people and to let us know she was going to have to be leaving soon. One of the best things about Kathrine is she loves our stories, so much so that when you get your chance to talk to her she’ll tell you the story of the person in front of you. This time the women in front of me were from Saudi Arabia. Kathrine was thrilled and kept sayings thing about how she’s been trying to “get into Saudi  and get women running there.”She was so patient as we fumbled with our cameras and took several pics with us. Thank you Kathrine for being so wonderful.


The Badger Sorority Pose

On to race day,
On race morning, I had mom take a couple of pics of me to share with my group that I coached.  I eventually took a cab to the buses that would shuttle us off to Hopkinton for the start of the race. All morning I had been getting texts from friends giving me encouragement and wishes for my race. Sitting in the Athletes’ Village, I was overcome with a mix of humbleness and excitement. I was sitting among the best of the best. I qualified to be here. I coached athletes with little or no running to their first half-marathon, marathon and beyond. I celebrated their victories. Today was my day. It was the day for me to celebrate my victory. Today, they were cheering for me.


The mass of Runners

Eventually, I make my way to the starting line and boy were they serious about you starting in the right corral. Soon enough the elite runners took off. How exciting! There’s just something pretty cool about seeing the mass of runners ahead of you. Finally they get to my corral and we’re off! I notice pretty early that you have to run the pace that the group you are in is running. You have no choice as you are “pushed” by their momentum. I’m feeling great out there and I know that if I can continue to run that pace, I’ll requalify.

The crowds were amazing. There is not a space in the entire 26.2 miles where there was not a person on the sidelines. And that’s no exaggeration. If you can find a space bigger than a normal size person, you’ve gotten off course or something! Somewhere around mile 2 a guy is offering beer. I think “um, not at mile two! And it’s a glass bottle!” So I keep running.
During the race meeting and even on the tour bus, we are told to beware of the girls at Wellesly College around mile 13. We are told that you can hear them at least a mile away. I think I didn’t hear them until much closer but they were nuts. The Sirens of the Boston Marathon, they’re called. Screaming and cheering, trying to get runners to run over to them and kiss them. Just the sheer sound of them could blow you away. There were so many times that I had to catch my breath on the course because the number of people out there cheering for us was insane. It’s almost overwhelming at times. At some point I decided I “didn’t want to work that hard” and this was my first Boston, and I was going to enjoy it. So I did! I slowed down, I walked if I wanted, I gave high-fives to kids, took Popsicles from them, I even had my beer at mile 22. I soaked in every bit of that race and I enjoyed every minute of it!  I loved reading all the signs like “Run faster, Ryan Gossling is at the finish with a puppy.”, “You trained longer than Kim Kardashians marriage.”, “Spoiler Alert, a Kenyan Won” ,”You have stamina, call me” etc. There’s a hill that you run prior to Heartbreak Hill that fools you into thinking that’s it. But as I’m running through there I keep thinking, “No, if this was Heartbreak it would be a bigger deal.” Eventually I see a running store called something like Heartbreak Runners so I knew I was close. We start running up the hill and I’m like “yup, this is it.” Once you get to the top there’s an inflatable arch that congratulates you on your summit of Heartbreak and of course there’s even more people at the top of it. Sometime after I had my beer, I realized I could still make it in under 4 hours if I picked up my pace. Out of all the things I’ve thought about since that day, the realization that if I had been any slower, my day would have been significantly different and I might have gotten caught in the bombings has been the toughest to come to terms with. But I pick up my pace and the crowds are getting larger- not that I thought it was even possible for them to get larger. But it’s just as crazy as the first part of the race. Boston truly loves their Marathon! I remember coming around one corner and for some reason I wondered if I might see someone I know. I finally see the Citgo sign and know I’m within a mile of finishing the Boston Marathon. Just keep your pace, get in under 4 hours. You did this. I start having those thoughts of what I want to do when I cross the finish line. It was still pretty cool so I wondered if I should leave my gloves on, but I didn’t want to fuss with them. Do I strike a crazy pose? What do I want my finishers pic to look like? Soon, I see the finish ahead of me. The emotions hit. That’s it. You’ve finished the Boston Marathon! I look to the sky as I usually do when I finish a race and I thank God for the chance to run it, for keeping me safe, for letting me accomplish one of my goals. Bostonfinishline

The moment my feet hit the line I wanted to kneel down and kiss the ground but didn’t.  I bent over to catch my breath and to allow the emotions to flow. I quickly realized I had to keep moving, my body temperature was dropping. I needed my space blanket. Unfortunately they had those at the end of a very long station with food, Gatorade, water etc. all I wanted was to get my medal, my blanket and sit down. It felt like we had to walk an additional 1/2 mile to get our space blankets and medals. Finally, someone is in front of me with medals. I bow my head and let the person put it on. That’s it. It’s official. I move over to the curb so I can sit down. When I do, my body starts trembling and shaking uncontrollably. Another runner sees me and asks if I was ok and if I needed medical. I said I was ok and the guy said, “no you’re not. That shaking is not normal.” Before I knew it, I was in a wheelchair being hauled off to the medical tent. As they are wheeling me in, I can only think, “I’ve done four Ironman races, a DoubleIron, three 100 mile runs and several Ultras and never needed medical. NOW I need it? Oh boy. I couldn’t wait to post that on my FaceBook status.”

I wish I could end my report there. But I can’t. I just can’t. The healing will also come from what I experienced while I was in the medical tent across from the finish line. It will come in talking about my experience when the bombs exploded.
When we got to the tent, they asked my race number and scanned it. When I told them the number, I knew I must be ok because I could recite it. As soon as they scanned my number I remembered I had not written moms number on the back.  Oh crap. She’s not going to know I’m in here. I sat down, people came and asked me questions, shone lights in my eyes. I was still so cold. I saw people with heavy-duty blankets and wanted one so bad. Others looked worse than I felt and none of the athletes spoke to each other. We were just trying to stay warm and do what was asked of us and work on feeling better. I felt kind of foggy so I decided I’d stay for a little while. I really wasn’t in the tent long before the bombs exploded. I think somewhere I’ve figured out I had finished 20 min before the first bomb exploded but I can’t say for sure.

When the first bomb exploded, everyone looked at each other as if to say “was that supposed to happen?” I watched the faces of the medical people and there was just enough uncertainty in their expressions that I had a feeling that it wasn’t. I remember thinking that was an odd time to shoot off a cannon. I remember listening for screams or more noises to give me an idea of what was happening. The reaction of the medical professionals was almost the same. It was like we were all trying to evaluate what just happened. I remember expecting someone to rush into the tent to give us directions or tell us what happened. I don’t remember if people started rushing into the tent before or after the second explosion. But from the reports of that day, there were only 12 seconds between the two explosions so they probably easily overlapped. Two of the first people to come into the medical tent was a man pushing a wheel chair with someone in it. They looked a lot like Dick and Rick Hoyt and my heart sank. I learned later that they were a mile away when the explosions happened and were not able to finish. I remember seeing blood on them. More people were being wheeled in and I looked at all of them because I was scared, so scared, that one of them was my mom. I tried to only look at their faces but I couldn’t help but to scan them to see how badly they were injured. I think there was a part of me that was trying to make sense out of it all and I think that I felt they held the story of what happened out there. As people started coming into the tent, I kept trying to move further and further out of the way.  At one point one of the medical personnel was trying to move us all to the back of the tent. We didn’t know what was happening, but whatever it was, it wasn’t good. There was a young woman who had moved in the same direction I had and she was as horrified and scared as I was. She was on her phone and all I could think was I’ve got to get to mine so I can let people know I’m ok. The medical folks were trying to keep us calm and handle all of the incoming people at the same time.  I didn’t want to be in there. I was scared and needed to find my mom. She hadn’t come into the tent. Did that mean something happened to her or was she out there somewhere? Oh God. This can’t be happening.

Eventually I notice that they are letting the non-seriously injured folks out of the tent. In a split decision I decided that was my only chance of getting out and finding mom. I was scared to see what happened out there, but I had to go. when I come out of the tent, my instinct drew my attention toward the finish line. I couldn’t see anything from where I was. I wanted to walk up that way but I also knew that there was probably only chaos up that way and that I’d probably be sent back the way I came. I knew my only chance of finding mom was to get my cell phone and head to the areas where we planned on meeting. She wasn’t at the first and not at the second. Things had been moved and now there seemed to be no rhyme or reason where they had moved our gear. I needed my bag so bad. I was freezing and needed my warm clothes and my phone. I kept getting pointed in different directions for our stuff. I must have been quite visibly distraught as I had several people stop me as I was walking by asking if I was ok. My only focus was finding my gear and my phone. After I returned home I had told a reporter that in a crisis people emerge as leaders and that was so evident as you could see the volunteers who were as scared as the runners and you could see the volunteers who took charge.  After several wrong turns and backtracks I finally find my bag. I threw my clothes on as quickly as I could and grabbed my phone. I was still shaking. I remember seeing everyone around me trying desperately to reach loved ones on the phone. I had no service. We were told at one time that service had been shut off but I think that  the towers were just inundated. I tried calling mom so many times. The call wouldn’t go thru. I tried my sister. Nothing. Finally, I was able to get a text out to my sister to let her know I was ok but I couldn’t find mom. I thank God for my sister that day as she became the relay agent between me, mom and the rest of the family. I am still overwhelmed by the number of people that reached out to me that day. The only problem was that the times I could actually get or receive text messages, I had to sift thru all of them to find the ones from family and my inbox was full so I couldn’t manage it. Every time I erased one message more came thru.

I told Annette to relay to mom that I was heading over to the park that we had been in the day before. It was a central location and should be easy for her to get back to. There were tons of people wandering around, sort of in a daze. Runners with their space blankets, people who had been on the sidelines. Some visibly more distraught than others. I opted to stay near the sidewalk near the road. There was a family near me. There were two runners, one of their moms and another person. We instantly connected and started talking. I am so incredibly grateful God put me in that spot because that family gave me so much comfort. We briefly shared what we experienced and even discussed how we felt about our race. I still believe that acknowledging and congratulating runners on their finish was an important part of that day. Yet, you could see that people were uncomfortable talking about their race and we simply got to the point of “I finished.” They often hugged me or just put their hand on my shoulder or rubbed my back. They kept reassuring me that I was going to be ok and that we’d find my mom. I’d spontaneously break out into tears.

once I knew that my sis had let mom know I was ok and we began the process of trying to find each other, I fired off a text to my friend Eric to let him know I was ok and I knew he could reach a lot people to let them know what was going on and that I was ok. I don’t know how he managed it, but he called and it came thru. Oh thank God! A familiar voice. We talked for a few minutes. I don’t know what kind of emotions were coming thru -especially my fear. I do remember saying something along the lines of how the Boston Marathon was ruined and now there was blood on the finish line. I knew that sounded incredibly selfish but the wonderful day I had was ruined. Things would never be the same.

Shortly after I got off the phone with him there was a third explosion. I learned later that was something in the JFK Library and not a bomb. I sent a message to Eric and he basically told me to “get the F**k out of there!

After several texts with my sister, I finally received one that let me know mom was close. I told the people that were waiting with me she was close and I turned to run down the road. The female runner that was standing there with me ran with me. We get to the corner and run across. I don’t see her. Dammit! I quickly turn and she’s on the side where I was. I run up to her and we grab each other and start sobbing. Thank God we were both ok. The flood of emotions. All we could do was hug and cry. People around us also extended their gratitude that we were both ok. At some point I turned to thank the woman who ran with me.  From my calculations after that day, it took us at least two hours to find each other. What a horrifying, horrifying day.

Location of explosions in relation to where mom and I were

Location of explosions in relation to where mom and I were

Now that mom and I were back together, we had to get back to the hotel. Unfortunately, this also took a lot longer than we intended. All we wanted to do was get to the hotel, get our stuff and get to the airport. We needed to get out of there. I wanted to get us a cab and they were all either full or not taking passengers. I felt so bad because Mom has bad knees and I kept making her walk further so we could try to get a cab.  We ended up walking all the way back to the hotel since we couldn’t get one. Once we got to the hotel, we got our luggage from the concierge and finally flagged down a cab. When we finally get to the airport and thru security the bombings were all over the news. I couldn’t watch any of it yet. I wasn’t ready to see the destruction. Mom and I sat down to eat as far away from others and TVs as we could. I started to respond to some of the texts. We wander over to our gate and sit down. At that point I couldn’t take my eyes off the TV. Another couple that ran was sitting next to us and we shared our experience. I was in so much of a fog I don’t even remember their story. I think she ran and he was on the sidelines but that’s all I can pull from my memory.

I don’t even remember the flight home. When we got thru the airport and were in the parking garage, a gentleman saw me and my jacket and said “you’ve had a helluva day” he told me to take care and be safe. I cried myself to sleep that nite. Woke up sobbing several times. It had to have been a couple of weeks before I stopped crying myself to sleep it might have been longer~ I really don’t know. There were so many days I’d just start crying for no reason. I still do. There are still runs where I’m overcome with emotion and have to stop running because it’s physically impossible to sob and run at the same time. The emotions run deep and I try to tell myself that it could have been worse and I just need to pull it together. It’s like I don’t want to give myself permission to grieve or feel badly because there are people who experienced much worse things than I did. Even my mom~ who we’ve figured out was about 100 feet away from the first explosion saw worse things than I did. I constantly try to downplay my emotions and in a weird way I think if I express those emotions that I’m trying to make my experience worse than it was. I have a ton of survivor guilt and I don’t know how to let go of it. I know that I have some PTSD. I’ve gone as far as trying to get an appointment set up to talk with someone but when they called me back I was feeling ok and didn’t feel it was an issue. I was talking to one of our employees the other day and he said if he had been there he’d have to talk to someone. Maybe I should take that as my cue. I know that anytime I have a conversation about Boston, I thank the person for letting me talk about it. But I also know I have to do something. And the only thing I know how to do is RUN.

After the attacks, I forced myself to get out and run. My mantra was “if I don’t run, they win.” There were many days where there were “just not enough miles” to work through the pain. In the weeks that followed the bombings, I could feel the weight of Boston with every step I took. As I worked through the pain, I kept thinking about what I needed to do for Boston. Again, the only thing I knew how to do was run. I had to heal. Yet, the one thing I knew that would bring comfort was damaged. How could doing the one thing I loved bring so much pain? I shared this thought with some runners during a 50 mile race one weekend and when they expressed an understanding, even though they didn’t know me, I think it finally sunk in. It wasn’t about me ~ I’ve said that all along. I just wanted to honor Boston. But it goes so much further than that. If I do this run, I am honoring every single runner. I am honoring every single person who at some time, toed the line for a race, who said to themselves “I will do this.” I am honoring those who want to run and can’t. I am honoring those who have said “I will run.” I am honoring the solidarity between runners. I am honoring the strength, the resilience, the compassion runners have for each other. I am honoring all runners. This run is for Boston, the running community and for anyone who was affected by that day.

Boston Will of a Runner .kswitzerfearless


Ancient Oaks 100 Mile Run 2013

Posted: January 5, 2014 in Racing

There is nothing like the day after a 100 mile run. Watching my news feed since the race ended has just warmed my heart. I love the emotions that people express about their race. Since this race was in Florida and I’ve done this one now 3 times (I’ve done a total of four 100s.) it was like returning home. Most of the people I’ve known since I hit the ultra world were either racing, crewing or simply hanging out to help where they could or to just be with other like-minded fools. Since I was technically coming uncrewed, it seemed like everyone was offering assistance. Eric Law’s dad and brother were crewing for him so I had a feeling they’d take me under their wing as well.

I think I’ve realized more than ever how hard it is in this race to keep moving. Let me explain. This race is not really that technical, it’s pretty darn runnable, you run a 3.46 mile loop thru the amazing scrub brush, magnolias and ancient oaks, there is a nice section that is laden with roots, and some sections with deep sugar sand but for the experienced trail runner, it is actually pretty easy to get thru. I know all you math-minded people just realized that we ran 29 loops of the same course to get 100.34 miles. And that’s where the continuous movement becomes hard. Once you run over the timing mat for every loop you run/walk thru the parking lot where all the crews, support and all your friends are. This has been deemed “the Vortex of Mediocrity” by Susan Anger and the Florida Ultra Runners (FUR). It’s great in terms of support and being able to get what you need- heck there are even heated bathrooms to use in the middle of the night! This race is one of the FURbies fav places to come cheer/support/ crew their friends. As the race progresses it becomes a party for those not running (or least it feels that way for those of us who are). It becomes increasingly difficult to avoid the Vortex. Thankfully, they don’t allow fire pits in this park. I’m pretty sure if I saw people sitting around a campfire, I could easily be sucked into “calling it a day” and just hanging out with my friends.

Since I was technically uncrewed and didn’t have any pacers coming, I purposely brought very little things to make myself comfortable. No chair, I didn’t even think of bringing a blanket or towels. If Eric’s family hadn’t taken me in, I don’t know what I’d do as I surely didn’t bring enough food for myself. (I know I would have been taken care of by all my friends in FUR, but Eric’s dad and brother were spot on.)

Coming into this race, I had a very blasé attitude. I should have been pumped. I was the returning female champ. But after I got my ego checked baaaaad at Ft. Clinch100 for being too cocky and not racing smart, There was no way I was going to assume that the number one spot was going to be for me. Once all the females had been selected in the initial round of race invites, I paid more attention to what they were doing and how their training was going than what I was doing. It should have been a motivator, but it worked the opposite direction this time around. I got sucked into a bad attitude of “look, so-and-so is doing this and see how well she raced? You’re going to have a tough time beating her”. I couldn’t get into my spot of “run MY race, not theirs.”

Since there wasn’t a male returning champ, I was given the Bib #1. I was thrilled when I first got it but the way I had been feeling I didn’t feel worthy of it. I felt like I would have been better off with a target on my back. I knew going into this race that my mindset was all wrong and I “just wasn’t feeling it.” I had hoped once I got running that would change.

I initially set my stuff up next to Kathleen Wheeler and then when I saw Carey, I moved over by her. Then Eric got there and when he told me they had parked a little closer to the timing area. I figured it would be best to have my stuff close to them, as I assumed they’d be helping me a lot, but I wasn’t going to move it yet. I wanted to be there near Carey to help push her.

Pre-race was filled with lots of “hellos” and hugs from my FUR family.

Soon we’re off and running.  The one thing I knew more than anything was to force myself to go slower in the beginning. Pacing was key and I again struggled with it. When we hit the deep sugar sand the first time, Eric said “Looks like as good a place to walk as any.” I should have followed his cue but got caught in the pack and kept running. I was chatting with Cheryl Lager and didn’t really want to miss the opportunity to chat with her. We were going a pretty decent speed. We cleared that loop in under 40. I needed to slow down. I really wanted to maintain an ave of 45 min loops including the stops. I managed for a few laps, then the speed and heat started to get me. Eric and I would usually “check-in” with each other when we stopped on each lap. During one lap he asked if the girls had decided to race. I acknowledged it in some form and he indicated they had been running loops in the high 30s and his tone served again as a reminder that I was probably pushing too hard too early on.

Even tho it felt good to run, I continued to struggle with my mindset. I could just feel this wasn’t “my” race. I couldn’t get into a good mental groove. When I accepted the fact that I wasn’t mentally prepared for the time I wanted, my main goal was to get thru it. In years prior, I had more people to chat with early on in the race. This year, I was alone earlier which made it tougher for me. I quickly became “bored” out there. I wasn’t using my headphones/music because I wanted to save that stuff for the middle of the night when I “needed to get out of my own head.” I kinda felt bad for those who did run with me for a short time because they became the “victims” of my incessant chatter. =) when I “warned” Stephanie Miller that I was a chatterbox when I ran, she said “so I’ve heard.” I guess my reputation precedes me! 😉

While the temps got into the mid 80s, I was no longer acclimated to running in that heat and humidity and it began to take its toll. I was trying to be mindful of taking in my endurolytes and I was going thru water quickly. I even felt a tad nauseous at one point which I attributed to the heat. I started the race with a tank top and eventually stripped down to just my sports bra as the heat and humidity were just too much. As the day wore on, I remember hoping for the night to come so it would cool off. That hope couldn’t have been any more amiss. During the night, the humidity became trapped in the canopy of the forest and it was just as bad as during the day. When night came I put back on a shirt with short sleeves but I ended up going back to the sports bra because of the humidity. I felt so gross from all the sweat and the sand that there were many loops I’d stop in the bathrooms just so I could pour water on my arms and face. There was one loop where I did a full change of clothes and did what I could to remove the sand and grit from my skin. Taking the extra time to “freshen up” did wonders for me.

Right about the time it was getting dark, I was surprised by a car full of people that I used to coach. Eric had mentioned before the race that they might come out but I guess I hadn’t thought they all would. They brought Eric’s pacer, Chris, and the other three were going to run with me. I don’t remember the original order but John, Emily and Wei were all going to run. Wei ran two laps- one in the dark and another after it turned daylight. This was Wei’s first time on trail ~Way to introduce someone to trail in the dark during a 100 mile run. =} Normally, that’s not really a big deal. But for those who know Wei understand the comedy in that. I made it a point to “talk” him through parts of the trail and what I tended to do in certain sections (run/walk etc). I gave him fair warning that when I hit the clearing after the bridges that I was going to run in. I don’t think he believed me but as soon as we got to the clearing, I picked up my pace and soon left him behind. I tried “pausing” for a moment, but I didn’t want to lose my momentum so I kept pushing. When I came thru on that loop everyone was like “what’d you do to Wei?” I felt bad, but you’ve gotta run when you feel it. On the first lap with John and Emily I also spent time pointing out roots and things on the trail so they wouldn’t fall. Emily only went one lap with me and 3 with Eric. John was with me for a good portion of the race. He ran/walked with me somewhere between 24 and 28 miles. He was a pretty good pacer. And he was asking all sorts of Ultra questions and was even talking about running a 50k. =) I would have to take a guess, but one of his most memorable moments was when I was bonking and desperately needed food. (he only knew I was getting lightheaded~ or maybe he noticed I wasn’t making sense). 😉  I asked him if he had his phone on him and if he had emily’s number. I asked him to call her to “place my order” for food when I came through the loop. We both couldn’t help but laugh over that. I said “You know you’re an ultra runner when…”

At some point in the night, Eric and I were sitting in chairs, nodding off and trying to convince ourselves (and you could say even each other) to get back out there and keep running. We were both really fighting the mental battle. We’d hit that point of being “over it”~ no. we were COMPLETELY over it. We didn’t want to run another loop. But no matter how much we didn’t want to do another lap, we didn’t mention stopping for good. Yeah sure, we would have loved to call it a night and hang out with our friends drinking beer. Hell, we even half-heartedly talked about how easy it would have been to do that. But something in us kept us moving. we had no good reason to quit. Neither one of us was going to stop if we still had the physical means for finishing the race. That’s just not who we are. I believe that this moment is the moment that defines a 100 mile finisher from those who DNF (barring the medical situations or missing cutoffs) The hundred miler will break you. Finding whatever it is inside of you to push thru is what separates us from others. It’s that piece that people cannot comprehend unless they’ve experienced it. I think Eric’s brother, Brian, “got it.” He told me as we were running my last two loops how cool it was that Eric and I finished another 100 mile run when both of us had gone through those moments of not wanting to run any more. For some reason Eric and I kept going when others would have quit. He had an excitement in his voice that was undeniable~ he understood. But I’ve jumped ahead of where I was in my race.

…When I was four laps from finishing, I was running by myself and the “demons” crept back in. I was stuck on the fact that I had been so much slower than I was last year and kept thinking about how much time I had left to finish. I kept doing the math (and those of you who have run with me know that my running math, is crazy. And isn’t really math. I can add 1+1+1 and get 5) so I convinced myself I was going to run out of time. I had a meltdown out in the woods. “I’m not going to make it” I’m going to get my first DNF because I couldn’t make the cut-off” I was heartbroken and the emotions were spiraling downward. As I’ve explained to a lot of people lately, once the emotions hit you in these things, it is often extremely difficult to pull out of them. When they hit, they hit and HARD. There’s no stopping them.

When I hit the timing mat I asked Mike Melton, the RD, to calculate where I was in relation to beating the clock. He quickly said I had 3 laps to go and 4 and 1/2 hours to do it. “You’ve got this.” He also told me there were several people still out there and most of them were going to make it. Thank God! That’s exactly what I need to hear. I said “you mean I’m not going to be the last female?” For the entire race I kept thinking how it would be crazy if I came in as the last female when I finished first last year. Who does that? I even expressed that and Justin and someone else standing at the timing area even asked the same thing. I still had the emotions running thru me and was finding it hard to keep them under control. I came up on Eric and the crew. Eric had just finished. I told him congrats and then I told everyone I was starting to worry. They could tell before I said anything. They were throwing out the encouragement for me to get it done. I purposely kept my sunglasses on because I didn’t want anyone to see the real emotions on my face. I couldn’t lose it. I needed to keep it together and I needed their reassurance I was going to get thru it. Carey noticed and gave me a huge hug. I needed that. Thank you! I think John ran the next lap with me. Soon I’m down to 2 laps. I took one last bit of care on my feet and took some food from Eric’s dad. I was getting ready to head back out and Smitty said a bit of encouragement. I didn’t quite hear it so I looked at him and he looked me dead in the eye and said “get that finish“. There was that moment of recognition and acknowledgement. That moment of understanding. That moment when someone saw in you what you saw in you. This was it. I had to get it.

I finished the last two laps with Brian, Eric’s brother. It was fun catching up with him. He kept me moving and the last two laps flew by. Finally, I cross the finish line. 30 hrs and 26 min. Not first. And not last. But that didn’t matter. It was a finish.

Every 100 miler I do, I walk away with finding more of me and realize that more has been emotionally stripped away. I love the challenge of each and every one I do. I love that in every race I have to dig so deep into my soul and find something to get it done. I love that I have it in me to “get it done.” I used to think finishing an Ironman was a big deal, but that’s nothing compared to the feeling of finishing a 100 mile run. Thousands of people finish an Ironman a year. Tens of Thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of people finish marathons every year, but the number of people who finish 100 milers every year is less than 5000. And the number that surfaces may actually be including the people that have done more than 1 in a year. So I’m one among 5000. That’s pretty significant. That’s pretty damn cool.

In the midst of a conversation with a friend I’ve had for over 20 years, he made a comment about how I’ve changed. I laughed and chalked it up to “old age” and maturity. The truth is, I’ve noticed the change in me for some time. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been very “self-aware” and recognize changes in me or things that I’m feeling but this time it’s different. I very honestly try to determine if it’s an after-effect from the Boston Marathon, a by-product of all the running I do, or if it’s simply just another level of my being. I hate to always bring up Boston, but it’s a part of me. And that day changed me forever. Now, I feel like I experience things fuller, richer, deeper. I can find beauty in the simplest things. Just thinking about my attitude toward snow and cold weather: When I lived in FL, I didn’t want to even think about the cold. Now I want to sit and watch the snow come down. I want to run in it. I want to play in it. I think I just want to play. =)

When I run, it’s my way of connecting with nature and feeling free. It’s my way of exploring the world. When I run-especially in the woods, I think about how the woods are my sanctuary. I’ve loved running in the woods since I was a kid. There is always a point in my run where I think that this is my time with God. He gave me the legs, ability and mindset so I could get out there and enjoy this beautiful planet He gave us. He wanted me to connect with Nature and to find myself out there. I am often humbled by the beauty and everything that He has given me. In my last 50 miler I talked about how I just wanted to stop and touch everything around me as I was just in complete awe of the beauty around me.  But the feelings of awe don’t happen simply when  I run. Yesterday, as I was walking to the bus stop I was struck by the beauty of all the trees and the ice that formed on them over nite. I remember thinking how others just see a tree and ice. But I was completely struck by the beauty. I took pics, but as I’ve learned, no picture or words can sum up the feelings that I have. There are days when I walk up to the stop and the sunrise hits the white apartment building just right so that it turns a beautiful pink/salmon color. No one else probably really notices, but I do and I’m thankful for the heightened sensitivity to my ever-changing world.   There are days I know I could grumble about the weather and having to take the bus. But there was a day that I realized that God put me in this exact spot, because he wanted me to see the world, to experience it. There used to be a woman who would sleep in one of the bus stops. She never asked for money or food. She just slept.  Now that its cold, she isn’t there and I can only hope she found shelter. But I would say a prayer for her everyday. I remember thinking one day, that if I didn’t have to take the bus to work, I would have never seen her. If I had a car, I never would have seen the woman with the shopping cart full of rolls of carpet-pushing it up a hill. When I talked to her she was sending the carpet to her home country so they could sell it. God put me in this spot in life to give me a chance to see more of His world, to experience it.

Those of you who have read my blog on “Where God Was” during the Boston Marathon know how I experienced God around me. It’s funny as I type this that I know I have friends who may be “turned-off” by my bringing Him into this writing and probably have already stopped reading. And certainly when I started this blog, my intent wasn’t to talk about God. But it’s obvious to me that His presence is something I can’t ignore. There’s just no denying the influence He has on me.

I’m at a point where I honestly savor every moment of my being. Let that sink in. I savor every moment of my being. “How is that possible?” you might ask. “Why the rose-colored glasses?” . My only answer is “Life is what you make it.“I can choose to dwell on the ugly, negative parts of the world, or I can live in the moment. Being around negativity is very, very hard for me. While I love my job, there’s enough negativity in the environment to fuel a nuclear reactor. I admit, I can get sucked into it. I try not to get stuck in it, so often, but it’s difficult. Often, I  just sit, observing people and wondering how they can be so negative. They may wonder why I’m so quiet, but I have nothing to contribute when things are so negative. I’m human and finding a way to overcome it is going to be a good challenge for me. So maybe I need to make that a goal for 2014~ bring more positivity to work, to conversations, speak up with good things rather than letting people get stuck in the negative.=)

I can see challenges and obstacles as simply that. There is nothing in this world that I can’t overcome.  Lots of double-negatives. So a nice rephrase “I can overcome any challenge that comes my way.” Sure, I’ve seen some dark days and times I’d question if I’d make it through but I have and I will continue to forge on. I believed this for quite some time and being in Boston intensified it. Boston changed me. Flat out changed me forever. I think about it every day and I can’t control when the really deep emotions from that day are going to smack me in the face. usually, they hit me like a mack truck~ with no warning. Running helps and yet it doesn’t. While my “Boston moments” don’t surface  as often as they used to and I can get them under control better now than I used to, they will always be there. I still have moments during runs where I am so struck with emotion, I just have to stop running so I can get them out and get them under control. Whenever I start to get stuck in those moments and when I feel myself headed down a slippery slope of emotions, there is something in me that screams “You did not make it thru Boston to give up! God did not pull you thru Boston for no reason! He gave you this chance, now use it!!!!”  Every ounce of my being tells me God pulled me thru that day so I could use it to help others and to find good (or do good) in the world. My only wish is for me to be able to honor Him and the precious gift that he gave me- my life. And I know, the only way  can do that is to see, feel, and experience this world.

As I have so many friends who ask about doctors they can see when they start dealing with injuries from running, I have decided to post my biggest recommendation for help.
The easiest thing for me to do is to post the letter I wrote to Dr. Levine at Florida Biomechanics in July. This is my third note/testimonial that I have written to him. They were all completely unsolicited. I just had to tell him how I felt. This man has VOLUMES of testimonials from everyone from athletes to non-athletes for issues of every kind. He is amazing!!!
you can reach Dr. Levine at 727.399.1782 or toll free 888.526.5974. He is in Seminole, FL and so worth the drive!!!   his website is:
Hello Dr. Levine!
I’ve thought about writing another testimony off and on~ and usually it’s on a run when I think about it. =) Since I’ve referred several people to you, I wanted to write more of my story for you and others.  As you know, I’m your biggest fan. I know I could not do anywhere near the things I do if you hadn’t given me the tools to correct the issue with my gait and imbalance.  And before I tell you what I’ve done, I need to say where I’ve been.
When I first came to see you in 2007, I was dealing with excruciating pain in my hamstring, hip flexor, knee and my IT band. I couldn’t even run 3 miles without being in pain. Earlier that year, I had run my first marathon and had an Ironman in my near future. I didn’t know how I was going to run the Ironman if I couldn’t even run a 5k. Nothing was working, stretching, massage, chiropractor visits etc. Nothing. After finishing a triathlon with a screaming hamstring, I had seen your ad on the back of RacePlace Magazine and thought a visit to you might be worth it.  I had no idea how my life was about to change.
From the first visit, I was so impressed with the amount of time you spent with me, asking questions, watching me walk in different shoes etc. I’ve learned that athletes value people in the medical profession who won’t tell them they can’t do what they love. During that first session you asked me “if I told you that you had to cut your training down by 20% would you do it?” When my answer was “no”, you proceeded to tell me something along the lines that you already knew that which is why we had to find a different solution. I was leery of orthotics and I remember being ecstatic when you told me that once my feet got used to them I would only have to wear them in my running shoes. I had heard horror stories of orthotics and one of the things I tell people when I talk about mine is that I’ve never had any problems with them.
I got my orthotics at the end of Oct 2007. By January of 2008, I was running pain free. In three months I went from not being able to run a 5k without being in excruciating pain, to running 18 miles pain free. I believe that’s testament enough. =)
I went on to finish my first Ironman and finished that with very slight pain. And as I wrote to you after the race that I had pain in my hamstring after the bike segment and I knew that putting on my running shoes and running with the orthotics would help work it out- and it did! From there, my world just quickly evolved! Since then, I’ve finished a total of 4 Ironman, one Double Ironman, qualified for and ran the Boston Marathon 2013. I’ve finished three 100 mile runs (I was the female winner in one of them) a 75 miler and the list goes on. =) I’m working on big plans to do a multi-state run to honor Boston in 2014. And one day, I hope to do  a transcontinental run. There is no doubt in my mind that I could not do these things if I hadn’t come to visit you.
Now, I do want to say that last year around this time, I decided I wanted to run without the orthotics. I felt like I might have grown too dependent on them. So I took them out and ran a good solid month with out them. I put some serious mileage on my feet in that time. I got to the point where I didn’t like how my arches felt, I had too many things on the horizon and I couldn’t  risk any sort of injury and put them back in my shoes. I’ve never looked back.So, Dr. Levine, I just want to thank you again. We used to talk about how we didn’t know what my “ceiling” was.  I still don’t know.  😉  I couldn’t do what I love if you hadn’t helped me. A thank you just doesn’t seem big enough to express  my gratitude.I hope you are doing well!
Please feel free to post/use this as you see fit. I will be including it, as well as your contact info, in my blog.Warmest regards,
Tammie Wonning

This was a conversation I had today:

“So do you have any races coming up?”

“I’m running the Delaware Marathon next weekend.”

Just a marathon?”

“I have to requalify to go back to Boston.”

“I’m surprised you want to go back.”

“I have to go back. I have to reclaim my race. If I don’t run, they win.

After a little more discussion, the conversation was rerouted.  But that conversation is the conversation I’ve had so many times with others and in my head. Unless you are a runner, you have no idea what it means to feel what the running community felt the day that those a$$holes planted the bombs on our beloved course. You cannot have an idea of what they tried to take from us. EVERY runner I know, uses running as a place to regroup. Running is our sanctuary. It is our freedom. It is our way of connecting with nature, connecting our bodies and minds. It’s a way we find our strength. It’s how we find ourselves. The Boston Marathon is a celebration of our running. You have to qualify to get into Boston. It’s the dream of so many athletes. For many, it takes years to qualify, others qualify quickly. Getting to Boston is no small feat. So when you toe the line at Boston, you are toeing the line with the Best. For many, crossing the finish line for any marathon is a challenge. And Crossing the finish line at Boston is the ultimate prize.

While the no name brothers just picked the Boston Marathon because their bombs were “ready earlier than expected” and didn’t care that it was a marathon, that marathon had meaning to the 20k runners, their friends and families, the city of Boston, and runners around the world. THAT marathon meant something to a lot of people.

Ever since the attacks, every step I take is for Boston. Every time my foot hits the pavement I feel the weight of Boston. I feel the emotions of that day. I see the look of horror on people’s faces. I see the injured people in the medical tent, I imagine what those who saw the explosion witnessed, I get lost in what my mom saw, how we both felt when we couldn’t find each other, the numb feeling I’ve felt so much, I feel grief, I feel guilty when I think of the amazing day I was having before I crossed the finish line, I think about the lives lost, the people who have lost limbs, the people who still have pieces of shrapnel in their bodies.. I cry every day. I often cry on my runs. But I still run. If I don’t run, they win.

When I run, I wonder if people think anything when they see me. They definitely don’t know I was at Boston. But do they look at runners differently? Tonight, while I was trying to find my strength, and I approached a driveway, a young man motioned to his brother in his car to wait before backing up. I looked at him and smiled, and then I lost it. He stopped the car for me. a runner. He cared enough to make sure I got by ok. It sounds trivial, but when someone made such a small gesture after having 2 jerks try to ruin the spirit of the running community and plant bombs to hurt us, that gesture meant the world to me.

While I was in the middle of this meltdown, I wondered if running another marathon so soon after Boston was a good idea. I still have so much raw emotion. Am I mentally be ready to race again? I knew the answer.  I have to run. I can’t let them take that away from me. If I don’t run, they win. I’m sorry you SOBs, but you’re not taking that away from me. I have to run. I have to run for me. I have to run for Boston. I have to be strong for Boston. If I don’t run, they win- and I’m not about to let that happen.

Many people will ask “where was God?” on the day of the attack at the Boston Marathon. For me and my mother, he WAS THERE and I want to tell you how He guided me through this event~ from start to finish.

I have always been a believer and like many Christians, there are times my faith was stronger than others.  I will admit I don’t attend a regular service and currently do not have a church I call “home”. And in spite of that, God pulled me through the Boston Marathon.

you know that nagging feeling you get to do something, or maybe a knot in your stomach, or even a last minute hesitation to do something?  Many would say it’s intuition, or your gut instinct talking. I believe these moments are God “whispering” to me to get my attention. And the Boston Marathon was full of those.

As I was planning my trip, my mom was set on being there. She loves attending my events but this time the “pull” seemed even greater for her to be present. The nite before the race, I was adamant about coming up with set place to meet at the end of the race. I wouldn’t go to bed until we had decided on not just one place but three! At the time, I chalked it up to the amount of people that were going to be there and I didn’t want mom walking all over trying to find me since she had bad knees.  I tucked some money into the lanyard the athletes had to wear so we could grab a taxi after the race.

In the morning, everything seemed pretty routine and I remember sitting in the Athlete’s Village thinking how lucky I was to be there. I was pretty blessed. Prior to my move to Maryland I had been coaching a group of adults who had gone from little or no running to their first full marathon and beyond.  I got to be with them as they reached their goals and today I was running my dream race and this was going to be a celebration of my racing. Today, they were cheering for me. I was cheering for me!! I was sitting among the Best of the Best, what an incredible honor. I  know I said a tiny prayer of thanks and asked for God to be with me and to help me remember why I was there. I asked God to help me enjoy that race no matter if I couldn’t pull off a time to qualify again. This race was for Him. Just keep me safe and help me to enjoy it it was all I seemed to ask. (In every race I do, I ask God to watch over me and keep me safe, so my asking for his protection was not unusal.)

While I was waiting to head to the starting line, several announcements were made to remind us to fill out our emergency contact information on the back of the bib. Every time they announced it, I thought “I should do that, but I’ve never needed medical before, why should I now?”  I had been texting many of my friends and former trainees throughout the morning and I thought for a brief moment I should keep the phone in my hydration belt I would be wearing during the race, but instead, I tossed it in the bag to pick up after the race.

In most athletic events, it is very common to see people with signs with the Bible verses that motivate them or give them strength. I could bet money on the fact that I will see a sign with Philippians 4:13 or John 3:16 on it. I always notice these signs but I usually don’t think much about it. I will often recite Philippians 4:13 when I run. But when I ran the Boston Marathon, I distinctly remember searching these signs out. I made sure to read them, no matter how long they were ~ especially if it was a verse that was not often quoted. I also did something that I’ve never done in a race. I tried to make eye contact with the people holding these signs. It was like I wanted them to know I saw them and I received their message. If I was able to make eye contact, I made sure they got a big smile and a thumbs up from me. And I would say that I saw these signs throughout the entire 26.2 miles of the race. I told a friend after the race that it was like “God was constantly trying to let me know He was there and that He was carrying me thru that race”.

I have connected with other runners from the marathon and one woman has said that a little boy offering her a “twizzler” is what saved her life as if she had not stopped to get it and lost about 2 minutes, that she would have been caught in the attack. I have said that if I had been any slower, I would have been in it myself. Early in the race, I was on target to re-qualify and was keeping a really good pace. At one point, I just decided I “didn’t want to work that hard” and I just wanted to enjoy my first run at Boston so I slowed down. I took in every moment and savored the entire race. I think God let me do that so I could have something to counter the aftermath of the attacks.  As I’m getting closer to the end, my competitive juices started flowing and I decided to pick up my pace so I could still get in under 4 hours. As I approach the finish line, I well up with emotions and I am so grateful. I was finishing THE  Boston Marathon ~the dream of so many athletes. I said Thanks to God. Thank you for letting me run my dream race. Thank you. No sooner than I crossed the line, my legs cramped up and my body temperature plummeted.  We had to walk a way to get our space blanket and finisher’s medal and as soon as I got it, I sat down. Other runners were checking to make sure I was ok. I started shaking uncontrollably and one runner said “that’s not normal. you have to get into the medical tent.” I tried to protest but before I knew it I was being wheeled into the med tent across from the finish line. When they get me there and check me in, I remember that I didn’t write my mom’s contact info on my race bib. shoot, she’s not going to know I’m in here.

As I sat in the med tent, the first explosion went off. It sounded like a cannon going off and everyone looked at each other as if to say “Was that supposed to happen?” and “what was that?” Seconds later the 2nd explosion occurred ~at which time everyone realized something bad had just happened. In a matter of seconds people were being wheeled into the tent where I was. The medical professionals were rushing to get those of us all ready in there into a safe location while getting the incoming victims the urgent care they needed. I was scared, and seeing the injured folks only heightened that for me. The medical staff and volunteers were trying to calm me and several others down. I kept moving further and further out of the way and realized they were letting those of us with non-urgent needs out of the tent. I was worried my mother was close to the finish line and I knew she had no idea I was even in the med tent so I had to get out to find her. I found out later that she had seen both explosions and what she had seen was just as bad ~if not worse~ than what i had.

As I mentioned,  my mother and I had set up a few areas to meet with times to be there in case we missed each other. When I exited the tent, I headed toward one of the spots. I couldn’t find her.  I decided to go get my bag I had prior to the start as my cell phone was in it and I knew that was the only way we were going to find each other. Due the explosions, a lot of things had been moved and it took some time to find my stuff. Once I got to my phone, cell coverage had been pretty much stopped. I couldn’t reach my mom directly. I was finally able to connect with my sister who was able to connect with my mom. (I’d say it took us over an hour and a half to two hours to finally see each other face-face-face).While I was waiting for her, I heard a third explosion. I later learned this was the one in the JFK Library and it wasn’t an explosion but something related to the fire system at the library.

God sent me angels of comfort as I waited for my mom. I was pretty shook up. Strangers would hug me or stop and ask if I was ok. There was an entire family who waited with me until I got the news mom was close. One of the women, a fellow runner, ran with me to the end of the block to find my mom. When we finally saw each other we hugged and sobbed. Thank God we were both ok!

Mom and I have discussed a lot about what we saw and experienced. One of the professors where I work helped me figure out that my mom was about 100 ft. away from the first explosion. She was also close enough to see the medical tent. She has said that she “felt like she was ‘pulled’ to sit where she did. I have no doubt God had her sit where he wanted her. I also have realized as I’ve processed the events at Boston, that God did truly give me only what I could handle. If I had seen the explosion, more of the really severe injuries and blood on my beloved course, I don’t know that I would have pulled thru like I have. I still struggle every day with what happened. I’ve shed many tears over it. I wish I could find the others who were with me in the medical tent when they started bringing the first victims in.  While I will never forget what happened, I know that I am getting stronger every day. I also know that I will return to Boston to take back the race the terrorists took from me. And while I had some survivor guilt, I have also been able to pull through knowing that God has a plan for me. I wrote this on my Facebook page the day after the attacks, ” I continue to draw comfort from the fact that God said ‘not today. I’m not ready for you. Your work is not done.’ As I heal, I will become stronger. we all will. And when I heal, I can do His work.”

I also said in another post, “God answered a lot of prayers that day~And many will feel he didn’t hear theirs. He has another plan for me and I can move forward knowing that my work here is not done. He spared me and my mom for reasons that only He knows. If I don’t acknowledge that and keep it as my foundation, then I have wasted His precious gift.”

Running for Cancer Care

Posted: April 22, 2013 in Racing
 Please join me in a cause that is close to my heart! Like many, my life has been touched by individuals who have (and continue to) battle cancer. I am committed to raising funds for CancerCare, a national non-profit organization, which provides free professional counseling, education, information and referrals, and financial assistance to individuals and families facing a diagnosis of cancer. I have created my fundraising page to do something for people facing this disease.  Donations can also be made in person and I will make sure CancerCare receives the donation.

I am an ultra endurance athlete. What does that mean? Well, I’ve competed in 4 Ironman triathlons, a Double Ironman, and ultramarathons from distances ranging from 50k to 100 miles. I feel that I’ve been blessed with strong legs, a strong heart and lungs, a strong level of determination and skills to compete in these events. I have been blessed to race in some amazing places and with some amazing people. With all that was given to me, I’ve always known I needed to do something to give back. My life has been touched by so many people who have fought battles with cancer that I have decided that my talents could best be used to raise money for those individuals and families who have been affected by it.

While I have a full schedule of endurance events planned, the most important ones to me are the following:

March 30th ~Ft. Clinch 100 mile run

April 15th ~The Boston Marathon

April 20th ~24 hour race for Cancer

July 26-28th ~ Viaduct Ultra 150 mile race

During these events I am planning on wearing a shirt with the names of those who are fighting, have survived and those we have lost to cancer.

I have chosen to support CancerCare for many reasons. Lots of people donate to cancer research. And while that money is extremely important, I am being pulled to raise money for the individuals and families who need it. CancerCare is a national non-profit organization, which provides free professional counseling, education, information and referrals, and financial assistance to individuals and families facing a diagnosis of cancer. They are also a recognized charity by the Better Business Bureau.

By making your tax-deductible donation today, you can feel comfortable in knowing that CancerCare is among the nation’s highest-rated charities, with 89% of your contribution going towards those who need it most…so your donation really makes a difference.

Give as little or as much as you can. Your donations, along with my own, will give people with cancer and their loved ones a better, more hopeful future!

Thank you for your generosity.
Tammie Wonning

Learn more about CancerCare at

.Going into AO I was ready. I had been training hard, doing speed work, hitting trails, doing back-to-back long runs, running in the dark on trail. I was sooo ready. I think everything in me believed I could take some serious time off my race.

When I show up on Saturday morning, I see all of my ultra friends. I’d grown a lot in a year and many of them were right there with me. It was so awesome walking up to check-in and being greeted with hugs from my fellow athletes. The year before, I knew only one person at my race and I was petrified of the 100 miler. This year, I knew most of the group toeing the line and those who were out there supporting us. It was such a different feeling. I was soooo confident this year.

As I made my way to the middle of the pack I recognized last years female winner Ashley. I knew she was there to defend her title. She probably didn’t know me but I knew her. Looking back, it seems like I remember kind of sizing up other women to see who might be up for trying to beat her. I remembered her time was somewhere in the 24-25 HR range. My goal for AO was to get as close to 24 as I could. So, I knew that if I could hit that time, I might be pretty high up on the totem pole. As we take off running, it was nice running with my old friends and catching up with what had been going on for them. There was always a question or two about goal time. My standard answer was I was hoping for anything under 30 but my real goal was getting as close to 24 as possible. Some folks just had the answer of finishing, others had clear times in mind.
Running ultras are not just about finding out what you can do and having the mental capacity and determination to finish. Ultras are about the friendships you form while out there on trail.  Every run, you’re going to find another piece of yourself.  You form bonds with those who are enduring the conditions of the day with you. Ultra runners know how to help pull each other thru. Sometimes its by talking, joking, or even by keeping silent. I will never trade the friendships I have made with people on trail for anything else. Early in the run, I did a loop with Andy, and with things going on, I knew he needed that time running in the woods. I’m thankful for the conversation we and on that loop. During that loop i remember telling him that i couldn’t believe how good i felt~ and that is a thought I had quite frequently. one loop I ran into Bruce and we’re just chatting away. Bruce is one of those athletes who very routinely wins ultras, has crazy fast marathon times etc. So when I’m running with him and he’s “taking his time” I wonder how he’s doing. When I asked him what his goal time was, he said “you know Tammie, I just want to finish.” huh? This man is crazy fast. He then proceeds to tell me that he drank a little much the nite before. Ohhhh… So now I get it. =) {and somewhere along the line Bruce found his mojo and won the race}

My goal was to run as much as I could, stop when the loop passed thru the parking lot and our gear/supplies. Carey was there and she was helping Elizabeth and I. Eric was supposed to show up later to run with me late that nite. I know I’d be ok thru 50+ miles and would really only need someone to run with me/keep me company in the middle of the nite. Eric was the perfect choice as e coached together, had run trail several times and he knew the kind of things to say/ do to keep me going.

I was running this course so much more confidently than the year before. I felt alive out there on that trail. The areas with the cypress roots were not as tricky as they were before. There were times I was running 40 min loops. I think one of my fastest loops was when I was running with Ray. This was his first 100. He was so awesome to talk to- he was a coach so we got to swap stories and he gave me advice. It was fun running with him. Late in the day it started to rain. I was in the middle of the woods at that point so there wasn’t anything I could do. I hoped that Carey was around to at least cover the food and supplies. When I got thru the loop, I was glad to see that she had covered stuff. I had some difficulty finding some stuff but at the time it wasn’t an issue.

This is a 3.46 mile loop which we ended up running 29 times. Having run it before I knew what to anticipate which I’m sure is what added to my confidence out there. Sometime right around the time that it was getting dark (or right after) my dear friend, John Pyle and his girlfriend Traci Phillips unexpectedly showed up. John ran from San Francisco to Key West. His journey was 3176 miles. So seeing him was such a pleasant surprise. When I came thru the loop and saw him, we hugged and he said he wanted to run with me. Oh HELL YEAH! I LOVE this man! He’s so inspirational. And the man who ran across the US wanted to run with ME?!  (we’d run together before but this time it took on new meaning.)  Since I was just heading out on a loop and he was just getting there, I  decided to run a loop solo and then pick him up later. When I came thru the next time around, I asked for him and I was told he had gone to grab a bite to eat. I asked if someone could reach him because I was ready to run with him. When he returned I ran several laps w/he and Traci. Sometimes it was the three of us other times it was just he and I. By the time they got there, I had seen messages on my phone that I had been holding third all day. He and Tracy confirmed that. They told me to “run my race” but they’d really love it if I won. So we ran, we laughed. As it got later, I started wondering when Eric was going to show. He was 3 hrs away so I had msgd him around mi 40 and 50 to give him an idea how I was doing. The longest lap on the course was right before Eric showed up. JP and I had been running and every lap it became harder to find the things I needed and Carey wasn’t around to tell me. At that lap I sat too long and didn’t get in enough food. As I started back out and ventured to the trail,  I told John that I felt the ugly, dark (mental) stuff coming and it was coming fast. The first section of the trail was a short incline with sugar sand. John asked if it would be ok if he grabbed my shoulder. We ran/walked side by side to the top of the incline. By the time I had gotten to the top, the “dark” mental stuff had subsided. I don’t know how he managed to pull me thru that spot without a breakdown, but I am grateful for what he did. When we finished that lap, Eric was there to greet me. We hugged and I told him he was in luck, either I’d just gotten thru the worst of it, or, he was going to go thru it with me. At that point I had 7 laps to go. This is it. Running with Eric was just as good and refreshing as running with John. They both knew me. Despite being on his feet all day and consuming a good amount of alcohol at an all day concert, Eric was lite on his feet. He ran behind me pushing me, encouraging me.

Between John, Traci, and Eric, I had plenty of encouragement to at worst maintain 3rd. But I think they all wanted me to kill it and win. At this point, I wanted to kill it. I’m in effing 3rd for a 100 mile run. I’m on pace to have a huge PR, please let me keep this I kept thinking. On one lap, they told me I had moved to 2nd. At another point I heard that Ashley was really struggling out there. Was it true? What?!? Holy crap. Shortly after hearing about Ashley, I had entered the bathroom and she was in there,Huddled on the floor. We only acknowledged each other with eye contact. Normally, I would have asked how she was doing. But In a split second, I knew that I had to get out of the bathroom and to get out quickly. This was my only chance of pulling ahead. My competitive juices had been flowing for quite sometime and the only way to handle it was to keep running- and to keep running hard. I’m not going to lose my spot. This is it baby.this is it. I’m 3 laps to go and someone tells me I’m ahead of #2. later they tell me I’m only 7 min ahead of her. WHAT?!? Jeezus. Anything can happen in 7 min. So I run. I hit my last lap and everyone is telling me I’m in first but I can’t believe it. I’m still under the impression I’m only 7 min ahead. Run baby run. When ever I started to slow down, one of the 3 would heckle me into running. I think I got close to saying ~if I didnt~ if I’m in first then let me do what I want. I finally hit the last 1/2 mile. Holy crap. As I cross the line I ask Mike Melton, the Race Director, if I really won. When he said yes, I just said ,”thats pretty f*king cool.