Friday, December 15, 2017


Hello Everyone!  

Happy Holidays to you all.  I hope you are staying warm and safe wherever you are.

I'm slowly settling into Chicago, relearning things like wind chill, black ice, and white-out while keeping up my running skills on the treadmill when I can't run outside.  And then those South Side Squirrels keep me on my toes, too, chasing me across the lawn, constantly hounding me for handouts.

South Side Squirrel
My first official Chicago Snow!

I'M IN!!

Two important lotteries in the running world just took place... one for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 7th, and the other for the 2018 United Airlines NYC Half on March 18th.  I really wanted to win entry into both, as Chicago is my new home, and United is my preferred carrier.  I was also looking to enter more races besides the Rock n Roll Marathon Series to gain more experience as a runner.

I was fortunate enough to win a spot in the Chicago Marathon, but not so lucky when it came to the NYC Half.  

Not letting that discourage me, I decided to enter via fundraising, and have chosen to represent the New York Road Runners Team for Kids.  In their words, TFK runners, "dedicate their participation in world class running events to building a happier and healthier future for youth nationwide. Our runners receive guaranteed entry into premier running events and professional training support, while making every mile count fundraising on behalf of NYRR Youth Programs. Team for Kids makes it possible for children across the country to experience the joys of running and fitness!"

Imagine if I would have been encouraged to run when I was young by a program such as this.  Maybe I would have run my first mile before the age of 42...

So this brings me to asking all of you to reach into your pockets and donate a little.  It doesn't have to be much, every little bit counts.  I have a little over two months to raise $1300, and I'm pretty sure that with a little help from all of you, my goal will be met.

CLICK HERE for my fundraising page.

Thank you!

I'm a published photographer...sort of...
Life Is Good.  Life is Better when you help someone else with their own life, too.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

A Race to the Finish Line on the Busiest Travel Day of the Year

Today I'm leaving on a three city trip. Orlando for work, San Antonio for my last Rock n Roll race of the year--HALL OF FAME here I come--and then St. Louis for work.
Today is the busiest travel day of the year. How did I prepare? Let me tell you how to work the system.
I'm not a fan of dealing with AM traffic to O'Hare from McCormick Convention Center area. It's over an hour by public transportation and depending on traffic, can be over two hours by car. Nope. Not a fan.
By the end of the year, I usually have about 200,000 or so miles saved up from travel and such, so I booked a room at the airport Hilton O'Hare for approximately 14,000 miles. That's super cheap. Breakfast would have been another 2000 miles but I passed on the offer as I was flying out early. If you haven't had their breakfast buffet, you should, it's fabulous, regularly $33.
I took an Uber to the airport as I didn't want to schlep my big bag on three different trains. I checked the weather report for the three cities I'm traveling to, and decided that since the forecast wasn't brutal and I was taking Uber, I didn't need my heavy coat, hat and gloves and opted for my lighter coat, saving me lots of stuff to carry. The Uber was $25, and the driver was amazing, so I tipped him $5. I just checked the price to travel the same route at 0600, it's about double.
I was supposed to fly out at 0600. Because I'm a United 1K Member, I can choose to move my flight to any available flight (same fare class) in the 24-hour, same day window for free. I had already been upgraded, but there was plenty of open space on the 0947, so I called the 1K line and they switched my flights, and also received an upgrade to First Class on the new flight.
I arrived at the Hilton starved so I dropped my bags and went to the sports bar to see some football highlights and get a burger. Sitting at the bar instead of a table has its advantages as I met a man who works for one of the Rock n Roll Marathon Series sponsors, and he ended up picking up my check after we talked about racing and such. Free dinner, yay!
Slept for a few hours, but as I know how busy ORD can be the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I decided to get out of bed at 0500 to allow plenty of time to weave my way through the expected lines. I looked out the window and the traffic in front of the Departures area was gridlocked. I figured the check-in would be crazy, so I showered quickly, got dressed and headed out.
I left the Hilton at 0534 and headed for Terminal 1. Again, deciding to stay at the airport was a great decision, as I didn't have to go outside in the 30 degree weather, and was thankful that I left my heavy coat and winter wear at home.
I arrived at the United Check-In counter at 0540. The 1K line was open with no line so I checked my bag, grabbed my boarding pass and headed for the TSA Pre line.
O'Hare does not have CLEAR yet, which means I spend more time in lines at ORD than any other airport in the country. I've been a member for years and zip right through the security lines at SFO, LAS, and MCO--three of my most frequented airports. I'm rarely in line for more than five minutes and consider the CLEAR + TSA Pre Check to be one of the best business investments I make.
I was stunned to see no one in line at TSA Pre. The stanchions were already in place to accommodate what was coming and I weaved my way through the empty space and security screening in about 45 seconds. On the busiest day of the year at one of the busiest airports in the country. Am I dreaming? Pinch me.
The time was 0545.
I joked with the TSA employee about how quickly everything was going, and he said, "Oh, it's coming. Look behind you."
And there it was, the wall of people streaming down the prepared stanchions with bags, purses, and rollers everywhere.
It looked like a human tsunami. I grabbed my bags and headed to the United Club, conveniently located next door to the checkpoint.
I walked into the United Club at 0547 and greeted the counter agent. I told her that I left my hotel room exactly 13 minutes ago and hadn't even been awake an hour. She mirrored the TSA agents comment of, "It's coming" and I told her about the human tsunami I just saw. The doors of the Club opened again, and in poured the people. Up the stairs I went and grabbed a counter seat, coffee and a bagel.
One of the amenities at the Club is a complementary printer, which I need to use to print out my script. I'm doing that now while I type this and will be able to focus my time relaxing and learning my client's product.
Rumor has it that the hot breakfast this morning will include bacon. And you all know how I feel about bacon.
With some preparation and knowledge of what the busiest travel day of the year can be like, I avoided all the hassle, frustration, and lines that most people will be facing today.
And the cost to me? $30 and 14,000 miles. Combined with my memberships to the United Club, TSA Pre, and CLEAR, I skated from hotel door to breakfast in 13 minutes.
Imagine what everyone else out there is dealing with and how much they are spending on transportation and breakfast, not to mention the wait times in all the lines. Nope. I've been doing this too long to not know how to work the systems.
As I always the game or it will play you.

On a closing note....the printer was giving me a bit of a hard time this morning. After speaking with the CSR at the front desk we got it to work. While we were waiting I told her of my 13-minute journey and that I use United all the time to fly to work and races and that I write a blog about my travels. She actually didn't know how to use the printer and after joking with her a bit about it and teaching her the steps to print documents, I told her in passing that I had been trying to get a job with United for a few years now with no success. She said, "Oscar is coming in today. I'll tell him that you are looking..."
Excuse me while I go put my eyelashes on...You can't potentially meet the CEO of your chosen airline (who read your blog and sent you a thank you about the compliments I wrote of his employees) when you aren't without your signature lashes and lipstick.

Bacon can wait...

Life Is Good
Life is better when you are well prepared and make smart decisions.

Friday, November 17, 2017

You Gotta Love Runners

I'm having a bad day today.

I've just come home from three weeks on the road and have four days to pack my entire apartment and move to Chicago.  And it appears I will be doing everything solo.


I'm very emotional about leaving San Francisco.  I never thought I would go, but high rent, unsafe living conditions, and the desire to have a better quality of life are making me leave.  It's heartbreaking, but it's the right decision.

So, knowing that today was packing-prep day, I woke up after a bad night of sleep a tad bit cranky.

I live in a VERY bad area of San Francisco.  The noise from the drug dealers and users, music, cars, cops and the occasional gunshot keeps me up most of the night when I'm home--part of the reason I'm moving.  Every time I leave my house, I'm confronted by dangerous people to the point that when I'm home, I rarely leave the apartment.  I've given up on running in the mornings as it isn't safe due to bodies strewn across the sidewalks or human waste piles spotting the path.  And don't get me started about all the bloody needles I have to watch out for.

It's a little chilly outside today, so I threw on a pair of yoga pants, a race shirt and my RnR Savannah Marathon Finisher Jacket.  Yeah, I still wear that jacket everywhere.  It might be my favorite piece of clothing and can make the day brighter sometimes.  But not today.  Today I have to battle The Hood and all of its residents.  Sigh.

So, muttering to myself as I walked through the streets, I was watching where I stepped while constantly being asked for money or drugs or whatever else people beg for all day long.  Drop off donations, pick up supplies, back to my house.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Definitely getting grumpier after two hours of this.  Back and forth to my apartment, out for another errand, back again. Three miles of walking errands.  Three miles of being harassed and shallow breathing due to the smell of human waste, cigarettes, and marijuana. 

I've hit my breaking point with this city I have loved for 20 years.

I was standing at Market St. and Stockton St. on my way to Target when the light turned red for me.  As I waited for the light to change, I felt someone tap my shoulder and grab my arm.  This is a heavy begging corner for everyone and I've learned to keep my purse tight and my eyes down, so I was quite stunned thinking that the beggars have become so aggressive that they are actually grabbing people now.

I spun around ready for a fight and looked into the eyes of a man about my age.  He was dressed as I was, relaxed clothing, and when he spoke, I heard a bit of a speech impediment, as if he was deaf.

"Excuse me ma'am.  I'm a runner, too!  I wanted to say hi!"

Ummm...what??  I just stood there and stared at him, taking it all in and trying to hear and understand him over the noise of the streetcars, cabs, horns, and regular traffic in a heavily congested intersection.

I couldn't speak.

"I'm running the Berkeley Marathon this weekend.  Last weekend I ran Bakersfield."  He had a grin on his face that could have burned through the thickest San Francisco fog.

I looked down at his hand and he had a race bag from Berkeley in it with his bib and shirt.  I looked back up at his eyes and said, "Good for you!  That's a wonderful race.  I really hope you enjoy it!"

I have no idea if it is a good race or not, I just didn't know what else to say at that moment.

He took a step back, turned and said, "I just wanted to say hello!  I'm a runner, too!"  And then he disappeared into the crowd.

I just stood there completely numb for a minute or two.  And then I welled up. 


You can be having the worst day of your life and there will still be someone who will find you, lost in a crowd, miserable as all hell, and they will say something to cheer you up. 

Running is an individual sport, but one that has more of a team connection than anything I have ever known.  We know when another is hurting.  We know when another is soaring through the skies.  We are a family by choice, forged on the agonizing pavement of putting one foot in front of the other, over and over and over until we feel that we will break.  We don't have to have ever met to recognize our brothers and sisters...we just KNOW who we are.

We celebrate the victories, we mourn the losses, but more importantly, we support each other when we need it.

I have no idea who this man today was, and I'm sure I'll never see him again.

But he was there when I needed him.  He KNEW.

And he acted.

I walked the final mile home with a smile on my face.

You gotta love runners....

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Women of Rock N Roll

It's no secret that the Rock N Roll series is my favorite to run.  Pick a race--any race--in the series, and you will have a good time.  The music, the course, the sets this series apart from any other in which I have run.

While each race is unique in location, there are a few things that one can count on when running multiple races in the Rock N Roll series.  One of those consistencies is the staff that works each event.  For those of us who have the Tour Pass and are Hall of Fame members, seeing their faces on a regular basis when going to a new or even a familiar city is our anchor and our familiarity in a city where, sometimes, we are complete strangers and know no one.

As someone who travels for a living, I am used to being alone and introducing myself to others at work who share the same interests as I do, trying to generate a common bond so that we can meet up for the next show or event so that I won't be alone too often.  Travel is fun alone, but not on a regular basis.

De Moe and I celebrating our Hall of Fame banner
Running is different.  When you are a runner, you bond instantly with others with the ability to talk for hours with someone you have just met five minutes ago.  And when you arrive at a Rock N Roll event alone and see those familiar faces at the Expo, the starting line, or along the course, you know you really are never alone.  You are with family.

The past few years I have had the pleasure of bonding and developing friendships with several people who work for the Rock N Roll Series.  I look for them each time I race and miss them when they are not around.  A race just isn't the same without seeing them at some point along the weekend.

A few really have stood out over the years, and with all the changes happening within the Rock N Roll Series, I wanted to take a few minutes to highlight a few people who have make the past few years an incredible, irreplaceable experience for me...

So...without further ado, I present:

 The Women of Rock N Roll

Of course, the moment Kim and I get out of the Uber from ORD we are greeted by The Women of Rock N Roll


Lisa helping people figure out
Race Day logistics

Known as the "Queen of Rock N Roll" back home in Vancouver, Lisa joined the team in February of 2014 as an Ambassador of Rock for Vancouver.  She can be found in the VIP Booth at the RnR Expos as well as the VIP Finish Experience at most events.

I asked Lisa what her favorite RnR was to run, and to no surprise, she said Vancouver.  While the RnR Series does not offer Vancouver as one of its Tour Stops now, she does hope that it will be added back into the series in the future.  Until then, her favorite RnR to run would have to be Seattle because of the time of year and the beauty of running in the Pacific Northwest along such a scenic course.

The frenzied look of a runner who just set a PR on the hills of
 San Francisco, met at the finish line by Lisa
When asked what her favorite RnR event to work is, without hesitation, she stated Nashville.  The Southern Charm, the politeness of the people, great food, and country music are enough to win her over.

I asked her why she loved working for she teared up, she said:

"I love running and sharing my love of running with people.  I've never been prouder of working for a company that knows what to do and how to do it and gives each runner an exceptional experience."

I couldn't agree more.

Mindy crowning me with the 2017
 Triple Marathon Challenge Medal

Mindy holds a position in Customer Loyalty and Service in National Promotions.  As Rock N Roll transitions from just marathons to the Ironman series, it is exciting to watch Mindy make the transition, also.
Mindy and Ryan, giving out Heavy Medals

Mindy is a Legacy at the Savannah Rock N Roll, meaning she ran the first race that RnR offered in Savannah and has participated in subsequent races since then.  I'm trying to talk her into doing the full with me this upcoming weekend, but I think she and I are both smart by staying with the half.

Mindy awarding Mitch with the Hall of Fame Medal
Mindy can usually be found at the main RnR booth at the Expo, but is more known to many of us as the woman who delivers us our coveted Heavy Medals at the designated tent at the finish line festivities.  Who doesn't love seeing her smiling face when receiving the 8-track or Gold Record?  I know I do!!  Can't wait for another Hall of Fame Medal in San Antonio!

Mindy's favorite race to run has been Nashville.  She loves the crowd support, "people EVERYWHERE cheering!"  And, as Lisa did, she loved Vancouver.

As far as her favorite event to work, it has to be Seattle for the beauty of the city, landscape and, without question, the FOOD.  "I wish we had a Pike Place where I live," she said.

Can anyone get enough chowder and crab after a race?  I think not.
Always a joy to see Mindy and Ryan at the Expo


Did you know that Yinka speaks five languages??  FIVE!!!!

Never has there been a woman who understands
my love for bacon more than Yinka
Born in Sierra Leone and growing up in Minnesota via Ethiopia and Kenya, Yinka admits that she isn't a runner...YET!  I have a feeling that we may win her over and have her race for the first time very soon.  She also loves Nashville as her favorite event to work, primarily because of the music.

Yinka is the VIP Experience Manager for the Rock N Roll Events.  For a woman so young, her talents are ageless.  "Hospitality is my passion," she says.  I couldn't agree more.  You can tell when Yinka is managing a VIP event and when she is's all in the details.

How I'm supposed to look after two
FULL MARATHONS in a week...
How I REALLY feel after running
Liverpool and San Diego in a week
When asked how she can relate to the runners because she does not race, she said, "Because I'm not a runner, this has been a very educational experience--learning about PRs and chafing and how important porto potties are in the mornings!"  YES!  She understands!

Even if I've had a bad race, seeing her cheers me up right away.  Her smile and laughter are infectious and no matter how sore I am, I always make it a point to find her on race day to brighten my spirits.

The Power Duo of Lisa and Yinka in Virginia Beach

It was just announced that the Rock N Roll Tour Pass will be changing--dramatically.  For me to do the same amount of races that I have done over the past few years will cost me at least triple in registration fees alone.  I'm not sure that I will be able to participate in as many races as I would like to, which saddens me greatly.

Seeing these women--these wonderfully talented women--at least once a month and sometimes on back to back to back weekends in different time zones and even different countries has given me so much inspiration and love that I have no words to accurately sing their praises.  When I have no strength to run because I am mentally exhausted, they are there giving me a hug and a pat on the back to get up early and run the remix.  When my body is broken from flying 14-18 days a month for work, they are there to give me a bagel and bacon and the encouragement to not DNF--something I have never done which I credit to their encouragement.  And when I cross the Finish Line and set a new PR, they are there to catch me when I am shaking and dizzy, guiding me to where I need to go with my absolute, complete trust, because I know that they really care about me, the people who run with me, and the organization that they work for.

These three women. 

The Rock N Roll Series would never be complete without them.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for the past years that we have known each other.  I love each of you more than I can put into words.

I'll see you on the course soon.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

How Running Saved My Life

There is a saying, you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube.  Have you heard of it?  Well, once I tell my story, I can't take it back.  I will have exposed myself to my community and am now at the mercy of their judgement.  But, if I can help someone as I was helped, it will be worth it.

I suffer from severe depression.  Have so for years.  It ebbs and flows...sometimes I'm happy for a long period of time, and sometimes I just want the world to end, at least my part of it.  A few years ago, I spent the entire month of December in bed except to go out to the store three times.  It was definitely a low point and one I don't care to repeat.

I discovered my love of running just over two years ago when I ran my first official race, the Nike Women's Half Marathon in October of 2014.  Rarely will you see me without the Tiffany medal around my neck.  It was my proudest accomplishment until I ran my first full marathon last year.

But let's not get ahead of the story...

I ran the Nike Half, the RnR San Francisco Half, and then the RnR Liverpool Half.  They were amazing.  I had the RnR Tour Pass 3-Pack, so I decided to also include San Jose that year, which was a race that I really did not enjoy.  I don't like running in the heat, and October in San Jose is still hot.

So I stopped running and just focused on working.

I had experienced some major setbacks in my personal life that year, which I will continue to keep private.  The only thing that kept me smiling was my job--one that I continue to truly love.  When the depression would hit hard, the only thing that got me out of bed was work.  I would spend days in bed with the lights off, just crying and feeling horrible.  But, a show would come around, and I would jump at the chance to get on a plane and get away from my current misery, put on a pretty face, and go out in public.  January, February, March...I spent as little time at home as possible.

I was in Washington DC in March 2016, working a convention and decided to stay in a hostel.  I had never stayed in a hostel before, but figured, why not?  I was going through another severe low, and being alone was NOT a good idea.  I'm pretty sure I wasn't going to do any harm to myself, but, you never really know with depression when you will cross the line.  Too many have found out the hard way where the line is, and are no longer with us.  I didn't want to be a statistic.

I was only supposed to be in DC a week for work, but decided to stay for a few days and play tourist, since I had never really seen the city.  With the company of a coworker, we stayed an extra three days, and it really improved my mood.  I saw that the RnR DC was that weekend and figured, what the heck, and decided to sign up and stay through Monday.

The night before the race I hung out with the guests at the hostel, drinking beer, telling stories, and them calling me crazy for signing up for a half marathon.  Yup.  But it kept me from staying in my bunk, hiding my sobbing, and wishing that I had any other life than the one I had.

So I got up super early, grabbed my gear, and headed to the common area to eat and get ready for a half marathon.

Sitting on the couch was a young man getting ready for the race, and we chatted a bit.  I told him that it was nothing for me to jump on a plane and fly across the country for work, and he said he felt the same about races.  He told me that he was going to run the 5K, and hopefully get back to the half starting line so he could do two races in one day.  I admired that, as I had just closed a huge show in San Francisco, and redeyed into DC to open another one.  I knew we were alike.  We switched contact info as he told me about this really great running team that was as crazy about travel as we both were.  And out the door we both went.

DC was great!  I hadn't run in months, but I still earned a PR.  I had already signed up for the RnR San Francisco the next month and was excited to meet some of the people on my new "Team."  But when I got back to San Francisco, I rediscovered my depression, and while not as bad as it was the month before, it still weighed me down.

If anyone knows about people who suffer from depression, they know to keep us away from bridges when we are down.  The RnR SF takes us over and back of the Golden Gate Bridge.  I hate that bridge.  I hate running across it, biking across it, driving across it, doing anything across it.  It's always in the back of my mind how easy it would be to just go out there sometime when I hit another low and...well...yeah.  End it.

And this race takes us over it.  Twice.

To make it worse, I fell on the bridge and broke my toe.  Oh, joy.  But I had a good friend running her first half marathon, so I got up, put on a smiley face, looked straight ahead and kept going.  My time sucked, but I finished, and with a bag of ice taped to my foot, I limped home, ready to fly to Las Vegas the next day to work all day standing in dress shoes.

I hate that bridge.

But, running continued once I healed, with Liverpool again, Seattle, Virginia Beach, Chicago, and a bunch of others.  I was meeting so many new people who I had so much in common with as we were on the course.  We all loved to run, but we all had just an edge of sorrow within us.  We can spot it within each's a secret handshake of sorts that we don't talk about but know it is there.  And I think that is what gets us through the rough spots, both on the course and in our personal life.

Eleven half marathons down in 2016.  Holy smokes.  I'm feeling good, but still missing something...the depression is not as strong because I'm traveling like crazy, either for work or for races.  I don't have time to feel sad.  Dublin, Lisbon, Brooklyn.  Places I had never seen or thought I would see.  Each of them kept my mind busy and my calendar full.

What was missing was a full marathon.  OK.  Hell, why not.

I signed up for the RnR Savannah and didn't tell anyone.  I didn't want to be the girl who tried to do something and failed.  I'd been made fun of my whole life for my inability to keep up physically with everyone else, and I sure as hell wasn't going to attempt a full and DNF.  I could never be seen in my group again.

A few people figured out that I was trying to do the full and one even upgraded to run with me.  So sweet.  I don't want to embarrass him by naming him, but his initials are ZZ.  LOL.  Nobody has ever done something like that for me.  I always do things alone.  And now someone was going to stay by my side to make sure I was OK.  Yeah, this is new.

The morning of the marathon came, and the word was out.  Everyone knew I had never run more than 15 miles and I was attempting 26.2.  Well, that's me.  Why not.

I was nervous as hell and quite intimidated as I had my breakfast and warmup in the VIP area.  People saw my bib and really encouraged me to be strong and finish.  My friends were there, as was the rest of my team, and I felt good.

And then, someone came over to me and said some words I will never forget:

"I wanted to tell you that no matter what happens, I love you, and I'm proud of you."

I honestly think I had been waiting to hear that sentence my whole life.  I don't think anyone has ever said that to me.  And I'm 45 years old.

There was no way I wasn't going to finish.  Kicking and screaming and crawling, I was crossing that finish line.

And I did.  Because someone cared.  Not because of something that they wanted from me, or because they had to say that to me, but simply because I needed to hear it, so he said it.  It was the most selfless thing anyone has ever done for me.

I finished the marathon, ran a punishing Las Vegas half a week later, and earned my Hall of Fame (15 races in one year) in San Antonio in December, and then went home for three weeks.

And yes, the depression leaked back in, but not as bad as the years before.  I survived December and the holidays alone and went back out on the road for January, February, and March...the usual.  But this time, I made sure to work in my races where I could.

Because I needed them.  And I needed my friends.

Full marathon in New Orleans in February.  DC again, Dallas to Mexico City, and then San Francisco.  That damn bridge again.  Where I fell and lost my nerve.  But this time I owned it.  As my previous blog stated, not only was it a great race, but I set a new PR.  I think this time, because I know how much I hate that bridge, it was that emotion that powered me over and back.  It wasn't going to win.  Not this time.

And then a two month break...I couldn't race because work was too busy and I really felt the effects.  The depression crept back in, and when I finally had a week off in early May, I spent it in bed...not crying as much as I used to do, but definitely feeling the effects of depression.  And not training.  I just couldn't get up and go for a run.  Between the depression and the guilt from not running, I was a mess...

But Liverpool was coming, and this was going to be my second full of the year.  And I did it.

And then I flew back to the US and completed the San Diego full a week later.  PR.  And the coveted Triple Marathon Medal.  Oh, that felt good!!

And we all know how much I like those marathon finisher jackets!!!!

I've had to miss some races that I wanted to do because of work, but I'm still on track to complete my 15 required races for the RnR Hall of Fame this year.

I'm also throwing in a few more just for the heck of it.  Because...why not??

Tomorrow morning I'll be up at 3 AM to have breakfast and pull on my long sleeves to run the San Francisco Full Marathon.  I have no idea what possessed me to do this race, but I'm still going to try anyway.  I'm sore from the Chicago half last week and a full week on my feet for work, but, hell...if my mental state can't defeat me, my physical state sure won't.  I don't care if I'm last across the finish line, I'm still going to cross it unaided.

And I'm going to run across that damned bridge.  Twice.  I hate that bridge.  But I'm not going to let it beat me.  Someday I want to run across it and actually enjoy it enough to smile.  But until then, I'll be head down, fighting all the emotion that it brings because I know that if I hadn't found running, I might not be here.

So, long story...but running saved my life.  As did a few, well, many people on my running team.  A good friend of mine said it best, "I've never seen you so happy as when you are running."  Yup.  That is it exactly.

But, I'm a work in progress, and even though I know that I want to get up and go log some miles, there are days that I just can't do it.  Race days and work days definitely get me out of bed, but training days sometimes just don't.  I wish they did, as I know I could be stronger and faster.

Maybe someday.

I'm just happy to still be here.  I was afraid for a few years that I wouldn't be.  And I am so thankful for those around me and beside me that make sure I hear what I need to hear to stay here every day.  Because some days are much harder than others.

Running gives me something to get out of bed for when I feel all hope is lost.  It gives me relationships with people with whom I have things in common.  And it gives me the ability to set goals that are individual and challenging, yet I know I can achieve.

So now it is time to go to bed.  Because 26.2 and a bridge await me in a few hours, and I think I've cried enough writing this that I need to start pounding fluids so that I'm not dehydrated tomorrow.

Thank you for listening.  I'm sure I'll massively edit this in the next few days, but for now, this is what I'm feeling.

And thank you, Joe, for those words in November.  I did you proud.

Life is Good.  Life is better when you have a purpose to be a part of it.

We'll do the totals later....



Two things...

1.  The first time I went across that bridge was the day we did the small memorial for Robin Williams in my old neighborhood.  As you know, he suffered from depression and committed suicide.  It was also the morning that I found out my best friend was diagnosed with cancer.  After the memorial, I just started running.  I ran through the Presidio and after a few miles, my only choice was the bridge.  So, angry as hell at the world, I ran across it, and back.  It was the first time I went over 10 miles.

2.  Today as I was running across the bridge, my timing was just perfect to see a man drop to one knee and propose, right at the middle.  It was foggy, cold, wet and miserable.  The wind was strong and made me shiver and cramp.  But the love that these two had for each other brought the sun out and the entire bridge cheered.  I stopped for a while to take pics, and I hope I can find them online to send the pics to them.

So now every time I cross that bridge, I will have a very good memory of the love shared between two people, even in the bleakest of circumstances.

I don't hate that bridge so much anymore...


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

When your favorite airline and race series come together in your hometown, you HAVE to set a new PR!

Two weeks ago, I wrote about redeying into the United RnRDC half marathon, and the amazing support I received from the United staff at three airports as well as the in-flight crews.  That story is here if you want some background.

This weekend, I was thrilled to be able to run the United RnRSF half marathon in my hometown.  This would be my third time running it.

While the last blog was about the support getting TO the race, this blog will focus on the support AT the race itself.

Wait--I was just there!
As a 1K member with United, I get a lot of perks.  The first one was flying First Class from my last race in Mexico City to my home in San Francisco.  That was a punishing race day (and the recap is the next blog), and being able to stretch out in First Class was an unexpected thrill.  And since I hadn't been home in almost a month (even before the RnRDC race), being able to bring my suitcase home, have a day or two to unpack, and sleep in my own bed were exactly what my mind needed to start focusing on Sunday's race.

Friday, 24 March

United had offered a "VIP Experience" for some of its selected MileagePlus Members.  Naturally, I signed up.

Aaron, the man who gets things done!
Upon arriving at the Expo, I went to the United Booth and met Aaron, the coordinator of the United MileagePlus VIP for the race weekend.  He and I had been in communication earlier, and I wanted to thank him for all of his hard work in ensuring that my running team and their families who qualified for the VIP Experience were all sorted for the weekend.  Many of us were on our fourth race in three weeks over two countries, and sometimes we forget details like submitting our guest's name by the deadline.  Aaron handled everything with true professionalism and represented United in the most positive light.

Susie, United FA
I also met Susie, a Flight Attendant with United.  She and I chatted a bit about the RnRDC weekend, and how much all the support in my flights to work or to a race really makes a difference in my performance.  I really hope to see her again on one of my future flights.

And then.... POLARIS!!

I have been looking forward to flying in the new Polaris Class and planes for months.  There were actual seats at the Expo for us to try out and experience Polaris Class without booking a flight.  As I am a savvy traveler, I saw online that the new Polaris Class 777 was making a few trips from SFO-EWR and snagged a ticket on the flight, and put in for an upgrade.  We'll see how it goes in two weeks!  In the meantime, I know everything I need to know about being in complete comfort for my transcon flight, and will definitely look for these aircraft when I fly to Europe or Asia in the future (Chengdu, maybe??).

I had a great night of sleep in my own bed that night and woke up Saturday refreshed and relaxed.

Saturday, 25 March

Giving a United Airlines Testimonial
My teammates were all meeting at the Expo around 3:00 so I headed to the Expo early to visit with the people I didn't get a chance to see in DC, Dallas, or Mexico City.  I stopped by the United Booth again to say hello and was asked if I could provide a testimonial for United's Customer Service as a 1K member.  Moi?  Talk up my favorite airline??  DONE!  It was my pleasure to thank everyone for all that they do for me.

I met up with my team for the usual pre-race shenanigans and was in bed by 9:00.

Sunday, 26 March  RACE DAY

I woke up about 1:00 AM feeling excited and nervous, but rested.  I had run this course several times over the past three years and know it is a tough one.  Hills.  And the Golden Gate Bridge.  And a big hill at the end.

Definitely Running While Branded
And I also knew that this time, I would go for a PR.  Not just a San Francisco PR, but an overall best.  I had great rest, enough sleep, good food, and the support of my favorite airline, my running team, and all the people at Rock N Roll working for me.  I was going to OWN this course today.

I took an Uber out to Beach Chalet where I was greeted by Aaron at the entrance (does he ever sleep) and welcomed by more United staff for the breakfast.  Coffee, juice, pastries, yogurt, etc.  All the things that one needs to fuel up before a race.  And I was thankful that it opened at 4:30, as I need to have food in my stomach early to calm the nerves.  Oh--and indoor toilets!!!  That, alone, is worth getting a VIP ticket.

We were shuttled to the start line where I joined up with the rest of my team for our pre-race pictures and took my spot to the side of the group, as I'm a little slower than the rest of the pack.  I drank my Glukos, finished stretching and waited for the countdown.

Black Sheep getting ready to Run

The race was as magical as it always is.  The first mile is always slow and congested as people fight to find their pace and space and get ready for the first hill.  Three blocks uphill, then on the flat.  And then a downhill mile.  This is where you push yourself as fast as you can go and burn through the there is a punishing hill right around the corner that can own you if you aren't prepared.

Cresting Lincoln Hill
I love how the Blue Mile is on the Lincoln Hill.  This is the slowest part of the course for most, a 200 ft. climb to the top of the Presidio, and as you push yourself up and feel the burn in your legs, it allows you the opportunity to consider what our Service Members have done for our country.  It's hard not to start crying when you see the pictures of those who have given their lives so I can have the freedom to do something as simple as run up a hill on a Sunday Morning.  I am forever grateful for their daily sacrifices.

A little chance to breathe on a small downhill drop and turn to the Golden Gate Bridge.  Time to drink another Glukos and fight another uphill slope.  This was the first time I have reached the bridge and not had any runners already on the way back.  Part of it is because the starting line was moved in slightly, but a major factor was that I was really pushing myself up that hill.  I looked at my Garmin and saw that my time was great and I was on track for a new PR.

Over the bridge, around the rest stop, and back on the bridge.  At the peak of the bridge, we just passed 10K.  As I train on this course, I know that the next two miles are downhill.  Time to run as fast as possible to balance out the time the hill at Mile 11 will counter.  And I did.  I ran my first official sub-9 minute mile.  The time flashed on my Garmin and I knew there was no way this course would beat least I hoped it wouldn't.  I knew that last hill was still waiting.

On the Marina Flat I caught up with my teammate and friend, Sherry (and another United 1K member).  Sherry holds the record for the most RnR miles run, and has been a mentor of mine over the past year.  I was out of breath from the downhill and just looked over at her and said, "I'm trying to PR.  Get ahead of me and guide me in."  She's quite the quick runner and I knew that if I stayed on her tail, I would finish strong.

Another Glukos stop on the flat and we turned for the hill.  It doesn't matter how many times I train for this race, this hill always tests me.  I looked at my watch.  2:02.  I started doing math.  I needed to beat 2:24.  Can I get up this hill and to the finish line in 22 minutes?  Oh, I'm sure going to try.

I crested the hill, saw the finish line, looked at my watch and started to cry.  I still had six minutes, and I knew that this part of the course would take three.  I lost Sherry on the uphill, but caught sight of her on the way down and just glued my eyes on her back.  I started to panic because this road has potholes and if I fell it would cost my PR.  I fell last year on the GG Bridge and broke my toe.  No, I was not going to fall again.

Victory!  And a new PR!
I crossed the Finish Line at 2:21:57.  Three minutes better than my former PR, which was earned at the Seattle RnR, ironically, on a hilly course.  I love my hills.

I collected my medals and went straight to the United VIP Lounge where the faster members of my team were waiting, hugging and congratulating everyone for finishing a tough race.

And right there was Aaron--there must be three of him--congratulating every person and welcoming them into the lounge to have breakfast and refreshments and sit in the sun to relax and share our victories.  There were also many United Flight Attendants walking around the area, chatting with the runners, and a few of them even ran the race themselves.  Well done!

I sat with my friends eating bacon, hydrating, and stretching out my legs.  United offered free medal engraving--a luxury that I have never afforded myself--so I took advantage of that.  And massages....ooooohhhh....yes, please!!

We closed the place down, lol.

Team Black Sheep Run
Thank you, Adrian Mauricio for the pic
It was a wonderful experience for me to be able to run a race at home, since most of them are run while traveling and the price I pay for all the travel is a slower time than I would like.  The day was enhanced even more by being able to run with the support of my family--my running team and the wonderful employees of United Airlines.

Team United RnRSF
I was interviewed again about my participation at the race, and how having the United VIP Pre and Post Race Hospitality Area enhanced my overall race.  I can honestly say that I would not have set a new PR if it wasn't for this opportunity and invitation.  The food, the smiles, the encouragement, the behind-the-scenes preparation...each little detail became the strong movement of support that pushed me up those hills and across the finish line.  Words cannot express the amount of gratitude I have for all of you.

But I know the service does not stop now that the race is over and the medals are hung.  I was asked why I love United so much and enjoy flying to and from races on that airline.  I remembered the time when I earned my (now shattered) PR in Seattle last June.  I flew home right after the race and had a horrible cramp in my leg.  The Flight Attendant noticed my limp and my medals when I got on the plane, and as soon as we passed 10,000 feet, she jumped up, brought me a bottle of water and told me to use it to roll out the cramp...and congratulated me for my achievements.

This is why I fly United.  And this is why I am looking forward to a long, happy partnership between United Airlines and the Rock N Roll Marathon Series.  I just might have to put Chengdu on the calendar, after Liverpool, Dublin, and Lisbon...

Life is Good.  Life is better when you run with a team of hundreds, or even thousands.

Celebrating with Sherry

I want to dedicate this race to my friend, Sherry Ricker, who got me up that last hill and to a PR...even if she doesn't know that she did it.  Sherry, you are the BEST!!

Miles Run: 181
1K Qualifying Miles: 26,601
Actual Miles Flown:  31,451

Wouldn't it be great to have a RnR here??

Always branded

One of the founders of Black Sheep Run,
Justin Bravo
I did it!!!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Thirteen miles run and thirteen thousand miles flown...sort of...

What does a woman who travels for a living do when she has 36 hours off between work and vacation--both on the West Coast?

She jumps on a plane to redeye into The United Airlines RnR Washington DC Marathon.

Why not?

This blog isn't about me running or the race itself.  We hear about people getting on a plane with a backpack and flying across the country (or various oceans), landing, running, and flying home right after.  Total respect, but let's take the challenge up a notch.

I'm on the road for a month, leaving home on 27 February.  Three shows, three countries, a few races, a "real job" interview, and then finally home.  A backpack doesn't exactly support this time frame or this many outfit changes.  I have a 45-lb suitcase with me...and a huge carry on.

THIS is a challenge.  And I do love a good challenge.

Let me tell you how my race weekend went and the support I received...because this is what my blog is really about.

Friday, 10 March

5:00 AM:  Las Vegas.  Wake up, pack suitcase, pack TSA approved food to prepare me for the race and eat on the plane.  Peanut butter in celery sticks as well as 2-oz. containers, salad, fruit, lunch meat, cheese, etc.  Throw it in the refrigerator.  Go to work.

Everything you can take through TSA.
12:00 PM:  Check the weather forecast.  TWENTY DEGREES??  Wait!  When did that change?  I only have shorts and one pair of yoga pants with me.  No hat.  No gloves.  No thermal race gear.  Nothing.  Freak out and message everyone on my team to buy me warm clothes at the Expo and get my race bib and bag for me.  Done.

4:00 PM:  Leave work.  I have been on my feet at back to back shows for two weeks, with a trip to Los Angeles for the weekend in between.  Feet hurt.

5:00 PM:  Arrive at LAS.  Check my suitcase.  Head to the United Club.
Frank and company at LAS

5:15 PM:  Chat with Frank and his coworkers at the Club about my upcoming adventure.  They have helped me plan it, so they are excited that I am really doing it...if I make the flights.  Weather on the East Coast is messing things up.  Wheee!

6:30 PM:  Board and leave for SFO.

My favorite United Club Bartender, Dennis
8:30 PM:  Arrive at SFO.  Head for the United Club.  Dennis is there, my favorite bartender, who also knows of this crazy adventure I'm planning.  He fills the three baggies that I brought with ice to keep the meat and cheese cool on the flight to IAD.  Change into race gear...what little I have with me.

9:30 PM:  Board for IAD. Asked the FA if I could keep my ice-packed lunch in the back, as I am flying on the bulkhead and have to keep everything overhead.  I don't want to drip on anyone.  I tell them about the race and they think it's fantastic, as some of them are running the United RnR SF.  And...mechanical.  Oh, the one word no one wants to hear when pushing a timeline.  We take off late, but we take off.  I don't sleep because I am stressed about making it to the starting line.  No possibility of the Full now.  Even the Half is in doubt depending on when I land.

Saturday, 11 March

6:30 AM:  Land.  Small eternity to get off the plane.  Head to the United Club (that's three) for coffee.  Apply Body Glide and pull on compression socks.  Out the door.

7:00 AM:  Full Marathon starts.  I'm just catching an Uber.  Eating all of my packed lunch that I can.

7:50 AM:  Arrive as close to the starting line as possible to catch the Half.  OMG IT'S 20 DEGREES!!!!  Meet my friend, Laura, at Gear Check to get my bib and check my carry on.  Call my other friend who has my gloves and hat to tell her where to meet me.  She's lost on public transportation and won't make it.  Freak out.  Start eating Glukos Chews.  They are frozen and chewy, but they work.

8:15 AM:  Meet my running team, Black Sheep Run, for the team photo.  They see I am freezing and give me hand warmers but are at the minimum for themselves on anything else warm.  OK...let's go for it anyway.  Better to try and fail than not try at all.  Drink a Glukos Gel and get the Garmin ready.

8:30 AM:  Half Marathon start.  Cold.  OMG, COLD!  Whatever.  Adrenaline will get me through it.

8:40 AM:  Jamie from Black Sheep starts yelling my name.  There was a pair of disposable running gloves on the ground so she grabbed them for me.  Better.  De Moe gives me his hat.  Much better.  I can do this.

11:40 AM:  Cross the finish line with my team.  Lose them in the chute.  Head to Gear Check to get my bag and warm clothes.  Start making my way to IAD.

1:45 PM:  Arrive at IAD.  Go to Baggage Claim to pick up my suitcase that flew in with me this morning.  Recheck it, check in for YVR and head to the United Club.

IAD United Club staff.  Great people!!
2:00 PM:  Order a Bloody Mary at the Club and realize that I haven't
eaten since the plane.  Good Bloody Mary though....Change socks.  Think that not showering was a mistake.  Try and stay awake at the Club so I don't miss my flight home.

4:30 PM:  Board for YVR via SFO.  In 39A for the way home.  Cold seat makes my knee happy.   Kept my feet off the bulkhead.
Don't do this.  Respect the bulkhead.

24 hours later, I haven't slept, flown 5000 miles
and run a half marathon.  But still smiling!!
9:00 PM:  Land at SFO.  Go see Dennis to celebrate.  Eat again.  Leave my suitcase at the airport.  Catch an Uber home around 11.  Finally shower and pass out right before setting the alarm for 6 AM so I can get back to SFO.  What do you mean we lose an hour tonight???  Daylight Savings Time???  Grrrr!

Sunday, 12 March

6:00 AM:  Get up.  Repack backpack.  Call Uber and head to SFO.

9:00 AM:  Arrive at SFO for breakfast and a mimosa.  OK...three mimosas.  Board for YVR.  Fall asleep before the plane takes off......

Vacation time in Vancouver until I leave and head to Dallas for the RnR Tex2Mex.  That's Dallas Half in the morning, and Mexico City Half that evening.  Egads!

Now you might think that all of this was an easy accomplishment except for the running 13.1 miles in 20 degree weather.  Not so.

It's no secret that I am a huge fan of United.  I have leaned on them so many times to get me back and forth to work that I can't list them all.  I insist that my favorite business investment I make each year with the biggest ROI is buying a United Club Membership.

If it wasn't for all of the support that I had from United--from the CSR agents on the phone for the planning, to the incredible United Club staff in all three clubs, to the Flight Attendants on the plane, and of course, my running group, the staff at RnR, and a slew of Uber drivers, I never would have pulled this off.

They say that running is an individual sport.  While I would like to agree, as I don't really feel that I compete with anyone when I am on the course itself, I know that it is, in fact, a team sport.  Without my team from United and Black Sheep Run, as well as the other individuals who helped along the way, I never would have been able to fly, run, and fly again.

My team is the best.

Life is good.  Life is better when you are part of a worldwide support team.

Next stop:  Tex2Mex.

(Since United counts PQD for their 1K membership, and I flew on a comped ticket LAS--IAD--YVR, I don't get credit for status on this trip.  But since this month's trip was 12,104 miles, we will have to start tallying separately).

Miles Run: 140
1K Qualifying Miles: 21,955
Actual Miles Flown:  25,636