2014 Va Beach Shamrock Half Marathon

Finally a good half marathon! Today’s race was my eleventh half marathon finish. I was really nervous about the race for a lot of reasons. It was the longest distance I have run since the last half marathon I did in December. The longest training run I did was 9 miles and I had to do that on the treadmill two weeks before the race and I stopped several times. All of the training runs I have been doing I’ve been going at a really easy pace because my ankle has still been hurting until the last couple of weeks. I was confident that I could finish, but wasn’t sure of my fitness level. My friend Becky was hoping for a 2:05 finish time, and I was hoping to be able to stay with her, and luckily we stayed together until the last mile, and we both hit our time goal! My finish time was 2:04:14.

Whoop whoop – a six minute PR for Becky, and our friend Melissa finished in 1:53 and got herself a shiny new PR as well. Congrats all around with me being super excited I finished strong!

The last post I wrote I raved about the Tim Kennard 10 mile race. Luckily I can do the same about the Shamrock race. It is an awesome race, and if you ever have a chance to run a J&A race in Virginia Beach I can’t recommend their races enough. Top notch all the way around. The Shamrock weekend is a lot of fun, but the races are really big. This year’s half had almost 9000 finishers, and it’s a different experience than running with just 400 people.

I met up with Becky and Melissa at the expo Friday around 7:30. Last year I tried getting to the expo at 3:00 thinking it wouldn’t be crowded and it was bananas! Crowds are not my favorite, so going at 7:30 was much better for me. It was still crowded but not nearly as bad, and I got suckered in by the Newton shoe company and bought a pair of new shoes!


This year I only signed up for the half marathon. Becky did the Dolphin challenge, where you run the 8K on Saturday and the half on Sunday and you get an extra medal. The dolphin challenge medal was really pretty and I was really wishing I had signed up, so maybe next year I’ll add on the 8K because the medal was really nice. I like bling! With Saturday to putter around Virginia Beach and weather that was 100% gorgeous, Jeff and I hit the Bayville frisbee golf course. Felt really good to get outdoors, and fling some discs! They have updated the course and put in all new cement tees if you happen to be in the area it was a fun short course.

After some pizza and a little shopping I headed back to the hotel to get off my feet, and set everything out like the good little type A runner I am.

Jeff, my husband, took this picture this morning. He is a trooper and I’m really thankful that he comes to races with me. He’s almost always waiting at the finish line for me, and I love that. While the temps said it was in the upper 40’s the wind was really cold and had really strong gusts. I can’t thank the volunteers enough for standing out there to cheer us on, hand out finishing goodies and take pictures. J & A races have some of the best course support of any races I’ve ever run. Lots of spectators really help keep you pumped up along the way, and I really enjoyed the DJ’s and the bands out on the course this year. Becky’s Dad was also out riding his bike, and he’d meet us every couple of miles to see how we were doing which was so awesome.

This year I had the great idea to not stay on the waterfront and instead drive to the race and park in the morning in a parking garage. I think that at least 5000 other people also had this idea to get to the parking garage when it opened around 6 which was a little bit stressful, but this year I’m glad I didn’t jog 2 miles to the start line. The awesome thing was the parking garage was right around the finish line so we also didn’t have to walk far from the finish, so that was great because the wind was really gusting. I did have to jog to the start and hope to meet up with Becky and Melissa. I was sure that it would be easy to find them, but I was running a little behind getting to the start. This was the first time that I’ve used a gear check at a race. I’ve never done that before, but I was also so glad that I had extra clothes to put on at the finish because it was so windy. I was able to meet up with my friends at the start, and we were all so excited, and had just enough time for some quick pictures. There is so much energy at bigger races, I always feel this electric feeling in the air at a start line. I love that feeling, it’s a nice little rush right before you start.

Overall this was one of the most fun races I’ve had. I think the weather was good once we got going. Most of the race course was buffered from the major wind until the last part of the race on the boardwalk. The course support is so awesome, Becky and I chatted away and got into a groove right at the pace we were going for and I was so thankful to finally have a race where I was feeling good. I was happy that my ankle seems to be recovered and didn’t hurt at all the whole time. This race was also full of inspirational people, like I’ve said before, most races are. Melissa saw a blind runner out on the course this year, and we had several military out on the course cheering us, as well as Team Hoyt. So awesome. What I really wanted though, was the finisher beach towel. At the J & A races you get an awesome medal, and a running hat at the end of the race. Then to top it off, they give you a special gift of some kind. Two years ago it was a sweatshirt, last year was a fleece blanket and this year was the towel. I didn’t care if I had to crawl to the finish I was getting my medal and towel! haha I’d still run if I didn’t get these things but I can say that getting goodies for running 13.1 miles does make a girl happy!

The other great thing about the Shamrock is the post race party. They setup a huge tent about half a city block in size and put in a stage where they have several bands, food and my personal favorite post race treat – beer. I don’t drink a lot, but I love having a beer after a race, even if it’s 9:30 in the morning. I didn’t stay at the party very long, you can see from the photo below that Jeff is not thrilled about crowds either and really wasn’t a fan of the 9:30 beer idea. haha Overall great day. I feel blessed to be able to Shamrockon another year, and can’t wait to go next year!


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Tim Kennard 2014 Race Recap

Today was so inspiring on so many different levels. I ran in the 11th annual Tim Kennard River race. There is a 10 mile option, a 5K, a 10 mile two person relay, and a 5K fun run/walk where dogs are allowed. This race is run in memory of Tim Kennard, a local runner who succumbed to his battle with kidney cancer in 2004. The race proceeds go to local charities each year. To say that this race is awesome, is an understatement. It is one of the most well run races that I’ve ever run in. Each year they plan a great event for the runners, and each year they keep making it better.

What do I think constitutes a great race you are thinking? Registration is online, and easy, and their website is very well organized, east to navigate and informative. Packet pick up is convenient. The shirts are always top notch, usually a new balance tech shirt. The race Facebook page is well attended and posts frequent updates, and they even posted videos of the course preview this year. The pre-race ritual is fun because they sing the anthem, and then have a local fitness instructor take you through a quick warm-up inside the local Salisbury University gym. There is plenty of access to bathrooms, and water, and you are inside so you can stay warm if the temps are low. There is also plenty of university parking available. This year the race teamed with Athletes Serving Athletes. The race course is well marked, no chance of getting lost. They have tons of volunteers manning water stations, and cheering with cow bells all along the way.  Race photos are taken along the route, and there was an announcer at the finish line cheering everyone who came through to the finish. This year they added medals to all finishers (even 5K yay!) The post race spread rivals any race I’ve been to. Lots of water, gatorade and coffee. Lots of different food options from fruit, bagels, and yogurt to 4 different kinds of soups and sandwiches, and donut holes. The race is relatively small, with 400 finishers as compared to say a Rock-n-Roll event but that’s an attraction in my opinion. The timing was relatively flawless and results were ready really quickly as soon as each race was over and awards were given out quickly.

The race hits all the technical aspects of an awesome race experience. But more than that, this race is inspirational. Most races are. Every year you run in memory of a fallen runner. There are great local charities that will benefit from the race fees. This year they topped it off with Athletes Serving Athletes. I’ve seen them before in other races, and I’d love to participate next year. Volunteers aka wingmen either push a stroller or wheel chair or help another individual complete the race distance. Today I ran by three, and each time my throat would catch and I’d tear up a little bit. Running is challenging all on it’s own, then add the extra challenge of pushing someone along takes a lot of heart. www.athletesservingathletes.org 

The other thing that helped me during the race was the inspirational signs along the route. I almost lost all ability to breathe when I saw the Steve Prefontaine quote “To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift.” I’m getting all teary eyed even writing it. Then every couple minutes I’d repeat the quote to myself and I’d start to get the lump in my throat again and kept on digging as deep as I could to have the best race possible. I’ve been struggling with some kind of ankle problem, I’m guessing tendonitis, likely overuse. Typical runner problem. I took off most of December after the Rehoboth half and I’ve been slowly building up mileage and just trying to get ready for the Shamrock Half in VA Beach. Slowly building mileage is an understatement. The unusually cold weather this winter is totally messing up my 5:30 am running mojo. Today’s race was my first attempt at speed since my last failed race attempt so I was nervous, wondering how the ankle would hold up when I let the rubber hit the road for some attempt at fast running. Overall emotional day. I finished. I finished strong. I got a small ankle pang at mile 3 so just had .1 to hold on to the end. My ankle is a little sore but hopeful I didn’t do any worse damage. And….. I got first place in my age group 


Overall, great day. The cherry on top was that it was a friend’s birthday and we went out to lunch post race. I got to meet some new runners, and it was just a great day. The sun was shining, the weather was gorgeous for a while. I’m bottling up this wonderful feeling in this little blog post so that when I get more of the winter blues I can re-read this and know spring is just around the corner. Congrats to anyone who ran the Tim Kennard today, and thanks to the race directors for an awesome day of running, and thanks to the lady that gave me an orange hat after the awards ceremony. I hadn’t brought any money with me, but she was gracious enough to let me have one!

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Where do we go from here.

As I look back into 2013, with feet firmly planted in a new year I’ve wondered what the new year will hold. Let me explain a little. I’ve never been one to write a list of goals to reach for. That’s not my thing. I’ve never made “resolutions”. In my opinion, life is ever changing. My goal is to live every moment to the fullest. To quote one of my favorite movies of all time, Forrest Gump (I am a runner after all). “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” I like to be open to possibilities. Although, rather ironically, I’m a huge list maker and tend to get more done if I have a list for small tasks. So with that out of the way, why am I even writing this? I like introspection. What did I learn from my running in 2013? Quite a lot actually.

The first half of 2013, the VA Beach Shamrock half was my foray back into long distance running after 2012’s year of tuning my stride and trying to go with as minimal as possible. I wasn’t feeling well Shamrock weekend, and had not trained adequately prior to the race to be able to bust out a shiny new pr. I knew it would not be a day for a pr of any kind, just get it done. I’m also one of those runners who puts the earbuds in, and zones out with my playlist for 13.1 miles. In true introvert fashion I don’t talk to anyone and get into such a zone that I don’t even know where I’ve run, just follow the heard. Get er done. Before the start of the race I ran into someone in the bathroom on the way to the start line and we both figured out we were in the same age group, and shooting for similar finish times. This race was a huge turning point for me. Laura and I talked the entire race, like old running friends. We ran the whole race together and finished at exactly the same time. While I wasn’t high on my finishing time, it was my slowest half-marathon, I had a great time meeting someone new and talking the whole time. Consequently had some of the greatest race pictures ever, which I actually purchased. It was grand. I also slapped more high-fives to every kid and cheerleader I came across during the race. Awesome. I finally broke out of my shell, and it was great.

Enter the year of some of the hardest races I’ve ever run. The Island to Island half-marathon, I had bronchitis, which doesn’t lend itself well to strenuous exercise. I was armed with some decent training, and an inhaler. I started that race trying to keep up with my running friends in the 8:30’s and made it to mile 5 before I had to slow down. Kept the miles around 9-9:30 until mile 11 and breathing got really rough so I walk jogged to the finish with my best half time of the year. In hindsight I probably should have not run that day, but you never know unless you try, although I probably pushed recovery back several weeks racing with bronchitis.

I did have a 5K pr this year which was nice, since the long distance scene wasn’t proving to be great on the finish time front for me. There were also a couple of smaller races where I placed in my age group. That’s always nice. But more than that, I had a couple of races where I “gave good race”. If you are a racer, do you give good race? In at least two races this year I did. I know this because at the finish line the person you happen to be “racing” for a good portion of the race makes a comment of some kind, a “good race” type of thing. I ran a 10K race in June and stayed with one guy for almost the entire race. I stared at the tattoo on his calf for a good five miles, and I drafted behind him quite a bit. Although I passed him a couple of times, we went back and forth over the race course. We were definitely helping each other in a sense, though we both had our headphones on and never spoke we pushed and pulled each other through. At the finish line he gave me a pat on the shoulder and a “good race”. This same thing happened during the 10 mile race I ran in October. Around mile 5 I caught up to a woman and stayed with her for several miles, we even chatted a bit. She’d fall back at water stops and catch back up to me. At the finish line she came in and said that I had really pushed her pace, good race. I love the friendly competition amongst runners that helps us push each other to the best we can be.

Running the VA Beach Rock n’ Roll half was really hard because of the heat, and seeing a runner down in the first mile of the race. I ended the year with a rough race because of a calf cramp. The theme of 2013 seemed to be perseverance. Hopefully 2014 will prove to be a little more fun! But this year I came to find that racing is much more than just the time on the clock at the end.

While I don’t resolve to do anything but become better at the things I currently do, there are quite a few things I’d like to accomplish this year. I’d like to do a streak where you run at least a mile everyday a certain number of days in a row. Not sure when I’ll do this but runner’s world announces streaks every once in a while so the next one I come across I’ll try. I’d like to get my half-marathon time under 2:00 hours again. I’d like to complete the Ragnar trail relay in June. I’d like to continue running as injury free as possible, which means taking some much needed rest time right now. I’m still cross training, and even did some pool running (which blows by the way). But I can’t wait to get back on the road, and see where it takes me! Cheers, and happy new year!

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Rehoboth Seashore Half Marathon 2013.

I ran the Rehoboth Seashore half marathon on December 7, 2013. It was one of the hardest races I’ve ever completed because I had a muscle cramp around mile 5. I’ve never had a problem with muscle cramps, and I’ve been running a long time. I have several ideas why I cramped up but I guess I’ll never really know for sure. I prepared for this race like many other races I’ve run. Based on a really great 10 mile race I did the previous month I was confident that I could get a time under two hours. The three half marathons that I did this year were all lackluster finishes compared to some of the times I’ve raced in the past. My first half for 2013, the Va Beach Shamrock, I was out of shape from a winter of not training enough. My second half, the Ocean City MD Island to Island, I had bronchitis but it was consequently the best race time I had for a half this year. The third, VA Beach Rock n’ Roll was really too hot for a good performance time for me as I don’t run well in the heat for that distance. I was training with a group running the full marathon, and I felt like putting in really long runs with them would make the half distance seem like no big deal, and an easy race.

Enter feeling overtrained. Too much of a good thing is never a good thing, and running is no different. I was feeling overtraining symptoms after a 15 mile run, 10 mile race, and then 17 mile run. My body wasn’t dealing well with the stress of working a full time job, being active in my Church, having kids, holidays, and trying to train at a marathon level. Trying to balance all these things is really tough, and my body was feeling worn down. This is why I decided not to go for the marathon distance and stick with the half. I really wanted to race the full because my friends were, and I would like to complete another full marathon. However, I don’t want to take my chances with getting injured which is often times what happens when your body gets worn down, and I ended up mildly injured anyway. One of the main overtraining symptoms I noticed was insomnia. I would wake up everyday around 3-4 am which is unusual for me. My hormones were “out of whack” and my monthly cycle ended up being two weeks late which is also really unusual for me. I had a general achy feeling all the time even after several days of not exercising. Two weeks before the race I took a complete week of no running to just “recover”. I concentrated on a good taper with just easy runs for the couple weeks before the race. Sleep had resumed to normal and I was feeling much better by race day like I had a lot of energy and I’d be ready to kill this race.

I drove to Rehoboth Friday afternoon and ran into all kinds of traffic going north on Route 13 through Salisbury, and should have driven the route through Ocean City. I hit all the school buses and people getting out of school for the day and the drive took about an hour longer than it should have because of rainy conditions. I do not really handle traffic very well and was super agitated by the time I got to the expo. It was raining and cold and trying to find a place to park that sort of close was a nightmare. So much for getting there early to beat the rush. The expo had run out of women’s shirts by 4 pm and so I ended up with a men’s shirt (more irritation). It was dark and not very warm in the tent they had setup for the expo (more irritation). I was picking up my friends packet and they didn’t ask for the hand written note with a copy of her id which we were told on the website that we had to bring (more irritation). Then we go over to the Econolodge by the Cracker Barrel and the room was lackluster, but hey it was cheap especially split four ways. My friends and I set off to find food and everyone was ok with me and my sushi pre-race dinner ritual so we ate at Saketume. I’ve eaten there before and it did not disappoint (I love that place). We also hit Sweet Frog (I love that place too).


It’s only about 6 pm by this time so we hit the outlets and I found the most awesome pink under armor shirt with Superman logo on it which would be great for race day. I ended up going to bed a little later than I would have liked but I felt well fed and well hydrated.

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We got up and got to the start about 20 minutes before the race, which wasn’t really early enough to hit the potty lines because they were so long. I don’t feel that there were adequate number of portable bathrooms for the number of people they had in the race. The weather was also not good, and I love running in cooler weather. It was in the 30’s with the wind chill and a misty rain and I didn’t feel like the clothes I had on were good enough for the weather. I couldn’t feel my feet when the race started, they were numb. I was closer to the back because I was with my friends doing the marathon and ended up doing all kinds of weaving trying to get around people. We also didn’t warm up at all so I started the race completely cold. I was determined to race by feel and didn’t look at my watch until mile two but my time was below 8:30 which is right where I wanted to be and I felt great as I was starting to warm up but it took a couple of miles when normally I feel good and warmed up after only one mile. I spent most of the first five miles passing a lot of people which is kind of fun, and drafting behind people to keep the wind off and conserve energy. I was just coasting along, happy as a clam, feeling good and finally having a great race. Once mile five clicked off I felt it. A cramp in my right calf. My first thought was that I’ve had a great five miles, I’ll just slow down and I can still possibly hit my goal even if I don’t get that PR it will still be a good finish time. Most of my miles between 5-10 I think were around 9:30 or so. I took my gel at mile 5 just like I planned but it didn’t help the cramp. Then I started grabbing gatorade and walking through the water stops hoping that would help. Someone told me that once you feel a cramp it’s to late, you won’t really recover, and I found that to be true. Slowing down did help some, but by mile 10 my calf hurt badly enough I started walking and even that was extremely painful. I pulled off at a bench on the trail and rubbed my calf for a while and started walking. I even tried a heel strike stride to see if hitting the ground a different way would work. I was thinking that as long as I could walk I could finish. I was finishing no matter what, even if I had to drag myself for three miles. Let’s face it, I paid a lot of money for this race and I wanted my medal!!! I managed to pick up a really slow jog around mile 12.5 and was able to pick up speed and jog through to the finish. I’ve never been so happy to see a finish line!
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Thinking back I should have had a sweatshirt on at the race start for a little more warmth. I had forgotten my foam roller and stick at home, and those both keep my muscles loose. Not having rolled or warmed up before the race probably both contributed to a rough race. I think backing down on strength/speed work the month before the race didn’t help me either. I could have just had a bad day.

This was also the first race I’ve not had my husband at the finish. He didn’t travel with me to the race because I went with a group of friends. Him not being at the finish was a let down. My friends were doing the full so when I got to the finish no one was there to greet me or hang out in the finishers tent so I walked over and got a beer (it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere after you run a race haha). I sat for a while at a table where there was space finished my beer and drank a Coke figuring my electrolytes were messed up some kind of way and pushing some straight sugar and caffeine in would get me through the day. After about 20 minutes I hobbled to my car, and went over to the hotel to sit in the tub of lukewarm(more irritation and the lamest shower ever and no hot water I’m never staying in the Econolodge again). I bundled up in my warm clothes and hobbled over to the finish to wait for my friends. It was really cool to spectate the marathoners coming in, especially seeing my friends each come in. It was awesome, and did help lift my spirits. I even slapped high fives with my grade school music teacher, Christy Selway as she finished her marathon. My running hero!

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While I was impressed with the post race spread the tent was crowded as the marathoners were finishing. We were given pink bracelets at the expo to gain access to the finishers tent, but my friend who forgot hers was denied entrance to the tent even though she had obviously finished the race. I went in and got her a Coke. I was dismayed that I ended up with a men’s shirt, however the race director did offer to order more women’s fit pink shirts so I sent in some e-mail to get one of those. After I finished the race I was in a horrible mood. Probably because I’d had a rough day. I drove straight home after my friends finished and promptly laid around the rest of the day nursing my wounds.

After finishing I really thought I’d never want to run that race again, but I won’t completely rule it out. While the race is almost completely flat it was tough running part of the race on a mushy/muddy trail. I think had the weather been a little better it would have been a much nicer experience. Looking at the 2014 races I’m going to do, so far I’ve signed up for the Va Beach Shamrock Half, and a Ragnar Relay in West Virginia, and the 10K across the Bay in November. I’ll also likely do the Island to Island Half Marathon, so it’s shaping up to look like a fun year of running ahead!

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Cold weather running gear


A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook asking what gear people use to run in cold weather temps. Since the temperature is starting to dip into the 40’s and even 30’s I thought I’d write about some of the things I use to run when the weather gets cold.

First things first, we’ll start with what I put on my head. I have a couple of options depending on the temperature. If the temps are in the 40’s I usually wear my under armor head band. I got this at my local Dick’s Sporting Goods store and I’ve been really happy with it. Very comfortable, not to tight around my ears, and has good coverage when you don’t really need a hat. If the temperature gets down into the 30’s or less, like it did this past Saturday on my early morning run I wear a hat. Yes, I run around in a bright orange under armor beanie. I found this little beauty in the hunting section of a local hunting/outdoor store called Gander Mountain, and it’s actually a men’s hat. I picked it because you can see this color orange for miles, and because it’s a men’s hat it’s not to tight. I don’t want any hunter out there to mistake me for a running deer so I keep this on my head especially when I’m running during hunting season since I mostly run on back country roads with lots of woods. Now that the daylight hours are less and less I also use a headlamp on the majority of my runs. I bought this Princeton version at Gander Mountain and I’ve been really happy with it.

I have a couple different options I use for tops depending on the temperature. What I have found to be comfortable for me may not be for everyone because it takes some trial and error finding what you are personally comfortable in at different temperatures. I get really warm once I start running, and actually get hot when racing even when the temperatures are in the 40’s. However, most of my running is done in the early morning hours and the temperatures are usually somewhere in the 30’s in the morning. If the temps are in the lower 30’s I wear an under armor cold gear turtleneck that is really fitted. If the temps are in the 40’s I know the turtleneck is to hot, and I just wear an athletic shirt. If the wind is blowing I might throw on a thin jacket or sweatshirt but mostly the turtleneck or a long sleeve shirt is enough.

I also have a reflective running vest I wear because the majority of my runs are done when it is dark outside. I got the one in the picture at a running expo from a company called RU Seen. They have an amazing video on their website that shows how hard it is to really see people when running in the dark, even if they have white on. I feel so much safer when I have this on, although I still watch what vehicles are doing because you never know when someone is texting or not paying attention to the road. I also run against traffic so I can see what’s coming towards me, and try to make eye contact with drivers when its light out. I also try to memorize each license plate that goes by, kind of like a game, but it helps keep me aware of who is around me in case something unexpected happens.

I have a pair of Nike running gloves that I really like. They are fleece and have done the job to keep my hands warm in all kinds of weather. The only thing they don’t have is the finger touch that I could use with my cell phone but other than that they have been great. I got these at Dick’s Sporting Goods several years ago. If I get to hot I put them in the back of my pants waste band or just old them.

If the temperatures are in the 40’s I wear Danskin brand tights that you can get at WalMart. They fit really well and are not too tight, and the price is really good on these. However, when the temps are in the 30’s I break out the under armor cold gear tights that have a fleece on the inside. I only have one pair of these because for the most part the temps are upper 30’s and I can get away with longer tights and my CEP compression socks or even capri’s with tall socks. But I’ve had the under armor for almost 3 years and the quality has been really good and so far I haven’t had to replace them.

I also always run with my One More Mile running belt. It is the only one that I’ve tried that does not move around to much when I’m running, and my iPhone 5 fits in there, though I did cut the zipper slot to allow for ease of access.

What I’ve really had my eye on lately are some arm warmers. I’ve seen several at race expos, mainly in the summer when I don’t feel like buying them, but they are on my want list. Mainly for racing so that I can wear a tank top, but keep my arms warm if the wind is blowing.

What’s on your cold weather running wish list?

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Going pink…


I have yet another health related anniversary in October. The month of the year I found a lump in my breast. Having never been a fan of pink you tend to notice when you get inundated with it in stores, on the internet, and everywhere you look every year in October. One morning last year at the end of October I was in the shower and thought I should do a self-exam since it was breast cancer awareness month. Bam, I felt something that wasn’t supposed to be there, about the size of a lima bean. My reaction kind of surprised me. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my husband. I found it on a Thursday and then I think I went into shock a little bit, or just tried to ignore the fact that something was there. Let’s face it, I was freaked out.

A couple days had passed and during my Saturday morning run with my neighbor, I mentioned “the lump”. Her reaction let me know I needed to snap out of my funk, slapped me from my disbelief that, yes this is really happening to you and you need to get this thing checked out. I went home and told my husband, and phoned my Mom and sister. There is no history of breast cancer in my family, which doesn’t exempt me from being the first to get it, but may have contributed to my reaction. We don’t have breast cancer in my family but we do have a history of cysts, and in the back of my mind this is what I presumed it to be, or was hoping it would be.

Not really knowing what to do I called my gynecologist first thing Monday morning and she had me come in an hour later to get it checked. She thought that yes, it felt like a cyst. Whew, I was somewhat relieved but knew I was in for the dreaded mammogram to make sure. Apparently cysts feel round and cancer is more rough and doesn’t move around like a cyst does. I got scheduled for my first mammogram that Thursday, since I was only 37 at the time and had never had one before. I was lucky to have my Mom go with me. I was a bundle of nerves, and having her there was very comforting. Having never had a mammogram I think I was even more nervous, if that’s possible. I have a problem with anxiety anyway, so add a cancer scare in and I’m pretty sure I should have requested some Xanex or something. Thankfully, everyone at the diagnostic center was really nice, and really quick with getting me a diagnosis by the end of the day. I also had a sonogram, which shows a good picture of what’s going on in there for diagnosis.

I was diagnosed with cysts. They are filled with fluid and I was given several options as to what to do. The first option was do nothing, and wait and see what happens. If the cyst grows, shrinks etc. The second option is have it drained, and the third have the cyst removed. I took the wait and see option. Though at my yearly appointment in February I discussed with my Dr. that I’d like to get it drained and went down that path.

Fast forward to this year I went in for my check-up mammogram. I will mention that my Dr. advised me to quit drinking caffeine as there is a possible link to causing cysts, though most of my internet browsing did not confirm this. I decided to give decaf life a try and last March I quit drinking coffee. I was willing to give it a year of no coffee to see if the cysts went away. My most recent sonogram confirmed that they are still there, just not to the degree that I can tell when I check. Although I still get caffeine from decaf coffee and green tea I’m not sure going caffeine free helped in the cyst department, or maybe it takes longer than 7 months to reverse the effects. I do feel a lot better not being a regular coffee drinker though. I have discovered my favorite coffee drink is decaf Cafe Americano at Starbucks. I still have a regular coffee every now and again. I still eat chocolate, and I use caffeine GU Energy gels when I run races but overall I backed off the coffee and I think it helped me to feel better in general.

The main purpose in writing this is that I’d like to raise awareness to other women out there who may be apprehensive about doing self-exams or getting mammograms. While not the most pleasant experience I ever had, getting a mammogram wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Age does not matter either. I felt that I was too young to really need a mammogram, but I’d rather keep an eye on things in case something worse shows up in the future. Wearing pink is now something I embrace. I’ve always hated the color pink, but now the color has taken on a different meaning. It’s more empowering to me now, special in a way, and I actually have some pink items in my closet too. I believe that taking care of yourself and your health is extremely important, and early detection is part of this. If you haven’t done a check in a while, give the ta-ta’s a little rub and pat yourself on the back for taking care of yourself!

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October 3rd will always be a bittersweet day for me and my family. It’s the anniversary of the day we found out my youngest daughter had Type 1 diabetes. It was two years ago, a Monday morning that started like any other, and devolved into a day that changed our lives forever.

I took this picture two days before Colleen was diagnosed.


All the signs had been there over the summer, but as hindsight is 20/20 we didn’t realize what “the signs” really meant. The excess thirst, the bed wetting, excess visits to the potty, and weight loss were mistaken for drinking lots of water because it was summer and growing. But on October 3rd those things came into focus as the warning signs of Type 1 diabetes. That morning I took my daughter to the Dr. for what I thought was a urinary tract infection, since she was having pain urinating. When the Dr. came in and told me she did not have bacteria in her urine, she had sugar, I had to ask what that meant. The Dr. replied, she’s diabetic. My first thought was, “Oh, no. My poor baby.” I couldn’t breathe, I started shaking. They took her blood glucose and it was over 400. Normal blood glucose range is around 100. She got her first insulin shot, and took it like a champ. We then went to a Children’s hospital in Norfolk, VA two hours away to learn how to handle her new health issue. For the next three days we stayed at the hospital and were taught about diabetes, and how to handle taking care of a child with diabetes. October 3rd. The day our lives changed forever.

What I came to realize that day was that our family is very loved, and we have a very supportive community of friends and family in our Church and at my daughter’s school. As I rode to the hospital I knew that everyone we knew who had heard the news was praying for my daughter, and that completely comforted me. I knew we’d figure out how to manage, even though it was a huge life change. While I wouldn’t wish to ever have my child be ill, I was thankful it wasn’t anything worse. When I was at the Children’s hospital you’d hear the intercom announce anytime there was a Code Red. I prayed for the poor child that the announcement was for and knew that even though I felt our situation was bad, and there is no cure for Type 1 diabetes, we’d still be able to learn how to manage the illness.

Type 1 diabetes is different than Type 2. My daughter’s pancreas does not produce insulin any longer. The cells in her pancreas that produce insulin no longer work because her body’s immune system attacked those cells and destroyed them. People with Type 2 diabetes still produce insulin but their bodies have become insulin resistant and no longer use the insulin effectively. My daughter will require insulin shots, or an insulin pump unless a cure is found for Type 1 diabetes.

We are managing, and Colleen handles everything like a champ. She has a lot to learn as she grows up about how to take care of herself. She was diagnosed at age 7 and is now 9 years old. I’ll have at least 9 more years of reminding her to check her sugar, reminding her constantly to be diligent about her self-care. Sigh. Nothing I ever thought I’d deal with as a parent, but I love her no matter what. Colleen plays soccer, and field hockey. Last year she ran her first 5K with me. As a runner, having your child like something that you love is pretty cool!



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