Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Life Lessons From My First Ragnar Relay

I decided to run a Ragnar Relay on a whim. With a click of the mouse and a signature on a check I became Runner #8 in Van #2 for Team 514: The Dread Pirate Runners

And thank God I did, because I had the time of my life at my first Ragnar Relay.

It takes a lot of organization to do a Ragnar.  This appeals to my Type A, OCD, list-making side.  I loved researching what to pack, being the navigator, figuring out where we were going next and how we could fit a food/real bathroom stop in there.  More importantly, I was immediately comfortable with this ragtag group of strangers I spent 36 hours with.  I really believe that good people attract good people and our Team Captain, Cassie, is one of the best.  She recruited a really diverse, fun and easy going group of people who didn’t need to have a history to enjoy their present.   I have a pretty good feeling I’ll be running with the other Dread Pirate Runners in the future.

I was going to write a play by play of how the weekend went, but I think it is more important to talk about the lessons I learned or needed to be reminded of.

1. Strangers are just friends I haven’t met yet- I had never met anyone from Van #2 prior to this race and Van #1 left way before us.  It didn’t take long for the 6 of us to become friends and have a great time. In fact, I’m pretty sure many of us are coming back for the next one.
2. You are capable of way more than you think you are- Running in the middle of the night? Spending the night in a car?  Hitting that sweet pace so you don’t make everyone else fall behind?  You can do it. 
3. You are NOT too old for this sh!t- One of my favorite episodes of How I Met Your Mother is  “Murtaugh ”.  In it, Ted has a list of things he’s too old for saying , “I’m too old for this sh!t” ala Danny Glover’s character,  Roger Murtaugh, in the Lethal Weapon flicks.
The average age on my Ragnar Team was probably somewhere in the late 30’s and we all ran, slept in a Suburban, laughed and had a great time.  Although I am at an age where I prefer the nicer things in life, there are some things I’m glad I’m not too old for, Ragnar is one of them
4.   Everyone is rooting for you- No, really.  Everyone.  It could be 10am or 3am and people were cheering as I ran into the exchanges.  The cool thing about running people in general is that we all want one another to succeed.  Winning is finishing and everyone wants everyone else to be winners too. 
5.  Communication is key-  That one time my team mates moved the car and forgot to tell me?  Oh yeah…that was scary.  Making sure you let your team know that you’re a mile out so they’re ready.  Communicating with the other van so they know your ETA.  Just like communication is key in life, it is also key at Ragnar.
6. Appreciate your surroundings-  Many times when I run a race, I miss the beauty around me because I’m concentrating on finishing.  Ragnar takes you through cities and areas you wouldn’t normally see and gives you the opportunity to enjoy it while you and your teammates are running.
7. Pizza and beer are the perfect end to a race- No, really. PERFECT!

I also learned a couple of new things:
1.    It is possible to take a “Baby Wipe Bath” in a porta-pottie and not touch anything gross
2.    Headlamps, reflective vests and tail lights can be sexy or not.
3. A nice, hot shower and sleeping horizontally are things I take for granted
4. Running can be a team sport
5. I would TOTALLY do this again

All in all, I really LOVED my Ragnar Relay experience.  I’m certain I’ll do it again, sooner rather than later.

Team 514:  Dread Pirate Runners Van #1  Bryan, Arian, Brian, Sami, Cassie (missing-Randee)

Team 514:  Dread Pirate Runners Van #2 Kim, Susan, Shallu, Heather, Tasha (missing-John)

Our Ship-The Interceptor aka Van #2 aka Kim's Suburban
Runner #8 Leg #8 4.1 Miles- 12:22 minutes per mile
HIGHLIGHTS-John running to me to bring me my water bottle...rockin' the downhills

Runner #8 Leg #20 3.8 Miles- 13:20 minutes per mile
HIGHLIGHTS-It was sprinkling, it was cold, it was uphill, then it was downhill!!! :)

This motivational sign comes with me everywhere!!!!

Torreypines Glideport-where we slept
Meeting other AWESOME SF Ambassadors at Exchange 30 before my last leg

Runner #8 Leg #32 2.8 Miles- 13:00 minutes per mile
HIGHLIGHTS- Running a mile to get to the exchange to run 2. 8 miles, the guy behind me yelling my name (it was on the back on my shirt) to motivate me

Dread Pirate Runners!!!!  34hrs 45 min 12 secs. 582/724 overall. in our mixed regular group we were 415/510. Not too shabby since 10 of the 12 of us were Rookie Ragnarians!

Finish Line!THIS IS HOW I DO!!! 

Napa anyone?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

LA Marathon March 2014

People keep asking me how the LA Marathon went.  All I can think to say is, “It was hard.”

I know this sounds a little bit obvious but it is the only way I can describe it.
I guess I should change my answer to, “I had a hard day”, but alas.

Some days you just don’t have a great run and unfortunately there was the perfect storm of situations that made this true for me last Sunday.
It’s a mixed bag of emotions.  I didn’t think it was possible to be so happy and feel so accomplished at the same time as feeling so disappointed.

I REALLY wanted to do well this year.  I didn’t expect miracles.  I wasn’t trying to do anything spectacular, but my body and the weather had other plans.

BUT -and there is a BIG BUT here- I still feel excellent.

For all the sweat, tears, chaffing and disappointment, there is this sense of invinsibility.
It never occurred to me that I wasn’t going to finish.
Not when the temperature hit almost 90 degrees.
Not when my weak hamstring started giving me a hard time.
Not when I started crying for the umpteenth time.

And here is why:
A month before the marathon, I started a list.  This list was of 26.2 people who have inspired me in some way.  Each person has touched my life in some way and I thoughtfully  assigned each person a mile.
Then I sent them a card that told them what mile they were assigned and why I chose them for a mile.
It actually worked.

When I was running, and then walking (the wheels fell off the wagon about Mile 17ish), and I started to think I was defeated, I switched my thoughts to my Mile Inspiration.  I looked at their name on the index card that was in my pocket and I remembered the things they do that make me proud to be their friend and blessed to have them in my life.

Because of this, I could not quit.
Because of them, I accomplished a goal.

Many people came and saw me along the route or encouraged me via text and I would be remiss if I didn't mention:
Sara and Vicki with their "coffee" at Mile 6
The Criner's and the Mangione's in front of the Pantages - this is when I lost it the first time, but they offered water and fruit and hugs....just what I needed
Laura and Vayden's awesome signs at Hollywood and Highland
Ditto and Litto in front of the El Capitan
Brandi and her pretzels and words of encouragement at Mile 18
Deb, Staci and Mel's texts as I ran!

Although I was saw many people and received a ton a texts, a marathon can be a lonely day and I spent the better part of 7 hours and 4 minutes alone.

But I was never really alone, my 26.2 were with me. They were moving my legs forward. They were the voices in my head telling me I could do it. 

They were in my heart bringing me peace and for that I will forever be grateful, not just for how they got me through the day, but for how they get me through EVERY day.

My cup runneth over and I will spend each day trying not to forget this.

Because no matter how difficult March 9, 2014 was, I still felt like this after and it was ALL because of THEM!

10 Reasons Why I Love To Run- SF Marathon Blog #2

Everyone runs for a different reason.  What started for me as a way to lose weight has become a way of life.  There are many different reasons why I love to run, here are my Top Ten:

1.       Black toenails are a badge of honor                              
I’m a girl.  I’m a vain girl. I keep my toenails pedicured and painted….but my favorite moment at the salon is when I get that shot of pain as the poor person working on my feet takes of my nail polish.  I look down and see the gorgeous victim of my hard work and training…a black toenail and I post a picture on Facebook or send it to my RBF (Running Best Friend). 
In fact, after our first half marathon, she texted me pictures of her black toenails while we were lying on different beds in the same hotel room because we were both too tired to move.


2.       MY RBF
Speaking of my RBF, running gave me Ditto (aka the other Heather).   I’d like to believe we would have become friends regardless, but we bonded over training for our first 5K together, decided to run our first 10K together and rocked our first half and full marathons with one another.  We run together at least twice a week, even now while she’s building a person in her belly!  I’m so blessed to have found a friend like her and I have running to thank!

3.       It takes a village
I am so lucky to have a large group of friends who run and/or support my addiction to running.  This year while training for the LA Marathon, my friends who didn’t need to run the kind of mileage I was doing took turns during my longer runs to support and help me.   A typical long run looked like this:
5 miles from my house to meet
Ditto who is pregnant and ran 5 miles with me to
Marcy who ran another 5-7 miles with me while pushing her two year-old twins in the running stroller
It truly takes a village!


4.       Have you seen my sweet buns?
 I am not “Model Hot”, I’m not even regular “Hot”.  I’m overweight and a little lumpy.  However, my gluteus maximus is F.I.N.E.   I mean like high and tight and sweet.  As I said before, I can be a bit vain.  If you ask me my favorite body part…it’s my butt.  See above for proof of it’s sweetness!

5.       Yeah, I downloaded Ke$ha. 
Wanna make somethin’ of it?  I am forty years old.  I love music, but generally like stuff like Dave Matthews and James Taylor.  I’m an easy listening gal….except when I run.  My running mix runs the gamut from Incubus to the Foo Fighters to the Beastie Boys to Jay Z.  If it pumps me up, I want it on my mix! Running gives me the excuse to download music that might be considered a guilty pleasure for someone of my age.
…uh, no…I’m not listening to Miley Cyrus, I just downloaded it for my running mix.

6.       Eggs and Oatmeal and Pizza and Beer
As someone who is constantly at war with my weight, I make a conscious effort to watch what I eat on a normal day…but after a long run?  I crave eggs and bacon and oatmeal immediately after.  I’m sure this is due to the fact that Ditto and I started doing breakfast after our Saturday morning runs back in the day.  But after really long runs (half marathon or longer) I want the breakfast after the run (regardless of what time I finish) and pizza and beer for dinner.
And I don’t feel bad giving in to those cravings when I’ve spent the better part of a day burning calories!

7.       Your outfit is soooo cute!
Ohhh, where’d you get your running clothes?  So what if I’m getting all sweaty and gross I still want to look cute, especially since running pants make my butt look so good.  I love finding the perfect pants (pockets for nutrition and Chap Stick and a drawstring), the perfect shirt (long enough to cover my gut, cut for a girl!) or  cute accessories! AND I wanna match!  The perfect running outfit not only makes you adorable, but it makes you faster…its science.

8.       Oh the places we will go…
Want an excuse to go on a cool vacation?  Sign up for a race some place you’ve never been!  I have run in San Diego, California, Dallas, Texas and Dublin, Ireland.  Running a race in a dream vacation spot makes you feel a teensy bit less vacation guilt!  How about a run through San Francisco this July?

9.       The RUNGASM
It may sound weird, but it happens.  You hit a certain speed or mileage and you suddenly get the chills.  Goosebumps creep up your arms, butterflies rock your stomach and a huge smile creeps up your face.  It might not be like the real thing, but it’s the closest you’re gonna get with your clothes on.

10.   It makes me look and feel like this…

Experience your own rungasm on July 27th and sign up for one of the fabulous races at the SF Marathon!

Because I Can- SF Marathon Blog #1

"The good Lord gave you a body that can stand most anything. It's your mind you have to convince." 
— Vince Lombardi

I spent a lot of time writing and re-writing this blog.
I tried to be funny, creative, smart and inspirational all at the same time, but it just sounded so phony.
If there is one thing I pride myself on, it is my authentic nature.  So, I hit delete and started over.
Here’s the deal.  When I weighed over 300 pounds, I was constantly telling myself two “truths”.
Truth #1
Heather, you can’t do things because you’re fat.
Truth #2
Heather, you can’t do things until you lose weight.
These two sentences guided who I was.  They made the decisions for me.  If I was a business, these “truths” were my mission statement.
And then I found running.
I used to tell whoever would listen that “I only run if someone is chasing me. And even then I might not.”  But I was inspired by a friend to try.  She told me that I could run a 5K and as a member of the Board of a non-profit that produces a 5K each year, I thought it would be a good plan to train for that one.
When I started my journey in late 2010 I had 3 goals.  I was going to work out 3 days a week, run a 5K and lose 150 pounds.  The first two came very easily.
Goal #1
I now work out at least 5 times each week.  I run, swim, bike, lift weights, and play Dodgeball or Ultimate Frisbee.  Every Wednesday I have a calendar alert to remind me to plan my workouts for the next week.  Once they’re in my calendar, barring any emergencies, these are meetings with me that take precedence over anything else.
Goal #2
I fell in love with running so much that I ended up running my first 5K two full months earlier than the original one I signed up for.  Since my first 5K in March of 2011, I have run about 30 organized races including 2 Sprint Triathlons, 20 Half Marathons and a Full Marathon.
Goal #3
The weight.  That’s a bit more difficult.  I continuously lose a little, gain a little, lose more, gain a little.  As of today, I have lost about 60 pounds.  At my peak, I was down 80.  But I’m not giving up.
The point of this is that my mission statement has changed. The word “can’t” has taken a significantly smaller role in my life and I couldn’t be happier. I don’t dwell on what I can’t do, but I’m inspired by the things I can and although I’m still technically obese, I don’t let anything stop me from fulfilling my goals and dreams.  
For me, running was what changed everything.  I may not be fast. I’m not BQ-ing or breaking any tape, but with determination and perseverance, I AM finishing.  And I have a new mission statement…..
“Because I Can.” 
I once caught myself saying, “I used to think I couldn’t do things because of my weight, but now that I know I can, I kind of want to do everything.”  I truly feel like there is nothing I can’t do with a little determination and perseverance.
As of today, I can’t fly an airplane or speak Italian or play the guitar.  But you know what?  With enough dedication, motivation and practice I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I could do all of those things.
The best decision I ever made in my life was to decide that I CAN and go out and do it. 
I want people to know that size doesn’t have to stop you from fulfilling your dreams.  I think the average non-runner has a skewed idea of what runners look like.  Sure the top athletes and the ones placing in their age groups and even some of my fellow TSFM Ambassadors “look” like runners.  But many of us don’t.  Many of us have thick thighs, big bellies and chubby arms.  It doesn’t mean we can’t do it, it simply means we used more Glide.
My point is this, don’t NOT TRY because you think you can’t or you have to wait “until”
If you have a dream, whether it is to run a 5K or the San Francisco Marathon, there is no time like the present.  All you have to do it take some time to believe in yourself and train properly and you can finish anything you strive to accomplish.

Because YOU Can.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Back in the Saddle Again...

So I ran a race under-prepared for the first time EVER.
I knew I needed to start putting up higher mileage. I am committed and determined to run the LA Marathon on March 9th.
Coming off an injury has been harder than I expected.  I don’t know why I thought I would get right back at it where I was. Even my training runs were proving slower and more difficult, but somehow I thought I could go back to my normal pace for a half marathon.
I picked an inexpensive, locally run, flat course and it was awesome.  Awesome AND windy!
The Camarillo Marathon taught me a lot of important lessons.  Some that I needed to learn and some I needed to re-learn.  Here they are in no particular order:

Train for the race you want to run.
I kept telling myself, and anyone who would listen, that this was just a training race and time wasn’t important.  Saying something doesn’t always make it true.   I ALWAYS want to go faster and feel better.  I really wanted to be sub 3 hours.  Alas…
I didn’t run further than 6.5 miles prior to this race.  Mile 8 mile training run turned into a really long walk.  And my race day showed this.

A half marathon IS a big deal.
I’ve started taking 13 miles for granted.  I’ve done a lot of half marathons, so it’s become less of a big deal. BUT it is.  When you are “pace challenged” like me and coming off of an injury there is a likely chance you will be running for 3 hours.  That is 3 hours of continuous exertion.  This is not easy no matter how many times you’ve done it. This IS a big deal

 Nutrition is important.
I haven’t been eating right.  It was the holidays, blah blah blah.  Insert Lame Excuses here.
I need to make better choices.  My recent choices have made me feel heavy and yucky. I need choices to make me feel lighter and stronger.  I will say, I took some advice and tried peanut M&Ms instead of GU or Shot Blocks during the race and it worked! I bought the Fun Packs and ate one every 5 miles.  The sugar and protein was just what I needed and I stomached it much better. I’m gonna try the pretzel ones too…

 Finding the positive can be easy.
When the “wheels fell off my wagon” at about mile 9, I felt really defeated.  As I watched the 3 hour pacer get further and further in front of me, I gave up for a minute.  Then I thought, “This is the furthest I have run in almost 3 months! This is a win.”  I ran/walked the rest of the race, enjoying the scenery but not the head wind.  I did my best and felt very confident for my 9-miler the next week. 
PS- The 9-miler went AWESOME!

 It’s not giving up if you finish the race.
I did. Even though I didn’t hit my super secret time goal or run the whole time.  I made it through the finish line.  I was in pain, but I was happy. 
It was a good day.

I’m still not 100%.  I am slowly doing more mileage and making every effort to eat better.
I’m focusing on being healthy so I can finish the LA Marathon and feel great.

This is all I can do now that I’m back in the saddle.

Cody, Me, Neil
Camarillo Marathon and Half Marathon
January 5, 2014

Monday, December 30, 2013

The #YearOfRunning13 Post

Pavement Runner is becoming my favorite running person to follow on twitter, instagram and his blog. 

He is funny, insightful and runs A TON! 

I saw his post inspired by Miss Zippy and I KNEW I had to join in the fun!

So here is my 2013 in running!


Best race experience? 

This one is easy. This year I did my first marathon. Yeah, I said first….of many, I hope.  The sense of accomplishment and pride I feel from that one experience still flows through me.  Before I ran this race, a friend told me that a marathon is a “life-changer”. So true!  Because of the marathon I got a renewed sense of “I can”!  I was even chosen as a Spotlight Runner for the local news station.  But more importantly, the support I received from my family and friends was BEYOND my expectation.  You know what is a life-changer?  Someone you love and respect telling you that you’re magnificent  or someone telling you that you look beautiful after you just ran 16.5 miles.  Those moments are life-changers.  Read about the  best day of my life here.  OR see my Spotlight from KTLA!

Best run?

The first time I ran 20 miles.  Training for the marathon was really difficult.  It’s like having a second job.  I trained with two other girls, but they had similar paces and I was much slower so I spent a lot of time alone and towards the end of those training runs often felt exhausted and defeated.  The day we did 16, I broke down and said, “I don’t think I’m going to be able to finish.” Because I had just spent the last 3 miserable miles trying to do the math in my head of how fast I would need to go in order to make it.   AHHH, but the day we ran 20 miles.  I was exhausted, but not defeated! I was sore, but not broken.  I almost wanted to keep going, just to prove I could.  That day, was the day I KNEW I could run a marathon.  You can read about that day here.

Best new piece of gear?

I love all my gear, but haven’t gotten much new EXCEPT a fabulous Flip Belt.  I saw these at the Surf City and thought they would be perfect for the marathon. I bought one and then forgot to pack it (along with my hat and sports bra).  Luckily they had a booth at the expo and now I have two! They perfect for running and biking when you need to bring your phone and some cash (even tampons-sorry guys!)
Learn about them at 

Best piece of running advice I received?

To stop calling myself slow.  Yes, I am slower than my friends.  Yes, I’m not breaking any tape or qualifying for Boston, but I AM doing it.  I’m not slow, I’m pace challenged. Just kidding.  I am allowed to discuss my pace when necessary, however, I no longer call myself slow in a derogatory way.  Plus, I’m getting faster!

Most inspirational runner?

How do I chose, I spent the early part of the year reading about runners like Matt Long, Scott Jurek and Ben Davis.  I run with incredibly strong, kind and wonderful people. I have found people like Pavement Runner and Distant Runners inspirational as well.  Of all of those, I think I will have to go with Devon Johnson from the Facebook page Distant Runners ( and of her own blog

She is funny, kind and approachable and her commitment to health and faith is something to admire.  Her recount of her Boston experience is not to be missed.

 If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would it be?

This was the year I threw “can’t” out the window and lived a life full of “can”.

This was the year I stopped telling myself I couldn't do things.  I ran a marathon, I got an awesome new job and I got chosen to be an Ambassador for the San Francisco Marathon.

I'm living proof that you don't need to wait "until".

Your life is now, it's time to go out and live it  AND don't say you can't.  There are very few things we "can't" do.  We can accept the things we won't do or can't do YET.

2014 will be another year of "I Can"!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Guess Who's Back?

Who knew running would be my greatest teacher?  (NOBODY!!!!)
Who knew I would be too stubborn to learn? (EVERYBODY!!!! )
Look if you know me at all (and most of you do…but if you don’t read my other blogs then you will), then you will know that patience is not a virtue I possess when it comes to myself.

Find a parking space, don’t worry I’ll drive around.
Wait in line, I can do it patiently.
Get over an injury – HELL TO THE NO!

I put off physical therapy because I wanted to do my races and I knew it would do far worse damage to my spirit and my mind to not run than the damage that would rock my body.

And I was right. (See even I know me!)

Physical therapy has not been easy.  It’s physically difficult and mentally trying. I tried to keep my same patterns.  I went to Treadmill Class and walked on the treadmill.  I met the gang on Saturday mornings and walked.
I waited patiently to get the okay to run.

Until I couldn’t.

I wanted to be fixed, so finally I said to my physical therapist, “You HAVE to let me run.”

I didn’t yell. I didn’t cry.  I said it matter-of-factly.
And he did.
I’m approved for short, slow, flat runs.

I’m starting at 0 (aka 4.5 on the treadmill), I’ve lost all that speed I trained for in the spring, but I feel like it will come back more quickly.

I’m still not running pain free, BUT I’m not in pain after a run, which is a HUGE deal!

And I did my first race back  and it was awesome!              
On Sunday December 8th , I did half of a half. OR a Half-Marathon Relay with Ditto.
A bunch of our other friends joined us for either the relay or the half marathon.
It was freezing.  I know some of you are reading this in places where the temperature often dips low. That is not the case for us Cali kids.
20’s and 30’s is FREAKING COLD and we are all ill-equipped for such conditions.
We bundled up, wore long sleeves (the HORROR!),  head warmers, gloves, etc. and went to Ventura to run the awesome Santa to the Sea!

If you’re looking for a fun race in the LA area in December, look no further. This race is well-organized, easy to navigate, family-friendly and everyone gets a medal!

One of my favorite things about this race (I ran the half last year…) is that they have a contest for the neighborhoods you run through for the best neighborhood spirit.

It is just really fun.

And it was awesome to do it with my friends.
Neil and Erika did the half marathon.
The relay teams were:

Team Ditto

Deb and Cody

Marcy and Angela.

Cody, Ditto and Angela waited in a warm coffee shop until it was time to get us….It was really cold, but we sucked it up and jumped around before the race.
The corrals got warmer due to body heat and when it was time, we were off and running.
This race also has a costume contest so I was running with Frosty, Santa, elves and even two girls carrying a surfboard with Santa chillin’ on it in a lawn chair.

My goal was to not be in pain and to run the whole time. 
I won’t lie, it didn’t tickle to run.  My left leg is super tight, regardless of how much I stretch.  It just is.

I feel like my legs belong to two different people.  One relaxed and one uptight.  (Maybe this is indicative of my personalities?)

Anyway, I just ran.  I ran as fast as I could without feeling sore or winded. I’m rebuilding my breathing too.  It’s crazy how much you lose.

I kept moving forward. I walked at water stations and didn’t stop to pee once (which for me is a miracle, but the lines were so long and I knew Ditto was waiting for me!)

I ran a little under a 13 minute mile.  It felt good. I actually piggy-backed on some ladies doing 30/30 intervals but instead of run/walk I did jog/sprint.  Now, my sprint wasn’t all that fast, but it worked for me and I may work this in to my marathon training….which starts next week!!!!!!

I got to the relay area in 1 hour and 22 minutes, gave Ditto our ankle bracelet and she was off.

Deb and Marcy were waiting for me. They had been in for about 5 minutes, so I felt like I did a great job.
We hopped on the shuttle bus and headed to the finish line. (The two disasters of the day were the shuttle between the relay point and finish line and the line for bag check!)

After meeting our peeps, we took pictures and celebrated our victories…
Both Angela and I were running our first race back after injuries
Deb hadn’t run a race since June!
Marcy had never done anything further than a 5K!
Ditto running with Litto in her belly!                                                             
Cody getting back in the swing of things!
Neil and Erika both got PRs!!!!

All in all it was a great race and I am thrilled to be back. 
I’m not 100% yet, but I’m getting there.

It’s taking longer than I anticipated and my patience is waning, but as long as I’m allowed to run a little bit….I’ll be happy!