Disclaimer: This re-cap is a lot longer than normal because I added my TNT experience too :)
Last December, a rumor floated around on Facebook and among my running club members that the Nike Women's Half Marathon would be on April 28th in Washington, D.C. and the runners medal would be a Tiffany's necklace! I caught wind of this rumor and started doing some searching to see if it was true. I'm hooked on runner's bling and what girl wouldn't want a Tiffany's necklace? The NWH website was not extremely helpful, nor was their Facebook group page (one of my criticisms of the raec). It was pretty different than most race websites I'm used to. Every time I searched for NWH, I landed on the Team in Training website. I did a little research and found out that in order to participate in the race with TNT participants needed to raise $1,800 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I didn't see any other way to register for the race at the time so I signed up with TNT. In the beginning I didn't think it would be very difficult to raise money. Plus, I've been running on my own for a while and thought it would be good to run for a cause. I've had many friends effected by cancer in my life and wanted to give back. I do have to admit that my motivation to run this race was slightly selfish in the beginning because it started with me wanting a Tiffany necklace. What I was not expecting was how amazing running with TNT would be.
Fundraising and Race Training:
Normally I wouldn't write about my training, but this race was unique and it's worth mentioning. I originally thought I would have no trouble raising money and got off to a great start with some generous donations from family members. I also met with Jenny, my TNT contact, and she helped give me some great tips on fundraising. I feel very awkward asking people for money and have a hard time soliciting people for money. There were many suggestions for fundraising, but I pretty much stuck with using Facebook and emailing friends and family. When March hit and we had to sign our re-commitment paperwork with TNT I had raised less than $1,000. I was getting very anxious because any amount less than the $1,800 minimum that I didn't raise would have to be paid out of my pocket. Although it's a very worthy cause and I don't mind donating to LLS, I don't have hundreds of dollars at my disposal for charities. If I had to I would have made it work, but thankfully it didn't end up that way.
|Carrie, me and Ingrid...two of my friends from TNT|
We had to wear matching shirts for our TNT dinner
In terms of training, TNT was fabulous. They sent participants a half marathon training program with running distances to cover throughout the week and then one weekly long run on Saturdays. The Saturday runs were group runs where runners could meet and run with other TNT participants and run with the TNT coaches and mentors. If you are considering running your first half or full marathon working with an organization like TNT would be a really good option. I had races almost every weekend from the time that our TNT training started until the NWH so I was only able to go to one training session. The one session I made was definitely worth it. It happened to also be the same day that we met our honored teammates, who were the patients our DC Area Chapter was running in honor of. We were able to hear their stories and it was very inspirational. Some of the patients were even running with us. I couldn't imagine going through cancer treatment and training for a half marathon. Their stories were touching and I was honored to be running on their behalf and along side some of them.
|This was what I pin on the back of my race jersey|
I also had a friend I grew up with who had a daughter, Kaylee, who was diagnosed with cancer. She was diagnosed when she was 7 years old in 2011. She fought a long, hard battle and unfortunately the cancer returned. She is currently fighting, yet always has a smile. You can read more about her story on her blog, which her mother, my friend, writes. I am often brought to tears when I read it. Kaylee is an inspiration to me and I also wanted to run in her honor.
During the fundraising process I emailed many friends and colleagues. Many of those who supported me have family or friends also battling cancer. I never realized how many of my friends were affected by cancer. It was very eye opening. Two of my friends had lost family members to Lymphoma and I asked if I could run in memory of them. I ran in memory of Joan Murphy and Frances Ricker.
|Ingrid and I at packet pickup|
One thing Jenny (the TNT rep) had told me in our meeting was that "people you expect to donate won't and people you don't expect will surprise you." I can tell you that is absolutely true. People I haven't seen or spoken to in a while were so supportive and I was very grateful. All in all, the fundraising experience was a great challenge for me, but I loved it. It was a good challenge. It required me to break out of my comfort zone and I think in situations like that we grow the most. Even though it was hard and sometimes uncomfortable for me, I will definitely do it again.
Now, onto the race re-cap. I already mentioned that I wasn't too pleased with the race website...
|"We Run DC"sign outside the expotique.|
I couldn't manage a photo without people in it.
I went to packet pick-up with two friends, Carrie and Ingrid. Carrie is in my running club (RFRC), but was also participating with TNT and Ingrid was my TNT mentor. I have been to many races and many packet pick-ups and I was not very happy with the Nike pick up process. The line to pick up bibs was VERY long. It probably wouldn't have been so bad, but it was hotter than I was expecting so I didn't enjoy waiting in the hot sun. The bib pick up was in a tent so the line was outside, which was no fun. Once we made it into the Nike tent the process was pretty quick. Instead of pre-assigned bibs we were assigned bibs as we arrived. That part was kind of cool.
|Pointing to my name on the wall of runner names|
|"We Run DC" created out of all the|
The expotique had no clothing merchandise for sale. If you wanted that you had to walk a couple blocks up to the Nike store in Georgetown to buy gear. I found it very odd and kind of frustrating that the number pick up, expo and gear purchase were all in separate areas. I'm a runner and don't mind walking long distances, but I'm used to it all being in one place. Having to walk from place to place takes up time, which we didn't have. In my opinion if it's all in one place people will be likely to linger and spend more money. We didn't end up going into the Nike store because it was packed. I'm not a huge fan of crowds, plus I have a lot of runner gear already so there was no reason to fight the crowds and tempt myself with things I don't need. Plus we had a dinner to catch. Right outside the Nike store was a "We Run DC" (motto of the race) wall, which was created using the names of all the runners. It was by far the best part of the packet pick up experience. I thought it was pretty cool. We took pictures by our names on the wall and then headed out to our dinner.
TNT Inspiration Dinner:
I was part of the TNT National Capital Area Chapter team, but there were teams from all over the country attending the dinner. My team alone consisted of over 700 runners and we raised over $1.6 million dollars. There were over 2,000 TNT participants overall in the half marathon and a lot of money was raised for LLS. It was so awesome to be part of something that will make a difference. TNT organized an inspiration dinner at the Washington, DC convention center for the participants to get us motivated and also celebrate. I wasn't quite sure what to expect since it was my first time with TNT, but I looked forward to it.
When we arrived to the convention center we entered the area where our dinner was. We had to ride down escalators to get to the massive room that would hold all of us. It was incredible. All the coaches were dressed up and cheering as we arrived and walked into the dinner. I thought it was awesome and was touched. I knew I was probably going to get emotional at dinner and I did get a little teary eyed as we received such a warm, fun welcome from our coaches. It made it that much more exciting and I couldn't wait for the race the next morning.
The rest of the dinner was also awesome (with the exception of a lack of vegetarian meal options, but that's not important). Before the speakers, there was a slide show with all the pictures of the honored teammates that TNT runners were running for or in memory of. I was able to catch Kaylee, Joan and Frances' picture on the big screen. I loved that and thought it was a nice touch. There were also a few speakers. Joan Benoit was one of the speakers. She was/is an elite female runner who has been in the Olympics and won several marathons in the 1980s. It was so cool to hear her speak. We also heard from a Leukemia survivor who was going to be running with us too. She was 25 years old and had an inspiring story. She reminded us several times that she would not be alive without TNT and runners like us raising money for LLS. It made me feel good to be part of such a great cause that makes a difference in the lives of so many cancer patients. The dinner was a great way to get that last bit of motivation needed to run the half marathon the next morning.
|Ingrid and I before the race. If you notice I'm wearing a blue|
and yellow ribbon in honor of Boston and a pink ribbon in honor
of a co-worker who had surgery for breast cancer the week
before the race.
On race day I met Ingrid at the East Falls Church metro at 5:45am and we headed downtown. We had a pre-race meetup with other TNT'ers and coaches at 6:30am. I am not a morning person, but for some reason on race day I have no issues waking up at 4am or 5am to get to a race. It's crazy! We met in a DC hotel, which was really nice. It was a little chilly outside and the hotel was warm. Plus, we took over the hotel lobby bathrooms. Since it was mostly women and so early in the morning we decided to use the men's room too. Haha, why wait in longer lines if you don't have to? I love no bathroom lines on race day. It is a rarity.
|Some of the TNT runners before the race|
Before headed out to the start line, our coaches gave us one last pep talk. We also tried to jam in for a photo and then we walked over to the starting area. I walked with my friend Ingrid, our coach Mike, his wife who was running (and raised over $20,000 on for this race!) and a few other TNT runners. Just like any other big race, I had to use the restroom again! It's all the pre-race nerves. Unfortunately, this time there were no nice hotel bathrooms and the few of us that went had to suffer the racer portapotties. Luckily, one of our fellow TNT members found a set of portapotties that were farther down from the start line than near the runner corrals so we didn't have to wait in a long line. If you don't run races you probably think this is an over share or not a big deal, but finding bathrooms with less people before a race is actually a big deal.
|This is pre-race|
I was in the starting corral for runners who would run at a pace between 10:30-12:00 minutes per mile. I decided to try to run with my mentor Ingrid. She had planned to run with Colleen and they planned to run a 5:1 interval (5 minute runs, 1 minute walk). We had to squish into our corral and by the time we got there the racer volunteers had taken the rope separating the corral groups down so we ended up mixing with the 12:00-13:30 corral. I didn't think it would be that big of a deal, but it ended up causing some issues when we started our race.
|Approaching the start line...as |
you can see it was packed!
|I ran into my RFRC buddy, Carrie, before the start|
|My favorite point in a half marathon (besides|
the finish) because I know I'm going to finish).
I have no clue who that girl is, but wasn't about
to stop and wait for a clear picture.
The interval that Colleen, Ingrid and I used worked well for the most part. I was able to stay with them for the majority of the race. Well, I should say I chased them most of the race. They were always 5-10 feet ahead of me. I couldn't quite stay next to them, which was good since it was congested anyway. I usually do a 3:1 interval so I was happy that I was able to hang with them for the race. Once we hit mile 11.5 I couldn't quite keep up so I slowed down a little in order to reserve some steam for the end. I always like to sprint at the end. Once I slowed down I set up my own interval to 3:1. I did that until the end of the race.
The last 3/4 mile were difficult for me because I could see the finish line, but it felt like it wasn't getting any closer. The race was still quite congested, which for me is odd. I'm usually at the back of the pack and I'm used to it being pretty thin when I get the finish. I think I was more toward the back of the middle group. It was nice to be able to feel like I'm not last for a change. I always have the attitude that even if I am last, who cares. I'm still out there, which is more than many other people in the world can say. One of my favorite sayings is, "still faster that sitting on my couch." One day I might get faster, but for now I'm just happy to be out there and able to run.
Before this race my fastest half marathon time, one month before, was 2:51:53. I am learning to not be embarrassed by my slower times. I have really struggled with consistent training and consistency breeds success. I have been getting better with my training and did step it up for Nike (I still have to step it up though). For the first time in my racing career I set a time goal for a race. I wanted to finish in the half in 2 hours and 40 minutes (2:40). I knew I could do it, but was very nervous. In fact, I was VERY nervous for this race. I wanted to meet that time goal because I was racing for a good cause. I was racing for Kaylee and Dylan and in memory of Frances and Joan. I also wanted to make all my donors and supporters proud. I had told people what my goal was and didn't want to disappoint them or myself. I am very happy to report that I crossed the finish line with a time of 2:33:43!! It felt amazing. I managed to knock 18 minutes off my time and created a new personal record.
It was one of the sweetest finishes I've ever had. I tend to get emotional when I run. I think I pin up many emotions so they just come out when I am running. Mostly they are tears of joy that I feel while running. I usually feel proud of myself and happy that I am overcoming hard things. I think it's a hard thing for people, I know it is for me, to feel proud of yourself and your accomplishments. Running has helped me tap into a hidden potential and find things inside myself I never knew I had. Running is still just as hard for me as when I started, but my ability to overcome and push through it has improved. There were definitely tears as I crossed that finish line. I was feeling very grateful and happy. I was happy I was able to meet my fundraising goal, run for such a good cause and also make my time goal. I was feeling pretty darn good!
|Top left: Colleen and me, Bottom left: One of the men passing|
out the Tiffany finisher necklaces, Right: Me so happy to be done
Team in Training had a post-race tent set up and we had to check in with them. I went to the tent and looked for Ingrid and Colleen. I found Colleen and snapped a picture with her, but didn't find Ingrid. I later found out that she went to the medical tent because she was dehydrated, but is okay now :)
All in all it was an incredible race journey. I gave my race feedback to Nike about the race congestion and hope in the future they will make adjustments. When you're starting 15,000 runners you need to space them out a little bit. The expo wasn't my favorite either, but my Tiffany's necklace makes up for it. I wear it all the time! I am so happy I decided to participate with TNT. Even though my motives to begin were a little selfish, the experience was far more rewarding than I ever expected. I grew as a person and know I crossed that finish line a better girl than when I started. I'm not going to be doing a TNT race in the fall, but will definitely raise money and run with them again next year. It is such a great cause and I was inspired. How could I not be with so many amazing experiences? So many people are fighting for their lives and facing bigger issues than I have ever faced. The least I can do is run in their honor and help raise money and awareness. I look forward to running with them again. I also highly recommend running with TNT if you are considering. It will not disappoint you.