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Ultra-awesome!

4 Aug

I got her done – my first ultramarathon, the Skyline 50K!  I wouldn’t call it a lifelong dream.  In fact, I scoffed at athletic endeavors until well into my twenties.  Just ask my college roommates about my Cheeto-Nutella-sloth days.  But for the last couple of years I’ve been dreaming about giving ultras a try.  And while a 50K is the Olympic distance of ultras or really the sprint, I’m pretty content to have laid down those miles 🙂

Pre-race. How hot are the compression sleeves?!

I’m not gonna to lie – I was freaking nervous.  I trained with Team-in-Training and while the team, training and cause were phenomenal, I didn’t have the most consistent program due to injury.  I was seriously worried about making the cutoff times and getting yanked from the course.

Just three weeks before the race a close family friend – Sheila Amos – passed away from AML and I decided to do the race in her honor in addition to Craig.  Her friends and my family rallied around my race, buying Team Sheila shirts.  Paul Reiser of Mad About You fame even sent a donation in her honor and a note wishing me luck on my “walk”.  I’m hoping that was his humor at play.

Running in memory of Sheila Amos!

All of a sudden the stakes became pretty high – I had a huge remote support team. Race morning came along and I was a bit of a wreck.  After a fitful night of sleep, I had some stomach issues to put it lightly and couldn’t figure out if my chills + shaking were from nerves or the fog at Lake Chabot.  Coach Mama Lisa (who I love, love, love!) talked some sense into me at the start line.  In a nutshell:  Mary, I’m not worried about your nerves.  In fact, it’s great.  You’ll channel it and not go overboard out the gate.  You’ll be consistent and get the job done. Just what I needed to hear.  The hugs from the whole team didn’t hurt either 😉

And with a kiss from Craig, I was off.  The first 20 miles were not my finest hours, but gorgeous scenery and camaraderie on the trails kept me going.  I never went to what I call the “dark place” mentally and just accepted I felt like cra*p and planted one foot in front of the other and focused on making it to various visual points.

At last I was at mile 14.5 at the Skyline gate and this meant my “drop” bag – hello, goodies!  The team was also there en force and I had a chance to change my socks.  This was my poor attempt at a Jedi mind trick to convince my very tired and already blistered feet that we were starting out fresh.  Note to self:  Don’t rock brand new shoes 5 days before the race!

From there I headed out with Mama Lisa and my teammates Shaleni and Glenda.  I fell back into pace with a new friend named Ramesh. Ramesh, also an ultra rookie, had chosen an unusual mantra that he grunted out-loud for hours on end: “Oh f*ck! Oh f*ck! Oh f*ck! Oh f*ck!  I remembered Mama Lisa’s words cautioning about picking up other people’s vibes and did my best to keep him at a distance.  Unfortunately, we literally had the same pace so I just decided to engage him and try to change the “topic” if you will.  Luckily, he opted to belt out Hindi pop songs from mile 18 and on.

At the 20 mile mark Craig joined me on his bike and we started a steep climb.  My race turned around dramatically at this point.  The Tums, Imodium and his encouragement really kicked in and I just got into the zone.  I went from trudging to running.  These miles were really a blur – I was so focused.  The best part was getting back to where the lake was in view at the last water stop – just 3 miles from the end.  The water stop crew there congratulated me on how close I was to graduating from my rookie status.

With some hoots and hollers I started down the last decent (have I mentioned how not fun downhills become at this point?!) to the relatively flat path that ran around the lake.  Things were going grand until I reached the pavement.  Asphalt is just not enjoyable after running 28 miles.  After a moment of self-pity I collected myself and enjoyed all the random stares I was getting (families out walking, dudes out fishing and drinking, etc.).  About an 1/8 of a mile from the finish Coach Mark appeared and radio’d into his daughter that I was coming in.

All I could think at that point was “HOLY F*CK – this is actually happening!” (Sorry for the language, just being transparent here)  And, next thing you know I’m across the line and met by Craig, TNT and the rest of Team Sheila.  It was awesome – there is nothing like tackling a “first” like that.  I’ve never been athletically inclined so knocking something out like this is truly sweet.

Team Sheila!

Now my mind is racing about the next ultra and this isn’t helped by Mama Lisa’s email on “recovery” and gearing up for a 50 miler 🙂  We’ll see about that…but I do want to thank all my friends, family and colleagues, as well as Sheila’s circle for also the amazing support.  I ended up raising over $4,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and proud we’re all doing a part to help the Sheilas and Craigs of the world.

Cover up for cancer!

17 Apr

As some of you might already know I’ve embarked upon the ultra marathon journey. I’m scheduled to knock out over 30 miles (50K for the rest of the world) on August 1st. Said journey has already been riddled with potholes: a broken tailbone in January and now a case of bursitis in my right foot. So I find myself writing in bed today instead of running the trails.

I’ll bounce back! And, not just because I don’t like quitting, but because I’m running the ultra as part of Team-in-Training (TNT) to raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. TNT is responsible for bringing my husband Craig and I together, and for helping see him through Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2002. The first time I laid eyes on him he was bald and undergoing treatment, but nonetheless out there running with my team! Guess I can manage running a few miles this weekend, right?!

Craig and me backpacking in Desolation Wilderness

To raise funds, we’re selling BooCoo Gear. What is this you might ask? If you surf, go to the beach, swim, run, bike or really do any athletic activity you’ve probably been in the position of having to change clothes either before or after workout and chances are *not* in a bathroom. It turns out it’s a real talent to hold a towel around you, change and not expose yourself to the world. BooCoo Gear is a terry cloth changing skirt with slits to allow you to do this and keep your modesty in tact. You can help out — fundraise + spare the world from seeing your tush — by purchasing one (enter “TNT” in the purchase notes) and telling your friends about it.

If you’d like to help out further or don’t have a need for a BooCoo, you can also make a donation directly to my fundraising page.

The BooCoo

Thanks so much for your support!

Nike Run Club: Grassroots marketing in action

14 Aug

I just joined the Nike Run Club last Saturday and have been completely taken by it.  It’s a free, it’s 90% female, offers awesome perks (raffles at each run, free gear, free food, the ability to earn a slot in the Nike Half Marathon and cool people)  and they don’t care what marathon you’re training for.  As a marketeer I know its all part of the massive Nike marketing machine to build brand loyalty and drive sales, but I am completely lapping it up. (Update: I get some great consumer insight via surveys)

Last night I found myself driving downtown in traffic to meet up for the Wednesday night run at Niketown, despite my disdain for Union Square, large retail establishments, running at night and traffic.  Why did I head down to bow at the feet of Nike?  There are some pretty smart things about their program:

  • Community: Nike just hooked me up with hundreds of like-minded running buddies which is great for such a solitary sport.  Not too mention how Nike has looped in local vendors to help support us and show a little love.
  • An increment of authenticity: The run club is mainly staffed by volunteers who enjoy the sport and are just happy to be out there, and whether it’s manufactured or not, the overall feeling and focus is on the joy of running and getting people through it.
  • Common purpose: Although individual goals differ (lose a little weight, do your first mara, have fun, meet girls — that’s a hint for all you single guys), we’re almost all women and we’re out there to run.  Last night’s run was a sight to see — a sea of 600 ponytails taking off downtown.
  • Girl Power: While I have seen other clothing and gear manufacturers focus on women (Lucy, See Jane Run and Title 9), no other shoe manufacturer that I know of is throwing this sort of effort behind women.  The actual Nike Marathon almost takes catering to women too far — men in tuxedos handing out Tiffany necklaces to finishers, a chocolate aid station and a pedi stop for instance! It’s definitely contrived and borderline insulting at times (I got no time for pedi’s — I got a mara to run!), but I can’t help but fall for it and it resonates with something in me. I love running too, and damn it, I have expendable income to spend and if you want it, earn it.  I’ve had enough of standing around in a bike shop getting no respect. Nike knows the value of my consumer power.
  • Stickiness and earned benefits: There are all sorts of ways to earn new perks based on your attendance at runs and visits to Nike retail partners.  We all received a punch card that can eventually be redeemed for a chance at the coveted Nike Half Marathon.  To be honest, I wouldn’t mind be treated to a little Ghiradelli choco mid-run 😉

I’m interested to see how this all pans out.  Almost all the ladies last night donned some sort of Nike clothing or accessory, but it was mainly Asics and Saucony running shoes out there.  I am sure their unethical reputation hasn’t helped this situation. I personally have worn Asics for 6 years straight based on the advice of a doctor and my hardcore running friends.  Most people I know are very loyal to one particular brand and only switch based on advice from “smart friends.”   But I am considering checking out a pair of Nike shoes for our next short run.  I swear all this comaderie and feel good stuff is getting to me!

For a commercial organization that hasn’t had the best ethical practices, I think their run club is really a great way to build good will, loyalty and drive merchandise sales.  I still question how much it will drive runners to switch to Nike shoes.