Ebb and Flow

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When we moved up to Newport a few years ago Jim and I expanded our watersport activities when we bought some stand up paddleboards. We learned to surf our boards and on flat days we enjoy the water with a nice long paddle. Paddling is our recreational and leisurely activity.

 

 

Last Sunday I changed that by entering the Providence Paddle Battle. I opted for the 3-mile course along the scenic Providence skyline. There was a 9-mile course but I learned a lot from my first half marathon and decided to ease into paddle racing.

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Race day was a beautiful day in Providence. Before we started the wind was low and the temperature was cool. The start was delayed because the course needed to be set and Mother Nature decided to change the conditions. We did a paddle out and return. The way out was perfect, and easy, a little too easy.

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We paid the price on the return to the finish. The light wind turned into a constant head wind and it was low tide so we were going against the current. Not exactly ideal conditions.

 

What I discovered in running, a marathon and a half-marathon are two different beasts. I found out last Sunday a paddle race is a completely new species. After the race I discovered muscles that have never been documented in Gray’s Anatomy.

 

Paddling requires every body part. At the end of the race when I was exhausted I was ready to stop and walk but there is not walking and resting when you are paddling, especially when mother nature is pushing you away from the finish.

 

As I neared the finish and my body was spent, I had to find something to keep me going forward. My distance running instincts kicked in and I relied on sheer will power to get me to the finish. At some point I adopted a mantra and used it with each stroke. “Fuck you, fuck you.” Don’t ask me why I picked those words, but when the brain takes over because the body wants to quit you don’t argue with the one thing that motivates you to finish what you start.

 

I got smoked by most of the other racers. When you run your shoes don’t give you a major advantage or disadvantage. However, when you paddle your vessel is a major factor in how swiftly you cut through the water. I was on a board designed for surf and most everyone else was on a board designed for speed.

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It was discouraging seeing everyone’s backs but somehow I managed to keep the race in perspective. At the end of the day I say it was a success. I finished my first SUP race and even got second place in my division (there was a surfboard division.) I’m not convinced SUP racing is my thing but it was a great experience.

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See you in the water!

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Pre-Race Jitters

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It’s been almost a year since I participated in a race. It’s been so long I’ve forgotten a lot of the things that go into race preparation. I’ve even forgotten about about the pre-race jitters.

 

Over the years my pre-race anxiety has subsided considerably. I figured out what to wear to a race, what to bring to a race, how to pre-hydrate, what time to show, how to hydrate during the race, and when to go to the bathroom before the gun signaled the start of the race. Tomorrow I’m doing my first Stand Up Paddle (SUP) race.

 

A race on water is much different from one on land. To begin, it takes a lot longer to paddle a mile than it does to run a mile. So that means my 3 mile race will take about as long as it does to run a 10k.

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Some of the logistics concern me. What if I have to make an emergency number 2 stop during the race. I really doubt there will be floating port o johns along the course.

 

Then there is the matter of water stops. I imagine volunteers swimming around in the water handing out cups. I doubt it

 

And hydration during the race? Will there be volunteers swimming around in the water handing out cups of water? I really doubt it.

 

How do you dress for a SUP race? Will it be to hot for a rash guard? Will I burn if I wear just a swimsuit?

 

So many questions. I guess I’ll just pack more than I need and stick with nutrition and hydration that I know works for a distance run. Aside from that, I’ll just be flexible and see how things go.

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The fit and fat of it

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Recently I had some friends tell me I looked fit. I am ashamed to say my response was no, I feel fat. While my response is disappointing it actually reflected how I’ve been feeling about my body. Since I am still not fully recovered from my injury I’ve added extra cargo onto my frame. However, I’ve failed to recognize not all of it is fat.

 

Since running is still out I’ve been walking, surfing, paddle boarding, and doing yoga. While these are not as heavy into fat burning as say running they are geared more towards strength and muscle. While I’ve been packing on pounds a lot of it is muscle in my core, upper body, and legs.

 

It’s time for me to redefine fit and fat. Fit means a lot more than being at my prime race weight. Next time someone complements me by saying I look fit I need to answer with a simple thank you.

 

Five perfect races

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Last year Jim and I flew down to Orlando so I could run my fifth and final Princess Marathon. For a few days we escaped the bitter cold of New England and lived like royalty in the 3-bedroom Grand Villa at Bay Lake Towers.  The weekend was bittersweet because I knew once I crossed that finish line I would no longer be able to call myself a perfect princess.

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We lived large enjoying the parks, watching Wishes from the top of the Bay Lake, and running both the 5k and the half marathon. It was a great way to finish .

 

The first race was so small. I even got a bib for Corral A. My friend Trish (who thankfully convinced me to run the Princess) and I wandered all the way up to the start line. We stood a few feet away from the elite racers. Once the gun went off it felt like we were passed by everyone.

 

I was wearing my ears and mouseketeer costume, a stark contrast from all the people dressed up like princesses. Having my name across my chest was great because people all along the course yelled “Darcy”. But it wasn’t until mile 12 when I came up to the fairies that one of them yelled “A mousketeer!” That made my race.

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Every year we dressed up, but I never went as a princess. Year 2 the Evil Queen, year 3 the Frog Prince (Jim was the princess), year 4 the Queen of Hearts, and last year Dory (Jim was Marlin). While we never did run into Nemo, we did reach our goal of running the first 5 races.

 

This is the first year where I am sitting out of this race. My friends Meghan and Faye are down in Orlando for race weekend. Faye is doing the inaugural 10k and Meghan is running her third princess marathon. Last night as I read their posts on Facebook about this weekend’s run I got teary. This race was such a big part of my life for so many years. But it was time to say goodbye.

 

Thank you for 5 amazing races.

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Funnest Race

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2013 is almost over and the last few months have been tough on me because of my injury. As I reflect back on my year I realize I did quite a few races. Not as many as I have in years past but I ran the Disney Princess Marathon to maintain my status as a perfect princess. I also did the Newport 10 miler and a few other races.

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Of all the races I did there was one that really stood out. It wasn’t a big race or a long one. But it was probably the funnest race I have ever done. I ran start to finish with Kia. It wasn’t just running, we paddled, rode a tricycle, climbed a rock wall, ran in heels, hula hooped, and slid down on oversized inflatable slide.

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It was the inaugural run hosted by Women Run called the sanity chase. The race was hosted at Fort Adams in Newport, RI.

 

 

 

This was the first race I did where there was no clock. So it was less of a race and more of a run. And it was women only.                               

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Women were encouraged to run together. It was a time for bonding and playing. Kia and I got to be silly together (though I think I acted more silly than she did, she is a teen and has to maintain her coolness.) 

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As I continue my recovery I am hopeful for next year. While my goals include a sub 27-minute 5k, half marathon, and an adventure race, I think I need to remember to have fun and be silly too. Racing and accomplishing goals sometimes zaps the fun out of running, especially when you are recovering from an injury. I need to keep perspective and be appreciative of the fact that my legs and in particular me knee is still working. If I do, 2014 will be a great year of fun runs and achieving some goals.

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What are your running goals for 2014?

What was the best race you did this year?

The view from the front

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It’s December, Christmas is right around the corner with a New Year waiting right behind it. For me running is a distant memory. The last race I ran was several months ago, back when we were wearing shorts and t-shirts for running instead of dressing up like the brother from “A Christmas Story” before heading out.


As I sit in my current condition I get a chance to reflect on quite a few things. One being that last race. Instead of running the 13.1 my friend Lisa and I opted to do the relay of the Rock n Roll Marathon in Providence. The course was split between the 5-mile hilly portion and the 8-mile flat part of the course. Lisa chose the first leg.

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Looking back now I realize that was quite a special gift for me. As much as I love running I know I am a middle to back of the pack gal. I have no aspirations of trying to really increase my speed and with my knee the way it is my only aspiration right now is to be able to start running again.

 

My race pace relegates me to starting in one of the corrals that crosses the start line a few minutes after the gun goes off. I don’t get to see what things look like in the front; I don’t get to see how beautiful and graceful those runners are. This race was different.

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The relay runners waited at the transition, we were sipping coffee, checking our gear, and making last minute bathroom stops while we waited. The race started about five minutes late, and we looked at our watches and started doing calculations in our head figuring out the pace our partner would run and matching it to the new time so we would know when we needed to be ready to run.

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At almost 25 minutes after the start time, we saw the first runner go by. Yes, I have seen elite runners on television and it is spectacular. But seeing it in person is almost indescribable. This man came screaming by, holding a pace that would leave me breathless in a matter of minutes. His shoulders and face have a determined relaxation. It is as if he is both enjoying being out for a run and calculating just how fast he needs to go to finish the final 8 miles.

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A few minutes after he passed the lead woman darted past us. She had two male runners in front of her. She had a look of peace as she eyed the male runner a few hundred yards in front of her. There was such grace and beauty in her stride.

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Shortly after the lead runners came by, the rest of the racers passed the transition station. As the minutes on clock ticked by the runners began to look less like the lead runners and more like the runners I am familiar with. Runners with much less grace in their stride but with an unyielding determination to finish the race, runners like me.

 

As a participant I won’t be able to see the beauty of the lead runners. Instead I will see the beauty of the middle and back of the packers. The beauty of people who are not afraid to start a race and who aren’t afraid to finish. But it is a great gift getting a chance to see the view from the front.

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The Art of Staying in the Moment

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The Marine Corps Marathon was a really difficult race for me. Over the past few months I’ve been trying to understand why it was so tough. During training I had my ups and downs. There were runs when after 10 miles I wanted to cry and quit and other days I felt fantastic like I could run forever. It wasn’t until I was flying down for the Princess Marathon and I ran into Erin (http://lovedisneyrunning.blogspot.com/) on the plane. She ran the Marine Corps and noticed something and it really put things into perspective. The marathon was the day before Hurricane Sandy hit. Because the storm was coming, people were not in the moment; their thoughts were everywhere but the race. This was true not only of the runners but the volunteers and Marines.

She was right.

From the moment we arrived in DC our focus shifted immediately from enjoying the weekend with family and friends to dealing with the storm. Jim and I got found out our flight home was cancelled. I was tempted to throw in the towel on the run and just head home, but Jim thought that was silly. Since we couldn’t fly we worked it out with the rental car company to just drive from DC to Rhode Island.

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This really impacted my run. Instead of enjoying the run, my mind was elsewhere. I was okay for the first half of the race. But then I reached a point where I was worried about sitting in a car for 8 or more hours. I ran the first 20 miles and after hitting the bridge, I decided to walk the last 10k. My mind was already on the car ride and I was thinking about how my legs would feel.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I had the same issue during training. It was still the height of surf season. The water was warm enough to not have to wear but a 2/3 wetsuit. During so many of my long runs, I yearned to be in the water. My mind was anywhere but the run. My runs suffered.

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I find I enjoy running the most when I am in the moment, when my mind doesn’t wander off to worry about work, shopping, or bills. I focus on the steps ahead of me and continue to move forward. When I manage to stay in the moment, running is a joy.

My other love surfing is the same; you have to satay in the moment. The minor difference with surfing, if you lose focus on the moment, the waves can be very unforgiving.

Staying in the moment during a run (and in life) is an art I am still working to perfect. Once in a while I am truly able to eliminate distraction and enjoy just being. When I do, my stride comes easy and my breath is not labored. I had this feeling during the Princess marathon. While it was not my fastest race, it was so enjoyable because I was just enjoying running. Disney is fantastic for putting up great entertainment along the course, but I found it wasn’t necessary because I was in the present moment. I was simply enjoying running.

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This is a work in progress. But because I had such a struggle with the Marine Corps Marathon, I am much more aware. Jim and I have the Newport 10 miler coming up in a few weeks. Let’s hope all of the mental training I’ve been doing has paid off and I’ll be able to stay in the moment.