2016 Missoula Half Marathon

Date: July 10, 2016shirt

Distance: 13.1

Time: 4:06:24

Where do I start?

In 2006 when Angie told me she had cancer? In 2009 when she convinced a bunch of us to complete our first full marathon in Portland? In 2014 when we completed the Missoula Half marathon together? In 2015 when we walked a 5K in Missoula wearing shirts that said “F-you, cancer?” Or do I just go straight to the day when Angie told Todd & Jen she wouldn’t be doing this year’s half marathon with us and two days later passed away?

There’s no good way to start any story than ends in utter sadness, but this is also a story of enduring friendships and the close bonds people can share when they come together in love and support.

I got to be with Angie for three Portland races–in 2009, 2010, and in 2011. For awhile, a group of us were using the Portland race as an annual reason to get together. For Ang, it was also a way to express physical strength despite living with cancer. We all looked forward to those race weekends and the time we got to spend together. In truth, these were all her idea and I’m so glad she made our gatherings happen.

A group of us also completed the Missoula Half in 2014 and celebrated the fact that Jen qualified for the Boston Marathon during that race. That was an amazing day.

When Ang asked some of us to join her for a 5K race in Missoula last October, we were happy to use that as a reason to see each other and offer Angie additional support. That’s when things definitely took a turn, however.

Following that race, we went to lunch and began talking about the next race we would sign up for. Jen, Heather, Holly, and I readily agreed to sign up for the Missoula Half–scheduled nine months later. Angie expressed some hesitation, though, and poignantly said she would join us, “If I’m still around.” None of us really knew what to say and I remember that we all did our best to keep the mood as lighthearted as we could. None of us wanted to face the reality that there might be a time when Angie was gone. This was also the first time Angie ever expressed hesitation about an upcoming race.

Over the next several months as the Missoula Half drew near, Angie’s health deteriorated as her medications lost their effectiveness and particularly after she was told she wasn’t healthy enough to participate in an experimental trial for new medication.rocks

On April 27th, Angie sent me the saddest text I’ve ever gotten after I asked how her appointment with her specialist went. She responded, “Thank you. I’m avoiding updating you guys. There’s officially nothing left to do.”

We talked by phone following that and I simply tried to wrap my head around the news over the next several days.

Two days later, because I had no words, I reached out with simply a heart-symbol text. Her response was, “xoxoxo!

She passed away eleven days later, on May 10th.

I was shocked at how fast she left us. I thought I would be able to see her and tell her goodbye in person. Instead, I will have to be satisfied with the texts, calls, and Facebook posts we shared in those remaining days. Too sudden. Too soon. Too heartbreaking.

Angie’s family honored her wishes and did not hold a formal memorial service or funeral so Todd, Jennifer, Holly, Heather, Debi, and I determined that the Missoula Half would become our way to gather, pay tribute to Angie, and serve as our own sort of memorial.

We met up on Saturday, picked up race packets–including Angie’s–and spent the rest of the day together just talking and sharing stories. Deb and I had also scheduled an appointment to get tattoos. We made sure to schedule with the same tattoo artist that Angie had used when she got her ankle tattoo a few years ago.

bothtattos

Deb’s (left) and mine (right)

It was easy for me to decide what to get–the xoxoxo text Ang had sent me.

It was perfect not only because it was her way of expressing love (hugs and kisses symbols), but it also fits because X in Roman numerals represents the number ten. Angie passed away on May 10th, she had cancer for ten years, the Missoula race was celebrating its ten-year anniversary (on the tenth), and even one of the Portland races I ran with Angie was held on 10-10-10. To our surprise, the number ten also kept showing up throughout the weekend.

Even Angie’s race bib ended in the number 10.

angie'sbib

Angie’s race bib

Most importantly, my tattoo will be a constant reminder that I should show love in everything I do and it will remind me of all the love she brought into my life.

The morning of the race, we all made our way to the starting line as fireworks were cheerfully marking the start of the race and the sun was rising. I shed a few tears at the start–missing the fact that Angie wasn’t with us like she had been the last time we were gathered at the start of the Missoula race–but went on to thoroughly enjoy the race experience. We all walked and talked the whole way–marveling at the fact that it didn’t rain through the whole race, despite the forecast promising it would and despite the fact that later in the day and well into the next morning, it rained HARD.

The best part of the race was crossing the finish line, hand-in-hand with our whole group. And, because we carried Angie’s race bib and timing chip with us, the race announcer exclaimed that, “Heather, Todd, Jennifer, Holly, Debi, Gail, and Angie are all crossing the finish line together!” Angie was truly with us and we completed the race for her, just as Todd and Jen promised her we would.walkingacrossfinish

Yeah. Tears flowed then too.

After the race, we grabbed pizza and ice cream from two of Angie’s favorite restaurants and spent more time with each other as we decorated river rocks and shared stories.

This race weekend is over, but we can’t let this be the last time we all get together. Angie brought us together and we look forward to supporting each other through whatever life has in store for us next.

Thank you, Ang. You are truly loved and you will never be forgotten. We do, however, miss you terribly. xoxoxo!

 

 

2016 Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay

Date: June 18 & 19, 2016

Distance: 188.4 miles

Location: Logan to Midway, Utah

Team of 12, then 11  

Time: 31-ish?

After taking a year off, I returned to Ragnar and got to run with the Westminster havemorefun“Staggering Parsons” again. This was my sixth time running the Wasatch Back, and–as always–had a blast. The team included two people who weren’t directly affiliated with Westminster, but who were friends of team members. The rest, however, included the Provost, professors, staff members, and a graduate of the college. I was especially happy to run with another aviation colleague–until Avon Pass took him out mid-race. That was a bummer and I hope he’ll be back next year.

I was assigned to be runner #2. A position I hadn’t ever run. It was slated to offer the second-highest mileage, until two others in my van picked up extra legs to cover for our injured teammate. They ended up putting in over 20 miles each, with their added legs, but didn’t seem to be phased at all.roster

My first leg was an 8.6-miler that started at 6:30 a.m. on Friday morning. This leg took me through Hyrum, Utah and meandered slightly uphill. I took it easy and finished in an hour-and-a-half.

My second leg, which started around 6:30 p.m. went through a residential area in Morgan, Utah. It was only 4.2 miles, but it was by far my most difficult. The 300+ foot elevation gain, coupled with 90-degree heat, made for a not-fun run. Thankfully, lots of kids were poised in their front yards, ready to spray down passing runners with garden hoses and Super Soakers. This short run took me a slow, 50 minutes to finish.

The final leg I ran in Coalville, was a 5-miler that started at 4:15 a.m. on Saturday morning. I don’t like having to run in the dark, but I was rewarded with a beautiful sunrise as I finished this leg less than an hour later. Had I been able to keep up with the chatty woman I ran with for the first two miles, I would have finished much faster. Alas, I had to hold back.

I’m already looking forward to next year and hope we can put together an all-out Westminster team, complete with Westminster running gear, vans, and swag. I’ll work on that…

Thanks, team, for another great Wasatch Back weekend!

marksphoto

Key memories: HOT, unclear turnoffs, less-than-stellar finish area, breakfast burritos, best three-hour sleep in the van ever, and fun buffs.

Instagram: #staggeringparsons

New England Series

Date: May 15-21, 2016

Distances: 13.1 + 13.1 +13.1 +13.1 

Times: 2:43:52, 2:45:43, 2:45:06, 2:41:28

Locations: Greenfield, New Hampshire; Springfield, Vermont; Northfield, Massachusetts: and Simsbury, Connecticut

This is a very difficult post to write because I ran these races only a week after one of my closest friends passed away. It goes without saying, she was on my mind and in my heart the entire trip. Still is.

Love you and miss you, Ang.

________________________________

About the race series.

Thanks to Mainly Marathons, and their New England Series, I was able to efficiently complete four races in one week. The whole series includes seven races in seven days, but I only needed to do the races on days 2, 3, 4, and 6 to complete states I still needed.

I’ve written about Mainly Marathons in the past and they continue to be great races. Previously, I did the Independence Series and the Appalachian Series and became hooked. These are small races–only about 100 to 200 people have run the ones I have done–and it’s easy to get to know everyone participating. The races include full marathons, half marathons, 5Ks, and this year they’ve even added 30Ks for those who don’t think running full marathons on seven consecutive days is enough of a challenge. Crazy, for sure.

I was really lucky that Orlando got to join me since Denise had already done these states when they held the series last October. Orlando served as my cheerleader, driver, and–on day five when I didn’t have to race–my tour guide.

Instead of taking full advantage of a rest day and using day five of the series to REST, we

Empire State

View from top of Empire State Bldg.

decided to be adventurous and take the train into New York City for the day. I’m so glad we did! Orlando lived in NYC for a year so he knew how to make the best use of our limited time. It was a whirlwind of a day that I won’t ever forget. It started with getting up at 4:30 a.m. (just like on the races days) and driving to Hartford, CT to take the train to Penn Station in Manhattan. From there, we walked to the Empire State Building, down Broadway, through Times Square, and to Central Park (with an obligatory pizza stop thrown in along the way). From there, we took the subway to Battery Park to see the Statue of Liberty, the World Trade Center Memorial, and Brooklyn Bridge. Down there, we enjoyed a hot dog from one of the street vendors and still had time to catch the subway back to Hell’s Kitchen near Penn Station and meet a friend for dinner. After that, we were back on the train at 6:30 and in bed back in Connecticut at about 10:30 p.m.

Full day, with almost as many miles logged as a half marathon, and oh, so worth it.

Each of the race days were clear and dry and the only cold day was in New Hampshire. Best of all, I am injury-free and not even sore after logging over 62 miles for the week. Yay.

Only two more states to go. I never thought I would say that.

 

Run the Bluegrass in Lexington, Kentucky

Date: April 2, 2016

Distance: 13.16

Location: Lexington, KY

Time: 2:38:40

What a great race weekend. Denise joined me on this one, and I’m so glad. We had a really great time and it was nice to have someone to hang out with. This state marked her 42nd and my 44th–we can see the end!

Friday was an all-day travel day. Both of us had two flight legs to meet up in Cincinnati where we rented a car and drove the almost one-and-a-half hours to Lexington.

The packet pickup was located where the race would begin and end–the Keeneland Race Track. The expo was filled with all sorts of running swag and some nice local features such as Buffalo Trace Bourbon and bourbon-flavored coffees. Yes, bourbon is definitely a “thing” in Kentucky and it became a continual theme throughout the entire weekend. We were even surprised to be greeted in our hotel lobby, upon check in, with free drinks–bourbon and ginger ale. Later, we also sampled what is probably now considered the best dessert I have ever tasted: Kentucky Butter Cake with Bourbon Sauce. Check out a food review here. Evidently, I’m not alone in my appreciation for the culinary delight.

BourbonCake

Perhaps the best dessert you will ever try.

The race is listed as “one of America’s standout must-run half marathons,” according to Runner’s World magazine, and I can see why. The location was worth visiting, the course was picturesque, and runners enjoyed one of the best post-race food options I’ve ever seen. Overall, too, the race was incredibly well organized and was not too big.

Course: The course, referred to as “technical” by some online postings I read before the race, was very hilly. There was no huge overall elevation gain, but the course consisted of a series of many small hills throughout the entire course. If someone was not used to running on hills, they would certainly feel it in their quads the next day. Luckily for me, I’ve been running primarily outdoors and on hills. My ten-mile training run probably really helped–I did that one in Emigration Canyon two weeks before the race and that consisted of five miles up hill and five miles back down with a 700+ foot elevation gain. Also, all of the awkward poses I’ve been consistently doing in my yoga classes have helped build my quads as well. Gotta keep that up.

As promised, the course was scenic as it looped through a series of estates with stately houses and expansive horse pastures. Had the trees been in full foliage, the course would have been particularly beautiful. The beauty of the course, I think, mostly made up for the fact that the first seven or eight miles of the race were incredibly crowded as runners were squeezed together on narrow roads. No car traffic, though, so that was good.

Medal and Shirt: I’m pretty sure the race medal is the heaviest one of now possess. I like bluegrassthe design of both the medal and the shirt. The shirts are black, cotton, long-sleeved hoodies–the kind of shirt I’ll likely wear on many weekend days.

Post-race food: Yes, for me, it’s all about the food and this race did not disappoint. After crossing the finish line and receiving our medals, runners were handed water bottles, bananas, chocolate milk, and sacks filled with a granola bar, fruit snacks, a bag of chips, and a candy bar. As we meandered along towards the free beer and pizza stations, we were also invited to have maple, cream-filled donuts. So, in essence, the 1200 calories we had just burned were immediately consumed within fifteen minutes of finishing the race.

Weather: On the bright side, we didn’t contend with rain, sleet, or snow like runners in some northeast races did during the same weekend, but the winds really picked up during the second half of the race and that made the cool temperatures feel downright cold. That prompted us to leave the race as quickly as we could to get back to our hotel for hot showers and dry clothes.

Post-race relaxation: In keeping with the bourbon theme, we took advantage of our hotel’s sampling offer after the race and tried three very different types of bourbon along with a great post-race meal. We were able to relax all afternoon and evening and enjoyed sleeping in the next morning as well. Love it when we have late-departing fights.We both made it home without any glitches, and feel satisfied having removed one more state off our lists.

Next Up: Next up for me? Four races in the Mainly Marathons New England series next month. After that, I’ll be incredibly happy to have all 48 contiguous states completed. Then I’ll get to join Denise again in Alaska in August and Hawaii in January as we complete our decade-long goal to complete half marathons in all fifty states. Can’t wait.

Reboot Day 5–I did it!

Yesterday was the last day of my 5-day reboot and I am happy to report, I dropped a total of 5.5 pounds. More importantly, I feel really great.

Again, I didn’t follow the juice plan exactly, but–like yesterday–followed the plan’s intent. I had four juices along with chicken broth.

Sure, I was a little jealous when I had to watch others in my family eat real food, but it really wasn’t that bad. I wasn’t hungry, I had energy, and I will definitely do it again.  Glad to blog about it, too, because it really did help motivate me to stay on track.

What I craved today when I work up? A mango and some peanut butter on a graham cracker. Today’s breakfast seemed so indulgent! Now, I feel as though I’m back on track to following a nutritious, healthy diet. “Reboot” is a great name for this effort.

 

Calcium-Rich Cucumber (I drank this on days three and four and really liked it)

1/2 pineapple

8 celery stalks

2 large cucumbers

2 limes

 

Micro-nutrient Madness (I didn’t try this one)

2 oranges

4 carrots

2 orange bell peppers

4 celery stalks

1 cucumber

Reboot Day 4 Report

I must admit, I’m not exactly following the plan. Instead of the two juices I was supposed to have, I started getting creative, based on what produce I still have left. Let’s be honest–I’m too lazy to go to the store and buy more pears and apples.

Still, I’m following the intent of the plan–drinking two green juices and two “other” juices each day, and also making sure I am drinking regular water and coconut water. Tonight I allowed myself to have some plain yogurt with blueberries after my yoga class. I really needed some protein, I think. In fact, for people going on longer juice fasts, I think it’s recommended that they include protein powder in their juices, which makes sense to me–particularly for people who work out regularly.

As far as my workouts go, I haven’t been running these past four days, but I have gone to two Bikram yoga classes. I went Sunday and today and felt pretty strong. I wouldn’t at all say I’m feeling lethargic or experiencing any other symptoms some people report such as headaches or dry mouth. I feel good! (And, according to the scale, I’ve dropped five pounds–nice).

Plan recipes:

Chard Rock Cafe (I didn’t make this one)

6 carrots

2 cucumbers

1 lemon

4 large chard leaves

4 stems and leaves fresh oregano (optional)

 

Anti-Aging Beet Carrot Grape (I drank this one on day 5–liked it)

2 cups red grapes

4 celery stalks

4 beets (I used two)

4 large carrots

 

Reboot Day 3 Report

I woke up yesterday morning feeling VERY hungry so I was especially happy that I had a green juice already prepared in the fridge and I didn’t have to spend the 30+ minutes needed to make juice.

After I downed that, I headed in to work–but only after stopping at Vive Juicery.

juice

Sweet Mint & Local Love

Conveniently, Vive is located only a couple of blocks from where I work and they offer a wide variety of juices. Instead of following the day three plan on the 2016 Juice Challenge Website, I decided to take the easy way out and buy today’s juices.

My juice choices for today? Vive’s Local Love (beet, carrot, apple, swiss chard, lemon and ginger) and Sweet Mint (spinach, pear, cucumber, green apple, and mint). Click here for a link to their complete menu.

If I were following Joe’s Reboot, here’s what would be on the menu:

Pear Power

4 pears

2 lemons

8 celery stalks

2 cucumbers

handful of basil (may substitute other greens)

 

Carrot Apple Ginger

6 carrots

4 apples

2 inches ginger

 

I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of beet juice. I’ll have to remember to keep that in mind in the future. Too bad, because it has the lovely color of a Cabernet or Pinot noir. I can pretend, right? I also will share that I felt as though I had too much juice to drink. At 6:00 p.m. I still had two more juices to force down. Again, not hungry at all due to the quantity of juice.

 

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