Posts Tagged ‘loss & grief’

So many profile frames to choose from. aka: the 2017 Portland Marathon

Date: 10/08/17

Location: Portland, OR

Distance: 26.7 (actual)

Time: 5:12:52

I’ve been putting off this race report because I don’t know where to begin. So much was packed into this experience that I could go in so many different directions with this post.

It could be a lighthearted recap of a fun weekend where I got to spend time with really great friends–in person and virtually. It could also be a tribute to one of my dearest friends who passed away from cancer. It could be a reflection on the loss of my stillborn daughter. It could be a triumphant comeback story where I recount my journey back to running after being in the emergency room less than a year ago due to a pulmonary embolism. It could be a post honoring my aunt, uncle, and friends who are all living with cancer right now. It could also be a post lamenting the end of a thirty-year friendship–where so many of our shared experiences involved running. It could also be a post about one of the many horrible current events in the news. Puerto Rico. Las Vegas. Santa Rosa. Racism. North Korea. Sexual Assault. So much.

It’s October. Breast cancer awareness month. Yep, that’s affecting someone in my life. Check. Yesterday was World Thrombosis Day. Check. This month is also devoted to stillbirth and infant loss. Check. Current issues? Check. There are profile frames for all of those causes.

Check. Check. Check. Check. In a rather superficial, sardonic way of looking at things–so many profile frames to choose from this month.

In truth, so many reminders of struggle and loss.

So why did I run a marathon?

Why do I run in general?

Because in a world where so many horrible things are happening that are beyond my control, this is one small part of my world that I CAN control.

I can’t bring Angie back. But I can let memories of her fill my thoughts as I register for a race she first convinced me to do eight years ago. I can be thankful for the many memories of her that came to me during the race.

I can’t bring Melanie back. But I can allow my thoughts of her to give me strength as I complete the same race that I did with her eight years ago.

I can’t change the fact that I had a blood clot that took up a third of my lung and completely compromised my physical strength for weeks. I can, however, celebrate the fact that I didn’t die and I’ve recovered to a point where running a marathon is possible.

I can’t keep people I love from having to deal with cancer. I can, however, keep them close in my heart as I knock out training miles or when I’m nearing the end of the race and thoughts of their struggles and strength somehow help to put my own, lesser, challenges into perspective.

I can’t change the fact that a decades-old friendship has completely derailed. I can’t change how I contributed to that. I can’t take back my actions. I can, however, do my best to learn from that experience and work to become a more loving, forgiving, and gentle person than the one I was yesterday. Maybe the running miles we shared in the past are somehow contributing to the miles that strengthen me today.

I can’t change the horrible, tragic things that are happening in the world. So much hatred, sadness, and uncertainty. I can, however, lace up my running shoes, get out the front door, and let my breathing and strides create a place of meditation, reflection, and clarity.

I’m grateful that I can run. So I do.

And for those of you who were hoping for a race report, here’s what I can offer:

I loved the race. In true Portland fashion, though, it rained. Light mist during miles 10-12, torrential downpour during miles 13-15. I was also completely focused on the man I saw getting CPR at mile 15. Thankfully, I learned later that he was revived.

Running across a bridge is always fun. The new course crosses St. John’s twice.

My feet and quads started feeling sore at about mile 18. Then they were KILLING me from mile 20 on.

I shuffled across the finish line after five long hours and so many mixed emotions. Feeling grateful, proud, and in control over one small thing in my life.

I crossed the starting line and I crossed the finish line because I said I would and I did.

THAT I can control.




Bozeman Half Marathon

Date: September 10, 2017

Location: Bozeman, MT

Time: 2:42:46

Because Bozeman is my hometown, I’ve been wanting to run this race for awhile. The location also made it possible to meet up with what I refer to as “my Portland group” or the “Montana Mamas.” This weekend, a new name was created: the Montana Mamafia, which I particularly like.

This group goes way back. Decades if you consider that we all graduated from high school together. The running part brought us back together later in life, though, in 2009 when our good friend, Angie, started this whole journey in motion. It was her idea to complete a full marathon as a way to “give the bird” to cancer, so to speak. After years of health issues, it was important to her to do something physically challenging so her idea was for all of us to complete a marathon together. I wrote about that first marathon here, in this blog post.

Since then, in addition to Portland, we have found other races to bring us back together.

Sadly, our dear Angie passed away on May 10, 2016. The last race several of us got to complete with her was a 5K in Missoula in October 2015. 

Following that race, during a lighthearted lunch, we suggested that we should do the Missoula Half Marathon in July. I remember our festive moods instantly diminished after she paused, and said, “If I’m still around.” I feel so sad when I repeat that memory in my mind. None of us wanted to even think about her not being around, yet that’s exactly how it played out.

In solidarity, and to honor Angie and the friendships she strengthened among all of us, we walked the 2016 Missoula Half together–wishing like hell Angie could have been there to join us. After that, we wanted to continue meeting up for races so we chose this year’s Bozeman Half Marathon to be our “summer 2017 reason to get together” and it was great. (We missed Debi–who completed the 2016 Missoula Half with us, and we will keep bugging Mollye until she agrees to join us for a race).

We’ve all had various struggles this past year so, once again, it was great to all come together and celebrate our friendships and the fact that we can still get out there and finish a damn half marathon.

Go, Montana Mamafia. I’m grateful for you all.

Wait. What was my time?!

Date: July 29, 2017

Distance: 13.1 miles

Time: 2:02:32

I must say, I am really enjoying running races without regard to which state they are in.

In the case of today’s race, the Timpanogos Half Marathon, I decided to run it because it happened to be scheduled the weekend my full marathon training plan had me running a 13-mile training run. When I noticed my plan included a 13-miler this weekend, I searched for local races to see if there happened to be a half marathon scheduled nearby. Sure enough, there was.

I was also intrigued by the downhill course. I LOVE running downhill races. In addition, the race website promised a well-supported, scenic race so I overlooked the 6:00 a.m. start time and signed up.

I ended up absolutely loving this course. And, even though my training runs have been much slower–more like 11 or 12 minutes per mile pace–I was astounded that I averaged a 9:20 minute mile pace for the entire race. Starting off, I suspected that a 2:30 finish time would most likely be within reach than realized about halfway in, after I passed the 2:10 pacer, that this could end up being one of my faster times. In fact, I think this ended up being my second fastest time ever. Such a shock to me, particularly since I was in the emergency room at my local hospital with a blood clot in my lung only seven months ago. I’m truly surprised and happy.

If you are considering running this race, here’s what I would say in summary:

Packet pick up was well organized and the packets included standard fare. It did, however, take me three hours to drive to the packet pick up location and back. I joked today that it took me more time to pick up the race packet than it did to run the actual race.

The race shirts were a tad on the small side, but the medium I ordered is wearable–and a great fabric and design.

The medals were awesome, if you are into big, shiny bling. These delivered.

The event itself was very well organized. I felt as though the aid stations were spaced perfectly apart and well staffed. Water and Power Ade were offered at each stop. A couple of the stops–including the start–also offered Gu.

The shuttles to the start were great. It did kind of suck, however, to have to get to the starting line so early. I took one of the earlier shuttles (as they encouraged people to do), and ended up waiting for an hour-and-a-half before the race began. The early start and need to drive almost 45 minutes to the shuttle pick up meant that I got a grand total of three hours of sleep the night before the race.

I loved that they not only offered a bag drop, but they also had a clothing drop at mile one and mile three. The sweatshirt I wore during the first mile of the race was not, however, at the finish line as promised when I checked. Good thing I considered it to be a throwaway one anyway.

The course was the BEST. The majority of the race is downhill on a paved, scenic canyon road. As the course nears the finish at the local high school, it mostly uses well-designed, paved running/biking trails. The course was indeed scenic.

The finish line was great. Runners finished the race by completing a lap on the high school track, then making their way through the medal and food line. Food was plentiful and the volunteers were friendly and helpful.

A very nice feature of this race was that it encouraged participants to honor loved ones who had cancer because it was sponsored, in part, by the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Bibs offered at the start allowed people to write names of people who had either passed away from cancer, or whose treatment was successful. The words read, “In memory of” or “In celebration of” and, as always, I think races are a nice way to honor those we love.

I’ve certainly lost close friends and family to cancer and my aunt happens to be going through chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer right now. She was certainly in my thoughts as I raced today and I made sure to wear a pink “strength” bracelet in her honor.

In summary, I highly recommend this race to anyone who loves a good downhill race. It would not be hard to talk me into this one again, that’s for sure.

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

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.


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’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!



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.


Mainly Marathons Independence Series Day #2-Lums Pond State Park in Bear, DE

Date: April 30, 2015

Distance: 13.04

Time: 2:56:36

We enjoyed perfect running weather for day #2 of this series,FB_20150430_21_34_54_Saved_Picture and today’s course was great. The race was held at a camping area and the course took runners over a grassy field that, evidently, is used as a cricket field, followed by a nice tree-lined dirt trail, followed by a paved running path. Again, like all of these races, the course was an out-and-back. This time, our turnaround distance was shorter, so we had to complete ten loops rather than yesterday’s seven.

As in yesterday’s race, Denise finished before I did, and she was looking particularly strong today. My strategy, as suggested by her, was to walk a tenth of a mile both at the aid station and at the turnaround. That seemed to work perfectly for me. I took the added precaution of also mostly walking the second-to-last loop and walking all of the last loop. Still trying to conserve my muscles, knowing that we still have two races to complete.

Yet another loss. I haven’t talked about this yet, because I’ve been so upset about it,  but last Sunday, a very dear co-worker of mine passed away unexpectedly. A lot is going on back home with services planned for Saturday, and lots of close friends grieving this horrible loss. My first impulse, when I heard the news, was to cancel this trip. I just didn’t see how I could still go away. Plus, I will miss the funeral.

After a lot of deliberation and the support and encouragement of my boss, other co-workers, and friends, I made the decision to stick with my plans and continue with the trip. Spending time with Denise and putting in all of this mileage is one way I can cope with yet another loss.

As I was running today I decided to listen to music. During the middle of the race, a song came on that was a perfect tribute to my co-worker, Bill. My thoughts, of course, have been with Bill and his family this whole week. Today, in particular, he was with me while I listened to that song and my feet rhythmically hit the ground, propelling me forward one step at a time.

Running, as always, is the perfect metaphor for life. I especially felt that today. There are many times in life when we must endure and we must keep moving forward.

Catching up on race posts, grief, loss, and continuing the journey

I have been neglecting my race posts and need to catch up.

Missoula, MT Half Marathon (July 13, 2014) Time: 2:14:01

Oklahoma City, OK Half Marathon (October 11, 2014) Time: 2:31:08

Savannah, GA Rock and Roll Half Marathon (November 8, 2014) Time: 2:25:04

Run SLC Race Series (5K on February 7, 2015; 10K on March 7, 2015; 15K on April 4, 2015) 

Eisenhower Half Marathon in Abilene, KS (April 11, 2015) Time: 2:23:43


Life certainly got in the way as I faced two especially tragic events over the past few months–the tragic suicide of a current student, and the cancer-caused death of a former student. As you can imagine, my world abruptly changed and priorities certainly shifted.

I can’t even begin to process the suicide death. The loss of someone so talented and with so much promise is incomprehensible. That loss happened in November and was sudden and shocking. I must leave it at that. I will never understand that one.

The other loss unfolded over the course of months–allowing me to be a bit more emotionally prepared, but that loss was closer to home. TJ was a former student of mine who asked me to help him through his cancer journey late last summer and through the fall. At the time, his relationship with his parents was virtually non-existent and he needed support. I was honored that he asked me, but that journey was particularly difficult as I had to watch cancer steal his life away despite his most valiant efforts, through the summer and fall, ending in December. With each daily hospital visit, I watched as my dear friend TJ’s life slipped away and he died on December 5th at the young age of 24. I am grateful that, over the course of his illness, he used that time to reconnect with his family members, which was a blessing to all involved. We are all, however, still reeling from the unfairness of it all.

During the emotional turmoil I was experiencing, I was grateful for the well-being of my own husband and children and tried my best to carve out time for occasional runs and yoga classes. As a way to process stress and have some semblance of control in my life, I decided to use the month of December to complete a 30-day yoga challenge. I wrote about that in this blog, and that experience probably helped me a lot as I was processing a great deal of pain. My running, however, became an afterthought and during the first few months of the year, I barely ran at all.

I have now recommitted, and know how important my running and yoga classes are to my own emotional and physical well-being. I didn’t take time to post pithy, cheery details of my races, however, because I just wasn’t in that place. Not sure I am still.

I do, however, look forward to my continued race journey and this half marathon 50-states goal. As of today, 32 are in the books and by the end of this week, I will report having finished numbers 33, 34, 35, and 36.