Thursday, May 26, 2011

Hospitals for Humanity...and for running

HFH has been bit by the running bug! Some volunteers and staff have chosen to participate in the Chicago Marathon this October along with other RUS runners, Miri, Mark, myself, and I suspect a few of you blog followers. Unfortunately, they missed the registration cutoff, so in order to participate, they've paired up with OE Runners, an official charity of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. I am honored and humbled that the Race Within US has inspired these volunteers and staff members to take on the challenge of a marathon, and personally intend to support them in their training as much as I can, and I hope that some of you fellow runners will share your training tips and encouragement with these runners as they tackle their first marathon. A great way to do this is to join our google group to start discussions on your favorite races and training tips. I encourage the HFH team and any other blog fans to join by emailing to be added to the group. Joining the group will also get you automatic emails of our blog postings, and seriously, who would want to miss out on that? You can also join our facebook group and share your tips and words of encouragement that way (just enter The Race within US in your facebook search bar and we should pop up).

In addition to needing your support and encouragement during training, these first time marathoners will also need your fundraising support. As part of the OE Runners team, they are required to raise a certain amount to participate, and, of course, the main reason they're doing this is to raise money for the HFH cause. You can help the out by doing the following: 1) Go to the HFH website,; 2) Click on the Donate button; 3) Enter your super duper top secret confidential payment information (it's a secure site); 4) Enter the name of your fav HFH runner or just "Chicago Marathon" in the memo section before you submit your payment; and then 5) Submit your donation. Weeee! Doesn't that all sound like fun?

So my first tip to the HFH team, should you happen to be reading this, is to find a good training program. I've used Hal Higdon's in the past, but some people swear by Jeff Galloway. (Sorry if I screwed up the spelling on those). The Galloway method is less daunting to some because it lets you walk a bit. Sometimes it's less scary if you aren't thinking you've gotta run the whole darn thing. Oh, and if you think those hydration belts are as uncomfortable and dorky as I do, let me know. For those of you training in Chicago, I've got some routes mapped out that allow you to hit drinking fountians throughout the city. And I know of a good washroom pit stop here and there as well (those will come in handy on those longer runs).

Good luck and welcome to the unique group of people crazy enough to run 26.2 miles on purpose even when no one is chasing you!

Friday, May 20, 2011

For the animal lovers....

This one is for you fitness and animal enthusiasts.... During this downtime of my training, I figured I would take the opportunity to remind you all of another charity I'm running for, Don't Bully My Breed. This one is near and dear to my heart, as my sister has adopted two of the most loveable dogs from DBMB, Bruce and Lexus. They have definitely become part of the family and they both seem to love the newest member of the family, my niece, Gabriele, as you can clearly see in these pictures.

The founder of DBMB, Catherine, is certainly an inspiration to me and I can only assume to so many others by dedicating so much of her time to helping those breeds of dogs who have gotten a bad rap, mainly because of the irresponsible people who have chosen to own these breeds for often illegal purposes. My sister's dog, Lexus, is proof that even dogs who have been abused and neglected (we were told she was used as a fighting dog) can be rehabilitated to be loving family members. Lexus went from being very afraid and nervous of other dogs, then finally being able to be around my little pooch, 8lb Dean, to eventually living happily with her "brother", the gentle giant, Bruce. So thank you Catherine for rescuing two of my favorite dogs and placing them in a happy home!

DBMB doesn't just help the dogs of the world, but they also have helped many horses and cats that have been neglected. But caring for these animals is often very expensive, as there is always vet care that is unanticipated and costly.

And now is a great time to donate, because DBMB has a generous donor who is willing to match all amounts donated up to $1,000. Please visit this link to read about the good things they are currently doing and to make your donation today. Remember, even that $20 you donate, becomes $40 if you donate now!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Red, White and BOOM!

The June issue of Fitness Magazine is out on newsstands! Kristine and I are so grateful to Fitness for giving a shout out to our blog and our efforts to raise money for our favorite charities through running.

If you haven't seen the article, go buy the issue! And if you are a Fitness reader, welcome to our blog!

Now it's time to get a new race on the calendar. And what better state to complete than my new adopted state, Minnesota! I'm going to join in with a couple of new friends, Melissa and Beth, to run the Red, White & Boom! Half Marathon. Appropriately named, the Red, White & Boom! will take place on July 4th.

The course winds first through the part of Minneapolis that sits on the east side of the Mississippi River, areas known as St Anthony Main and the East Bank. When I moved here, I was under the impression that Minneapolis was located only on the west side of the Mississippi River and that the east side of the river was the start of St Paul. I'm glad to learn I was wrong - with historical buildings, cobble stone streets and a lovely park alongside the Mississippi River, St Anthony Main is one of the most charming spots in Minneapolis that I've discovered so far! After running most of the 13.1 miles to the east of the river, the race course then crosses to the west side of the river to finish up in the Warehouse District of downtown Minneapolis, near the Stone Arch Bridge.

Midwesterners, why don't you join in the fun? If you aren't quite ready for 13.1 miles, the Red, White & Boom! allows runners to run in teams of 2, 5, or 10, so grab some friends and share the fun together!

As always, I'm running to support two charities that are near and dear to my heart. The first is the American Cancer Society. I am supporting ACS in honor of and in memory of my Aunt Susie, who lost her battle with breast cancer last year. For nine years, despite the ups and downs in her health because of her disease, her spirits always remained upbeat. She was always smiling and always willing to be a shoulder and an ear for anyone she met who was also battling cancer. She wasn't just my Aunt Susie; she was everyone's Aunt Susie. And I can think of no better way to honor her than to continue what she started in raising funds for American Cancer Society so that we can eventually live in a world where cancer is 100% beatable. I hope you'll consider making a donation, using the link above, in her honor!

Aunt Susie and I, above right, at the 2010 ACS Relay For Life at Citi Field. Aunt Susie was the featured speaker at the Closing Ceremony!

My second charity is Girls on the Run. As a GOTR coach for two years in Harlem, New York City, I saw firsthand the significant impact the GOTR curriculum had on the girls who participated in the program. GOTR is a 12-week program that teaches girls ages 8 - 13 healthy habits, teamwork and goal-setting and -achieving techniques while training for a 5K fun run. The program helps girls overcome the challenges and peer pressures that they face by focusing them on healthy activities that develop their self-confidence. This is important for all girls, but especially for girls in major cities, like NYC, where the peer pressures they face include the pressure to engage in sex or drug use. GOTR gives them the confidence to "just say no" and a safe place to ask questions or turn for support. You can read about some of my favorite GOTR experiences here, here, here and here. If you'd like to support GOTR with a donation, you can do so with the link above!

A collage, left, of photos from the Spring 2010 GOTR 5K Fun Run!

I hope to see you all out on the road sometime!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Exciting updates!

Since moving from NY to Minneapolis, I've had a rocky relationship with running. First, I missed a lot of training runs during the weeks that I was packing up my apartment in NY. Then I missed a lot of training runs while I was unpacking in Minneapolis. Sub-zero temperatures in the Twin Cities kept me off the roads during the harshest of winter months. Finally, the weather has thawed, and, being more settled into my new surroundingns, I have gotten back to a (sort of) regular running schedule. During the last few weeks, the inconsistency of my training has frustrated me nearly to the point of feeling unsure of my RUS goals.

Thankfully, Kristine's run last week at the Cincinnati Flying Pigs Marathon helped me get my enthusiasm and confidence back. For one thing, I'm always in awe of Kristine's seemingly limitless energy and ability to run marathons so frequently. How does she do it!? For me, the marathon is, at best, an annual goal that I work hard to be ready for in the Fall, knowing that I'll earn the right to be a little bit lazier during the cold winter. Her dedication to the marathon distance is inspiring!

In addition to Kristine, another Cincinnati Flying Pigs Marathon runner has jumpstarted my excitment about our upcoming RUS events - Women's 1st Place Winner Amy McDonaugh. Amy is a legally-blind mother of three. As a stay-at-home mom, she felt she needed to "get out of the house" and do something. So she took up running. And WON the 4th marathon she had ever run. If that doesn't make you feel like you can achieve any goal you set for yourself, I don't know what does.

So what's the exciting news? Kristine and I will be seen in Fitness Magazine's June issue! As part of a feature about sharing fitness goals with a friend, significant other or relative, Kristine and I spoke to the magazine about our goal of running in all 50 states for our favorite charities. Back in March, we got together in Chicago for a photo shoot to accompany the article (the three photos here are from the photo shoot). Though it was a frigid March day, we dressed for June. We shivered as we ran through the local parks smiling for the camera. Thankfully, our photog Todd kept us laughing throughout the day. You can see more of his work on his website. Thanks Todd!

We hope that you will all pick up a copy of the Fitness issue, out on newsstands next week, and read more about how Kristine and I work together to reach our running goals! And if you'd like to support our charities in our honor, we would truly be grateful. Our charities are visible on the top right side of this blog.

Monday, May 2, 2011

I'd totally run Cincinnati again....when pigs fly!

(I had to edit this post, once the back of the medal was brought to my it!)

Oh my! This was one hog of a course. Who new Cincinnati and parts of Northern Kentucky were so hilly? Certainly not me. I expected one big climb for a mile or so, but I was not prepared for the rolling hills. Uphill, downhill, uphill, downhill...over and over and over. I longed for a stretch that would be flat like a slice of bacon. Hell, I longed for a slice of bacon.

Speaking of pork, I had my pre-race meal at a gastropub in the downtown area, Nicholson's. I ordered a 9-hour braised pork shank that just fell off the bone. Need I say more? They had a really great looking menu and was sad that I didn't get a chance to try the fried pickles. They also have a serious selection of scotch and beers if that stuff fits your fancy. I did try this delicious Breckenridge Vanilla Porter. Apparently they make this thing called an Oreo Cookie that is a mix of the vanilla porter and Young's Double Chocolate Stout. Sadly, two pints of beer might have been too much before a race, so I didn't get to try it. But if an Oreo Cookie and some scotch isn't enough of a reason to get you in there next time you're in Cinci, the waiters also wear kilts.

I arrived Saturday in Cincinnati and the weather was perfect. Sunny, warm. The downtown area was busier than I had anticipated, probably because of the race and I think there was a Reds game that evening. At night, in Fountain Square outside my hotel, there were big screens on the side of business that were broadcasting the game. Lots of fans there in Cincinnati just hanging around the glowing fountain watching the game.

Sunday, the weather was a different story. The race started in darkness at 6:30 a.m. in front of the Paul Brown Stadium. It was raining, although the temperature was warm. Warm rain isn't so bad...until your shoes get soaked and you can feel your feet getting pruny and blistery. The rain did let up, but not before my feet were wet!

Aside from the rolling hills, the course was pretty nice. It was well organized with plenty of aid stations. Early in the course, we ran into Kentucky, through Newport and Covington. When I saw the sign that said "Welcome to Kentucky" my first thought was, hmmm....can I count this as Kentucky and Ohio? But considering only a few miles were spent there, I figured it wouldn't be fair to count Kentucky. We headed back into Cincinnati and through some of the surrounding 'burbs, like Fairfax and Mariemont. The big climb I anticipted was mostly through Eden Park. It was a pretty scenic part of the race, and I was disappointed that I didn't have time to stop and enjoy the Butterflies of Brazil exhibit at the conservatory. I was also disappointed we didn't run past the zoo so I could steal my new little penguin pet, already named Pip by my roommate. We ran through all parts of the city, from nice areas to not-so-nice areas. But there were spectators , aka "Squealers," along almost every part of the course, even despite the rain. Unfortunately, the last stretch of the race was on a not-so-scenic part of the course. And by this time, I was in a whole heck of a lot of pain. Those downhills sure do a number on the ol' knees! I don't really remember being in that much pain since my first marathon. I was squealing like a pig those last couple of miles. But somehow, once I saw that Finish Swine (yes, that is what they call the finish line), and was running through the lane with all the Squealers cheering, I was able to pick up some speed and fly like a pig that last mile to finish with a respectable 4:11:05. Not my best, but certainly not my worst. And considering it was so porking difficult, I'm more than happy with my finish. Plus, I love my awesome piggy medal. Check out the back of this medal!

So if you fellow runners are looking for a challenging marathon, the Flying Pig Marathon is for you. Oddly, this one was listed by Runner's World as one of the 10 best marathons for first-timers. To be quite frank, if this were my first marathon, I don't know if I would run another ever again! Yesterday, I was almost ready to say eight is enough!

My co-runner (who barely beat me) and I celebrated with a post race beer at the Hofbrauhaus in Newport, Kentucky. This is apparently an offical Munich Hofbrauhaus sanctioned establishment, not to be confused with those other imposter Hofbrauhauses around the world. Pretzels with bier cheese, brauts, kraut and mashed pototaes did a good job of replenshing all those nutrients lost during the race. Again, fried pickles on the menu that I did not get to try. Note to self, dine with people in the future that like fried pickles.