Coach Rick Muhr – One of a Kind

Yesterday’s surprise visit of Coach Rick Muhr made my day! Words can’t express how happy I was to see him! Whenever he visit me, he has the power of making me feel at ease. I hugged him and he chatted with him about race day strategies and explained how he breaks the Boston course into segments,  focusing on one section at a time  in order to not get overwhelmed by the whole course. He shared how the first four- five miles are the hardest because of the drop in elevation.  I know I usually go off too fast as I am super excited and have lots of adrenaline to get rid of. I usually weave my way through runners but he mentioned how bad that is for your IT band. So, I will follow his advice and try to stay calm and start off slower till I find my rhythm.

Hugging Rick

Hugging Rick

It really  meant the world to me for him to take time out of his day to see me and wish me well.  This is the kind of person Rick is. He was genuine and he truly cares a lot . Very rare is it that you find someone with so much knowledge and passion rolled into one. Thank you so much for being you Rick! It’s a pleasure and an honor to know you and have you in my life.  Thank you for who you are and the difference you make in my life and the lives of those you coach!

If you need inspiration and tip about running visit his incredible resourceful blog!

How Did I Get Here?

Epiphanies. Revelations. Ah-ha moments. Game-changers.  Call them what you want, we have all experienced those key moments in our lives that with no doubt  have drove us to where we are today. In the past few days I had the chance to look back at my journey as a Marathoner and asked myself:  how did I get here? Watch the video below and you’ll find out=)

 

 

I had the chance to answers few questions for the Natick Patch that was looking for town residents running in this year Boston Marathon to feature in runner profiles. So here is few of my answers.

Marathon Experience and Reason for Running: This is going to be my third Boston Marathon in a row and fifth Marathon overall. I started to run three years ago and after my first race, the Great Bay Half Marathon, I remember hearing a runner talking about her longtime goal of qualifying for Boston and realized that this is considered by many to be the ultimate marathon achievement. To runners, it is the high holy ground.

I love a challenge and it was in that exact moment I created my next goal, not only to run my first Marathon, but to qualify for the oldest and most challenging marathon in the world, the Boston Marathon. On October 3, 2010, I ran my first Marathon, qualifying for the 2011 Boston Marathon and it was only then when I was pounding the pavement from Hopkinton to Boston that I understood why this Marathon is magic. There’s an energy there that you can’t really touch, very hard to explain. The camaraderie that Boston shares with its marathoners is incomparable. The Boston Marathon’s difficulty is what affirms it, gives it prestige, makes it a thing worth doing. I cannot describe the emotions I felt after crossing the finish line, most definitely something I will NEVER forget! I qualified for the 2012 Boston Marathon and ran it in near 90-degree heat. It was really humbling to see all the support the community gave to the runners that day. Despite the record heat I re-qualified for this year’s Boston. Last October I lowered my qualifying standard at the 2012 Chicago Marathon with a 3:11, which put me in wave one of this year race. I will be sporting red bib No. 6760 and dedicating this Marathon to my husband Dustin, who is by far the best support system ever.

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The Impossible

Training Tip: It’s not much of a secret that we had a challenging winter that has definitely thrown a curve ball at our training plan, but I guess that is also part of the Boston Marathon experience. My best advice for who’s running Boston for the first time is to have confidence in your training and your ability. Just believe in yourself and NO NEGATIVE thoughts! JUST POSITIVE!!

It’s unbelievable how much energy comes unexpectedly that day, just when you need it. Don’t rush to complete your journey from Hopkinton to Boston on Marathon Monday. Enjoy the excitement, nervousness, the sounds, all encouragement you receive, the kids high fives and savor the moment when you cross the finish line! You will discover this journey is so much more than just running. It will define you in ways that you can’t imagine and you’ll learn things about yourself for the very first time. Savor every moment of this experience as it is going to be life-changing.

Qualified Runner Bib Number: 6760

How did you get here?

Countdown to the 2013 Boston Marathon: 1 Week to Go!

Let the countdown begin…1 week  til 2013 Boston Marathon!

At this moment in my training , or should I say tapering, I can barely contain myself. I’m a bundle of extra energy and nerves that could explode at any moment! Ask my husband Dustin. Even though I insist saying that tapering doesn’t bother me in many ways, Dustin has few facts that will prove me wrong.

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This weekend I dragged my hubby to Hopkinton…sorry=)

Tapering is a necessary aspect of endurance training and it starts in the last few weeks before the big day.  Runners begin to cut significant distance from their training. It is a time to make sure you get adequate rest, prepare psychologically and allow your body to heal from the intensity of training. In fact, tapering allows your muscles to repair the micro-damage of intervals, your energy systems to store up glycogen, and that last bit of tendonitis in your knee or ankle or hip to finally go away.

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Thanks Amanda!

Not all athletes experience the same feelings, or combination of feelings, but it’s common to experience taper blues. Taper madness, is a common condition hits marathon runners all over the continent few weeks before race day. It manifests itself in different ways for different people. Lots of people become convinced that their leg or foot is broken and almost everyone (me included) finds themselves either wanting to scream at or actually screaming at the innocent person (my hubby) who dared to sneeze in their close by.

I researched what are the common symptoms of TAPER MADNESS and here what’s included:

  • You’re constantly hungry.  You’re convinced you’ve gained 10 pounds since you started tapering. ~ YES most definitely!
  • You don’t know what to do with yourself with all of your new free time. ~ Am I writing a blog post or what?
  • The inability to speak of or think about anything but the race. ~
  • Restless feelings of boundless energy. ~ N/A  I always have extra energy…ask around lol
  • You become irrational and grouchy and you drive your loved one absolutely crazy. ~ Guilty as charged! I admit it…I’m grumpy, snappy and even a bit (or a lot) irrational. And I am taking this opportunity to apologize profusely to my hubby=)
  • You obsessively check the weather forecast for race day. ~  Not me! You can’t control the weather can you? So, why worry about it!  I will run the best I can under whatever circumstances.
  • Extreme feelings of self-doubt in your ability to run the entire distance and/or run it at goal pace. ~ Of course I do! Ahhhhhh
  • Random aches, pains, and swelling of any and all muscles and joints, which convince you that your marathon career is over. ~ Always…Ugh!!
  • Every little twinge makes you think you’ve got a race-ending injury. ~ Deserved to be mentioned twice. And this is for you Steph Brewer=)
  • You’ve planned out three possible outfits for the race and keep asking running friends for opinions on which one to go with. ~ Nope. Hmmm but maybe I should start to think what I’m gonna wear! 
  • Most of your Facebook updates are marathon-related. ~ Yes and I apologize!
  • You research celebrity marathon times to see what famous people you could beat. ~ No, but I’ll do it now!
  • You’ve vowed to not eat pasta for at least a month after the marathon. ~ I’m from Italy, of course NOT!

So, in one way or another we all experience these symptoms, the key is to do our best to stay calm, relaxed, and rested until the big day is finally here!

My Runner’s Passport, welcome brochure came and BAA run club instruction packet came in the mail last week.

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Runner Passport

A little history about the unicorn icon adopted by the Boston Athletic Association(BAA) in 1887.  That was actually 10 years before the first Boston Marathon.  The unicorn symbolizes an ideal in mythology.  An excellence that can be pursued but never attained.  It is in this pursuit that an athlete can push his or her limits.  I love that simple goal oriented philosophy.

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#6760

 

 

Last Long Run Before Boston

It happens every year, it’s becoming a tradition and it wouldn’t be the same without it for runners that are training for the Boston Marathon in Boston. I am talking about the  final “dress rehearsal” for the Marathon, the most important run of the training season, the last long run – 21 miles from the Boston Marathon starting line in Hopkinton to the top of Heartbreak Hill.

Runners in Ashland

Runners in Ashland

What I love about this day is the energy, the camaraderie with like minded people, and the support along the course, included the police presence and the traffic cones on high traffic roads. It really feels like a race, I get super excited and I usually perform really good.

Last Saturday, was the day. Hundreds, of mostly charity runners filled the Boston Marathon course and charities set up water tables along the route to support  their runners. I wanted to make the support accessible to everyone who was running, because I know how helpful it can be when you are struggling.  So, I had a vision of a killer, super FUN cheer station with water, gatorade, motivational signs, DJ with pumping music and mostly wonderful cheerleaders. Where? Well, I live right at Mile 10, right before the Natick center, which is exactly half way point to the end of the run. That was perfect!

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Kayla, Fabs, Ali and Carly

Saturday I was also doing my long run so I took my vision to my partner in crime Fabiana and, my lululemon in Natick family put together the MOST incredible cheering station on the course that day! Thank you ladies, you are my HERO!!

After this last long run, which is the last 3 weeks before the marathon, is time to taper.  Tapering means that you begin slowly reducing your weekly mileage, allowing your body to recover from months of heavy training. The taper is key as it will allow you to go into your race rested, strong and ready. It’s common to hear a runner saying he is in “Taperland”. I like to say : ” I landed in Taperland!”.  So, I asked Carly, the most talented artist I know, to make a sign that said: “10 Miles to Taperland”. Get it? At mile 10 runners would have 10 more miles to go before landing in Taperland.

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10 Miles to Taperland

That sign was a huge hit! Runners were getting emotional, taking photos with the sign, and they were so grateful for the amazing support those kids were giving to them strangers.  It’s just blows my mind the big impact of a small thing like that makes. In small acts of kindness, you see the incredible power of small things.

As far as my long run, I really had a great time and besides my legs that were pretty sore I was feeling great. My super supportive husband and our pup Luna dropped me off in Hopkinton around 8:30 am and picked me up at the bottom of Hearthbreak Hill at mile 21.21.

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Dustin & Luna

I stopped for about 5 minutes to cheer on runners at mile 10.

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Here I come

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Cheering on Runners

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Hi Five Carly

Cheering w/Fabs

Cheering w/Fabs

I was also happily surprised and run into the greatest coach anyone could ask for, Rick Muhr.

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Rick

Even though he is not officially my coach I’ve always had him in my heart throughout this training season and I realized how much I’ve missed him when on Saturday he yelled out my name out of his moving car. What an incredible human being and coach he is. Let me step back for a second. I personally had a very hard winter and I had a really hard time following Rick’s training at its best. I am really hard on myself, always, and in this case I would beat myself up really hard if I didn’t accomplish what was scheduled for me in the training to do. And even more in this case I would feel like a failure to let someone that believes in me down.

Mile 21.21

Mile 21.21

I love running, it’s my passion, it’s my outlet, it’s where I find peace and solitude. There’s just something about my feet pounding against the ground and feeling my adrenaline rush through my veins that makes me feel like I can conquer the world. Therefore, this winter I wasn’t in the right state of mind to take running to a more competitive level and have the daily pressure of fulfilling Rick’s training expectations. For that reason, Rick and I came to the conclusion that it was best for me to pause from following Rick’s training,  and just enjoy the process of running. So, I trained for Boston on my own, as I did in the two previous ones, without doing speed-work and on April 15th I will get to the starting line with the intention of having fun, enjoying the journey and of course – I am a fighter – to give nothing but the best I can!

Tapering

Landed

New Bedford Half Marathon – Recap

On Sunday I ran the New Bedford Half Marathon as a Boston Marathon prep race. This race is rated in the top 25 half marathon in the nation and top Half in New England. This was evident by all the athletes that competed at this race. Huge competition and all of the NE running groups, BAA included, were represented in the race.

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Sunday March 17th, 2013

Few of my favorite ladies from my lulu family race as well, my sister/friend Fabiana who was running her first race since her knee injury last August, speedy Erin that run her first half marathon back in november ( All Women & One Lucky Guy) and Leeann ” The Beast” that decided to run this as her first half marathon after she proved she could run 10 miles but without really training… a nice mix right!  The race started at 11 am and since New Bedford is about an hour and twenty  minutes from Natick, we left at 8 am giving ourselves plenty of time to get there, pick up numbers etc…

In the car

The best spectators in the whole world, my hubby and Fabs hubby Rick, drove me, Erin and Fabs to the YMCA in New Bedford where we picked up our numbers. Leeann met us there later and registered right then for the race.

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Rick and Dustin=)

It was a beautiful day, sunny but chilly (40 degrees) and windy. We headed to the starting line on Pleasant Street at City Hall.

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Me, Erin, Leeann and Fabs

When we got to there it was so crowded already I was afraid I was gonna to get stuck in the back. We took few group photos before splitting.

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Classic gangsta sign

So I took Erin and weaved my way into the crowd taking us (and a guy that decided to follow us) to the front.

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Me & Erin

In no time we were off!

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Off they go

Few days before I told Erin that she was gonna kill this race and to stay with me and she did! I was so impressed with how hard she was pushing.

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Here we see our fans=)

It’s a great and  tough course.

New Bedford HalfCourse

New Bedford Half Marathon Course

New Bedford Half Elevation

New Bedford Half Elevation Profile

From miles 2 through 3.5 there are two major hills, each successively bigger. Being at the beginning like that thought I felt it wasn’t too bad as our legs were nice and fresh. We were cruising up those hills (7:02, 7:07, 7:06, 7:02) The best part of the race begins at the top of the last hill at mile 3.5 when you turn onto Rockdale Avenue. In fact, once you get your breath back from the climb up Hathaway Road you can relax and enjoy a four-mile stretch of level or downhill running on Rockdale Avenue. I read that young Geoff Smith on this stretch he was on pace for a world record back in ’85. Needless to say that this stretch we run our fastest splits. (6:35, 6:43,6:35,6:51, 6:55) Dustin, Rick and Erin’s mom were at mile 5 and at that point we were so toasty we got rid of our gloves.

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Mile 5

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About to get rid of my gloves

At mile 7 we knew the rest of our lulu family had set up a water/snacks station (apparently the best around) and when they saw us in the distance they started to yell and had two small water bottles ready for us. That was the only sip of water I had during the whole race, and it was at a perfect time as I just finished my GU.

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Lydia, Kayla, Carly & Ali cheering station

Right after seeing Kayla, Ali, Carly & Lydia we hit the first of the two beach areas. And it was pretty blustery day = no fun. The first is West Beach on West Rodney French Boulevard and the second one is East Beach on East Rodney French Boulevard. The scenery here is spectacular, but when the wind was blowing it was hard to see.  We didn’t get out of it until we got to the turn on Cove Road, which took us away from the water and back to the sheltered streets of the South End. Here we had about a half-mile to recover from the wind before hirring County Street and the last hill at mile 12. This hill is not as steep as the one on Hathaway Road, but it’s longer and it came after we’ve already run 11 miles and our legs were a little tired. But hey, what’s one more hill when you’re only two miles from the finish? Think positive. Here Erin was struggling and coached her through it. I told her: ” Let’s  finish strong together”. And I reminded her that after that final hill all that was left was the downhill pounding on Kempton Street and the final 200-yard push to the finish line at City Hall. Her response was: ” NO, I don’t wanna!”  Ha ha But guess what? She fought through it like a champion, crashed that hill and had a HUGE PR of 1o minutes! I was so incredible proud of her! I hugged her and told her she was my hero!

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Last stretch home

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Sprinting home

I did ok. I was hoping for a sub 1:30 but crossed the finish line in 1:31:49 and had a 1 minute and 10 seconds PR.

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On our way to hug our biggest fans

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So proud of this chic!

My splits:

  • Mile 1: 7:02
  • Mile 2: 7:07
  • Mile 3: 7:06
  • Mile 4: 7:02
  • Mile 5: 6:35
  • Mile 6: 6:43
  • Mile 7: 6:35
  • Mile 8: 6:51
  • Mile 9: 6:55
  • Mile 10: 7:07
  • Mile 11: 7:13
  • Mile 12: 7:08
  • Mile 13: 7:19
  • .2 Mile: 5:47

We waited for Leeann and Fabs to finish. Leeann did incredible for running her first half last minute without training…I love that girl, she’s a fighter!

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Leeann looking great to the finish line

Fabiana knee actually behaved and even though she wasn’t over the moon of the final result I am so proud of her and happy she finished without making her injury worse.

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Running with her at the finish

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” So are you gonna tell me how did you do?” Fab wanting to know our results lol

We were all reunited and happy for an amazing and well organized race.

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Ladies in Green…Happy Patrick’s day!

After the race we met with our cheering ladies at Bertucci’s, had pizza and celebrated a great day!  March 17th is extra special cause is my  papa’ (daddy in italian) birthday!  I called him to say Buon Compleanno (Happy Birthday), it was already 9 pm in Italy and I definitely woke him up but he still had the energy to tell me all about his special day with my nephews and nieces… I miss that crazy italian and can’t wait to see him in the summer! Oh and today is Father’s day in Italy so Buona Festa del papa!

Compleanno Papa

My daddy with all nieces and nephews!

Results

Overall time : 1:31:49 my new PR!
Overall Pace: 7:02
Overall Place: 455/3135
Age Group 30-39: 28/510
Overall Female: 76/

My Runniversary…3 Years!

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3 Years ago today I took my first steps running and absolutely fell in love with the sport and the running community. I met fantastic people who have encouraged me, advised me, and pushed me. Running is a solo sports, that you can do it by your own, in any given time and anywhere you’d like to run. Running makes me feel powerful and strong, is a stress reliever and I love the challenges it presents both physically and mentally.  Friends, travel, relationships, solace, peace, love, frustration, time, pain, joy, fun– it has all been there, wrapped up in countless pairs of shoes and miles.  I have medals and photos and lots of wonderful memories. I have not only called myself a runner but have been doing it long enough to be able to realize what an incredible gift that is.

While I was browsing the web I stumbled upon a blog called The Logic of Long Distance by Jeff Edmonds. His post “How it Works” perfectly describes what being a runner and training mean, and it deserve to be shared:


“This is how it works:

Training is doing your homework. It’s not exciting. More often than not it’s tedious. There is certainly no glory in it. But you stick with it, over time, and incrementally through no specific session, your body changes. Your mind becomes calloused to effort. You stop thinking of running as difficult or interesting or magical. It just becomes what you do. It becomes a habit.

Workouts too become like this. Intervals, tempos, strides, hills. You go to the track, to the bottom of a hill, and your body finds the effort. You do your homework. That’s training. Repetition–building deep habits, building a runner’s body and a runner’s mind. You do your homework, not obsessively, just regularly. Over time you grow to realize that the most important workout that you will do is the easy hour run. That’s the run that makes everything else possible. You live like a clock.

After weeks of this, you will have a month of it. After months of it, you will have a year of it.

Then, after you have done this for maybe three or four years, you will wake up one morning in a hotel room at about 4:30am and do the things you have always done. You eat some instant oatmeal. Drink some Gatorade. Put on your shorts, socks, shoes, your watch. This time, though, instead of heading out alone for a solitary hour, you will head towards a big crowd of people. A few of them will be like you: they will have a lean, hungry look around their eyes, wooden legs. You will nod in their direction. Most of the rest will be distracted, talking among their friends, smiling like they are at the mall, unaware of the great and magical event that is about to take place.

You’ll find your way to a tiny little space of solitude and wait anxiously, feeling the tang of adrenaline in your legs. You’ll stand there and take a deep breath, like it’s your last. An anthem will play. A gun will sound.

Then you will run.”

~ JEFF EDMONDS

Early this morning, I went for a 20 mile run on the Boston Marathon course from Natick,where I live, to the Newton Hills. It was nice out, about 35/40F degrees, there were people out training on the course and I was felt pretty good! What a great way to celebrate 3 years of running!  And I rewarded myself with the 2013 Boston Marathon Jacket. Since my first Boston in 2010 I’ve been waiting for BAA to make the old blue and yellow color jacket, and guess what? This is my lucky year finally! I think it’s bad karma to wear it before you actually finish the race, so until after the race it will stay hung up in my closet=)

2013 Boston Jacket

2013 Boston Jacket

In the past 3 years I have…

  • Ran 30 races including 4 full marathons and 12 half marathons
  • Shaved 20 minutes off my first  Marathon
  • Ran a total of 5,921.8 miles since day one

It has been a good three years and I am so grateful. So here’s to another great year of running!

How do you celebrate your running milestones?

All Women & One Lucky Guy Half Marathon – Recap

Last Sunday I run the All Women & One Lucky Guy Half Marathon in Newburyport, MA. This very enjoyable race organized by the guys at LOCO Sports, and in its 6th very successful year.  Fabiana, Erin, Alex and I signed up for this half back in the summer. It was Fabs first half last year and she wanted to go back and better her time. However, her knee didn’t recover quick enough in order for her to actually train for the race. So, she made the smart decision to not run. Dustin and I arrived to Newburyport around 9:30am and met up with Erin and Alex in the high school. This was the first half for Erin and Alex and they were pretty nervous and so I talked to them about few races logistics, like how much fuel to bring and how often to take it etc.

Here we are talking fuel

After we all had our numbers we met up with Erin and Alex family and started to walk towards the starting line. We fooled around and took some photos of the three of us.

Ready to start

The race started at 11:00 am and with the Daylight saving time we moved our clocks back an hour, and for my taste there was too much waiting around. The day started off chilly but by 10 am the weather was spectacular. And actually when we were in the sun it was a little too hot. There was some wind but nothing major. Great running weather conditions!

Show me your muscle

Rick and Fabs joined us too and waited with us for the race to start.

Fabs and I

Finally it was time to get lined up at the starting line.

Jumping around to warm up

I chatted with few ladies and I spotted right away who was gonna win.

Can you see the winner

And the gun went off!

Off the ladies went

The course was beautiful and went along the streets of Newburyport and the lovely country roads of West Newbury. It loops around two reservoirs and travels over “horse country” in West Newbury.

Race Course

The course starts at about 100 feet of elevation and then has a slight downhill until mile two where it then gradually rolls up and down until mile seven. I have to say that I expected the course to be easier and fast but those rolling hills were keep coming. I started off in front and could see the first woman ahead of me probably until mile 5 or 6 then I had a group of 6-7 women leading the pack. My strategy was too not get too far away from them but still save some energy.

Course Elevation

There weren’t many spectators on the road but the few I saw were really encouraging and a man shouted out I was 8th overall. That was pretty great to hear. At mile 6 I took a GU as I was feeling my legs wanting to slow down.

As I predicted here is the winner that took the course in 1:24:59

The hardest hill was from mile seven to just about 7.75.  This half way point also included a little over a quarter mile of dirt road. And it was right then, on a hill, that I passed a girl who complimented me and was in 7th place. I was feeling strong by then and started to plan to catch up with the other ladies. It was right at mile 11 that I passed another woman and was then in the 6th place. Approaching the finish line I saw Fabs and Dustin cheering at me and sprinted home.

Thumbs up for best spectators

Crossed the finish line in 1:33:07 and of course I wasn’t really happy cause I didn’t PR and run as fast as I wanted. I later found out I won my age group by 2 minutes, I know I should be happy with the overall results but I always shoot for higher and improvement. Anyway, went to where everyone else was and waited for Erin and Alex.

Great signs with Erin’s mom and twin sister.

And there she was. Of course I couldn’t resist(you know my italian passionate side) and started to run towards Erin yelling.

Here is when Erin saw me

And she started to sprint home.

Erin charging like a bull lol

Fabs and I run to hug Erin and after we found her we went back to wait for Alex.

Walking

Erin did amazing for her first half, she finished in 1:42 and came 3rd in her age group.

Love the heart medals

Alex also did great, she had a goal of running under 2 hours and she ended up finishing in 1:58!

Go Alex

I went to claim my 1st age group prize…a box of Power Bars and a LOCO singlet. Check Fabs face, she is saying it all! Ha ha

Fabs:” Really? Lame, show me the $$$” Lol

It was 1:30 pm and we were ready for a nice meal. We went to Oregano’s Pizzeria in downtown Newbutyport where we all devoured our own brick oven thin crust gourmet pizza! To die for!

My besties

Of course I cannot say enough about the support system, cannot say enough of how grateful I am for all my hubby do to support me! Could not do it without him!

Dustin and Rick

Results

Overall time : 1:33:07
Overall Pace: 7:07
Overall Place: 6/838
Age Group 35-39: 1/153