Radiance Running – A Haiku and Race Review of the Niagara Falls International Half Marathon

Grey clouds have no chance

When radiance runs with heart

Summer sun follows

On Sunday, June 2, 2019, I ran the 8th Annual Niagara Falls International Women’s Half Marathon and 5K. I signed up because a good friend of mine, Danielle had signed up for it and I wanted to run an “international race”. Niagara Falls is a few hours drive from my in-laws’ house so we were able to see them on the way to and from the race – bonus!!

Read my pre-race ramblings here!

If you’ve never visited Niagara Falls on the Canadian side, then you are truly missing out on an awesome sight. The majesty and power of water as it rushes over the rocks is truly humbling. You can hear its roar and see its misty beauty from the walkway next to it or a boat ride (for an up close and personal view) or even overhead on zip lines.

The morning of the race was cold and grey. The forecast said rain later in the day but obviously the weather did not get that memo. It started to rain as I waited for Danielle to pick me up at my hotel and the rain would continue on and off during the race.

As if the rain wasn’t enough of an ominous start to the race, Danielle arrived frazzled – she had left her running belt at home and her lucky sunglasses had broken that morning. She also just had a baby a year ago so her First Big Race after the baby. But, Danielle is one determined woman who doesn’t give up with or without her lucky sunglasses. She joked that as long as her pants didn’t fall down, she was going to run this race!

When we got to the race site, Danielle’s friends, Tiffany and Angie, were already there. This was Tiffany’s first half marathon. Angie was coming back from an injury as well. If there ever was a tougher group of mother runners, this was it! Check out the awesome shirts they had especially made for this race just to show how truly kicka$$ they are!

There was some music and a tent at the start of the race but not much else. There were a few moments of heavy rain that stopped just as were starting – the sun showed its face for a brief second before it became overcast again. Perfect running weather in my opinion!

One cool thing that Danielle reminded us when we were lining up was that when the announcer was saying that there were so many other countries represented at the race, that those “other countries” included us. We were Americans in Canada so that made us one of those “other countries” running the race. This is what it’s like running my first INTERNATIONAL race! Mind blown!

The course started out by Marineland, went out towards the Rainbow bridge then back on the same street, past the start area and then further down the other side of the falls along the Niagara river. This was a pretty flat course on streets right by the water. The course formed a “lopsided bow tie” shape. While the first loop was beautiful and had some people cheering, the second loop was almost devoid of spectators – not even the people who’s houses we passed, opened up the front door to cheer us on. Maybe it was the rain at the start of the race that kept the spectators away?

It didn’t keep Katherine Switzer away though! That woman is simply amazing and so full of energy and positivity!

The four of us started out together before Tiffany went ahead. This was her first half marathon and she totally ROCKED this race finishing about an hour before Danielle, Angie and I did. While this race wasn’t the my fastest, it was full of great moments like this one

and this one

and of course, this one!

At the end of the race we were treated to cold towels, which was perfect for cooling off from that final sprint. There wasn’t much in terms of post race festivities. Maybe it was because of the rain and/or because we were towards the back of the pack? There were still a lot of ladies left so this was somewhat disappointing (don’t they know the back is where the cool kids are??).

Still, I couldn’t have asked for a better first race of the year! Thank you, Danielle for telling me about this race and training with me. Thank you Danielle, Angie and Tiffany for some wonderful memories!

©️ iido 2019

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The Hershey Half Marathon – A Haibun and Race Review

Race day was wear-pajamas-and-a-blanket-while-sipping-hot-cocoa-by-the-fire chilly. The first few miles felt like getting slapped by icy fingers. The middle miles were warmed by enthusiastic cheers and hills that heated legs. At the end of 13.1, the glow of accomplishment kept us warm while our friendship felt as heavy and solid as our medals.

Wind whispers “Give up”

The hill is steep, legs are tired

Friend shouts “Keep going”

The race begins! See how nice my hair looks…

A quick photo stop with my MRTT running buds, Heather and Michele.

At the end with my KitKat medal in front of Chocolate a World. Notice the hair – courtesy of wind and sweat!

The Hershey Half Marathon was held on a windy day in October this year. It was cold but warmed up a bit as the sun came up. I ran intervals with two wonderful women from my Moms Run this Town chapter, Michele and Heather. Our goal was 2:45 which we missed by 3 minutes. But that was ok. It was a PR for Michele and my best time coming back from health issues. Heather is a speedster but wanted to take it easy this race since she had other races coming up and didn’t get much running before this one.

This was one of those races where we all agreed it was about the journey and not the destination (time 😁). We were pretty consistent on the intervals – except for the part when, after cresting a very steep hill that had a DJ blasting “Cotton Eyed Joe” at the top, I decided to celebrate by breaking out my dance moves. That was a mistake although quite fun! I broke my stride, started to cramp in my calf and needed some extra walk breaks after that. Note to self – doing the “running man” does not count as a running interval!

Despite that running gaffe, the race itself was great! Michele and I had trained together for this one and we had all run it before so the hilly route was familiar. The wind was definitely a factor – I had to chase down my visor at one point after it blew away. They give out little Hershey chocolate bars in the last 2-3 miles of the race which is nice little treat. The one part of the course I don’t like is running through the empty parking lot as you head towards the stadium. The crowd support, especially around the Milton Hershey School, is excellent which is such a contrast to this desolate area that comes right at the end of race. Also disappointing this year was there was no cookie at the end!! Not that I needed a cookie but yes, I did need a cookie!!

I still don’t have any races scheduled for 2019…any suggestions, especially for races with great swag, are welcome! Lastly – a big shout out to MRTT and especially Heather and extra loud for Michele!! You ladies are in inspiration for my perspiration! ❤️

My Greatest Fear

This post was inspired by the Go Dog Go Tuesday Writing prompt: write an acrostic poem that spells out your greatest fear. Wow. Good thing my greatest fear isn’t disclosing too much or being too vulnerable. Seriously.

I had to think about this a lot – what am I afraid of? Not any type of animal or insect (although I will scream if it means someone else will do the dirty deed of killing the latter). Not really any activity although I’m not thrilled about things that involve heights especially if I’m being dangled on said heights with just nylon between me and the swan dive of death. Thinking of death, I don’t feel afraid of dying either. It happens to us all. Dealing with loss – I’m surviving that.

I remember a moment after giving birth to my twins, Lucas and Larissa, when they were only 22 weeks old – just a week shy of the “age of viability”. The doctor told me, “They’re really small and at this stage of gestation, they only have a 50/50 chance to live. Do you still want us to do everything we can to save them?” My answer, of course, “Yes – anything, everything!” My children didn’t survive, but it was at that moment that I thought to myself, “If I had to die so my children would live, would I be willing to die for them?”

******

My Greatest Fear

Crying will not help

Only sacrifice

Will be enough

Am I enough?

Realizing that

Death is an option

I am afraid

Courage escapes me

Eternity will know I failed

******

What I really fear is being a coward – being afraid and not standing up or speaking out when I need to, especially when it comes to protecting my children or others who I care about. It’s being afraid to make the ultimate sacrifice if it comes down to me or family/friends.

I know people have given their lives to protect others – as part of their job or because they felt compelled to. I know people put their lives at risk to speak out for those who are unable to. I know people intervene when they see injustice or see others getting hurt.

I am afraid that when the time comes, I will not be one of those people. I will cower in my comfortable life and leave the heavy lifting for others to do. I am afraid deep down inside of showing the world how much of a coward I really am.

Although, when it’s written as an acrostic poem, it doesn’t seem so scary….

Not a Humble Brag

Nope – we don’t play those games around here!

This post is about some pretty cool things that have recently happened…much cooler than keeping my kitchen island clean!

First, I recently received a “Notable Mention” on the nature themed haiku I submitted to Vita Brevis. I am over the moon about this because Vita Brevis showcases some really beautiful poetry. And to know that they actually thought my haiku deserved a shout out…I’m seriously so proud and honored!

I told my parents about the Notable Mention and my mom wrote back this haiku for me:

<tears> My mom was so proud of me that she wrote a beautiful haiku despite her admission that she doesn’t even like haikus.

<still crying here> <heart overflowing>

Second, I’ve admitted – out loud – several times – to different people that…I want to be a “real” writer. And by “real”, I mean someone who spends time during the day (or night) to write something, anything with purpose, and then sends it out into the world in hopes that at least one other person (who isn’t their mom or other family member) finds their writing worthy. And by “worthy”, I mean, that after reading it, the other person can say, “I’m glad I spent the time to read that”.

Hopefully, that’s what you, my dear readers, say to yourselves after reading my posts. Am I right? Can I get a “like” in here?!

Since making this admission, I’ve joined a writing group at my local library. I met with this lovely group of writers tonight and was blown away at the amount of knowledge and insightful critique imparted. While I throughly enjoy the connections I’ve made on the blogosphere, meeting other writers in real life is a necessary experience for me. It’s just like needing to meet other mother runners in real life to run or needing to drink coffee around 2 PM or always needing to get fries with that.

Thirdly, I finished typing up a “back to work” resume. It seems that being a mother runner writer is not really making the big bucks (note to self, if you’re thinking about that career choice). So, I’m in the market to do something where my interpersonal and creative skills, coupled with my expensive…I mean, intensive schooling, can make a difference in some type of (paying) organization. This is definitely one piece of writing that I hope someone will find worthy enough.

Lastly, I’d like to brag about my awesome family who has supported me and continue to support me through this chapter in my life. I realized after I wrote this last post, that I really would not have been able to get those things done without my husband watching the kids while I ran or my mom (who was visiting) helping to clean up after the kids or even my kids who have started to consistently bring out their dishes (it only took all summer to get into that habit!). I am surrounded by some super wonderful, loving people and I just want all of you to know that!

Well, that’s it. I’m turning off the spotlight and putting away my jazz hands…at least, for now.

Taking advantage of Newton’s 1st Law

If you need a physics refresher, go here.

I’m on a roll this week…

I wrote three posts this weekend (two in one day – this one is my fourth!) and am working on one more post for this week. I’ve also crossed of half my weekly to do list AND my kitchen island has remained clutter free since Tuesday (that is a significant feat!). I’ve also started going through my kids’ clothes to sell at the Just Between Friends Consignment Event next month.

I’m pretty sure this spate of energy and motivation came from my sola 5 mile run this past weekend. There were several excuses that I could have used to not do this planned run:

-it was supposed to thunderstorm that morning

-my group run got cancelled because of this

-I overslept my planned start time by two hours

-by the time I got out, the humidity was so high because the storm hadn’t come yet, that I looked like it had rained on me (and only me) after a mile of running.

And yes, I am calling them by their rightful name, EXCUSES, and not reasons, because those items (individually or together) should not have been a factor in my decision to run or not.

Even though I did less mileage than I had originally planned, just the fact that I got out there was enough to make me realize a few things:

1. Even if I don’t really wanting to do something, if I have to do it, I should still do it (or at least make a good attempt to do it).

2. Even if I have excuses for not doing something, if I have to do it, I should still do it.

3. I need to stop thinking about the action/activity and just get it done.

4. The sense of accomplishment and bad-assery that comes after doing 1 and 2 (above) is immense and continues for numerous days after the deed is done.

I’m calling those Irma’s Laws for Getting Shit Done.

Now, I know, that what I’ve just written above is nothing new. I’m sure you type A personalities are thinking, “I’ve known that since I was 5!” Well, if you know me IRL, you know that I am not so much a type A or even a type B. If there was a type L (for people who want to get things done with the least amount of effort – you know, leisurely type people, not lazy!) or a type P (for people who procrastinate then run around crazy trying to do things last minute and still manage to pull it off even if it’s not their best work at least it’s done), that would probably be more like me.

I joke with my kids that I’m not a “Tiger Mom”; I’m more like a “Panda Mom” (FYI – I just googled that phase, totally thinking I was making it up but I didn’t! Panda moms are real!!) I am pretty relaxed about most things which works for me as a parent and partner (even as a therapist), but maybe not so much as a runner or a writer.

So, I’m going to keep rolling with this bit of insight and see how long it will last. I’ve discovered I love making little boxes next to my to do items and checking them off. Whether I love having a little more structure and discipline in my life is still up in the air….

Shhh, be vewy, vewy quiet…

…I’m hunting wabbits!! (If you don’t know where this is from – you’re still a baby in my book; if this brings back memories – get your dose of nostalgia here!)

Don’t worry! No rabbits were hurt in the writing of this post! But let me tell you about this fun run I did a few weekends ago and you’ll see the connection.

I went for a run with three fabulous mother runners, Cara, Emily and Olivia, from my MRTT group. They are faster runners than me and had to do more miles than I did on this group run.

We were on an out and back trail so the plan was that I would turn back at my half way point and they would turn back with me, then go back out again to finish their miles. (BTW, I LOVE this about my RBs at MRTT, they really try to not let members run alone. We’re all in it together – start to finish!)

So, I’m about to turn around at the halfway point of my run, when I had this idea. Maybe it was from reading about Harrier runs or maybe it was my way of making up for holding them back with my slow, interval running. I had never suggested this before but the ladies I was with seemed like a fun bunch who were willing to take the challenge.

My idea: they continue their run (it was about an additional half mile before they needed to turn around to get their miles). Then, they could catch up with me on their way back (they were faster and I was doing run/walk intervals) and we would continue the rest of the run together.

Now, these ladies are faster than me by a good 3-4 minutes – which doesn’t sound like a lot but every runner knows that each second multiplied over a run is a lot of time. I figured I had about a 9-10 minute head start on them. At this point, my competitive self appeared and decided that my secret goal was to try to beat them back to the start before they could catch up to me (insert diabolical laugh here). So as long as I kept my pace, I figured, I had a chance. Did I mention that running math was not my strong suite?

Anyways…I’m chugging along, enjoying the scenery and trying my best not to devolve into just walking (which is my tendency when I run sola). I’m checking over my shoulder every now and then and see no sign of these lovely ladies. Now, I have to admit, I’m feeling pretty proud of myself, thinking, “Ha! Intervals do make for a faster run (at least for me). I am pretty awesome for keeping ahead of these mother runners who I know can run faster than I can without breaking a sweat!” I mentally pat myself on the back and promise myself a mocha latte for the ride home.

I’m a little over a mile from the start and had just passed a male walker. I think to myself, “Gosh, I still don’t see them – I might actually really beat them to the start! I can probably walk and still beat them.” I mentally give myself a high five and include whipped cream to that reward latte.

So now, I’m just walking and looking over my shoulder (lone male walkers/runners keep me on high alert). I go around a bend and after a bit, look behind and lo and behold…I see these awesome women totally catching up to me! Ack!!!! Panic!! I start to run like they are chasing me because clearly they are!! Be vewy, vewy quiet…but I can’t, because my breathing is like a 1-900 Operator (do you young’uns even know what that is?). And of course, I still have to take walk breaks every now and then (because my heart is going to explode). When I do, I look over my shoulder and see them getting closer.

At this point, I’m in full blown “OMG! They’re going to catch me” mode because my competitive self has come out and is screaming, “Go! Go! Go! Don’t let them win!!” I’m about fifty yards from the start and I am totally sprinting like those people on the shirt with the dinosaur chasing them because these mother runners are totally on my tail.

I see the finish line about 20 or so feet ahead! I think, “I can make it! Run Irma Run!!!” Then WHOOSH!! Cara totally smokes me and breezes by to the finish line!!

OMG!! These mother runners are TOTALLY DA BOMB!! Emily and Olivia were only seconds behind. Even my competitive self had to give these ladies props and sweaty high-fives. After getting some water and chatting, these freaking awesome mother runners turned around and finished the rest of their miles. That’s right – they totally did what amounted to a speed workout for about 3 miles then went on to finish up the rest of their 8 mile run. Drop mike.

THIS is what mother runners are made of…

So proud to have run with these kick-ass mother runners! Thank you for indulging my crazy idea and for one heck of a workout!! We’re calling this the “Elmer Fudd Run Challenge”!

That’s all folks!!

(Seriously, if you didn’t get that last line, how old are you?? I can probably be your mother…)

Gestures

I’ve been thinking about this prompt all week and it finally came together today! Thank you again to Patrick for his Pic and a Word Challenge #48.

Jaw set

Brows coming together

Looking straight ahead while around her

Kids are squirming, tearing, jeering

She rubs her forehead, right above her nose and closes her eyes

The gesture of acceptance

Out numbered defeat

Head tilted to the side

Eyes squinted

Staring into a face that doesn’t believe in her worth, her rights, her existence

She crosses her arms, juts her hip and taps her foot

The gesture of defiance

Disbelief that in this day and age

Mouth agape

Neck outstretched

Listening to advice and false promises yelled by witnesses to her body’s treachery

She swings her arms and shuffles forward

The gesture of persistence

Knowing pain is temporary

Afterwards, she sits still

Listening to the quiet sounds

Of trees swaying and not breaking

Her breathing deepens

Her arms raise to the sky

The gesture of triumph

Self determined

©️iido 2018