Thursday, April 30, 2015

Trip of a Lifetime Part One: Running with an Olympic Gold Medalist in Ethiopia!

I have waited a long time to tell this story. Ten long years to be precise. Ten years ago I didn't know much about blogging and certainly didn't think I'd become a blogger!
Where do I begin?

Ten years ago, life was very different for me. Jerold and I were enjoying married life - working a lot, having a lot of fun together and traveling. It would be a little more than two years before we would have our first child. We were truly footloose and fancy free!

I was running a lot. A lot. I had run four marathons in the last couple of years and the summer of 2004 I was hard at work and focused on training for the Chicago Marathon, which would be my fifth marathon. I was determined to accomplish two goals in Chicago - run a 3:15 marathon and qualify for Boston.
The BQ I felt was there unless something went extremely wrong. It was the 3:15 that I was hungry for. I felt like I had worked really hard - speed work, long runs, tempo, hills, weight training, nutrition, etc.
I didn't have anyone coaching me, but I was following a solid training plan and I was a hard worker.

The Chicago race was the second weekend in October and I was almost at the taper phase after a successful training cycle. No injuries (!) and I felt really great.

One sunny September afternoon the phone rang and I wasn't able to answer it before it went to voice mail. Jerold checked the messages later and told me there was some message about winning a contest. I didn't think much about it beyond it probably being a sales call.

Later that evening I listened to the voice mail and my heart skipped several beats. Oh. My. GOSH!!! I had signed up for a contest months ago through Runner's World. The Grand prize was a trip to Ethiopia, sponsored by Runner's World and the Teffco Company. (more about the Teffco Company soon. I have a lot to share about them!) The trip would be eight days in Ethiopia to run with the Gold Medalist in the marathon from the Sydney Olympics!! I read about it through Runner's World's website and immediately signed up. I had to write a short essay about my running and include all of my information. I had completely forgotten about it and suddenly it was staring me in the face. I WON. I WON!! I was going to Ethiopia!!!

I called the number that the representative left on my voice mail and from that moment on my dream became real. I was indeed the winner. Over the next few weeks, we started planning for our trip of a lifetime. They decided to have Jerold and I leave right after Christmas in a couple of months. Would that work for our schedules? Are you kidding me? It was perfect. The Chicago Marathon was in October. By December I would be starting my training for Boston and this would be the perfect way to begin.

Meanwhile, I had a race to get ready for. I finished my last long run and started a slow taper.
Soon the time flew by and we were on a flight to Chicago. I LOVED that marathon. I would do it again in a heartbeat. The crowds are incredible, the city is dynamic and the course is awesome. AND I had so many friends and family travel to Chicago to cheer me on. Including my girlfriend Julie, who hopped on a flight and came to support me for the weekend (how cool is that?!). She and Jerold met me at a bunch of different mile points and were cheering loudly for me. We even had friends, that lived right in Lincoln Park, let us stay in their home while they were on a trip to Brazil (thanks Ash and Brian!) - it was a perfect weekend.
My Dad drove out from Ohio, another girlfriend from college came who was living outside of the city, a dear high school girlfriend of mine was there as well as a friend I lived with after college. It was quite a party!

I went on to PR in 3:23, which I was slightly disappointed with at the end. I wanted that 3:15, but I just couldn't keep it together during the last four miles. I could feel Jerold's tears as much as my own, (he ran the last bit of the race with me - I could feel him silently cheering me on.) as he had put so much of his time into my training. 22 mile long runs in the Santa Monica mountains, while he was on his bike loaded with fuel and definitely a perfect sherpa husband. I wanted the time for him as much as myself. But alas, there is never an absolutely perfect marathon and I came to peace with the fact that there would be many more marathons and many more attempts to capture my goal and then run even faster than that.
Besides, were were going to Africa!! Neither one of us had ever been and we were so happy to be able to experience it together.

Plane tickets, hotel and a full itinerary were sent to our home. We both went to our physicians and had full check ups and necessary shots for travel to Africa.
Christmas came and went and suddenly we were getting ready to board the plane for our 23 hour journey to a land unknown. A land we knew consistently produced some of the greatest marathon runners in the world. What was their secret? How did they train? What were they like?
We would soon find out...

We made it to the Hilton in Addis Ababa. After 23 hours of traveling, I was so happy to arrive!

They put us a nice room and everyone in the hotel was lovely. Here is a view from our room at the Hilton...

We had our camera and video camera and were ready to explore. We made it to Ethiopia!!

First up was a meet and greet with our hosts for the week - the coach of the Ethiopian National Running Team (on the right) and his assistant. They were so awesome, and really showed us Ethiopia from an insider's perspective. We loved hanging out with them for the week.

After our meeting, they took us to meet the person I had been waiting to meet for months - Gezahegne Abera! Gezahegne was the winner of the gold medal in the marathon at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Months before that amazing accomplishment, he came in second place in the Boston Marathon. Gezahegne also WON the London Marathon in 2003,  along with Paula Radcliffe (that was the year Paula broke the world record in 2:15:25 that still remains today!!).

You can read more about his awesome running career HERE!

Later that day, I got to meet Gezahegne!

Gezahegne was such a wonderful guy. So kind and gracious - you could tell how proud he was of his country and of his running. I was so excited!!! I am such a runner geek, but I don't care - this is awesome!!!

I also got to meet Gezahegne's wife, also an incredible runner! Elfenesh Alemu has quite a list of running accomplishments herself: 6th place in the marathon at the Sydney Olympics, 4th place in the marathon at the Athens Olympics (that would be right after bronze medalist Deena Kastor!).
Elfenesh was also runner up at the Boston Marathon in 2004 and 2005. Which means 3 months after we met her, she went off and placed 2nd at Boston - unbelievable! You can read more about Elfenesh's career HERE!

For our first real day in Addis, the coach wanted to show Jerold and I where Gezahegne and Elfenesh did a lot of their training with other teammates from the Ethiopian National Team. Off we went on yet another adventure!

These are pictures of Ethiopians going about their day outside of the city. Very rural landscape and we saw poverty that was jaw dropping, but real. Despite that, the Ethiopians are proud people who love their beautiful country...

Finally we arrived at the training place. High Altitude (7,546 feet) and hard packed, easy on the legs terrain makes for a place where Olympic Champions train...

Everywhere you look through the trees you'll see runners quickly bounding by... Blink and you'll miss them!

Coach told me that I could stretch and jog a little, but he wanted me to take it easy on this first day. He did not want me getting sick from the high altitude!

Gezahegne took me through his entire warm up routine, which takes him about 15-20 minutes.
I learned the value of a great warm up routine!

Gezahegne loved talking about the land and the country. Here he is showing Jerold a native plant...

And Jerold and I were in awe watching the team practice...

Then some adorable children came up to me and were very interested in the Americans!

They were their with their Mother who was tending to a group of donkeys...

I loved hanging out with the coaches and just soaking up the whole running culture...

Meanwhile Gezahegne finished his training run and I was excited to go on a real run with him tomorrow!!

Soon it was time to head back to the hotel! On the way back, I got more glimpses of the Ethiopian landscape and culture...

This concludes Part One of my incredible Ethiopian running adventure. There is so, so much left to the story that I'll have to break it up into parts! I can't wait to share more with you next week!!

Before I end, I have to share this picture with a running legend that we got to meet and hang out with during our trip. It wasn't even planned - it just happened and it was SO COOL!!

Yep, it's Haile Gebrselassie! Haile broke the world record in the marathon at the Berlin Marathon in 2008 (at age 35!) in a time of 2:03:59. The record stood for three years.
Haile also has two Olympic Gold Medals in the 10,000 meters and has won the Berlin Marathon four consecutive times!! This is just the tip of iceberg of his illustrious career. You can read more HERE!!

Also, Running Times did an article on the trip. You can read the entire article below!!

I hope you'll follow along as I continue this journey next week! 

Have a wonderful weekend!!!

Have you ever been to Africa? Ethiopia?

Did you run while you were there?

Happiness Is Running Life!


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

5 Marathons I'd love to run

I love to run (shocker!).

I love to travel.

As I was sitting lying here tonight, pondering on the day and the week, I had many thoughts (one can have a lot to think about while lying around on a CPM machine for most of the day)...

There is SO MUCH going on in our world right now!  I won't rant, but I am praying for peace in our world. I also pray for love - I think so many problems would be solved before they started if we had more love in our hearts. Love for people we don't know. I believe that love has the power to steer away a lot of the violence in our world. 

As I was staring out of my window today, I started daydreaming about beautiful places I'd love to visit and then that led me to thinking of exotic marathons I'd love to run. 

I've talked about marathons and travel before - if you missed it, you can check it out HERE and HERE! This time I am naming 5 Marathons I'd love to run.

Here we go!

Great Wall China

5,164 steps in May where the average temp is 86 degrees... But still, it's The Great Wall of China and I'd love to experience this adventure someday.

According to Runner's World, it is hailed as the fastest marathon in the UK! I have always wanted to go to Scotland and this would be a perfect way to run the marathon and then stay for a while for a nice holiday!

3. Ayer's Rock Marathon

Ayer's Rock

Who wouldn't want to run a race in the Australian Outback? Sign me up!

Berlin marathan

I am going here with the intention of getting a big PR! 

Big Sur California

Stunning views and not too far from home...I have wanted to run this race for a long time. Not sure if I could do the Boston-Big Sur challenge though! I need more recovery time! :)

I'd love to know your thoughts!

Do you have any special marathons you'd like to run?

Would you run Big Sur? How about the Boston-Big Sur Challenge?

Happiness Is Running Life!


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

PT and some poetry

I started Physical Therapy today and I was really happy about that!
Forward progress and I feel like I am moving my body again which feels really good.

First my therapist took off the brace and examined my knee. He also felt for where the soreness was and I was happy to tell him when it was painful...

Next he examined my knee for range of motion and showed me the exercises that he wants me doing on a daily basis...

I also need to ice the knee 4-5 times a day (10-15 min) in addition to using the CPM machine at home. I definitely won't be bored :)

So, April is almost over and it's National Poetry Month! I found some interesting poems about running that I thought you would enjoy reading... 

Running - Poem by Raymond A. Foss

She was running this morning
early Sunday morning
while we drove by on the way to church
black top, black shorts,
once white running shoes
toned features,
purposeful face,
black bands on her biceps
hair bouncing in the breeze
It seemed she was arguing
with herself, the way her head
jerked from side to side,
her face grimaced
with the footfalls down the hill,
off the bridge, like she was debating
and losing the point
propelled on, downward
by gravity, by the flow of the sidewalk,
as she was running this morning
Whatever joy led her to the work,
catching the beauty of the morning,
freedom from other cares,
they were lost, in the puffing,
the contorting, the hurtling
down the hill by the river
Running was the only thing,
the only thing left. 

Running The Race - Poem by Cynthia BuhainBaello

Living life is like running a race
You have to go on and live each day
With courage and hope no matter what you face
Whatever the seasons that may come your way.

Life is a marathon as you keep on running
Each step is a choice and a gamble
The future is uncertain yet you keep going
The risks are many and sometimes you stumble.

But with family and friends by your side
You find strength to do it and go on
Running the race with God as your Guide
You find the finish line is there and you have won!

The Song Of The Ungirt Runners - Poem by Charles 

Hamilton Sorley

We swing ungirded hips,
And lightened are our eyes,
The rain is on our lips,
We do not run for prize.
We know not whom we trust
Nor whitherward we fare,
But we run because we must
Through the great wide air.

The waters of the seas
Are troubled as by storm.
The tempest strips the trees
And does not leave them warm.
Does the tearing tempest pause?
Do the tree-tops ask it why?
So we run without a cause
'Neath the big bare sky.

The rain is on our lips,
We do not run for prize.
But the storm the water whips
And the wave howls to the skies.
The winds arise and strike it
And scatter it like sand,
And we run because we like it
Through the broad bright land. 

National Poem in Your Pocket Day is Thursday April 30th. The idea is 

you choose a poem, write it down and carry it in your pocket. Anytime during 

that day you can pull out your poem and share it with your family and friends!

How wonderful is that?

Do you have a favorite poet? Who is it?

There are so many poets that I love, but I'll say Emily Dickinson and 

Walt Whitman.

If you could read a poem to anyone, who would it be?

I would read one to my kiddos - they would love it!

Happiness Is Running Life!



Monday, April 27, 2015

Weekend Happenings + my life right now

Well, hello there! We haven't talked all weekend! Let's get caught up, shall we?

Wow, the life of a (majorly) injured runner is so interesting - crazy, sometimes frustrating, tough, a juggling act X 10, etc.

It's been 11 days since the knee surgery and it has turned our lives upside down. I am unable to drive at all at least until the first week of June! That alone is nutty when you are a Mom with three kids to drive around. 

I can't cook, because of the crutches and it is super important that I don't put any pressure on my right leg. Just little things like being able to carry a glass of water. Try doing that while on crutches...

Plus, I have to be on the Continuous Passive Motion Machine for a total of 8 hours a day and I have to be lying down. That is pretty challenging with the kiddos, changing diapers, naptime, snack schedules and the list goes on and on...
It looks like I am chilling out in the below picture, but I have to increase the range of motion on the machine 5-10 degrees a day. For example I started at 50 degrees and now I am at 95 degrees. I can hear my knee groaning in protest, but it is important not to develop scar tissue in my knee.

Jerold is taking a huge load of the responsibilities and he fully realizes the crazy job of a stay at home Mom of three kids! :)  My Mom has been amazing helping with SBG - taking her to the park and playing with her. She comes over to help with the kiddos whenever she can.
I found out today that my Dad is coming from Ohio to help us out!! I am so, so excited to see him and we could greatly use his help as well. Also, I was so sad that I wouldn't be able to fly out to see him for his big 70th birthday in May - well, it turns out he'll be HERE during that time!! Big party planning is underway and I love birthdays...
I am so grateful for my family - they really know how much running means to me and I feel their love and support during every step of this journey.

Salads for lunch on a daily basis are my thing these days...

Thursday marked one week since surgery and off I went to the post op appointment.
I was able to ditch the compression socks and the stitches were taken out...

Okay, so I wasn't able to shower for an ENTIRE WEEK after the surgery. Ummm... okay.
But doc said absolutely zero showering and that wash ups would have to do for a week.
Wow. So, I did what I could and washed my hair, scrubbed the essentials and just tossed thoughts of how great a hot shower would feel out the window!
I was estatic, elated, overjoyed to get the okay to shower after the stitches were take out and the slim bandage was put on to cover the wounds...

While I was there, I also had to get another x-ray to check my bones and make sure all was well.
As you can see, there was nothing remotely cute about this shot. I had rolled out of bed, threw on my hat and whatever clothes popped up first in my drawer and here we go...

My instructions were to start PT this week (I go tomorrow!) and continue with the 8 hours a day (can be broken up how I would like - usually 2 hour increments) on the motion machine. Doc also told me zero driving for the entire 6 weeks, keep the brace and the crutches and...have fun!
And I know this is just a super perma grin, but I was soooo happy to go home and take a shower :)

And it just keeps getting better because when we arrived back home, there was a big package waiting for me with the LOBSTER SHOES!!! The Brooks Launch 2 Limited Edition Stinkin awesome, super cool lobster running shoes!!! Yay!! Plus it came with the fun lobster bag to put them in (no, I hadn't showered at this point - I was too excited)!!

I am so psyched about my growing collection of running shoes that are just SCREAMING to be taken for a run. "HEY NAT: COME TAKE US FOR A RUN!!" Patience my friends - I will take you out soon. :)

On Saturday while SBG took a nap and I was (guess?!) on the machine Jerold took Josh and Meg to the grand opening of a bike store here in town. They got a chance to sit in a bike called the ELF, which is a really fun electric assisted covered bike complete with a trunk! They had a blast...

Saturday night (well, actually Sunday morning) I just couldn't help myself and had to tune in to watch the London Marathon! I was so excited to see Paula Radcliffe run her final marathon. I mean, what an inspiration! I also wanted to see if I could spot my friend Tina, who was also running (congrats on an awesome race friend!!). I enjoyed it so much and fell asleep during some of the coverage.
Here is the interview that Paula gave to the BBC right after she finished. Doesn't she seem like the most lovely person?!

And on Sunday I left the house! Yep, I really did! I showered and put on a dress (gasp!) and LEFT THE HOUSE. With my crutches and full leg knee brace of course :)
A friend of mine invited me to go to see Earth, Wind and Fire in concert and meet the band backstage after the show. Yes, please!
I was feeling bummed this weekend, because I was totally missing my annual Girl's Weekend trip with my college girlfriends. I look forward to this trip ALL YEAR, but doc told me I would have to miss it this year. I knew that already, as we were going to be in Santa Barbara, walking and being super active. It would have been too much for me to do all of that. But, this concert -  I felt like I could handle. 
My friend drove us there, let me out at the front door and I hobbled my way to our seats, where I was able to sit in a wheel chair and stretch out my leg - perfect! 
Really fun!!

And we were able to meet the band back stage, which was really cool! They are the most down to earth, nicest guys ever. Loved meeting legendary bass player and original band member Verdine White...

And at the end of the night, I realized there was no way I could get up the stairs to go home, so the awesome trumpet player, Bobby Burns (Who was a 50 mile a week runner and now loves Crossfit - we had so much fun talking about running!) offered to carry me - thanks so much!! I really appreciated it! :)

So jazzed to meet Philip Bailey - original band member and lead singer. His voice... WOW! The high notes that he reaches is incredible!

And by then it was almost 10 PM and I was beat! No super late night for me and I fell asleep on the way home! :)

Earth, Wind and Fire is going on tour with the band Chicago this summer and I am a huge Chicago fan as well so we'll see - may have to add that concert to my summer schedule! :)

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!!

Who raced this weekend? How did you feel about your race?

Who ran long? How many miles did you run?

Did anyone watch the London Marathon?!!

Happiness Is Running Life!