Monday, January 19, 2015

Remembering

Five years ago this was the week that changed my life. I put Domani to sleep last night and talked with him about that MLK Day 5 years ago when his dad and I found out he was on the way. I told him how nine months after that he was born and how incredibly happy I am to have him in my life. Without prompting, we both looked up towards the picture that hangs framed above his bed.


He told me that he loves it because it's beautiful. I told him I love it because it has all three of us in it - me, his daddy, and him - to which he responded, "that is why I think it's beautiful". 

Some day I will tell him the story of the rest of the week. About how two days later I got an unbelievable call from Joe that he was in the emergency room and and how two days after that we listened in a fog to news about his stage 4 cancer. This week in January will never quite be the same for me. I will always remember.

I realized last night though as I was reading through Anne Lamott's newest book, Small Victories, that this remembering is a helpful thing for my spirit. Not only does it help me keep close those parts of Joe which I know are important to carry with me, but it is helpful for my well being to remember the ways that I have been brought through difficult circumstances.

In her book, Lamott talks about the death of her best friend Pammy (also to cancer). The following passages struck me because they are so close to my own experience:

"All those years I fell for the great palace lie that grief should be gotten over as quickly and as privately as possible. But what I've discovered since is that the lifelong fear of grief keeps us in a barren, isolated place and that only grieving can heal grief; the passage of time will lessen the acuteness but time alone, without the direct experience of grief will not heal it...I'm pretty sure that only by experiencing that ocean of sadness in a naked and immediate way do we come to be healed - which is to say, we come to experience life with a real sense of presence and spaciousness and peace."

"I felt very lonely. I thought maybe I wouldn't feel so bad if I didn't have such big pieces of Pammy still inside me, but then I thought, I want those pieces in me for the rest of my life, whatever it costs me."

I do want to remember. And to feel. It's how we truly live. 

My 34-year-old husband was diagnosed with cancer the same week we found out we were pregnant with our first child and WE GOT THROUGH THAT WEEK. Not only did we get through it, but we lived some fabulous moments together in the time that followed and today, 5 years later, I have an a amazing kid cuddling up with me on this MLK Day. An abundance of memories and an abundance of now.



Friday, January 2, 2015

Getting So Much Better All The Time

There is a moment that probably summarizes my year better than anything I could come up with here. It's the Beatles cover that The Afghan Whigs used to close out their song Lost In The Woods during this year's tour.


I still get chills when I listen to the end of the live version of this song. It's just 100% true about my place in this world right now. Even when I feel like things are spiraling out of control. Even when I feel alone. Even when I feel like life has dealt me the shittiest hand possible. I have to admit it's getting better. It's getting better all the time. And for me, Greg Dulli brings it home in a way that no one else could.

"I have to admit it's getting better. It's getting better all the time. I have to admit it's getting better. It's getting better all the time. I have to admit it's getting better. It's getting better all the time. I have to admit it's getting better. It's getting better since you've been mine. Getting so much better all the time." This ending comes into my brain during hard moments. It sits in my soul and lets hope find a path in through the darkest corners.

This year has been packed full. There have been beautiful mountain moments and dark valleys. There have been many days that have been over before I felt like they even began. Here are some glimpses into 2014 in a rough order of occurrence.

- At the beginning of the year, on a day when I was wading through a difficult heartbreak that was unknown to almost everyone, a friend shared a quote on my Facebook page that came at the perfect time: "It's not what's happening to you now or what has happened in your past that determines who you become. Rather, it's your decisions about what to focus on, what things mean to you, and what you're going to do about them that will determine your ultimate destiny." It was from Anthony Robbins and like many random interludes over the course of my year, it got me through.

- In February, we won an affiliation vote among the membership of Camden Council 10 and welcomed them as the newest members of CWA in New Jersey. This was a huge bright spot for me at work as it was a pleasure to work with the leadership of Council 10 and to welcome 1,500 union members in Camden County into CWA.

- A much needed trip to Miami with a good friend allowed us to escape the Northeast snow in early March. I once again ran the half marathon there and Domani and I took in a Mets Spring Training game.
Dinner in South Beach while everyone else was in snowy NJ
- There was the 40 bags in 40 days Lenten discipline which brought organization to my home and sanity to my soul. During Lent, I was able to "create space" both literally and figuratively.

- There were many priceless moments with Domani. One of my favorites was in his Sunday School class. He was asked by his teachers to name some things that are important to him for an art project. They pulled me aside afterwards and recounted to me in part, what he said: "my mommy and my daddy are important to me. My daddy died and he is in heaven, but he is important to me." The finished art project also included God, Buzz Lightyear, Superman, Toy Story, and his cousin Catherine.

- At the first regular season Mets game of the season, I happened to share the elevator to my seat with Mr. Met. It wasn't much of a season for my Mets, but for that first game of the season...Day made.

- In April, I made my first trip of the year to Chicago, this time for the Labor Notes Conference. It was a great chance to spend time with old and new friends, brainstorm strategies, and get in a run in one of my favorite places - the trail along Lake Michigan. Oh, and of course a selfie at The Bean with my friend, Julia!

- This year, the Afghan Whigs came out with a new album and it was fabulous. I listened to it the first time via livestream in my office in mid-March and by the time the official release date rolled around on April 15th I already knew all of the songs. My copy arrived from Subpop a few days before the 15th and I was thrilled beyond belief. The only thing missing from the first official listening party was Joe. It still makes me a little crazy that every time I think I know which song would be his favorite, I change my mind, but I guess that just means our guys have put together another great album.

- This year we lost a heartbreaking union organizing campaign in Olean, NY where I had been working intensively with committee members for over a year. It still stings and I'm anxious for the time to be right for another effort there, but I carry with me plenty of inspiration from the workers on that campaign.
One committee member testified at a hearing during the day,
went home and made all of these cookies, and then dropped them
off to us before she went in for her shift the next morning so we
would have them during the final day of testimony. A-MAZING.

- The Afghan Whigs. Live.  For me, it started with a three show whirlwind in May and ended with 7 more shows throughout the fall. Brooklyn. Boston. Baltimore. Chicago. Orlando. Washington DC. Philly. NYC. Back to Brooklyn. Salt Lake City. Not only did I get to see plenty of my friends from "The Congregation", but I also got to see shows with my cousin Alyssa, Joe's cousin Tony, and my sister Naomi. In Baltimore, Malinda, Sheila, Melissa, and I took in the show from the front row of the tiny Ottobar and were treated to an encore of Bulletproof/Summer's Kiss/Faded. The NYC date featured Charles Bradley as the opener. The second Brooklyn date included Usher as a surprise guest, Greg Dulli singing Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic in the crowd, and a bonus encore. It was an amazing year of music and fun with friends.
The Afghan Whigs with special guest Usher at MHOW in Brooklyn
- In early June, I accompanied a bank worker to Brazil as part of a campaign I am working on. This was my second trip to Brazil and it was an incredibly memorable and productive trip. We were able to make lots of important connections and share stories about what was going on among workers in the U.S. in their attempts to organize and improve conditions.  While I was there I was even able to meet up with a fellow Afghan Whigs fan who I had only known through Facebook before. I'm so thankful for the hospitality shown to us in our travels and for the opportunity to do work that includes global solidarity.

- This year there were also four wonderful weeks of World Cup soccer games. Domani and I had fun cheering for USA and Brazil and watching as many games as we could. Domani perfected his "I Believe" chant and enjoyed munching on goodies whenever we went out to watch a game. He always impressed anyone around us with his attention to the game and cheering.
Cheering for Brazil with Domani
- While there were plenty of tough things about work this year, I was able to help on an organizing campaign with an amazing group of 60 workers from Planned Parenthood in upstate New York who fought hard to win their Union with CWA. They worked with us all summer and on September 25th won union representation in an overwhelming vote.

- Over the summer, I became an aunt again. My sister and her husband had their second girl on the 4th of July, beautiful little Courtney. There was something amazing about seeing my son get to hold her and the huge smile that came across his face every time he did. Priceless.

- On August 9, I finally defeated my nemesis - the 5k - and achieved a new PR after trying for almost a year. In August in Asbury Park, I beat my previous time by 8 seconds, running a 23:21. One month later I beat that time by running a 22:25 at the Pier House 5k in Long Branch and by the time I braved the snow to run the annual Turkey Trot in Princeton I had it down to 22:11. Perhaps in 2015, I can break into the land of 21 minutes.
5k in Long Branch on Labor Day - 22:25
- There was a truly special vacation in Sandbridge, Virginia with my family. We watched the sunrise, went out to eat together, biked around the Island, played in the ocean and built sand castles, took some gorgeous family photos, played some games, and just enjoyed each other's company for a week. I also got in some great training runs and some much needed reflection time at night overlooking the ocean.
One of my dad's sunrise photos from vacation.
With my sister Naomi before our family photo shoot

- A Greg Dulli quote at just the right moment in September served as a reminder of all that is actually important. "I want to enjoy my life, enjoy my friends, enjoy my experience, because the inevitable waits for us all. And you can either sit around in fear waiting for it, or you can take it on with all you got." With that, I realized that I had been spending my year taking it on and, even more importantly, that I didn't want to let up.

- RIOT FEST! It was just what I needed when I needed it. A September weekend in Chicago with great friends and kick ass music. I found inspiration, release, and more fun than I thought possible. 
From one of 3 runs along Lake Michigan
- Sometimes there are days like April 17th, October 7th, and December 4th which for no predictable reason are the worst days imaginable. On those days I am thankful for the ability to run, the magic of random shuffle on my playlist, and people who jump in however they are needed, perhaps by posting things on my FB timeline like "There is not enough holy water to cleanse this cursed, satan spawn Tuesday. Only wine can cleanse this beast." Some days these are the only things that get me through.

- I dreamed big this year, making two separate attempts to qualify for the Boston Marathon. This meant two intense training cycles and plenty of races to test out my progress along the way. I spent more of my year in training than not. On my first try, the New Jersey Marathon, I improved my time by 12 minutes and became a sub-4 marathoner (3:55:16).
My second attempt came after an aggressive training regimen which included 6 days a week of running and ended at the Philadelphia Marathon on November 23. I knocked another 22 minutes off my time and qualified for Boston with a 3:33:22. I still can hardly believe that is my marathon time and I start to tear up anytime I think about what I've done. There's no way to summarize the "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" feeling except to read the whole thing. It probably goes without saying that it was a high point of the year for me.

- Some of the most exciting work I've done this year has been alongside the organizers of NJ Communities United. I was reminded of just one piece of that work when this article came out right before Christmas looking back on "The Year in Activism" and highlighting an action put together by NJCU in Irvington, NJ. The action was a memorable one - with its homemade Wells Fargo stagecoach and the coming together of homeowners, bank workers, the labor movement, and community leaders - but indicative of the consistent, kick ass organizing work being done year round by the organizers and members of NJCU. 
Protest arts and crafts!
- Domani and I visited my sister Naomi for a week that included Halloween. Naomi and I got to catch an Afghan Whigs show in Salt Lake City and we were able to all do some trick or treating together, something that I don't think we have ever been able to do. Getting away to Idaho and getting to see my sister was a highlight of the year. We just don't get to spend enough time together and Domani loved being with her. 
Running in Idaho was wonderful - from 13.5 miles on Halloween

Halloween fun with Aunt Naomi, the gnome
- At the peak of my Philly marathon training I ran the Trenton Half Marathon as a final test of my progress and achieved a nearly 5-minute PR. With a 1:39:19,  I placed 3rd in my age group and 12th among all women. There was no feeling like crossing that finish line knowing I had run an amazing race AND was strong enough to keep going, with energy in the tank to push forward to Philly.
Running back into NJ, listening to Bruce
- This has been my first year as a member of the Raritan Valley Road Runners and I have enjoyed getting to know other runners through the club. One of the most fun runs I was able to make it out for was the 9:10:11am run on 12/13/14. A little nerdy? Yes. Any chance I was going to miss that one? No way. I plan on running even more with the team next year as I've registered with USATF and started signing up for some races to run for RVRR.

- In December, Joe's friend Sam sold his car which wouldn't normally be a thing of note except that it used to be Joe's and for that reason carried with it plenty of memories and emotion. Domani and I were able to take one last ride in the car before it was sold which was special and the story of the sale certainly left me thinking that there were some cosmic forces at play. The guy who bought it lives a block away from where Joe grew up.

- This marked my first Christmas tending to all the Christmas Eve and Christmas morning duties alone. It was just me and Domani in the house and all went just fine. It wasn't easy, but it was time for us to find our own Christmas rhythm and I think we have done that. I had a relaxing evening and we had a special morning together.
Christmas morning selfie
- I ended 2014 and ushered in 2015 by running a 5k with my friend Malinda in Philly. I was happy to spend the night with a fellow mother runner and to run with midnight fireworks going off all around us. It wasn't my best 5k (the two gin and tonics I had before the race *may* have had something to do with that!) but it was a lot of fun. I'm not particularly excited about 2015, but I do believe "it's getting better all the time" so there were smiles after the race and there is still a smile now.
Post-race Happy New Year selfie
I used to hear about new music from Joe. Anything new that I have started listening to since he died has come through suggestions of my fellow Afghan Whigs fans or has been an artist I have heard at a show. In December, Joe's friend Rita introduced me to Vintage Trouble and I haven't been able to stop listening to them. Their song "Not Alright By Me" grabbed me from the first time I heard it and has inspired me into this New Year.

At my lowest points in 2014, I have struggled with wanting to just check out from feeling and being and doing life in all its difficulty. I've wanted to just skate by. The part that grips me most in this song as I move into 2015 is that which reminds me to keep feeling:

"Pull on the rope that lifts the sun back to the sky
Hold a hand. Cry on a shoulder.
Listen in the wind and open up your eyes.
And feel again.
Feel again."

So beautiful. So necessary. Let it be.



NOT ALRIGHT BY ME
copyright © 2010 Vintage Trouble Music

Something hit me deep
On my sunset walk through the streets
I could see and hear
But I couldn’t feel or breathe
From tuning out this static world
I’ve lost the sense of peace
And that’s not alright by me
The LA Times and Channel 5
And New York Magazine
They stain my soul
And I know you know what I mean
They tear apart the hopeful heart
Til it doesn’t bleed or dream
And that’s not alright by me
Pull on the rope that lifts the sun back to the sky
Hold a hand. Cry on a shoulder.
Listen in the wind and open up your eyes.
And feel again.
Feel again.
Where the roads cross
And time stands still
I’m frozen in my tracks
Against my will
The streetlight is dimming
And it won’t shine again until
I say “It’s not alright by me”
Not alright by me
Not alright by me
Not alright by me
Not alright by me

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Take That Year End Montage And...

I admit it. I've been bitchy about that stupid Facebook "look at your year" photo montage that keeps coming up in my feed. Mostly it's because the default tagline is "It's been a great year! Thanks for being part of it."

The first time I saw it posted my thought process went something like this..no, it hasn't been a great f*#@ing year. In fact, it's been a pretty shitty year and 2014 can go die in a hole. Bring on 2015. No stupid FB video montage for me. Boycott. Boycott. Boycott.

Oh, I watched many of the ones my friends posted. I even smiled a couple of times. But there was no way I was going to even look at the dumb auto-generated crap it had waiting for me. Bound to be a montage of misery. A smorgasbord of sadness. A patchwork of pity. A...you get it.

Bit by bit over the past week though my attitude softened. After lamenting with a friend last Friday night about how ready we were to kick 2014 to the curb, I started to realize there were at least a few good things about this past year. I did see The Afghan Whigs 10 times and take some fun vacations with my little guy. It was an incredible year for me with my running. I've enjoyed some great times with my family.

Over lunch with co-workers Monday afternoon I started to parse it out a bit and realized that apart from the unpredictable roller coaster that was my love life and the constant disappointment of having fighting against unbridled corporate power in my job description, life wasn't so bad this year. And, even those parts had some notable highlights. 

It's so easy when you are at a low point to forget about the great things.

Tonight as I got ready for bed, Facebook went into full aggressive mode and posted my year end montage without me even having to click to see it (only I can see it of course!) It was just too tempting. I prepared myself for the worst and started to flip through "my year". 

It was so fabulous that I had tears in the corner of my eyes when I was done. And I was a little angry (because, you know, I was OBVIOUSLY manipulated by Facebook).

There was a beautiful Easter sunrise with my son. There was my amazing work trip to Brazil. There were many Mets games. And even some they won. There were fun nights out and early morning training runs. There was a new niece born on the 4th of July. There were so many races and the thrill of personal bests. There was a family vacation at the beach and a "mommy" weekend in Chicago. There was Halloween in Idaho with Naomi. There was the most amazing half marathon in Trenton. There was a BQ.

And it was all a part of the 2014 that this time last week I was so ready to send off to die in a hole. Maybe I'll just hang on to this year until Wednesday night. We can start new on Thursday - as planned.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Hard Truth. Some Days I Just Don't Want to Do This Anymore

I just don't want to do this anymore. Any of it. 

The constant exhaustion. The loneliness. The single working mom dance. The flood of decisions that death still demands. The home repairs and car repairs that wait for my attention. The bills that have to be paid. The dating rejection. The 4 year old temper tantrums. The Christmas planning. The day that ends before I even noticed it began. The emptiness. The tears.

I didn't sign up for this. I signed up for the photos I see on Facebook of the families in front of Christmas trees. For the life partner who knows what I'm going to say before I even say it. For someone to help me shop and wrap and celebrate with my son...with OUR son.

I didn't sign up for cancer and I'm fucking pissed. It's been three years since Joe died and for the last two weeks it feels like everything has been triggering about what Domani and I are missing. The benefits notice I got from HR that still had me marked as "married" with the "event" date being the day Joe died. The constant stream of birth and pregnancy announcements accompanied by an unexpected return to the spot where Joe and I went for prenatal classes. The Thanksgiving photo of Joe's siblings and his Dad and the emptiness that filled me as I watched it being taken.

Everything about this feels unfair and some days I just don't want to do any of it anymore. 

Some days I think that someone else could do it better - this single mom organizing for justice thing. 

Some days I think that someone else could do it better - this maintaining a household thing.

Some days I think that someone else could do it better - this raising OUR son thing.

Some days I hit rock bottom and cry a lot. Some days I even throw things or find something to punch. 

Today, I did all of those things and still didn't know how I would dig out.

And then OUR son grabbed a wrapping paper tube and put it in the pocket of his sweatpants like it was a light saber. He told me he was ready to fight the bad guys.

Ready to fight the bad guys. Love this guy.

If he can be ready to fight, then I can find the courage too.

Some days I think that God has this little guy in my life to remind me to keep pushing on.

Newsflash... I wasn't magically better after the wrapping paper tube as light saber incident, but it gave me the courage to share what I needed to with a friend who called when he said he would.

Some days that's all we need to make it through to the morning sun.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

I'm Shipping Up to Boston!!

It was so funny to me how the day before the Philly Marathon while I was searching for the exact words to capture how I felt I scrolled through my Instagram account and there it was in a photo from Dolvett of Biggest Loser fame. But funnier still when I was looking for a way to put into words everything I was feeling yesterday on Thanksgiving and wouldn't you know it, there it was once again in Dolvett's Instagram account.

A photo posted by Dolvett Quince (@dolvett) on

Each of those four things speak into my life in a special way this week, but especially the dreams that have turned into reality. How could I not be thankful in the wake of such a big week and with so many wonderful people surrounding me. And so, even though this week brings powerfully strong and sometimes sad memories of Joe, it is also full now of my grateful heart and the story of how I achieved my goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

It was around 3am the "night" before the Philadelphia Marathon when I awoke from the incredibly vivid dream that I missed running a Boston qualifying time by 16 seconds. Sleep immediately went from difficult to impossible. Thankfully, I had followed the racer's rule of getting more than enough sleep "the night before the night before a big race" so only getting a couple of hours leading in to the big one was not going to interfere with the task at hand.

By the time I crossed the finish line at 10:44am, I had firmly put the nightmare to bed and mailed in a more amazing time than even I thought possible. I will never forget that day and the way I felt from the start line to the finish line. 

Running the Boston Marathon is not just an athletic goal for me. Since the moment I completed my first half marathon a year and a half ago, I have had my eye on the Boston start line and not only because it is the ultimate runner bucket list item. I haven't talked about this more personal part of my Journey to BQ yet because the emotion wrapped up in it is strong. Stronger than crossing the finish line of my first big race. Stronger than running the Colon Cancer Alliance races. Stronger even than running NYC for the American Cancer Society in memory of Joe. I think part of me was afraid that if I talked about the strong personal connection before I qualified, I would somehow jinx myself.

Boston was where Joe and I spent our honeymoon. We made lots of great memories then and during other travels to the city. From Fenway to whale watching, Paul Revere's house to Boston Commons - we did it all and loved every minute. We went on a duck tour, walked around Harvard, and checked out almost every exhibit at the Museum of Science. We spent as much time as we could walking everywhere and took the T where we couldn't walk. Our spot to stay was the Omni Parker House. We spent so much time playing the Megatouch game at the bar around the block from our hotel that for our first Christmas as a married couple Joe enlisted his friend Sam to lug a full size Megatouch game into the house as my gift. We ate well, drank plenty, and always got our fill of history, baseball, and Boston Cream Pie. One of the last things that Joe and I did together before he died was look back through our honeymoon photo album. Those moments from Boston are special in a way that I will never be able to describe.

On a tour of Fenway Park

On the whale watching tour

We ate Boston Cream Pie from the hotel bar at least once a day.

Boston Public Garden

View from the Observation Deck of the Prudential Center

So, as I have trained and prepared and worked my ass off to qualify for Boston all of these places and moments have been with me. They will be a special part of running the marathon when April 18, 2016 finally gets here and I will be incredibly thankful for all the happiness I carry with me in my travels to Massachusetts. The 3 years since Joe died have allowed me to more fully embrace the times we shared together as happy memories instead of things that make me constantly sad. Each of those memories are an important part of my life and I can recognize now how they have shaped me and even at this point pushed me to achieve great things.

The weight of all of this came crashing in on me as I waited in the green start corral on Sunday morning. The sun was starting to rise and I had just taken off my outer layer of sweatpants and a sweatshirt. I was ready to start the big race - my quest to qualify for Boston. The tears started welling up in my eyes and I couldn't stop them. Excited. Anxious. Overwhelmed. Mortified. Confident. I knew that I was about to run the race of my life. I could feel that this was my moment. I couldn't wait to get moving. A guy standing near my noticed my tears and asked if I was alright. I was more than alright. I knew that I was on the verge of a great life moment and I couldn't have loved it any more.

It was time to take 18 weeks of training and dreaming and make it all happen.




My race strategy was designed around not repeating the same mistakes I had made in the NJ Marathon in April. I knew that I needed to start out at a conservative pace through at least the first 10k and not make an attempt to pick up my pace faster than 8 minutes per mile until I reached at least 20-22 miles. I also knew that I needed to be generous with my hydration (I carried my water bottle) and with eating my Gu (nutrition). In the NJ Marathon I hit the wall hard and I wanted to make sure that didn't happen again.

So, when I caught sight of the 3:35 pace group a little ways ahead of me at around the 4 mile point I resolved to hold my pace until the 10k and then pull up and stick with them for the long haul. It was the best decision I could have made. In the NJ Marathon, I lost the 3:35 pace group when I had to stop off to use the bathroom at the half marathon mark and continued with the 3:40 pace group only until somewhere between mile 15 and 16 when I slowed at a water stop and never caught back up. The wall I hit was 60% mental and 40% physical. This time around I felt like my training had fixed all of that and prepared me to power past "the wall" and hang tough through the whole 26.2.

My training prepared me for a BQ. The pace group did the rest to power me past a squeaker to an almost 7-minute qualifying time. Jim, the leader of the 3:35 pace group was great. He talked our group of runners through the hills and broke the marathon down into chunks allowing the difficult latter portions to fly by with relative ease. And just when I was starting to feel the burn, we reached mile 19 where my parents were standing with a big "GO ANNE - BQ 2DAY!" sign.


It takes a special person to be there for you on a marathon course (or to hang out with your son while you run one) and I am especially grateful to all of those who have braved the logistics to cheer for me on the sidelines of a big race over the last year and a half. Each race has gotten me closer and closer to this moment. There was nothing sweeter along this course than seeing my mom and dad, knowing I was on pace to achieve my goal, and giving my mom a huge high five. I felt on top of the world.
A high five for my Mom!


My parents positioned themselves near the beer.
I took a pass, maybe next marathon.
I saw my parents again right around mile 21 and then it was a matter of toughing it out to the finish line. I wondered if I would be able to pull away from the pace group or if I should just stick with them through the end. I felt good, but had no idea how I would handle the last 5.2 miles. I tried to pick up my pace a bit around mile 23 but ended up falling back with the pace group. I think that was mostly mental. I did finally pull away at mile 24 (it helped seeing my fellow RVRR club members cheering right around then) and kept pushing through to the finish line. Those last two miles felt amazing as I thought through everything that had gotten me to that point and the reality that I was about to achieve what I had not thought possible just a year and a half ago.

I crossed that finish line sweaty, exhausted, and achy but thrilled beyond belief. Victorious. And with visions of Boston.

FINISHED!!

And I made sure to find Jim after he crossed the line with the rest of the pace group to let him know that he had helped me to achieve my Boston qualifying time. I love marathon finish lines - so much emotion and relief - and for me this time around everything about it was fabulous. I just could not stop smiling.


My official time for the Philadelphia Marathon is 3:33:22 (8:08/mile), just under a 22-minute PR from the NJ Marathon seven months ago and almost 7 minutes faster than the under 3:40:00 I needed to qualify for the Boston Marathon. It was also an almost identical pace to the HALF marathon I raced in Miami in March. I am amazed by how far I have come in such a short time.

Here are the rest of my numbers:
Women 35-39: 50/740
All Women: 322/4,630
Overall: 1,781/10,361

So, on the third Monday in April 2016, I will be running 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boylston Street. What I do in the meantime is still being figured out, but I promise it will keep being epic. I can't wait.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Marathon Eve - Ready to Rock Philadelphia

I never expect the week before a race to be easy.

For those uninitiated to racing, the final "taper week" is always rough as you cut back on mileage and intensity. Appetite. Anxiety. Aches and pains. Amnesia.

Simply refer to this post for a full explanation of what happens to me when I am "not running".

This week was all of that times a million. Add to all of the usual taper madness getting stuck in that "historic" Buffalo snowstorm, one work crisis after another, and, for my grand finale....leaving my race shoes behind in New Jersey.

Nothing seemed to fall into place for me in any area of my life this week and it was a real test. At least that's how I'm looking at it as I stare down the last few hours between me and my biggest race to date.

I have a healthy respect for the marathon. I know that in spite of all my work and training race day can be unpredictable. The weather looks promising, but there are 1,001 things that can and may go wrong at any point over 26.2 miles. I am trying to not let those things rule my thoughts.

In some ways I am thankful that this week was rough. It made me realize how much I have been through during this training cycle and in the two years since I started training for my first half marathon. I have come a long way and I know that wouldn't have been possible without the support of family, friends, babysitters, and the countless people who cheer me on from so many different locations (worldwide, in fact!)

This week I have had people in my life drop everything to do the things I needed to be ready for tomorrow. Drop off race shoes. Drive from Buffalo to Philly to watch Domani. Talk ad nauseam about race strategy. Just be there at the exact time and place that I needed it. And over the last 16 weeks I have had support like a single mom could only dream of as I have stuck to a 6 day-a-week training schedule while maintaining a more than full time work week.

I know how blessed I am to be surrounded by such amazing people.

Today, I saw a post on Instagram that stuck with me because it captured what I felt the last 5 years or so have been doing in my life. I felt it was fitting going into this marathon and it inspired me.
A photo posted by Dolvett Quince (@dolvett) on

This training cycle and especially this past week has felt very much like an "undoing" for me - in the best kind of way. I can't wait to see what comes of it.

Tonight I will look back through my running journal (thanks Ken!) and the more than 825 miles I have logged there and lay out my racing clothes (complete with my correct shoes - thanks Mom & Dad!) and know that I have done everything possible for my best performance in the morning.

I will leave it all on the streets of Philadelphia and whether I'm screaming "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" from the rooftops at the end or simply huffing and puffing "Till I Collapse" I will know that this training cycle and this race pushed me to my extremes. I have already achieved more over the past 4 months than I dreamed was possible and that gives me so much confidence for tomorrow and for whatever lies beyond.

Final training run complete - time for 26.2 in the morning!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Countdown to Philly

16 weeks of training are done.
More than 750 miles run.
My first ever 200+ mile month is complete. And my second and my third.
Personal records have fallen in grand fashion as I've gotten stronger and faster.

I have trained in Florida, Maryland, New York, Idaho, Virginia, Illinois, and, of course, New Jersey. I have trained in the summer heat and once or twice already in the freezing cold. I have jumped over snakes, turtles, and frogs and have dodged spiders in their webs. I have eaten more than my share of bugs.

Covered in bugs from an evening towpath run.
I have grown to love track workouts as I got reacquainted with my days as a high school athlete. I bought my first ever headlamp so I can run at night and early in the morning. I have explored the depths of some really crappy hotel gyms and I have run with some of the most beautiful scenery I could imagine.

Towpath between Kingston and Princeton on late summer evening run.

I have just over 1 week of training left until I take to the streets of Philly in my quest for a Boston qualifying time. One more tempo run and then it's nothing but easy mileage between me and my biggest start line yet.

As the kids say, sh*t is getting real. The worst case scenarios are starting to play out in my head. There are creaks and tweaks making their way through my body as only the marathon taper can yield. My friend Malinda who is also chasing a BQ in Philly has been checking the weather forecast for almost a week already.

But I'm ready and my final confidence boost was a kick ass performance in the Trenton Half Marathon this past Saturday. I was careful not to race full out, but even my measured effort brought me in with a 7 minute personal record and a 3rd place finish for my age group.

Crossing back into NJ during the Trenton Half Marathon
on my way to a 7 minute half marathon personal record
This was a final test for me leading up to the Philly Marathon. I wanted to hit a 1:43:00 (7:51/mile) half marathon time because if I did that I would know my training had me on pace to achieve my BQ goal in Philly. But what I achieved in Trenton was a big deal for me for reasons way beyond the implications it has for Philly. It all goes something like this...

I was the "bigger" girl on our high school track distance contingent. My BEST 2-mile time then was pretty much dead on pace per mile for what I just held over 13.1 miles on Saturday.

When I first started running again 2 1/2 years ago, it was a struggle to get through 3 miles and I was doing it at a pace somewhere between 10-11 minutes. I have the Nike Plus app to prove it.

My first half marathon which I ran in March 2013 took me 2 hours 11 minutes and 39 seconds (10:02/mile) and that, to me, was AWESOME.

I started running after my husband Joe died from colon cancer and at that time I looked roughly like this (I'm the one on the left):
With my sister Naomi on Thanksgiving 2011. Joe took the photo.
I have since lost 45 pounds and traded in all my size 14 clothes for size 4s.

This journey has been one of body, mind, and soul.

So when I ran the Trenton Half Marathon on Saturday to test my speed for Philly and I completed it in 1:39:19 (7:35/mile) I felt all of the accomplishment well up inside of me. When I found out from my friend several hours later that I had placed 3rd in my age group and 12th overall, I was on top of the world. And completely shocked. The finish line in Trenton was sweet, but the best part was the energy I still had left. It made me realize that a BQ is truly within my grasp and has me counting the days until I toe my most important starting line to date.

Finishing the Trenton Half Marathon
I first knew I was on to something during this training cycle when I was finally able to break through on my 5k time in August. The 5k had been my nemesis going back to September 2013 when I ran my best time of 23:29 in Philly on a perfect fall morning. I had been training on this cycle using the Hansons Marathon Method for 3 weeks when I finally ran a fabulous 5k on a warm, sunny day at the beach in Asbury Park. I beat my previous best 5k time by 8 seconds and swore that no matter what this was the training plan for me. I broke that time once again by almost a minute just one month later in Long Branch and I knew that big things were happening.

Asbury Park 5k - Finally beating my nemesis...the 5k!
This training cycle has taken me way beyond what I thought was physically possible which means there have been plenty of times when I would have rather curled up in a ball on my couch than go for a run. But I haven't missed a single one with the exception of those that changed to properly recover from the 3 races I ran (2 5ks and the half marathon). On occasion I have shuffled the days and a few times I have scaled back mileage, but I have kept the integrity of my training program fully intact and I owe that entirely to 1) the amazing people who every day help take care of my son while I run and 2) the fire inside that won't let me step away from this journey to BQ.

Just when I think I can't possibly get through another run there always seems to be something to push me on. Someone who tells me she started running because of me. A friend to join me for a track workout. The adoring eyes of my 4 year old asking me if I am going to "run fast" today. A text or a call or a friendly "get your ass in gear". They have all kept me moving and when I cross the finish line in Philly I will think of all the people who have driven me there and the places that have inspired me.

I have been tracking my runs in a running journal given to me by Joe's dad and it has been fun to look back over all the places I have run since I began training at the end of July: my trusty neighborhood route that includes Thompson Park, my parents' neighborhood, the Towpath (everywhere from Lawrenceville to New Brunswick), many hotel treadmills including in Syracuse, Atlantic City, Disney World, and Ithaca, all along the Jersey Shore, Kendall Park, Franklin Memorial Park Cemetery, Chicago, Utica NY, Disney World, Mercer County Park, Veterans Park, Johnson Park, Monroe HS Track, Sandbridge VA, Highland Park HS Track, Buffalo, Maritime Institute (BWI Bike Trail), and Pocatello, Idaho.

It's been 750 amazing miles and looking back I know that I have done all that I needed to do to be able to shout from the rooftops "I'M SHIPPING UP TO BOSTON" once I cross that finish line in Philly. Nine days and it can all be mine.






Sandbridge, Virginia
More Sandbridge, Virginia



September 21, Sunset in Thompson Park




October 8th, Thompson Park sunrise



My Halloween Half - hilly and beautiful in Pocatello, Idaho

Final speed workout - 11/11/14