Where I’ve been (a pre-race report)

Published November 10, 2015 by mellifera2013

I haven’t written in a very long time.  It’s not that I’ve had nothing to say, but I’ve been very unmotivated to do so.  I don’t know if this is a re-start, or just the need to get something out on paper in this moment, but I feel the need to share.

During the height of my mother’s illness, with my 40th birthday fast approaching, I decided that I needed to do something for myself to mark this milestone birthday.  I decided that I wanted to run a half marathon, and that I wanted to go on a vacation to do it.  I started researching marathons near my birth date and found the Rock N Roll Savannah Half and Full Marathon on November 7th.  It was one week after my 40th birthday.  I had friends who were living in Savannah.  There was a registration special going on for $49 only until midnight.  The stars seemed to have aligned, but I spent hours going back and forth over whether or not I should pursue this.  My coach assured me that I could be ready for a half marathon in 11 months.  I bit the bullet and registered.

The year leading up to this race really was a whirlwind.  We lost mom on April 29th.  I lost 14 pounds in the 2 weeks that she was in the hospital.  I didn’t think it was possible, but I was more of a caregiver to my family after my mother had passed, than I was when I was actually caring for her.  I again put myself on the backburner (a running theme in my life), and used all my energy on everyone else.  I did continue to run during this time but not with any real focus or commitment.  I was dealing with members of my family who were not adjusting well to the loss of my mother, which created more challenges for us all. I gained the 14 pounds back, plus another 10.

I can’t even say I’ve had an opportunity to grieve the loss of my mother because of the turmoil that has been going on.  However, there is a distinct possibility that I did the majority of my grieving while mom was still here.  Who knows?  I’m contemplating seeing a therapist.  Maybe they’ll help me figure it out.

So, to keep me motivated to train for this half marathon, I hooked up with LungStrong, which is a local non-profit that provides funding for lung cancer research at Massachusetts General Hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Institute.  I decided that I wanted to raise money for research and that I wanted that money to be used locally.  I set a goal of $100 per mile ($1310), set up an online fundraising web page, Melissa’s 13.1 to Support LungStrong, and, I’m happy to report, I’ve raised over $1400 to date.

I started to add mileage to my training, and, got up to a 9 mile run/walk on the Windham rail trail.  That ended up being my final long run before the half marathon – Three weeks before  the race.  It proved to be a disaster.  I had no idea how long it took me (because I couldn’t find my garmin).  I started having terrible back and hip pain.  I have uterine fibroids (fiberous non-cancerous tumors on my uterus) that can cause abnormal bleeding , which I’ve been managing with medication.  However, the stress of running  long distances can (and did) cause problems.  Problems severe enough that my coach advised me that if bleeding issues weren’t resolved by the next week (2 weeks before race) she was advising me to not attempt to race.  I was only concerned with the logistics of running for 4 hours with this issue.  She, very smartly, reminded me of the high chance of anemia and the stress that would put on my body even before I started.  I was frustrated.  She was right.  Thankfully, it resolved itself within the week.

As a side note, I decided not to see my OB/GYN to address this issue.  This is mainly because she told me that this was a possibility, and to keep running as long as I am comfortable doing so.  She also told me that once I can’t control my symptoms medically anymore, the next step is surgery, and there was no way in hell I was going to schedule any surgery before this race. 

Three days after that long run, I attempted to go to track.  We were running 1000s (meters).  Before I could even complete my first 1000, I got a sharp pain in my right hip – very similar to what happened 2 years before on my left hip.  I walked for the remaining 45 minutes of track, feeling a pulling sensation the whole time.

I saw my orthopedist two days later, who confirmed IT band syndrome resulting in bursitis.  She understood I was going to attempt a half marathon in three weeks and she pushed me to get into PT immediately and that if I didn’t see any improvement in a week and a half, she was going to do a cortisone shot.  I didn’t want ANY of that, so I made an appointment with the PT who treated me previously.

In the meantime, my coach had me cross training on the bike and elliptical machine to mimic running as my long runs on the weekend.  During the week, I rested.   PT was aggressive because I didn’t have a lot of time.  I noticed improvement almost immediately.  I completed my last long workout (4 hours in the gym – 2 hours elliptical and 2 hours bike) and I felt, for the first time, that I could really do this and physically feel good doing it.

I got to run 2 miles on October 31 during a Halloween race.  I did better than I thought I would.  It was the first time I ran in almost 3 weeks, and it would be the last time I ran before the race.

Coming up, the Rock N Roll Savannah Half Marathon Race Report…

Race Report – Somerville Jingle Bell Run

Published December 15, 2014 by mellifera2013

December 14, 2014


The Somerville Jingle Bell Run is a fun holiday themed race through the streets surrounding Davis Square in Somerville, MA.  90% of the 5000 runners and walkers at this race are decked out in some sort of holiday wear.  From menorah hats, to teams of friends dressed as the entire nativity, to people in contraptions made to look like speed boats pulling santa on skis, and inflatable reindeer heads – the priority of the day is FUN.



I arrived early with Lin and David to find parking and pick up our packets.  We were so early that we were able to drive up to the Senior Center, pick up our and our friends’ packets, and drive and park within a block of the start line.

My running club is always well represented at this race, and this year was no different. We met up with our MVS friends for a photo opportunity and then set out to find Marcy and Karen, two friends we met through an online fitness challenge group who were also running this morning for a meet and greet and photo op.

Merrimack Valley Striders

Merrimack Valley Striders

Karen, Lin, Melissa & Marcy from Coach Jenny's Holiday Challenge

Karen, Lin, Melissa & Marcy from Coach Jenny’s Holiday Challenge











Soon Bonnie and Joanne arrived and we lined up at the start line.

Bonnie & Joanne

Bonnie & Joanne

I didn’t think I’d PR today (too much partying the day before) and so I didn’t even put that in my mind. My goal today was to maintain a steady pace because I have a problem with starting out too fast and having nothing left at the end of the race.  So I set my music to a pace that I thought I could maintain for 50 minutes, which turned out to be 140 BPM (I use an app called TrailMix Pro).

About ½ mile into this race, I felt like I was losing my skirt.  I was wearing a skirt with spandex attached shorts over spandex bicycling pants.  So I kept pulling the skirt up and kept going.  Then at mile 1 I was getting uncomfortable.  Something was twisted and didn’t feel right.  I pulled at my pants and noticed the waist had twisted 180 degrees.  So I’m sticking my hands down my skirt trying to fix this problem.  The poor people behind me!  I fixed the pants and noticed the skirt/shorts were twisted 180 degrees in the opposite direction!  I kept fiddling with this for about ¼ mile until I said screw it.  I wasn’t going to set fire to my thighs for a 5K or for vanity.  I didn’t give a crap if I was running and flopping around in shiny spandex pants with nothing to cover up.

I stopped on the side of Powder House Boulevard and dropped trou.  Granted, I did have a base layer on, but I had no shame here.  I was dropping my phone, hopping around trying to get my huge shoes out of the legs of the shorts.  I was wasting precious time here!

I had immediate relief and got back into my pace.

This course is hilly.  There are several short but steep hills that I apparently forgot from last year (and this spring when I ran the same course for a St. Patty’s Day race).  In keeping with my goal of staying consistent, I was very pleased with myself for running several hills and not going crazy on the downhills.  In the end, I felt good and strong.  And I felt that way during the entire race.

Unfortunately, I didn’t save my data when I stopped my garmin, so I have no idea what my splits were but I looked at my watch one time during the race and it showed I was moving at a 15:55 avg pace and I was happy with that.

I made a course PR of 47 seconds, and feel confident that I’ll be picking up speed in the next few months once I start track.



Sigh of Relief

Published December 5, 2014 by mellifera2013

I finally feel like I can take a breath in the midst of my mother’s cancer treatment. In the last 7 months, mom has undergone brain surgery, brain radiation, 5 rounds of combo drug chemotherapy and 1 round of maintenance chemotherapy.

She recently had a chest scan that showed that treatment is working (things are shrinking and maintaining) and yesterday she had a brain scan that showed her surgery site has remained stable and the 2 lesions that they knew about are even smaller than the last scan in September and there are no new lesions on her brain.

I have been cautiously optimistic through thanksgiving. My motto being, “don’t freak out until there’s something to freak out about” though I did freak out in that first shocking month. I didn’t know if mom would be here for Christmas. I cancelled a booked vacation for January because I thought the worst. And before thanksgiving she started dropping final wishes hints. I know it’s just her way of dealing with feelings I can’t possibly understand. But man, living like the world is going crumble around you at any minute is exhausting. It’s really unnecessary.

Today I feel relieved. At least for now. Now we can celebrate Christmas knowing that for today, right now, mom’s as healthy as she can be. I don’t have to force myself to see the positive. We’re living it today. She’s had to scale back a bit, but she’s back driving, Christmas shopping, going to breakfast, doing laundry, being “normal”. I know that, especially for mom, things aren’t all sunshine and roses.  I know that what was “normal” last year is not “normal” now.  But I try very hard to encourage my family to enjoy life. Enjoy each other. Do fun things. And we had a bit of that on Thanksgiving. It was like we were “normal” again.

Mom and Me on Thanksgiving morning 2014

Mom and Me on Thanksgiving morning 2014


Mom and Dad, Thanksgiving 2014

Mom and Dad, Thanksgiving 2014

Mom and Auntie Tina Thanksgiving 2014

Mom and Auntie Tina Thanksgiving 2014

My niece, Lilly, brother Brian, and me, Thanksgiving 2014

My niece, Lilly, brother Brian, and me, Thanksgiving 2014

Me and SIL, Christine, Thanksgiving 2014

Me and SIL, Christine, Thanksgiving 2014

Me and my brother, Jeremy, Thanksgiving 2014

Me and my brother, Jeremy, Thanksgiving 2014


525,600 Minutes (How do you Measure a Year?)

Published December 2, 2014 by mellifera2013

I met with my coach, Deanna, last night to develop a training plan for the year leading up to my first half marathon in November, 2015.

We talked a bit about how I’ve come to this point in my running career, and how making a decision this far out is probably the best thing I can do, because I’ll have 4 “seasons”, if you will, of training periods with different foci.  Deanna said that I really shouldn’t try to work on speed and distance at the same time, so this approach to training “seasons” will help to avoid injury and burnout.

So I’m hitting the ground running.  I don’t have the finalized plan yet, but basically from now until February I’m doing “base” training.  The month of December is focused on remaining active at my current level.  Basically, I just need to “survive” the holidays.  January and February we will introduce strength training 2 days per week and work on running at my current pace for longer durations during my runs.

In March and April we will work on speed.  This will hopefully increase my pace a bit so I can roll that into the next “base” training season focusing on distance.

That is what would be considered the actual half marathon training.  Starting in May I will gradually increase my long run distances.  Most plans I’ve read are for 12-14 weeks.  We have about 18 weeks with which to play, and still have a decent taper period.  This makes me feel better because I’ve never fit into any cookie-cutter mold in this running world.  I’ll have time to dial back to recover, if needed.  And if I need to swap to the Bay State Half Marathon, I’ll have time to adjust a couple of weeks to be able to do that.

We talked about the fact that there is no reason why I couldn’t go out tomorrow and run/walk 13.1 miles.  It wouldn’t be fast, and it wouldn’t be pretty.  But there’s no doubt I could cover that distance.  I’m just not prepared for it to be “fun” – yet.  So knowing that I can do the distance is half the battle.  Now it’s just a matter of doing it WELL and injury-free.  Deanna said she wants me to do this feeling great upon crossing the finish line.  I can feel like hell the next day, but I shouldn’t feel like hell, slogging along during the race.

The more I look at it, the more it seems like Savannah is a good choice for me.  The bulk of my training will be in the summer and the average temperature in Savannah the first week in November was 71 degrees.  I’m already thinking of what I’m going to wear!  I’d love to rock an MVS singlet that fits properly by then.

I’m also thinking of using this half marathon as a fundraiser for a lung cancer charity in honor of my mom.  I’m in the process of “vetting” organizations right now.   Then I can think of fun ways to raise some money.

Embrace it and don’t be afraid of it

Published November 21, 2014 by mellifera2013

savannahCrap’s about to get real.  I mean, REALLY real.

I’ve been toying with the idea of completing a half marathon for a while now.  I have all these delusions of grandeur.  Of cheers and of accolades.  Of “Chariots of Fire” playing as I sprint in slow motion down a finishers’ chute.  Confetti.  Glory. Maybe a hot guy to grab me like that VJ Day photo in Times Square.


It was with this screenplay of a lifetime movie in mind, and the lure of a discounted entry fee that I came to register for my first half marathon – the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon in Savannah, GA on November 7, 2015.

I pretty much made this decision on a whim.  I talked a bit with my coach in the afternoon, and she’s gung-ho to start base training now.  I didn’t really consult anyone else.  I needed to make this decision for myself without any outside influence.  It was scary.  I had anxiety over the decision.  But it was positive energy – if that makes any sense.   Now I’m telling the world, and that anxiety is lifting.  And maybe I’ll even get someone reading this to come along for the ride!


The why’s are easy (it’s the HOW that I’m struggling with!):
Why a Half Marathon?

Because I’m a sucker for punishment.  No, but seriously.  Running has improved my life in so many ways, and I want to continue to challenge myself.  As things will undoubtedly get more stressful in caring for my mom, I know running is there to give me peace.  To give me control.  Something as big as a 13.1 will take a lot of work.  That gives me a lot of goals, challenges, and time to step away and regroup.

I started my running journey determined to start “now” and not wait for an ideal time, an ideal weight, or anything else “ideal”.  So I’m carrying on that affirmation.  There is no time like the present.


Why Georgia?

This was probably my biggest concern when buyers’ remorse set in.  I have good friends who live in Savannah.  All my running friends are into destination races and, since I love traveling, I figured I would kill two birds with one stone.  Plus, the closest Rock ‘n Roll half marathons to Boston are in Montreal and Philadelphia – where I know nobody.  I may as well go a few more hundred miles away and visit friends while I’m at it.  The remorse is that I really want my family to see me finish a half marathon.  My dad has been so proud.  I need some of my lifetime movie to play out with cheers and accolades.  I could drag along my parents for a nice weekend in Savannah, but I don’t know what the future holds in that regard.  I have a local half marathon in mind if I feel I’m unable to travel due to family obligations.  The registration fee was only $59 (pre-sale one day only sale), so it’s not like I’d be out a huge amount of money if I’m unable to go (minus airfare).

That’s not to say I have an “easy out”.  I really only want to allow myself to back out due to 1) injury that truly prevents me from even walking  a 1/2, or 2) Mom needs me at home.

Oh, and according to the course description – this course is FLAT.  heh heh heh


Why 2015?

Well, I’ll turn 40 in 2015. In November, to be exact.  I can’t think of a better way to enter into my 40s by being covered in liquid awesome.  And, as of right now, I have 350 days to get my act together.  But as my coach told me yesterday, I will not be alone getting to that starting line.

“These races go far deep into our souls… (people) run for much deeper meaning like you are.  Embrace it and don’t be afraid of it.” –
Coach Deanna



Food Fears

Published November 12, 2014 by mellifera2013

In October of 2012, I weighed 336 pounds.  I hated myself – literally.  Not only because of my weight, but because I let my life get out of control.  I ignored my own needs and wants for the sake of others, and also because I didn’t want to face the changes I’d need to make to accomplish those needs/wants.

January 2013 at my highest weight

January 2013 at my highest weight

In December of 2012, 2 friends encouraged me to do a 1 mile santa run.  I thought 1 mile would be a piece of cake.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I was literally run off the course by the coming parade, and that was the kick in the ass I needed to change my life.  I was devastated and humiliated by that experience.  “Never again,” I told myself.  Only I didn’t mean I’d never “run” again.  I meant that I’d never let ANYONE make me feel that way again.  I would prove them all wrong.

I knew I needed help.  I didn’t know a thing about running.  I did know that I had grandiose ideas and that was pretty much going to set me up for failure.  I had no idea what was realistic.  So I joined a running club, signed up for coaching, and the rest is still history being made.

I decided to focus on physical progress (time, distance, endurance, etc.) and to remain consistent in physical activity.  These were goals that were not tied to the scale or food.  I thought that this is what I want to do. I want to run.  If I lose weight in the process, that’s an added bonus.

Since January 2013, I’ve raced over 39 races and logged over 425 miles.  I’ve bettered my pace per mile by over 3 minutes.

And so, without consciously trying, I lost 42 pounds in 2013.  It’s now 2014 and I’ve maintained that loss.  I’m incredibly proud of that.

February 2014 - down 42 pounds

February 2014 – down 42 pounds

But now I’m at a crossroads – a scary one at that.  The missing piece of my training is nutrition.  I know I’m not fueling efficiently for the activity I’m doing.  I also know that if I want to get faster, I need to get leaner.  This will involve looking at food and paying attention to what I’m eating.

I’m obsessed with food.  There, I said it.  I hate that I said it, but I hate it even more that it’s true.

Lots of people love food.  They love to eat.  They love to cook.  They’re “foodies”.  And I love all of that too.  But it goes way beyond that.

It takes a hold of me.  Whether I’m trying to “be good” or not, I’m constantly thinking about my next meal.  This is why “dieting” has been so hard for me.  Meal planning becomes all consuming.  If I deviate from the plan, I beat myself up, and obsess and plan some more.  Calorie counting becomes a game that I often lose, and then I beat myself up about it.

It’s a scary thing to know that you got in this place to begin with because all you think about is food, and knowing that you need to think even MORE about food to rectify the problem.

What’s it like to eat like a “normal” person, who’s not constantly flagellating themselves for the choices that they make? What’s it like to be a “normal” person who isn’t judged for eating a brownie – who doesn’t judge herself?

I fear going back to hating myself; of not doing the “right” things.

So I’m trying to look at nutrition differently than I had in the past.  Nutrition is a means to an end.  I need quality in my diet in order to output quality on the road.  I know this.  I believe this.  So I’ve enlisted the help of a registered dietitian and licensed nutritionist who has specialty in sports nutrition.

As an overweight athlete, I can’t necessarily subscribe to the cookie cutter nutrition guidelines for other runners.  She’s helping me adjust those for my own unique needs.  She’s also having me really look at portion control using the 9 inch plate method.  So far, it’s been very helpful, and not damaging to my psyche.  Not having to figure out the calories in each individual ingredient in a recipe has really helped calm my anxiety about food.  Right now I’m focusing on food group portions, and we’ll see how that’s working for me in 2 weeks.

In the meantime, I try to not get sensitive about the myriad of food messages I see every day that make me question what I’m doing and how I’m doing it.

Less than Ideal

Published November 7, 2014 by mellifera2013

My track coaching group was cancelled last night due to rain.  I have to admit, I had mixed emotions about this.  “Yay!  A night off!” was the first thought.  But then I was brought back to last Saturday’s race in the rain, where I missed my under 50 minute goal by 44 freaking seconds.  I know where I crapped out.  I may have still crapped out even if it was dry and clear outside.  But I’ve been telling myself it was the “less than ideal conditions.”

How many times have our lives been lived in “less than ideal conditions”?  But we have no choice but to soldier on.  You just can’t quit life.

So I decided last night and decided that I’d go run, in the rain, by myself.  I need to be able to handle it.  I need to be able to own it – to crush it.

I decided that I could do about 2 miles in ½ mile repeats around North Andover Common (approximately .52 mile loop).   I left my music in the car because I didn’t want my phone getting wet.  Running without music is a challenge for me.  It’s too easy for me to slow my pace without even knowing it.  But this just added to the “less than ideal” conditions I was training for.

I didn’t take any extra time to warm up but started out at a pretty good clip.  I knew I was starting too fast, and got ¾ around the common when I needed to start walking.  My upper legs were tight and I wondered why the heck I was doing this.  There was not another soul on the common.  I expected to at least see someone dutifully walking their dog.  Nope.  Nada.

I set out on my second loop, and tried to slow it down a bit.  This loop was even MORE tiresome.  I was sweating.  I started playing “beat the lamp post”.  “Just make it to the next lamp post, and if you feel like you need to start walking, then do it.”  I made it 4 lamp posts further than I had bargained in my head.

I took off my fleece before heading out on the third loop.  I had a long sleeve tech under a short sleeve tech – both lightweight.  Thinking to myself, “damn it, I need to do this 2 more times,” I set out again.  I was cold. “Don’t go too fast” I kept telling myself.  My legs were finally loosening up a little.

My fourth and final loop was the best, IMO.  (NO!  Not just because it was the LAST one! )  I finally fell into a rhythm on that loop.  I started counting.  Out loud.  1-2-3-4-5-6-7-ONE!  1-2-3-4-5-6-7-TWO!  This seems to have helped me keep a cadence and to keep my breathing in rhythm with the pace.   I haven’t checked my Garmin stats yet to see if it’s true that it was my best loop, but it did feel that way and sometimes that’s the only thing that matters.

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