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Running For More…

The personal blog and website of Kristen Cincotta

Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

New Year, New Beginnings

Friday, January 1st, 2016

Welcome to 2016!

Much has happened since the last time I clicked myself over to this blog, with new beginnings happening all over the place. Since today is the first day of the new year, it only seemed fitting to give everyone an update about where I’ve been, and more importantly, what’s on deck for 2016.

Career Changes

By far the most significant change for me has been a job change, a change that was not unforeseen. I was employed at the CDC as a research Fellow, and my Fellowship was scheduled to end on Thanksgiving day, 2015.

One last stunning sunset over Atlanta, as seen from my office at the CDC.

One last stunning sunset over Atlanta, as seen from my office at the CDC.

Going into the final year of my Fellowship, all parties involved were both expectant and excited about the likely possibility that I would be staying on permanently at the CDC, as part of the rapidly growing Prescription Drug Overdose team. My team had the funds to hire several people and both my supervisors and I wanted me to be one of those people. However, over the summer, I learned that it wasn’t going to be possible. I’m not going to go into the details as to why here, but suffice it say, everyone was disappointed that it didn’t work out, including me. I LOVED being a part of the CDC, I really liked the vast majority of the people I worked with (both at the CDC and beyond), and I was pretty dang excited about several big things that were/are in the pipeline for the PDO team. To compound things, even as it became increasingly apparent that the primary project that I had been working on throughout my Fellowship was taking significantly longer to wrap up than expected, there was just no possibility of extending my Fellowship further. To be completely honest, it made for a pretty difficult last few months, especially as new people with less experience than I had were brought in to the permanent positions that I had been hoping to land. I wanted to stay and finish my project at my high standard of work, and instead, I felt like I was being pushed out the door. I would not give up my time at the CDC for anything – I had dreamed of working there for as long as I can remember and I am thrilled I was able to make it happen. I just wish things had ended on a better note.

A major SABCS highlight - meeting Dr. Susan Love and several Komen Advocates in Science at the Brinker Awards Reception.

A major SABCS highlight – meeting Dr. Susan Love and several Komen Advocates in Science at the Brinker Awards Reception.

BUT! When life closes a door, it opens a window, as they say. And in this case, life has opened a giant, beautiful bay window for me, with a stellar view of the future. With a bit of persistence and a good bit of luck, I was able to secure a job with Susan G. Komen as an Evaluation Manager, focusing on scientific research programs. In this position, I will be joining the team at Komen that is responsible for assessing the impact of the dollars that Komen has invested in breast cancer research over the years, identifying research successes that have stemmed from those dollars, and helping to improve Komen’s research programs overall. I will also get the opportunity to take these rusty blogging skills out for a spin by writing some pieces for the Susan G. Komen blog, email newsletters, and other social media properties. It is, in short, my dream job and in just three short weeks of employment, I have already had a career-high moment when I got to attend the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium on behalf of Komen. I have followed the news coming out of SABCS for years, dating back to when my mom’s oncologists presented her case there during one of the case study sessions. To be there in person, just days after starting my new job, was an amazing experience. I cannot understate how excited I am for this new opportunity, especially given how crushed I was to have to leave a job I loved at the CDC.

Lifestyle Changes

The cherry on the sundae that is my new job is that in addition to doing work that I’m genuinely passionate about, I am going to get to do said work from home! My greatest frustration at the CDC was being forced to adhere to a standard 9-5 workday, with little freedom to manage my own time. While I will still have regular hours at Komen, working from home does give me a bit more flexibility. I will be able to do things like fold laundry while thinking through tricky problems, go for runs on my lunch break, and other things like that. At the CDC, I was easily spending 2.5 hours in the car every day between driving to & from daycare and commuting to work. Being able to just pop Dash over to daycare (or better yet, run commute him over on nice days!) and come right back home is going to save me TONS of time. Dash is about to have his own new beginning starting next week when he transitions to a new classroom at his daycare, so it’s nice to know I’ll have a little more flexibility in the event he needs me a bit more for the next couple weeks too. Plus, my beloved Shenanigans never really forgave me for taking an office job (she developed severe separation anxiety), so to stay home with her all day, every day, just feels right. Feeling like I’m in control of my time again has me VERY optimistic for everything I’d like to get done in the next year. And speaking of things I’d like to get done in the next year…

Volunteering with Komen Atlanta

I am once again serving as the Teams and Recruiting Chair for the 2016 Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure!

One of my homes away from home!

One of my homes away from home!

As always, the Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure will take place on Mother’s Day weekend, returning again to the Lenox Mall. Race registration will “officially” open on Monday, but shhh…. a little bird told me you can actually register now (click here)! And to make things even better, this year I have a 25% off discount code that everyone can use to save some money. Simply enter “KCincotta2016” during registration and the computer will do the rest!

In addition to recruiting new teams and participants directly, I am also taking on something new this year – I have recruited 10 absolute superstars to serve as Race Ambassadors for the Race this year. I’ve already held one training session with them that left me totally jazzed up for the potential impact of this program on our Race registration, and especially on the performance of our teams. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about this group in the coming months, so be prepared. As a I said, these ladies are superstars – longtime participants, top fundraisers, big time team captains. They are going to really push me to bring my best to our Race this year – I can’t wait!

I am also trying to launch one other initiative for Race that centers around improving the Race experience for our best performing teams on Race day. I don’t want to go into too many details here because it’s still in the preliminary planning stages. But – I AM looking for someone to join my “Teams Team” and head up this new effort for me. I’ll be there to help along the way, but I’ve already committed to launching the Race Ambassadors program this year and don’t want to give either program short shrift by trying to do both all by myself. So if you, or someone you know, might be interested in working with me on this new effort, let me know by shooting me an email. Thanks!

Volunteering with Atlanta Track Club

Dash trying out the indoor track at the snazzy new ATC offices.

Dash trying out the indoor track at the snazzy new ATC offices.

Last June, I was thrilled to learn that I was selected to once again serve as a Community Ambassador for my beloved Atlanta Track Club. The ATC has really helped me become a “real” runner over the last few years, and I’m honored to be able to spread the word about everything that they bring to our local running community. However, shortly after my Ambassador term started, I decided to back off of any racing until I knew what was happening with my job situation (and more specifically, our financial situation). I was already committed to the Atlanta 3-Day in October and I needed to devote my limited training time to that event anyways. So I didn’t really do much running between mid-July and mid-November, despite my best intentions. And as you can imagine, that made it pretty difficult to trumpet all the wonderfulness of the ATC.

Thankfully, right around the time I was tip toeing back into the running world post 3-Day, all of the Ambassadors were invited to extend their terms by an additional six months or so, so that our terms aligned with the calendar year. I sent off an email accepting that offer within seconds, knowing that this was my chance to really bring my best efforts to my Ambassador gig. So, you can expect much more from me about my experiences with the various programs and races that the Atlanta Track Club offers, both here and on social media, throughout 2016. Yeah!

Running in General

With my GOTR race buddy, before she totally smoked me!

With my GOTR race buddy, before she totally smoked me!

As I already mentioned, I began tip toeing back into running in mid-November after a bit of a break over the summer and early fall. I did my best to complete the “Striding through the Holidays” challenge that the

awesome ladies at Another Mother Runner organized, which was great motivation to get back into more consistent running and workouts. I also ran with my friend Julie’s daughter in the Girls on the Run ATL 5K, during which Niblette (her online nickname) absolutely dusted me. I was pretty dang proud of her wheels, but boy, was that the kick in the pants that I needed to get serious about running again. So I sucked it up, set some goals for myself for 2016, and got started. I rolled directly from the Stride challenge into training for the Publix GA Half Marathon (now being run by the ATC – holler!), following the final 14 weeks of the AMR Half Marathon Finish It! plan. This plan is a bit higher mileage than I’ve been running lately, but with more flexibility in my day to day schedule (see above), I am certain that I can handle it. I am also certain that my butt needs to really feel like I’m training for something if I’m going to stick with it, so hopefully this plan hits that sweet spot. I’ll wrap up my third week of training on Sunday and I’m pretty stoked with how it’s going already. More to come on that soon.

Beyond the Publix Half, I’ve got some other big running goals as well. But since this post is getting monstrously long already, I’ll save those for their own post. Cliff hanger!

Blogging

Celebrating with my Atlanta run-blogging ladies at our annual holiday get together.

Celebrating with my Atlanta run-blogging ladies at our annual holiday get together.

Throughout this beast of an update post, I’ve alluded to the fact that I’m hoping to blog A LOT more regularly over the next year – about Race for the Cure, about ATC, about my running in general, and many other things. I feel like I promise this to myself and the four people out there reading this at least once every few months, but again, with a more flexible day to day schedule, I’m super optimistic that I can actually make it happen this time. I love having this outlet to share my thoughts, successes, and struggles, and I really don’t want to let it languish as I have in the past. I’m going to let the content evolve naturally as I see what happens with my new job, but I definitely want to get back to regular training updates and race updates as a start.

So that’s a bit about where I’m at and what I’m looking at for 2016. The last time I was this excited to kickstart a new year was when I started my Fellowship at the CDC, when I had a lot of similar things on tap. Thanks for joining me on this ride – let’s make it great!

Running While Pregnant and Injured, Part 2: The Comeback

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Wow, finding time to write while working and raising a newborn is hard!

Even harder, it turns out, is finding the time to train for a half marathon. I had high hopes a few weeks ago that I’d be able to keep up a pretty easy training schedule, especially once we fell into a routine with work and daycare. Ha! I’m learning the hard way that newborns have a stubborn way of not sticking to a routine. They also have a stubborn habit of not letting you sleep. And when your only chance to run is in the morning before work and you’re faced with a choice between going for that run or grabbing an extra hour of sleep, well, you know where this is going.

Post partum yoga is EXHAUSTING, Mom!

Post partum yoga is EXHAUSTING, Mom!

That being said, I have managed to go for a number runs over the past five weeks, slowly stretching my “long” run out to five miles. Not nearly as many runs or as many miles as I had planned to have run by this point, but it is what it is. I wish I could say that I was running free of any residual knee pain, but unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Even after all of the this time, my IT band feels tweaky on most of my runs. Not enough to stop running, but enough that I’m noticing. I can’t really run on back to back days and I have to be diligent about stretching, foam rolling, and icing after every run. I also should be doing my PT strengthening exercises multiple times a week, but that definitely hasn’t been happening, despite my best intentions. But I’m working through it. Fingers crossed, if I keep doing what I’m doing (and add in those PT exercises… ), I will still be able to run the Atlanta Half Marathon on Thanksgiving.

Speaking of racing, tomorrow morning, I will make my “grand” return to racing. I will be racing in the Atlanta Track Club’s Cartersville 10k. The conditions should be PERFECT – temps in the mid-50s, clear skies, relatively flat course. Normally, I’d be chasing a PR (I’m seriously jonesing to drop that last minute off my 10k PR and get below one hour!). But that’s not going to happen tomorrow. So far, I’ve only run one five mile run since I’ve been “back” (and actually, since last October!) so racing six miles is going to be an adventure. I know I can finish the distance and I’m not really worried about my time. In fact, I’m so not concerned with time that I turned the time prompts off of my RunKeeper app. The half marathon course time limit is based on a 16 min per mile pace and I know I can do that, so there’s really no point to focus on pace. Just distance.

So here’s what I’m hoping happens tomorrow: I hope that the race goes well enough that I feel like the half marathon is doable, but not so well that it doesn’t motivate me to recommit to my training. I need to be better about training or I really am going to re-injure myself again. And that is the last thing that I want. So yes, I want tomorrow’s 10k to kick my butt a bit. Just enough to get moving again with some discipline and dedication.

Walking with my favorites in the park!

Walking with my favorites in the park!

As far as said training, here’s my general game plan for the next eight weeks:

Monday – 3 mile easy run, plus core conditioning
Tuesday – PT exercises
Wednesday – 5 mile easy run, plus core conditioning
Thursday – Barre3 class online (here)
Friday – PT exercises
Saturday – Long run (adding a mile each week, with one step back week in the middle somewhere)
Sunday – Yoga at home (I have a few videos that I love and rotate through), PT exercises

That shouldn’t be too hard to manage. It’s only three runs per week, plus conditioning that can all be done at home, with a focus on core and my PT exercises. At some point, I’d love to work in actual Barre classes in person, pilates with my friend Laura, and some actual cardio cross training, but those things are going to have to wait until after this training cycle. For now, the above plan is going to have to be sufficient. I just need to recommit to making it happen. Hopefully writing it here will help keep me accountable.

But before all of that can happen, I have to finish my race tomorrow. I’m nervous but excited. It’s been a LONG time since I’ve pinned on a bib and my new sneakers are aching to finish this race. Wish me luck!


Go, new kicks! Go!

Go, new kicks! Go!



 

Running While Pregnant and Injured, Part 1: Recap

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Today, I went for a run. I also went running twice last week. For someone who’s blog is ostensibly about running, that shouldn’t be anything noteworthy. But between my knee injury that developed last fall and my pregnancy, it actually is a big deal, at least for me.

I am four weeks post partum and was given the go ahead by my doctor to start “gentle” exercise a week ago. My guess is that my doctor what my doctor means by “gentle exercise” is a bunch of walking and maybe some easy yoga and upper body weights. However, because I am registered for a half marathon on Thanksgiving day (just over 12 weeks away!), I’ve been anxious to get back out running again. I am not an idiot and I’m not jumping back into eight mile sweat sessions or crazy speed work at the track. I am going to take my time and start with short distances, walking whenever and however much is necessary. I have a tentative training plan that I am going to try to follow to prepare for the half, which I’m going to write about in my next post. But first, since I haven’t really written about it yet, I wanted to fill in the blanks about what all has happened with my running since the Atlanta 10 Miler last October.

Running While Pregnant and Injured, Stage 1 – Resting, Resting, Resting

Just before the Atlanta 10 Miler in October, I wrote about my frustrations with some pain in my right knee that developed during the 13.1 Half Marathon earlier that month. After pushing through a couple of weeks of light(er) running following the 13.1 race, it became clear that this knee injury wasn’t going to just magically go away. So I promised my husband that after the 10 Miler, I would rest for at least a month, something I very much did not want to do at that time.

Although I’ve been running in some form for the last 4-5 years, I’ve only really felt like a serious runner since early 2012. Everything was finally clicking last fall and I was starting to see some real improvements in my finish times (a sub-28 minute 5K!). So, knowing that my husband and I had just begun trying to expand our family, and having no idea if I would be able to run during my pregnancy (despite grand visions of myself running right up until my due date!), the thought of voluntarily not running for an “extra” month was pretty scary. I had a sneaking suspicion that my one month break could easily become ten months or more. What if I lost everything I had worked so hard for? What if I never make it back to running? It felt like my relationship with running was still sort of precarious and taking a short break that could very well become a much longer break was taking a risk that might end the relationship forever.

Regardless of all of that, though, I couldn’t deny that my knee was seriously messed up. It was to the point where it hurt throughout my day, not just when I was running. Walking down stairs was a particular challenge. As much as my heart wanted to keep running, I knew that I needed to rest my knee. So begrudgingly, I agreed to rest for at least a month. Little did I know that the start of this rest period would coincide almost simultaneously with the start of my pregnancy. In fact, based on how an OB traditionally “dates” a pregnancy, the first day of my pregnancy was actually five days BEFORE the Atlanta 10 Miler. Which means that my self-imposed injury rest period happened to correspond with my exhaustion-filled first trimester. When it was clear a month later that my knee was still not better, I was actually perfectly content to continue my hibernation on my couch for another month. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I had ZERO energy to do anything, let alone try to go running. So I didn’t.

Running While Pregnant and Injured, Stage 2 – Rehab!

Once I got past Christmas Day (the lowest point in my pregnancy, health-wise, honestly), I started to feel much, much better. I never actually got sick during that time, but I was incredibly run down and just felt achy and blah. So when all of that started to lift, it was like having a whole new lease on life again. I knew that I had a pre-paid entry to the Atlanta Track Club’s Resolution Run 5K on New Year’s day and I was suddenly curious if my knee and my newly pregnant self would actually be up to running that race. So I cautiously tried for a short two mile run on December 30th, just to see how everything felt. And the answer was that while I felt GREAT during my run, my knee still felt like my knee cap was going to pop off at any time. To say I was disappointed that I would have to DNS the race would be an understatement. There were a lot of swear words involved.

Nope. Never made it there. Boo.

Nope. Never made it there. Boo.

At that point, I knew that I needed to see an orthopedist and that minimally, I could probably expect to be referred to a physical therapist. I wanted to be able to realize my dreams of pregnant running greatness, but even more so, I just wanted to be able to maintain some sort of fitness during my pregnancy for general health reasons. I was also nervous that suddenly carrying a lot of extra weight on a bum knee might do even more damage. It was definitely time to get a bit more proactive on the injury front.

After a relatively quick examination, my orthopedist finally identified what was really going on: inflammation of my right IT band, likely due to running on a sprained left ankle all last fall which altered my gait. Whoops. Because of my pregnancy, we couldn’t confirm the diagnosis with x-rays or anything, but my doctor was fairly confident. As expected, she referred me to PT for six weeks, with a strict no running rule. She did, however, encourage me to use either the bike or the elliptical at my gym to help break up some of the scar tissue and to get some form of cardio. So that became my routine for most of January and all of February – weekly PT appointments at the crack of dawn, PT exercises at home, and non-running cardio and light weights at the gym. Oh, and I also started prenatal yoga which I continued to do weekly right up until my due date.

Pregnant Gym Selfies: January, February, March

I was a little nervous about how being pregnant would affect my ability to complete my PT. However, totally by chance, my physical therapist was just back from her own maternity leave and was fabulous at coming up with stretches and exercises that I could do with my growing my belly. Plus, she was great to talk to about all kinds of pregnancy and parenting questions that I had. even though I loathed getting up so early in the morning, I actually really looked forward to our sessions. All in all, it was a great experience, and I definitely noticed a distinct improvement in my knee pain. Things were looking up!

Running While Pregnant and Injured, Stage 3 – Racing!

I had my final PT appointment on March 6th. At the time, I began eyeing the ATC’s Atlanta Women’s 5K on March 29th as my comeback race. I knew with only three weeks to “train”, I wasn’t going to be setting any PRs (even though I’ve PR’d this course twice before!). But with stretching, foam rolling, ice, and a healthy application of KT tape, I was able to run relatively pain-free for the first time in months. Of course, I was starting to get a bit bigger at that point, making running a bit more a challenge in that respect, but knee-wise, things were coming together. I picked up my number and my race shirt and let myself get excited for my first race day in five months.

And then it rained and rained and rained. The race itself still went on as scheduled, but with the slickness of the roads, both Mike and I felt that it wasn’t worth the risk of me slipping and falling just to say that I finished this race. I was super bummed – the Women’s 5K is one of my absolute favorite races (like I said, I’ve PR’d there twice!) and I was really looking forward to finding my race legs again. But it was definitely the right choice to skip it this time around. So for the second time during this pregnancy, I DNS’d a race.

However, I didn’t let that stop me. I still felt good enough to keep running, so I did. Throughout the month of April, I ran a few times a week, in addition to some light weights at the gym and prenatal yoga. I was super busy during this time with work, baby prep, and lots of volunteer work for both Komen Atlanta and the ATC, so it wasn’t easy to fit in gym/running time, but I made it happen. I really wanted to be healthy and fit during this pregnancy (mostly in the hopes of an easy recovery), and I also still really wanted to run a race while I was pregnant. There are a ton of races here in Atlanta in the month of April (at one point last April, I ran in three races and walked one more event in a 10 day span!) so it was just a matter of picking the right race.

For me, the right race ended up being the Inman Park Festival’s Rocket Run 5k. This race was in one of my favorite areas of the city, benefitted a great cause (Mary Lin Elementary School), had a later start time, and, most importantly for me at this stage, was untimed. Between my injury and being 27 weeks pregnant, I knew I had lost a lot of speed and I wasn’t too keen to see a clock reminding me of that. The goal here was just to finish and to be able to tell Dash that we ran a race together. Moreover, because Mike wasn’t concerned about his finish time, he ran beside me the whole time, which ended up being really helpful. The race was hilly and I needed all the encouragement I could get. But I hung in there and was proud to get across that finish line!

Ready to Race!

Ready to Race!

Running While Pregnant and Injured, Stage 4 – Taking it Easy

After that, it became clear that running in my third trimester just wasn’t meant to be. I didn’t enjoy my runs and I didn’t want to put myself in a situation where I would come to resent something that I loved before my pregnancy. The elliptical at the gym was much gentler on my body overall, so I moved my workouts there instead. By doing that, I was able to continue my cardio and light weights up through about 36 weeks, which I was pretty darn proud of. I know it pales in comparison to what some other running bloggers have been able to do during their pregnancies, but that’s ok. I did what I could do and I listened to my body. I probably should have made more time for my knee PT exercises, but oh well.

Pregnant Gym Selfies: April, May, June

As far as racing, I was actually registered for the Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure in early May but knew I wasn’t going to be able to run that race (I was at my cousin’s wedding that weekend). I was also registered for the Peachtree Road Race on July 4th but at 36 weeks, the thought of squeezing my big belly onto a MARTA train to the starting line just to trudge six miles in oppressive heat and huge crowds was wholly unappealing. Instead, I got my race fix and fulfilled some of my ambassador duties for the Atlanta Track Club by volunteering twice at the race expo. All together, I DNS’d four races while I was pregnant. Oh well. There will always be more races to run.

Matching bellies at the Peachtree Expo!

Matching bellies at the Peachtree Expo!

And speaking of more races to run, when I was caught up in the excitement of the Peachtree Road Race expo, I made the bold move of registering for the Atlanta Half Marathon, on Thanksgiving day. Now that I’m able to run again, I’ve laid out a tentative “training” plan to work my way back. Over the weekend, I’ll write up what that plan entails, my goals for this race, and my progress so far. But for now, my early morning run is dictating an early bedtime tonight!

Welcome to the world, Dash!

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Seventeen days ago, my husband Mike and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary by welcoming this guy into the world:

 Dash 20

As most of you know by now from social media, his name is Dashiell Reeves Cincotta and we affectionately call him Dash. Although my pregnancy was easy, Dash’s birth was not. I don’t feel comfortable sharing all of the details of his birth story in this public forum, but suffice it to say, three days of contractions (two days worth of which were induced following my water breaking) does not make for fun times. The length of time between when my water broke and when Dash was born also led to some nervous moments immediately after he arrived as well. Thankfully, everything turned out for the best and everyone has been doing well since then.

We have now been at home for two weeks, slowly figuring each other out and learning our new family dynamics. My mother-in-law was here for the first week and was hugely helpful, especially when it came to letting me catch up on sleep and recover from labor and delivery. She was joined by my father-in-law and brother-in-law last weekend, making them all Dash’s first visitors. While it was great to be surrounded by so much love and support, I think that by the time everyone left, both Mike and I were ready to be on our own as a small family and try to find our own new routines. The past few days have been a wonderful mix of happy baby snuggles (I could let this guy sleep on my chest for days!), frustration over seemingly cause-less baby wails, proud parenting victories (no crying during bath time last night!), and a love between all of us that grows exponentially with each passing day.

Dash 22

During the time since Dash was born, the world said good bye to Robin Williams. His passing led to a lot of discussion about the need for open dialogue around depression. In that spirit, I can honestly say that while things get better every single day, being a new parent has been a hard adjustment for me. I knew it would be physically exhausting, but the emotional toll it has taken has been a surprise. The best way to describe how I feel is this: I feel homesick. Not for a place, but for other times. I loved being pregnant and now realize that I wasn’t prepared for it to come to such an abrupt end. Our lives pre-Dash were easy and free, if a bit quiet in recent years. Shenanigans was the center of our universe for a very long time and I hate the idea that she is feeling neglected due to a change she had no say in. The thought that I can never go back to those times hurts my heart immensely, as it always does following a major life change. I also miss my mom more than I thought humanly possible. Knowing that, for the first time ever, my life has moved on to a stage that she will never be a part of makes everything that much harder. I am leaving her behind with my old life and that thought breaks my heart on a daily basis.

All of that being said, with each passing day, things get a bit easier. Sleep certainly helps, as does having a wonderfully supportive partner. I’ve also done better this week about getting outside for some fresh air and exercise most days. I can’t wait until next week when I can start running again, even though I know it will be challenging. Writing things out, as I’m doing here, also helps me to make sense of things. Returning to some of these old habits is a helpful reminder that not everything in life has changed and even those things that have changed, haven’t necessarily changed for the worse. Life just looks a bit different now and that’s ok.

As for Dash and I, we’re taking things one day at a time. We fall deeper in love with each other by the minute and I find that if he sleeps for too long, I actually miss him. Even with all of the emotions that I’ve been wrestling with, I have rarely felt overwhelmed by Dash himself. Holding him and realizing that I really do have the ability to comfort and soothe this tiny person in a way no one else does has been incredibly reassuring. I am genuinely amazed that he finds my singing voice soothing. Spending time looking into his big, curious eyes and feeling him snuggle into me has been very comforting to me in much the same way that holding Mike’s hand has always made me feel better in times of stress in the past. I already find myself wishing Dash would grow slower and stay this tiny forever, even as I simultaneously long for the days when he can take care of himself a bit more. I have not for one second regretted our choice to become parents.

Dash 27

I promise that not all of my blog posts going forward will be quite this personal, or even this Dash-heavy. But since I know a lot of people are checking in on me and are curious how I’m doing, I thought I would share a more thorough update. From here on, though, things will be back to blogging business as usual, as time and Dash allows. Next week starts my official “training” for the Atlanta Half Marathon on Thanksgiving Day, so you can expect to see training updates popping up regularly (hopefully weekly!). I’m not fundraising for this race, since completing this race is enough of a challenge for me at this point, but I always have my eye on the cancer advocacy world and will try to mention different events and opportunities as I learn about them. I’m already thinking about posts around the Stand Up to Cancer telethon on September 5th and both the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Atlanta walk and the Susan G. Komen 3 Day for the Cure in October. I’m also confident that I’ll be tying on my Komen Atlanta and Atlanta Track Club volunteer shoes soon enough. So there will be plenty to write about in the months to come. Plus you never know when I’ll throw in some Dash updates, so definitely check back regularly.

For now, though, a deep and sincere thanks to everyone for their well wishes and supportive words. While we haven’t been able to respond to everyone’s texts, tweets, emails, phone calls, cards, and Facebook messages, we have read and appreciated every single one!

Dash 16

 

All of the gorgeous photos in this post were courtesy of Allison DePalma Photography

Army of Women Call to Action – Looking for Buffalo Area Participants!

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

If you’re checking in for a Baby C update, he’s still not here. He’s taking his sweet time deciding when to come into the world, just like his Mom did!

But hey, while you’re here, I’ve got another great cause that I wanted to write about today. I can’t help myself, you all know that.

Anyways, I regularly get emails from Dr. Susan Love’s Research Foundation soliciting qualified participants for an array of breast cancer-related studies through their awesome and unique Army of Women initiative. Admittedly, most of the time, I don’t pay enough attention to the details of each study to find out if I’m qualified for the studies. But with not much to do these days but wait for Baby C (and get some actual work-work done from home), I’ve actually been taking the opportunity to look at some of the things that land in my inbox on a daily basis. And lo and behold, this Army of Women study caught my eye today. I’m not qualified for this study (I’m too young and can’t get to the study site easily) but with a large family and a number of friends from the Buffalo area, I figure that there’s a good chance that someone in my extended network will be. So I decided to share the details here and even if you’re not interested personally, maybe you’ll take five minutes to share the details with your network as well.

Please note that I’m not posting this particular call to action because I think it’s the best or most worthwhile of the many Army of Women studies. I’m posting this one in particular because I know a lot of people with connections to the Buffalo-area and geographic barriers are often some of the hardest to overcome when recruiting participants for a study like this.

Project Title A Pilot Study of the Flaxseed Effects on Hormones and Lignans: Role of Race, Genes, and Gut Microbiome

Researcher Susan McCann, PhD, Roswell Park Cancer Institute

Study Summary The purpose of this study is to determine whether adding flaxseed (a food high in compounds that can change hormones) to a regular diet changes hormones that are related to breast cancer risk and if the effect of flaxseed differs between African- American and Caucasian women.

Who Can Participate? You can sign up for A Pilot Study of the Flaxseed Effects on Hormones and Lignans: Role of Race, Genes, and Gut Microbiome if you meet ALL of these MAIN criteria:

• You are a woman between 45 and 75 years of age.

• You have stopped having your menstrual periods (you are postmenopausal).

• Your last menstrual period was more than 12 months ago.

• You have never been diagnosed with any cancer (basal and squamous cell skin cancers are OK).

• You have never had gastric bypass surgery.

• You have NOT taken estrogen or other female hormones (hormone replacement therapy, nonprescription hormones, or herbal supplements for menopausal symptoms) within the past 2 months.

• You do NOT eat flaxseed or take a flaxseed supplement regularly.

• You are NOT allergic to seeds or nuts.

• You have NOT taken antibiotics in the last 3 months

• You live near or are willing to travel (at your own expense) to Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York

• You self-identify as:
o Non-Hispanic White OR
o Non-Hispanic Black

After you RSVP, the research team will contact you to ask additional questions to be sure that the study is a good fit for you.

What Does Participation Involve? If you sign up for A Pilot Study of the Flaxseed Effects on Hormones and Lignans: Role of Race, Genes, and Gut Microbiome, the research team will contact you to confirm that you are eligible. If you choose to participate in the study, you will be asked to: 

• Be randomly assigned (like the flip of a coin) to eat 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed per day for 6 weeks or to maintain your usual diet. Two months later, you will switch into the other group for 6 weeks. 

• Complete an interview about your diet, health habits, medical history, reproductive history, and other information related to a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. 

• Attend 5 morning visits throughout the duration of the study at the Prevention Center at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. At these visits, you will be asked to provide a blood sample and have your height, weight, and body fat measured. You will also be asked to bring a urine sample from the night before and a small sample of that day’s bowel movement that you collected at your home. The research team will provide the containers for these samples, and instructions on how to collect them. The research team will also call you periodically to ask you everything you ate and drank in the past 24 hours.

Where? Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, New York

If you are interested in participating, or know of someone who might be, please click the image below to be taken to the Army of Women site for this project. And hey, while you’re on their site, please consider signing up for future Army of Women calls to action by clicking “Sign Up Today” in the menu bar at the top of the page!

Army of Women Logo

PS – Michelle’s IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds to supply protective equipment to the healthcare workers in Liberia on the front lines of the Ebola outbreak is still going strong. In case you missed it yesterday, please click here to learn more about her efforts and how you can contribute! Thanks!

Baby C Update and a Cause Worth Supporting!

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Hi all!

Since today is my due date, I thought I’d start with a quick Baby C update, but then I wanted to post about something that I think is really important – my friend Michelle’s IndieGoGo campaign to raise money for medical supplies for the medical aid workers trying to contain the deadly Ebola virus outbreak.

From our maternity photoshoot at Piedmont Park with Allison DePalma.

From our maternity photo shoot with Allison DePalma.

But before we get to Ebola, an update on me! I have somehow gone an entire 40 weeks with almost no posts about my pregnancy. That was entirely by accident, due to a number of circumstances beyond my control. However, if you’ve been following my #100HappyDays challenge, you’ve seen plenty about all of our last minute preparations. At this point, we’re feeling prepared, if not yet ready. I’m not sure anyone ever feels totally ready for this magnitude of a life change. But we are prepared. We’ve taken birthing classes, breastfeeding classes, a baby basics class, even infant CPR. We’ve both had haircuts, eye appointments, and dental cleanings. The dog has had a bath and her most recent shots. The baby’s room is FINALLY done and we think we have everything we need for these first few weeks. Mike has been diligently cleaning every inch of our house and every linen/baby outfit he can find (truly, that’s all been his efforts and I could not be more grateful!). Heck, I even got my nails done last week so they’d look halfway decent in those new baby photos. So we’re prepared.

Baby C, however, doesn’t seem to be quite ready to make his big appearance just yet. I haven’t had any signs of early labor that I’ve recognized as such, so we’re thinking he’s going to take after his mom and come into the world a little behind schedule. But that’s ok. I’ve been lucky to have a fairly comfortable, non-eventful pregnancy so I’m not sitting here in misery. I’m excited to finally meet this little dude who’s been wiggle-worming his way around my insides for the last nine months, but I’m actually fine with waiting for him to be ready to enter the world. For now, I’m finishing up some things from work (from home at this point, thankfully!), taking care of some things around the house, and just generally taking it easy. We’ll be sure to spread the word to excited and anxious friends and family once there’s actually news to tell, I promise.

Now, onto my friend Michelle’s IndieGoGo campaign. Doctor Michelle is my college roommate and is easily one of the most impressive people I’ve ever met (and I know some pretty impressive people). She is Harvard-trained in emergency pediatrics and global health and has lead medical outreach efforts all over the globe. Of the many places where she has worked, Liberia has captured her heart. She speaks passionately about her experiences there and the wonderful people that she’s gotten to work with. Her great pride in how far they have come is clearly evident.

Doctor Michelle in Liberia

Sadly, Liberia, and its neighboring countries of Sierra Leone and Guinea are currently facing one of the worst Ebola outbreaks that the region has ever known. To use Michelle’s own words from the IndieGoGo campaign page:

In a world where conflict and war is raging on across so many countries, this is a war with no sides and no fault. There were no instigators, there will be no winners but the victims are many. The number of people killed by Ebola in this three-country region is more than half the total number of deaths from all prior outbreaks in Africa combined. Healthcare workers are on the frontlines where the sick flock, their safety is in jeopardy while they charge straight into danger to care for their own people.

Ebola is a highly contagious virus with no cure and no vaccine that spreads easily through contact. In the people that it affects, it starts out like any cold with fever and vomiting but turns into deadly internal bleeding. Ebola infection has claimed the lives of 12 brave healthcare workers and infected over 30. Only 1 in 3 infected with the virus are expected to survive this deadly disease, making the frontlines of healthcare in Liberia as deadly as armed conflict. Yet these brave individuals put their lives on the line to treat emergencies, pregnant women, children and those with chronic disease. Healthcare cannot come to a halt while Liberia waits for Ebola to go away.

As in all developing countries, medical supplies are scant and an outbreak like this taxes the few resources that the healthcare workers do have. To help ease this burden, Michelle has created an IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds for the healthcare workers in her beloved Liberia. You can read more about their needs on the IndieGoGo page, as well as more detailed information about how these funds will be distributed. But keep in mind this one number: $2.50 is enough to provide a healthcare worker with one set of protective equipment. That’s it.

Michelle’s initial goal for this campaign was to raise $10,000 in two weeks. Her friends and family blew that out of the water in the first day. So, as is Michelle’s relentless way, she raised her goal. She is hoping to raise $250,000 in the next 30 days. I hope that you will consider giving to this important effort. You can do so at the link below:

Click here to donate in support of the healthcare workers in Liberia in their fight against Ebola!

I am lucky that when Baby C decides he’s ready to enter the world, he will be doing so in a well-equipt medical facility where his risk of contracting scary infectious diseases is nonexistent. The same cannot be said for the healthcare workers in Liberia that Michelle considers to be family. Please consider making a donation to this most worthy campaign today!

#100HappyDays

Monday, June 9th, 2014

It has been over four months since I last wrote a blog post. It has been an eventful four months, to say the least. Pregnancy (only seven weeks left!) and all of the related preparations and doctor’s appointments that entails, job uncertainty for my husband Mike, significant restructuring around my job, rehabbing my first significant running injury, ailing relatives, and significant volunteer time commitments have combined to keep us on our toes this year. But by far, the hardest thing that we have had to face has been the loss of my mom to breast cancer after a seven year fight. Her health declined significantly over the last six months and we finally had to say good-bye to her in mid-May. While I am coming to some sort of peace with what has happened, my heart has been forever changed by it. That she will never know the little guy growing in my belly is something I will never be able to truly comprehend.


With Mom (and Dad) at a Braves game last September

With Mom (and Dad) at a Braves game last September

I have many more things to say about my mom’s passing, as well as all of those other things I mentioned above as well. With time, I will attempt to fill in some of those blanks. I have always found writing (and running!) to be a great way to work through complicated thoughts and feelings around all sorts of topics. With everything that has been swirling around my head in the last four months, my return to this small corner of the internet has been long overdue. But tonight, I have something else that I wanted to write about: #100HappyDays!

For those who are unaware, #100HappyDays is an online photo challenge of sorts, and theoretically, an easy one at that. You sign up for the challenge on the website, and then every day for the next 100 days, you post a photo of something that made you happy during that day. Truly, anything that has brought you a moment of joy can be shared – a get together with friends, a snuggle from a loving pet, a great cup of coffee, anything. You can post your pictures on any social media site that you choose (or just email your photos to the #100HappyDays curators), although most people choose to use Instagram. And that’s it. At the end of your #100HappyDays, you will have a nice archive to look back on of everything that has brought you happiness of the previous 3+ months.

After hearing about this challenge from a number of friends (and seeing the hashtag explode in my social media feeds), I decided I wanted to give it a try. At the time, it was clear that Mom’s health was declining significantly, although we didn’t yet know how little time she had left. I was looking for a way to stay positive and focus on all of the good things happening in my life despite everything happening with Mom and this seemed like a great way to do just that. When I realized that it was approximately 100 days before my due date, it just felt right – one positive thing for each day leading up to the arrival of our little dude. So I jumped right in and began posting my pics.

Two weeks later, I flew to New York to say good-bye to my mom for the last time. I am generally a very positive, happy person. But the thought of trying to find something, ANYTHING positive in those last few days was just too much for me. While my mom was in the ICU, my father-in-law was upstairs on the main floor for a week fighting a nasty kidney infection that stemmed from some brutal kidney stones. Two days after I got to the hospital, my lifelong best friend’s father was also admitted to the same hospital (five doors down from my FIL) to recover from reparative knee surgery. I was surrounded by loved ones in all types of pain. The thought of posting a picture of an ice cream bar from the hospital cafeteria just felt trivial and disingenuous. The only thing bringing me any comfort was the immense support network that the universe conspired to provide me at the hospital in the form of my always great in-laws and a friend who has been there for me whenever I’ve needed her for the last 32 years. But they were dealing with their own stresses and posting artificially cheerful photos of them just didn’t seem right. I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t in the mood to fake it. So I stopped.

Now that I have had a bit of space from everything that happened, I think it is time to start my #100HappyDays again. I need to continue to heal and the reality is, I still have much to be happy about. Baby C is healthy and in spite of everything, this pregnancy has gone very well. I have a wonderful husband and great friends who have continually surprised me with their generosity and kindness over the last few weeks. And while not everything is great (still sorting out Hubs’ job situation!), I again want to focus on the positive. I don’t want to wallow or descend into a hole. I am taking responsibility for my own happiness as we count down to Baby C’s arrival.

Today is my new Day 1. It is exactly 50 days until Baby C’s due date, meaning approximately half of my challenge will precede his arrival and half will follow in his wake. I can’t think of a better way to document this unique time in my life.


#Day1 - Reaping the rewards of last year's hard work with my highest ever start wave placement at the Peachtree Road Race!

#Day1 – Reaping the rewards of last year’s hard work with my highest ever start wave placement at the Peachtree Road Race!

If you would like to follow along during this second attempt at #100HappyDays, my Instagram feed can be found here. I also generally share the pictures to my Twitter feed, which can be found here. See you there!

Running for a Whole Lot More in 2014!

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Final Announcement for Web

Surprise! More details to come soon!

 

Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

Welcome to 2014!

First and foremost – apologies for sort of disappearing a bit in December! While I am usually pretty busy this time of year (as we all are), this year really wiped me out. In addition to the normal hustle and bustle of the holidays, I also ended up having multiple orientations for some things I’m taking on this year (including serving on the Komen Atlanta Community Grant Review committee and acting as an Ambassador for the Atlanta Track Club), a number of parties with new friends and old, and a five day trip home to upstate New York, something we haven’t done in YEARS. Unfortunately, due to our work schedules, the only time we could schedule that trip was two weeks BEFORE Christmas, right in the middle of the month. The timing of that trip threw me off so much that I’m STILL playing catch up. Seriously: I’m still working on getting our “Christmas” cards out. On January 2nd. OIY. All in all, it was such a crazy month that by the time New Year’s Eve rolled around, Mike and I were perfectly content to just stay in by ourselves and relax.

Celebrating the season with some of my fellow Atlanta-area running bloggers, a wonderful group of ladies!

Celebrating the season with some of my fellow Atlanta-area running bloggers, a wonderful group of ladies!

On top of that general busy-ness, I also haven’t been running, thanks to a knee injury that just will not heal. When I initially hurt my knee back in October, I planned to take off a full month and hope for the best. After that month was up, I could tell from just my day to day activities that my knee was still pretty inflamed, so I decided to take December off as well. Things finally started feeling better over the last couple weeks, so in the hopes of participating in the ATC’s Resolution Run on New Year’s Day, I attempted a short run last weekend. It did NOT go well. Less than a mile in, my knee flared up and felt just as bad (if not worse) than it felt back in October. It was incredibly discouraging. My fellow running bloggers have been writing and sharing their running goals and race plans for 2014 and I couldn’t even finish three miles, let alone start planning for next year. Honestly, it was kind of a crummy note to end the year on.

Nope. Never made it there. Boo.

Nope. Never made it there. Boo.

However! I can’t let that get me down. Instead of moping, I’m making my first resolution of 2014 to figure out what’s wrong with this knee once and for all, figure out a plan to get it back to where it needs to be, and follow that plan to the letter until I’m back out on the roads and running the way I want to be. That means it’s absolutely time to find a doctor. I gathered some recommendations from friends on Twitter and on Facebook (thanks for your input, friends!), and established today that my health insurance doesn’t actually require a referral to see an orthopedic specialist. Tomorrow, I’m going to start calling around and see who can see me in the next couple weeks. Fingers crossed that by the end of this month, I’ll have the beginning of a game plan to get back to running again.

So, given that ongoing frustration and the general chaos of the holidays, it’s been pretty easy to fall out of my “Running for More” groove. However, I love writing here when I get the time, even if it is occasionally sporadic. Plus, with the new year starting, a lot of exciting things are happening that I’m really looking forward to:

  • As I mentioned above, I’m serving on the Komen Atlanta Community Grants Review Committee again this year. I’ll be reviewing my assigned grants over the next month and in early February, I’ll meet with the rest of the committee members to decide on our final funding recommendations to the Board of Directors. The whole process is intended to be confidential, so I probably won’t say much more here. But suffice it to say, working through this process will be eating up a big part of my January!
  • As an ambassador for the Atlanta Track Club, there are two non-race events next week that I’m really looking forward to: the town hall to discuss the future of the Grand Prix race series at 6pm on Monday, January 6th and the Annual Member Social on Thursday, January 9th. Look for a post with all the details on both of those over the weekend. Just as a note, though, ATC has asked people to RSVP for the town hall by Friday, January 3rd. If you’re interested in attending, please shoot a quick email to feedback@atlantatrackclub.org.
  • Finally, as this year’s Participation and Teams Chair for the Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure, I would be absolutely remiss if I didn’t mention that registration for this year’s race (which will take place on Saturday, May 10th) is now OPEN! This is a GREAT goal race if one of your resolutions is to get in the exercise habit and improve your physical fitness. Our race is open to runners and walkers alike, so regardless of your personal goals, we’d love it if you made taking part in our race your goal. Also, as an added bonus, if you use the discount code “earlybird” at checkout, you can save $10 off your registration from now through January 15th. If I convinced you to register, you can do so by clicking on the link at the end of this post!

And finally, I really do intend to go back and fill in some of my blogging gaps from back in October. Tentatively, I’m planning to write those up over the next couple of weeks (I think I’ve got five posts to write). I think I’m going to back-date those posts when they’re done so that they make more sense in the archives and then I’ll write a quick wrap-up post with all of the links once they’re done.

With all of that on my plate, maybe it’s for the best that I’m not also trying to squeeze in training and races. I’m going to be plenty busy enough as it is focusing on the “For More” part of my personal mission without the “Running” bit. But first, though, I MUST finish addressing these Christmas cards once and for all before this gets seriously embarrassing!

Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure logo

Click the image to register for the 2014 Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure today!

Georgia Gives Day (Plus an Injury Update)

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Happy Georgia Gives DayGa Gives Day Logo

Since today is Georgia Gives Day, I thought that I would shine a brief spotlight on some of my favorite local organizations that could benefit from your donation today. But first, a few quick updates on me, since it’s been a few weeks:

  • Despite my blog absence, I didn’t die during the Atlanta Marathon 10-Miler a few weeks ago. In fact, I felt pretty decent at the finish line, all things considered. Expect a full recap in the coming weeks, along with recaps from the 13.1 half marathon and some in between stuff for both.
  • I haven’t done anything more physically taxing than walking the dog for over two weeks now. Rest seems to be doing my ankle injury a world of good, so hopefully the worst of that injury is far behind me at this point.
  • Rest does NOT seem to be helping my knee injury. In fact, while I had a low level of soreness during my first week of rest, it actually seems to have gotten significantly worse over the past week. Walking down stairs is incredibly painful right now. I’m working on getting a referral from my primary care physician to see a sports medicine doctor about it which hopefully will happen soon. I’ll keep you posted on what comes of that.
  • Too much rest is also causing a (very) old hip injury to flair up as well. Years of gymnastics and dance classes have left me with chronically weak and achy hips which running actually seems to help with, not hurt. However, all this not running is causing my left hip to really (REALLY) hurt, especially when I try to turn out that leg. So I’ll be talking to the sports med doc about that too.
  • Because I have no idea what the prognosis will be for either of those injuries, I’m holding off on registering for any races for the rest of this year and even into next year. Even I was suddenly cleared to run tomorrow, I’ve lost so much fitness that racing anything longer than a 5K this year would be laughable.
  • Not running is making me CRAZY. I didn’t think I had been bitten by the running bug this badly, but clearly, I have been. I’ve particularly been struggling with the fear that I won’t be able to get back to where I was before I got hurt, and that all of the gains I made this past year will be just a blip in my running “career” instead of the beginning of a long period of continual improvement.
  • Because I’ve been so down about not running, I haven’t really felt like blogging about running. I also had a cold that left me physically voiceless for almost a week plus I’ve had some stuff going on at work. I just haven’t been feeling the blogging thing, which is why it’s been two weeks since I last posted. BUT! I’m back today and that’s what matters.

So that covers what’s been going on with me, running- and blogging-wise. As I mentioned, I’m trying to get back into the blogging swing of things and have a bunch of overdue recaps coming up soon. However, I was motivated to hop back online today to write about the second annual Georgia Gives Day!

Georgia Gives Day was started last year by the Georgia Center for Non-Profits (or GCN) in recognition of the fact that we are all affected by the work of our local non-profits, whether we realize it or not. Or, as the official website puts it:

Whether you know it or not, you live your life in nonprofits. From the hospitals where we are born, to the day care centers, schools and colleges that educate us. From the clubs, sports leagues and cultural institutions that entertain us, to the religious institutions we worship in. From the invisible impact of groups working on literacy, hunger, blight, disease, disability and job development, to programs that train our doctors and police and rally volunteer firefighters, to groups that fight for our voice and for justice. From the preservation of our green spaces and great places, to parks and paths, farmers markets and pet adoption, hospice providers and historic cemeteries.

Whether you have ever given a dime or a minute of time, your life has been affected by the work of a nonprofit. Now, we are creating an opportunity for everyone, in every corner of the state, to support the causes that make Georgia great.

Georgia Gives Day is an initiative that has been co-created by the nonprofit sector itself. It doesn’t support one cause or one locale – it’s all of us in the state’s nonprofit sector pulling together to ask you to stop and consider your life and your community without nonprofits. How much less connected, less vibrant, less interesting and less supported would our communities be without them? 

It is really as simple as that. Our non-profits help us all in a myriad of ways. As we head into the season of thanks and giving and all of that, what better time than now to shine the spotlight on some of these great organizations?

If you are inclined to give (regardless of if you live here in Georgia or not!), you can find a list of participating organizations here. I also highly recommend the following organizations (clicking the links will take you to each group’s Georgia Gives Day page so your donation will be included in the final tally):

And many, many more. This list is FAR from comprehensive. If you’d prefer to donate to another organization here in Georgia (and they don’t necessarily have to be in the Atlanta area), click through to the Georgia Gives Day website and use the search box to find the organization(s) you prefer instead. Just please give a little something today to help support my adopted state.

Also, while I believe very strongly in “think global, act local”, sometimes we need to act globally as well. If you can spare a few more dollars, please consider giving to an organization that is providing typhoon relief in the Philippines as well. Here are some great places to start:

Thank you everyone, for supporting me, my state, and the world!