First Race of 2015 – Syracuse Half Marathon

syracuse halfThat title sounds so exciting, but unfortunately my performance was not 😉 But hey – you gotta get that first race of the season out of the way! So why not do it surrounded by some of your greatest friends – who both shared the race course with you and stood on the sidelines in less than ideal weather to support the team. Although I wasn’t thrilled with my race I wasn’t down about it because I knew this race was going to be a test of my fitness. I’ve been a hermit this winter – enduring most of my miles on the treadmill. I have only done one speed work session outside. And craziest of all – I haven’t raced on the road since…gulp…the beginning of September! And that was a 5k. This race would be interesting…

Last year I found myself ill-prepared for the race conditions after traveling to Syracuse with only my racing flats that have zero tread on them. The slick, snow-covered roads did not agree with my attempts to run hard. Instead I opted to have one amazing race experience by running with one of my dearest friends Kate. You may remember our finishing shot – I know I sure do – I love this photo of shared friendship!
syracuse half finishHowever this year I came prepared. And true to Syracuse fashion I awoke Sunday morning to look outside and see a fresh blanket of snow. It wasn’t nearly as daunting as usual – maybe I’m just used to waking up at Marc and Amy’s on race morning, taking a look outside, and contemplating throwing the covers back over my head to sleep right through the race. I also think that my mental state going into this race was “no expectations”. I set out to pick up my teammate Jeremy on the way downtown and it started as a slow drive on the slippery back roads. Soon enough the sun came out and it looked to be an awesome day ahead. The only other challenge was to survive the cold – the temps were in the teens and the wind chill took a good 10 degrees off that. But hey, I had my inov-8 Trailroc 150’s this year so I knew the terrain wouldn’t be an issue.

I was happy we arrived early because the Oncenter was jam packed. Bathroom lines were an issue as well as simply navigating through the building. Luckily they announced a 15 minute delay but unfortunately it wasn’t enough time to get the full Strong Hearts Run Club/Strong Hearts Vegan Power team into the group shot 😩 So here we are in two parts.

Ray, Jeremy, Joel, Peter, Sean, Suzie and I

Ray, Jeremy, Joel, Peter, Sean, Suzie and I


Carrie, Julie & Scott

It was time to step outside and I had no time for a warm-up. I’ve gotten used to skipping my warm up for trail and ultra races, so I didn’t stress too much about this. But damn it was cold! The sunshine helped but I was ready to get started. The gun went off and what do ya know – I wasn’t slipping! I feel like I had a smile on my face because this race was already an improvement over last year. 2 girls led the charge and I simply concerned myself with settling in to a comfortable pace. I did not think that winning was on the table today, so I did not pressure myself to go too hard or chase anyone down.

When I hit the first mile I wasn’t happy with my split, but I also wasn’t surprised. To put a positive twist on it I convinced myself that maybe all of this ultra running has taught me to pace better. Perhaps I was going to ease into this race and get faster as I go. Well I was wrong there, but it was a good practice in positive mental attitude 🙂 I was able to pass the girl who was in 2nd place early on, but the leader was far ahead and there was no chance of me gaining ground on her. At mile 3 a spectator told me she was 400 meters ahead and although I always appreciate receiving feedback like that, I knew it wasn’t going to make me go any faster. There was a definite highlight of this race – passing one of the female traffic enforcers she simply said to me “Go kick those guys’ asses.” It was very blunt – no excitement in her voice – it made me laugh 🙂

The course was in great shape considering the prior day’s weather – thanks to the race crew who spent the morning salting for us! Although my pace was slower than I would have liked to my surprise I was staying consistent. At some point past the halfway mark I could hear that there was another girl closing in on me. When she made her pass I offered her words of encouragement – she was looking strong! One blatant error I made was opting not to take in nutrition. I normally would during a half. I was wearing my super-bulky-warm gloves and my gel was zipped into my back pocket. The thought of taking off a glove to get it seemed way too challenging. I justified this by deciding it would be a glycogen-depleting run. However I don’t think you should practice this during a race 🙂 Honestly I don’t think it hurt me – it was lack of fitness that got me that day – plain and simple.

Within the last 2 miles another girl passed me. Coming into the last mile I thought I may be able to catch her but I didn’t put in any effort to do so. I simply maintained. I picked the spot where I would kick and when I arrived decided I didn’t have it in me to kick yet. I picked the next spot, and again realized it wasn’t there. I wasn’t passing anyone, and I surely wasn’t anywhere near a PR, so I finished my race satisfied with my effort for the day. I don’t think I left it all out there, but anytime I thought I should try to go harder I kept the thought of this weekend’s marathon in the back of my mind.

Hitting the finish line. Strong Hearts to the front! Photo credit: Kendra Murphy

Hitting the finish line. Strong Hearts to the front! Photo credit: Kendra Murphy

I finished in 1:26:47 – minutes away from my PR but I will take it for an early season race in cold weather. I was the 4th overall female and placed 1st in the 35-39 Age Group. It always feels great to be back out on the race course and today was no different! Now I have a better idea of where I stand fitness-wise and it’s time to build off that.

All of the Strong Hearts crew had a great race in less-than-ideal conditions. A special shout-out to Suzie who completed her first half marathon! She’s been training hard for this day and she killed it! #strongheartsrun #tothefront

Joel finishing with Suzie

Joel finishing with Suzie Photo Credit: Thad Jackson



We’re Baaaack…Team Strong Hearts Vegan Power!

vegan worldThis is the true story… of 12 runners… picked to ride in 2 vans… work together to run 196.2 miles and spread their message of compassion…to find out how bad-ass you can be… when people stop supporting cruelty…and embrace living vegan… Team Strong Hearts Vegan Power!

Taking on Ragnar Adirondacks for a 2nd year. Here’s the line-up:

Becca “The Shark” Wellner – Syracuse, NY



Years Vegan: 8
Theme song: Run the World – BeyoncĂ©

Returning for her second year on Team Strong Hearts Vegan power, Becca is going to get this party started for us. I promise we didn’t invite her back for the pumpkin half-moon cookies she’s baking. That’s just an added bonus 🙂 Becca’s strong determination and great attitude are essential to this team. Heck, she raced Reach the Beach just last weekend as a “warm-up” for this event. How about that for dedication?

“I returned for another year because the experience last year was so incredible. I had the opportunity to meet some amazing people that went from strangers to close friends in 26 hours. I love the message we’re putting out there to the other teams and spectators and how we present it. Very excited to experience this all over again!”

“Monster” Mike Pease – Syracuse, NY

Years Vegan: 20



Don’t let the size of this guy fool you – the tall man can run! What fuels him? Throw some trash talk his way and watch what he can do. He’s returning this year with a vengeance – best stay out of his way. Rumor has it he’s been practicing his wrist band handoff (slap!) to avoid any further skull-crushing collisions.

Mike is also the owner of the Terri Restaurants in NYC. If you’re visiting the big city and are looking for something quick and healthy, stop in!

“I wanted to do the Ragnar with the Strong Hearts crew again because it was great motivation to train. I loved being part of a team that supports and counts on each other to compete in such a mentally and physically challenging event. And of course, showing people that vegans are badass mofos doesn’t hurt either!”

“Sergeant” Mario Mason – Syracuse, NY

Years Vegan: 18
Theme song: Born From Pain – Earth Crisis



One thing I know is that if you are showing any signs of weakness on that course, Mario will call you on it. This PGA golf pro and father of a 3-year-old vegan warrior has no tolerance for slackers. Go big or go home. Let’s get this guy a bullhorn! And he’s learning from the best – this year he’s being coached by the legendary Scott Spitz. Mario showed his grit last year by tackling the monster hill with a never-quit attitude – like a man possessed. I have no doubt he’s returning this year with even more fire. (see what I did there? #morefirerun)

“I am running on this team again because last year was awesome and also because it has given me a reason to train – I don’t want to let other people down and I love competition. The team also needs a jerk who will yell at people who are walking during their leg, and I feel that I can fill that role nicely. I also really like surrounding myself with people who eat a vegan diet because flesh eaters disgust me.”

“Rabid Man” Aaron Bell – Saint Simons Island, GA

Years Vegan: 4
Theme song: Hocus Pocus – Focus



Aaron may seem like a gentle giant with quotes such as “I like big dogs”, but don’t let him fool you. Aaron is so bad-ass he pops Nuun tablets like pez (note: no one on Team Strong Hearts Vegan Power endorses this use of Nuun). Water?!? Pssshhh – he’ll slap that water right out of your hand. He’d rather foam at the mouth to make sure all the other runners know he is all business.

“I’m returning because it’s an excuse to run in sub-100 degree heat! Seriously, I had an absolute blast last year and any way to do something I love, with the people I love, promoting a message I LOVE, is awesome.”

Jeremy “Birdman” Ritz-Totten – New York, NY

Years Vegan: 2
Theme song: Joy to the World – 3 Dog Night



The first new recruit to the team. Although I have yet to meet Jeremy, I can tell by looking at his training that he is going to be an excellent addition. This guy can run some miles, and he runs them fast. On top of that he has a crazy amount of enthusiasm which is going to fuel van 1 for sure! Excellent recruitment Aaron. Welcome to the team Jeremy – I’m looking forward to seeing you fly through that course!

“I chose to be a part of the team for the challenge of doing a relay. I’ve only been seriously running for a little over a year. I joined this team by invitation from a high school friend (Aaron), but look forward to the camaraderie of competing in a compassionate and kick ass way with fellow vegan runners.”

Laura Kline – New Paltz, NY

Years Vegan: 9
Theme song – Eye of the Tiger – Survivor

VP50k finish

Me 🙂

Well obviously I’m back again 🙂 Ever since our team parted ways last year I couldn’t wait to do it again. Running, compassionate friends, vegan food, lots of laughter – that’s my idea of a good time! The impact we made and the attention we attracted at last year’s Ragnar far exceeded my expectations. With a solid crew of vegan ambassadors surrounding me – I will do it again and again. I can’t wait to make more memories and crush some more miles this year!

Kate “Glitter” Paice Froio – Cortland, NY

Years Vegan: 1



Among Kate’s many super-powers, shooting glitter from her heart is one of my favorites! And what better way to spread the message of compassion – with bursts of glitter! 🙂 One of the most passionate, dedicated women I’ve ever met – this super-mom, super-wife & super-career woman adds an equal amount of commitment towards her running – encouraging others each and every step along the way. Her smile will brighten your day – so look for her on the course working hard but showing you she’s having the time of her life!

“As most vegans would say, the only regret they have is not doing it sooner. I couldn’t agree more. Three years vegetarian and one year vegan, my plan is to be the light for my friends and family, to show them being vegan is not extremist in any way. It’s a gentle and loving way to live.

I am inspired each day by my Strong Hearts Run Club and Strong Hearts Vegan Power teammates. I decided to run Ragnar ADK to mark my first full year of veganism. It’s a celebration of life and I wanted to share this experience with a core group of vegans who propel forward a mission of cruelty-free kindness and true vegan power.”

Sean “Liveabetes” Scott – Syracuse, NY

Years Vegan: 5
Theme song: Bolt Thrower – K-Machine

sean goat


Sean was an integral part of the team last year as the driver for van 1. But this year he’s about to show everyone that his talents extend beyond the steering wheel. The stank of that van was not the only thing to infect Sean – he caught the running bug too! And since then he’s been improving with leaps and bounds. Another Coach Scott Spitz protĂ©gĂ© – he has become unstoppable. Hand over those keys Sean – time to crush some souls on the race course!

“After driving the male sweat lodge known as Van 1 last year I got fired up. I had been running a little before then but nothing consistent, and a 5k here and there. Seeing what these guys and gals were doing – something got me going. I broke through the limits I had for myself – the idea of “can’t” and the notion of “too much for me” went away. Joel initially asked if I wanted to run last year and I thought he was insane for asking me. But now my perspective is different: being vegan, as well as a life long diabetic, combined with how much further I am mentally now as opposed to this time last year I know for a fact I have the discipline to do this and a lot more. Being with Strong Hearts Run Club has motivated me and supported me, and as much as I prefer to go my own way it’s great to be a part of something putting a positive message out there knowing what it can do.”

Peter “The Protector” Nussbaum – Montague, NJ

Years Vegan: 6
Theme song: Firestorm/Forged in the Flames – Earth Crisis “Because it reminds me of Scott and no song (or person) motivates me better than that song and that person does.”


Peter with Yuri

When Peter’s not out clocking miles he’s protecting our fine feathered friends from slavery and abuse. He and his wife have been rescuing chickens and roosters to live out their lives at their ever-expanding sanctuary, Tamerlaine Farm. He may have a gentle demeanor and an enormous heart, but he will unleash hell in the Adirondacks!

“Last year I joined the team to meet and run with Scott Spitz whose writing was instrumental in motivating and educating me as a newly vegan runner six years ago. This year I am running for Scott. It is really that simple… Well, Scott and the animals of course! The new shirts sum it up well… Vegan for my health, for the planet, BUT MOSTLY FOR THE ANIMALS. How could I pass up the opportunity to run with an awesome bunch of like-minded people? I can’t wait to wear my new team shirt!”

Jonny “Hero” Rieth – Kennesaw, GA

Years Vegan: 20
Theme song: To Hell With The Devil – Stryper



AKA “Freedom Fighter”. Suspected terrorist on your Ragnar course? Jonny will sniff them out and stomp them. What goes in – Newman-O’s and Vega Sport Gels. What comes out – an endless string of hilarity. Jonny may provide non-stop entertainment to his van mates, but when it comes to running he is all business. He takes his running, and his message, seriously. Something tells me he’s coming back even stronger this year. Terrorists be warned. America!

“I just moved from Grand Rapids, MI to Kennesaw GA so I don’t really know what the hell is going on. I know I’m vegan and I’m a solid runner. I’m part of this team because it’s 100% badass!”

Kaitlin “Krusher” Long – Albany, NY

Years Vegan: 10
Theme song: Firestarter – Prodigy



Another new addition to the team, Kaitlin is not new to Ragnar racing. In fact, any race/challenge you throw at this woman – she’s going to tackle it head-on! Fire jump? Barbed wire crawl? 10 foot wall? Nice try. Nothing will stand in the way of Kaitlin accomplishing her goals. And that is exactly what she has been doing with her running. Our third teammate coached by Scott Spitz, we hope to make this Kaitlin’s best Ragnar yet!

“I really love being a part of this team just because of all the support between the coaching from Scott to just the friends I’ve made. Running on an all vegan team has to be one of the biggest honors so far of my running career. I chose to be a part of this team so I can improve. Iron sharpens iron and I look up to all of you so much that it’ll be an honor to be running the same race with you all.”

“Captain” Joel Capolongo – Syracuse, NY

Years vegan: 21
Theme song: Who Dares Wins – Path of Resistance

Joel with Dylan

Joel with Dylan

Leader of this crew, owner of the team’s namesake – Strong Hearts CafĂ©, and bad-ass runner to boot! Joel took what was a celebration of his 20 year vegan anniversary and turned it into an awesome opportunity to spread our message and create lifelong memories for a group of 12 vegan athletes. Not to mention the lasting impression we left, and will continue to leave, on countless others. After ADK Ragnar 2013, Joel has taken his training to another level and his results show it! Joel’s going to be bringing it home for the team this year, and I know we all can’t wait to cross that finish line behind him!

“I chose to be a part of, and to organize, the team again because last year was such a great time for everyone involved, myself included. I like pushing myself to constantly better myself physically and mentally. The work that goes into training for a race like this fulfills that need and keeps me striving to achieve greater things.

More than that though, being a part of this team allows me to be an ambassador for veganism. We had countless conversations last year with other teams and spectators about veganism and the health, environmental, and ethical benefits of a vegan lifestyle. If just one person decides to go vegan because of the presence of our team, then mission accomplished. The attention we receive at events like this is nice, but the potential we have to really win over people’s hearts and minds to choose a more compassionate lifestyle is what really makes participating in this event worth it for me.”

Look for us out there on the course next weekend – our shirts will be bold and our enthusiasm will be unwavering. Make sure to say hi and throw some encouragement our way- we may just have some vegan treats to share 🙂

This one’s for you Scott Spitz. We’ll unleash hell for you this year, but you better start training for 2015! More Fire!

SHVP2014back SHVPFRONTragnarlogo

Canadian for a day – 5k Road Race Championship

torontoToronto! A city I’ve heard so many great things about but had yet to visit. This was the host city of the 2014 Canadian 5k Road Race Championship. As an American, this wasn’t a race I had any reason or interest to compete in…until…my long time friend and fellow athlete Shari Boyle suggested it as the innagural race we compete in together. Over years of friendship we have often talked about racing together. Shari focuses on track running throughout most of the year while I on the other hand have been devoting my time and attention to longer distances. A 5k was a great compromise 🙂

Here's a picture of us enjoying bananas. Because, why not?

Here’s a picture of us enjoying bananas. Because, why not?

The B&O Yorkville Run has traditionally attracted fast runners. We’re talking way outta my league runners. Which meant this was a nice race to go into with no pressure and a field competitive enough to possibly pull me along to a PR. It was a great opportunity to run my own race, test my legs, and enjoy a trip to a new city spending time with a great friend.
vegfestAs an added bonus it also happened to be the weekend of Toronto Vegfest – which is  the largest Vegfest. This is like a dream come true for a vegan but a curse for a runner who is racing the following day. We checked out the vendors, had a few samples, and I may or may not have snagged some goodies from Apiecalypse Now for the drive home Sunday…
apiecalypse nowBack to the racing… Deep down I wanted a PR. However I haven’t raced an “open” 5k since January of this year – in the snow. My training definitely hasn’t been geared towards 5k racing so I wasn’t sure what I could do. That made it exciting 🙂

It was a perfect day for racing – sun was out but it wasn’t too warm or too cool. I arrived at the race site and met up with Shari for a warm-up run. It was so cool to finally run with her – I was having so much fun catching up that it took my mind off the actual race. The course was somewhat rectangular with a modest downhill start and a slight but steady “uphill” in the middle. Turns out Shari races like me – go out hard and hold on 😉 We decided this was the perfect course for our type of racing. We would take advantage of that fast start for sure!

It was time to line up and I still wasn’t nervous – ready to go out and see what I could do. I lined up with Shari because I knew absolutely no one there. They set us loose and sure enough the pace was fast! So many females ahead of me, but that’s what I was expecting and it didn’t concern me. For once I was racing myself.

My one regret is that I didn’t keep track of my splits. I didn’t take the time to check what my goal kilometer pace should be so I didn’t bother even hitting the lap timer on my watch at each marker. Although it would’ve been nice to know my pace, it was also refreshing to race totally by feel. Because of this I was more aware of how I felt the whole race and that ended up being what made it most memorable. I didn’t run a PR, I didn’t run a sub-18, but I felt steady and strong the whole way. I was able to pass 2 women – both of whom ended up being in my age group. I had a strong kick through the finish which first surprised me, then made me feel kick-ass, but then had me pondering – did I run hard enough the entire race?

Note to self: if you want a finisher pic, make sure to pass the dude in front of you.

Note to self: if you want a finisher pic, make sure to pass the dude in front of you.

Overall I was happy with my race and my effort. Running all these long, slow miles – mostly on trails – with very little speedwork had me thinking I would come up empty at this race. My result just fueled my training fire!

Shari ran along with me the entire race and her strong showing earned her 3rd overall master! A great result…and she got the BIG check!



I didn’t think Americans were eligible for awards at the Canadian National Championship, but sure enough they called me up to the stage as the first overall female in the 35-39 age group.

Yeah! Not only did I get to race with Shari, but we got to share the stage too 🙂
awardsI’m excited that we’re going to make this an annual tradition. Not necessarily in Toronto, but we’ll find a 5k to race every year. Fun adventures ahead! For now, back to ultra training (although I still want a 5k PR before the year is over…)

Finish time – 18:04

The More Fire Benefit Run

More Fire Syracuse

For those of you who have had the pleasure of getting to know Scott Spitz, either in person or through his blog and/or social media, this is a no-brainer. It’s time to rally around our brother and show him that we have his back. For those of you who haven’t yet met Scott, I highly recommend you enlighten yourself by checking out his blog:

For just over a year now, Scott has been fighting an epic battle against a rare form of stomach cancer (Pseudomyxoma Peritonei). He’s been fighting with the courage, strength, and grit that I could only hope to summon up if I were faced with a similar opponent. And during this most trying of times, he has been sharing this whole “experience” with all of us. He’s showing all – the dark moments, the light moments, the dirty moments. I know that when I read his posts, I can go through a whole range of emotions.

Let me share some highlights about Scott:

The Runner – Scott is one hell of a runner. He has a marathon PR of 2:25 and was chasing an Olympic Trials qualifying time when the big C snuck up behind him, tapped him on the shoulder and said “sorry buddy – not right now”. For my fellow athletes reading this, you know how devastating it is to see that goal suddenly slip so far out of your grasp. But this wasn’t just a setback, this was life-changing. This was stepping, or shall I say sprinting, into the unknown. And when you suddenly lose what was so near and dear to you, it’s crushing in and of itself. Not to mention what he had to face head-on.


Over this past year Scott has been struggling with an on-again off-again running regimen. The treatments have rendered him unable to walk, let alone run, for much of this time. Everything being pumped into his body during his treatments isn’t enough to extinguish the fire he has inside of him. Scott continues to run when he can, satisfying that itch many of us have. He hopes to maintain whatever fitness and form he can so that he can get back to racing. And I can’t wait to toe the line with him someday!

The Father – When you picture what Scott is going through you can’t help but imagine what impact this has on his 7-year-old son. Any fear or apprehension that Scott has had during this past year has been for August. A parent wants to give everything they can to their children, and I can’t even begin to imagine the struggle that comes when you are faced with the realization that this time may be cut short. I have yet to meet him, but I can tell from the stories and pictures I’ve seen that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. August is full of energy, jubilance, and an absolute lust for life. They are like 2 peas in a pod!
two_peas_in_a_pod_twins_babyThe Giver – Scott has a lot on his plate – physical struggle, mental struggle, and financial struggle. You would think he would just put his head down and focus on himself. But no, Scott’s biggest concern is lifting up the support crew that surrounds him. I can tell you how during the holidays Scott requested that no one buy gifts for him, but instead donate to a deserving charity. There are plenty of stories that show his selflessness, but the one that sticks out the most is what he did for the nurses who administer his infusions.

Being the caring guy that Scott is, from the beginning he recognized how tough their job must be, so he would bring coffee for them each time. This gesture would always brighten their day. He realized that their job was all about making the patients’ time with them as pleasant and comfortable as possible, so why not return some of the love? When he was scheduled for an infusion on December 24th Scott didn’t care that this is how he would be spending his Christmas Eve – he was genuinely sad for the nurses who had to be there for him. So what did he do? He set up a fund to collect donations so that he could purchase a Keurig and an astounding stash of K-cups for these tireless ladies. ( The response was amazing:

“Suffice to say, the nurses were quite thrilled with the presents I was able to give them through your generosity. In all, I was able to purchase approximately 575 K-cups for their Keurig machine, a requested book shelf for their office, 20 candy bars explicitly asked for by one contributor, and 25 gift cards to a local coffee shop for each employee in the office.”

Pretty damn awesome!

The Cause
Let’s get down to it. Scott first underwent a HIPEC surgery in April 2013, soon after his diagnosis. The severity of this surgery left him basically incapacitated for months. The time has come to go another round with the knife. Although on one hand this is exciting, as great progress can be made in eliminating the cancer growths inside of him, this means another long, grueling, recovery period.
scott hospital“The HIPEC surgery (affectionately called The Mother Of All Surgeries) is the hardest physical difficulty I’ve ever had to endure, completely wiping out my physical strength, but also making positive and inspired emotional moments hard to capture. I will be physically useless for a while and so these funds help me pay my mortgage, utilities, buy food and support my son.”

The More Fire Run is a donation-only event being hosted in 2 cities – Indianapolis, IN – where Scott resides, and Syracuse, NY – where his biggest fan club, the Strong Hearts Run Club, was born. If you are close to either of these areas and want to join a community of support, solidarity, and positivity – I invite you to donate to his surgery fund and join us on August 10th to run or walk for Scott Spitz. Heck you can skateboard, ride a bike, jump-rope – let’s just move forward together as Scott moves forward in his fight. Scott is on the front lines – let’s show him the army he has standing beside him, helping him to forge ahead.

If you don’t live close to either of these areas, join us virtually. Any little bit helps, and you can post your activity on either of the Facebook pages (click on the city links above) to show Scott you are fighting right alongside him. It will mean a lot to Scott, his family, his loved ones, and his friends. And since he has SO many of them, you’ll be making many people happy!

What else?
As you may or may not know, I competed in my first 50k last October. It left me hungry for another shot. Not only will I return to that race this year, but I will also be competing at the Vegan Power 50k on June 14th.
vegan-power-banner-revised-This race has an appeal to me for obvious reasons, so I decided to make it an event to celebrate the very thing that brought Scott and I together as friends. I met Scott in September of last year as a fellow teammate on the Strong Hearts Vegan Power Ragnar Team.

Strong Hearts Vegan Power

Strong Hearts Vegan Power

It was an honor to meet and run with Scott and I think the whole team can agree that we formed a bond stronger than steel with the common passion of our vegan values. Scott had just recovered from his first surgery at the time and was undergoing his grueling treatments. Even just showing up was a feat of great strength! Scott did more than show up – he showed everyone how it’s done! (
scott post-run

I want to repay Scott for the motivation he’s given me and countless others time and time again. To keep pushing and keep running. Day after day after day.

I will be launching a fundraising site for the Vegan Power 50k to raise funds for my fellow Vegan Power teammate. I will get the site up soon and don’t worry, you’ll see it! Just as I’ve raised funds for various cancer charities in the past, I will do so again. This time the benefits of this fundraiser will be more personal to me, as I know the direct recipient. I understand that at this time of year we are all receiving requests to donate as our friends and families participate in events for many worthy charities. It would mean a great deal to me if you support me as I run for Scott in June! I appreciate anything you can do for a wonderful father, friend, fellow runner, and all-around amazing human being!

Tipp Hill Shamrock Run

shamrock runAs the 2014 season approaches, I best be getting in the habit of providing race reports! The Tipp Hill Shamrock Run has always been a favorite of mine. Not only is Tipp Hill a very vibrant and welcoming neighborhood to run through, but the race is also a great early season “tune-up” to check in with your fitness level. While this was not my first race of 2014, the snow-covered roads at the Chilly Chili 5k in January made it difficult to gauge your current race ability.

I have not run the Tipp Hill Shamrock Run since 2009 – pre-injury. I’m also far behind on my run training this year. My few attempts at “speed work” on the treadmill have not felt productive. These factors left me unsure of how I would run at this race and therefore I didn’t put much thought into a goal. In the back of my mind I threw the number 25:00 out there just so I would have something to shoot for. One thing I knew is that based upon my feelings of unpreparedness along with the hills that the course traverses, it was going to hurt. I just kept telling myself “it’s only 4 miles. You can push yourself for 4 miles.”

Strong Hearts Run Club pre-race, with a few missing

Strong Hearts Run Club pre-race, with a few missing

This was another race for the Strong Hearts Run Club – a team of highly motivated, inspirational, and compassionate runners. The team is building momentum as spring nears and I’m always very excited to join forces with such an awesome group. And with over 3500 finishers at this race I got to see so many of my non-run club Syracuse friends which is always an added bonus!

Considering the challenging winter we’ve had the weather on race morning was exceptional. The roads were wet but not snow-covered and the temps were as mild as we could hope for. I was able to run a short warm-up before lining up at the start. I know that over the years this race has grown more competitive, and wow what a lineup on display!
tipp hill start

The gun went off and I had my usual motive – go out hard and hold on for dear life. (disclaimer: do as I say not as I do!). I knew this was not the time, nor the race, to pace with the front runners. But as usual I wanted to be the lead female from the start so I placed myself there and tried to settle in. When I hit the mile mark at 5:25 that all too familiar feeling of oh shit hit me and I reminded myself “only 3 more miles of this.” The hills on this course are not anything insane, but when I’ve been chained to the treadmill all winter I definitely noticed them more than I wanted to. Which meant that on the downhills I pushed hard – harder than I would’ve pushed had this been a longer race. I apologized to my quads as I did this…

Photo courtesy of Mike "Rideabike" Lillis

Photo courtesy of Mike “Rideabike” Lillis

“Hold on for dear life” over the next 3 miles is all I could muster. Since I’ve run this race previously and have lived in Tipp Hill I am familiar with the roads. There were no surprises – just the will to succeed. The main thing I noticed about my running is how horrible my form was. This was a product of not feeling comfortable at this pace. When I am the front runner I depend on the spectators to clue me in on where my competition is. I do not like to look back. Throughout the race people were cheering me on as the first female, but I also heard plenty of “go ladies” shouted. Which meant someone was hot on my tail. You hit mile 3 on Coleridge Ave before you make the turn into the park for the final loop. It’s a sharp turn into the park so I used that spot to sneak a peek at who was behind me. Yep, she was right there. And I swear my legs were spewing curse words at me by this point. Nothing hurts worse than getting passed in the last mile for 2nd place, so it was time to focus. I’ve run the loop around this park so many times I could probably do it blindfolded. So I pushed hard and started my sorry excuse for a kick right where I wanted to. I never looked back – I had confidence in my ability to finish stronger. But boy did I just slip in under the wire! I crossed the line at 25:00 on the dot, with the 2nd female coming in at 25:07.

Photo courtesy of Mike "Rideabike" Lillis

Photo courtesy of Mike “Rideabike” Lillis

Overall the race was a success and I got exactly what I wanted out of it. I always love having such strong competition keeping me on my toes. It was also cool to finally race in the inov-8 Road-X-Treme 118’s again – they’ve been in hibernation all winter and oh how I’ve missed them!
Tipp Hill shoe
The Strong Hearts Run Club put out some awesome times. The dedication these runners have is showing with some major improvements all around! There was only one thing left to do – celebrate our accomplishments and our camaraderie at Strong Hearts CafĂ© 🙂

Next up for the crew – Syracuse Half Marathon on March 23rd! I hope to see many familiar faces there as well! But I better get back to training…I already feel unprepared…again 🙂