Sunday, October 16, 2011

My First Race...

Yep. That's right. She did it. ME! I DID IT! I FINALLY entered into a race! That race was this morning here in Atlantic City, NJ. I had so much fun and it was an amazing experience all around. I've had more than a few people tell me they are interested in a detailed re-telling of the race and how it went so I decided I would do that here in the blog (since I haven't updated in a long time).

There I am! Just MINUTES from beginning my very first race. This weekend was the annual Atlantic City Marathon/Half-Marathon/10k/5k. I signed up for the 5k. I'll admit, there was a part of me that felt like a bit of a loser/chicken. Why? Because I have run the distance of a 5k at least a hundred times. I felt like signing up for just a 5k was something "safe" for me to do...meaning I KNEW I could do it because I've done it plenty of times before on my own. But a larger part of me kept wanting to sign up for the 10k (which is 6.2 miles in distance). Ultimately I decided on the 5k only because I figure, you gotta start small then work your way up to the big stuff.....right?

FYI: My husband Rob was the photographer for these pictures. He was wonderful and supportive. He gave up his Sunday morning of sleeping in to stand on the sidelines and take pictures of me and watch Jeremiah. It was very cool to say the least. Anyway, back to the race. At this point Rob had moved down the sidelines a bit, in order to get an "action shot" as he calls it, of me while I was running at the very beginning of the race. Here you might be able to see just how many people were there. It was CRAZY! I was definitely expecting a mass of people all jumbled and packed at the starting line, but I was in no way prepared for how to navigate that mass of people. You definitely have to be ready to sprint here or there, dodge and duck in between running packs and find your own comfortable "running zone" as I like to call it.
AND WE'RE OFF! There I go, and this shot was taken less than 1/4 of a mile into the run..this was at the VERY beginning. You'll notice that I'm looking down in this shot. Why? I was looking at Jeremiah in his stroller as I passed on by. When I saw him a very important thought crossed my mind and it stayed with me until I was on my way back on the second half of the run. That thought was this: Jeremiah is the reason I am where I am today. If I had never gotten pregnant with him, then I would never have had the motivation to lose all that weight, get healthy, and become athletic. I often think about this. You know how they say you should never regret anything in your life because everything you've ever done has led you to this point? Well, that's what I was thinking. Do I regret being unhealthy during my pregnancy and winding up at over 260lbs? Yes, of course. But then again, if that had never happened, would I have discovered my passion for running? Would I have had any motivation at all to lose weight and become healthy? I don't know. Still, that thought resounds in my mind from time to time.

Now, obviously during the middle of the race there are no pictures. This is mainly because the course was set up as an "out and back". This means that you run out in one direction, there's a turn-around and you come right back the way you came. (Does that make sense? haha) Basically, the Start/Finish line is at the same place, so Rob got a great spot at the Finish line and planted there to get a shot of me coming in at the end.

The middle of the race, for me, was all about dealing with the elements and focusing on my pace and breathing. I was not concerned with passing anyone (unless it was someone who was running at a pace well below mine and I had no choice but to pass). And when I talk about "elements" I'm mainly referring to intense wind gusts accompanied with sand. THAT was not enjoyable. This race was entirely on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, which is cool when you think about it, but when you're out there, you realize something quite different. First of all, the boardwalk is right off the beach so any sand that blows with the wind is going to blow directly on you and possibly in your eyes. Secondly, screw Chicago, ATLANTIC CITY is the windiest city in the world. Don't believe me? Come out here and you'll see. There are winds so strong on the boardwalk and other areas of the marina downtown that they can knock a person down, for real! And those were the types of winds we experienced just after the first mile marker. That wind and sand kept up for over a half mile. It took some serious determination to duck my head a bit, quicken my pace slightly and just get through it.

Something odd happened on the way back. When I say "odd" I just mean that I had not expected it. I would say that as soon as I hit the 2 mile marker (meaning there's only a little over a mile left in the race) I started to notice this girl in a bright pink shirt. She would come up and meet me and keep pace with me and then fall behind. Then meet me again, pass me a bit, then fall behind. It was kind of annoying me and starting to mess with me because I couldn't tell (for sure) if it was me or her that was not keeping an even pace. I now realize it was her. I decided to let her pass me as much as she wanted and I would just focus on my pace and my breathing and try not to take notice.

Through all of this battling with Pinky (that's my nickname for her) I hadn't realized how close I was to the finish line. I looked up and saw the crowd of people in the distance ahead and knew that now was as good a time as any to increase my pace a bit. Then, BAM! Some young a**hole teenager kid passes me while knocking his shoulder into mine. Now THAT pissed me off. But I kept my cool and focused on my now increased pace. Then there it was, the finish line. I could see it clearly ahead of me at maybe 100-200 meters. At this moment I said to myself, "alright Jules...give it all you've got!" And I did. I started to sprint! I ran as fast as I possibly could, and guess what happened? I blew Pinky away and left her in my dust! Next up? I blew past that a**hole teenager and thought "KARMA!" (haha) and kept on going. Even though I had music blasting in my ears (Foo Fighters, thank you very much) I actually heard a few people on the sidelines saying "Holy crap! Look at her!" as I passed by sprinting my ass off. Maybe I looked ridiculous, but I just wanted to give it my all. The next picture is me, mid-sprint, about to cross the finish line...

And there you have it. I FINISHED! Like I said before, it was the one of the best experiences of my life, thus far. I have never competed in a race before. I've always considered runners to be "Crazy weirdos". But now? Now, I get it. Its great and amazing. I have such a sense of pride in myself for coming this far, not just in my weight loss but within my athletic abilities as well. In the beginning of my weight loss journey I just wanted to lose weight, get healthy and look better. But somewhere in the middle of all that, something changed. I discovered this thing called "running" and instead of it being a chore, something I HAD to do in order to lose weight, it became my therapist. When I had a terrible weigh in, when things in my life were stressful, when I wasn't sure if I could keep going, I went for a run and the answers seemed immediately clear. I am so thankful for my ability to run and enjoy it.

Next up, its Rob's turn to run a 5k. I think watching me today kind of lit a spark within himself. On our way back to the car he told me he might like to run a race someday, and I told him I think thats great. We can take turns and maybe one day, we will run a race together. So, in the end, today was a great day and it still IS a great day. I've never felt more proud of myself than I do in this moment. That is worth way more than any number on a scale.

(Can you guys pick out Pinky? She's in the background there to the left.)


  1. So proud of you! You are looking so fit too girl! You have done so well for yourself. My little runner girl inside of me totally screamed when I heard you were doing this run. Awesome time too! :)

  2. Well done! You sound just like me, something changed with in me too and running became more than just an exercise I do to get fit.
    Oh, the Pinky girl story is funny! Hahaha. I remember having someone like that on my first race.
    Yay for Sprint finishes, that's brill girl!
    So, are you gonna be drawing up a race diary for next year? I am.:)
    Seriously Julie, you ARE amazing and such an inspiration.
    So privileged and proud to be following your story! xoxox

  3. I predict that this is just the beginning. You and Rob will be running together and you will be going on to do 10 k's and even a marathon. I see this as a fun activity that lots of people do. There's a social element and it's fun to compete with yourself. And, running is also just an amazing thing. The "runner's high" is special. I didn't know what that was till this year. There's a similar high with hiking, but there simply isn't time in a day to do 6 hour hikes to get THAT high! Running compresses it down into a managable timeframe. You can get that feeling of accomplishment and your whole day is set into motion differently, positively.

    I've even seen this running thing as a way that some of us YT'ers can possibly someday meetup. Maybe it will get to the stage where we do big runs in different cities in the country? You never know.

    Your blogs inspired me to give it a try. And now it's joined my "symphony" of activities. I'll never be a one-sport man. I've got my running alongside my biking and my hiking. Someday I swear I'll add swimming! And together they make me this new person. Thanks to you I've been brave enough to open this new door of running, and it continues to evolve for me. I don't know where it will take me, but I'm happy and excited for it, and for knowing you.

  4. So proud of you Jules! You really rocked it!! I get so excited reading about the races Jen does, and now yours. I'm doing a 4 mile race in November, and while I did it last year - I walked half of it. This year I really want to run the entire course. Can't wait to hear about your next race!

  5. Freaking awesome!!! You inspire me and make me want to be better and more awesome :) Thanks for rocking it girl :)