Tuesday, February 25, 2014

26.2 with Donna - The Weekend Recap

So, this past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Jacksonville, FL to participate in the 26.2 with Donna, The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer! Many of you have probably seen previous posts, tweets, and updates about this race. Well, let me just say...this was a weekend I will never forget. Before I get to far into the recap I would like to share a thought. Marathoning allows me to see different parts of the country I wouldn't normally visit. I really do enjoy traveling...even if it is for a quick turn around trip. This trip was even more special than normal because I would be spending the weekend with some of my favorite people from #CorralG!!!!!

I landed on Friday evening and the lovely Jen and Jill were kind enough to pick me up from the airport. I had a minor delay in Tampa but that was okay, we made it to Al's Pizza to meet Marcia and Katie for tasty calzones! I was starving because I hadn't eaten all day. So needless to say, we tore right in to those lovely rolled up pizzas and they were TASTY! After that, we headed back to Ch├ęz Mar to settle ourselves and get ready for bed...ya know since some of us had the Donna 5K the next morning! Marcia our gracious host (@TravelRunEat) and the official Social Media Butterfly of 26.2 with Donna had everything covered for us! I am one of the National Ambassadors for the race, so I got my really nice Ambassador tech tee!

Butterfly Marcia presenting me with my shirt
The next morning, Marcia and I made our way to the Donna 5K. This would be the warm up to marathon day. The first thing I noticed when I arrived with Starbucks in hand was the instant sense of community that was out there. Everyone was smiling and ready to get out there and have a great time! That was absolutely energizing! I also noticed that there were so many families out there that were running together. This was the moment that I knew that 26.2 with Donna weekend wasn't just a race...this was a City of Jacksonville event! I've also never seen so much pink in one place before! The support and the energy was out of bounds! So awesome to see and experience. I was curious to see what marathon day would hold.

 Before the 5K we met up with other ambassadors Shannon, Liz, and one of my faves Krissy and we decided to take on the 5K together! Now THAT was an absolute blast! So many laughs and memories! Krissy even paced us to negative splits!

After the 5K we grabbed some Italian ice and headed into the expo! Marcia had Butterfly duties to tend to, and I had to pick up my race packet for the next day. The expo would be the place the remaining #CorralG folks that were in transit would meet...so time couldn't move fast enough for our mini reunion. While I waited, I did some shopping :). I was walking down one of the aisles and came across the best headband ever! A black and pink houndstooth headband! I walked up with my new friend Stacy at the Punkeelove Headbands booth and asked that she ring me up immediately! I wore this thing literally until I had to change later in the evening! I instantly fell in love with it!

Before I knew it, Jennifer, Joe, and Adam arrived! And the party officially kicked off! We chatted, caught up, laughed, and strategized plans for the remainder of the day. Although, that wasn't to hard since we all basically text each other every day. Do you guys have any idea how close we are...

Insert Kira...she came a little later ;)
After the expo and grabbing a quick bite, we heading back to Marcia's place! Some of us had to make ourselves fabulous for the Mayo Clinic fundraising dinner. Marcia, Katie, Jen, and I would be bringing sexy back! Our other peeps would throw a fun pasta party at Marcia's house!

The party begins
We had changed into our evening attire and made our way to the Jacksonville Mayo Clinic. I knew we were going for a fancy dinner, but I had no idea what to expect. I arrived with my ladies and met up with fellow ambassador friends Liz and Krissy! We all looked so great and had such a great energy about us. We knew we here for something special. We had the privilege of dining on delicious cuisine and met some new friends at our tables. Marcia was recognized for all of her incredible hard work as Social Media Butterfly with a gift from the Ambassador team from Tiffany & Co. She teared up...it was so cute. Donna Deegan came to the stage and welcomed all of us, she shared some stories and yielded the floor to top fundraising teams to tell their story! It was quite incredible and inspiring! Then we were given the chance to hear from Mayo Clinic researchers and doctors who talked about the amazing relationship between The Donna and Mayo Clinic. It's incredible the amount of work that Mayo is doing to ensure that we finish breast cancer! What is exciting is that I can see it ending in our lifetime! I was so moved at the end of the dinner and presentation, all I wanted to do was more! The Ambassador team went up and gave Donna a hug after the presentations and we took group photos! It was such a blessing to have been part of that fundraising dinner. It really opened my eyes to a lot of different things.

The amazing Donna Deegan..she loved my Pink!

The Donna Ambassador Team - Photo Courtesy of Fellow Ambassdor Ashley (The Pavement Princess)

Before we knew it, it was race day! We woke up bright and early and headed to the start line. We were all ready and excited to take on the challenge! We all met up in the corral staging area and did some last minute strategizing and joking...like we always do! We were ready for a day of fun and memories. It's not everyday that the running family gets together for a race ya know.

Then the cannon went off! The show had begun! Some of us were running the half marathon, and the rest of us were taking on the marathon! It was all smiles as we left the shoot and made our way to storm the city of Jacksonville. We headed out and we were in great spirits! We were ready to really take on this challenge. We felt confident because we had one another. One amazing thing about us as a group is when we run together, no matter your pace or ability, we always stand by one another. This was very important as we went forward through the day. We started on a high as we made our way to Jacksonville Beach, where I saw and touched the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. It's really cool being able to run on hard packed sand on the beach. Feeling the cool ocean spray and connect with the energy of the ocean! Priceless. This was a very happy moment filled with various emotions.

Linz, Katie, and Marcia running the Donna on Jacksonville Beach
Thanks Jen for capturing the moment! 
At the end of the beach is where the race course splits for the half marathoners. So some of our friends turned left, Joe, Marcia, Katie, and I proceeded on with the marathon. I'm going to fast forward to mile 18. This is the point where I came to terms with the fact that today wasn't my day for a marathon. Every runner has a day like this. You know you are capable, you know you have the fight in you, but your mind and body just can not connect the dots. This is the point where I literally feel the factory workers in my body locking up for the day. I got a little discouraged, then kept talking to myself out loud. I said "It isn't your day, and that is okay. You're out here for a cause, so go finish it!" I had fallen behind Joe and Marcia who were on pace for an amazing marathon...in fact Marcia PR'd!

Katie and I stuck to one another through the remainder of the race. She wasn't having the best race either, but that is okay. We stuck together and encouraged one another! We connected, we talked, we tried to stay in the moment as much as possible. At one point, Katie reminded me "This is easier than Chemo...we can do this." Those words resonated with me so deeply. There are women in my life I know that are battling Breast Cancer as I write this, and I'm having a bad marathon? These women probably wish they could be out here just to cheer us on! This changed my mindset immediately! My focus was to finish for them!

Between Katie and Donna's Angels carrying me through and reminding me that they were with me and that I could do this...that is how I got to mile 26.2. The race course was called Level Black as we crossed the mile 25 marker due to lightning in the area. Katie and I successfully crossed the finish line holding hands. I couldn't have done it without her. Donna's Angels were on my side. I felt them.

All in all, 26.2 with Donna is an absolutely incredible race! The energy and the spirit of the participants, the city, and the spectators is unlike anything I've ever seen. Chicago had spectators, but the folks in Jacksonville PARTY! They celebrate the runners. The city literally shuts down! The neighbors are so friendly and encouraging, the route is flat and scenic, and you can feel nothing but love positivity when you are out there. Yes, I had a bad day, but this is no reflection on the race. Some days we don't have it. The Donna did a great job of helping to keep me focused and grounded. Sometimes we can loose focus, and we let our inner voice get the best of us. Sometimes it takes a great race and a great friend to remind you of some important things.

I love this race. I really do. It was everything Marcia told me it would be! Spiritually moving and absolutely inspiring.

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