Tuesday, April 4, 2017

50 Yard Finish 5K Recap

Saturday, June 18th, I ran the 50 Yard Finish 5K hosted my Impact Sports Performance. The race takes place at the home of the Buffalo Bills, Ralph Wilson Stadium. My friend and I decided to leave around 6:30 to ensure that we would have plenty of time to drive to Orchard Park, park and pick up our bibs. Packet pick up was hosted at the Adpro Sports Fieldhouse.

Once we got our bibs, we snapped some fun pictures inside the fieldhouse, then decided to walk back to the car to put our shirts away (that I don't think we were supposed to get, but they're cool), then walked around the Stadium a bit. Another one of my friends who was running the race, messaged me shortly thereafter to meet up, so we walked back into the fieldhouse. We chatted with them for about 20 minutes, then decided to make our way out to the start.

Once we made our way over to where the race was starting, they were starting to do a group warm-up for the runners that wanted to participate. It wasn't long before we were set to start. They sang the National Anthem, and then we were off! The start was pretty cool because some of the Buffalo Bills had come out to give high fives at the start as you passed them.

The race started on Abbott Road next to the Bills Store. The course took us up Abbott Road to the intersection where runners turned right onto Southwestern Blvd. Southwestern Blvd. was a nice downhill slope. Once runners made it to the next intersection, we turned right again onto California Road. This was the longest stretch of the race, and we ran on this road until we made it to the intersections of Big Tree Road which we again turned right onto. We made our way back up Big Tree Road, then turned right onto Bills Drive. We ran up rills drive and turned right just before the ADPRO Sports Training Center. We ran down the side and behind the training center and slowly looped left toward the stadium where we ran down through the tunnel and on to the field at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The race (as you have likely already guessed) finished as runners crossed the 50 yard line.

(I couldn't get the entire course mapped out due to it being off marked roads)

Just past the finish, Bills Players were there to hang a finisher medal around your neck and congratulate you. I had finished the race in roughly 35:00, and I was really pleased with that time considering I hadn't been running consistently.

We grabbed some water, food and a free beer to refuel and we plopped ourselves down on the 25 yard line to eat, and watch other runners as they made their way across the field to the finish. We hung out in the sun for a bit, then as the last few finishers were trickling in, we decided to walk over to where the players were handing out medals to get pictures and autographs before finally heading out.

(Gary Chambers)

(James Wilder, Jr.)

(Reid Ferguson)

(Marshall Morgan)

Bills Football Players (C'mon, clearly). It was so fun being able to interact with the Rookies and Billy.
The price: I only paid $30 to run this 5K. I registered online and there was no processing fee.
Refreshments: The race had a lot of great post race refreshments. Water (both spring and flavored), fruit, granola bars, hot dogs, and for those of age, a free ice cold beer.
The Course: It was a fun course that had a little hill to provide a challenge. And who wouldn't want to run through the tunnel at the Ralph and finish a 5K on the 50 yard line?!
Personally, I LOVED this race, and I look forward to running it again next year!

Cons: I'll be honest, I don't really have any. I had a great time at this race, and it was enjoyable from start to finish. I can't wait to run it again next year!


QOTD: Have you ever run a race at/around one of your favorite teams Stadiums?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

#TBT: Pink Ribbon 5K Recap

I apologize for the lack of any race recaps lately. I've run 4 races since May and desperately need to catch up, so I thought it would be a great idea to post some of them as a "Throwback Thursday" type post. Sadly, I've had this post typed out for over a month, and simply forgot to publish it. I know I focus mainly on my running and congenital heart condition, but I am considering expanding more on my daily life, and maybe give you a sense of why I've slacked off on posting lately.

Sunday, May 8th, I ran the Pink Ribbon 5K with my mom at Genesee Valley Park. It was also Mother's day so it was nice to be able to spend the entire day with my mom. This race is held every year on Mother's Day and the funds raised go to the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester (BCCR). The event offers a 5K run and a walk to raise awareness for Breast Cancer. The 5K run is a women's only event (of any age, so children may also run), and the walk welcomes both men and women. I had run to pick up our race packets the day before the race so we wouldn't have to rush the morning of the race to get down to the park and pick everything up.

(I really liked the bibs and shirts!)

The race was set to start at 9 am. Mom and I still left my house pretty early because I wasn't sure if the parking lots by Strong would actually be open for participants to park in. They always had been for the Stroll, but that was also an event for the Medical Center, so it made sense. I told mom if the lots weren't open, we would park where I park for work and walk over. Thankfully, the lots were open, so we parked and just hung out in the car for a little while. It was a beautiful sunny day, but there was definitely a chill in the air.

Once it got closer to 9, we walked over to park and down to the start. We stood in the sun for a few minutes and of course, snapped a pre-race picture.

They made an announcement (which I unfortunately could not hear) and then they sent us off. The course itself was the same as the Stroll for Strong 5K, so mom and I used it as a "test run" for the Stroll coming up in June.

The course has you run down Moore road, down to Hawthorn drive where you loop around through the parking lot and around the kickball fields onto Red Creek Path where we run back onto Hawthorne Drive across the expressway and back onto Moore Road. On Moore road, the course takes you down towards Elmwood Ave, but has you turn right up towards strong onto Intercampus Drive. Once on Intercampus drive, we ran back towards the canal where the parking lot/sidewalk meets up with the canal path. Runners turn right onto the canal path where they stay until they cross the finish line back in Genesee Valley Park.

(Course map)

Mom and I stayed together for most of the race, then when there was about 400 meters left, I took off towards to finish. I believe I finished the race in 39:25. My goal was the finish in under 40 minutes, so I was happy. Mom finished just a minute or so behind me.

Mom and I grabbed a water and walked back towards to pavilion. There wasn't much else going on in the park, so we decided to head out. We went to grab a breakfast sandwich to refuel before heading home to get cleaned up to spend the rest of Mother's day with my grandparents.

QOTD: This is the first time I've run this race. It sounds like a great Mother's Day tradition. Do you have any Mother's Day traditions?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

One Year Post-Op, So Was It All Worth It?

I know I'm actually 13 months post-op at this point, so I apologize for not posting this sooner, however, I have a good reason. Thursday, April 14th I had my one year follow-up with my Cardiologist, and let's just say things didn't exactly go as I anticipated at my appointment. I was actually waiting to post this until I had heard from my Cardiologist (I'll get into that later), which I finally did, last Tuesday.

So let's rewind back to March, about three weeks before Easter. I was at my Grandparents for the weekend with my family, and it seemed like all of a sudden, out of nowhere I was going in Bigeminy.  Bigeminy is when you have one normal heart beat and then an abnormal heart beat and the cycle repeats itself until it breaks, or you're able to break it with various maneuvers.

The runs of Bigeminy were consistent throughout the weekend. Though manageable, they didn't make me light headed or dizzy, so I wasn't overly concerned. The cycles of bigeminy eased up a bit, but my Cardiologist still wanted me to have an Event monitor. It's a long (irritating) story that I don't need to get into, but I was not able to get my Event monitor. Thankfully (or not, depending on how you look at it), my coworker had palpitations at one point during her pregnancy, and one of the Cardiologists we work with had bought her a Kardia (by Alive Cor) handheld EKG monitor.

(Alive Cor monitor and Kardia App)

The pocket EKG (as we'll call it), allows you to attach the finger plates to the back of your smartphone (I didn't since it's my friends). Once you download the free Kardia app onto your smartphone, you're able to record 30 second rhythm strips, and save them to your phone within the app. My coworker asked me if I'd like to borrow it, and I jumped on the opportunity. Since my runs of bigeminy had eased up, I really didn't have anything to record, but I set it up anyhow.

Let's just say, boy, was I thankful that I did! About a week before I was set to see my Cardiologist (Saturday, April 9th to be exact), the runs of Bigeminy came back with vengeance! That day I had given a lecture of interesting Echo cases at a sonographer symposium, and everything was fine. That evening I was relaxing with my friends at one of my favorite restaurants in State College when they started back up again. The runs would come and go throughout our entire dinner. I didn't eat much, and I just kept taking deep breaths to try and break myself from them. I  was tired, and wondered if that could be the cause. I also didn't have the Alive Cor with me, so I couldn't record any of the tracings. 

The next day after I returned home, I threw myself on my couch to try and relax, but the runs of bigeminy kept coming, so I grabbed the pocket EKG, and decided to give it a try. It worked! That evening/night and into the next day I recorded 33 rhythm strips to show my Cardiologist. Unfortunately, due to the arrhythmia, I didn't get much sleep (which was extremely frustrating considering how tired I was).

(Sample of my Bigeminy from the app)

Thursday rolled around and I headed to my doctors appointment. I had been looking forward to this appointment because my doctor anticipated that I would "graduate" to one year follow-ups after this visit. Once my cardiologist came in, he asked me how things were going, and we discussed my palpitations. I showed him the rhythm strips on my phone. As he scrolled through them, he commented that as a group, the physicians had discussed buying the Alive Cor monitors for the department. He was impressed with the quality of the rhythm strips on my phone and seeing how it worked. We discussed the possibility of putting me on a Beta Blocker to try and get me some relief from the palpitations, but first he wanted me to get an echo to see how things were going since I was there in October.

If you remember correctly, before I went to my 6 month follow-up, I found out my valve was already leaking. During the echo, Cathy and I chatted, and I watched as she did my study. The regurgitation didn't appear to be any worse, so that was reassuring. She finished my study, and then went to make sure she had all the images she needed. She came back in and took few extra pictures, but I didn't think anything of it. 

After the echo, we met my Cardiologist back in an office visit room to discuss the results of the echo. My Cardiologist asked me what I thought of my echo, and I mentioned I didn't think the regurgitation was any worse than it was in October. What he said next, I was not expecting. He said the valve leaflets were already thickened and narrowing which was something he didn't anticipate as the valve was, at this point, just under a year old. He also said the gradients across the valve had increased since the last echo (makes sense since it was narrowed). He said he wanted to take my echo to one of the surgical conferences just to discuss the case and see if any of the other physicians had seen this before.

That being said, we also discussed options should the valve continue to progress in this direction. At the time of my appointment he didn't feel it was necessary to act on anything just yet, and he said once he spoke to the other physicians and surgeons that he would call me to discuss further. Then we revisited the bigeminy that I was having. I told him I felt comfortable trying out a low dose Beta Blocker to see if it gave me relief of the symptoms. He agreed, and told me to start off with one pill a day, and if I didn't feel any relief of my symptoms within a few weeks, to increase my dose to two a day. Easy enough. Then he told me he wanted to see me back in 3 months, since the valve was progressing in the manner that it is, he wants to keep a close watch on it. So much for thinking I was going to "graduate" to one year follow-ups. I left my appointment feeling discouraged, but there was nothing I could do about it.

A few weeks went by and my Cardiologist called me to tell me he hadn't had the opportunity to present my echo yet, due to the high volume of cases that needed to be reviewed. He reassured me he hadn't forgotten and that he would call me as soon as he had the opportunity to discuss the case. He asked me how my runs of Bigeminy were going, and I told him they had improved, but not resolved entirely, and that I was considering upping the dosage to two a day. He agreed and thought that would take care of the few I was still having. He also told me that the Beta-Blocker and dosage he prescribed was so small and specific that it should not give me any adverse side effects.

Finally last Tuesday, my Cardiologist called me to discuss everything. He told me the other cardiologists and surgeons agreed that the valve was progressing at a faster rate than expected. He said a few others had seen this, however, it was rare. At this point he does not want to be aggressive, and he doesn't believe we need to be. He said that, if down the road, we need to take action, he said many people do well with an Angioplasty type procedure in the Cath lab, where a balloon pops open the leaflets and allows them more mobility without increasing the degree of regurgitation. At this point he still wants to follow me closely, just to see if things stay the same or continue to progress. With that said, he did want to get a closer look at things, so he said he was going to set me up for a Cardiac MRI, and told me his secretary would call within the next few days to set it up. He said I could do it at anytime, but wanted it before my appointment in July.

(Example Cardiac MRI)

He then asked me how my Bigeminy was, and I told him that increasing the dosage had improved them, and that I only feel them on a rare occasion, and he was happy to hear that. He asked me if I was having any other symptoms other than the bigeminy, and I said no, not that I had been aware of at least.

The next day the Children's Heart Center called me to set up my Cardiac MRI. The woman I spoke to then told me that she was looking at September. A little stunned, I told her my Cardiologist wanted it before my appointment in July. She then said, "well he told me to get you scheduled for our first available." She then explained to me that the MRIs are done by someone who comes from Syracuse, and he only comes to town one Thursday a month. So, I'll just have to wait and have him give me those results over the phone when the time comes. I've never had a Cardiac MRI before (that I'm aware of), so this should be interesting.

Overall, I'm feeling slightly discouraged, but in the end, I would have needed a valve eventually. My Cardiologist reassured me that I'm still doing well. He didn't place me on any restrictions, as long as I'm not having any symptoms, in which case, he'd want to see me back in his office sooner than July. We'll just have to wait and see if there are any changes on my echo then, as I patiently await my Cardiac MRI. On a more positive note: Someone is always having a worse day than me, and I'm reminded of that daily at work. At least I'm still on this side of the dirt. ; )

Friday, April 29, 2016

I'M ONE YEAR POST-OP!! {Wegmans Family 5K Race Recap}

They say it takes an entire year to recover from any major surgery, and believe it or not, I made it! I can barely believe it myself, but I am in fact 1 year post-op from my open heart surgery! In some ways it seems like it was just yesterday, and in others it seems like it's been longer than a year. I also had my 1 year follow-up with my cardiologist, but that is another post for another day. So how exactly did I celebrate this milestone? With a 5K and brunch with friends!

This past Sunday (April 24th), I ran the Wegmans Family 5K, which is one of 4 events offered during the Flower City Challenge weekend. April 24th was actually the exact date of my 1 year "post-op-iversary," so it was important to me that I do something to commemorate the milestone. I'll be honest, I'd been planning on this 5K for the entire year. I knew that the race would fall on this weekend, and particular day. Luckily, I didn't have to do it alone either. A few of my friends from my previous job also joined me in celebrating.

Sunday morning I woke up (earlier than I normally do even for work), and got ready to meet my friends at Blue Cross. The race was set to start at 7:45 AM (with a half marathon set to start at 7:30 AM). I got down there and parked around 7:00 AM, and I went inside to use the restroom and see if I could find any of my friends. As I made my way around the arena, I heard a "Stacey?" I turned to see one of my Instagram friends, Cheryl! We had just been chatting the night before that we would finally be at the same race (after about 2 years of following each other), though she was running the half. We gave each other a big hug, and chatted for a few moments before wishing each other good luck.

I then heard from my friend Natalie that they were inside getting our friend Linda's bib, so I went down to packet pickup to meet them. I made it down there, and I noticed that both Natalie and Linda were wearing their #TeamStacey shirts that work had made for everyone for the Heart Walk the previous year (due to the walk being the same weekend as my surgery). As soon as I saw them, I broke down into tears. Happy tears, however, I was overwhelmed with everything that had transpired over the past year. It is easily described as peaks and valleys, again though, everything happens for a reason.

I pulled myself together, and we went outside to wait for the race to start. We had missed the half marathon start due to being inside at registration. They wanted to make sure the half marathoners had their bibs first since the half started 15 minutes before the 5K.

(Pre race selfie)

(Natalie, me and Linda)

We walked back towards where everyone was congregating in the race corral, and it wasn't long before the 5K race started. I didn't have a set goal in mind for the race, and I had mentioned that to Linda and Natalie. I just wanted to come out, celebrate and have fun with my friends. Natalie's only goal was the beat our time from the previous week.

(Course Map: Source)

This is the second time I've run this race (since last year my plans were derailed by surgery), and I LOVE the course. It's pretty flat, and it goes by some great landmarks in the city including the Susan B. Anthony House and Frontier Field.

Natalie, Linda and I chatted the entire race, and took frequent walk breaks. I mentioned to Natalie that I wish I had my timer because I honestly think we'd be able to run faster if we had scheduled walk breaks, but my timer is broken. While we were running along, the Rochester Police Academy and Rochester Fire Academy ran by us with their current recruits running in sync. Before I knew it, we were past Frontier Field and coming up on the 2 mile sign. I checked our time and saw that we were in good shape to beat our time from the previous week! The last mile flew by, and we even came across some cameras!

(Of course, some of them I did't even see)

(Two thumbs up!)

Before I knew it we were rounding the corner by Dinosaur BBQ, and I decided to kick it in and finish strong. We all finished within a minute of each other. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I started to tear up. Sounds silly, but I was overcome with emotion knowing how different my life was just one year ago. Linda gave me a high five and a huge hug, which probably made me cry harder, but it was all good. I waited for Natalie to cross the finish line, and gave her a high five. She had achieved her goal of beating her time from the weekend before! I also mentioned to her that we had even stopped for a few pictures along the course, so if it weren't for that, our time would have been a few minutes faster!

We walked down to the end of the finish chute for a cup of water and decided to head inside for a small bite to eat to hold us over before our brunch. While we were inside, there was a fleet feet backdrop that we decided to snap a picture in front of.

(All smiles after a fun 5K!)

After we grabbed some fruit and water, we decided to venture back outside to watch some of the half marathoners coming back in from the race. Our friend Courtney was running the half, so we definitely wanted to be out there to see her finish. It was fun watching all the half marathoners come in and finish their race. Courtney had told us that she'd probably finish in around 2:00:00, and she wasn't far off from her estimate. In the distance we saw her coming, so we all started cheering for her. Natalie snapped a cool "Happy Potter" picture (as I call them) on her iPhone.

(Court coming in strong - ignore my arm, gave her a high five)

Once Court finished, Natalie, Linda and I hung out in the sun a little bit before we headed to find Courtney to see what she wanted to do for food.

(Smiles in the sun)

We decided to head over to Village Bakery for brunch since the other place we were planning on going was actually closed. Courtney had run by it on her run and noticed it was no longer open. Oh well, I will never complain with Village Bakery. Their open face egg sandwiches are the best! We all enjoyed a delicious sandwich and (again) chatted for a while before we all went our separate ways.

(Linda, me, Natalie and Court at brunch)

In a silly way, this race will always hold a special place in my heart just due to the circumstances in which the race surrounds for me personally. Like I said, it's a pretty flat course, and in the years that I've actually been able to participate the weather has been fantastic. The cost of the race is reasonable too. It would have been even cheaper for me if I had registered when the race actually opened, but I still think I only paid something like $27.00. The only downfall to this race is the time. The half started at 7:30 AM with the 5K to follow at 7:45 AM. I know they started this race early due to the fact that there was also a half marathon being held during the same time, so that make sense. It's not a deal breaker since it didn't deter me from running the race.

QOTD: Are there any races that hold a special place in your heart?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Heart Run/Walk 5K Recap

Saturday, April 16th I ran the first annual Heart Run 5K here in Rochester. In years past they've always done the Heart Walk to benefit the American Heart Association, but this year they decided to add a 5K run. At first I wasn't going to do the run because the price was a little steep, however, my friend Natalie was running the 5K, so I decided to jump in and run/walk with her.

This year, only a few of us from the Cardiology department actually registered for the race/walk. Our team included myself, Natalie, our coworker Linda, and then one of our Attendings and his wife. The run/walk was also at a different location this year. This year it was at Frontier Field, where as in years past it has been at Blue Cross Arena. Or you could be like me last year, and be laying in a hospital bed 1 day S/P open heart surgery. But, I digress.

I woke up Saturday morning and got myself around to leave. It was a beautiful sunny day (surprising for April in Rochester), but it was still pretty chilly. I arrived at Frontier field around 8:30, and text my coworkers to see if any where there yet. The race was set to start at 9:00 AM with the walk to immediately follow. My coworkers and I set a meeting place and waited in the sun until it was time to walk over to the race start.

(Standing in the sun waiting for the race to stsrt)

We decided to wander over to where the race was going to start. On our way over, there was a big billboard for all the participants to sign. I thought that was cool, and Natalie told me they also had one last year for everyone to sign.

While we were stretching we noticed there were some characters/mascots (if you will), so of course we had to grab a quick picture before the race started.

Finally it was time for the race the start. For the inaugural race, there were about 400 registrants, which I thought was a decent number. We made our way to the starting line, and then they counted us down. Once they blew the horn for us to start, they released about 25 red balloons into the sky which I thought was a neat idea. Since there wasn't a huge crowd, I told my friend Natalie to let me know when we wanted to walk. I was game for whatever she wanted to do.

The course for the 5K (and the walk) was an out and back on the Inner Loop. It certainly wasn't flat, but the small hills provided a little challenge and made us work a little harder.

(Course map: Source)

Natalie, Linda and I made it to about the one mile marker, and we were all dying. We had definitely overdressed. My thermometer when I left my house said 38 degrees, but the sun was warm. Linda and I stripped our top layers and tied our shirts around our waists. Poor Natalie had worn a black Under Armour shirt under the black Heart Run shirts we were given at packet pickup. As we were making our way out to the turning point, we watched the other side as runners started to make their way back to the finish. Then we saw Ryan and Carrie! We all waved at each other and kept trudging along.

We had finally made it to the halfway point, and looped around and started back towards the finish. As we made our way back toward the finish, we were able to run past all the Heart Walk participants that were making their way to just about the 1 mile marker. It was great to see how many participants there were doing the walk. There were also little activities and snacks along the course for the walkers to partake in. The 3 of us chatted as we made our way back over the hills and turned the corner towards Frontier Field. The last 1/10 of a mile we kicked it in and finished strong. I finished in 41:40, not my fastest, but that's my fault for not running consistently this winter/spring. A huge shoutout to Natalie who ran her FIRST timed 5K, and she rocked it!

Once we finished we met up with Ryan and Carrie and chatted for a few minutes. Ryan had mentioned that Scott Hetsko had run the race, and just finished a few minutes before us. I went up to him to say hello, and introduce myself, and asked if I could get a picture with him.

(Chatting about our heart surgeries)

Scott was extremely nice. We chatted for a few minutes, and I told him that I had open heart surgery about a year ago too, and we compared scars. His looks awesome by the way, hardly noticeable. I commented on his Penn State shirt, and was excited to learn he is also a Penn State Alum!

After that we decided to check out the sponsor tents to see what goodies we could pick up. We stopped at the Kodak booth where they were taking pictures of participants, then printing them off so we could take them home. Not only that, they were offering a service where you could print pictures from your phone to take home with you, so we definitely took advantage of that.

We grabbed a small snack at the refreshment tent and decided that we would go for a bite to eat together when we left. We quickly walked around the tents and picked up some goodies and decided to head out. Linda, Natalie and I decided to head to Village Bakery for breakfast. It was such a beautiful day and we were lucky to snag a table outside in the sun. We ate our breakfast and stayed and chatted for quite a while, then we all headed out to enjoy the rest of our weekends.

(With Natalie and Linda at Village Bakery)

QOTD: Running is always more fun with friends. Do you have a BRF (best running friend?)