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?)