Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dash4Dad 4 Miler

No, I haven’t made it the 11, 12, 4 Challenge, but last weekend I took on the Dash4Dad 4miler.  There were a few reasons for doing this race.  The primary reason is that someone I care a lot about was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, and I wanted to show him how much I care.  Secondly, I miss racing.  I thought I’d enjoy having the summer off, but now I dread this much time without a half.  Lastly, Adam has decided to tackle a 10K as his Challenge for this year, and his training is going very well.  The 4 miler seemed like the perfect chance to do a practice race before his 10K, so I was lucky enough to convince him to join in.  
 Adam getting pumped up before the race
Since it was Father’s Day, Adam’s parents and sister came to visit and cheered us on for the race.  It was a really touching experience.  Congressman Jim Moran, whose office I met with during Capitol Hill Day, gave a speech about how widespread prostate cancer is, but he also said how easy it is to treat if found early.  Approx 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their life – but as I said, most will go on to live long happy lives if we can catch it early.  Such hopeful and promising news.
  Congressman Moran crossing the finish.  Way to go!
The race was great.  About 1,400 people registered (I think 900 something completed it).  The course started on a pretty steep uphill, but on the good side, it ended on a pretty enjoyable downhill.  At mile 1, you could tie a tie and then wear it for the rest of the race, and if you did this you got a coffee mug.  Of course, I’m up for any chance to make races fun, so I loved this idea.  And the coffee mugs are great!  
 I love these mugs.  I gave my dad the "Go ask your mother mug" this weekend and he loved it!  So funny.
Adam and I decided to run together no matter what, but once again, my running buddy wowed me.  He ended up finishing the race in 8:14 per mile (they subtracted out the tie-tying time) which is unbelievable.  He’s been joining in for the first few miles of a lot of my runs, and I was so proud of him for his effort in this race.  For someone who claims he isn’t a runner (even for someone who says they are a runner), that’s quite an accomplishment! Go Adam!

I think he was on a runner’s high, because I found him searching the internet for 10Ks just a few hours later.  I’m telling you, if you want to run, register for your first race.  That will be all you need to get yourself training, and once you’ve done one, its addicting.

Thanks Udasins for cheering us on!  And Adam, great job!
We spent the rest of the weekend enjoying the time with Adam’s family and eating lots of great food.  Though of course I missed my own dad on father’s day, I knew I would see him the next weekend when I went home to celebrate my mom and my sister’s birthday, so it wasn’t too tough.  And the time I got to spend with Adam’s family was so relaxing and enjoyable.   Thanks for making it such a fun weekend!
Every runner got a post race drink.  We picked Mimosas.  Yum!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Happy Birthday Kristen!

Today is Kristen's birthday.  So first off, happy birthday Kristen!  Second, I want to take a second to thank her for all that she does to keep this Challenge going.  Though this blog is really my pet project (at least so far - who knows when I'll start bringing in some guest blog posts), a lot of other aspects of the Challenge are thanks to Kristen.  She keeps the Facebook page up and running and she often tweets about what's going on.  She designs big cards and business cards and gets them all ready to go for my events.  She helps keep me on top of things when I start to get overwhelmed by the races and 

Since many of you hear all of my thoughts on the blog, I thought this would be a good time to say just how much she does to make this Challenge a success.  When I started this Challenge, I had it all wrong.  I thought running 12 half marathons would be a huge challenge.  Nope, that's the easy part.  Keeping up with all the emails and conversations, getting materials ready so that we can spread the word, planning races, acknowledging and thanking our wonderful donors, trying to find new donors and sponsors - that stuff is really challenging.  And Kristen has gone above and beyond to help with all of that.  I wouldn't trade this experience for the world, but I don't know how much I could have accomplished without such great support.  Kristen has been integral to the success of this project, and I think our donation page proves how much we have accomplished in such a short time. 

I simply couldn't do it without you Kristen.  Happy birthday!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Climb the Hill for a Cure - Capitol Hill Day 2011

Tuesday rolled around, and I was ready for Capitol Hill Day.  The day started early since the buses were leaving at 7:45 to head to the Hill.  Team Virginia was off  to our first meeting right away.  Basically the plan was for each person to have three meetings – both of your state Senators and then your local Congressman.  

I know, typical tourist picture.  Even though I live here.
We started by meeting with Senator Webb’s counsel who was very nice and listened to what we had to say.  Since there were 8 people from Virginia, there were plenty of people to talk and share our story – if anything, the hard part was all feeling as though we’d said what we wanted. 
All of these assistants hear about health related issues all of the time.  Our goal was to tell what we go through on a daily basis or how it impacts our life and why it is a serious disease, not just itchy skin.  We shared stories of people who weren’t allowed into pools by lifeguards because the lifeguard couldn’t understand that the disease wasn’t contagious.  We heard stories of bullying, of tough decisions about choosing to have children.   I honestly had no idea what so many people went through, especially those who were diagnosed at a young age.  Ignorance is not bliss, and people who choose not to hear what others are going through and empathize can be cruel.  The good news is many people have found treatments that work, but often at high costs (both in dollars and side effects).  With continued research, let’s hope for better options.  
Virginia group!  They were such great people and made it a fun day.  Hope to see them all the walk in September!
We then headed over to meet with Senator Warner’s Legislative Assistant (LA). 
At this point, you are probably asking – what were you requesting? 
1.     Co-sponsor H.R. 2033/S. 1107, the Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Cure and Care Act (PPARCCA) which was recently introduced.  This bill authorizes psoriasis data collection at the CDC and voices Congressional support for public-private sector efforts to advance psoriasis research and find a cure.
2.     Enlist the support of a request for $1.5 million to allow CDC to implement the second phase of its psoriasis data collection efforts, initially funded and begun in FY 2010.
Not too much to ask, right?  Basically, when you hear statistics on many diseases, they are often quoted by the CDC.  Right now, the CDC doesn’t track psoriasis so it is harder to keep meaningful records which hinders research.   

Most of the Virginia group after our meeting with Senator Warner
After our second meeting, we went to grab snacks in the cafeteria in Russell Senate building and talk about our plan from there.  One of our group members was really not feeling well – her psoriatic arthritis was acting up and just walking around for the morning was making her feel terrible.  We told her there were plenty of people to cover the meetings and she should go home and feel better.  She was disappointed to leave, but realized we would make sure her story was heard. 
As a result, I jumped in for an extra meeting, and Robert and I headed off to lunch before meeting Representative Connolly’s LA to talk about how serious the disease was.  We pointed out that we were a team member short because of it’s impact – further proof to anyone who thought it just might be itchy skin.  
After that, Robert was going to Congressman Kent (in Pennsylvania) along with a wonderful mom, her two kids (Carly and Katelyn), and her sister in law.  These little girls have both had psoriasis since they were young (it was caused by strep throat and misdiagnosed at first).  
They got to get a picture at the Congressman's desk.  I was kinda jealous... 
After signs of psoriatic arthritis started, one had to go on treatments that caused her hair to fall out, and asked her mom “When will I be a princess again?”  Can you imagine the pain that must cause a child, not just physically but emotionally?  Sure, there are treatments, but the long-term effects are often unknown, and the short-term effects are so rough.  The good news is that the treatments are working very well and both are cleared now! 
Carly and Katelyn were awesome.  These girls are stronger than most adults - and are lucky to have such great family that support them.   
I then met up with my local team so that we could meet with Congressman Moran’s  LA for our last meeting of the day.  Overall, I think we shared a lot about the disease and what it can really mean, which was the largest goal.  Please, consider sending a note to your Congressman telling why they need to help find a cure for psoriasis by going here.
We then took the buses back to the hotel and had a wrap-up session where we shared the best and worst stories of the day.  I must say – as a 25 year old, it’s tough to agree to take two days off of work to sit in conferences and long days.  Not exactly your ideal vacation.  But these last few days were SO WORTH IT, which should tell you just how much it meant to me.  Great conference, NPF! 
Time to tell about our day and the adventures while visiting the Hill
It was finally time to say goodbye, and it was weird to leave people that I’d only known for a few days but felt I knew so well.  I hope some of you have now decided to start reading the blog, and please know I will continue to share your stories and hope that together, we can make a difference. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

National Volunteer Leadership Conference

Writing this blog post has taken a lot of work – simply because I have so much to say.  The only way I could finally comfort myself about all the things I have to leave out is to say that I will return to some of these stories and people later.  There were just too many of you, but thank you to everyone who spoke to me and courageously shared their story, or offered to help.  This Challenge has been one of the most rewarding but exhausting experiences of my life, and meeting all of you made me wish I had more hours in the day to devote to the cause.
So, back to the story.  After the race, I went home and got ready for day one of National Psoriasis Foundation’s National Volunteer Leadership Conference.  This conference covers a range of topics and helps to engage many of the most active volunteers from around the country.  Then on Tuesday, it concludes with Capitol Hill Day, where we speak to congressional representatives and advocate for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.  When I first arrived, I was greeted by Linda’s familiar face and some other NPF people who knew about what I was doing, even if I didn’t know them yet  They were all wonderful and welcoming, which helped me feel at ease.  Something that did seem weird to me was that everyone around me seemed as though they already knew each other, even though we’d just arrived.  Only later on would I realize that many of these people have been attending the conference for years as a way to share their experiences about living with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis with people who get it.  And more importantly, it would only take me a few hours before I too felt like I was around some of my closest friends. 

The first workshop that I went to was called “Getting your point across”.  It taught us how to better communicate through hyper-local media (your local newspaper) and social media.  It was interesting that part of the course was led by someone that I have been following on Twitter for awhile but had never met in person.  The beauty of social media right there!  @NessieHasPSA did a great job teaching us about how to best contact local papers and how to use Twitter and blogging to reach people.  You should check out her blog, “lipstick, perfume and too many pills”.
There was a reception to meet different sponsors/companies and I got some great samples to take home to Mom (as well as some great Neutrogena sunscreen, which is my favorite for races!).  There was a reception and a documentary premiere which I heard was great, but I’d been awake since 3:45 AM so I decided to head out early.

Day two started around 8:30 AM.  Traffic in DC can be unpredictable, so even though I live very close to the hotel I left early.  While waiting for the first event of the day, I happened to run into EZ Goen, who is currently riding his Harley across all the states in the Continental US and talking about life with psoriatic arthritis.  I’ll write more about him in a later post because it’s a great story of strength and overcoming the disease, but for now, read his story here.
 NIAMS Presentation
I then went to an opening session on the research done with NIAMS, the NIH division that deals with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and heard a lot of updates about NPF from Rick Seiden (Immediate Past-Chair) and Randy Beranek (President & CEO).  One thing they mentioned was that the walk revenue went from $400,000 in 2007 to $1.3MM (projected) for 2011.  Talk about growth!  Let’s hope 11, 12, 13 Challenge can make a big contribution to that figure soon. 
 The video that Alyssa made.  She used clips from the first day and made it overnight.  Wow.
We also heard about some wonderful volunteers and heard from Alyssa Krafsur, a fourteen year old girl who stayed up until 3:30 AM the night before creating a video about day 1.  Alyssa is a true fighter as she’s battled intense psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis and is now the namesake behind Alyssa’s Fund.  You can read about her here
  He gave a great speech and presented a Build-a-Bear to NIAMS as a thank you for their help because dealing with psoriasis "can be a real bear"

At this point, we went for our first morning workshop.  Mine was on the Advocacy Caucus and helped prepare us to become better advocates.  We were seated in round tables, and I think the highlight of this was the people I met.  One woman was there with her husband (but they went to different sessions to get the most info from the conference) for her son.  Despite the battles her family has faced, she is constantly smiling and was great to talk to.  
 This was the first (of many!) steps to prepare us for Capitol Hill Day
I also had the chance to talk a fellow runner who told me about his psoriasis story (which ends in a victory, so awesome!).  I’m hoping he still means it, but he actually offered to give me one of his plane tickets from frequent flyer miles so that I can go to a race later this year.  Can you believe how generous that is?  I told you these were some of the nicest people I have ever met.  Not even exaggerating. 
 He's right - advocacy works!  Help us spread the word.
We had a lunch where they announced various awards for the top volunteers, and I had some great conversations with the people around me.  I was introduced to many impressive people at NPF and got to share my story with so many people.  I hope some of them are reading this now! 
 Volunteer of the year nominees.  Their dedication was inspiring.
I spent the afternoon learning about research advances and some “in the works” treatment options, led by Bruce Bebo, the Director of Research & Medical Programs.  It was a really exciting and interesting presentation that was way too short at an hour and a half.  I’m pretty sure everyone in that room would have stayed twice as long – they actually asked us to leave so we could make it to our next session on time!
Learning more about psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.  I could have spent all day on this alone!
After that, we went to training for Capitol Hill Day, where we sat with other residents from our state.  We learned what to say, what we were advocating for, worked with our team to prepare our presentation, and work out the logistical details.  In part because the conference was in Virginia (and in part because it’s such a great state), we had a lot of people!  This gave me a chance to meet even MORE wonderful people, some of whom I hope to keep in touch with long after the conference. 

Panel to prepare for Capitol Hill Day
The day concluded with a dinner for the Northeast volunteers (organized by Linda) where we all had a chance to meet and talk.  Many of them have been working to raise money and help NPF for years and years.  Great food and great conversation – perfect ending to a long but wonderful day.  I headed home to get ready for Capitol Hill Day in the morning!

Love it!
The hope and the inspiration in that room were real. It brought tears to my eyes more than once as I realized how many people were fighting and winning.  To anyone who thinks psoriasis is simply an itchy skin condition, you are wrong.  It changes people’s lives and attitudes.  As NPF says,  it’s “more than skin deep.”  It is an autoimmune disease, so it opens them up to increased risks for many other diseases.  It can develop at any point into psoriatic arthritis, which you already know from my mom’s story can be a terrible disease.  One girl said that lifeguards wouldn’t allow her in the pool as a child because they didn’t believe it wasn’t contagious (it is NOT contagious).  They talked about the staring, and the difficulty finding jobs.  They talked about the fear of having children because they don’t want to pass along the disease.  But all of this aside, they shared one thing with me:

Everytime I open my iPhone, this image shows up.  It's what I hope to do every day and why I won't give up.
HOPE. Many have gotten treatments to make it go away.  Many have learned to love themselves and won’t let the disease rule their life.   And sure, it can be a tough battle.  But we can make a difference, and the amount of hope you could feel at any given time in that conference was truly inspiring.  And now, I too hope – I hope that we can raise both awareness and money during this year, because it’s a truly worthwhile cause. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

ZOOMA Annapolis and Kristen's Half Marathon Debut

This race was different…in a great way.  Kristen was running her first half marathon!  About a week and a half before ZOOMA, Kristen went on her long run, and did a great job running over 13 miles!  She sent me the link to the training data and told me about it, so I suggested she join me for ZOOMA.  Though she’s planning to run Rock n Roll Virginia Beach with me in September, that’s a long time to wait if you’re already trained and ready for a half.  She said she’d think it over.

A few days before the race, she told me she was going to join me.  I was so excited!  We decided we would run together no matter what.  For one, it’s just a fun experience and great to share with her.  And two, I made a lot of rookie mistakes in my first few races, so I thought by now I knew enough that I might be able to help with them (like when to eat GU packets or drink water), or to motivate her.  Little did I know she’d give me a run for my money (no pun intended).
Race day came and 3:45 AM was here!  We had to be up early to make it there from Arlington.  Everything was very smooth for me at the start of the race.  However, I did see that a bunch of people didn’t have safety pins, and they were trying to tape the numbers onto their shirt.  Big error on the race director’s part.  With sweat and 13 tough miles, tape would never stick.  I’m an overplanner and always have extras, so I was able to get my bag out of bag check and find a few extras to share.

Despite that, it was a very smooth start.  We were off!  We got to see Adam early in the race, but then it was an out-and-back course so there wasn’t anywhere to see him in the middle.  The race had a fair amount of hills, including a big bridge that you had to cross around mile 3 and then cross again on the way back.  It was not easy, but there were lots of people cheering and some hilarious signs!
Here we go!

Kristen’s goal was under 2 hours but she said she’d be happy under 2:10.  I let her set pace, and she was going waaaay faster.  I pointed this out to her, and she said she felt good so we went with it. 
Kristen mid race
It was supposed to be a really hot day, but we got lucky and it was overcast the whole time.  It started pouring for about 30 seconds or a minute early on, but then it was fine and stayed clear.  Very lucky.
That was nothing compared to some others...but notice the hills
Another picture I tried to take while running
I decided to try to take a video telling what we were doing with the 11, 12, 13 Challenge, but it came out looking more like the Blair Witch Project than a useful video.  Oh well.  Around mile 7, the 1:50 (8:24/mile) pace group passed us, and Kristen told me she wanted to try to stick with them.  I knew this was not going to be an easy race and I was pumped.
The dreaded bridge.  Quite an incline!

Somewhere during mile 12, we saw a woman walking who had been staying around us the whole time.  I couldn’t help but think of the encouragement I received during National, and Kristen and I started cheering and told her how close she was to the finish and to keep going.  We saw her smile, and then she started running again and joined us to the finish.  After the race, she actually came over to say thanks for the encouragement and getting her back in it.  That, to me, is exactly what this is about.  Being teammates with people even if you’ve never met them before.
So close!
After the race, we got our stuff, drank some terrible tasting sports drink lemonade, got our bag of food, and headed over to sit down.  ZOOMA doesn’t do medals - they do a necklace.  Personally, I have no desire to wear a “Z” necklace regularly and would have preferred a nice medal, but that’s just me.  You should know by now that I love the “bling”, but it was a good idea for a women’s race. 
Just seconds from the finish line
  They also had wine at the end which was a good touch for a women’s race.  I got my bright pink compression socks on to help with recovery, and took a picture because Adam thinks they are the funniest/greatest things ever.   
When I bought the socks, I asked Adam if I should get white or bright pink.  There was no question in his mind.
Kristen, congratulations.  That was a huge accomplishment and I’m so glad I got to share it with you.  I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to keep up you were doing so well!  After the race, we hung out for awhile and then headed home.  I had to be at the National Volunteer Leadership Conference (NVLC) starting at 3:30 PM later the day, so I was excited for adventure #2 of the day!  More details to follow soon…
Half marathoners!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Race #8 and Conference Update

This is just a very quick update to let you know that the last two days have been a total whirlwind and absolutely amazing.  My day yesterday started at 3:45 AM so that I could go run half marathon #8 for the Challenge and be there with my sister as she crossed the finish for her first ever half marathon.  What a huge victory and success!

After that, I had a few hours to eat and get ready for the National Volunteer Leadership Conference (NVLC) for NPF.  I went to a few events as part of the conference last night, and was there from 8:30 AM to about 9:30 PM today meeting people, learning to be a better advocate, hearing about research progress, enjoying dinner with Northeast Region friends, and so much more.  I can't wait to share more details about this with you guys, but right now, it's getting close to midnight and I have to be up bright and early tomorrow.

Why is tomorrow an early day?  We will be heading to Capitol Hill for Capitol Hill Day, where we meet with congressional staffers to  share our psoriasis story and push for a few key initiatives.  The people I met today were beyond inspirational and showed me why I'm working so hard to raise money for NPF.  I am so glad I was able to take part in all of this, and to everyone I met today thank you for welcoming me.  I hope some of you are now reading the blog, and hope you'll decide to follow this journey along with me.  We're not only fighting for my mom, but for all of you who touched me so deeply.  For now, I'm focusing on my trip to Capitol Hill tomorrow and will then try to get blog updates for all of these great event.  Get excited, lots of great things to read about soon!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

11, 12, 15 Challenge?

Do you ever have those nightmares where crazy things happen?  Like you're back in school and you're at the end of the semester but never went to class so you're totally unprepared for your exam?  Or you go to give a speech and can't remember a single word?  Or you run a race and you get lost?

Oh wait, that last one wasn't a dream/nightmare.
So this weekend was Memorial Day and the Alexandria Running Festival.  Not exactly a huge event, but it's less than 30 minutes from my apartment and I wanted to take a weekend without traveling.  The race was on Sunday, and our apartment complex was hosting a party for Memorial Day/pool opening for the season on Saturday, so we went to Alexandria to get my packet and then came back to the pool party.  I skipped the beer since I was racing the next day, but still enjoyed some burgers and s'mores.

4:30 AM rolled around on Sunday and it was wakeup time.  Parking was very easy, but you never can count on that so we had built in plenty of time.  The start of the race was pretty uneventful, but I did get this awesome picture. 
The race was scheduled to start at 7:15, but then around 7:10 they announced it would be 7:30.  A little annoying since it was supposed to get very hot and every minute helps, but oh well.  Everyone ran to go do some last minute things.  Then they decided they were ready, and started around 7:25 AM so people were suddenly not ready.  I honestly didn't hear any announcement other than "ready, set, go" and felt everyone start pushing.
They probably said "ready set go" two seconds after this was taken and confused us all.  Just kidding.
 The race was fine, though not too much to see on the course.  But in order to understand this story, you need to see the course map.  Essentially, you run about three miles out, then do three loops of about 2 or 2.5 miles, and then do about 3 more miles back.
About 3 miles out, do a 2 to 2.5 mile loop THREE times, then about 3 miles back.  That was the plan.
The director had said at the start it would be clearly marked, so I wasn't too worried.  It's a little boring to run the same loop three times, but oh well.  So we were off, and I definitely went out too fast - I really need to learn to keep my pace in check for those first few miles.  I think I wore myself out a bit too much, so I slowed down and started to recover.  They didn't have any GU/gels available on the course, but I had put one in my shorts pocket and had to consume it (I'm not sure if you eat or drink a gel) way earlier than anticipated because I just wasn't feeling my best and wanted to beat "the wall".  I alternated Gatorade and water at the water stops and pushed through.  It definitely wasn't going to be my best race, but I wasn't worried about anything terrible either.
 But here's the problem with three loops:
1)  It is boring.  Really boring.  And the way the course was, you passed some places six times.  Ick.  Though it was a park, there wasn't a lot to see.  And since the loop was about three miles from the start, not many of the spectators were on the course because they wanted to be there at the start and the finish.  Unless you were witty, like my group of spectators, but I'll go back to that later.
 2) The water stations were chaotic.  In general, water stations are tough - some people like to walk when they get their water (have you ever tried drinking out of a small plastic cup while running?  It's an art form) and others keep running.  Now to make that even more interesting: the water stops were in very narrow areas of the course, and often had people running two or three VERY different paces depending on what loop they were on.  I got in a few collisions that caused me to be soaked in gatorade, and a few times I couldn't get anything because there wasn't a way to get in/no volunteer ready to hand it out.
 3) In the narrow parts of the course, just trying to run an 8 or 8:20 minute mile next to someone who is running about 10-12 minute mile and occasionally getting passed by someone going at 6 or 7 minutes mile pace makes for a very confusing group and involves lots of traffic jams.  Also, in a race, you normally kind of settle into a pace similar to the people around you, but here I often found myself moving to a much slower pace because there were a lot more people running in an earlier loop than me.
 4) Now comes the best part.  When you are running a loop, the turnoff for the people exiting the loop needs to be REALLY clear.  In this race, it was not.  Now, I will take partial blame here.  The race said not to wear headphones but I did anyway.  In case you aren't a runner, almost all races say not to wear them or "strongly discourage" you from wearing them, but most people still do.  Two hours is pretty boring without music and it's a good distraction.  Usually, it doesn't matter at all.  However, on this course, apparently there was just one volunteer saying to go one way if it was your last loop and a different way if it was your first or second loop.  As far as I could see when I actually left the loop section, there were no signs or anything - just that one guy saying it.  And I'm guessing at the point where I was supposed to leave the loop section, nobody else was running my pace and so I just followed everyone else going to the left.  So, I got sucked into a fourth loop.

 Oh yes, I turned a half marathon into a 15+ mile course.  What does one do once they realize this?  I hadn't studied the course map (remember, that's Adam's job) so I didn't know where to look for the split, plus you're pretty out of it by mile 10 anyway.  So I just ran right on by.  Somewhere in the 10 mile section, my small concern that I had missed it turned into a serious "uh oh" moment.  I gotta say, it was disheartening.  Though not my worst race, it wasn't my best, and an extra 2.2 or so miles when you haven't paced for it is tough mentally, and of course physically.  So I spent the last loop trying to ask every volunteer where the turnoff was (most just yelled "good job! keep running!" and didn't hear my question).  To keep myself reasonable at this point, I decided I would run to 13.1 and from there I'd just walk or jog the rest of the course until I got to the finish.  Not exactly ideal, but seemed the best solution to me.
This is actually from after the race, but I had to get a picture of him with his sign!
Here's the only problem though: I had a great set of people there cheering for me.  Kristen, Curtis, and Adam stayed with me at the start of the race, then hopped in their car over to the park, saw me for the first two loops (saw me four times because of the course design), and then skipped seeing me in the third loop so that they could meet me at the finish.  I was looking fine and right around my usual pace when they left, so they had no reason to worry.  Unfortunately, they had no clue I decided to stay for a fourth loop because I was having so much fun, and I was concerned that they would worry I had gotten hurt when I didn't show up around my expected finish time.  Luckily, there was a wonderful police officer who was monitoring the road closure section of the course, and once I'd finished the 13.1 miles and was walking, I saw her and asked if I could use her phone to call them.  Adam answered his phone when I called and I explained the situation and told him not to worry.  He claims he just wanted clarification to make sure I was ok, but I'm pretty sure I could hear him laughing as he said "wait, you mean you did an extra loop?!"

Now here's the good part of the race:
My three spectators were awesome!  They were making lots of noises, cheering, and really just helped me out.  Adam made this awesome sign, which gave me a big boost and made me smile.  And then, once they knew I was going to be delayed getting to the finish, Kristen started heading my way on the course and walked/jogged in with me to the end.  Normally you get to sit and drink lots of water and eat bananas after the 13.1, so it was nice to have her help me as I fought through those last few miles.
This is what I would have liked to be doing at mile 13, but it was still great a few miles later!
OK, you can laugh now.  I was at first upset about doing another loop, but before I made it to the finish, I was able to see just how funny the situation was.  I really have no sense of direction and Adam and I have joked many times that I should always run with my iphone so he can track me, or that I should put a sign on my shirt that says "If found please return to..." in case I get lost on the trails.  When I go on my long training runs, I often want to explore more, but get worried that I won't be able to find my way back.  Never though did I expect to get lost during a race!  Though I still don't think this really had anything to do with my sense of direction (I expected the race to mark the course and therefore didn't study the map), it's still a really funny story.  And it's not like it was my first or my last race, or I was hoping the time would qualify me for anything, so the official time doesn't matter.  I can just laugh at my official 2:18 finish time.  According to my watch, I was in the 1:49 area when I finished the 13.1, which is pretty much within my normal finish time.  If anyone else ran this race, I'd love to hear if this caused you any confusion/what you remember seeing to mark the turnoff, because I'm wondering if this was just me being totally oblivious and tired or if anyone else had doubts about where the course split.
I compared it to the field day medal from when I was a kid....
All smiles!  We're making a difference for NPF and that's what matters.
So I'm taking votes - should I rename this the 11, 12, 15 Challenge and go for a few extra miles every time?  Just kidding!
This puppy was at the race.  If you know me, you know I want a puppy, and this one was SO cute!
The rest of the weekend was a lot of fun.  We went up to Maryland for a big outdoor wine festival on Sunday, and then went to Curtis' parents for a cookout/crab eating party on Monday.  It was really hot, and it was just great to see friends and take it easy. 
So many people at what I thought was a small wine festival.  Great time!
Since it's Memorial Day, I also want to take a minute to say thanks to all of the people who help protect our freedom and keep us safe.  Coming from a Navy town, I have seen what it means to be deployed and spend six months away from your family to help protect our country.  You guys are all heroes, and I hope this weekend everyone took some time to really think about the meaning of this holiday.
Next weekend is pretty exciting, so get ready!  I have changed my race schedule a bit and now will run the Zooma Annapolis half marathon next Sunday.  Pretty much right after I finish, I'll head home to Arlington, get cleaned up, and then head over to the first afternoon of the National Volunteer Leadership Conference for NPF, where I'll spend a day and a half learning how to be a better volunteer and preparing for day three, where we head to Congress.  So excited!