#16. Austin, Texas: “All engines running.”

February 19, 2012

Age: 28
Occupation: Key Leader at lululemon athletica
Residence: Chicago, IL
Time since last race: 3 months, 14 days
Conditions: 55 clouds/sun light breeze rolling hills throughout
Official time: 03:55:30

We have a problem. I haven’t had enough time for reflection. Sure I’m inspired, motivated and focused, but a sort of transformation is taking place and there aren’t words to do it justice – yet. As my best friend Hadley told me, just days ago as we stood in the February heat of downtown Buenos Aires, “you are cocooning.”

199-something. Columbus, OH. St. Agatha 6th Grade Volleyball Team. There are too many girls who want to play so our teams are divided into A and B. Placements determined by tryouts and I’m stuck on the B team once again. This always happens. Volleyball, basketball, softball, whatever. “Be the best you can, Gige. Show up and practice and give 100% no matter what team you’re on,” advised my dad. This particular morning is special. We’ve had a great season and we’re playing for the championship today. In typical fashion, mom braids my hair – two identical french braids pulled so tightly I have a headache and hair sprayed so thickly I have become a walking fire hazard. My bright yellow jersey is tucked into red mesh shorts and giant red knee pads look funny on my long skinny legs. The game begins and I am on the bench. Eager, anxious, excited and proud I watch as my team nails serve after serve. Stringing together successful bumps, sets and a few spike attempts. We win the first of three sets and it’s on to the second. I’m on the bench waiting for my turn. Second set: lost. Third set begins. I’m still on the bench. Waiting. I can feel the energy, I’m on the edge of my seat! I want to play so badly, every muscle in my body is tense. Waiting. All I want is a chance but I keep reminding myself to keep my act together, it’s not over yet. Until it is. We win and the team runs from the bench congratulating the six players on the court. I remain on the bench with the sinking realization that I am the only player on the team who didn’t get a chance to play. Didn’t get to contribute, didn’t get to do my part. The team won, but I most certainly had lost.

Here’s your visual of this kid.

As a teen and in my early twenties I battled with the “I’m not good enough/no one likes me” interpretation of many situations. In sports, at school, in social circles, I always seemed to come up just short of what I thought was cool or acceptable. Stop before you feel bad for me though, because what came of this is a girl who built a foundation on hard work, motivation and acceptance. That day, a coach made me sit on the sideline and clearly I hated it. I know my 12-year old self wasn’t capable of thinking this at the time, but it’s honestly the last moment in my life that I remember sitting on the sideline of anything in which I wanted to participate.

Uncle Vince told me he once said to a friend, “my girl Gina, if she dies tomorrow I won’t be sad. I’ll be happy because I am sure that that girl lived her life.”

Probably one of the best compliments of all time.

The very best way I have found to participate in my life? Set goals and achieve them. I am currently finding this to be a very fun activity! A recap on some of my running goals:

1. Qualifying for Boston – check!
2. Running Boston – check!
3. Running a marathon in 3:30 – check!
4. Running a marathon in all 50 states and Washington DC – in progress…

The more difficult stuff for me comes in the shape of scary words like “career” and “personal” goals, both of which I spend a lot of time reflecting upon. I left my job in the corporate world about a year ago and I will be perfectly honest and tell you that it has been a struggle. I gave up a bit of freedom when I left and have been chipping away at getting that back ever since. Spending the last year figuring out my place in my new world and where I fit in has been difficult and I won’t yet qualify it as worth it, but I can absolutely see the light towards which I am headed.  The days in which I love going to work far, far exceed the days in which I don’t love it.

When I was in Austin, I met a few people who became instant friends. I think they became instant friends because we were all in our element, choosing to be where we were when we were there for no reason other than we simply love running. I have also found myself for lack of better words without a true mentor in this running world. And now I think I have two. Mike, a veteran of 249 marathons (yes you read that right) shared wisdom with me that I will never forget, “don’t ever give up on doing what you love. Trust that it will happen for you just as you imagine it to be.” What a cool guy, right? And of course there was Bart Yasso. A man whose success I am just inspired by. A man who simply and quite literally lives his passions every day and gets paid to do just that. I have found myself over the last year putting myself under his wing. Learning, watching, taking notes. To have spent time with both of these men in Austin, well they just solidified my resolve to stay put in this world and keep climbing for what I want to get out of it. Goals on goals on goals.

Mike and Bart, pre-shakeout run.
*Mike, I stole this from your twitter but I figure since I took the picture, that’s okay ;)

In an effort to keep these goals in motion, some of them get lumped together. My girlfriends and I, always on the lookout for our next great adventure, had committed to taking a trip to Argentina together. My dates were wide open except for the Austin Marathon weekend of February 17-19 so we planned the trip around that. I spent ten glorious days in South America drinking wine, riding bikes and eating empanadas only to fly straight to Texas to have a day to recover and run a marathon. All I have to say is thank you, world, for the existence of Whole Foods, lululemon and yoga, without which I might never have been able to piece myself back together in time for 26.2 hilly Austin miles.

Argentine Empanadas. Beyond amazing.

Valentine’s Day wine tasting and biking in Mendoza:

Lunch at the winery:

Doing real work:


Training for Austin? It was fine, nothing spectacular except I fell in love with running again – being outside in this year’s mild Chicago winter is, for whatever reason, the most wonderful of experiences for me. Plus I’m still kind of celebrating my 3:30:53 PR from back in November. :)

Here’s what my maintenance program of training looked like:

Monday – easy run 7 miles or so
Tuesday – cross train
Wednesday – 6-7 miles, lots of hill repeats on the treadmill
Thursday – 7 miles, maybe some tempo pick ups
Friday – off
Saturday – long run, no more than 16 miles

I loosely followed a Runner’s World plan and made up my weeks as I went along. I don’t love doing this but I know that my mind and body need the rest from the vigor of a true 16-week marathon training program. Throughout training and upon arrival in Austin I had a goal of running the race between 3:50 and 4-hours. However, I had a really hard time getting excited about running. I am not sure if it’s that I had just come off of a wonderful time visiting a new place, or if I felt ill-prepared or what, I just was not really in the mood!

Race morning gave us a beautiful sunrise and I ran from the hotel to the start with my new friends Mike and Alicia. Not three miles into the race one of my training buddies from Chicago jogs right up next to me. “Hi G!!!” My cranky disposition was immediately reversed when I realized that Soraya and I could run together until the half marathon split from the marathon just past mile 10. We had a great time chatting, catching up and daydreaming about summer in Chicago and our training plans for 2012.

Beautiful Austin morning:


Hi, little Soraya! You brightened my whole day:

My mom came to Austin with me, resuming her role as Best Cheerleader on Bike Ever and I spotted her smiling face and giant helmet just past the 13.1 mark. Upon greeting her with a kiss, she stayed right next to me for the entire rest of the race.  Not two minutes after the kiss, I feel a tap on my arm. “What pace are you running?” “I’m at about a 9 minute mile,” I reply. “Do you mind if I run with you for a little while? I’m just a few minutes off on my goal time of making it in under four hours.” “Well sure, why not.”

And that’s how I met Jim Kelly.

Jim is 57. He ran his first marathon at age 50. Had his first son at age 51. If I played my cards right, I would bet that Jim had overcome a lot of adversity in his life to get to where he his now, accomplishing goals of not only finishing marathons but getting faster, too. Jim planned to run with me for only a few miles but we ended up staying side by side for that back half our 26.2 mile journey. The coach in me came out as I strategized our upcoming miles so that he could achieve his goal of running a sub-4 hour marathon. He felt good and I knew he could do it so I pushed the pace a little bit. When he asked what pace we were running, I would sometimes calmly reply, “9 minutes on the dot, Jim!” But really, we were holding steady around 8:45/mile. The race no longer became about my goal because the universe gave me the honor of making sure that Jim achieved his and that was a really cool gift.  In the end, we both got our wishes because he crossed the finish line at 3:57 and I crossed at 3:55. Goals on goals on goals.

Running with Jim Kelly:

Sweet 16 in the books!

Signs like this seriously never get old:

Bart and Me:

Mom and Me celebrating at La Condesa:

Speaking of mom. She read this quote and thought of me.  How fitting: “We don’t receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.” -Marcel Proust

2012 has exciting things in store and I am already knee deep in the happiness of it. Biggest news of all, my little sister is getting married on 12/31/2012 and she asked me to be the maid of honor! You better believe I’ve started writing the speech now. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. To tie this all together for you, remember when I crashed my bike? That’s the day she met her now fiancé… taking one for Team DiCello.

I hope that soon I will be able to share with you the results of my transformation but right now I’m still working, thinking, getting off the bench and participating in my life. Finding strength in both successes and failures and navigating the world in which I want to be a powerful, authentic person so that others are inspired to get out there and play, too.

MVP of my life? Me.

20 thoughts on “#16. Austin, Texas: “All engines running.”

  1. This is one of my favorite recaps from you. Beautifully written : ) I feel like I am in a constant state of transition, learning how to balance career, hobbies, and love/fam/friends. Sometimes I feel on top of things, other times I feel I’ve dug myself in a big hole and can’t find my way out. But I guess that is how life is supposed to be…always evolving, transforming, growing…nothing i static, and all you can do is keep trying and learning from your experiences. One of my fave quotes: Life is change, growth is optional, choose wisely.

  2. I’ve come to look forward to these race reports very much – and this certainly lived up to the awesomeness that they always are. I have goosebumps from reading it! I love how you are SO honest and genuine in these recaps. It makes them so amazing to read.

    Congratulations on #16 You realize that in one more race, you’ll be at the 1/3 mark for your goal? Amazing!

  3. Nice work (with the race and the post). Even though you are the most disciplined athlete I know, I haven’t a CLUE how you ran a marathon after that trip! I was asleep in my apartment for three full days trying to recover!

  4. I look forward to reading all your posts, and this one definitely delivered! I really appreciate your honesty and positive outlook on life. I especially enjoyed the part about you helping another runner achieve his goal. I can’t help but smiling after finishing what you wrote. Not to mention the fact that you make me want to run! Great work Gina! Can’t wait for #17!

  5. Beautiful re-cap as always. Keep kicking butt and taking names. Every time I read one of your races and other thoughts I always feel like I can accomplish a little bit more then I am now.

  6. Gina! I love that you are running with Bart, and I especially love the St. Agies story – I was totally a benchwarmer on the bball team! Congrats on all the hard work with your running and your blogging. Let me know when you do the Maine marathon, or New Hampshire and I’ll come cheer. Big hugs to the fam!

  7. Just love you pup. Not only are you cocooning, you’re also inspiring a whole world of us who can relate. Keep being you, keep running your little runners off, and keep sharing it!

  8. I always look forward to the posts, especially the Austin edition! YOU inspire me and brighten my day every time I see you! I swear I was feeling knee pain and grumpy until I saw you, and then, zap…both disappered like magic! Loved that I found you in a sea of 18,000 runners. And I agree, you are cocoon-ing :)

  9. I always look forward to the posts, especially the Austin edition! YOU inspire me and brighten my day every time I see you! I swear I was feeling knee pain and grumpy until I saw you, and then, zap…both disappered like magic! Loved that I found you in a sea of 18,000 runners. And I agree, you are cocoon-ing :)

  10. I love this, as always!! These are even more fun to read when I actually know you, instead of just stalking your blog before I did :)

    PS- “I’m not good enough/no one likes me” blows me away. I’m pretty sure everyone who meets you thinks you are amazing and inspiring, and everyone who doesn’t meet you or know you hopes one day they’ll be so lucky!

  11. Pingback: My canceled flight & some blog recs « C'est La Vie

  12. Thanks for taking one for Team DiCello!! I’m indebted to you for the rest of my life :)

    You always had the guts to get out there, even at age 12. You were chomping at the bit to get off that bench. I was the one puking before I got on the ice to compete for years cause I’d get so nervous. You’d have to push me off the bench! See? You were a good example to me then, and we each found our own way to be fighters — to not let things stand in our way. :) Love you to bits!! SO proud :) (Gosh, now when I say “so proud of you I immediately have to say, “everything’s addin’ up, you been through hell’n’back das why you’re bad as….well you know they rest of the lyrics. You-y-you you know you areee)

  13. Pingback: #17. Seattle, WA: “Here is now and now is where I wanna be.” « Walk to the Mailbox

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