Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Lake house, girl’s weekend, muddy fun – that about sums up MuckFest Chicago!

My team in Chicago was a mighty 3-Strong – all visiting from the west coast, so we decided to go the Airbnb route and rented a quaint guest house right on the lake. I was blessed to be joined by one of my best friends who is more like a sister, Ana – and my amazing colleague and friend who has mucked with me in Cali, Siobhan. It was the first time Ana and Siobhan had met, but after a quick ice breaker laughing at stories from our earlier years meeting and about how we ended up there in Chicago for a mud run, it was an easy decision to stay in and make dinner to continue to catch up on family, work and life. It was just what I needed on a Friday night coming off a very busy week!

Race day was here, and it was time to suit up in our Team (M)ike (S)mith gear. Siobhan made us a killer pre-race breakfast and we were ready to hit the road. The race location was close to where we were staying, so we had more than enough time to snap a few pre-race pics, check in our gear and play in the starting line mud.
Siobhan, Me, Ana
The course brought its usual laughs and deep breathes, but thankfully broke the trend of lost sunglasses this race! Ana, who was a first time Mucker – kicked butt and seemed to enjoy the mud, which was the thickest muck of all the races. 
The mud consistency was more like clay, so I’m sooooo glad I brought my bright orange duct tape to secure our shoes! We finished strong and while I thought I did a decent job of cleaning off, who knew I’d unintentionally pose for the best #MicrosoftLife pic of the season!

Chicago drew another awesome crowd and brought us beautiful weather – a perfect day to play in the mud! After our usual post-race photo ops and celebration brewski, we protected the rental car seats with our towels and headed back to the house. Lucky for us, the lake house was literally steps from the lake and the perfect post-race cleaning destination! We literally went from car to lake and rinsed off in the most relaxing, warm-like-Maui-water, gigantic bath – thankfully helping to prevent any mud messes in our rental!

My luck with Yelp continued and we had the most delicious local BBQ for dinner. With full bellies and Netflix waiting back at the house, it was a unanimous decision to slumber party with movies and microwave popcorn.   
This tribute to Dad has given me the opportunity to mourn in a way that’s been healing and joyous at the same time. And while the mourning process doesn’t seem to ever be completely done – or at least not yet, one of the most invaluable benefits of this 5-month journey has been all the laughs and memories made with the family and friends who joined me at each race. Priceless life experiences that would have otherwise never happened – thank you pops!

I can’t believe MuckFest Denver is just a few days away. It feels like just yesterday that I looked over at my husband without really thinking about the how, and said – I’m going to run all 5 MuckFest races this year to celebrate dad! And I’m proud to report not only is MuckFest Denver going to be an incredible finish, my Nike’s will make it there with me! And absent any cold feet, post-race, permanently separating with them, I plan to add my running shoes to the donation pile and leave Denver in flip flops!
This Saturday is not only my finale to this year’s MuckFest tour, it’s also my 16-year wedding anniversary – and what a gift to have my husband and oldest son running with Siobhan and me, and my youngest two cheering us along the sideline with our local friends!

This will be the first anniversary without my dad alive to congratulate us for making it to the next year. Ironically, the number sixteen represents far more than the years of marriage I’ll be celebrating this weekend. Sixteen is an eternal staple in my relationship with dad, so it feels as though celebrating 16-years of marriage Saturday is also representative of Dad being there with me. Certainly not a coincidence!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

MuckFest New Jersey Post-Race Write-up

Mother nature put a damper on my original travel plans to New Jersey, but it all worked out in the end.
I got the call from Katie – MuckFest extraordinaire Friday afternoon while I was in session at my sales kickoff letting me know that extreme weather conditions and poor air quality had caused them to postpone MuckFest New Jersey until the following weekend. My first reaction was UGH – but took a breathe and thought, well, plans are already set…hubby is already there, I should just go, and figure out next weekend with points. There was NO way I’d miss a race – that would kill my whole story for dad – but I’m certainly not one to pass up a date weekend in NYC with my hubby!

Yay for Alaska Airlines Rewards and cash options – I was able to book another flight to New Jersey. Grateful to keep my tribute intact, I made it back to run in the rescheduled New Jersey MuckFest!

I initially wrote this on my flight home from MuckFest – let’s try this again, and what an incredible weekend it was! It was the first mud run I’d ever done solo, so to be honest, I was a little nervous, which in hindsight seems silly, because it was an awesome track, with a great group of runners.

The course seemed a little different than the past two races, so perhaps it was my imagination…or the heat that made it all seem harder, but I loved it nonetheless. There was one obstacle that got me to second guess myself as I took the initial leap, but managed to channel Ninja Warrior, which ironically I caught for a few minutes the night before in my hotel room. Thanks to the teams surrounding cheering me on, I was able to leap to each of the slippery hills making it across the obstacle without falling into the muddy water or banging up my knees.

Likely due to the change in dates, lines at the obstacles were not an issue and I benefited by getting through the course in record time. I took a ride on the zip line for the first time this MuckFest season, but clearly I didn’t learn during the last race.  I gain back my favorite designer sunglasses that were recovered after the Philly race, but lose my new favorite cheapy pair!  

While the track itself was by far the best so far, the real highlight of New Jersey MuckFest was seeing a group of people cross the finish line together sporting KPMG t-shirts. Before joining Microsoft in 2017, I enjoyed several exciting years of career growth at KPMG, so I was certainly a proud alumni to see them, and of course had to snap a pic! 

Taking post-race pictures was a bit more awkward being there solo, but I made sure to document the day and pause for a few minutes after the race to people watch and reflect on why I was there. Chatting with dad in my mind during the race was the perfect antidote to take my mind off the humid heat.

I made sure to rinse off post-race better than usual, and my loyal kicks survived race #3. I was able to air dry my shoes overnight and even wore them home, Sunday! I’m determined for them to make it to Denver, so I can donate them there!

As a treat to myself post-race, I took full advantage of having nothing to do and enjoyed local Yelp recommendations for satisfying meals…and even indulged in a 2-hour massage at a spa right around the corner from my hotel! I even got a little shopping in before heading to the airport.

MuckFest Chicago is less than a week away! The lake house is rented and just a short drive from the race start. I can’t wait to venture there with the girls. My “sister” Ana and most dedicated colleague Siobhan will be running alongside me this Saturday, and I’m still recruiting a few locals who I’ve enjoyed working with throughout my career, and are amazing people in my life!  

MuckFest #3 in the books – Chicago here we come!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

How is New Jersey MuckFest just 10 days away?!

It’s hard to believe the Philly race was nearly a month ago – where has the summer gone?!

To kick off MuckFest Philadelphia highlights, I think it’s important to note – my MuckFest race shoes made it home from Philly and are gearing up for Jersey next week; however, my darn sunglasses didn’t! But at least I have a fun story to share about how that worked out…

MuckFest Philadelphia was AWESOME and MUDDY! A whole lot muddier than Boston, which was the perfect way to break in my first-time mucker companion Jen! We had a blast getting muddy throughout the course, which made for a super fun post-race photo shoot. And the locals and people surrounding us during and after the race all brought such great energy and passion for the cause – we felt incredibly welcome and right at home.

However, the fun actually started getting to Philly, which was quite the adventure! Something I didn’t completely think through before committing to all 5 MuckFest races this year was the travel expenses associated with each race. Fortunately, I’ve been blessed with two roundtrip (standby) passes on Southwest Airlines for each race. Huge thanks to an old friend Tre who has worked there for many years, but as anyone who has flown non-revenue knows, the price of free can sometimes mean not getting to the hotel until 4 a.m. ET after starting the day in San Jose International Airport at 8 a.m. PT.

Let’s just say, I wasn’t sad to hear there wouldn’t be a “media day” Friday before the race, which would have routed us straight to the race location instead of bed! Thankfully, we made it to our hotel in Frazer, PA and could take full advantage of working Pacific Coast hours remote that Friday and slept in.

We had dinner plans at Zahav in Philly to look forward to after getting our work done – and so glad we did! Dinner at Zahav was amazing – and highly recommended to anyone visiting Philadelphia! The night wrapped up with a little Golden State Warriors play-off basketball and a pint of local IPA. I attempted to watch the second half of the game on my ESPN app from the Uber, which turned out to be as unsuccessful as the game’s outcome, but us mama’s needed to turn in early and get a good night’s rest!
The next morning, we geared up in our Team (M)ike (S)mith bright orange jersey tanks and knee-high socks, snagged a quick bite, packed up our room (because we were moving to downtown Philly Saturday night) and headed to the race location. As we pulled up alongside the other cars in the grass field parking lot a wave of emotion hit me as I thought about why I was there. I wished dad was running with Jen and me, but I quickly felt reassured he was there in sprit and was reminded how grateful I know he was that not only am I doing this as a tribute to him, but that my immediate and extended family, like Jen, were a part of it, too!
In typical Cheri fashion, after the race we made our booth rounds, enjoyed our finisher beer and got tips from the locals on places to visit…although we were already pretty set on venturing to the Fishtown FestivALE that we thought was the best way to spend our last night in Philly – which it was! Flashback to one of the BEST parts of the afternoon – as we visited the row of booths occupied by fashion boutiques – my friend Jen saw a familiar brand that she often buys from online, Voloshin. We stopped over to browse and one of the owners came over to see if we needed any help and introduced himself. As soon as Jen mentioned her full name, he realized it was the same Jen who is one of their top 50 customers – and he instantly beamed and brought over this wife to introduce her to Jen. It was classic and I felt like I was with a celebrity! We chatted with them for a bit and I ended up buying a beautiful blouse. It was certainly a memorable highlight of the trip – and reinforced all of this is so meant to be.

So the sunglasses…at race check-in they let us know that the “Slippy Sloppy” obstacle was modified to help make it a little more “fun”…perhaps they described more details of the change, like beware, you will fly into a pool of water and pick up a LOT more speed than usual so hold on – but I think I missed all that!

Ok, to level set, I ALWAYS wear my sunglasses when I run…and no, I don’t like wearing “running” glasses, even though I forced myself to wear the pair Mark gave me a few years back for a couple months 😉. I prefer my big-dark-don’t bother me-shades, and on obstacles that call for holding them, I do, but sadly this time – not so much!
Of course you know where I’m going…I made the mistake of NOT taking them off my face to hold them like I would have if I had appreciated a bit more of the update I got about 45 minutes earlier and instead hit the slide and went flying. It was like I was in that slow motion, N-OOOOOOOOOOOOOO…as they slipped off my head once I hit the water!

Another update that’s a bit relevant here…the ‘waterproof – cell phone case’ from my last post that I was taking a chance on…in the end it worked, yay my cell phone stayed dry. But in that moment of realizing I had no chance of keeping my face above water, I was more worried about trying to keep that phone/plastic pack above my head because I was so paranoid it wouldn’t work that I let my glasses fly  off my face which landed somewhere at the bottom of that muddy water pool! Of course, I tried to fish around for them, I couldn’t give up that easy – but no luck. Super frustrated about the whole thing, the lifeguard on duty came to my rescue and offered to swim to the bottom at the end of the day to find them…and what do you know, he did!!! Thanks to the amazing Katie Zupancic Wymer – I got a text that evening that they were found, but note to self, don’t ever wear those to a mud run again!

They were already packaged up and New Jersey bound before I could reply to the message, so I’ll be sure to bring another CHEAP, better suited running pair to New Jersey and look forward to retrieving my now every day, non-active pair being stored by my MS Society pals!

Jersey is quickly approaching, and it will be another adventure indeed! I will be out of town on business leading up to the race, so will be traveling from out of town on a redeye Friday night before the race landing in Newark Saturday at 6:30 a.m.ET, heading to the hotel for a quick nap and then off to MuckFest New Jersey around 11 a.m. ET.  But another meant to be scenario…my husband learned about a business trip to New Jersey last month that just happened to land on the week following MuckFest Jersey, so while his bum knee may prevent him from running with me, he will be there to cheer me on – and who doesn’t love a date weekend?!

I miss dad a ton, and it’s crazy how mourning hits you at different times and in completely different ways. Writing this update got me a little choked up and for no reason other than I miss him. But then again, that’s why I’m doing this crazy 5-month race circuit and I am so grateful for this opportunity to Muck in his honor!

New Jersey MuckFest here I come!

Monday, June 3, 2019

Boston in the books – Philly here we come!

Post race pic of Mark & Me. MORE MUD Please! 
What a gorgeous day it turned out to be in Boston (Devens) for the first of my 5 MuckFest races this year! I heard last year’s Boston MuckFest was SUPER chilly, and God knows I’m not made for the cold, so it’s fun to believe Dad looking down on us put a good word in for the sun to shine May 18 – and it sure did!
One of my early lessons learned after my first mud run was DON’T FORGET THE DUCT TAPE! WHY?! So you don’t lose your shoes in a mud hole, so of course I came prepared with my festive orange roll, but to my surprise, I didn’t need it! It was certainly muddy out there, but I NEED to get muddier in Philly. I had someone who saw my before and after shots question, that was your post-race…where’s the mud?! 
Oh, one new lesson learned – the official MuckFest PL-3650 Super Seal Waterproof Bag – it actually WORKS! I was a little skeptical, so I let my husband try it with his phone and I got the told ya so! So I will be rocking it in Philly…
MuckFest Boston - Team (M)ike (S)mith came prepared!
I do have to confess one thing though – race day was also my husband’s birthday…and this was his first trip to Boston (and first MuckFest), so while we definitely wanted to (and did) enjoy the pre and post-race festivities…we were committed to getting thru the course as quick as possible to have plenty of time to get cleaned up and enjoy the sites of the City. We kicked butt through the course, and perhaps knowing it was our only day to visit Boston since we flew home Sunday morning, we had a little extra motivation to zig zag around the walkers and through the obstacles as fast as we could! But that also meant we opted to pass on the zip line – yes, I know, how could we do that?! It was a hard decision believe it or not, because it’s my FAVORITE obstacle…but seeing about a 30-45 minute wait in line, penalty burpees would have to do!  
Hubby isn’t traveling with me for this race, but my bestie Jen is making the trip. Talk about a committed friend – she is flying her dad out to Cali from Pennsylvania to help watch the kiddos, while she flies across the country with me to Philly! And it looks like we are in for more good weather…thanks pops for looking out for us!
Now the question is…how long will my shoes last? Will they make it to Denver?!

Monday, May 20, 2019

MuckFest – Boston – Inaugural Race of the MuckFest Season!

Day 1 – 4 a.m. start to our day, but lots of excitement to take on our first venture of the year. Bags packed, kissed the kids goodbye and Mark and I were off to SJC to catch our first leg to Boston.  Thanks to an old friend who still works for Southwest – we benefited from his perk of flying free on non-rev passes, i.e., standby – the price of free. And lucky for us, we checked in and seats were available and we were Denver bound…made it to Denver no problem, but rats – we landed # 5 and #6 on the standby list with only 5 seats left. Eek! No way we were going to split up, so next option, let’s go to Austin! Which we did…had some yummy tacos and local beer for lunch – and scored the last two seats to Boston! Woohoo – although the damn guy at the bar jinxed us saying – oh, you’ll get to see the Warriors game on the flight…well, unless the Wi-Fi isn’t working….and doh! As we board we hear the flight attendant say, wi-fi wasn’t working, but that’s OK, we were Boston bound and we’d get to see Golden State make a late 4th quarter come back and lock in a Game 2 win! It was an incredibly long day, but all good – we were in Boston, I’ll take it! 

Fast forward a couple of hours, we made it to our hotel – only one small Cheri stank eye to piss off Mark, but no one went to bed mad…and the alarm was set for 3 a.m. ET, so I could make it to Media Morning with the local CBS news anchor at the race location. I had the early slot – interview #1 of the group.

Day 2 – I didn’t sleep much the night before…well, I did get a solid 3 hours on the last leg of our trip to Boston, but only got brief shut eye once we got settled in the hotel. I couldn’t help but think about what I was going to say during the interview. When I thought about it during the day prior (during our travels) I’d get choked up thinking about dad, but I needed to get some rest, so I finally managed to clear my head and got a couple of hours of sleep before venturing in the dark to the race location in Devens. 

It was awesome to finally meet the MuckFest crew – and the local CBS news anchor Nick Giovanni - @NickGNews was so easy to talk to. I shared with him some of my story about dad and he asked if I felt comfortable sharing during the live interview, which I definitely did. Even brought some tissue in case I did get sappy – but thank God I didn’t! I was back in my comfort zone of my wannabe broadcasting days – very relaxed and articulate sharing our story about why I was there. Only bummer was Mark was fast asleep back in the room, so he didn’t get to see the interview live…but who could blame him – it was 3 a.m. at home! We managed to find one of the interviews online…if you look close, you’ll see me in the background…but we’re trying to track down a recording of my live interview clip. A future post I hope!

After the adrenaline from the interview wore off, I was ready for a morning nap! We had a walking tour scheduled at 11:30, so I took full advantage of the time to rest before we had to head to Salem. Incredibly interesting afternoon learning about the Salem Witch Trials…the bullshit hocus pocus lies that came along with the stories we’ve heard about growing up, and nibbled the first candy made in the US! Of course we had to take the tour guide’s advice about the best margaritas in MA…followed by another set of recommendations from the bartender to continue the local experience with lobster rolls as big as my head! It was a full day to say the least and we were finally ready to hit the hay to be ready for race day! BUT – one of the most rewarding parts of the day – the bartender asked why we were in town and of course shared our MuckFest venture, and what do you know – the owner of the bar’s mother suffered from MS and had sadly passed away recently because of complications with the disease and her funeral was the day we were there. But it was so rewarding to let them know that tomorrow, 5/18 - we would be running for her, too! 

Day 3 – Race day was here – May 18, but more importantly, it was my loves birthday! Happy Birthday @Mark Devlin! Our race wave wasn’t until 1:20 p.m., so we were in no rush, although the more we thought about it, the more we wanted to start early to experience as much of Boston as possible…that was our next destination following the race. The race was actually in Devens, MA – so we were about 40 miles from Boston. We grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel…and headed to the race location.
Check in was nice and quick…we picked up our fundraising swag, shared our 5 MuckFest venture story with a few and managed to squeeze into the noon wave! Mark and I kicked ass and got done by about 1:30…(albeit we did skip the zip line – the wait looked to be at least a 45 minute delay!) our muddy pics in, rinsed off the best we could and enjoyed our free hot dog ( I tried the veggie burger option) and a beer – Coors Light which brought me back to the days of Mark and me dating in college… funny how our palates have changed to becoming IPA snobs!

And then we were off to our next destination – Lexington, getting us a bit closer to Boston, without the crazy premium of downtown Boston hotel prices. 

Just a little soreness as we cleaned up for Mark’s birthday dinner…

During the race I tell Mark, hey – watch out for the branches and roots popping up…and what do I do, step on a damn branch at the perfect angle for it to stab me in the other foot. Seriously?! You couldn’t get that to happen again if you tried! So a nice shiner the diameter of a branch square in the middle of my left foot! But other than that, and a little burnt shoulder…oh and Mark’s nipple burn which was hilarious if you ask me, I told him – now you know what it’s like to nurse those first couple of weeks! Now imagine a little baby sucking it, too! LOL. But overall, we were both feeling pretty good post race!

Dinner at Bourdon & Buttermilk was AMAZING! But before we get there another cool, I’m following my purpose moment. We didn’t have any historical tours in Boston scheduled, so we decided to take on the town by foot and check out a few of the local bars. And what do you know, we meet a nice elderly couple who shared their daughter has MS! Pretty cool to reciprocate with our story about why were in town, and that we ran in her honor, too!
We managed to get into the restaurant a little early, which was perfect timing to get us back to the hotel in time for the Warriors game. We ate like kings and queens…indulged in the local recommendation of beignets, experienced local “New England” style IPAs and mixed drinks born on the east coast. I’d like to believe it was a pretty spectacular birthday weekend and best way we could have imagined kicking off this circuit of races!

Now we are finally headed home…Houston bound at the moment, praying we get there in time to catch our connecting flight to San Jose! I miss you Dad! Thank you for inspiring a priceless weekend, raising awareness for MS and celebrating the second most important man to you dad – my loving husband Mark!

Philly is right around the corner – time to get moving on those plans!!

Friday, May 10, 2019

My tribute to Dad - 5 MS Mud Runs - in 5 Months - with at least 5 muddy buddies in each location!

My Dad - Mike was diagnosed with MS back in 2004 and the disease progressed rapidly taking his vision, ability to walk, to care for himself and finally became bedridden due to paralysis. Having this happen to one of the most active and involved dads you'll ever meet was devastating and Dad never really accepted the reality his legs wouldn't work again - and there would be no more long distance future rounds of golf and he'd never get to experience running around with his grandkids.  

The final stage of his MS started October 18, 2018 with seizures and his ability to talk or swallow never returned. We said bye to Dad November 3, but there is no doubt he is running the streets of heaven - probably recruiting his own MuckFest Team!

The MS Society has always been an organization we could depend on, so this year as a tribute to my dad - I'm running all 5 MuckFest Races - in 5 months - but I need your help growing a team in each location! 

My goal is to have at least 5 people join my team for each race - raise lots of awareness about MS, and meet bigger fundraising goals than ever before!

It's going to be a muddy blast and you should join me! Support me and the National MS Society with a Donation or join my team and get muddy with us!

We all have our cause - and this one is mine and is incredibly important to me, so I hope you will do your part to help end MS forever.

More info about MS...
Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.
  • MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.
  • MS impacts each individual differently. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. 
  • There is no cure for MS.
100% of your donation benefits the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and takes us one step closer to a world free of MS.


MuckFest Boston Here I come!

Well, I've been talking about this for months and now I'm just about 1 week out from race 1 of 5 - Boston, here we come!  I love that this year's race schedule starts and ends on 2 VERY important dates - May 18 in Boston is my hubby's birthday. And how cool that this will his first mud run AND first trip to Boston. And come September 14 - Mark and I are planning to bring the family out to Denver and will be celebrating our 16 year wedding anniversary in the mud together!

I know my dad is looking down from Heaven relishing in the attention we are bringing to the MS Society and his legacy...we had our moments no doubt - but he was a loyal dad who I could always count on to be there for me!

This is my purpose! More to come...