2015 Boston Marathon Race Recap

Until Monday, my PR has been 3:21:22 – for six years. That’s a long time. Especially considering I’ve spent the last two years training for a PR.  Running a PR became my own elusive unicorn – something that until Monday, I wasn’t 100% sure would ever happen based on recent races.

Maybe I just needed to go back to Boston. My two fastest marathons – ever – have been run in Boston. The previous two springs (2013 and 2014) I chose the NJ Marathon over Boston because I was focused on that PR and assumed picking a flat course over the hilly and challenging Boston course would mean an automatic PR for me. But NJ chewed me up and spit me out both years. But not Boston. For whatever reason, I run well in Boston.

Maybe it’s the rolling course and it’s ability for me to break the course up into easily manageable segments.
Maybe it’s the crowd and spectator support (I really feed off the energy).
Maybe it’s because I respect the course so I go out more conservatively than I would for flatter and supposed “easier” marathons.
Maybe I am a better hill climber than I give myself credit for.
Maybe Boston is just my race.

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Whatever the case, Monday was the most amazing and consistent marathon of my life. I am still a bit shocked that I ran a 3:15 with the weather conditions the way they were. 3:15 was in the range that my coach and I had felt was possible on a good day (weather, how I felt, etc). In the days leading up to the race, I began to panic and get frustrated about the weather. I had been so excited to give it my all, but felt the confidence and desire start to dwindle when it became clear that Monday was going to be less than ideal racing conditions. I was pouting and had already begun making excuses in my mind about why I would come up short of a PR.

After some talks with my husband, my coach and other running friends, I made a promise to myself to just run as hard as I could on Monday. I can’t control the weather so why am I letting it control me?

Nutrition
Until Monday, I hadn’t found what really worked for me in the nutrition department. So I want to share what I did in the days leading up to the race – just as much for me (so I don’t forget) as for you.

  • Friday
    • Breakfast: egg omelette
    • Lunch: chicken with baked potato
    • Dinner: Whole wheat pasta with homemade tomato sauce (with ground turkey)
    • Post-Dinner: half-bagel
  • Saturday
    • Breakfast: egg omelette
    • Lunch: bagel, apple, pretzels
    • Dinner: bagel with coconut oil + cliff bar (we were going to RW party and I was exhausted after a day of driving and expo-ing and was not up to finding “real” food)
    • Snacked on pretzels and fruit throughout day
  • Sunday
    • Breakfast: plain bagel
    • Lunch: grilled chicken with mashed potatoes
    • Dinner: spaghetti with grilled chicken and few pieces of bread
    • Snacked on fruit + another bagel throughout day
  • Race Morning
    • Coffee
    • Plain bagel – 3 hours before
    • 2 packets of Gen Ucan in 1 shaker bottle of water – 45-90 min before
    • Gel – 10 minutes before
  • Race
    • Gels at miles 5, 11, 17, 22
    • Alternated water + gatorade from mile 2-21 (water, water, gatorade)

Race Morning
I got a decent night sleep the night before the race – briefly woke up at 2am for about 30 minutes – but slept from 10-5:45. I was up and wide awake when the alarm went off at 5:45am.

I spent the next hour getting dressed, drinking coffee and chatting with my husband and sister on the phone. I left the hotel just before 7 and after a failed meetup with several friends (I didn’t have my phone and think I went to the wrong meeting place), made my way to the loading lines for the buses to Hopkinton.

I sat next to a stranger on the bus – but by the time it was time to head to our corrals a few hours later hugged and kissed a friend, promising to find each other on FB (which we have!). I felt instantly connected to Kelly – from the moment I sat on the bus. We chatted the whole bus ride and the entire time we were in Athlete’s Village – a little about running but a lot about our families and background. It was just what I needed to keep my nerves calm and make the hours tick by.

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Race Plan
My coach’s race plan was pretty fluid and dependent on the elevation. The general plan was:

  • Miles 1-4: Run just a touch (~5-10 seconds per mile) faster than I would run the rest of the race because of the major elevation loss.
  • Miles 4-15: Ease into comfortable rhythm. There are some rollers here but nothing major in either direction.
  • Mile 15: Downhill – run it a bit faster
  • Miles 16-21: Manageable effort with the four uphills, recover on the downhills (each hill is followed by a nice downhill!) and get back to steady rhythm after each climb
  • Miles 22-26.2: End of race – give it all I have left

In the days leading up to the marathon, we discussed the impact of weather. Coach had given me a range and we decided to aim for the slower end of it rather than be overly ambitious and go for the faster end. It looked like the winds got stronger the closer we got to Boston. And, as I mentioned yesterday, the first 20-21 miles of the race are mostly in a NE direction. With an easterly wind, it isn’t a total headwind. However, the last few miles are totally into a headwind. Since I was running on feel, not pace, the plan didn’t change because of the weather. It was still consistent effort – regardless of what the wind was doing to my pace. But it was something to be aware of and would help the mental aspect if/when I saw the paces start to get slower. The important thing was to not push it out of the comfortably uncomfortable zone until the last few miles.

Race Day Weather
It was a cool day – 45-48 before the windchill. Temps that are ideal for racing. But it was uncomfortable and felt much colder (mid-30s) with the wind and rain. However, it was way better than 60 degrees in my opinion.
It rained. But I was so in the zone that I really don’t even remember if it was heavy, when it started or anything like that. I just remember being really wet and cold by mile 20 or so. But I don’t think the rain really slowed me down. Running in the rain always makes me feel like a bad-a$$ and Monday was no different. And so, in some ways, I think the rain helped my spirits.
It was windy. I felt it periodically during the first 16 miles, a bit more running up the Newton Hills and then consistently the last 4-5 miles (as we ran east into Boston).

Race
As I mentioned in previous posts, I wore my garmin (I wanted the data afterwards) but only displayed total time. I set it so I would get mile alerts – I would be able to see my mile splits – but nothing in between. It was FREEING. I was not a slave to my garmin and would only glance down when it beeped to see how I was doing. There was no obsessing over pace, worrying about slowing down or feeling tied to a pace. I let my body dictate the pace on Monday and ran 100% on feel.

The first mile I just ran what everyone around me was running – it was a bit congested at the start (I was in the 4th corral in my wave) and I didn’t want to worry about weaving. I treated it much like I do for my long runs – which usually is the slowest mile of the day. Previous races I’d go out 100% – and never give my body a chance to warm up (which I think my body needs). Mile 1: 7:41 (the splits are all based on my garmin, not the mile markers)

The next couple of miles ticked by. I didn’t feel like I picked up the pace but t naturally started to drop. It was a lot of downhill running which made me feel like I was flying. The spectators were unbelievable. I high-fived so many little ones during this stretch of the race. Miles 2-4: 7:21, 7:15, 7:10

For the next 8 miles, I focused on steady effort. There were some rolling hills in this section and I found it kept me focused – on my form, my breathing and my effort. More than anything, I was pretty amazed at how consistent my splits were during this stretch – I definitely had found a comfortable rhythm and just stayed there and zoned out.  Miles 5-12: 7:26, 7:12, 7:07, 7:12, 7:18, 7:17, 7:16, 7:18

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Miles 13-14 were amazing. We ran through Wellesley, saw the college girls and I got swept up in the excitement and cheering. This is the first time where I cried during the race. I just felt so happy, so grateful to even be running Boston and experiencing this historic race again. I ran along the right side and high fived almost every hand that was out. Miles 13-14: 7:15, 7:03

I hit the half in 1:36:33 and was both a little nervous and a lot excited. That’s a fast half split for me on an ideal day. I knew that the downhill helped keep it a bit faster than it would be on a different course. But I also told myself to not be greedy. I really just wanted to PR on Monday and I didn’t want to get 3:13 in my mind as the goal time and then be disappointed. I knew the Newton hills and heavy headwinds still loomed ahead – the race was far from over.

The next few miles were back to rolling hills. In my mind, I told myself to just get to the Newton Hills. Then I just needed to get up the hills. And then it’s a downhill/mostly flat stretch to the finish. It was a good point to focus on rather than think about running another 11-12 miles. Miles 15-16: 7:19, 7:08

And then it was time to get to work. I could not be happier with how the next five miles went. The climbing was not easy, but I kept my head up (pre-race tip from my roommate, Kris) and maintained a strong, steady rhythm up each hill. I started tucking in behind runners at this point because the wind was getting nasty. So I’d run over to a runner, stay behind them for a minute or two and then look for the next runner to use (I didn’t want to annoy anyone by hanging on their tail for too long). I was doing a lot of weaving to stay hidden from the wind – which is why my garmin was so long (and my splits are faster than official time). At the time, I didn’t even think about how much extra running I would end up doing – my main goal was to conserve energy as much as I could.

I was incredibly thankful to start chatting with Danielle – a super strong, speedy runner around mile 17. We chatted off and on through the top of Heartbreak (and then she took off to the finish!). Each time she started to pull away, I willed myself to stay with her. Danielle was so supportive and encouraging to me during these miles – she told me I looked strong multiple times – which was just incredibly sweet of her. Miles 17-21: 7:27, 7:22, 7:20, 7:27, 7:41 (hi, Heartbreak!).

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The remainder of the race was just plain hard. My quads were trashed, on fire and numb from the cold and rain. I was still trying to enjoy the crowds and smile, but it got harder with each mile. The wind during these miles was absolutely brutal. I was also chaffing terribly on my inner thighs and under my arms (where my arm warmers ended). I just felt like everything was burning or hurting. But in some weird way, all the pain made me happy. THIS is how I SHOULD be feeling at mile 2x of the fastest marathon of my life. I focused on getting to mile 25 where I knew Leticia would be cheering. Seeing her smiling face was that last bit of energy I needed to get me to the finish! Miles 22-26: 7:13, 7:30, 7:22, 7:06, 7:34

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Making that right on Hereford Street and seeing Boylston Street was a moment I won’t forget anytime soon.

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My garmin lost satellite at the end when we went under an overpass – but I ran another 4:45 after my garmin beeped at mile 26, so roughly .6 or so miles at 7:51 pace.

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Smiling like a fool.

I’m on cloud nine about my finish time and PR. But what makes me even happier is that I ran a steady, consistent race. I didn’t go out too fast. I didn’t blow up on the hills. My 5k splits are pretty consistent – there is only 1:16 between my fastest (20k to 25k!) and my slowest (35k to 40k) splits. And the Newton hills were only 15 seconds slower than my first 5k. And it was all based on perceived effort – nothing to do with the time on the clock.

Official 5k Splits:
5k: 23:16
10k: 22:48
15k: 22:36
20k: 23:02
25k: 22:30
30k: 22:51
35k: 23:31
40k: 23:46

Thoughts
Of course part of me wonders what I would have run if the weather had been a bit more favorable, but I’m not going to sit here and say that I could have run x minutes faster. If there was no wind, I may have gone out faster – too fast – in the early miles and trashed my legs even more than they were. So who knows what would have happened.

Monday was not all rainbows and unicorns. There were a ton of points where doubt or fear or my little demons start to rear their ugly heads. I used to panic when those thoughts set in. But I’m learning that having negative thoughts is not a bad thing on its own.  It used to be bad because I’d let them loiter in my mind and then take over and control me. Monday was different. I acknowledged these thoughts and then kicked them out of my head.

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Head down trying to block the wind

Sometimes by repeating a mantra or phrase.

  • You cannot control the weather. You cannot control the course. But you CAN control how you talk to yourself for the next few hours. Be your best friend. –Judith
  • You also know what it feels like to hurt and you EXPECT that. Say hello to the pain and keep going. Smile at it and move along – Judith
  • You can give up or you can give more – Meg
  • When it gets hard, remember that you are doing this for FUN! – Dorothy
  • Remember that I believe in you – Jess

Sometimes by thinking about a friend who inspires me. I knew that some speedy friends were having an amazing race ahead of me – girls who inspire me to work hard and reach for dreams that seem impossible – Kris, Laura and Mary.

Sometimes by thinking back on ALL of those winter training runs where I chose the road over the treadmill. I pictured myself running on Hylan Blvd (the main road in my town) when it was 0 degrees out with my face mask and layer upon layer of clothes. I told myself that I didn’t do all that running on the roads this brutal winter to give up in Boston with 3 miles left.

long run

Sometimes by thinking of my little guys at home. Just picturing their smiling, loving, innocent faces made me smile and forget the pain for a few moments.

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And sometimes by just picking my head up, smiling and taking in the crowd. I truly forgot just how amazing the Boston Marathon support is. I wore my headphones but only turned the music one a handful of times when I really felt I needed it. 85% of the race was with no music and just soaking up the screaming crowds.

For the first race in forever, I felt like I enjoyed myself and the race. I wasn’t willing the race to be over at mile 10 or 16 – as is often the case (this time it was around 22 or 23).

Post-race is a blur. I was thankful to see Pavey immediately after crossing the finish line and getting a huge hug!!

brian

But after that, it gets cloudy. My entire body locked up, cramped and was frozen. I had about .6-.8 mile walk back to the hotel that took me probably close to 20-25 minutes. I debated the medical tent but it was in the opposite direction as I needed to go and I just wanted to get back to the hotel to call my husband and mom. Plus, I knew that a super warm bath awaited and within 20-30 minutes, I felt much, much better. Today? I’m still not able to walk up/down stairs or even forward very well. But it’s the I ran as hard as my body could kind of pain – the best kind of pain there is.

I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone, again, for the emails, texts and comments (and for making it through this super lengthy post). I am overwhelmed with the love and support I have received the last few days. Thank you for believing in me (even when I didn’t).

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I don’t post here every day, but I post all of my workouts (and other happenings) on Instagram on a daily basis {NYCRunningMama}.

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    66 thoughts on “2015 Boston Marathon Race Recap

    1. Ï just read this again second time. That really was a great race you ran. Very tough weather conditions. Seems your toughness and winter training made an actual advantage for you on such a nasty day.

      As for me. Ï am from Boston. Born and raised and the odds of all this terrible weather is one main reason Ï will not likely ever be run in Boston.If Ï am gonna train that hard Ï want a nice day

    2. Many many congratulations on your PR and an awesome race! Run by feel, even more impressive.

      I appreciate your posting the details of what you ate, especially race day. It’s very different than what I did (many more calories pre-race) but given your results versus my likely being underfueled (and way too cold), might be something for me to try for next year’s Boston.

      Congratulations again!
      M @readeatwriterun recently posted..Thankful Thursday – April 30, 2015My Profile

    3. Absolutely amazing!!! I was cheering (virtually) for you the whole way last Monday and remember being SO impressed with your consistent splits. You totally dominated that course on an incredibly difficult day…I’m still in awe!! Congratulations on your huge PR AND your awesome race, both physically and mentally. It’s obvious from this recap that you ran with heart — the thing I admire most of all. Such a well-deserved PR!!
      Lauren recently posted..It is What it is: Race Eve EditionMy Profile

    4. I am so incredibly happy for you. You are such an inspiration and ran a great race last Monday. You held onto your dream in less than favorable conditions and just went for it. Huge congratulations for an amazing new PR!!! You totally earned it!
      Sandra Laflamme recently posted..A small celebratory trail run.My Profile

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    8. This was my first time reading your blog/social media sites, but I can tell that you are someone very special. Congrats on the huge PR and an even bigger congrats on believing in yourself for the entire race and giving it your all despite the crazy NE weather. <3

    9. Amazing, M! I am so so so proud of you. I’ve always admired your training (what you’ve shared) because you’re so diligent and consistent. I *knew* you had this in you and you did too because you worked your tail off to get there. I wish we could go grab a margarita on the beach to celebrate! Looking forward to seeing you race many more speedy times to come, my friend! xoxo
      Jenny recently posted..Cherry Blossom “10 Miler” Race RecapMy Profile

    10. AMAZING AMAZING RACE & great recap!! I felt the exact same way before the race – I was beginning to think a PR wouldn’t be possible with the predicted weather. But being on the other side, I think less than ideal weather (that wind!) makes the PR even sweeter :)
      Congrats again on such an awesome race (I’m so impressed by your consistency and strength without checking your pace every few minutes), you’re such an inspiration! Live it up! 😀
      Amber recently posted..Thursday Thoughts: Boston & BloggingMy Profile

    11. Congratulations Michele!!! That was an awesome run. YOU ARE A BAD A$$!! AND A PR!! That’s a great time for that course. I’m very happy for you. Your husband and kids must be very proud. Very inspiring. I’m glad you kept those demons at bay. I stressed out over what to wear for 2 days because of the weather also. Will I be too hot, too cold. In the end it didn’t really matter that much. I was down the road in Springfield until Sunday. My daughter was competing at the USAG level 9 JR Olympic regional championships. She kicked butt and made it to Eastern Nationals in Florida in a couple weeks so I guess I have another trip to take. So Sunday morning after I grabbed my bib I was headed to Marathon Sports I think I saw you walking down Boylston coming from the finish line direction. I was going to yell out “Running mama”. I wasn’t positive it was you, so I didn’t stop you, but I’m pretty sure it was, plus I didn’t want to scare you and have you slug me. Anyway, I too had a good run this year. And despite the weather I don’t know how, but I too have a shiny new pr, even over last year’s flat Chicago race. I ran 3:02:30. I ran a smart race this year. I am very happy with the way I ran. This year I went in with a plan right from the first day of training. I think Boston is unforgiving and if you make a pacing mistake on that course you will not recover. It’s only my 2nd trip but I am really fond of Boston. So many awesome stories connecting with people. You feel the inspiration while you are running. The spectators are amazing. I was talking to man that said he doesn’t know anyone that runs, yet he brings his family every year to cheer for the amazing runners. The volunteers and first responders treat us like gods. Even though the course chews me up. It makes me want to keep coming back. Again congratulations on a great run and hopefully a nice easy recovery. I’m hoping to get in a nice easy run today or tomorrow as I have a 1/2 on Sunday here in my hometown of Rochester, NY. I time qualified for NYC this year so I will be in your area in the fall.

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    13. This is inspiration start to finish!! Love that the day has so many good memories when much could have gone wrong. This was my second Boston and I let the miserable weather take over before we even moved to the corrals. The crowd and the amazing course got through in the end and this is the memory I will keep. My favorite part of your post is the acknowledging of negative thoughts but NOT letting them stay around and take over. And your smile proves your personal victory!!

    14. I loved reading this!! I can feel the happiness coming across the page.
      What a wonderful race, a wonderful finish and memories that you’ll have forever.
      Congratulations again!!! Have a fun week of celebration! xx
      Natalie recently posted..5 of my favorite recipesMy Profile

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    16. You’ve worked so hard for so long and never gave up! You are amazing and your joy during this race is palpable. Congratulations and thank you for being a constant source of inspiration!

    17. Huge congratulations on both the PR and having such a great race!! Those conditions looked brutal. Love that even through the determination on your face in the pictures you are smiling!!!
      Kim recently posted..Too Many Rewards?My Profile

    18. Congratulations! What an amazing run, and a great recap, thank you. An incredible achievement. I am a relatively new reader of your blog, but thank you for sharing so much with your readers, it is truly inspiring – especially for a beginner runner like myself (just competed in my 10 km race!). I have no idea how you can run so far and so fast!!!! Thanks again!

    19. I was following you on Monday- amongst many other runners. you were one of the only ones to stay consistent the whole way through. very inspirational and I am so proud of you for kicking the crap out of your PR.

      I am running NJ on Sunday. I too have been having a hard time beating my PR- its been 5 year and my pr is a 3:35. My goal is to PR (and go back to boston- I ran in 2011), fuel right and pace myself right. I am nervous. so nervous. reading your post made me get excited for it and made me believe in myself.

      Congrats, Michele!

    20. Somewhere along the line I decidedly mantra is going to be “fight for it” and you really fought for it. Congratulations on your PR! You earned it!

    21. *crying* So proud of you. So inspired by you. So happy you finally ran the race of your dreams in every possible way. I will be thinking of this and of you when it gets tough in NJ! Thank you :-)
      Allie recently posted..Race Ready WorkoutsMy Profile

    22. Ahh Michele this recap was SO awesome. I’m so happy for you that you finally got your MUCH-deserved PR. It seems like all that winter training paid off — it’s almost like this race was made for you. CONGRATS!!

    23. Amazing job…training through that miserable winter was all worth it. And because I’m a huge numbers nerd, did you notice that the man with the next bib number from yours crossed the finish just after you?

    24. You support so many people each year that I’m glad we can support you even just a bit. Congratulations on getting what you worked so hard for ALL winter long!

    25. I am so happy for you Michelle!!! I have watched your ups and downs over the last few years and I am just so thrilled you had such a great race. YOU DESERVE IT!!!!!! WOOOHOOO!!! I was tracking you off and on in between work and even told my hubs that I was pretty sure you were having a great race!!!

    26. So incredible, congrats on such an amazing race! And great recap – I love the supportive comments you included and the mental strategies and mantras you used during the race. I have always been too scared to race without being able to see all my data on my Garmin (but so intrigued by the idea) and I am fairly certain I’m going to do it for NYC. I love hearing how well it worked and how freeing it was for you. Congrats!!!
      Beth @ RUNNING around my kitchen recently posted..Bayshore marathon: week 11My Profile

    27. Congratulations on a great race. I am impressed by anyone that had a PR this year at Boston. Your strategy was perfect and after running the course, I see how so many runners run the first half way too quickly and fade hard through the last mileage, especially the Newton Hills. I thought the overpass of Rt 128 was perhaps worse than heartbreak because it went on forever! This was my first Boston, but I barely made it to the start after food poisoning that had me in the ER just 33 hours prior to the race start. In any case, a finish is a finish and I am thrilled to have run such a wonderful race with my sister by my side. I worked too hard to qualify to not have a chance to fulfill a dream!
      Pam recently posted..Boston Marathon photosMy Profile

    28. Long time reader, maybe first time commenter :) so happy for you. I had so much fun tracking you on Monday. This has been a long time coming — I’m in the same boat, actually! — and I couldn’t be happier for you. Congrats, Michele.

    29. Congrats Michele on such a great race! it was so much fun to follow along your journey both before and during the race! You are truly an inspiration to many runners out there :)
      Wishing you many more years at Boston!!
      Genna recently posted..Im “Racing” Saturday!My Profile

    30. Hands down, best race recap ever! I can definitely tell that your mental game was 100% on and I’m so proud of you for not letting the weather affect it.
      I loved this part about the recap: “I really just wanted to PR on Monday and I didn’t want to get 3:13 in my mind as the goal time and then be disappointed.” I’m running NJ on Sunday and I’ve been going back and forth about my goals for the race. However, all I want is a BQ, just like all you wanted was a PR. I totally agree that sometimes we get greedy when it comes to running and that, whatever we achieve, we always think that we could have done better. Thank you for the reminder! Will be reading this recap a few more times before Sunday and hopefully NJ won’t “chew me up and spit me out” (that was scary to read!) 😉 Huge congrats to you! Well deserved.

    31. You can see it on your face that you were digging deep the entire run and enjoying every second! That is SO AWESOME that you PRed (by A LOT) and had such an amazing race experience. Boston is definitely your race. From the looks of things, you did everything right leading up the race and were in a great state of mind. Congratulations!!! Reading experiences like this makes me excited to get there one day. :)
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    32. Hi Michele! I’ve been following your blog for some time now, and seeing these pictures of you running Boston make me tear up! You look so incredibly happy running, and it just warms me from the inside out. I ran on Monday as well, and loved reading your race re-cap because it’s comforting to know there were so many people out there in the same boat as me with goals, weather, pain, challenges, etc. Congrats on the amazing race, and enjoy that brand new shiny PR!!!

    33. Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      That is so incredibly awesome and amazing! I can’t tell you how happy I am for you! You go Girl!