Mesa Falls Marathon: Sub 4 for What?!

I ran my sub 4 in Idaho at Mesa Falls Marathon. I'm saying it from the top because you won't believe me when you hear what went into this race. It's actually sort of laughable...sort of.

Long runs were in my training plan, they just never happened; I'm on my own with Christian while Trey is in Afghanistan and my longest stroller run was 9 miles. Now, I subscribe to low volume training- but I always get at least a couple of double digit runs in. I was skeptical about 3 CrossFit workouts + 20ish miles a week turning into a sub 4 effort at 6000' elevation. The altitude alone, according to McMillan, would add an additional 10 minutes.

So there's that, too
The race was in Ashton, a town of about 1100 people an hour north of the Idaho Falls Airport. As frequent flyer awards usually play out, my flight landed at 10:30pm so it was almost midnight when I got to the hotel. "Sorry ma'am, we figured you weren't coming so we gave your room to someone else." What the WHAT?!?!

There was no arguing with these folks and they wouldn't let me stay in the cleaning closet (I asked), so I drove down the road to another hotel. No vacancy. And another. No vacancy. Consult the oracle- the closest hotel with availability was back at the airport and by this time it was 1am. Knowing I needed to pick up my race packet at 4:30am, I pulled into a church parking lot and slept in the back of my Ford Focus rental. There aren't many advantages to being 5'3, but it was reasonably comfortable.

Packet pickup was at the local elementary school, where the race organizers also provided a free breakfast for runners and chartered busses to the start of the point to point race. The swag bag was a potato sack (nice touch!) and the shirt was long sleeved/moisture wicking. Considering the free pre-race dinner the evening before, aid stations with every fueling option you could ask for (fresh fruit, honey, Gu, Powerbar, Clif Blocks, Hammer gel, etc) and awesome spread at the finish (delicious IS: pizza washed down with a huckleberry milkshake), this is by far the best $60 you can spend in the marathon world.

The first 9 miles were on a gravel road, gradual downhill with beautiful views, 60 degree temperatures with barely any humidity. Then it started to rain. I'm not talking little sprinkle- it was cold, hard, painful rain. I've raced in pouring rain in New Hampshire, but no friend to lift my spirits. I think (?) the rest of the course was really pretty but I was too busy getting a rain beat down to notice.
Thumbs up if you're soaking wet!
At the half, it was still pouring rain and we hit a trail. A muddy trail. Squishy, ankle sucking mud. Like, run on the side in the waist high weeds and briars or get stuck in the muck. The half marathoners had started from that point, so they were ponchoed up, in appropriate trail shoes, and flying past like gazelles. Nothing like being passed by 50 people in a single, terrifying mile to make you want to DNF. My pace slowed considerably at this point from 8:20 min/mile to 9:30+.

After 5 miles, the muddy trail finally ended and we started uphill. It was a twisty road, so you could never quite see the top...which was a good thing because the top didn't come for 2 miles! Per my usual on hills, I passed a lot of people but laughed out loud at the absurdity of it all- thin air, pouring rain, and a hill that wouldn't stop.

It stopped raining around mile 24 but the damage had long been done on my shoes, which were muddy and soaked. Like lifting 2 cement blocks off the ground with each step. Woof. I crossed the finish line exhausted, but in an effort good enough for 6th female overall, 2nd in my age group and- miracle of miracles- sub 4 hours (3:54:23). Good thing, cause I'm NOT tryin' to go back to Idaho to complete my 50 sub 4 circuit. Or ever for any reason, really.
Love the wooden finisher medal & AG plaque
Who should do this race? 50 staters- there were a lot of us there (29 states represented in only 130 runners) and it was fun to chat with folks on the same journey. The weather really made this a wash for me- it would have been a great race in dry conditions and I appreciated all of the extras the organizers put into the experience. My only suggestion? Stay in Idaho Falls in a normal chain hotel. There was a beautiful Residence Inn taunting me on the way back to the airport!

Thumbs up if you pulled off a time you shouldn't have.

Boston via Fayetteville- All American Marathon

Of all of the places I've lived since becoming a military spouse, Fayetteville has been my favorite. There are many reasons why; among them, this is a really active community. I am involved in the local running club (FRC) and Team RWB chapter, which has helped me meet like-minded individuals and really connect to the area. When the inaugural All American Marathon was announced, I had to do it...never mind I had a marathon 3 weeks earlier.

Here's what my training looked like after Raleigh:

Mon
Tues
Wed
Thurs
Fri
Sat
Sun
 
Crossfit
 
Crossfit
Crossfit
 
 
8 miles progression
Crossfit
5 miles
Crossfit
12 x 800m
Crossfit
8 miles race pace
3 miles
Crossfit
2 miles
Crossfit
Crossfit
 
3 miles
 
RACE

You're correct, math major- that's 35 total miles between races. I certainly wasn't sandbagging, though- as exercise science has proven, anaerobic activity boots aerobic fitness and my Crossfit WODs helped me prepare for 26.2 miles. I had my sights set on qualifying for Boston (3:35), a race I'm madly in love with after experiences in 2009 and 2012.

Race Day:

3700 of my closet friends and I began at Festival Park, made a loop downtown Fayetteville, and made our way up Hay Street. 6:30 is an early start time for a marathon, but I was grateful for it because of the heat we would experience later in the day- that hour made a huge difference.

One of the neatest things about All American is that our house is directly on the course at mile 4. This meant FRC was able to set up as an unofficial water/Gatorade stop in our front yard and offer our bathroom to runners in need- I was really tickled by this, because I have done the same when port-a-potties weren't in sight.

Best of all? Mom brought Christian and Pavel out. I stopped and gave Christian a big smooch before continuing on- THAT was the best moment of the day!

"Getting up early to make this sign wasn't easy either!"

The Realtor should include "mile 4 of the All American Marathon" when this house is listed


That's my 6 month old in the carrier- youngest volunteer on the course!
Within the next couple of miles, I saw more clusters of friends from the gym, FRC, and church. Those morale boosts helped me maintain a pace between 7:30-8 minute miles for the first 10K, turning in a 47:03 and "banking" time while the sun was still down and temperatures were low.

"Take my picture while I still feel good!"
 
Who needs Marathonfoto when your friends are on the course?!
Miles 6-10 took us on the All American Expressway- flat, fast, and shaded. Like they had in Raleigh, the folks at Wear Blue: Run to Remember set up another "blue mile", honoring Soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice. At that time, I was running with a fellow Team RWB member and active duty Soldier, Quincy. As we came up to the photos, Quincy stuck his hand out (as if he were slapping hands with a spectator) alongside all of the pictures and gave an air "five" as an act of solidarity. I got right behind him and followed suit. When I glanced behind my shoulder, all of the other runners were doing the same. It was a beautiful give-you-chills type moment. Second to the smooch with Christian, that touching tribute was my favorite part of this race.

 


As we entered Fort Bragg, the full separated from the half marathoners and the crowd thinned a bit. The sun was up by that time, but the aid stations were frequent and included on course nutrtion, Generation UCAN. I'll save you the hard sell here (and have no affiliation with the product), but this is the stuff for someone following paleo/primal, trying to become fat adapted, or logging a bajillion miles yet still struggling with weight. Taking in 300g of carbohydrate during a race is whack, y'all. So is running with a ziplock full of cold sweet potatoes.

I was still ahead of pace at the half (1:44:17) but around mile 20 (2:42:18), my pace slowed to 8-8:30 minute miles. I once got advice from an experienced marathoner that went something like this:

"If you happen to catch up to other runners, you better pass them; don't start running at their pace with them. The fact that you caught up with them means that you're faster than them, so keep on going forward..."

That helped me focus on something during the final (painful!) miles. I caught a lot of runners, including two ponytails and moved from 8th overall female to 6th. It was neat to run on Post and I appreciated the Soldiers out (everywhere!) supporting us- the course never got desolate or lonely because of them.

Not so smiley at mile 25, eh?!
I crossed the finish line in a Boston qualifying time of 3:33:17, 1st in my age group, 6th female overall. Thrilled with the results and enjoyed the experience of running in a town I love and on an Army Post with so much rich history. At the finish line festival, Meb Keflezighi signed autographs, live music played, and the US Army Golden Knights parachuted onto the parade field.

Medal is in the shape of a parachutist badge ("jump wings")
 
Who should do this race? Anyone with a military family history. It's very Marine Corps Marathon-esque in terms of spirit, but without the crowds and lottery. Also, runners within driving distance of Fayetteville- they offer packet pick up in other cities (Charlotte, Greensboro, Durham) prior to the race. Since it's point to point, the race offers a shuttle service from Post back to downtown or the host hotel for easy logistics.

50 Staters can fly into Raleigh or Fayetteville and, although it's got some hills, it's a great NC candidate for 50 sub 4 members. Locally, there is a great Marathon Maniac presence, too!

Convinced? Join me in 2015...this is definitely one I'll revisit!
Let's go to Beantown, Baby!



Don't Call it a Comeback: Rock 'n' Roll Raleigh

Before sharing my personal recap of my first post baby marathon, I want to acknowledge the deaths of two runners in yesterday's race- prayers for comfort and peace go out to their families. If you are a runner, please join me in doing two things before your next race: 1. visit your primary care physician and get clearance for endurance activities 2. learn CPR.

Sir Walter Raleigh got in the spirit! 
Race Preparation:
I signed up for the inaugural Rock 'n' Roll Raleigh as soon as they announced it. I was still in the first trimester of my pregnancy, but wanted a race on the horizon to motivate me after having the baby. Luckily, I was able to run comfortably during all 39 weeks of my pregnancy (more on that at a different time and place!) so it's accurate to say my training for this event began a long time ago. Like my first marathon, I didn't have a time goal- I simply wanted to cross the finish line.

37 weeks pregnant
I've trained for over 40 marathons, but having Christian really made me approach things differently. Having had success with CrossFit Endurance style programming in the past, I opted to follow it again- this time more out of time necessity rather than performance. With a new baby, I simply don't have time to log 3 hour long runs every weekend or do 2-a-day workouts. I understand high volume works for some, but there is more than one way to scale a mountain.

I did 4 runs per week- 1. short interval session 2. long interval session 3. social run with Christian in the stroller and Fayetteville Running Club  4. alternated between either a time trial or long(ish) run. My longest single run was 16 miles (half of that was pushing a jogging stroller!) and I never exceeded 30 miles in weekly volume. I partnered this with 3 traditional WODs per week at CrossFit Ferus, where they offer smart programming and childcare.

"Sorry Mom, you can't have me AND long runs!"
Race day:
Woke up at 3 am to drive up to Raleigh and get Christian situated in the hotel room with his babysitters for the day, Papa Tom and Grandpa Randy. The early alarm didn't phase me- having a 5 month old will do that for you! We even got situated in time to meet up with Fayetteville Running Club (FRC). I could write an entire blog about the support, motivation, and friendship this group has provided- instead, I'll just encourage you to get involved with your own local running club and experience it yourself. You can search for one here.

We have runners of all shapes, sizes, ages, and experience levels in FRC

My Mom was doing the half, so we got to walk to the start together- hands down, one of my favorite moments of the day. She has been there for most of my marathons in the last decade as a spectator so it's such a gift to share the race as participants. This was her second 13.1 and she got a PR- even more impressive when you consider the hills in Raleigh versus her first course in pancake flat Savannah. Way to go, Mom!
13.1- check! 26.2- check!

Post-race treat food- peeps & cadbury eggs. Thanks, Kevin!
It was great to spend the moments before the race with Ann and Anna, who was running her first marathon. Talking with them made me less nervous and I was focused when the gun went off. I've always maintained I don't need a cheer squad to do these things, but the spectators were great. My favorite signs of the day:
THIS is how you support a friend (& make strangers smile!)
Seen at mile 20- ain't that the truth?!

This was not a flat course. I stayed in control with my pace and felt confident on the hills- they were where I passed other runners. Chalk it up to a combination of CrossFit and the joging stroller. It didn't matter what type of incline I was served- running without pushing 35 pounds of BOB, infant  seat, and Christian in front of me or carrying a 1 pood kettlebell in each hand made it seem easy. Don't hate me, fellow RnR participants- I just never really felt broken. The heat got to me and robbed me of a negative split, but for a gal who thought the best case scenario would be just under 4 hours, I was thrilled with this:

3:39:55 overall time, 104 OA, 29th female, 7 AG

I enjoyed seeing fellow Marathon Maniacs out there- wearing my MM gear always makes me feel like part of a team and invites great conversation with amazing athletes. The course was gorgeous, beginning and ending downtown and taking us through neighborhoods with interesting, older architecture. Not a lot of shade in the second half of the race, which was a bummer as it started to get hot but mile 24 totally made up for it. The wonderful folks at Wear Blue: Run to Remember were out in full force with a memorial for fallen soldiers that was so significant, I think I'll remember every step through it more vividly than the finish line. You don't have to be a military wife to appreciate the beauty and sadness of this:


Among these heroes: SSG Michael A Dickinson, KIA at 26 years old in Iraq.
 His wife is a FRC member & dominated 26.2 to honor him!

Overall, this was a great event. I'd recommend it to anyone who is looking for easy logistics, lots of crowd support, challenging hills (rumor has it the net gain was 4 digits), and doesn't mind big box races.

What's next for me? Reverse taper, then All American Marathon in 3 weeks. I'm thrilled to be racing again and so glad I'm finding a balance between being "Suzy the Mommy" and "Suzy the runner"!
Family, friends, and food (chocolate milk & pizza!) at the finish

Best training partner ever!


Still the best "model" for my hardware

An INDOOR marathon? Am I crazy?!

I like to have a race on the calendar in ether December or January to get through the “food holidays” with minimal weight gain. If you think that’s a little extreme, you haven’t tasted my Mother-in-Law’s french toast casserole! Anywhoo, this year’s race was in Minnesota. What’s crazier than January in Minnesota? An indoor marathon.

Zoom! Yah! Yah! began in 2006 as a way to break cabin fever and support the cross country team at St Olaf College. Because the track can only accommodate 45 runners (plus the fact that there are 45+ people that actually want to do this!), there is a lottery to get in the marathon. As described on the website:

This is a 150 lap race where every lap time is recorded by your personal time keeper. There are 600 aid stations, you will hear music the entire 26.21 miles and you will change directions every 30 minutes. The weather is perfect: no wind, no rain, no sleet, no snow...just a constant 56-64 degrees.

Okay, 600 aid stations is sort of a technicality (150 laps x 4 corners with tables for fuel/drop bags), but the race was THAT straightforward. Leading up to the event, we received several helpful emails from the RD with everything from arranging travel to race day logistics and expectations. When I arrived in Minnesota on marathon-eve, I traded the pre-race dinner for a trip to the Lululemon outlet. Totally worth it.
the "course"- 150 laps
Zoom Yah Yah provides each runner with his/her own personal lap counter- members of the cross country team, folks with connections to St Olaf College or local running community in Northfield. This individual (read: SAINT!) writes down your split for all 150 laps. Boggles your mind, right?! For anywhere from 3 to 6+ hours, they will watch you run around a circle and make note of your time each 1-3 minutes….all while cheering you on and taking stupid requests like, “tell me how many laps I’ve gone at the 1 hour mark”. For HOURS. That level of commitment goes way beyond your typical volunteer position, usually consisting of handing out water at a mile marker or cutting the chip of someone’s shoelaces at the finish.

My training was speed work/interval heavy and light on volume; the longest long run I did was a 12 miler. Two pounds up from Christmas break (imagine if I hadn’t been training!), I went into the race understanding I would not achieve a PR due to the 600 turns and passing to the outside rule. Even if I did have the race of my life, this wasn’t even a Boston Qualifier! I told my lap counter Saint, Sue, that I would consider it a successful day if I ran 3:59:59.

There really was no great mental strategy for this one. In a typical marathon, I would break down the race into manageable pieces- for me, that is 10 miles+ 10 miles +6.2 miles. However, on this course there were no mile markers. No signal for my fancypants Garmin. In fact, 5.74 laps equalled a single mile, so you either did a lot of ridiculous math and annoyed your lap counter...or you just ran. I chose the latter. I focused on connecting with the other runners in conversation and slowed down or sped up based on how my body felt. There was no watch spitting out my pace per mile- it was just me, focused on picking 'em up and puttin' em down until Sue told me to stop.

After the race, I talked with so many people who kept a mental tally of the laps they'd run- some had even broken their speed down by lap ("I will reach my goal if I run each of the 150 laps in 1 minute, 37 seconds" type of deal). That just sounds miserable, huh?! The only person who had any business doing that was Nichole Porath, who actually did set a world indoor marathon record on race day. If you want a different (faster!) perspective on this whole indoor marathon thing, check out her race recap. Just don't read it while you're eating- she has some gnarly blister pictures that will make your stomach turn.

One of MANY great conversations during the race

Standard Suzy pose 
I asked Sue to cue me when I had completed 75 laps (halfway) so I could ensure I was on my way to a sub 4. The time went by quickly, as this is a race where you really do get to know the other runners. We had all written our names on our backs, so it was easy to cheer for others and encouraging to hear your own name ALL morning long. There were plenty of Marathon Maniacs and 50 State Club members to swap stories with. It was perfect for a gal who loves, above all things, the camaraderie among runners at a race.

The lap counters also served as a cheering section at the start/finish of each lap- I'm not sure what St Olaf's cheerleading squad is workin' with, but they can always call upon the cross country team for large doses of enthusiasm. Those girls were awesome- I loved them! Of course, it didn't hurt that they were calling me "best dressed" the entire time either- thank you Lululemon outlet trip for my cute running attire! 
With my amazing lap counter, Sue, who also liked my running dress

The RD, Dick, puts on a great event

After a second directive to Sue ("tell me when I have 10 laps to go!"), I ended up crossing the finish line in 3:53:09 for a sub 4 hour Minnesota. I also got my second ever marathon podium spot, coming in 3rd female overall and 1st in my age group. A big takeaway for me was how I earned this finish- slowing down or speeding up based on how my body felt. As someone who hopes to be running in her 80s, it makes sense to go into every race with this mindset- even if there are mile markers or a Garmin spitting out pace stats!

So, am I crazy for running 26.2 miles indoors? Naaahh- I'd be crazy not to take advantage of a great event like the Zoom! Yah! Yah! marathon.

Missouri- Take 2

My primary goal is to run a marathon in each of the 50 states plus DC. Along the way, I got progressively faster and created a “stretch goal” of doing each of them under 4 hours.

Two goals at once? Yes. Here’s how I see it: I always want to be challenging myself. If I’m in a position to look back and say, “that was nice. What next?”, I’m doing something wrong. Always have another goal on deck.

There are some states where I have completed a marathon, but not in under 4 hours. I don’t always choose my races based on time based goals, so sometimes I don't intend to run in under 4 hours (Run with the Horses in Wyoming, The North Face Challenge in Wisconsin) and will inevitably visit the state again. Missouri is another story. I wanted to earn a sub 4, but it simply wasn’t my day at Lewis & Clark back in 2009 and I crossed the line 9 minutes late. Hindsight is 20/20, but I believe my bonk in St Charles had to do with being a hardcore vegan at the time; as such, I was never able to recover properly.

Having just spent 6 months living in the show me state and coaching a Crossfit Endurance program at the local CrossFit affiliate in St Robert, I had a great group of people to do St Louis Rock & Roll marathon with- Karen, Greg, and Beth Anne. It was a surprise to finally have someone out-shop me at an expo (looking at you, Beth Anne) and fun to share a pre and post race meal with this crew. I will always have fond memories of Missouri because of the time spent and people I met in Karen and Greg’s gym- sharing this event together was like the “cherry on top”.

On the way IN to the expo. Beth Anne's hands were full with shopping bags on the way out..!
I'll always love Missouri because of my time spent with these people
On race morning, Suzy Favor Hamilton fired the start gun (fun side note: 2 months later, her scandalous double life would be uncovered) and we were off. I thought the start of the race might be a bit fast, considering the mix in with half-marathoners. The original plan was to go out at about 8:45 pace, to give myself some breathing room from the sub 4:00 target. Sure enough, the first mile was fast, starting around 8:15 pace. I maintained this through the mile and hit the 5K mark at 24:42.

Pre race "I get to wear a skirt today!" smile

Perhaps to my demise later in the race, I didn't slow down. I was energized by passing people during the next few (hilly!) miles. It’s a heck of a lot easier running up hills in minimalist shoes, and I was strong on inclines from my training. In Waynesville, hills are non-negotiable. All of our intervals at Crossfit Endurance were done on steep inclines and declines. Many ups and downs later, I crossed 10K in 50:24.

Around Mile 8-9, the course split and the half-marathoners disappear from the course. With fewer competitors on course, I was able to slow down a bit but was still way ahead of the conservative 8:45 pace I had originally thought through. Non-marathoners will read that and say, “oh, good for you!” Anyone who has ever run 26.2 miles and understands pacing strategy knows what a mistake it was to cross the half marathon point at 1:46:56.

I don’t need lots of on course entertainment, but it was uplifting- the cold morning didn’t stop bands, cheer squads, and spectators from pouring energy into supporting us. A month prior, I completed the GoRuck Challenge and was disappointed in the route we took. The course for this marathon was what I wanted GoRuck to be: we started toward the famous Arch, looped downtown, ran past Cardinals stadium and Fox theatre. The thing both events had in common? Forest Park. I hated it just as much during this race as I did during the Challenge.

Forest Park may be a great place to run in general, but it was a momentum killer for me. Physically, I was paying the price for my earlier pacing errors and slowed down substantially. Mentally, I was reliving that damn 30 pound backpack torture fest all over again. Physically, those fast early miles had caught up with me and, with every painful step, I was forced to slow down. Once my momentum died it never really seemed to come back.

Definitely not in the most controlled fashion, but I earned my 23rd sub 4 hour marathon by averaging 8:26 per mile and crossing the line in 3:40:56. Other stats:

Overall place: 217 out of 1766

Gender: 46 out of 825

Age division: 11 out of 153

The best part of this entire race (aside from crossing the finish line 19 minutes early) was watching Greg drink everyone else’s post race beer before we got back to our hotel…which was about a half mile from the finish. Who needs a post race concert for entertainment?!


Sub-4 hour Missouri: check!
Post race "close the sub 4 book on MO" smile

Logan View Marathon

There are many reasons to run a marathon; a bad week is one of them.

After a tough few days personally and with no big Labor Day plans on the horizon, I found the Logan View Marathon. My logical self said, “hey idiot- weather forecast is calling for 90 degrees on race day. The course is run on 90% gravel road and is described as challenging. You’ve only been running regularly for 5 weeks. Seriously? This is a good idea?!” I didn’t listen. I had a bad week and running is a coping technique for me.  This was also held in a state I hadn’t marked off my list yet- even if I crawled across the finish line with a ridiculously slow time, it would contribute to my 50 state goal. I really needed something to celebrate.
7 hour one-way trips require compression tights, ya heard?!
 Three days later, I found myself at the starting line. I love small races like this for a number of reasons: just a table setup on race morning instead of a busy expo, no waiting in line or running out of toilet paper at the porta potties, convenient parking at the start/finish, no bottlenecks or corrals to battle, reasonable entry fee. I find the other runners to be more enjoyable at small races, too- with only a hundred or so of us for both distance options, everyone was easy going and out there simply for the love of running. No last minute type A freak outs or large charity group chaos, lots of starting line chatter. The race was not chip timed, so we all chuckled a bit when the start of our day began with the RD giving heat precautions and simply shouting, “Go!”

Those running the half marathon turned off about one mile into the race, leaving about 40 or so for the full. Most of us belonged to the 50 State Marathon Club and/or Marathon Maniacs. As usual with this crowd, I had the honor of running with some really fantastic people:
  • Maniac on her 3rd circuit, meaning she has done what I’m trying to do twice and is making a 3rd go of it!
  • Gentleman earning his 150th lifetime marathon…and yes, his knees are just fine.
  • Collegiate cross country coach, who confirmed nixing long runs from one’s training schedule and replacing with high volume intervals. His rule? Never extend mileage to the point where you can’t at least hold race pace. Any slower and cadence falls off, form deteriorates, and you end up hurting yourself more than helping. This is consistent with everything I learned at Crossfit Endurance and have been practicing with success in my own training. Like a sponge, I soaked up a lot of wisdom from this guy- helped a good 5 or 6 miles fly by!
  • 50 Stater completing the lower 48. Y’all know me- I gave my two cents on the Alaska race he should finish with (Equinox).
  • A guy who registered even later than I did. He couldn’t find the motivation to do his long run the day before and thought, “if I sign up for a marathon, I’ll be forced´to complete it!” Wonder if he ran that 26 mile long run by the cross country coach...
  • A Rocket Scientist. No, seriously! I found this out after a good 30 minutes of nonstop chatting…which goes to prove that running is the ultimate common ground. I mean, I had to spell check the word “scientist” for this post.
  • Dude who went to undergrad in Greensboro NC! Isn’t it random that we’d meet in Nebraska?! We talked about PieWorks, an amazing pizza place everyone must visit if you find yourself in the 'Boro (well worth a cheat day, paleo people).
  • Marathon Maniac who remembered me from last year's Eugene Marathon, where I bawled hysterically during the National Anthem having just seen Trey off on deployment. I had the pleasure of updating her about his safe return and she mentioned she had prayed for him after meeting me and then seeing our picture in the Maniac newsletter shortly thereafter. This is just one example of the support I’ve received from fellow Marathon Maniacs. It is truly awesome to be a part if this running community and it's about a lot more than wearing the same yellow jersey.
Around mile 14, my Garmin (fully charged that morning) gave out. Something about being so far out in the country and it taking a lot to constantly find the signal. Just last month in class, we ran without watches and estimated our own 400m times as an exercise in feeling pace with our bodies, not through a watch. Karma or foresight?

The course? Well, there is truth in advertising here.The website was 100% accurate: You will be greeted by rolling hills and cornfields dotted with farms and acreages. Running along the ridge of the picturesque view of the Elkhorn Valley you will be able to see the towns of Hooper, Scribner and Uehling. This will not be a flat fast course, there are some challenging hills! 
Seen at mile 25. Behind the sign? View for the entire race.
The gravel we had been warned about in another description was less 'golf ball' and more 'aquarium rocks'- much easier to handle. Anyone doing this race should definitely opt for trail shoes and perhaps throw on some gaiters. I forgot the latter and ended up with socks full of gravel. There was very little shade, so I appreciated aid stations every two miles- especially the one at mile 19 with the jellybeans (not the sport kind, straight up Jelly Belly!).

As expected, it got pretty hot during the last few miles and I slowed considerably. I finished in 4:13:03- far from my fastest time, but quick enough to secure a podium spot. I was the 3rd female overall and 1st in my age group. Before my logical self could convince me this wasn’t worth celebrating (real talk: there were only 16 women total in the full marathon), I remembered what inspirational runner Dane Rauschenberg says: “you can only race who SHOWS UP”. No need to sell myself short because only a few of us decided to brave this beast of a course!  
Given the choice, I'd have taken the chocolate milk over the medal at that point.
Hats off to the RD and volunteers at this race- they were organized, enthusiastic, provided showers afterward, and a great post race food that included...wait for it...ice cold chocolate milk (it really is all about the food for me, huh?!). I would recommend this race to anyone who needs a Nebraska, likes a challenge, and doesn't require lots of bells/whistles/spectators to stay motivated. 

Bad week? Run a marathon. Nebraska crossed off and 3rd place medal in hand, I drove back to Missouri in a much better mood.
Add "opportunity to podium finish" to my small race love list.

There's No Place Like...Kansas!

As a runner, sometimes, your aim is to go as fast as possible and achieve a personal record. Other times, you just get out there and have FUN. After a tough fight in Boston, I needed an enjoyable race. Lucky for me, I bought this fabulous Dorothy outfit and spray painted my old Mizunos glittery red for the Garmin in the Land of Oz Marathon.

The role of Toto played by Pavel Goodwin
This event was planned as a part of my move to Missouri, so it wasn't ideal to make a 15 hour drive just prior to running...but y'all know me. The "fun size" expo offered a quick in- quick out and I enjoyed a fantastic pre-race dinner with my cousin Sara, Aunt Anne, and Uncle John in Overland Park. For some reason, I pictured Kansas to be nothing but farmland and tornado shelters (blame Hollywood) but was surprised to find dense towns with lots of green space...and rolling hills. Hills?!
My hosts from Boston showed me love in Olathe, too!
The race both started and finished at Garmin International Headquarters in Olathe- all sorts of fancy. After a heavy dose of inspiration from running into Larry Macon at the start, I enjoyed the initial spectator response to Dorothy: "Great outfit!", "look at her shoes- nice touch!", "Are you running the FULL in that?!"
"Yes, I'm running the full in this"
The first 5K looped around an industrial area and then fed us into quaint neighborhoods. I put down 8-8:30 minute miles and finished the first 10K in just under 50 minutes- much faster than expected having just run Boston a few days prior. Maybe it had something to do with the perfect weather or the fact that this was the friendliest bunch of runners I've ever been around. Seriously, everyone was eager to chat and just radiating positivity. There was a real sense of camaraderie before we even hit double digits.

Another bonus? Quite a few Marathon Maniacs on the course, including an adorable gal named Michelle who is from the (small!) town in Missouri I will be living in for the next 8 months. This race would mark my 13th marathon state in a 365 day period, which qualifies me for 5 Maniac stars. Great news, since I've been stuck at 3 stars since 2008..!
That's a 5 star smile
We hit a greenway path shortly after mile 10 and the rolling hills noted earlier were pretty apparent-a good thing for me, since I dislike flat courses. At the half marathon mark, all of the water station volunteers were dressed in full costume as characters from Wizard of Oz and I high fived the Scarecrow, Lion, Tin Man, and Dorothy as I clocked 1:50. 

This is going to sound ridiculous, but I never really had a down moment during this race. Sure, I was challenged by the pace but it was never to the point where I hit a wall or fell out of enjoying the run. I'll save you the hard sell, but I continue to follow Crossfit Endurance as a training plan and believe, without a doubt, it allows me to enter these things at my peak instead of on the brink of an overuse injury. My times are consistently better (including several PRs!) and I'm doing half the mileage volume of my pre-CFE days. Plus I can do boy push ups, dead hang pull ups, and climb 20' ropes...so there's that.  

There were several people dressed as Dorothy out there (good witches, bad witches, and lions too!)and I passed the only one ahead of me around mile 20. He...yep, he...had fashioned his hurache sandals into sequined red slippers- awesome, but maybe a bad idea for racing unfamiliar terrain.
The wig probably didn't help, either.
I crossed the finish line with a time of 3:39:14, an 8:23 average pace. I was delighted to secure 5th in my age group, 19th of 255 women, and (so I'm told) "first Dorothy". Keepin it real at HQ, my Garmin never lost it's signal either. The best part? I had an absolute blast running this race. It was FUN.

There's no place like....Kansas!
Follow the yellow brick road!

Boston Marathon 2012

“We’re all crazy!”

That was both my first thought at the starting line as well as my last thought at the finish. Most people think you have to be pretty insane to run 26.2 miles in the first place, but if you survived this year's Boston Marathon you've got an extra layer of crazy.

Unless you live under a rock, you probably are well aware of the brutally hot weather that was forecasted for Marathon Monday. At first I thought the Weather channel was playing a cruel April Fools joke on us runners- temperatures in the 80s? Didn't I wear fleece and gloves the last time I did this race? Yes, North Carolina had a mild winter- but I hadn’t even done a training run in shorts yet.

As race day approached, the BAA started sending weather updates encouraging participants to adjust their expectations (this will not be a race! slow your pace by several minutes! speed can kill!) or defer their entry until next year. Although I know folks who had very relevant reasons to table this years race and look to 2013, not starting wasn't an option for me. When I register and train for a race, I make the commitment to follow through regardless of conditions. I've run in snow, wind, and rain...this marathon would simply be an opportunity to push myself even farther out of my comfort zone.

In an effort to make the weekend as enjoyable as possible, I stayed with friends from college, Heather and Jack. Not only was this super convenient (You're a whopping quarter mile from the T, huh?!), Heather and I got lots of QT while supporting Jack achieve a personal record during the BAA 5K on Saturday. Another bonus? We made the Expo a group event; this was something I missed out on in 2009 so it was nice to snap pictures and cross paths with running friends.

On race morning, I purposely took a later bus to Hopkinton since I knew we would just be waiting around in the hot sun at Athletes Village anyway. Previous experience also taught me to get in line early for a Hopkinton sign photo op, bring a pool raft to lay on, and leave headphones at home. With all of the "where did you qualify?" and "where are you from?" conversations, Athlete's Village is the best place to make new running friends and meet up with old ones. You can listen to your ipod tomorrow!

I managed to find a great shady spot for my pool raft and conversations, but porta potty lines were ridiculous and the starting line was nearly a mile walk- great for steps in my company's pedometer challenge, bad for 74 degree sun exposure. The first few miles of the race are gently rolling with quite a bit of downhill. With the understanding that the temperatures would climb into the high 80s, my plan was to "bank" as much time as I could during the first 10K- a strategy one NEVER wants to use in a marathon, but this day was an exception for pretty much everything. I ran the first 5K in 25 minutes. By the time we hit Natick, thermometers read 80 degrees. I put ice cubes in my hat to keep my head cool and made a conscious effort to slow down, which wasn't hard since I was hitting every water stop. I crossed the 10K at 53:45.

In past marathons, I’ve had a few sips of water every 4-5 miles. I generally try to stay away from the chemical cocktails in sports drinks and gel-style supplements, opting to keep my carbohydrate and salt stores up with whole foods instead. On Monday, I had 4 packets of Gu and stopped at every single water station, taking both water AND Gatorade. I don’t think I’ve ever consumed that much fluid in a race and by the time we hit the half marathon mark, I had already stopped to pee three times!

The crowd seemed to be extra committed to making sure we enjoyed race day. People were screaming our names and shouting "You are amazing!" Little kids held out hands for high fives and families lined the streets with hoses, extra water, coolers of ice, and sponges soaked in cold water. Given the heat, I’m not sure we would have made it without them. I saw my personal course support, Heather and Jack, just before mile 9 and it gave me a real mental lift!

I could hear the screaming girls at Wellesley college a mile before we got there. This is one of my favorite parts of the course, where the girls line up, each holding signs that say "Kiss me, I'm ____" (Drunk, Naturally Blonde, a Vegetarian, etc). Legend has it, a kiss from one of these girls means good luck. When I spotted the "Kiss me, I'm from North Carolina", I marched right up and kissed her on the cheek. She promptly returned the kiss as her friends went ballistic! This is something I'd have never done if I were worried about time. 13.1 miles- 1:58:09.

By mile 20, my running skirt and shoes were heavy, soaked with water from running through sprinklers and dumping water on my head. I played some mind games with myself (focusing on things in the distance) but never tuned out by putting headphones in. Sometimes I will use music to dissociate, but it was important to stay in touch with how my body was feeling. I was still stopping for the bathroom pretty frequently, which meant I was faring better than some of the people around me who were collapsing from cramps, vomiting, or being loaded onto gurneys (not exaggerating). I accepted the fact that I needed to slow down, so I did.

Around mile 25, it finally sunk in that I was going to finish and I did something else I'd never do if I were focused on time: I drank a beer offered to me on the course. I've always wanted to do this during a race and in front of a Boston University fraternity house seemed to be as good a time as any...and yes- it tasted fantastic!

It was 89 degrees when I crossed the finish line in 4:09:33, not a personal worst but definitely the slowest marathon I have run in a long time. You know what, though? I don't care. Numbers don’t tell the whole story and I’m very proud of this race. There will be another day to achieve a personal record. On Marathon Monday, I didn't walk. I used my brain. I finished. 

Does it make sense that one of the most painful experiences of my life was also the best? Yeah, I must be crazy...!