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...!

Houston Marathon ABCs

Aspiration: My aim is to run a marathon or ultra in all states. Recently, I set a second stretch goal to achieve each of these in less than 4 hours. Upon finishing the first circuit, I'll need to go back and 're-do' states that didn't meet the time criteria for goal #2. With hopes of efficiency, I wanted to earn my 34th overall state and 20th sub 4 hour in a single race- the Houston Marathon.

Body Glide: Used a lot of it during training. Y’all know why!

Crossfit: I used an adaptation of Crossfit Endurance for training. It is very low volume compared to more traditional plans, with 4-5 WODs (met-con style group strength classes) and 2-3 interval sessions weekly plus a mid-distance run every other week. I've stayed uninjured since adopting CFE last Fall while improving my race times. Most important, I enjoy the variety.

Decision: This specific race was an invitation from my friend Monica, who I ran Alabama and JFK 50 with. We wanted to go to Houston because of the Olympic Trials; the marathon just happened to be the next day!

Expo: Easy in, easy out to pick up my bib, chip, bag, and event t-shirt at the Convention Center. You’d never know there were 28,000 people preparing to race the following day- this was a very organized, no stress stop.

Friends: Monica invited me to stay in the same hotel room with her and some other gals from Louisville. As runners, we naturally had a lot in common and the chatter was non-stop all weekend. It was great to make new running friends and share the experience!

Goals: Our individual goals for the race ranged from my own “3:45 finish time” to “just complete the distance” to “finish in less than 3 hours”. The difference between being a “runner” versus someone who laces up every so often? Simply having a specific goal and announcing your intention.

Houston: As a city that grew out rather than up, the downtown area seemed to be a weekend ghost town. Many of the restaurants and shops were Monday through Friday only.

IAH: I was able to get direct flights in/out of this airport from Charlotte. Score!

January: It’s always great to plan a race during this month because it means you train through the 'food holidays'- Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
Kara Goucher: my favorite member of our 2012 Olympic marathon team. It was amazing to be a spectator at the Trials on Saturday and see her in the flesh.

Line: Or lack thereof…there were plenty of port-a-potties at the start with little to no lines. Important stuff for a marathoner.

Managed chaos: This was a large race, but it didn’t feel that way. The corrals closed 20 minutes before the beginning of the race at 7 am, which prevented last minute stampedes. Half marathoners went a different direction and merged with full at mile 2, easing first mile bottlenecks.

Nutrition: Fueled by my usual peanut butter and banana sandwich sandwich, I never had any GI issues during the race. I rotated between water and the Gatorade Prime offered on course and eventually used a single Gu.

On course support: Spectators were awesome and had the most creative signs: “Hurry up! The Texans play at noon!”, “Enjoy the moment- this is the best you’ll feel all week”, "Baby, come back to bed!”, “26.2 miles- because 26.3 miles is crazy”, and (my personal favorite) “You are NOT almost there”

Priest: Set up just across from a Catholic Church on course, a Priest splashed holy water on us at one point. Should I assume he was praying for us also?

Quick: The first half flew by. I stayed with the 3:40 pace group and clocked in at 1:49:06 for 13.1 miles.

Reunion: When you do these races often, you tend to (literally!) run into the same folks over and over again. I found a number of fellow 50 State Club Members and Marathon Maniacs, including #1.

Splits: Held on to an 8:30 pace for the first 20 miles and then let ‘er rip. Until then, I thought the 'run the first 20, race the final 10K' strategy only worked in magazine articles (theoretically at that!). Picking up the pace to 8 minute miles and then 7:45 during the final 3 solidified a negative split.

Tunes: Prior to the start, I made a deal with myself that if I stayed on pace for the first 10 miles, I could use my headphones. It’s been awhile since I’ve ran with music and I enjoyed it.

Usual suspects: I’ve seen these signs over and over, but I still enjoy them: “Don’t Stop (that’s what she said)!”, “Chuck Norris never ran 26.2”, “I’m proud of you, total stranger”, “Nice legs!”, “You’ve got stamina- call me!”

Voldemort: Not even kidding, I spotted a sign that said “Run like Vodlemort is chasing you”. Even better? The gal holding it was very skinny, pale, and had thick glasses on that had obviously seen a lot of library books.

Wall: Never hit it.

X-train: As in ‘cross train’. The best thing I’ve ever done for my running was to incorporate a variety of other exercises, including strength and mobility, into my weekly routine (see also “C” for crossfit).

Year: This was an excellent way to begin my 2012 running year! With my husband returning from deployment, I’ll run fewer marathons than I did in 2011 so I want them to count.

Zoom: I zoomed (yeah, I’m stretching this one!) into the finishing chute in 3:35:34, placing 60th of the 511 in my age group and in the top 10% of females. We got additional swag post race: a moisture wicking, feminine cut Under Armor finisher shirt, an engraved beer mug, and Pavel's medal.