{Aloha, My Next State}

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No, I’m not in Hawaii, but a girl can dream and eat lots of fresh pineapple. Over the past few days I’ve been looking over everyone’s race reports and Instagram feeds about the Honolulu Marathon and their fun adventures before and after. All those photos got me reminiscing to when the husband and I went to Hawaii 5.5 years ago.

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It was an amazing trip to say the least. We vowed to make it back one day. While that day is still far away, I look forward to it whenever I see or hear about the Aloha State while also cherishing the memories made there already.

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When we traveled to Oahu and Maui in June 2009 I had not made my 50 in 50 goal yet so the fact that a marathon was happening while we were there really wasn’t something I was aware of. Now I plan for it to be my final race in my quest to race all 50 states before the end of my 50th year. So those thoughts of Hawaii and the big number 50 also got me thinking…what’s next.

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It is also that time of year when you start reflecting on the past year and planning for the upcoming year. Let me tell you it is hard to make plans for races and states when you are pregnant. How do you know how you will respond to having a baby? You can’t predict how your body will bounce back, how breastfeeding will go, or how tired you will be, so how do you plan?? For some they simply wouldn’t. Except the type A personality in me just cannot let it go. I need a race on the calendar. Something to look forward to. To hold myself accountable for. A goal to get back in shape. Staying committed to running is so much easier for me when I have a race planned out. Without a date, I get lazy and start making excuses.

What better excuse is there than giving birth to a human? Perhaps none, but I still want a plan. I was big on not pressuring myself and letting things happen and to just see how things were going a month ago. Now as the latest Runner’s World previews next year’s races and the time to register for some races even a year out is coming, I just can’t stop thinking about my next race. When will it be? How soon is too soon? How will I balance it all?

After doing some race research (my favorite kind of reading) I talked to my husband about my fears about putting my first race on the calendar and the pressure I would put on myself. I talked to my husband about not putting a race on the calendar and the lack of motivation that saddles me with and my fear of not getting back on the miles after the baby is born and therefore losing my mind. He confidently said I think you should register. “You know you cope with stress and change by running and you are more motivated when you have a goal in mind.” Boy does he know me. Or he is just terrified of an emotional me losing my mind while having a newborn. Whichever the case, his confidence in what I was already thinking in my head gave me the mental ok to register for my first post-baby marathon.

When picking my first race back I wanted it to be a race that would work towards my state goal, that was close by, inexpensive (a baby costs a lot of money), and far enough out that I could enjoy the first couple of months as a new mom in whatever capacity I need. If I feel good and want to start running at six weeks great. If I have complications, am too tired, or too whatever I have given myself time for that. The only race (and I can’t believe there is one really) that meets all these criteria is the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis, Indiana on November 7th.

This race is roughly six hours from where I live, has a New Year’s Day Special Early Bird registration fee of $60 (most marathons are $80-100) and will allow us to stay one night in a hotel or two depending on where we are at with time, baby and finances. Plus, the husband will be on paternity leave still so we won’t both need to take a personal day for the Saturday race.

It feels so good to say I know when my next marathon is while also not having created extra pressure on myself to be back running in a tight timeline. Between birthday and race day is 7 months give or take a couple of weeks depending on when the boy decides to arrive. I have no BQ goals or time goals other than to just enjoy being back and get to the start line injury free and balanced. I’ve run marathons with very little training (were talking a few weeks and a long run of 13 miles-wasn’t pretty) and with training that topped out at 70 miles (this happened one week, but I’m still oh so proud of myself). I know I can make the time for something in between and be both a mom and a marathoner.

Am I scared? Yes! Am I nervous? Yes! Am I excited? Yes! Oh, you were thinking about the marathon. I was thinking about being a mom. But seriously, I like doing things that scare me. I like some pressure on myself because I operate best that way. So on January 1st here goes nothing. What are you going to do that scares you a little? What goals do you have for yourself that might be equal parts overwhelming and rewarding?

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So that got a little long, but I threw in some pretty pictures of Hawaii to help!

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Between you an me I have another marathon race up my sleeve soon after Indiana, but I do need to talk it over with the husband. He has never read this blog so I could just put it in this post, but when I put something down in writing I rarely don’t accomplish it so it just doesn’t seem right. Stay tuned!

Sarah

{State #16-Montana} Missoula Marathon

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After signing up for a marathon in state #15 (Portland, Oregon), I immediately signed up for state #16, Montana, since I had started planning our Go West Road Trip around the races I would be running. I had never run two marathons only nine days apart, but had run a half marathon and a marathon the following day. I also had hopes of completing a 50k (Chester Woods 50k) in the spring, so I felt I would be prepared for two marathons close together. I knew that it would probably be warm making the miles more challenging, but when you have a goal and a limited budget compromises have to be made.

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For the first time in a very long time we arrived to the city I would be racing not late the night before, not even the morning before, but an entire two nights before. It felt great to not be stressing about race morning with little sleep, picking up my packet the morning of the race and not knowing where to go until it was time to go. That relaxed feeling set the tone for our weekend.

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Carb loading Friday night before the Sunday race.

Saturday was packet pick up and the outdoor expo took place in downtown Missoula. Runners were out in full force and I was not feeling the crowds, so we quickly got my packet and headed somewhere less crowded for lunch. I was not feeling well the day before and was really nervous about running another marathon the next day. Looking at the weather forecast only added to my fears. I knew it would be a tough race regardless, but with highs of 97 forecasted for the following day I was terrified for the painful sweatfest to come.

Course Map

Course Map

My goal was to complete the race and not walk. I would have loved to run under four hours, but wasn’t sure if that would have been possible without the heat. I had it in my head that under four and a half hours would be great with the heat. Remember, I am not a hot weather runner. Nothing sends my run in a downward spiral faster than heat.

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The night before the race we ate a yummy dinner at a local restaurant, I laid out my gear, and I actually got to bed a bit earlier than the typical for me. Not before getting sucked into a movie on TV though. Damn you Sandra Bullock and your scary space travel in Gravity. George Clooney might have had something to do with it, too. And, who is really ready for bed at 9:00 anyway?

The 4:15 alarm woke me up and I did not want to get up, but I told myself how lucky I was to get to be accomplishing my goal. Since I knew I was in for some pain and discomfort that morning, I decided to approach the race with a borrowed mantra from Brooks-Run Happy! I couldn’t change the weather or how my legs felts, but I could change my attitude. I made it a goal to focus on running happy whenever I felt tired, my legs got sore, I got hot or frustrated, or I wanted to quit. I was going to enjoy running in Montana. Take in the sights, sounds and feel joyful to be completing state #16 in my goal to race all 50 states.

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The husband took me to the shuttle that all marathoners were required to take to the start of the marathon. Everything was so organized. We arrived at the start, and I got in line for the port-o-potties where I waited in line for the shortest time perhaps ever. There was lively music with reminders of the time every five minutes. After the national anthem we headed to our starting spots. I lined up with the four-hour marathon pace group and a few minutes later we were off. As we crossed the starting line fireworks were shot off for at least five minutes while runners began their 26.2 mile journey. I was jazzed up!

As mile one and two went by my calves let me know they were not excited. They were so tight and I got panicked thoughts that I might need all seven hours the course was open in order to complete the race. I was super worried and I had to pee. I held it hoping it would go away. That does usually work, however at mile three I still had to go, and at mile four and at mile five. I decided I did need to make the stop at the mile five port-o-potty. I wasn’t going to run the rest of the race with a full bladder.

mile 1-8:44

mile 2-9:02

mile 3-8:59

mile 4-8:59

mile 5-10:05

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During the next miles I watched as more and more people passed me and my pace slowed. I had to remind myself not to compare myself to others. I was running my own race for myself in an effort to achieve my own goal. It didn’t matter what I ran as long as I ran for myself. Run happy!

mile 6-8:55

mile 7-9:16

mile 8-9:03

This race the headphones and music were going much earlier than state #15.  Luke Bryan, Avicii, Drake and the Great Gatsby soundtrack really kept me going.

mile 9-9:51

mile 10-9:02

mile 11-8:53

Around mile 14 runners started climbing a hill that would go on for over a mile. This was hard for me and I had to draw on some mental energy.  It was the only time I walked the entire race.  The downhills were awesome though and this area was mostly shaded.

mile 12-9:22

mile 13-8:59

mile 14-10:46

mile 15-8:53

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Around mile 16 we began entering town. There were friendly people outside their homes and tons of them, I mean tons, had so generously set up sprinklers and hoses for runners going by their houses. This was AMAZING! During these last miles the temperatures had really started to climb, yet I hardly had a chance to overheat too much with cold water to run through every quarter to a half mile for the remainder of the course. Awesome fans!

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mile 16-9:09

mile 17-8:54

mile 18-9:06

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As I neared mile 19 I was feeling pretty good. I knew that I was going to do this and actually was feeling better than the early miles now that my legs had warmed up and the one long uphill was over. I was running really strong in the heat on tired legs. Run happy!

mile 19-9:45

mile 20-9:17

mile 21-9:18

mile 22-9:39

Around mile 23 I decided I was feeling good enough to pick up the pace for a bit. It ended up being the last four miles. I was warmed up and had gotten used to the feeling of running on tired legs which made it easier. Oddly enough I felt adjusted to the heat.

mile 23-8:59

mile 24-8:57

As I closed in on the final miles and the home stretch I gave it all I had. I thought I had a chance at running under four, but knew I had to give it my all with my bathroom break at mile five.

mile 25-8:44

mile 26-8:47

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I saw the husband cheering and snapping photos in the final .2 and felt a surge of happiness and pride. I could have never done this without his support. I also had visions of water dancing in my head.

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I also have to admit I teared up happy tears as I closed in on that finish line.  I was so proud of how I overcame the heat, repeated and followed my mantra (well, Brooks, but that is a technicality) and finished state number 16 nine days after running state number 15.  I actually felt better during the last six miles of this race than I did on my fourth of July marathon. I was strong through all the discomfort.  With temperatures in the eighties when I finished, I was so pumped with my performance.  I would have loved to have shaved that minute and 25 seconds off to be under four hours, but I ran much better than I had anticipated.

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After finishing my race the husband commented he couldn’t believe how well I ran with tired legs and the heat. He might have heard me whine a bit about heat before. Plus based on my midway pace he expected me to come in fifteen to twenty minutes later. He was so proud and made me feel even prouder.

My husband deserves a lot of credit for the support he gives me on my journey in racing all 50 states. Without him I would never be able to accomplish this goal. He does so with a smile and a joking demeanor which I love him for. The race director deserves a lot of credit, too. The course was great and I’m so appreciative for the shaded parts during the second half of the marathon-well planned! Everything from start to finish was so organized. One of the top races I’ve run. On top of that the shirts were great, the medals fab and personalized race bibs topped it off.

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Missoula Marathon
Time: 4:01:26 (Damn, that bathroom break) 🙂
Pace: 9:13
Overall: 377/1168
Gender: 130/562
Age Group: 32/86

{State #15-Oregon} Foot Traffic Flat Marathon

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It feels like this race was a million years ago…perhaps because it sort of was. Writing race reports weeks after the race is hard. During the race I have so many thoughts and ideas going through my head. If I don’t get them down on paper or makes notes, then my mind is wiped clean after a few days. It seems like a different part of my brain gets used when running those long runs/races that doesn’t get used at other times. Good thing I have a few photos to conjure up some memories.

I had signed up for the Foot Traffic Flat Marathon back in December when this whole Go West road trip was still just a dream. No details were set or travel plans made. I just knew I’d be running a marathon, state #15, in Oregon on the 4th of July. I love holiday races as they give you an excuse to dress up and it makes choosing a race outfit easier it gives you a reason to buy new running gear.

Tank-Athleta Turbocharge Tank, Shorts-Oiselle Distance Short, Socks-Procompression, Headband-Bic Bands

Tank-Athleta Turbocharge Tank, Shorts-Oiselle Distance Short, Socks-Procompression, Headband-Bic Bands

Shuttle transportation was strongly recommended, so the husband and I were up at 4:15 to get on the road by 4:45 to catch a shuttle that would take us to the island.

Lets just say when I woke up I wasn’t feeling this race. The day before had been spent driving 855 miles from the Grand Tetons to Portland. We had been in the car for thirteen plus hours. The legs weren’t exactly used to moving despite a quick hike at Multnomah Falls en route to Portland.

As most of my race reports read I also didn’t get to bed early at all. We ate dinner at 9:45 that night and it was nearly midnight when lights were out. But, sometimes we just suck it up, buttercup. So I did with the help of some Starbucks Frappuccino’s I’d bought for the trip and the morning sun rising over the Sauvie Island Bridge.
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Participants and spectators could buy tickets to ride the shuttle, and tickets had to be purchased in advance for their planning purposes. Shuttles were efficient and took the parking chaos out of race day prep. The husband liked not having to drive around, drop me off and find parking.
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The race took place on Sauvie Island which is fifteen minutes away from Portland. The race started at a pumpkin patch with a cute little farmers market type place with a barn and buildings selling goodies.
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A 6:30 start time got us out and away from the worst of the sun, but it was still a warm one!
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The course took you around the island with an out and back section first, followed by an loop that was part of the half marathon course. While there were half marathon walkers to run around in those last miles there were not so many that it was inconvenient or annoying. It also could have been the fact that I could be found walking at time those last miles. I was had begun dying a slow death from the sun and heat. I really didn’t notice anyone much those last miles. All I could think about were water, shade, and water.
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The course itself was flat (as the name indicates) and was full of farms growing beautiful flowers and berries. It was unique to see rather than the corn fields, soybeans and alfalfa were used to in the midwest. One of my favorite parts of the race (other than the finish) was the field of lavender growing along the road. There was a bench in the middle of the field and it looked like a place you could just spend time reflecting on life or reading a book. Much of the course was along water as well with it being an island and all.
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My goal for the race was to make it mentally easy and to run controlled. My legs were recovering from the 50k I’d ran less than a month earlier. I had another marathon to run in nine days. I had hiked almost 50 miles that week with lots more coming the next week. If I ran like an idiot, then I would pay big time. I kept the pace comfortable and challenged myself to run sans music until mile 13. Then I pushed it to mile 14 and then 15. Around mile 16/17 though I felt like I really needed that music.
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The first half plus was in the sun entirely. There was a nice breeze and since the sun wasn’t high in the sky it wasn’t too bad. Around miles 14 there was some shade which made running seem so much easier.

I spent a lot of my time thinking about how lucky and prideful I feel to live in the USA. I get to race all 50. I get to travel when I want, where I want. I can share what I want about it. That pride for my country carries through all the time.
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Then it was back to sun for more miles. Around mile 21 I got this surge and really picked up the pace and felt great. My legs were not tired or even sore.

Probably not the best idea because around mile 23 we hit the sun for the last three miles and it was like I had used up my batteries. Ugh! Those last three miles they were unpleasant sucked!

I’ve never been a great heat runner, but I definitely felt stronger because of pushing through. I was actually surprised I was able to finish in the time I did with the heat and only doing recovery miles since the 50k. Knowing there was strawberry shortcake at the finish helped me push through the heat. And my husband running next to me for a mile, too. What a nice guy!
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The strawberry shortcake tasted just how I’d imagined it would, the shirts were great and the medals awesome! Plus I love when races put your name on bibs. Hearing your name cheered is so encouraging!
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Foot Traffic Flat Marathon
Time: 3:54:41
Pace: 8:57
Overall: 127/347
Gender: 46/165
Age Group: 5/27

{State #14-Kansas} Pilgrim Pacer Marathon

IMG_4496Saturday was the Pilgrim Pacer Marathon in Shawnee, Kansas. This race report starts very similar to others. We arrived later than expected Friday night due to road construction and a later than planned departure after work. I got to bed at 2:00 a.m., but did get to sleep a fair amount en route to Kansas thanks to my amazing support network aka the husband.
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Upon arriving I was pleasently surprised by our hotel room. We always get rooms from Hotwire when staying out of town-ALWAYS. I usually love our rooms, and I love Hotwire for their great rates, reliable star ratings, and excellent customer service. Of the 26 hotels rooms, 5 car rentals, and 2 flights I’ve booked through the company I’ve only had one issue with a hotel room. They immediately refunded my purchase and helped find a new room. If there star ratings change after you’ve booked a room, then they offer you two choices- #1) Keep the room and get $25 towards a future room reservation through Hotwire or #2) Cancel your reservation with no consequences and rebook a room you want. This has only happened twice to me in the past few years.
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This weekend was no exception except we got a lot more space than I’d anticipated for $125 total (both nights).

Trying to show the arm warmers.

Trying to show the arm warmers.

After five hours of sleep, I was up and getting ready. I was hungry so I ate a granola bar I’d never eaten before (Broken Running Rule #1-Don’t eat new foods on race day). I got dressed for the warmer weather (highs in the 60’s) I was looking forward to. Because of the cool initial temps I wore Asics Arm Warmers I got for Christmas last year, but had never gotten to wear yet (Broken Running Rule #2-Don’t wear new race gear on race day). They turned out to be perfect for the change in temperatures during the race. Then I grabbed breakfast at our hotel (a bagel) and headed to the race without my water…oops (Broken Running Rule #3-Drink water/start hydrating before a race.)
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When I got to the race everything was smooth sailing. Within 15 minutes I had picked up my packet, used the bathroom, and taken my extra gear back to the car. While in line I met someone originally from Wisconsin and chatted with runners about the challenging course. Soon it was time to take off.

Times 2!  Out-back-out-back.

Times 2! Out-back-out-back.

My goal for the race was to run near 9:00 minute miles and run under four hours. The first half of the race was good. I noticed in the first miles that this course was going to be much hillier than I’d anticipated. I knew I was in for it on the last miles.

mile 1-8:49

mile 2-8:44

mile 3-8:44

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We then passed Shawnee Lake and continued on the trails. The entire race was ran on paved trails that connected Shawnee to Olathe, Kansas. The race was an out and back half marathon and an out and back x 2 marathon. I’d never ran a marathon route like this before, so I wasn’t sure what I’d think about it. I didn’t feel like water so I skipped a few water stations (Broken Running Rule #4-Drink before you feel thirsty.)
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mile 4-8:56

mile 5-8:56

mile 6-8:44
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The colors were in full blaze and the temperature was warming up. I was feeling really good at this point in the race. I reached the first turn around and had a mix of feelings-the exciting, it’s the turn around and the dreadful-I have to run back to this spot again.

mile 7-9:04

mile 8-8:31

mile 9-8:46
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It was at this point in the race that I realized just how tired my legs felt from running a PR in a half marathon six days earlier (Broken Running Rule #5-Don’t race a PR before running another much longer race days later.) My legs hadn’t been sore or tired on my mid-week runs, but I hadn’t ran far either.

mile 10-8:44

mile 11-9:02

mile 12-9:17
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The hills we ran down in the beginning were rough on the way back. I just couldn’t believe that I wasn’t done at the half marathon. I had to repeat this whole distance again! I really wanted to be done at the half marathon and actually let my mind go to that place of maybe I should short change myself and finish after 13.1 miles. Then I slapped myself mentally! You don’t drive to Kansas to quit. I must have been delirious or just a damn dummy. Ryan’s grandma, Evelyn, used to affectionately use this phrase often. You damn dummy!

mile 13-9:12

mile 14-8:32

mile 15-8:47
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Miles 13-15 offered a shift in mentality. This race was full of highs and lows. These miles were highs as fans cheered really hard for marathoners since there were not a ton of us mixed in with half marathoners. Even fewer than marathoners, I learned, were female marathoners. The encouragement of fans saying “go marathoner”, “way to go lady”, “go #236”, “your the fifth female”, and just the extra excitement they gave to marathoners helped me push passed my mental struggles. On the second out and back so many half marathoners cheered for me that I couldn’t help but smile. I really needed it at that point, too. I saw the guy I met at the bathrooms who recognized me and began yelling, “go Wisconsin”. The running community is so supportive and kind!

mile 16-9:46

mile 17-9:07

mile 18-9:29

At this point in the race I was basically running alone. My mental state began to swing low again. I was also thirsty. I passed a water stop and only had one drink. Bad idea. (Broken Running Rule #Whocankeepcount) Then my mental state went waaaaayyyyy low. I had used my mental toughness up earlier this week PR’ing at the Rails to Trails Half Marathon. Yes, I believe it is hard to run challenging races back to back. The mental energy it takes to stay focused and on pace should never be underestimated. It can be freakin’ exhausting at times. I really struggled with this as evidenced by the rest of my mile splits. I just couldn’t get my mind to go to that mental place where I push through.

mile 19-10:19

mile 20-11:15

mile 21-9:13
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At the second turn around of the full marathon I had three drinks. One gatorade, one water, and one ginger ale. I had never had ginger ale in my life (Broken Running Rule #7-Do not try new food or drinks on long runs/races), but learned I really like this stuff. I knew I was dehydrated at mile 18. I was starting to get dizzy and feel disorientated. All I could think about was being done running and guzzling a gallon of anything. It was warmer than I’d anticipated and I have only myself to blame. I did not drink enough fluids the day before or the day of. Going out Thursday night and having adult beverages until too late in the morning was not good pre-race preparation either. (Broken Running Rule #8, 9, and 10-Get a good nights sleep two nights before a race, drink extra fluids the days before, and avoid things that dehydrate you i.e. alcohol.)

mile 22-9:45

mile 23-10:15

mile 24-9:54

I knew I had to drink more fluids so at all the remaining water stops I had both a gatorade and a water. It helped and by mile 23 or 24 I started to at least think clearly again.

mile 25-10:35

mile 26-10:24

The last two miles were uphill. I hated them. I didn’t like running them one bit. I would not run them again with a fox (no matter what it says.) I would not run them in a box. I would not run them again for free socks. You get the point. This was a rough race for me and I have only myself to blame.
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Considering I broke at least ten common sense running rules prior to and during this race it is a bit of a miracle that I finished. I didn’t reach my goal, but was content with my time considering it was way hillier than I thought it would be and that my last run over 13.something miles was the Big Cottonwood Marathon in September in Utah (and we all know how in shape I wasn’t for that race.) There were also only 34 female runners who ran the marathon compared to 90 guys.

The mixed emotions at the finish.

The mixed emotions at the finish.

Nevertheless, I think the last paragraph sounds like a whole lot of excuses. It was a weird feeling at the finish line; I actually felt kind of stupid. Who did I think I was? What was I thinking breaking so many “running rules” and expecting to run decent on a challenging course. These were new and unexpected finish line emotions for me. In all honesty, I needed a challenging race like this. I needed a race like this to humble me and remind me of the beast the marathon is. You cannot outsmart the distance. I needed a little kick back to reality to remind me that you have to train, prepare, and get your body ready. No matter how many races you run, you are not too good for simple running common sense. I let myself get cocky and overly confident.
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Consider myself humbled. I’ve learned my lesson until the next time. I look forward to my winter recovery and base milage building that will help me start spring training with a strong base. I look forward to actually training for a marathon again, instead of running them underprepared. Running the Pilgrim Pacer Marathon was the perfect wake up call I needed.

The actual race was well organized, beautiful, and challenging (which they said many places on their website). The medals were huge (size of a cd) and the shirts were super cool; a big part of why I picked this as my Kansas.
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I also chose this race as my Kansas because it was close as possible to home and the time of the year worked well for my schedule. I was bummed to not get pumpkin pie or a mug like the website said, but in all honesty I didn’t really deserve those things after the performance I gave.
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Enough of my self-pity. Humbled. Lesson learned. We all need races like this every now and then. It doesn’t mean we’ve failed; we just get to come back smarter, stronger, and better ready to face future challenges.
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Pilgrim Pacer Marathon
Time: 4:06:38
Pace: 9:25
Overall: 32/120
Gender: 6/34
Age Group: 3/5
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{State #13-Utah} Big Cottonwood Marathon

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Friday after school ended I head to the elevated state-Utah. I had a direct flight and the pleasure of sitting next to a man who was burping thick, hearty burps aloud that also had an onion-ish smell during most of the flight. I nearly gagged a few times. I feel I may need to begin wearing a sign on flights that says if you do gross or weird things on a flight, then I will write about you online. Other than this, the flight was great. I had a chance to read a book and my new edition of Runner’s World.

My flight landed at 8:40 p.m. and it was off to pick up my rental car and head to the hotel. My hotel was only eight miles away and near a gas station where I picked up water and vitamin water. So many kids have been sick at school already and I had been feeling on the verge of a cold for the past few days. Once I was in my hotel room, I laid out my race gear for the next morning and was in bed by 10:30. I had a very early wake up coming.

At 3:45 a.m. my alarm went off and I was up and out of bed. I was surprisingly not that tired and fairly efficient at getting myself ready and out the door in less than 40 minutes. I ate my typical morning bagel and packed along a Blueberry Luna bar just in case I got hungry later. I had a coffee cup with Diet Dew and a bottle of water to take on the bus ride up the mountain. I also had my layers prepared as I knew it would be cold on the mountain top (50 degrees). Buses started leaving at 4:00 a.m. with the last bus leaving at 5:00 a.m. for a 6:40 a.m. race start. I was aboard a bus by 4:35 a.m. ready to head up the mountain top.

On the ride up the mountain it was completely dark; views of Salt Lake City lit up the valley. As we climbed the mountain in the school bus, I could see nothing out the window, but could feel the bus climbing. After about a 30 minute ride towards the top our bus came to a stop. People on the bus from the area mentioned there was little space to turn around and how narrow the road is. They also mentioned there were few guardrails on Big Cottonwood Canyon Road.

Course Map

Course Map

After sitting for 15 minutes without moving, people started to get uneasy and wonder what was going on. A few people got off the bus to pee in the darkness; with narrow roads and no real shoulder people did this at their own risk. A few minutes later some of the bathroom goers got back on the bus and said two or three buses ahead there was a bus that took a very tight up the mountain turn too tight. The front and back tires of the bus were off the ground and the mid-section of the bus was stuck on the turn blocking both lanes of the road. No buses could go up or down the mountain. After another ten minutes some runners on other buses got off the buses to walk to the start of the race. Our bus decided that would not be smart considering mile marker three up ahead indicated we still had three miles to go to the start, it was pitch black out, and the road was narrow without guardrails.

Soon a tow truck was up the mountain and a runner told the guy to hook up his chain and get that bus out of the way. The guy said he wasn’t sure he would be able to, but the runner told him to get going. With a fresh burned rubber smell in the air and another 30 minutes past, we were headed back up the mountain…for 100 meters. Then our bus stalled and the starter went out four times in the next half mile. The last two and a half miles were uneventful; thank gosh!

Marathon Elevation Map

Marathon Elevation Map

At the top of the mountain the sun was starting to come up so we could see. The plus of this delay is it wouldn’t be dark for the first three miles of the race, rather we could see during the entire race. It was a mad dash for stops at the port a potty and packet drop off.

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The race began about 35-40 minutes later than scheduled, however the race directors and organizers did an awesome job with the entire situation. I was surprised they even got us started that early considering buses didn’t get to the top until an hour plus after they were supposed to. Finally we were off!  I’m going to let the photos do most the talking in this race report!
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The first mile was steep and I could feel my knees hurting. I was freaked; what if this continued? I kept my cool and after the first mile the feeling disappeared as my muscles warmed and the steepness declined. Many people asked me about the elevation’s impact on my running; I really didn’t notice it much at all. A few times during the race I noticed I was breathing heavier than usual, but I was also very out of shape and had been congested so I really can’t say with certainty it was the elevation.

mile 1

mile 1

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mile 1-9:30

mile 2

mile 2

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mile 2-9:23
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mile 3-9:31
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The quads were saying hi at this point already!  I was staying positive, but was also making a mental note.  I needed to keep the pace slow to save up for later.  I had a long way to go with not a lot of training to fall back on.

mile 4-9:40

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mile 5-9:20
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mile 6-9:22
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IMG_3816These miles were just ticking by so fast!

mile 7-9:30

mile 8-10:00
Big Cottonwood Marathon 8

mile 9-10:44 (bathroom break)
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The beauty of the course continued to amaze me.  By mile 10 I could really feel my quads.  I guess that is the reason for completing downhill training when preparing for a downhill marathon.  Even with a healed ankle it would have been a challenge to truly prepare for this type of course.  The pain was negated by the beauty all around.  The feeling of running in such a gorgeous place was indescribable.  I kept smiling and falling in love with running all over again.  I was so glad to be out there running; I felt so lucky!

mile 10-9:22

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mile 11-9:33
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We came out of this tight curve to a whole new scene.  New trees, and more green with a drop in elevation.  So pretty!IMG_3825
mile 12-9:28

The nice thing about just running to finish is you have time to pause for photos.

The nice thing about just running to finish is you have time to pause for photos.

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mile 13-9:24
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mile 14-9:27
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Big Cottonwood Marathon

Big Cottonwood Marathon 2
mile 15-9:33
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Big Cottonwood Marathon 11

Big Cottonwood Marathon 12
mile 16-9:17
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Big Cottonwood Marathon 13

This photo was for you, Meg!  I thought of you and your dad at this point and smiled!

This photo was for you, Meg! I thought of you and your dad at this point and smiled!

mile 17-9:21
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mile 18-9:13

At this point we left the canyon behind and were headed onto a bike path that led to a road.  The flat road miles seemed to be the longest miles of my life.
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The sun was high in the sky and the drop in elevation was warming things up.  Did I mention at this point my quads are on fire had been going through my head for some time sung to the tune of “This girl is on fire” by Alicia Keys.

mile 19-9:44

Big Cottonwood Marathon 3

mile 20-9:56
Big Cottonwood Marathon 4

I had been in pain for a few miles and finally felt a bit better.  That feeling would be short lived.

mile 21-12:05 (bathroom break)

After mile 21 I don’t even remember the race very clearly.  I was in so much pain. My quads hurt, my back hurt from holding my running form downhill, I was having major GI issues (stomach cramps, extra bathroom stop) which NEVER happens to me.  I knew I was thirsty and my muscles felt like they needed a GU (i.e. energy), but I knew Gatorade messed with my stomach and the issues I was having forced me to forgo any GU’s or Gatorade.  This meant no extra electrolytes, calories, or go for the hardest miles of the race.

mile 22-10:22

mile 23-9:31

mile 24-11:14

I had been pushing as hard as I could for the past six miles, taking 1:00 minute walk breaks when my stomach cramps got too bad-something I’d never done before.  With mile marker 25 up ahead I felt tears welling up in my eyes.  I just couldn’t run.  My legs had nothing left, I felt weak, my stomach hated me.  I couldn’t believe the mess I was.  There is NO crying in running.  I pulled myself together in defeat and did something I’ve never done before and I walked a mile of the race, mile 25.

mile 25-13:58

I knew I had to start running again, so I did. One more mile to go.

mile 26-10:42

So relieved to be meters from the finish!

So relieved to be meters from the finish!


mile 26.2-8:19
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Loved the popsicles and Jimmy John's at the finish!

Loved the popsicles and Jimmy John’s at the finish!


and this puppy!
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Cottonwood HS makes me think of the Scream movies..."Sydney" in creepy voice!

Cottonwood HS makes me think of the Scream movies…”Sydney” in creepy voice!

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Running this race taught me so much about pushing through pain and your comfort zone.  I never thought about quitting rather I tried to embrace the pain and remember the more I pushed, the sooner I was done.  I’ve already begun to forget how those miles hurt towards the end.  I guess that is why people subject themselves to the pain again.  

In the end I was proud.  Despite running my slowest marathon ever, I was happy I finished with only three weeks of low mileage training after being injured.  Without any downhill preparation, I ran 18 miles downhill.  I was proud and content with my time considering the situation.  At one point a week before the race, when life was crazy and my confidence low, I mentioned possibly not going.  I decided that was foolish as who knows when I’d be able to complete this race again.  I set aside my fears, went after my goal of 50 in 50, and did it.  I went big!

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I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t upset hearing about all the people who qualified for Boston at this race, but figure there must be a reason why I got injured and won’t be at that starting line next spring.  There will be chances again in the future; I must remember this when I get down on myself about my slow race time.  I went big! I ran in a beautiful location in a once in a lifetime race. I tackled a challenge of a marathon without truly training. It was an awesome experience and the runners got the gold treatment.

If you EVER have a chance to run this race-DO IT! It is gorgeous. The race is one of the most organized I’ve ever ran, the medals and shirts are awesome, runners were taken care of from start to finish with tattoos, bags, gloves, and goodies at the start; plus free photos were automatically posted to your facebook. This was a top notch race. I’m so glad I ran it as my Utah!
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Big Cottonwood Marathon
Time:  4:22:11
Pace: 10:00min/mile
Place: 835/1308
Gender: 426/733
Age Group:  48/89

{#12} Alabama-Mercedes Marathon

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After hitting up Target and Starbucks for some rejuvenation after my half marathon in Georgia it was time to head to Alabama. I was surprisingly not tired and feeling great. The drive would take about two and a half hours. I stopped every hour to walk around and stretch my legs. Once I started to see more of these I knew I was close.2013-02-16 16.06.07
Before long I had reached the state line.

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I checked into my hotel, took a shower, and got ready to do some exploring. The expo was right near the start of the race in downtown Birmingham at the Auditorium.

Packet pickup at the expo.

Packet pickup at the expo.


I found parking in a ramp and headed into the expo. The expo had some great merchandise, but I was able to bypass it all and head straight for my packet. The shirts we got were great; they also gave free gloves since the start of the race would be cold.

Packet pickup was a breeze. Leaving the parking ramp was not. There was not an attendant and the machine would not take my dollar bill. The only other cash I had was a twenty and some change, but not enough to make one dollar in quarters. As the cars piled up behind me and my stupid dollar bill refused to be accepted, I threw some curse words out in case that might help. I’ve found it rarely improves the situation, but makes me feel like I have some control I suppose. I had no choice but to squeeze myself out a very small opening in the driver car door and ask the car behind me if they had quarters for my dollar. I felt really stupid. Then I remembered, I will NEVER see these people again! Crisis averted.

Next on my list was to head to The Summit which I had heard had great shopping and places to eat. I can tell how to get to most shopping centers in major cities once I’ve been there at least once. Add The Summit to my list. This both annoys and irritates my husband, but I can’t help the skills I possess.

I had wanted to buy a new pair of shorts for some time from Lululemon, but since the nearest one is in Madison (this is good, I
just haven’t made it there yet) and I despise their return policy with internet orders, I thought what better night than tonight. I had decided to wear shorts to the race the following morning, but hadn’t packed any. It would be in the 30’s, but it would be warmer towards the end. So I headed to Lululemon and bought a pair of shorts. I am sort of seeing if my husband reads any of these posts by putting this paragraph in my post. He won’t like to read it, but this is a test. Please don’t throw me under the bus with the shorts. I don’t mind if he doesn’t read it-I’m just checking.

I had seen a Pinkberry a few stores down and knew I had to stop there. I had some amazing frozen yogurt with strawberries and raspberries on top. The cutest little kid kept running over and trying to sit on my lap. It was very entertaining. From there I went to California Pizza Kitchen to place a to go order. The place was absolutely packed; a person could hardly move in there. I wanted pasta though, so it was worth the wait and I had never eaten there before. I tried the Tomato Basil Spaghettini with Grilled Chicken. It was great.

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While eating in my hotel room I lucked out and caught the Beyonce documentary-Life is but a Dream. It was part documentary and part video diary. Ever since the Super Bowl, I’ve been intrigued by her and I loved the documentary. It helped motivate me because I run the world-well, my gender does, so close enough.

With the alarm set for 5:45 I was off to dream a little dream. The next morning my legs felt good. They were not stiff or sore. Perhaps my quads a bit. I stuck with my choice to wear shorts even though I felt unsure. I didn’t give myself extra time to decide. Parking was not so great and I ended up making my own parking spot and jogging to the start. I visited the restroom as the starting gun was going off. I was running for fun today so I felt stress free. I was one of the only people in shorts, but then many of these people are not from Wisconsin.

The goal today was to run near a 9:00 minute mile pace (under four hours) so I would be able to easily finish. I had never ran a double and did not train for a double weekend. The first miles were like many races-filled with adrenaline, uncertainty, and excitement. My legs were cold, but excited to be free from pants and capris. I had on a stocking hat over a headband, gloves, and a throw away long sleeve shirt. I also was wearing my life savers, aka, my compression socks. I love these!

Love me some compression socks.  They speed recovery and boost blood flow.

Love me some compression socks. They speed recovery and boost blood flow.


By mile 5, I could feel that my legs didn’t feel fresh and I was having trouble keeping my pace even. This made me nervous, but since they didn’t hurt I wasn’t too concerned.

mile 1-9:02

mile 2-7:50

mile 3-10:09

mile 4-8:45

mile 5-9:14

As I turned the corner approaching mile 6, I noticed the church parking lots full of spectators with their own water stations set up. They were so generous. At mile 6 I was actually handed my water by a baptist preacher in full preacher attire. This is how you know you are south. Baptist preachers don’t generally hand out water at their church’s water stop on a Sunday morning race.

Speaking of preachers, running is often when I feel the most spiritual. Something about pushing yourself to a certain pain level makes things around you seem more clear. I see the best in others as people cheer for complete strangers, volunteer their time, support loved ones, raise money for charity, and offer their bodies in the memory or support for another person or organization. In our busy world with crime-filled headlines on the news each day, running marathons and seeing the kindness and unity of others together is a treasured, and what I call spiritual awakening. Certain amounts of pain are also humbling and make one very aware of their need for their loved ones and people in their lives. I felt this with a great strength on this Sunday morning. Perhaps running a mile for someone who inspired and supported me made the experience all the more magical.

mile 6-8:52

mile 7-9:37

mile 8-8:35

mile 9-9:06

mile 10-8:55

Not only were the preachers out on the race course, but streets are named after them, too.

Not only were the preachers out on the race course, but streets are named after them, too.

Tons of police were at every intersection. Many streets were not closed, and hundreds of police helped keep runners safe at intersections. The water stops were especially well run and people were so incredibly helpful and kind. There wasn’t any sweet tea at the waters stops which I’d expected since they were always asking if you wanted it at restaurants.

Birmingham was so friendly that farmer blowing is common practice. I’ve always prided myself on this skill I have, yet feel embarrassed to do it in the company of others. On this Sunday morning there were many people out their clearing their nasal passages-me included. I was so excited to not be alone.

It was around mile 11 that the weather started to warm up. I was grateful to have put on shorts that morning. As we neared mile 13 I knew my legs were getting tired. It was as I came up on mile 12.5 that I got some extra motivation. At the exact moment I passed a police SUV with all of its doors wide open I heard “in the woods of Wisconsin” (Red Hot Chili Peppers-Around the World) blasting from the vehicle. What a motivational boost. I was pumped.

mile 11-8:37

mile 12-9:15

mile 13-10:12

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Half way point!

Half way point!

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During the second half of the race I began thinking about what it would have been like to run down these streets 50 years earlier. I thought about how the world was so different 50 years ago, especially in Birmingham. The civil rights movement was in swing and Marin Luther King Jr. had been jailed where he wrote “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. It was in Birmingham that four young girls were killed while at Sunday school and riots erupted as a result. It was strange and surreal to run down the streets of Birmingham and imagine this unimaginable world.

After the race, I saw these signs and realized 2013 is the 50 year celebration of civil rights in Birmingham.

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As the miles ticked by I continued to take in my surroundings. Some were sad and hopeful like the thoughts of Birmingham 50 years ago. Others were funny. Many were of people in my lives.

mile 14-9:40

mile 15-8:58

mile 16-8:30

mile 17-9:22

mile 18-10:02

Around mile 18, there was a family cheering on the side of the course. The daughter who appeared to be four was screaming and crying her head off. Her mother stated to runners passing by that her daughter was simply feeling our pain. I laughed out loud at her statement.

mile 19-8:49

mile 20-8:51

mile 21-11:56

mile 22-9:28

mile 23-8:38

As the miles to go went down in number and finally reached single digits, my legs were grateful. They were definitely losing steam with each passing mile. I took hope in the sunny skies as my skin celebrated the vitamin D. I felt overjoyed at the sight of green grass and the sounds of chirping birds. Winter has seemed to be going on forever in Wisconsin. On that Sunday morning I smelled it! I smelled spring again! It filled me with hope and put a smile on my face.

mile 24-9:17

At mile 25, one of my favorite current songs came on-Thrift Shop. This gave me an added boost to get my butt moving. After this song was the final stretch.
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mile 25-8:18

The final stretch means it is time to buckle down and just go. Forget the pain. Forget the deadness in your legs. Just move it. As Thrift Shop came to an end, Eminem-‘Till I Collapse came on like clockwork.

‘Cause sometimes you just feel tired,
Feel weak, and when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up.
But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength
And just pull that **** out of you and get that motivation to not give up
And not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse.

Perfect for the final stretch!

mile 26-7:51

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Mile 26.2-3:53:54

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I felt so happy to be done. I felt so proud to have completed my double. The weather was in the 50’s, the sun was shining, and I was done.

I accepted my finisher’s medal and then my finisher’s hat (did I mention they spoil runners at this race) and did some stretching in the park at the finish.

Likely the closest I'll get to owning something with a Mercedes Benz ornament on it.

Likely the closest I’ll get to owning something with a Mercedes Benz ornament on it.

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After stretching, I did some exploring around the park.
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Then it was time to get some free food at the post race party. They had unlimited free beer, too!

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The food was amazing!

The food was amazing!

It was then time to say good bye to the city of Birmingham.

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I headed back to my hotel to shower and pack up before my afternoon flight. As I reflected (literally and figuratively), I was proud and excited to have completed both races and not feel terrible. I know there will be more double weekends in my future.

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Mercedes Marathon
Time: 3:53:52
Pace: 8:55
Overall: 333/992
Gender: 87/358
Age: 13/39

{#11} Georgia-Run the Reagan 1/2 Marathon

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In an effort to continue running races in new states and use up a plane ticket voucher that would expire in April, I scheduled a second and third race four weeks after my marathon in Arizona. Since I had never attempted two races in two days, or ran any distance after running a half marathon this would be my first attempt at a double weekend. I was nervous to say the least. Making me even more nervous was the fact that life got busy and winter weather was uncooperative, so the longest run I did in between Arizona and Georgia was 8.5 miles. I know that to accomplish my goal of 50 marathons in 50 states I will likely have several weekends of double races in my future.

My first race of my double weekend was the Run the Reagan Half Marathon on Saturday. This half marathon was in Snellville, Georgia, a town of about 18,000 people outside of Atlanta. I flew from Madison to Birmingham, Alabama late Friday afternoon.

Every time I fly I am reminded of how much I love the feeling of the moment when the wheels lift off the ground. The feeling of going somewhere! To top off the feeling is my love for Delta’s biscoff cookies! They always remind me of eating windmill cookies as a child and the windmills my grandpa used to make in his workshop.

The only thing bringing me out of my biscoff euphoria was the guy sitting next to me on the plane blasting Evil Woman and ordering double Jack and Cokes. His only break from the drinks was during his nap which involved loud, head back, open-mouthed snoring. As soon as he woke up, it was back to the Jack and Cokes. He left his music device filled with woman hater music on his seat as he staggered off the plane. Rest assured, I did the right thing and returned it to him. I guess it could have been worse; he could have slapped a baby.
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I arrived in Birmingham at 9:15 pm and headed to the rental car lot to pick up my rental vehicle. By 9:45 I was on the road. Apparently, Alabama shares a season with us called road construction. They also change the speed limits on the interstates and highways often. It must be like a game for them. During my two and a half hour drive the speed limit varied between 45, 55, 60, 65, 70 and back and forth and back and forth. Adding to my dismay was the realization that Alabama was not in the Eastern Time Zone rather it was in the central time zone. I would be arriving at my hotel in Georgia not at 12:30 am as I had planned, but 1:30 am. One hour of sleep lost. I arrived at my hotel at 1:30 am and was in bed by 2:15. Five hours later my alarm went off.

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As some of you may have heard on the Weather Channel’s locals on the 8’s, (why I like to watch this even when at home I don’t know) most of the eastern part of the nation has been experiencing a cold front. In Georgia this means lows in the 30’s and high’s in the 50’s. I dressed in my lighter winter running gear and headed to Snellville, a 15 minute drive. Upon arriving to the start of the race, I picked up my race packet and headed to the starting line.

The race course was an out and back route with rolling hills the entire route. The race took place on Ronald Reagan Parkway, hence the name Run the Reagan. The race is a smaller race with almost no fans, but good race support. The route was not anything special or interesting to look like. The goal for the day was to take it easy and keep it feeling easy. I wanted to finish the race and not feel overly tired or sore later. I kept my pace comfortable throughout the entire race.

mile 1-8:33

mile 2-8:25

mile 3-8:35

mile 4-8:31

mile 5-9:58 (bathroom stop)

mile 6-8:46

mile 7-8:41

By mile eight I had started to get warm. By mile nine I was hot! The sun had come out in full force and I was dressed too warm. That always seems to happen to me. I fear being cold and overdress. No matter how many runs I do in different weather I seem to always question how to dress.

mile 8-8:46

mile 9-8:47

mile 10-8:37

mile 11-8:50

mile 12-8:50

mile 13-8:46

mile .1-7:35

I came across the finish feeling strong. I did some stretching and headed to the Target and Starbucks nearby. I tried their new Vanilla Spice Latte, which I would recommend. =)…Love!

Vanilla Spice Latte

Vanilla Spice Latte


Then it was time to hit the road for my two and a half hour drive back to Sweet Home Alabama for the Mercedes Marathon.
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Race Photo Link http://spotted.gwinnettdailypost.com/photos/index.php?id=278788&size=large

Run the Reagan Half Marathon
Time: 1:54:42
Pace: 8:46
Overall: 133/349
Gender: 34/165
Age: 7/31