{State #19} South Dakota

Every race teaches me something about myself.  With each race I learn that I am stronger than I thought I was in new, often unexpected ways.  I learn more about the power the mind holds to keep us moving forward during difficult times.  I learn new coping strategies to push through challenging parts.  Sometimes I consider what makes me love marathoning is not just exploring new places, but exploring more of myself.

The Brookings Marathon had a lot going for it.  First of all, it was FREE!  In honor of the Brookings Marathon’s 50th anniversary the first person from each state to register received a free entry.  I found a surprise refund check in my bag when I explored my race expo bag at my hotel.  Free marathon…yes, please!

The race was a small race which makes the expo, race day parking, navigation and finding where things are much simpler.  The race expo and race were extremely well organized and staffed with volunteers and organizers.  The event was clearly planned by runner(s) with runners in mind as it showed in so many of the details.  You would think this would be obvious at most races, but it is not always the case.  There was a stepped up bag, a quality shirt I actually liked and will wear (I’ve worn it three times already), and a map on the back of the bib.  The race course had tons of volunteers, close water stops, lots of restrooms and awesome signs put out throughout the entire race by organizers.  And did I mention this race was free for me.

Coming into this marathon I was more exhausted physically and emotionally than I can remember being before a race.  I was still getting used to eating normal meals after the nasty bought of food poisoning I had less than two weeks before that caused me to barely eat for days, not drink my morning coffee for NINE days (no coffee at all for FIVE days) and lose five pounds in five days.  Physically I did not feel I had full strength yet.  Emotionally I was so exhausted due to the passing of my son’s friend that week and attending the visitation the night before I left.  Consequently, I went into this race feeling pretty empty.  I guess that put me in the perfect spot to do some struggling…er, learning.

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The morning of the race, I woke up in good spirits framing my mind about what I knew would grow difficult at some point.  The marathon, no matter how many you do, I feel always hits a point or points where things get hard.  You just know it is going to happen.  Mentally preparing for it helps me to stay calm when this hits and know that I can work through this because I have before.

Mile 1-9:12
Mile 2-9:04
Mile 3-9:34
Mile 4-9:15
Mile 5-9:25

This race definitely taught me about my own strength as is was not very scenic.  Like at all.  Small parts went through parks and areas I’m sure the organizers tried to highlight, but alas it just isn’t in that scenic of an area.  Without the mental distraction of beautiful sites, this race was a bit of a slog fest for me.  The course also had lots and lots of turns.  Running tangents is something I think all marathon runners know about, but with some almost 100 turns I read someone say that brings it to a new level.  It was very distracting in a not great way to turn so much.

Mile 6-9:30
Mile 7-9:14
Mile 8-11:01 (Bathroom stop)
Mile 9-9:19
Mile 10-9:13

The roads were also not closed to traffic as it was a small race.  This was kind of new for me.  Even in smaller races I’ve done before, roads were closed or partially blocked off to provide runners space and peace of mind that they could focus on their race and not worry about the person who is not paying attention or looks down at their phone and sideswipes a runner.  This may seem like a small detail, but when my mind had been working on focusing on the task of running a marathon and working through those details, focusing on where I was in relation to traffic on some busy road stretches is NOT what I wanted to be doing.  It was extra tiring.

Mile 11-9:04
Mile 12-9:32
Mile 13-9:30
Mile 14-10:06 (change shirt and moved race bib to tank)
Mile 15-10:01

Despite these challenges, each race reminds me of things I often forget about.  In regular day to day it is easy to forget about the power of physically pushing your limits to exhaustion and the accomplishment this invites.  The power of people to encourage, uplift and inspire.  The power of a comment or phrase at just the right time.  The power of positivity in changing mindset.

Mile 16-9:37
Mile 17-9:35
Mile 18-9:37
Mile 19-9:33
Mile 20-10:14

The friendly people I chatted with on the course saved me.  Two in particular were both working on their 50 state goals also.  I got to meet and run with a woman who quit teaching after ~ten years to open a running store.  She is working on her second round of running 50 marathons in 50 states.  Her first round she completed by age 40.  She also told me about her recent running adventure of running a marathon in Antarctica followed by a week of exploring.  Later in the race when I swore I just didn’t want to talk to anyone came along a friendly mom of teens working on her 50 states goal.  This was state number 30 for her.  She’s was from Ohio, recommended the Flying Pig Marathon and invited me to stay with her when I run Ohio.  She was exactly what I needed to see and talk to at that exact moment in the race.  I was uplifted, encouraged and inspired by these people so much.

Mile 21-10:06
Mile 22-9:49
Mile 23-10:24 (Bathroom stop)
Mile 24-9:31

Since I ran a marathon six weeks prior without maintaining the training I’d hoped to (I know we’ve all heard that story before from me :), I did not have a set time goal in mind.  I needed to simply run and not have any extra pressures that day.  This was a slow marathon for me.  Even though I knew I didn’t have the training or the mental/physical state to push it, it is hard for me to know times I have ran in the past compared to what I’m running during this busy season of life.  I try no to dwell on that too much though.  I also like to remind people we all have our fast, slow and in between paces.  We all know what it feels like to run each of them.  The numbers really don’t matter so much as the sense it brings us in knowing what we are capable of running versus what we actually run.

During the last mile and a half of the race I was just so ready to be done.  At the halfway point of mile 25 I passed a sign that said I can and I will.  This became my motto for the rest of the race.  Every ten steps or so I would say out loud to myself, “I can and I will.”  Over and over again.  It got me to the finish.  It kept my mind on the task at hand.  It kept the negative out.  It kept me running when I wanted to stop.  And in the end, even though I was talking to myself and probably looked slightly crazy, I did it.  I can and I did.

Mile 25-9:44

Mile 26-9:00

Finish Time-4:13

The Brookings Marathon was mentally challenging to my already taxed brain with its extra challenges, focus zappers and negative distractions.  Had my headspace been better prior or had I had some companions, I might have viewed this a bit differently; take my description with a grain of salt.  I was so proud to have finished this race with only half my head and body in the game.  Not easy for me for sure.

No matter how a race goes running wise, I never forget that part of my goal is also to experience a state or city when crossing a state off of my list.  I did know going in that this wouldn’t be possible with every state to the extent I wanted it to be.  South Dakota was one of those states.  Since I had already taken a trip to South Dakota a few years ago to visit the Badlands (see below), Custer, Mt. Rushmore, etc. I was okay with this being a quick trip.  Let me be honest though it was not easy.  A six hour drive Friday, running a marathon, driving home six hours and getting home to put my kids to bed the same day was very tiring.

I did squeeze in some quick hiking in Garretson to visit Devil’s Gulch on Friday, a post-race celebratory brew at Eponymous Brewing Co. and stretched my legs in Sioux Falls at Falls Park on Saturday. The drive home took an extra shot of espresso in my coconut milk latte from Starbucks AND a stop at Caribou along with lots of singing to the radio.  Whatever it takes to accomplish this goal of mine.

As I finish this post two weeks post-marathon I still don’t know what my next running goal is exactly.  I’ve got some ideas, but no plans for sure.  It is both lovely and terrible to not have committed to what’s next, but it is also fitting for life right now.

Sarah

{State #18}-Indiana

You know you are a mother runner when you post and share that you finished your 17th state in your life goal to run a marathon in every state by your 50th birthday and a couple of weeks later you realize it was actually your 18th state.  But who is keeping count?  I’m not on a race to achieve 50 in 50, rather I’m on a journey. Hence the by 50 part of my goal.  50 in 50 by 50.

Indiana made me work for it for sure.  I had heard rave things about the Carmel Marathon including its cute town, the flat and fast course, the awesome support and the great organization.  I picked it because it worked with my timeline, and I was looking for a close spring race to impact my family and finances as little as possible.  While the rain certainly distracted me from the course and I’m sure reduced the fan support, I would say the above are all true about this race.

I headed to Indiana on Friday after taking a personal day from work.  The proposed drive time was longer than expected due to traffic, but when I arrived it was 60 and there was green grass everywhere so I really didn’t care too much.

I headed to explore the Arts District and grab some dinner.  I ended up enjoying a delicious local IPA, perhaps the best sweet potato fries of my life and some March Madness game time.  Eating in peace without someone asking for something, spilling their dinner or saying “I don’t like it” was well, perfect.  I love my kids, but sometimes meal time is not my favorite.

Packet pickup was a breeze.  Since the expo was almost over when I arrived, I grabbed my race bib and shirt and headed back to my hotel for the night.  After laying out my gear for the next day, reviewing the race course and reading a little Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor (awesome book about running and mindset), it was time to get some rest.  I looked forward to a night of sleeping alone in a comfortable bed knowing no children were going to wake me in the night.  I had no problem sleeping.

The next morning I heard rain and thunder as I woke up.  The weather was as forecasted.  Rain and wind.  Chilly.  After getting dressed in my gear, I got a coffee at Starbucks and headed to race parking.  Parking was a breeze and I lingered in my car longer than I normally would to stay warm and psych myself up for what lie ahead.  You’d think with a weather forecast of rain and having been a runner most of my life I would own a proper running rain jacket.  That would be a no actually.  I figured after 26.2 miles nothing would be dry, so I just didn’t worry about it.

By the time I walked the couple blocks to the gear drop and the village of port-o-potties, my shoes were soaked.  With the rain pouring down and the wind whipping, I stood in line for my turn to pee.  I was filled with disbelief.  I was actually going to run in this.  I was trying to get my head right for the weather conditions I would have never done a long training run in.  Just knowing others were out there about to do the same thing reassured me I could do the same thing.

By the start of the race, I was pretty much soaked.  I could not wait to run so I could generate some heat and take my mind off what I had been doing for the past half hour. Standing in the cold, wet and wind.  Once in the corrals the body heat of others warmed me up a bit.  As I looked at a few others with ponchos, I recalled my inner dialogue with myself the week before about whether it was worth it to attempt to run part of the race in a heat and moisture trapping plastic poncho.  I had decided no, but on race day sort of regretted that thought.  The camaraderie of other runners near me in my corral was the perfect distraction.  I chatted with a mom of two-year old twins running her first post-babies half marathon and her brother who was using the race as a training run for Boston.  I met a member of Oiselle’s Volee which kind of inspired me to consider joining in the fun.

With the start of the race came a warm up.  Running took my mind off the precipitation and the rain did lessen for a bit.  I normally feel like I remember my races pretty well and have mental notes about each mile, but I don’t have that for this race.  I’m pretty sure for the hardest miles my head had to really go somewhere that would get me across the finish line, but wouldn’t allow me to remember much else.  I also have no pictures from the marathon except for the one race photo I purchased to document this actually happened.  Below is what I do remember about race day.

The early miles didn’t feel too bad.  I welcomed the warmth and the lighter rain.  Just before mile 4 I got rid of my outer layer at an aid station and made a fast potty stop…less than one minute.  It felt good to get that wet layer off.

mile 1-8:58

mile 2-9:02

mile 3-9:51

mile 4-9:03

mile 5-9:14

A light rain fell during the middle miles of the race.  I don’t remember much about what I saw.  I felt good.  I said I would do whatever I needed to do to accomplish this race.  I even took Jolly Ranchers the kids were handing out and enjoyed my first Green Apple Jolly Rancher in a lot of years.  Whatever I needed to do to distract myself, I was all for.

mile 6-9:08

mile 7-9:00

mile 8-8:40

mile 9-8:59

mile 10-9:32

At mile 11 we got on Hagen-Burke Trail which then met up with the Monon Trail.  I love running bike paths and rail trails, so this gave me an uptick in my moral and the tree cover made me forget about the rain some.  I ran past a sign that said mile 25.  I thought about how I might feel at mile 25.  No matter how a race is going that last mile doesn’t ever really feel good.  It’s a place of pain, excitement, exhaustion and emotion.  It’s complicated to explain until you experience it.

mile 11-9:31

mile 12-9:49

Mile 13 took us by the finish and we got to see the half marathoners split off to finish their race.  It is usually not easy to see the finish and know you are not finished.  It either reminds you that you are half way done or you have half way to go depending on how you are feeling.  On this particular day it was a mix of both.  I felt good, but knowing I had more rain and wind to come made me think at least once how nice it would have been to have been running down the finish chute rather than continuing on.

mile 13-9:10

The race continued on the Monon Trail for a bit longer.  At mile 14 ish I felt some fatigue set in, so I began listening to a podcast for motivation and distraction.  My current favorite is Women in the Woods as I’m really getting intrigued by the idea of some longer hiking adventures.

mile 14-9:28

mile 15-9:18

mile 16-9:14

mile 17-9:05

The rain picked up some.  After a few miles the rain let up a little.  At mile 18 I realized I was colder than I thought when I struggled to open my Huma gel because my fingers were so, so cold.  My hip started to bother me more.

mile 18-10:48

mile 19-9:25

Mile 20 is where the race really becomes a race with yourself.  It is where the fatigue starts to catch up to you.  On race day it was also when it began pouring rain.  The skies just opened up and let it rain down.  I remember feeling so discouraged and frustrated with not feeling like I was enjoying being out there as much as I’d hoped.  Drips of water poured off my hat.  The wind whipped.  That rain and cold and wind was about to catch up with me.

mile 20-9:20

mile 21-10:10

mile 22-8:46

mile 23-9:37

At mile 24 my hip, which had been giving me a sensation for part of the race so far, became much more than just a feeling.  It was painful.  I tried to walk some, but the slower pace just made me colder which made my hip hurt worse.  I tried to stretch and work it out, but nothing was helping.  In my head I knew if I had to continue walking I would not be able to finish without warmer, dryer layers.  I also knew quitting wasn’t a choice.  I had no one to pick me up.  I seriously feared hypothermia if I attempted to walk in the rest of the miles as cold as I was.  I felt tears welling up.  I’m not sure I’ve ever been so close to crying in a race.  I almost took my phone out of its fancy waterproof case (i.e. a plastic bag shoved in my sports bra) and called my husband to talk me through the last miles.  I did not call him as I knew he was busy with the kids and likely did not have time to handle my hot mess self.  Not finishing wasn’t an option though.  I didn’t drive this far to not finish.

mile 24-11:31

My choice of shorts came into question a few times during the race, but having run races in colder temps in shorts without issue I didn’t think it would be as big of a problem.  Hindsight: I should have worn capris.

I eventually pushed through what I was feeling.  Between miles 24 and 25 the rain let up some allowing me to warm up also.  This made my hip hurt less.  My favorite fans of all also helped me out.  The elderly residents cheering and smiling in the rain with signs for beer ahead at the finish were so motivating for me.  My other favorite fans were the little kids cheering for their moms and dads with huge smiles and hugs for their favorite runner on the course.  Speaking of smiling.  I know there is research about smiling through challenging tasks such as running that makes the perception of pain and difficulty less.  I made myself smile a bunch of times during this race just to experience this…and it works to some extent.

mile 25-9:34

That last mile I was so eager to be done.  I just wanted to be finished.  I was so cold and numb physically and emotionally.

mile 26-9:18

Crossing the finish line was anticlimactic with no one waiting for me…like at all.  No one stuck around at the finish.  The post-race party was get to your car to warm up and try to get dry.  I was relieved to have a mylar wrap to block some wind, but I was shivering so hard.  Uncontrollably.  I was so cold I didn’t take a picture.  I’m not sure I could.  You know I’m cold when a pictures is not happening.  The temperature had dropped 8 degrees since the start making it in the upper 40’s.

I limped my way to the car as my hip was in super pain making it hard to walk.  I was just so cold.  I blasted the heat and got the congratulations from my husband and kids.  I then headed to Starbucks to get a coffee to warm up.  The barista thought I was insane with my visible shaking and spilling of some of my coconut milk latte as a result.  I could not wait for a hot shower and warm clothes.

After a couple hours of warming up, I was ready to head somewhere dry to explore.  I spent part of the afternoon at Newfield’s before heading to downtown Indy for dinner and some exploring.

Then the snow began as the temperature had continued to drop all day.  Winter apparently just loves to follow me.  A quick stop at a brewery for a celebratory brew and I headed back to my hotel.

While this wasn’t perhaps the most fun I’ve had during a marathon, I am so glad I did this race and experienced racing in the rain.  Never before have I had to push through like I did on this day.  It was a great exercise in mental toughness and perseverance.  So many times during the race I said to myself-head up, wings out.  Every time I saw a bird in the sky I borrowed Oiselle’s slogan that I’ve grown to use as my own.  I reminded myself to just keep flying over and over during this race.  I have a history of getting caught day dreaming with my head up, looking up at the sky and watching the birds, so this is really fitting for me.

I now see myself not dismissing a run outside because it is raining.  I know I can do difficult things and push beyond some of the mental obstacles that I wouldn’t have before.  I feel like my grit IQ increased a few points because of this experience.  The only way to do that for me is to put myself in those challenging places and experiences and struggle through.

The next day I went for a slow stroll on the Monon Trail before making the long trek home. I just love the art and inspiration all around Indianapolis.

I’m now in the market for a new running rain jacket.  I think I earned it.  Please share some of your own recommendations if you have any.

It turns out running in the rain isn’t so bad after all.

Sarah

Next up:  South Dakota-Brookings Marathon in May

 

{26.2…again}

I have this silly dream of running 26.2 in every state that I just can’t let go of.

There is just something about 26.2 that pulls you back in.  Runner’s World recently featured a collection of stories, 26.2 Reasons We Love the Marathon, about what makes this distance just so special.  I thought about making my own list, but they just got so many of them spot on that I can’t dictate the difference between their ideas and my own.

Some of my favorites from their list:  it’s a reason to travel, post-race beer, the good its runners do for worthy causes, it’s an excuse to get a new wardrobe, the signs (on the course), because it takes over your life-and it’s awesome, the unique thousands of fans cheering on runners, the post-race feast, the swag, it makes the world a better place-really!, playlists, finding your own **** yeah moment (if you don’t know Shalane Flanagan then this means nothing to you), running the same course as the professionals, the best shower of your life afterwards, the runner’s high and the final .2.  People joke about the last 1,155 feet, but the final .2 moment is different for every race.  It is truly a moment that is unique and rewarding and special every time.

This goal has never been about accomplishing the list as fast as I could.  I never wanted the goal to interfere in an overall negative way with life in other ways.  I like the slow process of building on this goal every year.  I like getting to really see a place when I run a new state whenever possible. Each year it is fun to plan where the next race(s) will be.

So it is, I find myself training again.  Spring marathon training officially began last Monday for me. Even though the snow and cold are just taking hold for good, I know that in a few months (ok, more than that perhaps) warmer weather and greener sights will be back. To help me tackle my ultimate goal, stay on track all winter and feed my need to explore, I’m signed up to check Indiana (Carmel Marathon) and South Dakota (Brookings Marathon) off the 50 State list this coming spring. While I’m excited to get back to following a training plan, I was kind of enjoying running when I could and focusing on the BeachBody LIIFT4 program.

This training cycle I will be running 4 days a week and lifting 3 days a week. I’m going to continue another round of LIIFT4, but I will follow the workouts consecutively by doing 3 each week. My weeks will not match up with the program weeks because of this. The eight week program will become 10.5 weeks long. I know yoga is going to need to be a regular part of my training along with a focus on core and hip work.

Due to running these upcoming races six weeks apart, my mileage will be a little higher than training for San Francisco. That was a pretty low mileage training plan to begin with as I eased my way back into training for my first post-babies marathon. I’m thinking my body can handle this now.

If I’m being honest though, I do have some serious concerns about how I’m going to make all this happen, but having a goal race on the calendar is usually the best way for me to stick to something. I feel my best self when I’m active and training for a race. To accomplish this, I HAVE to get better about getting to bed earlier. I HAVE to get better about leaving work right away a couple of days a week. All of these things will enhance my overall health, but actually doing them is a challenge. My new Fitbit will be reminding me everyday of what my goals are.  And like I mentioned before, 26.2 sort of just pulls you back in.  It can make you irrational in a wonderful way.

As with any new training plan I try to focus on my week ahead only. Dwelling, stressing or worrying about future week plans does not build confidence. When I see some of the miles on my training plan in two or three months, I can start to feel intimidated. Even though these upcoming races will be my 16th and 17th marathons they never get easier really. Running 26.2 miles is always going to require hard work, perseverance and overcoming unexpected obstacles. While my body knows what to expect and can complete the distance, it doesn’t mean it’s a cake walk for me.

I can’t wait to explore two new states on foot. Half the fun of my goal is getting to see a new city/state, taste yummy food and local beer, and feed my exploring needs.  I will be posting training updates to help me stay accountable and to serve as my training log since these are helpful to look back on.

26.2.  Here we go…again.

Sarah

{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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