{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
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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

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mile 15-9:33
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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

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mile 20-9:56
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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

{#10} Arizona-RnR Arizona Marathon-January 2013

State #10

State #10

So I actually made a sign for #10, and then forgot to have Ryan take a picture of me before he left to get us lunch...hence the mirror photo.

So I actually made a sign for #10, and then forgot to have Ryan take a picture of me before he left to get us lunch…hence the mirror photo.

Going into state number ten, I was really looking forward to the warm weather and where this training cycle’s efforts would take me.  I had never trained as hard for a race as I had for this race.  It was both exciting and scary.  What if I worked this hard and I didn’t see results?  What if I didn’t accomplish my A, B, or C goals?  I felt very confident going into the race, but also very unsure.  Training in the winter snow and freezing temperatures tends to slow paces and complicate speed work.  The past month my training paces had slowed due to ice and snow on the roads and sidewalks.  Even though my effort level felt greater than previous winter runs, my paces just said SLOW.  When I ran inside to try to do my weekly speed sessions I was able to maintain the increased paces my training plan called for, but it didn’t feel as easy as I thought it should.  I had put in more milage than ever before, around 520 miles, training for this race.

Ryan kept telling me I was in great shapes.  He said I had trained harder than ever before and was confident in my ability.  I discussed my goals with him and he thought they were all attainable.  C goal-beat my old PR (3:47:35), B goal-3:40 or faster, and A goal 3:35 or faster (qualify for Boston).  I was prepared that my A goal would take a perfect day…great weather, entertaining course, feeling good.  I knew the weather was going to be much warmer than what it had been in Wisconsin, which would make it feel warmer than the temperatures actually were.  I was looking forward to the warm temps after the race, but not during.

Race morning came and I had my typical bagel for breakfast.  I was nervous, but not as bad as I had expected.  Ryan drove me to the start and let me out a few blocks away.  As miracle would have it, the Phoenix Convention Center doors were open and the bathrooms were empty!  I hate having to wait in line before a race fearing you won’t get to the bathroom before the gun goes off.  This time no worries.

I found my corral and had decided a week or two before that I would do something I had never done before a race and had always thought insane before a marathon, warm up!  I’ve always thought 26.2 miles was plenty; why would you want to warm up for that.  I’d always used the first few miles for that.  The problem was I knew if I wanted to get faster, I couldn’t use those first 3-5 miles to warm up.  I needed to be on pace from the start, so I took off on a warm up followed by dynamic stretching.  Look at me practicing what I preach.  The other coach I coach track with and I are always getting on the kids to warm up properly before their track events.  Until this day, I’d been quite the hypocrite!  Looking at my time, I guess it does make a difference.  But that is getting ahead of the race recap.

I lined up with the 3:40 pace group.  My race strategy was to run with the 3:40 pace group until mile 13-18 depending on how I felt and then break away.  Marathon research says it is best to run a steady pace throughout the entire race.  With glycogen depletion and fatigue, the body usually slows by a certain percentage in the second half.  I know myself though, I always run the second half faster than the first.  I’m a negative split runner.  I couldn’t stray completely from what I’ve always done.  Today I just had to run the first half faster than normal, and still run the second half faster.  Today was a leave it all out on the course day.  I didn’t want to have anything left in the tank when I crossed the finish line.   I did make a mental note that I felt sort of hungry.  Was that bagel enough?

Course map!

Course map!

During the first miles it was hard to stay with the 3:4o pace group.  The temperatures were in the upper 40’s and lower 50’s and my legs felt awesome.  I wanted to go faster.  Around mile 3 or 4 I decided to go slightly ahead of the 3:40 pace group so that if I was to start to slow down, they would come up behind me and I’d know it was time to get moving!  I wanted to run the first half of the race using as little mental energy as possible.  I knew the lasts miles would hurt and I would need to use my mental powers to stay focused and keep my pace.  My splits from my Garmin.

mile 1-8:02

mile 2-8:09

mile 3-8:20

My new RnR Arizona Marathon playlist was helping the miles tick by in no time.  Running towards the mountains and the palm trees were extremely helpful, too.  Not running in cold and darkness might have had a positive impact on the mental state and running mindset as well.  Early on though I noticed as every four miles came by and I took another GU, I felt like I needed the GU.  My muscles were hungry.  I decided to start my GU’s at mile 4 instead of my usual mile 5.  As soon as I took my GU I would forget about it, for now anyway.  I came through the 5k in 25:38 and the 10k in 51:42.

mile 4-8:21 (GU)

mile 5-8:23

mile 6-8:19

mile 7-8:20

mile 8-8:21 (GU)

mile 9-8:12

I'm in pink!  Loved the scenic views on this course.

I’m in pink! Loved the scenic views on this course.

Ryan was playing #1 fan and photographer.  I saw him near mile 9 and then he was at the half marathon, but I didn’t hear or see him.  He has the photos to prove it.

mile 10-8:17

mile 11-8:20

mile 12-8:18 (GU)

mile 13-8:00

Halfway!

Halfway!

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I came through the half faster than any race before, and it was my second fastest 13.1 miles ever at 1:48:43.  I was encouraged by this time.  I was also feeling like it had been a jog in the park so far.  I decided I would pick up the pace for now.  I was confident, but also nervous.  13 miles is still a ways to go.  I could crash and burn, but I had to take the chance.

Mile 13 began an out and back portion of the race.  I enjoy out and backs at times because you know exactly where you are and it is fun the see the fast and elite runners.  I’m always awed and humbled by the winners and elites of the race.  How people can run 5:00 minute miles for 26.2 miles is beyond me.  Watching them run by is both entertaining and a distraction from what I’m doing.

mile 14-8:04

mile 15-8:16

mile 16-8:03 (turnaround of out and back and GU)

Around mile 17, I knew it would be a challenge to hold on until the end.  I decided to keep my pace up while I was still feeling ok and hope to hold on in the final miles.  I saw a Marine running in front of me and kept telling myself to stay with the marine, stay with the marine, stay with the marine.  Soon he looked like he was struggling though and I knew I needed to pass him.

mile 17-8:05

mile 18-8:10

mile 19-8:03

The left turn after mile 19 mile marker.

The left turn after mile 19 mile marker.

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Right after the mile 19 mile marker we made a left turn.  Once you hit mile 20 this is when the real race begins.  The first 20 are nothing in a marathon.  It is all about mile 20 and on.  I was getting tired, but told myself to just hold on, just hold on, you are on pace for a BQ (Boston qualifier).  I knew I had to keep the pace.  If I had a slow mile I would likely not be able to make up the time.  Just hold on.  As I said this, I noticed the temperatures were warming.  I hate hot weather running.  Just hold on!

mile 20-7:52 (GU)

mile 21-7:58

mile 22-8:01

Mile 23 was my demise.  I fell apart.  I just could not hold on.  I felt like someone had strapped a 75 pound pack on my back and was making me run through snow up to my knees.  I just couldn’t hold on.  I felt defeated, but told myself to just keep moving forward.  Put one foot in front of the other…It is funny the mantras we repeat to ourselves to keep our bodies moving in a forward motion.

I took my GU at mile 24 and I began to feel more energy.  My glycogen was gone.  That hunger from the start of the race was kicking my butt.

mile 23-9:07 (ugghhh!!)

mile 24-8:43 (GU)

I knew I wasn’t going to be able to meet my A goal.  I decided to hang on and run as fast as I could manage until the end.  I was hurting and then there were the only hills in the race.  Runners next to me were swearing under their breath asking if we really had to run up that *&%#ing hill.  I didn’t say it outloud, but I was thinking it.  And yes, we did.

mile 25-8:38

The last two miles were hard.  There were small hills, but the only for the flat course.  There was no spectator support until the very end.  Those were the hardest miles.  I just wanted to be done.

mile 26-7:55

I saw the finish and was happy ecstatic with my time even though it was not my A goal.

mile .2-7:38 (Garmin said I ran 26. 31 miles)

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Ryan sneaking up on me!

Ryan sneaking up on me!

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I ran in the 3:30's-YES!

I ran in the 3:30’s-YES!

I knew that I had bonked at mile 23 and mile 24.  Had that not happened, then I would have accomplished my A goal.   I also knew I left it all on the course.  I had nothing left that day.  I was 1:36 from my A goal and qualifying, but I had blown away my B and C goals.  I was 90% excited and 10% bummed.  I had ran a negative split by about a minute (1:48:43-1st half and 1:47:53-2nd half).  Next time, I hope to fuel better in the days before my race and the morning of. I hope to not finish in temperatures in the 60’s.  I will run the tangents. I will train harder. There will always be another race.  And I now have a renewed sense of determination!  I will accomplish my A goal!

I loved this course and getting out of the winter weather.  I always love the concerts at the finish of Rock n’ Roll races, too.  Andy Grammer was great!  After all PR’s or failures…you got to keep your head up!  (Andy Grammer-Got to Keep Your Head Up). It is amazing what a weekend away can do to rejuvenate the soul!

My support "coach"!

My support “coach”!

Enjoying the beautiful ASU campus and the glory of a new PR!

Enjoying the beautiful ASU campus and the glory of a new PR!

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Fun medal!

Fun medal!

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RnR Arizona Marathon
Time: 3:36:36 (Garmin said 3:36:38/26.31 miles)
Pace: 8:16 (Garmin 8:14)
Overall: 444/3226
Gender: 94/1374
AG: 22/226

{#9} Illinois-Chicago Marathon 2012

Chicago Marathon

Chicago Marathon

A month after running a half marathon in Virginia Beach, I was signed up to run the Chicago Marathon. I had been looking forward to this race since I ran my first marathon. I love big city races because of the crowd support, awesome expos, and the great places to eat and explore.

I was hoping to train hard for this race and run a new PR. Fall training didn’t go as planned. This is largely in part because of coaching cross country and working to finish the last class I planned to take for a while. I had changed my mind on a PR a few weeks before the race because I was fairly certain it would no longer be possible.

Before I knew it race weekend was here. I was sooo excited and STRESSED! Friday night Ryan had a football game and I had to pack and work on finishing my class. I had to mail it out no later than Monday. I always seem to find myself in these situations. I got up Saturday morning and was again working away on my class. Ryan and I left Saturday around noon. The expo was open until 6:00. We would have six hours to make a four and a half hour trip. I brought the laptop along and was busy typing away at my final paper. This was not how I had envisioned the start of this weekend.

We got to Chicago just before 5:00, not the time you usually want to get to Chicago. Traffic was terrible. It took us a thirty minutes to go a few miles. Then traffic opened up and we were rolling again…for a few miles. When we were three miles from the expo and sitting in unmoving traffic, I started to panic. We had 30 minutes to get to the expo. Then twenty…then ten…then it was 6:00 and we were still sitting in traffic. I was near tears. If I didn’t have my race bib, I wouldn’t be able to race. I was looking forward to this race so much.

Finally over five minutes late, I arrived at a very empty expo. I was not allowed in. I was scared and in total panic mode, while trying to keep my cool. I saw others waiting near me, so I guess I wasn’t the only one. A friendly gentleman did escort us about fifteen minutes later to get our packets. I was relieved to get my packet and so lucky. I never thought it would take an hour and 15 minutes to go less than ten miles. EEKK! Lesson learned. Leave earlier! So much for getting to walk around and take in the excitement of the expo.

Next it was time to check into our hotel, get something to eat, and find me some GU. It was the first race I didn’t bring GU with expecting to buy some at the expo. At least we were in a big city! We were staying at the Hotel Sax. I loved this hotel! The decor was so my style and I didn’t mind the valet parking either!

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We went out for a carb loading meal at Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse. We splurged on an expensive meal after a stressful afternoon and evening. It was delicious and wonderful to catch up with the husband I don’t see so much because of school and coaching.

Harry Caray's Italian Steakhouse-YUM!

Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse-YUM!

With running late, having to get GU, and a late dinner it was close to ten when we got to our hotel. I went to bed around midnight, which was much later than I’d hope to get to bed, but what could I do? Race morning arrived and I was on my own with thousands of strangers walking to the start. I was so excited to see what the course had in store for me. The weather was perfect; 40’s and no wind. The sun was going to shine! I found my corral and anxiously began the waiting game.

Race morning!

Race morning!

The first few miles started like many races-filled with heart pounding, adrenaline flowing, jump up and down excitement. It is so hard to keep miles on pace and not take off on a sprint. I got my pace under wraps and just enjoyed the crowds, buildings, and perfect weather. We started next to the Magnificent Mile and Millenium Park, ran through the loop, past River North on La Salle Drive, and into Old Town.  Around mile three I saw Ryan and stopped for a minute to take off a layer and hand it off to him.

The course continued through Lake View East, where we turned South, running through Park West, Lincoln Park, and back through Old Town and River North. Then the course took us west through Greek Town and the West Loop (the half way point). At the half way point I was feeling great, but like I maybe was going out too fast. I had not been training for this pace, but I could not slow myself down. It was in Greek Town that I found the 3:50 pace group. I decided to stay with them for a while. The pace leader was hilarious. I was laughing out loud listening to him. At one water stop Gangham Style was playing and the pace leader was dancing with his pace stick and doing the dance with it. The whole group was having a blast.

From the West Loop we turned east and then west through Little Italy.  Near the University Village we turned south to Pilsen, and northeast into Chinatown. The changing neighborhoods and the pace leader’s stories where race savers since my iPhone i.e. music and GPS died around mile 17 in Little Italy. I chose to stay positive and enjoy the unique race atmosphere instead of panicking that I no longer had tunes or any idea my pace.

 

It was in Chinatown I decided it was balls to the walls time. I felt too good to not pick up the pace and I ventured ahead of the pace group. When we reached Park Boulevard we were in the final miles. I knew I could make it! The homestretch was down Michigan Avenue with a finish in Grant Park. As we turned onto Michigan Avenue I started running as fast as I thought I could maintain. I was in so much pain, but my heart told me to keep going. I saw Ryan during this final stretch and he later said I looked not so good. On the final turn, I saw the time and thought I might be able to get a PR. I ran with everything I had. I could not have ran any faster or for any longer than I did. At one point everything went black, and I thought I’m going down before I get to the finish line. I made it, but had never experienced that feeling before. I can’t say it is one I want to repeat.

There were so many things I loved about this race. The course was really a tour of the city, taking runners through 29 neighborhoods. I loved seeing the changing neighborhoods, the millions of crowd supporters shouting and with signs, the music throughout the course, and a flash mob near mile ten. Running through parks, seeing Chicago walk ups like on the Cosby’s, and seeing my supportive husband three times made this race great. I suppose a new PR had something to do with it, too. The PR was only by seconds, but considering I hadn’t trained fully for it, I was happy.

State #9

State #9

A new PR!

A new PR!

After the race I grabbed food goodies and the complimentary beer, which actually hit the spot. I had to wait for a while in Grant Park for Ryan. Next we walked back to our hotel, grabbed some lunch, napped, and then we were ready for some exploring. We spent time in Millenium Park and walked the Magnificent Mile.
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Then we visited the Chicago Theatre…
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and headed to dinner at the Rock Bottom Brewery. Of course we had to sample several of their beers in the bar while we waited for a table to open up!

I liked the white ale and Ryan liked the red ale.

I liked the white ale and Ryan liked the red ale.

The weekend gave us lots of time to walk and explore! Oh, how I love Chicago! I definitely want to do this race again!
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Chicago Marathon
Time: 3:47:35
Pace: 8:41
Overall: 7871/37421
Gender: 1779/16761
AG: 434/3662

{#8} Virginia-Virginia Beach Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon

Virginia Beach Half Marathon

Virginia Beach Half Marathon

In August 2012 Ryan and I celebrated our five year wedding anniversary. We wanted to go somewhere for a weekend to celebrate, and I thought what better way to celebrate than running in a destination race together while I get to cross off another state. We decided on Virginia Beach because neither one of us had spent much time on the east coast, we both love beaches, and the Verizon Music Festival was going to be taking place that weekend. There would be dozens of bands on the beach all weekend and we would have an extra day with Monday being Labor Day. We couldn’t leave until Saturday morning because Ryan had football and we had to be back for the first day of school on Monday.

Live music on the beach all weekend!

Live music on the beach all weekend!

Life leading up to the race had been crazy, but the weekend away was a perfect way to celebrate five years and the end of summer. It felt like we were gone much longer than an extended weekend. We drove to Milwaukee after Ryan’s football game and when I was done working my shift at my other job. We spent the night across the street from the airport and were on our flight which left bright and early at 7:30 am. By 11:30 we were in our rental car and ready to explore.
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Tunnels under the bay.

Tunnels under the bay.

We decided to drive the Chesapeake Bay bridge, a 20 some mile bridge that creates a short cut over the bay by going over the bay and in tunnels underneath the bay. It was so neat to be driving on a bridge with water all around for miles and miles. After our little bay adventure we headed to packet pickup. I eyed up some compression socks, but since it was going to be way to warm to wear any extra layers I decided to save them for another time. I did buy a new Sweaty Band to commemorate our anniversary weekend race.
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New sweaty band.

New sweaty band.

We checked into our hotel room and snapped a few photos before heading out to explore the boardwalk and beach.
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That night we went out for dinner and enjoyed some delicious pasta and local beer. Then we sat on the beach listening to music for a few hours before calling it a night.
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Race morning came, and it was hotter than we expected. The temperature was 80 degrees at the start of the race with 86% humidity. Ugh! We both hate running in the heat and humidity. We knew it would be like this, but didn’t think it would be quite so warm and humid. We both struggled through the entire race. We were drenched with sweat one mile into the race. We both slowed our pace, encouraged each other, and simply ran as best we could. Even locals in the race were discussing how hot and humid it was.

Running through the heat and humidity.

Running through the heat and humidity.

Luckily, the sun stayed behind the clouds for most of the race. Finishing on the boardwalk parallel to the ocean was great. There were some ocean breezes as we ran the long boardwalk mile.

Running the last mile on the boardwalk.

Running the last mile on the boardwalk.

Time to cool down in the water!

Time to cool down in the water!

What better way to cool down than in the ocean water after the race. We then walked barefoot, shoes in hand to our hotel, with waves splashing up on us the entire way. We both felt sick from the heat and humidity. Each of us had rockin’ headaches, so we took a quick nap. The nap turned into a two and a half hour event, but was much needed. We both felt much better afterwards. The rest of the day was spent on the beach and enjoying our favorite ice cream, Ben and Jerry’s.
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Despite the heat and humidity, we enjoyed the entire weekend. The race ended up being my slowest half marathon, but I thought I did remarkably well considering my disdain for hot weather running.
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Happy Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary!

Virginia Beach Half Marathon
Time: 2:04:59
Pace: 9:32
Overall: 1971/10958
Gender: 702/6217
AG: 132/1125

{7} North Dakota-Fargo Half Marathon 2012

Fargo Half Marathon-May 2012

Fargo Half Marathon-May 2012

I had been planning on signing up for this race when we went to good friends’ wedding in November. I had been talking about the race and some other friends said they were interested in running the race, too. As we enjoyed more drinks at the wedding the number of people who said they wanted to run increased. It was interesting to see people jump on board, committing to run their first or second or third half marathon.

By the time race weekend came the numbers had dropped. There were only three of us. Some had legitimate excuses like coaching baseball tournaments or recently birthing a child, but others not so much. Oh, well, the three of us that did run had a blast. We now have jokes about knowing where to stop to pee, lactose intolerance, Carly Jepson and Call Me Maybe, and Brady’s fingernails. Admittedly, I had “dropped” my commitment, too. I had originally signed up for the full marathon, but life just got in the way and I had to switch to the half. Even the half might have been interesting as I only had ran three times in the month before the race.

Fargo Half Marathon 3The two guys I went with were from Minnesota, so we met there and headed across the state of 10,000 lakes. I had never been to North Dakota before and I could not get over how flat it was.  You could see forever.  I just couldn’t grasp what people said until I saw it for myself.

We arrived in Fargo Friday afternoon and headed to the expo at the Fargodome. The packet pickup up was more than I expected, the shirts were awesome, and we got neat race bags. I splurged on some new running gear that the local Fargo running store was selling at the expo. That night and we enjoyed a prerace meal at Olive Garden. Shortly after dinner we realized we had no safety pins to pin our race bibs onto our clothes. Either we missed that part of the packet pickup or they were not in our bags, so we set off on what we thought would be an easy search for safety pins.

Apparently we were NOT the only ones with no safety pins. We were met by a couple dozen people at Target also searching for safety pins only to find out by Target workers they had sold out an hour ago. Our next stop was Walgreens. Again, we were met by several other people looking for the same thing. Inside we were lucky to get the last package. It is often the little things that turn into big things when it comes to pre-race stress. In the end it all worked out fine.

Fargo Half Marathon 2

Race morning arrived. I was well rested and excited to run what I’d heard was a fast and fun course. I opened the curtains of my hotel room and the biggest, darkest storm clouds greeted me followed by lightning. To add to it the wind was whipping and it was raining. Oh, joy! I had not packed rain gear. I got ready to go while watching the Weather Channel, a prerace necessity. I met the guys at their room ready to run. By this time it was not raining anymore, but we were in the middle of a horseshoe shaped storm system. We decided to abandon the shuttle plan and drive to the race in case it was delayed. Traffic was jam packed giving me plenty of time to add my name to my race bib, and we made it just in time.
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There was only one way we wouldn’t get rained on-if the storm system moved north, not northeast, northwest, west, east, or south. Luck was on our side when the horseshoe shaped storm moved NORTH. It was dry, overcast, and cool for the entire race-just the way I like it! The course was flat and fast. There was fun entertainment sprinkled throughout; finishing in the Fargodome with your picture on the jumbotron was pretty cool, too. I had a lot of fun knowing friends were running the race at the same time. I don’t have friends or family who run, so it was the first time I had done a race with friends.

I was not in shape for a PR and with my RunKeeper app getting all messed up I wasn’t sure my pace for most of the race. I was just looking to have fun with friends at this race, which is exactly what I did. Tooch ran a great and fast race as he usually does. It was super exciting to be a part of Brady’s first half marathon. His goal was under 2 hours and he was bummed to miss his goal by seconds. His Garmin didn’t match the race time or else he said he knew he would have met it. He thought he had two minutes to spare. So frustrating, but the good thing is he had fun while he was doing it. That usually means more races are in the future 😉

Fargo Half Marathon

Fargo Half Marathon
Time: 1:56:13
Pace: 8:52
Overall: 1610/5758
Gender: 623/3554
AG: 128/632