{#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

{#6} Nevada-Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon 2011

Las Vegas Rock 'n' Roll Marathon

Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon

Ryan and I had been to Las Vegas two years before this and loved it so much.  When I mentioned doing this race, Ryan took no convincing.  We both took two personal days from work and I signed up for the night race.  I had ran a marathon a month and a half before and tried to maintain some sort of fitness over the days between.  The hard part was I wasn’t in shape for the first marathon, but I did my best with my schedule.  My first draft of my master’s research paper was due a month and a half after this race, so my research had to be my top priority.

We flew out on a Saturday morning and were in Vegas by noon.  We boarded a shuttle that took us to the Luxor, our hotel.  The host hotel was Mandalay Bay which was connected to the Luxor.  We then walked to MGM and took the tram to packet pickup.  Packet pickup was fun, the shirts were good, they had awesome discounts to get into clubs for going out, and I bought my first Sweaty Bands.  Since I was going to wear them tomorrow night in Vegas they had to be glitzy and sparkly!

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The weather was cool, but not cold in Vegas.  Warmer than being in winter Wisconsin and perfect for running.  It was weird to know I had a race the next day, but that I wouldn’t have to get up early for it.  With a 4:00 pm start, I wasn’t sure exactly how to eat, plan, prepare.

Vegas, Baby!

Vegas, Baby!

We spent the evening walking around Vegas, doing some gambling, and taking in the sites of Christmas all around sin city.  I love exploring cities at Christmas.  We had been to Vegas just after Christmas last time and saw some of the sites, but it was even more beautiful to see before the holidays.

Outside the Palazzo.

Outside the Palazzo.

We explored near the Palazzo, walked the “canals” of Venice, and enjoyed the poinsettias and fountains of the Bellagio before going out for dinner on the strip.

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We also saw the Stiletto Dash.  I had wanted to sign up for this, but could not bear the thought of twisting an ankle the night before a marathon.

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Race morning came…only I didn’t have to get up early ;),IMG_0746
so I went back to bed after I snapped this picture!

Later that day we spent a fair amount of time watching sports in Mandalay Bay’s bar and sports book. The Packers were playing which we loved watching in the betting atmosphere. I couldn’t believe how many Packer fans were in Vegas! I ate a bigger breakfast and lunch since the race was at 4:00 and I didn’t expect to be done until around 8:00.  Before we knew it it was time to head back to our room so I could get changed and ready to go. I had laid my clothes out earlier that morning so all I would have to do was change.
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I got all ready to go and we headed for our walk through the Luxor and Mandalay Bay. By this time it was very crowded with thousands of people trying to get outside. We should have just walked outside, it would have been less crowded, but then we would have missed this photo op.
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Is was right after this photo that I realized I was missing something. Something I could NOT run without…my iPod! How could I have forgotten this essential running item? I was so mad at myself. We raced to retrace our steps, get back to our room, get the iPod, and fight our way back through the crowds. Somehow I managed to get to the start, way in the back, but not late. I worked my way up through the corrals and was off.

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The first half of the marathon was in the city away from the strip. We ran by interstates, roads, buildings,
and homeless people cheering us to stop and have a beer with them. This made me laugh, therefore, providing entertainment for those early not so scenic miles. We did go by some residential areas which was in stark contrast to the city lights of the Vegas strip.

The second half of the marathon was the half marathon route. I was so excited to run down the strip and back. I didn’t realize we would be running right into half marathoners moving at a 3 hour pace though. It made me very irritated to have to run around half marathoners run/walking and slowly jogging. I was glad they were out there, but for runners who have already been running for two hours, it made the race even more mentally and physically tiring. The lights of the Luxor, MGM, Excalibur, Paris, and Planet Hollywood did wonders for the spirit. The next thing I know Good Feeling by Florida comes on my iPod and the energy from the strip gets to me; I’m on cloud nine and running on a high. To this day whenever I hear that song I am instantly taken back to those miles running on the strip, that song pumping in my head and energy of the city pushing me along.

About to have a Good Feelin'!

About to have a Good Feelin’!

Around mile 19 the area we were running in didn’t look so good, and the road was sooo crowded. I was really getting frustrated. I was running on the curb, on the road, weaving, on the median, just trying to get around people. Someone also said people went the wrong way and were off the course. I don’t have a time for the chip time spot at mile 23 on my final results. I’m guessing we did go off course at some point. The course opened up again on the strip and I was so looking forward to being done. My Garmin said I ran more than 26 miles, but who knows. I do know the congestion throughout the second half led to my slowest marathon time yet!

Loving the energy of sin city!

Loving the energy of sin city!

Afterwords the congestion of people put runners at a stand still. They had great food at the finish, but going from running for four hours to crowded standing, was not the best. I finally found my husband and we headed back inside to walk to our hotel. Inside the congestion wasn’t any better. Some people looked ill and not doing so well, but it was hard for them to get help with the crowds. I was feeling good though. Good enough for a race reward! 🙂
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Ryan said this was his favorite race because he could cheer for me with a beer in his hand, head back into the casino and gamble, come out with his drink, cheer, go back inside, repeat. We ran by Mandalay Bay several times at the start, at the half way point, and at the end. He didn’t mind racing in Vegas a bit. I did love this race despite the crowds and hearing of some people not getting help they needed at the end.

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Ready to go out!

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Minus 5 Ice Lounge

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Out on the old strip.

Obviously the race directors have some work to do, which they admitted the next day. When a race grows fast, big changes need to be made, too. I did enjoy this course and would give the directors another chance to show improvements. The next time I’ll have a much better idea of what to expect in terms of pros-crowd support, big city energy, unique course, destination race and the cons-crowds, not a PR course if congested, poorly marked in area. Overall, the race was an awesome experience because really where else can you go to a post-race party like in Las Vegas?

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Las Vegas Marathon
Time: 4:09:05
Pace: 9:31
Overall: 1520/3787
Gender: 409/1389
AG: 76/253

{#5} Michigan-Grand Rapids Marathon-Oct. 2011

Grand Rapids Marathon-Oct. 2011

Grand Rapids Marathon-Oct. 2011

This past summer I started working a second job.  To say it has impacted the amount of time I have to run is an understatement.  Working until late in the night does not go well with getting up early to beat the summer heat and humidity of Wisconsin.  I hate summer weather running when it gets hot.  I did my best to stick to a training plan, although admittedly I didn’t do very well.  I was also busy taking classes for my Master’s degree and being involved in a federal grant in partnership with other schools.  Running definitely took a backseat.

Before I knew it, it was back to school time.  I thought with fall starting and temperatures cooling down I might get into my running plan more.  I underestimated what it would be like to teach, coach, work on my Master’s research project, and continue to work a night (or two) a week at my other job.  In September I was in two weddings and it was difficult to balance fun and long runs.  I was having such a hard time fitting running in with so much going on.  For my own sanity I decided my goal would need to be to finish as best I could.  I ran maybe three or four long runs to prepare for the Grand Rapids Marathon in Michigan.

Race weekend arrived just like the past few months had gone, jam packed and chaotic.  I had a cross country meet on the Saturday before the Sunday race, so we couldn’t leave for our 6.5 hour drive to Michigan until 3:30 on Saturday afternoon.  I knew it would a crazy weekend, but in my planning had forgotten about the time change.  We were supposed to arrive at our hotel around 10:00-10:30 pm Saturday night, but add a an hour earlier time change in and it was 11:15 when we arrived.  I had to be up early to pick up my race packet the morning of the race making the alarm time even earlier.  I was in bed shortly after midnight with my alarm set for 5:45.

I woke up Sunday morning feeling stressed right away.  I felt unprepared physically and emotionally.  I wasn’t sure exactly where the start was, what the fastest route would be, or how my legs would hold up during the race.  I really didn’t even know that much about the course.  I’ll have to admit that the reasons I registered for this race included:  1) the weekend worked ok and was a drivable distance away, 2) it was a fall race in the midwest,  3) I was a sucker for the cool leaf logo the race uses, and 4) my cousin was going to college there.  Those reasons for registering for this race were not so assuring to my undertrained and overwhelmed self on race morning.

The above issues were my own.  The race director sent weekly newsletters out, which I loved and got me pumped for the race.  I will admit, I didn’t really have make the time for reading very many of them.  Perhaps if I had, I would have felt better prepared for the race.

Ryan drove me to the start and dropped me off late because of traffic.  I tried to make way through the crowds to pick up my packet which seemed to take forever (it really didn’t).  I got my things, ran to Ryan and the car to give him my packet, and ran to the start where I was in the very back.  Oh, well, I wasn’t going for a time after all.

The stress of the morning began to disappear as the miles ticked by.  I was running conservative not wanting to ruin my chances of finishing.  My longest run had been 18 miles 4 weeks earlier.  I knew I was not in any kind of shape to race the course.  I was pleasantly surprised with the courses scenic routes, organization, and the fans.  I wasn’t expecting much crowd support, but there were fans in many spots.  Of course there were sparse parts, too, but those sections were beautiful.  Lucky for my legs the course was both flat and could have been fast for someone who had trained.  There were views of their city (some not so pretty), beautiful miles around lakes, and enchanting miles on canopied trails.  Much of the race was like running through a park.  Each mile was clearly marked with mile markers.

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The finish is in sight.

The finish is in sight.

The last few miles were tough.  I wanted to be done.  I knew it was going to be my slowest marathon yet, but I was proud to be finishing in the time I was when I was so underprepared.  As proud as I was, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in my pace. I had never ran this slow in any race. It was a let down, but not all that surprising.

Regardless, I couldn’t wait to cross the finish line.  When I finally made it across the finish, I found it was just as organized as the rest of the race.  They had pickles, hot dogs, chips, string cheese, pretzels, and on and on.  I loved the medal, too.  It had my beloved leaf and person symbol on it-the whole reason I picked this race.  Later when going through my packet, I saw the shirt for the first time (normally something I look at right away when I get to a packet pickup on time).  It was a great shirt, too!  If this race was closer or not during cross country, I would for sure run it again.

Enjoying the pickles at the finish.

Enjoying the pickles at the finish.

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I love fall and this medal!

I love fall and this medal!

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After the race, I made a quick stop at my cousin’s and the three of us went out to lunch.  After lunch we were back on the road for 6.5 hours.

On the road again...

On the road again…

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We made a quick stop in Chicago for dinner at Harry Caray’s on Navy Pier and some quick sightseeing to stretch the legs.  It was back on the road and a late night by the time we got home.  Ryan drove so I could sleep-Thanks, Hun!

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Grand Rapids Marathon
Time: 4:05:54
Pace: 9:23
Overall: 699/1453
Gender: 219/617
AG: 42/97

{#4} Texas-Dallas Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon* 2011

Spring Break 2011

Spring Break 2011

*When I started my goal of 50 in 50 by 50 I decided to include half marathons when a full marathon wasn’t an option if travel took me to a state when a race was occurring. I count these states, but plan to rerun full races in the states where I have only ran half marathons.

Downtown Dallas

Downtown Dallas

Spring break 2011 was spent visiting family and friends in Texas. My mom and I flew into Dallas on Saturday before the race. It was sunny, warm, and a wonderful escape from the cold Wisconsin winter. We spent the day before the race at the expo and exploring the downtown area of Dallas. Neither of us had spent any time in the city before. We enjoyed dinner on the patio at the Iron Cactus and were reminded just how small a world we live in when we sat next to some young people who said they were from Wisconsin, too. Within a few minutes we found out that a few of them graduated from the small town where I teach a few years before I started teaching there. Small world.

As we were busy eating dinner we felt the wind begin blowing and the temperatures begin to drop. A cold front was coming in and highs on race day were supposed to be in the upper 40’s. I did not travel to a warm state to be cold! It looks like my will did nothing to change the weather though. I had only brought shorts and a t-shirt and long sleeve shirt to run in. It ended up being the perfect attire for race day. The clouds held out with no rain and the temperatures were perfect for running.

The beginning of the course was not very scenic. We ran through parts of downtown Dallas that I doubt I’d run alone in. The last 2/3 of the race was scenic taking runners past beautiful homes, treelined streets that immediately remind you are in the south, and finished outside the Cotton Bowl stadium.

Love the tree lined streets of the south.

Love the tree lined streets of the south.

I had not trained very much doing only a couple longer runs before this race, so I was running more to just have fun. I enjoyed the course and the thought of a week of vacation to follow made the race even more exciting. The last few miles I tried to pick up the pace a bit, and once I saw Cotton Bowl Stadium I started my kick. I crossed the finish in 1:54:33.

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Dallas Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon
Time: 1:54:33
Pace: 8:44
Overall: 2043/10959
Gender: 704/6811
AG: 135/704

{#3} Iowa-On the Road for Education Marathon 2011

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The thing with running races and accomplishing new goals and paces is that it becomes addicting. I got home from the Twin Cities Marathon happy with my time, but disappointed with how the race actually went. I was feeling very motivated to run a race again…and soon. I got home Sunday afternoon and spent the next two days thinking about doing another race in less than three weeks.

On Tuesday I mailed my race registration for the On the Road for Education Marathon. I was looking to cross another state off that was not too far away and that would be low key. This race sounded like the one. Ryan and I left on Saturday stopping at a state park in Iowa on the way to enjoy the last of the fall colors and do some walking on the trails. It was a small park, but a nice way to spend a couple of hours. We did a little fall photo shoot, too. I am obsessed with taking pictures afterall.

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From the park we headed to Mason City, Iowa. We stopped at Newman High School to pick up my race packet. Talk about low key and fast packet pick up. It was awesome to avoid the crowds and get in and out. I was not expecting much swag for a small race, but was impressed by the super comfy, Fox River socks, yogurt covered cranberries, and several other goodies in the bag. We checked into our hotel, headed to Applebee’s for a prerace dinner and then to bed for an early night.

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Race morning came and I was not feeling super excited. I knew there wouldn’t be crowd support and really didn’t know what to expect for the course as there were not a ton of details. One nice thing was getting to sleep in since Ryan was able to drop me off two blocks from the start of the race near Music Man Square. My goal was to run under four hours, but keep the pace comfortable until the last few miles. When I got to the last few miles the plan was to go with what pace felt good. If I felt good, then I would pick up the pace. If I was struggling, then I would keep maintaining my pace as best I could. I had never ran two marathons within a year of each other, much less three weeks apart. I wanted to have a positive race experience after feeling rough in the Twin Cities.

To sum up the race, all I can say is WOW! I loved this course. It was exactly what I was hoping for and more. The first few miles were in town on city streets. The next few miles took runners on paved trails and then gravel roads. The miles on the gravel roads were not my favorite and made my hips begin to hurt early on. I was a little nervous at this point as it was early in the race. The next part of the race was very scenic. The views and paved path helped take away any feelings of discomfort I was having. My favorite part of the course was next, the out and back miles on a dirt packed trail along the Winnebago River. The softer surface was amazing on the legs and made me feel springy with each step.

Running down a PR.

Running down a PR.

While running in the wooded, scenic, and rejuvenating trails, I looked down at my Garmin to realize I was running the same pace as my PR a couple of weeks ago. Would today be a special day? There were less than 10 miles left, but a little too soon to get excited. After coming out of the trails we ran the majority of the race on pavement, with a small gravel stretch. With two miles left in the race I was still on pace and realized I might be able to PR, not by much, but still a PR, if I could maintain and pick it up the last mile. Somehow I did just that. I crossed the finish line in 3:47:41. I beat my previous PR by just over minute. I was definitely not expecting that. I attribute it to the course, change in surfaces, and the extremely flat elevation of the race.

I would highly recommend this race to others. I loved the scenery and variation of surfaces. I have yet to run a race with the same variety. I was also first in my age group and 6th overall for women. I had never won my age group in a race. Despite being a smaller race, I was still proud.

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On the Road for Education Marathon
Time: 3:47:41
Pace: 8:41
Overall: 26/128
Gender: 6/39
AG: 1/4

{#2} Wisconsin-Madison Marathon 2010

Ever since running my first marathon in June of 2008, I knew I wanted to run another marathon.  Despite wanting to run another race, I took some time off to enjoy more free time with friends, family, and myself.  Over the course of the winter I decided a spring marathon would be the best way to accomplish marathon number two.  I knew I would run into the same challenges as I did training for last year’s race:  cold Wisconsin winter weather during training, crazy schedules between school and coaching track, and balancing family, friends,and long runs.  I was again up for the challenge.

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My birthday always falls around Memorial Day weekend, with my birthday being on the real Memorial Day.  I decided that running a marathon on Memorial Day weekend would be a great way tocelebrate my 25th birthday which would take place a few days later.  Only an hour and a half away there was a marathon that weekend in Madison, a city I love (the marathon is moving to November in 2013 possibly due to excessive heat over the past years and Brat Fest taking place the same weekend).  The Madison Marathon sounded like the perfect second marathon!

I followed a similar training plan, this time adding an additional 20 mile run with the hopes of improving my marathon time.  As a training run, I ran the Fitness Festival Marathon Relay (which they no longer offer) as a way to get in another 20 mile run.  During the relay, I ran 20 miles and my husband ran 6.5 miles. Interestingly enough, he was the one who threw up at the end.  I still tease him about that years later.

 LaCrosse Fitness Festival Marathon Relay

Both 20 milers went well and I was running a faster pace than the year before, which built my confidence for the Madison race. Little did I know that there were many more challenges on the way.  Two and a half weeks before the marathon I got run down from late nights at the track, peak milage, and trying to organize chaos as the school year grew closer to an end.  I got sick, or what I thought was a simple head cold.  I still kept running, but was focused on resting and trying to get more sleep.

A week and a half later, one week before the race, while I should have been doing my last taper long run I was in the emergency room getting checked out.  I felt terrible and had not gotten any better in the past ten days.  They ran tests: no strep, no mono, did chest x-ray, etc.  The x-ray came back and they told me I had fluid in my lungs, but not quite enough to call in pneumonia.  They told me to rest and come back in a few days if I did not improve.

I was in panic mode.  No wonder runs felt harder with fluid in my lungs and my energy level wasn’t improving.  I rested and missed most of the runs in the next week.  I did manage to complete my easy three mile run the day before the race; I was finally feeling better although not 100 percent.  To say I was nervous for the race was an understatement.  To make matters worse, the weather forecast showed it would be a warm race with temperature in the 60’s at the start.  By the end of the race it would be approaching upper 70’s and lower 80’s.  I do not like warm weather running.  It makes me mentally weak and physically drained MUCH quicker.  I tried to remain nervously optimistic.

After running my short run the day before the race, Ryan and I headed to Madison.  We decided to pick up my packet and then eat at Olive Garden before checking into our room at the Sheraton across the street from the start of the race.  After dinner we parked our car at the hotel and brought our bags in to check in.  At the front desk we were informed rooms were overbooked and given to guests on a first come, first serve basis.  It was 8:00 p.m. the night before the race and they had given away all the available rooms.  I was furious!  I had made a reservation the same night I had signed up for the race months in advance!

In an effort to smooth over the situation we were informed their was a room for us at a hotel downtown near the capital.  Neither Ryan and I were very familiar with Madison at the time, so this made us (me) very nervous.  I could no longer walk across the street to get to the start.  My pre-race morning now included navigating a ten minutes drive on roads I didn’t know, finding parking and walking from wherever I might find a spot, and having to keep the keys for after the race.  Ryan would have to take a taxi to the race in order to watch me because he did not want to get up and leave when I was leaving.  I was ticked. I tried to stay positive and went to bed shorty after we got to our new hotel.  I struggled to sleep as I was overcome with nerves.

The next morning I arrived to the race later than planned because I took a wrong turn and went the wrong way.  As soon as I realized my mistake I turned around, then sat in traffic trying to enter the Marathon area.  Once I found a parking spot my hope rose only to not be able to find the sweat check.  My stress level was high!  I had no time to search for sweat drop off any longer.  I had sweats on that I did not want to throw out, but I had no choice.  I took my sweats off, put them in the bag provided to us at the expo, and set them down next to a tree in the parking lot never expecting to see the bag with my sweats again.  I didn’t have much time to think about the sweats though because I needed to hustle to the start.  I was in the back of the pack, but made it before the gun.

It was warm outside at the start, but luckily the sun stayed behind the clouds until halfway through and I finished before the worst of it.  I felt better than expected considering I was still recovering from being sick, was lacking in sleep, and the amount of stress leading up to the race.  Running on the bike path trails, by the lakes, Monona Terrace, and the Capital kept the race interesting and scenic.  The last few miles were the least scenic and rough; I really had to push myself to keep going. Wanting to PR helped me keep pushing even when I did not want to.  I came through the finish with a new PR in 3:56:40. Considering how sick I was the week before the race, I was pumped.  To top it off, I returned to the tree in the parking lot where I had been forced to leave my sweats and they were still there.  One week later I was registered for marathon number three, the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon in October!

Madison Marathon                     Madison Marathon 2

Madison Marathon
Time: 3:56:43
Pace: 9:02
Overall: 534/1543
Gender: 114/584
AG: 33/134

{#1} Minnesota-Grandma’s Marathon

Since joining cross country in high school and falling in love with the sport, I had always wanted to run a marathon. My bucket list contained the item-Run a marathon before turning 30. I had no timeline or age at which I felt I needed to accomplish this goal. During my first year teaching, however, a coworker whom I carpooled with was talking about running marathons and mentioned she would be running Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota that June.

My coworker raved about the atmosphere, crowd support, and beautiful course. At that point, I had only ran a few 5k’s and for my own pleasure. Hearing my coworker discuss Grandma’s was inspiring, intriguing, and motivating. Most of all she put an idea into my head. I decided to start with a half marathon before attempting a full. That was the plan until one January night while my husband was coaching high school boys basketball, I decided to go for a long run on the treadmill since it was very cold outside. I was going to run five to seven miles with seven miles being the furthest distance I had ever ran. I hit seven miles and felt great; I wanted more. I told myself I’d run one more mile, then one more mile. Each mile made me smile bigger and soon seven miles became eleven. I stepped off the treadmill feeling a sense of accomplishment, motivation, and urgency. If I could run eleven miles without training, then a half marathon was not a good goal for me. I was in, all in.

For those of you that know me well you know that when I get an idea in my head it is extremely unlikely that the idea won’t take place sooner rather than later. Ideas often turn into my latest obsessions to the point I cannot focus until I’ve begun working on that idea. The idea of running a marathon would prove no different. I walked into the office, turned on the computer, and registered for my first marathon-Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota.

I immediately printed a training plan off from the Grandma’s Marathon plan. The training plan did not officially start until mid-February, but I knew I needed to get a base started. It was a mix of emotions. 26.2 miles felt so long and I had never even ran a half marathon. Would I be able to accomplish such a lengthy goal? I knew that I had set my mind to it so I would, but I also wanted to finish in under four hours. I followed by training plan to a T, running my first half marathon in La Crosse (St. Clare Health Mission Half Marathon, now known as the Festival Foods Grandad Half Marathon) as part of my training finishing in 1:51. I took my finishing time as a sign that my training was going well and have since entered this race every year since. Despite the actual running part of my training going well, I learned quickly that time management was the greatest challenge of training for a marathon. Balancing teaching, coaching middle school track and field, and maintaining a social life along with training were difficult.

Each week I ran a new distance on Saturday or Sunday, accomplishing a new farthest distance most weeks. It felt rewarding and fulfilling to run more miles than I ever had before. My coworker was training to run her fourth Grandma’s Marathon, so it was invaluable to swap stories, discuss challenges, and share in the anticipation of the upcoming Saturday in June.

When race weekend was upon us, Ryan and I headed to Duluth the day before the race. I had never been to Duluth before and was excited to see the lake and town. One of the first things we did upon arrival was check into our hotel, visit the expo, and take a guided tour of the race course. It was great to see the course first hand to aid in planning and preparing, but I will admit it scared me more than helped. The distance seemed so much longer when driving it. Despite the added fear, I was still excited and looking forward to the next morning. Sleeping the night before was very difficult.

Race morning arrived and I boarded the shuttle that would take us outside of Two Harbors where the race would begin. From Two Harbors we ran along the scenic old highway 61along the north shore of Lake Superior. With Lake Superior being so far north it was still relatively cool in June and to add to it there were refreshing cool breezes from the lake as we got closer to Superior.

On the ride to Two Harbors, I sat on a school bus next to another teacher whom I had just met. We chatted on our way to the start of the race and ended up running the first 19 miles together. A mile into the race with adrenaline pumping, the two of us ran into my coworker. The three of us ran together talking and chatting for the first 17 miles. We hit the half marathon mark and I couldn’t believe it was already half over. I was feeling so good and talking to both ladies made the time fly by. The amazing community support also helped. People sat outside their homes in the country and had music playing from speakers, water stops, beer stops, margarita stations, and crazy costumes. The fun, the scenic course, and the wonderful people made the race fly by.    Grandma's Marathon

Once I was on my own around mile 19, I knew the hardest part was yet to come. Iwas starting to feel tired both mentally and physically. I really wanted to meet my goal, but started to question whether that would happen or not. Had talking for the first 19 miles been a mistake?; I’d never trained with people after all. As mile 20 took us closer to Superior, the cheering crowds began to increase in size and volume. Near mile 23 with crowds lining the streets six deep I gained my confidence again. I realized by looking at my Garmin 310 (http://www.garmin.com/us/), that I would be able to accomplish my goal only if I pushed the pace and held it to the end. I had nothing to lose and went for it. I would either accomplish two goals or one. I saw my husband’s supportive smile near mile 24 and I thought I could hold on to my goal.

As I rounded out the final .2 of the race I kicked with what I had.  I crossed the finish line in 3:59:24.  With only 36 seconds to spare, I accomplished two goals in one day.  I had never felt more accomplished before that day.  Training for the marathon changed me physically (nothing tones and sucks things in like following a training plan), but running the marathon changed me emotionally and physically.  As I put my toes in the cold water of Lake Superior later that day, I knew there would be more marathons to come.

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