{State #19} South Dakota

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mile 25-9:44

Mile 26-9:00

Finish Time-4:13

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

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

 

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

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

Sarah

{Friday Fab 5-Portland Edition}

Currently in the land of no wifi or cell service, this post comes to you having been written last Sunday en route to the beautiful and so-worth-no-technology Glacier National Park. Being without technology has its perks and really makes you reevaluate it’s influence in your life.

But, who am I kidding? I’ll be back to my tech dependency in a matter of hours upon returning to civilization I’m sure! Seriously, how did people live without the internet?

Last weekend we spent the weekend in Portland after I finished state number 15 by running the Foot Traffic Flat Marathon. We had lots of time to walk around and explore and eat AMAZING food. I’m not one to totally love and enjoy meals I eat, but Portland made me realize how you could. Probably a good thing since my waist band would be tighter and my pockets significantly emptier if we had those kinds of delicious eats where I live.

So what did we do and what are these great places to eat that I speak of? Here’s a look at our Saturday!
{#1-Voodoo Doughnuts}
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Voodoo has been mentioned on the Food Network and after tasting five of their flavors (Memphis Mafia, Miami Viceberry, Raspberry Romeo, Voodoo Doll and The Loop) it is easy to taste why. Their unique decor in pinks and purple (loved those colors my whole life) and their amazing flavor selection and taste make Voodoo a must stop if ever in Portland (or Denver.) We ate at the original and waited in line for 40 minutes. After we left the line was much longer so be prepared to be patient for your doughnuts. The wait is worth it though! No hexes needed!

{#2-Forest Park}

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After putting ourselves into a sugar-induced coma it was time to get moving! We headed to Forest Park where miles of trails awaited. We enjoyed the shade and scenery and were passes by many runners. Oh, how I’d love a place like this to run!

{#3-Grill Cheese Grill}

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After hiking we were hungry again. The Grill Cheese Grill was a food truck that I’d heard great things about online. Grilled cheese seems to be one of those childhood favorites that can be made more adult yummy by what you add to it. This place had awesome food. I had the jalapeño grilled cheese which had jalapeños (duh!), cream cheese and cheddar cheese. It was delicious as was their tomato soup. The husband ordered The Cheesus, which was a hamburger that had a grill cheese on the top and bottom to replace a bun with your standard fixings. We shared half our sandwiches with each other. I’m now inspired to get a lot more creative with this childhood favorite when we get home.

{#4-Salt & Straw}

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After walking around the Alberta neighborhood filled with unique and fun places to eat we worked up a hunger for a snack. When we saw Salt & Straw I knew I wanted to try it as I had read about it somewhere previously. They specialize in homemade ice cream using natural and organic local ingredients (ok, so who doesn’t in Portland, but…;). I had the strawberry with cilantro lime cheesecake and the husband had the summer cucumber and raspberry sorbet. Both were so yummy and refreshing. The best version of this iconic summer treat I’ve tasted.

{#5-The Red Tavern and Kell’s Irish Pub}

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After strolling our way through the Alberta neighborhood we headed to downtown Portland. Our visit included Pioneer Square, drinks at The Red Tavern and dinner at Kell’s Irish Pub. At The Red Tavern I had their signature drink made with vanilla vodka, black raspberries and citrus. It was perfect. After drinks we headed to dinner at a place the husband’s aunt recommended. Here I crossed two new beer flavors off my 30 beers bucket list, and we enjoyed yummy Irish fare and music. What a fun place!

If ever in the Portland area all of these places were awesome! Anyone have other Portland area food recommendation?

Happy Weekend!

Sarah

{Friday Fab 5-Go West: Part 1}

By the time you read this I will likely either be running my Fourth of July marathon or be done. Because we are on the road and pictures do a lot of talking, we are going wordless on the fab 5! Here are some trip highlights to fill you in. We live in a beautiful country. God bless America!

{#1-Badlands National Park}
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{#2-Grand Canyon of Yellowstone}

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{#3-Grand Prismatic Spring-Yellowstone}

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{#4-Hiking around Jenny Lake-Grand Tetons}

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{#5-Multnomah Falls}

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Any one else racing this 4th of July? Have a safe and fun weekend!

Sarah

{Friday Fab 5-Kansas City Edition}

This weeks edition is about fun things from Kansas City!
{#1-Views from the tower}

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While visiting the national World War I museum you can go in this tower and overlook the Kansas City area. Pretty!

{#2-Beer Kitchen}

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I had one of the most delicious and unique burgers here. The smokestack was a burger with smoked Gouda cheese, pickle relish, jalapeño straws, whiskey BBQ glaze, and chipotle aioli on a potato bun. Amazing!

{#3-Boulevard Brewing}

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Beer Kitchen specializes in unique, hard to find beers, but also carries some local beers like this yummy wheat! When a sign that says Buddy the Elf-what’s your favorite beer greets you at the bar, you know it’s a fun place.

{#4-Nelson-Atkins Art Museum}

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Unfortunately we only had a chance to walk around outside the museum enjoying the warm weather. Next time!

{#5-Cupcake Ala Mode}

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Here I had the best cupcake I’ve ever eaten! I had the Chocolatte and saved the Red Velvet for later. Ryan ate the Caramel Apple saving his Marshmallow Fondue for later. All were amazing, but now I’m craving cupcakes everyday! I suppose there are way worse problems I could have!

Happy Weekend!

{Friday Fab 5}

This week photos are all from my lovely trip to Utah to complete state number 13!

{#1-Hiking Ensign Peak in Salt Lake City}
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{#2-Views of Salt Lake City from the top of Ensign Peak}
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{#3-and views of the Wasatch Mountains from the top of Ensign Peak}
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{#4-Trying new beer in downtown Salt Lake City-Red Rock Brewery}
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{#5-Enjoying PSL for the first time this fall while hiking Sunday around Silver Lake/Twin Lakes}
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Happy Friday!

{End of Summer Thoughts}

Back to school. Back to school to prove to dad I’m not a fool. Well, sort of. Today ,Yesterday Two days ago was the first day of school and the return of the crazy life. Before things get too busy, as you can see in the prior crossed out words things have already started to get busy, I wanted to take a few moments to savor my many great summer moments and memories while also reflecting on my 2013 goals.

This summer I had the chance to run some great miles in great places before and even after hurting myself. In June I was ramping up my mileage in what I was planning to be a new PR attempt in September. I was putting in some great mileage weeks and even ran a few two a days. I met goal #2 on my 2013 list by running my fifth half marathon this year; this is the most I’ve completed in a year. In October I will look to add on to this goal at the Honky Tonk Half in Wisconsin Dells. June also brought the chance to run in several locations in Houston, TX while visiting my sister.
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The month of July began on the road with chances to run in more beautiful places (with more great people) like…
Mustang State Park-Padre Island,

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Ocean Drive Corpus Christi,

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And…
St. Louis, Missouri!

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I got to visit some great places (and people) in Texas such as…

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and

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and

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I, well really we, but you know whatever Ms. K. wants is what Ms. K gets, so I got to visit New Orleans…

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And Memphis.

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Then came the injury of the summer during what would have been my sixth half marathon this year, the Dances With Dirt Half Marathon. Little did I know it wouldn’t be a simple two or three weeks off. I’m still dealing with swelling after each longer run and when standing on my feet all day. The injury though was responsible for me doing something I hadn’t done in far too long-biking!

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August snuck in faster than I care to admit, but brought more chances to travel and run in fun places such as NYC! My long run walk route is detailed in the photos below.
Midtown Manhattan to…

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To Union Square Park,

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to Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment, to…

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Greenwich Village to…

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the Hudson River Trail to …
to 20130904-184734.jpg
Battery Park to…
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the Statue of Liberty to…
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Financial District to…
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the Brooklyn Bridge to…
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Brooklyn to…
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the Manhattan Bridge to…
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Manhattan to…
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Chinatown to…
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the Subway to…
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eat this yummy cupcake for a famished runner!
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Then of course there was the miles of walking to take in the sites like…
Grand Central Station,

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Times Square,

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Central Park,

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FAO Schwartz,

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And so much more!

I have a lot to be thankful for. Despite the ankle, this summer was awesome! When life gets stressful this school year I need to come back to this post to remind myself that life won’t always be like that. There will be a chance to catch my breath, run in great locations, and visit amazing cities again.

Until then I’m gearing up as best as I can for my marathon NEXT (insert major freak out sound) weekend. I’m so unprepared all I can do is laugh and hope I don’t fall down the canyon to an untimely death. Or maybe at that point it will be a welcomed break from the pain this race is going to ravage on me.

What summer memories will you cherish in the years to come?

{Friday Fab 5-NYC Edition}

Since I am writing from New York AND had my first real run in four weeks yesterday, you’re going to notice a theme today people! Cue Alicia Keys-In New York…All photos were from my running route yesterday morning. New York City is an amazing place to run!
{#1-First stop-Carrie Bradshaw’s Apartment}
I could almost see Big coming down the street to pick her up!

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{#2-Onto the Hudson River Trail}
Breezy, city on one side and peaceful river on the other!

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{#3-Next Up-Battery Park and Statue of Liberty}
Look close; she’s in the distance!

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{#4-Headed to Brooklyn on the Brooklyn Bridge}

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{#5-Coming back to Manhattan via the Manhattan Bridge}

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That is pure elation all over my face at the fact that I was running again (literally in this photo). I was really running for the first time in four weeks. The location might have had something to do with it, too.

The rest of my run route details-to be continued…

Anyone else run somewhere awesome lately?

Happy Weekend!

{Friday Fab 5}

Since we are still on vacation and I’m getting to enjoy running in new places, this week’s fab 5 are all photos from runs this week!

{#1-Brazo Bend State Park}
Really we hiked here, but we could have ran. Instead we enjoyed the mostly shaded trails with my sister. The best parts: seeing armadillos, alligators, and the sunset!

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#2-Cullen Park}
If you live in the Houston area, then this park is a hidden gem! It connects to the nearby H Trail and is 5 miles (or 10 out and back) of nearly completely shaded trails (the earlier in the day the better). I was not expecting to find this kind of shade in Texas. Best Parts: The shade, and bathrooms and water fountains every couple of miles.

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{#3-Mustang Island State Park}
There is only a mile of paved path, but when you are at this beautiful beach you really should be running in the sand. We went barefoot for the last miles of our run and my feet loved the chance to be free from shoes. Best parts: You can’t beat an ocean breeze and the sound of waves hitting the shore on a morning run!

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{#4-Ocean Drive}
If you’ve been to Corpus Christi, then you’ve probably walked, biked, ran, or drove on Ocean Drive. There is a reason-it is beautiful. In the early morning hours you will also find quite a bit of shade! Best parts: running right by the water, palm trees everywhere, and the sunrises!

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{#5-My Running Partner}
The best part of being on vacation is having someone to run with. This someone is not just anyone, but rather my favorite person to travel and run with-my husband. Before vacation our schedules meant very little time to run together. Since vacation started we’ve run together every day I’ve had a training run. Having someone to encourage and sweat out those hot miles is so helpful. The extra support is awesome; thanks Ryan!

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Go exploring this weekend! Find a new route or place to run…or a running partner! If you are ever in Texas check out these routes!

Happy Weekend!

{#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

Arizona Non-Running Post

Sun and fun!

Sun and fun!

I was nervous all week going into the race.  I started hydrating at the start of the week, tried to keep my distance from the sick kids at school, and unsuccessfully tried to get to bed early.  If you live in our house that is a joke!  Every morning we talk about going to bed earlier and every night it doesn’t happen.  Oh, well!  The week went by and Friday came.  I ran my last run before Sundays big day Friday after school.  It didn’t give me any extra confidence as I felt my shin hurting, but running next to Ryan did.  He reassured me many times.

After our run I got packing and we left around 9:30 p.m. for our hotel in the cities.  Of course it was going to be late when we arrived.  We never seem to get anywhere early when a race in coming.  We checked in our 11:45 p.m. and were in bed around 1:00 a.m. with alarms set for 6:15 a.m . to head to the airport.  Our flight left at 9:00 a.m.  Not the full night of restful sleep I was looking for, but I am rather accustomed to lack of sleep when it comes to running races.  Thank goodness for adrenaline and caffeine.

Our flight was overbooked, but luckily we did not get bumped.  We arrived in sunny Phoenix at 11:30 a.m. and headed to pick up our rental car.  From there we went to the expo to pick up my packet and switch corrals.  When I originally signed up for this race I wasn’t sure how seriously I would take winter training and predicted my time to be under 4:00 hours.  Now that I had trained hard, I wanted to move up my predicted time, so I wouldn’t have to weave and fight through as many runners at the start.  I moved to the 3:40 corral.  At the expo I bought a new shirt, tried some yummy frozen yogurt, and then we headed outdoors to walk around the Cityscape area of Phoenix to soak up the sun.

RnR Arizona Marathon Expo

RnR Arizona Marathon Expo

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After a walk around downtown, it was time to head to our hot air balloon ride!

Cityscape Phoenix

Cityscape Phoenix

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We were both excited, and Ryan scared.  It was gorgeous and entertaining.  We got to watch the balloons be inflated, take off, and then it was our turn!  We were in the air for around an hour.  We went up and got to enjoy scenic views of the mountains and desert landscape.  We dipped down to see more desert terrain and then headed up again.  The heat from the gas was hot!  The weather was perfect though.

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The only scary part to me was the landing. I had imagined that the balloons would just gently land the bottom of the basket on the ground.  So not the case!  We came in sideways and hit several small trees to slow us down.  The balloon captain told us he thought we would probably tip over and some of us might fall out of the basket .  We were told to get down and put our hands inside the basket.  I was freaking out with thoughts of being ejected from the basket.  Mid-freak out, the edge of our basket hit the ground, and we were bounced back in the air, hit the ground again, and bounced back up.  We then proceeded to skid along the ground with the basket at a 45 degree angle.  We stopped on the edge of our basket and then used our body weight to keep the basket from tipping over.

Our landing streak!

Our landing streak!

I was relieved to not have left the basket during the landing.  We then enjoyed a champagne toast and a snack while the sun began to set over the desert.  I was happy to check this item off from my bucket list!

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The next morning was race morning, which I will discuss in the next post.

After the race I was shockingly not tired.  I didn’t even nap or rest.  We grabbed Subway for lunch, I took a shower, and we were headed out to hike Camelback Mountain.  My legs were tired, but I really wanted to hike this 3000 foot mountain.  The views I’d seen online looked amazing.  I will say I was not expecting the steepness and lack of an actual trail.  I didn’t know we would be climbing up rocks, but it was beautiful and so worth it.  I knew my legs would pay for it the next day, and I was so right.

Camelback Mountain

Camelback Mountain

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Hiking up 3000 ft!

Hiking up 3000 ft!

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Worth the work!

Worth the work!

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That night we had dinner at a mexican restaurant a high school friend who lives in Phoenix recommended.  It was amazing.  The blue corn enchiladas and spicy, spicy salsa were perfect after a hard days work!

Blue corn enchiladas-YUM!

Blue corn enchiladas-YUM!

The next day we visited the Desert Botanical Gardens.  Having spent almost no part of my life in desert environment, I was both intrigued and awed by its uniqueness.  I had a grand time learning about the desert flora and fauna, and photographing its unsuspecting beauty.  The 77 degree temperatures were the icing on the cake.

Desert Botanical Gardens

Desert Botanical Gardens

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and the kick is good!

and the kick is good!

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Ryan and I had a great time!  The gorgeous weather and finally feeling the sun on our shoulders certainly helped, too!  Oh, how I’ve missed the vitamin D!