{State #19} South Dakota

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mile 25-9:44

Mile 26-9:00

Finish Time-4:13

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

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

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

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

Sarah

{State #18}-Indiana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mile 1-8:58

mile 2-9:02

mile 3-9:51

mile 4-9:03

mile 5-9:14

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

mile 6-9:08

mile 7-9:00

mile 8-8:40

mile 9-8:59

mile 10-9:32

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

mile 11-9:31

mile 12-9:49

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

mile 13-9:10

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

mile 14-9:28

mile 15-9:18

mile 16-9:14

mile 17-9:05

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

mile 18-10:48

mile 19-9:25

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

mile 20-9:20

mile 21-10:10

mile 22-8:46

mile 23-9:37

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

mile 24-11:31

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

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

mile 25-9:34

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

mile 26-9:18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah

Next up:  South Dakota-Brookings Marathon in May

 

{26.2…again}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26.2.  Here we go…again.

Sarah

{Friday Fab 5-Pro Compression Stars and Stripes, Whitewater Rafting, Orange Is the New Black, Chaos…}

My first week of summer vacation is coming to a close. The week was filled with coaching responsibilities, visiting lots of babies and their mommas (6!) and catching up with yard work (it is never-ending).

{#1-Pro Compression Stars and Stripes}

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Believe it or not the 4th of July will be here in no time. This year I have an actual, real race to run (Foot Traffic Flat Marathon outside of Portland, Oregon) on the day, so I’m giving you a sneak peek of my race day outfit. Proper recovery will be essential as I will be running another marathon nine days later.

{#2-Whitewater Rafting}
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I added this to my 30 things in my 30th year list. The husband and I will be going whitewater rafting on the Snake River while in Jackson on our field trip (that actually came to my mind first) vacation west.

{#3-Orange Is the New Black}
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My affinity for dark shows continues. I did JUST learn that this show is based on a true story. This is both disturbing and interesting. Spoiler Alert: Thank God Pensatucky got some new teeth. I cannot handle her teeth, especially at the start of season 2. Brush and floss at least twice a day and stay away from meth folks.

{#4-Celebrate YOUR Runs}
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Summer running and humidity can easily get you down. Celebrate your progress. Hydrate right. Stay strong. One of my favorite cross country sayings is “Autumn holds no secrets about how summer was spent.” Those hot, steamy miles you put in this summer WILL benefit this fall.

{#5-Sneakers Before Stilettos}
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Saw this recently and found it fitting. The true hierarchy of shoes. Although I love both types, my favorite are days when I lace up my sneakers and then slip on stilettos for a fun night later on.

Happy Weekend? Any fourth of July races planned for anyone?

{Friday Fab 5}

{#1-Loving these not sneaks, not stilettos shoes}
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Ever since spraining the ankle, I’ve been forced to wear more flats. When flats look like these they are not so bad. Plus I got points towards more shoes at DSW-win-win!

{#2-It’s Turkey Trot Season}

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I had to get a festive Sweaty Band to wear at one or more of the turkey trots I’m running this month.

{#3-State #14 is this weekend!}

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We are off to Kansas this weekend! Bring on highs near 60 degrees. You know you live in Wisconsin if this makes you excited!

{#4-NYC Memories}

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I saw this in Women’s Running Magazine this month and found it so fitting from my recent trip there. One of the best ways to see NYC is in your sneaks! Click sneaks to read about my 8-9 miles NYC run all over.

{#5-Veterans Day}

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A special vet in my life!

Don’t forget to thank a service member and their families this weekend in advance of this important day. I’m so grateful for all they’ve given and done for each of us. How different our world would be without their bravery, selflessness, and sacrifice. Thank you veterans!

Happy Weekend!