{Conquering the Midwest-50 States Plan Update}


A few days ago baby girl demanded to be held while she napped.  Of course I didn’t mind too much. As the end of the year approaches and people start setting their goals for 2017 it had me thinking about mine.  Her napping in my arms and thinking about goals at the same time was the perfect combination to do some race researching and planning.


I learned the hard way about setting goals that were too lofty for me post-baby the first time around.  I both underestimated the attachment I would have for that boy and overestimated the amount of training I would be able to handle while sleep deprived and exclusively breastfeeding.  While I wanted and even craved to run, I experienced a high level of separation anxiety when it came to leaving him.  This made long runs a challenge. On top of that he didn’t sleep through the night until he was 9 months old and breastfeeding and pumping was like a part time job on top of working full time.  I’m not saying you can’t make it work and manage it all, but I couldn’t and stay sane and not feel immense mom guilt.

I had planned to run the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon last fall as my come back from baby #1 marathon (I even documented my training in several blog posts), but as I mentioned above it didn’t happen.  This time around I didn’t make any definite goals while pregnant, but now that she is here I’m ready to do so.  Instead of planning to run a marathon at six months postpartum like last time I’m looking more at around a year.  This gives me much more time to get in shape and get strong, increases the chance for sleep and nears the end of my breastfeeding goal of one year for each child.

When deciding what race would be my first marathon since having kids I assumed I would pick the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon as originally planned.  It turns out it won’t be “the one.”  My husband has his masters class that weekend and it is almost a seven hour drive.  That’s also a lot of travel for our season of life right now, which means the kids would need to be at a grandparents for longer.

So what’s my plan?  My first marathon after baby is going to be not too far of a drive and on the way to a grandparents where the kids can be watched for one overnight.  The kids will be almost 1 and 2 and a half so I’m sure that’s all we will all be ready to leave them for.  A race happened to meet this criteria perfectly and, according to marathonguide.com (I love to use this site for learning about specific races), has really good reviews for 50 state seekers like me.  For these reasons the Sioux Falls Marathon in South Dakota will be “the one.”

The race is September 10 which is a bit earlier than the late fall target time I had planned to race, but a doable adjustment to my training.  Training for this marathon will begin in May hopefully right after a local half marathon.  This gives me 4.5 months before I begin marathon training.

Looking ahead to other races I know my plans must follow a similar criteria. During this season of life I must find a way to balance my goals and the needs and demands of my family.  Two kids under two and a husband working on his masters means I will not be able to just race whenever, wherever.

I’ve outlined my “Conquering the Midwest” game plan below.  I’ve already completed at least one marathon in the following states: Wisconsin (Madison Marathon and Wisconsin Marathon), Minnesota (Grandma’s Marathon and Twin Cities Marathon) , Iowa, Illinois, Michigan and Kansas.  I have race reports linked to each state for those interested in reading or new to the blog.  Some are more detailed than others as I didn’t really blog in the beginning of this goal.

2017-South Dakota (Fall-Sioux Falls Marathon)

2018-North Dakota (Fargo Marathon-Spring). I ran the half a few years ago, but want to run a full in every state.  My Fargo Half Marathon race experience was a good one.

Indiana or Nebraska (Fall-Depends on the husbands master classes, but lots of options for races.

2019-Missouri or Nebraska (Spring-It’s a little far out to say for sure on this one.  St. Louis Go Marathon would mean taking the whole family.  If it’s the Lincoln Marathon in Nebraska probably just the husband and I will go.

Ohio-TBD ??

While my kids are young, the nights interrupted, the budget tight and the demands of me great, this is my plan.  I love this phase of life and know how quickly it will pass, so I want my priority to be family.  As my kids get a bit older and more independent I will feel better about leaving for a bit longer and my wallet will be able to afford flights and weekends away.  My training will also be able to target some back to back races.  Until then, I will be conquering the Midwest.

Stay tuned!

Sarah

{Aloha, My Next State}

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No, I’m not in Hawaii, but a girl can dream and eat lots of fresh pineapple. Over the past few days I’ve been looking over everyone’s race reports and Instagram feeds about the Honolulu Marathon and their fun adventures before and after. All those photos got me reminiscing to when the husband and I went to Hawaii 5.5 years ago.

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It was an amazing trip to say the least. We vowed to make it back one day. While that day is still far away, I look forward to it whenever I see or hear about the Aloha State while also cherishing the memories made there already.

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When we traveled to Oahu and Maui in June 2009 I had not made my 50 in 50 goal yet so the fact that a marathon was happening while we were there really wasn’t something I was aware of. Now I plan for it to be my final race in my quest to race all 50 states before the end of my 50th year. So those thoughts of Hawaii and the big number 50 also got me thinking…what’s next.

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It is also that time of year when you start reflecting on the past year and planning for the upcoming year. Let me tell you it is hard to make plans for races and states when you are pregnant. How do you know how you will respond to having a baby? You can’t predict how your body will bounce back, how breastfeeding will go, or how tired you will be, so how do you plan?? For some they simply wouldn’t. Except the type A personality in me just cannot let it go. I need a race on the calendar. Something to look forward to. To hold myself accountable for. A goal to get back in shape. Staying committed to running is so much easier for me when I have a race planned out. Without a date, I get lazy and start making excuses.

What better excuse is there than giving birth to a human? Perhaps none, but I still want a plan. I was big on not pressuring myself and letting things happen and to just see how things were going a month ago. Now as the latest Runner’s World previews next year’s races and the time to register for some races even a year out is coming, I just can’t stop thinking about my next race. When will it be? How soon is too soon? How will I balance it all?

After doing some race research (my favorite kind of reading) I talked to my husband about my fears about putting my first race on the calendar and the pressure I would put on myself. I talked to my husband about not putting a race on the calendar and the lack of motivation that saddles me with and my fear of not getting back on the miles after the baby is born and therefore losing my mind. He confidently said I think you should register. “You know you cope with stress and change by running and you are more motivated when you have a goal in mind.” Boy does he know me. Or he is just terrified of an emotional me losing my mind while having a newborn. Whichever the case, his confidence in what I was already thinking in my head gave me the mental ok to register for my first post-baby marathon.

When picking my first race back I wanted it to be a race that would work towards my state goal, that was close by, inexpensive (a baby costs a lot of money), and far enough out that I could enjoy the first couple of months as a new mom in whatever capacity I need. If I feel good and want to start running at six weeks great. If I have complications, am too tired, or too whatever I have given myself time for that. The only race (and I can’t believe there is one really) that meets all these criteria is the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis, Indiana on November 7th.

This race is roughly six hours from where I live, has a New Year’s Day Special Early Bird registration fee of $60 (most marathons are $80-100) and will allow us to stay one night in a hotel or two depending on where we are at with time, baby and finances. Plus, the husband will be on paternity leave still so we won’t both need to take a personal day for the Saturday race.

It feels so good to say I know when my next marathon is while also not having created extra pressure on myself to be back running in a tight timeline. Between birthday and race day is 7 months give or take a couple of weeks depending on when the boy decides to arrive. I have no BQ goals or time goals other than to just enjoy being back and get to the start line injury free and balanced. I’ve run marathons with very little training (were talking a few weeks and a long run of 13 miles-wasn’t pretty) and with training that topped out at 70 miles (this happened one week, but I’m still oh so proud of myself). I know I can make the time for something in between and be both a mom and a marathoner.

Am I scared? Yes! Am I nervous? Yes! Am I excited? Yes! Oh, you were thinking about the marathon. I was thinking about being a mom. But seriously, I like doing things that scare me. I like some pressure on myself because I operate best that way. So on January 1st here goes nothing. What are you going to do that scares you a little? What goals do you have for yourself that might be equal parts overwhelming and rewarding?

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So that got a little long, but I threw in some pretty pictures of Hawaii to help!

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Between you an me I have another marathon race up my sleeve soon after Indiana, but I do need to talk it over with the husband. He has never read this blog so I could just put it in this post, but when I put something down in writing I rarely don’t accomplish it so it just doesn’t seem right. Stay tuned!

Sarah

{State #13-Utah} Big Cottonwood Marathon

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Friday after school ended I head to the elevated state-Utah. I had a direct flight and the pleasure of sitting next to a man who was burping thick, hearty burps aloud that also had an onion-ish smell during most of the flight. I nearly gagged a few times. I feel I may need to begin wearing a sign on flights that says if you do gross or weird things on a flight, then I will write about you online. Other than this, the flight was great. I had a chance to read a book and my new edition of Runner’s World.

My flight landed at 8:40 p.m. and it was off to pick up my rental car and head to the hotel. My hotel was only eight miles away and near a gas station where I picked up water and vitamin water. So many kids have been sick at school already and I had been feeling on the verge of a cold for the past few days. Once I was in my hotel room, I laid out my race gear for the next morning and was in bed by 10:30. I had a very early wake up coming.

At 3:45 a.m. my alarm went off and I was up and out of bed. I was surprisingly not that tired and fairly efficient at getting myself ready and out the door in less than 40 minutes. I ate my typical morning bagel and packed along a Blueberry Luna bar just in case I got hungry later. I had a coffee cup with Diet Dew and a bottle of water to take on the bus ride up the mountain. I also had my layers prepared as I knew it would be cold on the mountain top (50 degrees). Buses started leaving at 4:00 a.m. with the last bus leaving at 5:00 a.m. for a 6:40 a.m. race start. I was aboard a bus by 4:35 a.m. ready to head up the mountain top.

On the ride up the mountain it was completely dark; views of Salt Lake City lit up the valley. As we climbed the mountain in the school bus, I could see nothing out the window, but could feel the bus climbing. After about a 30 minute ride towards the top our bus came to a stop. People on the bus from the area mentioned there was little space to turn around and how narrow the road is. They also mentioned there were few guardrails on Big Cottonwood Canyon Road.

Course Map

Course Map

After sitting for 15 minutes without moving, people started to get uneasy and wonder what was going on. A few people got off the bus to pee in the darkness; with narrow roads and no real shoulder people did this at their own risk. A few minutes later some of the bathroom goers got back on the bus and said two or three buses ahead there was a bus that took a very tight up the mountain turn too tight. The front and back tires of the bus were off the ground and the mid-section of the bus was stuck on the turn blocking both lanes of the road. No buses could go up or down the mountain. After another ten minutes some runners on other buses got off the buses to walk to the start of the race. Our bus decided that would not be smart considering mile marker three up ahead indicated we still had three miles to go to the start, it was pitch black out, and the road was narrow without guardrails.

Soon a tow truck was up the mountain and a runner told the guy to hook up his chain and get that bus out of the way. The guy said he wasn’t sure he would be able to, but the runner told him to get going. With a fresh burned rubber smell in the air and another 30 minutes past, we were headed back up the mountain…for 100 meters. Then our bus stalled and the starter went out four times in the next half mile. The last two and a half miles were uneventful; thank gosh!

Marathon Elevation Map

Marathon Elevation Map

At the top of the mountain the sun was starting to come up so we could see. The plus of this delay is it wouldn’t be dark for the first three miles of the race, rather we could see during the entire race. It was a mad dash for stops at the port a potty and packet drop off.

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The race began about 35-40 minutes later than scheduled, however the race directors and organizers did an awesome job with the entire situation. I was surprised they even got us started that early considering buses didn’t get to the top until an hour plus after they were supposed to. Finally we were off!  I’m going to let the photos do most the talking in this race report!
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The first mile was steep and I could feel my knees hurting. I was freaked; what if this continued? I kept my cool and after the first mile the feeling disappeared as my muscles warmed and the steepness declined. Many people asked me about the elevation’s impact on my running; I really didn’t notice it much at all. A few times during the race I noticed I was breathing heavier than usual, but I was also very out of shape and had been congested so I really can’t say with certainty it was the elevation.

mile 1

mile 1

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mile 1-9:30

mile 2

mile 2

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mile 2-9:23
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mile 3-9:31
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The quads were saying hi at this point already!  I was staying positive, but was also making a mental note.  I needed to keep the pace slow to save up for later.  I had a long way to go with not a lot of training to fall back on.

mile 4-9:40

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mile 5-9:20
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mile 6-9:22
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IMG_3816These miles were just ticking by so fast!

mile 7-9:30

mile 8-10:00
Big Cottonwood Marathon 8

mile 9-10:44 (bathroom break)
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The beauty of the course continued to amaze me.  By mile 10 I could really feel my quads.  I guess that is the reason for completing downhill training when preparing for a downhill marathon.  Even with a healed ankle it would have been a challenge to truly prepare for this type of course.  The pain was negated by the beauty all around.  The feeling of running in such a gorgeous place was indescribable.  I kept smiling and falling in love with running all over again.  I was so glad to be out there running; I felt so lucky!

mile 10-9:22

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mile 11-9:33
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We came out of this tight curve to a whole new scene.  New trees, and more green with a drop in elevation.  So pretty!IMG_3825
mile 12-9:28

The nice thing about just running to finish is you have time to pause for photos.

The nice thing about just running to finish is you have time to pause for photos.

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mile 13-9:24
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mile 14-9:27
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Big Cottonwood Marathon

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mile 15-9:33
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Big Cottonwood Marathon 11

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mile 16-9:17
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Big Cottonwood Marathon 13

This photo was for you, Meg!  I thought of you and your dad at this point and smiled!

This photo was for you, Meg! I thought of you and your dad at this point and smiled!

mile 17-9:21
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mile 18-9:13

At this point we left the canyon behind and were headed onto a bike path that led to a road.  The flat road miles seemed to be the longest miles of my life.
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The sun was high in the sky and the drop in elevation was warming things up.  Did I mention at this point my quads are on fire had been going through my head for some time sung to the tune of “This girl is on fire” by Alicia Keys.

mile 19-9:44

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mile 20-9:56
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I had been in pain for a few miles and finally felt a bit better.  That feeling would be short lived.

mile 21-12:05 (bathroom break)

After mile 21 I don’t even remember the race very clearly.  I was in so much pain. My quads hurt, my back hurt from holding my running form downhill, I was having major GI issues (stomach cramps, extra bathroom stop) which NEVER happens to me.  I knew I was thirsty and my muscles felt like they needed a GU (i.e. energy), but I knew Gatorade messed with my stomach and the issues I was having forced me to forgo any GU’s or Gatorade.  This meant no extra electrolytes, calories, or go for the hardest miles of the race.

mile 22-10:22

mile 23-9:31

mile 24-11:14

I had been pushing as hard as I could for the past six miles, taking 1:00 minute walk breaks when my stomach cramps got too bad-something I’d never done before.  With mile marker 25 up ahead I felt tears welling up in my eyes.  I just couldn’t run.  My legs had nothing left, I felt weak, my stomach hated me.  I couldn’t believe the mess I was.  There is NO crying in running.  I pulled myself together in defeat and did something I’ve never done before and I walked a mile of the race, mile 25.

mile 25-13:58

I knew I had to start running again, so I did. One more mile to go.

mile 26-10:42

So relieved to be meters from the finish!

So relieved to be meters from the finish!


mile 26.2-8:19
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Loved the popsicles and Jimmy John's at the finish!

Loved the popsicles and Jimmy John’s at the finish!


and this puppy!
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Cottonwood HS makes me think of the Scream movies..."Sydney" in creepy voice!

Cottonwood HS makes me think of the Scream movies…”Sydney” in creepy voice!

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Running this race taught me so much about pushing through pain and your comfort zone.  I never thought about quitting rather I tried to embrace the pain and remember the more I pushed, the sooner I was done.  I’ve already begun to forget how those miles hurt towards the end.  I guess that is why people subject themselves to the pain again.  

In the end I was proud.  Despite running my slowest marathon ever, I was happy I finished with only three weeks of low mileage training after being injured.  Without any downhill preparation, I ran 18 miles downhill.  I was proud and content with my time considering the situation.  At one point a week before the race, when life was crazy and my confidence low, I mentioned possibly not going.  I decided that was foolish as who knows when I’d be able to complete this race again.  I set aside my fears, went after my goal of 50 in 50, and did it.  I went big!

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I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t upset hearing about all the people who qualified for Boston at this race, but figure there must be a reason why I got injured and won’t be at that starting line next spring.  There will be chances again in the future; I must remember this when I get down on myself about my slow race time.  I went big! I ran in a beautiful location in a once in a lifetime race. I tackled a challenge of a marathon without truly training. It was an awesome experience and the runners got the gold treatment.

If you EVER have a chance to run this race-DO IT! It is gorgeous. The race is one of the most organized I’ve ever ran, the medals and shirts are awesome, runners were taken care of from start to finish with tattoos, bags, gloves, and goodies at the start; plus free photos were automatically posted to your facebook. This was a top notch race. I’m so glad I ran it as my Utah!
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Big Cottonwood Marathon
Time:  4:22:11
Pace: 10:00min/mile
Place: 835/1308
Gender: 426/733
Age Group:  48/89