{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

{State #16-Montana} Missoula Marathon

IMG_7052
After signing up for a marathon in state #15 (Portland, Oregon), I immediately signed up for state #16, Montana, since I had started planning our Go West Road Trip around the races I would be running. I had never run two marathons only nine days apart, but had run a half marathon and a marathon the following day. I also had hopes of completing a 50k (Chester Woods 50k) in the spring, so I felt I would be prepared for two marathons close together. I knew that it would probably be warm making the miles more challenging, but when you have a goal and a limited budget compromises have to be made.

Screenshot 2014-07-28 20.31.38

For the first time in a very long time we arrived to the city I would be racing not late the night before, not even the morning before, but an entire two nights before. It felt great to not be stressing about race morning with little sleep, picking up my packet the morning of the race and not knowing where to go until it was time to go. That relaxed feeling set the tone for our weekend.

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Carb loading Friday night before the Sunday race.

Saturday was packet pick up and the outdoor expo took place in downtown Missoula. Runners were out in full force and I was not feeling the crowds, so we quickly got my packet and headed somewhere less crowded for lunch. I was not feeling well the day before and was really nervous about running another marathon the next day. Looking at the weather forecast only added to my fears. I knew it would be a tough race regardless, but with highs of 97 forecasted for the following day I was terrified for the painful sweatfest to come.

Course Map

Course Map

My goal was to complete the race and not walk. I would have loved to run under four hours, but wasn’t sure if that would have been possible without the heat. I had it in my head that under four and a half hours would be great with the heat. Remember, I am not a hot weather runner. Nothing sends my run in a downward spiral faster than heat.

IMG_7179

The night before the race we ate a yummy dinner at a local restaurant, I laid out my gear, and I actually got to bed a bit earlier than the typical for me. Not before getting sucked into a movie on TV though. Damn you Sandra Bullock and your scary space travel in Gravity. George Clooney might have had something to do with it, too. And, who is really ready for bed at 9:00 anyway?

The 4:15 alarm woke me up and I did not want to get up, but I told myself how lucky I was to get to be accomplishing my goal. Since I knew I was in for some pain and discomfort that morning, I decided to approach the race with a borrowed mantra from Brooks-Run Happy! I couldn’t change the weather or how my legs felts, but I could change my attitude. I made it a goal to focus on running happy whenever I felt tired, my legs got sore, I got hot or frustrated, or I wanted to quit. I was going to enjoy running in Montana. Take in the sights, sounds and feel joyful to be completing state #16 in my goal to race all 50 states.

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The husband took me to the shuttle that all marathoners were required to take to the start of the marathon. Everything was so organized. We arrived at the start, and I got in line for the port-o-potties where I waited in line for the shortest time perhaps ever. There was lively music with reminders of the time every five minutes. After the national anthem we headed to our starting spots. I lined up with the four-hour marathon pace group and a few minutes later we were off. As we crossed the starting line fireworks were shot off for at least five minutes while runners began their 26.2 mile journey. I was jazzed up!

As mile one and two went by my calves let me know they were not excited. They were so tight and I got panicked thoughts that I might need all seven hours the course was open in order to complete the race. I was super worried and I had to pee. I held it hoping it would go away. That does usually work, however at mile three I still had to go, and at mile four and at mile five. I decided I did need to make the stop at the mile five port-o-potty. I wasn’t going to run the rest of the race with a full bladder.

mile 1-8:44

mile 2-9:02

mile 3-8:59

mile 4-8:59

mile 5-10:05

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During the next miles I watched as more and more people passed me and my pace slowed. I had to remind myself not to compare myself to others. I was running my own race for myself in an effort to achieve my own goal. It didn’t matter what I ran as long as I ran for myself. Run happy!

mile 6-8:55

mile 7-9:16

mile 8-9:03

This race the headphones and music were going much earlier than state #15.  Luke Bryan, Avicii, Drake and the Great Gatsby soundtrack really kept me going.

mile 9-9:51

mile 10-9:02

mile 11-8:53

Around mile 14 runners started climbing a hill that would go on for over a mile. This was hard for me and I had to draw on some mental energy.  It was the only time I walked the entire race.  The downhills were awesome though and this area was mostly shaded.

mile 12-9:22

mile 13-8:59

mile 14-10:46

mile 15-8:53

Screenshot 2014-07-28 21.16.00

Around mile 16 we began entering town. There were friendly people outside their homes and tons of them, I mean tons, had so generously set up sprinklers and hoses for runners going by their houses. This was AMAZING! During these last miles the temperatures had really started to climb, yet I hardly had a chance to overheat too much with cold water to run through every quarter to a half mile for the remainder of the course. Awesome fans!

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mile 16-9:09

mile 17-8:54

mile 18-9:06

Screenshot 2014-07-28 21.16.31

As I neared mile 19 I was feeling pretty good. I knew that I was going to do this and actually was feeling better than the early miles now that my legs had warmed up and the one long uphill was over. I was running really strong in the heat on tired legs. Run happy!

mile 19-9:45

mile 20-9:17

mile 21-9:18

mile 22-9:39

Around mile 23 I decided I was feeling good enough to pick up the pace for a bit. It ended up being the last four miles. I was warmed up and had gotten used to the feeling of running on tired legs which made it easier. Oddly enough I felt adjusted to the heat.

mile 23-8:59

mile 24-8:57

As I closed in on the final miles and the home stretch I gave it all I had. I thought I had a chance at running under four, but knew I had to give it my all with my bathroom break at mile five.

mile 25-8:44

mile 26-8:47

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I saw the husband cheering and snapping photos in the final .2 and felt a surge of happiness and pride. I could have never done this without his support. I also had visions of water dancing in my head.

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I also have to admit I teared up happy tears as I closed in on that finish line.  I was so proud of how I overcame the heat, repeated and followed my mantra (well, Brooks, but that is a technicality) and finished state number 16 nine days after running state number 15.  I actually felt better during the last six miles of this race than I did on my fourth of July marathon. I was strong through all the discomfort.  With temperatures in the eighties when I finished, I was so pumped with my performance.  I would have loved to have shaved that minute and 25 seconds off to be under four hours, but I ran much better than I had anticipated.

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After finishing my race the husband commented he couldn’t believe how well I ran with tired legs and the heat. He might have heard me whine a bit about heat before. Plus based on my midway pace he expected me to come in fifteen to twenty minutes later. He was so proud and made me feel even prouder.

My husband deserves a lot of credit for the support he gives me on my journey in racing all 50 states. Without him I would never be able to accomplish this goal. He does so with a smile and a joking demeanor which I love him for. The race director deserves a lot of credit, too. The course was great and I’m so appreciative for the shaded parts during the second half of the marathon-well planned! Everything from start to finish was so organized. One of the top races I’ve run. On top of that the shirts were great, the medals fab and personalized race bibs topped it off.

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Missoula Marathon
Time: 4:01:26 (Damn, that bathroom break) 🙂
Pace: 9:13
Overall: 377/1168
Gender: 130/562
Age Group: 32/86

{State #15-Oregon} Foot Traffic Flat Marathon

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It feels like this race was a million years ago…perhaps because it sort of was. Writing race reports weeks after the race is hard. During the race I have so many thoughts and ideas going through my head. If I don’t get them down on paper or makes notes, then my mind is wiped clean after a few days. It seems like a different part of my brain gets used when running those long runs/races that doesn’t get used at other times. Good thing I have a few photos to conjure up some memories.

I had signed up for the Foot Traffic Flat Marathon back in December when this whole Go West road trip was still just a dream. No details were set or travel plans made. I just knew I’d be running a marathon, state #15, in Oregon on the 4th of July. I love holiday races as they give you an excuse to dress up and it makes choosing a race outfit easier it gives you a reason to buy new running gear.

Tank-Athleta Turbocharge Tank, Shorts-Oiselle Distance Short, Socks-Procompression, Headband-Bic Bands

Tank-Athleta Turbocharge Tank, Shorts-Oiselle Distance Short, Socks-Procompression, Headband-Bic Bands

Shuttle transportation was strongly recommended, so the husband and I were up at 4:15 to get on the road by 4:45 to catch a shuttle that would take us to the island.

Lets just say when I woke up I wasn’t feeling this race. The day before had been spent driving 855 miles from the Grand Tetons to Portland. We had been in the car for thirteen plus hours. The legs weren’t exactly used to moving despite a quick hike at Multnomah Falls en route to Portland.

As most of my race reports read I also didn’t get to bed early at all. We ate dinner at 9:45 that night and it was nearly midnight when lights were out. But, sometimes we just suck it up, buttercup. So I did with the help of some Starbucks Frappuccino’s I’d bought for the trip and the morning sun rising over the Sauvie Island Bridge.
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Participants and spectators could buy tickets to ride the shuttle, and tickets had to be purchased in advance for their planning purposes. Shuttles were efficient and took the parking chaos out of race day prep. The husband liked not having to drive around, drop me off and find parking.
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The race took place on Sauvie Island which is fifteen minutes away from Portland. The race started at a pumpkin patch with a cute little farmers market type place with a barn and buildings selling goodies.
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A 6:30 start time got us out and away from the worst of the sun, but it was still a warm one!
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The course took you around the island with an out and back section first, followed by an loop that was part of the half marathon course. While there were half marathon walkers to run around in those last miles there were not so many that it was inconvenient or annoying. It also could have been the fact that I could be found walking at time those last miles. I was had begun dying a slow death from the sun and heat. I really didn’t notice anyone much those last miles. All I could think about were water, shade, and water.
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The course itself was flat (as the name indicates) and was full of farms growing beautiful flowers and berries. It was unique to see rather than the corn fields, soybeans and alfalfa were used to in the midwest. One of my favorite parts of the race (other than the finish) was the field of lavender growing along the road. There was a bench in the middle of the field and it looked like a place you could just spend time reflecting on life or reading a book. Much of the course was along water as well with it being an island and all.
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My goal for the race was to make it mentally easy and to run controlled. My legs were recovering from the 50k I’d ran less than a month earlier. I had another marathon to run in nine days. I had hiked almost 50 miles that week with lots more coming the next week. If I ran like an idiot, then I would pay big time. I kept the pace comfortable and challenged myself to run sans music until mile 13. Then I pushed it to mile 14 and then 15. Around mile 16/17 though I felt like I really needed that music.
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The first half plus was in the sun entirely. There was a nice breeze and since the sun wasn’t high in the sky it wasn’t too bad. Around miles 14 there was some shade which made running seem so much easier.

I spent a lot of my time thinking about how lucky and prideful I feel to live in the USA. I get to race all 50. I get to travel when I want, where I want. I can share what I want about it. That pride for my country carries through all the time.
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Then it was back to sun for more miles. Around mile 21 I got this surge and really picked up the pace and felt great. My legs were not tired or even sore.

Probably not the best idea because around mile 23 we hit the sun for the last three miles and it was like I had used up my batteries. Ugh! Those last three miles they were unpleasant sucked!

I’ve never been a great heat runner, but I definitely felt stronger because of pushing through. I was actually surprised I was able to finish in the time I did with the heat and only doing recovery miles since the 50k. Knowing there was strawberry shortcake at the finish helped me push through the heat. And my husband running next to me for a mile, too. What a nice guy!
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The strawberry shortcake tasted just how I’d imagined it would, the shirts were great and the medals awesome! Plus I love when races put your name on bibs. Hearing your name cheered is so encouraging!
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Foot Traffic Flat Marathon
Time: 3:54:41
Pace: 8:57
Overall: 127/347
Gender: 46/165
Age Group: 5/27

{Wisconsin Marathon Race Report}

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On Saturday the husband became an official marathon finisher. Over the past 18 weeks I documented our training ups and downs on this blog. We had some great runs and some challenging runs. We ran in the negative temperatures of the polar vortex, indoors on treadmills to beat the chill, in rain, in sleet, in a foot of snow, in gorgeous spring weather, and everything in between.

Training for a marathon through all these types of weather builds your confidence and teaches you you can do difficult things. Marathon training prepares you for the difficult miles ahead not unlike those of life. Training teaches you there will be miles that hurt and miles that take your breath away. There will be miles that are lost and miles you want to lose it in. All of these miles add up to the distance we completed on Saturday and sometimes are experienced all in one race.
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Friday evening we left town to stay in a hotel just outside of Kenosha. We stopped at an Olive Garden in Madison for some pre-race fuel. We had been saving our Olive Garden gift card we received for Christmas and used Hotwire to get a deal on our hotel room. We arrived to our room at 9:30, laid out our outfits for the next morning and got to bed around 10:30. This may be the most rest I’ve gotten the night before a race in a long time.
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Saturday morning we were up by 5:15. We quickly showered, got our race gear on, and packed the items we had laid out that we’d need for the race like Gu’s. I’d carefully packed everything and laid it out the night before. My race outfit had been chosen three nights earlier. We double checked the weather, loaded directions on the phone, and were off. As we walked down the hall to the car, I thought about all the emotions Ryan must have been feeling and about how I felt on the day of my first marathon. It made my stomach flip just thinking about it.
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We arrived to the race and parked a few blocks away. Parking was a breeze and we arrived to the start with plenty of time to visit the bathroom, snap a few pictures, and enjoy the emotions of the start line.
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It was around this time that I ran into Stacy from In it for the Long Run. We had both ran at the Wisconsin Marathon and Half Marathon (her the full, me the half) last year where we’d hoped to meet, but it wasn’t our day. Today was. She was originally hoping to BQ, but was dealing with a “setback.” Check out her blog post about her Wisconsin Marathon experience.

Immediately upon seeing Stacy I noticed her purple Garmin 220 watch. I noticed this because I have the same one and it wasn’t on my wrist. I had forgotten the freakin’ watch in the car. I have been so forgetful lately that this shouldn’t even surprise me. I was immediately upset. This was Ryan’s marathon and I wanted to make sure we were running a smart pace the entire race. I told Ryan if the race course took us within a couple of blocks of our vehicle, then I’d run to the car and get the watch. I still couldn’t figure out how I’d left the watch in the car.

No watch...eek!

No watch…eek!


With the start only minutes away I didn’t have too much time to worry. The national anthem rang while I silently freaked out. I’d never run a marathon without knowing my pace. I decided I’d start the stopwatch on my phone as I knew from experience the RunKeeper GPS would kill the battery around mile 17-18, and I also wanted to be able to take a few photos. This is sick irony in a way as Ryan is a math teacher. The mental math we did during this race was crazy.

Finally we were off. We quickly learned that the course was not going to go near the car so it was time to suck it up, buttercup. The first miles took us through downtown Kenosha. This area is cute and kitschy in its own way. The next few miles looped out along Lake Michigan. The views were beautiful. The houses huge, and the miles fast. Around mile two we peaked at the stopwatch and saw we were running near nine minute miles. We were okay with this, but had a goal to run around 8:45 pace. This pace was conservative, but allowed us to bank some time, too. Around mile two Stacy caught up with us. We chatted about the forgotten watch, her “setback” and goals, and running races in general. Around mile five we separated and I wished her well. I knew she would do great considering her alternative race plan as she was rocking some awesome fast paces in her training earlier this year. I know a BQ is only a race away for her. Take care of yourself though, girl!
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Miles 5-7 took us back into the downtown area, along Lake Michigan (above), and looped back past the start. We checked our pace at mile five and we were just under nine minute mile pace. As you loop past the start and the half marathon splits from the marathon we naturally checked in with ourselves. How do we feel? Are we fueling right? What is our plan? We both felt good, felt the pace was manageable, and decided to keep on keepin’ on.
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It was around this time that we caught the above awesome view and ran up on a hilarious group of runners. They were so funny and we “drafted” behind them for a mile laughing along the way. At one point we came up on a mile two marker. Someone from the group commented, “WTF we are only at mile two. Son of a bitch this isn’t going well.” When running long distances things make you laugh easily (and other times nothing makes you laugh.) Next they were joking about making jigsaw puzzles out of the view and how you definitely had to start with the horizon line. A moment later they were singing I’ll Be There For You…cue Friends. Still one of the best shows ever.

Around the halfway point we moved around the funny group and double checked our time. We came through the half way mark at 1:54:30. We were running an 8:45 pace at the half way mark and we were pumped. It was around this time that I hit a mental funk. I just felt ugh. I can’t really explain it. At mile 14 Ryan had to take bathroom break at the port-o-potty that appeared out of no where as were due to enter the Kenosha Sand Dunes area. Excellent choice on his part as I don’t recall a bathroom for miles…err till the finish.
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I stretched it out and snapped a picture while he port-o-johned it. Ryan came out asking if something was moving the port-o-potty. Some nearby girls played along with me as I thanked them for shaking the port-o-potty. In reality, I have no clue what he was talking about. The thing didn’t move an inch.

The break and the laugh found me in a better mood. We also headed into a packed gravel road. Reviewers complained about the second half of the course, but I thought it was peaceful and beautiful. I enjoyed the marshish feel, the sounds of birds and frogs in early spring, and the seclusion. If you love rows of fans this isn’t for you. If you don’t mind you, your thoughts, and you then you wouldn’t mind.

The view for miles 20-24.  Beautiful!

The view for miles 20-24. Beautiful!


As we approached mile 19 Ryan started to have muscle pains. We came through mile 20 at 2:58:30. We were doing awesome in pacing for Ryan to finish under four hours (his goal.) Around this point however Ryan began to experience muscle cramps in his hamstrings, calves, and behind his knees. In all of his training runs he never had cramps once. I attribute this to the warmer (but so gorgeous-near 60) temperatures on race day. He also drank no water before the race because his bladder is similar to the size of a small child’s. I did not tell him to skip out on all water, but he took my suggestion to limit his water before the race to mean drink nothing. Lesson learned.

The next miles were hard. Mile 22 our time was 3:20. The past two miles took us 21:30. Not good. I was nervous. I helped us devise a plan. At each mile marker we would walk a minute and then run until the next marker-no walking. We carried this plan out almost perfectly. We had some intense exchanges as Ryan felt terrible despite never feeling bad in a 22 mile AND a 20 mile training run. I waffled between cheerleader and keep your damn mouth shut, he’s in pain. I felt terrible that he was feeling rough.

Near mile 25.5 I told Ryan he could not slow down. We needed to keep the pace to achieve his goal. At mile 26 he told me his whole body was cramping; I told him he couldn’t slow down or he’d miss his goal. As we came down the home stretch I spotted some of Ryan’s family with a big sign that said Happy 30th Sarah. My family and some of our friends were on the right. We came through the finish holding hands in the air. Our finish time 3:59:35. My stopwatch was 14 seconds ahead of the chip time. We did it. Ryan did it. And boy did he.
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I didn’t make the connection about why everyone was at the finish until later because I was so excited and proud of him for finishing in under four hours. I wanted him to soak it in, enjoy every moment, and feel prouder than ever.
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It was part of a surprise birthday party he had planned for me. He kept telling me he was running the marathon for my 30th birthday. I didn’t get what he meant. What he meant was he wanted to plan a birthday surprise that was all about the things I love, that was personal and special to me. He nailed it on the head. Running together and training was ultimately an awesome experience. To culminate it with family and friends was even better.
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Little did I know there was more. He had reserved a block of rooms at nice hotel (I heart!) in the Historic Third Ward (my favorite part of Milwaukee) where everyone met after the race for drinks, then we bar hopped along Milwaukee’s river walk, and finally he had a reservation for the 25 in our group at the Water Street Brewery for dinner. Then it was out with friends for the night. The day was me to a T. He combined my favorite things (friends and family, marathons, swanky hotels, Historic Third Ward Milwaukee, craft brews, breweries, and awesome food.) What an awesome husband I have. He took a day that should have been about him and made it into the perfect birthday surprise. He gets me. And for that I’m so grateful.
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Wisconsin Marathon
Time: 3:59: 34 (Ryan) and 3:59: 35 (Sarah) He won between us!
Pace: 9:09
Overall: 284/847 (Ryan) and 285/847 (Sarah)
Gender: 199/463 and 86/384
Age Group: 31/58 and 18/71

Happy Running!

SS

{Wisconsin Marathon Training-Week 16 (the real post)}

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First of all congrats to all the runners at Boston today. I was so excited for Meb to win the men’s race today. I was cheering and on the edge of my seat those last miles. It was also awesome to see Shalane Flanagan PR and set a new American record along with a new course record by Rita Jeptoo. Watching them run reminded me that even for the elite a marathon is a challenge.
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Our first week of taper is officially over. Since accidentally posting this before it was done you can also tell that I’m already starting to lose it…sort of. Let taper madness begin. Taper madness is the self-doubt, phantom aches and pains that pop up, questioning of ones training, and general hysteria that surrounds a drop in mileage before a big race.
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Ryan is following his taper schedule which is coming at a perfect time as he has baseball games three nights a week. I’m sort of tapering, but not. Since my big race is the Chesterwoods 50k in June and my two marathons in July, I do want to taper some for the Wisconsin Marathon, but it is really serving as a long run for me.

Monday started with a snow day and Tuesday it was still cold yet. While you’d think I’d be used to this, I am so over it. I also wanted to rest the legs from our 22 miler. I should have run Tuesday, but didn’t. I later regretted that choice. I swear sometimes I never learn.

Wednesday-5 miles

Thursday-8 miles (Ryan)

Friday-8.6 hilly miles (Sarah)
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Saturday-10 miles (both of us)

This surprise package greeted us on Saturday! We opted to pay for packets to be sent to our house as we knew we wouldn't have time to attend packet pickup. This makes the race seem so much more real!

This surprise package greeted us on Saturday! We opted to pay for packets to be sent to our house as we knew we wouldn’t have time to attend packet pickup. This makes the race seem so much more real!

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We ran our ten miles on the Great River Trail which runs parallel to the Mississippi River and into the nearby marsh areas.  We even saw a pelican fly by a few times which is a new sighting this spring.  20140421-124530.jpg

This run I had hopes of going 16, but I wasn’t feeling the greatest tummy wise and we had places to go and people to see so I settled for ten miles. Sunday was the same story and sadly my miles really tapered this week. The runs I had felt great and strong so I’m not too worried. I’m looking to have a strong week and my miles up again next week although with a busy calendar it is going to take some forward planning on my part to make it happen. Get after it!

Tip of the Week: When tapering for a marathon-respect the taper. You’ve earned the time off and recovery for your legs to perform their best on race day. Remember while you might be cutting mileage, you do not need to cut intensity. Keep doing those speed sessions if that has been a part of your training. Tapering is about reducing miles on your feet not intensity. Also, now is the time to make sure you’ve done a dress rehearsal or two on you last long runs to make sure you know what you are wearing on race morning to eliminate unnecessary surprises or discomforts. A little forwards planning can really save your race ahead of time!

Weekly Mile Totals: 18 miles (Ryan) and 23.6 miles (Sarah)

Happy Training! I’m off to start my week right with a run and show some Boston Strong pride!

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