Monday, December 21, 2015


It's New Year's Resolution time! Just kidding, I don't make new year's resolutions. I've always been a firm believer that waiting until an arbitrary point in time to make a change in your life is useless, if you want to start something, stop something, or do something different, do it now, what are you really waiting for? Your life is not going to be easier if you wait until Monday. Days aren't suddenly going to have more hours in them on January 1st. You aren't going to have any more resolve to do it next week than you have right now, so stop procrastinating and GO FOR IT!

That said, there are a few things I've been letting slack in my life the last few months that I am on a mission to get better about in the new year:

1. Trying to write something for this blog once a week: I really love writing this blog, even if no one else reads it, I just enjoy getting things out of my head and on to "paper". It really helps me to put things that need to be behind me to bed and also allows me to look back when I'm struggling with stuff to see if I handled it in a better way in the past. Finding time to write has been my biggest "slack" lately, so I'm going to try to get better about it.

2. Not doing anything exercise-wise except and occasional run: I have been HORRIBLE about exercising pretty much since summer ended. I kept up with run training in order to not die during the half-marathon I did in October, but outside of that I haven't swam a single lap or even sat on a bike since my last tri (September 4th!!!), I haven't lifted a single weight since July, I did some half-hearted yoga a few weeks ago, but it looked more like a dying dog than a downward dog! I have managed to run at least once a week over this time, but most of those were "make it work runs", no speed work, no intervals, no negative splits, no hill-repeats, just running, which is great, but not really getting me into peak physical shape. And you know what I have NOT been slacking on during this same time frame? Eating. Oh no, do I ever miss a meal? Ha! I have been pretty much a human garbage disposal for the last two months...I mean, I'm a runner, I can eat whatever I want, right?!? Um, if the fact that I could barely button my jeans this morning is any indication, no, I cannot not.

3. Getting craft projects done: I have no less than 10 different craft projects in various states of done-ness. Some of them have been "almost done" for over a year! I have a crafting room in my house for crying out loud, so what is my problem?!? I have this idea that every week the kids and I will find a couple hours where we'll just hunker down in the craft bunker and I'll let them go hog-wild with glitter and ink stamps while I try to finish some of my projects. I'm sure we'd all enjoy this (until clean up time anyway). So, I just need to make it happen as my dream of magical little elves coming to my house late at night to finish them for me is seeming less and less plausible each day.

So, there you have it, my 2016 "Non-Resolutions". I really hate thinking of myself as a slacker, so now that I have called myself out publicly, I am sure to turn things around, right?!?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Midweek Motivation! The Old Me

You know those people who make everything a competition? You have them in your life almost everyday...that neighbor who has to cut his lawn just a half inch shorter than yours, that co-worker who just must get the last word in at the staff meeting, that Mom who's kid starting walking at 8 months when your kid started walking at 9 know the people I'm talking about! Well, I hate to admit it, but I am kinda one of those people, and I apologize if I've ever tried to "one up" any of you...I do it almost unconsciously, like it's an ingrained instinct, I really thrive on competing, even if there is no ultimate prize to be had.

I don't know that this one of my better qualities, but I'll tell you where it comes in handy for matter how off the rails I might go with my commitment to a healthy lifestyle (Hello Halloween candy and being "too busy" to exercise for the last week), I am so focused on not losing the position I have achieved through focusing on health and fitness that I will be in constant competition with myself to maintain where I am. In the past I'd have periods of time where I would exercise, eat well, lose would last a few months, and then...BAM..."old me" would creep right up and pass "new me" and I'd quickly be right back into my old habits, with the same excuses, feeling bad about myself but not caring enough to try to "win". As I approach the two-year anniversary of when I started running, which has been the latest catalyst to become the "new me", I will remind myself that the excuses "old me" used to use have been proven false; I have found the time, I have had the energy, I have made the efforts to keep beating her for two years, by doing something I told myself I would never to...becoming a runner!!

If you are not a naturally competitive person that is okay, you know what fuels your fire, you know what you need to do to "beat" her. Always keep that "old me" always in your sights. There may be days she gets a little bit ahead of you, but you'll pass her again, you know how to do it, you will win in the long run!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Product Review: SLS3 Compression Socks with a GIVEAWAY!

SLS3 provided me with a free pair of compression socks in return for this review, but rest assured the opinions and reviews expressed here are my own.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you may know there are a few items I cannot live without…like Strawberry Lemonade Nuun, the Strava app, and my old reliable Saucony Guides! Well, I might just be adding compression gear to that list now too!
A few weeks ago I was approached by SLS3 to try out a pair of their Butterfly Compression Socks to review for you all. I was pretty excited to get a chance to write up my first official product review, when I realized…I really didn’t know anything about compression garments…time for a quick tutorial!
First, SLS3 is a small company based in San Diego. It was started by a husband/wife triathlete duo, which is important to me…I want to know the people making my gear know the sport I am using it for! They are also German, so you know they know about engineering stuff (as my Grandpa would say “Germans make everything better!) They have wide range of compression socks, sleeves and other gear for runners, triathletes, and cyclists; from beginners to professionals. I had seen some of their tri suits before, but again, I was pretty ignorant on how compression gear works, so while their stuff looked cool, I didn’t really know what to think. 
So, I did some research and was excited to see so much positive information on compression! Studies have shown that wearing compression during exercise can:
·         Improve strength, sprint performance and jumping height
·         Influence your oxygen intake and lactate concentration (aka IMPROVE ENDURANCE!)
·         Increase your stamina
And wearing compression for recovery can:
·         Allow lactate concentration to go away more quickly
·         Reduce muscle pain and swelling
Pretty much everything on my “wish list” for being a better runner was accounted for. So, I sat by my mailbox anxiously awaiting their arrival! I did a couple runs in the days before I got my socks, trying to pay close attention to how my legs felt during, and after for comparison. My right ankle usually feels sore and weak when I run, so I tend to use KT tape on it. I did a run with tape and without and really noticed a difference in how much stronger I feel with the tape on. My biggest hope for these socks was that I could run tape free and feel the same confidence and strength!

My daughter texted me after school on the day they arrived “Mom, there’s a package in the mail with your name on it, is it a present for me?” This is the same question I get every time there is a package in the mail. “No Kayley, it’s a present for Mom!” I was pretty excited to give these things a go! I tore the envelope open and found the pink and white box. My first impression, it kind of looked like the packaging for a feminine hygiene product…if I have one suggestion for SL3S it might be to modernize the packaging a bit, but that was quickly forgotten about when I took the socks out…they are super cute!

Not the most striking packaging...but all the essential info is right on the front!
I love the purple, they also come in teal, pink, and light blue
I immediately noticed how lightweight and soft they felt. I guess I was expecting them to be really stiff and heavy feeling, so this was a nice surprise. I was ready to put these beauties on and give them a spin. I planned on doing three trials with them before writing this review. First, a short tempo run to see if they helped with speed fatigue. Then a long run to see how they helped with endurance, then I planned to do a mid-distance run without the socks and wear them after, to see if there was a significant difference in wearing them for recovery only. Here's what I think: 

Short Tempo Run:
I did a three miler with my BRF a few days after my half marathon. I wasn't sure that this was the best time to do a Tempo run, but I was feeling confident with my fancy new socks. They went on much more easily than I thought they would...I just had to bunch them down a lot to get my ginormous feet inside, but once I got them over my heel, they pulled up over my calves without too much protest. They felt snug, but not uncomfortable. It was a nice enough day that I had shorts on, so when I walked through the Rec to meet up with Brandi, my socks were on full display. I got no less than four compliments on them before I had even ran a step...while looking good on a run is never my goal, I gotta admit that I was feeling pretty fly right about now. When we got outside and I realized how warm it was I was worried I was going to get too hot...but SLS3 claims the socks are made with special cooling material, so I thought, "we'll see!" We were off and I actually felt a little like I had springs attached to my legs. Instead of feeling weighed down with such long socks on, I felt somehow lighter. We took our first mile out in an 8:52...much faster than we had planned, but I felt great. We dialed it back a bit for miles two and three, but still managed to hold right around 9-minute miles...and my legs didn't complain once! I also never felt like they were making my legs too hot. My feet definitely got sweaty, but the material was really good at wicking that moisture away, so my toes didn't get that slimy feeling they sometimes do with other performance sock material. For me, this was a big "thumbs up" on bullet point #1 -   Improve strength and sprint performance!

It's hard to make runner legs look cooler than they already are, but the purple butterfly socks take it up a notch!
Long Run:
My tempo run was on a Wednesday and I planned to do my long run that Saturday, but a lovely stomach bug decided to travel through my running for me that weekend. So I had to modify a bit and instead of wearing them for a 10-miler, I wore them for an 8-miler the next week. After a wash (hang to dry) the socks looked and felt good as new. I pulled them on, with a little more skill this time around and headed out. It was another unseasonably warm day for fall in Minnesota, but again, my legs didn't feel stifled by the socks. I had planned to try to negative split this run so I started off easy. The socks were comfortable and really do feel like buttah on my feet! I was really happy to hit the halfway point feeling so strong, especially after a few days of being off my feet thanks to illness. It was about the 6-mile mark when I felt a little bit of pinching on my right knee. I noticed the sock had rolled down a bit and was bunching right behind my kneecap. I quick tug on them put them right back in place and they stayed put for the rest of the run. I was tired, but I certainly felt like I had a little more in me after I had finished. I think that any other run after being sick, especially one more than three miles, would have kicked my, I'm calling bullet point #2 -  Influence your oxygen intake and lactate concentration (aka IMPROVE ENDURANCE!) - a success as well!

The band sat right below my kneecap, which worked fine on the short run, even though it rolled down a bit on the long run.
Recovery Day:
My last test for my socks was to wear them AFTER a mid-distance run for recovery only to see if I noticed a difference in how my legs felt the next day. I hadn't put tape on my ankle for any runs since I got the socks, and so far, it was feeling good. While my ankle was still a bit sore, it was noticeably less so than normal when I run without tape. I went out for a five mile run in the morning so I could wear the socks all day if I wanted to afterwards. It was an easy run, no tempo or negative split miles, just a nice steady pace. My knee and ankle gave me their normal moans and groans during it, but that was what I was hoping for, just another testament that the socks likely helped eliviate some of my joint pain on my previous runs. I finished up, took a quick shower, and put my socks on...two washes in one week and they were as vibrant and smooth as when I first took them out of the box, no pilling at the ankle like a lot of my other performance socks! I put them on and immediately felt that feeling of cool, lightness that I had felt previously, they just somehow make my legs feel stronger when I am wearing them. I went about my normal day's activities, making breakfast, reading to the kids, playing endless hours of know usual Saturday stuff. About two hours into wearing them, my 'bunching below the knee" problem came back, so I pulled them up again and continued to feel like I had super-legs! I wore them for about 5 hours total that day. It was kind of like having an extended massage on my calves. When I took them off, it was like I hadn't even walked on my legs all day, no fatigue, my legs really felt refreshed. I think the mixture of the fabric and the tightness are really kind of perfect with these socks. They don't feel pinchy or hot, I could wear them all day if I wanted! So bullet point # 5 - Reduce muscle pain and swelling - is confirmed!

I get that you might be reading this thinking, "Come on Linda, no way are these socks so perfect!" So here are a couple things I would say would fall into my "cons" category:
  1. Sizing: When deciding on what size compression socks or sleeves to get you want to measure the circumference of your calf. That and your shoe size determine which size socks you'll order. My calf is 15" and I wear a 9.5-10 shoe, so I fall right on the cusp of being a S/M and a M/L. I got the M/L and I think that is what caused the issues with the knee bunching on the long run and recovery day. If I had the S/M they probably would have sat a little better under my knee to eliminate that. But, they would have probably been much harder to get on. So I would say that initially, if you fall right on the edge of sizing, opt for smaller, it might take a little more effort to get them on, but I think they'll feel better when you are wearing them.
  2. Cost: Now, you all know that if I can squeeze a penny out of something, I'm going to do it, so the thought of paying $54 for a pair of socks is a bit daunting to me. I don't think anything but my bike and my shoes cost me more than $54. That said...if they hold up to washing as well as they have so far, and if I can eliminate the need to use KT tape on my ankle every time I run, I actually think that $54 would turn out to be a bargain!
Other than that, do I think you should run right out an get yourself a pair of SLS3 compression socks or sleeves? YOU BET! I am so happy to have found out about compression and that I had the chance to try out these amazing socks. I'm really excited to keep testing them out and seeing how much I can improve my running with their help. I also know it's about to get crazy-cold around here, so it will be fun to see how they hold up to Minnesota Winter Running!

I also can't say enough about how awesome SLS3 has been to work with. Travis, the rep I have been talking with has been so helpful with my questions. You can tell right away when you are working with a company that takes a lot of pride in their product and wants to get things right, and SLS3 is no exception. They are passionate about the sport and it shows in their customer service.

You can check out their full line of socks, sleeves, and all the other awesome compression gear at their website at Also, check out THEIR blog...they have a ton of expertise and share some great tips and tricks.

Now, if you got this far into my post, you deserve to be does having your very own pair of SLS3 Butterfly Compression socks or sleeves sound? If you are ready to change the way you run, then click here to enter our giveaway!

AND if you don't want to give it up to fate? How about a monster discount? I thought you might like that. Head on over to and check out their online store...use code MRTT40 for 40% off your purchase...seriously 40% off, how cool is that!

If you have any specific questions about the socks, or want an update later this winter, let me know!

Giveaway details: Giveaway starts November 3, 2015 and ends Novmber 9, 2015. Open to U.S. residents only. The winner will be announced on my blog, via Twitter, and will be contacted by email. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Midweek Motivation: Limits

We all have limits. For instance, I know that I can only eat two of my co-worker's delicious cupcakes before I start to feel know how I know this? Because one day I ate three...not a good idea! We test our limits with easy stuff every day, like "how long can I stay in the shower before my kids realize I am missing?" or "how many post-it notes can I steal from the supply closet before anyone gets wise?" But how often do you really push yourself when it comes to a true unknown?
Last year I posted five goals on my athletic goal board. All five were things I was really going to have to push past my limits to accomplish. I had no clue if I could finish a marathon, but I did. I freaked out at my first Olympic distance triathlon, I had never done more than easy sprints up until this summer, I was doubling my mileage, could I do it? Yep. I also wanted to PR each of my sprint tri's this summer, that was a huge, scary goal, you never know what might happen on race day, but I pushed myself, and I managed to blow past what I thought my limits were. Then last Sunday came, and so did my last goal of the a sub-2 hour half marathon. I was not certain I had trained well enough, or that I really had that kind of speed in me. But I knew I had to try.
I'll make this long story short. For 10 hard fought, exhilarating miles, I ran at a pace that would put me at a 1:57 finish time. I felt amazing, I kept saying to myself, "You are going to do this! You are really going to do this!" Then mile 11 came along and....BONK! I had reached my limit. I don't know if it was my physical limit or my mental limit, but I was done, that much I knew. I slowed way down, walking through the water stop, an inkling of hope that I might be able to start up again and catch the 2-hour pace group that had just passed me. But when I tried to get back up to speed, it wasn't meant to be. I was running though, at about a minute per mile slower than I started, but I kept my head up. I had found my limit, I could run 10 miles at an 9:05 pace, and even though I wanted that number to be 13 miles, it was still a great feeling to know I had that much in me. If I hadn't gone for it, I would have been sitting here today wondering if I would ever be able to run a sub-2 hour half marathon. That goal will go back on my board for next year, but thanks to pushing my limits this year, I know it's attainable.
So don't be afraid to push yourself. Set goals that seem hard, they should be attainable, but not easy. I mean, what's the worst that can happen? You bonk three miles before the finish line? I still finished, and my medal is just as shiny as it would have been had I finished in 1:57 rather than 2:06!

Monday, October 19, 2015


According to my save settings, I started writing this post back on August 17th. The fact that here is it over two months later and I'm finally getting around to finishing it proves what a crazy end of the summer/beginning to fall I had (or that I was just unbelievably lazy, whichever). Anyway, here you have it, part one of my end of summer recap...two months late!

When I last left you, I was about to head out to San Antonio at attend the USA Swimming National Championships meet. The trip was a bit of an whirlwind. I arrived there during one of the hottest weeks they'd had all summer..100+ was forecast for my entire I may not love the sub-zero winters of Minnesota that much, but equally heinous to me is any temperature that's hot enough to cook food, and I'm pretty sure you could have fried an egg on the sidewalk in San Antonio. I managed to fit in two runs and two swims (in the national championship pool no less). I also met cowboys, ate obnoxious, yet delicious waffles, and got to connect with Jill (my Ironman-sounding board-coach-mentor extraordinaire) and Susanna (who is my role model for knocking this working-mom-runner-wife-human-thing out of the park!)
Yes, this is the same pool Michael Phelps was swimming in. I was swimming slightly slower than him, but still!
Real Cowboys in the famous Gruene Hall in the middle of Texas...not sure how many Yankees they allow in, but it was pretty cool!
Yes, you are seeing this correctly. The waffles in Texas are shaped like Texas (at least the ones at my hotel). Thankfully they taste like delicious waffles, and not like armadillos or longhorns or something like that.
Finally meeting heroes in person is pretty darn exciting!

Tri-ing in my own back yard!
I got back in town two days before my next Olympic distance triathlon was scheduled. I felt woefully under prepared for this race since I hadn't been on my bike for a week and I had only managed to swelter through two 3-mile runs in Texas. I was also planning on trying my wet suit for the first time in a race and using the new tri bike my friend Heidi had lent me, so I was a little nervous. The exciting thing about this race though, was that it was in my neighborhood! We are fortunate enough to live near Turtle Lake, the sight of the self-described "first triathlon in Minnesota". While I am not sure about that status, I do know that the Turtleman Triathlon was a hugely popular race for many years. Then, about three years ago, they had to cancel the race due to the water level in the lake being so low. This year marked the race's return to Shoreview, and I was geeked to be a part of it.

I packed up my transition bag, which was a bit overstuffed thanks to my wetsuit, and hopped on my bike for the two mile ride to Turtle Lake Park. I was wearing the fancy aero-helmet Heidi lent me to go with the fancy bike. If you aren't familiar with aero-helmets, they look like this:
See that tail in the back? It's supposed to make you fast. It is not, however, designed to be worn when you have an overstuffed backpack on your back. I had to ride with my head turned to the side. I'm sure I was quite the sight tooling around my neighborhood with a crooked neck in my tri suit, giant backpack, and fancy helmet at 6:30 in the morning! Thankfully I made it to the park without falling, or being heckled, and checked in for my bib and body marking. The field was small for this race, less than 70 of us, but that was okay by me. I'm not great riding in a crowd, and knowing that I wouldn't have to jockey for position with hundreds of other racers the first time on my new bike was reassuring. I got to transition and found a rack in the front. I wanted to get set up quickly so I had time to practice riding out of T1. I knew the transition was going to be in the lower parking lot of Turtle Lake Park, but I wasn't really thinking about the massive climb it was going to take to get my bike out of there and onto the course. I mean, we literally get out of transition and on to a giant hill. My first practice run did not go well. Instead of starting low, I tried to shift down right away and immediately dropped my chain. The volunteer who was standing at the dismount area smiled at me and said "I'm sure no one saw that". I said "Yeah, I meant to do that, I need practice fixing my chain". After popping the chain back on I tried again, more successful this time around. I came back down and did it again, just to make sure it wasn't a fluke, and then re-racked my bike. We were still about 20 minutes before the start, and I took a look at my wet suit. I really want to love swimming in a wet suit. Not only does it supposedly shave several seconds (even minutes) off your swim time, it provides buoyancy in the water that can help with fatigue, and it keeps you warmer for potentially chilly lake swims. I had only done one training swim with the suit on this year, and it went fine...except for the getting into and out of it. Wet suits were meant to be tight and this baby was like a second skin. Wriggling myself into it wasn't too hard, but getting out of it was a whole other story. I really wanted to wear it today since it was a 1-mile swim, and the water temp was in the low 70's. So I headed over to the beach and started the lengthy process of squeezing my assets into the neoprene.

Once in the suit I got into the water to swim a bit, basically to see if I really wanted to go through with wearing it or not. It really is a strange sensation to swim with all that buoyancy when you are used to just swimming in a regular swimsuit, but after a few strokes I felt okay and decided I would keep it on for the swim and not worry about my transition time. By this time all racers had made their way down to the beach. One of the fun things about Turtleman is that instead of a "Long Course/Short Course" set up or "Elite/Age Group" divisions, we were divided into "Classic" and "Modern" groups. The "Classic" racers were not allowed to wear wet suits, needed to ride steel-frame bikes with no "aero" equipment, and couldn't wear any sort of GPS device. We had a short pre-race meeting, where the race director thanked us all for being part of the Turtleman "comeback". She asked for a show of hands of those who had raced Turtleman before. I was one of the few newbies. Several folks were here doing the this race for the 20th plus time! The Classic racers got to line up first, after that it was time trial starts for everyone else, so I lined up in the front ready to knock this swim out. I ran in right behind the guy everyone was referring to as "Speedo" since he was planning to do the whole race in his teeny tiny green brief...classic indeed :) I started to stroke and immediately felt like my wet suit was choking me. I started to panic, I had a mile to swim, how was I going to get through this?!? I treaded water for a second, thinking I could just unzip the suit a bit, but it wasn't budging. I was having trouble catching my breath so I looked for the nearest lifeguard or boat. I was pretty sure I was going to have to pull out of this race. I finally spotted the closest lifeguard, he was hanging at the turn buoy. I was gonna have to swim. I breaststroked for a minute and tried to relax. Several swimmers had passed me, but I could see I was still well in the middle of the pack. If I could just calm down, I might still be able to knock this swim out. I started swimming again and my breaths came a little easier. The water was calm, and the other swimmers weren't too crowded together, I put my head down and got into a good rhythm. Soon I began passing a few people and felt a renewed energy as I went around the first turn buoy. This was my second tri of the season, and my second panic attack on the strongest leg. Not sure what this was all about, but hoping it wasn't going to turn into a trend. I made it quickly up to the buoy and made the turn for shore. I was trying to stay in a straight line, but there were only two buoys on the course in, so I had to lift my head often to see the swim out flag on the beach. We swam through a weedy patch and at one point my hand brushed a huge boulder on the bottom. The lake level may have been high enough to bring the race back, but it was still pretty low! Finally, I hit sand and stood up to run in. The distance from the beach to transition wasn't very far, so I really had to be speedy getting the top of my wet suit down. I got it to my hips by the time I reached my bike, the hardest part yet to come. I got to my rack and pushed the legs down to my calves, then I tried stepping out of each leg. The right leg came out without too much force, but the left leg was timing chip the culprit. I finally had to give in and started to tug it off with my hands, wasting a lot of time. But, it eventually came off without knocking me over.

Since getting out of my suit took so much time, I didn't fuss with the rest of transition. I slipped my shoes on, clipped my helmet and ran out of the racks onto the bike leg. Getting on my bike was not easy as we were already pointing uphill in the mounting area, but I managed to get on my seat and started to pedal, I was desperately trying to clip in as I started to ascend, not a great combination. I got my left side clipped, but my right side was being stubborn, so I just tried to push to the top of the hill with my food on top of the pedal. It was not pretty, but I made it. We turned onto the main road and I finally heard the "click" of my right cleat connecting with the clip. 24 miles ahead of me. My second longest ride of the season so far, and the longest on my new bike. I had put my old saddle on the new bike, which was much more comfortable than the one on the bike originally, and I had adjusted my seat position and height so I felt pretty good. I dropped down to the aero bars and got into a good pace. The field was spread out and since the course was not closed, I made sure to stick to the shoulder. I'm still not 100% confident riding in aero but I also wanted to see what this bike was capable of. The course was two-loops on roads I am intimately familiar with. I knew every climb, every down hill, and every rough spot I had in store. The loop also passed within one block of my house, so my family was planning to come out to cheer me on. I was alone for most of the first half of the first loop, when I got passed turning into my neighborhood. I picked up the pace a bit as I didn't want my kids seeing people blowing by me. I turned the corner onto the main road to our house and there they were, pajama-clad and messy haired, but screaming for me with all their might. Even our dog Sully made the trek out. I thought of stopping for a minute, but this was only the first loop and I had a good momentum going. I yelled out "see you in 20 minutes" and kept going. We passed by the entry to the park and all the volunteers were out on the road cheering us on. It was a nice little boost to take into the second loop. I managed the climb that greeted us as we turned onto Lexington, and even managed to pass someone at this point. My back was a little sore (along with my unmentionables) but I knew I was in the home stretch. I turned on to County Road J and hit the rough patch, almost losing my water bottle in the process. As I came up to the turn to take me back into my neighborhood I decided I wasn't going to stop, I really just wanted to get off this bike and start running. So when I saw my family, still cheering in their PJs, I just waved and told them I loved them and biked on.

I turned into transition and had to slow way down on the decent into the racks, I barely got my feet out off the pedals before the volunteers were yelling for me to dismount. My legs felt like jelly and I was a little wobbly getting into my running shoes. It also didn't help that the run started on a grass path since the paved driveway was how the bikers were getting in and out. I slowly started the climb, being careful to watch my step on the grass. Five miles left, on a trail I run regularly, piece of cake, right? Wrong! Man, my legs were TOAST! After biking 24 miles and running uphill out of transition I thought I was going to have to walk when I got on the paved trail. But I promised myself if I kept going I could walk through the first water stop that was just past mile one. I made it there and thanked the volunteers profusely as I chugged my cup of water. I started back up at a slow run and just tried to focus on the fact that I was running on familiar trails, I knew every turn, incline, and decline. I passed a couple of racers, and got passed by a few more. I smiled at the people out on the trail walking their dogs or biking by, no doubt a bit surprised to see all these folks with race numbers running by them so early on a Sunday morning. I trudged along to the four mile mark when I decided I was going to try to pick up the pace and finish strong. This was my home town race after all, and I wanted to be sure to put on a good showing. So I gritted it out as we turned into the home stretch, a volunteer on the corner cheering "the finish is just around this corner, you've got this!" We hopped the curb and ran up a small grassy incline to the finish arch. Man, was I glad this was over. I was tired from my travels, tired from lack of training, and all I wanted to do was get home and give my pajama-clad cheering section some hugs. I grabbed a bottle of water and a bag of chips from the finish area volunteers and headed into transition to pack up. There, I ran into Judi, the race director whom I had met a week or so before. She asked me how it went, and I told her the race was awesome, not my best showing, but the course and the support were wonderful. I told her I could have used one more spotting buoy on the swim in, and she told me that they had accidentally left two of the buoys back at the shop. It was fun to chat with her about the history of the race, and before we were done talking, several other "Turtleman veterans" had joined us to relive stories of races past. I am constantly inspired by the folks who have been in this sport for so long, and keep their passion for it well past what would be considered their "prime" by anyone else's standards. I truly hope that one day I can stand in a circle with a "young" triathlete and share stories about races past and how much this sport means to me!

Finally it was time to hop back on my bike and make the ride back home. I considered for a second not wearing my helmet since it was such a hassle to ride my bike with my head tilted to the side, but I figured "safety first" and strapped it on. When I got home, the kids were very excited to hear about the rest of my race, and whether or not "I won". I always feel just a little disappointed when I have to say "no, Mommy didn't win". But Kayley always puts it into perspective for me..."Mommy, you were going really fast on your bike, so that's good!" Yep kid, it's all good!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Midweek Motivation!

This one is for all you "just" people out there (i.e. I "just ran 3 miles", "I'm just running an 11-minute per mile pace", "I just run once a week").
I used to be the queen of the "justs". As a competitive person, calling myself a runner was really hard for a long time. I was used to winning, I was used to being really good at something before I would be seen doing it in public. Running did not come easy for me. When I started I couldn't run for 2 minutes straight without wanting to quit. I was afraid to run with other people because "other people" were runners, not me. In my very first race, I came in 831st place...I thought "Yeah, I'm not a runner". But I kept going, and I soon realized that running was making me happier, stronger, better than I used to be. I cared less about who was running further and faster than me and more about pushing my own limits, seeing what my body, at my age, in this phase of my life, was capable of. And you know what, it's a pretty amazing body, able to do pretty outstanding things when I let it. I had a race this past weekend, and came in 4,772nd place. I probably could have run a little faster, I might have been able to "beat" a few more people, but I didn't care. I was running with friends, I was enjoying a perfect fall day, I was embracing the things that running has taught me. I didn't "just" run 10-miles, I ran for 1 hour and 37 minutes, which is 1 hour and 35 minutes more than I would have ever thought I could do!
So stop comparing yourself to others, take the "just" out of your vocabulary. Be a better you today, that's all that counts!

Saturday, August 1, 2015


It has been 41 days since Grandma's Marathon. I have worked 39 of those days. And these haven't been nice, easy 8-hour days. No, they have been long, grueling, 12+ hour days, managing events with several hundred people invading the pool each day. I have barely had time to think in general, much less think about writing what I've been up to, but I'm going to try, because in all this work induced craziness, some awesome things have happened!

Transition # 1: Athlete Mode to Meet Director Mode
I was able to take the Monday after the marathon off from work. Instead of resting though, we decided to take a family trip to the Mall of America to use some free Nickelodeon Universe passes we had. It was a super fun day, Kayley and Bill braved all the "big" rides, Logan and I took our turns on the bumper cars and the kiddie train, and we got to eat at one of my favorite guilty-pleasures...Johnny Rockets! But that was it. Fun was over, training was over, racing was over, it was time to work. For the next six weeks we will be in event mode; three championship events, two invitationals, and one Amazing Race. Thousands of people were going to be flooding into our pool, and I have no choice but to be ready. I managed to get a shake out run in on Tuesday morning, and was excited about how good I felt. Since then, I have been able to sneak in short runs, swims or bikes most days, but the thought of following any kind of training plan is totally out the window. It's kind of strange to go from so much structure in my workouts to just getting things in willy-nilly, but it's the best I can do for now. Hopefully my race calendar will not prove too ambitious for all this work I have on my plate!

Transition #2: Marathon Mode to Triathlon Mode
For 20 weeks I was focused almost solely on running, preparing for 26.2 miles. I was afraid to substitute too much swimming or biking for fear I wouldn't be able to complete the marathon. But less than a month after I crossed Grandma's finish line, I was signed up for my first Olympic distance triathlon. It was a race my friend Carole had convinced me to enter, and I was really excited to see how my body would do with that distance. However, I really needed to up my swimming and biking game in a short time. I managed to get in the pool at least once a week leading up to race day, and I had reserved my Saturdays for brick workouts, the longest one being a 20 mile bike/5 mile run that felt pretty solid. Race week came and I felt confident I could finish, just not so confident that I could compete.

July 19th, the Heart of the Lakes Triathlon. I was racing a day after our biggest championship meet of the summer. Swimming a half mile, biking 21 miles, and running 5 miles ONE DAY after I had just put in 75 hours in five days at work. I got up the morning before the race and said to myself "Just skip the tri tomorrow, it's okay". I was so stressed about it. I was not feeling well, I had fallen earlier in the week and had a really big scrape on my leg which was still throbbing, I hadn't slept more than four hours any night that week, and I had almost literally been on my feet for five days straight. I told myself it was not worth it. Sunday was going to be my first day away from the pool in 26 days, I should just be at home, resting, getting better, hanging with my kids who were leaving for vacation with Grandpa and Oma the next was a stupid idea. But, I've never claimed to be the brightest bulb in the box, so of course when I woke up on Sunday morning, I packed my gear and headed out for the hour-long drive to Annandale, Minnesota for my longest Triathlon to date.

I was feeling pretty good, tired, but not as exhausted as I had on Saturday. I was resolved to the fact that I wasn't going to be racing fast today. I felt pretty zen about it. Just swim, it's a gorgeous day, just get in the lake and swim, after that, what happens happens. I got into the tiny town of Annandale and it was packed! Cars parked up and down every street. I drove around for a bit and chose a side street well off the main drag to park. I slung my backpack across my back and started biking in. Of course, I immediately was lost. How is it that I did not inherit one drop of my Dad's keen sense of direction? After encountering some locals out for a walk, I was pointed in the right, I parked far away. Oh well, warm up, right? I got to check in and was greeted by a huge team of very smiley volunteers, I don't think I've ever been that chipper at 6:30 in the morning, but it was great to have such a warm welcome. I got marked up and found rack Q-4, Carole had texted me on my way in to tell me that is where she had set up shop. I was the second person on the rack (Carole was out on a ride) and quickly set up my transition area. I pack pretty light for my races, so it makes it easy to get ready, but then I always second guess myself, did I forget something? Why does everyone else have so much stuff? Should I have brought socks? Why does that guy have a bucket?!? Oh well, doesn't matter, I wasn't going back home to get anything else at this point, so I just went with it. Carole was back shortly and told me "Hey, move your bike over Lady!" Apparently my minimal transition was still too overwhelming for the small rack. I slid over and proceeded to slick myself down with Sport Shield. I got under my arms, my bra line, and the insides of my shoes (someone told me to put it on my feet, but it just seems like all that would accomplish would be to get sand stuck in it, so I've opted to just slather the heck out of the insides of my shoes, seems to be working so far). Carole's friend Dan came over while shimmying into his wet suit and asked "Anyone need some Olive Oil?" He was holding a big can of Pam Cooking Spray. I had to smile, Triathletes are certainly a unique breed! I had decided to fore go my wet suit today. I hadn't really had enough time to practice getting out of it quickly, and I didn't want the extra stress today. So I passed on the Pam and got into my swim cap. Carole and Dan wanted to get to the beach for a quick warm up swim, so I followed along, feeling a little small and naked next to these two neoprene-clad studs. I got to the water's edge and dipped my toes in. While it was nice (75-degrees!) the air was cool and without a wetsuit on I didn't want to risk getting chilled before the race, so I just stood on the beach and tried to look cool while everyone else got in and swam around. Finally it was time to head to the start corral. This was actually going to be my first time doing a mass start, and my first time racing with men...I was starting to feel a little nervous! Wave 4 was called to the ready area and Carole and Dan immediately went to the front of the pack. I wasn't sure this was a good idea, but I figured if I started in front, I'd at least get a few yards of open water under my belt before the crowd caught up to me.

The countdown started, 3...2...1...GO! Hello mass chaos! I ran in and dove under almost immediately. It felt like I was in the middle of a frenzy of feeding sharks. Limbs were everywhere, bodies were climbing over me and drifting under me, I got kicked in the face, then the leg, I was trying to hold my stroke steady and breathe, but it seemed every time I turned my head, I was sucking in someone else's wake. I moved to the outside of the pack and started to breaststroke a little. It was the first time I ever felt panicked in an open water swim. I told myself to calm down, "You are a swimmer, this is your thing, take a deep breath, and just go". I had a bit of a clear lane in front of me, so I put my head down and started to stroke. My breathing calmed down and I got into an easy rhythm and started to pass people. I was feeling really strong when I hit the turn around buoy and for the first time that morning, I started wishing the swim as a little longer. My legs had been tired for the past five days, and I wasn't necessarily looking forward to the bike. I picked up my head and could see swimmers in front of me starting to stand up and run out. I wanted to stroke in as far as I could, so I swam on until my hands hit sand. I stood up and started running, it was a bit of a haul back to transition. Thankfully there was a grass path next to the paved one, I ran on that to get my feet dry and clean. There were a ton of people there cheering. This race was unique in that the transition area was not closed off, spectators were all over the place offering encouragement, it really spurred me on. I got to my rack and was not surprised to see Carole's bike was gone already, but was a little shocked to see that she was the only one. I figured I must have been second or at most third out of the water from our wave (official results confirmed I was third out). Wow! After such a horrendous start I was really happy to know I had such a good swim. I dropped my cap and goggles, slid into my bike shoes and helmet, choked down a couple bites of my PB & J and ran out of transition feeling like this was going to be a good race after all! The weather was great. Sun was shining but it wasn't too hot yet. The bike course started out nice and flat and before I knew it I had passed the five mile marker. Right after that though, things started to go downhill, literally and figuratively. I was coming down a nice little decline when I tired to shift up into my big gear so I could pedal down and pick up some speed, but my shifter wouldn't stick into the gear, it just kept grinding. I finally gave up and just coasted. That's when, I swear, about 100 people passed me. I didn't fair well up the next hill. My legs were really tired and now I was starting to feel a little defeated. I kept plugging away, but my spirit was broken. This sounds really stupid considering I am new to this sport and I had a really rough week, but I kind of felt like giving up. I mean, if I couldn't even bike fast enough to not have everyone and their brother go past me, why bother! Then when the guy riding a FAT BIKE passed me, I actually said out loud "That's it, I'm done". But, I was on a road in the middle of a corn field in the middle of Minnesota, so I had no choice but to finish the bike. By the time I passed the 15 mile marker I was feeling a little better, but was still being steadily passed by other racers. I checked my speed on my bike computer, I was holding 17 mph, not THAT slow, but man, these were some serious riders. I turned down the main street and passed several of the elite racers who were already well into their run. It was starting to get hot and you could see it on their faces. Great. A mile left on my bike and then five miles in the sweltering sun on my feet...did I really sign up for this?

I pedaled into transition and got to my rack. This time a less positive sight greeted me. I was the last bike in. Oh well, I knew this wasn't going to be my best day, I decided to just let it go. I had five miles left and it wasn't going to do me any good to dwell on how horrible my bike leg was. I slipped on my shoes, clicked into my race belt, and swigged down a little more Nuun before running out of transition. There were still a ton of people cheering me on so I started the run strong, no sense in looking as defeated as I felt. The transition area was in the shade, so I didn't realize the full effect of how hot it was until I came out of there and on to the main road. Holy hell! It was a scorcher! I felt pretty good, my legs were bouncing back and I was actually passing a few people, but man, I wasn't sure I was going to survive five miles in this heat. I kept going and noticed several people running in the opposite direction with yellow race numbers on. These were the sprint distance racers and I was approaching their turn around point....where thankfully, there was a water stop! I grabbed the first glass offered to me and poured it over my head...instant relief! I grabbed the next one, walked a bit and chugged it down, more relief! I grabbed one more and poured it down my back, thanked the volunteer and ran on. A little way up the road we turned onto a paved trail, and encountered the first hill of the run course. It wasn't a big one, but with the heat and my general fatigue, it might as well have been Mount Everest! I plodded up it and was amazed to see a SECOND water stop at the top. Not only water and HEED, but ice cold, blissfully wet sponges, I grabbed two from the volunteer and stuck one down the front of my kit. I took off my hat and squeezed the second one over my head. Oh man, whomever planned these stops on the race was my hero!!! After that we turned off the trail and back onto the road. There were no mile markers and I wasn't wearing my running watch, so I only had my time to go by to determine how far I had left. I was a little over 40 minutes in, so I figured I had to be close to or just over the 4 mile mark. I was slowing down a little, but kept reminding myself that I just had a mile to go. We were back on the main street now and I was recognizing familiar landmarks. I passed some volunteers who said "Great job! Keep it up" I said "Thanks, I'm almost there, right?" One of the women said "Yes, you're almost there" and the other said, "Don't say 'almost there''re about 600 yards from the finish!" I got a huge smile on my face, not because I was "almost there" but because I love when folks on the race course get it...telling a racer and exact distance is much more helpful than "almost there". I knew then I could do it. I picked up my pace a bit and turned into the finish shoot. I had to run up a little grassy hill and I remember thinking "don't trip". I approached the finish line and I heard the announcer say "And coming in now, from Shoreview, Linda McKee" I raised my hands to acknowledge the cheers when the announcer said "And she's about to get passed by Teresa Worth". Figures, even in my one shining moment today, I just HAD to get passed by someone else.

But, I was done. I had finished my first ever Long Course Triathlon. I did it on minimal rest, with not a lot of prep, on a super-hot day with only a half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my belly. It was all good. I found the food tent and immediately scarfed down two spoonfuls of peanut butter, a cup of yogurt, a banana, a granola bar, and the most delicious watermelon ever grown on the planet! I then grabbed a bottle of Gatorade and found Carole and Dan staring at the finish line. "Waiting for me" I said? They turned around, surprised they had missed me. I said "Of course you missed me, I finished before you". We all had a good laugh and stocked up on some more food and drink. Carole and I met up with her husband for a post-race photo op and then headed down to watch the awards. After sitting in the shade for awhile getting bitten by bugs, we decided it was time to call it a day. She congratulated me on a great race, I accepted her accolades with a smile, even if I didn't agree on how great it was. I changed into dry clothes, packed up my bag and hopped on my bike. Thankfully I didn't get quite as lost finding my way back to the car as I did trying to find the start line. I was ready to head home and get some of the elusive rest I had been hearing about!
Happy to have Tri'ed!
Transition #3: Mommy Mode to Kid-less Mode
The kids left for "Grands Camp" on Monday, July 20th. I think we were all pretty excited for this. Grampa and Oma and Grandma Willo and Grandpa Dennis are so wonderful to take the kids on amazing adventures each summer, and the kids can't wait to get out in the world with them. And, while Bill and I certainly miss them while they are gone, I'm not gonna lie, two weeks without kids is kind of wonderful. House cleaning and toy purging are the first order of business, but after that, relaxing, sleeping in, and not cooking are on the agenda. Every year Bill and I think we should get out and do something super-exciting, like eat at fancy restaurants, travel, take long walks on the beach, or see non-animated movies at night, you know all the things folks without kids do. But for some reason, sitting on the couch in relative silence eating cereal for dinner is like bliss. One of these days maybe we'll plan a romantic get-away while they are gone, but this year, a short vacation from parenthood has been plenty rewarding.

Transition #4: Road Bike Mode to Kick-ass Tri Bike Mode:
My friend Heidi decided to let me babysit this beauty for a while...
Yes, this bike is cooler than my car!
While it has taken some getting used to, this thing is A-MAZE-ING! Super smooth, super light, and WAY out of my league. I definitely ride faster on it, but I feel like when I race with it people are going to look at me and think "Um, you're too slow for that awesome of a bike". Not sure if I'm going to be comfortable enough use it for Turtleman yet, but I definitely want it for the YWCA tri since it's a closed course and I can ride my little heart out! This does not bode well for my race budget in 2016, I'm going to want to do ALL the races with this bad-boy in tow!

So, that's it in a nutshell...all the transitions I've been going through for the last month and a half. Tomorrow I head out to San Antonio to visit the USA Swimming Junior Nationals, because what's more fun than working 39 out of 41 days at your own pool? Working 4 more days at SOMEONE ELSE'S POOL of course :) I am excited to see their new facility, and I'm super-pumped to be able to finally connect with Jill and maybe Susanna, two "virtual" friends that I can't wait to meet in real life. After I get back I will have one more kid-less day until the rug rats return, and two whole days to get ready for my next Triathlon on August 8th...what's that old adage? "I'll sleep when I'm dead". Sounds about right!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Breaking up is hard to do!

It's been almost two weeks since the marathon. Life is supposed to be back to normal. I'm not supposed to be obsessing about running, or training or nutrition. I'm not supposed to get excited anymore every time I hear someone say "Grandma", especially since whomever is saying it is referring to a dear loved one and not a race. But, I find myself telling and retelling the race story to anyone who will listen. Especially my poor co-workers, who nod and smile like it's some amazing news they haven't heard a billion times. I know that this was their mantra for so many weeks before the race, and they are wondering why it hasn't come to fruition!

I'm still thinking about it non-stop. It's like I'm desperately trying to get over a break up or something. Like I was dating Channing Tatum and he dumped me and now I have to go out with Jonah Hill just to keep myself entertained. I keep seeing reminders of how awesome it was, how much I loved being in "marathon mode", never mind that sometimes it made me miserable, I just want to keep going back! 

Like a 10K or a sprint triathlon, Jonah Hill may be fun, but you know you want a marathon man like Channing!
I mean, it's not like I don't have anything to look forward to, I have FOUR triathlons and at least three running races on my docket before winter arrives, I have plenty to keep me busy. In fact, in the two weeks since the marathon I've run four times, done a serious brick work out and had my first open water swim of the season. My legs have felt great, my black toenails have not fallen off, and every few days I manage to run into a hapless, unsuspecting person who I haven't told about the marathon I get to bask in telling my story to a new set of ears.

Therefore, it's decided. I am not going dwell on my break up any more. The marathon was amazing, it was my first, and you never forget your first :) But I have a steady stream of suitors lined up to keep things interesting. And who knows, maybe next year I'll get back together with Channing, I mean the marathon...a love like that doesn't go down without a fight!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Midweek Motivation: I think I can!

I have always loved this quote, but it has taken on a much greater meaning for me since I started running. I don't know how many times the "old me" thought "I can't run". Even the "new me" once thought "I can't run a marathon". The body achieves what the mind believes...don't ever doubt that. If you're unsure, start small, and build your "I cans" from'll be amazed at how quickly things that once seemed impossible are now within your reach!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Race Recap: Grandma's Marathon Part 2

Saturday: Race Time!

It was finally 7:45! The announcer wished us all luck and then the theme to Chariots of Fire started playing. I was waiting to hear an actual gun go off, but before I knew it, we had started up to a jog. I quickly got my watch to re-find the satellite signal, and then it was official, I passed under the starting banner, wet and shivering, but oh so ready to go! The crowd thinned rather quickly, I suppose because I was in the back of the pack, or because we had an entire highway to ourselves. No matter the reason, it was nice to not feel so claustrophobic. We were a few minutes in when I heard my first directive from Star..."SLOW DOWN!!!" I looked at my watch, 10:14 per mile. We were supposed to be holding 10:54. The adrenaline rush of the start and the pull of the crowd in front of us were hard to resist. We dialed it back and fell into a steady rhythm. The rain hadn't stopped, but it had slowed, or I just didn't notice it anymore since we were finally running. What I did notice though was the steady crinkle of all the trash bags moving around me. It was quite a sound. Some folks had made only head holes, some had also made arm holes. Some had their race belts on the outside of their bags, and one woman even had a Target bag on her head. This was the first time I was glad I did not have my poncho to deal with. Star kept us focused on the task at hand. She said that we all probably heard the course was "flat", but she wanted us to know that was not true. She said this course is "FAST, not FLAT". This came just as we reached our first rolling hill. We'd encounter several more of these rollers over the first 10 miles, thank goodness we had Star to keep us moving in the right direction. The 5K mark came up quickly. This was by no means a fast 5K, but I was surprised to know I had already run 3 miles and barely felt like I was working. The rain had let up almost completely at this point, but Star advised us against getting rid of our jackets or baggies just yet. I was anxious to get out of my soaking wet wind breaker, but my hands were still thawing, so I kept it zipped tight with my fists tucked inside the sleeves. I made small talk here and there with others in the 4:45 group, but I mostly just listened. It was fun to hear the other runners stories about how they got here. There was an 18 year old guy who promised his Grandpa he'd run a marathon for him, the 68-year old man who was running the 2nd marathon of his life, 40-years after he'd run his first. There was the woman who ran with Star at Grandma's last year and vowed that she was only going to run marathons that she was pacing from now on! Then there was Joey, who's family seemed to be at every single mile marker wildly cheering her on. We all decided that today Joey's family was going to be our family. She even told her squad to include a "Yay 4:45!" cheer for us each time we passed them :)

I had skipped water at the mile-3 aid station. I don't drink a lot on runs, so I didn't want to start too early and get bloated, or need to stop for a porta-potty so soon in the race. So I was glad to see the mile-5 balloon up ahead and our next aid station. I took my first energy gel here, and as I did, my stomach gave a great growl. I was SOOO hungry. I was really kicking myself for eating so early and passing over the bagels in the hospitality room that morning. We walked through the stop and I got a glass of water, thanked the volunteers and started back up. Shortly after this, I decided it was time to lose my jacket. I did wrap it around my waist, just in case, but I was plenty warm by now, and I figured if I ditched the jacket, I might actually get to dry off a bit too. It was about this time that Star told us she had a "lecture" to give us about the race. I was excited to glean any insight I could from her, so I listened intently. She said that it was always helpful to break the marathon into segments and that if we thought the half-way point of the marathon was 13.1 miles, were were wrong. She said the halfway point was mile-20 since those last 6.2 miles were going to hurt just as much as the first 20 did. However, we were going to break our race into three segments. The first 10 miles, the miles we run with our legs. The second 10 miles, the miles we run with our heads, and the last 6.2 miles, the miles we run with our hearts. She told us that the first 10 were easy. If we had trained right, we could turn out 10 miles in our sleep. We just needed to hold our pace, keep our fuel up, and run. She said this was not the time to dedicate our miles to a loved one, or to think about how lucky we are to be able to run when so many others can' those thoughts for later, because we'll really need them then. So I kept running with my legs. I felt great. The sun had come out, the fog had started to lift, and we could just catch a glimpse of Lake Superior on our left. We kept up our pace and intermittent conversations for the next five miles. I was excited to see so many people out on the course cheering us on. I'm sure most of them were families of the runners, but we also passed several campgrounds where the residents came out to support us, it was really great. I took some more energy gel at mile 9 and when we hit the 10 mile mark and I couldn't believe how good I felt. My breaths were coming easily, my legs felt strong and even though my right foot was a little sore, I really did feel like I could keep up this pace forever. I still hadn't dried off, so when the urge to pee hit me at mile 11, I did what any intense competitor would do, I peed in my pants. Just a little, just enough to make the urge go away. Besides, I was soaking wet anyway, who would notice? We were coming up now on the actual halfway mark. I ate another energy gel at mile 13 and saw all the porta-potties that were lined up for the start of the half marathon. I decided not to stop since my little let-go a couple miles earlier seemed to have releived my need to full on eliminate. Someone in our group exclaimed "We're halfway there!" To which Star quickly replied "NO...We are NOT halfway there....what IS the halfway point?" to which we all obligingly answered "20 miles". I could not contain my excitement though, 13.1 miles in the books, and I felt great...I could definitely do this again!

Things kept going well through mile 15. That is when I noticed my right hamstring and hip flexor starting to feel a little tight. I wasn't sure where this was coming from as I hadn't had issues with my hamstring for months, and my hip flexor had never felt like this before. Thankfully the mile-15 aid station had bananas and orange slices. I ran up to the first volunteer I saw and took both banana halves out of his hands, quickly thanked him and sucked them both out of the peel. Then I grabbed an orange slice and a glass of water and walked along savoring the calories filling up my empty belly. When we started running again, I felt better, guessing I just really needed some solid food in my body to keep me going. But, by the aid station at mile 17, the pains were back and I walked a bit slower than the group through the stop to try and stretch out a bit. I took my next energy gel before I heard Star give her count down to start running again. I wasn't really ready, but I didn't want to get behind. I started running again even though I was a few steps back from the pack, which was okay. I didn't feel a need to sprint up to catch them. I could still hear Star calling out her directives, and I felt good about the pace for now. I had Star and her balloons in my sights up to the mile-19 aid station, but when we stopped there for a quick water and walk break, I knew I wasn't going to be ready to start up with them again at their pace. So in my head, I said "good-bye" to Star and my plans to run a 4:45 marathon. For those of you who know how competitive I am, this was hard. But, I knew that I had run as smart as I could have for 19 miles and my body was just ready to slow down a bit. I was going to finish this race, that much I knew, a time goal was just going to have to wait for another day.

Even though there were several runners all around me, I felt alone for the first time that day. It was okay, I was running with my head per Star's advice and I started to visualize the rest of the race before me. I was finally running on London Road and the crowds had really picked up. I got to the marker at mile-20 and said to myself "halfway there!". There was a lot to take in on the course at this point. I tried to give a high-5 to everyone that had their hand out, told several college kids "no thanks" when they held out beer cups for me, turned down Jolly Ranchers being handed out by the Snow Monster from the Empire Strikes Back, and gave a HUGE grin to the guy holding up a sign that said "Smile if you peed a little". At mile 21 I had slowed quite a bit, but I had planned to dedicate that mile to my Dad (his birthday was May 21). I'm not the "praying" kind, but when I hit the mile marker there, I looked towards the sky and said "okay Dad, I could use a little strength here". I'm pretty sure where ever he is he looked down on me and said "Suck it up Buttercup!" I couldn't help but smile, and cry at the thought of how proud he would have been of me. I made it to the aid station at mile-22 and ate one more energy gel. Then I saw them...the trolls! Apparently the trolls are set up each year to help cheer runners up Lemon Drop Hill, a freeway overpass that marks mile 22, and the steepest climb of the race. I didn't want to stop, but I knew that I would regret not taking a picture of them. So I pulled out my phone and snapped one. The ladies sitting with trolls told me "Good job runner!" I said, "thanks", and that I probably shouldn't have stopped since it was likely I wasn't going to be able to go again. But they assured me that I could do it, and who was I to disappoint random strangers. So I started running again, on to Lemon Drop and it's dreaded hill!

The trolls didn't let the rain diminish their cheer!
Whenever I talked to someone who had done Grandma's before they'd say "Oh, Lemon Drop Hill isn't that bad". Even Star, in her attempt to keep our spirits up early in the race said "It's not very long, only 5 minutes of running and you're over it!" Well, let me tell you, they are all liars! I was at the bottom of Lemon Drop Hill looking up, and at mile-22, a speed bump would have seemed significant, and this was one hell of a speed bump. I tried to put "5 minutes of running" into perspective, but 5 minutes of running UPHILL after I had already been running for FOUR HOURS did not make it seem any better. But, every time I encountered a hill during training, I visualized it as this hill, and that I could run up it no problem. So that's exactly what I did. About halfway up there is one of those electronic traffic information signs on the overpass. Today it said "Good Job Runners, only 4.1 miles to go!" I thought "Are you kidding me? 4.1 miles!?! That is SO LONG!" But I kept on plugging away. The hill is a bit deceiving since it's not done when you get to the top of the overpass, no, it goes up again. I have no idea how long it took me to get up that thing, likely longer than 5 minutes, but I promised myself if I ran the whole way that I could walk once I was the top. When I finally reached the summit, I looked down at my watch, 22.4 miles. This was the first time I had walked outside of the aid stations the whole race. Before I left I told the kids that I was going to think about them during the race and that I wanted them to pick a mile for me to dedicate to them. Logan told me "Mile 82". Sorry little buddy, Mommy wasn't going that far today. We settled on mile 22 instead. I was so busy pushing myself up that hill that I had almost forgot to think about Logan, but I thought it was fitting that I remembered my dedication at the point I started walking. Logan once told me "I don't care for running." So I knew he'd be okay if I walked out the rest of his mile. I kept my head up, I wasn't ashamed or embarrassed to be walking, even if I was feeling a little defeated. I told myself I could walk to mile-23, but when I saw the balloon in the distance I willed myself to run to it. So at mile-22.7 I started running again. The aid station was just past the mile marker, so I walked again, ate some more bananas and drank a couple glasses of Powerade. I also took about three of the gloriously icy-cold sponges they had and wrung them all out over my head. There were two highlights during mile-23. First was my Elvis sighting. Yes, the King was out on the course. "Suspicious Minds" was blaring out of his boom box and he was busting out some sweet dance moves. I ran over thinking I would forever regret not getting a high-5 from him. Then a little past that, I saw a kid holding the best sign ever. I had seen some good ones (my favorite up to this point  was "Hurry Mom, Dad forgot to feed us!") But this kid had a sign with a drawing of a Cheetah and it said "Go Mommy, Run Like a Cheetah". What made this so awesome? Last week Kayley and I were talking about the race and she gave me this bit of advice "Mom, you know how to run 20 miles, so run those really slow. And you know how to run three miles, so you just run those twice. You can run the first three a little faster, then run the last three as fast as a Cheetah." It was like this kid somehow knew I needed a little Kayley motivation at that point in the race.

We were now running straight down the middle of Superior Street in downtown Duluth. The crowd was still strong and I passed belly dancers, several folks with their medals on their necks, and a row of college kids who all high-fived me as I passed. Reading my shirt they shouted "Yeah, Badass Mother Nature!" Close enough...I figured they had been partying all day, I was happy they could read at all. I hit the 24 mile marker and took a quick walk break as I drank my last sips of water. I told myself, "This is it, you have 2.2 miles left, you have nothing to do after this but collapse at the finish line, someone will carry you to the medical tent, so just GO!" So I went, determined I was going to run as fast as I could until the end. I don't even remember passing the 25 mile mark, but I remember making a conscious effort to not think about the aid station. I didn't need to stop, and I didn't want to be tempted. I was dedicating this mile to Bill. He has been such an awesome support throughout training, always believing in me, I really wouldn't be here without him. We turned off Superior Street and had another small incline as we ran over the Freeway, which thankfully led to a blissful down hill section. The crowds were so great, still cheering for every runner even though we were four and half hours into the race. I passed by the Aquarium and knew the end was near. We turned again along the harbor and I passed by the slip bridge, so close. When I saw the William H. Irvin ore boat, I knew I was in the home stretch, one more turn and I'd be able to see the finish line. I passed the 26 mile marker and said "This is for you Kayley!" When I asked her which mile she wanted me to dedicate to her she said right away "26, because you'll be running so fast". I honestly could feel myself filling up with her energy. I approached the corner and a woman was standing there with her medal around her neck "You only have 90 seconds of running left." I had to laugh, I had never heard such a beautiful phrase in all my life! 90 seconds, I could survive anything for 90 seconds. I made the turn and could see it, the finish line. As I approached the bleachers I searched the faces for Bill. I thought I might burst into tears if I saw him, but I had managed to keep myself from crying for the last 2 miles, so was sure I could hold it together for .2 more. I didn't see him, but it was okay, I was there, at the finish. As I approached, I heard the announcer say "And here's Linda McKee from Shoreview!" I raised my arms up in triumph, never before has my name been announced at the finish line of a race, and here, at my first marathon I got the shout out of a lifetime. I took it as a good sign. I stopped my watch, and checked my time. 4:52:17, under five hours, not too shabby!

I was done, like literally, I was done, My legs stiffened up and I wasn't sure if I was going to keep going. I somehow managed to walk forward to the line of volunteers handing out the finishers medals. I chose the tall guy with a handle bar mustache wearing tan overalls...for all the interesting people I encountered that day, I needed to get my medal from someone I was going to remember. I started to tear up and put my hand over my mouth as I approached him. He smiled and said "It's my honor to present you with this medal" That was it, the water works started, I was so stinking proud of myself. I walked a little further and got into line for my finisher shirt. It was about this time that I started to realize how cold I was. I was still soaking wet and was now starting to shiver. Thankfully the stand with the Mylar blankets was next and a sweet little volunteer put one around my shoulders with words of congratulations. I followed the signs for bag check, wondering where in the heck the food was! I actually felt like I was going to barf and really needed to get something in my stomach stat! I found a stand that had strawberries and grapes, but I wanted something more substantial. I did grab a strawberry before I passed by the bag check, which helped a little. I decided to grab my bag since there was no line. After that I found yogurt, but the thought of that made my stomach turn even more...then I saw a woman with a bagel. "Where did you get that!?!" She pointed me in the right direction and I scarfed that thing down in two bites. I decided I needed to take my shoes off so I sat on the nearest curb. When I looked up I could see the family meeting area just outside our restricted section, and who was standing front and center but Bill McKee. I decided to call him since standing up wasn't really an option at that point. He answered and I told him that I was almost ready, then I managed to get myself to my feet and gave him a wave. We met up and walked slowly to the car. Thankfully he hadn't parked too far away. He seemed a little bit melancholy, and when I asked why, he said "I did something really stupid". He went on to explain that he was sitting in the bleachers waiting for me to finish, knowing I was trying for a 4:45. He got the alert when I passed mile 20 and calculated that I was going to finish right on time (not knowing how much of a struggle miles 20-24 were going to be). So, when he saw a woman in a blue shirt and white hat approaching the finish line at around 4:40, he started to cheer wildly and take a ton of pictures. He left the bleachers then to move to the family area to wait for me. When his phone went off about 10 minutes later he figured it was me calling to meet up with him, but when he looked at it he realized it was his alert that I had crossed the 25 mile marker. He looked at the camera to discover that he had enthusiastically welcomed some other woman across the finish line. He was pretty upset, but really, it was okay. I tried to tell him that I knew he was there in spirit, and that maybe his cheers were just what this random woman needed right then. It was all good.

We drove to UMD to collect my bags from the dorm and headed back up to Two Harbors to spend the night at the Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast. We were both looking forward to a relaxing, kid-free evening (thanks Grandma Joan!) I had booked the room with a hot tub in it, one of the best decisions I ever made. I poured my baggie full of Epsom salts in and soaked for an hour, it was glorious!

I don't care that science says it's bunk...Epsom salts are a miracle recovery tool!
After the bath we headed out to dinner at Betty's Pies. If you ever find yourself anywhere near Two Harbors, Minnesota, you need to eat there, you can thank me later. Our waiter had clearly served several other marathoners that evening since as soon as he saw my limping gait he said "So, should I just bring you one of everything?". I nodded, almost seriously, but settled on a Rachel with onion rings and a huge slice of Raspberry Rhubarb crunch top pie. I could now die a happy woman.

One of everything...yes please!

Okay, fine...I'll settle for one giant piece of this!
After dinner we headed back to the B & B for some R & R. I was a marathoner, this crazy idea that seemed like a pipe dream was finally a reality. I am proof that you are never too old, too busy, too (fill in the blank) to go after a goal and reach it. I am also one of those annoying people with a 26.2 sticker on my car....and no one can take that away from me!