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!

Race Recap: Grandma's Marathon Part 1

Yes, 26.2....really, 26.2 can you believe it? Wait...what are you thinking about? I am referring to how many inches of rain fell on me before starting my marathon...but I see where you could have confused that with me basking in the glow of my accomplishment! That will come later, but here it is, the low down on the best, worst, longest, and wettest run of my life!

Friday-Pre Race
I'll start my recap on Friday, because I'd really be remiss in leaving out the fun that was had in the lead up to race morning. I was packed and ready to go by about 8:00am, even though I wasn't leaving until noon...excited much?!? I felt pretty confident that I had everything I needed, but continued to unpack and repack about a dozen times just to make sure I had it right. Finally it was time to leave to meet my ride...Ashley, Kandi, Erin and Paula from the Maple Grove Moms Run this Town group had an extra seat and generously offered it up to me, even though none of them had met me before. We got my gear loaded, decorated Ashley's van accordingly, I said good bye to Bill and the kids, and we were ready to roll!

A van full of Moms sans kids, this could be dangerous :)
Early on in the ride Erin gave me the disclaimer "We can get kind of inappropriate sometimes, hopefully that's okay." This came up because there was discussion about whether or not there would be time to play Cards Against Humanity that night before they had to turn in. I told them, "I love that game, I play regularly with my Mom". If  you are familiar with CAH, and you can fathom playing it in your mother's presence, then you know that the five of us got along just fine. The trip went quickly and before I knew it we were in Duluth getting the four of them checked into the dorms at UMD. It just so happened that they were staying in Goldfine Hall...MY DORM! Yes, I spent two glorious years living in 201B Goldfine while in college, and as we got into the room I was instantly transported back to 1990 and all the crazy times we had in that place. Now, this could have been because the rooms have literally not changed one bit in 25 years (seriously, the furniture is exactly the same!), but it was fun to reminisce a bit. We dropped our bags and headed out to the shuttle that would take us into downtown Duluth (if you ever find yourself doing Grandma's Marathon or the half, I'm telling you now...stay at UMD! There is a free shuttle all weekend to and from downtown and a free hospitality room for runners, it's so worth it!)

UMD sent out a great Welcome Wagon!
Our first stop was dinner at Grandma's Saloon. We met up with Morgan and Beth from the MG-MRTT group and their families. Even though "Marathon Spaghetti" was on the menu, I opted for a turkey burger and french fries, figuring I had done proper carb-loading up to this point. It was delicious, but in hind-sight, I probably should have done spaghetti as you'll read later, my energy reserves got depleted pretty quickly on Saturday. After dinner we headed down Canal Park Drive to the Grandma's Marathon offices, I had to pick up the bleacher pass I had reserved for Bill for the race. When we opened the door to the office, we ran right into a little old lady in a bonnet and long dress....GRANDMA! I couldn't believe it, we actually ran into Grandma, this had to be a good sign. She was very sweet, talking to us about the race and wishing us luck. We snapped some quick pics and grabbed the ticket, then we were off to our next stop, packet pickup!

Nothing like meeting the weekend's biggest celebrity in person!
The DECC was buzzing with activity, but thankfully didn't seem too crazy. We found our way down to the Expo area, passing by the huge set up for the spaghetti dinner that the race officials put on every year. Note to self, eat at the spaghetti dinner next time, it's cheap, it smelled delicious, and you will need those carbs! There was no line at all for packet pick up. I walked right up to the row for my bib number, told the volunteer "7065" he looked down at the first box and said "Linda McKee from Shoreview?" Wow! My packet was right on top, another good sign :) We walked the expo, full of awesome vendors and lots of excitement. I picked up a shirt from the official race merch shop to send to Jill for our "jersey trade" tradition, and got my hands on some cute Bondi Bands. We wound around all the booths and I found the Rock Tape station and got my knee taped up, that stuff isn't cheap, so using someone else's is a great deal. The taping booth was right next to the Another Mother Runner set up. We stopped and chatted with JoAnn, one of my Strava friends who was working the booth. It was fun to chat with her, and Erin and Ashley picked up some cool hats from the store. I told JoAnn to look for my "Badass Mother Runner" shirt on the course, she wished me luck and we were off! We spent a little more time touring around the Canal before heading back to the shuttle. It was a beautiful night, but I was excited to get settled in and ready for the race.

Finish line getting prettied up for the big day!
The Lift Bridge, this will be the beacon of the finish line tomorrow!
Couldn't have asked for a more fun group of women to share my first marathon experience with!
We got back to UMD to pick up my stuff so Ashley could drive me to my home for the night. I had planned to stay with Stacey, the girlfriend of one of the Gopher coaches who lives in Hermantown. She was gracious enough to offer me a bed Friday night and a ride to the start line bus on Saturday morning. As we were getting ready to head out the door, I said "Next year, I'm bunking with you guys". At which Ashley said "Why don't you now?" See, Erin had brought a blow up mattress because she didn't want to sleep on a dorm mattress, so there was an open bed! I felt a little bad bailing on Stacey, even though it was going to be so much more convenient to stay at UMD (Ashley didn't have to spend an hour driving me to and back from her house, Stacey wouldn't have to get up at zero-dark thirty to drive me to the bus), but I gave her a call and she sounded fine with it, win-win! So, I got myself settled and unpacked my race day gear. Even after my ritual repacking of the morning, I was relieved to find I had remembered everything I needed. As is tradition, we laid out our race outfits to take a picture of our "Flat Mamas"...things were starting to get real...

No chance of missing us on the race course!
Alas, it was late, so there were no Cards Against Humanity dealt that night.  The other ladies were all doing the half-marathon, so they had to be up for their bus at 4:00am. We said our good-nights and hit the hay.

Saturday Morning-Pre Race
I had my phone set to go off at 4:45, even though I figured I probably wouldn't sleep through everyone else moving about at 4. But, it didn't matter, as someone's car alarm thought we all needed a 3:30 wake up call instead. I tried to get back to sleep, and I did doze off and on for about another 20 minutes, but by 4:15 I was up and at 'em. Everyone else was already dressed and getting their gear ready. I tried to just stay relaxed and rest, but I was so excited. I didn't know if I should eat yet, I had only planned a piece of toast with peanut butter and a banana for my pre-race breakfast, and it was only 4:30, so I had over three hours until the gun went off. But my hunger got the better of me and I ate my rations at 4:45. At 5:00 I said my good-byes and good lucks to the crew as they headed off to the start line bus for the half. I was alone with my thoughts and my gear staring me in the face, so I suited up. It was 5:10...the first bus for the marathon wasn't leaving until 5:45! I decided to sit on my foam roller for a bit, responded to some early well-wishers on Facebook, and managed to kill 30 minutes in a state of relative calmness. Finally, it was 5:40...I double checked that I had my gear bag stocked, wrote a quick thank you note to the ladies, and headed out.

Bus #2, no turning back!
A home town ride to the start!
The sky actually looked pretty clear, which was great. There were thunderstorms predicted for start time and it seemed as if they would miss us. It was crisp, but not cold, perfect running conditions. I walked through the lobby of the main residence hall, there were bagels and coffee set up for runners, but I passed them by (I would later regret this). I made it out to the pick up circle right at 5:50 to find one bus already departing and a small line formed for the second one. There were pockets of conversation, but most folks actually seemed to be keeping to themselves. Our bus pulled up and I had to smile, the bus taking me to the start line of my first marathon had traveled to Duluth from Lino Lakes, my neck of the woods, I took this to be my third "good sign" of the weekend!

I don't do well on buses, and my nearly empty stomach, nervousness, and the bumpy roads made the 20 minute drive to the start line less than pleasant. I had my eyes closed and was doing some deep breathing to try to keep myself from hurling all over the place. Hopefully it just looked like I was meditating to everyone else, I certainly didn't want anyone to have thought they were going to have to start the race with my peanut butter toast and banana all over their shoes. Thankfully, we soon turned off the express way and into the parking lot that would serve as the start area. The bag drop was the first thing I encountered. It was only 6:45, so I had plenty of time before I had to get rid of it, but I reasoned that I didn't have anything in there I needed. The sky still looked relatively light, so I convinced myself that I didn't need to break out the plastic baggies I brought to cover my shoes, or poncho that Erin had so generously gave me the night before. I stood in front of the drop can for a couple minutes, hemming and hawing...I didn't want to have to deal with baggies and ponchos if I didn't have to, I had a throw-away wind breaker on, that should suffice. So I tied up my bag and dropped it in. BIG MISTAKE. I proceeded to the porta-potty line and about 30 seconds after I got there the rain started coming down. It started as a light drizzle, but by the time it was my turn to go into the john, it was full on pouring. I was never so happy to be inside a porta-potty before! I didn't even really have to go, one bonus to being up so early was that I had a chance to poop not once, but TWICE before I left the dorm room (sorry...TMI). So I sat down and just relished the fact that I could likely eek out 3-4 minutes of dry time in here before anyone would be the wiser. I did consider for a moment that I would just stay in here for the next half hour, or at least until I couldn't hear the "tap-tap-tap" of the rain on the roof anymore, but alas, it WAS a porta-potty, and no matter how dry and warm I was, there was no way I could stomach an extended vacation in there. I got out and looked at my watch. 7:15, still 30 minutes to the gun. I looked around to see if there was anywhere to get some shelter. The only tent set up was a small medical area that was already packed to the gills. There were several volunteers with big umbrellas, but again, none had any room at the inn. I decided I was just going to suck it up and be wet. Thankfully it was about 62-degrees out, so I wasn't freezing, but I was starting to worry about my feet. My toes go numb pretty easily and my shoes and socks where soaked. I looked around for a spare trash bag, but didn't see any. I wandered over to the opening for the start corral and sat down on the base of a race flag, tucking my knees up and covering my feet with my jacket. I'm pretty sure this did nothing to keep water out of my shoes, but I had to try something. I willed myself to stop looking at my watch...the minutes were creeping by. I closed my eyes and did some visualization, thinking about the water stops, when I was going to take my energy gels, and hoping that the weather would let up at some point.

Finally it was 7:30 and the announcer started his comments welcoming us to the 39th Annual Grandma's Marathon. I took this as my cue to make my way into the start corral. My plan was to start the race with the 4:45 pace group. It was a time I felt pretty comfortable with based on my training runs. I also thought that if I was feeling really good, I could pick up the pace mid-race, and if I was struggling, it still gave me some cushion to hopefully finish in under five hours. I saw the sign for the 4:30 group, and the sign for the 5:00 group, but no 4:45. I decided that my pacer must be keeping dry somewhere, so I just stood in the middle, figuring it was as good a spot as any. A few minutes later, a tiny woman with a huge pile of black hair on top of her head walked up next to me...she had a giant garbage bag on that pretty much covered her entire body, but out of the bag poked her arm holding the 4:45 sign. This was Star, my pacer, and soon to be my best friend and mentor. I introduced myself, told her it was my first time and made friends with a few others standing around. By this point I was soaked solid and water was dripping off the brim of my hat on to my face. Star noted that I was smart to have a hat on, that even though it was soaked it was probably keeping me warmer than if I was bare-headed. She told us this was her 11th time running Grandma's, and in all those years, this was by far the most miserable start she could remember. So, we had that going for us ;) We chatted some more, and welcomed a few more people into our band of runners when the national anthem finally started. This was it, in just a few minutes I was going to start running my first marathon....a little chill ran up my spine, it may have just been the cold, but I was so excited!

Smiling through the rain....Let's get this party started!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Final Countdown!

Marathon Training Week 20 Recap

This is it, the last days of training before 26.2! I can hardly believe it's been four and a half months since I started down this road.  Since February 20th I've been preparing my body and my mind to take on this task. They are both ready, chomping at the bit even, to knock out this run and forever be able to call myself a marathoner. Unfortunately, the one thing I couldn't have prepared for has happened...I am sick. Now before you get all "oh, you poor thing" on me, please know that I'm not writing about this for sympathy, this blog is first and foremost a way for me to journal my training for posterity and have a record of what I've done in case I'm ever crazy enough to do this again, so it seems important to include it. And, really, I am not dying, it's nothing major, but leave it to me to go the entire winter and spring with nary a sniffle, only to come down with a chest cold the week of my biggest race ever!

Monday I was up early to get my three miles done. When I woke up I had a tickle in my throat which I brushed off as early morning dry mouth. I started out on a familiar route from my house, after a mile in I still felt sluggish and the tickle turned into a cough, uh oh. My left foot was also a little achy, a sensation I haven't had before, so I walked a minute to try to shake it off and hack up what I could in order to keep going. I got back at it and finished in a decent time overall. But the worrying had begun...coughing and sore feet was not the way I wanted to start this week.

Tuesday I met Katie at the Y for our early morning run. We planned on doing three miles and started out easy, losing ourselves in conversation. Without realizing it, we soon found ourselves running at a 9:17/mile pace. We hit our turn around point and Katie said "I want to run my fastest 5K ever, under 30 minutes". So we cut down on talking and just put our heads down and ran. Our second mile was a little slower, running a 9:20, but we really picked it up on the last mile, finishing strong with an 8:50! We were both pretty excited with the outcome. Our official time was 28.20, which was her fastest 5K and my second fastest to date! My lungs felt okay, not great, but I was hopeful that maybe this cold would not get much worse, or that at least it wouldn't affect my running too much.

Wednesday was busy, and rainy, and I was feeling pretty run down, so I decided to skip running...I only had two more miles left to run before the big day, so I figured I could do them on Thursday morning instead...I didn't really want to do my last training run feeling like crap on the treadmill. I got a lot of work done, finished up some laundry, and took Logan and Kayley to the pool. I was actually feeling kind of sad. I was frustrated with being sick, I had just seen the race-day weather report (thunderstorms at the start), and I was just generally preoccupied with life, so when I got home I was super excited to see a package on the counter for me. It was from my friend Jill in Texas. Jill has been a huge inspiration for me, she is a marathoner, an Ironman, and an all-round amazing person who has dealt with a lot of adversity and still manages to have a hearty sense of humor and is always ready with training tips and much needed encouragement. I tore into the package to find a card, and an awesome letter with race-day advice and wonderful words of support. The letter was perfect, it was just the pick-me-up I needed. Jill also included a special gift, a t-shirt from one of her marathons. In fact, the shirt was from the race that she qualified for Boston in. She is also a soccer player and said that it was tradition at matches for teams to exchange jerseys afterwards as a sign of camaraderie and she was starting that tradition with my marathon. I can't wait to put a shirt from Grandma's in the mail for her :)

Jill managed to know exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it!

Thursday morning I woke up with super heavy lungs after a restless night's sleep. My head hurt, my nose was stuffy, and I was hacking like a 6-pack a day smoker. Not good. I forced myself out of bed because I really felt like I needed this run. I needed to clear my head, and I needed to feel like this cold hadn't beaten me. So I geared up and headed out. I felt slow on the first mile, which was fine, this was supposed to be a super easy run anyway. My lungs were okay, I tried taking in a few deep breaths and I didn't dissolve into fits of coughing, a good sign. I hit my turn around point and headed in. My legs started to feel a little lighter and deep breaths came a little easier. I kept my pace slow, but I was strong. I got back home, clipped the leash on the dog and set off for cool down mile walk around the neighborhood. Success. I had run 2 miles without I just have to do that 13 more times on Saturday!

20 weeks, 404 miles under my belt. While I have a cold and there are supposed to be storms at the start line, I am ready. I'm a little disappointed, but not defeated. I can't wait for race day and getting my turn to belong to that exclusive club....I'm going to be a marathoner, and it's going to be great!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Hurry Up and Wait!

Marathon Training Week 19 Recap

I have never run a marathon before, but I have been on taper. Every year while swimming I would endure two, maybe three tapers depending on the year. For club season, we tapered for both the winter and summer championship seasons, and during school, we'd taper for that championship run as well. I know what taper is all about, I've done it a hundred why is this  taper SO DIFFERENT?!?

I am going a little crazy...I seriously cannot think of anything else. I don't remember being this obsessed about swimming taper. Maybe it's the unknown or maybe it's just because I haven't tapered for an event since 1990 and I've forgotten how bad it was...but I may not survive it! This race needs to get here NOW!

Monday is supposed to be yoga day (I think I type the phrase "supposed to be" every single week in this blog when referring to yoga day), but once again, I skipped it. It was super hot on Monday and Kayley wanted to go to the Y and jump off the diving board in the outdoor pool (this will mark our 8th trip to the outdoor pool since it opened two weeks ago!). Anyway, I decided that since it was so warm out I would get my swim on in the 50-meter pool outside. It's been forever since I did laps outside. I had a lane to myself, the sun felt awesome, and my stroke was strong and smooth. I hadn't really planned a set, so I just stuck with my old standby of 200 swim, 100 kick, 200 pull, three times for a lovely 1500 meters. When I was done, Kayley joined me in my lane for some flip turn work. She has unfortunately inherited my side-flip style of's hoping her coaches can make her more efficient then her old Mom!

Tuesday I was up at zero-dark thirty since we had a hectic day on the books. I decided to do an out and back from home to Turtle Lake school to keep things easy, and to ensure I was on a paved trail the whole time in case my tiredness caused my inner klutz to surface. The run out was uneventful. I had opted to run without music this morning, again figuring having all my faculties about me was a good idea, so I was enjoying the early morning sounds of birds and the breeze keeping me company. On the way back I saw a red-winged blackbird perched on a branch over the trail. I didn't pay him much notice as I passed, but a few yards away, I almost jumped out of my skin when he swooped down next to me and kind of hissed in my ear! What he heck bird?!? I was just running by minding my own business! I kept on going but a few seconds later, he came at me again from the front, swooping in and making the same pissed off noise at me. Um, okay bird, chill out! I actually started running a little faster thinking I was about to get caught in some sort of Hitchcock-ian horror scene, a flock of angry red-winged blackbirds swarming out from the trees, mad at me for disturbing their early morning peace with my loud clomping on the trail. Lucky for me, the lone sentinel seemed to be appeased that he scared me away, because the rest of the run remained bird-attack free!

Wednesday was another early one as I once again met Katie at the Y at 5:00 am for a 6-miler on the Rice Creek Trails. It was a chilly start, but the humidity creeped up quickly and I was glad I had opted for a tank top and shorts instead of the t-shirt and capri's I had originally laid out. We ran past the bridge that was our normal turn around point, and made it to Rice Creek Elementary where, thankfully, there was a porta-potty hidden in the trees. After a brief pit-stop we headed out and ran a nice negative split back to the Y. I stayed there to get ready for work since I had to be in early for a fun work seminar. The Explore Minnesota "Spring Training" was today at the new St. Paul Saints Stadium, CHS Field.

The view from "my office" on Wednesday!
I was excited to get to be a part of this workshop, that would bring together a bunch of the major players in the Minnesota sports world. I got to meet the CEO of the 2018 Super Bowl and talked to her about some opportunities to partner on events leading up to the big game. I also got to chat briefly with Virginia Brophy Achman, the Executive Director of Twin Cities in Motion, the organization that puts on the Twin Cities Marathon and my favorite race, the TC 10-mile. It was a very cool day, topped off by winning a drawing for a free entry into the Mankato Half Marathon in October! I actually could have chosen to do either the full or half, but I surmised that I didn't really have two full marathons in one year on my bucket least not yet!

Thursday I played catch up at work since I was out all day Wednesday, so a lunch time run didn't happen. Thankfully, Kayley was up for pacing me on her bike for an easy three when I got home. This was actually a pretty fast run for me, holding an 8:54 pace. Kayley likes to talk trash, and she kept complaining how slow I was going. I had to remind her several times that she was on a bike and I was on taper. That didn't stop her ribbing, so I kept speeding up. She'll make a great coach some day!

I decided that Friday was rest day since I swam on Monday. I mean I could have done yoga on Friday, but I didn't want to break my anti-yoga blog posting streak :)

Saturday I had planned the North Metro MRTT group's first Run & Brunch (or bRUNch as it will now be known). Four of us planned to meet up for a run followed by breakfast at the Taste of Scandinavia in Shoreview. Kristy, a mom from the preschool we attend (who originally turned me on the the Maple Grove MRTT group) and I were going to meet at 7:00 so we could run 6 miles before meeting Kirsten and Karen at 8:00 for three more. Kristy had 11 on her training plan that day (she is doing the Red, White and Boom half on July 4th), so she ran from home to get things going. She and I left out of the Village Center parking lot and headed to the Sucker Lake trails, which she runs on frequently. I was excited to see some new scenery so close to my house. I've been sticking primarily to the trails around Turtle Lake and Rice Creek for my runs, but this area was equally as awesome. We did three miles out and turned around to head back to the parking lot. On the way back, it started to drizzle, and then turned into a real rain shower just as we hit the light to crossover and meet up with Kirsten and Karen. We got a quick drink and did some speedy introductions (Kirsten is also at the same preschool so she knows Kristy, but neither of them had met Karen before). We headed in the opposite direction for a change of pace and managed to stay somewhat dry under the canopy of the trees over the trail. I was excited to be sharing in Kirsten's first ever group run. I remember how much anxiety I had the first time I ran with someone else, so I was glad she could share her first one with women who I knew where going to make it an awesome experience! We chatted easily and the three miles flew by. We got back to the parking lot and ducked into the warm, dry restaurant, where thankfully there was an open table (you never know with this place, sometimes there is a line out the door!). It was nice to be able to sit and chat some more over coffee and omelets. I can't wait to do another bRUNch next month!

Well, I survived Week One of taper! I only run 9 miles over three days next week before the big race. I have a feeling these few days are going to be torture! I apologize now to my work friends, Facebook friends, and family if I am particularly insufferable, it will all soon be over!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Bring on the Taper!

Marathon Training Week 18 Recap

It's taper time! This is the week I've been looking forward to for a long time...rolling back my mileage, savoring the road I've been on for the last 18 weeks, basking in the excitement of the weeks to come. Like taper...this recap will be short and sweet (besides work is INSANE right now, so I can't believe I even have time to think about writing this...much less actually sitting down long enough to do it!)

Monday, was recovery day. I had my 20 miler on Sunday and I half expected not to be able to get out of bed on Monday, but my legs felt surprisingly good today. I did a little foam rolling, but that was it. I of course told anyone that would listen that I ran 20 miles the day before, I mean, I couldn't go a whole day with out at least TALKING about running, right?

Tuesday was hot and humid, a taste of the weather that will soon be commonplace around here. I was supposed to do five miles today, but see above about this week being insane at work, I was lucky to squeeze in four. My legs started out feeling pretty heavy, remnants of the 20-miler still lingering on them. But by the 2.5 mile mark I felt really strong and finished the run fast, averaging 9:15 miles. I was surprised by how fast this run was, and it gave me a lot of confidence that I could run so hard just two days after the long one!

Wednesday had eight miles on the schedule that just weren't going to happen. I was in the throws of getting our meet organized for the weekend and just simply ran out of time to get it done. I hate missing runs, especially my mid-week distance runs. But I had to let it go. I'm pretty confident with where I am and I know that missing one run is not going to derail me at this point.

Thursday I met Katie for another one of our 5:00am 5-milers. This was my second week in a row getting up this early for a run, and I have to say it was a little easier today. I was also excited because the day before my new "toy" arrived in the mail!

I wasn't sure I was ever going to bite the bullet and get a GPS watch, but when Active Gear Up sent out an offer for the Soleus Vibe for only $59, I decided it was a sign (if you aren't familiar with them, go there now, you can thank me later! LINK) Of course, by the time I got home from work and swim practice on Wednesday night I didn't have time to charge it and set it up before bed, so I was winging it on Thursday morning. As you can guess, it didn't work. Oh well, I was okay with it as Katie runs with a cool TomTom GPS watch, so at least I'd have some stats. We ran the same out and back route as last week and talked more about running goals and summer plans. I can't imagine runs this early in the morning being as fun without a buddy. We kept a nice steady pace and I when we finished Katie told me this was the fastest five miles she had ever run. It's pretty unbelievable to me that just a year ago I was so afraid to run with someone else because I was sure I was going to be slowing them down. Now here I was being the person who pushed someone to go faster than they had before. The community and confidence created by running with a partner is a pretty amazing thing!

Friday was going to be swim day, but Logan really didn't want to go to the Y-care so I could get my laps in during Kayley's practice. So he and I played in the pool and on the splash pad, and I had another lesson in letting it go. Being a mom will always trump training. However, this might be the only instance when I look forward to the day that my kids don't like hanging out with me so much (or looking forward to the day they want to train with me!)

Saturday was the first day of our big meet and I knew I had 12+ hours of of work ahead of me. I got to the pool at 6:00am so I could get my run in before the meet referee wanted to get going, which would be around 8:30. I had 12 on the plan, but figured depending on my pace, I might only do 10. I had finally figured out how to work my new watch, so I was excited to try it out. I stood perfectly still for about a minute, and sure enough, that little guy found a satellite, so I was off! Today was also my wardrobe test, I was wearing exactly the outfit I plan to wear on the marathon, so I was also excited to see how everything felt. I decided to run out and back on East River Parkway, my old standby. The weather was perfect, and there were plenty of people on the trail to keep me company. I felt great, in fact, it was the best I had felt in a long time. I held a nice steady pace on the way out, and was happy to hit the 6 mile mark at just over an hour. As long as I kept this up, I would make it back in plenty of time for a shower before any meet personnel showed up. I took some energy gel here and stretched a minute and headed back. I got a great burst of energy at mile 8 when I encountered a woman wearing the same Badass Mother Runner shirt I was. We gave each other a big smile and I said "nice shirt". She said "you bet" (like any good Minnesotan would) and we were on our way. I was starting to fade a bit at mile 10 when I heard a shout of "Hey! Way to go BAMR!" when I got closer to the woman who was cheering me on, I realized it was Laura, one of my "Strava Friends". We've been following each other on the app for about a year, and we met briefly at the Another Mother Runner party a few weeks ago, but this was the first time we had crossed paths on a run. I was tempted to turn around and run with her for a bit, but I knew I had to get back to work, and I reminded myself I was on taper, no extra miles allowed! This little surge was enough to get me back to my office in the fastest two miles of the day. It was a great run to top off a busy week of working, running, and letting it go! Two weeks left, I can hardly believe it. I'm looking forward to dialing it back even more next week and working on my mental preparedness now...the next 13 days are going to fly by!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

My most important miles

Marathon Training Week 17 Recap

This week was all about running. I ate, drank, and slept running, it was all I could think about. I ran six out of seven days this week, I was at TC Running Company twice, I made two running related Internet purchases, and I got a gift certificate to a running store. It's like the universe knew that I had to focus on running this week. I hit two milestones, my first race with my daughter, and my longest run to date.

Monday would normally have been my PT/yoga day, but I wanted to get a training run in with Kayley. She loves to run fast, so I felt like we needed to try a "long" pacing run to get her ready for her first 5K on Saturday. I wanted to do 2.5 miles, but she talked me down to 2. We ran out the the stoplight at Hodgson (1 mile) and back. She did great, ran the whole time without a single complaint. We held an 11:22 pace. She's ready!

Tuesday I had 5 on the plan, but the weather had a different idea. I geared up, and walked out the door, saw a solid wall of rain in front of me, and turned right around and walked back inside to the treadmill. It's been several weeks since I ran on the old TM, but I sure haven't missed it. I lasted three miles before I threw in the towel. I took advantage of the extra time though to do my PT and some stretching when I was done.

Wednesday the sun was back out, and an oppressive humidity came with it! I had 10 miles on the plan. This would be my longest run in this kind of heat. I was worried that my 12 oz water bottle wasn't going to cut it, so I devised a new route that ran by a couple parks I figured would have drinking fountains. I felt great starting out, the sun felt really nice on my bare arms (coated with SPF 50 of course). As I passed the bridge where I would normally turn around, I picked up my pace a little, maybe running in the heat was going to suit me after all! I kept up that attitude until mile 7, that's when I sipped my last bit of water and my legs decided they were done. I was at one of the parks I mentioned before, so I walked around a bit, filled up my water bottle, did the best I could to wipe the ever-streaming sweat out of my eyes, and got back to it. For the next half mile I seriously considered calling one of my co-workers to come pick me up. I was dragging, I was sweating, I was really hating life. Then, like an answered prayer I didn't even know I was praying, I saw her...a woman running in front of me, keeping a nice steady pace, with her hair flowing in an unconfined cascade down her back, wearing jean shorts. Yes, she was running in honest-to-goodness denim cut-offs, on the hottest day of the year so far. Here I was in my wicking tank top, tech skirt and headband, barely able to put one foot in front of the other, and this lady was crushing it in jorts! I decided then and there that I was going to make it back to my office, come hell or high water. I picked up my pace again and finished the last two miles strong. I was pretty happy with myself for getting it done.

Earlier in the week, Katie, one of the women in my MRTT group had challenged us to try to get up at 5:00am and run five miles with her, so on Thursday I decided to take the challenge. I was up at 3:45 for some unexplained reason, so I made some toast, walked the dog, ate a banana, and waited. Finally it was 4:45 and I headed out to the Lino Lakes Y to meet up with her. The sun was just starting to creep out when we got going on the trail but it was already pretty humid out. We made quick conversation talking about her marathon (she just finished Fargo a few weeks ago ) and my marathon and before I knew it we were at the bridge that marked our turn around point. The sky was a beautiful shade of pink and we snapped a couple quick pictures just to prove our superiority over everyone else because we got up to run at the crack of dawn! We started back up again and this time talked kids and school and made a quick return back to the Y. We headed inside for a bathroom break and some free coffee, Katie then headed home and I hit the showers, I was on the road for work by 6:30, ready for a productive day...even though I was sure I was going to be ready for a nap by 1:00.

Sunrise over Rice Creek Nature Area

Where were YOU at 5:30 Thursday morning?
Friday I did a whole lotta nothing. I was going to swim, but we had a meet, and frankly I was tired. This is a terrible excuse, but it's all I've got.

Saturday was a big day. Kayley's First 5K! We were up and at 'em around 7. The plan was a light breakfast (even tough Kayley insisted she could eat "a lot" of pancakes before the race. I convinced her to keep it simple with some cereal. Since I didn't want to hassle with parking at the school, we decided we were going to ride our bikes the two miles to the race. We left a little before 8 and had a chilly ride (it was 47-degrees!). When we got to school we saw our neighbor Jen, the race organizer, looking cool as a cucumber at check in. We got our goodie bags, bib numbers and some licorice strips, and were ready to go. We headed outside where Kayley met up with Joshua and Tommy, two friends from her class. They preceded to tear up the playground like it was recess, even though I kept telling them, "hey, you guys have to run three miles in a little bit!" I opted to head back into the gym to wait for the start...I was still pretty chilled and wanted to warm up before hitting the road. Finally it was time to start. They began with the "fun run" which was a race around the school for the younger kids. Some of Kayley's classmates were doing this race, but she made sure to tell everyone she was doing the 5K. After the fun run finished, the Principal led us to the start line. I was surprised how many people lined up, I had assumed that most of them were just watching their kids do the fun run, but soon we were in a sea of people. Kayley saw some older kids that she knew at the front of the pack, so she told me "Mom, I'm going to run with them". I reminded her that she needed to pace herself, that she had three miles to run and if she started off too fast she was going to get really tired. But she assured me she'd be okay, so I let her go. The race started and I met up with Jen and another mom named Nicole. They both had older kids who were ahead of them racing fast. I told them that's where Kayley was, but that I was pretty sure if I stayed back here I was going to catch up with her before too long. I was surprised when we hit the one mile mark and I still didn't have sight of Kayley. I didn't know how fast we had run, but with as winded as I was, I had a good idea that we were under 10 minutes. I actually started to get a little worried about her, but finally at the 1.5 mile mark I saw her, she was slowing down pretty significantly, so I waved good bye to Jen and Nicole and ran up to her to see how she was doing. She said she felt good, but was starting to get tired. I told her I wasn't surprised since she ran the first mile so fast. We saw a water stop just ahead, so I asked her if she wanted to walk a bit and get a drink of water. She did, so we grabbed some cups and sipped while we walked. After a minute, I asked if she was ready to run again and she said "yes". We kept a steady pace for a while more, and when we turned onto Lexington, we passed the 2 mile mark. I told her "Okay, from now on this is the longest you've ever run before, so lets do this!" We ran on and after a few minutes more she said she wanted to walk again. I told her that walking was okay, but that when I walked on my long runs, I liked to pick a "running point". Something I will walk until I get to, then I start running again. I asked her if she saw any place she'd like to pick as a "running point" and she indicated a crosswalk a few yards ahead. I said "great, when we get there we'll try to run the rest of the way". We got the the crosswalk sign and she said she was ready to run again, so we started back up. We could see the school at this point and I figured we probably had just under a half mile left to go. She was a trooper. She told me at one point "Mom, my legs are SO tired", but when I asked if she wanted to walk, she said "no". The path we were running on had been marked with motivational sayings every few yards. Each time Kayley ran over one, she'd read it out loud and it would give her a burst of energy. I had to laugh when we passed "Run, Forest, Run" chalked on the ground. She looked over at the line of trees we were running besides and said "Yeah, come on forest, run!". We rounded the corner that was going to take us to the finish shoot and I told her, "okay, this is it, what ever energy you have left, use it now". So of course, she kicked it into a different gear and left me in her wake. I was more tired than I thought I would be, so I just let her beat the snot out of me....losing is not something I do easily, even when I'm losing to my own kid! I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch, :35.22 unofficially, Kayley was likely just under 35 minutes. We got our finisher charms from the principal and partook of the Popsicles they were handing out at the announcers table. When I finally got a chance to check my running app I noticed the pace on my first mile...9:32, which meant that Kayley had done it under 9:30 for sure. She never ceases to amaze me, and I can't wait to do this with her again!

Posing with the spoils of our victory, 5K Foot Charms and Popsicles!
Sunday was another big day, I was going to attempt to run 20 miles, my longest run to date, and I was going to do it solo...the way I started my marathon training :) I mapped out my route on Saturday night. I didn't want to wing this one since I wasn't sure what to expect from this distance. I planned on doing a familiar 8.5 mile loop, then tried to figure out an 11.5 mile loop. I've done the first loop several times before. It passes by two parks that have porta-potties and drinking fountains and one gas station, I figured that should have me covered for any emergencies. The second loop was trickier. I wanted to stay close to familiar things, but also didn't want to retrace my steps too much. After about 10 attempts at getting the mileage right, I finally had it. It was easy to remember and only had me going over one area twice, plus I knew I'd be on paved trails the whole time. Sleep did not come easy Saturday night. As this whole week had gone, I was totally preoccupied with the run. I was up at 4:45 when Logan woke to go to the bathroom, so I just decided to give up on resting and get going. I took the dog for a nice long walk and ate some toast and a banana, packed up my fuel belt and headed out.

This be a little TMI for some of you, but it is important to note for me, so here goes...I was thankfully up early enough for my GI system to regulate itself before I left, one of my biggest fears for the marathon is that I'm going to have a bathroom emergency and not be able to get to a porta-potty in time, so this was a good sign for me. However, approximately one mile into the run, my bowels came a knocking. Now, I knew that McCollough Park was only about a half mile away, but I didn't know if there were toilets there...I hadn't planned on having to stop so early on. But I couldn't chance it, so I turned into the park and thankfully saw a porta-potty right in the first parking lot. I couldn't have got there a moment later! This was a little frustrating,but I shook it off and kept going. It was a chilly morning, only about 39-degrees when I started, I was thankful I had opted for a jacket over my arm sleeves. I passed a couple other runners and gave a swift hello (they both had on shorts and short sleeves, BRRR!) I was hitting my stride now and holding a great pace. I stopped to fuel at mile 5 and turned down Hodgson Road towards home. I started thinking about the first time I ran this route, It was last New Years Eve and I had challenged myself to run 1000 miles for the year, but I started the day at only 992. It was FREEZING and snowing, but I really wanted to hit that milestone. I remembered how I almost called my husband half way through to pick up me, but somehow managed to make it fingers were nearly frostbit and I had icicles on my eyelashes, but I had done first full year of running and I had gone 1000 miles! Anyway, I turned into my neighborhood and was surprised when Strava-lady said "Distance, 9 miles" a half mile more than I planned. I guess my impromptu bathroom break gave me a nice little cushion to make sure I had mapped the distance of my second loop correctly.

I went into the house to go to the bathroom (AGAIN!) and encountered a sleepy Kayley who had just crawled out of bed. Everyone else was still down for the count, so I went to find the iPad for her to play on while she waited for Dad and Logan to get up. I gave her a quick kiss and promised to be back soon, scarfed down half a banana, filled up my water bottle and was back at it. I felt really strong as I started the second loop. I had considered taking my jacket off when I was in the house, but as a cool breeze kicked up, I was glad I kept it on. I turned on to County Road J and forgot that I normally run this road coming the opposite direction...I was staring up a gradual and LONG hill, one which I normally enjoy since I'm going down it! But I put my head down and plugged along, knowing that encountering a hill at mile 10 was going to seem like nothing compared to the hill I will encounter at mile 22 of the marathon. I felt good up until mile 12, when I fueled again, but somewhere around mile 12.5 my legs lost steam. I soldiered on until mile 14 when I hit the Rice Creek fields. A walk break was inevitable at this point, so I decided I would take one last bathroom break and fill my water bottle. I got back out on the trail and actually felt really revived, I am guessing that the fuel I took at mile 12 was finally kicking in, but I also realized, I only had 6 miles to go. Six miles was totally doable, a 10K, an "easy" afternoon run for me most days. Yes, I was going to conquer those six miles with gusto! Okay, I only conquered the next two miles with gusto, then I needed another walking break at 16.5. But it was okay, I had held a great pace so far, and despite my THREE potty stops and having to rummage in the dark for the iPad for two minutes, I was right on the time track I wanted to be. I walked for a minute, picking out my "running point" just ahead. When I started back up I made a deal with myself, no more walking. Even if I had to just barely shuffle, I was gong to run these last 3 miles. I turned up my music when "Runaway Baby" started playing. This song always gives me so much energy. I started singing out loud. I'm sure I sounded like an injured cow, bleating out the words in between breaths, but I didn't care. I had a renewed energy that came from knowing I was so close to being done. I continued to sing out loud to the songs, ignoring a few looks from passing walkers and bikers, they didn't know...they had no idea that I had just run 18.5 miles, longer than I'd ever run before, they had no idea that I was almost home after pushing myself to do something I never could have fathomed doing a year ago. They could look at me however they wanted to...I felt so awesome, nothing was going to dampen this! I turned down Turtle Lake Road and knew it was coming, finally Strava-lady said "Distance, 19 miles". Believe it or not, I actually started to cry. I was really overwhelmed by the idea that I had just run 19 miles, I was overcome with excitement about the race, and how finally after 17 weeks of training, I finally felt like running a marathon isn't something other people do, it's something I am going to do! I sped up a little more and sang a litter louder. I turned into my neighborhood and decided instead of taking the flat route straight to my house, that I was going to run up the hill that circles down to it. I was actually afraid that if I took the direct route that I was going to end the run on 19.9 miles, and I NEEDED to hear Strava-lady say "Distance, 20 miles". I was not disappointed. Hearing those words as I turned the corner to my street was an incredible high. I got to my driveway and savored it for a minute. Then I took a deep breath and went inside...I could hear Bill, Kayley and Logan in the kitchen, which surprised me since it was surely past breakfast time, but there they were, all waiting for me, ready to whip me up whatever I wanted to eat. Kayley asked "Mom, how far did you go?" And I said "20 miles honey", which made me start tearing up again. Kayley said "Are you sad about it?" and I said "Nope, I'm just really proud of myself". She just shrugged and said, "Okay, want an egg sandwich?". Boy did I ever!

After breakfast I got into the tub to soak in silence for awhile....and if you are a Mom, you know that "soaking in the tub in silence" doesn't actually exist. Thankfully my husband also knows this, so he took the kids to the park, for two hours. Taper began right then and there...and I couldn't be more excited!