Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Hot Mamas

26.2.0...Training Week Two

I don't know that I have a whole lot of of super-exciting stuff to report about this week of training...no races, no crazy stories, no face plants on the sidewalk...just a lot of running with some cool ladies in the heat of the summer.

Monday I woke up thinking "You know, I don't think I ran enough hills this weekend, so I should totally get up and do hill repeats at 6am!" Okay, yeah...that's totally not what I was thinking...it was more like "Why in the hell am I getting up at 5am to run hills after that race on Saturday!?!?" Well, getting to run with Lisa and Hanna is a strong motivator, so I rolled out of bed and met them at Island Lake Park to tackle four miles of ups and downs. It was already pretty steamy at 6am so we started right in on the ups. The hill we chose was about a 100 foot climb, maybe covering a half mile. The first one felt good, the second one felt great, the third one felt like someone had tied lead weights to my ankles and was actively pushing against me as I was running....in other words...pretty sucky. We took an extended downhill after that and called it a day. I know I need to get many more hill workouts in before Ragnar in August (where we will basically run UP the state of Minnesota), and then for the hills of Summit at the end of the marathon.

Since I did Tuesday's run on Monday, I decided to take Monday's rest day on Tuesday...even though I was supposed to swim. I don't have a good excuse for not swimming, other than I just really wanted to sleep in on Tuesday....sometimes (okay, MOST times) sleeping in > swimming. Wednesday it was time for a meet up with my morning mamas...we did our usual 4 mile loop and said goodbye to Gina and Terri who had to hurry off to work, then Carla, Lisa and I took off for two more miles since we all had six on our training plans. It was a great morning and we kept it conversational, but also tried to push the pace a little. I love how just the addition of a few running friends can make the miles seem so effortless. Since today was Global Running Day, I had also planned a "Running 101" meet up with my MRTT group to do an easy three mile run/walk that evening. So after work I suited up and got Kayley to swim practice...we were meeting at the middle school parking lot so we could hit the trails around Turtle Lake. My friend Megan, who I've known since she was a baby, and who's daughter just started swimming with our club, was in the pool in what looked like her running gear, so I invited her along. Megan started running around the same time I did and we've been at some of the same races, but we've never run together. It was great to finally be hitting the streets with her. We also met up with Jacquie and Faith, who was pushing BOTH her sons in a jogging stroller....I was planning to push Logan in our stroller that night since it would have been frowned upon to just leave him alone at the pool, and I made sure everyone knew how much work that was going to be! Seeing Faith and her double stroller shut me up right fast...she is one strong mama! We had a great run even though it was sweltering hot! Megan and I said goodbye to Jacquie and Faith in the parking lot and headed back into the pool....yeah, not much relief there! I had planned to go over to the lake with Logan after the run and Megan offered to drive Kayley over after practice, so I went in to tell her to leave with Megan. Of course when we got to the lake, Logan was no longer interested in playing...so we just hung out to wait for Megan and Kayley. I'm looking forward to running with her again soon!
Celebrating Global Running Day with the best ladies around!
Thursday should have been a cross training day, or a strength day, or anything but a not doing nothing day...but that's exactly what I did...nothing. I was wiped out! In the past two weeks I literally have only slept past 5am on TWO occasions...so I slept in, and love/hated every moment of it. Friday we were back up early for our regular meet up at Turtle Lake school. We pushed the pace a bit today and it felt good to go a little faster. I was a little worried about being speedy today since I knew I was planning to try to do my long run on Saturday with some fast ladies...but my foot held up okay and I had a pretty low key day at work, so I took it in stride.

Long run Saturday....9 miles on the plan. I had no worries about the distance, but I really didn't want to run them solo. Hanna had posted in the group about getting together for 9 miles but wanted to hold a 9:30-9:45 pace...which is much faster than I've been taking my long runs lately, but the desire not to be alone won out over the desire not to puke from running too fast and I decided to join her, Faith, Carla and Wendy for a run at the Coon Rapids Dam. Carla and I carpooled since I have an annual pass for the county parks (you should totally get one $25 for the year and it gets you into all Ramsey, Anoka and Washington County parks). We got lost (I was navigating, so...of course we did) and finally found the other ladies about 6:10. I stopped off in the porta potty....which was RANK! Ugh...not what I needed to experience when I was already feeling pukey....blergh. We decided to just head out and back on the trails since I wasn't sure I could hold pace...and I didn't want to get lost if I ended up behind...also, my plan technically called for "8-10" miles today, so I figured if I was totally dying at mile 4 I could just turn back and wait for everyone to catch up with me. We started out quick, right around a 9 minute/mile pace. We were trying to keep each other in check pace-wise, but then we'd get chatty and all of a sudden there we were, running 8:50 again! As the "slowest" runner in the group I should have been more on top of this, but I was there to push myself, so I decided to just go with the flow. We settled into a grove and the next few miles felt great. We took turns at the lead and made easy conversation. Did I mention that Faith had her stroller again?!? I mean, she only had ONE kid this time...so you know, it was way easier ;)...she continued to kick my butt...impressive and inspiring! We decided to keep going after the four mile mark...4.5 would be our turn around. We took a quick water break before heading back....did I also fail to mention that it was H.O.T!!! Holy cow...hot...I had my hydration belt on and was tempted to pour some water over my head, but was afraid of wasting that liquid gold! We got going again and quickly realized we were ahead of pace...my heart was racing and I told everyone I needed to slow down. Wendy and Carla pulled ahead a bit and I hung back with Hanna and Faith. Wendy, who was coming off a 50K and will be doing Grandma's Marathon this weekend decided to fall back with me and we discovered we both have swimmers in the family! It was great to get to know her and she was good with taking a quick walk break with me as I tried to calm my heart rate a bit. She kept telling me "you've got this!" I had to smile as I am usually the one shouting out encouragements....it was great to have that reciprocated! We took one more quick break as Faith tied her shoe laces and much to my delight I noticed we only had a little more than a mile left. I knew we were going to stop for a selfie on the bridge, so I just tried to put my head down and leg it out for a mile. The heat was getting worse, so when we hit the bridge and felt the spray from the dam on our skin it was heaven! We stopped for some pics, but Max, Faith's son decide he was OVER this run and started crying. We picked it back up for the short trip to the parking area. I had to make a loop around to get my GPS to register 9 miles (I ended up with only 8.9...but I'm counting it). Long run #2 was in the books and I had done it....a 9:38 average pace...my fastest long run in a long time! I know I wouldn't have come close to keeping that pace on my own...never underestimate the power of having badass mother runners by your side!

On to week three...and more sweltering heat on the way...joy! I have my last scheduled pacing gig next weekend...after that....my plan is to stick to the plan....but we all know how that can go :)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Not going to plan...

26.2.0...Training Week One
Well, I've already screwed up my training plan. It's printed in black and white, right in front of me...Week One, Day one...REST.

Eh, an easy 10 miler around the lakes in Minneapolis > Rest.

So yes, I ran 10 miles on day one of marathon training, then I rested on Tuesday, no wait, I didn't rest on Tuesday I swam on Tuesday. Did rest on Wednesday? Nope, four miles with Gina that day....Thursday, I rested on THURSDAY! Okay, it's all good...I got a rest day in. I promise, after June 17th (the last race I have signed up to pace) I will get back on the plan. Friday I did an easy three miler with Jacquie so I could have fresh-ish legs for my pacing gig on Saturday. I also dropped the ball on the three days of strength training I was supposed to do...I really need to force myself to get back on that wagon...I can tell that I have lost a lot of glute and hip strength and it's affecting my recovery. I need to get it back before the long runs settle in to my routine!

Check out these hot pacers...no, we were literally really hot!
Back to Saturday...I was signed up to pace the 11:00/mile group for Lola's Lake Waconia 10-miler. I was supposed to do this one last year but had to bail at the last minute due to a family commitment. I knew it was supposed to be a hilly course, but at 11-minute miles, I wasn't too worried about it. I was looking forward to some new scenery and seeing the MN Run Series crew, who always put on a great show. As the week went on, the mercury went up. My weather app consistently told me it was going to be in the mid-70's early Saturday morning...which got me worrying. I do not do well in the heat...I don't do well in the cold either, but I think the heat is worse...I mean I can always put extra clothes on, but generally it's frowned upon to run a race in the buff while minions throw ice cubes on you...so yeah, not looking forward to running in the 70+ range. I had to be up at zero-dark-thirty since it's about an hour drive from my house to Waconia. The race started at 7:20 and I had to be there early to check in. As is par for my race-morning course, I for some reason woke up at 4:15, about a half an hour before my alarm was supposed to go off. However, I realized this was a good thing when I picked up my phone...it was dead...so there wouldn't have been an alarm to rouse me at 4:45. My charging connection has been going bad for awhile, I guess this is my excuse to buy a new phone! Anyway, I struggled out of bed and stumbled down stairs to feed the cat so she wouldn't start screeching at me and wake the rest of the house. I decided since I was up so early and wouldn't be running for three more hours, that I'd make myself breakfast. Two eggs and some almond butter toast later I was ready to gear up and head out. I had southbound 35W all to myself, which those of you who live in the Twin Cities metropolitan area know...is kind of like seeing a Unicorn sliding down a rainbow...it was magical! I made it to Waconia in less than an hour. I found a parking spot about a block from the start line, I parked strategically so I could get out easily after the race since I had to head straight the pool. There were already a ton of people around, so I followed a crowd over to check in and grab my bib and sign. There were no lines for the porta potties (again...magical!) so I snuck in to one, did my business and headed back to see if anyone familiar was hanging around. I found Kirk, the race announcer...we talked about dogs for a bit. He knew about Sully since we used to be neighbors...he asked if we were ready for a new dog yet...I said I wasn't, but everyone else was. He offered to connect me with the breeder they got their lab, Goldy, from...I know the kids are desperate for a puppy, but I really want to get a rescue, so we'll see what happens. After that I chatted with Kristina, a pacer I have seen at a few other races but never really talked to...she is awesome! She pretty much eats marathons for breakfast and has done Ironman Wisconsin three times. We chatted about me doing an Ironman someday (right now my sights are set on Louisville 2021). Then we ran into Aubree, which for me, signals that I am in the right place...I'm not sure I've been to a half marathon that she is not at :) Another pacer friend Taya breezed in at that point, a bit frantic about the porta potty line...but Kristina told her to use "pacer privilege" and cut...we're pretty sure she didn't though and by the time she made it back to us we needed to head to the start corral. Well...I did anyway, they were both pacing the half marathon today and I was (thankfully) only pacing the 10-mile (three less miles of hills!)

Aubree knocks off half marathon #40, she shouldn't look so surprised!

I was the last pacer for the 10-mile, so I moved to the back of the corral...right next to the lovely hill we would be climbing at the end of the race. I gave everyone a quick pep talk...told them to make sure to drink plenty at each stop, even if they didn't feel thirsty. Told them that conditions were going to be tough and to be sure to take it easy on themselves out there...no sense in pushing for a PR and getting heat exhaustion. I told them we would be running up many "mounds of opportunity" today and they needed to feel proud that they got out of bed to run 10-miles before most people even thought about waking up. Right before we started, I heard someone say "Oh, it IS you!" It was Leslie, a mom of one of the swimmers from Kayley's team. I knew she was a runner, but we hadn't ever been at a race together. We chatted for a bit and she told me she was doing Grandma's Half Marathon in a couple weeks so she was just out here to take it easy today. She picked a hell of a day and a hell of a race for taking it easy! Finally we were off...it was only 7:20am, but I felt like I had been up for hours...oh yeah, I had been up for hours. Anyway, we headed out of the park and right onto some grassy trails and a long decent towards the lake. This wasn't so bad, soft trails, a nice breeze, beautiful lake view...okay, let's settle in. Our magical luck lasted for the first mile or so and then we turned a corner and....BAM big hill. I called out to my group and told then to lean into it, keep their steps short and power through. We did and were rewarded with a tiny stretch of down hill, a small patch of flat and then...BAM big hill #2. This pattern would keep up for the next eight and a half miles.
No, that is not an EKG...that is the race elevation!
As if the hills weren't bad enough, our "nice little breeze" had turned into a full on headwind...which could have been refreshing if it wasn't so stinking hot! I was doing my best to stay positive for my group, but man, I was huffing and puffing up those hills the same as everyone else. I tried to celebrate when we'd hit the top of each one, but no one in my group seemed too keen on celebrating...I think we just all wanted to be done. I chatted on and off with Leslie until about mile 7...we hit a pretty big climb and I lost a lot of my group at that point...hell, I almost threw in the towel at that point. But I plugged along and tried to shout encouragements to each person I ran by. I started to get passed by the fast half marathoners at this point...which I tried to be inspired, rather than discouraged by. I was trudging up the second to the last hill when the 1:40-finish pacer passed me...he called out a "Good job pacer" as he lithely strode by me, looking fresh as a daisy...I might have cursed him under my breath...but managed to barely eek out a "Yeah, you too" as I watched him zoom off. We had finally come up to the 12 mile marker and I ran up to a woman that had been playing leap frog with me all day, she said "That was the last hill, right?!" To which I had to reply "No, sorry, we have one more"...her shoulders dropped a bit so I said, "It's a tiny baby hill compared to everything else today". This was a total lie, but I had to pull something out of my hat! I then started to come up on a woman who's running skirt I had been admiring all day. When she saw my sign she said "Oh shit. I don't want to see you!" I smiled and said, "I won't take that personally, and besides, I'm about a minute ahead". She sped up a bit and for the rest of the race she fought valiantly to hold me off....I'm happy to say she succeeded. I finally crested that last hill and turned the two corners that would bring me to the finish line. I have to be very careful when I'm pacing to not go crazy and sprint at this point, so I looked around and started yelling "Come one, beat the pacer" to everyone who was around me. I got a few incredulous stares, but a few also kicked it in and beat me to the end. Kirk called my name and told the crowd that I had come in just 10 seconds under my pace (official results had me 20 seconds under...but he was close enough). Man, I'm not sure I have ever been so glad to be done with a race. I got my medal and immediately found some water (and the Old Dutch and Salted Nut Rolls that are staples of the MN Run Series events). I went back to the finish line to wait for Leslie, she came in about five minutes after me with a big smile on her face. Everyone who finished that day deserved a big smile...I've now paced a race on a rainy, 45-degree day and a windy, 80-degree day...and I honestly think I'd take cold and rain over heat, hills and headwinds any day!
Yeah, I earned that bad boy today!
After I chatted with Leslie for a bit I ran through the sprinkler that had been set up in the park (magical) and hit the porta potty. I got to my car and thankfully managed to get out of town without using my GPS (dead phone ya know). I made it to the pool just in time to see Kayley's first individual race of the day, and managed to charge my phone enough on the way to get a text from Bill with a picture of a smiling Logan wearing the medal he earned at his race that morning...a fun run at Turtle Lake Elementary...it was an athletic day in the McKee family...and I couldn't be prouder of all of us!
I'm gonna make him a runner yet!

I don't get many chances just to be a swim mom, I like this view!




















Okay, week one is in the books...next week...I attempt to only go off plan a day or two instead of the whole week :)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

26 Point 2.0

Me at mile 21 of Grandma's Marathon in 2015: "Oh dear lord, what the hell am I doing. This is the worst thing I've ever done. Just make it stop. I'm never running ever again!"

Me at the finish line of Grandma's Marathon in 2015: "Oh man, I can't believe I just ran 26.2 miles! That was the most amazing thing I've ever done! I wonder which marathon I should do next!"

I started this blog a little over two years ago as a way to document training for my first (and at the time...only) marathon. While I haven't kept up posting here like I had hoped to, I am planning to start anew as I begin training for what I'm calling "26.2.0", the Twin Cities Marathon this October.

So, what have I been up to since I last posted (in...December...maybe?)? Well, there was buying a new house, fixing up said-house, a little travelling, a lot of mom-ing, and of course plenty of running. I ran all winter long with the help of my running group. Thank goodness for them...my motivation was at an all time low from January-March as we remodeled our new house...it felt like those projects were never going to end. The accountability of the group was the only thing that got me out of the door some days! These women have listened to me vent, offered sage advice, commiserated, understood, held my hand, laughed with me and allowed me to laugh with them. Running has done much to change my life, but none more so than introducing me to some of the most amazing women on the planet!
Snow, rain, sun and sub-zero, these women are my rocks!
I managed to get in some really fun races this spring too, so here's a short recap of those:

April 9: Goldy's Run 10-Miler
This is traditionally my first race of the year. It was my first EVER race three years ago when I did the 5K and marveled at all the folks wearing 10-Mile bibs. I thought to myself, "I'm never going to be able to run 10 miles!" But, here I was at the start line of my third Goldy's 10-miler! I had no goal for the day other than to enjoy the run and the gorgeous weather we were blessed with (last year it was 27-degrees at the start). I had a meet up planned with my MRTT group before the start and we had a ton of ladies show up. It's so much fun to have that kind of energy surrounding you before the start of the race, I was really excited at the turn out!
That's a bunch of good looking BAMRs!
It was already really warm at the start...the first Goldy's Run I've started without a throw-away jacket. My friend Sara was pacing the 10:30 per mile group so I decided I would stick with her for the first 8-9 miles and see how I was feeling.
Ready to rock and roll (and sweat, and climb lots of hills!) 
This would be my longest run since our New Year's Eve 16-miler, so I wasn't sure where my endurance was. After a pep talk from new Gopher Football coach PJ Flek (Row the Boat!) we were off down University Avenue. I really can't tell you enough how much I love this course, I run this area all the time and it just feels so familiar and fun to share the route with a few thousand of my closest friends. It got hot quickly and I was rethinking my famous Goldy Gopher knee-high socks by mile three. Sara and I chatted and checked in with the runners around us, it was a big group, some first timers, but many who knew the course and what we were looking at in terms of climbing. We said good bye to a few relay participants in the group as we passed the exchange at mile 5 and settled in for a nice section of flat for the next few miles. I was sweating up a storm by the time we hit the "big one"...Ed Sciences hill. This is my favorite spot on campus for hill repeats, but not one I enjoy climbing after running in the sun for 8 miles! Nevertheless, we plowed on and at the top I told Sara I would see her at the finish line as I wanted to see what my legs had left. To my surprise, it was more than I expected! I took off and clocked my last mile at 9:17...not too shabby! We met up with some of our pacer friends at the finish and headed for the food line...Old Dutch Potato Chips and Salted Nut Rolls....HEAVEN!
Um...why am I the only one who looks a hot mess?
April 15: Hot Chocolate 15K
I was excited to get to the start line for my first pacing gig of the season. However, when I woke up Saturday morning, that excitement turned to dread as I realized that we were in for some serious rain and possibly serious storms today. If I hadn't been pacing, I likely would have crawled back under my covers...but duty calls and I was up and as "at 'em" as I was going to get. We had a car pool planned, so I waited for Tom, Carla, and Aubree to join me at my house...we had to be at the pacer meet up at 7am (a full two hours before the start for some crazy reason) so we hit the road at 6:15. It was drizzly, but not too dark, so we tried to stay optimistic. When we arrived at the race site we found some street parking that we hoped was legal (the "helpful" police officer sitting in his dry car just shrugged when I asked him if it was okay to park there). We found the Pacer banner sticking out of the side of the bag drop tent, so we asked the volunteers if we could wait inside the tent to stay warm and they obliged. 7:00 came and went and we didn't see any other pacers coming our way. Finally Sara texted me asking where we were...I explained our location and she said we were supposed to meet at the Pavilion....why that made more sense than meeting at the PACER banner was beyond me, but we left our warm dry tent and ventured over to get our signs and shirts. After we checked in I told everyone I was headed back to the bag check tent....and soon it was a pacer party in there.
Dark and cloudy...but we're ready!

We reluctantly left the tent to head to the start corral. At this race there are two corrals, the "preferred", where I was pacing the 11:30 per mile group with folks who had included a predicted finish time when they registered, and the "open" corral, where everyone else was starting. In the past, the preferred corral started about 20 minutes before the open corral...the preferred pace groups start at 7:30 per mile and end with me at 11:30. The open pace groups start at 9:30 and go to 15:00 per mile. However, because of the weather, the race organizers decided that both corrals were going to start pretty much together, with just a couple minutes head start for the preferred corral. Which meant that within the first few minutes of the race, some pretty speedy runners were looking at my "11:30" sign with much confusion on their faces. One guy even said to me "Whoa, 11:30, you are WAY ahead of pace!" So, I spent the next 5-6 miles explaining to everyone who passed that I was supposed to be pacing the PREFERRED corral and in fact, they were not running an 11:30 pace. When I finally got passed by the 11:00 per mile pacer from the open corral, I decided to just tuck my sign down and run it out...being sure my finish time at least corresponded with what I was supposed to be doing. It had rained off and on most of the race, but by mile 8 the humidity came out in full force and I was really ready to be done. Unlike last year I didn't have anyone running with me, so I just started thinking about getting to my big bowl of chocolate. I will say, for as miserable as the conditions were, I still really love this race...it's well organized, a fun course, and unique swag. I hit the finish line a little ahead of my goal pace, but I figured with as messed up as the pacing was, I wasn't going to worry too much about it. The rain had let up, but had left a giant muddy mess at the after party site. No matter, at that point, I would have waded through quicksand to get my finishers mug :)

 

May 7: Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon
With a 10-miler and a 15K under my belt, I was pretty sure I would be fine pacing my first half marathon of the year, but just to be safe, I decided to do a 14-mile run the week after Hot Chocolate to be sure I had the distance in me. I was originally supposed to pace the 2:30 finish group, but the week before the race the organizers changed it to 11:00 per mile...which had me a little more nervous. Thankfully we held the fourteener at a 10:30 pace...so when I headed to the start line for Minnetonka, I felt ready to get the 11:00 minute milers to the finish line in a 2:24. We checked in and got our new (thankfully) smaller pace signs and directions on how the start corrals would work. I would be the middle of the last corral so Jenni, Beth and I headed out to find our areas. I had a great crowd around me and gave them all my "pacer pep talk" a few minutes before the national anthem (sung beautifully as always by race announcer, and my former neighbor, Kirk Poessehl). Soon we were off and were immediately greeted by a woman in a banana costume...I decided then and there this was going to be a great race! I was new to this course, but I had been forewarned about it's hilliness....and it didn't take long before we went straight up our first one. I set the tone with my group early that we were going to "kill the hills" and take it easy on the flats and downhills. This strategy worked great and before I knew it we were at the first water stop. I walked them through and we got right back to the business of climbing. The relay exchange came up quickly, it was at about mile 5 and a half, so I had to remind everyone that we were NOT half way done just yet. I had a couple first timers with me who asked a lot of questions, one of them wanted to know when she should "kick it in"...I told her for me, I usually wait until I can see the finish line, but that if she felt good with a mile to go, she should empty her tank. Small talk continued with my group through the next few miles, then we hit a portion of the course that was on a narrow shoulder of a fairly busy road, so we stayed single file for most of this time and I tried my best to convince my legs they were not tired (I am such a better pacer when I have people to talk to...I tend to forget that I am actually working kind of hard too!) We hit the last water stop at mile 11 and thankfully were able to group back up again for the last couple miles. I had lost a few of the women who were sticking with me, but I was confident they were going to get there. We came up on the 12 mile marker and I shouted "1 mile to go, it's time to empty your tank!" I saw the newbie who asked about kicking it in take off at that point and I felt like a proud mama. We rounded a corner and I saw the finish line and started circling my arm and yelling "You're there, finish strong" to anyone who was still listening to me. I crossed the finish and checked my watch. 2:23.40...30 seconds faster than my goal pace...not too shabby! After I collected my medal (yes, pacers deserve medals too). I headed back to the finish shoot to wait for my friend Lindsay, who was competing her first half marathon today. I saw my other friend Karen finish and chatted with a woman who ran with me last year at the Minnesota Half. She said she just did the relay today and stuck with me to the exchange. She told me I as a really good pacer and thanked me for being there....I really couldn't ask for a better prize than that! I saw Lindsay coming down the shoot with a big smile on her face and I held out my hand for a high five, she didn't leave me hanging and went on to finish under her goal time of 2:30...and that was just the cherry on top of a great morning!
Nothing like getting by with a little help from your friends!
May 20: The Birdtown Half Marathon
Well, if patterns exist in the world, my "race weather luck" is holding true to form this year. I had a gorgeous, warm day for Goldy's, a gloomy, gray day for Hot Chocolate, and a crisp, clear day at Minnetonka...and Birdtown, well, let's just say, I might as well have been doing a water-jogging half marathon as the only time I was dry that morning was when I was in a car. I was pacing today, which again, was likely the only reason I showed up at the start line. Despite the depressing weather, I do love this race. It's a great showcase for the town of Robbinsdale, it's small, but super well organized and the course is really fun...some killer hills in the middle, but also lovely neighborhoods, park trails, and city streets. I carpooled with Lisa, which was awesome since we are still currently a one-car family (don't even get me started). We met up with the pace group and got our (very bright, very pink) pace shirts, which I secretly love. This is a "balloon" race, so our pace signs are actually just balloons tied to a stick, which is not my favorite, but it always looks festive. The rain was holding off at this point, so I was just "minimally" wet when we headed to the start line!
Plastic bags make everything better!

Because of the rain we had a new starting spot this  year...which I liked a lot better than last year when we started in front of a grassy curb and had to make an immediate hair-pin turn to get out of the park. This year we started up the road from the park and ran down into the first neighborhood, a straight shot. It was also a little more organized, like a true race corral...I'm hoping they keep this plan for future races. Before long the drizzle was back, I had a nice sized group though so we kept our minds off the cold and wet by chatting about former and future races...I had a few who were planning on doing the Twin Cities Marathon, and a couple who had run with me at Minnetonka. This was my first time pacing a 2:20 finish, so I wasn't really sure how to run it. I knew we had some major hills coming up between miles 5-7, so I wanted to be out a little fast to make up for those climbs. We held the first 4 miles around 10:25, so I knew we had time to spare when we hit the first killer hill. There are three of them altogether, you climb, level out for a bit, climb, level out, and then climb again...I prepared my group by saying "I'm not gonna lie, the next two miles are going to suck". One woman said "Yeah, we call this the three levels of Hell!" An apt moniker :) We hit a water stop after the first hill and took a much needed walk break. This stop was manned by my friend Kristin and her daughter's dance team. Last year I was so ahead of pace when I hit Kristin's aide station that I actually stopped and chatted with her for a couple of minutes (I was also all alone, so no one cared that I took a long break). This year, not so much. I said a quick hello and told her that I had to keep moving...two more big climbs to go, ya know! We soldiered up them, with me shouting reminders (lean forward, use your arms), and encouragement (you GOT this, KILL this HILL). Finally, level ground as we approached the turn at mile seven. I heard my name and some awesome cowbell ringing out from the gloom....my friends Sherry and Karen had also come to volunteer today and were working at the intersection. It is such a boost to hear people cheering for you, but especially when they are familiar smiling faces. I was so thankful for all the volunteers who sat out in the rain to help us today! With the major hills behind us we moved into the long flat portion of the race that winds through the trails of a city park. I love this section even though there isn't any crowd support (not that there was much crowd support anywhere today). I was trying to come up with witty banter to keep my group entertained, but I think at this point we were all just happy to have some tree cover to keep the rain off us for a bit (it really started coming down around mile 6). It was also about this time that I noticed my pace had dropped quite a bit...we had been steadily holding between 10:25-10:30 and I looked at my watch to see 10:45, about four seconds slower than my goal pace. I told my group we had to pick it up a bit and most of them followed me. We hit one more hill at mile 10 and I lost a few followers...I think we all were feeling the fatigue of running in the cold and rain for so long. We passed the Veteran's monument that marks the final straight away of the race, 1.5 miles to go along a nice flat neighborhood street. I thanked all the volunteers who seemed to be congregating around the 12 mile marker and took one last look at my watch...11:00 per mile! Man, I had really slowed down and even though I had picked up some time at the front of the race, I needed to get it in gear in order to finish on time. I willed my legs to speed up, to which they protested mightily, but thankfully I was about to hit the downhill portion that takes us to the finish line. I had a few folks around me, so I shouted "It's time to empty your tanks...but be careful on this downhill!" I guess that was the best advice I could muster at this point. I got to the bottom of the hill and saw a small lake had formed across the finish area...most folks in front of me ran around it, but I figured since I really couldn't get any more wet at this point, that I would splash right through it. That got a big cheer from the crowd and a shout out from the announcer as I crossed the finish line at EXACTLY 2:20...not too shabby!
My face says it all...somehow Sara looks downright giddy though!
PF sleeping boot...SEXXAY!
So, that's pretty much what I've been up to...I've also had a running-related eye injury, and have been dealing with Plantar Fasciitis for the past two months...you know just normal middle-aged lady stuff. I'm looking forward to the next 18 weeks of training (mostly). I have a much better knowledge base than the first time I did this (as in...I know what NOT do to rather than necessarily knowing what TO do). I have another pacing gig coming up this weekend which should be fun (10 miles of unrelenting hills-style fun) and full summer of exhausting events at work (I love my job, I love my job, I love my job...) I'm excited to share the journey with you again...even if you will eventually get tired of listening to me talk about running (I mean, those of you who haven't already tuned me out that is...hello? Is this thing even on?) Thanks for the company, the advice and the miles of smiles you provide as fodder for this page. Happy Last Day of May!

Sidewalks are dangerous 
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