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 motivation was at an all time low from January-March as we remodeled our new 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'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 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 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 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