2017 Independence Half Marathon Race Recap

A week ago, I ran the Independence Half Marathon. I’ve been taking notes all week of the things I want to include in my race recap. The race was overwhelmingly fantastic. I’m going to break it down chronologically:

The night before
I was nervous, but I was pleased that my nerves weren’t terribly overwhelming. I reminded myself over and over that I had zero expectations for this race. I had trained, I would do my best, and I couldn’t expect any more than that.


Also, because the race was so close to my birthday, my family and friends took me to Joe’s KC BBQ. This is a perfect pre-race meal!

Early in the morning
Waking up early is the worst part. I’m not a morning person, and I’m not a morning runner. When my alarm went off at 5:30am, I had to fight every instinct to go back to sleep. (Because this race is close to my home, and because the race didn’t start until 7am, I still got to sleep later than I would before most races! Crazy!)

The day before, I’d made a batch of applesauce muffins. It’s a family recipe that I love, makes a perfect breakfast, and it worked before my last marathon. On the morning of the race, I dragged myself out of bed, dressed, and ate muffins for breakfast. My mother also woke and dressed. We left at 6:15 for the race.

At the race
I give major kudos to the race organizers for finding a location that is easy to find and with plenty of parking. We were able to park reasonably close to the festivities, and because there were many surrounding roads, we never found ourselves blocked by road closures or delays.

We were there early, so we sat in the car for a few minutes to rest. Several people walked around our car wearing tshirts that read “Wagstrong”, in honor of Thomas Wagstaff, a local police officer who was shot in the line of duty a few weeks ago. I texted a friend but soon put my phone away. I was too restless for that.


At about 6:40, we got out of the car and walked to the port-a-potty line. It was long, of course. I evaluated the people in line around me. Ahead of me in line was a runner, complete with her race bib and timing chip, wearing HEAVY eyeliner! Suffice it to say I was amused! I don’t think I’ve EVER worn makeup while I ran. For one thing, running is not a time when I expect to look good. For another thing, I know how awful makeup looks after it starts to run, and given the amount of sweat I produce during a run, I don’t know why anyone would want to take that gamble.

At 6:45, one of the race organizers came over the loudspeaker to remind people that the race starts in fifteen minutes and could we please line up at the starting line. The girl behind me in the port-a-potty line started laughing, looked at the line ahead of us, and announced, “well, we’re in line!” She and I began joking about previous races and long lines at port-a-potties.

The line moved slowly (with periodic interruptions by the race organizers asking the runners to line up), but I got through the port-a-potties in just enough time. I donned my tutu, took a photo, and moved to the end of the race line (just behind the 3:00 pace group).

It was a this moment, as they were counting down the start of the race, that I remembered I’d forgotten to wear sunscreen. Oops. Too late now.

I gave my mom a hug, and I was off.


The Early Miles
The first few miles were relatively easy. I reminded myself, OFTEN, that the first mile of a race is the most deceptive – that it’s easy to keep a fast pace for the first mile but it’s equally easy to lose that pace in the later miles. I intentionally ran behind the 3:00 pace group, and frequently forced myself to slow down. But even forcing myself to slow down, my pace was still a good clip. I was moving along at a sub-14:00 and feeling great.

I was intentionally trying to ignore the pace groups and the urge to run faster to keep up with them. One of my few gripes about this race, though, was the pace groups. I carry my iPhone and was listening to my pace calculations on that, and the paces it quoted did NOT match the pace groups. I could see both the 2:55 and 3:00 pace groups ahead of me, and to be honest, their paces seemed a good :20-:30 faster than they needed to be during these early miles.

However, as someone who was trying to NOT run with the pace groups, this was good for me mentally. It gave me all the better reason to ignore the pace groups.

Just past the 4-mile mark, my fitbit buzzed. I’d reached my 10,000 steps goal for the day. I burst out laughing, then had to explain myself to another nearby runner who looked at me askew.

Miles 4-6
Because the universe has a great sense of irony, I started my period around this time. I wasn’t shocked – my cycle was way overdue, and I’d put in a menstrual cup before the race just in case. But the cramping was certainly unwelcome.

Mile 8
This was probably the moment when I felt the race most acutely. This was where I really began to struggle, mentally, to continue.

Mile 8.5
As much as I’d tried not to let the pacers influence me, I’d kept the 3:00 pacer in my sight the entire race. The distance between us got smaller and smaller until, at mile 8.5, I passed them. This did WONDERS for my self confidence! (Although their pacing was terrible – the 3:00 pacer remained behind me and I think eventually came in around 3:10.)

Mile 9
Another runner, moving at about the same pace as me, slowed down and eventually took off her shoe. She walked barefoot for a few minutes. I passed her as she sat on the side of the road, rubbing her foot, and supported by her running partner. I asked how she was doing and was assured that she was okay, just struggling with some foot troubles. She kept fighting through the race, and she definitely has my respect!


Miles 10-11
At this point, all of my mental focus was on moving forward. I told myself, over and over and over, just keep going, you’re doing great, focus, keep going, over and over and over. I also found myself struggling to swallow the sport beans. My body just didn’t want to eat anything.


Mile 12
Due to construction, the race route had been changed slightly and included a long hill at the beginning of mile 12. I was still running, but just barely. I’m pretty sure I was going so slow that I might as well have been walking up the hill!

Mile 12.5
With the hill behind me, my pace picked up oh-so-slightly. I joked with another runner about how the finish line was so close, yet so far away. This last stretch of the race was both the easiest and hardest part of the race – easiest because I knew it was almost over, hardest because I had so little left to give!


The Finish Line
I tried to dig and find a little more pace. I’m not sure if I succeeded, but I tried. It’s fascinating how my legs just refused to respond. But I made it, I crossed the finish line, and I was on my feet!

I made my way through the chute and, exhausted, immediately dropped to a nearby curb. I wasn’t sick – just completely out of energy. (I didn’t throw up – win!) I drank the water bottle I was given, although it honestly tasted funny due to the Gatorade and sport beans I’d eaten.


My mom joined me. After a few minutes I stood up to explore the post-race festivities. There weren’t a lot of vendor booths – a local health food store and a few sports therapy doctors or massage places – but the atmosphere was fantastic. A car dealership which sponsored the race also provided a booth where a woman with an etching tool would write your name, time, or anything else you wanted on the back of your medal.


My chip time was 3:05:52.8. I couldn’t be happier! This is a PR, and nearly eight minutes off my time for the same race last year. Of course, it helped that I was not sick and did not have any injuries.

The aftermath
At home, I showered, ate a banana, and went back to bed. I slept until almost four pm, when I finally woke up and made supper for myself. I had barely anything to eat for almost 24 hours, but I was too tired to care. I also had no appetite after the race – food just didn’t sound good at all.

I had no blisters or hotspots on my feet. Zero. In fact, my feet felt pretty good overall. There was a tiny bit of chafing on the inside of my thighs, but nothing significant – it healed within a day. My upper arms, just below the armpits, were in rougher shape. My right arm was raw, and my left arm was a open wound. This was in spite of the fact that I’d slathered udder cream on my arms and legs before the race. My post-race shower was excruciating. I couldn’t put my left arm down without pain until Wednesday, and joked about having a chicken wing due to the way I carried my arm. It still hasn’t healed entirely (a full week later!). And, of course, I was sore. Any motion at all was painful.

Summary
This was an outstanding race, and I want to run it again next year. The medal is beautiful. The signage was clear, and had just enough humor to keep me going. The course is flat, tree-line, and feels rural. The finish line area is friendly and welcoming for visitors. My only complaint is the questionable pacers – and that doesn’t really affect me at all.

I am now seriously considering signing up for a full marathon. I think because of my background in running, I have a better understanding of the depth of 26.2 miles. 13.1 is hard, and 26.2 would be even harder. But it feels more possible now than ever before! I’ll adjust my training accordingly and see how the summer goes. Next year, who knows?!

Happy Birthdays and Half Marathons

T minus 10 hours.

I feel like there’s so much I need to catch up on, but I know I’ll never blog if I wait until I have time. 

Yesterday was my 34th birthday. It was an amazing day. Dinner at Joe’s KC and birthday cake with my friends. 


Tomorrow morning I’m running the Independence Half Marathon. My training has gone well. Not over-the-top amazing, but well. Optimistic me is hoping for a PR, something under 3:13. Realistic me knows that 3:30 would be a very reasonable achievement. 

My nerves are okay. I remind myself – constantly! – that however I run will be great. I know I can run, and I will do my best, and that will be enough.

I picked up my tshirt, race bib, and chip timer today. 


Now breathe. Just breathe….

Longview Half Marathon 2016

Last Saturday, I ran the Longview Half Marathon. I have a lot of thoughts to unpack on this race. It’s pretty overwhelming, to be honest.

First thought: amazing!

I woke up that morning and (no surprise) my first thought was on how much I really wanted to go back to bed. It wasn’t nerves – I really didn’t have nerves before this race. Just me questioning my sanity. But I did wake up, start dressing for the race, and texted a few people.

My mother drove me to the race. We left in plenty of time, but when we got to the location, the traffic was TERRIBLE. There was only one entrance to the race parking lot, and it was not too well managed. It took us 20 minutes to get parked. I slipped on my tutu and immediately went to the line for the porta potties, with 30 minutes before the race started.

The line at the porta potties was long and moved slowly. Probably not enough porta potties for this size of race. I listened as they counted the time on the nearby speakers – ten minutes to the start of the race, five minutes… At this point, I was thankful for chip timing. There was NO WAY I was going to start that race without going to the bathroom first.

I was sitting in the porta potty when I heard the air horn to start the race. Not ideal, for sure, but what was I gonna do? I finished up and hurried to the starting chute.

It was NOT an ideal way to start a race. Most of the runners had already started, and assorted people around me were yelling “hurry! hurry!” I was running through the chute while simultaneously pulling my armband onto my bicep, arranging my tutu/belts/shorts around my waist, and carrying my DIY sleeves. I had been planning to wear my wings, but in the rush I had no time to secure the wings (or take the very cool pre-race photo I was hoping to take!).

My tutu, by the way, was a HIT! I made it with a strip of elastic and three rolls of tulle, all purchased from Wal-mart for a little under $7. In addition to being adorable (I got lots of compliments!), it made it far easier for my spectators to see me coming!

The first couple of miles were kind of a disaster. My pace was a wreck. Between all the people who had been yelling at me to hurry and the rush through the starting chute, I knew I was going way too fast. I was arranging my tutu and two belts WHILE I ran, which is certainly not ideal. It took a full couple of miles to get everything fixed in a way that was comfortable.

I also had to pull on my sleeves – a pinterest win! Before the race I’d bought a pair of knee-high socks at Dollar Tree and cut out the toes and heels. I pulled the socks onto my arms, with my thumbs hanging out of the “heels” and my fingers hanging out the “toes”. I wound up leaving them on throughout the race. I was able to roll the socks up and down according to how warm or cool I was. They also served well when I needed to wipe sweat off my forehead or snot off my nose. For $1, I wasn’t worried about damaging or losing them (although I wound up bringing them home and I’ll be able to use them for another race). I really loved these!

During the earliest part of the race, I discovered that in my rush through the starting chute, I didn’t start my Nike+ app correctly. I was able to get it started, eventually, but as a result I was unable to log the first quarter-mile or so of the race.

My nose continued running like a faucet throughout the race. Every half-mile or so, I had to blow snot rockets. (Don’t worry, I always checked behind me before I blew!)

At every mile marker, I took out one of my applesauce packets and took a hit. This proved to be a perfect level of hydration and fueling for the race. I don’t ever remember being thirsty or eager to get to an aid station.

There was a mini “race within the race” after mile 2. We were timed going up a (pretty significant) hill, and the fastest runners were awarded “king/queen of the mountain” medals. Of course, I didn’t even try to be the fastest on the hill. I just focused on holding my pace and effort steady.

Thankfully that was the only real hill on the race. The rest of the course was pretty flat.

Around mile 4, that injury in my left foot began to flare up. Every time my foot hit the ground, I would feel a jolt of pain in the ball of my foot. I focused on landing on the outside of that foot, which helped significantly.

I was feeling strong. I can’t explain this well, but I my legs felt good. I had plenty of energy left. I felt so good that, around mile 5, I attempted to send a text message to my mother to tell her my pace and when she could expect me to cross the finish line. Between the bouncing motions of running and my phone being inside an armband, that never happened. I just could not get the words typed! Luckily it wasn’t too important.

Most of the run is a blur, especially from miles 5-11 or so. The effect of the long run was starting to wear my body down, and my mind became almost completely focused on running. I really can’t overstate the amount of mental energy that I devoted to keeping my mind in a good place for running. Most of my thoughts were some variation of “You’re doing great. Just keep running. Focus on this mile, on the here-and-now. You can do this.” and so forth. Whenever a thought crept into my mind of stopping – either just slowing to a walk or quitting the race entirely – I had to push it out. Mile after mile, I didn’t think about anything else.

In the latter portion of the race, my foot was really starting to throb. I couldn’t flex my foot inside my shoe without feeling a shot of pain. I had to be even more careful to land on the outside of my foot and not put pressure on the ball of my foot. My mind was completely empty of thoughts not directly related to running.

I found myself crying out periodically from the pain in my foot. If I forgot to run on the outside of my foot, or if I flexed my foot within my shoe, I got that awful jolt of pain – and it HURT! But it didn’t stop me.

I was pleasantly surprised, though, to discover that I wasn’t feeling a significant amount of pain in my hips or back. In past races, that was a problem, but this time I felt nothing more than a bit of soreness.

I could also feel a bit of chafing at this point, inside my thighs and on the bottom of my arms. Luckily it was not severe enough to change my stride.

Past mile 11, and especially past mile 12, I let go as much as possible. I knew this was my chance to throw out whatever energy I could find. I was running as hard as I could but, amusingly, felt like I wasn’t moving much faster.

Shortly before the 13 mile marker, I was surprised to see my mother. I’d expected her to be at the finish line, but due to the logistics of the race parking, she had decided to intercept me at that point. It was a good surprise, though, and I pushed hard through that last bit.

As I approached the finish line, I could see my best friend, Theresa, waiting beside the chute. I was so glad to see her! She hadn’t been sure if she would be able to make it, which I understood, but I was so encouraged to see her. It means a lot that she was able to make it.

With the finish line in sight, I was approached by a cute young park ranger, who asked me if I was his friend who’d had a cold. I was thoroughly confused (how does this stranger know I had a cold?) but I said yes, and Park Ranger told me he was going to run to the finish line with me. That proved to be especially helpful – with him running beside me, I was able to push even more, running as fast as I could to the finish.

(I found out later that Theresa had told him she was waiting for the girl in a tutu. Park Ranger had been drinking energy drinks all day, and told her he was going to cross the finish line with Tutu Girl.)

A volunteer cut the timing chip off my foot, another volunteer handed me a medal, and a third handed me a bottle of water. I was, and still am, overwhelmed. This was, by far, my strongest finish to race of this distance. I was tired, very tired, but I wasn’t completely spent. I didn’t throw up. I felt tired, but I felt good.

My final time was 3:29:47.2. Longer than I would have hoped, sure, but pretty doggone good considering the mess that was my training.

After the race, I knew I probably should text several friends who had been following my race and supporting my training, but I didn’t. I was tired, and too overwhelmed to deal with the emotions of contacting others. I’m still struggling to sort out how I feel.

When I napped after the race (or at least, attempted to nap!), my body HURT. It took at least two or three days for the soreness to disappear completely. I had no blisters, though, and other than some chafing in my thighs, arms, and around my sportsbra, I was injury free.

I know this race was exhausting, but as the amnesia of a successful race sets in, I’m starting to feel more and more ready to run a full marathon. I’d like to heal my foot, obviously, and I am unsure of how to handle fueling for distances longer than ~16 miles or so. The applesauce packets, while efficient, are slightly bulky, and I’d have to carry a lot with me to finish 26 miles. Maybe I need to switch to gels, although I still find the cost prohibitive.

The mental training proved to be at least as important as the physical training. I am amazed, and pleased, that I was able to hold my mind in a good place for over three hours.

I don’t know what my future holds in terms of training. The chafing on my legs is healing, so I’m sure I’ll be back to running soon. However, I probably need to incorporate more cross training or strength training. I don’t know what that will look like. Training for a full marathon will probably take quite a bit longer than training for a half, so I’ll need to organize my schedule better.

For now, though, I’m just focusing on how GOOD this feels. I’m ready for my next race now!

Shoe shopping is STRESSFUL!!!

And anyone who says otherwise is a liar!

Of course this summer has been pretty stressful, too. Running hasn’t gone well, overall. After the Independence half marathon in May, I allowed myself to slack off for a week or two… then I found myself traveling throughout June and July… life happened… and, well, I’m just getting back into the swing of things.

I signed up for the Longview Half Marathon on November 12. Why? I’m not sure. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I also found out about another half marathon, the Halloween Hustle Half, on October 30. It’s only a few blocks from my house… and doggonit, I’m tempted to sign up.

I’m struggling (a lot!) with core workouts. That knee injury from last April is much better, but still not totally healed, and I just don’t trust it for any kind of whole-body exercises like push-ups or planks. Obviously I don’t want to re-injure it! But I’m frustrated by all the exercises I CAN’T do right now.

 

Today I ran 5.23 miles. The weather was beautiful, and today’s run went well. I’m pleasantly sore and, surprisingly, was able to hold almost a 13:30 pace.

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As I’m getting back into running, my shoes have proven to be a big source of stress. I went through two pairs of shoes while I was training for and running the Independence Half Marathon, and those shoes are just pretty worn out at this point. Both pairs have at nearly 500 miles to their credit. I’ve certainly gotten my money’s worth out of them, but it’s time for new shoes.

At the beginning of summer, I bought these:

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Now, like I said, I didn’t run a whole lot during June and July. So when I was getting back into running, I tried out one of these pairs of shoes… and it was a NIGHTMARE. I don’t know if it was the shoes, or if it was because I was out of shape, or (most likely) some combination of those, but it was BAD.

I went back to one of my pairs of 500-mile shoes, and I’ve been using those quite happily while I figure out how I’m going to get new shoes. I have been agonizing over the decision. I want to find shoes that are comfortable and not too expensive, and I’m borderline-paranoid about getting another pair of bad shoes.

Today I bit the bullet and bought one pair. Buying these doggone shoes has caused me so much stress, and I knew I just had to do it. Fingers crossed that these shoes will work… though if they don’t, I’m giving myself permission to buy another pair!

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One last thought:

Long ago, I got into a habit of taking a selfie of myself every time I run. It’s sort of like proof to myself that I got out there and did it. It’s nothing fancy, something I do for myself. But lately I’ve been toying with the idea of posting these selfies on Instagram. Whad’ya think?

Independence Half Marathon recap: slow, steady, and a side of vomit

I’m fighting a bad case of the “shoulds” right now. In a couple of weeks, I’ll be celebrating my 6-year “runiversary”, and in my mind, I’m thinking: I should be faster by now. I should be able to run farther by now. I should not struggle as much as I do. I should’ve gotten a better time in the race. I should’ve held a bigger pace.

And, because a pity party is never complete without a double whammy: I shouldn’t feel bad that I don’t run as well as I want. I should just be thankful that I finished.

Nevermind that I hurt my knee and spent a third of the race vomiting. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The morning of the Independence Half Marathon, I was remarkably calm. I am so accustomed to having nerves before a race, but I was really pleased that my nerves were under control. Not that I wasn’t nervous – I was! – but I didn’t have that awful pit-in-my-stomach feeling!

I had a light breakfast before the race, just a slice of toast. I was honestly unsure of how to eat before this race, since I haven’t really done morning runs in my training. I didn’t want to eat too much beforehand.

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My mom drove me, though luckily we did not have to go far to get to this race. It was only a five minute drive from my home. The race was a nice size – large enough to have good support, but small enough to still feel intimate.

At the start of the race, I purposely positioned myself in the back of the pack. I fell in with the 2:50 pace group… but, I’m sorry to say, this was my first mistake. Now don’t get me wrong – Bailey, the pacer, was very nice, and I enjoyed running alongside her. But I pushed myself for the first half of the race – I should’ve run with the 3:00 pace group and saved my strength for the last half of the race. I also changed my fueling strategy on the fly. Big big mistake!

I chatted with Bailey and the pace group, and I enjoyed that. It’s nice to get to know her, and honestly, Bailey, I think you and I could be friends. The pace group had a run/walk strategy. For most of my training, I’ve trained by running nonstop and only walking for aid stations, though. This had a huge mental effect on me.

I received several text messages in the first few miles of the race. Since my phone was in my armband, I didn’t stop to read the messages, but I knew they were from friends who were cheering me on. Even my sister, who is halfway around the world right now, sent me messages of support!

I held a great pace for the first 10k of the race – about 12:40/mile, with that pace group. But that was also pushing my limits. Halfway through the race, around mile 6.5, the increased pace plus the change in fueling/hydration really hit me. I began to struggle, and I fell behind the 2:50 pace group. SUPER frustrating.

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That’s me, in the pink/purple jacket and shorts, center and left, running with Bailey the 2:50 pacer in the yellow shirt.

The funny thing is, as soon as I fell behind the pace group and began to focus only on my own pace (coming through my earbuds from my iphone), I also began to feel a little better. THIS was what I knew. This was how I had trained. Just me, focused on myself, cheering myself on. I wasn’t talking to anyone or getting distracted by other people or their paces.

I was very much aware that I had started too fast, and I was paying for it. I was angry with myself. I knew it was becoming more unlikely every second that I would reach my goal. I’d blown it, and that was totally on me.

At the same time, with the exhaustion setting in, I felt oddly accepting of my situation. I knew that I could only go as fast as my legs would move. If I couldn’t come in under 3:00, that was okay.

In fact, I wondered during this time if, maybe, I may just not be a sub-3:00 runner. I still wonder that. Maybe I’ll never finish a half in under 3:00. During the race, I could accept that.

I was taking water and gatorade from the aid stations. I’ve done this in my past half marathons without a problem. At mile 9, I walked through an aid station and drank a couple of glasses of water and gatorade, as I’d done at the other aid stations. Unfortunately, a few steps later, I realized that my body was not going to cooperate with this. I leaned over and threw up the water/gatorade, two or three times, until my stomach was empty. My first mid-run vomit – that’s gotta be some kind of milestone, right?

I kept moving. Of course, at this point, my pace was completely shot. My stomach was empty, but I was still periodically dry-heaving. I was dehydrated but I couldn’t keep anything down, including water. My total focus was on just moving forward, running when I could and walking when I couldn’t run.

Long runs like this bring out funny aches and pains. My left bicep felt sore, and my left butt-cheek was also feeling painful. My lower back was sore. My legs were exhausted. My feet hurt, but I wasn’t chafed.

About 13 miles into the race, with the finish line in sight, I saw my mother and my friend Theresa by the side of the road, cheering me on. That was a welcome sight and gave me enough push to keep running.

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I crossed the finish line, feeling much more exhausted than I’d hoped – but I crossed it! Mom and Theresa were waiting for me. I hugged them, but I saw a curb and sat myself down. My poor legs were begging for a break! Someone handed me a bottle of water, and I immediately took a couple of drinks to quench my dry mouth.

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After a few minutes, I decided that I felt good enough to stand again. However, once I stood, I immediately began to feel dizzy. I grabbed a nearby gate, to wait for the dizziness to pass. Unfortunately, I felt a telltale rumbling in my tummy, so I turned away from the gate… and threw up, again! Luckily I was too exhausted to feel embarrassed!!

I sat back down on the curb to wait for that feeling to pass. A really kind woman approached me and asked me if I would like her to go into Terra, the nearby health-food store, and get a bag of ice. I told her that yes, that would be nice, and she did. I don’t know who she is, but I hope she knows how much I appreciate her kindness!!

Mom and Theresa were watching me, and I was starting to feel well enough to feel a bit embarrassed. I was just sitting, and I felt bad that I wasn’t any more active for them! I really appreciated that they had come, but I didn’t feel good enough to express that!

After several minutes had passed, I tried standing again, and I felt MUCH better. My blood pressure had evened out a bit, so I wasn’t dizzy. I felt good enough to walk, albeit slowly, and to get a few more photos.

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We returned to the car, and Mom and I drove Theresa to her car. I insisted on getting out and giving Theresa a BIG hug before she left. I so appreciate that she came! She knows how important this race was to me, and it means a lot that she came out for it.

Mom brought me home, and I fell into a recliner. I was still quite dehydrated, and I hadn’t had any more to drink, for fear of throwing up again. At home, I sucked on some ice cubes, which seemed to rehydrate me at the right pace.

I was amazed by how tired my body was. There were several people I’d wanted to message, to tell the how I’d done in the race, but I was too tired to even lift my phone! I also was still waiting for my official race time.

I began shivering from the ice cubes, plus the chill of evaporating sweat. I took that as my cue to take a shower, followed by a nap. I didn’t eat much, just in case my stomach wasn’t ready for it.

I slept for several hours in the late morning/afternoon, and finally got my race time in the evening: 3:13:48.

I’m struggling to accept that time. It’s not what I hoped. I hurt my knee and I vomited/dry-heaved for an hour. There’s no way I could have performed at top capacity. But I’m embarrassed to admit, I don’t feel good about that time. I wish I’d done better.

I don’t know yet what to do with this.

ready? Maybe…

T minus 3 days to my race.

I have been feeling oddly relaxed about it. It doesn’t even seem real. That’s a good thing, though – anything that decreases my anxiety is good. I suppose it helps that I’ve had oodles of work this week, and a big deadline. I haven’t had much space in my head to think about the race.


I ran on Tuesday, 3.7 miles, and had a really surprisingly strong pace. I planned to run on Wednesday, but a storm prevented that run. I decided maybe that’s a good thing, because I can focus on that strong 3.7 miles. I’m at a point where there’s absolutely nothing I can do to improve my race. My body is as strong as it will be, and it’s strong enough.

As long as I do not get injured again, I’m confident that I will finish the race, and I do not think that’s likely (knock on wood). My knee has plenty of range-of-motion to run. It still hurts if try to bend it beyond 45 degrees or so – an extreme bend, like if I was to sit on my heels – but I don’t plan to do that during the race, of course! I still have a funny feeling like I’ve got a knot in the top of my calf muscle, just below the knee, but I can’t get it out with the foam roller. In fact, my legs feel a bit tired when I’m resting. But that feeling goes away when I run.

Tonight, I drove my race route – something I have never before been able to do! I’ve trained on several parts of this race route before, so I’m familiar with these roads. It’s a beautiful area, very flat. It should be a fantastic race.

Now, as I am constantly reminding myself- I am ready. I am familiar with this race route. I know I am strong enough.

Leprechaun Lane 5k, 10 mile runs

On March 5, I ran the Leprechaun Lane 5k with my best friend, Theresa.

  
It was a small race, but awesome. My legs were really working that day. I ran faster than Theresa in this race, which made me feel a little bad. Theresa has been running much longer than I, and she’s had a lot of coaching. She’s an amazing runner, and I never imagined I would ever run faster than her. But she assured me that she hasn’t been running much in her recent training (she’s spent more time on the bike lately), and she didn’t expect a great time for this race.
  
Since she was just a little bit behind me, Theresa watched my style as compared to other runners. It wasn’t a terribly hilly race, but there were a few decent inclines. Theresa later told me that she was really impressed with my consistency on the hills – I kept running, while many of the people around me slowed to a walk. Funny, since I don’t much like hills and I don’t consider myself a great hill runner!

  
My chip time was 34:22.8, which is all kinds of PR for me!! Not just a race PR, but an all-time PR.

Outside of the races, I’m still putting in the miles most days every week. I’ve been running 12-13 miles over the course of 3-5 runs during the week, and 10 miles on my weekend long runs. It’s been HARD, but incredibly rewarding.  

 
I stop at a QuikTrip for a drink of water during my run, which has worked out surprisingly well. Even if I’ve forgotten my water bottle, they still let me get a drink without charging me. Now, I don’t drink a ton of water during my runs, but it’s still a really kind thing that they don’t have to do. I try to give them lots of business when I’m not running (buying gas, fountain drinks, candy) because of that.

  
These are the Musselman’s Honey Cinnamon applesauce squeezeable pouches. They’re fantastic. I can buy 4 pouches for about $2. It also doesn’t require any chewing, which is pretty critical during my runs!

I’m amazed that I’ve managed to do 10 miles at a 12:42 pace, and I feel good enough at the end that I could keep going. It’s exciting and nervewracking. I have just over a month to my half-marathon, and 12:42 is a great pace right now.

I’ve been reminded in the past couple of weeks how much I need running – not for health reasons, but to keep my sanity. I’ve found that running is one of the few times in my life when I can have privacy. I live with my parents, an arrangement that we all find beneficial, but I’m virtually never home alone. Running has given me the space to figure out plenty of situations in my life.

I won’t lie, I’ve shed plenty of tears during my runs. I wear sunglasses, and if I need to cry, I do. My eyes are hidden, and any sobs are pretty well concealed by my heavy breathing, so I’m not concerned about my neighbors seeing anything.

I have a 5k in mid-April, then the half-marathon on May 1. Exciting!!!

low mileage week, amazing pace, independence half marathon

Aaaannnndddd this is life…

I went for a run on Monday. It was awesome.  

 Then my world filled up on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I’m not at all complaining. I had a lot of fun – but it was all non-running-related activities. Babysitting (for friends AND for neighbors), visiting the zoo (with friends), helping friends… and work of course.

So this will be a lower mileage week, of course. I made up for that today with a run that was AWESOME. Seriously.

 I only ran 3.6 miles but I was averaging just under a 12:00 pace. Which, for me, is absolutely beyond awesome. In fact, by my figures, I ran 5k in 37:12, which beats my best-ever 5k time! And let me tell you, it felt GREAT!

I’m nursing a slight injury this week. Unfortunately, I didn’t acquire it through any respectable or even sports-related methods. I slept on my shoulder wrong, and doggonit, it hurts!

I got an email this week advertising the inaugural Independence Half Marathon, which is coming up this spring. I know I’ve cut way back on races, and especially races longer than 5k – I haven’t run anything longer than that since 2012. But I’m awfully tempted to sign up for this race! It’s a smaller race, so the race fees are lower. It’s pretty close to my house – close enough, in fact, that I could do some of my training on the planned race route. I’m already at a place where I can run eight miles nonstop, with minimal trouble, so it wouldn’t require too much additional training to get myself to half-marathon level. And did I mention it’s close to my house?

There are some cons, of course. It’s on a Sunday. I’ve never run a Sunday race before. Most of my friends will be at church, so I won’t have a very big “cheering section”, if I have one at all. For all intents and purposes, I will be on my own. I still haven’t perfected my fueling strategies – far from it – so those last 4 or 5 miles could be pretty brutal.

The biggest factor, I think, is confidence. On some level, I’ve hesitated to sign up for another half-marathon because I’m not sure if I can get a sub-3:00:00 time. I’m pretty confident that I can beat my PR of 3:16, but not sure if I can get under 3:00:00. My inner cheapskate says that I shouldn’t invest the time and money into a half marathon if I can’t get under 3:00:00 – and my pride tells me I shouldn’t try if I can’t get under 3:00:00.

Having an awesome run today doesn’t make the decision any easier. If I’d had a terrible run, I might have decided against the race and put it out of my mind. Instead, I can’t help but wonder if I should try it. I wonder if I could hold this pace. Maybe.

If I sign up by Monday, the race fees will only cost $39… which is pretty awesome for a half marathon. After Monday, the fee will go up to $49 through January 5, which is still pretty good, and gives me a good long time to think about it. Such choices…

Stars & Stripes 5k 2015

On the 4th of July, I did something I never imagined I would do.

I ran a race under someone else’s bib.

It began on the night of the 3rd. I texted my friend Theresa because I knew she had signed up for the Stars & Stripes 5k on the 4th of July. I also knew that her schedule had changed at the last minute, and that attending the race would not be easy. At this point, to be honest, I was scheming. I was encouraging her attend the race, partly because I was planning to surprise her by standing along the race route with a poster and cow bell to cheer her on.

Theresa wasn’t feeling it. She was stressed with all the other things in her life at that moment, and she just didn’t know how she would be able to run that weekend, much less run a race. I encouraged her to at least pick up her packet (get your free t-shirt!), and to try finishing the race with a different goal – for example, see how fast you can finish 5k if you are walking the entire distance. And then she blew my mind…

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I really can’t express this moment. The idea of running in her spot had never even crossed my mind. The gift of running in her spot was just HUGE to me. I didn’t even know how to respond. What do you do when someone offers you a gift like this?

The next morning, I rose early for the race. Since I hadn’t planned for this race ahead of time, I wasn’t fighting any pre-race nerves or jitters. I’d slept like a baby. I was relaxed and ready to run.

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I went to the packet pickup line and requested the packet for Theresa. This was the moment of truth – this was when they could’ve refused to give me the packet. They were rushing to hand out packets, though, and no one blinked at my request. I took the packet, bib, chip timer, and t-shirt.

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My mom was my support crew. She helped me pin the bib onto my shirt. We had never before explored the shopping center hosting this race, and we were pleasantly surprised to discover a lovely pedestrian area.

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The race was pretty big… a couple thousand runners, I guess? I’m not very good at estimating race size. It wasn’t long before we sang the national anthem and lined up to run.

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The race was advertised as “flat and fast”, and it was. I started the race strong, running about a 12:30 pace. The first mile was uneventful. I spent a lot of that mile getting my legs loose and getting my mind into the right place to run.

The weather was BEAUTIFUL. It was maybe 70 degrees, slightly overcast, with a light breeze – very cool for July, and perfect for running!

During the second mile, I purposely slowed my pace down to around 13:00. We were running behind a business park, and it was during this mile that I saw an adorable wild rabbit. It was really quite comical. The rabbit was running back and forth on one side of the road, clearly wanting to cross the road, but unable to cross the road due to the mass of runners.

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The third mile was, by far, the most fun. At the beginning of that mile, I overheard a nearby cluster of women discussing their ability (or lack thereof) to do a cartwheel. One woman dared another to do a cartwheel right there in the middle of the race, and she declined. I chimed in, “But wouldn’t that be the BEST road rash story?”

My new running friends laughed and agreed. They began to tell the fictitious story: “I thought I was ahead during the race so I decided to showboat by doing a cartwheel. That’s why I have this great scar on my leg, and no front teeth.” I don’t remember the rest of the story, but I know it got pretty silly!

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We pushed each other during that mile. We were close to the end, and we knew it. One of the women compared us to turtles – slow and steady but always finishing. Finally, with perhaps a half mile left, I let it all out and threw everything I had into the race. I’d already picked up my pace (to about 12:30) during the third mile, but I just threw it down and ran as fast as my legs would carry me to the finish line.

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My mom found me in the finishing corral. I’d gone straight for a water bottle (no surprise). I didn’t know my chip time, but when I crossed the finish line the clock read something like 39:30, so I knew my time would be good. I felt amazing.

The line for the official times was LONG, and I knew the times would be posted on the website later, so I focused on the rest of the post-race celebration. One booth was offering free face-painting for kids. A local band was playing. Since it was the 4th of July, there were several patriotic events. Panera Bread was giving away free bagels to the runners. But my favorite booth, by far, was sponsored by Belfonte and giving away free ice cream!

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And that was the race. That was my amazing 4th of July race.

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I got a message from Theresa later in the day with my official time: 38:43.6. For all intents and purposes, that is a PR – the only race that might have been faster was in 2013, when I had a broken chip timer and thus got no official time. But even that, I suspect, was not this fast.

I’m really pretty overwhelmed by it all. This race was a smashing success, and it was all an unexpected gift from my running friend. I can’t express how thankful I am. Theresa, you are the best friend I’ve ever known. Running this race was an experience I’ll never forget. May God bless you the way you’ve blessed me.

swimming, Firecracker Flight 5k, and Freezonis

This summer has been stressful, for sure, but I’ve had such a good week that I don’t care.

Admittedly I haven’t been able to run a whole lot during this week, but at least twice I’ve had the opportunity to go swimming with my best friend Theresa’s three daughters in their backyard pool. Swimming with three little girls (ages 6 and 3-1/2) is a surprisingly outstanding workout! I greatly enjoyed using their diving board to practice diving, and several times I even attempted to do a (forward) flip. I’m still working on that – I didn’t quite pull my body all the way around before my back hit the water, which stung and even left a few bruises. I’m working on finding the nerve to get a really good amount of height off the diving board, maybe a double bounce. Totally worth all the bumps and bruises. So much fun!

On Thursday and Friday, I babysat those same three girls so that their parents could make a quick trip to Chicago. It was a busy time, and it reminds me again why I have great respect for parents. Even with these outstanding girls, it wasn’t easy. I had a great time, though, and I’m incredibly thankful that I was able give their parents a chance to get away.

Also on Thursday morning, I woke up feeling like my right eye was slightly swollen. I didn’t think much of it, but within a couple of hours I could tell that something was definitely wrong. My eye was discharging quite a bit of fluid, and overall it just felt unpleasant. I diagnosed myself with conjunctivitis, also known as pinkeye. Since I was babysitting, I couldn’t easily get out to get medicine for myself, and it proved to be a challenge to deal with my eye issues as well as the kids. (Plus of course I was washing my hands every chance I got in an effort to prevent it from spreading.) I was honestly a tiny bit worried that I would have to spend the night at an urgent care center (or worse yet, the ER) to get medicine for my eye. Thankfully I was able to get my hands on an old bottle of Neomycin/Polymycin (prescription) eyedrops around 10:00 that night, and my eye quickly began to improve. The skin around my eye is still quite raw due to the moisture from the discharge, but my eye was largely recovered within 24 hours.

Two or three months ago, before we’d planned their trip, Theresa and I had signed up for the Firecracker Flight 5k on June 27. Trip or no trip, we’d paid for the race and we still wanted to run. Since Theresa and Hubby didn’t return until after 10pm on Friday night, I slept in their guest bedroom overnight. At 6:45 on Saturday morning, we sneaked out of their house and got dressed in another bathroom on their property, where we wouldn’t wake the girls.

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parking lot selfie

Incidentally, this wound up being my first race without my parents (aka my support team). I love my parents, but… I had so much fun at this race without them! Maybe I’ll have to add a few more parent-less races into the mix…

After we parked, Theresa and I collected our bibs and tank tops, then posed for a pre-race photo:

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About two minutes before the race began, I discovered that I had maxed out the data on my phone for the month (meaning no streaming music), plus when I upgraded my OS last week, I’d removed all the music from my phone. That meant no music on my run. It really couldn’t have worked out any better, because I didn’t have the time to panic or get upset about it. All I could do was roll up my earbuds and do the best I could.

The weather was beautiful. I think the temperature was around 70F, with a light wind and partial cloud cover. Couldn’t have been more perfect. The race was relatively small – I’m guessing around 600 people – which meant the course wasn’t too crowded. I’ve never been a fan of listening to my breathing, but without any music, I just did my best to tune it out.

I cheered myself on quite a bit during this race, telling myself I was doing great, to take it easy or to dig a little deeper, that I’m strong and can push on. I had an interesting chorus of trivia running through my head, various factoids I’ve researched lately. Since I had no music, and since I hadn’t trained quite as well as I might have, I reminded myself regularly that I didn’t need to have any expectations on my time – just run the best I could and enjoy it.

I was honestly a little surprised. I knew it would be hard to run without music, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d feared. There were a handful of hills, but those didn’t really bother me. I ran the first mile a bit faster than I’d hoped, but not bad, and I reined myself in nicely on the second mile. In the third mile, I really let loose, and I was able to finish the race strong, which felt fantastic. My chip time was 41:17, an outstanding time considering the hills and the other adjustments from this run.

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As we crossed the finish line, volunteers draped celebratory medals around our necks. This is the first-ever 5k race that has included a medal. It’s like the cherry on top of a great race with a great friend!

After the race, I pulled the car into a QuikTrip to buy us drinks. We were both hot and pleasantly tired, so it seemed appropriate. Inside, Theresa quickly zeroed in on the Freezoni machine, where we could get a nice big icee. It was a brilliant idea.

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us in the car with our Freezonis

Wowee, that Freezoni tasted good… too good, probably! I was just sucking it down throughout our drive home, and even telling Theresa how good it tasted. Unfortunately, the sugar plus the large amount of hydration was too much for my stomach. Back at Theresa’s house, I threw up the drink into a sink. I was so embarrassed!! Lesson learned: don’t drink Freezonis so quickly!

All in all, though, this was still a fantastic morning. I’m thankful that I have a running friend – she makes the races even more fun. And I’m thankful for Freezoni drinks, even if I did make myself sick. It really tasted incredible!