follow your dreams

‘Cause I Love The Adrenaline In My Veins – JFK 50 Race Recap Part II

Pull up a chair and grab a cup of coffee. This is a long race report.

It was 5:00 am, and a ribbon of cars led us to the school where we were to have our 5:45 am pre-race briefing about 20 minutes from the hotel. A Cyndi Lauper song was on the satellite radio. Because of “potty gate” in NYC, I was very anxious about using the bathroom before the race started. There was no parking spaces left at the school  when we got there, so Andy dropped me off. I got in line at the row of port-a-jons outside the school, and was quickly done. I tried not to drink too much since I knew there would be no way I’d have time to go before the race started. Most race reports I’d read said that (it was very true). Andy found me inside the gym, and we waited. The Cyndi Lauper song was on repeat in my head. NO. I can’t race with Cyndi today. So I turned my phone on music and the first song was the Lizzo women’s anthem, Truth Hurts. No, I don’t really want to hear Lizzo for 13 hours either so I changed it to Tom Petty, hoping for the best, but knowing that my mind plays whatever song it wants to.

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Before it got full in there

Race Director Mike Spinnler gave our race orders, and the meeting was dismissed right around 6:00 am. The gist of it was “If someone slips, don’t step where they step. If they don’t slip, step where they step.” Simple. We had about a 1000-meter walk to the start of the race in downtown Boonsboro. So many people. I want to say there would be around 900 runners who started. Bathroom lines were too long. Oh well, I’ll figure it out and if need to go in the woods, I will.

Downtown Boonsboro was cool. The barber shop was already open and had customers getting coifed. That’s awfully early for a haircut. There was a hotel there with a double-decker porch with people watching us. I wanted to throw up. I wanted to cry. I wanted to go home. But I was there, it was the perfect morning. Dry, partly sunny (when the sun would come up as it was still dark), and rain was only predicted for the later afternoon. I gave Andy a kiss, said thank you, and told him I was ready to get into the crowd. As soon as I walked away from him, I regretted it.  I looked back for him, but he already moved. I found a few ladies, talked to them about their prior experience (they had experienced more than one DNF in their seven years of running) so I kind of didn’t follow them since DNF wasn’t on my list of possibilities, and I tucked myself in near the second half of the pack. All I could think about was to follow my plan, go slow in the beginning. Don’t ruin your legs in the beginning, no matter how “good” you feel.

I didn’t hear the National Anthem, but all of a sudden, it was time to go. We started. I didn’t use my Garmin, as I knew the battery would only last maybe a quarter of the race, so I looked at the time when I crossed the start line, and it read 6:30. When they say they promptly start at 6:30, they ain’t kidding.

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Race Start 

Over the first 5.5 miles, you gain 1,172 feet in elevation. I had done many treadmill/stair stepper workouts over the months. I felt prepared. The first 2.5 miles were on a paved road. The first mile or so is basically rolling hills. It was starting to get light out, and it was a pretty day. Then we rounded a corner and my jaw dropped. Oh. I had it in my mind the road portion was rolling and as soon as you hit the AT at mile 2.5, you went straight up. That wasn’t the case. This road was going at a very steep incline. Most of us slowed to a walk. I used to be a really slow walker, but doing so many walks on the tread and walking parts of trails taught me to walk a lot faster. We went up and up and up. I heard some say that the trail was close, and then I saw the sign. I wasn’t sure how it would work, so many of us crammed onto a single-track trail. Would there be a back up or a line to just get onto the trail? Ain’t got time for that!

When we got to the trail entrance. I stopped at the bathrooms, where there was a short line, texted Andy I was about to cross the first timing mat, and went on my way. After that stop, I had ten minutes of time banked.

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A road-ish trail or a trail-ish road?

The trail was pretty wide and it did not go straight up, as I thought it would. Actually, it went down. Hmm. Not sure where I had gotten that information from or how I would’ve misinterpreted it. Oh well! The next mile was a pretty easy portion of the trail. Some ups and downs but nothing steep, nothing really rocky. The trails were in PERFECT condition, and I often thought about those who ran the race last year when it was a huge sloppy mess after getting 8 inches of snow the day before. At mile 3.5, you got onto a paved road again. Thankfully, I overheard someone earlier saying that the road portion was the steepest part. That tidbit of information helped me deal with the fact that it was 100% true. We walked straight freaking up. Forever. The damn road kept going up and up. I wasn’t sure what 1,172 feet of elevation gain really was, but I was beginning to get an idea. It was a lot when it’s compacted into a few sections within 5.5 miles.

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Up and Up and Up

After we climbed up and up, we got back onto the trail at mile 5.5. This was a much narrower portion, and I was excited that most of the steep incline was over. I told myself, “Just be careful, make sure you eat, and have fun”.

We were mostly single file, and you had to be strategic in passing someone in front of you. This is where Lizzo decided to join me in my head, and she hung in there for a LONG time, although I tried and tried, unsuccessfully, to get Tom Petty back. You run with interesting people in races like these. Well, probably in any race. Behind me, there was a group of ladies running, and every time we walked over the rocks, one of them yelled, “WALKING!”. Then when we ran on the trail, she yelled, “RUNNING!”. Constantly. “RUNNING! WALKING! RUNNING! WALKING!”. I tried not to get irritated, but how could any regular person not get irritated with that? I wanted to tell her to STFU and just go with the flow like everyone else was doing. I had to get out of there.

Then I got stuck with these two guys behind me. One was soft-spoken, but the other one was apparently using a megaphone because the dude was so loud. Like yelling at me kind of loud. A few miles later, I got ahead of them, thankfully.

No, I wasn’t grumpy, but when you’re running that long, you become slightly poodle-like, and things that don’t ordinarily bug you, do, then things that normally bug you, do not.

I chatted with a few people, watched the sun come up, and tried to take it all in.

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Along the trail as the sun came up

At mile 9.3, we came to a check point in what was like a big field. I didn’t go over a timing mat, so I texted Andy where I was. At that point, I had banked more time and was 30 minutes ahead of the cutoff. I got some Gatorade, took an energy bar, and tried to eat a few potato chips. For some reason, they pretty much crumbled and fell out of my mouth. It still makes me laugh thinking about that, especially since it didn’t make much sense, because my mouth wasn’t dry and I wasn’t thirsty. The bar was pretty hard since it was cold – probably still in the 30’s, but it was good.

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I’m pretty sure this is mile 9.3

One of the ladies I talked to said she had run this part of the course before, and it goes up more, then turns really rocky, then goes into the switchbacks down. I wasn’t sure what mile I was on (remember, no Garmin), so I pretty much went with what she said. I figured we would have a good mile with rock and a mile of switchback, which I think ended up being pretty close to being true. The only difference was the rocky portion was probably longer than a mile. Once we did get to that part, which pictures do not do it justice, I was really careful to 1) NOT fall, and 2) NOT twist something. I got caught behind a few slower runners and just a few times, I took a chance running on the rocks a little faster than I normally would have. Thankfully all was well. We could hear the trains below, as the director had told us that if we get caught by the train, we are SOL, just be patient, and wait for it to pass.

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The rocky trail. It doesn’t look rocky, but it is.

I wish I had a picture of the switchbacks. I’ve been on switchbacks before, both on a trail and road, and what I had pictured was pretty much nothing like what we had. This was all rock, steep decline, and you could see straight down. Safety people were along the course, most likely for the people who chose to run down those things. I’m sure they drive around without seat belts too. My little group was chatting about something I can’t remember, taking our time getting off the hill, and we passed one woman in a sling and one guy who had hit his face on the rock. It wasn’t too bad, thankfully, and that guy and I passed each other back and forth the next 30 or so miles. We knew we were getting close to the bottom, as we could hear the cheering of the checkpoint and the first of three stops where our support people could see us.

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I’m the one with my arms flying in the air

Four hours into the race, I passed mile 15, one hour ahead of the cutoff. I found Andy, went to the bathroom, got some mini potatoes and shoved them into my pocket, grabbed an Uncrustable, changed my socks and into running shoes, and went on my way. I was in a really good mood. Eleven minutes later, after winding around a trail and under a bridge and over some railroad tracks (NO TRAIN!!!!) while munching on the sandwich, I crossed the 15.5 mile marker. I had a feeling I was going to get warm, so I took my long sleeved shirt off, took my number off, re-pinned it to my sleeveless shirt, dropping my Uncrustable in the process, and asked someone to stuff my long sleeve into my pack after picking up and dusting off my Uncrustable. If I’m going to run 50 miles, I can eat a dirty sandwich, especially since it was DELICIOUS. I realized the photographer was there, and at the same time, realized my sleeveless shirt was inside out. Sigh.

The next check point was at mile 27.3, also one of the points our support people could meet us. Twelve miles, I can do this.

I’d heard from several race reports that the C & O Canal was boring and flat. Like super extra boring. Considering it was a change of scenery and my running routes at home are boring (I often run when it’s dark just so I don’t have to see the same thing over and over again), I wasn’t worried about it. I knew the required pace dropped to 12-13 minute miles along this section, so I did not allow myself to walk much at all. Since I had no concept of distance or pace, I turned my Garmin on so I could give myself a tad sense of how far I had gone and how far I had to go. My pace hovered around 10:20, which I felt was perfect. I sped up a few times, but made myself slow down when I started to breathe harder. The canal was pretty. It wasn’t all straight, as it followed the winding of the river. The leaves still had a slight bit of color, and the dead leaves on the trail made a soft sound with our footsteps. Granted, many many many others had gotten to this point in the race before me and tamped them down, but that still didn’t matter.

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The C&O Canal

Then I started to hurt. I felt the incline from the trails. I didn’t understand how I could be hurting already, when I had over half the race to go. I went into panic mode, then I talked myself off the ledge. The hard is what makes it great. Keep going. You’ll be fine. Breathe. It will be ok. This is a blip.

Our first aid station on the canal was at mile 19, and it did not disappoint. This is one thing I didn’t know about the JFK 50, but this is one thing that I heard during the first miles that sets it apart. The aid stations are AMAZING. So many things were offered, typical of trail races and ultras, but I believe there’s just more people there (at LEAST ten per) and they are offered more frequently. If I remember right, one aid station during another trail race I had run offered a hose. So this was pretty stacked compared to a hose.

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I may or may not have texted my husband that I was leaving him for this grilled cheese….

I texted Andy that I was getting a headache and to bring ibuprofen to the next meet up, but right near the race half way point, there was an aid station and I got two from someone there. I was really wary of taking anything, but I knew I was hydrated, so I took them and didn’t look back. My aches went away. And I was now half way through my 50 mile race!

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Whoop Whoop!

Since I was wearing my tank top, my bra was chafing my arm. When I came upon the next check point at mile 27.3, Andy was there waiting for me. It’s interesting, because I didn’t NEED him, as the race had everything I could need or want, but I needed to see him. It was like during Ironman Florida, just seeing my people filled me up. Just seeing him made me feel better.

I used the port-a-jon, he gave me a few more ibuprofen to stash in my pack, and I went to the medical tent to get a band aid. The chafe stuff I put on my arm was not working well enough. I told them what I needed, and I ended up laughing so hard because one of them rubbed Body Glide all over my arms, me laughing because the stupid tag of my inside-out shirt was sticking out and I was getting body glided. I went on my way with a smile on my face and an hour and five minutes to spare.

Eleven miles until I see him next. The pace requirement increased to almost a 15 minute mile. I allowed myself to walk a little more. I still had a LONG way to run! I chatted with some people, one guy gave me an orange wedge, and then I heard music. I wasn’t sure what in the world was going on, but it was the song “Get Lucky” that repeats the lyrics “We’re up all night to get lucky” about a hundred times. I’m not sure about you, but there’s nothing romantic about being in the middle of a 50 mile race. I was thinking it was just a bad choice of music. Then the guy said, “Ok, here you go, you will remember this moment forever” and the Marvin Gaye and Tammi Tarrell song “Aint No Mountain High Enough” came on. It’s funny because I didn’t know it was basically a love song, but I teared up thinking that there was no mountain that was going to keep me from finishing this race. Little did I know, the music was coming from a couple on bikes dressed as The Incredibles. A few more songs came on as they slowly pedaled, and the music was a really nice distraction from what we were all doing. They stopped so I got their picture and thanked them for being out there for us. In all honesty, Mr. Incredible was right. I will remember that song at that moment for the rest of my life.

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The Incredibles

I played games to get me to the next stop. Ok, you can either run two miles and then walk for half a mile, or you can run a mile then walk a quarter. Catch the lady in front of you. Get in front of the guy who was walking in the leaves and looked like he was going to fall into the river. Don’t fall down. Eat. Aid stations were plentiful, and at one I had a quarter hamburger and at the 34.4 mile check point, I had homemade Christmas cookies. This aid station was decorated, Santa was there, and the number of kids out there wanting to help us was overwhelming. During the entire race, I really tried to tell as many as I could, “THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE, YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE”. They certainly did.

Four miles until the next stop. In all honesty, for running this far, I felt pretty damn good. I felt hydrated, fed, and happy. I was truly enjoying myself. No, I didn’t want to do any extra dance steps or drop and do 20, but I was feeling good. Despite feeling good, a cramp developed in my left calf. Part of my race plan was to assess whether it was from a lack of electrolytes or just needed to be stretched. I took some Base salt and stretched. It migrated down into my Achilles and then into my heel then to the side of my heel over the next ten miles.

When I arrived at mile 38.4 at 8 hours and 48 minutes, I was an hour and 27 minutes ahead of the official cutoff, and I “only” had around a half marathon to go. I would be on the canal until around mile 42, and I knew, I just knew that I was going to finish this race. I saw Andy and honestly do not remember much else about that stop except that it started to rain.

Four miles until the canal. My watch gave me the low battery message, which made me mad because I had only had it on for about 2.5 hours. Piece of crap. I turned it off and went by time from then on. The migratory cramp now in my foot was irritating, and the top of my left foot had started to bug me a little bit. All in a day’s running, right? It started to cool off as I approached the country road portion of the race, especially with the rain. At least it was a light rain. Three, two, one, I was there. Mile 41.8, four minutes shy of two hours ahead of the cutoff. And the rain stopped. I had three and a half hours to finish 8 miles. Let’s do this thing. We couldn’t feel the finish yet, and 8 miles is a long distance when you’ve done 42, but it was more than doable. We were handed safety vests and I dug my long sleeve shirt out of my pack and put it on. When we got onto the road, we went straight friggin’ up. So much for rolling hills.

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Looking back, down the giant hill, and I actually passed up the guy handing out beer 

I’m not sure how the conversation started, but someone right there said he had done a ton of ultras before, including this one more than once. I asked him for some tips on how to NOT feel like complete trash the next day. Basically, his lesson was to take care of yourself that night and the next day. Compression socks, roll, stretch, hydrate. Jeff is an experienced ultra runner, as I had mentioned before, and he was having a bad race. Funny, since I considered myself having a good race and we were at the same place at the same time. Perspective.

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Up the damn hill

We ended up talking the rest of the race. Racing, life, just stuff like that. We ran the flat and down hills, start at the mail box, go to the power pole, and I took in the beautiful countryside while it was still light. There was a fair amount of traffic on the road, and as careful as the drivers were, it was a little unnerving. My feet were really starting to hurt. It wasn’t a cramp feeling, it was pain. I look back on this decision, and I still, one week out, do not regret one tiny shred, but for the majority of the last six miles of the race, I walked. I knew I was going to make the cutoff, but I did not like the feeling I had in my feet, and it wasn’t worth risking an injury to make a certain finish time, when my goal was always to just finish.

Night fell like a hammer, and all of a sudden, it was dark. The race had mile markers for us, which was nice. We passed others, others passed us, and soon, we came into town. The finish was so close.

Three, two, one. One mile to go. Do I run, do I continue to walk? Eh, walking seemed like the smart solution. When I made the final turn, the wind picked up, and it was cold. I could hear the finish line. Thankfulness overflowed in my heart. My body carried me this far. My family supported me the whole way. I did it.

Eleven hours and forty-seven minutes after I started running the JFK 50, I crossed the finish line. I RAN across the finish line.

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FINISH LINE!! And a fist bump.

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Post race in the school

The Aftermath:

I cried after the race. So many emotions, it’s really hard to describe, and I still struggle to come up with words. The main takeaway is gratefulness. I’m so thankful that I was able to participate and finish this race. Since I’m not sure what to say, I’ll copy what the race director had to share the day after the race, which still brings me to tears. It was a special year, as the person who created this race, the one I wrote about in my last post, Buzz Sawyer, passed away in 2019. Of all things, I wish I could thank him for creating something such as this.

“This one was for Buzz. He would be so proud of all the athletes, volunteers, race staff and supporters who came out yesterday to be a part of the 57th Annual JFK 50 Mile presented by @altrarunning

Whether you finished or not, PR’d or not, scored one of those beautiful cookies at mile 19 or not… be proud to be out there when many people will never have the guts to even try.

“Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men”. John F. Kennedy” ~ Mike Spinnler

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Buzz, Thank You

One week out, my foot still hurts and I’ve taken one mile walk, which was way too far. I’ll be patient, head to the pool, and count my blessings. I already know what I want to do next. 🙂

 

 

 

Categories: being epic, follow your dreams, learning from failure, marathon, running, running buddies, ultra marathon, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Going Mental: When You Become Your Own Mean Girl

Into every training cycle, a little fear must fall.  At least for me. And when it happens, sometimes it happens big. This training cycle was no different than many, especially the really big races like Ironman Florida, Boston Marathon, and going for a big PR at the Houston Marathon. Sometimes something can be so big and so new, it’s hard to wrap my head around it, which is how the fear creeps in. Fear and I are not strangers but we are not friends. I certainly don’t welcome fear into my house for a cup of coffee. I also don’t loathe fear, as it’s a natural consequence for going above yourself to do something new. That’s the way I see it. Fear is natural, but the most important thing about fear is how you handle it.

There’s a difference between fear and “can’t”. I remember hearing the phrase “Can’t never did anything”, and I say this to my kids whenever I hear a misplaced “can’t”. It literally never did anything for anyone. Fear isn’t “can’t”.

There are many types of fear. Like the real kind when you’re running down a dark street and you hear this noise and you think you’re being followed and then all of a sudden you realize it’s a leaf skittering alongside you with the wind. The fear when you’re running to your ringing phone and slip a little on the carpet while you’re going downstairs and you get a shot of adrenaline in your fingertips. There’s more REAL fear but I don’t need to go there. Then there’s the fear you get when you start a new job, or meet a possible business partner, which would probably be better described as “nerves”, but it’s still fear. Then there’s that pesky fear. The fear of failure. The fear of failure and “can’t” are first cousins and they often have family reunions when the fear of failure arrives at your doorstep.

I applied for a full-time job last week. I was scared to do it, mostly because I didn’t want to get rejected. I didn’t want to be the one looking kind of dumb with my finger and my thumb in the shape of an “L” on my forehead. Back in the day, I was way overqualified to do this job, and now, I’m not quite qualified, technically. And I didn’t want to be rejected, because it would just validate my fear of being the L. But I wanted the chance to find out if I would at least get a shot at that job, and if I didn’t apply, I would never know. When I got that dreaded email “Thank you for applying, BUT….”, I felt pretty low. But at least I took a shot at it. And now I know they will never get a chance to work with me and know how awesome I am, how hard-working I am, that I’m funny, smart, and thoughtful. Their loss. Time to move on. But I’m actually proud of myself for putting myself out there and punching fear in the face. Nothing bad happened when I got the email. It actually gave me a little clarity.

I digress.

Last weekend, I ran a 30k trail race at Lake Norman State Park. It was a trip that I didn’t want to take because we had just gotten back from New York, and two weeks before that was the half iron triathlon and a ton of long runs and training and I was just t i r e d. But it was already past the time to cancel my hotel reservation and my kids and I were supposed to go to a wedding, a wedding that I wanted to attend, but I didn’t want to drive that far.  I resigned myself that I HAD to go, although I just wanted to stay home. I worried about traffic and I worried about driving in the dark and I worried about finishing the race in time to drive to the afternoon wedding about an hour away from our hotel.

I got up and got ready for the race, worried some more, then drove myself through some gorgeous fall hills to the park. It was 28 degrees, and it had been a long time since I had felt temps that low. I missed the beginning of the “trail talk” since I, among many others, was sitting in my car keeping myself warm. I arrived for the giveaways and asked another participant if I had missed anything really important. “Go left at the junctions and be sure you punch your bib at the checkpoints” was all I missed. There were probably about 110 of us total for the 30k and 50k, so it took maybe half a mile or so for the crowd to thin out. I stayed back and let a lot of others go in front of me. It was a gorgeous morning and a beautiful trail. We were off.

Things were going fine. Until they weren’t. My legs have handled the tremendous amount of volume I’m put them through and recovery was typically quick. (I didn’t see that then but I do now.) And this was my last long workout before my big race. About four or five miles in, my somewhat fragile mental state collapsed. Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of something, or near the end, your perception becomes skewed. For instance, the week between the half iron triathlon and the NYC marathon was a ten mile run. And I was like, “Oh! ONLY ten miles this weekend.” I forget that running ten miles is actually quite a lot. And during my meltdown on that trail, when I felt my legs starting to get a little tired (I know this because I start tripping on things), I unleashed the wrath of my fear onto myself.

It’s also important to note that within failure, you find the opportunity for growth. I’ve failed at reaching my marathon goals, but within that, I’ve learned my biggest lessons. But that is not the same as fear that stops you from trying. And tells you you’re not good enough. Which is what I was feeling.

Here’s just a sample of things I said to myself.

You’re NEVER going to be able to finish the JFK in 13 hours if you can’t even run this easy trail in 15 minute miles.

How could you let yourself gain so much weight over the last year.

You can’t do this.

You’re going to be late for the wedding. You can’t use “I was running” as a valid reason.

You have absolutely no reason to be this tired right now.

Then I reminded myself that I had run a marathon the week before. And walked 60-70 miles in four days.

STOP MAKING EXCUSES.

Why did you even sign up for this 50 mile race when you KNOW you are a BAD trail runner?

There is no excuse for being tired.

You are going to embarrass yourself when you get a DNF.

Then I told myself that yeah, I ran a freaking marathon the week before and to not lose sight that THAT event is typically the goal for most people. But it didn’t matter.

You’re going to be last.

Running a marathon is no excuse for being tired right now.

Stop being a huge pansy. Pan. Zee.

You’re pretty dumb for thinking you can do this.

There were a few cycles of this negativity. I was really mean to me. I’m not proud of it, and I wasn’t even sure if I was going to share this. But I know I’m not the only one who does this. But I didn’t let it win. First, I knew from Ironman training that when you get low, you probably need to eat. So I ate one of my gels. I felt better and my mood lifted a little almost immediately. Then I went through my last month of training in my head.

20 miles

22 miles

Half Iron Triathlon, which is 70.2 miles and took me 6.5 hours

10 miles (yeah, the EASY week)

Marathon day, which was 32 miles of running and walking, plus 27 miles of walking in 4 days.

Look LADY, you have put your body through a LOT, so STOP being a bully, stop being so hard on yourself and just keep moving forward. And I did.

I went through the mean lady/nice lady cycle a few times during that race.

I think the 30k course was short a mile or two, but I finished in just under four hours. Four hours of running is a lot of time to be running. And I wasn’t last. I wasn’t in the top half of the finishers, but that’s ok.

I made it back to the hotel in plenty of time to get prepped for the wedding and find food. And as I said, it was one of my favorite weddings of all time. I totally borrowed worry. And we went home on Sunday. I was tired. Really. Really. Tired.

Then Monday came. And the mean lady came back. I got scared again. And I questioned my ability to finish the JFK 50 Mile race over and over. I was familiar with this feeling, but it came on really extra hard for this event. All it is, is fear of failure. So you want to give yourself enough reasons to just not even go? Just don’t even try because if you don’t try, you can’t fail, right? RIGHT? But just like that job, you can’t fail if you don’t even try. I didn’t come this far to only go this far. And I wanted to try, and I was going to put everything I had into making a successful race plan, then more importantly, execute it. I told my coach my mental state wasn’t really good, and I told her that this was normal for me and zero negativity would be allowed in my thought processes come race week. And she gave me the race plan assignment, and I really can’t express my gratitude at the timing of it, because it ignited the thought processes that will carry me over that finish line.

It only took three days, and all that bad juju is gone. Poof. And I look back and am disappointed that I was so mean to myself. I sealed the negative off and I will not allow it back in. I have worked too damn hard to be afraid. And part of a good race plan is to prepare for the unknown, as something unusually typically pops up in an event that long. And that’s ok. It’s crazy that I was feeling so bad at the beginning of the week, and today, I’m feeling nervous and a little anxious and really, really, dang excited.

On November 23rd, I’m running the JFK 50. I’m not going to TRY it, I’m not going to attempt to, I’m going to do it. I’m not naive enough to believe that things can’t happen to cause a DNF, but I’m not even going to let that into my space. At this point, a DNF is just not possible.

My mantra is to “Keep fucking going”.

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I’m carrying this bracelet my sister gave me.

Follow my race plan.

Adapt to changes.

Stay positive.

Bullet proof.

Remember that I didn’t come this far to only go this far.

All the way. 50.2 miles. I’m going to do it.

running quote 2

Categories: anything is possible, follow your dreams, learning from failure, marathon, marathon training, running, temper tantrum, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Pan, A Spoon, And A Whistle: NYC Marathon Recap

Warning: Picture heavy on this one.

Potty-gate was over, and we could finally run the race we’d been planning on for months and months. It was hard to believe we were running this huge, beautiful bridge from Staten Island over to Brooklyn. The bridge was pretty quiet, just hearing the sound of running shoes hitting the pavement. So many were stopped to take selfies on the bridge. We weren’t ready to do that yet, as we had a LONG way to go. Mile 1 ticked by and as always, I said, “Hey, only 25 more to go!”. I’m so funny.

The bridge wasn’t that difficult, although it’s nearly a mile on incline and a mile on decline. I’d done incline work on the treadmill thankfully, and I really wish I would have added it to Andy’s training plan. Oops. When we were near the end of the two-mile bridge, we heard the cannon from wave 4 go off, and I knew some of my friends were running the bridge with us.

When we entered Brooklyn, the crowds started. That’s the one thing I was told over and over, there were millions of spectators spread throughout the entire course. It’s crazy to imagine these people were stand for hours cheering on people they didn’t know, but that’s what happens.

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The best way I can describe the race is this. There’s miles and miles of runners. Thousands of runners spread out, with miles and miles and miles of spectators, holding signs, ringing bells, banging on pans, blowing obnoxious horns, and cheering. For miles. And miles. The sign I was waiting for was at mile 3.5. “You’re almost there!”. Haha. This is a classic. I really wish I would’ve taken pictures of these signs, but I had my phone in a flip belt sort of thing and since I’d had it out for most of the bridge, I didn’t want to keep getting it out. I should have though.

I’ve run a lot of marathons, including Boston, and I’ve never seen anyone bang on a pan with a spoon while blowing a whistle. It was just funny. I found myself smiling a lot, knowing this was most likely a once in a lifetime experience. I wanted to soak it in. The pan banging made me giggle, not knowing I’d see at least three of them. One was using a whisk on her pan. Whatever works, right?

I looked at the homes, the businesses, the tree lined streets. It was crazy to think it was a regular street in a regular city in the middle of New York City. What was it like to live there? What would it be like to grow up in such a large city? If I didn’t say it before, New York City is one of the most diverse places I’ve ever been. I think we heard more non-English than English, which was cool. Where were these people from, did they live there, what did they do for a living, were they visiting? It’s just interesting. Unique. I loved it.

Because Andy and I were relatively dehydrated going into the race, we stopped at all but one aid station, which were approximately every mile, except for the first few miles on the bridge. We walked through them, and the further we got into the race, the more cup pileage I noticed. Like I’ve said before, I’ve run in big races, but this one was about 20,000 runners BIGGER than the biggest one I’ve done before. The water/Gatorade cups pile up. And pile up and pile up. The streets get sticky, and after the bananas are handed out, they get slick. It made me think of some cartoon with an elephant slipping all over the banana peels. So we were extra careful with the banana peels.

You run through Brooklyn for many, many miles. Bands are spread out, lots of garage band type groups playing good music, and a few notable percussion groups were throughout the marathon. I saw a banana playing some sort of recorder/flute thing (I don’t think I’ll ever see that again), a lady running the marathon barefoot and with a grass skirt, trying to raise awareness for the environment. I saw tons of people running for charity, and I was specifically looking for my coach, who was guiding another sight-impaired friend. They were wearing neon yellow shirts, so I figured I would find them eventually. I saw many “Touch Here For Power” signs, and I touched many of them for power. I saw a few more banana people, I saw people running find their people in the crowds, running to them with huge smiles, I saw gorgeous brownstone townhouses on tree lined streets. Is that where the Cosby Show was set? We couldn’t remember.

The volunteers. The police presence. UNBELIEVABLE. AMAZING. Pretty indescribable to me. City dump trucks and salt trucks to protect main intersections. Police EVERYWHERE. Aid stations with plenty of people handing us our water or Gatorade, getting totally soaked in the process. They handed out Gu, bananas, Vaseline, and spectators handed out oranges and potato chips, among other things. If I remember right, some had beer (hey, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere) or mimosas (it’s basically a smoothie).

There were so many runners, we were separated onto different courses from the beginning until mile 8, where we all merged onto one course. I figured the course would eventually thin out some. Wrong. Andy and I didn’t always run side by side, but I never lost him. I had no idea how many Clemson fans are in New York City. Until Andy took his top shirt off to expose his orange shirt with white Clemson paw. I swear, I heard no less than ten million “Go Tigers!”, “Clemson!” and a few “Hey Clemson, Roll Tide” and one “Clemson, Go Dawgs”. I always knew he was near because I constantly heard someone yelling at him.

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Andy and his famous Clemson shirt

Little kids were lined up to high-five us. Several signs said “GO RANDOM STRANGER!”.  The people you see along the way and the people running alongside you. Everyone is so different, yet we were all united on that day to celebrate the human spirit. If you’ve never spectated a marathon, you really should. Even better, run one.

Brooklyn seemed to go on forever. And ever. Around mile 13-14, we crossed a bridge into Queens. For some reason, I thought Long Island was a borough, so I was so confused as to where that long island was. It was QUEENS. And I thought about “The King of Queens”, knowing we wouldn’t see Kevin James on the course but secretly hoping we would. It was basically the same as Brooklyn, and just as cool.

Somewhere along there a guy was by himself on the sidelines blowing this horrendous whistle horn thing. It was one of the most annoying sounds I’ve ever heard, which explains why he was by himself on the sidelines. That was one of the very few times the race course didn’t have many spectators.

Then came the bridge that no one talks about. The Queensboro Bridge. This sucker is a beautiful, old, STEEP bridge spanning about 1.4 miles, starting at around mile 15. It’s a double decker bridge, and the runners were on the bottom deck. We had a gorgeous view of Manhattan. Lots of people were walking, but I felt like I needed to run, for training. I was slow, but I kept going. The course was still really crowded, so you could see people going up and up and up and up and up. The bridges in the NYC Marathon ain’t no joke. I pulled over to the right so I could get a picture of Manhattan.

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Just gorgeous. Pictures don’t do it justice.

Then we started going down. I was REALLY glad we didn’t go up this part of the bridge because it was a steep decline. I found Andy, we got to the bottom and ran about 3.5 miles north through Manhattan, parallel to Central Park. I didn’t realize we ran that long in Manhattan at this point, so I looked for the next bridge far too long. At this point, I did not want the race to end but I couldn’t wait for it to be over, if that makes any sense. My legs were starting to feel the burn from the miles of walking the prior two days, and my knees were sore.

I’m not sure when we saw the dead rat along the course, but several other people saw it too. All I could think about for a while was how the thing was dead in the road. Did one of the Kenyans run over it with their fast feet? Did a car run over it over night? Why wasn’t it flatter like the bananas? It made no sense to me, but it entertained me for a while. Thanks, Rat.

Andy saw an inflatable unicorn holding a sign that said “Motherf***ing Marathoners!”. I REALLY wish I would’ve seen that. Next up, the bridge to The Bronx. Lo and behold, there was Coach Maleia and Diane. I knew I would find them among the thousands of people! We chatted a bit and then went on our way.

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Coach, Diane, and Andy

Bronx wasn’t anything spectacular, but we wound around the streets to get our miles in. The last bridge was around mile 21. Several people were holding signs and yelling at us, “THE LAST DAMN BRIDGE”. Perfect. It made me laugh and it was nice to know THIS was it for the incline. Sort of. The best part was the bridge was small and mostly a slight decline.

We were finally at our last destination…Manhattan! We ran down 5th Avenue about 3 miles. It was NUTS. It was gorgeous. It was full of runners. It was full of spectators. It seemed the streets got more and more crowded, louder and louder, and it was great to have that energy to use since the “low fuel” light came on for our gas tanks, haha.

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Crazy crowds

About half way down Central Park, we entered the park. Did you know that Central Park is hilly? Did you know The Met, as in The Metropolitan Museum, spanning several blocks, is on 5th Avenue and backs up into the park? Found out both of them that day. I knew from watching Shalane win this exact race a few years ago that the park has hills, but, fun fact, you can’t really detect hills adequately on a tv screen. It was hilly. And crazy full. Many times, we had to stop due to the congested streets. But the energy. You cannot beat the energy of this part of the race! Then I heard my name. WHAT???? My rock star friend Pam saw me from the sidelines!

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In the middle of my wave to Pam. I can’t believe someone found me on that crazy full course!

Now THAT was crazy, but not as crazy as the last mile. I know at some point, Andy and I were walking, and I said, “Come on, let’s go”, which made him mad because his feet were about to fall off, but all I could think about is finishing the damn thing. As great as the experience was, I wanted to stop. I was ready for it to be over. After a few more ups and downs, we crossed the finish line. We did it.

FINISH TIME: 4:53

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed in the finish time. As much as I truly don’t care, for as torn up as I felt, I felt like we went faster, not that it really matters. It’s a weird combination of not caring and being competitive. Speaking of being competitive, Andy’s time was one second faster, so he beat me at a marathon, something he said he’d never do. Well done, Andy, well done.

Not many feet into the finisher chute, we were in a traffic jam. One of the volunteers chastised us for being slow and taking selfies that held up the line (that wasn’t the problem and no one around us was taking selfies), which we didn’t appreciate and I decided to keep my trap shut so I wouldn’t end up saying something equally rude back to him. Nothing like being ridiculed as soon as you finish a race, huh?

We stood there a while and came upon our photo op, post-race garb, and heat sheets. We opted for ponchos, which would be handed out about a hundred half mile (or more) later. We were thankful for the heat sheets, as the sun was going down and it was cold. One girl behind us said “Where’s the f%$King exit???” True that. We felt like we had to walk all way up to the other side of the park to get back to the finish, which was towards our hotel. Goodness.

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Aren’t we so cute?

Many, many steps later, we found the exit and walked slowly back to our hotel. Total steps for that day totaled 32 miles. THIRTY-TWO MILES. And we still had to find dinner.

We did it. Endurance Trifecta Event #2: Mission Completion

We met up with the kids in our room, cleaned up, compared stories, and found dinner. Wow. What an amazing event. The ONLY complaint I have is the lack of bathrooms at the start. That’s it.

I heard some people say this marathon is better than any marathon, including Boston. I’m not so sure. To me, it’s like picking between your children. They’re different and you love them equally. There’s something very special about the Boston Marathon, and there’s definitely something special about NYC Marathon. Running a major with my husband was pretty special as well. Anyway, I’m not picking because I don’t have to, haha.

I must have gotten a sunburn, because in our room, my face was on fire. My son was thoughtful enough and got me the “freezer” tray from our mini fridge to help cool my face. Such a thoughtful boy.

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Ahhhhhhh….

The next day, we walked up and through Central Park. Wow. Seeing it again was a good thing, as I hadn’t realized it’s beauty the prior day. We walked the park, saw the finish line, the green lawn (or whatever it’s called), Strawberry Hill, a couple sucking face, a strange workout (I have a video of it and it makes me laugh so hard my abs hurt), and then walked back on 5th Avenue and by The Met. The people we saw and the stores we walked by. Hmmm, let’s say they have some disposable income. And The Met. Wow. One thing I’d like to do when I go back is to take advantage of the museums in the city.

By the time we found New York Pizza and walked back to our room, we’d added ten miles to our total. Our feet were tired, our hearts were full, and we were ready to go home.

Thanks New York City, we love you.

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NYC Marathon

Up next in my Endurance Trifecta: JFK 50

Categories: Boston Marathon, follow your dreams, go for your dreams, marathon, marathon training, running, running with friends, training for marathon, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

IMNC 70.3 Race Recap

In the spring of 2018, I signed up for IMNC 70.3, which was cancelled due to severe damage from Hurricane Florence. We were offered free deferrals to the 2019 race, so I signed up, just to ensure I had a spot, not knowing if I would, in fact, participate in the race.

As I’ve talked about, my “endurance trifecta” begins with IMNC 70.3 and ends with the JFK50 miler five weeks later, with the New York City marathon sandwiched between the two. The good thing about triathlon, is that it forced me to cross train to help my overall strength and to prevent overtraining on the run. I figured that if I needed to let a race go, it would be the triathlon. I’m honestly so overjoyed that I didn’t need to do that.

The best thing I could have ever done is to hire a coach. I can coach marathons all day long, but not triathlons or 50 milers, and mostly, not when I’m the athlete nor when all the said events are within five weeks of each other. Coach knew my goals and set the plan accordingly, often checking in on my hamstring injury and in general.

I decided to head to Wilmington on the Thursday before the race (race was Saturday), and Wednesday night, I woke up at 2 am and could not get back to sleep. Ugh. My son and I left after he was out of school, and we got to Wilmington around 8 pm. Let’s say that driving in the dark is not one of my favorite things to do, especially when I’m sleep deprived and need glasses. I figured I would sleep like a baby, but it was one of the worst nights of not sleeping ever. I’ve had insomnia issues before, and this was a pretty bad string of it. I think I possibly dozed for about an hour. Double ugh.

That Friday was packet pick up, run stuff drop off, and bike drop off. I saw a bunch of people I knew and glanced at the finish line being set up. A quick dose of adrenaline surged through me, part excitement, part fear. Could I actually do this race? I’m exhausted and haven’t trained for it like I had in the past. Yes, yes I’ll be fine. I can do it.

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My son and me in front of the convention center

I dropped my son with his BFF and headed to dinner with a friend, where I had my traditional chicken sandwich with mushrooms, cheese, and a fried egg. Delicious. It was then that I got my actual race plan together. Nothing like waiting until the last minute, right? Race numbers on bike, nutrition planned, clothes laid out, bag packed and ready to go. I decided not to get up too early, but I knew I had somethings to do before we headed to the race. My poor tired little brain could only muster up a few things, haha. At least it was written down.

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My “list” of things to do in the morning

I woke at 4, having only had a few hours of sleep. Probably the second worst string of insomnia, and it was NOT caused by nerves. Not in the slightest. SO FRUSTRATING. I melted down in my sister’s kitchen, and I muttered a few inappropriate things that I can’t believe came out of my mouth, but I was just SO EFFING TIRED. I honestly didn’t know how I was going to make it. The best Sherpa in the world and I took off and headed to the start.

The start area was buzzing, and it was 5:10 am. Crazy. I went to my bike and got my tires pumped up and nutrition laid out. Saw some friends. Oops, forgot to leave my watch in my bike helmet. Did that. Saw more friends, waited in line for the bathroom. I couldn’t believe the activity and how well organized it was. I got my numbers put on my arms and leg. Oops, forgot to put something else in my bike bag. Did that. Saw some more friends. Oops, forgot to put one last thing in my bike bag. Geez, this is what happens when you are exhausted!

Gorgeous sunrise over T1

I said “see ya later” to my sister and headed to the line to get a bus to the start. Wow, there were a lot of people. I found out later there were over 2,200 finishers, so there had to be 2,300-2,400 people there. Crazy. Once I got to the start, I realized it wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be. That was good, because standing and freezing your wetsuit tail off wasn’t my way of beginning a long day of racing, as I had literally zero additional energy to spare. The start was delayed for some reason, I could never figure out why, but once they started, things went pretty fast. It used to be a wave start, but this year, it was a self-seeded time trial sort of start. About one person goes per second. Smooth. I ended up finding two friends in the time I was going to start so we ended up walking across the road to the water. OMG OMG OMG OMG I AM GONNA DO THIS HOLY SHIT HOW AM I GONNA DO THIS IT’S OK I WILL BE FINE OMG OMG OMG.

SWIM: The race started for me. The water felt great and it was a clear shade of green. It has been two years since I have been open water swimming, and I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t adjust from solely pool training for the race. Nope. I was fine. I hadn’t done more than 500 meters at one time without stopping (many of my swims were over 2000 meters though), so I was a little concerned I would get out of breath. Nope. I was fine. Current was strong, the salt water didn’t bother at all, and the sunrise was beautiful. Granted, I did stop a few times to get my bearings and figure out where I wanted to sight. I would NEVER EVER EVER suggest doing this race without open water experience, but considering I used to swim a few miles a week in that very waterway three, four, and five years ago, it came back like it was last week. My goggles got kicked off and I felt slightly violated by a few other swimmers, but it was nothing that I wasn’t expecting nor had dealt with during Ironman Florida, four short years ago. Turn, turn, turn, holy crap, I’m almost done. I felt great.

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The swim start

If you haven’t had your wetsuit stripped or haven’t actually seen it done, you should. It’s an “interesting” experience, haha.

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I made it through the swim!!!!

SWIM: 36:08

Transition: It’s quite a run from the swim finish to the bikes, and I had to run right by my bike to go the race route, which added about 200 extra yards for me when it was already a quarter mile. Ugh.

I saw several friends, volunteer extraordinaire Sami, Lena, and sister Sherpa, took my time to get my swim stuff packed in my bag and bike stuff on. My uncrustable would not fit in anything I had, so I left it. Boo.

Off on the bike

T1: 9:30 (that is a LONG transition)

Off I go on the bike. We will just go for a little ride. Just 57.65 miles. The good thing is that I knew the course was a little long, so I didn’t worry, I was just glad I knew. I kept Corey’s words in my head too, “Looks like we will likely have a head wind both ways.” Hmmmm. Ok then.

The route was a little different than before, and I was concerned since we crossed several major roads in Wilmington. Once I actually rode it, I was blown away at how good the route was and how safe I felt as a biker, unlike in year’s past. I glanced at the time when I left Wrightsville Beach behind, 8:30. I did not have anything on measuring pace or anything, only cadence. THAT was the important thing.

Bike training. I didn’t tell anyone this, but I did minimal bike training, and ZERO training on the road. 100% of my bike rides this entire year were indoor on my trainer. The longest ride was 2 ½ hours, which I did once, and two 2-hour rides and many other shorter rides, one per week. I didn’t tell anyone because, just in case something happened on the bike, someone couldn’t tell me, well, what do you THINK would happen? As soon as I got out there, all those thousands of miles I’d done before came back, pretty much like the swim. Ahhh, it was a beautiful day, slight head wind, but it was beautiful out. I was out with so many athletes, and I was doing it.

I had no idea what my MPH was or anything, but I knew I was taking care of my soon-to-be tired legs that would still be required to run a half marathon. NUTRITION was my main focus, and I made sure to drink every few minutes. I filled my bottle with Gatorade at each aid station and grabbed a gu. I had mini potatoes that I brought out just in time for the photographer. I had some chews as well. I felt good and I had a good therapy session with myself along the way.

The miles ticked by and we turned left and were rewarded with a nice tail wind. We turned left yet again, and the tail wind sort of disappeared, but hey, it wasn’t a strong head wind, so I certainly didn’t care. Half way, OMG I am DOING THIS THING! I tried my best to follow the rules, which is not what everyone decided to do, but I was not going to draft and I was not going to pass on the right. I yelled at the moron who did. The road was pretty bumpy and considering my seat hadn’t had as much training as I suspect almost everyone else did, I was careful for the bumps and cracks in the road. Extra careful.

Once we got back on the main highway, I knew I was going to make it just fine. My knee had been bothering me some, and with some head wind, it kept getting a little worse. As the head wind strengthened, I made sure I was eating and drinking enough, something I really messed up the last time I had done this race, and I was careful not to go below 80 cadence, especially to protect my knee. After Ironman it swelled up for a really long time, and I wanted to avoid as much as that as possible. I’m so thankful that Corey mentioned having head wind both ways – I wasn’t expecting it, and knowing it was possible made it so much better to handle when it actually happened.

The last two weekends, I had run 20 and 22 miles, 30 of them being on trails. My legs were not tapered for this race, but I was really happy at how they were responding. The miles started to get hard. I pushed and kept at it, clinging to positivity, knowing I was almost there. Just the run, just the run, oh, after the big bridge, then you run. You know how to run, you do it all the time, you will be good!

We climbed up toward the grated section of the bridge once last time, and I clung to my bike and desperately tried not to fall over, saying some unsavory words along the way. Whew, down hill. And I choked up. OMG. I did it. Minimal bike training, zero outdoor training, I freaking did it. My coach said it best when she was like “I bet your legs were like WTF”. Yes, they certainly were.

I rolled into the bike dismount area and stopped. I tried to lift my right leg over my bike and it wouldn’t move. One of the volunteers asked me if I was ok, and I asked her to come closer to my left arm, so I could use her to balance myself. Last time I did this race, I actually fell down at this part. I did not want to fall down. I held on to the volunteer and still couldn’t lift my leg over my bike. I started laughing and said “I can’t get off my bike”, when a guy came over and politely lifted my leg over my bike for me. I could fall down laughing at this visual, because it’s one of the funniest things that’s happened to me in a race.

BIKE: 3:25:31

The run. Transition didn’t seem as big when I checked my run bag in, but it was big when I had to run in bike shoes. I took them off and walked toward my bike rack and run stuff. I changed my shirt, put my hat on, grabbed some energy chews, gum, and turned my watch on. The bathroom had a line, so I planned to go to the next one and go there. I saw my sister and a few others there, and went on my way.

T2: 4:52

Just one problem. My legs wouldn’t work. Since my bike was an hour longer than I had trained all season and I had done zero brick workouts, it took a VERY long time for my bike legs to transition to run legs. Like 3-4 miles longer. Oh well, I was doing it. I ran shuffled through downtown Front Street where there were lots of spectators, and I glanced at my pace – 9:30. What? That didn’t seem right considering I was barely moving. I did a bunch of calculations in my head and started to worry. Oh, how long is this going to take? What if I have the walk the entire thing? Worry, worry, worry. A mile clicked by and we were in the unattractive part of the run. I was getting passed by what I felt like was the entire race field. It was frustrating for me since my run is typically my strong part, and that is where I pass everyone else. I saw the leaders coming through, I saw several friends, and my mind clouded up. I looked at my watch again, and I decided to turn the damn thing off. I don’t need it. This is supposed to be fun, not a competition. Remember what Lauren said? You’re partici-racing, not racing this thing, STOP it with the comparing and pressure to perform. That is NOT what this is about, KELLI.

I deleted my run, and decided once and for all to knock it off and just run. I walked through the aid stations and a little bit more, and focused on pushing myself to run when I didn’t feel like it. Practice. This is practice for the 50 miler. Push yourself to run when you don’t want to.

The course is sort of boring for me, but it’s pretty. I didn’t know where the turnaround was, so I just concentrated on going one mile at a time. I saw so many people, and it was fun to go through the aid stations. They were A-MAZING. I drank Gatorade and water at each one, and at one near half way, I took a gu.

The minutes and miles ticked by, and my legs got increasingly smooth. I felt like a runner, finally, and I started passing people. What everyone’s goal should be is to nail nutrition enough to speed up during your run, not slow down. And I was doing that. I was still walking, so my splits show the same pace, but in all honesty, I didn’t care. I was doing it. Race #1 of my endurance trifecta, the one I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do, and I was doing it.

Then I saw this crazy lady holding a sign with my name spelled correctly yelling things that included my name, and as I got closer, I realized it was my friend Lena. OMG, she made a SIGN???!!! She made me give her a sweaty hug, and her enthusiasm absorbed into me, and I couldn’t stop smiling. That was so cool.

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Comin’ in for my schweaty hug

Soon, I was headed back to town on Front street. I was almost there. I’m going to do this thing! And I felt GOOD!!! Pick up your feet, don’t trip, pick up the pace, finish strong. And that is what I did.

RUN: 2:13:44

TOTAL RACE TIME: 6:29:44

I’m so freaking proud of myself, honestly. A good attitude when completely exhausted, PERFECT nutrition, strong legs, and a good attitude. That’s what it took to get this race done. I love this race. I loved the course, the amazing volunteers, and my friends along the way. It was a good day, a very good day.

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My sister Sherpa and me!

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Endurance Trifecta Race 1, COMPLETE. Next up, New York City Marathon on November 3rd.

I had to add this picture. I had NO idea there was a smiley face under my age until I got back to my sister’s house, AFTER the run. Thanks, Erin!!!!!

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My smiley face

Categories: anything is possible, follow your dreams, half iron distance, ironman, ironman florida, marathon, marathon training, no fear, open water swimming, running, training for half iron distance, training for triathlon, triathlon, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Going Retro: Finding Focus

It’s been a long time since I’ve written. My family moved over the summer, so I equate the situation to eating before swimming. When you swim, all the blood goes to your muscles to keep you afloat, so your stomach gets less blood, which causes cramps. All my energy went to setting our home up, getting the kids settled, and having a three week stint with a job that didn’t pan out, so I didn’t have enough energy to blog. If I did blog, it would’ve been like “Here’s my blog. I’m doing a blog post. This is a blog. Hi.” So I didn’t blog.

Slowly but surely, my creativity started to come back. I figured I’d take advantage of it and update on some happenings.

Last week, it dawned on me that my endurance trifecta was an actual possibility. I never put much thought into the completion of it, because it’s something that doesn’t truly matter and I created it, not like I joined in a challenge……  Ok, I lied. It does matter, because no one wants to back away from a challenge they created. And there’s no reason why I can’t complete this thing.

Race #1: IMNC 70.3 – This race was supposed to be a do-over from the horrible 2017 race, when I went into it completely exhausted and depleted, and I totally melted down during the bike (I would say crash and burned, but I know enough people who have actually crashed, I won’t use that term). Then last year, Hurricane Florence forced the race to cancel, so I used my entry from last year for this year. I took the biking REALLY easy this training cycle to ensure it didn’t flare my hamstring injury from January that has decided to unpack and stay for a while. Thankfully, the injury keeps getting better, even with my increase in volume and adding incline.

I do have to say, since I’m on the trainer a lot, I got a chance to binge watch Stranger Things. I had no idea it was such a good show, and now I feel like one of the cool kids at school because I know who Eleven is. And Halloween will make so much more sense this year. So much more.

Swimming has gone well….. let’s just say I’m getting it done. I had a tantrum slash pity party in the middle of my swim last week. I was sucking air and frustrated, so I stopped in the middle of the lane. UGH! I had a little talk with myself and decided that I’d better get comfortable with being uncomfortable REALLY QUICK, and to have a cup of “suck it up” with a side of “STOP WHINING”. Let’s say the 2600 meter swim this week went way better.

no whining

Running. Oh, running. There’s a huge difference between summer running and non-summer running, and when I say summer, I mean all the seasons because it’s never really cold here. I literally think it’s going to stay in the 90’s until the end of time. I’ve had some decent runs, and some non-decent runs, and ones where I’m all like, “what the hell was that?”, and some that are “THAT’S what running is”. I don’t do well in the heat and humidity, which, for me, is pretty much anything above 60. Give me some 40-degree days and I can run forever.

How ironic is it that when I’m running and getting on with a big diatribe of how horrible and hot I am, I’m listening to audio books where the runners are competing in the Badwater 135, where it’s basically the temperature of a casserole-ready oven. So I take what I can from those authors and their experiences with something so unbelievably uncomfortable, and know that all I need to do is keep moving forward and keep my chin up. It’s that simple. It sucks that my pace is 2-3 minutes slower than my cold weather pace and that I probably will pass on training for another fall marathon, but I’m out there getting it done, flushing my body free of all the water it has ever taken in.

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This is me.

Like I said before, I recently realized that the first race of my trifecta will be here in the blink of an eye. I shifted my focus to this one race. Because I’ve raced a lot over the years, visualization comes quite naturally to me. It’s something I started doing the first time I raced a marathon, and it really comes in handy with other races as well. I need to think through the transitions, remember what I need to have, and to make sure I am on-point with nutrition.

My focus for this 70.3 is FUN. And finishing. Just finishing. Remembering to find joy in each mile, knowing that I’m out there, accomplishing a goal, not worrying about a time. It’s like going retro since I haven’t raced a race without a time goal in a long time. The first triathlon I ever did was a 70.3, and I had a total blast along the way, so that is what I want to recapture in this race. I can see myself talking to my spectator friends, stopping to pee if I feel like it, and run/walking the run part. I don’t even want to wear a watch, because the goal is to finish, not to finish in XX hours and minutes. It just doesn’t matter.

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Please tell me my family and I aren’t the only ones who knows what this is from. Please.

As my training gets longer and more difficult, I’m embracing the difficulty, keeping a positive attitude, and trying to prepare the best way I can. And honestly, as hot and humid, as much as I just don’t get faster in the pool, as tired as my legs can be, I’m enjoying myself, maintaining my house, keeping my boys fed, meeting new friends and neighbors, and occasionally, binge watching Netflix. Go me!

As I celebrate another year on the planet, I look up at the sky, take in a breath of horribly hot and humid air with twinge of sewer smell, and thank God that I’m able to be out there, smelling stinky air, running for 3-4 hours at a time, swimming slowly in a pool, watching Netflix as I bike, and coming home to a family that loves me.

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Happy Birthday To Me!

 

 

Categories: anything is possible, being epic, follow your dreams, half iron distance, marathon, marathon training, running, swimming, temper tantrum, training for half iron distance, training for marathon, training for triathlon, triathlon, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Keep on Dreaming….

Facebook can be a good thing and Facebook can be a bad thing. The “Memories” or “On This Day” feature has been pretty cool. I get to see pictures of my kids when they had baby teeth, and I get to see some fun times with friends and fellow athletes.

Today’s Memory struck a cord with me, and I was taken back to the specific day that prompted the post seven years ago. I clearly remember what happened, where I was, and where I was going.

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That Saturday morning, I went to run with my group. I had signed up for the Houston Marathon because I lived in Houston at the time, and someone, who knew I had tried to qualify for Boston before, asked me if I was going to try again. This would be my fourth attempt, and I was still pretty stung from the previous failed attempts. I told this person that I didn’t know if I really wanted to put so much effort into something and come up disappointed. Again. He shrugged and we went about our workouts. I didn’t think a whole lot about it, as I needed to get to my son’s football practice on that very hot, Texas morning.

On my way to the field, I heard the song “Even if it Breaks Your Heart” by Eli Young Band. I immediately started tearing up, because I felt like the song was sitting me down and telling me to keep my dream of running in Boston alive. Don’t give up. Keep going, even if it breaks your heart. It definitely HAD broken my heart, but the heart has a funny way of healing itself. I knew then and there I had to continue to fight to keep my dream alive, I needed to keep my goal of qualifying for Boston, and do what I could to make it happen.

It’s funny when I look back to that time in my life. If I only knew. If I could have sat myself down, sort of like the song did, and looked myself in the eyes. I would’ve said “You have no idea your potential. Go for it”.

It took me a few days to really think about it, the irony of the situation and how that song came at the right place and especially the right time. As I’ve written about before, some songs speak to me when I need it the most (“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”). I needed that song on that day, and I’m so thankful all the puzzle pieces came together for me to hear it.

In the last seven years, I’ve qualified for Boston four times. I’ve run Boston twice, which is where one of those qualifications was made. I ran my fastest marathon in Houston less than two years ago. It’s crazy to think what we could do if we never stopped believing. But that’s a different song….

I’m currently in the middle of yet another dream-making training session for my endurance trifecta, and I think, yet again, I needed to see the words to urge me to keep dreaming. Dreams really are the spice of life. Even if they break your heart.

“…Some dreams, stay with you forever, drag you around and bring you back to where you were.

Some dreams, keep on getting better, gotta keep believin’, if you want to know for sure…”

 

 

 

 

Categories: anything is possible, being epic, Boston Marathon, follow your dreams, go for your dreams, half iron distance, ironman, learning from failure, marathon, marathon training, qualifying for boston marathon, running, training for marathon, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

On The Road Again

Just can’t wait to get on the road again…. You’re singing it, aren’t you?

Patience has paid off, and I still have a reservoir of patience left I will probably use up in another month, but I’m back to running. And it feels glorious.

Before last April, I’d never been sidelined from running, EVER, so to be sidelined twice in less than 12 months was just cruel, especially to my husband, who doesn’t love running the way I do and just doesn’t always understand the lack-of-running crank I become when I can’t run. Poor guy.

I started with a run/walk as I did last summer, but lucky for me, it progressed a lot faster than last year. So far. I just have to remember NOT to sabotage my progress and to be careful. My hamstring is still not pain-free, but it’s more than tolerable and is lessening, even with the increase in mileage and speed. This morning’s 6 mile run contained my fastest mile since January at 8:17, and it truly felt amazing. It didn’t hurt the temps were in the upper 30’s, which generally makes me feel like I can run forever, and Pearl Jam’s Even Flow came on. Staying positive through this whole deal has been essential to recovery and moving forward. I think having the right mindset through something difficult, keeping positive while staying realistic can mean the difference between happiness and depression, at least for me.

Unfortunately, I’ve been sad today, even though it started with the perfect run. Monday was two weeks until the Boston Marathon that I’m not doing, and I’m seeing a lot of activity on Facebook and getting lots of emails from the Boston Athletic Association regarding the marathon and all the prep that goes into it. It makes me sad. So I changed my Facebook profile picture to the race two years ago when I saw my kids and husband on the course, running towards them, arms flailing and jumping up, even though I was on mile 25. It was one of the best races I’ve ever had, EVER, partially because I ran the perfect race and partially because I saw my family, who have supported me whole heartedly in all the crazy things I’ve set out to do. I know that if I never get back to Boston, I’ll always have that race, and I’m ok with that. And I allowed myself one day to be sad. It’s ok to be sad, just don’t unpack there.

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One of my favorite days of all time. 

While I was running this morning, I thought about this year’s crazy plans, and I wondered if the past things I’ve done have been foolish or crazy or just plain stupid. I realized that you can go about things in a thousand different ways, but no, it wasn’t foolish or stupid, just maybe a tad crazy. My third triathlon was a full Ironman race, which is a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride, followed by a marathon, 26.2 miles of running. You learn a lot about yourself during the training for endurance events, and I learned that I needed to surround myself with experienced people, listen to what they have to say about their event, and just keep moving forward. Endurance teaches you a lot about a lot of things.  One of the most important things it teaches me is that I’m capable of doing things I never imagined possible.

Funny side note: When a friend of mine told me he was going to do an Ironman, probably back in 2012, I didn’t know what it was, so looked it up. When I saw what an Ironman was, I literally said out loud, “That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of.” I chuckle at that now.

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Another one of my favorite days of all time, ever.

I’ve hesitated to talk about my plans for the fall. First, I wanted to be sure I had a person who was willing to coach me through this and knew my goals going in. Check. Coach picked and my challenge has been accepted. Second, I didn’t want people to think I was insane. Check. I care, but I don’t really care.

So here it is.

October 19th – IMNC 70.3 – half iron triathlon (half the distances of the above described IM)

November 2nd – New York City Marathon – 26.2 miles of fun

November 23rd – JFK 50 Mile Run

So how did this all happen? First, the triathlon was unintended, but it is endurance and includes cross training, which is good. Last year’s race was cancelled due to Hurricane Florence, so all participants were offered a deferral. The only race that worked for me was the same one, so I signed up. Why not?

NYC Marathon….now this was NEVER on my list until the Houston Marathon in January of 2018. There was a lot of talk about the NYC Marathon on Facebook, and since I was trapped in a hotel for three days because of the ice storm that prevented me from flying home and had a lot of spare time combined with post-race insanity, I looked up what it took to qualify. Boom. The qualifying time for my age group is 3:38, and I made it with my time of 3:33. I was accepted in for the 2019 race this winter, and my husband decided to enter the lottery for the race. Only about 15% get in who try to get in that way, and he got in! He said he wanted to do a big marathon, so running with 55,000 other people should probably fit that bill. The goal is to run together and experience all of NYC.

The 50 Miler. A few years ago, I was looking for something interesting “to do”, and the JFK 50 came up. I put it off until this year, when I learned that a group from where I live planned to run it as well. I decided that I needed to go for it, bonus would be having others to train with. It’s so big, so hard to even imagine, but I’m ready for the challenge.

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This is the tattoo I have on my foot to remind me to take chances and not be afraid of what challenges they may bring.

The Endurance Trifecta. 3 major endurance events, 5 weeks, no goal but to finish in the allotted time. Crazy? Maybe. Stupid? Absolutely not. Painful? Probably. Expensive? Yup. What isn’t? But I haven’t looked forward to something this big since I signed up for my full Ironman in 2015. I’m excited for the experiences, yes, but I’m more excited about the journey along the way. It makes not running Boston sting a little less.

 

Categories: anything is possible, being epic, Boston Marathon, follow your dreams, iron distance, ironman, ironman florida, marathon, marathon training, no fear, running, running buddies, running with friends, triathlon, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Every time something that I really, really want can’t or doesn’t happen, I hear the Rolling Stones song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” on the radio. In my car. It’s happened about five times in the last six years. I never hear that song otherwise. I always hear it when I’m cranked up about something or trying to make a big decision or wondering why I didn’t get the job I wanted or didn’t get to race a race I wanted to race. It’s like a message from God. He is telling me that I’m not supposed to do whatever it is that I really wanted. And that everything will be ok.

I recently went on a trip to Las Vegas with my husband for our 20th anniversary, and I took a picture of myself. I thought it was pretty cool, but I didn’t like the age that I saw – the wrinkles and lines in places I hadn’t really noticed before. I thought about NOT posting it on Facebook because of the lines and I didn’t want anyone to think I was ugly or looked older than I am (45) or that I think I’m all that when I am not. Then I thought about it and realized that I really stopped caring what everyone thought about me a while ago. I mean, of course, I CARE what people think, to an extent, but it’s my face and there’s really nothing I can do to change that. And I like it. During this process, I realized that I don’t like what aging does to my face, but I sincerely appreciate what it does for my soul. I’ve had some profound changes in my 40’s and feel like I’m the most “ME” that I’ve ever been. I heard it’s a fairly common thing. I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes, and I’m proud of the person I am today.

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At the Bellagio in Las Vegas

My last post was the positive side of having an injury. To recap, during a track workout that I did WAY TOO FAST (my fault that I did not follow the coach’s pacing), I strained my upper hamstring. I bagged my next long run after 8 miles because of the pain, but I proceeded to run 15 miles on it the following weekend. I was determined. And I didn’t care what happened. And honestly, I don’t regret that decision.

After a few weeks, it became pretty clear to me that recovering from the injury was not going to be a quick process. The weeks until the Boston Marathon, which I qualified for by over 20 minutes, were quickly flipping by like an old clock with the number flaps. I biked, I elliptical’d, I avoided swimming, I did strength, and I stayed positive. I kept hope that it would be ok. I did not allow anger to creep in.

The day after an optimistic physical therapy session, I was to run two miles. And my leg hurt within a quarter of a mile, if even that. I ran/walked the two miles, and I burst into tears when I entered my house.

I. Can’t. Do. This.

I can’t run a marathon in eight weeks when it hurts to run a quarter mile. It’s not worth the consequences. I cried loud. All my pets were all up in my face trying to comfort me. Then I texted my husband that I will not be running in the Boston Marathon because I can’t even run a mile without pain. I cannot do it. I WILL NOT do it.

The weight was lifted. But I was extremely sad. Not angry. Just deflated, and very, very sad. All the hope, all the money on races, all the training that I carefully crafted. All of it for nothing. To be back to square zero. Ugh. Tears. I felt guilty. I felt sad. After I stopped crying, I decided I would do some retail therapy and run errands. I was a little on edge, and normally, I listen to my playlist in my car. But that day, I just kept flipping through the radio stations. Flip, song, flip, song….. it would be ok. Stay positive.

I went to a spa to get some makeup for Vegas, Kohls for some shorts and anything with sparkles, Costco for food, and Harris Teeter for more food that I couldn’t get at Costco. When I got in the car to go home, I flipped the station yet again, and guess what song had just started.

I burst into tears on College Avenue, and I knew I made the right decision. More importantly, I knew everything was going to be ok.

Our family had a decision to make. Because Boston is an exceptionally expensive place to go, we decided to forego the entire trip to Boston. Instead of participating in the greatest marathon in the world on April 15th, I will watch it on TV, and track those friends I know running it. The next day, we are packing our truck, heading to a Charleston KOA cabin on a lake, visit as much as we can in the area, and spend a third of what we would have spent on just a hotel alone in Boston. I’m relieved. I’m still sad. But I’m relieved. I know it will be ok, and running Boston was not what I needed, for whatever reason.

The aging process isn’t always fun, until you delve into what the process teaches you.

“You can’t always get what you want.

But if you try sometimes, you might find

You get what you need”

Categories: being epic, Boston Marathon, coaching, follow your dreams, las vegas, marathon, marathon training, qualifying for boston marathon, running, running buddies, running with friends, Uncategorized, wrightsville beach marathon | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Mindset

In order to look forward with a clear vision, I think it’s a good idea to look back. New Year’s becomes a “thing”, picking your word of the year, resolutions, stuff like that. I like it, and I think it is necessary for many people, as long as the vision doesn’t become blurry and you forget what you believed in so clearly on January 1st. I don’t remember what my “word” was for last year, so evidently, that’s not a good method for me. I’ve VERY successfully used phrases for my “year mantra”, and it was life-changing in a good way, but it just won’t work for me now.

This year is different. I want something different. I want to feel differently. 2018 was not a good year for me for many reasons, but I think it is necessary to have years like that, or difficult times. Coming out on the other side of darkness has its benefits, for sure. It certainly wasn’t the worst year ever and I still consider myself extremely lucky. But it still sucked, overall. You always have the opportunity to learn from past mistakes or having to overcome some obstacle(s). I decided that I wasn’t going to pick a word for the year; I’m choosing a mindset. It’s an all-encompassing feeling that I’m searching for, that I’m striving for, really. You tend to get what you put in the universe, right? If you put positivity out, you will attract it.

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I’ve never found a shark tooth before. But I wished it when walking on the beach, and lo and behold, I found one. Here it is, laying on my marathon training plan.

There are so many good things that occurred in 2018. My kids are doing well, my oldest turned 16 and is working, my husband is happy at his job. I started coaching cross country, my elementary coaching is in high demand. I got a big marathon PR and truly felt the training result and the glory and the pain of a strong finish. But it came with a lot of woulda shoulda coulda situations from that entire experience. The two injuries that followed were probably preventable and sent me into a mini depression, but going through that gave me a lot of insight and reinforced how lucky it is that I can do what I do. It was one of two, or maybe even three, big experiences of the year where I kept quiet and I shouldn’t have. Woulda. Shoulda. Coulda. All I can do is take that and apply it in the future. I can’t dwell on it.

Do you ever think about situations and often come up with the best response at least 24 hours AFTER the conversation has taken place? For me, it’s usually a week post-conversation when I get the, “THAT’S WHAT I SHOULD HAVE SAID” feeling. That was pretty much me in all of 2018. So what can I learn from it? Well, the biggest takeaway for me, is to not rehash any conversation in my mind and get upset about what I COULD have said that would have either ended the particular conversation or situation, or could have made me out to be super smart. Isn’t that what we’re usually looking for anyway? As I cleaned my house up from the holiday family fun, I was reminded of how silly it is to waste time on these imaginary conversations. As much as I want to be heard, as much as I want to be right, as much as I want the other person to KNOW that I am right and they must at least acknowledge what it is I’m saying, it’s just. Plain. Silly. To waste another minute on it. I think part of me is the little girl, standing there, just wanting someone to acknowledge her. Just see her. Just listen to her……Just see me. Listen to me. Like the Stands With A Fist character in “Dances with Wolves, I want to stomp my foot and be heard. But it doesn’t work that way. Sometimes the softest voices can be the loudest. Sometimes you have to walk away.

Instead of sitting there and spinning webs of imaginary situations and conversations, it’s time to let go of hurt feelings, of wanting to be accepted, of wishing away things, of regrets, of missing the unsaid words. It’s time to let go, and look forward with a very laser sharp view of the future. As I sit here in the dark room because it feels like the sun will never come out again, I think about being happy instead of depressed from the bleakness and brownness of the outdoors. I can be transformed from thoughts, and that’s my first step in being mindful of making my own self happy. Happier, anyway.

What am I going to do in 2019 to make myself happier? First of all, I’m in the beginning of training for the Boston Marathon, and if anything makes me happy, giddy almost, it’s thinking about running in general, but specifically in Boston. This will be the third time, and I’m hesitant to make a big goal, but I think I’m going to anyway. Why not? If it doesn’t’ work out, then it’s still running the Boston Marathon, right? I’m going to give the next few weeks of training my best, and I’ll see if it’s a truly realistic goal.

The second thing that would make me happy, but I have literally zero control over, is seeing Clemson win the National Championship against Al…..allll…..aaaaa…. I can’t even say it. The other team. Go Tigers!

I’d like to take on a really big goal. A few big goals. I have a plan for the fall, and it might be really stupid, but I’m the kind of person that will look at it and say, “I can do that”. If my 3rd triathlon was a full ironman, then anything is possible.

But overall, it’s about spending time with people I care about, doing the things I care about, being the best version of myself, being kind while still speaking my mind, staying away from drama, learning from the past, applying that knowledge to now, and remembering that every day is a gift from God, every day there is always something to be thankful for. Happy 2019 to everyone! May this be your best year yet!

Categories: anything is possible, Boston Marathon, coaching, follow your dreams, ironman, marathon, marathon training, running, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Houston Marathon Race Recap

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The Houston Marathon is a great race. It’s well planned and executed, and I was able to plan my race knowing what was going to be on the course. Plenty of water and Gatorade was offered every 1.5 miles after mile 2, mile markers and clocks every mile, an energy zone at mile 21ish, port-a-jons, a pretty course with lots of spectators that took us all over the city and back downtown to a fun finish line and a good post-race set up.

With the rampant cheating going on, I was happy to see timing mats every 5k and one at an out-and-back section where the half marathon was. This would help catch any cheaters but also provide fairly quick updates to those tracking me.

When I crossed the start line mat, I wondered if my family (ok, just my husband as I knew my two kids would still be sleeping) would get a notification that I started the race. It was game time.

I deliberately ran the first mile slow, and my Garmin beeped right on the mile marker at 8:25. I kept slowing myself down, because one of my main goals was to run a negative split. It always feels good the first mile, right? “Don’t screw it up” and “be smart” rang through my head, as I settled in and concentrated on “just” running. My breath was easy, my legs felt good, and I was basically the perfect temperature. I only had a throw-away shirt over my tank and arm sleeves. It was a perfect decision on what to wear.

My music played loudly in my ears, and because the roads are sloped, I tried to stay in the middle where the surface was more even. The sky was clear, the sun was creating a beautiful sun rise, and I was chugging away at my miles, staying just over 8-minutes per mile. I felt good. I kept taking small sips of my Base Rocket Fuel (Hydro plus Amino but I forgot to add the salt – oops!) from my collapsible hand-held bottle.

8:06, 8:00, 8:04, 7:59, 8:05

I kept finding myself going sub 8, so I was sure to slow a little each time. Marathons can chew you up and spit you out, that’s for sure. “Don’t ruin it, don’t blow your engine early.” I had my first nutrition at mile 5, and I felt like I dug around in my Coeur bra storage compartment like someone looking for their registration after getting pulled over. Where was the damn thing? I had four of them in there, and I was finally able to fish one of the non-caffeine variety out. I had also unsuccessfully tried the “tequila shot” method on my hand to take my Base salt, which resulted in me losing over half of it on my glove and somewhere on the streets of Houston. Damn damn.

I started to get a little warm, so I decided to throw my shirt off at the 10k point, where one of my friends from the old hood would be spectating from. Brrrr. My arm sleeves were wet with sweat, and met with the 30-something degree air, and cooled me right off. I can’t believe I saw her in the crowd, but I was happy to see one familiar face out there. “HI KRISTA!!!!”

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Twenty miles to go. Just a long run. I saw a woman who was going pretty much my exact pace, so I stayed on her tail, which gave me something to pay attention to, because I was so lost and couldn’t figure out where we were in the city. I had my next nutrition just under ten miles, and by that time, I had refilled my hand-held bottle, spilling the cold Gatorade all over my glove in the process. Because it was cold, I didn’t take in as much hydration as I had originally planned. Not a very good idea. The half marathon split between miles 7 and 8, then we ran through Rice University and toward the only boring part of the course.

8:06, 8:05, 8:02, 8:04, 7:59. I felt better than I had at this point in Boston, but I didn’t feel as good as I did the marathon before that. Granted, I was running a bit faster, but I wondered if I could hold my pace. My favorite running songs played in my ear, and I stuck with the one girl at my pace. It’s funny, because I don’t really remember a lot of details when and where they occurred, but I was aware of a lot going on around me, if that makes any sense. The potholes, the turning (RUN THE TANGENTS!), the water stations and volunteers, Superman, the police officers standing in the intersections, the people in cars who obviously didn’t know they were going to be stuck a while because there were TONS of people behind me, the spectators standing out in their hats and gloves and blankets, and COW BELL. I love this race. This flat race. Haha.

**Please don’t go Captain Watermark on me because I’m posting these pictures. I bought these, old school style, but they’re not here yet.  **

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Between miles 12 and 13, during the boring part filled with lots and lots of power lines, there was the first real hill. A bridge. I tried to maintain my pace as I charged up, and sped up as I came back down. The “girl with the same pace” and I went back and forth.

8:10, 7:53

We hit the half mark, and at that point, I was pacing to get my PR. With wiggle room.

13.1 – 1:46:18, an 8:07 overall pace

Because Garmins can be Garmins (UNRELIABLE), I was wearing a pace bracelet with the goal time of 3:35. This made it easy to see where I was, to be sure I was pacing myself correctly. At almost every mile marker, I looked at my overall time and compared it to what the pace bracelet said I should be at. As long as I stayed under the time on my bracelet, I was fine. But the more under I was, the better.

I got really confused, as I knew we were going by the Galleria area, but it sort of looked like downtown where the start and finish were, and I knew we were only around mile 14. What the what? And I lost track of my hydration somewhere along here. I knew I was re-filling my 6 oz hand-held with Gatorade and sipped from it a lot, plus I was taking water from the aid stations, perfecting the “spill all over one’s face, hands, and legs” in the process. But I wasn’t paying attention to the totals as I had planned.

The miles ticked by, and I was maintaining my pace, slowly increasing the time between my 3:35 pace bracelet and my actual time. At mile 16, I thought “just a ten mile run to go”, anything to keep me going. The playlist I created for The Boston Marathon was playing the “hill” music, and I loved it. My legs were doing ok, my breathing was still fairly even, and I knew I could finish my race and get a big BQ..IF I didn’t mess it up.

8:02, 8:02, 8:00, 7:58, 7:57

I needed salt. I grabbed my tube of Base salt, and it was empty. Oh crap. I spilled most of it on my hand, and I REALLY needed it now. Well, what’s done was done, carry on. Still behind “girl with the same pace”.

Near the 18 mile mark, we turned, and you could see the tall buildings, where the finish was, eight miles away. One of the spectators said, “You’re headed home”, and I choked up. Eight miles to go, just a run I can do with my eyes closed, but it was still a long way. I replayed Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” and Eminem’s “Til I Collapse” somewhere in here, luckily able to take my thumb out of my glove and hit the back button on my old iPod.

It was a pretty part of the course, but we had a head wind and it felt like it was all sloping up. Ugh. Then more bridges to go under. You go down first, then you go up. They’re not long, but they’re steep. More and more stupid friggin’ bridges (to go under). I thought this course was FLAT. This sure isn’t the mountains, but it sure wasn’t as flat as I remembered. I started taking my nutrition more often, and I know I was hydrating, slowing a little along the hydration stations so I wouldn’t spill all over the place.

We passed through Memorial Park as the buildings began to get larger. “Oh my, just hang on. Don’t back down, don’t back down, don’t back down, don’t give up, you gotta fight for it, don’t eff up what you worked so hard for, for God’s sake just finish what you started and DO NOT GIVE UP.”

8:00, 8:12, 7:57, 8:09,

At mile 21, I grabbed my 5th nutrition at the aid station, and nursed it for probably a mile. It was good. My initial plan was to start a small acceleration at mile 20. When I reached mile 20, I knew that wasn’t going to happen, so I rearranged it to mile 23. But I started to struggle. “The girl with the same pace” took off. I felt like I was going faster than I actually was, and I was afraid to look at my per mile split. I FELT like I was going at the speed of light, and I remember thinking to keep lifting my knees up, just keep going, don’t slouch, don’t lean back, keep moving, keep breathing. Just. Friggin. Go.

Between mile 23 and 24, I felt like my wheels fell off. We had to go under another steep bridge, and I felt like I was in quick sand. I knew I was going to get my BQ by a large margin, but I wanted that PR, I wanted it more than anything. And I knew I had missed some hydration, as my breathing and heart rate increased a lot, which is something I’ve experienced many times before. But I just pushed as much as I could at that time. I grunted. I moaned. I said some eff words and some words that started with “bull”.

Mile 23: 8:07

Mile 24: 8:13

Mile 25: 8:26

Oh Lord, please give me wings and let me fly.

The road finally flattened out (yes, I am still aware this race is not technically hilly, but it certainly is not pancake flat as I incorrectly remembered), and I was headed home. We were downtown again.

My legs churned, and I sped back up. Puke or pass out, just GO! I saw the “1/2 mile to go” banner, which really made me very angry at the time because I was ready for the damn finish line.

Then “1/4 mile to go”.

Mile 26: 8:02

The crowds increased, the sound of cheering increased, the voice in my head wondering where the HELL the finish line increased, and my speed increased. I heard it, finally. I was home. I ran over the mat that registered my name to the announcer, and I heard my name as I crossed the finish line. I was done. I pumped my arm, Shalane-style, and I said “Fuck yeah”.

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I finished my 12th marathon, and at the age of 44, I ran the fastest marathon to date, with a 3:33:00.

Fuck. Yeah.

I wobbled my way to get some water, and I was overwhelmed with emotion. I leaned on the fence, and I cried. I did it. I fought, and I won. I told the volunteers trying to help me, “It’s ok, it’s a happy cry.” Everything, all the million little pieces came together on this day, all the hard work and “learning experiences”, the frustration, the pain, it all paid off.

3:33:00 ; 8:08 overall pace

kelli houston marathon

And FYI, my husband’s cousin got his BQ with a time of 3:06. Congratulations, Craig! “The girl with the same pace” ended up with a 3:31 I found out as I talked to her walking towards our medals. And I missed my negative split by 24 seconds. Ha, I’ll get over it. Oh wait, I already did.

Next Up: Post Race and my “extra time” in Houston…..

Categories: anything is possible, being epic, Boston Marathon, follow your dreams, fueled by base, go for your dreams, learning from failure, marathon, marathon training, qualifying for boston marathon, race with base, running, training for marathon, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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