All I need to know about running I learned from my kindergartener

If it seems like a long time since I’ve posted on here, it’s because I’ve been busy writing for saltyrunning.com http://www.saltyrunning.com/2015/11/24/everything-need-know-running-learned-kindergartner/ Never fear, I’ve written a few race reports for that site that I need to tweak for this site, so hopefully I’ll have them up soon. In the meantime, I had to share this piece I wrote about my daughter Addy:

Her stride is long and graceful, her form better than mine will ever be. She’s running down the street laughing so hard, she’s snorting. She’s only five years old. She can run a mile in nine minutes and seventeen seconds and she’s taught me more about running than I ever thought possible.

Addy’s my oldest daughter. I should have known she’d love to run; I ran during my pregnancy and of course she’s always seeing me travel to races or asking me why she can’t have a turn on the treadmill. What has come at a complete shock to me is how much I’ve learned from this kindergartner about running.

Ok, I did have a hand in getting Addy started with running, signing her up for a few kids races. Admittedly, I’m a running geek and the idea of my little one running a race just gets me excited. The first time I watched her run a short little kids dash, my face beamed with pride.

Last year we upped the ante by signing Addy up for the Mashed Potato Mile on Thanksgiving morning. I was stoked to run with her, figuring we’d probably only run about half of it. Addy started off at a sprint and quickly became winded. I told her it was ok to take a walk break. She looked at me and said, “let’s go get those doggies,” pointing to a lady running with her dogs. We sprinted, walked, jogged and sprinted again the rest of that mile until she caught those dogs.

She was four at the time and she finished in about twelve minutes. She didn’t care that it only took twelve minutes for her little legs to cover a mile or that she had even run a mile. She was just chasing some dogs and having a blast doing it. I have to remind myself of that when racing is no longer fun.

***

““Mommy, sometimes friends are more important than racing”

Addy ran CYO cross country this year. Since she’s in Kindergarten, there were just four races, each one mile long. After the first race, I was so proud of my little racer and couldn’t wait to see what she would do during the rest of the season. The following week I sprinted around the course like a lunatic so that I could be sure to see Addy several times during the race. Soon after the bell sounded, I noticed she kept turning around and cheering for one of her teammates. As the race went on, she continued to wait for her teammate and at one point was holding the little girl’s hand and walking with her.

The stage mom in me was thinking how she should leave that little girl and run her own (much faster) race! The reasonable mom in me just cheered her and the other little runner on. After the race I asked her why she didn’t leave the other little girl.

“Her stomach hurt,” Addy said.

“Well you know you can always let a parent know and then just run your own race,” I replied.

She looked at me very seriously and stated, “Mommy, sometimes friends are more important than racing.”

***

During one of the first cross country practices we had at least four kids fall down and need band aids. After that, Addy decided she was afraid to run because she might fall down again. But she kept at it. Just a few days ago, Addy and I went for a practice run for this year’s Mashed Potato Mile. She fell down and scraped her hands up. “It’s ok tough girl, let’s keep going,” I said in my most encouraging voice. Her little face screwed up in determination. She got up and ran again.

***

addyDuring Addy’s third cross country meet, I watched nervously as she bolted out with older kids. I was sure she went out too fast, but I hoped she could hold on and finish strong. About a quarter mile from the finish, she grabbed her stomach and explained, “I have to stop. My stomach hurts.” Of course her stomach hurt. It was about 90 degrees out and she went out way too fast; been there, done that.

But I knew if she just slowed down a bit she could still finish strong. I told her that her stomach would stop hurting as soon as she finished and to dig deep. Of course she didn’t listen to me. She’s only five, she has no idea how to pace or handle the discomfort that comes from running. She walked while girl after girl passed her. She reached the final stretch and was still walking while all the parents cheered her on. Finally the crowd got to her and she sprinted the last bit in, conquering her own self doubt.

***

During one of Addy’s last cross country practices she simply did not want to run. I walked along side her trying to motivate her to run, but it wasn’t working. I have paced friends through hundreds of rough miles. I yammer on and distract them with enough positive thoughts to make a care bear barf, but somehow I could not motivate my own daughter to finish that run. A group of girls in front of us screamed as they just missed running through a muddy puddle. This sparked an idea!

“Hey, Addy, go run ahead through that mud puddle and see how muddy you can get!”

Before I knew it she was running from puddle to puddle, jumping, splashing, laughing, and having so much that she didn’t realize that she was still running.

***

I love Addy and her little sister to pieces, but lately with two little girls in our house, it seems that the drama level is an 11 on a scale of 1-10. Needless to say I’ve been a little crabby and not as patient with my girls as I should be. When Addy and I were on our practice run for her upcoming mashed potato mile we both noticed a sock laying on the ground. We both said at the same time in the same voice, “look a sock.” We both found this hysterical and started cracking up.

Suddenly I wasn’t annoyed with my daughter who had been whining and complaining all afternoon. Suddenly I was enjoying this little person. We talked, we laughed, we raced and by the time that mile was over we were getting along again. The simple act of running has the amazing ability to heal.

***

When I see Addy run, I get a glimpse of the woman she will be: strong, determined, brave and beautiful. I hope she finds her passion. A selfish part of me hopes she runs. And I hope she runs with me

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State #20 – Massachusettes – The Boston Marathon Part II

 

State #20 – Massachusettes – The Boston Marathon Part 2

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I woke up race morning, and the forecast was still the same. Miserable.  Some of my best races have been in cold rainy conditions, so I’d been there, done that.  I knew that It was going to be ok.  I didn’t have the normal pre-race jitters that morning, mostly because I had no goal for this race.  This was my super bowl, my victory parade if you will.  I was going to enjoy every bit of it and not worry about time. It also helped that my family was there to distract me from my own thoughts (and keep me from a good night’s sleep – thank you Addison!) It was wonderful not having to get up super early since my wave didn’t start until around 10:50 in the morning.

  The original plan was to walk or take public transportation to Boston Common where the buses leave to take runners to Hopkinton.  After walking that route several times the day before the race, we decided not to repeat the journey race morning.  Instead, Steve got up and we shoved more people than recommended into my dad’s rental car.  Steve dropped us off and Beth and I ran and got on a bus just before it pulled away.

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The Boston Marathon is a point to point course, meaning the buses would drop us off at the start and we would run the 26.2 miles back into the city of Boston.  The bus ride was long and filled with anticipation.  I was lucky to have Boston Veteran, Beth with me to let me know where to go and what to do.  Our bus was part of the largest caravan of buses I have ever seen.  I have to think that every school bus within the city of Boston was pulling runner shuttle duty that day.  I was impressed with how smoothly the whole process ran.

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We arrived at athlete’s village and made a beeline for the port-o-pots.  I didn’t get a chance to wear the “snuggie” I had purchased from the Goodwill store because before we knew it, they began calling our wave to start making the walk to the start line.  On the walk to the start we saw a lady with a tent set up in front of her house filled with safety pins, bandaids, etc – anything and everything a runner could need at the last minute – and as the sign said it was “all free”

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When we arrived at the starting area, I ran to the port-o-pots one last time, but couldn’t convince Beth to do the same.  We posed for a quick picture, and shed our throw away clothes just as the rain started to come down.

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I took a minute to take it all in.  I couldn’t believe I was finally here after years of trying.  Since I was running for fun, I brought my phone to take “fun” pictures.. something I usually never do.  I also planned to turn on the gps tracking feature on my phone so that my entourage… Betsy, Steve and Cristina could track me in real time.  The gun went off and I couldn’t get my watch to start.  I panicked. How were they going to find me out on the course?  Cristina had an entire spectating plan that was going to be ruined now that they couldn’t track me!  Then I got mad.  How does your Garmin not work on the biggest race of it’s life?  You had one job Garmin!  Fortunately I had Beth with me.  We had agreed to go out at about an 8:30 pace and see what we felt like from there.  We started running downhill quickly.  I was worried we were going too fast, but I figured I needed to stick with Beth, even if we were a little faster than I wanted.  I couldn’t even rely on the clocks because they were based off of the Wave 1, Corral 1 start.  I was something like 48 minutes and 32 seconds behind that.  I’m pretty good at math, but I’ve found during a run my brain becomes mush and I do “running math.”  Running math is always unreliable and is highly influenced by the way you are feeling during that particular point in time.

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As we ran, the rain really began to come down.  I had always heard about how many spectators there were out on the course, but I was amazed by how many people were still out there lining the streets in the terrible weather.  It was definitely a party atmosphere and I can only imagine what it would be like on a nice day.  At one of the first water stops, I grabbed a sip of water and threw the cup into the trash.   I actually missed the trash and hit some guy who was drinking a beer in the legs, soaking him from the knees down. I yelled my apologizes and continued on my way.

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Cristina’s Spectating Plan

My spectating entourage had told me to look for them at mile 6, but they managed to make an extra stop at mile 4. Because I travel to so many races with other runners and without my family, it’s rare to have anyone cheering for you.  There is nothing better than knowing you are going to see someone you love just a few miles up the road.  It gives you something to look forward to and is like a shot of adrenaline when you finally see them.  I tried to yell to them that my watch wasn’t working so that they wouldn’t be worried about me, but I don’t think they heard me. Fortunately I got to see them again at mile 6.

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I don’t remember a lot about the towns we ran through.  For a lot of the race it was so windy and rainy that I kept my head down to keep my face dry.  My family planned to be at mile 10 next, so I was ready for them!  I saw Cristina and yelled to her, but she didn’t see me and I never saw Betsy or Steve.  I was disappointed that they had missed me. I knew that they would probably stay at mile 10 waiting for me and then they would miss me at the next stop!

When we reached the halfway mark, Beth told me what our time was.  I was surprised to find out that we were actually doing really well.  Shortly after mile 13 we hit the famous Wellesley College wall of sound.  Despite the cold and rain the Wellesley women were out in full force screaming their lungs off!  My family waited at mile 10 for too long and missed me at Wellesley, but the cheering girls gave me a boost.

At this point Beth and I started to get a little out of sync.  Beth would pull ahead and I would drop back, I would start to feel good and she would start to drop back.  It wasn’t at all competitive, we were actually feeding off of each other’s small surges.  Around mile 14 Beth had to go to the bathroom.  (I told her to use that port-o-pot at the start!)  I started to pull ahead of her on one of my surges and lost her when she stopped to use the bathroom.

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I decided at this point to chuck the idea of a “fun race” and see what I could do. I knew at the halfway point I was running close to a p.r. pace and as far as I was concerned, the sooner I got out of the cold and rain the better!  My gloves were soaked from the rain and my hands were starting to get painfully cold.  Fortunately, with the exception of my hands, I was still feeling pretty good as I ran the famous Newton hills.  As I passed a woman on one of the hills, her arm hit my elbow sending a painful jolt up my left arm.  My left hand cramped up and I couldn’t move my fingers.  I tried to bend them with my right hand, but it was no use.  I figured I would have to run the rest of the race without being able to move my hand, which was going to make getting that last gu open tough.  (Fortunately after about 4 miles the tingling stopped and I was able to bend my fingers again.)   As the course went up yet another hill, I began to wonder if it was heart break hill yet.  I asked a few runners who were just as clueless as me.  At the top of that particular hill I spotted a sign that said “congratulations you just ran heart break hill.”  I figured the hardest part was behind me and it was time to really start pushing.

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Around mile 23 the fatigue started to set in.  I swore I heard someone call my name, but as I looked wildly around, I couldn’t see anyone I knew.  I figured I was simply losing my mind at this point.  I remember thinking to myself, “this is mile 23 of The Boston Marathon, you do not get to get tired at this point!”  I ran as hard as I could, with no idea what my time or pace was.   As I ran the last few miles, I kept reciting “left on Boylston” in my head.  Finally I turned left on Boylston and saw that famous finish line.  I thought that I would be overcome with emotion and cry when I crossed that finish line, but I was so cold all I could think of was getting a hot shower!

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I got my medal and my mylar blanket and headed toward what I thought was the subway station.  I went the wrong way and ended up wandering through the freezing Boston streets.  I started shaking from cold at this point.  I knew that I wouldn’t be able to walk the 1.5 miles back to the hotel in the wind and the rain.  I saw an empty taxi and “ran” after it.  The taxi driver looked at me and shook his head no.  I started to cry and called Steve.  He was on his way to pick me up, but was stuck in traffic.  They had been at mile 23 (that explains why I heard my name) and were still trying to get back into town.  Steve informed me that my finish time was 3:36:10… my second best time ever.  I’ll always wonder if I ran so well because I didn’t have a watch or if perhaps I could have p.r’d if I had known what my time was.  Either way, it didn’t matter.  I had earned the right to wear my Boston Marathon jacket!

Being the logical guy the his, Steve told me to just get into a building somewhere and wait for them to get there.  I wandered into the Four Seasons where the staff greeted me with applause.  I felt silly because I wasn’t staying there, but at least I had a warm place to sit and shiver until my family could find me.  When I finally reconnected with my family, they shoved me in the car and tried their best to warm me up.  After a hot shower, we headed out for a celebratory dinner at Legal Sea Foods.

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After dinner, my parents took the girls back to the hotel and Cristina, Betsy, Steve and I headed to the after party at Fenway Park.  It was cold and rainy, but we had a great time.

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We spent some time site seeing the next day before our late night flight.  I had always wondered why people went back to Boston year after year, but before I left I knew I wanted to go back in 2016.  Despite the wind, rain and cold, the experience was everything I hoped it would be.  See you next year Boston!

State #20 – Massachusetts – The Boston Marathon

State #20 – The 119th Boston Marathon

April 20th, 2015

(Part 1)

How do you describe in a “short” blog something you’ve been waiting for, for years? Better yet, how do you accurately describe an experience that was every bit as amazing as you hoped it would be?   After completing my first marathon, I remember thinking there was no way I could go from a 4:48 to a 3:40.  Then the B.A.A. made the standard five minutes faster.  Part of me knew if I worked hard enough I could make it, part of me doubted I ever could.

Flash forward to April 2015, I am finally Boston bound!

Since my last race, I’ve starting working with Hudson Elite’s online coaching program (www.hudsoneliteco.com). My coach Nicole and I discussed race strategy early on.  Because Boston was so soon after Baton Rouge, we decided it would be best if I didn’t race Boston.  I wanted to be able to enjoy the Boston experience without the pressure of racing.

We (along with most of my fellow Boston bound running buddies) had booked an early flight out of Akron Canton.  We hit the road around 4:30 a.m after we scooped our still sleeping, pajama clad children into the car.

  After a quick flight we grabbed our luggage and headed to the hotel. We almost lost half of our luggage in the process, but the girls seemed to think the bus ride was the most fun thing ever.

We dropped off our luggage and did a walk through of the route I would take to get to Boston Commons on race morning. The walk was a lot longer than I expected, and I started to worry about the logistics of race morning.  My thoughts came crashing to a halt when I spotted the ionic Boston Marathon Finish line and bleachers. I found myself completely overwhelmed.  I stared in disbelief at the finish line I would be crossing in just a few days.  Those thoughts were quickly followed by images of the 2013 bombing.   I started to cry as I was filled with anger and sadness.  It was at that moment that I understood the phrase “Boston Strong.”

We made our way through security and into the expo to get my number.  I felt myself choking up again as I handed the volunteer my ID to get my bib. I made Steve take my picture so that I would always remember how I felt.  I wanted to capture the moment when I realized that years of hard work had paid off and that what was once a dream had become a reality.

After I regained my composure we headed into the expo.  My girls and I “signed” the wall and walked into the feeding frenzy that was the officially licensed apparel section.  I once swore that if I ever made it to Boston, I would buy one of everything.  I bought a lot, and regret none of it.

The early morning caught up to Addy before I could finish my shopping spree so we headed back to the hotel to put the girls down for a much needed nap.  On our way back, we stumbled upon a grocery store where I picked up my breakfast for race day, and we made the long walk back to our hotel. By the time we got back, I was ready for a nap, but the girls had gotten their second wind.

Soon after that my friend Cristina and my sister Betsy arrived. We said a quick hello to my parents who had just checked in to the hotel and the three of us hopped in a cab to head back to the expo.  After I spent some more money, we went out to take a look at the finish line. I was too superstitious, to cross the finish line or to wear my jacket until after the race.  I did pose for a picture or two near it!

Before we left for Boston, I booked a “Duck Boat Tour” for all of us.  Cristina, Betsy and I rushed to Faneuil Hall to meet my family just in time for the tour.

 Our guide for the Duck Tour was a bit cheesy, yet knowledgeable.  The highlight of the trip was when he asked if anyone wanted to “drive” the boat.  Of course Addy wanted to and her little sister followed suit.

The next morning I met up with my running buddies for a shakeout run.  We headed towards the finish line where I noticed a stand selling Boston Marathon merchandise.  I slowed down to a jog to see if the stand was selling a visor that the expo had sold out of.  Much to my excitement it was, but I had no money with me.  I ran over and asked the guy if he would sell me the visor since I had my credit card number memorized.  In retrospect, it was a little shady that the vendor let me do that, but I happily returned from my run wearing a new visor.

After my run we headed out to meet my parents at the swan boats.  In the weeks leading up to the trip, we had been reading the book “Make Way for Ducklings” to the girls.  The book tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard making their home in the pond in Boston Commons where the swan boats are.  Addy was very excited to ride the boats and see “Mr. and Mrs. Mallard.”

As our swan boat chugged along, I looked up at the blue sky and enjoyed the moment.  I glanced to my left, saw my sister riding along the path on a bike, and I thought to myself things don’t get more perfect than this.  After the ride Ellie demanded that we buy her a “duck” aka a swan.  I indulged her whim and we headed to the nearest subway stop with both girls clutching their new swans.

Ellie and her “duck”

My dad is an avid baseball fan, who had never seen a game in Fenway.  For his birthday we got tickets to a Red Sox game.  It took a little while to get a subway train that had enough room for our large group, but eventually we made it to the ballpark.  When I came up the tunnel to our seats, I saw the bright blue sky and these guys:  members of Team Hoyt.

 They played a video about Team Hoyt and then a member of the team threw out the first pitch.  Team Hoyt started as a father son team that raced over 1000 races together.  Dick Hoyt has pushed his son in a wheelchair in all of those races.  He did this after his son told him that he didn’t feel handicapped when they were running. I watched that video with tears in my eyes, amazed by the dedication of Team Hoyt.

The girls were exhausted so we cut the game short.  We took a short ride in a pedi cab and headed back to the hotel for a short rest.  We wrestled with the girls for about an hour while they pretended to nap, then gave up and headed out to meet my family for diner.

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We were a little early for dinner so we joined Cristina and Betsy at an Irish place across the street from our restaurant. They had managed to find the elusive Sam Adam’s “26.2 Brew.”  I hesitated to drink the beer because I have never had a beer the night before a race.  I thought to myself “This is Boston and this is marathon beer, stop worrying, drink the beer and enjoy the moment.”  I enjoyed the beer and we headed to dinner.

Dinner was family style and it was absolutely perfect.  We stuffed ourselves, had enough for left overs and had cake to celebrate my dad’s birthday.

 When we got back to the hotel, I met with “Team Smith” to do some marathon spectating planning.  While we were planning Cristina gave me a present.  It was a necklace of a winged foot that was a St Sebastian medal. St Sebastian is the patron saint of athletes.  It was the perfect pre-race gift.

I also found this gift from my nieces on my hotel door.  The sign on the bottoms says “run and run and run and run fast.”  This became my mantra around mile 23 of the race.

I was pretty relaxed when I headed to bed because I didn’t need to worry about getting up too early.  I was in the third wave, so I wouldn’t be starting until 10:50.  Before I got into bed, I tried on the clothes I was planning to wear for the race.  This included a pair of spandex shorts.  As I was pinning my bib onto my shirt, I felt little hands on my butt.  I looked behind me and Ellie was standing there rubbing my behind.  She looked at me and said “I like your butt!”  I laughed, got us to bed and said a little prayer that the weather forecast would change while I slept.

State #19 – Lousiana

State #19 – Louisiana

Baton Rouge Marathon January 18th, 2015

Baton Rouge.  At this point in my life, all I ever knew about Baton Rouge was the Garth Brooks song “Calling Baton Rouge.” As I checked my bags at the airport I hummed that song in my head.  The man who took my bags looked at me skeptically and said “Baton Rouge?”  I replied “It’s the new Vegas.”  He laughed and I was on my way to dash through security to meet Amie at the gate just in time to board our early morning flight.  (Big shout out to my neighbor Rachael for getting up at the crack of dawn to take me to the airport)

The warm weather and blue skies welcomed us when we arrived in Baton Rouge.  We checked into the hotel and walked in the sunshine to the race expo to get our packets.  When I registered for the race, they asked you what name you wanted on your race bib. I wrote “Beast.”  I couldn’t wait to get my bib to see it.  I was planning on really going for it this race, and I thought it would be funny to have this reminder on my bib. I eagerly grabbed my packet and pulled out my bib only to find this:


As far as I know, Bridget does not mean “beast” in any language.  I was instantly deflated and decided this was a bad sign.  I told myself not to be silly and, that what is written on your tag does not decide your fate. I may not have had my beast bib, but I cheered up a bit when I saw my friend Paul had created this.

We took our packets and wandered through the cute downtown til we found a restaurant that made amazing wraps.  We sat down in the middle of the square to eat, soak up some more sun and watched a basketball game that was being shown on large screens in the middle of the square.

After that we headed to the blue bonnet swamp to do some site seeing.

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We took a walk through the swamp where we saw lizards and snails.  We learned a bit about swamps, and cypress knees.  After that we headed to the grocery store and drove past the start and finish lines.

We had dinner reservations at “Little Village” an Italian restaurant right next door to the hotel.  We made quick work of our carb loading by eating this ridiculous loaf of bread.

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Amie pre-race
Me pre-race – my leg was taped up to help with some hip flexor issues.  Amie dubbed me “robo cop” for the day

Oddly enough I slept really well the night before the race.  However, when race morning came I had trouble keeping my nerves under control.  I felt kind of tired…not quite up to running 26.2 miles that morning. The time came to leave and Amie and I headed to the start line.  The half marathon and the marathon started at the same time, so Amie and I were able to start together.  It was  comforting to have her there.  Usually I’m alone at the start of a race with just my own crazy nerves and thoughts.

My plan was to start off easy, but at a pace a little faster than I have done in the past. Amie and I ran the first few miles together. Even though I wanted to keep her by my side, I wanted her to have a good race. I kept telling her to go faster.  The pace we were running was a little faster than I wanted to go, but slower than Amie could run for a half marathon.  We entered LSU’s campus and I convinced Amie to speed up.  As we rounded LSU’s stadium,  I watched Amie run faster and faster passing people left and right until she was out of sight.

After we passed LSU’s stadium, the course started to make its way around a lake.  The lake was surrounded by beautiful homes with huge front porches and story book swings hanging from lovely old trees.

The lake portion of the race seemed to go on and on.  I tried my best not to look at my watch, but rather to run by feel.  Around mile 9  I looked at my watch and I was right where I wanted to be -overall pace 8:10.  I was glad to see that things were going as planned, however I felt way more tired than I should have at this point in the race. I thought to myself how nice it would be to just sit down on one of those lovely swings and be done for the day.  I tried to push the negative thoughts from my head and told myself to stay tough through mile 13.  I knew I would get a second wind at mile 13.

I reached mile 13 and my second wind did not come.  I told myself to just stay strong through mile 20 and that I would get that second wind then.  I focused on one mile at a time, not letting myself get upset if I had a bad mile. Even though I wasn’t feeling that great, I remembered my new goal of jumping for the cameras.  I managed to jump in the air for two of them and tried to remember to have fun. Unfortunately, when I hit mile 20, my pace dropped off significantly.  I really wanted to stop and walk, but I made myself push as hard as I could. I knew as each mile passed that I was getting further and further from a p.r.  I kept pushing those negative thoughts from my head and told myself to just keep running. In past races, I would not have been strong enough mentally to keep moving and not walk. I am proud of how well I kept it together that day. I didn’t run a p.r., but I felt like hell and still managed to pull out my 3rd best race time ever.

A little while after I passed the mile 25 mark I could hear the most wonderful shouting.  I  knew long before I saw her, that the yelling voice belonged to Amie.   I looked at her and said “I’ve got nothing left.” She started to run next to me and I gave it everything I had.  With Amie by my side I was able to finish strong. Amie had done well in her half marathon.  She felt great and passed people the entire time.  Amie walked with me as I hobbled back to the hotel.  I called Steve and grabbed a quick showered so we could find something to eat before our swamp tour.

Any disappointment I had in my race was quickly forgotten in my excitement for the swamp tour. We wanted to make sure that we got to the tour on time, so we decided to grab some food on the way.  Funny thing about Louisiana… there isn’t much solid ground there.  We had an hour drive to the swamp tour, and the majority of it was on an elevated road that went over rivers, lake, swamps, and bayous.  This meant there was no where to stop and grab a bite to eat.  When we got off at our exit for the swamp tour we found a sketchy restaurant.  I had some gumbo for the first time, but otherwise it was not a “fine dining” experience.  The service was so slow that we almost missed our tour.

The swamp was absolutely gorgeous and our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable.  I learned that swamps are only about 2 feet deep and the water is actually clear.  Our boat went through a bird sanctuary, by an alligator nest and across a bayou.  It was a bit cold for the alligators, but I spotted a baby alligator and we saw a lot of different birds.  My favorite was the “water turkeys” that spread their wings to dry in the sun.

Baby Alligator

After the tour we headed back towards Baton Rouge.  We stopped at a local artists’ studio and bought some unique souvenirs.  For dinner we headed to “The Chimes,” a highly recommended restaurant on LSU’s campus.  We grabbed a beer from a local brewery and decided to give alligator a try.  It was delicious, but after a handful of bites, I thought of that baby alligator in the swamp and got grossed out thinking about what I was eating.

We capped off the night with a celebratory drink at a bar by our hotel.  The next morning we headed back home.  Another amazing trip in the books.  Up next… Boston

State #18: Nevada – Las Vegas

State #18 – Nevada

Las Vegas Marathon November 17, 2014

My race plan for the Vegas Marathon was to run it for fun.   I was excited to get away for the weekend with Steve and our good friends Rachael and Jim.  All four of  us were running the full marathon, but it would be Jim’s first marathon.  We decided that I would pace Jim during the race.

We had a little trouble checking in for our flight due to some fellow passengers that were trying to prove that their luggage could be crammed into the same amount of space as a carry on item.  The more they tried to squish their luggage, the angrier they got, the more they yelled at random strangers and the more TSA agents came to stand guard at the ticketing desk.   Once we were finally able to check our bags and make it through security, I made Rachael, Jim and Steve partake in my pre-race tradition of lunch and a seasonal beer at Great Lakes Brewery.  

When our plane landed in Vegas, we had a short window of time to get to the race expo to pick up our race packets before it closed.  Once our luggage finally arrived we quickly hopped into a cab.

The driver sped us to the convention center while entertaining us with stories of hypnotized, drunk and crazy passengers he had driven over the years, including one woman who randomly licked his face. You’ll also be happy to know that he believes the Britney Spears show is worth the money because Britney “looks hot again.”  Needless to say, we jumped out of his cab as quickly as we could, grabbed our packets and quickly made our way through the expo.  We were all pretty beat so headed back to the hotel and grabbed dinner at the buffet.  The race was not until 4:30PM the next day, so we weren’t exactly sure what to eat.  I opted for the traditional pasta carb loading.  However, because it was a buffet I added in some Chinese food, crab legs, chicken soup and several desserts.  (I’m pretty sure this is what Meb eats the night before a race too.)

When we woke up bright and early the next day, we found ourselves facing a long empty day ahead of us.  We tried to watch the Browns game, but we could only find it on a TV at a bar where we had to stand.  I didn’t want to spend too much time on my feet before the race, so I wandered off to find a Wheel of Fortune slot machine.  I won $200! I quit while I was ahead and we headed back to the hotel room to eat, pace nervously and post random Facebook statuses counting down the time to the race start.

Me and Steve before the race
Jim and Rachael before the race

After hours of unsuccessfully trying to pass the time, we decided to head to the start line.  As we walked towards the bag drop we found this giant inflatable guy and my good friend Kristen who was running the half.

me and Kristen before the race

We stood around, took pictures, went to the bathroom ten times, and waited some more all while  listening to the awful Macklemore and Ryan Lewis pre-race concert.  It consisted mostly of the song “Thrift Shop” and lots of random comments about the number of port o pots located near the start.

Finally the time came to head to the starting corrals.  The corral systems exists to ensure a smooth start to the race.  The fastest runners are seeded in the first corrals, with the slower runners and walkers in the latter corrals.  This allows everyone to start at their own pace, eliminating congestion and the need to weave in between people. The corral system does not work if there is no one there to enforce it.  I found myself surrounded by people who were supposed to be 10 to 15 corrals back from where they were standing.  After the gun went off, I understood why people were starting up further than they were supposed to. There was at least a 2 minute delay between the start of each corral. This meant that Jim and I wouldn’t start running until almost  5o’clock. (8 pm at home.)   I stood there yawning thinking that I would much rather go to bed than run 26.2 miles! I caught this picture of Jim… which I think captures the  mix of apprehension, excitement and determination that every runner feels before the start of a marathon.

Jim waiting at the start
Starting line

Once we crossed the start line we immediately had to start weaving and bobbing through the crowds.  As frustrating as that was, the view was amazing.  The strip was lit up and the usually busy roadway was full of runners rather than cars.  I kept losing Jim, and as I frantically looked left then right to find him I would hear “I’m right here Bridget” or “over here Bridget.”  Fortunately, Jim was much better at keeping track of me, than I was of him.  At one point,  as I was squeezing between two runners, my arm bumped a girl who was wearing loud earphones.  I looked at her to apologize, and she glared at me and angrily yelled “Jesus Christ!”   I looked at her and said “Jesus Christ?  he saves!” then I left her in my dust.

We left the glow of The Strip and things got a little dark and mundane.  Fortunately, I knew Freemont Street, the original Vegas Strip, was coming up shortly.  The half marathoners took a sharp left turn right before we reached Freemont Street, but we got to run through it!  The crowd lining the street, the neon signs and the lit canopy made for one of the coolest things I have ever run through. Jim and I high fived as many people as we could and jumped in the air for the photographers.

We hit mile 10 and the course got dark, quiet, and lonely as we headed out on a road that wound us through some industrial parks.  I was feeling pretty good at this point, except for how dry my mouth and lips were. (we were in a desert after all!)  At every water stop I would try to stick my entire mouth in the water cup to stop my lips from burning.  Later (around mile 20) there was a volunteer (at least I hope it was a volunteer) standing there with Vaseline on a stick.  (this is totally normal during a marathon by the way)  I ran over to her and grabbed some Vaseline to smear on my face and then shoved some at Jim.  I’m not sure what we would have done with out it!

We continued to run through the dark desert, and Jim and I started seeing things.  I remember  asking Jim what I was looking at up ahead on the road.  We decided that it was a freeway overpass that we would be running under.  As we got closer we realized it was just a small, inflatable arch.  We passed through the arch, and headed out onto the last out and back portion of the course.  The only thing awaiting you at the top of this long uphill stretch was the local Walmart and an orange cone for you to run around. However, as we turned around to head down the hill, you could see the strip glowing in the distance.  We were around mile 17 at this point, and we were  hoping that we would get to see Rachael and Steve.

Much to our excitement, we saw Rachael heading up the hill.  She looked amazing!  I started to get anxious hoping that I would get to see Steve too.  As luck would have it, I spotted Steve coming up the hill just as we were about to leave the out and back!   I started yelling like a lunatic and ran over to give him high fives.  He looked great and I was so proud of him!

Somewhere between miles 18 and 20, I could tell that Jim was starting to feel the wear and tear from all the miles. I tried my best to encourage him, but I’m fairly certain he really just wanted to punch me in the face and tell me to shut up!

We got a bit of a surprise boost when the race wound it’s way back through Freemont Street.  Another round of bright lights and high fives got our legs moving again for the last few miles.

I was very honored to be with Jim when he crossed a marathon finish line for the first time.  I took out my phone to take a picture to capture the moment when I noticed some concerned texts from my Mom.  It was after midnight at home, but she answered on the first ring asking me if everything was all right.  I had no idea what she was talking about.  Apparently the race tracking system said that I had “either dropped out or left the course” after mile 13.  I assured my mom that I was fine, and Jim and I headed to the bag drop to get our warm clothes.  (the temperature had dropped down into the 30’s at this point.)  We had just gotten our bags when my phone buzzed alerting me that Rachael had finished.  We found her and did our best to warm her up while we awaited Steve’s finish. It wasn’t long before my phone buzzed again letting me know that Steve had finished with a 9 minute p.r!

We grabbed Steve’s things and started the slow and painful walk back to our hotel. We grabbed  some burgers at the hotel restaurant, toasted our success with a beer and headed to bed!

The next day we slept in, grabbed brunch at a much deserved buffet and spent the day enjoying Vegas. I don’t think I’ll ever do this race again, unless I move to the west coast.  The late night start is is just too tough when you add in the 3 hour time difference.  I can honestly say that I am glad that I did it.  This was a once in a lifetime experience that I won’t soon forget!

State #17 – Illinois

State #17 Illinois

Chicago Marathon October 12, 2014

 It’s taken me a while to sit down and write this blog, because I still have some mixed emotions about the race.  I made the mistake of building up the race and the trip too much in my head.  When I signed up, I decided that Chicago was going to be my key race for the season coupled with a great family vacation. (no pressure there) My training for Chicago was ok.  I had some great workouts but I lost a few weeks due to a sprained Achilles and had a few bad shorter races that shook my confidence a bit. During my taper (the weeks before the race where you reduce your weekly mileage) life was a little more hectic than normal and therefore a bit more stressful.  I actually didn’t have time to over analyze my race plan like I normally do.  When I did think about the race, I couldn’t decide on a plan.  Part of me wanted to go big and go after a huge p.r.  Part of me wanted to just ease up for a bit on the time goals.  In 2014 I reached my very long term goal of qualifying for Boston and then a few months later ran my 2nd fastest marathon (and another BQ.)  I was struggling between enjoying my recent success and shooting for that next star.

The night before we left for Chicago, we packed up the car so that we could scoop the kids out of bed and get on the road quickly.  This was the first marathon that I have brought the children to and it definitely brought a different dynamic to the trip.  It was great to have the kids there, but a family road trip also brings added stress.

Addy in the car bright and early
Ellie in the morning, ready to go!

Other than the girls being a little cranky and stir crazy, the drive to Chicago went well.

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We drove straight to McCormick Place and parked in the first available garage we could find.  We made the mistake of leaving the stroller in the car and dragging our children through out the entire length of McCormick Place to get to the expo.  To make things a bit more interesting,  I had given Addy a camera for her to use during the trip.  It takes awhile to walk through a convention center, let alone with a 4 year old who is enthralled with capturing pictures of feet, escalators, and people’s backsides.  As we pushed through the crowds to get into the expo I was amazed to see that there were 50 stations to pick up your bib.  I knew Chicago was going to be large, but I was beginning to feel a bit in over my head.

Packet pick up stations

We were all pretty tired and cranky, so we didn’t spend very long at the expo.  I got my packet and my shirt, posed for a quick picture and then we got out of there and headed to our hotel.

We checked into the hotel and headed down to see the bean sculpture.  We had fun taking pictures and walking around til we headed out to get a pasta dinner with my good friend Susie and her husband Alex.  These are the same friends I visited in Minneapolis the previous fall when I ran my marathon there.  I’m tentatively looking at Rhode Island for my fall 2015 race, I’m kind of hoping that they randomly move there so I can see them again next fall!

me and Susie at dinner

We headed back to the hotel to turn in for the night.  It had been a long day and we had spent hours on our feet (not exactly wise for the day before a marathon.)  Ellie was pretty excited for her first night spent in a big bed.  The girls slept better than I was expecting, but still woke up yelling a few times during the night (again less than ideal the night before a race.)

On race morning I awoke to the overwhelming smell of garlic.  (For some reason the smell of whatever the hotel cooked for breakfast that morning funneled itself directly into our room. The  following morning was bacon in case you are wondering) As I got ready for the race, I realized I still didn’t know what my race plan was… enjoy the race, forget about time, go for the p.r??

Fortunately I had Kristin and Jeff with me to make the 1.5 mile journey to the start line.  I would have been a basket case had I been by myself.  We made it to the starting area, found our other friend Brian and posed for a quick picture before heading through security to get to our starting corrals.

I made my way through security and headed towards the bag drop before getting in line for the port o pots.  We had left the hotel a little after 6 am, knowing that we needed to be in our starting corrals by 7:20.  As I stood in line, I realized that somehow I was quickly running out of time.  There was no way I would be able to go to the bathroom and get to my corral on time.  A volunteer informed me that there were bathrooms inside the entrance to my corral.  I didn’t really believe her, but I took the risk as I tried not to panic.  I followed a slow moving large crowd through a narrow path lined with chain link fence that eventually widened out to an area that had some bathrooms.  I joked with fellow runners as I nervously waited in line.  The line moved quickly and soon I was headed to my corral.   Unfortunately there were so many people that I could not get into my corral. As we waited to get in, I kept asking people if Boston was as congested as this.  I was reassured that things at Boston run much smoother (I’m not so sure I believe that.)

Once the elites and corral A started, the crowds moved forward and I was able to get in my corral.  I’m pretty sure I was the last person in my corral to cross the start line.  I looked behind me and could see the the people in corral C being held back by a human chain of volunteers with their arms linked.  I couldn’t help but think they looked like a riot squad.  As I ran the first quarter mile of the the race, I experienced the first of two times during the entire race when I would have some pavement to myself.  That short moment of peace quickly ended as corral C was unleashed and the runners came barreling after me like maniacs.

This is Addy posing in front of an advertisement in the Nike store for the Chicago Marathon:

This is a picture from the Chicago Marathon’s facebook page which shows what the race start actually looks like:

Steve planned to be at mile 1 with the girls.  Before I reached that point, I swear 10,000 people passed me on my left and right.  I knew that people tend to get hyped up by the crowd and go out too fast.  I still wasn’t sure what my plan of attack for the race was, but I knew I did not want to go out too fast.  It was unbelievably hard not to get swept up with the crowd and go faster than I wanted to.  I scanned the crowd for my family at mile 1 but couldn’t see them.  Just as I was about to give up on seeing them, I heard Steve shout my name.  I couldn’t see him but some reflex made me chuck my arm warmers in the direction of his voice. The arm warmers flew out of my hand and smacked a woman right in the face.  I ran on and hoped that he would find the arm warmers in the crowd. (he did, and the woman I hit was ok!)  I did the best I could to just push on and try to ignore all of the people shoving and pushing and running past me.

Bridge filled with runners.

I got a boost when I saw Steve and the girls at mile 3.5.  My mantra was quickly becoming “keep the pace, don’t get swept up with the crowd.” Nutrition is important during a race.  I have my routine down to where I normally take my first gu (energy gel) at mile 6-7.  I passed a water stop at 5.67 miles.  I thought to myself, it’s a little too early, just wait for the next water stop. (You are supposed to take gu’s with water.)  The next water stop didn’t come til mile 8.5. and I wasn’t happy that my nutrition was behind schedule.  I tried not to think about it and focused on seeing my family at mile 12.  This time I was able to see all of them and wave to them.  It was just the boost I needed to get my race back on track.  I cruised through mile 13 in something like a 7:11 pace.  I put my head down and started to dig in.  Then I literally ran into 2 spectators who were trying to cross the course.  I was frustrated, but I told myself to let it go.  I let it go until I had to stop to swerve out of the way in order to avoid hitting a man on a bike who was crossing the course.  I tried to channel my frustration into fast running, but then I was forced to slow down as I tried to weave around people who were slowing down.  I tried unsuccessfully several times to squeeze between several runners. I tried to grab water at the aid station and had to stop to avoid colliding with the people in front of me.

I think I did a lot of swerving since my Garmin showed me running .46 miles further than a marathon

As the race went on, I was growing more and more frustrated with the crowds.  It seemed every time I hit a good stride I would have to slow to avoid a collision or weave back and forth.  I finally realized that I just needed to finish the race.  I had long since abandoned looking at my watch and was just running by feel.  I knew I wasn’t running a horrible race, but I knew there would be no p.r.

When I reached mile 25 the road before me opened for the second time that day, and I clocked my 2nd fastest mile of the day.  I crossed the finish line and looked at my watch – 3:39:02.  This was my third fastest race of the year, my third fastest race ever and another Boston Qualifier.  Despite that, I was angry and I didn’t know why.   All I knew for sure was that I needed to get away from all of these people.  I walked through the world’s longest finish chute and headed to the bag drop where I waited for 35 minutes to pick up my bag.  By the time I got my bag, made my way out of the finish area, and walked back to my hotel it was over an hour and a half after I crossed the finish line.

I showered and we headed out to get some deep dish pizza.  In the back of my head I tried to sort out how I was feeling.  I didn’t have a bad race, but I didn’t have the p.r. I was hoping for.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on what my real issue was.  I eventually realized that the problem was I never went for the p.r.  Yes, the crowds probably would have prevented me from running the race I really wanted, that day, but I’ll never know for sure what I could have achieved.   I didn’t go for it.  I didn’t put myself out there.  I played it safe.  In this journey to 50 states, I’m not going to be able to “go for it” each time.  If I tried to race every marathon, I would end up either hurt or hating the sport that I love so much.  I am working to find that balance between finishing 50 states and improving on the best marathoner I can be.  I’m not sure exactly which race will be the next one that I actually try to “go for it.”  The one thing I know for sure is, the next time I line up at a starting line to actually race, I owe it to myself to not play it safe… but to leave it all out there.

We spent the next few days touring the city of Chicago.  We took a trip to the American Girl doll store complete with brunch and a visit to the doll salon.  We stopped by the Hershey store and spent a day at Shedd Aquarium.  We were also able to squeeze in a quick to trip to Ikea.

I may not have left Chicago with a shiney p.r., but if a mediocre day with some less than ideal conditions results in a 3:39:02, (a time I used to only dream of), then I think I’m doing something right.  I left Chicago with a bit more perspective, and a friendly reminder that there is not such thing as a p.r fairy.  P.rs don’t magically happen, only you can make them happen.  I leave each race a little tougher, a little smarter and knowing a bit more about myself.  I can’t wait to continue the journey and see what each new state has in store for me.  Happy running!

State #16 – Alaska

State #16 – Alaska

The Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon

June 21st, 2014

Buckle up kids, this is going to be a long one.  The trip to Alaska began as a facebook conversation with my friend Joanne who just recently moved to Anchorage Alaska.  Joanne was planning on running the Mayor’s Marathon, so I decided to join her.  All I had to do was convince my partner in crime, Amie, to join me. That conversation went a little something like this “Hey Amie, want to go to Alaska with me…?”  Amie – “Sure!!!!!”

Good luck cards from my nieces

I was pretty relaxed going into this race.  I had just reached my long time goal of qualifying for Boston, so the pressure was off.  I’d read the reviews and talked to enough people to know that this marathon was no joke.  For the first time in a long time, I really, truly had no time goals.

In the weeks leading up to the race, I spent more time planning our Alaskan excursions than worrying about my race.  I met Amie in the Chicago airport where we started things off with a celebratory drink.

The flight from Chicago to Alaska was long, but after taking two small children from Chicago to Hawaii, six hours on a plane by myself felt like a mini vacation.

We landed in Alaska around 9 p.m. local time which was 1 a.m at home. We picked up the rental car and headed to our hotel, “The Captain Cook.”  The Captain Cook was a remarkable hotel.  In it’s day I believe it was quite posh. It featured several bars and restaurants, shops and “his and her” separate fitness clubs. By the time we got into the room it was after 10p.m.and this was our view:

 The Mayor’s marathon is part of the Summer Solstice celebration, so it takes place on the longest day of the year. On this day, Anchorage sees over 19 hrs of daylight. Even though we were exhausted, we just couldn’t go to sleep while it was still light out, so we went downstairs and got something to eat in one of the hotel restaurants. The restaurant was filled with all sorts of people of every age who were just headed out for the night!

Jet lag had us up early the next day, so we went for a short run to explore the city and shake out our legs. We ran past the railroad station for the Alaskan railroad.

 In reality, we spent more time taking silly pictures than running!

We stopped by the visitor center and Trapper Jack’s, both of which had remained unchanged since my previous visit with my family back in 1992.

Visitors Center 2014
Visitors Center 1992 – don’t be jealous of my blue fanny pack

This is Trapper Jack’s, a tourist trap where I spent a lot of money on moose related souvenirs.

If you look closely at this picture from 1992 you can see the mural that I am standing next to in the picture above.  Some things never change!

At the end of our run we stopped in at the Snow City Cafe and put our names on the waiting list for breakfast. We got a buzzer, went back to our room to shower and change and walked back in just as they were about to call our name. This perfect timing quickly became a theme for the rest of our trip.

After a delicious breakfast and some race tips from our waitress, we headed to the tiny expo. The local running store was selling old race shirts for $5. As a general rule, I don’t wear a shirt from a race I didn’t run, but as I skimmed through the rack, I found a race shirt so disturbing, that I had to have it.

After the expo we stopped to check out a sale the the Skinny Raven Sports running shop.  During the few minutes we were there we got a parking ticket – man those guys are fast! The forecast called for a beautiful day, so we drove up to the Alyeska Ski Resort. During the summer months, the resort lets (aka charges an arm and a leg) visitors ride the ski lift to the top of the mountain to enjoy the view or parachute (base jump) like this guy did.

This is one of the smaller mountains in the area, but the view was breath taking.

The ride to Alyeska took awhile, but the views along the way were definitely worth it.

We got back in town in time to head to my friend Joanne’s house for dinner.  Joanne was gracious enough to host us and a few of her running friends for a delicious pasta dinner.  Joanne’s friends were all originally supposed to run the marathon, but do to injuries and a pregnancy, they needed to down grade, so I would be the only one going the whole distance.  It was nice to rehash race stories and talk about the upcoming race.  It never ceases to amaze me how the common bond of running can open you to all sorts of new friendships.

Race morning came early, as it usually does. The half started an hour after the full, so Amie was able to drive me to the start.

The start of the race was located at a local high school.  It was pouring rain when we got there, and the race staff required that racers were dropped off about a half mile from the start.  I got pretty soaked walking to the high school, but I was happy to have a warm place where I could use the bathroom and stay warm.   After much prodding and pushing, the race starter was able to convince us to go stand in the rain by the start line.  While I was standing there I struck up a conversation with a man from New York.  He asked where I was from and then told me he had a friend that lived in Cleveland.  He said there is a woman there who he trains with who is amazing.  I said Nicole Camp?  He said no… and then I said Barb Broad? and he said “Yes – I’ve heard she’s just phenomenal”  I said yes she is – and I couldn’t wait to tell my friend that she was famous!

The race started and I kept to my plan of running easy.  Someone asked me what my goal was and I said “just to finish and have fun.”  The problem with starting off slow, is that no one else does.  So, while you’re trying to tell yourself to keep it easy, you are being passed left and right by people. You start to wonder what is wrong with you and your breathing and steps get out of rhythm.  To distract myself, I tried to pick out people and remember what they were wearing so that I could try and pick them off later.. i.e  girl in pink tutu.. lady in very shiny, hot looking jacket etc.  (I caught both of them by the way)  To add to my misery of being passed, we were running up hill, in the pouring rain with a highway on one side and the chain link fence of an army facility to my left.  I thought that I heard dogs barking from inside the fence.  I asked the lady next to me if she heard dogs and she informed me that she had thought the same thing, but that it was a man just behind that was making odd sounds when he was breathing.  I picked up the pace a bit to get away form him!  The course turned and we left the highway, but we remained uphill for awhile.

Around mile 7 we hit the tank trail which also happened to be a relay exchange point.  The rain started to die down and the terrain changed.  The cheering people at the relay exchange gave me some energy and I finally hit a groove.  The tank trail was rougher than the towpath, a dirt trail filled with rock.  Easy on the joints, but not the fastest surface.  I knew that the trail and the uphill portion ended at mile 16 so I was just focused on getting to the change of scenery at mile 16.  At mile 15, we turned off the tank trial and crossed a plywood bridge over a stream.  All of the sudden I found myself on an actual trail with rocks, roots, water etc.  I said to hell with my pace and I just had fun on the trails.  It’s been awhile since I’ve run trails, but my body knew what to do and I quickly started passing people on the narrow trails as I splashed through the mud puddles they were tiptoeing through.

Proof of the muddy trails

I got another jolt of energy at Mile 16 because it was another relay exchange point full of people cheering.  As I left the mud and stepped out onto to the smooth beautiful welcoming pavement, a lady cheering yelled “you go lady!  there’s not many women in front of you.”  I decided to start trying to catch as many women as I could.  I quickly passed pink tutu lady as I cheered her on and then kept knocking them off from there.  I stopped looking at my watch and just kept looking ahead for the next lady I could catch.  I reached the coastal bike trail portion of the race it was very quiet and lonely again. There was a man running ahead of me that kept turning around and looking at me.  Finally I yelled “why do you keep looking at me!?”  We ended up chatting for awhile until he started picking up the pace a bit more than I wanted, so I wished him well.

I knew that there was a short steep hill right at mile 26.  At mile 25 we merged with the half marathoners and I could not longer tell which woman were in the full marathon vs the half marathon. I reached a short steep hill and halfway up realized it wasn’t the final hill… then I reached another similar hill and I started yelling mean things out loud because I knew I still had one more hill to get up.  I finally saw the final hill and as I crested I saw the finish chute and the finish clock.  I could hear Joanne and her friends cheering (it’s so nice to have someone cheering for you when you are far from home)

I couldn’t believe my eyes. I literally had no goals for this race and I qualified for Boston again.  I was absolutely overwhelmed.  This was such a tough course and I ran my 2nd best time ever!  I checked the results and I missed an age group award by like a second… ironically enough to a girl from Ohio!

Post race crazed face selfie

Amie had a great race and placed in her age group!  She didn’t run as fast as she had hoped, but the half course was pretty brutal, including ridiculous headwinds and hail!  We rested for a bit and then headed out for some food.  I ate this entire thing and it was delicious.

After lunch, we headed out to enjoy the Summer Solstice Festivities.  Apparently eating reindeer is part of the celebration (we did not partake)

We joined Joanne and her friends for a bit at the Spin Doctors Concert and then headed up to the “Crows Nest” in our hotel.

Spin Doctor’s Concert
View from the “Crow’s Nest”

The next morning we got up early and headed two hours north to where we would be hiking a glacier and going white water rafting with the NOVA guides.  In order to get to the glacier we were hiking, we had to cross over a piece of private property.  The man that owned this land and the rickety old bridge that you needed to cross charges every person that crosses $20.  The local guides refer to the old bridge as the “million dollar bridge.”  I can not explain how beautiful the glacier was or how surreal it felt to be standing on something that had been around for so long before me and would exist for so long after me.  I also enjoyed playing around with the settings on my new camera!

After the hike, we grabbed lunch with our guides.  All of the guides were young and they lived off the grid in houses with only solar power.  The were all transplants that moved to Alaska because Colorado, Wyoming and wherever else they were from were not remote or extreme enough.  They repeatedly said “we get to live here.”  It was awesome to meet people who were so passionate about what they did and where they lived.

After lunch we got geared up for our white water rafting trip.  We were fitted for dry suits, because the water temperature was 34 degrees.  We were told to dress in layers because when the water hit us, we would be cold.  As the guides discussed the various risks and possible ways we could die on this rafting trip, I found my excitement quickly changing to fear.  I looked over at Amie, former marine, my tough friend who can handle anything and I saw the fear in her face.  I started to panic, but it was too late… we were in the boat!  I was so nervous that I was shaking.  After we made it through the first set of rapids my fear began to turn into exhilaration.  This was one of the most amazing things I have ever done!

I’m in green, the second from the right on top and Amie is in blue, second from the left on the bottom.

After a long day of outings, we headed back to Hotel Captain Cook.  We had dinner at the

“Whale’s Tail” where we had wine from a wine machine!

Nothing says “fine wine” like a wine dispensing machine

The next morning we headed to Kincaid Park on a mission to go for a moose spotting run.  After we parked the car, I saw a couple of park rangers.  I walked up to them and said “I need to see a moose.”  The Ranger told me to get on the trail and hang a right.  Amie and I headed out and it didn’t take too long before we spotted a moose.  We were very careful to walk quietly and slowly past the moose.  He was busy eating and barely gave us a glance, so we snapped a couple of quick pictures!

You can’t tell from the pictures, but that moose is so large, that his hind legs were a good foot higher than my head (and I’m 5’7″)  Everything was fine until we turned the corner and encountered the female moose.  She started coming towards us, so we slowly backed away and found another route back to our car.

We killed a few hours wandering around Anchorage.  We had lunch and stopped to see where people Salmon fished, but we were a little late in the season for it.

Sadly, we had to head back to the airport.  We sat at Humpy’s in the airport and had our last halibut meal and Glacier Brewing Company Beer.  The trip to Alaska was beyond anything I could have expected.  It is an amazingly beautiful and relaxed place.  Everyone we met was super friendly and happy to be there.  I went there to cross a state off of my list, but found a place I hope to be able to take my husband and children back to.  This trip was one of the very few, so far where I have been  completely relaxed, enjoyed myself, explored the area and ran the race for fun.  Sometimes I easily get caught up in p.r.’s and finish times and other people’s expectations.  This is one time, when I was able to rise above all that white noise and just enjoy the experience.  I can only hope that I am able to replicate even a portion of this experience in my future journeys.  Thanks to Joanne for giving me the inspiration to visit, to Amie for being the perfect travel companion, and to my husband for letting me get far away for a few days.

State #15 – Arkansas

State #15 Arkansas – Little Rock Marathon

March 2, 2014

Little Rock Marathon - 2014 logo

You know you have a great friendship with someone when it lasts across many years and many miles.  You know you have an amazing friendship when that friend will travel across the country to support you on a crazy dream.  You know you have an one of a kind friend when they get on a plane and travel to Little Rock Arkansas just to watch you run.

During one of our early morning runs (where all brilliant ideas begin), one of my running buddies started telling me about the giant finisher medals at the Little Rock Marathon.  I did a Google search for ” Little Rock marathon medal” and decided then and there that I needed to have one.   I asked Cristina if she would be willing to join me in the great state of Arkansas, and of course she said yes!  She even agreed to go down a day early so that we could run the Little Rock 5k together!

  Per my usual M.O. I spent the days before the race obsessively hitting refresh on The Weather Channel app on my phone.  I was more than bit paranoid that Little Rock would get canceled, just as Dallas had.  The day to day variation in the weather reports did not help my growing concern.  At first the forecast was a little warm, then perfect, then it predicted ice storms and then the projected temperature dropped each day.  I channeled my nervousness into packing almost every piece of running attire I owned.   I was prepared for anything for 12 degrees and snow to 90 degrees.

Cristina got into Little Rock before me, so she picked me up, we dropped my stuff at the hotel and then headed out to get some dinner at a place called The Flying Saucer.  Little Rock has a pleasant downtown area with shopping, dining and even a quaint cable car .

The next morning we got up and headed down to the start of the 5k.  The first mile or so of the 5k were the same as the marathon course.  It was a bit strange running under the same starting line banner that I would pass under on my way to 26.2 the next day.  The 5k was a blast. Cristina ran a great race with negative splits (and she didn’t punch me in the face as I offered “encouragement” the entire way.

Cris and I pre-race
5k medals
5k finish!

After the race, we showered and headed to the expo so I could pick up my race packet and check out the fun running junk I didn’t need to buy.  Case in point,  I discovered “shwings”  small wings that go on your shoes.  I took a picture of them and posted it on Facebook saying “these wings are going to make me fly tomorrow.”  I had a funny feeling that they might do just that.

After the expo we headed out to get some lunch and do some sight seeing. We had lunch at a great little mom and pop “hole in the wall” place called The Root Cafe.  Their unique menu is created from locally grown foods.  This definitely a must do if you are ever in the area.  After lunch we made a visit to the Heifer Village, the visitors center for Heifer International.  This is a group that has been working internationally since 1944 to end hunger through just and sustainable development. Their headquarters building in Little Rock is also a LEED Platinum building.

We explored the city for awhile and then headed out for the traditional pre-race Italian dinner before we settled in for the night.

As the day went on my obsessive worrying about the weather and what to wear was becoming ridiculous.  I am so thankful that Cristina had the patience to listen to me over analyze tank top vs t-shirt for hours.  Seriously, how much difference was 3 inches of sleeves going to make in the outcome of my race?  I texted some of my running buddies (you know who you are, because I text you pretty much before every race.)  My very wise friend Laura gave me her opinion and then said “how about you go ahead and qualify for Boston finally?”  I read that text, felt the panic seep through out my body and then proceeded to spend the rest of the night worrying about qualifying.  I knew I had the ability to do it, I just didn’t know if I would be able to stay strong under the pressure.  I’m so thankful that Laura called me out on it.  It was her prodding that me realize that I was going to have to actually go for it at some point.  That night in the hotel, I worried while Cris spent hours figuring out her spectating plan.  (If marathon spectating was a sport, she would be a world class champion.)  Before we turned in for the night, Cris laid out the clothes she was going to wear the next day…I looked at her, and we both decided it was a sign.

Cris had bought this sweatshirt on a trip we took to Boston a few years ago.  Foreshadowing?

Race morning came, and the weather was 48 degrees with a chance of rain.  Severe weather was supposed to move in later in the evening. I opted for short shorts, a short sleeved shirt and arm warmers and hoped for the best.

I knew from the 5k that our hotel was just a few blocks from the starting line.  I decided to stay in the hotel as long as possible so that I didn’t have to check a bag or use the port o pots.  I neglected to take into consideration that the road would be full of corrals of runners blocking my way to the start.  I ended up literally running alongside the start corrals and jumped into my corral as the national anthem was being sung.  Fortunately I had a minute to catch my breath because they held my corral (corral B) for a minute and half after corral A started.

I shook off the fact that I had almost missed the start of my race, and tried to settle into a comfortable pace.  I was struggling to find a groove and  I decided that it was ok, that I would just run and see what happened.  If a BQ didn’t happen today, then it wasn’t a big deal.  Around mile 3 I found myself running next to two guys who’s wrists were tethered together with a rope.  One runner was blind and the other was his guide.  Then I ran past several runners with prosthetic legs.  I was inspired by these amazing athletes and knew I needed to suck it up and toughen up.

The rain and wind started to pick up as I re-crossed the bridge that led us back into downtown near the start of the race.  I ran past Cris (#1 marathon fan) which gave me a great boost and I thought to myself, just keep running til you see her again at mile 11.

Around 5.5 miles in, I found that I was running along the same street but in the opposite direction of people who were just hitting the first mile mark.  I knew that there was about a minute to a minute and a half between the starts of each corral, but I had no idea that some people would have to wait so long to start.  I heard stories later that some of the later corrals had to wait 45-60 minutes before they started.  This seemed like an especially bad idea since the race directors were worried about the severe storms that were making their way to Little Rock.  I could feel the temperature dropping by the minute, and knew I was lucky that I was not one of those runners who were just starting their journey. The next time I saw Cristina she was waiting for me with this sign!

I thanked Cris for being out there and told her that I could use a dry pair of gloves the next time I would see her, which would be around mile 16.  Just before mile 16, the 3:35 pacer paced me.  I tried not to get upset and told myself that it was ok if I didn’t BQ (sub 3:35) that day.  As promised, Cristina was waiting up the road for me with a fresh pair of gloves.  I grabbed them, and threw down my old wet ones.  I pulled on the new gloves like I was pulling on a secret weapon.  Suddenly I felt this extra surge of energy.  My freezing hands began to thaw in the dry gloves just as I crested the top of long uphill.  Slightly ahead of me, on the downhill, I could still see the 3:35 pacer.

 I locked on to the pacers sign and it was like a switch went off inside of me.  I said to myself “how many races are you going to run before you finally take a risk and go for it?  I could hear Laura’s voice in my head telling me to go for it.  Laura had pushed me to PR’s before, and I knew she wouldn’t challenge me to do something I was capable of.  I decided then and there to go get that pacer.  I caught him around mile 17 and asked him if there were any more hills left on the course.  He informed me that there were 2 hills in the last few miles.  He said they aren’t terrible, but if you are border line close to your goal, they’ll kill you.

I tucked my head pushed on, and started seeing how many people I could “reel in” and pass.    I found myself running next to a guy who was wearing super man socks with small capes on them who asked me if I was going for a sub 3:35.  As soon as he said that, I got a side stitch!  I replied, I don’t know, maybe…you?  He said yes, to which I replied “let’s do this.”  At this point, it had gotten so cold that I that I had to look to see if my frozen legs were still actually attached, so I was grateful to have some company to take my mind off it.

My buddy with the superman socks

After a bit, my new friend told me I was picking up the pace a bit too much for him, but he wished me luck.  I don’t remember why, but it was at that point that I realized that superman socks and the pacer that I had passed actually started in corral C, the corral after me.  This meant that to meet my goal, I needed to finish about a 60-90 seconds ahead of the pacer.  My Garmin was measuring way off, so I wasn’t exactly sure if a BQ was still possible.  I decided not to do the math and to just give the last few miles everything I had.  I briefly remember passing a sign that said the safety level was now red.  I remember thinking that’s weird, it’s just cold and rainy.  I didn’t give it much thought and  just pushed on.  I came across the final two hills and just kept pushing.  I hit mile 26 and knew that the Boston qualifier was going to be close.  I found myself saying out loud “it’s ok, you’re ok” over and over again.  I also noticed I was running next to a guy who kept saying “lord jesus” over and over again.  We must have been quite the site coming in to the finish line together.  I crossed the line and immediately checked my watch.

 My official time was 3:34:26.  After 17 marathons, I had finally done it.  I jumped up and down, yelled and turned to the “Jesus guy”  and said “that took 17 marathons.”  He said “did you BQ?” I said yes and he said “you need to praise Jesus”  I said “yes, yes I do.”  I got my giant medal, a mylar blanket and headed back towards the hotel.  By this time the temperature was 36 or 38 degrees and I was too cold to try and find Cristina.  I stopped a lady and asked her if I could borrow her phone to call my friend.  She took pity on me and handed me her phone.  I then asked her if she could do me another favor.  She looked at me oddly and I said “Can you please dial the number, I can’t feel my fingers.”  Cris didn’t pick up, she ignored the call from the random number because she was still trying to see me cross the finish line!  I got back to the hotel and called Steve to let him know the good news.  It turned out that he was able to watch a live stream of the finish on the races website, so he saw me finish.

I was tired, but I was excited and hungry, so we headed out to a place with amazing burgers for lunch.  Cristina was so excited, she told everyone we talked to that I had just qualified for Boston.  The irony of the situation is that i didn’t realize until a few weeks after the race, that because I turn 35 before Boston, I actually only needed a 3:40 to qualify.  I’m glad I didn’t know that on race day, because I never would have pushed myself to my full potential.

While I was in the lobby of the hotel, I overheard some people talking about how the race was canceled.  I had no idea what they were talking about..  It turns out that the red sign that I didn’t think much of at mile 23, was put out there to elevate the safety level to “severe” because of a lightening storm moving into the area.  At a certain point during the race people who had not yet reached the start of the last out and back section of the course were told that the race had been canceled and that they could be “rerouted” to the finish or wait at the Walmart parking lot for a bus to take them to the finish line where they could “finish” the race and receive their medals.  (I don’t even remember passing a Walmart – those last miles were such a blur!) Apparently there was a lot of confusion and some people ignored the warnings and pushed on to complete the entire race, some were rerouted and others stood in the Walmart parking lot for a very long time waiting for buses.  In the aftermath of all of this confusion, the race directors stated that the race was never canceled, that it was “rerouted.”  I still don’t understand how cutting 6 miles off of a marathon course for some people is considered “rerouting.”  I was lucky that I was able to complete the course, but I felt for all of those who were not able to.  It didn’t help that many of those who didn’t finish the entire course might have had a chance had they not had to wait so long at the start line.

By the time we headed out for dinner, the bad weather had moved in.  We decided to go to the closest place within walking distance of our hotel.

 It was amazing how fast the heavy, sleet/snow fell and how quickly the city shut down.  The restaurant kicked everyone out so they could shut down and get their employees home before the streets turned into sheets of ice.  Cristina, the girl who has lived in Atlanta for the last 11+ years  ended up driving to the airport because I couldn’t handle it.  You would think of the two of us, I would be better prepared to drive in winter conditions.  Funny thing about Ohio though, we have salt trucks and plows!  We don’t have to drive on sheets of ice that are that bad!  It took awhile to get to the airport because it was slow going and our way was blocked by a train, but we made it safe and sound.

The roads were sheets of ice the next morning

All in all, it was an “epic” trip and I am so glad that Cris was there to share it with me (and that she’ll be there when I run Boston too!)

State #14 – South Carolina

State # 14 – Texas Dallas Marathon

South Carolina – Kiawah Island Marathon

December 14, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013 looked like this:

You know it’s cold when you are being chased by an elf.

Amie and I were training for the Dallas Marathon during the fall of 2013 – or shall we say “Early Winter.”  The weather was brutal.  For our final 20 miler, we ran the “fall classic” half marathon and added extra miles on.  It was 12 degrees and ridiculously windy.  The windchill was so cold that my garmin just gave up around mile 19, shutting down and refusing to restart.  I was really worried that Dallas would be difficult because we wouldn’t be ready for the warm Texas winter.

Enter mother nature:

 I obsessed over the weather and what to pack for a few days… and then the announcement came – the Dallas Marathon would be canceled due to ice.  I quickly canceled my hotel, flight and pre-race dinner reservations and began searching for another race to do.  I had run through snow, sleet and cold and even ran two 20 milers on the treadmill.  I was not about to let all that effort go to waste!  Steve and I talked about it, checked on hotels and flights and decided that I would enter the Kiawah Island Marathon near Charleston South Carolina the following weekend.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to convince Amie to cancel her weekend plans and join me on my crazy trip.  Although it seemed crazy, the plan was to fly down to Charleston, spend the night, run a marathon the next day, then drive back to the airport to catch a plane back home.

In the airport I saw the following note card:

This trip was definitely at the end of my comfort zone.  I decided then and there to stop worrying and to just go down to South Carolina to do what I had trained to do.  I flew into Charleston, got a bite to eat and headed down to Kiawah to hit the expo.  The trip to Kiawah took over an hour, mostly because it was on one lane roads.  On the long drive I found a radio Station called “Chuck” 101.7 that I like to listen to online from time to time.  I got my bib and shirt and walked around a bit.  The following sign made me a little nervous:

   Despite putting the hotel address into my phone, I drove around Charleston in circles for what seemed like hours trying to find my hotel.  Just as I was beginning to panic, my phone died and I had no car charger.  After circling the city for awhile longer, I found my hotel, checked in, bought a car charger for my phone and made my way to the Charleston City Market.  I walked around a bit and did some window shopping.  Unfortunately because it was December it got dark quickly.  I wasn’t familiar with the area, so I grabbed some take out Italian food, hit the grocery store for my breakfast and settled into the hotel for the night.

(I’m not sure what this is, but I thought it was amusing)

As I ate my pasta and watched TV, I worried that I would over sleep and I started to freak out about the race.  Then it hit me, I came here to get closer to my goal of completing 50 states. I did not need to race every marathon.  I just need to run and enjoy that fact that I was able to run 26.2 miles.  (and  enjoy the fact that it would be in 70 degrees, not in ice and snow!)

The race consisted of several out and backs through the exclusive Kiawah Island neighborhood.  The homes were magnificent as well as the low hanging trees and views of the marshes.  The race was small though, so there were not a lot of other distractions.  I spent the first few miles trying to keep it easy and just listening to all the people chatting around me.  There was one man in particular who’s odd conversation stuck out above the rest.  It took me a few minutes before I realized that I could only hear his side of the conversation, like he was talking to himself.  I turned around and looked at him, and realized that he was on the phone, talking someone thru the process of buying a new car.  I’m all about carrying on a conversation during a run, but don’t expect me to help you negotiate a car deal while I’m running a marathon! I picked up the pace a bit so that I could get away from him.

  Around mile 10 I started to notice a girl running in front of me that had a belt on with 9 gu’s attached it.  To those of you who don’t know, gu is an energy gel, kind of like concentrated Gatorade.  During a marathon I’ll eat 3-4 of them.  You need to be careful with them, take too few and you may crash or cramp up. Take too many and you’ll spend the rest of your race in the port o pot with gi distress!  I couldn’t help being intrigued with what this girl was going to do with all that gu, so naturally I struck up a conversation with her.  It turned out she was running her first marathon.  After a few miles, I casually asked her about all of her gu’s.  She said that she trained to take them every thirty minutes.  I didn’t want to worry her by telling her that her stomach was probably going to be a mess, so I shut my mouth.  What works for me, doesn’t necessarily work for everyone! We chatted for awhile and waved to her dad who was out spectating on the course.

We found ourselves running with a gentleman named Fred. Fred was originally from Ohio, but had moved to South Carolina 20 some years ago to escape the winters.  I quickly dubbed Fred the mayor of Kiawah because every person we passed knew him and cheered him on.  Fred spent most of the race worrying whether or not he would place in the 65-69 age group.  Apparently the age group awards were pelican statues, and he really wanted to add another one to his collection.  Every time we passed someone who he thought might be his age, he yelled “hey have you turned 65 yet?”  After awhile, the girl with the gu said she that she was going to pick up the pace.  I told her it was too soon for me, but I wished her luck.

Eventually I left Fred (who ended up placing 2nd in his age group) and caught back up to the girl with the gu.  I asked how she was doing and she said “I’m tired.”  I told her that tends to happen around mile 22, but that she was doing great!  At that point, I started to pick up my pace and focused on catching people in front of me.  According to the results 1 person passed me in the last 6 miles, while I passed 76 people.  I saw gu girl’s dad and I let him know that she was right behind me and was doing well.  As the fatigue set in, I started to wonder if the finish line would ever appear.  Eventually we made a sharp left turn and I could see it!  I finished in 3:45:57.  A bit slower than my previous marathon, but still my second best ever.  I stood in the finish chute for a few minutes just taking it all in when out of no where a girl grabbed me in a great big bear hug.  It was the girl with the gu! She was so excited to finish her first marathon, and thanked me for helping her through it!

After the race, I walked as quickly as I my tired legs would mange to the buses.  I got in my car and sped off towards the hotel as the rain started to fall.  I had arranged for a late checkout so that I could get a shower before I hopped on the plane.  There was a mix up at the desk and I couldn’t get in my room at first.  The real crisis was that the maid had thrown away the ice cold Diet Pepsi’s I had waiting for me in the fridge!  I showered and drove in the direction of the airport even though I had some time to kill.  I stopped at a Panera to grab some food and then found an outlet mall.  It was pouring rain by this point and I tried my best to run between stores, but I was not moving very quickly and I got soaked.  I did find it highly amusing to try on clothes while wearing black compression socks!

 I managed to stay awake til I got on the plane, waking up just before we landed.  I looked out the window and there was so much snow on the ground that I couldn’t see the runway.  Fortunately before I could panic, we landed safely.  I found my car, navigated my way thru the icy streets and went straight to my neighborhood Christmas party.  It was after 10 o’clock and I was exhausted, but I was so glad to be surrounded by my family and friends.  The trip to South Carolina had been a crazy whirlwind trip.  I am fully aware of the fact that normal people just don’t do things like that, but I’m proud of myself.  I didn’t let snow, cold, ice storms, a canceled race, or a solo trip stop me from accomplishing my goal of completing my 14th state.  Sometimes it takes a little bit of crazy to go after your dreams.

State #13 – Minnesota

State # 13 Minnesota – Twin Cities Marathon

October 6, 2013

After my post-baby come back marathon in West Virginia, I set my sites on the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis Minnesota.  I felt that my training was finally back on track, and I hoped that my performance at this race would reflect it. I was also excited because I would be visiting my good friend Susie who I hadn’t seen in years, and her new husband, Alex.

While I waited for my flight that Friday afternoon, I sat down at the Great Lakes Brewery in the airport terminal.  I ate a cesar wrap, drank a seasonal Great Lakes beer and nervously texted a running friend or two.  Thus, my pre-race, pre-flight ritual was born.  I now have a favorite seat that features a great view for people watching and a plug for my phone.

Susie picked me up from the airport and we headed to a restaurant called Chino Latino in downtown Minneapolis.  (Yes I ate again – what’s the point of running all these miles if I can’t enjoy an extra meal or two now and then!)  I hadn’t been to Minneapolis since the month before the mall of America opened in 1992, and I was impressed with how vibrant the downtown was.

We stayed up way too late talking and catching up and then enjoyed a lazy morning the next day.  It gave me plenty of time to bond with my new buddy, Sauce.

We headed out to get some brunch at the Highland Grill in St Paul.  As we stood outside the quaint diner waiting for our table, I watched autumn colored leaves blow down the street, people in flannel stroll by and a small boy ride his red tricycle down the street.  It was straight out of a movie set.

After brunch, Alex dropped us off at the expo so that I could pick up my race packet.  The race packets included a pair of gloves with the race’s orange leaf logo on them.  I also picked up my current favorite blue hoody!  After the expo we toured the Mall of America and had some late night take out Italian.

Race morning came and I was petty hyped  up.  I’m not sure it helped that I had my alarm set to “Eye of the Tiger.”  I quickly ate my breakfast, changed my clothes three times, packed and extra outfit and had Susie drop me off at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.  I would see her again in 26.2 miles at the finish line in the state capital of St. Paul.

I wandered around the Metrodome worrying that I wasn’t dressed appropriately for the weather. I’ve found that my pre-race jitters manifest in the form of worrying about race day weather and appropriate race attire.  As the clock inched closer to the starting time, I decided that I wasn’t going to just finish this race, I was going to run it like a “bad ass.”  I quickly changed in to my “tough girl” all black race outfit and headed to the bag drop off.  Despite the rainy day that was forecasted, I found myself standing in the start corral under clear skies. The rain would hold off til I was finishing my race.

The gun went off and I repeated to myself over and over “slow down, keep it nice easy.”  We ran thru the cleanest downtown I’ve ever seen, past the cherry spoon statue and before I knew it we were in a park.

Around mile six, two runners passed me.  One asked the other “What pace are we at?” to which her buddy said “We’re about 30 seconds per mile fast, but it’s ok I feel great!”  I thought to myself “Famous last words, wonder when I’ll see them again”  I was determined not to be one of many who would go out too fast that day.  The course had some rolling hills in it, but I kept my head in the game.  Around mile 16 I began to focus less on my watch and to just run by feel.  When I reached mile 18 I realized that I was still had my “throw away” shirt tied around my waist.  I had been so afraid to get rid of it in case I hit the wall and had to walk it in.  I knew I would be cold and miserable if that happened.  At that point a switch went off and I threw down the shirt.  I knew I wasn’t going to bonk that day, I was going to finish strong!

There is an unfortunately placed hill around mile 23-24 that almost caused me to walk.  However, the crowd that was lining both sides of the course was so intense, that I couldn’t help but feed off of their energy.  I hit the last mile which was downhill and I could see the capital building that was the backdrop to the finish line.  I had glanced at my watch enough to know that I was running well, but I had no idea that I was going to have a seven minute p.r.  I looked at the clock and couldn’t believe my eyes.  My final time was:

3:40:50

 (Susie was so excited she saved a screen shot of the text alerts she received during the race)

Before the Boston Marathon lowered their qualifying standards for the 2013 race, I would have needed a 3:40:59 to qualify.  This was a number that I had hanging on a post it note over my desk for years.  It was a number I thought I’d never reach.  Although my 3:40:50 wouldn’t get me into Boston anymore, I was elated to finally reach that goal.  I cried when I called Steve after the race because I was so happy.  I had reached a major goal and set a huge personal best.  Most importantly, I had finally run a smart race and negative split for the first time ever.

 This is still one of my favorite races.  Where else can you run a city marathon that does not take you past one dirty factory or a patch of urban blight?  The race was well organized, the course was beautiful, the fans were amazing, and I had some great hosts!