Blazing Speed

I got a new PR at my race today! (That’s a personal record, people.) I never get a PR. Mostly because I run really consistently and consistently slow. Over the past few weeks though, for whatever reason, I’ve been feeling good and picking up the pace a bit. (I even clocked a sub nine-minute mile a couple weeks ago. For real.) So when my half marathon running buddy ended up in a boot and unable to run and chat with me for today’s ScoutStrong Challenge race at the Kansas Speedway, I decided to run a little faster if I was feeling good.

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I set up at the start line behind the 2:10 pace group but ahead of the 2:15 pace group. My last 3 half marathons in the fall (on back to back weekends, I might add) were all around that finish time (2:16:46, 2:12:57, 2:09:33). It was really chilly and windy this morning, like low 40’s at the start, and I stupidly ditched my long sleeves while we were still in the Speedway infield. But despite being a bit cold, I felt really good. I picked up the pace after mile 8 over in WyCo park. After mile 10 I caught the 2:05 pace group and ended up passing them around mile 11. At that point I was feeling like it would be possible to get a PR because my previous one was 2:04 something.

That previous PR was set at an absolutely miserable race, the Gobbler Grind, at Corporate Woods the year it was 14 degrees, none of the volunteers showed up, there were virtually no water stops, and the ones that existed had frozen cups of slush instead of water. So I ran fast, without stops, in an attempt to end the misery and felt absolutely sick afterwards. Like bordering on hypothermia with serious nausea and never wanting to run again.

That was not the case today. Was I tired? Yes. Did I run faster than was comfortable for me? Yes. Was I breathing heavily? Yes. Was I cursing the length of a NASCAR track? Yes. Were my hip flexors screaming at me? Yes. Were my calves tightening into tiny balls with every step? Yes.  You betcha. But I also passed a couple people on that last lap of the track and I saw Dan and Otto, Otto looking so cute in his hoodie and Royals cap near the finish, and after I slapped him a high five, I finished in 2:03:53! Hooray! It felt horrible and awesome at the same time. Pretty much perfectly encompassing what distance running is all about.

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My parents, bless their hearts, tried to make it to the finish, but couldn’t find their way to the infield in time. You know, on account of my BLAZING SPEED! They met us back at our place and treated us to breakfast after I showered.

The race was finishing up as people were arriving at the soccer stadium next to the Speedway for the funeral of a KCK police detective and Piper resident who was shot and killed in the line of duty this week. It was both sad and uplifting to see all of the police officers and motorcycle dudes with flags, lining the streets in the area where the service was held. I did not know Detective Lancaster or his family, but obviously his death has had a huge impact on our community. Even that doesn’t sound right or do it justice. I keep trying to write something here and I can’t come up with anything that doesn’t sound like the same old cliches and time-honored platitudes that everyone rolls out when these things happen.Thoughts and prayers are great. Moments of silence are wonderful. Changing a profile picture and posting words of support for people in uniform is a perfectly nice gesture. Somehow it doesn’t seem like enough though, does it? But what do we do? I guess that’s how lots of people feel. Helpless, sad, angry. Really freaking angry. This has shaken people to the core. A bad guy with a gun shot a police officer in broad daylight. Somebody’s daddy. A good guy. It’s just not right. Kids are scared and asking tough questions. Teachers and parents are trying to comfort these kids and help them work through all of the feels. Families are reminded again of how dangerous the work these guys do really is. Neighbors are wondering how the street they live on will ever feel the same.  It sucks.

So my personal victory today is somewhat tempered by the public tragedy and it’s helping me to continue to keep things in perspective, appreciate my health, appreciate my friends, and my family, and just keep on running.

Urban Adventure

One of the goals I set for myself for training this time around is to try some new things. This includes but is not limited to: new tracking gear, new routes, new podcasts/music, new speeds, running with people, running on a track, running barefoot, strength training days, etc. So far I’m checking things off my list. I found a new podcast I like called “How Was Your Run Today?” and get the sense that I’m one of 20 listeners. I’ve been spending two mornings per week in my basement doing squats and lunges and dead lifts and donkey kicks and push-ups (on my knees) and whatnot. It’s annoying that these don’t really register on my Fitbit as activity. And I ran last weekend with one of my speedier friends, Teri, who met me for a good chunk of my hilly 8 mile run.

This weekend I decided it was time for a new route, and a quick Google search told me there was something called the Heritage Riverfront Trail that started right here in my very own Wyandotte County. It would take me just as long to drive to that trailhead in downtown KCK as the one in Johnson County where I typically run, so armed with my Google Maps, and 8 ounces of blue Powerade in my waistband I set off for my long run starting at Ann/Armstrong Avenue in downtown KCK. I ended up driving smack dab into a 5k race that was happening, something about Strawberry Hill judging by the participant t-shirts, and I learned this is the name of the neighborhood where I would begin my adventure. Some of the volunteers at the 5k thought I was a runner in the race going the wrong way, which looking back now, was a pretty accurate assessment of how I felt for much of my run.

Turns out the internet was sort of right. There is a wonderful (though VERY industrial) trail that takes you from downtown KCK over the river and into downtown KCMO, but it’s either not finished yet, or not marked well enough for idiots like me, or I just couldn’t find the rest of it, but I learned there’s a HUGE difference between bike “path” and bike “route”.

When my nice, smooth, wide bike PATH ended after only a few miles, I followed the signs for bike ROUTE and had an interesting urban adventure. The plan was just to run 5 miles from my car, turn around, and run back. For this reason I was nervous about turning too many corners down streets I didn’t know, or taking a bunch of twists and turns. So I followed the signs and enjoyed the sights of warehouse after warehouse, loading docks, and blocks of chain link fenced lots down near the river. I saw some Weird Stuff.

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Antique shop in a not-so-picturesque part of Kansas City.

After my last glimpse of the river, I trotted through  City Market where people were just starting to show up to go do farmers markety type stuff. I got to see the new KC streetcar cruise through, marveled at all the trendy loft apartments, and envied the people strolling along with freshly brewed cups of what I’m sure was only the finest, localist, free trade, organic, perfectly blended coffee. Ah, just a hint of pretension.

From there I continued on the bike ROUTE, losing the sidewalk I had, and sharing the road in the bike lane with Saturday morning drivers. It was at this point I realized I was no longer on any part of the trail system, but I decided I was just going to press on until the voice in my ear told me I had gone 5 (ish) miles. The further I ran, the more interesting things got. Looking closely at the map of my run now: I did the Intercity Viaduct bridge to Madison Ave, to Woodswether Rd., to  3rd Street to Cherry St., which turned into Independence Ave., which I followed the rest of the way and which was basically a ugly highway with cracked, uneven, trash lined sidewalks that ran along sad, run-down apartment complexes, businesses with bars on all the windows, lots of bus stops, and a variety of aromas that seemed out of place for that early on a Saturday morning (curry? fish?). When I got to Prospect Ave., I remember thinking, “People get murdered here,” and since I was at the crosswalk, I turned around and headed back. I don’t mean that to say that I felt unsafe at all or that I’m under the impression that people get murdered on Saturday mornings before 9:00 a.m., but my vision of Kansas City was becoming a bit clearer. I don’t get out much. And as I ran back through the throngs of people that were now out and about in City Market, I thought about how I don’t really feel like I “belong” in either place of the city I had just experienced. I’m not a City Market person, nor am I an Independence and Prospect Avenue person. When I neared the actual trail again, I saw something pretty cool: a whole mess of kayaks on the river. I’m not sure if this was a special race or event, or if people do this on a regular basis, but not something I see every day.

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Kayaks on the river.

So all in all, I guess I’m glad I ventured out to a different part of the city, allowing myself to get a bit lost in the process. I should probably do more urban runs in preparation for the marathon that I will be running through a big city. It was more mentally draining to have to think about traffic and sketchy footing and broken glass, and crosswalk lights and hipsters with coffee and the inmates outside of the MO DOC Kansas City Community Release Center (still trying to figure out the naming of that place) and the lack of water fountains or bathrooms. I’m not sure I ever got into a “zone” because of all of the sensory input, but I spiced things up for this weekend anyway, and even picked up the pace a bit for a few miles.

Beyond the Suck

I had 4 great things happen this week (that were running related).

  1. A co-worker and friend was kind enough to write me a training plan for my fall marathon and spend some of her precious planning time talking to me about running in D.C. (and running in general) since she has run the Marine Corps Marathon before (along with 9 others!)
  2. I got our flight to D.C. and hotel booked, so there’s really no turning back now.
  3. A different co-worker and friend texted me after running one afternoon this week and said that after talking to me she felt “inspired” to run farther than she usually did. Yay!
  4. I got some new water bottles that may end up changing my hydration game at last.

So I talked to my “inspired” friend about always having to battle through the first couple miles of a run, until my body finally gets on board and realizes, “Oh, I see you’re not stopping and we’re seriously doing this for awhile.” I mentioned that I suspected what stops some people from sticking with running is that they never push past the suck. There’s no way I would have kept running if I always felt the way I do for the first 20-30 minutes of heading out–yes, some days it’s sooner, other’s it’s longer. But the moral of the story is: I always have to push past the suck. I guess if running consistently for awhile has taught me anything it’s that some miles (or some whole runs) are just going to suck. But there are other times when you break on through to the other side (yeah!) and it doesn’t suck anymore. And that’s where it’s totally badass. Sometimes it takes several alternating patters of running/walking/running/walking to get there, but eventually you can move beyond the suck.

The game changer:

Flipbeltwaterbottlegamechanging bottles

These potentially game-changing water bottles come from the fine folks at FlipBelt. I bought a FlipBelt at a race expo a few years ago (before it was called a FlipBelt) and never really used it. It’s a cool design, just a tube of fabric with like 4 openings that let you slide in your phone, ID, gels, keys, or whatever. I just never really ran with it. I prefer the fanny pack I guess. But then I saw these bad boys show up on my Facebook newsfeed (thank you, Mark Zuckerberg, for selling my data to the right people) and knew I needed to try them. I bought both the small and large size and took the big one out for an 8 mile test run today. I froze some water in the bottom half because I figured having it snug up against the sweaty small of my back would make for lukewarm liquids in no time. Preliminary verdict: not too shabby. It was sloshy and loud once I took my first swig, and isn’t all that flattering to the backside, but it does stay in place, and I didn’t want to murder anyone or rip it off halfway through my run. Those of you who have read this blog for a while know that this is major progress. I have yet to be able to find some kind of hydration belt I can tolerate. I see in the picture that Biker Dude has the bottle in front, which I guess is another possibility, but that would mean putting my phone in the back and re-configuring headphone cords, but I’m open to whatever works. Being able to have water/Powerade on the go this summer will mean I don’t have to plan my runs around places that have drinking fountains or drive a cooler out to a spot on my route and then retrieve it later. Yes, I realize that I am completely geeking out about $20 water bottles, and I’m totally ok with that. If they will keep me properly hydrated through my summer training, they’ll be worth every penny.

My next race is the Scout Strong half marathon on May 14th at the Kansas Speedway, hence the 8 miler this weekend.

Oops, I did it again.

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After a particularly lazy spring break filled with garbage food and garbage TV (and many hours spent holding a puke bucket for a sick kid), I started toying with the idea of running another marathon? Why? Because thinking back to finishing a marathon made me feel good about myself. Pretty much the opposite of what I felt over spring break. In the running world there are some “bucket list” type races out there that get a lot of buzz. Grandma’s, the one I did last summer, is one of them, and rightfully so. The Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. is another. It’s billed as “The People’s Marathon”, meaning it supposedly caters to first timers and people of all ability levels. It runs past picturesque monuments. It’s staffed by Marines in uniform. There’s an entire mile lined with photos of fallen soldiers. It’s patriotic. There are skydivers at the starting line and cannons and pomp and circumstance out the wazoo. It’s the one Oprah ran, so you know it’s gotta be good.

A quick check of the race website informed me that the entry to the Marine Corps Marathon, or MCM, is done on a lottery system. Oooh, very elitist. I like it. So I figured, what the heck? When the lottery window was open, I threw my name (and credit card number) into the virtual hopper and didn’t really think too much about it. I didn’t bother mentioning it to my husband. I didn’t know how many slots there were. I didn’t get too excited about it. I didn’t think I would get picked.

Smash cut to this past Thursday afternoon when I check my email and see one congratulating me on my entry into the 41st MCM (and informing me that the non-refundable entry fee had been charged to my credit card). Shit just got real. So October 30th, 2016, 2 days before I turn 35, I will be running 26.2 miles with 30,000 other runners in our nation’s capital. So that means the blog is back, baby.

I had a pretty crappy, sluggish, lots of walk breaks, lower back achy, why did this seem like a good idea, 7.5 mile run this morning. The thought of training through the summer for my first-ever fall marathon is not something I can really wrap my mind around at this point, but I will get there. Tortoise style, like always.

My Grandma’s Marathon Story (part 2)

Just a disclaimer/reminder that this post will be extremely long and that I’m writing it mostly for myself to help me remember this momentous occasion.

The first miles

What I remember about the first few miles of Grandma’s Marathon was the crazy noise that thousands of people running in trash bags and ponchos makes. It was a giant rustling herd, and as people got warmer and warmer, the protective coverings started littering the side of the road, and sometimes the middle of the roadway. It was quite colorful and yet somehow depressing. Wet trash bags are just sad. I ditched my fleece at the starting line and my poncho about 2.5 miles in. I tried to roll/fold it up and tuck it in my waistband, thinking that I may want or need it again later, but I couldn’t get the damn thing collapsed to a reasonable size, and every few steps it kept working its way out. I knew I wouldn’t be able to expend precious energy fighting to keep a rogue poncho tucked into my shorts, so I abandoned it altogether and resigned myself to just getting wet. The 5:30 pace group leader was a really dynamic dude who was rallying his troops, and saying all sorts of positive, funny things. I could tell they were going to have a good time. I felt like going just a smidge ahead of them was more comfortable for me though, so I didn’t stay with them for long. I checked my Garmin a couple of times and saw I was doing 11 minute miles, which is just how I envisioned myself starting out. I was keeping in mind that I hadn’t done a long run like this in several weeks and that I needed to warm up. There were very few spectators out on the scenic highway because as a spectator you need to make a choice as to whether you’re going to be out on the course or at the finish line, there’s not a way to do both due to road closures and how the route is situated. There were just a few course monitors here and there, or people who had homes or properties right off the highway keeping watch under umbrellas or tents. Around mile 4 there was a big banner congratulating 3 men on reaching their 1,000th mile at Grandma’s Marathon. They had run the race for all 39 years it has been in existence. Pretty impressive. I would end up passing one of them later in the race, the back of his tank top proudly proclaiming “39” th Grandma’s and the “39” was pinned on and presumably replaced with a new number from year to year.

I forced myself to drink Powerade from the very first aid station. I’m convinced this made a big difference in how I felt by the end. Typically I prefer just to drink water because the Powerade is so sweet and I don’t love it. But I drank both. Every aid station began with tables labeled “Elite Men” “Elite Women” and they were filled with a collection of special water bottles labeled and left for the super-amazing professional runners. There were always a whole bunch of bottles left on the tables when I went through. I wondered what was in those bottles and what it tasted like. Victory, I imagine. Then each stop had an army of volunteers handing out cups and such the entire length of the stretch. On both sides of the road. The multiple tables were arranged like this: oodles of water, then Powerade, then ice, then soaked sponges, then more water, then first aid people. Each one was clearly labeled with signs for each item and they had huge helium balloons that you could see from well down the road. I didn’t think all of the aid stations would all be like that, but they were. I would like to know the number of volunteers just at the aid stations that day. Considering they started at mile 3, and were every 2 miles and then every mile after mile 20, it was amazing. No one was taking ice or sponges in those early miles, and it seemed almost comical to be so drenched and have someone head to toe in rain gear offering you a soaked, freezing sponge, but later on, even I took advantage of 2 of those icy cold sponges and they were heavenly.

Learning from my previous marathon mistakes, in addition to drinking Powerade early and often, I didn’t talk to anyone for pretty much the whole race, but particularly in those early miles. I did ask a guy in his Marathon Maniacs shirt how many this was for him, and the answer was 25. He asked me the same and I said “two”. Lame. And I mentioned that it had been 4 years and a baby since then and I basically felt like it was my first one. He said it didn’t matter how many you do, that he still tossed and turned the night before the race. At the time it was nice to know, but now that I’m thinking about it, that seems awful. Like it should get easier by your 25th marathon, right? I also saw a lady in a Scout Strong 2015 shirt, the one from the half marathon at the Kansas Speedway I did last month, and managed to say, “Hey, I have that shirt. Are you from Kansas City?” She was. I wished her good luck and that was pretty much the end of that. I tried not to waste any energy being a Chatty Kathy this time around. This was really tough for me. I wanted to know things about the people I was running with for several hours. In particular the guy who was running a minute or two and then walking a minute or two for the whole race and had a purple shirt that said “I run for my son”. I wondered who his son was and why he was running for him. And he kept his trash bag on for like 15 miles, which was incredible.

Every few miles there were 2 or 3 porta potties, all of which always had a line of people waiting to go. This is really the only area in terms of course management that could use improvement. There were men dashing off the road into the woods in droves every few minutes to take care of business. As I would run by the porta potty lines and see men standing there, I thought a couple things. 1. That dude must really have to poop. 2. What a nice rule follower who isn’t peeing in public. 3. What a jerk taking up a spot in line from a girl who has to go. Just go pee in the woods. We are literally surrounded by woods. Woods are everywhere. I held off my urge to pee, which started probably around mile 5.

More Miles

The rain would come and go, sometimes sprinkles, sometimes heavier. Sometimes it would briefly stop altogether only to start right back up again. I think there was only one point around mile 10 when I wished I had a poncho again. This is the picture I dared to take my phone out for around mile 10.

10 miles in. Saturation: 100%.

10 miles in. Saturation: 100%. (The “Look at this shit” guys from the previous post are in the background of this one.)

The spectators were all bundled up and the temps stayed near 60 I would imagine. The route runs along Lake Superior, but you can’t see the lake the whole time. In fact, some years runners have hardly been able to see the lake due to fog/mist. So each time I could see the lake, it was a little treat, and wondering when the next bend would reveal water was a nice little mental game. Who are we kidding, that is not a game at all. That is stupid. Who thinks looking for the biggest body of fresh water in the world is a game? Apparently I do. But when you’re running a marathon, anything to pass the time will suffice. Here’s a picture I took of the lake. The first one is of the lake through a Ziplock baggie because I am not all that bright, but I feel like does a better job of capturing the sogginess of the experience.

A look at Lake Superior without a Ziplock bag. Pretty much the same thing.

A look at Lake Superior without a Ziplock bag. Pretty much the same thing.

A look at Lake Superior. With a Ziplock bag filter.

A look at Lake Superior. With a Ziplock bag filter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also had some time to think of lots of insulting things about the scraggly ass pine trees in Duluth. They’re not nice, full, Christmasy pine trees when you get up close. They’re skinny, thin branched, border-line ugly pine trees, especially after you’ve seen them for hours in the car on the way up and then run alongside them for many miles. I didn’t even bother taking pictures of them. Here’s basically what I’m talking about though:

Scraggly, not so majestic pine trees.

Scraggly, not so majestic pine trees. Duluth is lousy with them.

See, they’re ugly, right?

One of my favorite mental moments of the race was when I passed one of the many campgrounds along the route (not sure where, maybe mile 9?) and the smell of rained on early morning camp fire hit my nostrils and triggered within me a feeling that was so poignant that it’s difficult to accurately describe. It was the morning scent of nearly every summer weekend of my early childhood in Minnesota. That smoky, crisp smell of just a few glowing embers left in the fire pit, still hot despite the rain, was what I remember waking up to on so many mornings. It was glorious. It was the greatest thing I had smelled in ages. I could not get over how powerful it was. I just kept taking deep breaths, trying to hold onto it, and trying not to cry. I guess I really missed those days. Or maybe it was that I really missed those people. I don’t often feel transported by a scent, but this did the trick. I wish I could have taken some of that wet campfire with me. I tried to savor it as I ran past that little campground where some of the campers had made their way to the road to drink coffee or bloody Mary’s and watch us pass. So many things about camping in the rain are miserable. The smell of a rained on campfire is not one of them.

I knew some friends and family were tracking me throughout the race. The fact that people signed up to receive text messages about my progress was incredibly flattering. It also added some weird kind of pressure as I looked for the next timing mat to cross. Something about sending that electronic alert out made it feel like I was actually making progress, actually accomplishing something. Like I had to prove it to other people in order to really believe it was happening as I was doing it. I couldn’t remember the different checkpoints and for some reason I thought there was going to be one at 10k and then again at 10 miles, but there wasn’t one until 13.1 miles, so that was a bummer (they also showed up at mile 20 and 25, and then the finish, which really seems like a long time to make people wait for updates considering how slowly someone like me runs).

Around mile 13 I saw a bank of 3 porta potties with no line, and a girl had just exited one of them. I figured this was my best chance of a pee break without a line, so I dashed in and did my business. There was toilet paper and hand sanitizer and it wasn’t overly stinky. Score. I thought I had scored big and the potty gods had smiled upon me. If I had waited another 3 minutes, I would have reached the 13.1 mile mark and literally hundreds of porta potties. A sea of septic tanks. This is where they start the half marathon, a super-popular race that has a lottery system for entry and runs the second half of the marathon course. So there were enough potties to accommodate like 7,000 runners. In retrospect, the one I hit was maybe not as heavily hit as the ones in the potty oasis at the start line though.

Halfway (but not really)

I felt great at the halfway point. Sure, my feet were still soggy and so were my clothes, but I felt pretty solid, and I no longer had to pee. Always a plus. Every few miles the “look at this shit” guys would pass me, we would share our catch phrase and a smile/laugh, and then continue on, and then eventually I would catch up to them and pass them again, saying “look at this shit”, smile/laugh, repeat. Again, a super-fun game when you’re running a marathon. Even better than “spot the lake”. I remember thinking about how good I was feeling, when around mile 14 or 15 the rain stopped and the sun actually came out. Holy humidity, Batman. The sun was not a welcome sight. It was downright yucky. I took my hat off for awhile because I felt like no steam could escape my head (and yes, I thought about Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite). I took my longest walk break. I was seriously doubting my choice of long sleeves. I was doubting my decision not to wear any sunscreen. I was melting into a puddle of doubt and sweat. Damn you, mother nature. Make up your mind. Turns out she did. Because in the next couple miles it clouded over again, and the mist even returned, so it was just a random act of sunshine. Wheew.

I remember feeling hungry around mile 16 or so and I wasn’t ready to finish last few bites of my Clif bar already (I was having a few bites at a time every couple of aid stations). But once again, the aid station volunteers came through with some bananas just when I needed them. They had orange slices too, but I didn’t want to deal with sticky, orange juice fingers. I choked down most of a Clif Razz energy gel/goo at mile 17, thinking I might need the strawberry one I was carrying in my utility belt for later. I broke the cardinal rule of “nothing new on race day” with the raspberry flavor and my stomach handled it just fine. There were a couple people who created their own makeshift aid stations out in the wilderness, offering everything from coffee and Vaseline to bacon and Jolly Ranchers. I did eventually take some Vaseline (twice) from a guy in an Army uniform near a first aid tent and used it to try to hold off some of the inevitable sports bra chafing. It sort of worked. But Vaseline on the fingers is not an ideal feeling either when you don’t have a stitch of dry clothing on which to wipe that crud off. Also, trying to modestly maneuver Vaseline onto the areas where one needs Vaseline is an activity that can spice up the monotony of running for hours.

I’m not sure exactly when, but I realized a lady up ahead of me was carrying some soggy balloons on a stick. A pace group. I figured it must be like 5:20 or 5:15 since the last pace group I remembered seeing was 5:30. Nope. This was the 5:00 pace lady. Holy shit. I was running this thing faster than I thought I was going to. It had been hours since I’d seen the 5:30 group. I trotted right on by, just keeping my comfortable pace.

I knew that at around 18 miles we would be getting close to town again, and I was really looking forward to the spectators. I had gotten a few texts from friends who were cheering me on, but I needed some crowd energy. I think I built up that “crowd energy” a bit too much in my mind. There was not really any energy to speak of. There were finally a few turns in the road, and a few race photographers, which I did my best to smile pretty for, but energy? Not so much. Not a bunch of clever signs or garage bands or neighborhood block parties. I switched on my running playlist because I needed a boost. Yes, there were quite a few people out and about all things considered, but by the time we back of the packers started making our way through, I didn’t think the city had anything to brag about in terms of crowd support. I get that it was rainy and would have been a miserable day to be a spectator at a marathon (is that ever a fun thing?), so I’ll give them a pass. At mile 19 I took some preventative ibuprofen at a water stop. I also had another chunk of a banana.

Once I got to mile 20 I was thinking about how these next miles were the SACRED miles, the ones I had trained for, the ones only to be run with a race bib on. Speaking of which, people cannot have signs around mile 20 that say things like “You’re almost there.” Seriously, stop it. We are not almost there. The race is just starting at that point. At mile 20 the signs should say, “You’re halfway there.” or “Brace yourself.” or “The only way to make it stop is to finish.” For us ten-plus minute milers, mile 20 means we still have over an hour to go. You should, however, feel free to put your collection of troll dolls to good use and line the street in front of your house with like 50 of them as seen in this little gem from somewhere around mile 20. (I really loved troll dolls as a kid, so I had to stop and take a picture. I don’t remember what their signs said.)

A gutter full of troll dolls was such a hilarious sight after running 20 miles.

A gutter full of troll dolls was such a hilarious sight after running 20 miles.

The Real Halfway

Around mile 20 was when I couldn’t ignore my sore feet anymore. I kept trying not to think about it, but it felt like I was running on a really stinging, popped blister on my right foot. I tried not to let it alter my stride too much. It was tolerable, but not ideal. Had I known the situation that was brewing under my socks, I would not have been able to finish. I had a couple pretzels, not necessarily because I needed or wanted them, but because I hat toted them all this way and figured a little salty boost might help.

I sent Dan a text that said “21” and was getting mentally prepared for the famous Lemon Drop Hill I had read about that I knew would pop up around mile 22. During training I had practiced picturing myself running up Lemon Drop Hill. I kept telling myself that I was going to attack it, and I wasn’t going to walk up that hill. Well, guess what. (What?) Lemon Drop Hill isn’t really a hill at all. Not by my neighborhood standards. It was an incline really. A pitiful little thing. Like a freeway on-ramp, and when I realized half way up this slight slope that this was in fact the monster hill I had been having anxiety about, I almost laughed out loud. You call this a hill? No way. I eat hills like this for breakfast…or something like that. I didn’t really have time to think up an insult for the hill. I sped up as I climbed. I actually did laugh out loud when I blew by the “look at this shit” guys, who were walking up the hill and I could tell by looking at them that they were not going to catch me again. They even said, “look at you!” Yes. Look at me, indeed.

After that I was just a running machine. Maybe it was the ibuprofen kicking in, or the fact that it was pretty much downhill from there, or that I was on cobblestone streets, which signaled I was closer to the finish, or that I knew Dan and my Uncle Paul were waiting at mile 24, but I just started cruising. From mile 22 to the finish I ran my fastest miles, one of which was like a 9:30 or something, blazing speed I tell you! It’s a shame I was in such a beast mode because some of the more entertaining things were happening on the course during those miles. We ran by the hotels where most of the marathoners were staying, there were more people cheering, we were getting closer to downtown. People were stopping for shots at one of the bars that had moved its high top tables over to the roadside, and I watched a 70 year-old man get coaxed over to a beer funnel by a pack of frat boys and he chugged the whole thing! There were ladies doing Zumba in a gas station parking lot, and less in-shape ladies belly dancing in the street. There were high school bands and cheer squads, and cute kids with posters waiting to give high fives. It was all very festive, and I didn’t really care because I was a running machine. At least as much of a running machine as one can be doing 10 to 11 minute miles.For the first time I started to think about  my finish time, and I thought, “I’m going to finish this sucker under five hours.” No shit, Sherlock. You passed the five hour pace group like a half hour ago. That wasn’t computing for me at the time though.

I finally got to see Dan and my uncle around mile 24. He had texted me which street corner they were going to be at, and knowing that somehow made those miles seem longer. I was excited to see the sign Dan made. It had taken me a superhuman act of willpower not to peek at it. He had lovingly made it in our basement on florescent green poster board and then wrapped in saran wrap to protect it from the rain. It was in the car when I was packing up and I didn’t look at it even though I desperately wanted to. I wanted to have that moment when I saw it on the course. I’m glad I waited. You kind of have to know our kid and the scripted potty training language he likes to use, but it was super sweet. After Otto poops we always say, “I’m so proud of you!” and then he repeats it back in his tiny, excited little voice.

"I'm so proud of you!"  (Otto voice)

“I’m so proud of you!”
(Otto voice)

I felt awful that I barely said hi and gave high fives to Dan and my Uncle Paul before busting it to the finish. My uncle drove like 3 hours over to Duluth that morning in the pouring rain, I’m sure battled for parking, then had to plan out a viewing spot, make contact with Dan and spend hours in the rain watching people run by, just to see me for 30 seconds. It was really cool of him to do that. My cousin Jenny and her husband Phil came down to the course too, but they just missed me. Drat. It reminded me of how much I appreciated my friends and my parents coming to watch me up in Fargo (big blog shoutout once again to Mom, Dad, Jess, Tara, and Zane for that crazy day). And I did take a moment to think about how lucky I was to have so many supportive people in my life. I was really trying to run with gratitude.

Those last couple of miles were amazing. The good songs were coming up on my playlist, including “I Really Like You” by Carly Rae Jepsen, “Work, B*tch” by Britney Spears, “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars, and Katy Perry’s “Roar”. I saw the timing mat for mile 25 and I think the clock next to it said 4:45. I remember thinking, I can run this last mile in under 15 minutes with no problem and I really will finish a marathon under 5 hours. This is awesome! I also realized I actually had more time than that because the clock was displaying gun time (official race start time) rather than my chip time, and I knew I hadn’t crossed the start line for several minutes after the gun. I could walk to the finish and still finish under five hours. But then I was worried about jinxing myself, so I kept saying, “don’t think about the time, just run.” I wanted to finish to my favorite marathon training song, so I fumbled with my phone to find “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten. The last mile is a bunch of twists and turns, each one more annoying than the last. Just show me the damn finish line! At last there it was. Balloons and stands full of people, and a real, live finishing chute. I was doing it. I could finally stop moving and take my shoes off! Victory! Official finishing time: 4:48:53. I was 4,807th out of 6,077 people and averaged an 11:02 pace. Solidly representing the back of the pack, but finishing 53 minutes faster than my 2011 Fargo time. The most important thing was that I didn’t need medical attention at any point throughout the day and that I felt amazing.

The Glorious Aftermath

You don’t just get to stop moving after finishing a marathon. Oh, no. You get your medal and then have to walk all the way through the finishing area. I saw Dan on the corner right after the finish line, beer in hand, and I made him take a selife of us and send it to my parents.

Finished!

Finished!

Then I kept walking to get a bottle of water, walked to the tent to get my finisher shirt and drink ticket, where again I was confronted with the dilemma of picking the proper shirt size given the women’s cut. I had to get this right because I plan on wearing this sucker EVERYWHERE (and I never wear my Fargo one because it’s too small). Seriously shirt people, get it together. I understand  that most runners are of the tiny sort, but I just don’t think I should need an extra large. That just takes me down a peg in my moment of glory, and must make the people who typically get an extra large feel crappy when they have to get a double XL after they just ran a freaking marathon! I guess I could have gone to the men’s tent instead, but again, why must I be thinking of my body size/shape/weirdness/lareness mere moments after it carried me 26.2 miles? Anyway, I got my XL shirt (the right choice) and then I walked over to get a carnation, and then walked over to a nice old man who wrapped me in a mylar blanket, and then walked over to the gear check areas to get my bag. These were organized with all the men’s tables first, and the women’s tables even farther away. And my bib number was 9200 something, which of course meant that my gear was literally in the farthest area from the finish line. I painfully plopped down on the pavement eager to get my shoes off and assess the damage. What I saw was horrifying. It also horrified the girl sitting next to me who said she was too scared to take off her own shoes. I will just let the photo speak for itself.

Blisters on blisters on blisters.

Blisters on blisters on blisters.

Yep. There are layers of blisters there, my friends. And on both feet. The “Blister Tent” (yes, it was labeled as such) was full of people being assisted by first aid workers and had a line 3 or 4 deep waiting to get inside, and it was raining again, so I made my way to find some food and find Dan. I knew that sometimes people dipped their legs in  the soothing cold waters of Lake Superior after the race because the finish is so close to the shore. But it was still a pretty decent walk out of the finisher area and then around to the water, and I just couldn’t muster up the energy to make it to the lake to have that moment. I probably should have. Oh, well. I had a dry blueberry bagel, some peanut butter on a spoon (that I managed to get all over my white carnation), a mini salted nut roll (of which I could have eaten a million but the person passing them out was being kind of stingy about doling them out one at a time). All of the beautiful fruit they had out just wasn’t appealing to me at all. I wanted salty, carby, starchy stuff. I had a volunteer who was helping with all the recycling take a picture of me with the lift bridge in the background and it ended up being one of my favorites from the whole weekend.

A great day at Grandma's.

A great day at Grandma’s.

I found Dan, drinking another celebratory beer, this time in a commemorative cup, near Grandma’s Saloon. He said he had just seen the shuttle for our hotel in the area and I figured if they were only running on the hour, we should hurry up and catch it. Sure enough, I saw it cruise by and we were like 2 blocks from the pick-up point.

26.2 ounces of beer.

26.2 festive ounces of beer.

So Dan is toting this obnoxious beer, I’m loaded down with gear, wrapped in my Superman cape, and running two blocks in flip flops in the rain to catch the shuttle bus. I’m yelling at Dan to move his ass because I don’t want to wait another hour down here in the rain with this mob of people until another one comes by. We ran up on it just as it was pulling away, knocked on the door, and were let on. Hallelujah! I called my Uncle Paul to tell him we were headed back to the hotel and we never were able to meet back up that day. I made Dan take some more post-race pictures back in the room before I hobbled to the shower and changed into my extra large finisher shirt.

The all-important race sticker for my car.

The all-important race sticker for my car.

My Grandma's Superman cape, lovingly presented to me with a hug from an old man at the finish.

My Grandma’s Superman cape, lovingly presented to me with a hug from an old man at the finish.

It was probably 2:00 when we both settled in for a nap. I couldn’t really sleep because my legs were doing all sorts of twitchy weird things and my blisters were killing me. I eventually ended up popping the big angry one and would continue to do so for the following few days. There was layer upon layer of fluid in those suckers. It was disgustingly satisfying to pop and drain my blisters. Sort of like peeling a sunburn I suppose, which I also enjoy doing.

We headed back to downtown on the 5:00 p.m. shuttle and I joined the other hobbling warriors who were trying to make our way around to find food and merriment. We hit up Grandma’s, because, it was Grandma’s Marathon after all, and we’d never eaten at one. As we waited for a table I found an amazing long sleeved marathon t-shirt for the bargain price of $20, so I was elated that we had chosen that place to eat. I wanted something greasy and salty and I wanted a big beer of my own. Done and done. A big Blue Moon, an appetizer of ranch fries, followed by a chicken pot pie and couple of bites of Dan’s burger did just the trick.

Recovering at Grandma's Saloon.

Recovering at Grandma’s Saloon.

I shouldn’t have had the second big Blue Moon though as it just made me sleepy and sluggish. We talked about maybe going to a movie or trying to find something else to do since it was so early, but I was feeling old, tired and lame. I didn’t want to drink any more, nor did I want to pay a cover to sit out in the cold to watch live music. We strolled around some local shops, looking for a souvenir for Otto, and stopped in at another candy store for some treats that I didn’t even feel like eating. We made it until about 8:00 p.m. at which point I didn’t care how lame I was, I really just wanted to catch a shuttle back to the hotel,  lie in bed,  and scroll through my Facebook feed. So that’s what we did. Also, I didn’t get credit on my Fitbit for any of my marathon steps because I didn’t want to get it wet, so I didn’t wear it during the race.

The next morning the local papers had a lot of nice marathon write-ups and feature stories and they even published everybody’s name who ran the half and the full. We enjoyed our hotel breakfast, coffee on our little balcony, and of course it was an absolutely perfect, beautiful morning on the day we had to leave. We departed for Minneapolis about 10:00 a.m. and Dan flew home to KC leaving me with the car so I could attend an AP Summer Institute at Augsburg College that week. I used the Siri on my iphone for the first time ever and had her guide me to the nearest Chipotle restaurant for my post-race guacamole fix. It was glorious. (It was also the only Chipotle I’ve ever been to that had an all-white staff.) I stayed with my friend Tara in Eden Prairie all week and I even found myself shoving my swollen, blistered, black toenailed feet back into my running shoes on Wednesday and Thursday morning at 5:00 a.m. for nice little 3 mile runs with her. It made me seriously consider running with people more often and seriously jealous of the great running and biking trails all over the Minneapolis area.

It's official. My name in print.

It’s official. My name in print.

Overall, it was a wonderful race experience and left me open to the possibility of running another full marathon. I didn’t feel like I wanted to die or murder anyone at any point during or after the race. I didn’t have any moments where I thought I was going to poop my pants. There were stretches that really kind of sucked, and some times I didn’t feel all that great. But I did a much better job of fueling and conserving energy, and plus I’ve just been a runner for much longer this time around, so I kind of knew what to expect. My training this time around was really relaxed and did not consist of a ton of mileage. In fact, most weeks I ran about 5 miles on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and then held the weekend long run sacred. And that was it. Three days a week. That was just what I needed to get the job done. I’m really proud of myself and excited to be able to stay in the house when it rains from now on.

It has probably taken you as long to read this post as it took me to run that marathon, so if you made it this far, you deserve a medal too. And thank you for caring enough to peruse my musings.

Oh, and here’s a link to some really unflattering and pretty badass pictures of me from the marathon course.

My Grandma’s Marathon Story (part 1)

Just a disclaimer/reminder that this post will be extremely long and that I’m writing it mostly for myself to help me remember this momentous occasion.

Pre-Marathon Thursday night before the race, I dropped Otto off with Papa and Grandma Julie so that we could hit the road early the next day. (He had a great time and had all sorts of adventures. I’m so thankful my parents are close enough to do things like this.)

Playing Ants in the Pants

Playing Ants in the Pants

Tooling around Union Station

Tooling around Union Station

Livin' it up at the splash park.

Livin’ it up at the splash park.

Feeding the carp. Gross.

Feeding the carp. Gross.

Reading Christopher's Night at Grandma and Grandpa's for the 55th time.

Reading Christopher’s Night at Grandma and Grandpa’s for the 55th time.

On Friday morning Dan and I left our house at 7:00 a.m. headed to Duluth, Minnesota, a nine hour drive. We arrived around 4:00 p.m. We only made 2 stops. Once for gas/restroom break, and again for lunch. I insisted that we eat Subway for lunch because I wanted a safe, non-greasy sandwich that was mostly bread, and I had two $5 gift cards from teacher appreciation week that I wanted to use. Turns out that when you don’t want Subway, the interstate highway system is lousy with Subways, but when you actively start looking for a Subway restaurant around lunch time, they are few and far between. Some kind of weird Murphy’s Law was at work. We finally found one in an Iowa mini-version of the Legends area. My back was really hurting in the car. Even with the luxury of being able to recline my seat and move it back, I couldn’t get comfortable. I didn’t want to take extra stops for stretching because I was focused on getting to the hotel, getting my race packet with my bib, and getting to the spaghetti feed. They hold a 5k race Friday night, right during the heart of race expo time, so I knew it would just get more and more congested the longer it took us to get to Duluth. Turns out it probably wouldn’t have mattered as the traffic into the Duluth downtown area was at a total standstill a couple miles out and would have been no matter what time we got there. I didn’t realize how small the area we were trying to get to really was. It was exciting seeing Lake Superior, the big lift bridge, and just thousands and thousands of people all headed the same direction. I’m sure Dan didn’t find it nearly as exciting as he had been driving for 9 hours and was the one sitting in one lane, stand still traffic. We made it to our hotel, The Park Point Marina Inn, on the other side of the lift bridge, and like most places in town, they completely embraced and catered to the marathon runners. That is in all areas except the pricing, which they totally jacked up for the weekend. Like seriously, it was ridiculous, to the point where I’m embarrassed to admit how much we spent on a two night hotel stay. They gave us a bunch of race info, shuttle info, and there was a little gift bag in the room with bananas, granola bars, bottled water, and a note from the staff.

Welcome bag in the hotel room.

Welcome bag in the hotel room.

Room 205 at the Park Point Marina Inn

Room 205 at the Park Point Marina Inn

The hotel had a wonderful shuttle service that zipped us right over to the area near the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center (DECC, pronounced “deck”). It left every hour on the hour, so we caught the 5:00 p.m. shuttle over and made our way into the madness. It ended up being a very chilly night. It was windy and about 55 degrees, which right on the water and in the shade felt downright cold. We had not really packed properly for the trip, and by we I mostly mean Dan. He didn’t bring any jeans, much of a jacket, or any tennis shoes, so he was on a mission to at least find some shoes at the race expo. Everything was well-organized and well-labeled. I didn’t want to spend too long on my feet wandering around, so I headed straight for my packet and then picked up some Clif Shot Blocks in tropical punch flavor and Dan bought his shoes and a 26.2 sticker for my car. I did want to do one lap through the expo, but didn’t find any must-have items. I ended up donating to the Duluth newspaper so I could get a commemorative cowbell and buying some Grandma’s souvenir socks (because I was too cheap to shell out the money for the souvenir shirts/jackets they were selling and am all set on coffee mugs). The great thing about this purchase was that since I was unsure which size to get, the girl running the booth let me try on a pair of both the mediums and the larges and then let me keep them. She said that’s what they were for, basically the try on pairs were just giveaways, so Dan got the larges to wear with his new shoes, and I got two pairs of good socks for the price of one, one of which has a cute Grandma’s Marathon logo in purple. Score.

Picking up my bib number.

Picking up my bib number.

Posing with some signage at the expo.

Posing with some signage at the expo.

It's freezing up here!

It’s freezing up here!

After that we headed into the giant spaghetti feed. It was a sight to behold. There was an army of people serving in like 8 or 10 different lines. You are firmly directed to a spaghetti lane. Then you walk up and designate meatballs or no meatballs and an assembly line of cooks presents you with a plate containing salad, a dressing packet, pasta and sauce, bread, and two of those vanilla wafer sandwich cookies, which I absolutely love.

Delightful little cookies that people either love or hate.

Delightful little cookies that people either love or hate.

There was another line for the cooler containing Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and an assortment of milks. On the tables were big bottles of water, cups, loaves of bread and butter. I don’t even know how to estimate how many people were in there. Lots. You could go back as many times as you wanted. I skipped the salad and the meatballs and had 2 plates of pasta with marinara, 2 pieces of bread, and like 6 of those vanilla sandwich cookies because Dan insisted that they were gross, and the kind of cookie that was brought by the annoying kid when it was his turn to bring snacks to elementary school or after practice. They served food like this from 11:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. on Friday. It was crazy. I thought it was pretty tasty considering the mammoth quantities they were producing.We sat with a super-serious guy from the Chicago area who was running his first full marathon, but hoping to do so in like 3 hours and 30 minutes. He was not much for conversation, but I tried anyway. He had come in the night before and was planning to take in the pre-race concert party that night in Canal Park. They had a line-up of bands, mostly country, and it seemed weird to me that people would want to be out partying the night BEFORE the marathon.

The biggest pasta feed I've ever seen.

The biggest pasta feed I’ve ever seen.

After we ate we cheered on some of the 5k runners who were finishing outside the DECC and hit up the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for some treats as we waited for the next hotel shuttle to pick us up. It was an absolutely gorgeous night. I think if I wouldn’t have been so preoccupied with the impending 26.2, or so cramped up from being in the car for 9 hours, or so freaking cold, I would have enjoyed it more. Nevertheless, we went back to the hotel, which was right on the water, dropped off our acquired stuff, strolled around the slips and looked at some of the amazing boats docked there, and Dan snagged a couple of Michelob Golden Draft Lights from the hotel “lounge”. I stuck to water. From there it was figuring out logistics for the morning and planning my outfit, packing things I thought I might need into my gear check bag, while continually checking the Weather Channel app, as if the forecast was going to magically change since the last time I checked it. Chance of rain was 100%. The plan was to get up at 5:00 a.m. with a 5:50 a.m. departure to the DECC where an army of school buses takes runners to the start. I had to be on a bus by 6:15 a.m. in order to guarantee my arrival at the start. Dan was going to drive me over since he would be up anyway, we didn’t figure there would be much traffic at that hour, and that eliminated the variable of having to wait for the hotel shuttle. I set 2 alarms, put in my earplugs and slept pretty well that night. My dream was a very vivid one consisting of me somehow missing all of the buses to the starting line and despite my pleading with race officials and others that I would still have time to get there by 7:45 if my husband just drove me, they assured me that the highway was closed and I would not be able to get to the start of the race. Dreams are weird. I was relieved when I woke up at 5 and discovered that my dream wasn’t real life.

A beautiful, chilly night in Duluth.

A beautiful, chilly night in Duluth.

Race Day Thankfully the morning went off without a hitch. The hotel had been serving breakfast since 3:00 a.m. because marathoners are crazy. Some of them get up at that hour, eat oatmeal or whatever and then go back to bed. I managed to have a successful poop in the comfort of my hotel room, got mostly dressed and we headed down to the lobby for breakfast. It was crowded. I brought my own little packs of Jif peanut butter from home because hotel breakfast peanut butter is always sub-par. I toasted a bagel, had a small cup of coffee, and opened a mushy banana. Yuck. Dan went back up to the room to get me a non-mushy banana and the bread I had brought from home. I toasted a piece of that bread and cut up my bananas on top of my peanut butter as per usual. I had to take half of the bagel with me because I just couldn’t get it down. My tummy was either full or starting to get nervous. I had a few drinks of Powerade and tried to drink lots of water. I also took some preventative ibuprofen even though my back wasn’t too sore yet. Before I knew it it was time to head to a bus. It wasn’t raining, and it wasn’t super-cold. I chose to go with my shorts and a long-sleeved dry-fit shirt and a “throw away” fleece over it. Hat, poncho and trash bags were in my gear check bag along with my utility belt, fuel, headphones, more snacks, flip flops, and whatever else I thought I might need before or immediately after the race. There was a line of about 6 buses picking up at the DECC when I got there. One of the buses had 3 seats left, and since I was a singleton, I hopped right on. I sat next to Chatty McTalks-a-lot from Wisconsin on the ride out to Two Harbors. He was so nice. He started our ride by telling me I looked like Kara Goucher (a professional runner), at which point I knew he was a little nutty, but I was thankful for his compliment. He got the people around us talking about running, and sharing where they were coming from, etc. so really all I could focus on was him and his positive energy (and his goofy lookin headwrap). His running partners were across the aisle from me and they had their game faces on and were not into talking with bus strangers. At all. They were all shooting for a 3:45 marathon that day and they seemed annoyed that he was chatting up strangers, most of whom were just hoping to finish injury free. I’m not sure how long the bus ride was. I think probably 30 minutes or so. I managed to eat the rest of my bagel with peanut butter and drink a little more water. I kept thinking, “yeah, this is far.” We finally pulled up to the car dealership lot/starting area/middle of nowhere and it started to sprinkle. And then it started to sprinkle a little more. And shit got real. Because at this point there is really no way to get back to Duluth except to run back. The buses continue to drive you way down the road to allow for more and more buses to continue to have room to park, so you end up with a nice little stroll to start the day. Because why not make it 26.5 miles instead of 26.2? During that little stroll I put on my hat and my poncho. It was officially raining now. About this time a train pulled up along side the start that was full of spectators ready for their scenic railway tour. I immediately got in line for a porta potty, and that line took about 10 minutes. That gave me time to look around and take it all in. There was 1 tented area that was jam packed full of people, and everyone else was just sort of milling around in various trash bag/poncho concoctions in an effort to at least stay dry until the race started. Many were sitting in grassy areas on trash bags, others just on the pavement. I wondered where the elite runners were. Did they have trailers for them up closer to the starting line or tents? Did they have flushable toilets? Couches? I pictured the luxury they were no doubt experiencing while the rest of us common folk slogged through puddles. I was so jealous of the geniuses who brought Target bags to tie around the outside of their shoes. Why did I not think of that?!? And I had an umbrella in my car. Why did I not think to bring it to the start when there was 100% chance of rain? Umbrella people were like kings. There was a whole social hierarchy forming based on your level of rain protection. I pitied the people who didn’t even have a trash bag to wear and I envied the people with umbrellas and higher quality rain jackets and ponchos. After I exited the porta potty with my utility belt on and headphones in, I set about making myself a spot. I just kept thinking, “I’m wearing a trash bag, sitting on a trash bag, covered up with a trash bag. What am I doing? This is miserable.”  I may or may not have thought about how it couldn’t get much worse. It was silly of me to think that because as I struggled to sit perfectly still in my spot, expending precious energy, and attempting to send a text message under my poncho, the person on the loudspeaker reminded those who hadn’t dropped off their gear check bags to do so now. Shit. So I ventured out of my trash bag hidey hole, took a bite of a granola bar, one more swig of water, decided I wasn’t going to wear gloves or a headband, and made my way to the trash bins designated by bib number in which we were to drop our bags. It was at this point that the sky really opened up and it started pouring. Pouring. Like people were laying on their bellies under the U Haul trucks and dealership cars in an effort to find some shelter kind of pouring. My shoes and socks were soaked. There was just no getting around it. I tried to calm myself down and again build some sort of trash bag sanctuary on the grass. I was trying to convince myself that I wasn’t completely saturated yet and I just needed to sit still under the trash bags and preserve whatever dry areas still existed. The longer I sat there, the more miserable I felt, the more I thought about the energy I was wasting on this pointless pre-race plastic party and my self-talk started getting pretty negative. The rain cascading down my poncho at some point formed a pool on the trash bag on which I was sitting, and when that puddle was large enough to reach my ass, it created quite a refreshing sensation. Here is where I have a confession to make. I didn’t stand up for the national anthem. That’s right, I disrespected America because I was hunkered down in pile of trash bags in the pouring rain in Two Harbors, Minnesota waiting to run 26.2 miles. I had my headphones in but was just half listening to an Adam and Dr. Drew podcast. I could still hear the announcements on the loudspeaker, and so I knew exactly what was happening, but I played it off like I didn’t know. I feel pretty badly about that choice and I guess it says something about my mental state at that point that I was selfishly and stubbornly convinced that sitting in my (somewhat) protective trash bag bubble was more important than respectfully standing and putting my soggy hand over my soggy heart for a few moments before the race. Sorry, America. Maybe 5 minutes later there was movement to the start. So I parted with my precious trash bag coverings, keeping only the poncho I was wearing, and made my way to the start. I didn’t make it very far. I found myself near the back of the pack with people holding soggy balloons and signs for 5:30 and “Walkers”. Some of the people around me started getting a little frantic and trying to move further up. Clearly they did not want to be seen near the likes of the 5 hour crew. Not me. I was perfectly fine starting near the 5:30 pace group. I finished the Fargo Marathon in 5:41 back in 2011. These were my people. Plus I knew in a few miles it wouldn’t really matter anyway and we had plenty of time to spread out. There were some guys next to me who were taking a selfie. One of them said, “Grandma’s 2105, look at this shit.” To which I commented, “Make sure you hashtag that. I think that’s actually the new race slogan. Look at this shit.” We had a good laugh. Turns out the “look at this shit” guys would pop up throughout the race and I was thankful they did. Here is my miserable pre-race selfie.

I'm wearing a trash bag, sitting on a trash bag, covered up with a trash bag. Why am I doing this? AKA starting line selfie.

I’m wearing a trash bag, sitting on a trash bag, covered up with a trash bag. Why am I doing this? AKA starting line selfie.

The Coutdown Is On

last 10

The last weekend run before Grandma’s Marathon.

I’m going to run a marathon in 6 days. Holy smokes. I think I need to watch this inspirational Youtube video every day from now until then. This period of time is what runner people call “tapering”. I’ve been sidelined most of this week because I somehow pulled/tweaked/threw out something in my back. Yep, that’s right. I seriously injured my back doing something other than running 20 miles. Something like vacuuming or pushing my kid in a too-short-for-me stroller, or sitting on the bathroom floor waiting for my kid to finish peeing.You know, something really extreme and badass like that. Perhaps it’s a sign that I’m not the athletic specimen that I once fancied myself when I can injure myself and not know how I did it and then have to hobble around for days popping ibuprofen and looking for ice packs. Nothing makes you feel like you’re getting older than a sore back. As each day passed and I didn’t/couldn’t go run, my anxiety level went up (along with my desire to consume Nutella right out of the jar).

(Side note: I had run about 10 miles the day before my back boo boo. Some of the most miserable miles on record and I didn’t bother to write about that run. I waited until after a thunderstorm passed and it got hot and horrible. I drove a cooler with water and Powerade out to my turn around spot and then ran from my house out to K-7 and back. It doesn’t seem like that far when you’re driving, and it isn’t really that far, but it seems very, very far.)

Anyway, I seem to be on the mend. Things are just kind of achy and tight as opposed to sharp-shooty and scary like they were last week. Hooray! Go, body! Keep doing the healing stuff! I attempted a run on Friday morning because I woke up wide awake at 5:00 a.m. and took that as a sign that I should head out the door. What I thought would be a nice, easy 5 mile run turned into a not so easy 4 mile awkward walk with periods of jogging. But at least it was something. It did little to lift my confidence or ease my anxiety though.

Exactly.

Exactly.

So yesterday I soldiered on to my last kinda sorta long run before race day. This was going to be anywhere from 6 to10 miles. After considering staying close to home for a run that short, I ended up going back to my old familiar trail for what will probably be my last run there for a while. I think I needed the mental boost of knowing that I had put in oodles of miles on those paths and so I had the confidence I could do it. People sometimes warn new runners that the first mile is always really tough. What they don’t always tell you is that the second and third often are too. This is why it’s so easy to get discouraged and quit and decide you hate running or that you’re not getting any better. Because that first mile always, always sucks. For me it’s usually the first 20-25 minutes or so of utter ugliness before I can settle in. In yesterday’s case that ugliness lasted the the first 5 miles. It sucked. My feet felt heavy. I went really slowly. It started to rain. My back was tight and sore. I didn’t wear my Fitbit because it was sprinkling, thereby not getting credit for any of the steps I took during that 10 mile run. There were a couple times when I thought maybe I should stop and not risk injuring myself further, but I knew that what I was feeling wasn’t the sharp-shooting, further injuring myself kind of pain. I don’t know how I knew this, but I just sort of did. You know, man, ’cause I’m all like, in tune with my body and stuff, and so I just listened to it, man, and it’s like this totally beautiful mind-body connection thing, man. Not really. But I just kept going. I knew I had to practice this because I’m going to feel it in Duluth. I felt like I needed to do 10 miles that day to help ease my anxiety and make up for the zero miles I had done that week (even though I realize that’s not how it works during the last 2 weeks before a marathon and you can’t really make stuff up at this point). Turns out I was right (I LOVE being right, it’s like my favorite thing), and after I stopped to pee at the real bathrooms around mile 5 and have some jelly beans and a drink, I started to settle in on the way back. I revisited some songs I liked on my playlist, and it got easier. Things started to flow. I felt like I was a runner after all. I started to have positive thoughts. I started to have more reflective thoughts as well. I thought about people who are on bed rest, and those in hospitals, and hooked up to machines, or recovering from treatments and procedures, or in chronic pain, and I tried to focus on the gratitude I have for my health and my ability to run. Even with a bum back. And I started to think about next weekend. I finished the 10.5 miles as the rain picked up and I thought a lot about my fears heading in to race day. I may or may not put those in writing in another post. I revisited my posts from 2011 about heading into race day and some of those same fears remain. For now, I’m feeling good. I’m going to focus on getting enough water, vegetables, carbohydrates, and sleep this week.

We’re dropping Otto off Thursday evening with my parents and then hitting the road to Duluth bright and early on Friday morning. The marathon starts at 7:45 a.m. Saturday, which in my opinion is far too late to start a race when I’m going to be out there running for well over 5 hours. And with thousands of people in front of me, I probably won’t actually get to start until closer to 8:00 a.m., but nobody asked me.