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Archive for June, 2012

Rock ‘N Soul Quarter Marathon – Milwaukee, WI (June 23, 2012)

Me crossing the finish line of the Rock 'N Sole Quarter Marathon - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Me crossing the finish line of the Rock ‘N Sole Quarter Marathon – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Race: Rock ‘N Soul Quarter Marathon

Place: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Date: June 23, 2012

Time: 54:52

Apparently, last year, the Rock ‘N Sole Half Marathon didn’t work out so well.  There were multiple hospitalizations, intense heat, and problems all around.  But for this year’s race, they hired a new race director, changed the start time, had more volunteers, much more water, and added two races – a Quarter Marathon and a 5K race.

I could have run the half marathon, but being as I just ran one at the beginning of the month, when I was eying the Rock ‘N Sole race, I figured it was probably better to stick with the quarter marathon (that’s 6.55 miles).  Besides, quarter marathons are rather rare, are a good distance, and it would fit right into my training for my next half marathon in September.

With no hesitation, I signed up.  And this meant taking Friday, June 22, off from work and driving all the way from my home in Southern Indiana to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  My roommate and I decided to work it like it was one of your gym mornings, get up early, grab some breakfast at home, pack some snacks for the road, finish packing, and hit the road by 6:30 a.m. at the very latest.  We hit the road at 6 a.m.

The drive up was long, but we put on the iPod and made it work.  Somewhere in Chicago we dove into our GoPicnic boxes for lunch.  And around 12:30 p.m., we were checking into our hotel in Milwaukee.  Happiness.  Soon after dropping off our luggage, we were hitting the road to downtown because I needed to hit up packet pick-up at the expo, which was happening at the Italian Community Center.

That expo was small as well, but larger than the one for Minneapolis.  I walked straight back to the packet pick-up desk and got my bag that contained some goodies, race information, my bib, timing chip, and my shirt.  The race excitement was definitely building now.  It was feeling real.  While walking around the expo, I was gifted with free socks being handed out by the main sponsor, BMO Harris Bank.  Sweet.  I eyed a few items at the expo, but as usual…lots of window shopping, no actual shopping.  With all that done, and the expo fully explored, my roommate and I headed out to do some exploring and shopping in Milwaukee.

A few stores, some frozen custard, and a stop back at the hotel later, we were dressed in jeans and out of our travel-in-the-car clothes and heading out for dinner.  Cathy found this great restaurant called Transfer Pizzeria & Café.  And what made it so great, aside from the ambiance and amazing staff?  Gluten-free bruschetta, gluten-free pizza, and a gluten-free brownie for dessert.  Perfect ending to the night before the race.  Carbs, dessert, and good times.  It was back to the hotel afterwards to settle in for the night because the morning was going to be another early one.

It was 4 a.m. when my alarm on my iPhone began to go off.  I got out of bed, grabbed my race clothes, and headed into the bathroom to change.  Cathy turned on the Weather so we could see what we would be dealing with while I ate a serving of gluten-free cereal and she had a breakfast bar.  We finished up, glad that it was in the low sixties currently and no rain was moving through, got our stuff, and headed downtown to the start of the race.

We arrived early so we could park in one of the free lots.  We did get a spot in one with no problem.  It wasn’t the one we were aiming for, but, hey…it was a spot.  We grabbed the race bag and she got my sign and off we went.  We could see the finish line from where we parked so now we had to make the walk to where the race was starting.  It was a bit of a haul, but it wasn’t too bad.  There were only a few runners currently mingling and standing around.  Most people out there were volunteers.  And as we neared the start line, which was in front of the Milwaukee Museum of Art on the lakefront, the sun began to come up and we had the most spectacular sunrise over the lake.  It was fantastic.

So, we settled in on a bench and about an hour before the race, we had the rest of our breakfast.  A granola bar for her and a banana with peanut butter for me.  This gave my body time to digest.  This was the same thing I ate before the Mini Marathon in Indianapolis…so I knew it would work out.  Then, just as suddenly as the sun came up…it disappeared.  And this thick wave of fog began to roll in off the lake.  It was a blanket.  No joke.  The sun was completely gone and it was getting difficult to see too far in front of you.

It was kind of great though.  I’ve run in heat, sun, snow, rain, cold, lightning…never fog.  First time for everything.  As 20 minutes to race time approached, the fog was even heavier.  There were much more people around now and we all began our tradition of stretching and warming up.  Everywhere you looked, runners were preparing for whichever race they were running.

The Half and Quarter Marathons were starting together at 7:00 a.m.  The 5K would start at 7:20 a.m.  So, around 6:45, the announcer began to tell runners to get into their corrals because the race would start promptly at 7:00.  I gave Cathy a hug, and she wished me luck, and off I went to Corral G…my short-term home at the start of the race.  At first, runners were scarce in the corrals.  No, the fog wasn’t hiding them, they were just still making their way here.  But soon we were lined up, listening to the National Anthem, and being told that at the top of the Daniel Hoan Bridge was our first water stop, but due to the fog…we couldn’t see it.  So, we were to listen for instructions on where to be so we didn’t run into volunteers, tables or whatever.  Yay, fog!

Runners head across the Daniel Hoan Bridge and into the thick fog

Runners head across the Daniel Hoan Bridge and into the thick fog

And then…the countdown began and we were off.  Well, it took about 2 minutes to get from Corral G to the start line.  Not too bad considering.  And then, I hit start on my Garmin as I crossed the start line…and away I went with the group.

It was rather quick getting to the bridge, which was to offer spectacular views of the Milwaukee skyline, Lake Michigan, and the Summerfest grounds.  But…we saw fog.  Ah well.  And, holding true…running up exit ramps…sucks.  They are a lot steeper than they look, trust me.  And about halfway up, my iPod shut off.  So, I had to mess with that and get it working, which meant I wasn’t really running my best.  But I got it sorted and back on track, and picked it up a little.

They were right…you couldn’t see the water station as you crested the top.  But they had volunteers funneling runners through so that we all got in and out safely.  Once we got past there, it was a breeze.  Mile 1 was already behind me and I was making the push for Mile 2.  The fog was beginning to become less dense, and the sun was making a play at coming back out.  Mile 2 arrived just before we headed down the ramp to run a stretch of road.  Mile 3 was at the top of the other exit ramp as we began to make our way back across the Daniel Hoan Bridge.  There still wasn’t any visibility of the downtown, the lake, or the Summerfest grounds, but running in the fog was an adventure.  However, with the sun breaking through, the heat of the day was starting to get felt.

Somewhere between Mile 3 and Mile 4, a man running in the half marathon stumbled and fell.  I mean, took a hard crash down on the bridge.  Runners stopped to help him up and make sure he was okay (I love the people in my sport!), and he shook it off and started back at a slower pace.  He looked okay and seemed fine after that fall.  That…is only a good thing.

Mile 4 kicked by us and soon we were heading off the bridge and into the downtown Milwaukee area.  I felt great.  This race felt great.  I was keeping a good pace because I wasn’t completely exhausted yet.  I was heading into Mile 5, feeling better than I did the previous 5 mile race the weekend before.  It was awesome and I was having a great time.

Mile 5 marked the split.  Quarter Marathon runners kept to the right to turn and head into the final 1.5 miles of the race to the finish line.  Half Marathon runners continued on for 8.2 more miles.  I made the split and was now running in downtown.  We were guided through this beautiful area between the lake.  With the sun out, it was a fantastic view.  And I was loving it.  Better yet, my legs were feeling strong and I was feeling better than I had on a longer race run in a long time.  Mile 6 was here and I was moving really good.  I knew I had just over a half mile to go.  Normally I ride this out until I can see the finish line…but like I said…I was feeling good.  Taking a risk, I picked up the pace.

The finish area was not in sight yet, but I could hear the announcer.  So, I knew I was getting close.  I came around a corner, and was heading down the street…then the course took another turn.  There it was…the finish line.  So…I decided to just put my all into the finish.  Finish strong.  That’s what I had every intention of doing.  I pushed hard, I found the strength, and I tore it up to the finish line.  I even remembered to stop my Garmin.

I saw Cathy up in the stands on the side of the course where all the 5K runners were coming in.  She was screaming and waving her sign.  I gave a fist pump of victory, not even looking at my time.  It just felt good.  The race felt good.  I knew I had run it well.  I made my way through runner’s services, receiving my finisher’s medal, water, some snacks, and getting my Finisher photo taken against the banner.  Then it was into the Summerfest grounds to find Cathy.

It only took a moment to spot her, waving my sign at me from a shady spot.  I hurried over there and finally checked my watch.  If the official results were close to what my Garmin said…then I really tore this race up.  That being said, I headed over to the results tent and got handed my ticket.

Official results of the Rock ‘N Sole Quarter Marathon are that I finished in 54:52. I was 171/1917 finishers overall. That…my friends…is AWESOME! I was 59/1309 women to cross the finish. And I was 12/228 people in my division.  You know what the most amazing part is?  That I beat out my last Quarter Marathon time by almost a full 10 minutes.  I was shocked.  Stunned.  And I have to admit, the time and effort I’ve been putting into my training for these races is really starting to pay off.  I can see the difference in my running.  I have never felt that amazing at that point of a race.  And when I look at my split times for each mile…for the first time ever…I ran a negative split, doing the second half of my race faster than the first half.  In fact, my last two miles were my fastest, which averaged out to a pace of 7.4.  Holy crap!

To say I am proud is an understatement.  I am amazed.  I am elated.  And I’m still in awe.  What a great race.  I had a good time and I really found my stride.  I learned to push myself beyond what I figured was what I could handle and discovered there is a lot more left in me than I thought.  I finished strong, had a good race, and hope to come back for it again.



Activate America 5 Miler – Frankfort, KY (June 16, 2012)

Me with my silver medal for taking 2nd in my division at the Activate America 5 Miler - Frankfort, Kentucky

Me with my silver medal for taking 2nd in my division at the Activate America 5 Miler – Frankfort, Kentucky

Race: Activate America 5-Mile Run/2-Mile Walk

Place: Frankfort, Kentucky

Date: June 16, 2012

Time: 40:15

Ah…the Activate America 5 Miler.  I remember this race so well from the year prior to this one.  As I mentioned in my previous blog, it was the scene of my stress fracture and runner’s knee injuries that put me out of running not just in June, but also July and much of August too.  It took many doctor and hospital and specialist visits to get me back on my feet in time for two 5Ks and a half marathon in Chicago on September 11, 2011.

So, needless to say…I was more than a little nervous about this race.  I told myself I wasn’t going to dwell on it.  I wasn’t even going to think about it when I was out there running.  I was simply going to run the course and be zen.

And…I set a goal that I only shared with my roomie.  It remained unspoken until now.  Last year, I finished the Activate America 5-Mile Run in 45:07.  That’s pretty damn speedy, you know?  So, I wasn’t sure how I would fair this year.  But my goal was to come in at 42 minutes.  That, I figured, seemed like a good goal to have.  Shave three minutes off.  Golden.

Being that this race was in Frankfort, Kentucky, it meant another early morning to rise, prepare, get something in my stomach, hydrate, and get in the car to head to Frankfort.  It’s not as much of a drive as say…Indianapolis…but it still requires a bit of a haul from where I live.  So…my roommate and I piled our stuff into the car and away we went.  The drive was easy and we reached Frankfort an hour before race time.  Perfect.  I pulled out my thinkThin bar from my race bag and ate it as we walked toward the State Capitol, where the race started and where packet pick-up was being held on the steps.

The place was already buzzing.  I went and got my packet, which included a nice tech shirt.  And, since I ran all three races in the Frankfort Trifecta, I was given a horseshoe as well.  It’s Kentucky, folks.

I got pinned up and began to stretch out, taking in the view from the steps of the State Capitol.  I looked around to see if I recognized anyone.  And I let my nerves play out by constantly milling about and finding new ways to stretch out my legs.  Before long, people were lining up in front of the start line.

It was a humid morning.  Already 72 degrees at the start of the race.  I was in a bra top and some shorts.  I didn’t want to get too hot so I went with minimal clothing for this one.  I’m very glad I did.  We lined up by pace.  I was somewhere near the front of the pack, but there wasn’t much space between pace groups.  I turned on my watch to find its satellites, which it did, relatively quickly, and was futzing with my iPod when I hear the start gun go off.  No warning.  We were off.

I got my music going.  I started my watch as I crossed the start line…and I was on the road to rematch with the Activate America 5 Mile Run.

I was so absorbed in the run that I actually was surprised when I rounded a corner and there was the marker for the first mile.  One down.  Four to go.  We were running through downtown Frankfort at this point…a route I know rather well as most races down there follow it.  This was the easy part.  Minor hills, save for the one when you double back and head back toward the Capitol before branching off and taking the long road down to the turn-around point before coming back to the finish (which was also the start).  Did you get all that?

*cough*

Anyway, back to the race.  As we’re running through downtown and heading toward the street that takes us up the hill and toward the Capitol (also Mile 2), I discovered the first problem.  We were running into the walkers.  They were walking one way…we were running the other.  And we were having a difficult time traversing each other.  A walker wouldn’t want to give way to the runner.  And the runner is on a mission to win, or beat a personal time, or to reach a goal.  So that crossing there wasn’t awesome at all.  But…we managed.  Somehow.

Mile 2 was right as we reached the road that we now got to run down for over a mile and a half before turning around and coming back.  This road is pretty empty.  Not much there.  You head under an parking deck and it’s just road out ahead of you, a few scattered buildings, some businesses, and a dog that chased a couple runners.  Thankfully not me.  It was a big dog and I’m terrified of big dogs.  But the runners just ahead of me got it chasing, barking, and nipping at their heels.  YIKES!  The dog broke off and ran towards me, past me, and that was the last I saw of it.  By now, Mile 3 had passed and I knew the turnaround was coming up.  I was doing good.  Making good time.  Keeping my pace pretty well, despite some inclines and the like.  It was hard…especially in that heat.  But I was doing better than I anticipated.

Just as Mile 4 was coming up, there was one of the two water stations (the other one was before Mile 2).  I grabbed a water bottle, took a few refreshing sips as I ran, then decided there was a better use for that water.  And over my head it went.  The cold water felt awesome.  Last mile.  And a lady who ran by me and a couple runners even encouraged us, “Come on runners!  Last mile!”  And she was off.  I never have that sort of energy at the end of a race.  I admire people who do.  That’s the next thing I need to work on once I get used to hill repeats.

The last mile was sheer willpower.  I knew when I saw that parking deck that I was getting closer.  And when I rounded a corner, I could see the hill (YES!  YOU FINISH ON A HILL!) that led up to the finish line.  I poured on my speed last year, despite injury, to finish strong.  I did it again here.

I could see Cathy at the finish, waving my sign and cheering me on.  I ran fast…then a little bit faster.  My legs were straining but I was going.  And after I crossed, I stopped my Garmin.  I didn’t even glance at it.  I moved out of the way and attempted to catch my breath.  Cathy found me, told me to go get some water and we moved out of the finish line area.  Before turning to head to where the water was, I took a look at my Garmin.  It said 40:15.  If that was right, I shaved 5 minutes off my previous year’s finish time.  I even beat the goal I set for myself.  I wasn’t just happy.  I was surprised, elated, and thirsty!  Oh…and this year…no injuries.  Even better.

I went and got some water then we climbed the stairs of the Capitol to take a seat.  They were going to hand out awards and we usually stay for that.  The announcer eventually said that results were being posted, so I got up to see if I was listed somewhere.  Sure enough…I was.  In fact, I came in 2nd in my age division.  WOOHOO!  Granted, the person who won my age division ran the race a full 7 minutes faster than me, so…I have room for improvement.

The official results of the Activate America 5 Mile Run/2 Mile Walk are that I finished in 40:15.  I was 63/265 finishers overall and was 2/22 people in my division.  These results were completely unexpected…but I am very proud of them.

What’s more is the results for the entire Frankfort Trifecta were tallied and posted.  And I came in 5th for the Overall Women’s Open Division (ages 18-39).  I was beat out for 4th place…by 2 seconds.  TWO SECONDS!  Ah well.  I’ll take 5th place.  That’s pretty awesome considering I’ve only been running for about a year and a half now.

This was a great race series and I am definitely going to run it again.  Each race gives just enough of a challenge to keep it interesting.  And…I love running in Frankfort.

And…for those of you keeping track…yes…soon after the awards were handed out, a storm rolled in and pelted Frankfort, Kentucky.  So the streak remains.  If I run in Frankfort…it rains.

Thank you, Frankfort, Kentucky, for your Frankfort Trifecta Run/Walk Series.  I enjoyed being a part of all three races this year.  Maybe I can win back those two seconds next year.



Returning to the scene of the injury

It’s early.  I know it’s early.  But this is actually later than I would normally get up to prepare for a race I need some time to travel with.  The fact of the matter is…I wanted to rest so I set a later alarm.  This means a little more hurrying this morning, but it was worth it.

You see…I’m nervous.

Why?

This morning, at 8:30 a.m., I will be taking off from the start line of the Activate America 5 Miler in Frankfort, Kentucky.  No big deal, right?  Well…it is for me.

You see…last year when I ran this race something happened.  First of all, the weather was horrible.  No exaggeration.  I’m talking thunder, lightning, driving rain…the works.  The race start was postponed…but they finally decided to let us run it.  Even with a couple flashes of lightning still working.  So, we lined up, immediately got soaked to the skin, and headed out for a very wet run.

I was doing okay for the first part of the race.  We were told that if we felt uncomfortable running in the weather to come in after 2 miles as there is a 2 mile walk attached.  I paid for this race, so I was going to run the entire thing.  And after the 2 mile and 5 mile races separated, I felt a sharp pain in my foot.

I admit…I’d been nursing the foot for a little while.  I walked around Vegas a couple weeks prior in Sketcher’s Tone Ups, which are great, but not for walking the strip for 8 hours straight.  So, I had already been sore.  But this was all-out pain.  I didn’t stop though.  I just altered the way I would stride and land.  By the end of the race, I was fighting for each step but made it past that finish line.  And then limped around for the better part of the summer.  You see, instead of listening to my body, I ran through the pain and ended up with a stress fracture in the top of my foot and really, really bad runner’s knee.  I didn’t run the rest of the summer.  No joke.  There was no way I could.  I’d try…and immediately have to stop.  I was cranky because of it, I hated wearing bandages and braces on my knee and foot, but I was in a lot of pain.  From June to August.  And it took multiple doctor’s visits, x-rays, and specialists to finally get me back in shape to run.

So, yeah…I’m nervous.  This was the race that briefly ended my running last year.  I’m sure all my U2 concert going peeps remember my hobbling around, tears, and the way I had to bandage and brace my right leg and foot.  It sucked.

This year, the weather is going to be hot!!  No rain.  Just starting at 72 degrees is going to suck.  So, the plan is to run smart.  Yes…I want to beat last year’s time, which was actually really good for someone running on a bad foot and an injured knee.  Will I be upset if I don’t?  Probably.  But the important thing this time is to run smart, listen to what my body is telling me, and to finish strong…not limping.

I’m about to finish getting ready to climb into the car for the drive to Frankfort, Kentucky so I can pick up my packet and get some stretching in before the runner’s line up.  Here’s to a good, injury-free race.

Think of me, friends.  And I’ll try to focus on the run, not the injury I got last year.



And so I ran 500 miles…

GOAL: 500 MILES!!!

GOAL: 500 MILES!!!

Today pretty much marks the halfway point of the year.  And what did I accomplish on my three mile hard training run this morning?  500 miles this year.  Exactly.

500 MILES!

I hit my goal.  Already!

I really wanted to make the last three miles count.  Seriously.  So I was very glad that it fell on a training day when a hard run was required.  This meant more speed, more inclines, more power.  And it meant that these last 3 miles toward my goal of 500 for the year would mean a little more at the end of it.

So I really worked it.  I made every moment of this run count.  I ran at a harder rate, getting my heart pumping, working for each mile.  And in the end I couldn’t be happier with the results.  Yes…inclines and speed work are tough.  But hitting that goal made it all worth it.

I am in a steady training schedule for my next half marathon, which hits in September.  So, I’m back to a strict schedule on my runs.  And after that, I have one more half marathon in mid-October to run.  I’ve been contemplating a fifth one this year and have it narrowed down to two.  One is up in Indianapolis (again), while the other one is closer to home…here in Louisville.

Additionally, I have a bunch of races I haven’t signed up for which I need to.  Perhaps that’s how I’ll spend my break today at the office.

With races in the works, looks like downtime isn’t in my future.  But that’s okay.  I like it like that.  Hell, I’m the girl who goes on vacation and keeps on training.  This is how you know you love to run.  I don’t have to convince myself to lace up my shoes.  I don’t have to talk all bad ass about my running (because I am not a bad ass runner).  I don’t have to comment about how great a run feels.  I just run for the love of it.  I finally found something in this life that I love.  And the best part is…I don’t have to be good at it.  I just have to keep my passion for it.  The key is to run smart.  If I hurt or ache…I take a day off or run slow.  If it’s hot…I run early or late.  If it’s hot on a workday, I keep the run short and I listen to my body.  That’s the key to any run…listen to your body.  If you go out too hard, too fast, do too much when your body isn’t ready for it…you get injured.

I know.  It happened to me last year in the race I’m running on Saturday in Frankfort, Kentucky.  Trust me…no runner wants to be sidelined for months with a stress fracture in the foot and runners knee that just won’t get better.  But it happened.  And I limped and hobbled my way through June, July, and August before I was able to get back into running.  And it sucked.  Far better to run smart than to do yourself damage.  It saves on medical bills…and a lot of unhappiness.

I’ve learned a lot in the time I’ve been running and I’ve learned to set feasible, reasonable goals.  With that said, my goal on Saturday is to run a good race.  Am I aiming for a specific time?  Yep.  I came in last year (on injury!) at 45 minutes.  I want to beat that.  But, it’s going to be warmer this Saturday, so we’ll see how it goes.  The most important thing is that I go out there and have a good run…and more importantly…have fun doing it.

So…with these 500 miles behind me…time to set a new goal.

I’m open for suggestions.



Minneapolis Half Marathon – Minneapolis, MN (June 3, 2012)

Me crossing the finish line of the Minneapolis Half Marathon – Minneapolis, Minnesota

Me crossing the finish line of the Minneapolis Half Marathon – Minneapolis, Minnesota

Race: Minneapolis Half Marathon

Place: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Date: June 3, 2012

Time: 1:58:28

Oh yes…you read that right. My first ever sub-2 hour half marathon. It was my goal to do that once this year in the four half marathon’s I am signed up to run in (with a possible 5th one in the works). And then I go and do it on my second one for the year. This has been a fantastic running season. And I couldn’t be more proud of this finish.

If something was going to go wrong leading into this race…it was bound to happen. I’m not being dramatic. Bear with me.

On Monday, after I went for a run, my roommate and I went into work (yes…on Memorial Day when everyone else had the day off) and put in six long, hard hours to get into a good spot as we were only working a half day on Thursday before taking off to Minnesota. For lunch, we got Chick-Fil-A. Don’t get on my case yet. As a vegetarian, I got a large fruit cup and a medium order of waffle fries. I’ve done that before, and been fine. But something (we’re guessing some accidental gluten contamination in what is usually gluten-free fries) made me feel under the weather for five days…including travel days. I worked through it and no one was the wiser, but I felt awful. And now…Chick-Fil-A makes me more than a little nervous when it comes to eating on the go. Ugh. Gluten intolerance sucks.

Add on top of that the flight delays from hell. We got to the airport in Louisville in good time, thanks to my co-worker and teammate, Kayla, who was kind enough to take us there. After breezing through security and getting to our gate…our flight is delayed? Why? Because we are flying through O’Hare in Chicago…and all flights were grounded due to very bad weather. AH!

Then, the second leg of our flights from Chicago to Minneapolis gets cancelled!! Good thing my roommate checked our flight status while we were waiting and went to get it sorted if possible. Yep. Flight was cancelled and we were now given two of the remaining three seats on the flight out of O’Hare to Minneapolis…at 8:15 p.m. Better than nothing. I text my Aunt Jan to let her know of our change in arrival time. And the long wait begins. Then, we board and fly to Chicago. Upon arrival we now have a five hour layover. So we walk around the terminals for a bit. Then get some dinner (I grabbed a salad and a gluten-free peanut butter cookie from CIBO and my roomie got a delicious sandwich from Frontera). We eat. We get some caffeine into our system. We buy some Garrett Popcorn. We munch. We wander. We get to our gate. We are moved to another gate. We finally board and we are off to Minneapolis. Arrival time…10:00 p.m. And Jan is there to pick us up.

Friday rolls around and we’re off hanging with Jan and my cousin Natalie. We hit up the Mall of America. It’s a good time. Except Grandpa, my road hero himself, is starting to feel under the weather. So, now we’re doing what we can to ensure that he gets to feeling better.

Saturday rolls in and I head to the race expo that morning to grab my packet and see what all is going on at the expo. This is a very small expo. Tiny. So, it takes a grand total of 15 minutes to do everything, and that included waiting in line at The Depot Hotel in downtown Minneapolis to get the packet. I go through the lines, get my bib, timing chip, t-shirt, and check out the few vendors that are there. And then…we leave to hit up a record store and grab some lunch. That afternoon…the rest of the family arrives (my mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, and two little nephews). All the cousins come over for dinner and we aim for an early bed time…which doesn’t exactly happen…but we tried.

Now, all afternoon I had been trying to get out of my family who might be coming out for the race. I knew my roommate and my aunt were a lock. But no one else for sure. And I was really bummed out about that. So, when Sunday morning rolled around and I hauled myself off my air mattress to get changed and ready for the race, I was still bummed. I headed upstairs to eat some cereal and get a banana to go. And up the stairs comes…my dad!! I ran over and hugged him. I was so happy to have him coming out to the race. Especially since my reason for running a half marathon in Minneapolis, my grandpa, was sick and couldn’t make it out to the event.

We headed into downtown Minneapolis and attempted to find the lot we had pre-paid for parking at. We managed, but all the gates were still down. Yes…on an event morning. We used the call box to get this information, but some marathon runners (the marathon started an hour before the half marathon) were in a hurry to get to the start and swiped their credit card so we went and parked on their dime. We ambled out of the car and toward the starting point. The are had the pace markers up and we walked by, seeing a lot of marathon runners stretching and getting ready to start. Since we still had a good amount of time…we headed to Caribou Coffee for…coffee and some breakfast. I got a Vanilla Northern Lite Cooler and ate my banana. Then made use of their indoor plumbing by using the bathroom. And while we were taking turns, I answered their chalkboard question…Who Do You Run For? My answer – “My Running Hero – My Grandpa!”

The marathon was getting ready to kick off, so we all headed out to the starting line to cheer them on. The National Anthem was sung and soon, they were off. This was the first time I got to be a spectator at a race. So it was a lot of fun shouting at the runners and getting them off to a good start. Once they passed, we crossed the street and I started to stretch out.

Heather, Me, and Cathy after the Minneapolis Half Marathon - Minneapolis, Minnesota

Heather, Me, and Cathy after the Minneapolis Half Marathon – Minneapolis, Minnesota

And that is when Heather, my bestie since third grade, showed up. Now, Heather is becoming a pro at being at my important races. She was at my first half marathon in Chicago too…which is where she was living at the time. Now in Minnesota, her arrival at the race really brightened my day. Yeah, I was very bummed about grandpa…but I had other friends and family who were turning up to cheer me on. And that meant the world to me!

I stretched and talked and talked and stretched…and soon I noticed the corals filling up. So, I gave hugs to everyone and they all wished me luck and I headed off alone to choose my pace group. I opted for the 9:00 pace, figuring that was as good a place as any to start. I also happened to be in the first wave they sent off.

I had some fun talking to some of the people I was near. Some were anxiously searching for the pacer, as they wanted to run near them so they knew they were on target. Some were running their first race ever. Some chose this as their first half marathon. Some were pros at this. Some were discussing the hills on the course. And others just plugged into their iPod’s and focused on the run ahead.

The National Anthem was sung once more and then…moments later…we were off.

I could hear my family and friends cheering for me as I crossed the start line. I flashed my signature peace sign and just told myself to pace myself. Why? Because I tend to go out way too fast and then suffer in the end. I knew that this course was going to provide some hills and I wanted my energy for them. So…I did what I could and kept a good pace. In fact, I somehow missed the mile marker for the first mile. Because, before I knew it…I was coming up on Mile 2. It was a great morning to run. A little warmer than I liked…and it was only going to heat up more, but it felt good to be out there. The spirit of the race was fantastic. People were scattered along the course. There were spectators and people cheering and holding signs everywhere along the way. Just after Mile 3, we doubled back and headed back along the river front.

And for the first time ever…I got the thrill of a lifetime at the halfway mark. I spotted my dad and my aunt on the side shouting and cheering as I passed. Yep. They met me halfway. And just a little more up the way…Heather and Cathy were there. And they were screaming for me. They were awesome. All four of them. Best spectator moment ever. Nothing gives you a second wind more than seeing your peeps cheering for you halfway through a 13.1 mile race. It felt great.

And then…the second half of the race kicked in. It was really starting to warm up now, but I was wearing my new race tank, and it was keeping me cool. I was carrying a water bottle with me. Unfortunately, and lesson learned, I had flavored water in it…which wasn’t settling well in my stomach now. But, it was hydration. So I sipped at it as needed. There had been hills here and there…and awesome people on them to tell you that you were almost at the top and to keep pushing. My speed slowed down now. I lost the pacer I had been keeping up with the entire time prior to that. But the heat was getting me…and so was that flavored water. Blech.

Top it off with the hills and I was just fighting for each step I was taking at this point. I felt off. My great pace was lagging. And I was just starting to feel the effects of the stressful week. I was going to push through though. And I did. And that wall was broken through, especially at Mile 9.5, where the turnaround happened again and I was now on the last couple of miles to the finish. When I hit Mile 10…I knew it was only a 5K from there on and I was still making pretty decent time…despite the slow down. I got out my Annie’s Bunny Fruit Snacks (citrus flavored) to put something in my stomach. The citrus, while delicious, wasn’t a good choice on a day when flavored water was churning my stomach. But I needed the energy. From now on…I might go with the Sports Beans. Anyway…I gave the eat and run a go and continued on to Mile 11. Another mile down. Then another. Soon after Mile 12…a hill loomed. I knew it was coming because I had looked at the elevation map. It wasn’t going to be as hard as the one I hit around Mile 7…but my legs had carried me up and down hills all morning. By Mile 12, they’re ready for a rest. But I powered up it as best as my legs would allow. And then…the home stretch.

My iPod was playing Rob Thomas and Santana’s “Smooth.” And if you haven’t seen the video for Marathon Thoughts…you won’t understand why this was appropriate. I could hear the announcer. I knew I was close. Around a corner I came and there it was…the finish. I picked up speed. I even passed some people. I totally chicked a guy who was making his way to the finish by passing him on the double. I saw my dad, Jan, Heather and Cathy. Cathy was screaming at me about a new PR. I could see I was under 2 hours…and I bolted across that finish line.

Aunt Jan, Me, and my Dad after the Minneapolis Half Marathon - Minneapolis, Minnesota

Aunt Jan, Me, and my Dad after the Minneapolis Half Marathon – Minneapolis, Minnesota

As I made my way down to the end of the finish area, I was handed my finisher’s medal, a bag of snacks, some water…and I waited until I could spot my cheering section. They found me in no time and I shouted “THANK YOU, ROB THOMAS!” Cathy got it. No one else did. Again…watch Marathon thoughts. You’ll understand. Soon after, I was on my back with my feet up, laughing, talking, and discussing the race. According to my Garmin…I ran 13.2 miles from start to finish. So, let’s hear it for that extra 0.1 mile. WOOT! I was just elated. My first ever sub-2 hour half marathon. I was aiming to do that in Hershey, Pennsylvania in October. But I tore it out in Minneapolis…for Grandpa…who was there in spirit and doing himself some good by staying home and resting.

I ate my Picky Bar (by Lauren Fleshman…good carbs/protein ratio) and downed my protein shake. Water followed…and I downed two bottles on the walk back to the car. We parted ways here. Cathy and I headed off with Heather. We were going by her house. I was going to shower. And then we were heading out to a pub for lunch. My dad and Jan gave me hugs and I promised I would see them when I returned after lunch.

This race, for me, was a mixed bag of emotions. I am still working on getting my pace figured out…and how to properly fuel by body on these long runs. I loved having my dad there. I loved having my aunt, my roommate, and Heather there to cheer me on. I experienced the high of reaching one of my goals, finishing a half marathon in under 2 hours.

But…I was very sad not to have grandpa there to be a part of the experience. But…there will be other races. And, as I said before…he was there in spirit. It was best that he stayed home to rest and get better. I know that. And I’m glad he did just that. With that in mind, I think I was meant to set that PR at this race. For Grandpa. Just like my headband said.

Official results of the Minneapolis Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:58:28. I was 828/2779 finishers overall. WOOHOO! I was 366/1773 women to cross the finish. And I was 79/356 people in my division. I couldn’t be happier with these results.

You know what? Grandpa is pretty damn proud of me too!