Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Decade of Running Has Been a "Blast!"

If I've figured this correctly, my Huntsville Rocket City Marathon this year will be my 20th marathon and will mark the 10th year of my running marathons. I like that those two big milestones will converge on my "home turf," so to speak. Rocket City was my first marathon back in 2001. I ran it again in 2004 and had some great memories the second time too. I'm also pretty happy with the two-marathons-a-year pace we've set over the last decade (Rick's had a similar number, maybe one less?). It's been a busy decade with starting our family, so it will be interesting to see how we do in our second decade of running. Rick thinks once you are close(r) to the 50 states that you may get excited and pick up the pace a bit, maybe even hitting some of the harder-to-travel-to states in a doubles weekend.
A little walk down memory lane...
Here Rick and I are running Rocket City together in 2001. John Christy is to the right. Rick and I were just friends when this picture was taken. It is our first picture together. We ran several miles together, then he left me. He headed to work right after finishing the race. I returned for the awards and randomly won the $1000 cash prize. It was an unforgettable day!
My second Rocket City. It was colder and rainy. Rick paced me and I ran with April Brass. I was competing in the Grand Slam that year and needed to finish Rocket City (plus 3 other ultras in town) in order to get a finisher's prize. It turned out to be a really nice duffle bag that I use for all of my weekend trips now.

Jingle, jingle

My daughter and I went out to the Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis today. It is a festive 5K, kids' 1-mile, and little kids' "Santa Chase." Rick and our son are out of town so I didn't think I could run the race, but my friend Angie offered to help watch my daughter during the 5K. It worked out great! I did have to pay $10 extra for race-day registration and did not get a shirt, but I was happy to be able to run! My legs still aren't 100% from the marathon. I got a sub-21 (I think it was 20:57 or so, not sure of the official time). Again, my first mile was 6:27, way too fast, and my second was 6:52. I was pushing it so hard by mile 3 that I didn't want to take the effort to hit the split on my watch, so I didn't! (I know Rick is thinking right now, "Well, why didn't you use the Garmin?") Fleet Feet has a new finish line inflatable arch for the finishers. It was a neat touch and great to see it from far back! The best part of this race was that is was so Christmas-y and so fun for the children. My daughter (once we reunited after the race) did the Santa Chase, jumped on a moon bounce, got a hot chocolate, and made an ornament craft. We had some good girl time and supported a good cause too.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Marshall Marathon - Rick's view

So I thought I would document my memories of the Marshall University Marathon while they are still somewhat fresh on my mind. I've seen others do this and have read lengthy descriptions. Hopefully this won’t be too long and will prompt a few more entries for other memorable marathons. This marathon was memorable because things came together. Others have been memorable for other reasons.

My training for this marathon was improved since running a few marathons at the end of last year and earlier this year (Maui, Des Moines, New Orleans, and St. Louis). My training was improved because I was going for a PR at the Monte Sano 15k on October 9. Because of that goal, I spent time at the track and doing intervals and tempo runs. I felt my fitness was improving and noticed my 5k race times were steadily decreasing between the Cotton Row 5k (19:56, I was happy to be under 20) until the Marshall Running Club 5k (18:45) where I missed my PR at the 5k distance by 6 seconds. My focus in general improved. I was eating better and cross training. And I started improving the quality of my long runs thanks mainly to Teddy (he kicked the long runs into overdrive and was a positive influence on my marathon training). Mostly by accident, I ended up doing two 23 mile long runs. The first was because I ran a loop at Wheeler Wildlife Refuge twice that put me at 23 miles and the second was because of ignoring my Garmin during a long run with Teddy and Patrick that put me at 23 by the time I ran back home. So I was feeling pretty good going into this one. My legs seemed ready to go during the taper time, but I did a decent job resting up.

Things just seemed to come together for this race. Even the trip to Huntington was restful and carbo loading went well (including the free spaghetti dinner the race provided). Several other runners stayed at our hotel and I enjoyed conversing about the race, past marathon experiences, etc... For some reason I spent more time studying this marathon during the final weeks. I memorized the course including the sections that repeated a dirt path through Ritter Park (the first time through was a clockwise loop and counter-clockwise the second). I noticed there was a hill (not much of one, but a "hill" for this course) that was repeated. It came in at miles 8-10 the first time and about miles 19.5-21.5 the second time. I strategized that I would use going down these hills to start two pushes. The first push would be to pick up the pace after starting conservatively and the second would be the final push to the finish. The weather was also close to ideal. It was a bit cool at the start (26 degrees F and we scraped ice off the minivan before leaving the hotel parking lot), but the Marshall University recreation center was just around the corner from the start. It was warm and had ample space and bathrooms. Katie and I left the car near the finish line and at the same time only a block or two from the start. I also found my sunglasses, that I had given up on finding, between our seats just before locking up the minivan to go to the start line. Things were just coming together...

I didn't really have any expectations for a finish time. Teddy and I talked about and I thought 3:20 would be nice, but didn't know how realistic that was. So I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't run any faster than 7:40 splits for the first 10 miles or so, and then see what happened from there. Well that's where Katie comes in. She starts fast and usually doesn't slow down much. She stayed true to form at the start, and I ran a slightly faster than 7:40s keeping her within sight. I felt pretty good when the "downhill" came in around mile 10 and picked up the pace some as planned (with a brief pause at a port-a-potty). I maintained the pace and was joined by "Josh" at mile 15 or so. He said he'd been chasing me since mile 11. We ran together and talked some. He provided a nice distraction and kept the pace honest. While we were running together I saw an ideal temperature, 38 degrees, displayed on a bank sign. Josh and I were running in the low 7s for about five miles and then he pulled away around mile 21. I kept a decent pace going and then felt the fatigue slowly creeping in. I welcomed it because I knew that meant the finish wasn't far. My last two miles slowed to low 8s, so I feel like I sufficiently emptied the tank. I didn't make the extra effort to take one of the flowers being offered to drop in the fountain that is a memorial to the plane crash victims. And I didn't carry a football that was offered across the finish line. I did enjoy finishing by running through the stadium and down the length of the football field to the finish line. I even raised my arms a bit when I saw that I was sub-3:15. I finished with a 3:14:52 which is a little over a minute and a half off of my previous PR. This time was a nice improvement from my last marathon (St. Louis in 3:39:45) and a Boston Qualifying time for a 35 year old (I'm 34, but registration is closed for 2011. I'll be 35 in April 2012). I was proud of running a negative split too. My first half marathon was 1:38:13 and the second half was 1:36:39. It is nice to Boston Qualify, but it feels a bit like cheating because the bar, for me, has been set at 3:10 for all ten years I've been running marathons. I'd still like to run that time, but I couldn't be happier with this PR and my first BQ time.

My splits:


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How We Rolled to the Marshall Marathon- Part 2: The Race

Here are a few pictures of the weekend.

Rick does all of the driving for our marathons. He is very good at it, and I love him for it! I don't see how he can drive right after finishing a marathon. Seriously, we barely had time to take a shower and load the car before we had to turn around and head home this trip. At least one of us could prop our feet up!
Lots of smiles as we set out on the 7 hour car trip.

Carbo loading Thai-style (Rick's idea). It was a good one-- yum!

Monika was a super aunt on this trip. Here she is braving the cold so that the children can run some of their energy out! Seriously, she rode in the back with the children (watching all of their movies and such) and slept in our room (which included a child's 2 a.m. bed-wetting accident on the first night and LOTS of loud whispers), and she didn't complain once!

Packet pickup (Band competition in the background)

They had a free pasta dinner that we could not pass up. It was really neat to get to sit and talk with the other runners. The ones next to Rick were in their 60s and had done something like 100 marathons. The ones next to me had run the race last year and said they handed out the DVD "We Are Marshall" that year. What a neat touch!

I love the two-sided medal

Rick had a good idea to take a picture of all of the mementos all together. He opted for a fleece jacket instead of the shirt, but I really liked the logo and color of the shirt. My age group award (3rd place) is the pretty blue glass bowl.
The race had a cold start (26 degrees), but we could drop off our clothes at our car and just walk right over to the start line. We both wore our arm sleeves, and they were a great choice for the entire race (ended in the 50s). I am a port-a-potty "snob" and use them only when I have no other choice (and even now pack my own sanitizer and baby wipes just in case), but we had the university's fitness center bathrooms for use pre-race. They were awesome!
Rick and I had talked pace a little beforehand. He wanted 7:40s (it's actually a little more complicated than that and will hopefully be something he writes about in his blog entry about the race), and I wanted 8:00s. But it was so cold when we started that I went out at about 7:30s instead and even stayed near or ahead of him for awhile. I am so used to starting too fast that I knew it wasn't smart, but Rick told me later that it wouldn't have surprised him at all if I'd been able to keep that pace through the whole race (my race pace seems to have nothing to do with my training sometimes). I kept St. Louis in the back of my mind throughout the race, wanting to use that experience to motivate me to stay strong. It was a pretty small race, and I prefer the big crowds and music in some of the bigger races. There was also no gu on the course, so we both packed Cliff Blocks in little baggies and stashed them in our shorts (mine rubbed sores on my hip) and later shared stories about how we couldn't open them with our frozen fingers. Around mile 18, my pace just slowed and never picked back up. I attribute that mostly to my foot tightening up and am just thankful that it didn't act up worse. I was glad to see the roses at mile 25 (you could throw one into the memorial fountain for the Marshall University football players that died in the plane crash) and was convincing myself not to walk. When I finished, I saw and smelled hot dogs and hamburgers and gladly accepted a hot dog to eat! I saw Rick then and he told me he'd gotten a PR--3:14:50-- which will also qualify him for Boston 2012 (he will be 35 then so can use that time to qualify). I got a 3:29:25, the best I've done since having children. I felt a little bad that I had slowed down so much at the end and was on track for a PR myself until the last 9 miles or so, but overall I was really happy with my time.
We had fun finding out through our discussions pre-race that we have now been running marathons together (first as friends, then while dating, and now married) for 10 years. I love having a spouse that runs marathons too!
3:29:25 99th OA
8:00 pace (ironic that I still ended with an 8:00 pace!)

How We Rolled to the Marshall Marathon- Part 1: The Planning

It is Tuesday night, two nights after we returned from our weekend trip to the Marshall Marathon. It is always strange to me how I can be running a marathon one morning and the next morning I am just back to being a mom dropping the kids off at the preschool and limping slightly while doing so! And today things were almost all the way back to normal. To me, running a marathon is like Christmas morning or the mornings I delivered my babies. You should get to feel special for at least a few more days! It's almost like I want to feel the stiffness and pain since it helps me remember the race more vividly. And now the memory is already starting to fade a little, so I will write some now to hopefully keep the memory alive!

First, almost none of our marathons would even be possible without Rick's good planning and organization. I found this email from back in June when we were talking about our fall marathon schedule:
(from Rick)
...looking at marathons in Oct./Nov. I found three possibilities for consideration:

Freedom's Run, October 2, Shepherdstown, WV (near Baltimore, MD), ~11 hour drive from Madison, AL direct flight to Baltimore from Huntsville is a possibility

Marshall University Marathon, November 7, Huntington, WV, ~7.5 hour drive from Madison, AL drive

SunTrust Richmond Marathon, November 13, Richmond, VA, ~11 hour drive from Madison, AL by Runner's World

at first glance, I'm kinda leaning towards the Marshall University Marathon
... Rick

We ended up picking the Marshall Marathon based on these words alone: SHORTEST DRIVE!
Fast forward to a couple of week ago when Rick then sent his sister (and our babysitter) and me a detailed itinerary for the weekend plans:

Leave Madison ~7:30 a.m.
Pick up Monika in Nashville~9:30 (where should we meet you?)
Stop in Lexington for a lunch (picnic?) ~1:30
Check out the Explorium of Lexington (
Grab some dinner (near Ashland, KY) ~6:00
Check into the hotel in Ashland, KY ~7:00-7:30crash...

sleep in!
go to a park (Harris Riverfront Park)
go to the shopping area - Pullman Square
eat some lunch
go to the expo (sometime between 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.)
go to ??? (ideas anyone?)
eat some dinner
go to sleep

make sure the time zone difference and time change hasn't messed us up
leave for the marathon ~5:45 a.m.
start the marathon 7:00
finish the marathon ~11:00
back at the hotel ~noon
shower and check out ~1:00
lunch and hit the road for home
back to Nashville ~7:30
back to Madison ~9:30

This pretty much sums up how our weekend was spent and how organization can really help our trip go smoothly. As most marathoners do, we have a pretty set routine with laying out all of our stuff for the marathon the night before too. Everything from what we will eat, to our clothes, to our watches and race numbers. Seeing all of this organization makes me happy!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Spooktacular 5K and Running Off All the Halloween Candy

I ran the Spooktacular 5K this past Saturday, this being the first 5K since the Monte Sano 5K on September 4 for me. I hadn't done any speedwork since that race and have been injured, so I didn't really have a goal time. I finished in 20:44, a 6:41 pace. I was very pleased with the time given the circumstances. And my first mile was 6:22, way too fast. That is a big problem for me. I have a hard time finding my 5K pace so my splits are all over the place (roughly a 6:22, 7:00, and 6:38). It would be nice to have even splits over the 3 miles instead.
This race is another good family event. There was a moon bounce, lots of great costumes, and a neat Thriller show on the street right before the race (not too scary either). I ran into my friend, Liv. We had fun trying to find a bathroom without a line before the start of the race and doing a warmup together. Earthfare had some neat samples after the race that I took home for the children. Gear-wise, the temperature was in the 40s, so I had a chance to wear my Sugoi armsleeves (mine are a pretty electric blue with snowflakes, not black like these) along with my singlet and shorts. I loved the weather!
Jane and I ran 5.5 miles on Sunday to burn off some of the Halloween candy we would get later that night. My family came home after our trick or treating and had a total of ONE trick or the $10 in candy that I bought is still here, along with all the other candy we got over last week. I am in full taper-mode, so I will be spending a lot of time here in this house with all of the candy. I'm not sure if candy makes the best food for carboloading but I will be eating a lot of it regardless!