Friday, December 30, 2011

Victories and Defeats: My 2011 Year in Review


The year started off on a great note!  I finished my 6th Mountain Mist 50K trail run while wearing shorts on a snowy day.  It was incredibly fun, and I managed to get my course PR (5:37:57) and got 5th overall female too.  You can better believe I'm looking back at my entries about this race to see if I can beat my time this year!  (To see my history with this race, click here.  To see my race report, click here).

I opened up to my blog readers and shared a pretty detailed story of my past with anorexia here.  I hoped it would be an encouragement to others facing similar struggles.


I wrote my favorite post ever here.  I hope to hang on to the memories of that day (and this stage of my life) through that blog entry.  I began loving documenting my day-to-day runs as much as I loved documenting the "bigger" races.

I ran the Myrtle Beach Marathon and got a new PR--3:18:05.  It was a great race for me.  The time caught me off-guard, but so did the finish--when I ended up in the medical tent.  Read about it here.


I found out that I made the 2011 Fleet Feet Racing team here in Huntsville, Alabama and that I was chosen for the elite segment of the team.  It was--and is---a HUGE honor.  I wrote about it here.

A big disappointment was the cancellation of the McKay Hollow Madness, a local 25K trail run where I was hoping for a chance to defend my title.  Instead, I made the best of it and unofficially ran the course during a thunderstorm (see here). 

I had been looking for a way to prove one of my favorite quotes, and I think I did it that day rather nicely!

The challenge in running is not to aim to do the things no one else has done, but to keep doing the things anyone could do---but most never will. --Joe Henderson


A small defeat was having the Boston Marathon pass me by yet again (see here).  It reminds me of Alexander Graham Bell's quote, "When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” 

I have had to close that door and not look back.  I made a decision to enjoy the MANY other opportunities that have presented themselves to me other than Boston--for now anyway.

One of those other opportunities involved me revisiting St. Louis, the site of my first ever DNF marathon, for a second chance.  Without my amazing husband, it would not have been possible.  I enjoyed having his aid along the course--and his encouragement too.  I still get teary-eyed reading about how he met me at Mile 22 at the spot where I'd dropped out the year before.  The encouragement he gave pushed me along when I had nothing of my own to give.  Read here.


I had a great time at the Memorial Day Cotton Row Run 10K, 5K, and 1-Mile events.  My whole family was able to participate as spectators and runners, all dressed in our red, white, and blue.  Read here.

Photo by James Hurley

I did some prep work for a sub 20 5K in July, including my first speedwork session, and I reflected on how much running takes away from my relationship with Rick.  Yes, I don't always talk favorably about running!


I PRed in the Firecracker 5K with a 19:55 and scored a first overall female as well.  Here is the race recap.  It was wonderful to have babysitters at that race so Rick could pace me to the finish.  I was also in the local news; see this entry.  I won another 5K this month, the Paint the Streets 5K.  See here.

In perhaps the biggest move of the month, though, I decided to commit to the 3:15 training for the Chicago marathon.  Read here


My entries this month vacillated between talk of setting my bar high to entries of doubt to many, many entries about the specifics of my training.  Good posts to read if you are training for the marathon.


With the start of school came stroller runs in rush hour and rain.  Read about them here.  I wrote a nice entry about not comparing yourself to others.  I need to reread this many times!


The big marathon month was finally here.  I wrote more entries this month than any other month this year.  It was such a victory for me to achieve my goal of a 3:15 (and a new PR) at Chicago.  Read about it here and here.  If it seems like I talked about it a lot this month, it's because I knew how special of a gift it was to me.  I knew it may be the race of my lifetime. 

But I was also reminded this month that there's much more to races than times at the Liz Hurley 5K, where I ran with a team from work in honor of two breast cancer survivors at our school.  Read about it here.


I broke my 3rd PR for the year at the Huntsville Half Marathon with a time of 1:31:53.  Read about it here.  I knew then that this was a special year of racing for me.  I wrote here about breaking my PRs in the 5K, 1/2 marathon, and marathon all within four months.  The victory was in "beating" my old self--the one that wasn't a mother of two small children.  I definitely appreciate each and every run more now, and I was thankful for the chance to reflect on my blessings from this year during a month full of thankfulness.

I earned a disappointing time in the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day (a 20:58--my slowest 5K on the year, including the one I ran a week after my PR marathon). There was no denying that lack of speedwork was the cause for this time, but it was still hard to get out there to race and not feel the same "kick" as usual.

Photo by James Hurley


Though you're supposed to end on a high note, it wasn't the case for me in 2011. 

My biggest defeat for the whole year was my pacing experience in the Rocket City Marathon.  I felt like I let myself and others down.  I wrote about it here.

While I can let things like a failed attempt at pacing or shoes that are wearing out too soon or even the struggles of fitting running into a busy schedule get me down, I choose not to let the year be defined by these moments of defeat. 

Instead, I choose to see the victories.  And they probably aren't the ones you are bringing to mind---the PRs, the second chances, the first place finishes.  You see, if I look back over my year of running---and the entries on this blog that remain to define it---it was personal growth that I am the most proud of.  The entries where I expressed gratitude for those who help me run, the entries where I tried new things, the entries where I opened up about who I once was, the entries where I revealed my relationship with God, the entries where I set a goal and made that first step towards it.  For my two children, this blog will hopefully be a chance for them to see a glimpse of who I was at this stage of my life.  I proudly showed that this year.  A victory for sure.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Present!

You know you're a runner when you get as excited about running shoes as you do with your new Kindle Fire!  I was seriously spoiled this year getting these Nike Lunar Racers and the Kindle.  The funniest part of the story (or not) is that I actually knew about both of these presents before Christmas.  I found out about the shoes when someone at Fleet Feet mentioned that the shoes Rick ordered for me were in (I quickly said, "I'll pretend I didn't hear that!").  And the Kindle Fire arrived from Amazon in a box with the words "Kindle Fire" on the outside.  Not too bright, Amazon!  Rick, I still love the gifts even if they weren't surprises!

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and that you are all getting your runs in despite the holiday craziness!  I managed a nice 20 miler on Christmas Eve.

If you are a new reader or if you've never looked at these, I just updated my Biography and Favorite Posts pages (tabs right under my blog title).  I admit that I love finding these "shortcuts" when I find a new blog to read.  It helps me to read a little about the person and about what they think are their best posts before I read anything else.  So in case you want to do the same thing, happy reading! 

New shoes!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Running With My Girl in Fall and Winter

We are in the home stretch before Christmas now.  Unlike most people making big New Year's Eve night plans, Rick and I booked the sitter for New Year's Eve MORNING so we can get a special treat--a run together!  My kids are off from school, and I am feeling majorly lazy.  Not good when you have a 50K a month away.  Today I SLEPT IN instead of getting up to meet the girls...and we were meeting 30 minutes later than usual!  So right now I am debating whether to run with the double stroller or just do the elliptical machine instead.  I am kicking myself for not getting up and running when I had the chance!

I am also reflecting back on a busy first half of the 2011-2012 school year.  It's hard to believe that my son has made it to every day of his first half year of kindergarten and that I've personally dropped him off and picked him up for each of those days.  And on time too!  It's also hard to believe he's old enough to be in kindergarten.  How I've loved seeing him grow this year. 

I am most thankful for something I wouldn't have expected though.  I am thankful for the Tuesdays and Thursdays with just my daughter and me home from school.  She was born fourteen months after her brother, and we've never had any one-on-one days at home, just us two.  For fourteen whole months, her brother had me to himself! 

These two days each week are a gift, a treasure that I hope to not ever take for granted.  Someday I hope we can look back together and remember the fun we had.  Sure, it's mostly trips to the grocery store, dance class, and stroller runs, but these are moments that I can really get to know her, to see how she reacts without her brother dominating the scene.

She's cute and spunky and just a sweetie when she's by herself with me.

And, I'll admit it here, she's a GREAT running partner too!  We take a run most Tuesdays and Thursdays, right after dropping her brother off at school.  She takes her little puppy doll, her snacks and drink, and whatever accessory the weather calls for (I love her little pink hat!).  On cold days, the Baby Jogger winter boot (bought when her brother was a baby) has paid for itself by giving her a warm, cozy place to snuggle in. 

I look down as I'm running and see this mass of beautiful blonde curls and a big pink bow, and I hear her little voice squeaking up to me, and it's just love.  I treat her with Fun Dips, her ultimate candy, and she spends her time licking that stick and then dipping her finger into the sugar again and again.  I smile as I see her little green finger when she's done.  I see her looking around at the scenery as we run through the neighborhood, and I admire the way her cheeks still have that full baby-look.  I wonder if she will run like me one day (she's already got very strong legs!).  I hope she is proud of me for being a runner.  And, mostly, I am thankful for having my little girl to accompany me on some of the best runs of my life.

Fall run

Winter run

Saturday, December 17, 2011

More on the Rocket City

Bringing it in
Photo by Amanda Nichols
While I didn't write the last post so people could comment and try to make me feel better, I am glad you came through and did just that!  I have had a few days to put things into perspective.  A fun 15 mile trail run with Rick, Eric Charette, Dewayne Satterfield, and James Falcon today also helped ease the healing process!  I am not utterly disappointed like when I first finished (Do you ever feel seriously emotional when you are finishing so it's hard to think clearly and rationally?).  I was too caught up with that darn number.
However, I do stand behind the original sentiment in my last post.  My team captain, Eric Charette, does pay attention to how close we got to our time and if we were under or over.  He sent the pacers and the RCM committee an email where he listed all of us and then put our chip time and then put how much we were under/over by.  He averaged how close we were to our goals (see below) and will likely use this in the future as evidence that we are accurate pacers.  I am simply amazed at the efforts of my fellow pacers and for their ability to be just under pace.  I just seem to be the only one who can't do it! 
Here is part of his email:

I just thought I would let you and the RCM committee know how the Nike Pace Team runners fared on Saturday. We heard some amazing comments from runners and other volunteers how impressed they were seeing the pacers carrying the signs that came through right on schedule.
Their average was being UNDER by 42 seconds with some staying under by as close as 5, 7, 9 and 15 seconds to their goal time. Jay Lloyd even went as far as running even first and second half splits of 1:47:05/1:47:05. While not many runners stayed with the pace group leaders after mile 15 (turn into the wind) the pacers stayed even through to the end. This was tough to "leave" the runners as they slowed, but other runners (ahead) were also counting on the pacers to come in right on pace. A couple pacers just missed their times but wasn't due to fitness, but to watch/GPS issues and we did not have any complaints that I heard in these areas.
I am very proud of this team as running even pace for 26.2 miles doesn't just happen on race day; it takes practice and months of training. As my group neared the end, one runner said "This must be easy for you guys". The honest answer is "no". Running a marathon is never easy, especially at an even pace, mostly leading into the wind while the pack drafted behind. 
I took my job seriously and felt like I fell short at the end.  This email did not improve how I felt about my performance.  I appreciate those of you that said you would try pacing again if you were me.  One of the things I've always said about myself is that things don't come easy to me.  They come with hard work.  I've seen this in my running times in every distance.  And I hope that I will see this in my pacing times as well, if I give it another chance.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pacing Attempt #2

Let's start with the end for now. 

The end of Saturday, December 10 was a very awesome lasagna dinner for the marathon committee members (and, lucky for me, their spouses and children too!).  These volunteers do such a great job and deserved the night to unwind together.  My family enjoyed delicious food while we listened to some amazing speakers (Okay, I enjoyed the speakers while Rick chased the kids through the hotel halls.  Just being real here!). 

I really admired them all, like the guy who has run all 35 Rocket City Marathons, the 2nd place male and female finishers, and two friends of mine who were the 6:00 sweepers on the course (one who carried a broom the whole time to "sweep" the course!).  The race director apparently gives the guy with the perfect track record a souvenir of sorts each year.  One year he got the roll of toilet paper from a port-a-potty he used during the race!  This year, he got a huge marathon sign that was on the ground on the course this year.  Everyone jokingly gave him ideas of where he could display the sign at his house!  The 2nd place guy said that our race had a small-town feel and that Huntsville runners seemed like a family, and I looked around and saw nods of agreement.  I think he was pretty perceptive to notice that about us in such a short amount of time.  The 2nd place girl was a sweet 31 year old mother of two who struck me as being so down to earth.  She talked about how she did the "marathon math" at the end trying to figure out what she needed to run to finish in a certain time.  It's refreshing to hear that even the winners struggle out there sometimes.

And now, here's the Race Recap for Marathon #24, Rocket City #4, and Pacing Attempt #2:

Before the Race

I began preparing for the race on Friday.  I laid out a possible outfit (though I ended up changing out the base level for a tighter shirt race day), packed baggies of Clif Bloks and gummy bears, and pinned my number to my shirt.  I lightly tapered by not running on Thursday and then doing 4 easy miles on Friday.  I got back from a work party late on Friday, so I didn't go to bed until after 11.  No worries, since my alarm was set for "sleeping in," or 6:00 a.m.  Rick woke up before 4 a.m. to begin his job as course sentry director, and I tossed and turned after that.  Doesn't matter; it's the night before the night before the marathon that matters, and I had slept great that night.

Clothes laid out, minus the hat and gloves.  We had a chilly start!
The Race

Oh, how funny it is to me the effect the pacer sign has on people.  Suddenly, anyone carrying the sign is Rocket City Marathon expert!  Seriously, I was standing in line to go to the bathroom (while trying to hide the sign the best I could), and people were giving me these strange sidelong glances and others were asking me very bizarre questions about the marathon (one asked me what time I thought we would cross the start line.  Hmmm.).  I hurriedly went into the ballroom to find the rest of the pacers after that.  I was glad to stash my car keys in my gear bag behind the registration booth (I think I carried them last year.  I don't know what to do when Rick doesn't run with me!).  We were supposed to line up at 7:45 a.m., so we all went out then.  I was quickly greeted by several friends and others who were lining up too.  I answered the usual questions about pace and the inevitable question, "Are you going to carry that sign the whole way?" (which was repeated several more times throughout the race.  It's really not heavy, people!). 

As predicted, I started out slow due to the crowds but quickly found pace after that.  I know this is a race report, but honestly, there are not a whole lot of details that are specific to me from this race.  In marathons where I am racing, there are so many moments where I am having to dig deep, to talk myself into keeping up the pace, but today it was all fairly good in terms of effort (minus a quicker pace near the last mile).  I kept a smooth, steady pace without wavering.  A highlight was kissing my husband, Rick, at Mile 18 (he was serving as a course sentry there in between his course set-up and take-down duties).  One girl said, "So...I guess that was your husband?"  For documentation's sake, I took my Clif Bloks, some gummy bears, and two Gus offered on the course.  I never felt weak or like I couldn't continue on pace.  That is why my end result was so maddening to me. 

The Result    

Have you ever looked back at something and realized where a pivotal mistake was made?  And, if you could go back and change it, you totally would?  That is how I feel about the last 5 miles of the marathon.  You know how last year, I finished too fast and vowed NOT to do that again?  Well, I overshot in the other direction this year.  Hindsight is 20/20.  We learn from our mistakes. 
You know how I don't usually run with the Garmin?  I have run 23 marathons and only two of those were with the Garmin.  I am used to pressing lap at each mile marker of the race and using that to gauge my performance.  Well, it never occurred to me to turn off the autolap feature on the Garmin.  The Garmin beeped (indicating a mile) ahead of the actual mile markers.  It never dawned on me that I would thus be running MORE THAN 26.2 miles.  Oh yes, I was that dumb.  I was SO focused on the trees that I missed the forest.  I was SO intent on getting each mile in on pace, that I didn't think about the big picture.  I saw the 8:58, but I did not see the 3:55.
I sadly realized the inevitable path of disaster I was on with one mile left to go.  Yes, I am the pacer who did not think about overall pace until there was one mile left to go.  Then, it was easy to add 9:00 to my watch time and to see that I was nearly two minutes too SLOW.  I panicked and tried to book it to the finish, ending my until then evenly paced run with an 8:30 pace for Mile 26 and a 7:00 pace for the remaining .43.  When I saw 3:56 on the clock, I was so mad and frustrated with myself.  My only consolation is that most of my group had fallen behind me earlier than this and probably had been caught by the awesome 4:00 pacer.  Many would still finish sub 4 hours, which was the goal of everyone that I talked to with a time goal in my pace group today (many had a goal merely to finish).  My official chip time was 3:55:50 for my Garmin's distance of 26.43 miles.  Oh, how eaten up on the inside I was about my mistake!!  As soon as I finished, I grabbed some food quickly and called Rick to vent.  I missed the chance to cheer in my group.  I am just now realizing how my anger at myself cost me the joy and thrill of seeing my new friends finish the race.  I was so embarrassed at my time that I forgot to consider theirs.  I lamented to Rick about wanting a redo of the last 5 miles, so that I could gradually increase the pace and bring in the runners in 3:54:59.  I will probably be haunted with that time for quite a while.  I feel like I failed.
When I told this story to my friends today, they were like, "What's the big deal?"  Since I am pretty new to pacing, I don't really know why it's so important not to go over.  I got a 3:15:33 at Chicago, and I still say I got a 3:15 when people ask.  I do know that with Boston's new qualification standards, there is no longer an allowance of "seconds over."  So if someone needed a 3:55, used to be they could get a 3:55:59 and still qualify.  Now they need a 3:55:00 or under (no seconds allowed).  
I know I'm a perfectionist and very hard on myself, but I really think this race shows that I am not cut out for pacing.  Just like when I was a new teacher, I feel like I am learning about pacing through the expense of others (when I taught, I learned how to teach at the expense of my first students).  And I feel like a very slow learner.  I've had two years now to "hit the target," and I've missed both times.  And, frankly, this year was worse of a failure than last year's since being too slow is the worst thing a pacer can be.
After talking it over with Rick, I felt a little more encouraged about the job I did.  He said it was an honest mistake and that it could have happened to anyone.  He said that I should remember the people in the beginning who were thanking me for starting on pace.  He said I should remember the people I encouraged along the way.  And he reminded me that, in the end, it is an individual race.  I can't pull along or hold anyone back.  He said in many ways, I was more successful this year than last, and that I shouldn't dwell on the number on the clock so much (I think the way he actually put it was, "It's not as bad as you are making it seem.").  I took comfort in the fact that he was trying to comfort me.

Running with Brandy
Photo by George Titsworth
  • People came up to thank me for "holding them back" at the beginning.  As someone who always starts too fast, I can see how a pacer could really help there.  As the miles went on, many people mentioned how great it was that I was running consistent miles.
  • From the beginning, I encouraged the runners to pick up the pace at the end.  I know that was a good thing to say, now that I know my outcome.  I told them to shoot for a negative split. 
  • There were not (to my knowledge) any people from my group who were trying to BQ.  I talked to people who were running their first marathon and to people who were trying to break four hours.  I am happy that I was able to pace them to do those two things.
  • I was able to give good advice from my experience in running while I was pacing.  Examples are telling one guy named Seth about how I like to do a marathon a month.  I think I talked him into running the New Orleans marathon after this one!  My group was able to discuss many marathons with my personal accounts, along with others' accounts too.  Some I remember that were mentioned were Boston, Myrtle Beach, Chicago, Nashville, Arizona, and New Orleans.  It was fun "comparing notes" with people who had already run them and to give recommendations for those wanting a personal account. 
  • I chatted with people.  I had conversations about Madison (with a guy who lives on a street my group runs all the time), a guy's twin daughters who both run, and local races.  I was there to listen as people shared with me and distracted themselves from the running. 
  • I offered encouragement.  For fun, I "cattle-prodded" two guys from my Sunday School class with my pacer sign.  I encouraged a friend as she ran past me, one that ran with me, and one that I had to leave behind.  I think it helped them to see a familiar face.  I waved my sign and yelled, "Cheer for us!"  many times as we approached big groups of people.  (As a side note, if you are a spectator, please cheer for all the runners, not just "your" runner.  It means a lot to hear the crowds, especially at the end.  Even if the runners don't react with a big smile or wave, they still like your cheers.  Trust me!)
  •  I wished that I could either a) run backwards or b) have eyes in the back of my head.  It was so hard to know who, if anyone, was still trailing me!  I did get some indication at the aid stations, where workers would shout, "Whoa, that's a big group!" and scramble to get more waters!  But when someone was talking with me and then fell back, I never knew if they were still with the group or not.
  • My inexperience with the Garmin did come back to bite me.  I did not think about the fact that I would probably run MORE than 26.2 miles as I went along (yes, even though I have run 23 marathons, I wasn't thinking about this until the very end).  I am NOT a math whiz or good at calculating pace in my head.  That is simply not one of my strengths as a runner.  I never really even thought about "running the tangents" as I was running; in fact, I usually ran on the outside of the turns so my runners could have the shorter route.  I am a very literal person, and when it says to run an 8:58 pace, then I am going to run an 8:58 pace.  It did not occur to me to adjust for the longer route until the very end.  By the time I realized my mistake, it was too late.   
  • My overall time was 50 seconds too slow.  I am majorly disappointed that I did not adjust my running earlier since I easily could have done this.  My group had been warned of a negative split, so I easily could have run the second half two minutes faster to bring us in on time.
  • My group had thinned considerably around mile 20.  I remember feeling bad that I was just cruising up a hill and leaving many of them behind, yet I had to stay on pace (little did I know I was actually behind pace).  In a way, it helps me feel better than if they were being held back by their pacer at the end. 
  • People asked me many specific questions about the Rocket City Marathon (such as where were the aid stations), and I was not able to answer those.   I need to become more familiar with the route, the location of the aid stations, etc.

 The medal

Ending Thoughts

Curious to see if I had ever run a 3:55:50, I found my closest time, a 3:56:02 from the Madison Marathon in Madison, WI in May of 2008.  Twelve seconds separate these times, but the experiences are miles apart.  In Madison, I was victorious, finishing my first marathon post-kids in my goal of sub 9:00 minute miles with Rick by my side.  This year, I feel like a failure and that I let people down, and it's there for all to see.  Yet both of these marathons (and most of my other marathons) fall in the 3 hour something range.  So much depends on the numbers after that 3 and the experiences that surround them.  I've had triumphant moments and crushing defeats all within this range.  We runners live and die by the little numbers.  To all of those who met with success (and whose numbers were in your favor out there), congratulations.  You deserve to celebrate.  To myself I say, there's always going to be another run.  Another chance to make those numbers say a time I can be proud to claim.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Analyzing My Running Shoe Wear Patterns

Here we are three days from the marathon, and all of the doubts/negative thoughts are starting to creep in. 

Here are some of the thoughts I have scrolling through my brain today:
"You should've practiced more with the Garmin."
"What if the Garmin dies in the marathon?"
"Have you really trained enough for this?"
"What if you wear too much and get hot during the race?"
"Did you just slack off after Chicago?"
"Are you tapering enough?" (Ran 6 miles Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday of this week)
"What if you can't do it?"

I usually find that I will overfocus on one thing when I have all of this nervous energy.  It is currently on the wear on the bottom of my shoes.

I mentioned to Rick one day that I felt like I was wearing out my shoes really quickly, more like 200 miles instead of the 300-500 miles you are supposed to be able to run in them.  I told him that I start to hurt when I run in shoes with worn tread, so I replace my shoes a lot.  There were something like five old pairs in our garage just cluttering it up, so Rick decided to take those over to Fleet Feet to donate them.  He looked on the bottoms and told me that I really was wearing my shoes out pretty badly.  I decided to take pictures and bring the old shoes in to Fleet Feet to see if someone can help recommend a shoe that is better for my foot.  It is obvious that I am wearing the outside heel of my shoe out, so I did a little research on my own.  Here was an article about the different types of runners--pronators, neutral, and supinators (or underpronators).  Runner's World had more on supinators.  This one seemed to agree with my wear pattern the best. 

Why focus on this now?  As I said before, I think I am diverting some nervous energy.  But there are many benefits to making sure I am in the right shoe!  I can think of several.  Saving money on shoes that fit right and wear correctly, avoiding injuries, and just minimizing my annoyance of watching my foot striking the ground on the outside edge as a run.  I have been staring at my feet as I run lately, and that's not a good thing. 

Here's some pictures in case you wanted to see the evidence:

Uneven wear

I'd say that the outer edge is pretty worn out.

The black tread is separating from the shoe.

Another picture of the left shoe, which is slightly worse than the right.  I actually notice this foot landing incorrectly as I run.

Any thoughts/advice on the matter?

Monday, December 5, 2011


Here are the seeds from our Fleet Feet Racing Team for the Rocket City Marathon.  If you are new to marathoning or racing, you may not know what a "seed" is.  Basically, it is an honor to be seeded with a low race number.  They seed you based on your recent times (usually of the same distance) compared to others in the race.  So, if I am seeded first, I have the fastest recent marathon time, and thus, I am favored to win this race also.  Of course,am not seeded first in the marathon!  But I did get seeded 14th (women's seeds began at 1100).  I am quite proud of that seed!  I don't feel bad at all knowing that I will not get a chance to race with the other seeded women on Saturday.  I am even prouder of being asked to pace the 3:55 group!  A total of 5 team members will be pacing rather than competing in their seeded positions that day, so I am not alone.

Here is what Eric Charette wrote on the Fleet Feet Racing Team blog about our team's seeds:
With Rocket City Marathon coming up this Saturday, the Huntsville Track Club has announced the top seeds for Men and Women. Among them are quite a few runners from the Fleet Feet Racing Team and Fleet Feet employees who are either racing or have volunteered to be Nike Pacers as noted.

Seed / Recent Marathon Time / Marathon PR / Name / Age
17 2:41:20 2:41:20 Tim Vinson
19 2:43:40 2:43:40 Eric Charette (3:10 pacer)
20 2:44:00 2:44:00 Brandon Mader (3:00 pacer)
22 2:48:00 2:46:00 Zachary Koch
26 2:52:00 2:42:30 Dewayne Satterfield (3:05 pacer)
27 2:53:04 2:53:04 Blake Thompson
29 2:54:52 2:54:52 Kevin Betts
32 2:58:00 2:58:00 David O'Keefe (3:15 pacer)

Seed / Recent Marathon Time / Marathon PR / Name / Age
1103 2:54:21 2:54:21 Candace Jacobs
1114 3:15:00 3:15:00 Katie Maehlmann (3:55 pacer)
1126 3:28:18 3:28:18 Jillian Koch

Also serving as pacers from the Racing Team are Eric Patterson (3:30), David Rawlings (3:45), Christy Scott (4:00), Linda Scavarda (4:25), Kathy Youngren (6:00) and Rob Youngren (6:00).

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Best Individual Performances

After this entry on my own 2011 best performances, I thought it would be great to link up to my team's blog so you could see all of the great performances we've had this year.  Here is the blog for the Fleet Feet Racing Team of Huntsville, Alabama.  What I find pretty amazing is that one of our captains, Eric Charette, writes the blog and was able to correctly identify each member's best performance.  He knows us all that well.  Eric did ask Rick (my husband) to verify the race he thought was Rick's best performance, but he knew that Chicago was mine (I, of course, agree).  Eric is pretty amazing to know all of us that well.  He really celebrates each victory with all of us, but he was one of only a few to offer condolences when I failed at St. Louis too.  I have great respect for someone who can know each of his teammates that well.

Our team will choose winners for the Best Male and Female Performance of 2011.  I don't plan to win, since we have so many outstanding performances this year (and every year).  But it does feel pretty amazing to be compared with these great athletes.  I feel very blessed to have such great competitors and friends.  Just yesterday, we stuffed packets for the Rocket City Marathon, and we caught up with and joked with our fellow teammates who were also volunteering their time.   Our children played with Candace's little boy (Candace is the overall female winner of the marathon last year and a fellow teammate).  It feels great to have these friendships--with teammates and with other runners too!  We have a great running community, and I am so thankful for it!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Black Toenails Update

I have had many people find my blog by searching "black toenails," and, as sad as this is to admit, my post titled "Black Toenails and the Cookie Dash Run" is my most popular post ever (Okay, that's kind of really sad for me.  Not a marathon post.  Not even a training post.  A post about black toenails.  Sigh.)  I can only conclude that this is a topic you want me to keep talking about!  And I aim to please!  This is the fourth post in a series of posts about my poor, ugly toes (see here, here, and here).

Most recently, I lost my middle toenail on my left foot while wearing shoes and socks.  It was really gross.  I came to take my shoes off after work, and I felt something that I thought was a small twig in my sock.  I thought it was weird that it had gotten inside my sock.  That's when I realized that it was actually my toenail just floating around in my sock.  Yuck.

Here is my vacant middle toenail with one to the right that is just growing back. 

Middle toenail fell off
My right foot's toenails have been hurting when I run.  I wish they would go ahead and fall off.  They are very ugly and are very hard to conceal.  I even tried to (see the nail polish!), but you can still see the black around the edges (toe next to big toe).  The toenail next to my little toe is about to fall off now.  I can raise it up and wiggle it around, kind of like when you would have a really loose tooth as a kid.  I know it's gross, but how else do you talk about black toenails?

Black toenails in different stages
Well, that is all I have for now about my black toenails.  I know you are all very jealous of my beautiful feet!  Hopefully I will have something more substantial for you next time!

Friday, November 25, 2011

First and Last 20 Miler for the Rocket City Marathon: Pacing Practice

I am running in the Rocket City Marathon on December 10, 2011 as a pacer for the 3:55 group.  This will be my second time to pace in the marathon.  You can read about my time last year here and here.  I felt somewhat discouraged about my pacing experience last year and vowed to be more on pace this year.  If you reading this because you want to run in the 3:55 group, let me assure you that I will get you there on pace this year.  The things that I learned last year will help me, as will having a faster pace (I paced the 4:15 group last year).  I take my responsibility very seriously.  In most marathons, I only have myself to let down, but as a pacer, I have others relying on me.  I don't want to let anyone down.  But to be honest, pacing is a challenge for me.  It will involve very controlled running, something that I struggle to do well.

If you have never heard about pacers before, I would like to share a quote from Eric Charette, organizer of the pace teams, who says pacers are chosen "based not only on their ability to cover the distance within a certain time, but they are also outgoing and dynamic people who are able to motivate runners.  They are all experienced marathoners who have deep knowledge of endurance running and all have run a marathon within the previous year that is at least 20 minutes faster than the pace group they are leading."  I would like to add that I've always seen pacers as helpful if you are trying to Boston Qualify.  The 3:55 time is a 2013 BQ time for males 60-64 and females 45-49.  So those two groups of people will probably make up a large portion of my pacing group.  I am excited to also have people in my group who are wanting to break 4 hours.  I hope to see many of them reach this milestone!    

In preparation to pace the 3:55 group, I ran my first and last 20 miler for the Rocket City Marathon last Saturday, November 19.  I am still well trained from the Chicago Marathon and, more recently, the Huntsville Half Marathon.  This training will help me in the marathon, but I still wanted at least one 20 miler just for this race.  If I were running a training run for a regular marathon (not one I am pacing), I would shoot for a pace somewhere between 60 and 90 seconds slower than my marathon pace, or between an 8:30-9:00 pace.  For this run, however, I wanted to be exactly on pace.  I thought it would be a nice challenge and that it would help prepare me for pacing (I know there are some newer marathoners that read my blog out there, so note that running your long runs at pace is NOT recommended!!).  I somehow remembered the pace per mile wrong though, so I thought I needed 8:55s when I actually needed 8:58s.  Close enough!

The run was a success even though my splits were not consistent, especially in the beginning.  I was running with Jane then, and we were not paying attention to pace.  When I ran alone, I was paying more attention and was more consistent.  I also ran a fairly hilly course!  At Mile 19, I conscientiously slowed my pace to a 9:23 to bring my average down.  I felt very in control on this run, and it gave me a lot of confidence about my pacing this group in two weeks.

Splits (aiming for 8:55 pace)
1 9:03
2 9:00
3 9:03
4 8:56
5 9:08
6 9:24
7 8:35
8 8:43
9 8:58
10 9:01
11 8:26
12 8:46
13 8:48
14 8:46
15 8:46
16 8:52
17 8:52
18 8:58
19 9:23
20 8:43
Average 8:55 pace/691 elevation gain

I've met people who just love pacers and people who pretty much hate them.  But I've learned that walking in someone's shoes can do wonders for how you view them.  I now have so much respect for the pacers in the marathons I've run, even though I've never been in a pace group myself!  Running a marathon at a pace 20 minutes or more slower than your marathon time is very challenging.  Pacers are doing this selflessly for the other runners, for anyone that wants to run in their group.  I have a lot of respect for anyone willing to give that a try!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Breaking 3 PRs in 4 Months

Strong legs help me set a PR in the Huntsville Half.
Photo by Brandy Titsworth

The Old PRs
I'm 34 now, and until this year, all of my PRs were from before I had kids.  Most were from around eight years ago.  I had more time to run and not as many responsibilities back then.  I was okay with the fact that my PRs were older.  And those old times seemed really fast to me...up until last year.  Last year, I finally decided to try to tackle the PRs.

As my racing times got down close to my old times, I started really learning my PRs (yes, for a long time I didn't know them offhand).  I started memorizing them and knowing what pace per mile each event was.  I studied how to convert one distance's time to another.  I started reading about my old PRs races (the ones that I remembered, like this one).  And I started training to beat those times.

The Targets (My Old PRs)
Spirit of Halloween 5K October 2003 20:01 (26 years old)
Half Marathon
Huntsville Half November 2004 1:34:51 (27 years old)
Rock 'N' Roll San Diego June 2003 3:21:54 (25 years old)

The person I was competing with was my younger self.  With this, I experienced the joy of quite a challenging task.  I enjoyed "racing" against a younger women who hadn't had two kids---ME! 

I set out to tackle the marathon first because I was doing a lot of those, and I was seeing a steady improvement of my times (with four marathons, I saw a steady decline of just over 20 minutes).  By November 2010, I had entered the 3:20s again in the marathon (albeit a 3:29!).  I had read about my old marathon splits ad nauseam by this point.  Still, my old PR (3:21:54) from the Rock 'N' Roll San Diego still seemed fast to me.  If you've run many marathons, you know that eight minutes can be A LOT in a marathon.  Yet I knew how I approached the marathon.  I knew about my tendency to start fast and then slow down.  I knew I could follow that approach again and be successful.  It took Myrtle Beach's flat course after my yearly 50K (and its training) to get me to the 3:18:05 (little did I know I would break that new PR just eight months later!).

With that one time, it was as though anything was possible for me.  I began what became the best year of running that I've had in my "career."  I went on to target and then attack the 5K (new PR set at the Firecracker 5K in July 2011) and the half marathon (new PR set at the Huntsville Half in November 2011).  Between those two, I PRed again in the marathon with a 3:15:33 in Chicago, proving to myself that my 3:18 was no "fluke."    

Lessons Learned
People have asked me, "What's next?" and honestly I don't know.  I guess a small goal would be to break that tough 10K PR.  But then what?  A 3:10 marathon?  A 19:30 5K? 

For now, on the eve of Thanksgiving, I think it is appropriate to just take a moment to be thankful for this year of running, one that may likely be the best year I will ever have.  Not many people can smash through 3 eight year old PRs in one year.  I know that.  I know that I will probably never experience a "comeback" like that again.  And I know that the comeback was in part thanks to the regularity of my running with my morning running group.  They are the real reason I am thankful.  Running with them may have helped those times to come, but it is the friendships I have that mean so much more to me.  Yes, I am so thankful that I got to experience the thrill of beating my younger self.  But so much has happened in the past eight years.  So much life.  It's made me realize how silly caring about these PRs can be.  Yet a piece of me still takes pride in the toughness, determination, and persistence that made them a reality.

New PRs
Firecracker 5K July 2011 19:55 (33 years old)
Half Marathon
Huntsville Half November 2011 1:30:53 (34 years old)
Chicago Marathon October 2011 3:15:33 (34 years old)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Finish Line Pictures from the Huntstville Half Marathon and Why Pictures are Important

These pictures are courtesy of my friend's husband, Tony Scott.  The neat thing about the Scott family is that they were all involved in the Huntsville Half Marathon in a different way.  Christy ran the half marathon while Tony took pictures and cheered at the finish line.  Courtney, their daughter, babysat our kids with the help of their son, Brandon.  They were highlighted at our Huntsville Track Club banquet this month when Christy received the 2011 Admiration Award.  This family is a good example of how everyone in your family can play a part in a race, even when they are not all running!

I have given a lot of though recently to how thankful I am for facebook and for those who use facebook to share albums for runners at different races.  They say that a picture is worth a thousand words.  That is so true with racing!  In running, having a picture to look at can really take you back to a special moment, one that you may have been too out of it to appreciate while you were living it!  I have ZERO pictures from most of my earlier races since I was usually there alone.  With facebook, I have been tagged in several people's albums.  Some that I remember are the We Run Huntsville group, Gregg Gelmis, James Hurley, and Tony Scott.  I, in turn, have taken pictures at different races too.  Having a picture of the moment you cross the finish line is such a special thing.  It takes you right back to that moment.  It is thanks to people like this who think of others that we have pictures to remember these moments of our lives.  I know I am grateful to have them!

Here I am crossing the finish line (looks to me like I am actually getting a 1:30:52 instead of the 1:30:53 in the results!). 
Photo by Tony Scott
I used up EVERYTHING I had when I raced and could not even hold my head up when I was done!  I know I look sad or even defeated in this picture, but I am actually very happy, just glad to be done.  I stayed with my head down like this, gathering my thoughts and being thankful for being done, while I walked through the finish chute.

Too tired to even hold up my head!
While we are on the subject of special running pictures, I thought I would share my FAVORITE running picture ever.  This picture is from the Rocket City Marathon in 2001, taken by Mr. Fahey (I forget his first name!).  This is my first picture ever with my husband, who was just my friend at the time.  Since this picture was taken obviously before facebook, the fact that I have a copy of it means that Mr. Fahey printed it out for me or Rick.  This picture is priceless to us and made it into our slideshow at our wedding.  All thanks to a friend who was willing to capture a very special moment!

Rick, Katie (and John Christy) running Rocket City 2001

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Huntsville Half Marathon 2011 Race Recap

Huntsville Half Marathon
Saturday, November 12, 2011

I didn't give a whole lot of consideration training-wise to this race.  Thought I did rest on Thursday, I ran on Friday for about 5 miles with the double jogging stroller.  I woke up on Saturday with a slightly sore upper body from that.  Oh well.  The weather had been perfect on Friday, and I enjoyed spending the day off without having to get up early to run (Rick was off too but spent the whole day staining our fence).

On Saturday morning we made it to the race around 7:15 a.m.  The race takes place at Hillwood Baptist Church in Southeast Huntsville, right off of South Parkway.  The church lets us use their facilities, so we can stay warm in their gym and use their bathrooms before the race too (I am not a port-a-potty fan, so that is important to me!).  I actually hit the bathroom 3 times before the race, so it was good to have a nice one to use!  Our babysitter, Courtney, got our kids busy on the church's playground as we headed to the start line.

I chatted with a few friends before the start and ran into most of my running group also.  I think there were 8 of us running in the half, which is almost all of our group.  For 3 of the girls, it was their first half.  It was exciting to think that they were about to run further than they'd ever run before and to know they had a nice medal and finisher's shirt waiting for them at the end!

The Race
As the race begun, I fell into pace with my friend and fellow Fleet Feet teammate Kathy Youngren.  Kathy is an amazing runner (visit the Fleet Feet Racing Team website to read her bio and PRs).  It felt fun and even lighthearted to be running with her and some of our other teammates.  They were joking around, and the atmosphere was just very positive.  I didn't feel like I was in the beginning of a very tough race!  I asked Kathy what pace she was aiming for, and she said 7:15.  Well, our first mile came in at 6:32!  I guess you could say we were banking that time for later!

The race passed back by the church (I think) in the 3rd mile.  Here is a picture of Kathy and me running side by side. 

Katie (back left in black) and Kathy (in same uniform) in the Huntsville Half
Photo by James Hurley
You can see in this picture that there was a girl right ahead of us.  She came from out of town and was a very strong runner.  We weren't able to pass her.

I ran with Kathy until Mile 7, one of the greenway miles.  I ran out of steam and my pace dropped a little while hers stayed the same or even increased by a bit.  After the turnaround (Mile 8?  I am NO help at all with specifics of this course!), I was so encouraged by my friends calling out my name as they made their way to the turnaround.  "Go Katie!" helped me feel so much better, even though I was still struggling with feeling out of gas!  I made it a point to try to see each person who called my name, and to in turn shout back similar encouragement.  It made the miles go by very fast!  I think I did this exchange probably 20 times or so.  It was fun for me to see where each of my running group friends was too.  Everyone looked strong!  After passing all of my friends, I took to just calling out, "Keep it up!" or "Looking strong!" to the people near the back.  It helped distract me from how I was feeling and hopefully was an encouragement to them also.

Around Mile 10, I decided that I only had a 5K left to go.  I figured I could stick with it for that long!  I actually caught up to and then passed Kathy around Mile 11.  I figured she would stick with me, but she didn't.  So it was a pretty lonely last few miles, but I knew the end was near.  Rick had warned me about a slow 12th mile but then a fast 13th.  I proved him right by running a 7:15 12th mile (my slowest in the race) and a 6:45 13th mile (my second fastest in the race).  At Mile 13, I actually made some audible grunts as I chugged up the last little hill to the finish.  I saw the clock with 1:30 on it and was ecstatic to be getting a PR!  I crossed with a time of 1:30:53, 5th overall female and 1/80 in my age group.  It felt great to have exceeded my expectations.

Then it was time to find Rick and the kids and to see how all of my friends did.  The neatest story was how 2 of my Sunday School friends were running next to my hairstylist and befriended her along the way.  Seeing them all come and and congratulate one another was so neat!  I also saw my friend Tracey finish in 1:47, an impressive 1st half time!  Her family of 5 children were all watching her come in.  I enjoyed getting my medal, finisher's shirt, and a nice reflective vest as my age group award, plus filling up with bagels and pizza!  

Look for another post about how I have now beaten 3 of my 8 year old PRs (the 5K, half marathon, and marathon) in 4 months!

1 6:32
2 6:50
3 6:49
4 7:01
5 6:51
6 6:57
7 6:54
8 7:03
9 7:10
10 7:02
11 6:55
12 7:15
13 6:45
.1 :43

6:56 pace    
5th Overall Female
1st AG

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Huntsville Half November 12, 2011

New PR!  1:30:53 More details to follow!

Picture by James Hurley

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Huntsville Half Marathon Goal Setting

The Huntsville Half Marathon is this Saturday, November 12, 2011.  I did a little digging back to see some of my old half marathons, just to get feel for how I think I can do.  I haven't done many of them!

Here are the ones I found:

2000: Rocket City Half Marathon* Huntsville, AL November 4, 2000-- 1:42:56 1st in AG
My first half ever, and probably my longest run ever at the time.  Entered on a whim!  I could not even find my old bib for this one.  It was before I started saving them.  I found a set of race results I had printed off of the computer.  Besides Joe Francica (1st OA), I didn't even recognize any of the top men's names.

*The Rocket City Half Marathon is now the Huntsville Half; it just changed its name in 2004.

2001: Freeze Your Half Off Half Marathon Auburn, AL February 10, 2001-- 1:37:59  4th in AG 
Graduate student at Auburn this year.  I was surprised to see this below my results: Candace Chambers 1:38:19.  Those of you local runners may know this girl.  Her last name is now Jacobs.  Candace wins almost every local race these days.  She's come a long way since 2001 (assuming this is the same girl?)!

2002: Can't find any results

2003: Rocket City Half Marathon November 8, 2003-- 1:35:50 2nd in AG, 6th OAF 

2004: Huntsville Half Marathon November 13, 2004-- 1:34:51 (PR) 1st in AG 4th OAF (results from Athlinks)

I have not run a half marathon road race since 2004.  In 2005, I was pregnant.  Then in 2006, I had a four month old and did not run it. 

I do have a really fun/crazy memory from the Huntsville Half Marathon in 2007, though.  I remember dropping Rick off so that he could run the half and then heading to the Aldridge Creek Greenway to run my own half marathon (on the section not on the course).  We had a sixteen month old and a two month old at the time.  We decided that Rick was definitely in better form to race than I was, but I was training for Mountain Mist and needed a long run that day.  So I pushed the kids in the double stroller for my own half marathon.  Then I nursed my daughter in the car and headed back to pick up Rick from the race. 

When I bring up these stories (also like this one), it is not to make anyone feel sorry for me or to make people impressed by what I did.  It is just to show that if you really want something, you will make it happen.  You won't let obstacles stop you.  I hope it can inspire you to try something you never thought you could do.  I am constantly getting inspiration by those around me  (Today I got reinspired by Ben Davis in the video found here.  Thanks, Runner's World!). 

In 2008 and 2009, I did not run it (I can't remember why, but having kids will do that to you!  I do remember volunteering as a course sentry one of those years).  In 2010, we were running the Marshall Marathon on that weekend.

All of this to say that I haven't run many half marathons for one reason or another.  I've run twenty-three marathons but only four half marathons.  I guess I would say that I prefer the marathon over the half, and my focus has been on training for and racing those events instead.  I've definitely had to become more selective about the races I do over the last five years.  The half marathons have kind of fallen by the wayside.  This year, though, Rick and I have a sitter for the kids, and we're both ready to compete! 

Setting My Goal For the Half Marathon

Looking back, my current PR is a 1:34:51.  Here's why I think I can beat that on Saturday:  My half split in Chicago was a 1:34:10!  But we all know that a half spilt does not count as a half marathon, so I will have to perform at my best on Saturday if I want to PR. 

While I was aiming for a 7:26 pace in the marathon, I will aim for around a 7:00 pace in the half.  Pace calculators like this one can help you figure out your overall time for a pace.  The 7:00 pace per mile is a 1:31:46.  The McMillan pace calculator puts my predicted half time at a 1:32:43 (7:05 pace) based on my most recent marathon time.  I would be happy with that time also; the goal is simply a new PR.

The biggest obstacle for me to achieve this will be the lack of speed work since the marathon.  I like to give myself sufficient recovery from marathons (I have tried shortcuts here in the past with awful results!).  I have taken my full 26 days of recovery (one day per mile raced).  I haven't pushed, except for two 5K races, since the marathon.  This can either mean that I'm fresh with a good base of training or that I'm out of shape from not doing speed work in a month.  No runs at a 7:00 pace can also hurt me as I try to find that pace during the half marathon.  It should feel slower than my 5K pace (by 30 seconds a mile) but faster than my marathon pace (by 30 seconds a mile).  This sounds nice and easy to me (but, of course, I am sitting at my computer and not attempting to run it!).

Most of my running group will also be at the half marathon on Saturday, some running their first half ever.  To all of the runners, I wish you luck and a great race!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bank of America Chicago Marathon Pictures

Here are some pictures from the Bank of Chicago Marathon:

Early morning excitement!
Rick, Katie, and our friend, Teddy

I love it!  Squeezing cold water on my head with discarded sponges all over the ground!
(Strange place to be taking pictures!)


Ahead of lots of men in this picture!

Lookin' tough
Don't mess with me!

I love the arms up in victory all around me!

Cool backdrop! 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

IMT Des Moines Marathon October 18, 2009

Disaster Strikes

The IMT Des Moines Marathon on October 18, 2009 was the marathon-that-almost-wasn't for Rick and me.  I called it our unlucky state #14!  As I look back, it's probably the marathon that proved how tough I am and how much I want to be able to run marathons.  Not only would it have been easier to not run this marathon, it arguably would have been smarter and even safer too.  The things you really want sometimes involve risks, but they are worth it in the end.  They prove what you are made of.

Preparing for the Trip from Alabama to Iowa
We were preparing to run a marathon a month after our Maui Marathon on September 20, 2009.  It seemed like the best use of our training to find another marathon to run roughly a month after Maui.  We had done this before with good results, and we were eager to get back into marathons after a pretty big hiatus.  Iowa came up as a possible state since it was close to Wisconsin.  Wisconsin was where my younger sister, Laurie, lived at the time, and she was willing to come over to Iowa and watch the kids for us as we ran (to see the entry about how Laurie helped us during the Madison, WI marathon go here).  So that is how the IMT Des Moines Marathon came up as a possibility for us.

I am thankful for Rick, since he is a planner and I am more of a dreamer.  He planned this trip for us, mapping the route, making hotel reservations, and registering us for the race.  Everything was in place and going according to plan when his work called him to Cape Canaveral, Florida at the last minute, right before we were supposed to leave for Iowa.  I was crushed.  There was no way for him to make it back in time for us to drive up to Iowa together.  I started thinking that maybe I could drive up there alone.  Now, the kids were two and three years old back then, and the trip was almost 800 miles, or at least fourteen hours with stops.  And I never drive on our car trips thanks to a great husband who always drives!  All of these things were BIG obstacles for me to get around if I wanted to run the marathon.  And at the time, it was just for me.  We both decided that Rick's chances of getting up there to run it were very slim due to the work situation in the Cape.  I had decided to do the drive alone when, at the last minute, my mom refused to let me drive it solo and agreed to come along with me. 

The Trip Up 

The trip from Alabama to Iowa with two toddlers was pretty rough, and I really don't think I could have done it without my mom's help and a trusty GPS.  The thing that I remember most about the trip was stopping for dinner at Subway near the kids' bedtime (about 7:00 p.m.).  My mom was thinking we would be looking for a hotel in that city since we had been on the road all day.  I refused to stop, changed the kids into their nightclothes, and drove for five more hours while they slept in the back.  Those of you with young kids know that it is much better to get driving time in while they are sleeping.  I did not want to strap them in for five hours when they were fresh in the morning.  I wanted them to be in Iowa.  I was in rough shape when we arrived near 1:00 a.m. at the hotel.  As we shuttled sleeping children and luggage into the dark hotel, I wondered what I had been thinking when I decided that I could safely do this part alone.  I was thankful my mom was there.

At the hotel the morning after the day-long car ride
Day Before the Race

If I remember correctly, the drive occurred on Thursday, so we had all Friday to explore Des Moines. It turned out to be a great plan. We used a reciprocal gardens pass to visit their botanical gardens and shopped at a great mall.   Below is a picture of the yummy Cheesecake Factory cheesecake slice that we all split after lunch.

We used the GPS to find the expo, since Rick had programmed the directions in it before he left for his trip.  I--of course--picked up his packet too, but we still didn't know if he'd be able to get here to run the race.  He was trying to fly from Florida to Iowa with a midnight arrival time.  Oh yeah, and we told Laurie (a grad student who had a ton of work that weekend) that she did not need to come watch the kids after all since my mom was with us.  It turns out that two years later, we eventually found another race for her to help out at!

The next two pictures show us outside of the expo and at the pasta restaurant.  We brought spaghetti home to eat in the hotel room.  My son loves to tell the story of how he spilled his pasta all over the white hotel bed as he ate.  I think it is one of his earliest memories!

Outside the expo

Getting pasta to go
This picture sums up this trip to me---a mom first and a marathoner second. 

I tried to get some sleep in our little room while waiting to hear Rick's arrival at midnight.  I was so glad to hear the key in the door!  He had made it and would be able to run after all!  Little did I know that his experience in the marathon the next day would be less than ideal.

The Race
I don't remember too much about this race, but here's a bulleted list of the things I do remember:
  • Beautiful fall leaves on the streets (I loved the beautiful changing leaves!)
  • Bagpipe music being played on the course
  • Chatting with other runners
  • Beautiful rainbow bridge we ran over with little rainbows cast from little prisms in the railings
  • Getting sub 3:50 for the first time in five years
  • Waiting for Rick while sipping a free beer at the post race party (good sized marathon)
  • Buying our marathon medal display holder as an early Christmas present
1 8:35
2 8:13
3 8:16
4 8:39
5 8:51
6 8:33
7 8:25
8 8:28
9 8:27
10 8:20
11 8:20
12 8:07
13 8:29
14 8:32
15 8:27
16 8:22
17 8:19
18 8:42
19 8:50
20 8:56
21 9:14
22 9:24
23 9:40
24 9:54
25 9:23
26 9:31
.2 2:10

overall 3:49:19
8:46 pace

We made it back to the hotel relieved that all had ended well (that is, we both finished the state!).  For me, the 3:49:19 marked the first time in five years to go below a 3:50.  I raised my bar after that and no longer made my goal sub-four hours.  I credit my time at this race for giving me the confidence to run the 3:35 I got the following February at the Mardi Gras marathon.  I was getting the hang of running marathons while mothering young children!
Iowa finishers!

Returning Home

We returned home on a two day trip (yea!), stopping in St. Louis to stay the night at my aunt and uncle's house and to see Rick off on an airplane back to the Cape (where his hotel room there was waiting for him).  Above is the whole gang at my aunt and uncle's house. 

Below is a picture of the arch.  When I see this picture, I think about how I circled around and around the arch trying to get on a bridge that was on the GPS map but was actually closed for construction.  This picture reminds me of the hard work, courage, and pure stubbornness I used to make this marathon happen.  And that is why running was the easiest part of State #14. 

We circled this many times.