Thursday, December 20, 2012

Healing With A Good Run

The tragedy in Connecticut hit home for me.  I have a kindergartner and a first grader.  There is something so wrong about seeing my son's age beside the names of so many of the victims listed in the paper.  I am a teacher.  Now I teach preschool, but I taught in public school for 6 years before I had my kids. I knew the drills, the special code phrases signifying "gunman in the schools."  Get your kids out of harm's way NOW. Lock your classroom door.  Hide.  I watched a news story of a teacher who gathered her children and hid in the bathroom while the shooting happened in the next room.  She told her children that she loved them because she wanted that to be the last thing they heard and not the sound of bullets.  And she worried out loud to the reporter about that--about if it was okay to tell her students that she loved them.  There is something so wrong about that.  That we have to worry about telling our students that we love them, that God loves them.  It is too much for me to take.

The Monday after the shootings I dropped the kids off in a rush.  It was lightly raining as we walked to my son's school, and I had an 8:00 meeting in the preschool.  Walk fast!  Rush, rush.  

Tuesday, the weather was gloomy and foggy as we walked to the elementary school.  For some reason, a state trooper went right by the main road as we were heading up the little hill to the school.  Traffic was stopped by the crossing guard.  We all turned to see the car go by, sirens blaring.  For a second, my heart stopped just picturing that day in Connecticut.  It was like a piece---a tiny fragment---of the panic the parents must have felt as they heard sirens in their little town and saw the police cars heading to the school.  

Next I dropped off my daughter in car line at the preschool.  Our preschool decided to have some of the pastors and other men from the church assisting in car line after the shootings.  They want to provide a sense of safety and security (Though how we are supposed to feel safe anymore, I don't know.).  So a pastor opened the door for my daughter.  For some reason, seeing this big guy whose job is so much more "important" than this, reaching over to take my little girl's hand just choked me up.  That he would do this, that we would feel the need to have him here.  I left car line with tears in my eyes.

So it was on a whim that I responded to Jane's email asking if anyone was running this morning.  I had cleaning and shopping to do and really shouldn't "indulge" myself with a run just for me.  But I wanted to run with her.  I wanted her company and distraction.  I wanted something to feel normal.  And I didn't want to be alone in my thoughts.  

We decided on a time, and I drove to her house.  She was wanting 8 miles (one of her first 8 mile runs post-baby), but as I sat listening to Christmas music in my car, I added up the time and decided I could not get 8 in before preschool pick up.  No matter.  I would run as many as I had time for.

The sun was shining as we got started.  I truly forgot how much I enjoy running in warm, sunny weather with a friend.  It seems like I run alone and/or in the dark almost all of the time now.  Our talk flowed easily from topics like getting your baby to sleep through the night, to training for upcoming races, to family.  As we neared her house, I realized that I could probably finish the 8 miles if we sped up and if I didn't shave in the shower afterwards!  We sped up to an 8:40 mile, a fast pace for Jane as she's building her distance and speed back up.  I felt very alive and happy as we raced along, and I literally ran to my car, shouted a "good-bye," and started driving away in one solid motion (I even forgot to hit "stop" on my Garmin until I was driving away!).  

So what was this run today?  A time I "selfishly" chose to spend on myself though mounds of last-minute Christmas errands await.  A time to reconnect with a running pal.  A chance for conversations about our lives to take me away from the tragedy I've been so focused on.  

For just a moment, to enjoy the sun, and the feel of running, and the company of a good friend.

see Jane's post about our run here

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rocket City Marathon 2012 Race Report

Saturday, December 8, 2012

I got up today at 5:40 thinking that I needed to shower and get the kids ready to leave by 6:20 a.m. (they were going to my mom's house).  At 6:20, I called her in a panic and told her that I was running late and wouldn't be leaving the house until 6:25.  She asked, "Late?"  It turns out that I told her I'd bring them at 6:45!  As you can tell, I was nervous and had a lot on my mind.  So with the extra time, I set up the camera to take a quick picture of me before we left the house.

VERY helpful---taped a pace bracelet to the pace sign
Getting ready to leave the house
I drove the minivan to the start line, and my mom took over driving to take the kids back to her house.  Before they left, my son asked, "But Mommy, how come you get to run with a stick?  I thought you told us not to do that!"  Mom and I laughed about this one, and I explained that we are careful with the signs and we don't point the stick up!  It was about 7:15 a.m. by then, and I headed inside the Holiday Inn to wait and go to the bathroom.  A trick I learned was to hide my pace sign in my bag.  No one asked me about the course, etc. this year as I waited to go to the bathroom!
The Race
Everyone knew the weather would affect us this year.  We've had unseasonably warm temperatures, and the race started in the 50s and ended near 70.  Very warm for December!  I headed out to the start line at 7:45 and enjoyed not being cold, but later in the race I was sweating so much that I could almost wring out my shirt!  At the start, I was instantly swarmed by people who said, "We are glad you're here!"  What a nice welcome!  There are 1,500 people registered for this race, and the start line was not overly crowded.  People were spaced according to pace by large signs with pace ranges (3:30-3:45 etc.) being held by volunteers, and us pacers carried smaller signs with our specific paces. 

Rick came into the start area with a few minutes to spare.  He'd been doing course sentry volunteering since 4:00 a.m. that morning.  He was head of that area and served on the marathon committee, requiring lots of meetings and pre-marathon preparation.  The pacing was the last thing on his mind that morning, he told me, since the other work was important and had to be done.  Imagine if there wasn't someone at even one intersection or turn!  He also coordinated the sentry volunteers' shirts.  A free shirt is a small return for each person who stands outside for 4-5 hours directing the runners!  Through talking with Rick before and after the race, I gained a deeper appreciation for these volunteers.

After the gun sounded, we quickly passed the start line and began the race.  We are told to run off of chip time, so we pressed "start" on our watches about 17 seconds into the race (as we crossed the mat).  Rick wore two watches--his regular watch and our Garmin, but the Garmin wasn't working and shut off early in the race!  This could have been disastrous for our pacing, but we found our stopwatches and my pace bracelet (taped to my sign) to be adequate.

Our group was large for the first 15 miles or so, so Rick and I did not stay side-by-side the whole time.  I found it fun to pull alongside people and have conversations with them.  I ran into my friends Susan and Kristi and others I knew.  And I met many people, though I had trouble learning their names.  Two girls I called Blue Shirt and Pink Shirt stayed just in front of us for much of the race.  They were very consistent for being young and first-timers. 

The miles passed uneventfully in the beginning.  It felt like an easy pace to maintain (I have been running lots of miles at this pace for practice lately).  Rick and I had a runner in our group who helped us during the miles with his Garmin's times.  At each mile marker, I would announce the amount of time we had in the "bank."  At the halfway point, we had between 60-70 seconds banked.  Though even splits or even negative splits are nice, I think it was good to have a small cushion to allow for a little slowing down in the later miles.  And our Pace Team Coordinator had told us, "Based on the experiences of the last 2 years, most people found that being about 60 seconds faster than even pace through the first half worked the best. Your goal should be to finish between 0-60 seconds ahead of your time, no more."  We were right on pace. 

Right before we turned onto Chaney Thompson to head back along the half marathon course (about Mile 14.5), we saw Race Director and Fleet Feet Huntsville owner Dink Taylor on the course.  It turns out that he only came out for a little while to see how the course was flowing.  He's never done this before.  He later said that each pace group was easy to spot because they were huge!  Right before and after this, I saw a couple of friends on the side of the course.  Each was dropping out.  I was extremely sad for each of them and had to distract myself from thinking about them too much.  I knew I would hear their stories later, and I needed to be there for the runners around me. 

We are "peacekeepers" according to this photo caption
Picture found here
The End of the Race
Our group gradually faded, so much so that for the last 2-4 miles, we were on our own and running together (a nice little date!).  We took turns sharing favorite running quotes (my idea).  Mine was, "One day you will not be able to do this.  Today is not that day."  It really spoke to me today, since running with Rick like this was an unusual event.  We normally run our own pace in marathons, so we found this time to be enjoyable and special.  Since I wasn't racing, I found that I was able to trot/walk at each aid station and actually drink the water/Gatorade instead of sloshing it all over me like usual!  I also took things handed out on the course--a peppermint from "Santa" at Mile 24 and a salt packet before that (I guess because it was so warm?).  The salt was great!  The volunteers did a great job handing out the Gu.  I got 2 vanilla ones--one at 13 and one at 18.

With 2 miles left to go, I could feel fatigue setting in.  Rick said I was "taking off," but it felt like I was doing a 10 minute mile.  We were both having trouble judging pace without a Garmin by this point, but we wanted to try hard to still be on pace.  We intentionally slowed miles towards the end to bring our overall pace back to 3:45, using the pace bracelet for guidance on that.  If you look at our splits, Miles 22, 24, and 26 are slower miles, while Miles 23 and 25 were faster.  This shows some of the struggle we faced when trying to maintain evenly paced miles at the end.  It was hard pulling back because I knew we'd get there sooner if we sped up!  I encouraged several people as we passed them, but no one stayed with us.

I made sure to be loud as we neared the "one mile to go" sign.  "One mile left!!!!" I shouted.  And I asked each group of people we passed to cheer for the runners, knowing they would need the encouragement in this last mile.  Rick and I turned the corner to head to Mile 26, and I got a great feeling over me, knowing (or hoping) that we were about to see the kids at the finish.  They've never seen us finish a marathon for various reasons but mostly because they are at the hotel at the different states we travel to and not at the finish line.  Then, we saw them!  It was such a special moment for our family!  I loved it!  They were on the curb watching us, and Rick high-fived them as we passed. 
Seeing the kids on the curb with their grandpa
Heading to the finish at Mile 26.1(?)
Shortly after that, Rick grabbed his leg and said he had a cramp.  He stopped to hold it.  I don't remember my exact words, but I think I said, "Oh no you DON'T!!!!  Get up here!!!" I was not going to have him stop now!   He ended up being fine, and we headed towards the finish together.

Checking my watch as we near the finish line
I was saying, "Slow down, slow down" because he kept speeding up!  He had said we would "celebrate" at the end, but I thought that meant holding hands or high-fiving the crowds or something.  I knew we could be dead-on if we just maintained our pace.  No need to speed up!  It turns out, he had a surprise planned!  He grabbed me and pulled me in for a kiss---me and my snotty and salty face! It was very sweet, but I felt like a clutz and was completely taken by surprise! We were just short of the finish line for this, and, even though I liked the kiss, I wasn't done thinking about that finish.  So after that, we both crossed the mat together.   They have us listed at 3:44:37.

All photos below courtesy of Gregg Gelmis

Rick about to make his move (I am just to his left--see my sign?)

The reaction to this kiss has been really sweet.  I posted a picture on facebook and got lots of "likes."
Race Director Suzanne Taylor asked in an email, "Did Katie and Rick renew their vows at the finish line? WOOP!"  Rick replied to that, "It was a rare opportunity that Katie was within snaggin' distance at the finish. I had to take it. ;):"  Our Pace Team Coordinator even mentioned it in the blog and email to us pacers, "Rick and Katie Maehlmann wrapped up their flawless pacing duties with a kiss at the finish line."  It is a fun memory and something that I am glad Rick decided to do!

With our kids at the finish
We were given our medals and a finisher's hat.  It felt good to be finished, and I was happy to have been on pace at the finish.  I was a little bummed because I had run in size 9's and ended up with a black toenail, but other than that, I felt fine.  We met us with our family and stayed to cheer on some of the runners we'd seen that day.  We ate a great post-race lunch at the hotel of warm vegetable soup, ice cream sandwiches, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. 

We had a great time at the post-marathon banquet that night, sitting with some of Huntsville's fastest and funniest runners!  There was a mix of generations there, as the table next to us had some of the founders of the race and original runners (the race is in its 36th year). 

I've included my splits.  Rick was not right next to me the entire time so his differ by a bit.  You can see that they range from 8:16 to 9:03, when we were aiming for an 8:31ish pace.  Not bad, but we both agreed that we could have improved that with a Garmin.

1 8:33
2 8:32
3 8:24
4 8:30
5 8:20
6 8:44
7 8:26
8 8:39
9 8:24
10 8:28
11 8:16
12 8:38
13 8:33
14 8:30
15 8:35
16 8:39
17 8:35
18 8:24
19 8:40
20 8:31
22 9:03
23 8:18
24 8:50
25 8:22
26 9:00
.2 2:02

3:44:37 Overall (chip time) Pacer for 3:45 group

I plan to do another post about pacing (things we said along the way that I think were encouraging) and one about the media night I went to last week.  And more about training for Mountain Mist! 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Quick Pacer Update--Rocket City Marathon 3:45 Pacers

Rick and I managed to maintain pace yesterday and finished in 3:44:37!  I am happy to have finally been on pace as a pacer! :)  

This is us as we got ready to cross the finish line.  Nice to see a big smile on my face at the finish!  This was right after a very special moment that was captured on camera by the wonderful Gregg Gelmis.  Stay tuned for more pictures and the whole story!

Photo by Gregg Gelmis

Monday, December 3, 2012

Pacing--Third time's the charm?

On Saturday, I will pace in the Rocket City Marathon for my third time.  For those of you who are wanting to pace or learn more about pacing, here is a list of what I've done to prepare this time around:

1. Choose a pace that is reasonable for you to run.
In this document, our pace team coordinator Eric Charette states that all of the pacers have all run a marathon within the past year that is at least 20 minutes faster than the pace they are leading.  I think this is important to note.  You don't want to pace a group that is too fast for you (obviously), but you also don't want to pace one that's too slow for you either.

For this year's Rocket City Marathon, I am pacing the 3:45 group with a recent marathon time of 3:12. (33 minutes off)
In 2011, I paced the 3:55 group with a recent marathon time of 3:15. (40 minutes off)
In 2010, I paced the 4:15 group with a recent marathon time of 3:29. (46 minutes off)

This year, my time will be the most challenging for me to pace (since it's the fastest I've ever paced), but it will also correlate with a recent marathon time the best of all three times I've paced.

2. Run with someone who can help you keep the pace.
When Eric Charette said that he wanted two pacers on each time this year, I was very happy.  I knew that I could do this thing, but I've struggled to do it alone.  Guess who I found to pace with me?  My own husband!  I am reminded of a verse that was used in our wedding:

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor.
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

It is soooo comforting to know that Rick will be there to help me do this (or to finish it if I can't).  He has so many strengths that I don't, and we balance each other well (in life and hopefully in pacing).  He is much more precise, better at numbers, knows the course better than me, thinks things out more in advance, etc.

3. Train at pace---and that means a few seconds faster than your pace.

I did a 20-miler last Saturday at an 8:31 pace (3:45 is an 8:35 pace).  No, I do NOT recommend that marathoners run their long runs at pace (they should go 30-90 seconds slower than marathon pace during long runs).  Pacing is different.  You should easily be able to do a run at pace, and you should do runs at pace to get familiar and comfortable running that pace.  It is good practice for the real thing.  

From my little mishap last year, I learned to add about .2 of a mile to your total distance and use the pace per mile for that distance and not 26.2.  I am a seasoned marathoner, but I never use a Garmin during marathons so I didn't realize that until last year!

4. Do an adequate taper, rest, and fuel.

Will this marathon be easy for us?  NO!  I am trying to prepare enough for this race without preparing too much.  If I don't prepare enough, I won't be ready.  If I prepare too much, I will not be getting the training I need for Mountain Mist (currently training for 50K trail run January 26, 2013).  So while this run will serve as a training run for me for Mountain Mist, I still must give it consideration and take care of myself the week before. 

Exciting news!  

I am being interviewed by local news stations about the marathon on Wednesday night.  Apparently, I was the top local female seed!  This honor usually goes to fellow teammate Candace, who is injured and not running this year.  When I was told about the interview, I instantly said, "Well, I'm not racing, I'm pacing," but they still wanted to interview me anyway.  I asked Rick and the kids to come along too.  The kids are excited that Mommy is going to be on t.v.!

Rick and I spent a long time tonight trying to explain to the kids why Mommy and Daddy are running but not racing.  We want them to understand why people pace.  We are hoping to help others reach their goals on Saturday and to encourage and support them.  We want our kids to know that when we run it is not always about us.  Yes, we get free entry and a training run out of the deal, but we are not doing this for us. This is a way for us to help others in a unique way.  Just like we can stuff packets for the marathon (and, yes, my whole family does this), this is something Mommy and Daddy can do for someone else.  It was hard to explain all of this to little kids.  They were probably more interested to learn that we get to carry signs when we run!

Kinnucan's Shorts

This is a short post, but it's one I didn't want to just leave in the Draft section of my blog like so many others.  Sigh.  There's just not enough time in the day.  

But anyway, I wanted to post about the pair of shorts you see below.  Back when I was an undergrad at Auburn, I got these shorts in a race packet--for free.  This was probably 15 years ago (now I feel old!).  The shorts were from Kinnucan's, a local sporting goods store in Auburn.  I remember liking to "window shop" in Kinnucan's but rarely buying anything.  So I loved these shorts. 

I wore them all the time to run in (yes, they were cotton, but I didn't know any better).  After I graduated, they eventually became pajama bottoms in the summer and then, strangely, maternity pants.  As you can imagine, the waistband got stretched out beyond belief and the elastic quit being elastic.  I knew it was time to throw them out, but I just couldn't.  So I did what Rick does when he decides to throw something sentimental away---I took a picture of them and them tossed them away.  And then I shared their story with you all.