Monday, December 9, 2013

Um...Monday?

I feel torn about this Monday. On the one hand, we had an absolutely perfect weekend visiting friends in STL. On the other hand, it's nearing the end of the semester and I'm grumpy and stressed. So you're going to get both sides.

BIG BIG RUNNING ANNOUNCEMENT
I did it. I signed up for Marathon #4: Top of Utah marathon, September 2014 in Logan, UT. The first half of it is a 2% downhill grade as you run down a canyon. I've heard that the course is gorgeous and I'll get to stay with a dear friend and colleague who lives up there. Training is set to start in June!


Question: are the RW training plans worth the $30? I've used the sub-2 training schedule several times, each time successfully, but I tore it out of an issue of RW. I didn't actually pay for it separately.

FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS, I HATE GIGANTIC LUXURY SUVS
I absolutely adore my baby's daycare. His teachers are great. The directors are delightful. And some, some of the other parents make my days happier ones. But some of them are entitled a-holes. On any given day, morning or afternoon--take your pick, I am greeted by at least one gigantic luxury SUV parked in at least 2 of the following 3 things simultaneously:

  • a space reserved for handicapped drivers
  • a second parking space
  • a striped-off loading area for the handicapped spaces
One day I had to put my son in his car seat through the opposite side of the car, because the gigantic luxury SUV parked next to me was, naturally, in their space and mine. The owner, who approached as I was doing this, stood on the sidewalk and waited for me to back out so they could comfortably get it. Then she put her hands to her face and started shrieking because she thought I might touch the side of her gigantic luxury SUV with my side mirror as I backed out. That was the last straw. I opened my door and calmly explained to her that neither my mirror nor my need to put a toddler in his car seat through the opposite side door would have been an issue had she parked in 1 parking space. Her response: it wasn't her fault. 

OUR COMPLETELY PERFECT WEEKEND
We spent this past weekend in STL, primarily for my hubba-love's company Christmas party, but also to see our friends. While flying with small children is not the easiest thing ever done, so many complete strangers were so incredibly kind to us, and helpful, along the way. 

I started out the weekend at a cupcake happy hour with some of my favorite people. 

That night we dropped the kids off with some friends and headed to the Christmas party in our fancy clothes. I think I enjoy the party more than the actual employees do. :)
At the Kemp Auto Museum for the party--keeping it classy!

Friday night Mr. Joanna's company put us up at Union Station. I'd never been in the hotel part of it before and have to say, it's completely gorgeous. The picture only sort of does it justice!
Atrium of the Union Station hotel

Saturday we enjoyed breakfast with another friend, then headed to Springfield, IL to visit the Lincoln Presidential Museum with my dear, dear friend (and our boys' Godmother) MJ and her kids. The museum impressed me. The displays were very well done, the building organized in a way that made sense, and they had just the right mix of kid and adult-oriented content. I'd always heard it was worth the visit and it is!
plus, the Lincolns had great taste in wallpaper

Saturday evening we enjoyed some gooooood local pizza (read: NOT Imo's!) with friends. Sunday morning we had breakfast with our old neighbors, then headed for the airport for the long flight home. Icing on the cake, and a sure sign of a great trip? The rental car had WV plates. 

HIT ME WITH A BOARD OF BROKEN NAILS
I guess we haven't really broadcast it too widely, but we are waist deep in a fairly large renovation project. Phase 1 involved gutting the kids' bathroom and remaking it and part of a useless hallway-to-nowhere into a nice bathroom and laundry room. It's mostly been a lot of fun to see the project come together. Not fun? Coming home to difficult-to-move BOARDS WITH NAILS STICKING OUT OF THEM sitting face up right in front of my younger son's bedroom door (did I mention that he's ONE?). Or coming home to find ladders left set up on the stairs to the upstairs, leaving no safe way whatsoever to get kids to bed without moving the contractor's stuff. Or, for variety, coming home to find building supplies strewn all over the front yard. The new space will be great when finished, but in the meantime, #Annoying.

Lemme hear it. What crazy contractor stories do you have? 

YOGA LOVE
This week is the last week of my semester-long yoga class. This class=huge blessing. The instructor is excellent, plus I have little doubt that going helped to minimize the hip pain I was experiencing while training for Raleigh. I'm trying to decide if I have enough time to get from the spring class to the academic class I will be teaching. If not, I'll have to find some alternative for next semester, which is fine; there are a million yoga studios in this earth-loving city. 

That's it for this week's installment of Mondays. This week I'm going to try to find a running route clear enough of ice and snow to attempt. I'm pretty sure most of the country is in that quest with me this week. Stay warm, stay safe, and run strong my friends!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Mondays in Love: Potpourri

It's ThanksUkkahMas! In our house this means:

  • new placemats for children to utterly destroy in under 1 month
  • finding the box to return the fall paraphernalia to the basement 
  • trying to remember which wrapping paper is "Santa's Paper Not To Be Used On Gifts From Parents Under Any Circumstance"
  • Raking leaves and wondering how long either the City or our neighbors can stand to see the pile of bags before caving in and picking them up despite, apparently, there not being any city leaf collection
  • Starting to plan holiday outings that include both small children and senior citizens, both groups of which have unyielding demands for cookies and drinks along the way.
But you know what else it's time for? Outrageous holiday catalogs! Want to pay $47 for pumpkin spice potpourri? Sure! Or read about other people making fun of crazy crap

All this is just a lengthy preamble to a Potpourri of Running post. Because I'm a week overdue for a post, and because 'tis the season to be crazy. Oh, and because I do what I want. 

First up, my Turkey Trot. The plan was to participate in the Orlando Turkey Trot, which benefits a senior citizens social services group. However, by age 8 I was the only person in my house awake on a weekend before about 11am. So, dragging anyone away from slumberland to join me proved difficult, so my Mom and I decided to make a donation to the charity then cover the distance later in the day. 
The good: It was adorable. My nieces (3 and 5 years old) joined us for the first half mile. My Mom headed inside with foot issues after about 1.5 miles. And my lovely SIL, Kdot finished out the 5k walk with me. It was really nice to just spend some time one-on-one with her (which we also did while shopping on Wednesday for pretty things)
yes, I am completely over-geared for walking 3 miles. Whatever. It was what I had on hand!

While away for Thanksgiving, we also got to continue one of my favorite traditions, the middle generation Christmas Martini. I love, love, love these evenings out with these people. 
Kdot, ODP, me, Mr. Joanna

And a brief November recap: it was a little light on miles after my race. I enjoyed every one of these miles. 
Miles: 44.9
Best run: easily the Raleigh City of Oaks Half-Marathon (race recap here). 
New shoes broken in: the week leading up to the race
New gear: I picked up a pair of Moving Comfort capris--my first pair of capris. Do you have these yet? If not, go now. Buy a pair. I love them. They are soft. The waistband is perfect. Love. 
Unexpected change: Both the Army ROTC and the National Guard have started showing up to train in my park before dawn, though not on the same days. 

Around now-ish, I've been meeting lots of runners, and have several leads on some running groups/running buddies that might work out. I am so in love with the outdoorsy lifestyle of this place!!

What's in store for December? 
  • for starters, I intend to sign up for....wait for it....a full marathon for 2014!!! 
  • Snow. That angry looking snow blob on the weather map? Yeah. That's us. 
  • Too. much. travel. And we're not even going anywhere for Christmas. But we are getting to spend lots of great time with friends and family. 
How was your November? Did you do a Turkey Trot? What's in store for your December?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Central Illinois Tornado Recovery: Please Help

Not so long ago, we lived in Central Illinois. As you may have seen in the news, the area was pummeled by severe weather yesterday. Some family friends and friends of friends suffered huge material losses including homes, but thankfully got through it alive. If you can help, please do. The town of Gifford has a long road to recovery ahead of them. Information can be found here. Thank you.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Mondays in Love: For the First Time!

When and where was your first time? Mine was in Detroit in October of 2009. Maybe for some of you it was much longer ago. Maybe you're a marathon virgin (of course this is about running! Geez people!). There is nothing else on earth like your first marathon finish line. I really do think it changes a person. Today I am very pleased to bring you into the world of a first time marathoner, to give you a glimpse of the experience or take you back to your first marathon memories.

Let me introduce our first time marathoner, Jessica. Jess and I go way back (1998!!) to West Virginia. We met at Spruce Knob when we were both Scholars in the (now defunct) West Virginia Scholars Academy--an experience as formative and awesome as it is difficult to explain. We spent a month writing 75+ page autobiographical theses and learning about the socioeconomic landscape of WV. This involved a lot of hiking, camping, spelunking, writing and eating amazing food. It was an experience that changed my life, forever, and that holds a special place in both our hearts.
at the 2011 annual reunion at Spruce

Some basic stats: 
  • Jess ran the Columbus Marathon on October 20. Her goal time was: finish, but from her training runs she anticipated something around a 5:15. Actual time: 5:15:40.
  • Previous running resume: the Parkersburg Half in 2011 (2:51:44), 2012 (2:47:23) and 2013 (2:32:45) and the Columbus Half (put on in conjunction with the marathon) in 2011 (2:37:42)
I had originally planned to shorten this post, but I want to let Jessica give her experience fully and in her own words. So much of this interview rang true for me, and it took me right back to that first 26.2 training cycle and race. I honestly got a little choked up reading it. Enjoy!

How did you pick your race? Location, the course itself, date?
I picked the Columbus Marathon because I live here, and thought it would be the easiest to start with - no travel, hotels, etc.  Also, being familiar with the city, made me feel a little more confident, and it was easy to order my family and friends around to be at certain rally points to cheer for me.  Finally, the course is relatively flat, so I thought that would help, and October would be cooler, so I liked that as well.    

How long did you train? 
I started "training" in one way or another at the beginning of the year.  I had wanted to run a marathon last year, but life threw a wrench in that plan and it didn't happen.  So when I decided to do it this year, I knew there were a few things I wanted to do.

First, I wanted to drop about 20 extra pounds or so that I was carrying around.  I figured the extra weight would be hard on my joints.  So from January through June, I watched my calories and lost about 15 of the pounds.  I really wasn't running too often (maybe one or twice a week for a few miles) and was just doing some light indoor exercising (yoga, aerobics-like workout videos, etc.). After June, I stopped monitoring my exact calorie intake, but ended up losing about another 10 pounds from June through October, mostly because of the increased physical activity.

Second, I wanted to incorporate strength training into my routine.  In previous years when I trained, I just followed a beginner or intermediate schedule I found online that just has you running your average pace four times a week and then resting or cross-training the other three days.  Even though it would say to run the short ones at a slightly faster pace and the long runs at a slow, comfortable pace, my goal was always just to get the miles in anyway I could.  And I always used CT days as rest days.  But I really wanted to do as much as I could to make the task easier on my body.  So I hired a personal trainer in July.  I worked out with him about once a week and he gave me "homework" training sessions to do on my other CT days.  I was sore a lot, but I could really tell a difference in how I felt physically by the end.  I really feel like it helped a lot.

What was your training like? 
When I actually started the running training, I found a beginner schedule online.  As with years before, I really wasn't too cognizant of the different recommended paces.  I just tried to get the miles in.  Towards the end, I did try to push myself more on the short runs with the pace, but it wasn't something I focused on.  So I didn't do any speedwork.

I trained mostly alone.  Occasionally I would do a short run with friends or family, but the majority of them ran at a slower pace than I did, so I really felt like I was doing it more for them than for me.  Also, I found that on the few occasions when I was scheduled to do a long run, but someone wanted to accompany me for the first few miles, running at a much slower pace than I wanted to actually hurt my performance for the rest of the long run after my partners would drop off.

I did go running once a few weeks before the marathon with a friend who runs at a faster pace than I do.  What I realized was that I could definitely keep up with her pretty easily and that I probably needed to try to push my own pace in future training years.  I think I'm probably capable of a lot more, but I just haven't figured out how to do that alone.  I might try to find some pace groups or something in future years, but my problem has always been that I have an extremely irregular schedule and it's hard to keep any sort of plan or schedule with other people.

My longest scheduled runs were 14, 16, 18, and 20 miles.  I substituted a half marathon for the 14 mile run.  The goal was to finish that half in under 2:30.  The two weeks before the race, I had extended family members visiting and had been traveling a lot, which meant my running, eating, and sleeping suffered.  I didn't make that goal, and I was upset about it, because it was totally possible, but I just couldn't pull it off that day.  Then the 16 and 18 mile runs did not go well at all.  I ran the first few miles of the 16 mile run with someone else, and I felt more tired than normal and ended up walking a lot.  I also hadn't planned well for hydration and found myself looking for water off my course.  Plus I wasn't in a good place in my head that day due to some stress at work.  So that was also a set back.  The 18 mile run I tried to do a day earlier than originally planned and it also went pretty horribly.  Around mile 12 I started having severe stomach and intestinal distress.  I gave up at mile 16 after walking probably three of the last four miles.  Again, pretty disappointing and it made me fear I wouldn't be able to do it.

So the 20 mile run felt like a make-or-break moment to me.  I tried not to put too much pressure on myself, but it was important to me to do well.  I was doing well and around mile 11.5, I realized that if I pushed my pace for mile 12, I could finish 13.1 in under 2:30.  I had a bit of an internal debate about whether that was a good idea - what if I ran out of steam at the end because of doing a big push in the middle?  I decided to do it, and I think it helped with my confidence a bit.  The last seven miles went pretty well.  My legs cramped up a bit, but I finished in under four hours, which was my goal.  I also didn't feel totally wiped out at the end, so that was good.  I was happy with that run and felt like I would be fine for the marathon.

What were your thoughts in the days before the race?
I was really trying to focus on myself and what I thought was best for me physically and mentally.  I know in theory that that is something to strive for all the time, but I frequently ignore my needs for others, as many women do.  I was very concerned about my stomach.  I didn't want to eat something that would make me sick or upset my body, so I only ate where I wanted, when I wanted, etc.  I told my family and others that I couldn't do things they wanted me to.  It was a little intimidating to think that I was going to run 6 more miles on the day of the marathon than I had ever run at once in my life.  My 20 mile run had gone well, so that helped, but I was worried about the unknown that might come up in the last 6 miles.  Also, as with most runners, I was obsessed with checking the weather.  While I really hate running in high heat and humidity, I am also not a fan of running in really cold weather.  It looked like it would be in the mid-30s when the race started, and end up maybe getting to 50 degrees.  I was worried about being cold.  Plus, my nose always runs when I run in the cold and then I can't breathe through my nose and I just struggle a bit more.

Also, I was worried about psyching myself out of doing well.  One thing running has helped me with is to keep my over-thinking tendencies in check.  But that doesn't mean I don't still obsess about things too much sometimes.  Unfortunately for me, my family, who wanted to come and cheer me on, actually is somewhat detrimental to my mental health at times.  I was worried about whether they would distract me or take something away from the experience.  But I had some friends who really believed in me and I just kept in mind that I was really prepared for it and I would be fine.

How did you feel at the start line? 
The start line was a little crazy.  There were 20,000 runners registered and many thousands more spectators.  I decided not to have any of my family or supporters come to the start line to cheer me on.  I figured that I was sufficiently motivated to get myself across the start line.  :)  So, that meant I had to drive myself downtown and park and get to the start area.  The parking area was about a mile from the start line, but unlike the previous time I ran in Columbus in 2011, traffic was absolutely insane this time.  The race was supposed to start at 7:30am, but they said the corrals were only open from 6-7.  I figured that was their scare tactic to get people there early, but I was afraid they may not let me in if I was late with all the increased security this year.  I didn't get parked until 7:15, so I ran the mile to the start line, which actually ended up being a nice warm-up, but it was stressful.  I couldn't really get in my corral and just ended up in the very back of the 20,000 runner pack.  All of the rushing around and the time-crunch meant that I didn't have time to get nervous or really over-think things too much.  

Tell me about the 26.2 miles. What were the highlights and lowlights? What went well? What went wrong? 
I didn't get across the start line until about 25 minutes after the first gun.  So I was a little worried about my scheduled rally point meet-ups with my family and friends because my ETA for those places was going to be way off.  After the first two miles of dodging people and random clothing strewn about the course, I settled in.  The first 6 miles were really congested and I would sometimes get bumped or have to maneuver around others, so that was commanding most of my attention rather than my run or my pace.

This was the first race I remember where I felt like there were tons of spectators along the first part of the course.  Also, they put your name on your bib, and people would yell out your name as they cheered for you.  At first I was confused until I realized my name was on the bib, and then I just thought it was absolutely awesome.  So much support from total strangers was really amazing and I think I fed off of it.  I usually listen to music when I run, but I couldn't even hear it over all the cheering!

The overwhelming support was one factor that contributed to the most surprising and unexpected part of the race for me - I was super-emotional most of the race!  I frequently got choked up and wanted to cry.  I think it was partly because of the awesome support, which was very touching, especially given that I didn't always get that kind of support from others.  Another part of it was because of the sponsors of the race.  It was sponsored by Nationwide Children's hospital.  Every mile had a "patient champion," and in the race packet had been a description of the kids and what illness/condition the hospital had helped to treat.  Some of these children were amazingly brave and had been through so much in their short lives.  Many of them were there at their mile marker to cheer us on.  One of them had passed away a few weeks before the race, so they had a memorial at his mile-marker.  The last reason for my emotional state was because I was so proud of myself and it was the culmination of almost 10 months of hard work.   But I hadn't been prepared for the emotions that welled-up during the run.

Mile 11 my family showed up, and I was feeling pretty good.  It had been a little chilly, but not as cold as I had feared, so I was ok.  I finished the first 13.1 in 2:24 and briefly entertained the idea of possibly finishing ahead of my estimated 5:15 time.  But, the crowd (both spectators and runners), thinned drastically after passing the half and suddenly, I felt alone for the first time in the race.  According to my Garmin, I walked a lot of mile 15, which I don't really remember doing, but I remember drinking more than I should have and feeling more tired than I wanted to feel.  There was a stretch of a few miles that went right past my alma mater (OSU) and actually through the Horseshoe (football stadium), and it was the section of the race with the fewest spectators. I'm not sure if I was spending too much time remembering good and bad things about every part of campus or what, but I was a little unfocused for those miles, plus the energy from the crowd that previously fed me was gone, so I just floundered a bit.

As I approached mile 20, which was the second rally point for my family, I was doing better.  After getting a bit of a morale boost from the family, I embarked on the unknown part of the run - miles 21-26.2!  The number of spectators picked back up and my fellow runners at that point were super friendly and collegial.  As I passed people or they passed me, we would encourage each other or joke about things.  I was tired, but still doing ok.  Until mile 23.  It was mostly downhill, but then there was a steep one block hill.  A friend of mine who lived near mile 23 had said he would try to be out to cheer for me, but I wasn't sure he would show, especially given that my start time had been so delayed and I was arriving at mile 23 right at the end of the window that I had given him.  He wasn't there and I was somewhat disappointed because I was starting to hurt physically.  My knees and hips were hurting, but my joints had never really given me too many problems before, so it was uncomfortable.  As I walked up that little hill, I thought I might have to walk the last three miles because I was in pain.  I sucked it up though, thinking that I could crawl the last three if I really had to.

As I got to mile 25, I felt better anticipating the end and maybe it was just the adrenaline, but my pain subsided a bit.  As I hit mile 26 and rounded the corner to the finish line, I wanted to cry, but I told myself I could cry when it was over.  I finished relatively strongly, and I was happy.  I didn't cry like I thought I had wanted to, but I was very proud of myself.  


My joints were still achy, but overall, I didn't feel too horrible.  I could walk normally.  I went out to eat with my family later and wore my finishers medal.  There were other runners there (not sure if they ran the half or the full), and they were walking very gingerly and looked wiped out.  I was pretty pleased that I had been well-prepared enough to not have the physical problems they were experiencing.  I was a little sore on Monday and Tuesday, but by Wednesday I was 100% back to normal.  


What did you learn about yourself in this process? 
I learned that I am stronger and more capable than I had previously thought.  I learned that I can set a goal, work hard, and achieve it in a more organized/methodical way than I had ever done before.  I learned that it's ok to do things for yourself and take care of yourself, and that that doesn't make you selfish.  I learned that I actually really like weight training because it makes me feel stronger both physically and emotionally.  I learned that people saw me as an inspiration and a role-model.  I had friends, co-workers, acquaintances tell me that they were so impressed with my accomplishment that they had signed up for a Pilates class, or a 5K, or a half-marathon and that felt wonderful.  I don't think I had ever been called an inspiration before.  I learned that I can get support from other places when I can't get it from where I want or expect to get it.  I learned that I was part of a larger community of runners and that I belonged, even if I am a slow runner.  I had sort of learned that before with halfs, but now I feel it more strongly than before.   

Do you plan to go 26.2 again? What would you do differently next time?
I do plan on doing a marathon again.  I'm not sure if I will do one next year or take a year off, just due to the sheer time commitment involved in a full training as opposed to a half.  I will definitely keep doing half-marathons - my hometown half is a definite one, with maybe one or two others next year if I decide not to do a marathon.  I would like to do a whole half without taking walking breaks as well, so that will be the goal for next year's half in Parkersburg.  Next time I also plan on trying to push myself more during training.  I will try a different, more advanced training schedule.  I will probably pay more attention to my pace during training runs.  I can't say that I will make bettering my pace during all runs my main goal with running, because it's also about running being a relaxing outlet for me, so lots of pressure wouldn't necessarily make it fun.  

Monday, November 4, 2013

Raleigh City of Oaks Race Recap

I am back home after a wonderful weekend with Meg in North Carolina, where we ran the Raleigh City of Oaks Half-Marathon on Sunday. Welcome to the race recap!

On Friday afternoon I flew out of SLC and into Raleigh, where Meg was waiting to pick me up. We started things off right with custard (dinner of champions!) and some down time. Saturday was lovely and lazy, starting with brunch at The Irregardless with my friend LW, then packet pick-up, driving the course, doing some shopping, and carb loading at Biaggi's. We were so glad we drove the course. We'd thought the course was fairly flat, but realized right away that we had a lot of rolling hills in our near future.

So happy I got to unexpectedly meet up with L!!

After dinner we organized all our gear for morning, then hung out for a while before turning in. A little after 5am I forced myself to eat part of a bagel, and we were out of her house just before 6. Parking was easy at Cameron Village. We sat in the warm car for a few minutes, not wanting to break into the cold morning. Finally, we forced ourselves to get out of the car and head toward the start line. 
Pre-race

The start area wasn't crowded, but right away I was worried that it would be. The mile pace signs to help people pick a spot to line up at were very close together, and I was worried that it would be a super crowded start area. We'd also noticed on our drive-thru that an early part of the course was a fairly narrow street. Fortunately these concerns turned out to be unrealized, and crowding never was a real problem. The crowd filled in quickly as start time approached, and before we knew it we were off!

We settled in after 2 miles or so and the early miles ticked by. The foliage was gorgeous and the weather was perfect--not as cold as we were afraid it might be. However, those rolling hills were feeling less rolling and more like just plain hills. By mile 6, the hills were staying with me. I was more tired than I wanted to be. This is exactly the scenario where pace bands come in handy. It would have been easy to ease up here and there, assuming we'd recoup the time later. The pace band kept us on target and kept us moving. 

By mile marker 11 I'm pretty sure Meg was rethinking her decision to take up running, and I was busy doing mental math about our pace and trying to distract myself from my decreasing energy. Why the mental math? I was confused about mile markers. I could hear other Garmins beeping about mile splits before my Garmin's beep, and yet, my Garmin chirped about mile marker 12 almost a quarter mile before we passed the physical sign. A quarter mile?? That's too much for Garmin error, especially when mine was chirping later than many on the course. I assumed the physical mile marker was mis-placed. The fifth marker had been way off (I was certain), so I assumed this was too. Fortunately, Meg knew the area pretty well, and figured out quickly that we the physical mile marker must have been closer to right.

I knew she was tired, but Meg dropped the hammer on pace in the last mile. She dropped it so far, and when I knew how tired she was, that only then did I realize that we were in trouble for hitting our goal time of 1:59:59. The Garmin/mile marker discrepancy had thrown us off. We covered our last full mile in 8:31, a full 40 seconds faster than my pace band recommended. With two and a half minutes left before breaking the 2 hour mark, we spotted the finish. Our last 0.3 miles was at a 7:30 pace. Down that straight away, I counted down the blocks, 3, 2, 1, until we crossed the finish. 

Just a step or two over the finish line I reached over and stopped my Garmin: 1:59:37. We'd done it. Six plus years after our first race, we'd finally gone sub-2. 


We got through the medals & pictures finishers' area and made our way toward the post-race party for long enough to grab some water. We strolled around Cameron Village to cool down before heading back to Meg's place to clean up and find some brunch. After brunch and some shopping, it was sadly time to pack up and start the long voyage home. 


Official race results were finally posted this morning, and put us at 1:59:35, placing 36 and 37 out of 186 in our age group, about the top 20%. Mission accomplished, with 25 seconds to spare! 

I enjoyed this weekend so, so much. I cannot tell you how much I appreciated a lazy Saturday and the chance to catch up with Meg. Beating that 2 hour race clock was only icing on the cake. As for the race itself, it was well organized (even the tech shirt is nice!) and held at the perfect time of year. It isn't a flat course though, and if you're game for some just-harsh-of-rolling hills, it's a really pretty course. 

Thank you all for the words of encouragement last week!! I'm taking this week off from running and will hopefully get caught up on reading your race recaps from this past weekend! 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October Recap

I turned in my final run of the month this morning. October is quickly coming to a close. Runners tend to love October and I am no exception. I LOVE October. The leaves. The cooler temps. The races. I love it all. This October, I stayed true to my workouts, cleared the hundred mile mark, and am just a few days away from half-marathon #4 with Meg and #8 overall!! I ran under the morning stars and watched the sun come up about a dozen times, and wound my way through the city's parks every Saturday afternoon.

# Workouts: 17
# Miles: 103.1

The most memorable of my runs was definitely the peak speed workout, a warm-up, 4x1 mi @ 8:15 with 800m recoveries, and a 1 m cool-down. It gave me a whole new appreciation for people who can hold that pace for 13.1 or 26.2.

This workout was also memorable because of an encounter I had during it. Everywhere else I've lived, runners greet each other, usually with a small head nod. Here, nothing. NOTHING. Except this old guy who I see walking in the park nearly every morning I run there. He almost always says "hi" or "good morning" and responds when I do the same. The morning of my mile repeats, he yelled, "you're fast!" as I went by in the opposite direction. It's such a small gesture, but was so appreciated. He said it again during this week's (taper version) speed word (5 miles, with 3 miles 15 seconds faster than race pace). The next time we passed, I told him that he wasn't doing so bad himself. It feels so nice to feel like I'm a "regular" at the park! I'm also slowly getting to know local races and am id'ing running groups I could meet up with. Running is one of my favorite ways to get to know a new city. :)

I fly out on Friday and the Raleigh City of Oaks Half-Marathon is Sunday. Wish us luck!!!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Mondays in Love: Peak Long Run

We are t-13 days until the start line of the Raleigh City of Oaks half and I am READY! This weekend was the peak long run of the training cycle. I turned in 13.0 pleasant miles on Saturday afternoon, winding through two city parks and several neighborhoods.

A few posts back I highlighted some of the aspects of running in UT that distinguish it from running in the Midwest. One was the hills. I've been building one particularly grueling hill into my long runs the past few weeks. It is not to be taken lightly! But you know, perseverance wins. I swear it's getting easier week by week. But seriously, check this chick out.

The green line is elevation. This hill climbs about 220 feet in just under a mile. Hmmm...that doesn't sound like it feels. It feels like climbing Mount freaking Everest. I feel like my own personal George Mallory when I get to the top. Aside from that whole dying-in-a-mountain-of-ice business.

All this hard work culminated in this weekend's long run. Though the taper is not pronounced, it does exist in this training plan, and we're there. High five!

In other news (read: completely not related to running) from the weekend, on Sunday we visited a nearby state park, Antelope Island. What an amazing place!! If you ever visit SLC during the spring or fall, it's totally worth seeing.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Mondays in Love: Getting Race Ready!

We are 20 days from the start line and preparations are underway! This came in the mail this week and, well, I love.

I think I've mentioned my love of pace bands (available here) before. I used them during the Cleveland Marathon, the Lincoln Half (recap here), and perhaps one other time. They take the guessing out of timing your race. They do this by customizing each pace band to the specific race and to your goal time, accounting for warming up and hills. And, shipped to your house, they are like $7.50 or something. Compared to the cost of shoes, registration, and travel, it's a drop in the bucket. And no, they did not ask me to post this review!

I'm also just really happy with how training is going so far (knock on wood). Week after week, the paces on the training schedule get easier to hit. At this point, I have only two kinda intimidating training runs left--13 miles on deck this Saturday, and a tough tempo run next Wednesday. Then, that's it--it will be time to get this show on the road! 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Mondays in Love: September Recap

I spent the whole month of September very happily in training mode--my first full-on month-o-training since March. It was delightful. All those moments of "oh gosh, that speed work looks speedy" and "what pace?" and "I haven't covered that distance in months" turned into moments of victory and 4 weeks of workouts crossed off the training plan.

What did it look like? It looked like 32 EZ miles, 4 miles of speed work, 13 miles at race pace, 6 miles at tempo, and 31 miles in long runs. Total: 86 miles.

I'm already 24 miles in for October and I'm slated to hit 100 if all goes according to plan. This makes me so happy. 

October has always been my favorite running month. I've gushed about it before. Why do I love October? In high school cross country, it was race season. Since then, it's still race season (see here and here). In much of the nation, it's gorgeous. I remember my old park so fondly.

Fall here is mind-blowingly beautiful, but totally different. Late last week it rained in the valley overnight but snowed in the mountains. That morning was crazy/beautiful (see below, and click on it to get the full version, if you can--totally different feeling to the picture). Fall here is dramatic, and gorgeous, but, I'm told, very short-lived. So far it's great. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Mondays in Love/Announcement #2: Not my Gateway Drug

That's right, Mondays in Love is back!! I've really missed writing this series in the weeks and months we've spent getting here and getting set up.

Today's re-introduction post is Announcements, Part 2 of 2, as promised a few posts back. Some of you have heard this announcement already on Facebook, so feel free to skip down a bit to the part where this matters for my life as a runner. For everyone else, behold:


I bought a bike! 

Now, I know what you're thinking. Here's another runner who bought a bike "for recreational purposes" and before we know it she's going to be waxing ecstatic about triathlons. I know. We've seen it again and again and again. But I promise you, this is not my gateway drug to tris. There will be no wet suit. No fancy bike shorts. There WILL be a very purple pannier bag. That is happening. 

I thought it seemed like fun, and a fun way to cut back on vehicle use. From our house, it's a relatively flat ride anywhere from 0.5 to 1.5 miles to a variety of points of interest, everything from coffee shops to a Post Office to book stores and consignment shops. So, why not? 

I've ridden just a few times already and I've enjoyed it. I have a sense of accomplishment about getting errands run while skipping the car and getting a little bit of exercise. And once the kids are old enough, we'll be ridiculously adorable biking together to buy ice cream cones. 

Happy Monday in Love. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Announcement #1: My next race!!

Those of you I'm linked up with on DailyMile might have already pieced this together, but for everyone else, allow me to spring the cat from the bag:
I signed up for my 8th half-marathon!!

On November 3rd I'll be running the Raleigh City of Oaks Half-Marathon with my BRFF (best running friend forever) Meg. Remember her? This girl. It's going to be epic. 


Raleigh will be our fourth half together, and I couldn't be more excited (in case you couldn't tell). Our goal is simple: break 2 hours. Why? Because that's always been the goal.  

Our first race together was the first 13.1 either of us ever ran. We'd trained with Team in Training and had high hopes. It was Chicago in August. It was hot. Being newbies, we didn't have experience dealing with adverse race conditions, and tried to push through. We turned in a 2:12 and I threw up about 6 times (lovely, right?) (non-graphic recap here).

Our second race was the Indy half in October 2008, when my older son was not quite 5 months old. I think the reason we didn't sub-2 that day is fairly obvious. 
That's me in the blue shirt about to cross the blue mat. Meg is next to me. 

Our third race was the Illinois half in May of 2010, just after we'd both graduated (recap here). That day was about so much more than running--or rather, running was about so much more than running. But, it wasn't our day on the course. We posted a new PR for Meg, but a slower time than we'd hoped for. 

Running in our hoods one Saturday that spring--running together
was about so much more than running

Soon after that race, she moved really really far west and I moved to STL. Then she moved again. Then I had another baby. Meanwhile we both had(have) demanding jobs. Then I moved again. And finally we found an opening to get together for a race. 

So, Raleigh. November. That's the goal: sub-2 our half. We can do this!! We're training "together" from a distance (we're 2000+ miles apart) using the Runner's World 2-hour half training plan, which I've used before and really like. The course is flat and the weather should be favorable. And coming from UT, running at sea level will feel amazing. SO EXCITED!!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Where I've been since June

My last post was a question about trusting race medals to a moving truck. I got answers all over the board--everything from "if it means a lot to you and they're small, tuck them in the car" to "this made me laugh--the truck has all your stuff, it's probably fine." So what did I do? Was it fine? Oh, so much to tell.

Our move started on the 4th of July when Mr. Joanna flew east with our kiddos. They were going to hang out with the grandmothers while my Dad and I drove from MO to UT, close on the new place by the 14th, meet the moving truck by the 16th and get kids' rooms put together. I left MO on July 8th. That day was insane, starting with a run with my STL running buddy and friend Rachel, then signing all the sale papers on that house, and overseeing the movers as they loaded the truck. When the truck left, Dad and I left town. Our drive across the country was uneventful, we closed  a day late but we closed, and got busy painting immediately.

Me & Rachel after my send-off run. I miss this girl.

My Dad in downtown Omaha when we stopped for lunch

Downtown Cheyenne, which is adorable

Buying paint for the boys' rooms!

Mr. Joanna and the kids and my Mom (Pepper) were scheduled to fly to UT on 7/16. All that happened, except that at 5pm on the 15th we learned that our moving truck had not yet left MO and didn't even have a driver assigned and had failed to give us adequate notice because "they were busy". It was too late to get the flights from the east coast re-scheduled.....so, they arrived to an empty house and I was helpless to do anything at all about it. My parents stayed at a hotel until they left on the 22nd, and we bought enough provisions to essentially camp in our house--not without some bumps in the road, but we made it work.

Our things didn't arrive until July 28th, and I'm 99% positive that one of the people who unloaded the truck stole a pair of my earrings (which might have looked real to an untrained eye but weren't). NEVER USE NORTH AMERICAN TO MOVE!  I seriously cannot stress this enough and will happily give anyone the full details should it be useful to anyone. They were awful.

I made a point to swim at the hotels during our drive west, and I started running pretty soon after arriving, once I wasn't painting all day every day. My Garmin's charger was held hostage on the moving truck, so I ran tech-free until our things arrived.

Running in the high desert is a totally different animal than Midwestern or East Coast running. First, there is little to no humidity. This means that people are seen running at 90 degrees or even hotter temps (not me). Second, it gets cool at night even on the hottest days. This means that if you run at dawn, even on the hottest day of the year, it's completely reasonable. Third, I'm at 4600+ feet in elevation. The air is thin. This means that while it took only a few days to acclimate for everyday activities, running left me sucking air for several weeks. Fourth, it ain't flat! My glutes and hammies have been getting a good workout here, and I can already tell it's making me a stronger runner. 

Post-truck (when we finally got our stuff), we've settled in pretty well. While it was not our intention, we have become urban farmers. We grow an insane amount of produce, from which we've made homemade blackberry ice cream, apple pie, applesauce, grape juice, grape jelly, pear jam, and a few other smaller things. On the whole, eating healthy, whole, natural foods seems really easy here. It's a lifestyle, and it's so easy to love, especially when you grow the food yourself!

Stay tuned--there are TWO big announcements on the fitness front. Welcome back to JoannaRuns, everyone! Show me some love!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Need some input

Ok runners, I need some input. As you well know by now, the cross-country move is quickly approaching. Like, approaching faster than a newbie off the start line of a 13.1. My life-while-moving is a series of lists. Lists of lists. One such list is called "Things To Take by Car" aka "Things I Shouldn't Put on a Moving Truck." So here's the question: would you trust your race medals to a moving truck? Arguments to put them on the truck: they are durable and they are not, by any market standard, worth a fortune. Reasons to put them in my car (which I'm driving across the country): they are irreplaceable and they are relatively small. What do you think??



Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book winner, blogger meet-ups, and tips for humid weather running

First up, winner of my National Running Day/400th blogiversary book giveaway: Life as a Running Mom. Please email me at joannaruns@gmail.com with an address to ship it to! I hope you enjoy Matt's story.


Next up, Blogger Meet-Ups! I finally got to meet the lovely Raquelita of The Running Historian. Somehow we failed to capture this run in pictures (blogger fail!). We ran Forest Park, the great Mecca of STL runners. She is just as lovely in person as on her blog, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her a bit. It was fun to share stories of travel gone wrong, academia, and running.

And finally, it's official: summer is here. The last two weeks or so have been much sweatier than the many months before them. A few times lately I've been struck by how much easier it is to face this weather now than it was even just a few years ago--experience makes a world of difference. So, I thought, why not put together a list of things learned? Hopefully this is helpful! In no particular order:

  • Getting up early is worth it when hot weather is in play. It might take a while to learn to go to bed earlier (I'm still not great at this), but it's worth it. Someday you'll feel sorry for that guy out running at 9am. 
  • Buy some appropriate hydration gear, like a Nathan Handheld or something similar and get comfortable with using it. I used to rely on water fountains in the park. With a handheld, I decrease stops, and I can venture into new areas that might not have fountains. Also, it provides another pocket for Gu, keys, ID, whatever.
  • Acquire 2-3 changes of non-cotton running clothes, including shirts, shorts, and absolutely socks. 
  • Ladies, this also means getting a real, non-cotton sports bra. Yes, they can be expensive. But of the maybe 5-6 women who I've coerced/encouraged/helped to get a real sports bra, almost all have come back to tell me what a huge difference it made for them. If you need suggestions, Runner's World keeps a good, current set of reviews by body type. REI Outlet sometimes has good sales. 
  • Drink something cold before heading out. Runner's World reported on this a year or so ago, that by cooling your core temp before a hot run, you can endure the heat better. I believe them.
  • This isn't specific to heat, but while I'm at it, I will remind you all to PLEASE always run with identification and, if possible, insurance and emergency contact information. I rely on this, though there are certainly many options. Whether you are facing heat stroke, a run-in with a car, or other issues, this can be a life saver. 
Certainly there are other tips, but I think those are the ones that I've relied on the most. Go run strong as summer brings the heat!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

National Running Day Giveaway

Apparently today is National Running Day. Is it just me, or does it seem like we celebrated this about 2 weeks ago? It seems impossible that it's been a year since the last NRD. But then again, sometimes I have to really think about it to remember what season it is. So, clearly I have issues.

In honor of this lovely National Running Day, I propose a giveaway! This giveaway is also conveniently timed as part of the "let's get rid of the stuff we don't want to haul to Utah" festivities (local friends, this is for real--there will be festivities, and you will be invited to browse the smorgasbord of things we intend to leave behind!). Without further ado, I offer you:

I read this book during my travels to and from the Cleveland Marathon in 2011. I cried through large portions of it. You will too. It's heart wrenching and inspiring. 

Rules of Play: 
  1. Leave a comment on this post to enter
  2. Open to residents of the U.S. 
  3. It's not mandatory, but I'd love it if you read the book and then re-gifted it via a giveaway of your very own. I'm going to leave a note in the front cover, and you can too. It will be lovely. 
Happy Running Day!!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Happy Blogiversary/Breaking up is hard to do

It seems somewhat ironic that this post is my 400th entry to this blog--a milestone I never dreamed I'd hit when I impulsively started writing it 6 years ago (holy sh*t! Have I really been blogging for that long??). Yes, SIX YEARS. My first post (I was, and sounded like, such a newbie!) was on May 5, 2007. Today's post feels somewhat conflicted: partly an anniversary post* with a nod to the future, but largely a tribute to a relationship I'm sadly leaving behind: my park.

STL is a wonderfully kept secret. We've loved living here. This city has great food, festivals, family activities, theater, and, among other things, parks. The first time we ever saw our house, we sat on the front porch for a bit while our Realtor contacted the listing agent for showing instructions (sort of, but that's another story). I remember sitting with my husband, gazing down the tree-lined street, just barely able to see the edge of the park two and a half blocks down. Even before we really knew this place, the park made us fall in love with our neighborhood. Living here only added to that. I've run hundreds, probably thousands of miles in that park, at all times of day and all months of the year. And I've loved it. Running there has been my sanity during stressful times, my quiet time away from kids, my peace.

The other day I decided to go for a walk through the park after eating lunch nearby. I didn't mean for it to turn into a farewell, but that's what it quickly became. As I walked, I found myself reminiscing about different places in the park. My place attachment, and the severance of it, was emotional.

I breathed in the lush landscape of the park.


I stopped and remembered using the bench at the far end of this picture as the turn-around point for my early walks after having my younger son, when even that was a physical strain, but one I couldn't get enough of. 

I took a moment remembering the happy pictures we had taken here of my baby's first birthday. 

I took in all the varied pavilions, remembered the time I came across a loose chicken, the times I saw Clydesdales walking there, thought of getting lost in my thoughts and sometimes prayers as I ran mile after mile, sometimes before dawn, sometimes in snow, sometimes in unbearable heat. As I walked, I walked back through all my memories of this place. 

It was hell. I've lived in a lot of places and run in a lot of settings, including Le Parc Monceau in Paris! But this, this has been my favorite running park. What awaits me in SLC? Will I love something there just as much? Only time will tell. The adventure begins in about five weeks; I hope you'll join me. 


* watch for a 400th post/moving giveaway, coming soon!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Running + Images I LOVE

Maybe it's because I'm obsessed right now with online house hunting and looking at decorating blogs and sites. I don't know. But I'm way into seeing everything through pictures. And so I declare this Monday: I love running pics Monday!

First up, though a bit belated, part of the amazing stand that the running community took against violence. All proceeds donated to the One Fund Boston + great, functional headband = total win.
Yes, I'm aware that I'm wearing it backwards. And that I'm sweaty. 
Not my best thought through self picture. 

As you all know, we are planning a big (!) move west this summer. About a week ago I decided on a color scheme for our new (yet un-identified) living room. Stop-light green with accents of darker green, grays, and a coordinating cream. I've been fantasizing about our new space and how stylish and welcoming it will feel. Then on Saturday, I was headed into the first small hill of my long run and realized where, without a doubt, I'd gotten this idea. I love that I'll think of the park here from 1500 miles away.

And, uh...this one is just stupid. On my part. It's not even the right set of letters. D'oh!

Happy running pictures! Anyone else take pictures like this?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The April Run-Down (a little late)

(run down, get it? I'm mixing in horrible running puns now. You know you like it.)
# Runs: 15

# Miles: 65.6

Fav Run of the Month: Easily the Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon, in Springfield, IL. Read the recap here.

Current excitement: We sold our house!

Current anxiety: We sold our house! 

We are finally closing on our IL house on Wednesday and we sold our house here. These things both sound great, but if you've been reading for a while you know that selling houses is not my favorite thing in the world. Until it's all said and done on Wednesday, and until the inspections on our current place on Tuesday, I'm going to be a ball of nerves. 

Current PITA: This blasted baby fat is being oh so very stubborn. I've ratcheted up my efforts on this front but have seen zero progress. I've actually gained a few pounds. WTH.

Current blessing: On the running front, I can see my speed continuing to improve post-race. This was not anticipated, as my mileage dropped a lot. I guess I'm still just in a state of flux. I'll take it!! 

Otherwise, things for our upcoming move are going smoothly so far, knock on wood! When we moved here I was an absolute train wreck from stress. While leaving STL is incredibly bittersweet for us, the actual logistics of it aren't keeping me up at night.

Looking forward:.I hate to say it, but my April running was pretty un-spectacular. It was 3-4 mile runs during the week and one 6 miler in an effort to return to longer runs. This was partly to be expected after my race. But....I miss training! While I don't have my next race picked out yet, I am going to start mixing speed work and tempo runs back in, to keep things fresh. Should be fun! 

That was my April. I'm about to dive into reading all about yours if you posted a recap! 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Mondays in Love: Because We Need Love

Like many of you, I just didn't have words last week. I will never have adequate words about the suffering of those wounded or killed. But I have wanted to write about the truly awesome defiance of the running community in the face of such heinous acts. If reading this helps you, great. If not, that's ok too.

As some of you know, I grew up in a small town in West Virginia. I am a third generation West Virginian, and I'm very proud of that. I am passionate about Appalachia and will defend it any where. I'll also be the first to admit that there are things about its socioeconomics and its sociology that are difficult for outsiders to understand. I've found it difficult, for example, to explain to people the state's motto, "Montani Semper Liberi," or, "Mountaineers are always free," and what that fierce independence means to West Virginians. I've found it difficult to contrast that sentiment of independence with the suffocating social norms of my hometown. I've found it difficult to describe the conflicting realities of startling generosity and nail-toughness, both of which are by-products of the devotion to independence. Independence, and a heritage of tragedy, both man-made and beyond man's control.

The tragedy. My best friend loves Felicity. She has carried this quote around in her head for years: "I'm convinced that tragedy wants to harden us, and that our mission is never to let it."

My bff is the most amazing woman. She has embodied this quote. And yet I've never been sure if our fair state (we grew up together) has. Where we grew up, I always had this feeling that people believed that the best times were behind us.* From the outside, I heard a professor at Penn State tell us one day that "life in that part of Appalachia is hard." What did this mean? That if you face tragedy for long enough, you harden.

I think as a consequence of this, when the massacre happened at Virginia Tech (where I got my Masters just a few years prior), I was afraid that people would see Tech differently, would disinvest in it, that it would become marked. It did not. When the bombings happened last week, I was afraid that the Boston Marathon would be marked. I was afraid that other runners, like me, would think twice before asking their plus-ones, children, nieces, and nephews to cheer for them at the finish. It had been only a week since my precious family stood at the 13.0 mark cheering for me! How could I not be, in retrospect, terrified?

The Lola Papers has it right in her tribute for Boston. The attacks were meant to make a mockery of freedom, and they failed. I heard her read this essay before the STL Unity Run for Boston. She's also right that the spirit of running cannot be broken. She's said all this so well, I will not repeat it.

What I will say is that I got into distance running because grad school part deux was kind of awful for the first few years, and I needed some diversion if I was going to avoid giving up on humanity. Team in Training, and with it my first half-marathon did just that. And now, almost exactly 6 years later, distance running has done that again--renewed my faith in humanity, and my faith in hope, in a drastically more significant way. The response from the running community has been incredible. Arm bands at the London Marathon. Unity runs all over the world. The Boston One Fund, and all sorts of companies donating proceeds from various sales to the fund. Fundraising pages for victims. Runners coming out of the woodwork more determined than ever to qualify for, and to run Boston. It's undeniable. It's unavoidable. It's awesome.

In some part, this is why we run. We are part of this. Running is my freedom, a freedom I have defended. It has been a place to preserve my own humanity and to see the best in others. For that, I have nothing but thanks.

*there are certainly exceptions to this. Wow, are there. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon Race Report

Warning: long post!
Race Eve: Friday
I was able to wrap up some things for work late Thursday evening, allowing myself all day Friday to get our house show-ready (it's on the market--first showing happened Saturday!), have lunch with a friend, and pack, and it took EVERY minute of the day to do all that. I even called Mr. Joanna to ask him to come home a few minutes earlier than planned just to help me carry the loads of stuff from upstairs to the basement, trash, or to the Goodwill pile forming in his trunk.* We finally got on the road about 3:45.

We arrived in Springfield just in time for our 5:30 reservation at Saputo's, a well-regarded Italian restaurant in downtown Springfield. The wait staff all knew the patron's names, and the tables around us seemed to be groups of 60+ year old friends who had been gathering there for years. We finally decided that tradition must be keeping this place open, because it was one of the least inspired 3 plates of Italian food we'd ever seen. Everything was either from a can or freezer. It made me wish I had Robert Irvine on speed dial. Regardless, it was a plate of carbs, and that was what was in order. Mission accomplished!

From there we headed to packet pick up, after I may or may not have typed the wrong street name into the GPS. This caused my husband to panic fret over getting lost finding our way in the small and lightly trafficated metropolis of downtown Springfield. I might have also told him to turn the wrong direction once. Seriously, I am the worst navigator ever. We got there. And I wish I'd taken a picture. It was the tiniest packet pick-up I've ever seen for a 13.1. There was exactly ONE vendor there, the table to pick up the bib and shirt, a table displaying the age group awards, and a bulletin board to look up names and bib numbers. That was it. It was probably for the best though since my boys were waiting for me in the car. In, out, and on our way.

We drove just a few blocks from there to the race hotel and got settled in for the night. The baby was just so excited about his first out-of-state trip that he couldn't sleep. It was about 9:30 before he finally gave it up and dozed off. At that point I laid out all my gear for morning and turned in.
all bibbed up and ready to go

With my trusty security blanket, the pace band. The one
on top was for 2:02, but I raced with a 2:00 one on. 

Race Day
Per the usual for race day, I woke up ahead of my alarm and forced myself to stay in bed a while longer. At 5:50 I was up and getting dressed, then made my way downstairs to the Starbucks to pick up pre-race food and breakfasts for my boys. My older son was up when I got back, so he and I sat together in the bathroom and ate our breakfasts together. A little later than I had intended, I did my final pre-race list-checking and headed down to the start line. I found my friend Rachel at the start line, and we stood and chatted for a few until it was time to line up. She headed for the 1:50 pace group, I hung back closer to the 2:00 group. She suggested I get behind them then pass them if I wanted to, but I told her I didn't like being behind pace groups.

Well, that didn't work out for me! We weren't 0.25 miles into the race when the 2:00 pace group passed me. Alarmed, I checked my pace band and Garmin frequently for a while, and I was staying true to my target times, so I decided not to worry about it.

The course is nice--mostly flat, winding through a historic area, downtown, a variety of neighborhoods, a cemetery, and a park. There are a few pretty rude hills toward the end that left me sucking wind for a second, but fortunately I knew they were coming (thanks for the intel, Rachel!) and adjusted accordingly. I got to see my little cheering section (husband & two boys) just after the start, around mile 2, and at 13.0. I can't explain the joy it brings me to see them on course, and to hear them cheer for me. Magical. Precious.

I had support from afar, too. My old friend Coach Mike had left me some words of encouragement pre-race, and they became my mantra throughout: "Run easy, run free." I love that! And that's how this race felt--comfortably hard, like race pace should feel, and FREE. I was that crazy lady smiling all the way through the race, thankful that I am able to do it.

I have to give a huge shout out to the race organizers. Especially for a race of only ~1500 participants, it was put on very well. There were gobs of volunteers at every aid station, the aid stations were well placed, and they had just the right combinations of water, Gatorade, and even Gu available at just the right places. The start and finish areas were managed well too, and the post-race spread was impressive.

All the way through, I relied on my trusty pace bands, hitting each mile within a few seconds of the target pace, with a few more like 10-15 seconds faster. I didn't catch the 2:00 pacers until about 12.6 miles, which kind of freaked me out more than once, but at each mile I checked my overall time and my mile pace and knew I was on target. Rachel had told me that if I had anything left when I got to 12.0 to just let it fly because the last mile was flat, so I did. I was having a blast. When I saw my boys at 13.0 they captured the moment--me (in the red) with a big smile plastered on my face.

Just after this picture, I rounded the last corner into the straightaway. I knew I was under 2 hours and just focused on finishing strong. 

Final Garmin time: 1:59:20
Official time: 1:59:21
with Mary and Abe and our giant honking pennies at the finish!

This was not a PR, but as I said, I wasn't aiming for a PR. This was my post-baby return to racing. Rachel asked me at the start line if I had a time goal. I hesitantly said I was hoping for sub-2, but that the stars would have to align just right or it wouldn't work. I'm thrilled that the day came together with 39 seconds to spare. 

Post-Race
After the race and getting cleaned up, we headed to Champaign to see relax and see friends. We had a great time! We stayed Saturday night with some of our favorite people (who happen to be our boys' Godparents!), and on Sunday had breakfast with an old, wonderful friend who just successfully defended her dissertation (Dr. Ears!!), and went to our old church and saw friends there. 

It was a great weekend. I enjoyed the race (I smiled on and off all the way through!), finished strong, saw friends, and had relaxing down time. Honestly, I am so thankful that running gave us the extra encouragement to plan the much-needed, long-overdue trip to central IL.  

* true story: my husband's car was once burglarized while it contained nothing other than a Goodwill pile. It was great. Totally saved us the trip, and probably got to someone who could use the stuff any way. Ah, life in STL.