Monday, December 30, 2013

2013....looking back with a contented sigh

WoW.  Simply WoW.

2013 is winding down, and 2014 is on the horizon and all I can say is, "WoW!"

It's been a year of many firsts.  This blog,  My Facebook page.  Streaking (twice!). Trail racing (also twice). Vertical racing. Longest mileage e.v.e.r. Oh, and let's not first Marathon!

I was able to complete 13 events in 2013 (11 official scheduled events, 2 virtual events).  My endurance persevered, and got me through 3 months of training to get me to the finish line of the Quad Cities Marathon.  I ran my 6th Dam-to-Dam 20K (with dreadful blisters but was able to push through and finish under 2 hours).  I also ran 3 half marathons (along with the Quad Cities marathon) in the span of seven weeks, and lived to tell about it.  I also made it to my first destination race, the Rock 'n' Roll half in St. Louis, and had the pleasure of running those 13.1 miles alongside Fran, one of my virtual running buddies.

I spent most of the year dealing with piriformis issues (literally, a royal pain in the buttocks).  I enduredseveral months of physical therapy in the late winter/early spring. The PT helped, but the nagging pain never has quite left me.  I know it has affected my speed (not that I was super fast to begin with), and it sometimes makes the short runs unbearable and the longer runs don't feel great until after the first 3-4 miles, but I refuse to let it keep me out of my running shoes.  Fortunately, it is a treatable "discomfort" as long as I remember to stretch and/or foam roll properly after running.  Cross training has been a blessing, or I'd probably be bed-ridden (a small exaggeration).

I ran some of my longest training runs ever, which I also think had an impact on my pace slowing somewhat.  My body got accustomed to running long, and didn't "need" to go it didn't LOL.  Actually, my pace remained pretty constant, and is pretty decent considering the piriformis's just not as fast as I know it could be under ideal conditions.  Despite my speed not being as fast as I'd hoped, I did manage a few age group placings...which allowed me to add a grand total of 12 medals to my collection of race hardware. Most of the medals were finisher medals, but there were a token few that were "earned," including my final race of the year (Jingle Jog 4-miler), where I not only placed 3rd in my age group but also ran an approximate 8:30 fastest pace of the year.

Some highlights in pics:

Fight for Air Climb...66 flights of stairs for the American Lung Association
Drake Relays 10K...wearing the blue/yellow ribbon as a tribute for the Boston Marathon tragedy

Running on the Fly was named one of the 100 Motivating Endurance Pages on Facebook

Enduring 12.4 miles of blisters to finish my 6th Dam-to-Dam...just under 2 hours
Giving back by volunteering for a local half my cowbell ready

In June, I officially started training for my first 26.2!
Despite a nasty tumble (and several injured ribs), I managed a 3rd-place finish in my age group at the Grimes Family 8K Trail Run
Finishing my 3rd Park to Park Half Marathon....a hot and humid race where I had a major energy crash
Ready for the start of  my first marathon...scoping out the finish line
Approaching the finish line. 25.5 miles behind me.....
My third Des Moines Half Marathon on a very cold day
Finishing the Rock n' Roll Half Marathon in St. Louis with Fran
Finishing 2013 with a medal and a PR!

  What do you have planned for this new year?  2014, let's do this!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

2013 Winter Streak--Halfway There!

Today is my 18th day of streaking!  There are 35 days in this streak period, so at the half-mile point of my run this afternoon, I officially crossed the halfway mark.  Giddy up!

This streak (so far) seems to be going faster than the one I did back in April.  I can only hope for that to continue.

The biggest difference with this streak is the weather, hands down.  It's a tad bit colder in December than it is in April, especially in Iowa.  There have been a couple of days when the weather has been "unseasonably" warm (temps in the upper 40's or warmer) and I was able to wear a tech shirt and capri's (I might have even worn shorts...).  Most days, though, have been normal December temps for Iowa (in the 20's - 30's), and a few days have been in the single digits with below zero wind chill readings.

I have done every streak run outside.  Some days the pavement has been dry, some days it's been wet.  There has been plenty of snow (on the ground and in the air).  And there has been wind.  Lots of wind.

I have been doing some of the 1-milers around the block where my house is located.  It's exactly a 1/2 mile perimeter around my block, so two quick laps and I'm done.  I get bored easily, so already I have figured out other routes. Some days I run the route clockwise, other days I go counter-clockwise. I might do the first lap in one direction, loop around my circular driveway and do the second lap in reverse.  There's a smaller block across the street, it requires 3 laps to complete a mile in distance.  You guessed it!  Some days I run three laps around that block (not all in the same direction, of course), or do two laps around the "small" block, and finish with a grand lap around the "big" block, in which case I get a little extra distance beyond the one mile minimum. (this is why I do not do well on the treadmill.....I need a constant change of scenery!)

For the most part, I've been able to maintain my regular running routine (running 3-4 days each week). What would normally be my "non-running" days is when I'm doing the short one-milers to keep the streak running (pun intended).  We had a severe cold spell this past week, so I've done the minimum mile runs outside and then done some "bonus" miles on the treadmill later in the evening.  Yes, you read that correctly...I climbed onto my treadmill (willingly) and ran some extra miles.

It is a bit of a paradox....on the really cold days when I want to get that one mile done outside, I do spend more time getting dressed (and, subsequently, getting undressed afterwards) than I actually do running.  This is what works for me, and it's been going great.

My husband has joined me in the streaking challenge, and he's been doing great as well.  Most days we're able to get that one-miler done together. There have been a few days, though, when he's gotten home late or had a full day of appointments and he's done his runs on his own, some in the morning before work and others in the evening under the streetlights.

So, onward!  Let's finish this!

Have you ever done a running streak?  What's the longest you were able to stay with it, and what made you stop (boredom, injury, etc.)?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Want to go Streaking with Me?

Have you ever streaked? 

Runner's World magazine is promoting runners to participate in their holiday running streak.  They are asking runners to commit to running at least one mile every day from Thanksgiving until New Year's Day.  You know, to give us an incentive to stay active during this season which is often filled with over indulgence of food and drink.

Streaking. Running everyday.  Yikes, that sounds like a lot of running...or is it?

Myself, I am not a daily runner.  Never have been, probably never will be.  But I gave streaking a whirl back in April of this year, and it really wasn't as bad or tedious as I'd anticipated. I simply did my usual training/running routine, which is running 3-5 miles a couple times during the week and then doing a long run on the weekend.  However, on the "non-running" days when I normally would have been doing some form of cross-training, I added a quick 1-mile run.

The first few 1-mile attempts were the most difficult.  It took some trial and error to figure out where to run to get the exact mileage.  I live a few blocks from a beautiful college campus, and mapped out a route that went around a few blocks on the central campus.  I ran the few blocks to this "route" as a warm-up, then ran the 1-mile loop, then ran home.  Honestly, it took less than 15 minutes from the time I left my front porch and returned back home.  Since it was such a short distance, I ran it outside everyday...rain or shine, cold or warm temps, windy or not.  The bonus came when I added up my mileage for April...doing this little extra mile on the "non-running" days gave my total monthly miles a boost of 20 extra miles (some days I ran a little more than the 1-mile minimum).

I am challenging my followers on my page, Running On The Fly, to do this challenge with me to finish off 2013 with a bang.  It's very much outside of my comfort zone, but I am willing to take on the challenge and here are some tips which may help others to give it a try as well.

First thing, find a route that will work for you. Since it's only one mile, consider just running laps around the  block where you live.  If you don't live in town,  find a block in a nearby town, possibly near where you work or by a park.  A mile is usually equal to the distance of 10 city blocks, therefore 2.5 laps around an average city block will get you to one mile in distance. I recommend running this in reverse on alternate days or you may tire of it. Also, most streets aren't level so alternating the direction of your run will give your body a break form always running on the same plane. If you can't remember which direction you ran on the previous run, do as I do....if it's an odd number day on the calender, I turn right as I head out of my driveway (the word "right" has an odd number of letters in it), and I go left on the even numbered days (you guessed it!  "left" has an even number of letters).

Most runners have access to a Garmin or mileage counter, but you can also use the trustworthy odometer in your car to map out a mile.  If you're not a fan of running in circles around a block, run the equivalent of half a mile then turn and run back.  Or walk a few blocks to warm up, then do the half mile, turn, run back and walk the last few blocks to cool down.

Make this 1-mile run a game (speed work in disguise).  Time yourself each time you run it (if you're doing the same route repeatedly) and try to run it faster each time. You will most likely see a difference in your speed after the first week.

Since it's only a short mile, it shouldn't take you more than 10-20 minutes to run  it.  Set your alarm a few minutes early and do it before work.  Maybe consider doing it on your lunch break. Or do it  while you're waiting for dinner to bake in the oven.

 If you have a treadmill, or access to one, you have an advantage (if you enjoy using it).

If you have never streaked before, or if you're a relatively new runner, use caution.  I highly recommend not going farther than the 1-mile minimum or you may risk getting injured.  Also, if at any point during the challenge you feel any kind of pain...there is no shame walking, or taking a day off.  Pain and discomfort are two different things, you don't need to be a hero.

So, I invite YOU to go streaking with me!  It's only a mile each day, and it's only for the remainder of 2013.  C'mon, give it a try!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Let me say, "ThAnKs!!"

Wow.  There are just too many things to be thankful for.  Too many, but I will try to highlight the big ones.

* My family.  I am so absolutely in love with my husband and three amazing kids.  They don't usually run with me, but they let me run.  And, they don't complain too much about the running shoes scattered throughout the house or the ickiness of my toes.

*My faith.  I'm not gonna get all high and almighty on you, but my faith is my cornerstone. My humbleness, and my strength. It's my everything.

*My friends. I am very glad to have some awesome people in my life.  I appreciate all their kind words, messages and hugs.

*My Virtual Running Buddies.  There are so many wonderful people who have become dear friends, and all of them came to me via my running page, Running On The Fly.  There have been countless messages, well wishes, (virtual) high-5's, and many laughs shared through our computer screens.  I love you all, and I look forward to meeting ALL of you in person someday.

*The racing community.  I don't consider myself a racer, but I love the atmosphere on race day.  There's something about an entire bunch of strangers all running towards the same finish line that invigorates me.

*The gift of running.  Having spent most of my life believing I was not an athlete, I am so humbled (and proud) to call myself not just a runner, but a marathoner!

Happy Thanksgiving, FrIeNdS!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Winter Running:101 (my version)

The mercury has been on a steady nose-dive recently, and my running doesn't stop for anything (well, unless I'm side-lined while in recovery from a running-related injury......but that's another blog for another time).  So, what happens when the temps plummet down to single digits and your body (and mental well being) are craving a run?  Sure, you can fire up the treadmill (some runners have been known to use this strategy), but I much prefer the great outdoors.

The great outdoors do turn a bit chilly this time of year, so here's some of my tried and true winter running survival tips.  These require a slight change of wardrobe, flexibility in scheduling the runs, and a little bit of creative finesse doesn't hurt.

Let's start from the head and work our way downward. Your head will need protection from the cold. I prefer a fleece headband, but any kind of cold weather head covering will work.  Keep in mind, even though it's cold outside, your head will still be sweating so you should wear something that has moisture-wicking construction.  I used to always put the headband under my hair, but last winter I started wearing it over my hair and felt like that kept me warmer because it kept my hair against my neck.  If you don't like the feel of your hair mashed against your neck, you can put the headband under your hairline.  Your lips will benefit from a layer of lip balm, and your cheeks may appreciate a thin coat of petroleum jelly or (my favorite) Aquaphor to shield them from the wind.  A tip for you ladies with long hair...if you put your hair in a braid(s) instead of a ponytail, you'll have less "bouncing and swaying," and it will be much less likely to get stuck in the aforementioned stuff on your face.

If you're running during the daylight hours, I strongly recommend you wear sun glasses.  The sun may be lower in the sky, but it reflects off the white snow with an almost-blinding brightness.  The cold air makes my sensitive eyes water like crazy, so having a little shield from the wind helps them water a tiny bit less.  Sunglasses also make you look like a hard-core running maniac (just saying).  

Don't forget your neck!  I'm not a turtle-neck fan, so I usually have a scarf wrapped around my neck.  This can also be pulled up over your mouth and nose if it's really windy or cold to help "filter" the cold air as you're breathing. Another option is to wear a cowl, which is like a "short" infinity scarf (or a turtle-neck minus the shirt).  Or, you could wear a turtle neck if you're a traditional kind of person.

Almost always, I wear a fitted tank top as my first layer and a fitted, flannel-lined long-sleeved tech top as my next layer.  The "fitted" fit is key for me because it keeps the warmth right next to my body.  If you prefer a not-so-fitted-fit, keep in mind you will feel some cool air circulating around your body if you go with more  loosely-fitted clothing.  If it's real cold (we're talking below 30 degrees or colder), I will wear an additional long-sleeved top over the fitted top.

There are plenty of choices when it comes to outerwear, but I prefer a puffer vest instead of a jacket.  A jacket may keep more of the warmth inside, but the sleeves feel too constraining for me.  Also, I'm tall---translation: I have long arms, and most sleeves don't make it all the way to my wrists anyways.  Since the thickness of the shirt sleeves is much thinner than a jacket, I'm able to keep them tucked under the edge of my gloves with success. I adore the long-sleeved shirts with thumb holes, too!  I'm also an avid knitter (ever since childhood...probably (yet) another blog for another time), so I have made a couple pairs of knitted arm warmers that I slip over my sleeves if I need just a bit more warmth on my arms. That's just my personal preference, do what works best for you.

Gloves or mittens? In general, mittens will be warmer than gloves, it goes back to the scientific (or is it  a mathematical?) principal of surface area.  Gloves have more surface area, therefore, their surface is exposed to more cold air than that of mittens.  This is not meant to be a lesson in science (or math), so let me just say that after the first 10 minutes or so you probably won't notice much of a difference between them.  I sometimes layer a thick pair of mittens over my gloves, then remove them after the first mile or so.  I also have a vast collection of knitted wrist warmers (some that actually match my knitted arm warmers), and I sometimes layer those over my gloves (and remove when they're no longer needed). Lots of options, and the possibilities are endless.


One of the absolute greatest inventions I have come across in my seven years of cold weather running--running tights.  I simply cannot believe how warm they are, and how thin, non-bulky, and comfortable. There are numerous options with tights, too.  Some are flannel-lined, some are not.  Most come in black, but many companies are now making them in other colors or with patterns or striping.  Usually one pair is sufficient, but if there are sub-freezing temps happening, I sometimes layer a second pair of tights over the first layer. I always wear a skirt or shorts over tights, though.  I treat them as "tights," not pants. Capri tights are an exception for me... I treat them as long shorts, therefore they don't require a skirt or shorts (that's my logic).

If you're not comfortable in tights, you have the option of pants or leggings.  It really is a matter of preference with these as well.  Personally, I don't like the bulkiness of pants, they seem "heavy and baggy" to me, thus they give me the impression they'll have too much wind resistance and not allow me to run as freely or as fast (that's what I have told myself anyways).

Last, we have the feet to keep warm.  I strongly recommend wool socks.  They will keep the feet much warmer than cotton, and they will wick the moisture away from the skin of your feet.  Yes, despite the cold temps, your feet will sweat.  (here's a warm weather can wear your wool socks in the summer!  They are great for moisture-wicking, crucial in preventing blisters or icky toe nails)


What about shoes?  I live in Iowa, so there is plentiful snow and cold temps for several months.  I just use my regular running shoes, but am cautious of slick surfaces.  I don't usually have problems with my feet getting wet because the temps are cold enough that the snow doesn't melt (and I'm wearing wool socks, so it wouldn't be much of a problem if some snow got inside my shoes).  I have heard of using duct tape on the outside of your shoes (over the mesh), but have not yet tried to do so.  I have also heard of runners putting tiny screws into the soles of their shoes (for gripping), but have not tried that either.  I do not own trail shoes, but I have heard they are a great option for added traction.

Most (non-running) people think I'm crazy for braving the chilly temps and running outside when I have a treadmill inside my warm, heated house.  What they don't know (unless they have been naive enough to ever ask me about my running endeavors) is that I spent my entire first year as a runner on my treadmill.  In the cold winter, and hot summer.  Once I ventured outside, I simply could NOT get back on the 'mill.  Even when the temps seem to blow through every layer of clothing, and my toes feel like they are on the verge of breaking off, and my eyes have a steady stream of cold tears.....I am in awe of the beauty of the outdoors.  The sunshine reflecting off the snow  looks like glistening diamonds.....I guarantee you will not see that over the control panel of a treadmill. (And the air outside smells much nicer than that inside a gym)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Rockin' -n- 'Rollin' in Saint Louis

I have wanted to do a Rock'n'Roll event for a very long time.  I have wanted to do a destination race as well.  Almost a year ago, I started following a fellow runner on Facebook and we became (almost) instant running pals, and I have looked forward to meeting this gal, Fran, for some time.  Well, the weekend of October 26th-27th was a grand slam (of sorts), as I got to accomplish all three of these endeavors in the city of Saint Louis!  The Rock'nRoll event attracted a lot of runners to the city...and there were a few baseball games happening as well (can you say, World Series?).

Living in Iowa, the journey to Saint Louis took some planning.  Most of the races I have done have been within an hour or so of my house, not requiring too much travel time. With the exception of the Quad Cities Marathon (which ventured into Illinois through some of the course), all of my races have been in Iowa.  Not a bad thing, but I certainly have felt the need to run elsewhere.

The drive to Saint Louis from Grinnell took us about five hours.  The husband (chief driver extraordinaire) and youngest daughter were my travel companions. We arrived at the expo around 3:30 on Saturday and spent about an hour walking around and checking out the exhibits and vendors.

Standing next to the map of the course, the half course is in blue, the full marathon is the red one

Sunday morning arrived with a 4:45AM wake-up.  The temps were in the 40's, so I had a long-sleeved (flannel-lined) tech shirt layered under another shirt.  I decided to rock the full-leg tights under the running skirt, and had the arm warmers, gloves and headband ready to go.

The husband and daughter dropped me off around 6:00 at Fran's hotel, and they headed off to find a breakfast place.  Although Fran and myself had never met in person, we have been Facebook friends for several months...and we instantly recognized each other as soon as I walked through the doorway.  A big hug, several laughs and we were talking like old friends.

A quick pic before walking to the start line
 We took a few pics, then headed to the start line.  The race was to start at 7:00AM, and at 6:30 it was still dark as night.  There were a lot of runners heading the same direction, so we had no problems finding the race course. was chilly!

Can you see the Arch?
 Our corral got called, and we were off and running.  The view from the start line was beautiful, we could see the Arch straight ahead of us and the sky was starting to brighten from the sunrise.  As we approached the first mile marker, we could hear a band.  This wasn't just a few guys with guitars, but a full band -- complete with a drum set, microphones, speakers and amps.

I had started my watch as we crossed the start line, and imagine my elation to see we had run the first mile in 7:15!  Fran and I had been chatting as we ran, so I hadn't been paying attention to just how fast we were moving.  Then I realized my watch was showing the actual time of day, NOT our race time,  Duh.  Fran is a fast runner, but I don't think even she could get me to master a 7:15 mile.

By the time we made it to the second mile, the sun had fully risen and we had complete day light.  The crowd of runners remained pretty heavy, but it wasn't too much of a problem.  I'm not really a competitive runner, but I do enjoy the race environment.  There's something about being in a group of fellow runners, all headed towards the same is invigorating! I love the shouts and cheers from the spectators, the fun signs, and the echoes of cow bells.
Can you see us in the distance?  Can you see the shadows of the husband and daughter snapping the pic?

I have done numerous races, several have been with friends or with the husband.  It's kind of an unwritten agreement that we all start together, but eventually spread out and each run our own pace and then meet up at the finish line.  This was my first time actually running with a friend, talking along the way and not relying on the music from my Ipod to keep me entertained.

Here we are, waving to our fan club!

We kept a steady pace, just under a 10-minute pace, for most of the race.  Quite remarkable, since we were not only chatting for much of the run, but also tackling the constant hills along the route.  The hills weren't steep, but they were plentiful.  Since my marathon 5 weeks prior, my left Achilles tendon had been a little angry with me, and it was battling me on race day in St. Louis as well.

I have wanted to do a Rock'n'Roll event for a long time.  I love running, and I love rock-n-roll music. I also love traveling to big cities, doing a run while there was an added bonus.  This was a big event, and there were numerous photographers everywhere.  Hopefully, Fran and I kept them entertained with our silly poses!

Despite the chilly temps, I was never uncomfortable.  I stripped the arm warmers after the second mile, but the gloves stayed with me for most of the run. The water stations were frequent, so we had plenty of refreshments at our disposal.  The bands were great! There was constant entertainment and numerous spectators along the course.  We ran through several of the downtown streets of St. Louis, passing Busch Stadium, and ventured through some beautiful historical neighborhoods as well.

This was my first time running alongside a friend for the duration of a race.  Usually, I'm in my own world with my music playing.  I love seeing all the spectators along the route and sharing smiles and/or high-5's with them.  But running with a friend was so much better.  We were talking a lot, laughing at each others' jokes and comments, and getting better acquainted with each other as we conquered the streets of St. Louis enroute to the finish line.

Approaching the finish line

Before we knew it, we had left the neighborhoods and were working our way  back to the downtown area.  Soon, I spotted the husband and daughter.  The finish line wasn't much farther.  Fran and I rounded the last corner and grabbed hands as we crossed the finish line in St. Louis.

No, I didn't play any baseball while in St. Louis, but I did hit my first Grand Slam. Let's hope it's the first of many.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sit Tight! Wall Squats:101

Have you ever wanted to find a quick and effective exercise to enhance your running?  Something that won't take but a few minutes a day, but will greatly strengthen your legs, glutes and core?  And will make you feel like a beast?

Answer: Wall squats!

What are wall squats?  Also called wall sits, these are simple squats where you lean against a wall and hold the position as long as possible.  You will feel the bulk of this in your legs (quads), but also in your glutes.  As you become stronger and are able to hold the pose longer, you will also start to feel it in your core.

We all know leg strength is crucial to running, but glute strength is a very strong second.  Having strong glute muscles will enhance the leg strength because both are connected......if both sets of muscles are strong and in working order, neither has to absorb an unfair amount of impact.  A lot of runners suffer from problems with their ankles, knees, IT Bands, and piriformis (a muscle deep within the buttocks), as well as a host of various other less painful issues.  A lot of these injuries can be avoided, or reduced, by having strong glutes.

So, how does one do a wall squat? How long do you need to hold the position?  How many reps?

The basic wall squat is done by standing against a wall and sliding down until your legs are in a 90-degree position, parallel to the floor.  You will want have shoes on (or be barefoot) because your feet will try to slide if the surface is slick.  Most people can probably hold this for 15-30 seconds, but try to hold it for as long as possible the first few times you do it to get a "base line."  Keep track of this base line, and every time you do the squat, write it down to chart your progress.  Try to squat for 10 seconds longer each time you do it.

A variation of this, is to squat against the wall and slide down until your legs are at a 45-degree angle.  This position will be easier to hold, so you will want to hold it for a longer time to get results.  You can also do intervals with this pose and the previous 90-degree pose...alternating between each pose.


A more difficult pose is the one-leg squat.  Trust me, this is much harder! It not only throws in the element of balancing on one leg but also adds the demand of holding your own body weight while on just one leg.  You will want to do intervals with this pose as well.  I would recommend starting with intervals of 5 seconds on each leg, and gradually increasing to 10 seconds, then 15 seconds, etc.  Try to keep the extended leg out as straight as possible, on the same plane as the flexed leg.


If you're up for an even greater challenge, try squatting with a balance ball.  This will tap into your core as you not only balance on your legs while squatting but also as you keep the ball in position.  Master the one-leg squat with the balance ball and you will be a B.E.A.S.T.


Every person will have their own threshold of skill with wall squats.  You can do these several times throughout the day (for shorter periods of time), or do one "long" squat once a day.  You can have your feet together, shoulder-width apart, or even wider.  You can mix these in with other strength training (such as lunges, squats or planks).  You will see results with these pretty quickly....probably within a week you'll be able increase your "squatting time" substantially.

So, let's get to work!  Sit tight, friends!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Enjoy the race! Here's how....


Have you ever done an event that wasn't as fun as you anticipated?  Was the weather lousy? Did you finish with a less-than-desired finish time? Did some of the other runners cut you off, or get in your way?

Trust me, you are not alone.  Just like every training run will not be "ideal," the same holds true for races.  Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to turn the event around and make the best of it.  Here are some tips I have found to make race day enjoyable.

First and foremost, don't be afraid to have fun.  Granted, you have trained and probably have an estimated finish time you're striving towards, but focusing solely on your splits, pace and stride may drive you crazy. Unless you're an elite or desperately trying to qualify for Boston, take time to enjoy the experience of being there.  Look around you occasionally as you make your way through the course.  There will probably be spectators cheering and ringing cow bells, they're there to support you and all the other runners.  Read their signs and enjoy the noise!

And while you're at it, high-5 as many spectators as you can.  Kids especially love runners, you're a super hero to them.  You may not have time to sign autographs, but giving them a high-5 will totally make their day.

If the event has a theme, dressing in costume will add to the party atmosphere.  I'm not suggesting sporting a cumbersome Halloween get-up with a full mask (you do need to keep your legs moving and your vision clear), but a silly hat or frilly tutu will make you look (and probably feel) like a fun-loving person who is there to have a good time. Lighten up! Running does not have to be serious all the time.

Run with friends, and don't obsess over who will finish first or last.  Run to simply be running together, and supporting each others' efforts towards a healthy lifestyle. (and if you're all dressed in matching outfits, even better!)


Lose the watch (once in awhile).  You'd be surprised just how much faster you can run when you have no idea how fast you are really going.  You may enjoy the freedom of not having a bunch of numbers dictating your efforts. You might even PR or place in your age division! (been there, done that)


If it's a big event, there may be photographers along the course.  For the sake of all things holy, ham it up for them!  They are sitting there (translation-they are not moving), so they are probably cold and bored.  Flash them a smile, flex the biceps or wave the arms high in the air.  You will like these pics much better than the ones of you gasping for air with that "ugly" runner frown.

Talk amongst yourselves.  Literally.  Not all runners are able to run and talk at the same time, so if you're able to do it up!  That "great job!" or "looking good!" or "don't stop now!" may be just the little push someone needs to keep going.  Don't be afraid to cheer on your "opponents," even if you have to slow down briefly to do so.  Pay it forward.

Last, but certainly not least, thank every volunteer you come in contact with.  The person giving you your race packet, the one who hands you water, the one who helps remove the timing chip or bib tag, the one who places the medal around your neck.  Many of them are runners themselves, sacrificing their run so you can do yours.

The vast majority of us may  never win a race, or even place in our division. That's alright. Why not just enjoy the experience?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

26.2 done? Check YES!!

Ready for the start line

Well, I am a marathoner.  Never would I have ever believed I could be saying something like that.

Running a full marathon is one of those rare life experiences that was every bit as hard and challenging as I imagined it to be, but then again...not. I am one of the lucky ones whose first marathon was more fun than pain or frustration.
let's get this party started!

The Quad Cities Marathon is now in its 16th year, and there also was a half marathon, 5K (run and walk), 1-mile walk and a 5-person relay team option for the marathon.  And what a phenomenal job the committee and volunteers did in pulling off this grand event.

Fuel belt's the finish line I'll be crossing
I  had two pretty solid weeks of tapering following my half marathon (which was a week following my 20-mile run).  I was so thankful to go through the taper.   I welcomed the rest and recovery, but I dreaded the "hurry up and wait" anxiety that proceeds the event for which said tapering is occurring.  I am also paranoid about injury and over-training, so I took it very easy during the taper...which means the emotions ran high (no pun intended) with minimal exercise to release them.  For the past several days leading up the race, I was constantly fighting back tears whenever I envisioned myself crossing the finish line.  We're talking full-on tears about-to-overspill and that nasty lump in the throat.  It was just so incredible to think I would be running a marathon, not "just a half," but a full 26.2 miles.

Despite all the craziness that accompanies tapering, I felt considerably calm in light of what would be happening to me on race day.  That calmness was a little unnerving, though.  Was I being too calm about everything?  Was I being over confidant?  Was I being too naive as to what would really happen on race day?  Thankfully, an advantage to doing your first race of a different (longer!) distance is you have nothing to compare it to.  For myself, I find comfort in that.  I didn't have any previous marathons-gone-bad to reflect on, or any outstanding finish times to beat.  I had a "goal time" of 4:15, but really had no idea what would happen beyond the 20-mile mark

All races for this event started together at 7:30.  I'm not sure I agree with that was really crowded as we made our way towards the first bridge.  We did, however pass by a local school band playing "Sweet Caroline." Several runners tried singing  along, and I sincerely hope they do not quit their day jobs (just saying).  Once on the bridge, it was very crowded.  We were condensed into one lane of traffic.  It did prevent me from starting out too quickly, but it also had me running much slower than I felt comfortable with.  The first mile took me about 11 minutes, much slower than ideal for the pace I needed.

Once off the bridge, we could spread out as we approached the "one hill at the start of the race."  We had been warned about this hill.  It was not steep, but very long.  I was able to gradually make up some of my time from the slow start, though, and made it to the 2-mile mark by 19 minutes.  Then I got in my groove, and got to mile 3 by 28 minutes.  My pace continued on very steady for the next several miles.

Every time I glanced at my watch at the mile marks, it confirmed my pace was dead-on.  I kept fueling (with gels) every 6 miles or so, and drank water and/or Gatorade at every water station.  I am an emotional person, so there were a few times while running that I could feel tears welling up. UGH.  Hopefully none of the photographers would capture me doing the "ugly cry" with my medal at the finish line.

So, I continued onward.  This race is really unique in that in encompasses four cities on the Iowa/Illinois border (QUAD Cities, get it?), as well as a small island, the Rock Island Arsenal.  We crossed the Mississippi River via several bridges at various times along our way to the 26.2 finish line.  I mentioned there was the "one" hill just after the start of the race, but truthfully, there were several more.  Each time we crossed a bridge to another city (or, on occasion, to another state), we climbed an incline to get there.  Not a big deal.  Actually having a few hills is really a good thing, it gives your muscles a break from the otherwise flat course.

I made it to the halfway point in just over 2 hours, my pace was still doing well.  As I approached the 14-mile mark, I pulled out a granola bar for a quick snack.  I walked for a few minutes as I attempted to eat the bar, but it was not as easy as planned (the eating, not the walking).  The lack of saliva in my mouth made chewing and eating and (eventually) swallowing a very long process.  Finally after several minutes of chewing, I threw the last part of the bar away.  Epic fail!  I  was also in need of a a moment of desperation, I grabbed a discarded wash cloth off the ground (yes, I know, EEW!) and blew my nose.  Done.

The next 7 miles or so were on the island, which is a private military setting.  Therefore, there were very few people along the route, other than the volunteers manning the water stations.  It was very scenic and peaceful, but for a race of this distance I would have preferred to have some spectators clapping and cheering along the way.  The temps were ideal, though.  It was in the mid-40's at the start of the race, and never got above the mid-70's.  There also was a gentle breeze, so I never felt hot or over-heated.

shedding the waist-tied shirt when I saw the husband
 Eventually, I made my way off of the island...via another bridge, of course.  As I approached mile 20, I could tell my pace was starting to slow down.  I still felt energized, but I knew this race was far from over.  I hit the 20-mile mark in 3:22, which is the exact  time I clocked for my 20-mile training run.  Since I was hoping to finish in 4:15,  I would really need to focus to knock out the final 6.2 miles in 53 minutes.  If  I had not just run 20 miles and, instead,  was starting a fresh race, this would not have been an issue.  But  this was a marathon.  My first-ever marathon.  I  wanted to just continue to enjoy the experience itself;  the 4:15 finish really was not a priority.  As luck would have it, a little farther down the road, just around the final corner, was my cousin, Jessica, and her husband and three children.  They all called my name and high-5'd me.  Then, just a bit farther I spotted my husband and youngest daughter, Liliann!  More high-5's and cheers!

Lil giving me that last push to the finish
 I was almost to the finish line!  Six miles stood between myself and my victory.   I could feel my pace progressively getting slower, but I never had the desire to stop or even rest.  I knew in another 10 minutes or so there would be another water stand, and another after that, and so on.  I also knew that I was feeling pretty thirsty, so I would need every cup of water or Gatorade offered to me.  I had one remaining gel, so I gulped that down as I approached the water stand at mile 21.  I walked as I drank, and I continued walking for a minute or so afterwards.  I was about to finish a marathon!

I kept going, pausing at each of the remaining stations, and just enjoyed each and every moment.  The sun was shining brightly, there was a great breeze and there were a lot of people cheering throughout these final miles. I could feel my calves starting to cramp slightly, so I took it easy and didn't force anything.

You can't see him very well, but the guy to the left is last mile hero!
Just after mile 25, a gentleman passed me and encouraged me to not stop this close to the finish.  I assured him I was just enjoying myself.  He said, "C'mon!  I'll run you in!"   I threw the empty water cup and joined him.  We chatted about how great the race had been.  I asked him how many of these races he's done, and he said he'd done every Quad Cities Marathon...this was his 16th!  I told him it was my first marathon.  He gave me a high-5.....then yelled to the crowd, "Hey everyone!  This is Kim, and it's her first marathon!"  So, tons of applause and cheers came at me.  This continued,  every 100 steps or so,  until we saw some kids waiting to high-5 us. It was my cousins and my daughter again!   My husband got my picture, and high-5'd me as well. Before I knew it, we were crossing the finish line.  I had been worried about crying, but I was so happy, relieved, and proud...there were no tears.  I had done it!  I had crossed the finish line of a marathon.

This gentleman, Dean,  immediately shook hands with another guy once we were inside the finishers' corral.  He then introduced me to this guy  who was none other than Joe Moreno, the race director!  Joe immediately grabbed my hand, congratulated me, then thanked me.  He told me he was so honored that I had chosen the Quad Cities for my first marathon.  Honestly, I do not know how I managed to get through that final mile with Dean (and all the cheering and celebrating) without crying.....maybe I was dehydrated or something  (I had just finished a marathon, after all).

My official finish time was 4:33:38.  I did not make my 4:15 goal, but it truly was such a magical experience, I honestly do NOT care about those extra 18 minutes.  The entire race was wonderful, from start to finish.

I feel very fortunate.  My first-ever marathon was pretty much everything I could hope for.  I felt energetic for most of the race. I think I managed the hydration and fueling well for 26.2 miles.  No carb crashing, no feelings of quitting,  no "hitting the wall" and no regrets.  Even when I was periodically walking  during those last couple miles (and knew I could have been running), I never felt disappointed in myself.  Really, running this marathon wasn't that much harder than running a half marathon...just twice as far!

I've sat down...and I can't get back up!
post race with the husband and youngest daughter

So, could I have trained harder?  Should I have trained longer?  Would that have gotten me across the finish line faster?  Probably.   But, truth be told, I trained just as much as I wanted to.  My summer training consisted of running three days (sometimes four) every week, one of which was a long run on each of the weekends.  I did not have to sacrifice one church service to make the long runs happen since I did all of them on Saturdays (except for a couple that I did during the week if we had Saturday plans).   I simply chose to control my running, and I refused let it control me.  I have a husband and three amazing kids....I refuse to put them behind anything, including my running.  That's how it works for me.

Funny!  Boston Qualifier (not!)

I thought it was funny how it says the post-race party begins 30 minutes after the race begins.....

So, my first marathon is done.  And, guess what?  Already, I have the desire to (maybe) do another, just not any time soon.  I have two half marathons coming up in October.  Total cake walk(s) after doing 26.2.