The 22 Mile Run That Wasn’t

Oh hi, remember me? It feels like it has been way too long since I have been on this side of the blog. Needless to say, this week has been absolutely crazy. Between work, coaching, finals, and trying to get my workouts in…I feel like a hamster on a revolving wheel.

Conveniently, I am also three weeks out from my next marathon, which naturally, is when the longest long run of a marathon training plan takes place. So between the aforementioned chaos, I was needing to fit in a 22 mile run somewhere this week. That day was today. Because I literally had no other day or time available to do so. Also, summer is upon us here in the midwest and afternoon highs have been in the 90’s for the majority of the week.

I continue.

Getting my run in today meant being up at 5am, greeted with a lightning show, thunder, and big, fat raindrops. I had no way of stalling my run, so I booked it to the gym to do this long run. Before I left the house, I started to download Mean Girls on my iPhone to watch while running and made sure that my iPod was charged to keep me occupied for the four hours I was to spend on the ‘mill.

The first six miles went by pretty well, despite getting a weird stomachache/barfy feeling after mile five. I continued, the next six miles were not well. Mentally, things were getting tough. I tried positive reinforcement to no avail, was sweating like a sumo wrestler on a summer day in Louisiana, and the rain was starting to clear which made me mad that I wasn’t running outside. Ultimately I just could not pull my crap together. My heart wasn’t in this.

One promise I made to myself about a year ago was this:

If there was ever a moment that I didn’t absolutely love what I was doing, then I needed to take a step back, look some things over, and remind myself of why I was doing what I was doing. 

I cranked three more miles out and was done. I wasn’t going to put myself through those other seven miles because it would have gotten me nothing and nowhere. To console my feeling of defeat, I climbed for thirty minutes on the stair master and called it a morning. My skirt was dripping sweat, my thighs had chaffed so much they were bleeding, and I needed to refresh my love of running.

Today was a combination of things that I’m well aware of– stress, not getting enough sleep, and my eating has been sub-par (for me) the past week. I also accepted the fact that I need a break. One of the first signs of over-training is not being able to complete a workout, and while I don’t believe I’m over-training, I realized I have spent the past nine months either training for marathons, maintaining mileage, or racing. I accept that I am feeling just a little burnt out. I absolutely love running, but I have to take some of the stress and pressure away, because those don’t equate to enjoying running for me.

I still love running; in fact, I’m looking forward to a trail run I’ve planned early next week…no watch, no route, no goal pace, just me and the trails. After Med City I’ll be taking near a month off of being on a consistent running schedule and I’m going to be honest, I haven’t felt a release that great in a while. My body needs the break mentally, physically and emotionally. This rest will do me good because when I start training for Chicago I want to give it all I’ve got!

Even though today was the ‘run that wasn’t,’ it was a learning experience and reality check. I must say, I’m blessed and it’s pretty amazing that I was so disappointed with ‘only running fifteen miles…’ WHO says that??

That’s when I finally got my crap together.

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Running Errands and I’m Crazy

First I just want to share something I found amusing that I did yesterday. I needed to go to the post office to ship off a package for one of my Stimulock clients, but really didn’t want to drive. I also wanted to get a run in for the morning as well. So what do I do? Combine the two, (un)naturally. I was laughing at myself as I was getting ready, thinking, “Who runs to the post office??” The package was small enough to fit in my Camelbak (I took the water pack out), I stuck my ID and credit card in, and went to literally run my errands! The stares I got at the post office were priceless, and it was really fun to run a route that I’ve never run before, I loved it! 4.25 miles later I returned home and was happy to have knocked out two birds with one stone.

Last weekend signaled the start of a large chunk of spring races that I’m doing, including four half marathons and one full marathon. I like a good challenge, and this is definitely that. Not only physically, but mentally and emotionally and not for the reasons you might imagine. People question me and my sanity daily. Not exaggerating here. Part of me wants to completely shut up about running sometimes because of how much flack I have been receiving about it lately, but we know that’s not going to happen. Terms I hear pretty regularly are: insane, crazy, obsessed, nuts, and the list continues. Please note that generally, all of these terms carry a negative connotation and I’m doing all I can to not let them bring me down.

In the broad spectrum, they won’t keep me down. But right now, it’s just a little tough. I am beginning to accept that a lot of people will not grasp and understand why I run, or why I’m so passionate about it, and I don’t need them to. Passionate people, in my opinion, are refreshing in our society which thrives on instantaneous satisfaction, all things superficial, and a constant inward gaze.

I’m a firm believer in that, if you want to get better and be the best you can be, you have to be around people who are going to challenge you and help you grow. Surround yourself with the ones you want to be like. Though I can’t physically surround myself with some people I’d like to, I draw a great deal of inspiration from them. Take Dean Karnazes for example. He ran 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days. He’s ran across America. He has competed 200-mile footraces by HIMSELF from deserts in California to the Pacific coast. A blogger I follow, SkinnyRunner, runs marathons like nobody’s business. Just this past weekend, she ran a marathon on Sunday, the Boston Marathon on Monday, and is running the Ragnar Relay later this week.

These kind of individuals motivate me to push my limits feed my desire to see what this body that I have is capable of. This weekend I’m running a half marathon on Saturday and one on Sunday, which to some may seem crazy, but to me, it is more than attainable based on where my inspiration comes from. Plus, I know where my strength comes from, and it is not my own. I often have conversations with God saying, “This is all you, because I definitely can’t do this on my own. What are you doing with me?!” Ha!

I’m also blessed that my life currently allows for such crazy adventures. I don’t have a boyfriend, I don’t have kids, I have a very flexible schedule, and my body and I work in conjunction with one another– I’m good to it, so it returns the favor and allows me to log all these miles and do what I ask of it.

In my mind, there’s nothing I can’t do. Yes, some things look big, scary and intimidating, but I’ll never know that I can overcome it if I don’t go find out. Running blesses me exponentially. It adds life to my years. It inspires me, pushes me, and fills me up. Though the negative comments might get to me and start to burn a bit, I’m going to keep going. Nothing worth having comes without a challenge. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, living life to the fullest and loving every minute of it, hopefully inspiring and motivating many along the way.

This is a journey, and I’m on a constant pursuit to see where my limits are, and then push past them.

Another Marathon, Another State

If you’ve been reading my blog for any more than three months, you might recall that I made a goal this year to run four marathons in four different states. I already checked Arkansas off of that list when I ran Little Rock last month (seems like it was forever ago!), and my next marathon wasn’t going to be until September in Omaha.

This is where God cracks me up. When I think I have a plan of action, He’s all like, “Hold up sister! I have a different plan; yes you’re still gonna do your marathons, but here…do it my way instead.” I’m going with it.

In this instance, I have a special friend who’s best friend is getting married the weekend of the Omaha marathon in September, and said special friend’s 30th birthday is the day after the marathon–so it wasn’t going to happen, per request of the special friend. I made him a deal. I go to the wedding, he goes with me to a marathon.

I’ve known this for nearly a month now and have been scouring Runner’s World and Marathon Guide for a new marathon to run in place of Omaha. A few caught my eye, but I had a pretty tight criteria this time for potential races:

  • Distance: the race had to be within reasonable driving distance (no more than a 10 hour commute)
  • Location: if it was a summer marathon, I would travel anywhere north of Kansas, no where south
  • Date: I wanted a race in September, but that didn’t happen…
  • Budget: the race couldn’t break my wallet (read: no Rock ‘n Roll races with $110+ entry fees)

Basically, I searched a lot, from hotel availabilities, to races, locations, you name it. A race caught my eye up in Minnesota, the Med City Marathon, and I thought on it, but passed. It is on Memorial Weekend which is now right around eight weeks away and wasn’t sure I’d want to do a marathon after this slew of halfs I’m doing over the next five weeks.

Let me take you to Wednesday morning. It was 6:30am and I didn’t want to get out of bed yet, so I was checking blogs, the weather, Twitter and finally Facebook. The Med City Marathon posted a status, and this happened:

So Omaha is scratched, and Med City is in. I’m running another marathon in less than two months. I’m running another marathon in less than two months??

Despite how weird, far fetched and near impossible our goals can sometimes seem, makes them all the more amazing when God pulls em through for you. Then He’s like, “Here, take just a little more, I want you to have the best. These dreams are going to happen…show it off a little bit!” Because I’ve also found a trail marathon in Wisconsin in September that would be the perfect final long training run before Chicago. So maybe five marathons in five states this year? Who knows.

All I know is that I’m totally loving this life and rocking out to it; how life should be lived…full and blessed.

Funplanned Weekend

Like that? Fun + unplanned = funplanned weekend.

The more I have been running, the larger my circle of running contacts and friends has grown. For example, on Thursday, a friend who I know from coaching in Girls on the Run posted on my Facebook wall asking if I was running a local race called Brew to Brew, because she knew a team who needed more runners. A few messages, emails and texts later, Friday it was decided that I’d be joining a team to run the 44.4 mile relay from Kansas City to Lawrence on Sunday (yesterday)!

I knew of Brew to Brew because I had some other friends running it, but had no clue of what it would be like. The team that I was joining was also with people I had never met in my life. Old Kelsey would never have been down for this type of adventure, but new, more relaxed and fun-loving Kelsey was pretty pumped!

First, a little about the race. Like I said, Brew to Brew is a race to benefit cystic fibrosis and starts in Kansas City at the Boulevard Brewery and takes a 44.4 mile route of backroads, some highways, and dirt/gravel roads to the Free State Brewery in Lawrence, KS. It has 10 legs of the race, and composed of mostly teams of 2-10 runners, while yesterday there were 70 runners that took it on as a solo adventure! Each team is allowed a team vehicle (we saw vans, RVs, trucks) to carry supplies and runners. How it works is the team vehicle drops their runner at the first leg and drives to the second leg, then picks up the first runner while the second runner is going, then drives to the third leg, and so on. Each exchange had portapotties, fuel, and people drinking beer and playing frisbee while waiting for their runners. It was called Brew to Brew, after all!

We started the morning by meeting at the lovely Lara’s house at 7am (that was rough) to load up and head to the Boulevard Brewery to drop off our first runner

Our team was the Punky Brewsters!

Our ‘baton’ was the decorated bra, it was hilarious!

Then it was time to send off the first runners from KC

And hopped in the Expedition to head to the exchange!

Thankfully, our team was able to have 9 runners and everyone did a leg, and we skipped the 9th leg because it was hot and no one wanted or needed to run it. The ones who ran earlier in the day were lucky because it got HOT later in the morning and into the afternoon.

We would drop off a runner for their leg, hang around for a little bit, then load the truck up and drive to the next leg. Everyone was having fun and we weren’t doing the race for a time, so it really was just about enjoying the day.

My team was so much fun and I’m so happy I got to be with them, of all people! Yeah, it felt a little weird meeting them all at 7am not knowing a single one, except that they were a friend of a friend’s friend, but we bonded throughout the day and ended up having a blast.

I was assigned the final leg of the race– 4.7 miles along the levee to the finish line. There was no parking at this exchange so my team literally had to drop me and leave…off I went!

My portion of the race was flat, but I didn’t start running until 2:30pm and by then the temperature had reached 90 degrees. The 4.7 miles was along some farm land on a gravel road (which I loved, it wasn’t easy but I loved it) with the sun beating down on us due to no trees within 150 feet of the road. The scenery was a part of Kansas I hadn’t seen before, though it was hot, the bright colors of the farm and the blueness of the sky made me thankful for that moment because it was so beautiful. Here’s a picture from a blog I found that is along the exact trail I ran:

But it was so hot–that was the stinker! There were no mile markers, I had no idea how far I had ran or how long I had left to go, and the trail was a straightaway with no changing scenery until we came upon some houses and I knew I had to be getting closer to town. Hands down the hardest 4.7 miles of my life!

Eventually I saw a familiar face– one of my teammates! He had a beer in hand and told me the finish line was right around the corner, and he booked it with me, beer in hand, to the finish! A few other teammates joined for a few strides to cheer me to the finish line.

Oh and that skirt…that’s the first and last time I’ll ever be wearing that thing to run it. Yes it’s cute, but the WORST for running in; I wanted to rip it off no less than 5 times during my leg of the race.

That’s beside the point, but we finished! I have no idea how long it took, but I would do this race again in a heartbeat. I’m so glad I joined the Punky Brewsters, it reminded me how much fun it’s possible to have while doing a run, I loved it! I’m really already looking forward to next year–I’d love to make this race an annual thing!

Life is short, when given an opportunity it is best to just go for it and enjoy every minute!

I also inadvertently got a head start on my summer tan…clearly not enough sunscreen could have saved me. Boo. Ya.

Have a good Monday my friends, also…here’s to hoping the Hawks win it all tonight!

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Dumping In

Yes, you read that right! I’m not dropping in, I’m dumping in because I haven’t posted in what seems like forever. Let’s see if I can remember what all has happened!

First, last Thursday was my awesome mom’s birthday!

Upon her return from vacation in Colorado, I made her a super delicious chocolate cake from scratch with cream cheese frosting (her request), and crushed up mint Oreos on the sides. Boxed chocolate cake will never stand a chance in my family again after this masterpiece!

It’s a good thing that I can bake because I am sure not a good photographer. It’s also a good thing that I run because if not, I would stay home baking and eating my life away.

My St. Patrick’s day began with a 12-mile run with my friend Jen, remember her from Tulsa?

She is like the sweetest girl ever and is running her first half marathon in 3.5 weeks! I would be lying if I said the run didn’t get my out of my comfort zone…for once I didn’t map out the course, didn’t know where we were going, and had no clue of what our course would be like, Jen did all the steering for this one! The hills made me a little mad and I think it’s just because I wasn’t mentally prepared for them, and where we ran was hillllllly. BUT it was good for me to have a challenge and take the backseat for a change.

After that I spent the rest of the day in downtown Kansas City with some awesome friends and Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean. Lots of people don’t know that I am huge country fan and needless to say I was in heaven at the concert. Sighhhhhh. Plus, Luke and Jason are two artists who sound better live than on recordings in my opinion, which is rare and totally great to find!

It was sold out, loud, and SO MUCH FUN!

Sunday was back to real life which included some rest, because Saturday night at the concert I was yawning at 10:30pm, and Sunday night was IN bed around 10pm, which is relatively early for me. Good thing I got some rest though because Monday I had the best run everrrrrr!

Well, best run to date everrrrrrr! I was up at 5:30am (unusual for me), and decided to hit the treadmill at the gym for a speed session. I wasn’t sure how my legs would do after two back to back double digit runs (again, unusual for me) but wanted to give it a go anyways! I didn’t have an exact plan for the run, except that I wanted to listen to my body and run at a slightly uncomfortable fast pace. I did a two mile warm-up at a 10:30 pace, then started creeping the speed up. I held miles 3-5 at a 9:30-9:40 pace, and ran the last half mile at an 8:34 pace which is something I have NEVER done before.

This is silly, but it bothered me a little that I could see the upper half of my reflection in the window because I was getting really self conscious about my stride and form, worrying that it looked bad or off, but just kept along. The last half mile I took out one of my earbuds from my iPod to listen to my breathing and I could really feel my heart rate being pushed, and my breathing was hard to control. I completed 5.5 miles, and after my cool down as I was leaving, a lady who had been lifting (and watching me apparently) asked how far I went. I told her, then she told me that I have an awesome gait and running form, and that she could tell I was a runner! I cannot express how stinking happy this made me, because that whole time I was worrying about looking stupid and have worked so hard on my form over time to make it the best I can. We talked for a while and I made a new friend! Leslie, you have no idea how stupidly happy your compliment made me!

I hope that you are having a great week of workouts so far! I’m looking forward to another weekend of back to back double digit runs and maybe even getting to run in the rain! The half marathon madness begins in 3.5 weeks and here’s to getting faster! Have a FANTASTIC week!

Little Rock Marathon

Let me preface this by saying you are in for a LONG post.

Friday night I did eventually get my stuff packed for the weekend and slept terribly. I woke up at 5:30am on Saturday to shower, finish packing and hit the road with my mom and aunt to Little Rock, Arkansas. We wanted to find a Cracker Barrel to have breakfast at, but unfortunately the route we took only lead us through countrysides of Missouri, even gas stations being hard to come by.

Eventually we were all getting hangry and pulled off a random road that looked civilized and ran into this little gem, Mary Dean’s Diner. I’m not usually one for ‘diner’ food, but we were all so hungry and the food was awesome. This was a small town diner for small town people, and it was adorable.

When was the last time you saw food this cheap? How about pretty close to never.

With full bellies, we hopped right back on the road en route to Little Rock. We made great time and actually got into town before we could even check into the hotel, so we made our way right to the expo.

The weather was absolutely perfect and after sitting in the car for 7+ hours it was great to be able to walk around. Most race expos are pretty much the same from what I’ve found, Little Rock’s was very organized, had great vendors, and I really liked that they had more unique event merchandise for sale than other races.

I ran into some local running friends, and it was nice to see familiar faces in an unfamiliar place! The expos are usually when I start to get excited about the race, but my nerves were surprisingly absent even at the expo.

After picking up my packet, I reunited with my mom and aunt who had been meandering, and I told them that Bart Yasso was at the expo and I really wanted a picture with him. He designed a workout that many runners and marathoners incorporate into their training plans called Yasso 800’s, he is the chief running officer at Runner’s World Magazine, an author and of course, a seasoned runner. Needless to say I totally geeked out and got to talk to him for a short while, and soaked in every bit of advice he gave me for Sunday’s race.

He also told us he was announcing names at the finish line of the race, and I think I was looking more forward to him announcing my name than finishing the actual marathon!

We got checked into our hotel and hung out for a little bit before we all agreed we were hungry for dinner at 5:30pm. Being the prepared person I am, I had researched restaurants in advance and we went to Big Orange for gourmet burgers. I am pretty cautious about what I eat the night before a race and ended up getting the blacked tilapia ‘burgerwich’ which was so delicious. My mom was just happy that she got to watch college basketball. Easy to please, I tell ya.

After dinner we went back to the hotel and I couldn’t stop yawning. Nerves had sort of set in for the race yet and road trips make me feel super greasy and gross, so I stood in the shower for about half an hour to help relax. I wasn’t near as nervous for this race as I was my first one, it was strange. I didn’t miss my stomach flopping around but my energy levels still weren’t ‘there.’ I hopped in bed and proceeded to watch college basketball which I think is a great way to spend the night before the race.

I didn’t even make it to half time. I can’t remember the last time I fell asleep before 10pm, but Saturday night was a new record for me. But because my body has gotten used to an average of 6 hours of sleep per night, I was up at 3:30am ready to race. Too bad we weren’t leaving the hotel until nearly three hours later! I was up and down until my alarm went off around 5:15am.

Generally, you’re not supposed to try anything new (food, clothes, etc.) the day of a race and I’m also not usually one for energy drinks, but I did do an 18 mile training run after two iced coffees and the run went great, so before the trip I picked up a low-carb Monster and drank about a third of it with my breakfast of egg whites, Ezekiel bread and water.

Finally, excitement hit me! Maybe a little of it was the caffeine too, but I skipped out of the bathroom just before 6am on Sunday and was ready to rock! ‘I’m gonna run a marathon today!!!’ I was excited to run 26.2 miles. What?? Crazy crazy crazy.

More than anything, I was excited and thankful to be able to run this marathon, because a couple of weeks ago I was sad and mopey, thinking that this marathon could potentially not happen for me this year.

We packed up all of our stuff because we weren’t coming back to the hotel, said our ritual pre-race group prayer, and were on our way to the race!

Little Rock greeted us with a perfectly beautiful and crisp race morning!

Before anything happened, I had to take care of business. Yet another pre-race ritual, visit the porta-potties at least two times before the race, even if you don’t have to go.

Then stand around and wait for the race to start

and talk to other runners and make new friends with them while standing around

Then get in your start corral and stand around and wait some more.

Okay, enough with the waiting. One of the things that blew me away with Arkansas and the community of Little Rock is how FRIENDLY and NICE people are!! Plus their accents, oh man did I love their accents. This race was bigger than Tulsa which I really liked, and the people we so awesome. I talked to probably seven or eight new people consistently before the race started, which doesn’t seem to happen frequently in races I’ve done.

After all of the waiting, it was finally time to start the race! I didn’t have a specific time goal in mind, but I situated myself right behind the 5:10 pacers. Honestly, I did much less mental preparation for this race than I have for any other race in the past. All I did was remind myself why I was running this race and to fully enjoy it, and with the sign on my back I hoped to encourage other runners as well.

Bart had told me that the first half of the race was deceivingly fast, and he was right. It was flat with a few rolling hills, and I did start out faster than I should have, but not so fast that I wouldn’t have enough energy for the tail end of the race. Since I almost always run by ‘feel’ anyways, that’s what I did. I set into a comfortable pace and just kept along. From mile one, people were reading and commenting on my shirt, I got many congratulations on the surgery, people telling me I was an inspiration, and others agreeing on how great God is.

At first, I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to some of the comments, but I just made sure that I encouraged every person who was encouraging me. Whether it be talking with them for portions of the race, to telling them that they were amazing for being out running a marathon, I made it a goal to consistently build others up.

The course started in downtown Little Rock, going over bridges and up and down baby hills, with great crowd support the whole entire time.

I loved running over the Arkansas River on that bridge, but maybe because it was a decline?

Before I knew it, we were already past five miles. I hadn’t run more than five miles in the past two weeks, and bad thoughts tried to creep in my head but I left those in the dust.

My mom and aunt were staked out between miles 8 and 9, which also happened to be the location of the first semi-vertical uphill of the race

I was also talking to my mom while running and she managed to capture this hilarious beauty of a photo. Apparently running hills makes your hamstrings stick out more than normal. Sigh.

Now is where I talk solely about the race. This point was be the last I saw my mom and aunt until the finish line, because the course was so spread out.

The first eight miles of the race truly did fly by, they felt like nothing which is quite unusual for me. I was still hanging close with the 5:10 pacers and met a couple of ladies in that group who were running their first marathon. It was so fun getting to cheer them on while we were running, all the way up to the finish line. After we ran through downtown, we hit more residential parts of Arkansas, and eventually the state capitol and the governor’s house, and the governor of Arkansas himself was out cheering on all the runners.

Oh, and for the first time ever, I hit up the porta-potty during a race. I couldn’t imagine running any further without stopping (especially with my kidney issue), and felt SO much better afterwards. I had always been nervous about having to go to the bathroom during a race, but I had to overcome my fear. It took less than a minute and I was back on the course, but by this time I was well separate from my pace group.

The area where the capitol is located was absolutely beautiful. We continued on residential areas and again, the course support was amazing. You could tell that the marathon is a big deal in Arkansas because many of the houses we passed had music playing out of speakers from their porch, and many families were out tailgating, I’m not kidding! There was one house with people who had tables set up of champagne and orange juice for mimosas, bloody mary mix and vodka for bloody mary’s, AND they were grilling right there on the side of the course. If you ask me that is just plain rude to be having a good time and grilling out while thousands of runners pass by with over ten miles to finish a race 🙂

For every group of tailgaters, there was also a group of church people! Many of them couldn’t have service Sunday morning because the course ran right along where their church was located and the roads were closed, so they still had their congregations our cheering us on with pom-poms, cowbells and gospel choirs. This was the south, after all!

The miles came, some seemed longer than others. Miles 11-15 really dragged on for some reason. Oh wait, I know why…this was probably the hilliest portion of the race. The race course had started to lead us into some winding back roads of Arkansas, and winding back roads in Arkansas means there are hills. None of the climbs were particularly steep, but they lasted forrrrreverrrrrr. I was also waiting for this ‘dreaded downhill’ I had been warned of on the course elevation chart and also by Mr. Yasso around mile 16. I took my first real walk break up the hill at mile 14 or 15, I can’t remember which one it was, but I needed to walk. That hill was kicking my butt.

Then there were more hills, again, not steep, but winding and long and I was convinced I would never see a downhill. Turns out the real downhill didn’t happen until mile 17, and Bart warned me to not go down it too fast because it would kill my quads and I would be hurting for the rest of the race. I did exactly what he advised in adjusting my form, but still, halfway down, I felt every step in my quads. Man oh man, did I feel it.

Despite this challenge, this was a very enjoyable section of the course. We were on winding roads lined with tall pines, it reminded me of Oregon. I was also by myself for a small section which reminded me of the trails I run on here at home and I loved it, the beauty and serenity were perfect.

From the course map, I was prepared for a long out and back section from about mile 19-22 and good grief, those were the longest three miles of my LIFE! It was some flat, back country Arkansas road, and pain was really setting in. I don’t feel that I ever quite ‘hit the wall’ but this was definitely a challenging part of the race. Seeing all the people that were on the back portion, at miles 21-22 wasn’t encouraging either because they were closer to being done than I was. Then there was the headwind, that was just fantastic. Actually, it was kind of nice because the road was shaded from the hill and the wind was keeping me cool, but the back portion was the exact opposite.

We hit the mile 20 marker which thankfully had a DJ playing great tunes and were coming up on the actual turn around, shortly followed by an aid station. The back portion of this loop was hard. The sun was really getting to me at this point, my face was sun burnt and wind burnt, and my lips were raw. Being mentally tough at this portion of the race was crucial, and after we passed mile 21, I began to feel encouraged. One of my favorite distances to run is five miles, it’s just perfect for me. A lady who I was taking turns passing since mile 17 met up with me and we hung together until near the end of the race.

We shared running chatter, walk breaks, and encouragement. She was wanting to run a sub-5:18 but wasn’t sure if she would be able to make it. Misery really does love company, especially during a marathon. At this point, a lady was talking to me about the surgery and we passed an older man who yelled out, asking about my surgery. I slowed down to talk with him and he snarkily said, “So why are you running?” and all I could think of, was, “To see if I could do it.” His comment hit me, not in a bad way, but I’ll elaborate on that later.

The lady I had been running, walking, and talking with was walking more than I wanted to. I knew I needed to run and get to the finish line, especially with just four miles left, so I wished her luck and continued on. She told me to “Get after it girl!” and that was just the push of motivation I needed.

At this point, I was surprised I was still moving forward. My face and arms were burning, my body ached, and I couldn’t feel my legs. With three-ish miles left we encountered another hill. How cruel! I ran up 85% of it, walked to the crest, then picked up my pace again. To see another hill. We couldn’t catch a break!

One lady who I passed was reading my shirt and said, “You had surgery 18 days ago…but you’re running too fast we can’t read the rest!” This made me smile and pushed me up that last, painful hill with a mile left to go. There were more aid stations in the last 4 miles than in the first 8 miles but I flew by them all because I wanted to get to the finish and to hear Bart Yasso say my name. On the way to the finish I passed a lady who I had been running with in the pace group and I shouted, “You’re about to finish your first marathon!!!!!!” There is nothing like that feeling of finishing your first.

I knew I was going to beat my time in Tulsa and pumped my not-little legs all the way until the end. I almost teared up a little bit, but that feeling was overcome with sheer joy and happiness.

I think I gave my mom this thumbs up as a sign that I wasn’t going to totally pass out.

The only way to describe how I was feeling at this point was that my heart was completely full. I was so stinking happy, and still am.

To me, running this race was completely about being thankful that I serve a God who can overcome anything and everything, every challenge, adversity, whatever it may be. God seriously proved himself to me and I know the overwhelming joy I am experiencing is all from Him.

I faced a lot of questions and criticism leading up to this race, people not sure that I could do it, not sure that it would be safe, and doubting my ability to complete this. I had really felt down and about about my decision to try and finish the marathon. However, I knew that if I didn’t at least go to Little Rock and try, there’s no way I would have been able to live with myself. Not trying and having that faith is worse than trying and not finishing.

I also must say that I did not finish this race by my own ability. I even told other people on the course this, when they told me I was amazing, I told them, “No, God is amazing. I’m not the one doing this,” and that’s how I want my life to be. It’s not by my strength, might, or power, but by His.

This post cannot justify or describe the feelings I have. Like I said, my heart is so full, it’s just bursting! Never did I imagine that it’s possible to feel this strongly about something in my life. Just by running this marathon, my faith has grown past what I thought it could be, my heart has grown, and I have no doubt that the sky is the limit when it comes to anything.

No words…that’s the best way to describe it! I cannot fully express in words the immense joy I am experiencing from this!

As soon as we got in the car to start heading home, I said, “I wanna do that again!” No joke. I’m wishing there was another marathon I could do sooner than later! This was just another step in my journey and I cannot wait to see what lies ahead!

As long as I can have Cracker Barrel wherever this journey takes me. Ha!

Pre-Marathon Prep

Cue butterflies in my stomach and sweaty palms…marathon weekend is nearly here! I’m telling you, this feeling could never get old, and I hope it doesn’t. The anticipation, culmination of training, travel prep, visualizing myself at the starting line, everything…I love it.

Before my first marathon, I had never traveled for a race other than the half marathon I ran in Texas, but even then, I stayed with my brother and was still in my comfort zone.

Here’s a look at some things you may not think about that go into a travel weekend for a marathon:

  1. Registering for the race. Obviously, this is important. The earlier you register for a race, the cheaper it is. I specifically waited to register for Little Rock at the Route 66 race expo because I knew they were having a booth there, and you typically get a lower rate and occasionally some free stuff for registering on the spot.
  2. Book a hotel. Unless you know someone living in the city you’re traveling to, it’s nice to book a bed to sleep in the night before running a race of any distance. Most races have host or affiliate hotels. I booked our hotel room back in December, and it is an affiliate hotel of the race and offers free shuttle rides to and from the start and finish lines on race day–this is HUGE! It is a plus to not have to worry about parking near the race, etc.
  3. CHECK THE WEATHER. Oh goodness, it baffles me at how many runners don’t look at the weather on a daily basis or especially when traveling. As soon as the 10-day forecast is within ten days of the race, you better believe I’m watching it like a hawk. Even on race morning in Tulsa, I stumbled downstairs in the hotel at 5:45am to step outside and check the weather for the race. So far, Sunday is looking might fine in Arkansas! 
  4. Make a list of the stuff you need to pack. Yes, I have to write down EVERY thing I need, otherwise I will not pack it. If it is not on the list, I will forget it and be without a sports bra or socks on race morning. I like to avoid serious public humiliation at all costs. Don’t worry, that’s not my whole list. Oh yes, and this is a trip that will last a whole two days. I pack less when I go on week-long trips.
  5. For runners, find out where you want to eat before you get to your destination, especially if it’s some place you’re not familiar with. It is advised to runners to ‘not try anything new’ the night before or day of a race, so you wouldn’t want to end up somewhere that only has Man vs. Food portion sizes of food you’ve never eaten before…or maybe you would. Different strokes for different folks.
  6. Confirm your hotel reservation! This is VERY important, and it’s also a good opportunity to ask any questions to the staff that you may be concerned about. I called our hotel earlier this week and was wanting to know when late checkout was, which is 2pm. This is good to know for slow-pokes like me, plus the time getting from the finish line back to the hotel (via shuttles) would not ensure us back at the hotel by 2pm, so we had to make alternative plans. You know what that means right? I don’t get to shower after the race…hahahaha! I seriously think this is hilarious, and if you saw my whole packing list, you would understand why ‘baby wipes’ were on there.
  7. Write out directions. I know this is old school, but GPS’s cannot be trusted. This is said entirely from first hand experience and a girl whose family is notoriously nicknamed the “Wrongways.” Just know where you’re going!

I am sure I could think of 100 more things to add to this list, but this handful of steps help make any race experience more enjoyable, especially when traveling. I am not typically an anal person, but when it comes to racing weekends, I like having a plan, sticking to it, and being able to fully enjoy myself sans stress.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting about packing for a marathon, and stuff you may not think you’d need but actually do, stay tuned! I’m going to go have sweet dreams about the frozen yogurt I’ll be enjoying with my best friend tomorrow night, because a good race deserves a froyo send off 🙂