Thursday, October 9, 2014

2014 St. George Marathon (or The Best Race of My Life!)

I'm having a hard time putting this amazing race experience into words, so I will just start with Thursday night when my leg was still feeling achy and I was icing it while getting laundry folded for the weekend, trying not to worry. I decided I would go to St. George and just see what I could do, but not get my hopes up or stress out about it. It's amazing how thinking that actually WORKED! I felt so relaxed and slept so well Thursday night! They say that's the night to get the best night's sleep so this gave a good confidence boost.

I also bought a big, 3 serving, coconut water on Thursday. I drank one glass of that before bed, then the rest of it during the day on Friday. I had been hydrating really well all week, drinking as much water and Nuun as I could. The coconut water was a new thing to me, but a friend suggested it (swore by it even) so I gave it a try. I don't love the taste, but I managed to drink it all.

My leg felt good Friday so I didn't really have to worry about that as Pete and I traveled down to St. George. We stopped in Cedar City to do some carb loading, which I took VERY seriously...

Also, more water. I actually shared that bread twist with Pete and had a delicious bowl of pasta that I saved half of for after the race.

We we got to St. George, we went strait to the race expo. The parking lot was packed! Once we got inside, it didn't seem very crowded, though, and there was no line to pick up my packet.

When I registered for the race, I paid something like $5 to add an id band so I got that along with my race number and shirt. It is really nice, I was really happy I ordered one! (It's by MyId, here's a cool video they put out) On the inside is just a number that you (or whoever finds you) enter into their website to get your medical/emergency contact information. It's really comfortable and I can totally see myself wearing this anywhere, plus it's got the St. George Marathon logo on there. Pretty cool.

We stayed with some friends in Santa Clara, who were so nice to put us up even though they were just getting back from a trip themselves! Again, I couldn't believe how NOT nervous I was and how well I slept, even though we had to get up at 3:30am! Pete dropped me off at my friend, Chris' hotel room where she gave him the key so he could go in and sleep a little more, which was really nice! We walked down to the huge line of busses together where we met up with another friend of hers before getting on and taking the looooong ride out to the start.

It was pretty cold and windy at the start line, so we spent most of our time hanging out at either the port-o-potties or the bonfires. Chris was the perfect person to hang out with because I feel like we both had the same attitude about this race. We just wanted it to be a party! We both wanted to enjoy it and be able to feel good the whole time and not worry about time. Of course, inside, I wanted a PR, but I wasn't going to hope for it or really even shoot for it - at least not for the first half.

Bonfire party time with 7800 of our best friends!!

Chris was so laid back, and declared that she was going to stay at the bonfire (well, hot coals at this point) until everyone was out of the way, and we also waited until everyone lined up at the start to make our last trip to the port-o-potties. This was such a good plan because the lines were pretty much gone by then. Once it looked like the mass of people was almost past the start, we started to make our way over, which was really nice because we didn't have a huge crowd to fight through or slow us down. Knowing the race was chip timed, we didn't feel a need to start as soon as possible.

I have to say that this was the one point in the day that I felt sad. Dissapointed even. Usually I'm really proud to be part of the running community, and I think for the most part runners are courtious and want to keep nature clean. But, as we walked to the start, the whole area was just strewn with garbage. It was ridiculous. It was like everyone just decided to leave their water bottle and foil blanket and gloves (that they were handing out which was nice!) right where they were standing. Come on guys, you're about to run a marathon, you can't walk your water bottle to the garbage can? We looked over and we saw a group of inmates getting ready to clean up this huge mess and Chris said, "That kind of makes me feel even worse." So yeah, that was sad. I hope no one reading this contributed to that...

Anyway, our plan was to run the first 3 miles (where the aid stations started) nice and easy, then we would start a rutine of running for 6 minutes then walking one. I would stick to that rutine for at least the first half, then if I felt really good, I could speed up. We both wanted to negative split the race, and especially with this race where the uphills are mostly in the first half, that means holding back as much as we could for the first half.

During those first 3 miles, we met this older man who told us that this was his 171st (or something like that) marathon and his 71st St. George Marathon! He was a fun guy to talk to. He also told us that he always picks up coins when he's out running and that he's collected somewhere in the thousands of dollors over the years! Wow! I should start watching for money more! We asked him if he had any advice for us and he said to not go out to hard and not take a popsicle 2 miles from the finish.  We were very careful to follow his advice. :)

Chris had a little app that timed our run/walk intervals and it would talk to us, which was pretty entertaining. It (she) would always say "go... faster" when we'd start running, along with periodic "faster," "slower" or "steady." Whenever it would say "faster," Chris would say, "whatever!" and one time it said that while we were passing some ladies who were like, "Tell your phone to be quiet! Doesn't she know we're on a hill!" It was pretty funny. We really did try to hold ourselves back, and it seems like every mile we'd say, "That was too fast," and kept reminding ourselves to take it easy. Especially on the downhill. Chris had to remind me that I'd have plenty of downhills to go fast on after the halfway point.

Here we are at the town of Veyo where you can see the big hill of the course, winding up to the left in the distance. We decided to walk for 3 minutes instead of 1 while we were on it. But we were ok with that. We were feeling good and wanted to keep it that way!

Here are my splits through the hill: 

1. 10:11
2. 10:01
3. 9:52
4. 9:48
5. 11:59 (bathroom break here)
6. 9:22 (getting a little too excited...)
7. 9:41
8. 12:17 (no shame in slowing waaaaay down for this big hill)

Here I am, victorious at the top of the hill! I was still with Chris and we were still plugging along with our walk/run method. Both of us were feeling good!

This walk/run method really made the miles fly by! I tried to be really good and ate either a honey stinger chew, which has caffeine, or a margarita shot blok, which has salt, every mile. But, honestly, I probably wouldn't have noticed when we finished every mile if it weren't for the mile markers with star balloons tied to them. We passed one aid station where they had cliff bars and I said, "who would want a cliff bar while running?!" Then, at maybe even the next aid station, I heard someone say, "crunchy peanut butter!" and found myself grabbing and eating half of a little cliff bar! Haha, it was really good too! I saved the other half for the next aid station. They had aid stations every 2 miles and port-o-potties every mile so that was really nice.

Here's the view from one of my next walk breaks, probably at around the half-way point, with the volcano coming into view. I said I was hoping to hit half-way at around 2:15ish and we hit it at 2:16 so we were happy with that!

Here we are right next to the volcano at about mile 14 with Snow Canyon coming into view. I was now past the half-way point so I had permission to speed up if I felt like it. Knowing that I wanted to stop at the aid station for the bathroom, feeling really good, seeing this amazing view and feeling the nice downhill, I really DID want to speed up! I pulled ahead of Chris here, but we met back up at the mile 15 aid station just in time for her next run interval. I had a volunteer slather me in sunscreen here, and I also took some Excedrin even though I was feeling really good, with only the bottoms of my feet hurting slightly, I wanted to keep feeling good! I ran with Chris for a minute, but it was another good downhill so I decided to say goodbye and let myself GO!

Here are my splits for miles 9-15:

9. 10:21
10. 10:45
11. 11:53 (this was another pretty good uphill, no big deal, slow and steady)
12. 10:34
13. 10:02
14. 10:06
15. 9:23 

After leaving Chris, I put my music in and just had a blast! I decided to keep making myself walk every mile, though I didn't time it anymore. I would either take water at the aid stations or check my phone on the even numbers, then start running again as soon as I was done. At mile 16, I sent out texts to Pete, Katie and Shannon telling them that I was feeling GOOD!

I could not believe how good I felt! It was fun waiting until the end, when I was ready to push it, to turn on my music. It really helped me speed up and keep motivated. I remember at one point Little Lion Man by Mumford and Sons (my favorite band!) came on and they say, "Weep for yourself, my man, You'll never be what is in your heart," and I thought, "Yes I will!" Then they say, "Weep Little Lion Man, You're not as brave as you were at the start," And I thought, "Yes I AM!" :) 

Let's call these the "Party Miles":

16. 9:57
17. 9:10
18. 10:15
19. 10:00
20. 9:17

I really felt so good, and the miles just kept ticking off. I was kind of waiting for the pain to come and to hit the wall, but it never really happened. I felt like I had to start focusing a little more as the time went, but nothing hurt too badly and I kept feeling happy and good. It was awesome to have so many people out cheering this time! When I ran this last time, no one really came out onto the course to cheer because of the pouring rain and I couldn't even see the scenery because it was so gray. It was all so lonely and miserable. Not this time! I also really enjoyed all the signs placed along the course. I felt really supported! I just kept wanting to look at everyone around me and yell, "This is so FUN!" I also thanked the volunteers profusely at every aid station.

I usually don't like to spend money on race pictures, but I feel like this one totally captured how I felt the whole time. I'm not sure exactly when this picture was taken, I'm guessing at mile 22 by the looks of the scenery. 

Feeling good and smiling at mile 22? What the what?!

Here are my splits for the last 6 miles - the 6 miles that I had to walk last time, that I was determined to run and enjoy this time! To be fair, 21-25 are really downhill, but I was glad I wasn't hurting too much to enjoy that, and I had a blast running down them!

21. 9:06
22. 9:39
23. 9:18
24. 9:29
25. 10:06
26. 10:11

There were a couple times, I think when I hit mile 20, and again when I hit 23 (maybe because it's easy to do the math from there) when I realized that I might be able to finish 4:30, or even go under that! I would get emotional and start to have a hard time breathing when I'd think this so I'd have to make myself relax and focus on breathing for a minute, then I'd be ok.

I was so happy that I was able to keep my pace up! Even after it flattened out for the last 2 miles, I still felt really good and like nothing was going to stop me from moving forward and hitting that 4:30!! I was Pete a few blocks from the finish line cheering for me and I was so happy that I was running strong and able to smile at him and raise my hands in the air. He ran along with me and cheered for me at a couple more spots, but I had my eye on the prize and didn't even let myself slow down! I crossed the finish line then hit stop on my watch and just could NOT believe that I saw 4:24:40!! I had started my watch a little late so I knew that wasn't exact, but I was SO happy.

Pete had been getting text updates for me and it's pretty cool to see them and watch my pace and projected time speed up!

So he knew my chip time as soon as I finished (I was about 15 minutes behind the clock) and he sent me a text that said, "4:25:30!"

I was practically in shock! :) That's a 55 minute PR for me! Unbelievable!

Chris came in about 10 minutes after me so we were both really happy and feeling great!!

It seems like we both started to feel the soreness at about the same time as we were walking to the car too! Haha I was so sore for the next few days, but it was totally worth it! I am still floating on Cloud Nine. What a perfect day. :)

Thinking back on this race, I'm so proud of how well we stuck to our plan. We wanted to take it super easy at the start, negative split the first and second halves (which I've never done), and we wanted to feel good at the end. We more than accomplished those goals!

At the start, Chris was saying how she thought she could do 4:45 if it was a good day, and I thought, "Well, she'll finish before me then." I was still just hoping to finish in under 5 hours. We hit the halfway point at 2:16 which is funny because I was kind of basing the first half on The Striders Half that I did this spring where I took it really easy and finished in 2:18. Then, I based the second half on The SLC Half that I did 2 weeks later and pushed really hard, finishing in 2:08. My finish time here was just a little faster than those two halves put together! I kind of feel like those halves are what gave me the confidence to do this race, and now I realize that they gave me so much more than that. I feel like I'm a different person than the person who ran this marathon 6 years ago. I have so much more running experience, and I also feel like I'm tougher mentally - which is a big part of the marathon - and much more confident.

Another thing that I think affected how good I felt was how rested I was. I was worried about hardly running for the 2 months leading up to this marathon, but I think I must have hit the sweet spot between getting enough miles in and good recovery!

I'm sure being really hydrated going in and fueling really well during the race helped a lot too.

Basically everything really came together for me on this race and I'm just so happy. I thought that if I had the marathon I wanted this time, I would be able to say I'm done with them. But I really don't think that's true. Now I can't wait for my next one!!

Pete and I decided to drive home that night, and look at the beautiful view we got on the drive home. Southern Utah is just stunning.

It was a tough drive home. I was so tired! But it was worth it. It was so nice to be able to sleep in and relax while the kids were at my dad's then go out to Sunday Brunch to celebrate!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Leg Update and Marathon Goals!

It's been 3 weeks since I wrote about my stress fracture. There have been a few bumps, but as of right now it's feeling good and I'm getting excited for the St. George Marathon next week! Here's what has happened:

After running 6 miles on the 6th and feeling good, I did another 6 mile on the 10th and still felt good so I got the go ahead to try 12 that Saturday (the 13th). I was super nervous about this run!

But I was also excited to get out because it had been a long time since I'd done a long run! I just took it super easy and made my way up my favorite route, City Creek Canyon. I turned around at mile 5, which is one mile up the canyon. I felt really good at this point! Yay!

It was a beautiful day and the weather was so perfectly cool. I wore my long sleeves for the entire run, but didn't feel too cold either. Since I was feeling good when I turned around at mile 5, I added a couple miles on by running up to The Avenues and I got to have this beautiful view of the city as the sun was coming up. I love my town. :)

When I started back down the canyon, my knee started hurting. I really think this is because of the slant in that road because it seems like every time I run up there lately, my knee and hip start to bother me. I don't know, but I hope that's the problem, and I hope that doesn't happen in the race!

The good news was that my stress fracture didn't really even bother me at all! It felt really good! I really took my time on this run, and it actually ended up taking me like 3 hours! Yikes! But I was happy that my leg was feeling good! On the way home I had to stop and wait for a train that had stopped on the tracks.

Two other women caught up to me while I was waiting so I ran and chatted with them the last mile. It turned out that they are also training for the St. George Marathon and they asked me if I was running my 20 miler like they were. Unfortunately, I was not, but I tried not to let that stress me out. They were at mile 11, the same as me, but they had 9 more miles to go. I hope it went well for them, and maybe I'll see them at the race!

My leg felt really good even after my run and the next day so I was feeling really good and happy! Then I went out for 6 miles Wednesday (the 17th, this is 4 days after the 12 miles). I went after I dropped George off at preschool so it was later in the day than I usually run, and it was HOT! I felt really good for the first few miles, but by the time I got home my leg was feeling really sore and I was totally worn out because of the heat! This is how many steps I took for that run... (Still loving my new toy!)

My leg was sore for the next WEEK after that 6 miles! I was feeling really discouraged. I called my doctor because I didn't feel like I should do the 17 miles I had planned on Saturday. He told me to wait until Monday or Tuesday. It was probably better that way because we had Elle's birthday party on Saturday anyway, and I had a cake to make.

Well, I was still a tiny bit sore Monday and Tuesday, plus I just didn't have time to do a long run until Thursday. So, even though that's a lot closer to the race then I would have liked, that's when I tried it out.

It's hard to believe, but I didn't take a single picture on that 17 miles! Haha. It was really nice because I started at 5am and got to run in the dark for the first couple hours. I was nervous about this, but it ended up being so nice and cool and I even wished I had started sooner when the sun started shining on me and it started getting hot. I did 3 out and backs to my house, just in case. The first two I ran up to Memory Grove, then I stopped at home to give the kids hugs before they left for school, then went out onto the parkway trail for 5 more (since that's all I had time for before Pete had to get to work) which gave me a total of 17.

I felt really good and was even able to push the pace a little bit on the last half mile! I am so happy that my leg didn't hurt and that it was just a tiny bit sore afterwards. Again, it was my knee and hip that bothered me the most and my hip was the most sore the next day. Hmmm, don't know if I can do anything about that in the next week. I'm not supposed to run at all until the race now. Scary, hu!?

St. George is in less than a week. A week from now, I will be sitting here writing the race report and hopefully it's a good one! :)

I have a list of goals that goes something like this:

a) FINISH and have a good experience
b) RUN those last 6 miles that I had to walk last time
c) Get a PR by at least beating 5:20
d) Come in under 5 hours (This is if I have a really good day, but I'm not going to stress about this!)

Stay tuned for the results next week!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

North Carolina Days 8 & 9 - Saying Goodbye

Saturday morning Katie and Brandon headed out and we headed down to the beach for one more day. This is when we saw some sting rays in the shallow water so we spent a lot of the day looking for more of them and the little fish that we saw a lot of. The girls also tried to show Ethan how to catch the crabs, but I don't think the water was at the right level to catch quite as many as the day before. But we did build some sand castles.

Played in the water, though the waves were pretty small this day.

And the kids turned me into a mermaid, which is a dream come true for me (almost)!  :)

We tried to eat up all the food we had in the house during the day, and picked up some more fried seafood and hush puppies for dinner at the drive in we at at the first night.

The next morning I went out for a walk on the beach, by myself this time, and was so happy that my leg was feeling so much better! I ended up walking 3 miles and I just didn't want to go back, it was so beautiful out there and who knows when I'm going to see the ocean again!

The wind was pushing me along on the way back and my leg was feeling really good so I ran just a tiny bit in the nice soft sand. That felt really good! But I was good and didn't run too much!

When I got back we got everything packed up and said goodbye to our house for the week. (When George talks about it he calls it "Grandpa's house by the beach." I don't think 3 year olds quite understand rental houses.)

We stopped by my grandparents' house for one more quick visit before we started the drive back to Raleigh for the flight home.

It was so great to see them!

Aren't they so cute, watching us drive away?

We stopped for lunch on the way, then got some snacks at the airport while we waited for our flight.

This time we had a lay-over so it took a lot longer to get home. It was dark by the time we left Atlanta and Elle asked me to take a picture because she thought it was so beautiful!

By the time we got home it was about 1am and we were all very glad to be back in our own city! It seemed like fall had arrived while we were gone and it felt so good to have it be nice and cool and NOT humid!

North Carolina Day 7 - Sunrise On The Beach

I finally got myself out of bed early enough to go for a walk on the beach to see the sunrise and look for signs of turtles with my dad. I think he went every morning while we were there, but you had to be up at like 4am our time (6am there) to see the sunrise and I just wasn't up for that most the time!

It was just starting to get light and the moon was still out when we started.

 We walked about a mile down and didn't see any turles, but the sunrise was beautiful!

And we did see a turtle nest site which is pretty cool even though you couldn't even tell other than by the sign and it being roped off.

Ah, it was so beautiful! I'm so glad I went!

This was Katie and Brandon's last day so we spent it at the beach again and had so much fun! I took a walk with Katie, Mindy and Elle to show them the turltle site and we also figured out how to tell where the little sand crab nests were at the edge of the water. It was kind of creepy how many we would find once we knoew where to dig! The girls filled a bucket full of them and counted 136 as they let them go!

My grandma also came down to visit us and played in the waves with us for a little while. She made a comment about how she thinks she's 15, and I just love it! She's such a great example to me of how to live your life to the fullest and stay active. I wish I had a picture of her catching waves on the boogie board!

For dinner we went to Crab Claw, which is another tradition when we go out there, and we had some delicous seafood! Of course, George was done before everyone else so I took him out for a walk on the boardwalk on the beach just outside and we found this little tiny playground at the public beach. There were just these cement turles, some bricks and a few swings, but that was good enough for George!

North Carolina Day 6 - There Be Pirates!

This was our Pirate day! We met my Grandma at the pirate museum in Beaufort.

Ok, it's actually called the Maratime Museum, but everyone was mostly excited to see all the pirate stuff. There is a big Blackbeard exhibit here because his ship, Queen Ann's Revenge, is sunk just off the coast.

I bought a really intersting book at the gift shop about The Great Age of Piracy, and come to find out a lot of the things we think about pirates are not true. Just like a lot of history, I'm coming to find out! It has been interesting reading this book, along with a book about Columbus I picked up at the library and a book about Lewis and Clark that I got for signing up for summer reading at the library.  Maybe I'm a bit of a history nerd, but it is facinating stuff to me!

After the museum, our group broke up and Pete and I took the kids to The Ruddy Duck at the Morehead City waterfront for lunch. I had been wanting to eat there again ever since our last trip when I got the most amazing fish tacos! I got them again this time, and they were still really good, but maybe didn't live up to the memory! Haha! Plus the kids were being quite crazy and we got way too much food! Oh well, maybe we'll learn someday.

After lunch, we met back up with everyone at the Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. It's kind of a tradition to go here every time we come.

Taking a picture on this turtle is becoming a new tradition too. Here's this year:

Here's the photo (OH MY GOODNESS!) from 2 years ago:

The touch tank is really cool here. We got to feel some sting rays and a little shark. We saw 2 sting rays just like these, maybe just a little smaller, at the beach in the little tide pool on our last day out!

To tie the aquarium in with our pirate theme, here's an exhibit with a replica of the remains of Queen Ann's Revenge. It would be pretty cool to go diving and see it in person.

In the evening, Katie, the girls and I all went and got pedicures! It was a first time for my girls so that was really fun, and felt really good on my poor leg after all the walking around that day.

North Carolina Day 5 - Cape Lookout

This was probably our favorite day! We headed out nice and early and rode a ferry from Harker's Island to Cape Lookout which is on one of the barrier islands off the coast.

Here's Elle on the ferry when we stopped to look at the wild horses at the Shackleford Banks island on our way out. These horses are left behind from shipwrecks and early settlers of the area. Horses are not native to the Americas, and did not live here until the Spanish came over. You can't see them very well in this picture, but Elle loves horses so she was excited to see them. Unfortunatly we didn't get to see the dolphins I was hoping to see.

Here's our veiw of the lighthouse as we were getting off the ferry. It was such a beautiful day out there too!

The dock our ferry dropped us off and picked us up on.

Closer view of the lighthouse.

The keepers house, which is a museum now.

George was not tall enough to climb the lighthouse, but Elle was very excited to see that she was! She was the only one of the kids who decided to go up with my dad, Pete and Brandon. I stayed behind and went to the beach with Katie and the kids because of my hurt leg. Elle was also given a little booklet to fill out to become a junior ranger. When she turned it in at the end, she got to pick a nice big, pretty conch shell out of the bucket they had collected and a patch so it was a pretty exciting day for her!

George and I were both sad to not get to climb the lighthouse, but we did check out the museum a little bit. This area has quite an intersting history.

And we did enjoy the beautiful views of the beach and the lighthouse.

Beach selfie!

My dad found this shell (skin?) of a horseshoe crab on the beach as soon as he joined after climbing the lighthouse.

Here's my whole lovely group.

We spent the afternoon playing in the clear water and soft sand, and looking for shells (wishing we had brought goggles!). It was so nice and so much fun!

Just me, my kids and the lighthouse.

My awesome family.

We didn't want to leave, but we had to go catch our ferry back after 3 hours on this beautiful island! (It was probably about time to get out of the sun anyway) On the way back we got a little bit of a closer view of the horses. It was so beautiful out there.