Thursday, March 31, 2011


I am worthless.

I have one thing on my mind.

No. Not the one thing Ryan wishes I always had on my mind.

Usually my mind is filled with a bazillion different ideas per second. But lately it is a one track, broken record and it is saying:Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And I still have over 2weeks!

I apologize to all my friends, family, acquaintances, neighbors, the cashier at Publix, Beau's teacher last year, and other random strangers in advance for how annoying I have been and  more than likely will continue to be. I am sorry that no matter what you say, what your problem is, what your question is I am almost 100% certain that somehow I will find a way to work into the conversation that me? I'm going to Boston.  You know, to run a marathon.

I think I might be a little excited.

I know I have been annoying my friend I am staying with in Boston all week with a bazillion facebook questions. I tried to hold out as long as possible before I started bothering Allison but 3 1/2 weeks out was as long as I made it. I made it a few days longer before I started pestering Lisa, my sister's college roommate, who also lives in Boston, and starting forming plans with her and her husband.

Today I called my sister 3 times at work before she finally called me back so I could tell her all the plans I was making.  Sure I am seeing her Saturday to go to the Band of Horses concert but I couldn't wait. I had to tell her today!!!

Oh, by the way, Pookie is coming with me to Boston! No, I don't think she is excited as I am. After I told her the plans I've made I asked her if she could do my hair before we go. I explained that I need to be blonder. For Boston. Marathon Barbie goes to Boston. (I look nothing like Barbie, I know. Pookie just calls me that. I think she is trying to be mean but I love it.) And there is reason to the blond madness. Right before I ran 3:29 at my nemesis race (aka Georgia Marathon) in 2009 she made me ridiculous blond. I was Malibu blond. And I think being blonder might make me faster. I haven't run under 3:30 since and I haven't been that blond. Related? I think so. Definitely.

This is me and Pookie at the Inman park parade last year. I am not Malibu blond there but am wearing the bridesmaid dress that she wore in my wedding and she is wearing the bridesmaid dress I wore in hers.They didn't look like that for the weddings. She cut them up and made them into woodland fairy dresses because what else do you do with bridesmaid dresses? Wear them for the Boston marathon?
BostonBostonBostonBostonBostonBostonBostonBostonBostonBostonBostonBostonBoston. ....

Tuesday I told Ryan the other night about the arrangements I was making for the kids after school while I would be in Boston. What food I was thinking about making and freezing for them to eat while I was gone. And that I arranged for someone else to drive the ballet carpool. And did he want me to take MARTA to the airport? And after listening for me going on for about 5 minutes he said, Wait, you aren't leaving for  3 weeks right?
Right . Saturday April 16th.
Okay well, we can talk about it then.
BostonBoston BostonBostonBostonBostonBostonBostonBostonBostonBoston

And then there was my friend who asked me if  her daughter could stay with us for a few days while she goes out of town. She told me the date and I was like: Well, let me think. I am leaving for Boston in week from then.. .  I think I can do it. I'll just have a lot of packing to do for my 4 day trip. Yeah, okay. But just let  her know that I'll be really busy getting ready for Boston.

I think the best might be that I emailed Brooks. You know the running company.
To see if they had anymore "Run Happy" hats because I have worn mine to pieces and I really really really wanted to wear a Run Happy hat for the Boston marathon. That I will be running. I even stipulated this year in the email. And in case they weren't sure exactly when the Boston marathon was, I included the date. April 18th. They emailed me back and told me there were no more Run Happy hats but I might like their Shamrock hat. No. I would not. It is white and green. My outfit will blue, white, and black to match my Adrenalines. Duh.

I am dying to find out what the weather will be like so I can start packing already! This is like waiting for Santa Claus!! I've been good. And I've been training (despite stupid injuries) and I.just.can't.wait!! BostonBostonBostonBostonBostonBostonBostonBostonBostonBostonBoston....

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Why I am not thin

Exhibit A: Homemade Mac n cheese:

Exhibit B: BBQ pork roast. To be shredded after 6 hours of slow cooking.

That's dinner tonight. Pretty sure the 10 miles I ran this morning aren't going to touch the caloric powerhouse of a BBQ sandwich and a helping of mac and cheese. There will be sweet potatoes. Maybe some broccoli too.

Anyway, in case you don't want to be thin either here are my recipes:
Homemade Mac n cheese:
Box of elbow noodles
2 cups+ of shredded sharp cheese
1/2 cup+ of skim milk
2 tbsp of butter
2 tbsp of  flour
1/2 tsp of yellow mustard
garlic powder
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs

Boil noodles al dente. Set aside. In sauce pan melt butter with flour over med heat. Add some salt, pepper and garlic powder. Whisk together so clumpy. Add mustard and milk. You may need more milk. Whisk it all together until it starts to thicken. Add in cheddar cheese--reserve a little cheese for top. Whisk with milk mixture over low heat until thicken. If too thick add a little more milk. Mix in noodles until all are covered with cheese sauce. Pour cheesey noodles into a greased dish that can go in the oven. Mix in another bowl reserved cheddar with the Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Spread over top of cheese noodles until covered. Bake immediately at 325 until bubbly or you can cover and freeze (or refrigerate for later in the day).

Pork Sandwiches:
If you want to make the pork roast I use a leaner cut of pork like shoulder but you can do this with Boston Butt--it will taste better but it will have more fat.
Salt and pepper with red and black pepper pork roast. Sprinkle a little garlic powder too.
Sear all sides of the roast in a skillet with olive oil.
Drain oil.
In a crock pot pour 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce. I like Williams Brother's Original BBQ Sauce. Add couple of dashes of tabasco, 2 tbsp of vinegar, and a squeeze of lemon juice if you have it. Put roast in crockpot turn a few times in the sauce. Cook on high for about an hour. Flip roast and then switch it to low for about four or five more hours. Shred and serve on toasted buns with more sauce.

I don't know. Maybe I'll ride the trainer. Maybe then I can have a little extra mac n cheese. Mmm. Mac n cheese.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I've Got Soul but I'm Not a Soldier : 2010 Soldier Marathon Race Report.

Marathon #12.

I started writing this recap shortly after the race but never got around to finishing it when life got busy, overwhelming and I got lazy and down on myself. Excuses; I just hate how easy they are.
But enough is enough.  I have done a write up for every marathon I have run. Seems wrong to not give thought and words to what has become one of my favorite marathons thus far.So . . .
On Saturday, November 13th--Veteran's weekend-- 2010 I ran the Inaugural Soldier's Marathon in Columbus, Ga. For those that don't want to read all the details let me just say that this is one of my most favorite marathons I have ever run. If you are looking for a small race in Georgia to run a pr this would be your race.
Here are the Cliff Notes:
45th out of 356 finishers.
6th female out of 103 other awesome women.
1st in the 35-39 age group
Finished in 3:31:07.

So yeah. I know, there is nothing really spectacular about any of that.
No prize money.
No shiny new PR.

But finishing this marathon felt better than any other race. Yet. (Playing the optimist here that things, that life might get even shinier, even prettier.)

Believe me, I know that running isn't magical. I know it is just one foot in front of the other a little bit faster than when you walk, but as I've said before running is the thing that I do. And running, it is the the thing that saves me. There is not a doubt in my mind that running is my Ritalin. I use to think that I outgrew my ADHD but recently, it occurred to me, that at the same time I decided to stop taking Ritalin was the exact same time I started running: in graduate school.  Huh. So yes. I am self medicating. But is that a bad thing?

No. It isn't at all --at least not until you get injured and can't run as much as you need to keep you on the straight side of crooked.Then it does become a bit of a problem. And all I can say is thank goodness I don't have to go school or have a job that requires a lot of focus.

For over a year I have really struggled with injury after injury and through illness (soul sucking sinus infections) and asthma  that kept throwing all my running efforts off. Come on, you know the song: I get knocked down, but I get up again, I get knocked down, but I get back up down again. Pissing the night away....You're never gonna keep me down. . .

Yeah so, it has all been pretty depressing and  I have not seen any success: just lots of backsliding. Now, I am an adult and I know by this point in my life that just because you try really really hard and wish really really hard for something to happen, it still might not happen. So I've tried to make the best of whatever running will give me.

This summer I went back to running 30-40 miles a week and just rode my bike and swam and enjoyed the summer. I had my eyes on a fall marathon and thought, hoped that by August, when the kids went back to school, I could hammer out some miles, train hard and run a fantastic fall marathon with a big fat shiny PR and be able to say: NAT IS BACK!!!

In September I signed up and committed to the Soldier marathon. I was slogging through the 90 degrees and hellacious humidity and doing my miles. By the end of September I was right on track and ran a peak 60 miles for the week. And then injury struck. Exactly 6 weeks out from my fall marathon.

I was very worried that I had a pelvic stress fracture.  It hurt every time I ran. For two weeks I dialed my running way back and rode my bike--a lot-- went to yoga, strength trained and cried. A lot. Or, rather, I cried every time I ran. Not because of pain but because I felt so defeated. So frustrated that the one thing I wanted to do I couldn't do.I could do everything else pain free but I couldn't run any significant distance pain free.

With my diligence in cross training, strength training, yoga and, dear Lord, foam rolling--it started to get better. I decided since it was getting better, not worse, and only was a problem when running -- and since I could still run some-- and it was getting slowly better that it most likely was NOT a stress fracture. My best guess is that it was weakness or some sort of tendinitis/inflammation in my priformis or glute muscles. The sciatic nerve was involved since I would feel at different times: weakness, shooting pain, tightness or tingling all down the back of my right leg, in my right hip, groin, glute and even into my foot. So I maintained my cross training with the bike, yoga and weights and  I started building back the running miles. I managed to have a 50 mile week with a 23 mile run 3 weeks out. My hip still wasn't 100% but each week it got a little better. So I decided to taper and try for the marathon.

On a trail recovery run, just a little 5 mile run, two weeks out I rolled my ankle on a rock. That caused my left Achilles to flare up. Not such a big deal since I was tapering but it was weak and sore and now talking back to me. This was pretty frustrating since I haven't had my Achilles give me issue since last Feb and now I had issues on my left side as well as what I had going on with my right hip. But,  I consoled myself, by  remembering that I've run several marathons with my Achilles less than perfect. It just means babying it, warming it up and starting out cautiously. The hip though. . .

I knew, despite a bit of optimism, as the taper progressed that I was not in shape to run a personal best at the marathon. So I forgot about that goal. I settled on an A a goal of bettering my 3:41BQ time from ING  for Soldier's marathon. At least then I could submit a faster time for a better corral at Boston. I admitted, not knowing how my injury could play out and the all too fresh memory of my painful injured BQ at ING that sub 3:40  could possibly prove a bit ambitious.

After all, I was injured, AGAIN and I had done zero speed work. With the bulk of my miles ranging in the 8:30 to 9 minute pace range I didn't even know if I could run 26 miles at sub 8:30 pace.  I knew I had the endurance to run 26.2 for a  3:45ish finish but I didn't know how I would hold up if my hip rebelled. In the past I tend to fall apart when stuff hurts. I think I have a very low threshold for pain since as soon as the tiniest thing hurts I am walking. I always mean to "suck it up" and "dig deep" but truthfully, it just never happens.

My other issue with sub 3:41 being ambitious was that nearly every run over 10 miles I was having to stop and stretch out my hip. I hadn't run 10 continuous  miles in at least 2 months. So while my training paces, speed work aside, hadn't suffered too much I was stopping the watch to stretch. And, just in case you don't know this, in a race? They don't stop the clock so you can stretch.

So while my wishful thinking goal for Soldiers was sub 3:41, I decided that my overall goal for Soldier's marathon would be to run strong and run the fastest, best race that my body would allow THAT DAY. I knew. No matter what. That I would finish the marathon. I knew that might mean a house of pain like Ga ING had been in March but in my mind, no one. No one quits a marathon on Veteran's weekend that honors the men and women of this county who have given up their lives for freedom. More pointedly, given up their lives so that I can be a person who says running is "the thing that I do." I may come off as bit two dimensional  but the reason I am allowed to be that way is not lost on me and I am very, very grateful. If the US soldiers can fight selflessly for honor and freedom then  I figured I better be able to fight selfishly for my own silly meaning of happiness. Seemed only right.  . . .

And during my training for the race I had latched onto the song "All These Things that I have Done" by the Killers. It became--please indulge me this silliness-- my fight song.

By a week out from the marathon I was feeling pretty strong. I think maybe there can be magic in taper. (Or maybe it just tempers the doubt. ) My last longer runs-- progressive 16 and 13 miles respectively-- had turned out okay: no hip pain--though I was still having to stop and stretch out my hip-- just some niggles and tightness. I felt in my right leg what I call "an awareness of the area." Since I finished those last longer runs so strongly I decided ( because I know this is exactly what all people do nursing a nagging injury) to race a 5k a week out.

I had a blast at the race, so no regrets. I even got 2nd in my age group, (that darn Stacy was there and I am always Stacy's bridesmaid). The race though, the running fast part--went horribly.
Wait for it.
That's right folks.
I WALKED.  In a 5k.
Oh. No. Not once but twice.
Just the sort of marathon confidence builder I needed.

My time though was better than I would have thought,considering my two brief walk breaks.: 21:39. However the race was not without repercussions: I jacked up the arches on both feet and did something excruciatingly painful to the balls of both feet (hence the reason for the walking). I also aggravated my asthma.  I sounded like I had bronchitis for 24 hours after the race and it hurt to walk, never mind run. So yeah, that was not one of the smarter things I have done in the taper. But, if you think about all the dumb shit I have done in a taper--Hello, trying to lift a 200+ Lacrosse goalie and throwing my back out like I did before Ga ING last March.--it wasn't that bad. At least this bonehead move was running related.  . .

After the race, when I was all sad because it hurt to walk I decided to see if plugging my 5k time into the McMillan calculator would cheer me up. You know just for shits and giggles. And because, in case you didn't know. Whatever marathon time Mcmillan calculator says you are capable of --especially when based on a 5k--is EXACTLY what you will run for your next marathon. Swear. McMillian, after all, is really Scotch-Irish for "finishing time magic 8 ball."

I can't make this stuff up.

So McMillan promised me a 3:31 marathon time.

And I really did giggle at that.

Obviously though, at the end of my marathon when I saw that 3:31 happen, yeah, about shit myself.

Huh, it DOES work. . .

Okay, in all seriousness. The week before the marathon I  thought if my arches got better and my hip didn't hurt and my Achilles wasn't too angry  and the magic taper pixie visited me that maybe, just maybe I could put up a 3:35 finish .

And I decided I would be very, very happy with that.

The closer I got to race day the more doubt and anxiety I felt. By Friday, the day we were to leave for Columbus,  I was almost 100% sure that it was going to go horribly. I kind of kept hoping for some minor tragedy to strike so I wouldn't be able to go. I alternated between--what do you call the opposite of delusions of grandeur? Oh wait. Right. That is known as reality.

Well, let's just say that I was entertaining zero optimism. And this made me more than a little bit bitchy. I was also convinced that was coming down with my husband's cold and it was his fault and was not at all a slight hangover from the wine I enjoyed at Big Peach's ladies night out. Whatever. dancing two nights before a big race.

It was really too bad that I couldn't get wasted on the car ride down to the race because riding on 85 about sent me over the edge and then all those dead deer littered along I-85.  I felt pretty certain, you know if I was a Pagan, that it was clearly an omen from Artemis foretelling that I would be more like one of those road kill deer than a sprightly doe leaping jubilantly through 26.2 miles along the Chattahoochee river side. If nothing else I sure felt as bloated and beaten as those road kill deer looked-- mangled legs and missing antlers not withstanding.

Ryan was also driving like 90mph and I was about to vomit. I am not an easy car rider. If you have ever been in a serious car accident I am sure you can relate and my request for him to slow (the fuck)  down was met with a "I'm not getting blamed for anything and you will not miss the expo."

Sigh. That is what I get for telling him we had to be at the expo no later than 6:30. It went until 7:30. What?! I don't like to be late. Ever. So sometimes I lie to the people in my life about what time stuff is because they.are.always.late. And I am not.
The expo was at the The National Infantry Museum. It is a beautiful museum. I regret that I did not get to see more of it myself but Ryan and the kids went while I ran the marathon. They loved it. They took pictures of pictures.
I was quite pleased that my number was 106--it added up to 7, my favorite number. My 5k the weekend before at also added up to 7 but since that race wasn't so awesome for me I tried not to read too much into the number and just stuck with that me? I like the number 7.

I was also pleased with my race swag: a women's sized technical short sleeved shirt, a reusable bag that will now be my new swim bag, a hand towel, a squeeze ball and lots of literature about the race that I did not read. But obviously Ryan did because he seemed to know a lot about this race, definitely more than me.

Next stop was checking into the hotel. Holiday Inn Express, it was very nice. About a 5 minute drive from the start.

Apparently though, the children misunderstood that this was just a quick over night trip. See Beau? I am carrying his luggage. That is just the stuff he packed. Carmella avoided the picture. But she had just as much crap.

Beau is special. He wore camo ALL weekend, even bought a camo hat and wore a headlamp. He wanted the soldiers to know that he was a soldier too.

After settling into our room. I googled and located at Carrabas Italian Grill. I am sure there were other fabulous and unique places to eat in Columbus, Ga but before Museum of Aviation marathon I had eaten at Carrabas and then ran my Pr the next day. Stick with what you know, was my thinking.

Apparently, however, there was the world's largest cheerleading conference EVER in Columbus, GA that same weekend and apparently cheerleaders also have enjoyed a great pre cheer meal at Carrabas. There was a 2 hour wait for a table.  As there also  was at Chili's, Olive Garden, and Friday's. I was starving, tired and about to cry. Ryan and I were having a fight about my ability to use my smart phone and read a map. So we switched. I drove, he navigated. I was, of course, going the wrong way!

So I turned around in the parking lot of a Chevron gas station. And low and behold there was a restaurant. Mark's City Grill.

I'm not gonna lie. I had serious doubts. A gas station parking lot restaurant for a pre race meal? Denny's was starting to sound good.  But I was desperate to eat and go to bed. I sent Ryan in and hoped it would be like the Sundae Cafe in Tybee that is one of the best restaurants (after  German Town Cafe and Alium) I have ever eaten at and that was also in a gas station parking lot.

It was not the bestest ever but it was clean, there were no cheerleaders and best of all, no wait.  I had pasta, vegetables and grilled chicken. Oh, and 2 420 sweetwater beers. You know, for good luck.

We played Uno with the kids while we waited for our food. We cannot be like normal people and just have a conversation. This is mostly because Beau cannot physically sit in his seat if the only thing that is expected of him is to sit in his seat and eat the food on his plate. But let him play Uno, sit and eat a meal? Well, everyone gets to eat and digest their food.  Oh, and I won. Uno that is.

 By 9 pm we were pulling into the hotel parking lot. And can you guess who was in the parking lot? Dean Karnazes? Nope! Paula Radcliffe and her baby? Nope! None of those cool runner people were there. But there were about 30 cheerleaders practicing their cheer routines. Great! I thought, so much for sleep. As we approached the entrance I overhead Carmella whisper to  Beau that "those are cheerleaders. Teenage girls." Beau said, "I know." And then Carmella, sagely informed him; "teenage girls are not known for making wise choices. You should stay away from them." I can't wait to see about Carmella and her teenage girl choices . . .

Ryan grumbled about my lights out and no TV. But I guess we were all totally exhausted and actually fell right asleep. I think I might have even had my best ever night before a race sleep.

Waking and getting ready for a race in a hotel room with your young children is less than ideal but if I bribe them with those nasty powdered doughnuts they will do exactly what I tell them. So getting ready went off without issue and we were all piled into the car right on time to get to the race with what I assumed would be 30 minutes to spare.

However I didn't account for the traffic to get into the parking lot. As we sat in stand still traffic and 15 minutes to gun time I told Ryan that I would just run to the start while he tried to find parking. As I jumped out of the car and started running down the grass towards the start I felt something fall off me. It was my pin that said IRunning!

I paused for a moment, looking at it laying there in the bright green Fescue and thought about picking it up. My plan had been to wear the pin  for the race and when the race started to go bad--as I was certain it was going to--  I would pluck the pin off my shirt and toss it ceremoniously into the river and it would land right between Georgia and Alabama and would float all the way to Florida and get lost in the Gulf of Mexico for future archaeologists to find billions of years from now to puzzle about what it was. What it meant.

But I really had to pee so I just left it and mentally went down my checklist of other forgotten things as I ran to get in line for the porta potties:  gu, phone,  ipod, inhaler, and some tp tucked in a pocket just in case. I may not be a soldier but I was a girl scout. I realized I had forgotten to write planned my race mantra on my arms!

Usually I go with HTFU but this time I planned to write, stolen from my "anthem", If you can hold on, hold on. . . on my left arm. And on my right hand, You can!

Damn it, I thought. It was all going to hell. I knew it. And then it occurred to me. It was war! We always play "punch buggy" in the car. Beau insists. And whenever we get tied he will declare : It is War! And this is just from 11 previous marathons of experience speaking but the marathon is a mental war you wage with and against yourself. ( Only someone who has never been a solider or been to war can make a statement like that.)

So I headed over the battle line, I mean start line. And hopped right in the middle. I only knew 2 people doing this race I somehow found both of them standing one in front of the other. It is always good to have friends on your side.

Here is Shannon and I at the start: Shannon is ex Flacon's cheerleader. She ran the half and a huge Pr and  nabbed an age group award. I just know so many awesome, fast and pretty chicks.

And here is Ron. I always see him at races and he is always a lot faster than me.

He tried to talk me into some foolish mission of running sub 3:20. I told him I just was looking to get the finish line.  The closest I'm probably ever gonna get to 320 would be not finishing my Sweetwater 420. He ran 3:19.

The race started with a cannon!

And then we ran through two rows of soldiers standing at attention.

Nothing really hurt but I noticed right away that I just felt tired. My legs felt kind of heavy and it already felt hard and I had to pee. Ugh. So annoying. I reminded myself the first mile always sucks so I tried not to think too much about how much it was sucking.

Check out the race leaders! Their feet don't even touch the ground. That must be the trick.
As I passed the first mile marker I glanced at my watch. 8:32. Crap. I think that is possibly the slowest first mile of any marathon I have ever run-- and yes, even my first where I ran 4:08 and yes, even the trail marathon that I ran 4:58. I always bolt out a sub 8 for the first. I think for my pr I ran 7:2x for the first mile. I pretty much thought I had already lost the war right then and started resigning myself to the possibility of a four hour finish.

We were now in Fort Benning and I have to say the morning, the weather, it was beautiful. It really was what I call a "no excuses" marathon day weather. We ran up the highest elevation change on the course and I did pass a good number of people here. The hill was short but it was fairly steep.  Nevertheless right after the marker for mile 2 I saw a porta potty and tucked in. I was still running an 8:30 avg so things pace-wise still had not improved.

I have never been on a military base so I don't know if they are all as pretty Fort Benning but I loved this part of the course. And even though it was morning the residents were all out to cheer us on--some still in their pj's. It was very cool. 

For the next several miles I am trying to resist the urge to look at my watch and just relax into the run and enjoy the scenery, listen to my ipod. I don't talk to anyone these early miles.Finally at seven miles I can stand it no longer and look at my watch. I am shocked that I am at 55 minutes. The course other than that first hill had been pretty flat but I hadn't felt like I picked up the pace at all. It still felt just as hard as it had in the first mile. My heart rate felt like it was still the same. I thought about all those hour long progressive treadmill runs I had done in training after an hour on spin bike and decided maybe they had been a good workout after all.

I had been passing people and decided that maybe I should reel it in. Sometimes chatting with people helps me slow it down/keep it in check. Trying to talk makes me run a little slower because I get breathless trying to chat if I am running too hard. So I fell in step with a guy and I can't remember if he talked to me first or me him but we chatted for a bit. He had just run the New York marathon the weekend before. He asked me my goal for the race and told him about just running the best I could that day. He asked me my pr and told him, 3:28 and he told me that I was currently on pace to run a PR.

Uh oh, I thought. I started paying attention to my breathing and realized that I wasn't exactly at a conversational pace. I didn't want to crash and burn since crashing and burning and hobbling in pain to the finish I've already done and know, it is not such a fun time. So at the next aid station I decided I would walk it, let him go on. 

And that is what I did. It was little hard to let the idea of running a PR go but I knew I just didn't have that in me. It just wasn't worth it to risk it. He ended up running 3:23 for the day so it was good I didn't try to hang with him. Sometime around this point-- mile 8 or 9 I don't know-- the half runners turned around. I also started noticing on the course these little soldiers trophies. I really liked them. I assumed they were age group the trophies for the race. I decided that I kind of wanted one. Too bad that they were actually trophies for some other race. But I didn't know that then.

So I started paying attention. I had no idea how many women were ahead or behind me. The ones who had been running with me had turned out be running the half . 70% of the marathon is run on this river walk like trail along the river--which is very nice as there is no traffic and there is lots of greenery. It was peaceful and quiet next to the river.  The race had thinned out and I was pretty much running alone.There were runners with in sight but no packs around me. So once the halfers were gone I just started picking runners off.  Probably not the wisest move for even pacing but I can't help it. In these smaller marathons the single runners in front of you are like carrots being dangled at you.I sometimes think oh Ill run up to that person, maybe chat with them, but in reality I'll get to that person and well chatting doesn't happen.

Around 11 or 12 miles I come up on the first woman that I knew was doing the full. It was my first glance at potential competition for Soldiers trophy.

I fell in step with her. I can never tell people's ages. Pretty much everyone in the 30-45 range looks about the same age to me. I was running about an 8 minute average, maybe 7:5x at that point. She told me this was her 5th marathon and her goal was 3:45. I said, "Oh you're trying to qualify?" Knowing that if the answer was yes she was in my age group. And she said "yes." I said, "Well you know you are running like a 3:30ish pace." And as a way of answering that she told that she was from Colorado. I wished her luck and ran on ahead. I refused to let myself look back to see if she was there but I never saw her again.

I was stopping and walking/slow jogging through every aid station. I was still feeling pretty good, legs tired but no pain, and decided that I would just keep that up. Ryan took this picture sometime around the half point. I kept looking for a mat and clock to signify that point and it never showed up. I almost missed seeing Ryan and the kids I was so busy looking for it.
Normally I tell him not to come see me on the course. I am such a quitter and I am always so worried that if I see him I will bail on the race if he catches me when I am having a turn in the valley of darkness. It proved a non issue.
Partly because  by the time I registered Ryan and the kids  I was already past them but mostly because I had had my turn in the valley already. It was called miles one and two.

After realizing I had some where passed the 13 marker and there was not going to be mat for 13.1 I ran up on a guy and asked him where we were. He said we were at about 13.2 and 1:45ish. I was little disappointed. The times I've run under 3:30 I've hit the half in 1:42 or 1:41. But that's okay, I reminded myself, 3:35 could still happen. I was just assuming there were would be a big fade. I have no faith in me for a negative or even split marathon. I like to give myself a pretty big cushion so I can wuss out and not feel pressure in the last 10k when I am sucking ass. "You're gonna bring yourself down . . ."

I was still feeling good. It wasn't easy and I sure didn't think anything magical was gonna happen but I was holding on and sort of waiting for when my hip was going to rebel and it would all go to hell. I was tailing behind this group of 5 or6  chatty guys running together. I had been debating about whether or not to pass them. They were a pack and I was about one or two strides behind them. I was pretty happy with their pace and was in the process of deciding if I could run a little faster. I didn't want to be eavesdropper.

Finally one of them says "Go on and pass us already; you know you want to." I admitted this was true but I didn't want to be embarrassed later when inevitably they would have to pass me again. I did speed up a little and was now in step with them. I recognized one of the men from other races. Normally I don't remember people because most runners all pretty much look the same. But this guy had red hair and you just remember red hair people. Well I do. Also, in my first marathon a red headed guy I had been leap frogging with told me in the final 10k that "he didn't want to have pass me again." And I remember telling him not to worry, he wouldn't have to. Anyway, I introduced myself and his name was Anthony and he had indeed done a lot of the same marathons I had done.

We chatted for a few miles, swapped misery in ill preparedness: me my litany of injuries. Him a stomach bug the week before.During this time I saw the second girl I would see in the marathon. She said hi and she ran with us a bit. She looked easy. And she was young. I didn't try to hang with her when she pulled ahead. I was holding on, doing what I could.

Anthony pulled back when we reached a little incline. I cheered because my It band was starting sing a song that I didn't so much care for. As I ran ahead a man spectating told me that third place girl was just ahead of me. I kind of hated him because yeah, guess what dude. She just passed me. But it was helpful information in my pursuit of a soldier's trophy.With three girls ahead of me, one of them definitely younger I was still in the running for an age group trophy. Which right then, in addition to finishing, was what I wanted.

Around 17 we hit the mat that was there to make sure no one is cheating since you start running back on the course. Now if I had at all looked at the race information I would have known this. Along with that the course jogs into Alabama and it would have made sense when Anthony mentioned something about being in Alabama when we were running over a bridge. I thought he was just being kooky and talking about a Alabama state of being or something.

We ran briefly on the road--the only time all day except for the part in Fort Benning. It was a little out and back portion. I was on the look out for the female leads but I never saw them. As it turned out they were not far enough ahead of me. Winning female ran 3:24. I did get to swap hi-fives with Ron on this portion. I love getting to see people I know on a run course.

At the 18 mile aid station I stopped to grab some gu and I recognized another runner that I always see at local races. I actually had chatted with him several years before at the Alpharetta half and later the Silver comet half. I was at first just looking at him trying to place him and he looked at me and said "Do not give me that look!" I said "We've met before." I told him where. His response was "That was like 5 years ago!" And I said, " I know! And if you want to talk to me today you are going to have to run!"

I ran on and within a few minutes Jerry was at my shoulder telling me his tale of a colossal 3 hour blow up. He had just run New York the week before, he had done Ironman Louisville in the fall, was on task to run 30 marathons--in the past 5 years-- before his 30th birthday in March and he was just back from Afghanistan and had gone out at a sub 3 pace and blown himself up. And he talked and we ran together the final 8 miles of the marathon. It was awesome. It completely distracted me from my own self pity, misery, negative head talk. I need a Jerry at the end of every marathon. (Applications for Boston currently being accepted! Please apply!)

Jerry did most of the talking as I was just hanging on. I did tell him about my new goal of the trophy. Around 22 miles a woman showed up. She didn't speak to us when she passed us. Jerry and I tried to chat her up but she was very focused. I was a little worried because she looked my age. My trophy was in danger! A guy standing off course started running with her. It was a little annoying that he would hand her water and stuff at aid stations but I was walking the aid stations anyway so what did it matter if someone handed me water? As it was she was first master winner so I didn't need to worry.
Around 24 miles another woman fell in step with us. She looked younger than me but I  knew there were already 4 women ahead of me. My potential soldier trophy was slipping away! I was kind of half ready to fight for it  and half didn't care but either way I needed to know. So I flat out asked her how old she was. Twenty eight! I was still good!  Jerry and I leap frogged with her. Jerry switched to the metric system and kept saying stuff like 1200 meters to go.He was a numbers man. He went from saying we might go sub 3:30 to we could still hit 3:30 and I just kept saying, I am having the absolute best day possible for me. I don't care. ( I just wanted a soldier's trophy, damn it!)

As Jerry was throwing out meters and minutes and possible finish scenarios I suggested we should totally do a cartwheel at the finish. Without missing a beat he said "I suspect you have the gymnastics background to support such a move but I do not." But the idea was there. I had done cartwheels and roundoff's at the finish of 5k's and even half marathon but I didn't know if I would have the coordination to do it at the end of marathon.  . .

We were close to the finish but Jerry and his damn metric system totally confused me and we were not as close as I thought. Jerry and I had picked up the pace but when I realized that the finish was not when I thought it was going to be I stopped cold. I just kind of stood there looking at the tiniest of hills and the corner I had to turn to run down the Avenue of Flags to the finish. It was so close but it just wasn't where I wanted it to be. The girl who I had been leap frogging with caught up to me and patted me on the back as she passed me, saying, "Com'on, you have this." Damn it. I know I have it. I just thought I had it.Sigh.

Running on.

It was totally freaking awesome and if I hadn't been so annoyed that I didn't know where the finish line was I would have appreciated running down the Avenue of Flags a whole lot more. But boy oh boy was I happy and shocked when I saw 3:31xx on the clock. As I approached the finish line I was all set for my cartwheel but then I noticed the camera man right smack in the center. I thought crotch shot! Ryan will kill me! So I just run under the banner and threw my arms up.

Me and Jerry: Hey! I didn't notice before but both our bibs add up to 7!
And I ended up being first in my age group. I didn't get a cute trophy with solider but nonetheless a very nice carved wood plaque. But mostly I think I had the best day I could have possibly had and after the past year I am so grateful. 
And yeah, I'm cribbing the song, changing it up as I sing it when I am running:
Over and done, last call for pain
While everyone's lost, this battle is won
With all the miles that I have run
All these miles that I have run

Time, sweat and heart

If you can hold on
If you can hold on

You can.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011