Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: What a RUNderful Year!

I guess the thing to do this week is write a 2012 year-end review. All the cool kids are doing it. But honestly, I just don't have it in me.  Make no mistake... 2012 has been an amazing year for me. It had many highs, plus its share of lows. I stretched my boundaries of possibilites. Incredible new friendships entered my life... and some disappeared. I set PR's in every distance I raced. I ran my first relay. My first triathlon. My first age group award and trophy. I bought a real road bike. I became a Spinning instructor. See what I mean... it's a tad bit overwhelming, but FABULOUS just the same!

Here's a look at Run With Jess 2012...

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my life this year. You all touch me in different ways and make me a better person for it. Thanks for sharing my journey and being a part of Run With Jess!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Weight Loss Challenge starts now!

Every year, it starts with Halloween... the slow re-entry of candy into our house (and my belly). Then comes Thanksgiving with the big heavy meals and relaxing drinks (oh' sweet Baileys and Pumpkin Pie Liqueur...) Finally, the nearly month long Christmas... sweet treats everywhere you go, endless social gatherings and reduced exercise time. What was your net holiday gain?  All the holiday joy made made my heart swell. Unfortunately, so did my tummy...

So without delay, I invite you to join my second Weight Loss Challenge!  I've revamped things from the last challenge to make it less time-consuming for me. After all, I need all the time I can get to prep healthy meals (my biggest downfall!).  If you're serious about dropping some pounds, this challenge will be great accountability for you, as well as motivation!

Go ahead... swipe this image for your own blog,
but link back to here please.  More the merrier!

Run Your A$$ Off 
Weight Loss Challenge 2013
**Note: You don't have to really run, but I highly recommend it! 

Here's how it works...

• You have 4 weeks to lose 4% of your starting weight. (Ex. If your starting weight is 175lbs, your goal is then to lose at least 7 lbs, a little less than 2 lbs per week.)  Manageable, healthy, sustainable weight loss.

• At the start of each round, participants add $10 into the pot. After the 4 week challenge is done, everyone who hits their 4% goal is a winner and splits the pot. In essence, you are earning your weight loss!  I'm keeping the entry amount low because I want this to be more about the weight. Think about the money as just added incentive!

• There will be three rounds of this challenge, each 4 weeks long. Everyone has different amounts of weight to lose, so you can choose to play one round or all three...
Round One:  Dec. 31 - Jan. 28
Round Two:  Jan. 28 - Feb. 24
Round Three:  Feb. 25 - March 25

• The challenge is managed by You will need a digital scale and camera/smartphone in order to submit your weigh-in pictures. (For in-depth details on how it works, see the page here.)  There are only two mandatory weigh-ins (start and finish), but I do encourage you to weigh in each Monday. Complete DietBet Rules found here.

• In addition to the payout at the end of each round, I will also be awarding a PRIZE PACK to the highest % winner of each round.  Bonus!

Are you ready to lose?!?!
I know you can do it... I'd even BET on it! 

Round Three begins Monday, Feb. 25!
New participants welcome with each round.
Please spread the word and add your friends! 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Twas the Night Before Christmas

I can't even believe it myself... but I've fallen SICK again. Seriously, this is the third time this month. I blame it on those school Christmas parties... Grrr.  So here it is Christmas Eve and I sit with my Kleenex box, a little high on medicine, just trying to get through the day. My kiddos are full of energy and holiday excitement, which really helps my exploding headache. To top it off, three days without a run has left me crabby... and I can feel my year-end goal slipping away. I could hardly walk down the stairs straight this morning, but was still contemplating a stab at some miles. My hubby called me crazy and I snuggled into the couch instead... Ho, Ho, hum.

On the brighter side, I leave you with this cute poem from the good guys at Run The Edge...
I hope your Christmas is magical... and healthy! :)

Twas the Night Before Christmas (Runner's Version)

Twas the night before Christmas, all the shopping was done.
My insides were stirring, I needed a run.
My Newtons were placed by the front door with care,
In hopes that I’d take them out in the night air.
The children were nestled, tucked in for the night,
So I laced up my shoes both the left and the right.
I put on my mittens, and put on my cap,
I settled my brain for a long 10K lap.
I got my foam roller, the stretch felt so good.
I sprang from the door and run as fast as I could.
Away from my house I flew like a flash,
And tore up the street like I was running a dash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Lit up my path showing the way I should go.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a dude with a beard, dressed in red running gear.
He wasn’t too chubby, rather lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles he flew to my side,
And ran right next to me matching my stride!
“I’ll race you! I’ll pace you! But just let me run!
I’m all done with work and it’s time for some fun!
To the top of that hill, until we hit the wall!
We’ll just keep on running and give it our all!”
Without another word we ran through the streets.
The only sounds those of our breath and heart beats.
He had a runner’s build but still a round belly,
That shook when he ran, like a bowlful of jelly!
We finished the loop ending back at in my yard,
I’d never ran so fast. I’d never breathed so hard!
He gave me a wink and a nod of his head,
We were bonded as runners with nothing more said.
From walkers and joggers to runners and racers,
From marathon finishers to age-group placers!
We all know the joy and the pain of a run,
and that wonderful feeling you get when your done!
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Thanks for the run, it was indeed a good-night!”

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Year of Awesome Bling

Last Christmas, I received a "For the Bling of It" headband from my parents. At the time, I thought of it merely a funny saying. Little did I know how true that would become for my next year of running.

When I revisited my treadmill this week, I took a deeper look at all my medals hanging on the basement wall. An entire rack was from 2012 races alone! I quickly realized that many of the events I registered soley because I wanted the bling.  I did more races... but less for the time, and more for the fun bling of it.

It's hard to pick my favorite. While some are just cool designs, others have huge emotional attachment based on the achievement represented.

Race Medals from Jan-June 2012
(left to right)  
Myrtle Beach Half Marathon - I worked really hard for this one - my first sub-2!!  The one and only race that I cried at the finish. So proud of those flip-flops!

Lincoln Presidental Half Marathon - I did this for the giant penny, no lie. It was a hilly course that I usually would have veered away from... but I still finished sub-2.

Oshkosh Half Marathon (not pictured) - Perhaps I forgot to include this medal because it's always the ugliest one of the year? Ha! Regardless, I run the race because it's close to my hometown in Wisconsin and super cheap race. Another sub-2. I was on a roll!

Wisconsin Marathon - I had initially planned to run the half - called in by the awesome Wisconsin cheese medal. Then they announced the ribbon colors: Full marathon was yellow for cheddar cheese and the Half was white for swiss cheese. I don't like swiss cheese... so just like that, I signed up for the full. Foolish? Yes!  But I trained hard for this and PR'd over my previous marathon by 25 minutes!  Still my standing marathon PR.

Bayshore Half Marathon - The medal is classic and nothing fancy. However, the course for this high-demand, hard-to-get-in event was simply amazing! Probably the most scenic course I've ever ran. It was also super flat - resulting in a stunning PR that will be super hard for me to ever break.

Ragnar Ultra Chicago - I still haven't even written a recap for this two-day race. The whole experience was awesome and grueling in the same sentence. A huge run challenge that became even more difficult as the brutal summer heat tore us apart. I ran a total of 33.5 miles and proud of the venture... although I'm not exactly rushing to sign up for another. The medal is by far my heaviest to date.

Sole Sisters Birthday Run - simple dog tag necklace to celebrate the first anniversary of the Sole Sisters, my women's running group.  Love these ladies!

Race Medals from July-Dec 2012
(left to right)  

Air Force Half Marathon - It was really the first event picked for my Race All 50 quest, chosen based on our dedication to the Air Force. I had a terrible run, but it was my husband's first Half. I loved the classic look of the medal, which had a similar look to the Air Force coins.  The ribbon is of course outstanding and makes it one of my favorites.

Route 66 Marathon - Confession, I ran this soley for the bling. Once I saw that medal, I was obsessed with trying to find a way to get to Oklahoma. In fact, I registered before even looking at the course and elevation chart. It was a challenging run for me, but the "girls road trip" made it one of my favorite experiences of the year.

Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon - I registered before I even saw the bling. I felt a need to run a Disney race after reading so many rave reviews... and my kids were ready for a Disney vacation. So I tied the two into one trip... lesson #1, don't do that. The course was nice and I enjoyed running at night, but the whole event just kinda left a 'blah' taste in my mouth. Disney races just aren't my cup of tea, but the medal sure is cool!

Cupcake Classic 5K - My 2nd annual virtual race! Thanks everyone for participating!

Monster Dash 10K - Spur of the moment registration... slightly for the bling and jacket, but also part of my birthday getaway weekend. Two races back to back. I had a beautiful easy run along the lakeshore of Chicago and really enjoyed this race!  (and another one that I have yet to write a race recap...)

IVS Half Marathon Relay - The medal was designed to be a pretty Christmas ornament. It came with a sparkly ribbon attached to the see through medallion to hang on your tree.  Creative, but I removed that part to hang nicely on my medal rack instead. I had a fun time running this local race on a team with one of my favorite running buddies.

ZOOMA Half Marathon - A different kind of bling, we got a cool necklace at the finish line of this women's half marathon. Another hilly course that I'm proud to have conquered. Also part of my birthday getaway weekend, I had a super fun time with the Chicago bloggers and my local friends that made the trip with me. Gotta love Girls Weekends!

Another variation of race bling, I received this palm-size coin at the Route 66 Marathon for taking the 'Center of the Universe detour', making it the world's shortest ultra-marathon.

I never win this kind of stuff, so I was really excited to add these to my collection this year.  I won the trophy at my very first triathlon this past August. Also in August, I crushed my PR in a local 5K, collecting the 1st place ribbon in my age group!

I think it's safe to say that 2012 was the Year of Awesome Bling!
This year's race schedule begins for me with the Little Rock Marathon (medal as big as your head!!), so I can't wait to see what 2013 will bring. Race directors, keep bringing your creativity to the race! This runner loves it.

What race had your favorite bling this year?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Jam Out your Holiday Run

Christmas starts for me tomorrow! Seriously. The next two days are dominated by school programs and parties. And then we reunite with my side of the family over the weekend... and it's just a snowball after that. I'll come up for air on the 26th.

I usually dread the chaos of the holidays, but for some reason this year, I'm kinda in the spirit of things. (Please don't anyone screw it up.)  I have to admit... One of things I'm most excited about is my Christmas Spin® ride.  I'm instructing two classes over the holiday weekend and I have a really festive, yet rockin' ride planned. In creating the playlist, I unearthed a number of Christmas songs that are upbeat and perfect for a workout.

I thought I'd share a few songs in case you're looking for some festive music to spice up your run(s) this week.  Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

If you're local in Peoria, swing into Landmark Health Club
for one of my Spinning® classes this weekend!

Monday, December 17, 2012

2nd annual Jingle Bell Hell

This weekend was difficult to get motivated. I've come down with a cold (again) that has my head ready to pop.  Add the tragic news from Friday and rain all weekend, all I wanted to do was stay home and snuggle with my little family.

We postponed the Jingle Bell Hell run on Saturday morning, and I can't say I was disappointed. However, come Sunday, the rain had come to an end and I was anxious to get outside and "run it out". Running always help me release tension, physically and emotionally. Like everyone, I had CT on my mind. (See here for a new virtual race honoring the victims of Sandy Hook)

The theory behind the Jingle Bell Hell is to map a hilly course (hell) and challenge yourself. I used the same course as last year, weaving within the hill-packed Springdale Cemetery and circling through the Glen Oak Zoo. I'm always surprised how many friends join me in this challenge, but the 2nd annual Jingle Bell Hell run in Peoria had a strong turnout once again. We lost a lot of people with the date change (rainout), but picked up a few too.

For those wanting two loops of hell (equally a 1/3 marathon), we started at 7:00am. A second group started 45 minutes later and completed one loop (4.5 miles). The objective was to all finish relatively at the same time so we could celebrate our feat together... with hot cocoa and Christmas cookies!

JBH Aid Station!

I started with the early group with hopes of doing two loops, but honestly, I wasn't sure how far I would be able to manage. My head cold made it difficult to breathe normally, and the day before I got a wonky feeling in my right knee out of nowhere.  So I took the run easy, walked up a couple hills that I usually would run. I slowed down my pace and just enjoyed the morning chatting with my fellow Sole Sisters. The knee seemed to work itself out, so I did continue on for a second loop. We ended up with 9.2 miles, slightly over the 1/3 marathon mark.  It was a great run morning with special friends!


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Holiday CLICK Giveaway

'Tis the season for chocolate and candy canes... but as a runner, I never skip the protein to refuel and recover after a workout.  This past year, CLICK Espresso Protein Drink has been one of my favorite post-run options.  I like it cold as a thick smoothie or an iced coffee drink.  Here's one my favorite smoothie recipe for the holiday season...

However, there are winter days when I return chilled to the bone after a long run in the snow.  In those moments, I like my CLICK hot like cocoa.  Below is one of my favorite treats. It's rich in taste and delicious!

Why is protein important after a run?
Protein reduces recovery time and gets you back to full speed quickly. When you run, microtears occur in your tendons, muscles and other tissues. After you run, these microtears elevate your body's demand for the amino acids (found in protein), which helps with tissue repair and rebuilding. Protein drinks provide a rich dose of these amino acids your body can absorb faster than through whole foods. This can help enhance the speed at which your body repairs those tears, reducing the recovery time needed after your run.

Have you tried protein drinks yet?
I highly recommend CLICK Espresso Protein Drink. The Mocha flavor, which also comes in Decaf, is a great mix of espresso and chocolate flavoring. There is also a Vanilla Latte flavor that I like for a mild smooth taste.

Each 12-14oz serving of CLICK contains a double shot of gourmet espresso coffee, 15g of lasting protein and 23 essential vitamins and minerals. All products are naturally flavored, colored, and gluten-free.

Enter the holiday giveaway below to win a shaker, 2 canisters of CLICK and a holiday striped tumbler. Giveaway managed and winner picked through Rafflecopter. Winner announced this Friday, Dec. 21. Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Three Things Thursday

No matter how cute the headband,
headlamps are just so... unattractive.
Did you extra challenge yourself yesterday for 12-12-12?  I sure did! I rode 12 miles on my bike in the afternoon, which ended up flying by really fast. I pulled up iTunes during my ride and surfed for fun songs to create a holiday ride for my Spinning class over Christmas weekend. Join me Sat, Dec. 22 at Landmark Health Club at 9:00am. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to find enough upbeat Christmas songs to make a good ride, but am pleased that I did! It's going to be a fun rockin' ride!

Next up was my 12K run. I headed out to Sole Sisters early and got in 4 miles before our group run. Combine the two runs and I hit 7.45 miles right on the dot. Whew, done. Or so I thought... After dinner with the Sisters, I remembered the #SquatAthon and #plankaday. So there I was at 10pm , adding more to my already exhausting day.  My body feels really tired today, so I'm taking an off-run day... I need yoga.

Today is the last day to enter my giveaway {here} for the cute pink Run Happy Hoody from Milestones Sport Jewelry and Apparel. If you already entered, you can tweet again for bonus entries.  Finish up your Christmas shopping (even if it is for youself...) with the discount code CUPCAKE to get 10% off your entire order at

Last week, I made holiday sugar cookies. It was a fun mother-daughter project on a cold day. Unfortunately, the double-batch is already gone. (I have no idea why the scale hasn't dropped for me...)  So today, we're making more... A large portion will be donated to my church's cookie sale this weekend. Another bunch as treats for my Sole Sisters after we run the Jingle Bell Hell virtual run this Saturday. Whatever is left, I'm plating up for my neighbors. It's been proven impossible for me to lose weight with cookies in the house...

Did you hit any special fitness goal for 12-12-12?
How are you doing on resisting the sweets of the season?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Desperately Seeking Hills

If we're friends on Daily Mile, you've probably noticed that I've been running a good share of hills lately and I'm not complaining.  In fact, I've been searching out the hills, running loops so I get multiple doses. No, I haven't gone crazy. It's part of strategic training.

After a marathon (like the most recent Route 66 Marathon), I sink into down time.  Both mentally and physically, I allow myself to recover from the rigors of marathon training. I linger a bit longer in bed on the weekends, catch up on house projects and give my kids/hubby some needed attention. I run whenever I feel like it, however far (or short) I want, at whatever pace feels right at the moment.  I call it 'no pressure' running.  I may even go days without running. Typically, I pump up my cross-training to stay active and loose... Spinning is XT weapon of choice.  Eventually (3-4 weeks post-marathon), I get called back to running. Not sure how to even explain it, but inside I have a yearning to not only run, but start training again. Recovery period over.

Jumping back into a rigorous training cycle too quickly can cause injury though. So I enter into what I call base training. Slowly, I bring my weekly mileage up. However, this is not the time to crank speed or be concerned about my pace.  Ideally, this the best time of the year to just run... naked. No watch, no music, just run and listen to my body's feedback.

Base training is also a great time to work on strength training, something I don't do nearly enough. Let me be completely honest... I hate strength training. I am not a gym rat. So you can keep the weight room, the CrossFit box, and the fitness classes where they lift weights over and over for an hour. I'm sweating, yes, but utterly bored. I'm a girl who likes to get a bang for her buck... and I don't feel like I am without constantly moving.  Plus I generally just prefer my fitness outdoors.

I'm using HILLS as my strength training.

Running uphill is a form of resistance training that directly targets the 'runner' muscles... quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves. Your upper body also gets a workout since you pump your arms more when you go uphill versus a flat road.  Hills transform your normal run into a strength training workout.  Since pace is not a concern during base training, it's the perfect time to tackle hills! In short, the best way to improve running-specific strength is to run hills.  And the only strength I'm really concerned about is the kind that is going to help me PR in Eugene next April.

Many of the locals like Springdale Cemetery, but my favorite for hill training is Bradley Park. I love the beautiful setting and the challenging hills. I've been there 3x this past week.
Get up that hill... or stop halfway to take a picture. 
This path knocks me on my a$$ every time.

Coming off the Route 66 Marathon, I felt a little defeated from the hills in the backhalf. So I came home and registered for the Georgia Half and the Little Rock Marathon, neither of which are classified as "flat".  Almost like I enjoy torture... or a challenge. Whichever, I'm determined to be better prepared for elevation in 2013. And when it comes time to start working on speed for Eugene, my muscles will be strong and ready for it.

Be Strong... Go Run a HILL!
In fact, join in the Jingle Bell Hell virtual run this week.
If you're local in Peoria, join the Sole Sisters this Saturday, Dec. 15 at 8:00am
for our own version of Jingle Bell Hell through Springdale Cemetery!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cold Motivation

Bundled up and ready for
cold weather running!
I consider myself a pretty dedicated runner. I don't slack very often, but today had me standing at the door reaching for excuses.  The thermometer read 24 degrees this morning. We didn't get snow like my northern friends did, but everywhere had a coat of frost/ice.  I got the girls off to school and then wasted time busied myself on Facebook. Thankfully, I have many motivating friends in my news feed. Somehow I dragged myself upstairs to get dressed. The only excitement being that I get to wear some of my long lost winter attire...

I'm not new to winter running, but it's been a good 10 months since I've run in sub-30 temperatures. I could hear and see the wind whipping our holiday decorations around and knew that would make a run tough. There is only so many times you can adjust a ponytail in procrastination... As I stepped outside, the mailman came. Yeah, another distraction! My Runner's World and Running Times magazines had arrived. All signs kept pointing me out the door. Sigh. I took a deep breathe and set out for some miles...

I'm fairly motivated right now by my 2012 yearly goal of 1500 miles. I have 76 miles yet to run... and only 21 days to finish. I need 3.6 miles every day for the rest of December. Not out of my reach, but it's a goal in need of my attention.
1424 in the bank, 76 to go!

As I trotted down the road, the wind burnt my cheeks and thighs. I warmed up eventually and by the second mile, I was back to my normal delirious state of "Running is the best thing ever!"  My thoughts drifted to my next race... Little Rock Marathon on March 3. It seems so far away and yet less than 3 months to train for my fourth marathon. Little Rock means a lot of miles in the snow and cold... literally. My 20 milers will fall in late-Jan/early-Feb, the coldest temps and typically the most snow here.  My only conclusion today was that Santa better bring me warmer running tights...

As usual, once I got into my run, I went further than anticipated. I ended just shy of 5 miles this morning. I finished with some yoga stretches and my #plankaday. I have been planking for ten straight days now... and delighted with how much stronger I've already gotten. I started December 1, barely squeaking out a 1:37 plank. (I do them fully extended in push-up position.) Today, I hit 2:45!

Pick One... You can do it!
My buddy Erich sent me a '12' challenge today... Did you know this Wednesday's date is 12-12-12?  A cool date like that deserves a run celebration!!  Pick your distance and go TWELVE. Comment below if you're IN for the Pick Twelve Challenge. If your schedule is flexible, start your run at 12:12 pm!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Review & Giveaway: Run Happy Hoody

As winter approaches, I don't give up my outdoor runs. On the contrary, I love the cooler temperatures. Today was a perfect 40 degrees for my long run. I was perfectly comfortable during the run; however, the rest of the day, I get a slight chill and have a hard time getting warm. I crave a snuggly sweatshirt, but can't stand the bulk.  I have now found the perfect apparel to sport post-run... a thermal hoody from Milestones Sport Jewelry and Apparel!

Obviously the most appealing aspect about this hoody is the girlie pink color and the cute saying across the front... RUN HAPPY!  I'm positive it was designed with me in mind...

My first impression of the hoody was how soft the fabric was. It's the kind of shirt that you want to snuggle in on a cold winter afternoon. The fabric is a 60/40 polyester/cotton blend, so there is also a lot of stretch. The waffle texture reminds me of a thermal underwear, but softer, way softer.  I think the sizing is about right, as compared to what I wear in other clothes. If you're borderline on sizing, I would suggest ordering up.  In the photos above, I am wearing a size large.

Milestones Sport has been a great supporter of my Cupcake Classic virtual race over the years. This past year, she brought in a special Pandora bead (here) just for us Cupcake runners! The jewelry collection is really outstanding at Milestones... it's impossible not to find something you like.

Use discount code CUPCAKE
to receive 10% off any order at 
Expires 12/15/12

In the spirit of holiday giving, Milestones Sport Jewelry and Apparel has gifted one Run Happy Hoody (size large) to one of my lucky readers. No purchase necessary. Giveaway contest managed and winner picked via Rafflecopter.  Good Luck! Winner drawn on Friday, Dec. 14.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Race Recap: Route 66 Marathon

Full marathons shake me up... good. Throughout the race, I encounter a confusing rainbow of emotions. My brain is literally all over the board during the run. In one minute, I feel great and the letters P.R. flash before me like a neon sign. Not a mile later, I'm wondering "how on earth will I ever finish?" This pattern repeats numerous times before I settle into survivor mode. No other marathon illustrates this mental chaos as much as my latest 26.2 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

On November 18, I completed my 3rd full at the Route 66 Marathon, state #9 in my Race All 50 quest. It's taken several weeks to return to normality. The high is gone. The soreness is gone. But the pride and confidence linger. The course ate me up in the backhalf, but now it has left me with a feeling of anything is possible.

I road-tripped the historic Route 66 highway with my friends Patty and Laura from Peoria, IL to Tulsa, OK for this marathon. Being a "girls road trip" will surely be the lasting memory of this race. We had such a fun time on the road, as well as the race expo (see previous post).
The Sole Sisters from Peoria!
It was chilly on race morning and the wind made 40 degrees feel even colder.  We huddled inside the Hyatt lobby for as long as we could before finding gear check and moving into Coral B. The race did a great job of staggered coral starts (I'm a huge fan of this!). Immediately out of the gate, I fell into a comfortable pace and had plenty of room to move around as needed.

The confetti start was super cool!

The beginning of a full marathon always feels mundane to me. There are so many miles to go and I have so much energy in the beginning. It's so difficult to pull back on the reins and conserve...

Mile 1 - 9:36
Mile 2 - 10:12
Mile 3 - 9:50
Mile 4 - 9:57
Mile 5 - 10:01
The first five miles had some hills according to the race elevation chart, but honestly I didn't feel much of them. My legs felt good and I focused on finding a comfortable pace that I could maintain. I knew this wasn't going to be a PR race for me, so I tried to look around and take in the sights as we passed through some pretty neighborhoods. It was like a seasonal rewind for me... leaves on the trees again!

Photo by Eric Bloemers Photography
Look - there I am coming up the right side...
I was ridiculously smiley during the race.
The photographers took nearly 50 pictures of me!
That has to be some kind of record...
Mile 6 - 9:46
Mile 7 - 9:41
Mile 8 - 10:02
Mile 9 - 10:10
When we reached mile 6, the course entered a nice flat out/back section along the Arkansas River. There were great views and a lot of fun through this stretch as runners were cheering back and forth. The atmosphere was very jovial and light. The Route 66 Marathon caters to several run groups (Marathon Maniacs, Half Fanatics and the 50 State Club) with special medals and bibs for them. There were a TON of those members in the race, sporting their singlets and really making the race a reunion event. It added a unique vibe to the run. It made me happy to see all the comaraderie in an individual sport.  Physically, I was feeling really good and took my first energy gel at mile 6.

I told you... ridiculously full of smiles!
Mile 10 - 10:10
Mile 11 - 10:07
Mile 12 - 10:07
Mile 13 - 10:30
Mile 14 - 10:25
Shortly before mile 10, I hit the turnaround and got to see my girls Patty and Laura on the way back along the river.  I had hardly looked at my watch during the race so far. Somewhere along the river stretch, I looked down and with quick math, realized I could PR on the pace I was running. Aw-man, my mind started reeling... should I or shouldn't I push myself?  Internally, I argued with myself and in a split second (during mile 13), I veered off the course and down by the river to take a picture... Decision made. Enjoy the run; just finish. I don't have to run every race for a new personal record. Sometimes I have to force myself to not be so competitive (even if it is just against myself).

By now, you're wondering where did I get that cute skirt?!?!!

Mile 15 -10:46
Mile 16 - 10:34
Mile 17 - 10:24
Mile 18 - 10:27
I was really glad I didn't try to push for the PR because I would have been disappointed quickly. Shortly after the mile 14 marker, we turned away from the river and the hills of Tulsa began once again. However, my legs were no longer fresh and I could feel every elevation change.  At mile 16.5, I took the Center of the Universe detour... adding an extra 0.3 onto the marathon, making it the shortest ultra in the world. The detour was a short L-shaped leg uphill to earn bonus bling (a large coin) and then back downhill with a glass of beer at the bottom. Since I was out to enjoy this one, I stopped and drank a beer and took a few photos...
At the time, it was a good theory... Thanks for the beer ladies!

Mile 19 - 11:17
Mile 20 - 11:06
Mile 21 - 11:11
Mile 22 - 10:27
Mile 23 - 11:20
These miles are the hardest of any marathon for me... this one especially. The hills seemed to... just. keep. coming. I think I may have sworn at them a couple times.  The sun was peeking out now, making me warm... on top of tired, I became grumpy. Water stops became more frequent. I had been sipping normally throughout the race, but suddenly I was so darn thirsty. I began to worry about drinking too much. The race had awesome self-serve water/gatorade stations throughout the race and I took full advantage of the "green" convenience.

Everyone around me seemed to be walking the uphills now. It was so hard to keep running. Slowly, hill by hill, my determination dwindled. I began to pick an object halfway up the hill, run to it and then walk the rest of the uphill. Talk about a morale killer...

Mile 24 - 11:29
Mile 25 - 10:41
Mile 26 - 12:27
Mile 0.68 - 7:34
The course elevation chart showed a good drop in the last two miles, and yet I didn't feel it. Just the opposite... it felt like we were still climbing. I was so confused and frustrated. It was a long struggle to finish.  I was thankful I slipped my ipod inside my shirt earlier. I turned on the tunes and tried to zone out with one step in front of another. I wasn't so smiley coming down the finishing stretch...

I finished a challenging race... There was immense relief and great satisfaction in that. As painful as the backhalf was, I was instantly proud of the course that I just tackled.

Marathon #3
State #9 - Okalahoma!
Official Chip Time: 4:40:31
(26.68 miles for a 10:30 avg pace) 
Overall  #903 out of 1891
Women  #308 out of 822
Div F35-39  #52 out of 133

The bottoms of my feet were killing me! I immediately tore my shoes off, found the beer and got comfy along the finishing stretch waiting for my friends to come in.

 I absolutely LOVE the bling from this race!

Monday, December 3, 2012

December Magic

There is something a little electric in the air lately. I'm bouncing around with an extra swagger in my step and bright smile on my face. I'm grabbing my kiddos for extra hugs and feel an inner peace. Why? A combination of things...

THE WEATHER!  It's December in Illinois and the temps are currently sitting at 70 degrees. That feeling of spring is sparkling through the air. Everyone is in better spirits. My kids are giddy, playing outside, thus exhausted at bedtime. I got caught up on my landscaping duties... and the Christmas lights are going up like crazy!
On my way home from Spinning this morning, I made an impromptu stop at Bradley Park
for a quick 3 miles in this beautifully warm weather.  Magnificent!

SPINNING!  I instructed my first Spinning class on Saturday, and again this morning. I love Spinning so much, and was slightly nervous on how teaching would go. Just because you like to DO something doesn't always mean you'll enjoy being a teacher of it.  I'm happy to say I thoroughly enjoyed myself in the front of the class. As soon as the first class was over, I was anxious to do it again.  If you're local, join me for one of my next classes... Wed, Dec. 5 and Sun, Dec. 9. Both classes are at 9:00am at Landmark Health Club. I'm just a sub and in the weekend rotation for now; but in time, I hope to secure my own class slot.

CHRISTMAS!  I'm not a Scrooge, but honestly, I rarely get all that excited for Christmas. The holiday season is usually stressful for this momma - so many things to get done, so many people to please, so many plans, blah, blah, blah... All the hustle and bustle tends to wear me down. This year, our schedule is pleasantly more relaxed. Our extended family plans fell in place without much fuss or guilt (thanks Mom).  I feel like I have time to just sit and color with my children without worrying about "what I should be doing." Our daily lives have gotten so busy and we've regrettably skipped church more than acceptable. The kids and I made our way back this past weekend... I swear the gospel and homily were written just for me. I came home with an amazing internal peace. Life is good and just where it's suppose to be for me.

Day 3 of #plankaday
NEW CHALLENGES!  After another cycle of marathon training, it feels good to have some down time with running. I'll kick up the mileage again in January, but for now, I'm just running whenever I feel like it. When I do go, I run without a watch or time/distance goal. It's rather refreshing... and imperative for staying "in love" with running.  Relaxed running gives me flexibility to do some new things and cross train more (Spinning!).

On Dec. 1, I started the Holiday Squat-A-thon and the #plankaday challenges.  We're up to 30 squats today, and I almost hit the 2 minute mark on my plank! Want in? You can still participate in the Dec challenges. No signup, no prizes, it's just for fun and personal satisfaction. The schedule for Holiday Squat-A-thon is listed here.  #plankaday is simple... Get into plank formation with a stopwatch in front of you. Start the clock and hold your plank in the best form for as long as you can. My goal is to last 5 seconds longer each day.  Good luck!

NEW RACES!  Today my home city of Peoria (IL) is buzzing about a new race... our first full fledged MARATHON!  I have my spring race schedule mapped out (already including two 26.2's), but I may throw in the 25K event (15.5 miles) as a training run.  It will automatically be a PR since I've never raced that distance.  Check out the race details here and mark Sunday, May 19, 2013 on your calendar to come race my town!!  The exact course isn't announced yet, but you can count on a variety of terrain. In my own experience, it's practically impossible to long run Peoria without hitting a hill or two... The start/finish line will be downtown. Join me in Run River City 2013!