Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Giveaway Tuesday!

Doesn't it feel like Monday? Oh-geez, it's hard to get moving this morning, but I hit the pavement at 5am for the second day of the RW Summer Run Streak.  I'm still on such a high after my big PR this weekend {race recap here}, but Ragnar is less than 2 weeks away so there's no easing up. Did you race this weekend?  How'd you do?

I'm excited to announce the winner of the Quad Cities Marathon race entry giveaway this morning.  I wish everyone could win, but you can still take advantage of early bird registration until June 29.  Come run with me in the Quad Cities on Sept. 23.
Quad Cities giveaway winner is...
Please email me your mailing address within 3 days to claim your prize. 

For those already registered for QCM, congratulations to
Amanda aka TooTallFritz
You won a QCM shirt to help you train!

Starting next Monday, I'll be announcing a giveaway winner every week from a variety of great sponsors!  How do you get entered?  For every dollar you donate to my TeamUSO fund here, you'll receive that many entries into the weekly raffle.  Donate $10, and you get 10 entries into the weekly raffle.  The best part is that your entries stay in the pot and roll over each week... so it's very advantageous to donate early for the greatest chance of winning some cool running prizes!!  Please check out all the great work that the USO does to support our military troops and their families here and you'll be convinced that your hard earned dollars are going to something good.

Don't forget to order the special edition "RUN FREE" shirts here... now available for pre-order until June 7. All proceeds donated to the USO to support our troops. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Race Recap: Bayshore Half Marathon

I can’t think of a better way to start this recap than screaming at the top of my lungs… 
I PR’ed!!!

I had no idea what to expect going into the Bayshore Half Marathon. Since my full marathon in early May, I had been pretty relaxed on my training. And I put some weight back on (gasp!). However, the one prize jewel I had was that my run-joy was back.  I was in the zone and truly enjoying my runs again.  In fact, I had a 13-day run streak in my legs heading to the starting line. (Yup, no rest day!)  My run was good. Life was good. And I wanted nothing to mess with that.

As we made the 8 hour trip north to Traverse City, Michigan, my typical pre-race excitement was missing. For the first time ever, I was just ho-hum about the race.  I had no outfit planned. Instead I just shoved a pile of run clothes in my bag.  I had no race plan… and no goal.  I decided to just wing it and have fun.  I learned quickly on Friday that the course scenery alone was a great reason to run this one.  The views were spectacular off Old Mission Peninsula and the race route followed the shoreline for nearly 12 miles.  I love to run along water, but I still wasn’t in “race mode”.

Of course that all changed the minute I stepped into the pack at the starting line.  My adrenaline started pumping and my head became quite clear.  It was perfect race weather – clear sunny skies with temps in the mid-50’s. The wind from previously days had miraculously died overnight.  The course was advertised as flat and fast.  I was well rested and felt good. There really was no reason NOT to go for it. 

The half marathon was a point-to-point race, starting at the end of the peninsula and finishing in Traverse City by Northwestern Michigan College. (The full was an out & back, same route, starting a half hour earlier). The start was quick and quiet.  There were few spectators besides volunteers at the start since the roads were closed.  With only 2200 in the half marathon field, runners spread out quickly over the two lane road.  Congestion was never an issue, which is what draws me to these smaller races. I forgot to put my sunglasses on until mile 2 and my left contact got foggy on me (and stayed that way through the race). The first couple miles felt comfortable, but it always takes me a good 3 miles to get all systems going.
Mile 1 – 8:43
Mile 2 – 8:58
Mile 3 – 8:51

Once I was warmed up, I tried to focus on my form, running efficient and preserving energy for the second half.  People were passing me like crazy, but I held to my steady pace, knowing that I would probably pass many of them later in the race (and I did).  By time I reached mile 6, I was in a PR-state-of-mind (to beat a 1:58:16, which I had managed to run exactly twice in the past couple months).  There was a huge swelling of fans around the halfway point (including my kids and hubby).  It gave me a burst of "feel-good" energy (or maybe it was the GU?), and I popped out an 8:45 mile. 
Mile 4 – 8:53
Mile 5 – 8:56
Mile 6 – 9:05  *GU and water
Mile 7 – 8:45

I tend to converse with myself a lot in the back half of distance races. For the next several miles, I tried to concentrate on every movement (which means I wasn’t gazing around at the beautiful scenery very much).  I focused on working myself just outside my comfort zone. I wanted no regrets or self doubt at the finish. This was my last half-marathon until September and I wanted to end the spring race season well.  Run smart, consistent and strong.
Mile 8 – 8:54
Mile 9 – 8:59
Mile 10 – 9:05 *GU and water… and heavenly ORANGES!

I cannot even express how hard I worked to keep a sub-9 pace in the last three miles. For the first time of the race, I turned on music to provide some bonus energy for the final 5k. In fact, I tried to mind-play with myself that I had just started a 5k rather than closing on a half.  I took each mile at a time.  Mile 11 is always my hardest and worst mile split. I challenged myself to make it strong. The harder I push, the faster I get to 12. And when mile 12 appeared, I thanked my lucky stars gave myself permission to use it up… to have nothing left at the end.  I saw my hubby and kiddos at the final corner as we turned into the campus of Northwestern Michigan College.  

 I love this picture because of Little Girl's face cheering me on.
Mile 12.5

Now that's a PR pose!
There were a couple rolling hills on the final stretch that cut into my quads, but I pushed up and onward with everything I had left.  As I came down the final stretch, I drew off the energy of the crowds.  The top marathoners were still making their way into the finish so every once in awhile there were huge bursts of cheering (as the marathoners soared past me).  We curved into the high school stadium, and as soon as I hit that track, my legs took off for the finish line arch.  When I glanced at my stopwatch thru blurry contacts, I was ecstatic to see a 1:56.  It was far past my expectations for this race.
Mile 11 – 8:58
Mile 12 – 8:56
Mile 13 – 8:47
Mile 0.10 - :48

I had to pause for a moment after the finish to catch my breathe. I had hoped to break into the 1:57’s and went right past it. I was exhausted, but giddy beyond belief!  The thrill of a new PR never gets old.  I thrive on pushing my limits and constantly proving to myself that I am capable of more.  I ran a near perfect race – smart, well-paced and well-fueled. No blisters, chaffing and mild soreness the following day. In my heart, I believe it was the best I had that day. My smile was huge as I exited the finish chute… and searched for the Moomer’s ice cream!!

Official Chip Time: 1:56:44
(8:54 pace)
#40 out of 242  Division F35-39
#610 out of 2204  Overall
State of Michigan done in my quest to Race All 50.

EVENT NOTES: The Bayshore Marathon is a tough event to secure a race bib. On opening day of registration, their website was completely overloaded and it took nearly 20 times for my registration to go through properly.  The half marathon sold out in hours; the full and 10k followed shortly thereafter.  With such great demand, I had high expectations of the event.  The course was indeed the drawing point and worth the $80 entry fee. Pre-race communication was good, with monthly newsletters to keep you up to date. I was amused by the stern directions. Packet pickup on Friday night was quick with only a couple stations inside the high school gym. Parking and traffic were a nightmare though, since there a 5k being held at the same time. The morning of the race took tricky coordination – to bus over 2000 runners to the start of the half marathon (individual dropoff was pretty much impossible with the closed roads).  The lines to load the buses were insanely long.  We waited for nearly 40 minutes to board a bus… and then another 30 in the porta-potty line when we reached the starting area. Once the race started, I enjoyed the Bayshore… large visible mile markers, superb course, and great volunteers throughout the race. I was early through the aid stops, but they were well stocked with water, Gatorade, GU gels/chews and fruit. I’d be curious how they held up for the 4:30 marathoners?  I have to say that this course is a tough one for family to move around to see their runner. To catch me at the halfway point, my hubby drove out the peninsula’s main road and then had to load up onto a spectator bus to even get close to the race course. (Even the side roads were closed.) As they came back into TC, traffic was so busy that they barely caught me before my finish.  The post-race party had plenty of the standard food – bagels, bananas, chocolate milk, cookies, oranges… and ice cream! The finishing chute got runners off the track fast and into a large area where they could meetup with family.  The bonus for families was the two big playgrounds to entertain the kiddos.  Overall, I give the Bayshore a B+, heavily influenced by the PR worthy course. 

Special Thanks to Becky, founder of Sexy Mom's Running Club 
for her wonderful hospitality to my family while we visited her 
hometown of Traverse City.  It was so nice to finally meet you.
Thank you, thank you!!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Three Things Thurs: Memorial Day!

I'm running the Bayshore Half Marathon this Saturday... and I'm totally winging it!  I really should be more excited... it was a killer to get into, sold out in less than 24 hours.  The course is beautiful along the upper coastline of the lower peninsula of Michigan with outstanding views of water. However I have absolutely no plan going into my 10th half. Coming off the full marathon earlier this month, I haven't been slacking on running, but I haven't really been training either.  So we'll see what happens.  We leave in a couple hours and I still have no idea what I'm even going to wear.  This is so odd for me.

While I'm there, I am looking forward to meeting the founder of Sexy Mom's Running Club, who is graciously hosting my family's visit to Traverse City.  My hubby even found a 5k for Memorial Day on Monday.  Double race weekend?  Why not!?  I'm in a I love to run zone right now. I'm on Day 12 of a Run Streak and think I just may continue onward by participating in the RW Summer Running Streak (38 days from Memorial Day thru 4th of July).  Watch for tweets with #RWRunStreak. More details here.

Support the Troops
This week, I joined TeamUSO for the Air Force Half Marathon (September).  I didn't sign up for a free race entry to a sold out event; I already had my race entry.  I signed up because I believe in the work of the USO.  Their mission is simple: to lift the spirits of America's troops and their families. They take care of our troops while deployed and the families back home.  They make "service before self" more manageable for American solidiers.  I encourage you to read more about the USO here and you'll be Wow-ed. I've raised thousands of dollars for a variety of charities through the years, but I can honestly say I will be most proud of this one.

Join me for a Run Free Summer.  I will be doing a variety of fun stuff throughout the summer to raise money in support our military.  First up is some pretty cool looking running shirts if I do say so myself. Are you running a race for the 4th of July festivities?  This sleeveless tank will be perfect for you (and your partner!) to show your patriotism.  Pre-orders are now open until June 7 to guarantee your size.  ORDER HERE.
Order Your Shirt HERE.

Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a FREE RACE ENTRY into one of the five events at the Quad Cities Marathon.  It's one of the Top Midwest Marathons... and I should know because it was my first full marathon!   I love the course and am so excited to return this fall.  I hope you'll join me.  Enter the giveaway contest here.

Still looking for CLICK winner Joanna Gruchalla... Email me your mailing address to claim your prize.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How to Run Faster

I turned my walk into a run nearly 4 years ago. I wogged along for quite some time before I timed myself or tracked miles. When I finally got around to timing a run, I was around a 12 minute mile pace.  Through the years I have gradually seen that pace dip lower and lower.  It's one of the factors that drive me in my training.  I'm competitive and have high expectations of myself. I like charts and graphs showing progress. I like improvement.  I thrive on results. Running is pretty elementary to me. Keep it simple and you not only get better, but you will fall in love with the run too. The latter being most important for the long term.

One of the most popular questions I receive from readers is... How did you get faster?  I wish there was a magical formula, but I do have a couple theories that have worked for me...

Just do it. Every damn day. If you take extended breaks, don't expect your running to pick up where you left off. Fight through the slumps (we all have them!).  Even if that means just 1 mile a day, just don't ever ever quit.

How much weight you're pulling along has a great influence over your running speed. While this may be self-explanatory, I have been amazed at what a difference 10 lbs can make both in my training and racing. I don't live and die by the scale, but over the years, I have learned one thing... my running speed has a direct correlation to the number on the scale. Research has shown that, on average, runners get two seconds per mile faster for every pound they lose.  Let's do the math... when I started running, I weighed 60 lbs more than I do today and ran about a 12:00 pace.
60 lbs x 2 seconds = 120 seconds  
If the research is correct, I should be running exactly 2 minutes per mile faster.  And by golly, YES!  It's just about right on, as my average pace now waivers around 9:45.

Lastly, the type of training you do makes a huge difference in your race times. When I started doing speed intervals last spring, I was leary... and scared!  They sounded complicated and the foreign-looking formulas (2x200m, 3x400m, 4x400m) confused the crap out of me. But once I started figuring it out and actually running them at full steam, it became fun. Fun in the sense that my times got faster as the weeks went on. Even now, running intervals has become a bit of a game for me (especially when you run them with friends!).

So let me break down the intervals I did yesterday as an example... I ran 4x400, 4x800.  The first number is the quantity (4), the second number is the distance (400 and 800).  The distance is almost always listed out in meters.  400 meters (or 1/4 mile) is one lap around a standard track (4 laps = 1 mile).  An 800 then is 1/2 mile or 2 laps around the track.

Always start with a warmup of 15-20 minutes of running at an easy comfortable pace. Then it is highly suggested to do some butt-kick and knee-lift drills; five minutes will suffice. When running short intervals like 200-400-600's, your pace should be fast and difficult. Talking sentences should not be a possibility, but you should be able to still gasp out a "We're rocking this!" to your partner.  Upon completing each interval, take a recovery interval (RI). I suggest jogging or walking a 400m or at least 3 minutes.  Then hit the next interval fully recovered.

Using my stopwatch, I compete with myself on every interval.  I make a fun game out of trying to beat my previous time or keep them as consistent as possible.  My goal yesterday was to keep all my 400m under the 2 minute mark.  Until last week, I had never hit a sub-2 minute lap.  I was beyond thrilled to crank out 1:54, 1:53, 1:43, 1:48 yesterday! Proof that my recent interval training is working.

I'd love to hear that you read this and give the track a try! I'm happy to answer any more questions you may have about intervals. More in-depth reading on interval training here.

My buddy Anna & I hit the track yesterday.
She's fast and a challenge to keep up with!
By golly, don't forget to hydrate!
Summer is here and track workouts can be taxing without any shade cover.
Discount code "bloggerslovenuun" will get you 15% off in the Nuun store.

CLICK'n Spring Giveaway Winner is...
Joanna Gruchalla
Email me your mailing address to claim your prize within 3 days.

Don't forget to enter HERE to win a FREE RACE ENTRY
into the event of your choice at the Quad Cities Marathon!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Quad Cities Marathon: Giveaway!

The Quad Cities Marathon will always have a special place in my heart as it is "the home" to my very first full marathon. {race recap here}  It's the perfect mid-sized racing event, especially if you're looking for a PR or BQ.  With an intriguing course and top-notch race organization, the Quad Cities Marathon (QCM) ranks as one of the top picks for the fall race season. Mark your calendar for September 23, 2012 to run with me in the heart of the Midwest. 


Whatever your distance, age or fitness level, there is an event for you at the Quad Cities Marathon...
The Marathon presented by The National Bank
(individual or 5-person relay)
Ruhl & Ruhl Half Marathon
Palmer 5K Run/Walk
1 Mile Walk for Prostate Cancer
Happy Joe's Kids Micro Marathon

Running the banks of the Mississippi River
during the 2011 Quad Cities Marathon
The QCM is nestled between Illinois and Iowa with a course that captures the essence of the Midwest with a constant connection to the Mississippi River.  The flat course is intriguing as it covers 2 states, 4 cities, 3 bridges, and an island. The gun starts off the marathon in Moline, IL and runners are quickly given grandous views as they cross the Mighty Mississippi into Bettendorf, IA. After a nice tour through residential areas, the course connects with the riverfront trail, offering amazing views of the river, cities and bridges.  The half and full marathon split at about the 8 mile mark, but reunite later on the Arsensal Island that rests in the middle of the Mississippi River. The full course runs nearly 7 miles on the historic, yet still active, military grounds. The scenic route along the river and through the golf course are extremely peaceful. As runners exit Arsensal Island, the halfers turn right to finish line, while full marathoners head left for a 3mile out and back.  All races finish back in Moline with a straightaway stretch of cheering crowds down River Drive.

The QCM is absolutely spoiling their racers with an abundance of perks in 2012.  No matter what your race distance, everyone receives a Leslie Jordan micro-fiber long sleeve shirt and finisher's medal. (Kids micro-marathon shirts are cotton tees.)  Stepping things up for their 15th Anniversary, the QCM has upgraded to long sleeve shirts. The finisher medals have also been enhanced... picture a stained-glass piece of art dangling around your neck.  You won't want to miss this unique bling!

To celebrate the 15th running of the Quad Cities Marathon, all race participants will receive an additional two bonus gifts... anniversary edition Gloves and a Race Belt!  I had a chance to see these items firsthand recently.  I loved the feel and fit of the running gloves, which feature each of the four cities on the fingers.  The race belt is perfectly sized so that I can fit my key, gum and iPhone in the compartment and a couple GU gels on the strap. Perfect for long training runs!

Also included in your entry fee:

  • Commemorative Race Poster by world renown artist Ralph Laccarino
  • Special edition newspaper (with race results). It was a nice surprise last year to get this in the mail the week following the race. 
  • Miller Lite Post Race Party with great entertainment and refreshments (pork chop sandwiches and chili are on the menu for this year!)
  • Pacers provided in both the marathon and half marathon
  • Bands and entertainers along the course
  • Medical and Aid Stations along the course - providing water, gatorade, vaseline, GU Energy Gel, fruit stations and more. (I fondly remember oranges present 3 times on the backhalf of the course!)
  • USATF Boston Qualifier Course
  • Championship scoring and timing
With all those perks, I think you'd agree that the QCM is a steal at only $70/$45/$25 for the Full/Half/5K respectively for early bird registration (until June 29).  New this year is a cap of 5,000 runners, so don't delay your race registration (here).  They also honor a military discount for our service men and women.

Fundraising... The QCM benefits two worthy causes - prostate cancer research and screening (www.ustoo.org), and the Erika Kate Foundation, which helps families of children with life-threatening heart conditions.

Even the kids race has a scenic run along the Mississippi River!

Event Activities... The weekend kicks off with Saturday's children's race, the Happy Joe's Micro Marathon, which is the best kids race event I've ever seen. Read more about last year's kids event here. There is a good size Health & Fitness Expo, as well as bus course tours, and an evening pasta dinner.  This year's guest speaker is running legend Frank Shorter.

The race director of the QCM has graciously offered one FREE RACE ENTRY
to one of my readers for the race of your choice. Choose from the marathon, 
half-marathon, 5K, 1 mile walk or (2) entries into the kids micro-marathon.
Giveaway contest closes to new entries on Monday, May 28, 2012 (Memorial Day).
Random winner will be selected via Rafflecopter and announced on May 29, 2012.  

Already registered for the Quad Cities Marathon?
Please leave a comment below as to which race event you are already registered for.  You will automatically be entered into a secondary giveaway for a Quad Cities Marathon tech shirt.  Note, you may still enter the race entry giveaway too - encourage a friend, a spouse or your kids to run by winning them a free race!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Three Things Thursday: Pure Joy

Really, this is the three blog posts I never got time to write this week.  Ever since day light savings time, the days and weeks have seriously been disappearing on me.  Anyone else having this problem?

Last Saturday, I completed my official Spinning® certification class.  Our Master Instructor Angie was really knowledgable, thorough and her passion was fun to be around for nine straight hours.  I learned so much, not just about Spinning®, but some new (to me) training methods (more on that another day). I came home with my head literally spinning from all the new ideas and the rides I want to create!  Exhaustion at its finest.  Next steps... I feel like I need to study and process everything a bit more.  I'm hate feeling unprepared for anything, so I need that mental confidence before I perch myself up before a real live class. I have lots of practice yet to do before I take the official Spinning® Instructor test.

Not only did I find my running mojo on
Mother's Day, my kids got me a new
boxing bag!
As many of you know, I've been in a funk.  I lost my running mojo over a month ago over some stupid drama in my life, and have struggled to get it back. I kept on banging out the miles, knowing my mojo was just around the next corner.  Ironically, I ran my second marathon in the midst of this, which is one of the reasons I feel like I had "more" to give with that race. {race recap here}  Today I'm happy - elated in fact - to tell you I found my RUN-JOY again!!  It came on a simple, no frills run on Mother's Day.  I had planned to meet up with a group early that morning. But instead I was in my mood again, so I headed out alone. I left the house without a watch, no phone, no music... just me and the road... and the most perfect running weather anyone could dream up.  I really had no idea how long or far I was going to run (so no fuel or water either).  I threw all my typical routes out the window and ran like a lost child... up and down dead-end roads, just to see what was there... looping through parks with no concern for hills or pace. I gazed at all the pretty landscaping and just got lost in my run.  10+ miles later, I came home with the biggest smile on my face.  I'm back!

A local running group in Peoria hosts a Kids Run Series every spring.  This is our second year participating and we absolutely love it!  It's basically a mini track meet every Monday night. All the kids pin on a bib and can run as many heats as they want (1/4mile, 1/2mile, and 1mile) within their age groups.  Afterward they get a ribbon with their race time, along with cookies and juice.  For $2 a kid, you can't beat this family fun!  This week, my husband and I extended it into a Family Fitness Night.  After the kids races were done, we set out for our own 3 mile run - one kid in the stroller and the other on her bike.  We didn't eat supper until 8pm on a school night, but it was such a fun night with my little family. My heart bursts with joy when I get to share my running passion with the ones I love most.

Kids stretching out before the race heats begin.
My girls sporting their new running outfits (from Target)
I was so darn proud of my Little Girl.  The first week she fell and got trampled...
but this week, she ran like a little champion!
So rarely do we run together, but I always enjoy getting a sweat on with my hubby.

Don't forget to enter my CLICK-tastic giveaway here!
Ends Monday, May 21.

Monday, May 14, 2012

CLICK’n Spring Giveaway

I love my coffee in the morning... and then again in the afternoon. However when the hot days of summer hit, I turn to iced coffee drinks for my caffeine.  In the past, I would drive into town just to grab an iced coffee from the golden arches drive-thru.  Now I have discovered CLICK Espresso Protein Drink.

I get a great-tasting mocha coffee drink, plus CLICK provides a 15g boost of protein. This turns CLICK into one tasty post-run drink. Studies have shown a 66% better muscle recovery rate with caffeine compared to a carb-only drink.

The CLICK Espresso Protein drink provides an all-in-one solution to support your personal goals...
•  Breakfast meal replacement, coffee and essential vitamins all-in-one
•  Great source of energy and protein before or after a workout
•  Mid-day snack to boost your energy and curb your appetite
•  Energy you crave with the indulgence you deserve

Relaxing on my deck with an ice cold CLICK drink.

I use CLICK most often in the afternoons when I'm craving a sweet snack... Where's the chocolate!??!  It gives me a good energy boost with a double shot of espresso, plus the rich flavor of chocolate.  Heaven! And completely within my calorie budget at only 120 calories per glass.

Adjustable to the seasons, CLICK can be prepared both hot and cold.  I experimented a lot with recipes over the winter.  My favorite was a hot Pumpkin Vanilla Spice (photo/recipe here).

Now I'm moving on to summertime and I've got ice cold drinks and shakes on my mind.  Check out CLICK's assortment of cold drink recipes here.  But let's get creative! Make up your own creation, take a photo and share the recipe on my Facebook page.  There might be a prize for my favorite recipe... just sayin.

What? You haven't CLICK'ed yet?
Check out CLICK's sample offer here... Order a one-serving sample ($2.95) and get a second one FREE!  Be sure to use the BOGO promo code at checkout.
Enter my giveaway contest below, hosted through Rafflecopter.  Numerous entry possibilities.  Sweepstakes ends Monday, May 21 at midnight so hurry up and enter!

You can win this PINK-ed out Prize Pack
from CLICK Espresso Protein Drink...
15.8 oz container of CLICK Mocha Expresso Protein Drink
Shaker, Drink Tumbler, and a pink CLICK headband from BondiBand

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Race Recap: Wisconsin Marathon

Within minutes of finishing my first marathon last September, I turned to my husband and said, "I'm totally doing that again!" I promised a couple years before I stuck him with the kids every Saturday morning and dug into a big training plan.  Several months later though, I was signed up for marathon #2.

My calling to the Wisconsin Marathon was the cool cheese medal, the scenic lakefront course, and the allure of beer, brats and cheese (these are all food groups of themselves in Wisconsin).  My original intention was to run the half and collect my cheese bling.... and then a photo of the medals was released. Full marathoners were a orange/yellow (cheddar) ribbon, while the half marathoners received white (swiss).  I'm a full-blooded Wisconsin girl and I love my cheese, but somehow I hate swiss.  So just like that, the decision was made... I'm going for the Cheddar!

THE BIG DAY arrived last Saturday on May 5.  I slept fairly well the night before and robotically went through my morning routine. I had rehearsed my pre-race prep so many times that it now clicked off without a thought at 4:30 in the morning.  I had slept at my Aunt/Uncle's house just 40 minutes south of the starting line.  As soon as I started heading north to Kenosha, the rain began.  My heart sank. I really didn't want to do this in rain... again. (The only race I've ever been rained on was my first marathon.)  Thankfully I found a covered parking garage near the start.  I stayed under the shelter of the garage to warmup with yoga and stalk the weather radar from my phone. Finally the rain moved out.  Just fifteen minutes before the start, I exited the garage (dry!) and jogged to the starting line.  As I slipped into the crowd, the National Anthem started and we were on our way.

As the running began, I mentally reviewed my race strategy... Nothing faster than a 9:30 pace. Even-Steven. Be consistent. Be loose, but good form. No hurry, just go with the flow.  Enjoy the company of the half marathoners. My race doesn't begin until mile 12. Hydrate often. Fuel before you need it. Be strong. Be confident. Don't quit.

Mile 1 - 9:40
Mile 2 - 9:32
Mile 3 - 9:43
Mile 4 - 9:46

The first couple miles we made our way through some neighborhoods.  My parents were right before the 1 mile marker, so I was able to toss my hat and rain jacket.  There was little congestion around me so I found my steady pace early without too much jitterbugging around other runners. My problem was attitude though. I'd been missing my run-joy from my runs lately and today was no exception. By mile 3, I was already counting down... 23 to go.  Not a good sign. I needed to get into this race... and quick.  By mile 4, we came through downtown Kenosha and the streets were packed with spectators.  Lots of noise, signs and cheers... just what I needed!

Mile 5 - 9:20
Mile 6 - 9:40

As we exited the downtown area, we ventured into a park along Lake Michigan.  The views of the lake were great - especially breath-taking on a nice day I would imagine, but today was gloomy and dark with a cold wind coming in off the lakefront.  Shortly after mile 5, I saw my parents again with my Aunt D, Uncle J and cousin D perched at the top of a small hill, making a home with lawnchairs and a lineup of cheer signs. My mom definitely had the best signs on the course.

Mile 7 - 9:46  *GU*
Mile 8 - 8:49

Since I hid out in the parking garage before the race, I missed the bloggy meetup at the starting line.  Thanks to several out and back spots along the course, I saw a bunch of people I knew as we were running.  Around mile 7, I saw Kim and Rachel as they were cruising through their half marathons. Shortly after, I heard someone else yell out familiar names.  It broke me out of my zone enough to look over and see... Marcia and Bobbi!  It was so funny because I had been listening to their conversation for the past mile about running skirts. I ran with them and chatted for awhile. I also saw Tough Chik Erika and my friend Katie, who were running their first full and half marathons respectively.

Mile 9 - 10:24  *water refill*
Mile 10 - 9:32

During mile 9, I made my first stop to fill up my handheld water bottle that I had been sipping like a good student.  I ran past my family again at mile 10, forged up the little hill and out of the park and back to the big crowds in the downtown area.

Mile 11 - 9:31
Mile 12 - 9:47

I could feel the pace of runners pick up around me.  I tried my best to hold steady despite the finishing momentum of the half marathoners.  At mile 11, there was another small out/back before the half-ers made their way home.  I cheered them on and got to see Kim, Rachel and Marcia one last time before their finish.  At mile 12, I forged ahead... and it suddenly got really lonely on the course.  Out of nearly 3300 finishers, only 1/4 of those were running the full.  Yeah, I had plenty of running space now... In fact, the nearest runner ahead of me was blocks up the road!

Mile 13 - 9:46
Mile 14 - 9:57  *GU*
Mile 15 - 9:38
Mile 16 - 9:59  *water refill*
Mile 17 - 9:56
Mile 18 - 9:57

Once I hit mile 13, I turned on the music and kinda zoned out.  As I came up on mile 14, I saw my family getting out of the car and "making camp" at the corner. I was ahead of my pace and they barely made it in time to see me run through.  A lot of these miles were run through pretty neighborhoods - big trees, pretty gardens and fancy houses. We hit a couple stretches of gravel road that were kinda messy with all the recent rain.  At mile 16, we came up on the lakefront and got a brief glance at the lead runners on their way back home.  By mile 18, I was starting to feel the drain of running so many miles at a sub-10 pace... I've never done that before!!  And I started drinking more often.

Mile 19 - 10:03
Mile 20 - 10:09  *GU*
Mile 21 - 10:22  *water refill*

I had no idea just how tired I was until we made the turn at mile 19.  I had 7 more miles to go - but now heading north right into the lakefront wind.  I battled against it and tried to hold my pace, but by mile 20 I was hurting. My mind was oddly obsessed with the thought of eating oranges.  So I grabbed one of the PowerBar Tangerine energy gels that was offered on the course (they had no fruit station... boo).  I was so tired that I actually walked to take the fuel. It tasted horrible and I could barely swallow it.  (Marathon Rule #1 - Never deviate from your training!  But I was so tired at that point that it sounded easier than unzipping my pack to get my own GU out.)  Weird things start happening in my mind in these late miles.  I started envisioning my running buddies by my side... and had a complete conversation with them. I may have actually spoke aloud.  Thankfully runners were sparse on the course around me.

Mile 22 - 10:36
Mile 23 - 10:58  *water refill*

At this point, I was trying to take one mile at a time.  22 is my personal lucky number, so I used that to take me through that mile.  I sure appreciate runners who come out to spectate.  They make great cheerleaders.  There was a guy all dressed in running gear (obviously waiting to run someone in) whom I made eye contact with and he yelled to me, "You're killing this thing." It made my mile.  Later on, there was a group of runners who had finished the half and were back on the course, cheering wildly for all the marathoners. I knew my family was waiting ahead and that got me through mile 23.  It made me laugh when my Aunt D was wearing a Darth Vadar mask handing out Kleenex tissues!

Mile 24 - 9:21

Where did that come from? The course made a cut inward away from the lakeshore (and the wind!).  It automatically gave relief to my body.  I studied my watch and did some quick math.  The 4:17 goal was still vaguely in the picture, but I really had to push the last three miles.  After mile 24, we turned back into the headwind and my body felt like it stopped.  There was no way I could hold a mid-9 pace.  It really hurt to give in, to let go of my 'A' goal.  But I tried to focus on my 'B' goal, which was a 4:20.  I couldn't let that slip in the final two miles.

Mile 25 - 10:14
Mile 26 - 10:18

I fought for each step in the next mile.  I remembered from marathon #1 that the last mile went by so quick, so I ached to see the mile 25 sign.  Unfortunately, that last mile was not as smooth as last time.  I had so little left in the tank and struggled against the lake wind.  I kept telling myself, "You can do 1 mile in your sleep.  Just run it in." As I approached the final turn, there was a hill that practically killed me to make it up.  (It was probably only a slight incline, but at this point, any elevation change felt dramatic!)  I was so delighted to see Kim and Rachel waiting at the mile 26 marker to cheer me in.  They finished their race hours ago and hung out in the cold weather to see me finish.  Love 'em!

The Final 0.2 - 2:00

With just a 1/4 mile to go, I could almost see the finish line and of course, the cheerleaders grew on the side of the road.  I tossed my water bottle to my family and zoomed off to finish. I seriously reached down to find any bit of energy I had left.  I made the two women holding hands in front of me into a target.  They had matchy-matchy outfits and would totally steal the finish line camera.  I passed them quickly and never let go.  I gave some fist pumps down the final stretch and was delighted with the cheers I received for that action.  The finish line was finally here.  I was utterly exhausted and nearly doubled over. I think the guy putting the medal around my neck actually helped me from falling.  I stumbled around looking for water... water... and oranges!  Still no oranges.  But I did find the beer and brats!

Enjoying my beer, bling and brat!
Me, Rachel and Kim after the finish!

Full Marathon #2
Chip Time:  4:18:56
PR over the 2011 Quad Cities Marathon by 24:31
#486 out of 835 overall
#141 out of 329 women
#22 out of 47 division F35-39

Was I pleased?  Yes, extremely!  Who wouldn't be happy with a 24 minute PR?  I had come a long way with my training in the past 8 months.  I trained smart and prepared properly.  I ended the marathon with no chaffing, no blisters and no stomach issues.  My legs were tired, but well-trained.  I fueled and hydrated properly (although I did miss my last GU planned for mile 23).

Was I satisfied?  No. I missed my goal and still feel like I have more to perfect on the full marathon.  However, unlike my first, I felt a great relief that "the marathon" was done... until next spring.  I'd like to take another 10 minutes off my time, but most importantly, I want to feel STRONGER through those last six miles.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Three Things Thursday

I haven't blogged much this week... call it recovery.  After last Saturday's marathon, I was pretty exhausted - both physically and mentally.  I can't remember a time that my entire body was so sore, from my shoulders through the core, glutes, legs and even my feet.  I took a couple days to let my body heal. Yesterday I got back out there and ran an easy 3 miles; this morning 5 miles. My body is feeling good now, but I'm resisting the urge to go full throttle too soon.  I've done it before, resulting in injury.  That is not an option I can handle right now.

Marathon Race Recap coming soon!

I've been using my free time to catch up on my work... and create a new training plan of course. See the plan here.  I've got two more big events in the next month (Bayshore and Ragnar) before I taper down over the summer. My goal for summer is to relax and have more fun with my family.  Last year I was training for my first marathon and felt like it stole my entire summer.  I have a full calendar of fall races, but half marathons don't suck nearly the amount of time and energy out of me as training for a full does.
Have you picked out your fall races yet?
Next week I'll share my favorite fall marathon... and give away a free race entry!

How are you doing on the May Yoga Challenge?  I skipped a couple days after the marathon, but am back at it today.  And now what you've been waiting for... The winners of my Bob Harper Yoga DVD giveaway are:
Heather Clement
Run Jilly Bean
Please email me your shipping address to claim your prize.
Winners have 3 days to claim prize before an alternate winner is selected.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Awesome Athletes • Melody

I hope you all enjoyed a margarita or two for Cinco de Mayo!  To launch the new Awesome Athletes series, there is no one more fitting than my fellow FitFluential Ambassador Melody Jones.  I have read will run for margaritas for quite some time now and feel honored to follow her incredible running journey.  During a busy race week (for both of us!), she spared some time for a quick interview.  I hope you enjoy meeting this amazing and beautiful athlete!

Yup, that's a Boston Marathon medal
around her neck!!
Name  Melody Jones
Age  28
Home  Arlington, VA
Favorite Race Distance  10 miles

Current PR's
5k – 19:11
10k – 41:37
10 Mile – 1:06:20
Half – 1:35:02
Full – 3:32:42
Tri – 2:39:39 (Olympic Distance)

Cinco de Mayo was this weekend. How many margaritas are too many for you?  Favorite flavor?  Too many?!  No such thing… I’m a classic margarita lover: on the rocks with salt.

Favorite Running Gear  Race-day shoes
(currently, the Brooks Launch)

Describe your early start in running...
I grew up watching my mom run & race.  So, it was no surprise that I would grow up to be a runner, just like my mom. The only difference: I loved track and hated distance.  I vividly remember screaming “I hate XC” during meets – but my mom always told me that it would make me faster on the track, so I continued to run (and hate) XC.  After 4 years of hard work and dedication, I was offered a track & field scholarship to the University of Central Florida, where I specialized in 400m hurdles and 400m.  It is one of my greatest accomplishments to date.  After college, I discovered that “distance” running wasn’t so bad.  I ran a 5k.  Then a 10k.  And, then a half marathon.  It took another 6 years, but I finally ran my first marathon in 2011.

What was your most memorable race at Univ. of Central Florida?
Probably The Florida Relays, hosted at The University of Florida.  There is such an amazing energy at this track & field event – the pinnacle (and last event) being the 4x400m relay.  The amount of talent and speed is mind-blowing, I’ve run with some of the greatest and fastest runners at The Florida Relays.  It’s the one track meet I looked forward to every season.     

Running accomplishment you're most proud of?
Being offered a track & field scholarship to The University of Central Florida.  I dreamed about and worked really hard in high school – running in college was the one thing I wanted the most.  I wasn’t the fastest girl on the team, but I’m proud that I worked for what I wanted.  It’s one of my greatest accomplishments to date.   

Best advice for runners...
Listen to your body.  If you don’t feel like running, don’t.  It’s a common mistake we [runners] all make.  Personally, I’d like to skip 1-2 days in a major training cycle than suffer from injury, or worse, burn-out.  My coach would say the same thing!

Tell us about your job at Brooks Running... I think that is everyone's dream job!
My job is my dream job: I get to talk about running all day.  I can’t think of anything better suited for my lifestyle and personality.  I’m the Mid-Atlantic Tech Rep, a fancy way of saying that I visit accounts, educate staff on our products, act as a resource to stores/owners/employees, host events, and work expos.  If you ever have a question about running shoes or need a recommendation, feel free to email me at: willrunformargaritas@gmail.com.

What upcoming race are you most excited about?
Boston Marathon was my “big” event for 2012, so I don’t have a ton of races on the calendar.  I was excited about and ran Broad Street 10 Miler yesterday (May 6) - it was a great race (and a new PR)!  I’m going to focus on shorter distances and speed this summer, so I’m in the market for some 5k and 10k’s.

Besides running, how do you spend your free time? any hobbies?
I love yoga, ultimate fitness kickboxing, and triathlon.  Triathlon keeps things interesting (and my knees from failing me).   

The last word from Melody...
Running is one of the most rewarding and easiest things I do every day – all I have to do is lace up my shoes and step out my door.  Running has taken me to places I never knew possible {and they weren’t all good places or experiences, but I learned from each one}.  If you’re new to running, on the fence, or in a slump, give running a try – I promise it will change your life! 

Follow Melody's blog at will run for margaritas
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Friday, May 4, 2012

How to PUMP yourself up

One thing I've learned over the past couple years is that racing can be as much mental as it is physical.  Coming to the start line in the proper state of mind is a must for me.  I need a little bit of nerves, excitement and confidence.  So after I finish my physical preparations like training and packing, I dedicate the last couple days to psych myself out for an extraordinary experience!

Review your training. Read through your training journal or scroll down your page on DailyMile. Read through old blog posts, especially those detailing your long runs. It's been a long road and you've put in a lot of hard work. Sometimes we don't appreciate how far we've come until we look back at our starting point. Praise yourself to build up your confidence. Believe in you..

Watch a movie.  Let yourself be inspired by the abundance of sports flicks that revel around victory.  My favorites are Spirit of the Marathon, Chariots of Fire, The Replacements, Invincible, Any Given Sunday, The Rookie, Rudy, Rocky, We Are Marshall, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, The Blind Side, The Natural, Remember the Titans, and Miracle.  If you're not into movies, read a good running novel.  I recommend Once A Runner and Return to Carthage, both by John Parker.

Have a Game Plan. This is IT, the big kahoona... what you've been training and obsessing over for the past 12-18 weeks. Don't show up without a plan. I only run a full marathon once a year (that's my plan anyway), so I try to be as ready as possible for the big day. Bring a realistic but aggressive goal.  Know how you want to run the race... even paced or a gradual increase/decrease of pace. Study the course map. Be aware of the elevation points. Know your obstacles and weaknesses and how you're going to deal with them. Are you going to chat with fellow runners or listen to music? How often are you going to look at your watch? Practice your pose/smile for the photographer... Great race photos don't just happen. Visualize your lowest point of the run. Visualize the finish line, your glory. 

Dance. Crank the music and move. There's nothing my kids love more than an impromptu dance party in the middle of the kitchen.  And the day before a big race, it's the perfect release for bent-up stress and energy.  Anything to get a small taste of those happy endorphins!

Silly Subtle Suggestions. Wear your old race shirts all week. Drink from your marathon mug. Baby your feet with a nice pedicure (soak/massage/paint only... no cutting or trimming this close to the big run!).  Paint a big old 26.2 on your big toe. Mark yourself up early... Grab the sharpie and write your name down your arm. Apply those fun temporary tattoos. Wear your old race medals for an hour each day.  Convince yourself you are a runner, an athlete, a competitor, a winner... and you will be amazing!

What's your favorite inspirational sports movie?
Do you have any other pre-race rituals to pump yourself up?
Are you racing this weekend?

I'm off to Wisconsin to run 26.2 as fast as my body will let me. Thank you so much for your encouragement and support through this past training cycle. I can't even put into words how much it is appreciated. Have a great weekend and GOOD LUCK to everyone racing! Let's go kick some asphalt!