26.2 – Here Goes Nothing!

I’m writing this blog on my phone from my car at the start of the Heart of America Marathon in Columbia, MO. My brain did that typical ‘freak out about oversleeping and wake up too early’ thing this morning.

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I signed up for this race on a whim and I think it has me more nervous than races I’ve spent months preparing and training for. I guess that makes sense, since, ya know, I haven’t spent months preparing for this one.

This race is considered by some to be in the top 10 toughest road race marathons in the country because of the six major climbs along the way. Plus, temps average around 80-90, with humidity just as high. (Today’s high: 83)

I am approaching the race as just a long training run and not trying to set any records. That’s hard, because lately that is what I have been doing! This course has very limited course support, which I’m not used to for this distance. I like to be able to count on my precut bananas and m&ms along the way. Today it will just be me and about 200 others, with a handful of aid stations speckling the 26 mile course.

I did convince a few friends to come out along the way, including my girlfriend Lauren who will be at Mile 21 to help me through the last of the hills. At the finish I’ve talked my other friend Zahra into running across the finish with me too!

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It finishes in Downtown Columbia, which is where I did my undergrad. I have exactly enough time to enjoy a few slices of Shakespeare’s Pizza, shower, and then be Madison bound. I think the 8 hour drive home will honestly be the hardest part of the day!

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Well, I have killed enough time that it is finally time to go mingle with the other runners before the gun goes off. Wish me luck!

Signed Up for a Marathon in SIX (6) Days!!!

I think it is widely accepted that marathoners are pretty nuts. You have to be more than a little crazy to run 26.2 miles, for fun, and pay for it!

That being said, I don’t think it should be too surprising  that this morning I did something pretty insane and signed up for a marathon just six days away. Not just any marathon either. It’s the Heart of America Marathon in Columbia, MO – one of the most difficult, non-mountain road races in the country.

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This is all because this morning I impromptu decided to visit friends and family in Missouri over this upcoming Labor Day weekend. My training plan for the Quad Cities Marathon later in September called for one final long run this weekend, 23 miles, and I was a little worried about not getting it in while visiting everyone. Naturally, the practical solution was just to say “to hell with it, let’s go all the way!”

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I was already driving through Columbia on Monday and the race was only $40. How could I say no to a planned route, water and aid stops, camaraderie, AND a medal?! Once I thought about it like that it just seemed way more fun than running 23 miles solo. Plus, I might wrangle some friends into joining me for a few miles along the way.

So now I’m registered. Committed. Locked in.

Of course, it was after I paid my entry fee that I thought to look up the weather. 90 degrees.

Bring on the heat wave and the hills I guess!

Now let’s talk goals. I have absolutely none other than to finish this race. It’s so hilly that I don’t expect any PRs, and it is longer than I had planned to go. It will definitely just be a training run. BUT, it will help me achieve one other goal I made at the beginning of the year – to become a Marathon Maniac. If I finish Heart of America, Quad Cities, and the Madison Marathon I will meet the criteria to get my first star and become a Bronze Level Marathon Maniac. Whoo!

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Look for a race report soon and wish me luck!

Grateful for Miles – Gratitude Challenge

Today I had a totally badass run.

I know, not the most eloquent way to put it.

This weekend was scheduled to be my 19-miler to prepare for the Quad Cities Marathon next month. Being your typical Type-A runner, with lofty goals, I decided why would I wimp out at 19 – might as well go for the big 20. (That was a little dumb, given that I had just done a 17-miler on Tuesday, but who needs recovery anyway?!)

Now let me tell you about this run.

I started out strong, clocking an 8:54 mile, which I initially thought was foolishly fast. As miles two and three passed and I continued to keep the pace I thought, OK – let’s get to mile five and reevaluate then. If anything, it will help lower my overall pace as I slack off toward the end, I thought. At mile five I focused on keeping sub 9:10 miles, setting the next benchmark of the 10 mile point.

Well, lucky for me, the first 10 miles were all uphill. No seriously, the whole first half was a gradual uphill slope. OK, so what’s my excuse to not keep the pace, or exceed it, during the second half?

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Now I can be criminal of zoning out on these long runs, but today I was totally in-tune with every movement and every breath. (Ok – I hate it when people say that. However, I was definitely in a zen state.)

But what I noticed more than anything was how grateful I was to even be out there on this 20 mile run. Each passing mile, attaining one more micro-goal, I felt so blessed. I was running, my body is strong, my surroundings are beautiful, and I am on the doorstep of an amazing new opportunity with grad school.

So as each mile ticked away, my pace still holding strong, I thought of something new to be grateful for.

I never eased off and I finished my run as strong as I started. 3:00:53 at a 9:02 pace. SO close to breaking 3:00. SO close to breaking the 9:00 pace. (But hey – I did average a sub 4:00 marathon pace for 20 miles, and that is pretty damn impressive if I say so myself.)

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Maybe I’m especially effected by endorphins, but I always get a serious runner’s high. Always. ALWAYS. Like literally every time I run.

Afterwards, while resting in bed (for four hours) I kept thinking about all that gratitude. I just finished the book “The Year of Living Biblically” where the author A.J. Jacobs tries to follow all the rules in the bible, literally.

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I’m not religious and I honestly didn’t think the book was actually that good. But, he did talk about being thankful and how he became quite a bit more thankful the more he was actively praying about it. I think that consciousness is a pretty good thing.

So I’ve decided to start my own challenge that I’m going to call being Grateful for Miles. I’ll only post once a week, probably Mondays, but each day I plan on writing down what I’m grateful for – one entry for each mile I run that day. Some days there will be just a few, other days more or even a lot, and some days there will be none. I think challenges are good things, but breaks are even better, so rest days from running will serve as rest days for this challenge as well.

I put a lot of stock in being cognizant of all the good fortune and positivity in my life. I’m looking forward to this personal goal, and sharing it with you all as well.

I invite you to join me on Monday with your own Grateful for Miles Monday post!

Goals for Getting Faster – Making it Happen!

You know how on The Biggest Loser the contestants just get to work out all of the time? (Ok, maybe “get to” is the wrong word.) Well that is how my summer has been, except that I enjoy 100% of it. Now, I haven’t lost any weight because I’ve offset all my activity with avocados, but I have had an amazing time getting my heart rate up and endorphins flowing!

I run to eat avocado on everything. That and to eat frozen yogurt daily.

I run to eat avocado on everything. That and to eat frozen yogurt daily.

In Madison there is no reason not to be active every day. There are bike paths EVERYWHERE, I am a college student again and have access to a lap pool, and there are tons of opportunities for free workout activities – from yoga to walks in the arboretum.

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Since I have been on FUNemployment for the last six weeks I’ve decided to stay busy bettering my mind and body as much as possible. As I mentioned, I’ve made the move from strictly running to branching out a little more – including biking, swimming, yoga, and also as of recently – weight lifting.

And let me tell you something – it is paying off, big time.

I am getting stronger.

Just had this mind-blowingly kick ass run today! Maybe it was the pre-run coffee or the tunes, but whatever it was it worked!

Just had this mind-blowingly kick ass run today! Maybe it was the pre-run coffee or the tunes, but whatever it was it worked!

I’m getting faster. 

Best run of my life. I didn't even know this was possible.

Best run of my life. I didn’t even know this was possible.

Oh yeah, and I’m getting tanner: BONUS!

And I love it! I love having helmet hair or smelling faintly of chlorine. I love wanting to cry at the sight of stairs after leg day in the gym. (Ok, OK – I’ve done ONE leg day. I’m far from a regular yet.)

I’ve been noticing that my pace is getting quite a bit faster with running. I am not sure if the cross training is to attribute, or I am pushing myself mentally more. Either way, there are no excuses not to keep it up.

So I’m setting some goals.

Next weekend I am doing the Madison Mini-Marathon. My goal is to PR, which I don’t think should be too difficult given the success of my recent runs. My PR pace right now is 8:49/mi. I’d love to get into the 1:53’s with my half marathon time.

  • Goal #1 is to PR
  • Goal #2 is to break 1:54.

That’s a huge jump from the 1:56ish I ran at the Indy Mini-Marathon in May.

My next goal is for the Quad Cities Marathon in September. The last marathon I ran was the Mississippi Blues Marathon way back in January. (Has it been eight months already?!) but my PR was at the Marine Corps Marathon in October where I ran a 4:13:48 or a pace of 9:40/mi.

  • Goal #1 is to PR
  • Goal #2 is to break 4:10 – or roughly a 9:30 min/mi
  • Goal #3 is to break 4:00????!! (Probably wishful thinking for Quad Cities, but I’m writing it down anyway.)

I think goals 1 & 2 are definitely do-able. Again, it is going to be more mental strength than physical strength that will push me toward achieving any of them. I know I can physically handle it – I just need to not whimp out and psych myself out.

I am anxious to see what my workout life is going to be like when grad school starts (less than two weeks away) but until then it’s two-a-day workouts galore!

What has helped your pace improve?
Have you ever had a surprise kick-ass run?
Do you have any goals for the fall season?