An iPod, a Garmin and a goldfish…

All working together to remind me I have zero control of my life these days.  I’m going to be honest here, lately It’s been pretty easy to find reasons to NOT run. I’m just not feeling it and I’m A-OK with that on most days. I have a long list of excuse; and that’s exactly what they are, not valid reasons, just excuses for why I haven’t been making working out or running a priority. I’ve had a lot of family commitments on the weekends, I haven’t been able to run at night because of conflicting schedules with Justin. I don’t want to get up early in the morning, because sleep rocks my face off. These are all true, but none of them are so great that I could not over come them, lately I’ve just chosen the path of least resistance. And that path happens to lead to my couch. 

Wednesday night though was going to be different. All day the weather was perfect, sunny but not too hot, and when the weather is perfect my motivation for running gets pretty high. My plan was to rush home, rush the kids through dinner, rush Kaleena to bed and then rush Tysen to choir practice all in the span of about 30 minutes and then run for an hour before picking Tysen up. Easy peasy! 

Things were off to a good start, I managed to get through traffic and get the kids in a reasonable amount of time. Dinner was started, my running clothes were clean and ready to go.  Things took a dark turn when I grabbed my iPod and found that it was dead. No big deal, I could charge it for ten minutes before we had to leave. And you know, I could always run without music. Granted being alone with my thoughts for an hour is usually pretty bad company, but I was determined.

The kids were playing outside and I happened to look over at Mr. Gold, the fish we somehow managed to bring home from Tysen’s school carnival last weekend.

Mr. Gold in happier times. I probably should have referenced this photo when getting his successor. Let’s just say Mr Gold had a bit of a growth spurt…

One minute he was swimming around like a happy little fish…and the next…kerplunk….right into the rocks.  And then no more swimming around. Being the master of good timing that he is, Tysen walked in and noticed. I was going to tell him that Mr. Gold had gone on to the big fish bowl in the sky, honesty and all that…but his little face crumpled when he asked if he had died and said he hoped he was just sleeping. I pounced on that faster than I can eat an ice cream cone after a long run in July.  Yep, that fish was sleeping! 

The new plan was to rush Tysen to choir, then rush to PetSmart and switcheroo the fish without either child being the wiser. THEN I would finally be able to get my run on. Even though I quickly discovered I had no clean running socks (how does that even happen?) I still figured I could fit in 30 minutes, which was better than zero.

So I’m putting on my not running socks, not even worried about my poor, overly sensitive feet and I remember I need to grab my Garmin. I can run without it, I have in the past, no big deal, but after not enough running I needed the instant validation that it so readily provides. Except, you know. It was dead. Like the fish. And the iPod. 

And then I just gave up. Changed out of my running clothes and ate a piece of cake. Yes, I could have made it work, I didn’t have to take it all as a sign that last night’s run was not meant to be. I could have, probably should have too. But there are just some days where it’s just easier to give in. And I’ve been giving in a lot lately, so it was really just another day in a week of nothingness.  

I’m running tonight with the group, and I’m looking forward to it almost as much as I was looking forward to yesterday’s run. I promise not to let any dead electronic set me back. And we’ve already decided not to go for Mr. Gold III. 

This story is definitely more entertaining to me than it is you, but that’s generally the case for the posts I write for you to read. 

Five For Friday

My Friday started off by singing MJ’s Man In The Mirror at the top of my lungs with Tysen before we dropped off six dozen brownies for his school carnival.  In my opinion that is a pretty good way to start the day, even if none of the brownies were for me.  Now, onto my Five for Friday!

  • This one deserves its own blog post, but you know I’m the worst at regular blogging, so I shall stick it in here. In case you do not obsessively stalk Twitter like I do, you might have missed a pretty great announcement from the Houston Marathon.Houston Marathon, Houston Marathon Ambassador
    I found out over the weekend that I was selected as an ambassador for the 2015 Houston Marathon and was asked not to mention it until the official announcement. I’m a bad secret keeper, so this was pretty hard for me. I’m very excited and I promise to write up a real post worthy of such a great opportunity!
  • The dreaded running hangover has returned with a vengeance today. And sadly it is all my fault. I didn’t drink very much water throughout the day, and I wasn’t really sure if I was going to go running because I had lots of brownie baking to do, so I didn’t drink any Nuun either.  I did end up running, and it was around 90 degrees when I started. I knew I needed to properly re-hydrate once I got home, because running in that heat makes lovely salt flakes all over my face. But I got busy baking brownies and all the Nuun that I have at home has caffeine in it. Not really ideal at 10:00 right before I need to go to sleep. And I woke up with a HUGE headache. Some day I will learn from my mistakes. But yesterday was not that day.
  • On a related note, I have finally, found a few flavors of Nuun that I can drink, that will not upset my stomach. Last summer I mentioned that I had to stop drinking Nuun because it was making me super nauseous and just left my stomach feeling horrible.  And while I do still love blue Gatorade, I really wanted to find a Nuun I could drink because it’s so convenient to use and I do like the flavors. I was given a sample of Tangerine Lime, from the All Day collection and figured the worst that could happen was that I threw up. No big deal, right? Imagine how happy I was when I felt zero negative effects. Sadly the stores here don’t seem to carry it, and I keep forgetting to order a box.  I’ve also found that the U Naturals don’t bother me either. Sprouts had them on sale a few weeks back, and I decided to try the Goji Berry Green Tea.  The flavor is definitely not my favorite, but I’m at least able to tolerate it and it doesn’t bother my stomach. Both of these lines have lower levels of electrolytes, and I assume that’s why my stomach is not bothered by them.
  • I joked on Twitter last night, while in the middle of baking brownies, that some day I wanted to mail out brownies to all my peeps on the Twitter. And you know what? I think I actually want to do this. I am constantly reminded that often times it’s the small gestures that mean the most to people. Something as simple as a dozen brownies or cookies, a card sent to a friend, or a little note in a lunch box can remind someone that you’re thinking about them. That they’re loved. And I think that’s something we all need in our lives.

    Instagram, Acts of Kindness, small things, lunch box note cards

    From Instagram. I made these to put in Tysen’s lunch box. I’ve done these before, but now that he’s a much better reader the options are more open. He loves having a special surprise in his lunchbox, and I love that it’s a reminder that I’m always thinking about him.

  • Give me ALL the coffee! I was recently asked by a coworker if I’d like the extra to go box/jug thing of coffee that was left over from a meeting.  He was kidding, but I am pretty sure if he’d had a straw that I could poke into the cardboard I would have said yes. It is entirely possible that I have a coffee problem. Well, it would be a problem only if someone told me to stop drinking coffee. But so far no one has done that, thank goodness. I must be surrounded by smart people. And the weekend is here, so I can increase my coffee drinking tenfold, because I have easy access to it at home! And you know there will be some Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee.

I hope you have something fun planned for the weekend, mine will be filled with projects and projects and more projects around the house.  And cleaning. Ugh, less fun. 

Tuesday Things

You know how I love alliterations. I’ve got a few random things that have been rolling around inside my brain, lucky for you I’ve decided to share. Try to contain your excitement.

  • I was feeling philosophical Sunday while I was driving down the freeway at 80 mph, some song about being in a boat was playing on the radio. It’s been two days and I have memory problems, so I can’t actually tell you what it was. ANYWAY. It got me thinking about how my life lately has felt like sailing on the ocean. Some days it’s smooth sailing where I just kick back and relax, other days that boat is rocking and I’m running around trying to keep from tipping over.
  • I’ve been spending a lot of time digging in the dirt, like hours and hours every weekend. You’d never know it by looking at our postage stamp size back “yard.” I use the term yard loosely, since it is mostly a pool and concrete. But it IS tiny. After too many summers spent around the pool being blinded by all the white concrete and white brick and white wood, I decided it was time to beautify. And grow stuff. I think I mentioned I was planting some vegetables.  Good news on that front, they haven’t died yet!  Last weekend I picked up a package of beans to plant.

    Naturally I had to capture this for you, but I cropped out my dirt covered fingers. I didn’t tell the kids what kind of beans we were planting and I can’t wait to see their reaction to purple beans. I am probably more excited than I should be about these.

  • I was lucky enough to run with the fabulous Miss Julie TWO times last week. Both days we ran on trails and I’m happy to report that I did not fall nor did we get lost. I may NEVER be the hardcore trail runner that Julie is, but I will gladly suffer twisted ankles and tripping over rocks if it means I get to run with this amazing lady.  After being injured for weeks and not running for weeks, she finished sixth at Hell’s Hills. She’s amazing!
  • Do you have a Dunkin Donuts  near you? We’re talking within eight or ten hours here people. If so, go as soon as you can and get the cookie dough iced coffee. And if you go on a Monday before May 12th you can even have it for free! You KNOW how much I like coffee and even better when it’s free! Danielle mentioned how delicious the cookie dough iced coffee was and I thought about it nonstop for a week before I was finally able to try it. It’s worth an eight hour drive, I promise!

    From Instagram yesterday. I had decided to get an iced coffee on the way to work (because I’m addicted) and after I ordered it found out that I could have gotten a free medium instead, IN the FREE mug. Naturally I wasn’t going to turn down #MOARCOFFEE, so I drank both. Duh.

  • I’m looking forward to Wednesday, a good friend I haven’t seen in almost three years will be coming in to town for a few hours and we’re going to dinner. I think. I’m bad at planning these things. Weeknights are so hard when you’re a grown up and have to shuttle kids here and there and worry silly things like bedtimes. I pretty much just told her to decide what we do and I’ll drive the car. That’ll work, right?
  • And Fiesta starts soon! I still do not understand it at all, but I get a day off on the 25th, so I’m not really going to question it too much. I’m hoping there will be cupcakes and medals in my future, like last year. There are three or four races associated with the three week long celebration. And maybe if I were better at planning, I would have signed up for one of them. I guess it’s not too late, and I do like to procrastinate.

I think that’s about all the randomness that’s going on with me. I’m wondering now though if I’m the only one who is horrible at making plans with friends, especially on weeknights.

What’s happening?


I was going to write this entire post in Office Space quotes and .gifs, but I decided to throw in a few actual sentences. Solely for clarification purposes, not to increase the value of anything I have to say.

RUNNING:


That’s not entirely true, but pretty darn close.  I haven’t had a serious run, where I’ve given a hard effort or really enjoyed myself in months.  Last week I ran with one of my most favorite runners, Julie, and that was pretty fantastic.  After dealing with a foot injury for forever, she was finally given the go ahead to run. Lucky me I was able to convince her to spend s few miles with me.  Other than those however, most of my runs have gotten done only because I’ve forced myself to. I’m just not enjoying myself out there. So, most days I don’t. And I’m ok with that.

The Family Life is good,  we are a lot less busy than I think we are. Lately I’ve been feeling as though there is OH MY GOSH, so much to do. When in reality there isn’t, I’ve just lost the ability to prioritize and multi-task.  The next three weekends are packed with various events and activities and I’m scratching my head, trying to figure out how to make it all work. And to get the laundry done at the same time.

Most of my time that I once spent running and working out I’ve now devoted to obsessing over our tiny, postage stamp backyard. We’ve been doing a lot of digging in the dirt for the last three weekends. We’re attempting to grow some vegetables and flowers from seeds, which the kids think is entertaining and means I might save some mula, and hey if we get some carrots and tomatoes everyone will be happy. Not being gone running all of the miles has given me a lot more time to spend with the kiddos on the weekends and in the evening. I need to go back to that happy balance I had before I started marathon training. I know it exists, I’m just not sure what I did with it.

Just like this, except without the hard hat or the ability to earn cash.

WORK stuff. Oh where to start? I don’t like mentioning work stuff too much, because most people are either unhappy, or they’re lying.

Not really. But yeah.

The printer is very mysterious and hard to understand.

And that pretty much sums it up. Yes, there’s more to life, but it’s so not exciting right now, it doesn’t warrant mentioning. Maybe something exciting will happen and then I’ll have a reason to write a real post! We can only hope.

Run Less Run Faster marathon training review

I might have mentioned a time or two hundred that I was using the RLRF/FIRST method to train for the Houston Marathon.  The Run Less Run Faster method of training was developed by the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training back in 2003. There’s no real point to that sentence, just letting you know that some pretty smart people put a lot of thought into this whole running and training thing.  And if it worked to make those people faster and stronger while staying relatively healthy and injury free, then it was good enough for me.  

I have had very limited success with training plans that call for running more than three or four days per week.  I guess I’m just injury prone or need to work on strength training, but whatever the cause, I know what works best for me, and running back to back days is not it. That’s largely why this training program appealed to me when Amy mentioned it last year.  

The RLRF plan calls for three very specific runs each week; a speed workout, a tempo run, and a long run.  
The speed workout consists of intervals ranging from 400 to 1600 meters, or .25 miles to 1.25 miles.

The tempo run includes a warm up, 4-8 (I think!) miles run at 10k (+ 10-30 seconds depending on the distance) and then a cool down.

The long run is basically what it sounds like, longer runs between 7 and 20 miles at a slower pace (10K + 60/75 seconds), with each week progressively longer.  I modified my long runs and didn’t follow the book 100% on the distance each week because my version was the Boston Qualifying edition and included three 20 mile runs. That wasn’t happening. 

All of the training paces recommended by RLRF are slightly faster than other training programs and the plan really stresses quality over quantity of the miles.  The plan also places a high importance on cross training two days a week and are supposed to be done at the same intensity as the key runs. 

So that’s the plan in a very abridged version.  Three key run days, two cross training days.  

The book details all the distances you should be running, and my version listed each pace for each day. I used the five hour training plan to put together most of my key run pace information.  However there’s also a great website that I used, and it gave slightly different paces and workouts, so I took a little from each. 

And now the important question, did it work?  The short answer is yes, it worked, I ran and finished my marathon within the goal time I used when preparing all the workouts. 

I’ll try to go into more specifics, but I feel like this is getting wordy!

The plan worked great for me and I was happy with it mostly because I set my goal too low. I was just a few weeks into training when I realized I didn’t set my time goal fast enough.  Each workout is supposed to be hard (yet still achievable) and they are supposed to be fast, fast enough that you’re making your body adapt. I should have adjusted the paces to reflect that, but I guess I didn’t want to work TOO hard and burn out. I wanted to get through the weeks of training. So instead of increasing the paces I just ran where I was comfortable.

My long runs were supposed to be run at a pace around 10:56-11:30/mile (depending on the distance).  And while I’m not the FASTEST runner, and will never profess to be, I was running faster long runs before I started training. Every single long run I had was faster than the prescribed pace, because I simply couldn’t run the predetermined paces.

I did all of my interval runs on the treadmill, which made keeping track of the specific paces much easier.  When the plan called for me to run eight 800 meter repeats at 8:56 minute/mile, I needed the treadmill to tell me exactly how fast I was going.  The interval runs were the hardest of the three key runs, which is likely the point. Could I have pushed and increased my pace on these runs? Probably, but like I mentioned, I didn’t want to work too hard.

After my two longest runs I did adjust my time goal, however by then it was too late to make much of a difference, since I’d already done 18 weeks at the 5 hour paces.  After looking over  the times I was running my tempo runs combined with my long runs, I was a lot closer to following the 4:30 plan so I really thought that would be an achievable goal. 

As for the cross training, I probably could have done more, both in terms of intensity and frequency. The first two months I was firmly in the can’t skip a day of cross training camp, but as time wore on I wasn’t as good about getting in on my workouts.  I definitely should have incorporated strength training as well, but that’s something I say after EVERY training cycle, so I shouldn’t be surprised about it here.

On race day I felt completely prepared, I had no doubts I would finish close to my goal.  And for the first 22 miles, I was on pace to run under 4:30. Things like horrible heat, stomach cramps and nausea attacked me, slowing me down for a few miles, and I finished in 4:31. Close enough that I’m calling it a success.

To sum up, yes the plan works! But set your goals appropriately! I specifically chose a slower time goal because I didn’t want to add too much pressure during training. However maybe I could have run a little bit faster if I’d actually tried a little bit harder. I can see the opposite being true too.  Just because you WANT to run a sub 4:00 marathon, doesn’t mean you can go from being a 4:30 marathoner to a 3:59 marathoner overnight. You have to put in the work, and be realistic about your abilities. 

I will be using RLRF for any future marathons I run because I know it works for me and will keep me injury free. 

Have you used RLRF? If not, would you be willing to run less and incorporate more cross training?

Five For Friday

After my Houston Marathon recap I had planned to write a follow up post reviewing the Run Less Run Faster/FIRST Method of training…But then I never did and I got distracted by all the shiny things. I do plan to write that up, I learned a lot and  it might be helpful to put out there on the Internets for people looking for a different approach to marathon training. Unfortunately that’s not going to happen today, instead it’ll be five random, non-running related facts that you might not know about me. What can I say, I feel like sharing.

  1. I don’t like wearing shoes inside, but I hate to be barefoot. Woah, groundbreaking, right? I have horrible circulation due to Raynaud’s and that means my feet get really cold and numb very easily. It’s not unusual for my toes to be white or purple on an 80 degree day. That means I’m almost always wearing socks when I’m at home. I just like the way my feet feel nice and soft inside ‘em.  Not to mention the not going numb part, that’s a big plus.
  2. I love, love, LOVE to garden. Growing stuff (flowers, vegetables, fruits) is really my jam. There is something soothing about planting a tiny seed and watching it grow and blossom.  When we lived in Seattle I looked into taking classes to become a Master Gardener. That was before Tysen was born and I actually had time to think about that sort of thing. I have boxes and boxes of gardening books that haven’t been touched since we moved. Now that we’re in Texas, gardening is completely different and I still haven’t figured out how to grow things in the super hot summer here.
  3. Work is slowly crushing my soul. I am not sure why, but all the little things lately have just left me feeling awful all day, every day at work. I spend over half my waking hours at work, I should not be so miserable. I either need to take steps to change it or stop complaining. I know I’m not the only one ever to feel this way, it’s not a new phenomenon, but I’ve recently realized just how unhappy I am. I guess that’s not really a random fact, just more of a statement.
  4. I love gummy candies. I like chocolate but could easily live without it, however chewy/gummy candies get me every time! Swedish Fish are probably my favorite and I think the Target brand is actually the best in flavor and softness. When we go to the movies, I always choose a box of Dots and if I’m feeling crazy a box of Red Vines too. Mike and Ike’s are delicious, I especially love the blue box because it contains all red flavors. I understand red dye is evil, but it makes those red candies just perfect. I do not like green or orange flavors though, they are gross.
  5. I could sit and read for hours. Long ago, in a mysterious time I can barely remember, when I was without tiny people in my life, I could sit and read my way through an entire book in one day. I still love reading, but it’s harder to fit it in now. I tend to find an author or series I love and read every book I can find. Long ago, in that mysterious time, e-books were a new technology and I was a strong hold out against switching. I love the feel of a book in my hands, turning pages over, and putting in a cute bookmark. However I’ve come to embrace digital books and can’t believe I was ever against them! I can put about five million books on my iPad and still have room for five million more.

That about wraps it up, it’s surprisingly difficult to think of so many non-running related pieces of my life. That should probably scare me more than it does, something about needing hobbies or some other nonsense.

This is the part where I ask you to tell me some random fact, but you don’t have to, I hate to put peer pressure on you!

Houston Marathon Recap

I’ve been putting off writing the recap of my first marathon and I’m not exactly sure why. It was a pretty great weekend, a good race, and I’ve been TALKING about it nonstop to anyone who will listen. Yesterday I finally figured out the main reason I’ve been so hesitant is that once I finish this recap, my first marathon is officially over. And I’m not sure I’m ready to let go of all that hard work of training, the excitement at the start line, the pain of mile 24 and the overwhelming sense of pride at mile 26.2.

Long before I registered for the Houston Marathon I knew that running my first marathon would be a family event.  Justin and I had previously talked about a few other races out of state that I thought would be good choices, however he was fairly adamant that both he and the kids should be there to help celebrate my accomplishment.  I wavered on whether this was really a good idea, considering travelling with kids is never easy and then throw in the whole stress of race day and I was a nervous wreck. Looking back though, I’m so very glad the whole family was there, not just for race day, but on Saturday to help distract me from thinking too much about what Sunday would bring.

image

Just sitting in the car, building stuff.

I made reservations at the Courtyard Marriot downtown, and several times considered finding something farther out that wouldn’t be quite as expensive. I’ve never made a secret of how cheap I am and how I hate giving other people my money.  In the end though, the convenience of being right near the start won out, and I’m very glad it did. The hotel staff was incredibly friendly and on Saturday the walk to the expo was just long enough to loosen my legs after being in the car for three hours.  I had intended to buy all the things at the expo, but it was so crowded and I was so overwhelmed that I left after grabbing my packet. I took zero pictures with Meb (who was signing autographs when I got there) and bought no commemorative key chains.  I do actually regret not spending more time at the expo, or at least taking one picture to prove I was there.

Sunday morning dawned dark and early, and after a less than desirable amount of sleep (I won’t name names, but children are noisy) I decided to get up before my alarm went off, I wasn’t sleeping anyway.  I did all my routine morning stuff and made my way downstairs to be with all the runners.  It wasn’t until I was a block away from the convention center that I realized I had only eaten half of my bagel. For some people that’s no big deal, but I’ve had many training runs go painfully wrong due to lack of food.  I am the luckiest girl ever though, because my training partner A who had driven from San Antonio just to watch me run, was staying at the same hotel. A and her adorable 2 year old walked super early to the convention center and brought me some snacks. I have the best friends.

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Look, no hands! Also, so naive and unaware.

I met up with blogger Tara and her running group, The Cypress Running Club who were all super easy to spot in their neon green and incredibly friendly and welcoming. One of the many things I love about runners is that we may be strangers but it will never feel as though we aren’t best friends. I somehow lost Tara and her group as we were making our way out of the convention center. But I did see her a few times along the course and she looked to be having an amazing race.

As I made my way through the streets of Houston and toward my corral and the starting line, I was by surprised by my lack of nervousness. I was excited to finally be running the marathon after months and months of training. Normally before a race my heart is super crazy out of control fast and panicky and I can’t seem to get myself to calm down. I didn’t experience any of that, just pure happiness to be among so many runners on a gorgeous day.

After crossing the start line my only goal was to not go out too fast and crazy like ever.single.runner who crossed with me. As I like to do, I had obsessed over the course for a few weeks, memorizing the various roads and turns. Though I’d never run the route, I knew exactly where each turn was going to be and approximately how far until the next one. I had also mapped out several different spots for Justin and the kids to try to find me, so I knew it would be less than an hour of running before I saw them. I was eagerly looking for them as soon as I got to the first suggested spot. Like an idiot, I had left my sunglasses in the car so the plan was for Justin to give them to me around mile 4, which would be just about the time the sun got too bright to run without them.  I didn’t find them until closer to mile 7 or 8 due to poor planning on my part. Apparently they have to close streets or something.

kids
Once I did see them I was super excited, probably overly so, and I maaaay have cut off another runner on my way to the side of the street. Oops. I was feeling fan-freaking-tastic (it was still early) and I wanted them to know how good I was feeling. I hope I conveyed that with the sweaty hugs and kisses. And I got my sunglasses, which I was very grateful for since the sun was now out in full force.

The full and half courses split just before mile 8, and I expected the crowds of runners and spectators to thin out significantly.  Much to my surprise though a lot of runners made the turn with me, and there were still a ton of fans along the course.  The next few miles were my favorite as we ran along Rice Boulevard and through West University Place, both beautiful neighborhoods with incredibly supportive people.  I kept waiting for a spot for there to be fewer spectators so I could turn up my music and just zone out. But there was never more than a block without at least a few people, and I felt guilty for turning up my music and tuning them out, so I never did. I saw A for the first time right in front of Rice Stadium, I was still feeling awesome was full of smiles.

IMG_1967 (1)
There was a lot of shade through this stretch, which was a very good thing because the sun was feeling way too hot.  Fortunately we were under trees and shade until around mile 11 or 12. Every mile I would check in with myself (sounds so technical, it’s not) to make sure I wasn’t pushing myself too much and wearing myself out too early.  My hip flexors were pretty tight, and had been for a couple weeks before hand, I think I mentioned that in a previous post.  I was hoping it wouldn’t be a huge issue for the race, but it was very noticeable starting around mile 10.

I saw Justin and the kids right before turning onto Westpark at mile 12, they did such an amazing job getting to so many different spots along the course. Justin hates driving and I can’t full express how appreciative I am that he ferried the kids to and fro for four hours just to spend a few seconds cheering my name.

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Along Westpark was the first real hill, an overpass, on the course, and I was surprised to see so most people walking it.  I’m not the world’s best hill runner, I don’t consider myself a super excellent runner, but I wasn’t quite ready to let the hills win.  And despite some tightness, I was still feeling pretty good, though I was starting to get thirsty. Which is never a good sign when it comes to my running. So I started taking water at every water stop and instead of only a few sips from each cup, I would drink the whole entire cup.  And get a second cup at the end of the line. Because I felt like I was running in the desert and I might never see another water stop again.

Westpark was hot and I tried to stick to the shade along the side of the road but there wasn’t a lot to be had. Right near the 13 mile mark there was a crazy-tight hair pin turn, so you could see all the runners ahead of you and all the runners who were behind you after the turn.  I feel I kind of lost my rhythm right along this part of the course. Maybe it was that the sun was beating on my head more, or the previous mentioned thirst, but I think here was the first time I lost my smile.  Though I found it again as we ran through the Galleria because there were so many spectators. They were loud and amazing and I’m so glad they were there! I still hadn’t turned my music up very loud and the constant cheers of “Go Steph” helped me get to the shade I knew we’d be in once we turned onto Tanglewood.

Again with amazing spectators. So many of them out along this part of the course. I want to move to this neighborhood (and all of them along the course) just so I can sit in my lawn chair and cheer for runners. How can I make this happen?

I’ve looked at the elevation map, and I swear it is wrong, wrong, wrong. Because once we turned onto Chimney Rock after mile 16 it felt like it was ALL up hill.  But the course map says otherwise. As does my Garmin data. This is where the wheels officially fell off, so maybe that’s why it felt worse than it was.  I was still so thirsty, despite all the extra water I was drinking.  Normally when I run, I have to sip at my handheld every few minutes because my stomach just can’t handle large quantities of water while I’m running.  I KNOW this, I have experienced the consequences time and time again, only to hate myself after.  The whole reason I was running with my handheld was so that I would not have to take in a lot of water at each water stop. And yet, I am an idiot who apparently does not learn from past mistakes.  Because just water wasn’t cutting it anymore.  I started to take one cup of Gatorade and one cup of water.  Lots of gulping was happening. Which inevitably led to horribly painful stomach cramps starting about mile 18.  I’m not sure describing the pain as a stomach cramp is really doing the pain justice, but it’s the best I’ve got so I’m going with it.

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Miles 20-24 are a pretty big blur of misery.  I was so thirsty, but my stomach hurt so much that I finally stopped taking water in hopes that it would help.  Running made me feel like I was going to throw up, but walking only made the stabbing pain in my stomach more noticeable.  It’s best if we pretend these miles didn’t exist. The family was waiting for me around mile 21, and I nearly missed them. I was pretty miserable, despite photographic evidence that I’m actually smiling. I guess I’m really good at pretending. I saw A again at 22 and gave her a big thumbs down.  Sadly, there is no photographic #proof of that, but I promise you it happened.  I was ready to be done.

Despite how horrible I was feeling, when I looked at my watch  somewhere after mile 24 I was surprised how close I was to meeting my A/if the stars align/the weather is perfect/unicorns and rainbows fall from the sky-goal.  I warred with myself about how much I really cared about a stupid time goal.  I wanted to run under 4:30, and for the entire course my splits said I’d easily run that.  But that was before the stomach pain started and before I stopped looking at my watch and started hating goal setting.  Before hating the sun and water and Gu.  Running is hard, yo.  I decided that no, I didn’t care about a time goal, I cared about not throwing up. But…but…then I saw the 40K sign.

I was walking with a guy who looked just as over it all as I was, after some internet stalking I found out his name was Chris. I pointed to the 40K sign and told Chris we were going to start running as soon as we hit it, and we wouldn’t stop until we crossed the finish line.  Another thing I love about runners is that when we say such crazy things to strangers, it’s usually met with a nod and hopefully a smile. Chris did both and we took off once we hit the marker.  That last stretch was far and away my fastest of the course, I wanted to stop and throw up, but I didn’t want to let Chris down. After all, it had been my plan to run, so I was stuck running.

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Look, I can fly!

Running down Lamar, all I could think about was the finish line and I could SEE the convention center but it was still so very far away. So, so far.  It was so loud (maybe that was just buzzing in my head?), and I think I heard Carla call my name, but other than that it all blurred together and I couldn’t really hear anything.

Finally, after four hours and thirty one minutes I crossed the finish line.

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Too tired to do anything but stand there. I couldn’t even lift my medal up without being tired.

Somewhere after getting my medal I lost sight of Chris, so I never had the opportunity to thank him for running with me at the end. I know I wouldn’t have finished as strongly if he hadn’t been there. Instead, I am able to forget the horror of the later miles, and focus on the strong, kick ass race to the finish.  After getting my medal I walked and walked and walked and I swear to all that is Holy, walking into the convention center and getting my finisher shirt was harder than running the marathon.

Houston has amazing post race food options, sponsored by HEB, with lots and lots of snacks and ice cream sandwiches and a full breakfast. Due to my stomach still hating me, I wasn’t actually able to eat any of the delicious food, but I tried to eat part of an ice cream. I managed to hobble my way to the reunion area to find the family, who had gotten stuck in traffic and missed the finish line. Which was ok with me, since I would rather have had them at mile 21 when I really need them, than at the finish when I would not have spotted them.

I loved everything about this race (remember we’re forgetting about those crappy miles) and somewhere around mile 8 or 9 I had already decided I would run another marathon.  I may never qualify for Boston, or run a marathon in under four hours. But those will never be my goals. At the start of 2013, I swore I would not, could not, run a marathon. How would it be possible for me to run for that long? Not to mention the impossibility of fitting marathon training into an already hectic family life.

Slowly I stopped thinking in terms of what I could not do, and focused on what I might be able to accomplish.  I stopped putting limitations on myself, because I don’t want to be defined by the things I did not do, but rather by the challenges I’ve faced.