Run, Rest, Recover, Recommit…READY, RUN (again)!

2018 has been a big year for me.  I’ve been chasing the goal of qualifying for and getting to the starting line of the Boston Marathon since I set that goal in 2013 and made my first (unsuccessful) qualifying attempt in 2014.  But I kept at it.  It was never easy, but it turns out that it’s worth it (like so many things in like that are never easy, but always worth it – marriage and parenting come time mind).  I spent the first several months of 2018 focused on training for Grandma’s Marathon.  Training started at the end of January, and the race was in the middle of June.  That means the first half of the year was spent intently (and intensely) preparing for a third (and what I thought may be my final – because it’s just such hard work, and because also I felt like this time was REALLY my time) attempt to qualify for Boston.  Looking back at that race, I really don’t know what I would do differently.  I loved the training plan that I used (I followed the traditional “Crush it 26.2” from the Train Like a Mother Club) and the super supportive and encouraging community I had around me – both in the Another Mother Runner virtual community and my tribe of strong and amazing women who I run with regularly in Moms on the Run.  Race day came and the weather ended up being perfect, and I had a great pacer who stuck with me and encouraged me every step of the way (Thanks, Dillon!!), and a coach who has been with me through multiple training cycles (Thanks, Gabe!).  I look back at these photos, and while there were a few things that I may have done differently if I got a chance to rewind and get a do-over, the bottom line is that it was a great day, I qualified for the Boston Marathon (with a cushion of not quite two minutes), I felt fantastic, and I finally earned the privilege of putting on my Boston shirt that Gabe got me when she ran the 2016 Boston Marathon!

After Grandma’s I needed to rest and recover a bit before jumping into the next challenge, the next goal, and the next training cycle.  Since ALL of the kids were at camp the same week immediately following Grandma’s Marathon, John and I got to spend the entire week in our happy place, hiking and camping on the Superior Hiking Trail on Minnesota’s North Shore.  I let my legs rest – no running, but plenty of hiking – and took every chance I could to stick my feet in the cold and rejuvenating waters of North Shore streams and Lake Superior.

Turns out that was great preparation for my next goal – my first ultramarathon (Superior 50.  I ran a lot of miles this summer.  A LOT OF MILES.  And I honestly loved (almost) every single one of them.  I got to spend time on trails, including a fantastic long run on trails in Acadia National Park overlooking the water – and it looked and felt so much like northern Minnesota.  The Superior 50 was such an amazing experience – and SO HARD and SO LONG, but seriously an incredible 16 hours with one of the most wonderful women (You ROCK, Emily!)!!  We had a fantastic crew, and a very memorable (and perhaps more than slightly painful) experience on the trail that day.  I will be forever grateful for the amazing September Saturday we had – the weather, the company, the support crew, and the surroundings were absolutely heavenly.

Once that was over, now what?!  Clearly I had earned some rest and recover time, which I completely and totally embraced.  Registration for the Boston Marathon opened shortly after Superior, and again I was focused on my goal to get there.  As I’ve written about before, The road to 26.2 is thousands of miles long…

I took plenty of time to rest and recover.  I ran, but it wasn’t far, it wasn’t fast, and it wasn’t frequently.  I got a little out of the habit and routine, and that means it’s a little hard to get back into it – but get back into it I must!  You see, the other day, I got the email from the Coach who’s working with all the charity team runners.  He sent me my training plan, my link to all the strength training and yoga videos, and brought me back to what will be my reality (although it still doesn’t feel quite real) will be over the next 18 weeks.  It’s time to recommit to my goal – except this time my goal is not to GET to Boston, it’s to RUN Boston.  Our flights are booked, our hotel is reserved, I’m making progress on my fundraising for Team BIDMC in support of kidney disease research (Please click here to check out my fundraising page and consider a donation!!) – all that’s left is the training.  I can do that.  This is not the first time at this rodeo – this is marathon #10 (say what?!).  It’s go time.  I’m ready to run.

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Running for Reasons: In Memory of Tony D’Angelo

There are many reasons why I run.  I started running out of rebellion and resentment – I was upset about how my mom had not taken care of herself and had suffered such debilitating health issues that also ended her life just shy of her 68th birthday.  I was angry that I was only 33 when I lost my mom.  I was sad that my kids would never know their grandma.  I was frustrated with the example she had set for me.  I resolved to make my story different, in spite of whatever genes she had shared with me that would render me vulnerable to developing similar health issues later in life.  I started running out of fear – I was afraid I wouldn’t be a strong and healthy role model for my kids.  I was afraid that if I wasn’t that…I might not be around to enjoy retirement years and watching the next generation grow up…and the generation after that.  Over time, resentment and fear evolved into gratitude and passion – it’s amazing what the meditative rhythm of running shoes on trails can do – especially when paired with a therapy session with a BRF, or a solo run filled with contemplation and prayer.

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I’ve always been driven to run to honor the memory of people special to me.  I run for those would can’t (or couldn’t), and to bring awareness, understanding, and tangible benefits for people and causes that are near and dear to my heart.  Right now – I’m running toward fulfillment of my dream – to experience the iconic Boston Marathon.  This was my dream, but I’ve discovered that it’s never been just about me.  My dream, passion, persistence, and grit got me to the point of qualifying, but it can’t be that “easy”.  My road to Boston involves my tribe, my community, and my village.  It involves making a difference by running on a charity team in support of kidney disease research – and kidney disease is something that I’ve watched affect several people close to me.  It involves telling their stories – so more people can be touched by the lives of these people – which at minimum may spark kindness towards all people, gratitude for the experiences we have and the people with whom we share them, and reflection on the little things (that really are the big things) – and perhaps will result in greater and grander things, particularly when we consider what can come of the funds raised in support of kidney disease research, and how that may impact people’s lives to make their stories longer, healthier, stronger, and happier.

You can read more about my story and my road to the 2019 Boston Marathon on my fundraising page: CLICK HERE to make a difference for kidney disease research!

When John (my husband) and I started graduate school at Michigan State University many years ago (it was 1996…so last century…), we didn’t know anyone there.  We rapidly were welcomed into the village comprised of other graduate students in our cohort (many of whom are still our dearest friends), faculty mentors from MSU, and friendly folk from the East Lansing/Lansing area community.  We met some amazing people during our six years living in Michigan…six important years that included important life events like a marriage, the birth of our first child, purchase (and subsequent sale) of our first house, and unfortunately also the experience of getting to know, and then having to say goodbye to, a close friend.  Tony was one of the first people John and I met when we started at MSU – he worked in the Biology labs for the introductory biology course that almost all incoming graduate students in our department were assigned to for our rookie teaching experiences.  His laugh was infectious.  I can still hear his singing voice.  I will never forget his sense of humor, his kindness, his mischievous streak, and how he prioritized time with family and friends.  We got to know his family when we were welcomed into the pack of “Tony’s Tigers”, participating in an annual walk at the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing in support of the National Kidney Foundation.  Tony had kidney disease – and coped with reduced kidney function, transplant, and dialysis for most of his (much too short) life.  Tony made a permanent impact on our life in the five short years we knew him. Our son (Anthony, or AJ) is named after him  I want to share his story – which was contributed by his brother and sister in law (Joe and JoMarie D’Angelo).  We have stayed in touch with his family in the 17 years since we said goodbye to Tony, and I am so grateful for the time with and memories of Tony, as well as the connection we maintain with his family.

IN MEMORY OF TONY D’ANGELO

born: May 13, 1962          died: May 13, 2001

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Anthony J. “Tony” D’Angelo was born on May 13, 1962, which happened to be Mother’s Day that year. Tony had many hobbies and enjoyed all types of music, loved to dance and sing. He played the keyboard and also belonged to the St. Martha Catholic Church choir.  Karaoke was a favorite of his and he provided great entertainment at parties with family and friends. He enjoyed spending time with his family and friends and having people over to his home to cook for them (especially stir frys).  He also hosted an annual Christmas tree decorating party at his home every December.  He loved camping, fishing, birdwatching, butterflies, and nature. Tony belonged to the Audubon Society and a group that did wood carvings of birds.  He was an important part of getting the Mackinac Island Butterfly House open for business back around 1991. Tony was a fan of the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Lions teams.  He was the captain of “Tony’s Tigers” a group of family members and friends that walked each year in the charity Kidney Walk at Potter Zoo in Lansing.  His family still continues to walk annually in his memory at the Kidney Walk at the Detroit Zoo.

Tony was a healthy boy until he was diagnosed with kidney failure at approximately 14-15 years old.  He began dialysis and continued the demanding schedule of dialysis several times a week until receiving his 1sttransplant in approximately 1981 from an anonymous donor.  Tony’s mother was scheduled to be his donor but then his tissue was changing so much that they were no longer considered “a match”.

Tony lived in St. Clair Shores, Michigan during this time and attended Macomb Community College.  Then he transferred to Michigan State University in East Lansing for his degree in Entomology (the study of insects).  At some point in 1986, his transplant began to fail.  It had been not quite five years since the surgery.  He then went on peritoneal dialysis (a procedure done at home several times a day, which removes excess fluid, corrects electrolyte problems and removes toxins in patients with kidney failure).  Tony became so comfortable with this procedure of draining fluid out and then replacing it with fresh fluid, that he was able to set up a sterile environment at work to perform the procedure.  He even went on an Alaskan cruise with his sister, Gloria, and had all his supplies delivered to the ship!  Eventually Tony educated other young patients and their parents how to perform peritoneal dialysis.

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Throughout this time, Tony never let anything defeat him.  He always had a great attitude and positive outlook.  He often would walk into a room, whether at home, school or work and burst into song!  His family and friends loved him so much.  He continued his studies and eventually obtained his Master’s Degree in Entomology. Then he landed a job with Michigan State University in the Kedzie Hall laboratories.  There he made some of his closest friends with his co-workers.

Sadly in 2001, Tony developed sepsis (a severe infection of bacteria and toxins) in his gut.  He died on his birthday 5-13-2001, again Mother’s Day, at the age of 39.  He had been on a waiting list to receive his 2ndkidney transplant at the time of his passing.  We terribly miss him and will always cherish the fun and fond memories of our dear Tony. He lit up the room with his smile, positive attitude and personality!

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Do you have a “Tony” in your life?  Someone who lights up the room with a smile, positive attitude, and personality?  Those of you who knew Tony – what are your favorite memories?  

Monday Motivation: From weakness comes strength

I discovered a paradoxical truth the first time I trained for and ran a marathon:  Nothing makes you feel stronger than running a marathon.  Also this: Nothing makes you feel weaker than running a marathon. I know – Huh?? I’ve been working on unpacking that little gem for awhile.

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When I started running, I was discouraged by how hard it was.  How awful it made me feel about myself.  It hurt.  I was always gasping for breath.  My lungs burned.  Everything jiggled uncomfortably. I felt weak, inadequate, like I was trying to do something that I wasn’t meant to do or be someone who I had no business being.  I have vivid memories of training for my first race (a sprint triathlon, inspired by my niece Johanna who can talk me into pretty much anything) – and stumbling back into the house, red-faced and gasping for breath – vehemently telling my husband that I would NEVER run farther than the 3ish miles I had to do for this silly triathlon.  But I kept running, I kept training, because I had a goal…and anyone who knows anything about me knows I am pathologically goal-driven.

You know what?  I was wrong about SO many things.

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I was meant to run. Sure – the learning curve was kind of steep, and it’s always harder to learn new things, and to really try to become good at them, the older you get.  And I started running in my late 30s. I’ve had my share of aches and pains (turns out I’m a little injury prone – let me tell you about sacroiliitis, plantar fasciitis, IT band syndrome, peroneal tendinitis, piriformis syndrome, hamstrings tendinitis, Achilles tendinitis, metatarsal stress fracture…). But as I looked to turn what felt like weakness (whether we’re talking physical or mental weaknesses – this applies to both!) into strength, I noticed something.

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I am meant to be a runner.  The endorphins are real, my friends.  I just can’t explain, and you just can’t beat that feeling of working hard and seeing results.  Setting goals and registering for races gives me an incentive to work hard and be accountable so I don’t let myself slip into bad habits of inactivity and poor nutrition (I have to CONSTANTLY work at this one…I love to eat all the things – especially carbs – and drink all the things – especially fermented beverages).  The feeling of crossing a finish line when it’s something you’ve worked hard for is amazing.  And in running, I’ve found my people.  I have met the most amazing, positive, strong, inspirational, kind, and wonderful humans over the last few years as my network of running buddies has expanded.  These are my people, my tribe.

Having dreams and goals is just fine, as far as vices go.  Whereas I have many weaknesses (as a runner, parent, teacher, friend…), I also have many strengths.  Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between weaknesses and strengths when it comes to chasing goals and dreams.  That’s a constant, narrow, path I tread very carefully, especially with my family.

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But I am 100% certain about one thing.  I AM A RUNNER.  It is in working on my physical weaknesses by doing the physical work of running AND working on my mental weaknesses by sorting through my thoughts and pushing through my perceived limits that I grow as an individual.  It is by working towards goals and doing things that I didn’t think were possible (I can run a marathon?!  I can run trails in the mountains?!  I can run 50 miles in ONE DAY?!) that I find my strength.  It is by surrounding myself with people who motivate, challenge, and inspire me on a daily basis that I can become the best version of myself.

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When I started running, I found my weakness.  Turns out I also found my strength.

My current goal is to take on the 2019 Boston Marathon – and fundraise for Team BIDMC in support of kidney disease research.  I’m running for this charity team in memory of my Mom, my friend Tony, and my dear Aunt Irma.  Please read my story and consider a donation for kidney disease research:

https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/bidmc-boston2019/kristengenet

Why do I run? Because it’s FUN!!

I haven’t taken time to actually comprise a list of the reasons why I run, but it would be a long one.  There are so many reasons why I run.  Some are for me.  Some are for my family.  Some are for others.  Some are just because.  But one thing is definitely clear – running is FUN!

Now – it wasn’t always fun.  I have very vivid memories of the first training runs I had when I was training for my first race (a sprint triathlon of all things – you’d think I’d start with a 5K, but…go big or go home, right?).  It was HARD.  It HURT.  Lots of things jiggled.  I was always sore.  I had to listen to music (very loudly) so that I could drown out the sound of my desperate gasping for air.  I really didn’t like it.  Funny thing is…when I did that first triathlon, I really liked the swimming and the biking better than the running.  Funny how things change…

Just because it’s kind of funny…here are a few photos from that first race event…a sprint triathlon in my tiny little hometown in southern Minnesota, where the water quality of the lake I swam in is definitely questionable, and my niece Johanna (who has always been on my list of inspirations and reasons why I run) shared a memorable event, even if it wasn’t terribly “fun”.  Here’s a post where I talked about that, and there are a few pictures from that first event as well: Looking back…looking ahead…

Suffice it to say that even though I didn’t start out liking the run…funny things happen on the way to marathon training and before you know it, you realize that you love the run.  And it just becomes part of who you are.

Yesterday I got to participate in a SUPER FUN 5k in the Halloween capital of the world – Anoka, MN.  Don’t believe me?  Google it.  The Gray Ghost 5k is an all ages, all abilities, costumes HIGHLY encouraged (and they give out more costume awards than time/place awards).  And I LOVE Halloween.  I LOVE dressing up.  So when my son was volunteering at the finish line handing out drinks and snacks to finishers and I had the opportunityto participate – YES PLEASE!!

I didn’t know what costume I’d wear until shortly before the race.  I met up with my tribe for a workout first thing Saturday morning (love to start my Saturday mornings off with my Moms on the Run running buddies.  I solicited costume suggestions.  I raided our costume bag in the basement.  Best I could come up with was Cat in the Hat.  But as one of my friends asked…How in the world do you run with that hat on?!  Turns out, it fits perfectly on my childishly small head, and it was no problem to run a 5K (and an additional 1.3 miles beforehand when I had to get from my parking spot to the starting line!).  AND – it turns out that when you dress as Cat in the Hat, random strangers dressed as Thing 1 and Thing 2 ask to get their picture taken with you.  Now I know how the celebrities feel – HA!

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There was all kinds of craziness in the costumes for the 5K.  There were monsters, animals, robots, penguins, pumpkins, lions, tigers, and bears (OH MY!).  My favorite costumes were from my Moms on the Run peeps – this is such a great group of fun, strong, and amazing women!

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It was a great morning for a run!  I wasn’t in shape to run a PR, but I did get caught up in the excitement, and it’s no secret that I like to push myself whenever I can, so I gave it the best I had.  Considering I haven’t run fast, far, or frequently since the 50 mile trail race I did in early September, and that I’m nursing a slight piriformis/hamstring injury, I can’t really complain.  I just enjoyed every step.  I smiled and high fived every kid who head excitedly say – “It’s the Cat in the Hat!!” as I ran by.  The 5K follows the Halloween parade route, and parade watchers are all set up and ready, so we had plenty of spectators for the run!

It wasn’t a PR – but it felt great (despite the fact that my nagging piriformis/hamstring hurt).  It was a super fun event, and I’d love to make it an annual event.  It was FUN!  That’s definitely one of the adjectives that I frequently use to describe my relationship with running, and it’s one that often gets eye rolls and head scratches from those who perhaps may not have the same relationship with running.  But I challenge you to put on a costume and participate in an event like this and NOT have fun.  Just try.  I bet it’s not possible!

It’s no secret that my body is built for endurance, not speed, but it might be fun to actually train for and race a 5K someday.  We’ll see.  One goal at a time, and I’ve got a different goal in the next few months.  I’ve got about a month to really take it easy.  Heal up that injury.  Run easy – run for fun.  Then the work begins.

I have a goal – actually I have a couple.  I want to raise $10,000 for kidney disease research – something that will help me make a difference in the lives of so many people living with kidney disease, and I want to do that in memory of my Mom and my friend Tony, and in honor of my Aunt Irma.  I also want to make it to the starting line of the Boston Marathon injury free, with a heart full of love for the experience I’ll have there, and I want to be able to soak it all in with no regrets!

Thank you for being part of my journey – and for helping get me to the starting line AND across the finish line!  Please consider a donation to my charity team if you’re able, and please share my story and my fundraising link far and wide – together we can make a BIG DIFFERENCE!!

Kristen’s Fundraising Site for Kidney Disease Research

The road to 26.2 is thousands of miles long…

It’s time to dust off the blog.  Lest you be concerned that I haven’t been running…or living…in the last three years since I published a post (has it REALLY been that long?!  Unfortunately, yes.)…I am very much alive.  And I still love to run.  It’s always a journey – sometimes I’m not 100% sure where it’s leading, but at this moment, I’m very sure of my direction.

I’m on the road to 26.2.  Again.  You’d think this would feel familiar.  Old hat. Nope. Not this time.  There’s a tingling and anticipation that is completely foreign and exciting, and truth be told…unsettling.  Let me tell you where I’m going, and a little bit about the thousands of miles that it took to get me on that road.

First – the big news – I’M GOING TO BOSTON!!!  You heard me. The Boston Marathon. Me.  I’ll be running from Hopkinton to Boylston Street.  Somebody pinch me please.  This still doesn’t feel real.

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I ran my first marathon seven years ago (Twin Cities Marathon, 2011).  It was the hardest, most painful, and most inspiring thing I had ever done.  The feeling of not knowing it was possible to run that far when I crossed the starting line to the feelings of exhausted elation when I crossed the finish line are indescribable, and probably only understandable to those who have shared that experience.  Most people can’t fathom why I would choose to run that far.  On purpose.  Without a top predator chasing me.  AND I paid a registration fee to do it.  And I’ll do it again (and again and again until I’m no longer physically able – please don’t let that be for a LONG LONG time).

Then I had to take a break.  I had foot surgery in 2012, and my orthopedic surgeon told me I’d never run another marathon. And that I shouldn’t plan to run more than 10 miles in a week.  In case you’re wondering, yes I did cry all the way home from that appointment.  But what my surgeon didn’t know about me (or maybe he did) was that he had hit upon a very powerful motivational tactic that work almost unfailingly for me.

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So then I trained for (and ran) my second marathon in 2013 (also Twin Cities Marathon.  It might be my favorite race.).  After finishing my first marathon, I was hooked.  I started paying attention.  I learned all the Boston lore.  Katherine Switzer is one of my heroines.  And then on April 15, 2013 – the Boston Marathon bombing shook every runner to the core.  I wrote about it five years ago (Hits too close to home.) and a dream was born – and a REALLY lofty (quite possibly out of reach) goal was set.  I was going to qualify for the Boston Marathon and earn my spot at the starting line.  I wanted to see what I was capable.  I wanted to push myself to get the best out of myself.  I wanted to run in honor of – and in memory of – those affected by the Boston Marathon bombing.

You see, Boston is different.  Boston is special.  You can’t just sign up and pay a registration fee like any old marathon.  You have to qualify.  You have to earn your bib and your spot on the starting line.  A BQ (Boston Qualifying) time is one of the ultimate goals of a recreational runner.  The BQ times are age and gender specific, and they’re tough to hit.  Trust me, I know – I tried three times (and in two different age groups).

So I trained hard.  I worked hard.  I got faster, tougher, and stronger.  I registered for the 2014 Grandma’s Marathon (my other favorite marathon).  I had a coach. I had a dream, a goal, and a plan.  It was a near perfect race day, but I was nervous and anxious.  Despite having a fantastic pacer (my much younger nephew) – the wheels fell off the bus somewhere around mile 21, I think.  The talk about “The Wall”…and I hit it.  I finished, and actually – it’s still my marathon PR (personal record), but the last several miles were a painful ride on the struggle bus.  I missed my BQ time by 6 minutes, and I was disappointed – and I beat myself up over it – which in hindsight I realize was completely ridiculous. Live and learn. Good thing I don’t give up easily.  Or at all.

2015 brought another marathon experience (back to Twin Cities Marathon).  This time the goal was to have the best possible time on a run with my BRFs (best running friends).  I am fortunate to have two amazing, strong, and beautiful inside and out women to run with.  There was no goal of running a fast BQ – the goal was to enjoy the journey.  Mission accomplished – and I’ve written about that one before too (Post-Marathon Reflections on Running).

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In 2016, I was ready to another crack at my BQ, and I had unfinished business in the last few miles of the Grandma’s Marathon course – so back I went for more.  I had a coach.  I had a dream, a goal, and a plan.  I trained my tail off (my coach was a tough one – who only wanted to bring out the best in me – and she knew just how to do that) and I saw results.  I was indeed getting stronger, tougher, and faster.  I also tore my plantar fascia on my right foot 12 weeks before race day – and I spent about a month in a boot and not running.  I figured out some creative ways to train (hello, pool!), and I healed up, picked up the training, and hit the starting line at about 90%.  Unfortunately, 90 was also the temperature and humidity on race day, and I had to let go of my BQ goal about halfway through, when I realized it was much more important to finish and stay out of the medical tent.  Despite finishing WAY slower than my goal (but I stayed out of the med tent!), I knew I was in fantastic shape, and that if the weather had cooperated – that BQ time would have been mine.  Sigh.  Take two. And I STILL have unfinished business along the Grandma’s Marathon course.

Just for funsies, I ran Twin Cities Marathon in 2016 also – and I paced one of my Moms on the Run runners to finish her first marathon under her BQ time (she was older than me, and BQ times are age graded – getting older is actually the key to making the qualifying times reasonable).  That was marathon #6.

Each marathon training cycle is about 500 miles of running.  Sometimes more, sometimes less – depending on the training plan, goal, weather, motivation, summer vacation plans…But the road is still winding, and I’m still looking off in the distance for my destination. I’m several thousand miles into my journey at this point, and I have several thousand to go.

In 2017, I took on a new challenge, which is honestly where my heart and soul is happiest – trail running.  I ran the Superior Trail Marathon on the Superior Hiking Trail on Minnesota’s North Shore – my happy place.  And I shared it with my big brother. And then, 3 weeks later, I ran Twin Cities Marathon again.  Running 2 marathons in 3 weeks sounded doable on paper ahead of time.  At about Mile 17 of Twin Cities, my legs were telling me another story.  Live and learn.  And just keep running. Eight marathons under my belt at this point.  I haven’t forgotten about my dream, and that goal is still out there. I don’t give up easily.  Or at all.

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I set some monster goals for 2018.  It was going to be a big year.  In January, I was signed up for Grandma’s Marathon – this would be my 3rd BQ attempt on that course, AND I also had the Superior Trail 50 Mile ultramarathon on my calendar.  My husband doesn’t always get me.  He doesn’t understand why I have to do such crazy, extreme things.  I don’t know that I can really articulate why either – but it’s me, and I’m comfortable enough in my own skin to be unabashedly me.  So I just keep running and chasing dreams and goals.

Grandma’s Marathon in June 2018 was amazing.  The weather was perfect.  Training had gone well.  I was mentally and physically prepared.  I had a pacer to drag me along. I knew I could do it – because I had gotten older and my BQ time had gotten just a smidge more reasonable (but still hard!!).  Everything really did go really well in that race (except the unplanned, yet completely necessary portopotty stop at the halfway point – that was a precious minute added to my race time).  In the last mile – I knew I was doing it – I was going to come in under my BQ time – and I had to fight back tears, until I didn’t fight them anymore after I crossed the finish line.  I had beat my qualifying time by almost two minutes.  But months would go by (and I would train for and run a 50 mile ultramarathon in the meantime) before I would know if that time was “good enough” – fast enough – to actually make the cut and earn my Boston Marathon bib.

Spoiler alert – it wasn’t. Only runners who beat their BQ times by almost FIVE MINUTES were given bibs. Sigh. So close, but another door closed.  But – I qualified.  I earned my spot on the Boston Marathon starting line and I belong there.  AND – I’m a believer that there’s a plan and a reason behind everything – I just hadn’t figured out what it was yet.

I started researching charity teams for Boston – who provide race entries in exchange for fundraising for very important and very worthy causes.  There’s a story behind this one too (which I’ll tell in another post), but I’m extremely happy and grateful to be running and fundraising for Kidney Disease Research, sponsored by the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital.  My Mom died of kidney failure associate with diabetic nephropathy.  My good friend from graduate school, Tony, lived with kidney disease – he had a successful transplant, but died on his 39th birthday while waiting for a second transplant.  My dear aunt has kidney disease, but with lifestyle medicine and other therapies, has managed to reverse the symptoms and is living life to the fullest in her 80s right now.

Boston will be my 10th trip down a 26.2 mile marathon course.  That seems like a significant milestone to me.  There’s a lot of reasons for me to run – just for me – but this is bigger than just me.  I get to run for my Mom, for Tony, and for Irma.  I get to run for all the people who are impacted by kidney disease – and I’ve learned in just the last few days that I have so many friends who are affected by kidney disease.  This was my dream, and my goal – but I’m finding out it was never really about me.  And I can’t get there alone – I need your support.  I have an ambitious fundraising goal – and I know you can help.  Please take a moment to check out my fundraising page and consider a donation for Kidney Disease Research.  Thank you!!

Kristen’s Kidney Disease Research Fundraising Page

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Post-Marathon Reflections on Running

The exhilaration and challenges of Twin Cities Marathon are still fresh in my head.  There are some mental images that I want to be able to recall in an instant for the rest of my life.  I’ve been taking it easy this week, which has given me time to think and reflect over the past few years.  Four years ago, I ran my first marathon on October 2, 2011.  Now, four years later, I have four marathons under my belt (even though I skipped 2012 when I had foot surgery).  Go figure.  I certainly would not have predicted that a few years ago.

Every runner has a reason.  Every runner has a story.  Mine started a little more than eight years ago.  My baby has her 7th birthday coming up soon, and many times when I look at her, it hits me how different life is before and after Hannah.  I’m a different person than I was eight years ago.  Back then, I was carrying around some extra weight (two kids and working full time with no time for yourself will do that to a girl) – not a ton – but enough so that it affected me both physically and mentally.  I wasn’t very active.  My husband didn’t find me attractive – and often my attempts for intimacy were met with excuses and rejection.  My self esteem was…well…let’s just say there was room for improvement.  Lots of room.  Add to that the toll that coping with my parents’ deaths (9 months apart in July 2007 and April 2008) and a miscarriage in between took on me.  It was a dark time.  Looking back, I’m not sure how I got out of bed every day, but somehow I did.  It was after my Mom’s death that something really snapped.  My Mom had Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and diabetes that caused kidney failure.  Her body was falling apart before she turned 60, and she died just weeks shy of her 68th birthday.  She never took very good care of herself (but she did a lot of taking care of others!) – her nutrition and exercise habits were horrendous.  She had a sweet tooth that she didn’t do a whole lot to curb (and there were always so many sweets around, I haven’t really learned how to control mine either!), and I don’t remember her walking to the mailbox, much less taking any time to exercise.  After she died, I was upset.  I was mad.  I was mad at her for not taking care of herself – not that her MS was preventable (which limited a lot of her mobility), and maybe her diabetes wasn’t either – but she certainly could have done a better job of managing her diet and exercise.  Instead, I had learned by observation some of the worst habits that I had to break so that my path would be different.  I was 33 when I buried my Mom.  That’s too young.  My oldest has a few memories of her grandparents (when they were sick – not of the people they truly were), but my kids never knew their grandparents.  It’s not right.  So wrong.  While my Mom was dealing with limited mobility (thanks to MS) and kidney failure (thanks to diabetes) at the end of her life, my Dad was sliding into the unrecognizable person that his Alzheimer’s Disease left him.  I was ticked at the cards that my parents were dealt.  So unfair.  Everyone grieves differently.  Part of my grieving process after losing my Mom was to rebel by taking control of the things that I could – I made some radical changes in my diet and exercise patterns.  I joined Weight Watchers (online).  I lost 30 pounds.  I dropped 4 sizes. But I couldn’t run.  My knees were bad and couldn’t handle the excess weight.  I also had no support other than my own determination and will.  Looking back, I have no idea how I stuck it out without a tribe like I have now.  I lost the weight by changing eating habits and religious dates with my elliptical, bike, and lap swim at the nearest pool. I didn’t even have the desire to run.  It definitely wasn’t fun, and it held absolutely no allure for me.  (Those of you who know me now, you may be laughing or shaking your heads.  It’s OK – I am too.)  But – I have never looked back.

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My parents’ 25th anniversary

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My parents’ 45th wedding anniversary – 2004

After Hannah was born, I decided (with a little encouragement from my college-aged niece) that I could train for a sprint triathlon.  Most people would probably start with a 5k, but I didn’t like running, but I did like swimming and biking, so it made sense to me.  I trained for that race entirely by myself, and I hated every step of the running training.  I very clearly remember stumbling into the kitchen after a 3 mile run and proclaiming to my husband that “I will never run farther than these 3 miles I have to run for the tri.”  But when I finished that race on my baby’s 6 month birthday, that sense of accomplishment was real.  The endorphins were real.  And there was a new sense of amazement at being able to achieve a goal that I had previously thought impossible.  That meant that the goals could be bigger.  The next year, my niece and I trained for and completed our first half marathons.  The following year, it was the big kahuna – we both trained for and completed our first marathons.  Being accountable to Johanna and going through training with her (from a distance) was my first window into the importance of people to support, encourage, and share your dreams with.

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Johanna and I after my first sprint triathlon

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Twin Cities Marathon – 2011 I couldn’t love that kid any more if she was my own daughter!

Turns out I love running.  Turns out I’m also pretty good at it.  Who knew?!

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It has taken me almost a thousand words to get to what I really wanted to say.  And it will probably take me about a thousand more words to say it. I had no idea how important a running community was.  I had no idea how inspiring, motivating, positive, and life changing a running community was.  When I was training for my first marathon in 2011, I stumbled across a group that has completely changed my life – for the better.  I am so thankful that Karissa Johnson took a leap of faith with me and offered me the opportunity to be a volunteer coach with Moms on the Run, and that Stephanie VanHeel always believed in me, and also gave me permission to allow myself grace – or push myself – or both!

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In the past four and a half years, I have become part of a running community.  A part of a group of strong and amazing women, who…even when they’re sometimes not sure if they believe in themselves (which they should!), inspire others to set goals, work hard, have fun, and believe.  It’s so much more than a running group – it’s a positive support group.  We challenge each other, we celebrate together, but we also support each other through the ups and downs of life and whether it’s a miscarriage, rough time at school for our kids, loss of a parent, cancer, new babies, injuries, or periods of self-doubt.  I have grown close to people who have changed my life – for the better.  I have found positive ways to cope with stress. I have pushed myself to accomplish goals that I thought might be impossible.  I have helped others accomplish goals that they thought were out of reach.  Together, we have learned about pushing ourselves, allowing ourselves grace, and knitting ourselves together as a community – an inclusive community that always has room for more.

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My Moms on the Run tribe – such an amazing group of strong, beautiful, and inspiring women!

I’ve also learned that focusing on others – whether it’s runners I’m coaching, friends who I’m encouraging to believe in themselves when they’re not sure if they believe in themselves, my family, or fundraising and running on a charity team for a cause near and dear to my heart – allows me to push myself faster and farther when I know that the cause is bigger than just little old me.  My first marathon was on the MS Society charity team – and now I’ve been part of that movement three times.  I’ve met more people who are strong and determined and kind and generous and just so good. Sometimes the gratitude and emotion wash over me.  I don’t know what I did to be so lucky to have the opportunities that I’ve had. Who knew that ages ago when I decided to take a leap of faith and train for a marathon…so many things in my life would change for the better. Certainly not me.  But I sure am thankful.

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I’ve seen time and time again how runners support each other.  I’ve seen it at races.  I’ve seen it in the neighborhood.  I’ve seen it while we’re running together.  I’ve seen it while we’re celebrating together.  I’ve seen it when we cry together. We are human beings.  We were created to be in relationship with one another and to help each other.  To provide and derive strength from one another.  There are so many things I could not have accomplished on my own (like four marathons). But – I have BRFs.  I have cheerleaders.  I get to be a BRF.  I get to be a cheerleader.  There are so many people who play such an important role in my story.  I’m counting myself lucky to be a part of others’ running stories too.  Together we can accomplish so much more than on our own.

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Race Report: Twin Cities Marathon

imagesIt’s six days post marathon, and I feel fantastic!  Even though I’ve only run this race twice, it’s easily my favorite race.  Hands down.  There is something completely indescribable about the marathon distance, and this course in particular.  I’m pretty confident when I say that this won’t be my last time on this course – I’d love to run it every year if my life and family time allowed it.  I don’t know when I’ll be back out there running from the Metrodome to the Capitol again (in the most indirect, yet beautiful route possible), but let me relive those 26.2 glorious miles and give you a recap.  Sorry.  This is a long one.  Pace yourself.  It’s a marathon.

The weather had been terrible for the last few days, and the forecast was not great until the last time I checked it before I went to bed – apparently just so I could get a good night’s sleep, it was a PERFECT race day forecast!  It was clear and about 45 degrees when we woke up, and supposed to be sunny and cool, with a 30% chance of rain by 11ish.  I could do without the rain, but it was a forecast I could live with.

My fantastic friend Kiri offered to give me, Jason (my nephew) and Katie (my niece) a ride to the starting line.  This was HUGE, as it meant we didn’t have to worry about getting back to retrieve a car after the race was done.  Kiri was early.  We were all up and ready.  Morning pre-race preparations were going swimmingly.  Pre-marathon breakfast of a bagel with peanut butter (crunchy of course!), a banana for the road, and a big cup of coffee did the trick.  We got to the Metrodome about an hour before the race started, which was the perfect amount of time to find everyone and snap some pre-race pictures, visit the bathroom a couple times (the lines were MUCH shorter for the women’s than the men’s!  Only before a marathon…), and make sure to get to the bag drop on time.  We actually barely made that one…scrambled a little to get my gear checked and get in the starting corral before they played the national anthem.  The sky was bright blue and the sun was shining – it was a PERFECT day for a run!

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My niece Katie was ready to run her first marathon! Both of us ran on the ALZ Stars charity team, and together we raised over $3000 for the Alzheimer’s Association in memory of the great man who had our backs for the whole race.

We crossed the starting line about 8 minutes after gun time, and Kristen and I were committed to stick to our race plan.  Start slow and easy, then speed it up through the middle miles, and maintain a consistent marathon pace through the finish.  Sounds easy enough at Mile 1.  In other words – for the first half of the race, our mantra was “Don’t be an idiot.”  It’s too easy to get swept up in the adrenaline-loaded crowd when you’re feeling fantastic and run WAAAYYY too fast those early miles.  Trust me, I know.  I did it last time.  Then…when I hit Mile 20 and Summit Ave…the gas was gone and I barely had fumes to run on.  Our plan was to run smarter this time.  “Don’t be an idiot.”

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The crowd was amazing from the start.  The first highlight of our race was at Mile 2.5 where my favorite obnoxious spectator was there to cheer us on, and remind us of our plan for the first half of the race.  As we wound around Lake of the Isles, Lake Calhoun, and Lake Harriet, the spectators did not disappoint.  This is the only marathon I’ve run…but I think I’m pretty spoiled.  People line both sides of the street, and there are more signs, balloons, cowbells, and high fives than you could possibly imagine.  It’s a party for the runners, and the spectators make sure they have a good time as well.

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Yep – my favorite obnoxious spectator! LOVE my BRF who was there for me several times throughout the 26.2!

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Mile 2.5 Bloody Mary bar. It was approximately 8:30am when we ran past this…the runners are dancing and partying in the streets, the spectators are mixing drinks and partying on the boulevard!

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Lake Calhoun Skyline – view of the marathon start from around Mile 5.

We caught our first glimpse of Kristen’s family somewhere around Lake Calhoun…I think.  Purple balloons, signs, high fives, and enthusiasm abounded!  The day was gorgeous.  Peak Fall colors. The Minneapolis skyline visible across the opposite shore of Lake Calhoun.  Blue skies and air crisp enough to see your breath, yet warm enough to be comfy running in shorts and a tank.  I was carrying my own bottles filled with Nuun, but I did stop for water every once in awhile (not at every water stop, though).  I did grab water at Mile 7 to help wash down my Espresso Love doubly caffeinated GU (makes a pretty good substitute for coffee on an early morning run!).  The volunteers at the water stops were great, and whenever there were kids offering water, I took water from a kid.  I grabbed a cup of water from a little boy at Mile 7 and kept running, refueled for the next 5-7 miles.  I found out later that the kid had been overlooked by most of the runners and was getting frustrated because no one would take water from him.  Turns out, this little boy is a friend of my son’s in his Cub Scout pack, and both he and his Dad recognized me and yelled for me as I ran off — I didn’t hear it (consciously anyway), and I didn’t even realize that I’d made Sam’s morning by taking his cup of water until the next day after Cub Scouts when Sam and his dad talked to my husband.

We were maintaining pretty even splits at this point, at or just under 9min miles. We were soaking in the energy, enthusiasm and love from the spectators.  We were looking for our families again around Mile 11 on the northeast side of Lake Nokomis.  First  we found the purple balloons with Kristen’s family.  Then we found the ghost balloon (the only ghost on the course!) and my family.  I dropped off a bottle for John to refill, as we’d see them again on the northwest side of Nokomis in a few miles.  Along Cedar, we also saw my sister’s family and one of my coworkers – every time we encountered family and friends cheering for us, it was unbelievably uplifting.  We were still feeling great at the half marathon mark, which we had wanted to hit under 2:00, but we were slightly behind that pace, hitting 13.1 at 2:00:54. No matter – we were in great shape for the last 13.1, and I refueled with a salted caramel GU (candy disguised as an energy shot) and water as I high fived and called back to several additional supporters…friends and coworkers who were close to the half marathon mark…and then picked up my water bottle, and refilled a second one around Mile 14, where John and Todd (Kristen’s husband) and our army of kid cheerleaders were stationed.

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Time to head across Minnehaha Parkway to Minnehaha Falls and West River Road.  This is one of my favorite stretches of the course, and it’s the section that has appeared and reappeared in my dreams and I have played and replayed in my head.  The purple balloon.  My Dad.  My eyes stung and my throat was tight as I looked down the road and saw them.  The purple balloons…accompanied by one of my biggest sources of encouragement and inspiration…my BRF DeNae and her family!  Balloon Bunch Purple1She had watermelon and hard candies for us – and one of the absolute best hugs of the day.  I was starting to get tired.  But then I remembered why I was doing this in the first place.  AND…it was time to lock into the mantra of the second half of the marathon.  If the first half was about “don’t be an idiot” then the second half was about “don’t be a wimp.”  Time to dig deep.  I packed my mental shovel for just that occasion!

The clouds were thickening and getting darker.  Now we had to try and beat the rain.  However, even if could run like a Kenyan, I couldn’t have beaten it, and it started raining around Mile 19, just as we were approaching the Franklin Bridge to cross the Mighty Mississippi.  Great.  The hardest part of the marathon.  I’ve already been running for 19 miles.  A lot of the last 7 miles were uphill.  I’m getting tired.  AND now there’s a cold rain hitting us in the face.  Great.  We ran through “The Wall” at Mile 20, smacking it with our hands for good luck on our way by.  Finally, the halfway point of the race. Remember the plan for the second half of the race.  Don’t be a wimp.

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Still feeling pretty good at about Mile 17.6…

Time for another energy shot – mentally and physically.  My hands were cold and wet, so Kristen dug my GU packet out of my fuel belt (thank you!), and I had to use my teeth to rip it open.  I knew there was an AWESOME water stop coming up at Mile 20.6 – staffed by dozens of my Moms on the Run running buddies.  As I saw purple and green shirts in the distance, I also spotted one of the volunteers (my friend Angel!) holding a sign for me.  I could feel the love.  There were SO MANY people there cheering and yelling for me, and the boost that provided was indescribable.  I wanted to hug and high five all of them…but…as I would have both spilled all of the PowerAde and water cups they were holding out, I settled for lots of yelling and screaming and a few carefully placed high fives.  The love and support from these particular volunteers was pretty overwhelming and had me choking back tears as I pressed on beyond Mile 20.6.

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Blaine MOTR supporters

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Coon Rapids MOTR supporters

We saw our families one last time at around Mile 21, and then the REAL work started.  Uphill, in the rain, on tired legs and sore feet, when my body and my mind were both fighting exhaustion.  This is the part of a marathon when your head questions whether you’ve got what it takes to keep pushing for 5 more miles (and then some).  Remember the plan.  Don’t be a wimp.  I kept the pace pretty consistent, and I’m pretty darn proud of myself for not allowing myself to fade in those tough miles along Summit Avenue.  However, Kristen started to pull away from me.  Not too far…just about 20-30 feet in front of me where I could still keep my eyes on her, but I just couldn’t keep up with her.  In my head I was both encouraging her to keep moving as strong as she could (and she was!) and encouraging myself not to fall any farther behind than that, even if I couldn’t close the distance and catch up with her.  It was definitely the point in the race where, although we had done well running side by side for 21 miles, now we had to hunker down in our individual zones and listen to our bodies for the last few, very tough miles. Remember the plan: Don’t be a wimp. I had trained for this.  I had experience with this.  This was the part where I had trouble my rookie marathon.  I had vowed that I’d be better prepared and plan for this stretch next time.

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Other runners were struggling too.  I saw one runner right in front of me who had collapsed and was surrounded by medical staff.  I saw another runner whose legs turned to jelly right before my eyes and had to be helped to the side of the road for medical attention.  I counted my blessings…although I was tired, I was still feeling good and strong (well, despite feeling miserable and weak as I had been running for about 23 miles and had just finished a 3 mile uphill stretch on tired legs in the cold rain).  AND, I managed to catch up to Kristen.  We checked in with each other.  We were tired.  Muscles, joints, and feet were telling the horror stories of running 23 miles, and we still had 3.2 miles to go.  A 5K…essentially we just had a 5K to go.  But, definitely the toughest miles.  Remember the plan: Don’t be a wimp.

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Click to enlarge the Twin Cities Marathon Course Map

I kept running, consistent pace, no fade.  We’d been close to the splits for our 4 hour goal the entire time (3:59:59!), but I still wasn’t sure if we’d been close enough…and how that 3 mile uphill (where I did pace slightly slower than I had been) had affected my pacing and time. But…I was NOT a wimp.  I kept running. Then, in the distance, I could see the Mississippi River Valley.  I knew we were getting close to the Cathedral.  I picked up the pace a little and the goofy smile I’d been wearing for the first 21 miles that I had to put away for a few miles came back.  Then I could see the Cathedral.  THAT made me smile even bigger.  Then I could see the firetrucks and the big flag over the chute downhill to the finish.  Smile getting bigger and fighting tears at this point.  As I was running downhill to the finish line, my Garmin marked 26.2 at 3:58:39.  It wasn’t official, but that was 26.2, and I was under four hours.  Smile got bigger and a couple tears trickled out.  I picked up the pace even more…running sub 8min miles at this point (I know it’s downhill, but I’d also been running for more than 26 miles already!). I found the ghost floating above the crowd just before the finish line – and it’s a good thing I found them, because they had no idea where I was until I got their attention!  Then…the finish line!  I had told a few people I would do a cartwheel over the finish line if I could hit my sub 4 hour goal…I wasn’t sure if I’d made it when I got to the finish line, but I definitely did not have a cartwheel in me!  I celebrated across the finish line with a smile about 26.2 miles wide and arms in the air while my friend Kiri (who was volunteering at the finish line and had recruited a couple of additional people) screamed their fool heads off for me.  Seriously, my finish line video makes me tear up every time I watch those 8 seconds.  Based on my official time, I had not made my sub 4 hour goal, but my time did have a four followed by two zeroes, so I’m not going to beat myself up about it!

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My Garmin showed 26.2 miles at 3:58:39. When I stopped my watch after I crossed the finish line, it read 26.42 miles in 4:00:27. These are my official results. However, I really like the age-graded time best.

Kristen came in less than a minute later (so proud of how well she ran and pushed it at the end, even when it hurt!), and we hobbled and were herded to get our medals, water, chocolate milk, broth, mylar blankets, and post-race snacks.  Once I stopped running my muscles told me they were DONE, so stretching was a definite necessity.  The curb we had to scale to get my gear that I’d checked and pick up our finisher’s shirts looked nothing short of Mount Everest, and the medical volunteers were there to catch the tired runners who tripped up it (more than half stumbled up the curb, I’d estimate).  We found Jason right away (he’d finished a good 20 minutes earlier!) and Katie was not far behind (4:17 for her first marathon – ROCK STAR!).  We found our families (purple balloons and ghost balloon came in handy – again!), and went home to shower, eat, relax, and bask in little marathon glory.

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Kristen and I stuck together for ALMOST the entire marathon – aside from those last few tough miles where we had to focus inside and listen to our own bodies. What an awesome marathon buddy!

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It’s a family thing – my nephew and niece keep me young, inspired, and motivated!

So, if I dissect this marathon – it’s a completely different story than the last one. I didn’t start out too fast.  I didn’t get caught up in the adrenaline overdrive in the early miles.  I let people pass me early in the race, and I had the energy to maintain consistent pacing throughout, which allowed ME to pass runners toward the end.  My slowest miles were at the beginning.  I ran a negative split!  My first 13.1 was 2:00:54, the last 13.1 was 1:59:48.  I kept a pretty solid pace during the uphill climb from Mile 20-23.  I turned on the gas and ran my fastest at the END of the marathon.

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Click to enlarge the detailed results.

But my favorite story is in the Passed/By column.  I was passed by lots of runners (hundreds of runners) in the early miles, and I didn’t pass as many (but still quite a few). The disparity between the number who passed me and how many I passed widened at each checkpoint – where fewer runners were passing me, but I was passing more runners.  Indeed, the number of runners who passed me steadily declined from the start to the end, and I passed quite a few runners in those final miles.  res_graphicI saved some gas for those miles, so I could turn on the engines from Mile 24 to the end.  I passed 185 people from Mile 24 to the end, and not nearly that many passed me.  Last time around I slogged through those miles.  I walked more of those miles than I care to admit.  Not this time.  I was ready.  I was prepared.  I was trained.

Another marathon in the books, this one better than the last.  I gave it all, and left it all on the course (somewhere along Summit Ave.).  Not sure when the next one will be, but I’ll be back – not giving up on that sub 4 quite yet – I’ll find those 43 seconds (maybe more?!) somewhere…

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I did it!!

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I am still overwhelmed by the exhaustion and emotion that was Twin Cities Marathon Sunday…48 hours ago I was pushing through the last grueling miles, uphill, in the rain.  And then I could see the Mississippi River Valley in the distance.  And then the St. Paul Cathedral.  And then the firetrucks with the flags draped over the downhill to the glorious FINISH LINE in front of the Capitol dome.

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This race definitely gets a thumbs up!

I promise I’ll find the time to write a detailed race report sometime soon.  It was a fantastic race on a (mostly) fantastic day, with a fantastic running buddy, with fantastic spectators and volunteers cheering, and I’m happy with it.  So very happy with it.  In the meantime, I just wanted to report a few post-marathon thoughts.

1. I am so very grateful for the support…during the training, from my fabulous BRF who marathoned by my side the entire way, from the spectators (family, friends, random strangers who yelled out my name to give me a lift as I ran by), the volunteers (especially at the Mile 20.6 water stop!), and each and every person who donated to my ALZ Stars charity team.  It’s not too late to donate, if you were meaning to, but hadn’t had a chance yet.

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Team Kristen – smiling (almost) the entire way!

2. I am so ridiculously proud of my niece, who killed her first marathon (I don’t think it will be her only one!) and raised money in memory of her Grandpa.  I have run two marathons…shared them both with  my nephew Jason, and one each with my nieces Johanna and Katie.  I am so happy, fortunate, and blessed to be related to these fabulous young people who keep motivating and inspiring me.  There will be more marathons with them – I’m sure of it!

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It was my second Twin Cities Marathon with my nephew Jason, and we both set PRs! It was my niece Katie’s first marathon – and I couldn’t be prouder of her!

3. My heart explodes with happiness for all of my friends who trained for and finished their FIRST marathon!  I *might* have done a little arm twisting with some of them to get them convinced to register, and now that they’re marathoners sporting their finisher shirts and medals, I hope they’re basking in their glory and won’t hold the arm twisting against me.

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Go Team Moms on the Run! Here we are ready to head to the starting corrals!

4. “Trust the Training” works.  I have never been more focused or more determined in training for any race.  I was a slave to the prescribed paces in my training plan.  I could count on one hand the number of runs I skipped or modified (even with an Achilles injury for several weeks in the middle of training!).  I didn’t know if I could maintain the marathon pace that my training plan said I could for 26.42 miles (yeah, 26.2 isn’t far enough for me – but I’m getting better at running the tangents!) – but I could, and I did.  Check out my results.  I even have photographic evidence and video proof that I had it in me to finish strong!

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5. I love the long run.  Even when I hate the long run (Miles 22-25 are TOUGH!), I wasn’t even across the finish line yet when I had forgotten the pain of those miles and was running on pure endorphins.  A few years ago I never would have imagined it.  Marathons?!  Yes, that’s with an “S” at the end. Me?!  You betcha!

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6. I LOVE Minneapolis and St. Paul.  We live in a beautiful area, with beautiful lakes and a great big river, with gorgeous Fall colors, and the people…runners, spectators, volunteers, and race staff – are classy and second to none.

262_mile-24Marathon #2 is in the books.  Twin Cities Marathon is my favorite race.  Hands down.  Stay tuned for the details…and in the meantime – THANK YOU for getting me to the starting line and across the finish line.  It means more to me than I can adequately find the words to describe.

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‘Twas the night before Twin Cities Marathon

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‘Twas the night before Twin Cities Marathon and all through the house, the signs of race preparations were everywhere – and we’re crossing our fingers we won’t get doused!

The weather forecast is best from Sven Sundgaard and KARE, I sure hope he’s right – no downpours, maybe even a little sun out there.

The family has planned a pasta dinner, then early(ish) bed, with complex carbs, lots of water and positive thoughts to fill my head.

photo (2)My race outfit is lined up, laid out, timing chip secured on. Garmin charged, GU packets lined up, and Moms on the Run visor to don.

Look for me in purple and orange and in pink.  I’m dressing for visibility and comfort, not fashion, I think.

I’ve trained long and hard, for months and for weeks. Through rain, heat, before dawn, after dark, with minor injuries and a few joint creaks.

I have had amazing support from family and friends. On the training runs with BRFs, I always wished the miles wouldn’t end.

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Why would I do this, train for months and run hundreds of miles?  First, in memory of my Dad, and second running brings me endless smiles.

I’m running on the ALZ Stars charity team with my niece, together Katie and I have raised almost $3000, each doing our piece.

To honor the memory and legacy of my Dad, we’re working to make a difference in the name of the best man the world ever had.

If he were still with us, he’d be there cheering if he could. Giving me and his grandkids Jason and Katie standing ovations as we ran by – he certainly would!

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The money we’ve raised will make a difference, we know. It’s not too late to donate – and your support to end Alzheimer’s to show!

If you can come and cheer us on tomorrow, please bring along – purple balloons (and some sunshine) – and help us be strong!

Tomorrow is a big day, and I’m thankful for those who are yelling. Cheering, cowbells, balloons, and signs with stories worth telling.

TCMArathonTwin Cities Marathon, I’ve got you in my sights. I’m trained, I’m ready…one more sleep, one more night.

Tomorrow, rain or shine I’m ready to run. Twenty-six point two miles of dancing in the streets with friends – my kind of fun!

Milemarkers and Milestones

1011511_10151810986143903_908710884_nI love October.  I love crisp air, peak Fall colors, apples, pumpkins, fleece, hot  beverages, campfires, seeing my breath on an early morning run, the stark contrast between October blue sky and clouds that are harbingers of colder weather to come, and crunching leaves under my feet. I look forward to trips to the apple orchard, jumping in piles of leaves with the kids, an extended family weekend getaway each year, and my birthday.  In my opinion, October is the absolute best running weather.  My favorite running weather is about 45 degrees and sunny – cold enough so I can see my breath and feel my skin tingling with chill, yet the sun is still warm enough to give my skin the warm tingles too.

October is the perfect time to run a marathon.  I guess I’ll run one this weekend.  I’ve been training for 16 weeks, or so says my training plan.  However, I’ve really been training for almost exactly one year.  It was one year ago when I volunteered at the Mile 20.6 water stop and was there to support my friends, who also happen to be rockstar marathoners.  It was one year ago when I had such a vivid dream that gave me the resolve to register, train, and dedicate a good share of 2013 to this year’s Twin Cities Marathon.  It was one year ago when my orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist gave me the green light to start clawing my way back to running form…from ground zero with a brand new foot.  It’s been quite a year – and I’ve got a marathon in five days.  I’m as ready as I possibly can be.  I’ve run almost 1000 miles in 2013…I’ll hit that milemarker (or is it a milestone?) during the marathon.  Each of those miles has been run with purpose, with dedication, with discipline, and with heart.  Aside from a touchy Achilles tendon for awhile…my running over the past 9+ months has been almost perfect.  I’m trained.  I’m ready.

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It’s race week.  Mentally I’m getting ready by reading up on marathon week preparation, obsessing about the weather forecast, recruiting family and friends to come and cheer (check out all the helpful info for spectators – and if you really want to keep track of me on Sunday morning, you can sign up to track me and get text message updates!), studying the course map (check out the helicopter flyover tour of the marathon course too), getting my gear lined up, and lots (and lots and lots) of positive self talk.  Physically, I’m trying to take it a bit easier this week…30 min swim yesterday, last track workout today (6x400s that I felt really great about!).  I have a MP tempo run yet this week (3mi bookended with 10min warmup and cooldown), and then will shake out my legs on Saturday, but that’s about it.  Sigh.

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Notice the artwork on my big toes: <4 (gulp!)

I’m also trying to be deliberate about what I eat (never mind the crackers and oreos I can’t seem to stay away from tonight) and my water intake (my water bottle goes EVERYWHERE with me!).  I’m even trying to get more and better sleep…which is the hardest part for me.  I’m trying to be good to myself…I got a massage this afternoon, and my daughter gave me a pedicure to cover up the three black and blue toenails (one of them just fell off the other night).  This week’s menu is heavy on the complex carbs…potatoes, rice or pasta every night this week!  Friday I’ll fuel and celebrate with my running buddies with whom I’ve been training, and Marathon Eve Saturday will be pasta with my family and an early bedtime.

Apparently, October is a good time to have a birthday too.  This year it’s a milestone for me…40.  I’ve got 20 days to make my peace with that.  It’s just a number, right?!  I’m having a hard time with that number for some reason this year.  But, being in marathon shape and having a fantastic array of people in my life is making it look a little brighter.  I don’t feel 40.  I don’t even have the creaky joints and sore muscles I did when I trained for my last marathon.  I feel fantastic.  I feel about 32, so that’s the number I’ll stick with for now.  However, as a birthday is typically reason to celebrate, let’s have a 26.2 mile party this Sunday morning.  Bring balloons (purple ones!), but no gifts…I’d happily take donations to the Alzheimer’s Association for my ALZ Stars charity team though.  I’m soooo close to my fundraising goal – please click here to donate and help me hit my fundraising goal AND give me that extra boost I just might need to get me through those tough miles on Sunday!

October is a month of milemarkers and milestones for me this year.  I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for all the love, support and encouragement I’ve gotten from my friends and family.  I’m blown away with gratitude for all the generous donations to my ALZ Stars charity team in support of the incredibly important work that the Alzheimer’s Association does for people with dementia and their families. I’m anxious, excited, nervous, eager, apprehensive, and antsy…five more days.  Thank you – for every little thing that has helped turn my dream into a goal into (hopefully!) an accomplishment before the weekend’s over.  I’m ready.  Bring on 26.2 miles!

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