“One of the greatest moments in life is realizing that two weeks ago, your body couldn’t do what it just did”

Well here we are exactly 1 month into my running redux.  It has been a month of good runs, boring runs, gritty runs, and commitments kept.  I have skipped exactly one run, and that was when a tropical storm tried to form right on top of our little town.  It was raining sideways and upside down with lightning in the mix, so I will give myself grace on that one. The consolation bacon breakfast was delicious that morning!

As of today, I have completed 65.1 miles in 30 days. I can now run a solid 3 miles without stopping, and my longest run to date was the 6 miles that I ran just this morning.  I ran the first 3 really well and in good time.  I ran the second half a bit slower, and with a few run/walk sessions built in…but…I. Ran. Six. Miles. Happy dance:)!  My breathing has evened out, my caboose has started to jiggle less ( thank you Lord), and I have started to feel stronger. Hallelujah:)!

Now don’t get me wrong…it has by no means become easy.  That would be false advertising.  No, it is still a fight to get out there and run each time, and just two days ago I had a horrible time on a short 3 mile run…some days neither the body or mind are willing…but I do it anyway…and that is how I get stronger.  Slowly, day by day, step by step, sweaty mile by sweaty mile. No, it’s not easy…but it has become easier.

I absolutely love the title quote:”One of the greatest moments in life is realizing that two weeks ago, your body couldn’t do what it just did”.  I saw it online the other day and just latched on to it.  It is so true, and not just for your body…you could substitute mind, heart, spirit, attitude…right in there and still be just as accurate.  We are, as human beings so very malleable.  If we focus ourselves on just about anything…be it an intellectual, physical, or spiritual task…truly focus…rinse and repeat faithfully for a period of time…we will improve, get stronger, become better.  They say practice makes perfect, but I prefer practice makes better.

I ran 6 miles today. Two weeks ago, I could not. Happy dance indeed!

So here we are a month into training.  So far…tropical tantrums not withstanding, I am right on track.  I am not much faster yet, but I am stronger.  I am breathing better, standing straighter, running better, than I did a month ago…and that is a good place to be.


Bacon Runner Redux

Redux: from the Latin : meaning “to lead back”, or bringing back.  The my friends is where we are.

It has been a long year of much bacon and little running.  I have been blessed with a move, schedule changes, and a lazy Summer with time well spent with my kiddo.  In addition to those wonderful but busy events, my old nemesis Plantar Fasciitis  has settled in to stay.  Those things combined had sidelined me for the end of season and Summer.

So…last year, let me sum up: I ran an amazing,  fantastic, and incredible half marathon in Moab in October with Super Hubby, and then ran a truncated half marathon at the Disney Wine and Dine ( the race was shortened due to weather) in November.  I never made it to the other three halfs that I had planned .  My heel just kept getting worse, and I ended up deferring the Diva race in December, the Publix half in February, and the Disney dark side half in April.

All in all, not what I had planned, but frankly after all the Marathon training, and hills of the actual marathon itself, both my body and attitude were a bit burned crispy. I needed a break and a rest both mentally and physically.

So here we are at the end of Summer. Just two weeks ago I found myself mentally planning running routes in my head.  School has started again, and there are no more excuses left…it is time to run.  I have signed up for two of the three races that I had to defer last season.  I will be running the Diva in December and then the Disney race in April.  That means it is not only time to run..its time to TRAIN baby!

This week was the official kick off of my season.  I am trying to slog out 3 little miles 3 days this week.  IT SUCKS.  I had forgotten how hard it is to start from almost zero miles…how the body complains, and the mind whines.  How hard it is to make yourself manage just one mile, then two, then finally three.  To finish 3 miles …and have to walk a bit…and feel utterly poured out.  It is amazing how quickly you loose condition and stamina!

Because we are all friends here, I will admit to some jiggly bits that did NOT jiggle before my hiatus.  Those bits must be tamed immediately if not sooner! Note to self: less bacon and more running until jiggly bits fall in line. Needless to say, this week has been a shock to my confidence and my ego!

My heel is still a problem too.  It hurts…I hobble.  The thing is though that it is no better or worse on my running days vs. any other day.  A whole Summer off has made no difference at all. Since rest has made no difference, I have decided to run.  I have only committed to two Half Marathons this year, with the plan to see how it goes…if my heel gets worse, I may have to cut back and run shorter races in the future.  If I hand these two OK, then I may add a race or two to the year…time and mileage will tell.

Way too late to make a long story short…but my point is this: Running is Hard.  Writing is Hard, Painting is Hard, Working Out is Hard…anything that you do that is worth effort is Hard.  When you do less of that thing, it becomes harder and harder to do it, until eventually you wonder if you even can any more. You loose some of the physical ability yes, but you also lose confidence…and that my friends, is the real killer.  I want my confidence back and I am willing to work for it.

If you have done it before, you can do it again. Period.  Yes, it will be hard, and yes it will suck…but if you are willing to grit it out, to put in the effort and time, YOU WILL Get BETTER and STRONGER.  The question you must ask, is do you WANT to? Do you want it badly enough that you are willing to get through the sucky stuff and back on track?

For me, the answer is yes.  I miss running.  I miss races.  I miss feeling strong and healthy.  I long for those hours on there road where it is just me, my God above, and the sound of my footfalls carrying me onward.  I miss finishing a race and looking for the next one. I never thought I would admit to it, but I really truly do miss it.

So,  Here we are at week one.  I am excited and scared and tired and sore…but I am running…and that makes me smile.

New day, same run, better attitude

Right now, I am trying to get back into my groove.  For now, this means running the same route, same mileage, several days in a row. Boring yes…but it has its little surprises.

Friday I ran this same little 3 mile route.  It was hot ( duh…Florida after 8 AM…no surprise there), I was whiny ( again no surprise), and it took a lot to even manage those 3 miles with a run/walk method.

Monday I ran the same route.  Again, it was hot ( it had rained just prior to my run, and I swear there was steam in the air), I was whiny, and I had to run some and walk some more.  This run was harder than my Friday run and I was feeling discouraged.  I was a few minutes slower, and more than a few notches crankier.  As I said…discouraged and NOT looking forward to running today, on tired legs even.

Well I showed up today and it was still hot…but there was a blessed breeze!  The sky was overcast and I took that as a good sign. I faithfully set out to run my tired legs on this same route, expecting to walk ALOT.  I was surprised to feel pretty darned good right from the start.  I ran a mile and walked just a bit, planning to walk some at every mile marker like I had done for the two previous runs.  I started running again….and didn’t stop until I ended my run at 3.1 miles.   I just didn’t need to walk anymore…surprise!:)

Now don’t get me wrong, the run wasn’t all sunshine and roses. It was hot, sweaty, and I was puffing like a freight train.  It WAS however,  easier than the two runs before.  Same distance, same run, but somehow, even on tired legs, this run was just slightly easier.  Happy dance!

So here is what I haven’t said .  God has made me a runner.  I don’t know how or why.  He hasn’t given me binding speed, or endurance…I am slow and steady.  He has given me the desire and the will to run…and even to find enjoyment there.  I need to run..it is where I feel at peace and where I hear His voice.

I have been praying that He would heal my foot issues…doing all the right things, taking a rest break, etc…planning to start running again when I was better and feeling fine again.  That hasn’t happened.  My foot still hurts every day…I hobble, especially in the mornings and evenings. With that said, I am still being called to lace up and run. My foot hurts exactly the same whether I am running or not, so I have decided to run. I need to find that peace again…need to run.

I am at a point where I just show up and run.  I don’t know what God has planned for me this season.  I don’t know if I will be able to run the half marathons that I have planned or if I will need to cut my mileage back.  All I know is that I am being called to faithfully step out.  It takes a different kind of faith to step out when situations aren’t ideal…when those plans that you have haven’t panned out, or things are scary and unknown.  Stepping out and committing to running when I am not 100% is a new journey for me, but I am being called to move.  I am trying to take my expectations and plans out of the mix and just go with God’s plan…and it is harder than I expected to do so.

So each day will be a new adventure, whether it is running the same old mileage or not.  I will try to just show up…with tired legs or tired soul, and simply look for the surprises and encouragement along the way.  Here’s to one week in and looking towards the next!

This little light of mine…

So its been a long time no post kind of deal…I know.  Life has gotten busy, but fear not, I am still running…just not as much.  I’m managing 2-3 days a week and an average of 10-17 miles total.  That’s not really much compared to this time last year, but as I said, life and all that has gotten busy.

I am ramping up for a VERY busy half marathon season.  I have almost one half marathon a month between now and February.  While that IS a lot of races…it certainly isn’t the pressure that I felt from full on marathon training.  I kept a few base miles in the bank after the marathon in May, so it hasn’t been the uphill climb that it was in the past to start from ground zero.  In addition, I have put  less pressure on myself for at least the first race or two of the half-marathon season.  I have eased up on my push to PR.  I would LOVE to finally squeak close to a 2 hour half marathon…but I have plenty of races to get there.  I have decided to give myself a bit of a training ramp and grace to start off gently…its a new thing for me lol. We’ll see how this kinder gentler approach pans out!

But I digress.  What I really wanted to talk about is my all time favorite running weather…FOG.  I LOVE love love running on a foggy morning!  In contrast, I  HATE running in the dark.  You may think at first that they are one and the same, but I beg to differ! Running in the dark is scary.  I feel like an extra on a horror film set…just waiting to hear chainsaws revving up in the distance.  I jump and skitter at every last little noise.  I feel like the very pavement is out to get me.  Seriously, I would rather run in the heat than in the dark…and you know how much I hate the heat!

Running on a foggy morning though…it has a kind of magic to it.  There is this small little bubble of light that surrounds you.  Somehow, you can see clearly right around and in front of you, but just a few feet into the distance the world  drops away into soft, white nothing. It is quiet and calm.  As you move forward into the soft, fuzzy abyss…your little bubble of clarity follows you.  The ‘future’ steps seem unclear, but become perfectly clear as you approach.  The steps immediately in the past are shrouded, as are the ones directly in the future…but your present steps are perfectly safe and clear.

Now those of you who know me well would probably think that foggy uncertainty would drive me batty…I am uh a BIT of a control freak.  I am constantly thinking 12 steps head of myself.  In fact, I sometimes miss the everyday joys because I am already worrying about tomorrow and the next day, and the next.  But that is the magic of those rare foggy mornings.  I have absolutely NO choice but to forget about the path behind or the one ahead, and just simply be in the present.  No worries, simply one foot in front of the other with the certainty that my little bubble of clarity will keep up.

I love to think about how running so easily translates to life and our Christian walk.  Psalm 119:105 says “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path”.  Funny how it doesn’t say ” a searchlight, flood light, or something more illuminating.  Nope…lamp unto my feet and light unto my path.  I take that to mean…just enough light so that you will not falter or stumble…but not enough to show you the whole path.  I think its a lovely metaphor for ‘running in the fog’…God telling us that we don’t need to see it all, or even understand…we simply need to trust that He will illuminate each footfall as we need it.  That He will be our little bubble of clarity, to get us to our destination. No flood light or visibility needed, aside from those few steps immediately in front of us.

It is a promise that He will be sufficient for each and every step.  We need not be concerned with what lies down the trail, or even behind us.  We simply need to trust that He is with us and will give us just enough light for the next steps.  There is no need to worry about 12 steps down the road, because they aren’t even visible.

In my life at least, I think God occasionally rolls in the fog to ease my worry burden.  He uses the fog of uncertainty to help remind me to let go and to trust.  He knows that sometimes I need to simply be blinded to all the worry and what ifs up ahead, and simply run in my ‘trust bubble’.

I happen to be ‘running’ in that kind of situation right now.  There are some really big things ahead for me.  Some of those things are really huge and scary and some are exciting…but if I focus on all that is ahead right now, I’ll get so worked up that I will miss the forest for the trees. I will get paralyzed by possibilities and choices that won’t even come my way for days, weeks, or months if at all.

So for now at least, the blessed fog has rolled in.  God has it all in control and I am trying very hard not to outrun my little clarity bubble.  I know that the future path is shrouded, but God is taking me somewhere important, and that each step will be sufficiently , abundantly clear.

My get up and go just got up and went

Confession time: I ditched my long run today.  Yep. Guilty. Sitting here with a good ol cup of Duncan Donuts coffee and a case of “my give a darn is busted”.  I don’t want to be an adult today.

I have had a week of…lets call them “Challenges”.  I have had emotional and physical walls to hurdle. Crazy  emotionally zapping days at work, and long days that never seem to end when you get home.  Those days where you struggle for every inch of progress all day long, longing to just go home and rest and restore for the next day only to find your house has been turned upside down, and nothing goes as planned there either- and you just fall into bed exhausted just to get up and start again the next day. Now we all have days like this…the days that Shall Not be Mentioned- ya know? I expect days like this every once in a while.  I just don’t expect them every single day, All Week Long.  So I was tired this morning…and my give a darn seems to be a bit broken. I’m not even sure I have all of the pieces I need to put it back together any time soon ;).

This was supposed to be my first ‘long’ run day.  I only had 5 miles to run…but I just didn’t WANT to.  Now I know, in the midst of marathon training, that I ran in rain, freezing temperatures, and other crazy conditions.  My give a darn was fully functional…hyperdrive even.  So what gives? Does this bode poorly for my half marathon training?  Am I doomed to fail even before I start? Will I ever recover???

Oh the crazy train inside our minds and hearts some days! Its amazing how fast we can hop on the self doubt and demoralization train. Well today I am NOT playing that game.

I could choose to beat myself up over today.  In the past I am sure I would have.  But for today, I think I will choose Grace.  I am going to give myself Grace for having one bad day after a VERY horrible no good awful week.  Sometimes you measure up and just come up short….and that’s OK.

Running is 80% mind over matter and 20% physical effort.  If the brain isn’t in it, then the body just won’t follow.  I could have forced myself out there today, to grind out some herky jerky miles….get fed up, walk, and wonder why I even bothered.  Instead, I chose to take a mulligan.  Today I chose to give in…and to give myself permission.

Sometimes its Ok to acknowledge a rough patch.  I usually just bull on through and push and push…but its Ok sometimes, to honor the struggle and allow for some rest, rejuvenation, healing.  My actual half marathon training doesn’t even  start for 2 weeks.  I am in the prep stages.  I only need to work up to a 6 mile run by then, and I am already at a fairly comfortable 4.  Life won’t stop if I give myself a break today…but it surely will fall apart if I keep pushing at already straining seams!  This very idea chafes at me though, because I am not by nature, a restful person.  This may shock you, but I am a go go go, push push push, kind of gal.  I like to reserve grace for others and don’t generally give it to myself.

God is Grace after all.  He continually gives us grace when we stumble, fall off the faith wagon, or just plain have a bad day and forget how to be a nice civil human being.  He gathers us up, brushes us off, gives us a big warm hug, and reminds us that tomorrow is another God blessed day. He’s our number one fan, always there to cheer us on, but also there to pick us up, help us get back on our feet and tell us that tomorrow can be better.

In Psalm 23,David says:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.[a]
3 He restores my soul.

David knew…he had after all, had some amazing highs, but also some very bad, no good, awful days….he’d come up short a time or two and needed restoration and grace.

So for today, I will try not to want…not to want to be more than I can at this moment, not to want to push beyond my limits for today.  I will try to slow down today and to rest.  I cannot rest in the pastures or wash in the water if I am continually running running running past them.  For today at least, I will stop and rest, restore, refresh. I will give myself Grace to put aside my agenda and plans…and simply rest.

I am sure that I will get back up, dust myself off, and run like the wind…just not today.  Today I am looking under the couch for the pieces to my ‘give a darn’…let me know if you find any of the missing pieces! 😉 I know I can get it going again eventually!!!

Off to the races!

Why yes, it has been a long time since I posted on here.  No I haven’t died, gotten an injury, or stopped running.  I HAVE however slowed it down, dropped back to 1-2 easy short runs a week…gotten rather lax about running.  Call it a vacation from Marathon training if you will. Or call it like it is…tired of running, don’t wanna have to…not gonna do it…you can’t make me…..blah blah blah.

Well vacation is officially over, and half marathon training season is here! I can say that I am 70% excited to have an iron clad schedule to stick to again ( I really am BAD about skipping out on runs if I am not in training).  I am 25% anxious and dreading the grind of being tied to a schedule, and 5% worried that even tho I just managed 26.2 miles, I just won’t be able to run the 13.1 that I have to for a half. Only as good as your next race and all that…

Superhusband and I ran 4 miles this morning.  It. Was. Hot.  We didn’t get going til around 7:15 and by then it was a sauna-like 85 degrees with 70% humidity….ugh.  As per usual, I was whining and hating life for the first mile.  Once I got over myself and my legs figured out that we were not just going for a short jog, I evened out and ran pretty well.  Apparently my muscle memory from all that training is still in play.  For the first mile all I wanted to do was stop and walk, but after that, my cruise control kicked in.  My cardio however, was a bit glitchy.  Apparently my lungs were still on vacation.  I huffed and puffed more than I would like, and that never really did settle in…but I’ll take what I can get and be happy about the 4 miles. Call me the little engine that ran 4 miles.

As I write this, I can tell that I will be a bit stiff tomorrow. Its time to shake off the cobwebs and get my body back in running shape for sure!  Mentally and emotionally I feel great.  I’ve been feeling petulant and emotionally blah…and this was a nice, mental spring cleaning.

I didn’t realize it, but somewhere along the way, I really have become a true runner…one of those people who doesn’t just run for physical gain, but also runs for emotional and mental well being…ick…ah well, what’s done is done I suppose!

So, once more into the breach…except this time its a bit less…well…breachy.  I am not flinging myself out into the abyss of a full 26.2 but rather into my more comfy zone of 13.1.  I have signed up for a doozy of a schedule though!  In addition to running a 5K a month, I will be running a half marathon in Oct, one in November, one in December, and one in February.  If I can find one in January, I may just sign up for that too just to round it all out lol.  Its a VERY tight schedule and once the half marathons start, I will have little time to train between them.

With this schedule in mind, I am going back to a plan that got me in great running shape last year.  I am using the Hal Higdon 3 Marathon plan again, but just using the first half of the plan.  I will start now and ramp up to a long run of 15 miles before my first race in October.  My goal this year, is to train and run without injury, and to hopefully PR a race or two.  Oh yeah…plus I would like to lose the 5 pounds that I gained during my Marathon taper ( darn carb loading).  Its a tough plan ( 3 days a week rather than 4 or 5) and a very tight schedule…but its good to have a plan and a purpose to my weekly runs.

So people, there you have it…we are once again, off to the races! Lets see how this season plays out!

Back in the Saddle again…

Well it has been 4 weeks since the marathon.  I was hoping to run twice a week until half marathon ramp up begins in August/September.  Life has interrupted that just a bit.  I did not run on Monday since it was Memorial day and things just got in the way.  I was surprised to find myself feeling anxious and just plain antsy all week.  Thankfully I was able to run on Friday.

Super husband and I took off for a 5 mile causeway to beach and back run.  It. Was. Glorious! There was a breeze lovely sea breeze.  In addition, it was so so so nice to run a different route than I had been training on for months and months and months.  There were new sights to see, and a causeway to climb….ahhhhh:) We made it to the beach and took a brief break before hoofing it back over the causeway.  At the top we stopped to watch a long line of sting rays swoop under the bridge.  There was a beautiful Manta Ray in the lead…a sight I have never seen in the Indian River! In short, it was a really nice run. My legs felt strong, I felt happy and relaxed…I repeat, it was a Really Nice Run.

I was worried when I signed up for the Marathon, that I would lose my desire to run after such intense training.  I mean really…I went into training only marginally tolerating running in the first place.  I was afraid that so many months of intense training would burn me out and turn me off of running entirely.

Luckily, I have found the opposite to be true.   I enjoy running now even more than I did before.  I will admit to even…gasp…NEEDING to run.  I was all spun up this week after missing my Monday run, yet the stress just melted away as the miles flew by this Friday.

I will finally admit it…not only am I a runner…but I do really like to run…and part of me really needs to run on a regular basis.  Running has become my reboot button if you will.  Running is me time…God time…and when Superhusband joins in, its also us time.  Its the few times in the week where the phone, TV, to do list, endless demands, cleaning chores, and inner critique just shut off…I move, I run, I breathe…Ahhh.  No matter how inadequate I feel for the demands of my day…when I am running I feel strong, I feel capable, I feel like I am enough.  Its really nice to be reminded of that first thing in your day…it certainly sets the tone for the rest of the day!

I am a new creation from what I was when I started my running journey, and yet I know I am still a work in progress.   In August/September I will start officially training again, and ramp up into those longer, grittier runs…but for now I am truly enjoying running for the joy of it.  I can’t even imagine how strange that would have sounded to me 8 months ago!

A Royal Flush…

So this past weekend was my very first 5K since my Marathon of madness!  I ran the Booty run, beachside, at 4PM…in Florida…in the Summer.  Yeah, that was NOT my brightest moment I’ll admit.  Now for anyone up in the Arctic North, you may actually run past 8 Am in the morning.  Here in Sunny Sweaty Florida you don’t even venture out of the house past 8 Am without SPF1000, a gallon of water, and your own personal fan.  Its hot y’all. Too. Hot. To. Run.  I know this, but occasionally I get crazy runner ambitions and lose all common sense.  Anyway…4 PM…86 degrees in the shade…running my booty off at the booty run.

I will confess, I had fun.  I probably lost 4 pounds in water weight in less than 30 minutes, but it was so nice to be running for fun again.  The heat slowed me down no doubt.  There were sections of road that literally radiated heat up while the sun radiated it down, making me feel like a chicken broiling in the oven.  Heat aside, though,I felt good!:)  I ran an 8:56 minute/ mile, a 9:12, and finally a heat weary 9:59.  My legs felt strong and my cardio held out nicely.  If it had been cooler, I think I could have cut a good chunk out of my final time of 28:47.  That was not my fastest 5 K to date… but it WAS fast enough to net me my very first, first in my age group award and 27th over all out of 200 runners AND 12th place in the ladies group. Granted,  it was a smaller race and fewer elites showed up, it was a hot day and all of our times were a bit slower than usual…BUT that aside, I was for once ,near the front of the pack rather than the end of the middle where I usually huff and puff.  I’ll take it for the personal victory that it is 🙂

So here’s what things are looking like for me right now.  I’m working on starting a running group at my church.  We’ll be having our first group devotional and run in June.  In addition, I’m trying to stick to a pared down training plan…actually write mileage on the calendar and stick to it, just as I would if I were training.  I am letting myself slow down to 2 days a week rather than 3, and then will ramp back up to 3 days a week once half marathon season approaches in the Fall.  I’m shooting for a short, fun 3 miler on Mondays, then a longer run at the end of the week.  I’m going to  alternate a 5 mile causeway or 6 mile flat run, with an 8 mile or a 10 mile run on my long days.  I figure that way I’m switching up mileage and routes on a weekly basis so I don’t get bored or in a rut, but it won’t be too hard to ramp up to half marathon shape when I need to. I’m all hoping to get in a 5 K each month..that’s just fun for me.  I  really enjoy the all out dash to the finish and instant gratification that a 5 K holds.  That’s the plan anyway…we’ll see how it goes and what God has in store for my time…he may have other plans and that’s OK!

Right now I still feel like I should be out there running more than I am.  I miss the regularity and commitment that a focused plan holds.  I was worried that I would be burned out and not want to run again, but I find myself wanting to run more than my schedule will allow right now.  I was hoping to get back to a modicum of normalcy in my work/housework routine…but so far it hasn’t happened.  I am just so far behind from months of training that I am still playing catch up in a losing race.  I’m trying to chip away at the to do list and cleaning schedule one bit at a time, but as of right now I don’t feel as if I am making any headway. It HAS been wonderful however, to have my weekends for family time and not be tired or sore for most of my waking hours.

Oh, and back to the Booty run…I earned my very first first in age group trophy this weekend.  It sits in a  place of honor in my curio cabinet for all to see…and yes, it IS a golden, gleaming toilet bowl…makes me chuckle every time I see it.   Run happy my friends!

Don’t Stop Believin’….


Well it is officially over and done.  I made it from starting line to finish.  I didn’t puke, pass out, get carried off the course, or die.  I am now officially a marathoner.  I will however, reserve the  Marathoner with an uppercase M for those who made it across the finish line hours before me.  I’m thankful, grateful. blessed…but not proud.  I know I finished this race on God’s power and not mine.  As we’ve discussed, I missed training runs here and there…did the best that I could, but this distance was much bigger than me and my jalopy engine…no doubt.  I give full glory to God on this one.  I did the work, put in lots of miles, and trained my booty off sure, but this was one tough race!

We arrived on Saturday afternoon, went to the never-ending expo, and ate at the pasta buffet in the hotel that night.  My feet were killing me by the time I went to bed at 9 PM.  I woke up at the insanely silly hour of 4 AM to choke down a bagel and banana ( side note: Super Husband had to work hard to find me a banana in a hotel full of marathon runners, but he heroically managed to track one down for me).  I dressed, greased up with Glide, and paced the hotel until we could walk to the start.  It was blessedly crisp at around 50 degrees…and I was nervous but hopeful as we walked to the starting line.  Once there, we corralled up.  I was in the second to last corral…the BROWN corral…ew.  We all packed in like sardines, listened to the national anthem, and were off!  Well at least Corral A was…it took us a solid 20 minutes to toe up to the starting line…and THEN we were off!

The start was insanely crowded, making it impossible to more than shuffle along for the first few minutes.  There were people in my corral who immediately spread out 3-4 people wide and started at a walk…ugh!  Now I am NOT judging at all…but if you are going to start at a walk, then please start in the last corral…and PLEASE do not spread out 3-4 people wide.  I’m just saying…

I finally got enough room to do a slow jog and turned the first corner….to see my fist hill of the course.  Now this course was supposed to have only 2 big hills, a very few rolling hills, and be  mostly flat other than that.  I quote from the FAQ section of the marathon web page:”The hills are in the first nine miles of the race. The first two are just going over the bridge into Kentucky and the one coming back. After several miles of flat there is a 300 ft. climb between miles 6-9 to a beautiful park with a panoramic view of the river and downtown Cincinnati. After that it is gently rolling and from mile 19 to the finish it is pretty flat.

I suppose if you lived in an above sea level state, you MIGHT say that.  For a Florida girl, this course was almost completely rolling hills with 2 very big monster hills, and one or two flat sections. period.  I was totally unprepared for THAT! According to my Garmin watch, I ran a total elevation gain of 943 ft and a loss of 911ft through the entire race.  Within the first 5 miles we had gone over 3 bridges and several whoop de do hills.  I was really worried.  My legs were really unhappy.  I made the choice to walk some of the hills right then and there.  I had wanted to run all but the 2 mile hill at mile 6, but it was a matter of survival at this point.  All in all I would say that I ran 85-90% of the total course…I did have to walk some of the hills, but I also managed to run quite a few.

I finally got into a rhythm around mile 5.  My legs untangled and I was running more than I wasn’t for sure.  I was managing a brisk 9:30-10 on the flat stretches, and even a bit faster  on the downhills.  At mile 6 we began the long 2 mile climb up, up and up to the park.  It was a nasty long climb, but it stair stepped a bit, so I could catch my breath and run here and there. Half way up, we passed an Elvis impersonator, singing Sweet Caroline…that was um surreal to say the least! The view from the top of the park was truly worth the climb! It was spectacular, and just the warm fuzzy I needed to spot the 5:30 pace group and pass them never to be seen again.  A few more rolling hills down, and I caught and passed the 5:15 pace group.  I kept looking for the 5:00 pace group, but never did find them.

Once we hit the split point where the marathoners peeled off from the half marathon pack things got real.  It was an amazing feeling to split off and follow the marathon group. The pack thinned out dramatically at that point, and you started to feel like you were part of something really amazing…a much smaller group who were sticking it out for the whole 26.2.  I was still running well here.

The crowd was amazing, and the weather was beautiful.  The water stops were generally every mile, so that really helped the miles slide by.  Even if I got tired, it was only a mile until I could catch my breath and get a drink.   The food was awesome too! There were fig newton stations, twizzlers, hersheys kisses, and even a bacon station!  I loved reading the signs people had made.  My favorites were “you’re chafing the dream”, I like pig butts and I cannot lie”, and “blisters are braille for awesome”.

Round about mile 19 I started to get worn down.  Everything was hurting.  My knees and feet were NOT prepared for the pounding down hill sections and that was taking the biggest toll.  I was getting hot and tired, but still in relatively good spirits.  From mile 20-23 I was getting slower and slower.  I got a boost though as I ran into mile 23.  This was it…deeper water…this was farther than I had ever run in my life! I had run past my training and into the unknown! It was here that I stopped briefly and called SuperHusband to tearfully tell him I had made it to the edge of my running map and was stepping out into the deep end!

Miles 24-25 were probably the worst of the race.  I was sore, tired and just wanted to be done.  Here and only here, I pulled out my music and listened to Thrive and Bigger Than Me.  This was to be my hardest and slowest mile of the entire race.  From mile 25-26.2 I put away the tunes and hauled my tired booty.  I had hoped to run this race in 5:15-5:20 based on my training runs and the hills on this course.  I had run 23 flat relatively easy miles in 4:55, so I figured adding in the hills and the race day adrenaline, I was hopeful for a 5:15 or 5:20. I never truly hit the wall this time.  I had hit it in every training run over 20 miles, but not here.  I was tired, exhausted, and everything hurt, but that I can run through.

By mile 25 I knew I had at least a chance of making it in under 5 hours…and that was just too good to be true.  I knew I’d have to really run hard for the last 1.2 miles so I kicked it in with all I had and just ran flat out. 

I crossed that finish line in 4:59:30! I just squeaked in under, but I did it! I tried my absolute best, and God rewarded it with a faster time than I had even dared hope for.  God is good!  I got my bling, and hobbled to find Super Husband and Super Son.  After a shower and some food, we spent the day walking ( hobbling ) around the Cincinnati zoo.  I was really, really, really sore.  My knees felt like grapefruit and my feet were pounding and sore, but I knew if I stopped moving I’d rust up like and old engine left in the rain…so to the zoo it was!

For those of you who like numbers, here’s how I did: 2:28:53 First half, 2:30:38 second half, last mile:9:43.

So I hobbled and limped around for the first few days I was back, but really nothing worse than I felt for my first half marathon, or for any one of my 23 mile training runs. It took me about 3 days to stop hurting.  By Friday I actually felt like running a little bit.  Super Husband and I went out for a slow 1 mile out and a fast mile back ( I ran an 8:40 on the way home).  I was really, really pleased at how not horrible I felt!  This Monday, I was able to run a pretty fast 3.1 miles ( a 10:06, a 10:04, and finally an 8:20).  I am so very glad to be off the crazy cycle of mega miles, but feel a bit drifty…its odd to not have a schedule to run when I have had one for the last 8 months.

Many people have asked me if I will run another marathon. I have to honestly say I don’t think so.  It wasn’t the distance so much as the training that was so hard to take.  It was just overwhelming in the amount of time such a thing demands.  I will admit though, to being curious as to how I could do on a flat course…but not curious enough to sign up for anything in the foreseeable future.

Which brings me to the next chapter in my running history.  It seems God still wants me to swim in deep waters.  He hasn’t called me to another marathon thank heavens…but he HAS called me to start a running and devotions group at my church.  Like the marathon, this is uncharted waters for me and I am anxious, but also excited to see what God has planned.

As far as my blog, I still plan to ramble on here, so please do check in from time to time! I have 3 more half marathons planned this year, so plenty to whine and chat about between now and then! Thanks to all of those who followed my journey.  And an even bigger thanks for those who lifted me up in prayer on Marathon Day.  I truly felt lifted up and surrounded by so much love and prayer.  It was an amazing experience, and I cannot thank you all enough.

Until next post: run angry, eat bacon, and dream for the stars people!

On your Mark….Get set…

Well here we are at 1 day and 18 hours before the big show.  I have stuck ( mostly) to my training plan, endured the endless taper, and stuffed myself with the requisite carbs.  I went for my last pre race run of 2 miles this morning.  It felt glorious.  God gave me a BEAUTIFUL 60 degree morning to run in.  That in and of itself is a miracle here in Florida in late April!  I ran really well and felt like I had lots to spare…so YAY!:)

I’ve been really terrified leading up to this week.  Everyone around me has been getting a nasty upper respiratory virus.  I have been bathing in hand sanitizer and washing my hands raw for days.  I have been endlessly worried…about the race, about getting sick, about life, the universe in general…you get the idea. As of yesterday evening though, I felt a switch flip…I am…drum roll….getting excited!  I’m still scared ( respect the distance and all that), but I’m feeling just a bit giddy.  My legs feel strong and I have gotten an unexpected energy boost ( maybe its all the hand sanitizer and vitamins).  I feel bouncy and just a bit jittery…caffeinated even.  I find I ready to GO!

I sat down and read all of my posts today from beginning to end. Its been quite a physical and spiritual journey.  Its amazing to go back and read where I was when all of this began.  To remind myself of how far this journey has taken me.  Its fun to see how I have changed and stayed still the same old me.

Turns out, I did finish most of my plan, I didn’t get injured, and I have managed to Listen to God along the way.  I think that has been my biggest surprise.  I feel much more connected spiritually than I did when I started all of this.  Hours on the pavement with no excuses and no one in the way have made me feel a true connection that just wasn’t there before.

I have gone from a love /hate relationship with running to at least a love/like relationship.  Even though I am tired of the long long miles, I DO miss running when I don’t get to run at least 2-3 times a week.  Running is still hard for me…and likely always will be.  I am stronger and faster than I was, but I am a runner by determination and intent and not by genetic ability. I was not born to be a runner, but rather choose to run. Running will never come easily to me, but that is one reason why I value it …I have to work for every mile gained. With that said, running has become an important part of my identity, it has become a part of me, of who I am,  and I am glad for that.

Along the way, SuperHusband has picked up a running habit…and I have really enjoyed running with him.  Its been a fun new aspect to our Marriage, and its nice that he will truly understand what I am facing this weekend. I have really enjoyed watching him grow as a runner right along beside me.  In the midst of this adventure, he has become a half marathoner and I am so very proud of him and his own running journey!  My friends and family have been amazingly supportive of this crazy endeavor.  I have has so much love and support along the way that its kind of overwhelming to think about!

So I am hopeful that I can complete this Marathon in 5 hours.  Less would be a dream come true, but I will be happy with just crossing that finish line darn it!   Part of me cringes when I admit to someone that I am going to take that long to run the marathon.  The elite runners will likely clock times of 2 hours and change.  Five  hours is slow…its well below the ‘average’ for people who run marathons.  I have never pretended to be fast though, and I am not about to start now.  I just need to finish after all.  I am not fast, but I am determined, and I am Faithful…and that will have to be enough!

A very dear friend pointed me to an awesome song by Tobymac that has become my theme song this week.  It’s called “Way Beyond Me”…and it really just sums up this whole marathon journey. It talks about God giving us tasks that are beyond our reach to remind us that we need Him.  How appropriate as I stare down that starting line! Here’s a sample:

Call it a reason to retreat
I got some dreams that are bigger than me
I might be outmatched, outsized, the underdog in the fight of my life
Is it so crazy to believe

That You gave me the stars, put them out of my reach
Called me to waters a little too deep
Oh, I’ve never been so aware of my need
You keep on making me see
It’s way beyond me
It’s way beyond me
Yeah, it’s out of my league
It’s way beyond me
It’s way beyond me
It’s way beyond

Anything that I got the strength to do
In over my head keeps me countin’ on You
I’m leaving the sweet spot, sure shot
Tradin’ it all for the plans You got
Is it so crazy to believe

That You gave me the stars, put them out of my reach
Called me to waters a little too deep
Oh, I’ve never been so aware of my need
Yeah, you keep on making me see
It’s way beyond me
It’s way beyond me
Yeah, it’s out of my league
It’s way beyond me
It’s way beyond me

I have done all that I physically can…now its time to simply let go and let God get me there.

This BaconRunner is all packed and ready to GO.  There’s nothing left to do now but run the race that God has set before me. Just point myself down the course and do what He has trained me to do. 1)Pray. 2) Run….Really  Really far. 3) Collect Bling. 4) Eat Bacon…that pretty much sums up my plan!  Tune in next week, for the recap and further adventures of BaconRunner;)!