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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

3rd Times A Charm!

One of my favorite races of all time is the Nike Women's Marathon/half-marathon in San Francisco.  The beautifully scenic course, the energy of so many female runners (no offense guys), and of course the gorgeous Tiffany finishers necklace makes it the one race I hope to repeat year after year.  (Granted, I only do the half.  Those hills are crazy!)

So what does this have to do with my 3rd marathon?  Well, the entry for the NWM is a lottery, and I knew that I was lucky to get in on my 1st attempt in 2011.  I also knew that I wanted to run one last marathon in my very own Sweet home Chicago so my mom could be at the finish line.  Consequently I made myself a deal that if I didn't get into the 2012 NWM 1/2, that I would run the Chicago full in the fall of 2012.  In the Spring of 2012, I found out that I did not get chosen for the lottery, so I joined Team DetermiNation and started training for my 3rd, and final, full marathon in Chicago.

My training went really, really well although I still don't know exactly why it felt so different.  I probably shouldn't say this, and I'm certainly not recommending it, but while I always follow the daily miles in my training plan religiously, I have never paid attention to pace runs, stretching, fartleks, splits, cross training, etc... I simply lace up my shoes and run.  I don't mean to make it sound like it's a piece of cake, because it's not.  Besides lacing up your shoes you're going to need to believe in yourself, never give up, and be willing to work hard even on the days when you'd rather stay in bed curled up with a good book!  For whatever reason though, my pace improved substantially, and one Saturday after a long run I realized that I was completing my training miles at a Boston Qualifying pace.  I tried not to think about it, because the idea of running Boston has honestly never crossed my mind.  It was never a goal or even a dream of mine.  However once the thought entered my mind, there was no blocking it out.

The timing of the marathon became my biggest challenge.  My mom, who I was running this "last" marathon for, ironically wasn't going to be able to attend, as the non-profit she works for was hosting their 5k the very same day.  We were each sad not to be able to support each other in person, but we were together in spirit!  Next I discovered that my oldest son's first college family weekend at SMU in Minnesota fell on the same weekend of the marathon.  Of course I wasn't going to miss that, so we headed to MN on Friday and left late in the afternoon on Saturday. Luckily my husband offered to drive the 6 hours back to Chicago.  I went to bed around midnight and woke up a few hours later to join 45,000 other runners on the start line.

The conditions for the race were perfect, and I was amazed to see my family cheering me on at several points along the route.  The energy, enthusiasm, and motivation from the fans was indescribable.  Boston flashed in my mind a few times, but mainly I focused on the crowd, my music, and running one mile at a time.  I felt strong until around mile 22.  At that point I knew that Boston was in reach, but I kept telling myself that this was my "last" marathon anyway, so why should I worry about Boston?  My stubborn, never say quit, attitude took over and I ignored the temptation to walk and just kept going.  When I crossed the finish line I knew it would depend on my chip time, but I felt pretty confident.  While I was certainly exhausted, I have never felt so strong after running 26.2 miles!  It truly was an incredible feeling!

The time I needed to qualify was 3:55:00.  My chip time ended up being 3:54:12.  I BQ'd by 48 seconds and took 40 minutes off my PR!!! I am now just under 11 weeks away from running the 117th Boston Marathon, and am still pinching myself to believe it's really happening.  Once again, I believe I will be hanging up my marathon shoes and sticking to 13.1's after April.  (Of course, you all know how well that's worked for me up till now! I am adding a clause though, that if any of my sons want to eventually run 26.2 with me, my new marathon shoes would be ordered tomorrow!)  I have learned that while there is countless sources available for fabulous running advice, there really is no magic recipe for running.  Running simply IS magic, and I feel so fortunate to be a part of it!

Oh, and remember that 2012 NWM in SF that I didn't get into that led me to signing up for the Chicago marathon in the first place?  I ended up getting accepted in the early fall in a surprise 2nd chance entry opportunity!  I ran that half and picked up my 2nd Tiffany's necklace two weeks after the Chicago marathon.  Celebrating my BQ by running my favorite race, was the perfect finish to an unforgettable race season!  So perfect in fact, that two weeks after Boston I'll be running the inaugural NWM half in DC and collecting a little more Tiffany bling from yet another firefighter in a tux!  All I can say is hurry up Spring!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Oops! I Did It Again!

After running the WDW marathon in January 2011, I truly believed that would be the 1st and last time I would run 26.2 miles in one morning.  Boy was I wrong!  By the fall of 2011 I had completed several other races, and I was feeling really confident about my running and how far I had come in just two years.  The pain that I had experienced during the last few miles in Epcot was all but forgotten.  I wanted to feel the exhilaration of finishing a full marathon one more time.

One of my longtime friends and former colleagues, Michelle, had recently moved to Arizona.  I was anxious to visit her, but knew that I would need to persuade my husband as to why I should get to go to sunny, warm AZ, while he was left behind with our four sons in dreary, cold IL.  After doing a little digging I discovered a really small marathon taking place in Apache Junction, AZ called The Lost Dutchman.  It happened to fall on my birthday weekend, and I knew he couldn't say no to sending me as my gift! :)
My plan worked, and I began training for marathon #2.  (You know, the one that was never going to happen.) According to my Nike+ account, I logged a monthly record high 213 miles in January 2012.  Crazy!  Needless to say, between my positive training experience and knowing my friend was volunteering at the finish line, I felt more ready than ever to PR in AZ with 529 other runners!  Unfortunately, things didn't quite go as planned.

I rarely get sick, but found myself coming down with a cold the day before I was to fly to Phoenix.  Michelle met me at the airport and we headed to packet pick up, before going to her new home in Cave Creek, AZ.  Catching up with Michelle and spending time with her beautiful family, was definitely the highlight of my trip.  Despite downing Zicam and fluids like crazy, my cold continued to get worse, and I was far from the fun guest that I had planned to be!  However, I was determined to run the race, despite feeling like garbage.  I promised my mom that I would stop if I needed to.  Her advice, "there's a fine line between stubborn and stupid.  Don't cross it."

The best part of The Lost Dutchman for me was the starting area where race organizers host a unique campfire lit by the fading moonlight.  During the first thirteen miles I actually felt amazing, and was stunned by the gorgeous scenery that surrounded me.  (Including coming face to face with a bull.) I was on pace to finish in about 4 hours, killing my 1st marathon time of 4:33.  Then around mile 18 I started fading... FAST.  There were so few runners that by this point we had all really spread out.  I slowed down considerably and spent several miles walking.  I did run through the wall at mile 24, but barely.  The whole time my mom's advice kept running through my mind...I wanted to cross the finish line, but I did NOT want to cross that "fine line" into the stupid zone.  People were passing me right and left, but knowing that Michelle was at the finish line, and that she would be the one to present me with my medal, inspired me to keep going.
I finished in just under 5 hours, taking an hour longer that I had hoped.  Michelle was there waiting for me, and was phenomenal! Not only did she make me feel like a champ, but she could tell how much I was hurting, and got me to my hotel in record time. (Including a quick pit stop at In n' Out Burger, which I had been craving all weekend!)  Michelle is the absolute definition of a true friend, and if you're looking for a small race, The Lost Dutchman is second to none!!

Needless to say, I flew home early the next morning, convinced that THIS really was my last marathon!  Or so I thought...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Grated Teacher Ever!

At the end of the day yesterday, one of my students rushed into the library before hopping on the bus to give me this note.  The note itself was not necessarily unique, as anyone who works with young children has probably received something similar.  What made this note special (besides the spelling errors) was that it came from a student that has struggled with reading year after year.  In past years when Lindsey has come for library checkout it has been very difficult to engage her in any type of book.  Since entering school as a kindergartner four years ago, she has had a very negative image of herself as a reader.  

Since winter break, Lindsey has unlocked the magic of reading, and throughout the past week has been popping in daily for new books.  She is unstoppable and truly beams with pride to tell me about the book she has just finished!  I could not be more thrilled for her, and am honored that she thinks I am the "greated teacher ever!"  On days when the "to do" list becomes overwhelming, this note reminds me of why I do what I do!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Dream a little dream...

I admit it.  I'm a big wimp when it comes to running outside in the winter.  However when I read about all of the wonderful sights that fellow runners are seeing on their outdoor winter runs (minus the roadkill), I envy them.  There are definite advantages to running indoors though including...

  • There is always a clean bathroom nearby.
  • I don't have to get all layered up.
  • There is always a clean bathroom nearby.
  • I get to catch up with my soaps.
  • There is always a clean bathroom nearby.
  • I have unlimited access to water.
  • Oh and did I mention...there is always a clean bathroom nearby!
As an extra bonus last night, Bailey kept me company.  I ran while he was hard at work designing a city.  Yes, a city. For a few days now, my 11 year old has been on a mission to build his own city.  My child who relishes his role of "baby of the family" especially when it comes to getting out of work, spent two hours voluntarily cleaning the basement in hopes of finding scrap wood that he could use.  (He came up empty handed, but our basement looks great!)  He has now decided to save up for some lumber, but in the meantime he went online to see which colleges were known for having good architecture programs.  With his mind made up on Michigan, he decided the next step should be sketching out his dream.  So he dreamt and sketched, while I dreamt and ran.

I find that one of the best things about being a runner, is that truly just about anyone can do it.  I especially love big races because they prove this fact time and time again.  Old, young, fast, slow, fit, not so fit, and many who have overcome huge obstacles including beating cancer, loss of limb(s), blindness, etc...  I love being inspired by personalized runner bibs or shirts.  Each race is just one page in each person's unique journey, but for a few miles, we are all united by similar dreams.  It is not about being faster than that runner next to you.  It is about a group of people who support each other in chasing these dreams.  The dream to be just a little better version of yourself than you were the day before, to bravely face challenges that you never believed you were capable of, or even to briefly experience the scenery of our world without the chaos and stress that many of us experience in our everyday life.   
A pretty priceless view, and only available from the confines of my treadmill!  Keep chasing those dreams Little B, and thanks for inspiring me to keep chasing mine!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Piece of cake?

Tonight my youngest son, Bailey, walked into our "Hoosier room" (our extra bedroom where my treadmill currently lives), and saw me standing on the treadmill.  He tends to be the hardest on me of my four boys as far as personal trainers go, and he greeted me with, "Seriously?  You haven't even STARTED yet?" (Admittedly, I do tend to have a little problem where I get all ready to run with my laptop secured to my treadmill, but before I click on hulu & actually start running, I get very distracted by FB, Twitter, blogs, online shopping, etc....) :) Anyway, after he came a little closer and saw the sweaty proof that I actually had finished my run he said, "Good job mom. That was fast."

My marathon training schedule required me to log 3 miles tonight, and tomorrow is a rest day.  It's times like this when I think, you know, this marathon stuff truly has become a piece of cake!  However,  then I remember what's coming after Thursday.  6 miles on Friday followed by 11 on Saturday will have me once again questioning why the heck I signed up for marathon #4.  Believe it or not, I almost always seem to have a good answer to this question though, and it made me think back to each of the three marathons that I have completed.

I chose Disney to run my 1st 26.2 because I figured if I didn't survive, at least I would have died in the happiest place on earth!  We planned a trip for all 6 of us to travel to Orlando in January 2011.  I trained, I ran, I survived, and I was even impressed by my 4:33 time, but I swore it was a one time deal!  I was in tears for the last 3 miles, but I knew my family, and Mickey, were waiting for at the finish line.  (I was NOT going to disappoint Mickey!)  Afterwards I can't even describe what my legs felt like.  After an ice bath, and time in the hot tub, I finally texted my son's girlfriend who run's cross country, desperate for advice. She told me to lay on my back with my legs up against a wall at a 90 degree angle.  I was willing to try anything at that point, and an hour later I was actually feeling human again!  (Thanks Ashley!!!  I think that might be the most valued running advice anyone has ever given me!)  My husband took this picture of me, my medal & my awesome "ChEAR squad" about 5 or 6 hours after I finished the race.  It looks like it was a piece of cake, right?  :)

How I wound up signing up for marathon #2 is another story...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year! Happy New Blog!

Happy new year and thanks for visiting my new blog!  Like most people, I am starting the new year with my own unique goals, dreams, resolutions and aspirations.   I am trying to keep my list realistic and attainable as the "experts" suggest in order to be successful,  but yet crazy, fun, and ambitious enough to keep me motivated!

I recently posted one possible goal on Twitter , and along with a great deal of support and encouragement, I was asked if I planned on blogging about my experience.  Unfortunately, my list of goals instantly grew a little longer to include, "create a blog." Fortunately, now that I have created this blog, I will now have proof that even if I accomplish nothing else on my list this year, I'll still be able to call 2013 a success!   

So what will this blog be about?  Well, as a teacher/library media specialist, I have always encouraged my students to write about what they know and what they love.   Following that advice, the goal of this blog is to inspire &/or entertain readers with my tales of  running, reading, and the joys of raising four amazing, incredible, talented, and always entertaining boys.  No doubt there will also be random posts about the Indiana Hoosiers and the Chicago Cubs.  :)

Just in the past few weeks I have discovered so many blogs that have provided motivation, ideas, inspiration, running advice, classroom tips, book reviews, and so much more.  Thanks to each of you for your wisdom!  I hope that in sharing some of my own experiences and stories, I can pass that same gift forward.  

Oh, and in case you're wondering what that "possible" goal was that I posted on Twitter, here goes nothing!  I have officially decided  to run 13 13.1 mile races in 2013!  Crazy, fun, and as long as I stay injury free, hopefully even attainable!  (Although I am cheating a bit & counting the Boston full marathon in April as two of the 13.)  My 1st step to achieving this goal officially began at 6AM on NYE.  Never did I picture myself setting my alarm on a Monday AM during winter break, but this was required to register for the March O'Madness half marathon in Cary, IL.  I've been told that this is a "must run" before I head to Boston, and apparently it fills up FAST!  Luckily I did get in, and thankfully my boys are old enough that I was able to register and go back to sleep for several hours before any of them even thought of getting up! 

Let the adventure begin!