girl power 2 cure

BOSTON, BABY!

I remember where I was when they announced there was a bombing at the Boston Marathon in 2013. I had just finished my first half marathon two days before, on Saturday, in Kansas on the way home to my bridal shower. On Patriot’s Day, during the race, I was in my grandpa’s truck with my mom. He was driving us back to Kansas City for me to catch my flight back to Milwaukee. I had just really found my passion for distance running and I remember sitting in the back of his truck… crying. That’s when I decided I’d run a marathon. That’s when I decided I wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I’m sure many others have similar stories about finding out about the bombing and how that motivated them to run, become a marathoner or shoot for a BQ.

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Fast forward a few years, a few more races to fall of 2016 when I ran the Chicago Marathon a month after finishing my first Ironman. I pr’d my marathon by 36 minutes and qualified for Boston 2018 by 3 minutes and 55 seconds. I was SURE that window was large enough to get me into Boston… no doubt in my mind! Then it was announced the window was the largest ever at 3 minutes and 25 seconds. Thirty seconds was all that stood between me and NOT going to Boston… yikes! I was a squeaker!

But I made it!

Insert Team Sparkle. I’ve ran multiple Ragnar SoCal’s with the ladies of Sparkle Athletic and a few other sparkly, fast friends every year since 2015. The awesome thing is 5 of us qualified to run at Boston this year! Team Sparkle is heading to Boston instead of Ragnar SoCal to raise money and awareness for Rett Syndrome. We added two members to our usual 5, so that 7 of us will each run for 27 (because the .2!) little girls or boys suffering from Rett Syndrome. We run for a non-profit charity called Girl Power 2 Cure.

Boston gear and compression socks… gotta fly in style!

Boston gear and compression socks… gotta fly in style!

My family flew to Boston the Friday before the race. You guys… there were so many Boston jackets, BQ shirts, etc on this flight. So inspiring! I couldn’t believe I was one of them! My entire goal for Boston was just to get to the start line healthy and able to run the entire race. My son was now just over 7 months old, so I knew I wouldn’t be breaking any course records here.

My in-laws were also flying in that day. So we hung around the area a little while until they landed. Then went to the hotel to drop our things and get Parker down for a nap, and I headed back to the expo. I wanted to go right away so I’d be able to relax and miss the biggest wave of crowds.

This expo was massive, but also SUPER crowded. I’m really glad we didn’t try to bring everyone and Parker’s stroller. There’s no way it would have been manageable for us to stick together. Saturday we visited the finish line, and went to a Red Sox game. It was COLD you guys!

Still haven’t crossed that finish line… Monday!

Still haven’t crossed that finish line… Monday!

Sunday morning Team Sparkle had brunch together, then we visited the finish line again as a team. By the way, it was snowing Sunday when we were at the finish line. We ended up on the same corner as a few of the professional men. I forget who, but one of us was saying how cold it was (Elise?) and the pros looked at us and said it was perfect running weather! Then one of them stopped smiling and shook his head slowly as if to say “Just kidding! This sucks!” We had a good laugh about it!

Jumping pictures!

Jumping pictures!

From the back!

From the back!

We then went to the airport to pick up my parents, found dinner, and relaxed for the rest of the evening. The weather for Monday looked like it would be the worst weather in the history of the Boston Marathon. High of about 35 degrees, rain all day, and a headwind with gusts up to 30 mph. All day long. Luckily Team Sparkle had us covered with ponchos, medical gloves, hand/ foot warmers, and trash bags. I had also gone to a thrift store earlier in the week and purchased about $8 worth of clothes to wear. If I decided to take any off at the finish line or along the course, the clothing gets donated right back.

Our race outfit was going to be so hidden…

Our race outfit was going to be so hidden…

Race morning dawned just as nasty as they projected. Cold. Wet. Windy. I put on my throwaway socks and shoes, capris, sparkle skirt, long sleeve, arm sleeves, tank top, fleece hoodie, sweat pants, buff, gloves, hat, and medical gloves. I tied trash bags over my throwaway shoes, up around my ankles. I put on my poncho and carried my race shoes and socks and nutrition bag under the poncho with me to keep them as dry as possible. I also took a bag of dry clothes to the finish line for the bag drop… just in case it stopped raining by the time I was done and wanted dry clothes asap.

Parker had a special race outfit too! Mommy’s bib number and Boston colored socks!

Parker had a special race outfit too! Mommy’s bib number and Boston colored socks!

I was still nursing Parker pretty much full time, so I had also purchased a hand pump. I had been pumping extra the entire trip to try to have enough for Parker for up to 10 total hours of being gone. He takes the bottle like a champ! I was a bit nervous about finding a place to pump right before the race, but someone suggested the medical tent.

Team Sparkle had planned to meet up at gear check and ride the bus together, but Jolie and Kellie had other plans. Then Elise and Carrie realized that they had left something at their Air B&B, so Carlee, Allison and myself met up and rode the bus together. It’s a long bus ride from Boston to Hopkinton you guys! The bus was steaming up because a bunch of nervous, wet runners just loaded up onto a bus with the heat on full blast. I wanted to take off my layers because I was sweating, but I didn’t want to then have to put them all back on!

Carlee and me waiting to load the bus!

Carlee and me waiting to load the bus!

Carlee, me and Allison!

Carlee, me and Allison!

We finally arrived at the Athletes Village…. er, mud pit. You guys this place was disgusting! I’m sure on a dry year, it’s a great place to relax a bit, wait for your wave to be called, sit down, and meet other runners. Not this year… We did find some port-o-potties that it seemed like no one else had found and quickly used them before others were on our tail. Next stop was finding the medical tent so I could relieve myself of some breast milk before heading to the start line. This at least allowed for Carrie and Elise to catch up with us before the start.

Carlee’s face says it all…

Carlee’s face says it all…

After leaving the athlete village, you have about 3/4 of a mile walk to even get to the start line. This is when Elise and Carrie were calling us, asking where we were. We slowed our walk a little bit so they could catch up to us. Luckily, a block from the start line there’s another big lot with more port-o-potties, donation bins and pre-race aid stations if needed. We all started to strip a few layers, and I changed my shoes and socks. They were dry… for about 30 seconds. We missed the actual start of our wave, so it was kind of weird to just walk directly up to the start line and then just start running… but that’s what we did! After a team picture of course!

Can you tell who is who?!

Can you tell who is who?!

At the start line we all said we’d stick together through about 16-17 miles and then if we felt we could go faster, we would. Allison decided she was too cold from the get go and off she went, down the first hill! The other 4 of us took off a little slower, wanting to have easy miles the first few. We celebrated as we passed the first mile marker… only 25.2 to go!

I took off my fleece long sleeve and poncho hood (while running!) right after the first mile. Carrie took off her poncho and layers around mile 3… crazy lady! The first few miles were fairly silent, people focused on the task at hand, other than the swish-swish-swish of plastic and ponchos all around us.

There weren’t many pictures taken really through the rest of the race due to the rain… which was coming down hard. There were times in the race where it was pretty hard to see what was going on a block ahead of you. I really, truly think we had about 60 total seconds of it not raining from the minute I stepped out of my hotel that morning until well after I had finished the race. Now I will say I wasn’t that uncomfortable. Keeping my poncho on (and hand warmers in my gloves with medical grade gloves over the top and warmers in my sports bra) kept me pretty much completely dry and warm from my neck to mid thighs. I was afraid of overheating with the plastic on, but I had a nice cozy environment going on! I’m glad I didn’t ditch it and hoped that some runners could see my Girl Power 2 Cure bib on the back of my tank through the clear poncho.

Running was really going pretty well through the entire first half of the race. We were staying at a really consistent, easy pace of 8:30-9 minute. There were a lot of spectators, but I’m sure on a good weather year there would have been many more. My family was around mile 7. It’s so nice to see a friendly face, even if just for a few seconds! We came up to Wellesley college and you could hear the roar of the girls from about a mile away. It was SO exciting to hear them get louder and louder! I know the tradition is to kiss a girl… and we all kissed 4-5! We had to. It is tradition after all!

After passing the college, I felt like my energy was waning… like as the roar of the girls yelling diminished so did my energy. I had some pretty dark miles from 13ish-16ish. I was so thankful for the Sparkle girls pulling me along for a few miles. We started to get separated a little bit around miles 16. By 17, I was alone. Carlee had gone up ahead (speedster that she is!) and Carrie and Elise stopped to talk with someone they knew spectating.

Provided from baa.com

Provided from baa.com

I knew this is where the course would get challenging. We’d only passed one of the hills coming into Newton and had plenty more to go. I tried to focus on the REASON why I was there. I had worked hard. I had qualified. I was running for 189 little girls and boys, my cousin included, who can’t. I wanted to show my son that mommy can do hard things. I started repeating some of the girls names in my head. I knew many of them on my GP2C bib. I’d had the pleasure to meet many of them and their families at various Team Sparkle or GP2C events over the years.

I found other runners running a similar pace as me and hung on. I told myself to keep running. Before I knew it, I was through Newton, with the biggest hill to come. This was Martilee’s mile. Mile 21, the last BIG hill through Newton. I cried thinking of her struggles as I struggled to keep running, but I made it to the top and knew the hardest part of the race was over. The rest is (almost) literally downhill.

The last few miles brought more rain. I passed a lot of very miserable looking athletes those last few miles. Most of them did not have ponchos on, and if they had layers they were soaked and probably freezing. I felt bad for them, but knew I couldn’t do anything about it. I was actually ENJOYING my Boston experience, regardless of the weather.

I could see the Citgo Sign. I knew it was still a mile or so away, but I could SEE IT! I just had to get there, and the crowd would start to build by Fenway. Right when I ran over the “one mile to go” signs painted in the middle of the street, I took off my poncho. One mile to go. I couldn’t finish the race with my poncho! I felt a surge of energy and my last 3 miles were my fastest of the day! More rain, more wind, keep going.

“Within the law enforcement community, thin blue lines are a symbol of the role police officers play in a community be separating good and evil in society. Runners will have a blue-line guided path to the finish time as they make their final left turn at Hereford Street.” - BPD

“Within the law enforcement community, thin blue lines are a symbol of the role police officers play in a community be separating good and evil in society. Runners will have a blue-line guided path to the finish time as they make their final left turn at Hereford Street.” - BPD

I took my right turn onto Hereford street and almost fell due to the amount of ponchos that had been stripped off. We had an entire street, two lanes, for the run but with the ponchos we had maybe 6 feet in the middle of the road that was clear to run on. Spectators were yelling at us to be careful because so many people had fallen or slipped while running on the ponchos.

Left onto Boylston. A short stretch left to go. It was silent, besides the rain. I remember not being able to understand how there were so many people spectating and running, but it was silent. I sprinted down the middle, right on the blue stripes, separating good from evil.

Finally an announcement about my wave and to hurry to the finish to break 4 hours. I knew I had a bit more time since the girls and I started a few minutes after our official wave started. I again, started crying. This was my finish line!

FINISH! Right in the center, arms up, yellow skirt, ugly crying.

FINISH! Right in the center, arms up, yellow skirt, ugly crying.

I AM A FREAKING BOSTON MARATHON FINISHER! I always thought I’d be a one and done… but I have to go back. I have to experience Boston again. This city understands running, commitment, determination. I must go back.

I ended up finishing in a time of 3:53:57 (8:56 pace.) I met ALL of my goals:

A) Get to the start line healthy
B) Run the entire race
C) Run sub 4

My family was at the finish line, but told me after the race that they didn’t see me finish! Between the umbrellas, pouring rain, and what I found out was a moment of silence for the exact time the bombs went off 5 years ago (that put things into perspective…) I can understand why they missed me finish.

My bib, medal, and GP2C bib with the pictures of 27 beautiful little ones fighting against Rett Syndrome.

My bib, medal, and GP2C bib with the pictures of 27 beautiful little ones fighting against Rett Syndrome.

Once I stopped running, I was cold. No, freezing. I was sweaty and soaked and it was cold and windy. I found my family, retrieved my gear back and said lets go. I so wish I could have stayed at the finish line to soak up what just happened, but it was so cold. We headed to the car, and on to Providence, RI for the night before flying home the next day. But don’t worry Boston, I’ll be back.

If you’d like to learn more about Rett Syndrome, or donate towards research and treatment, please go to www.girlpower2cure.org.

To go back to the race report archives, click here.

Ice Age 50k

I’m a firm believer of doing something that’s a little bit scary every year. In 2018, the “scary thing” came in the form of signing up for my first Ultra Marathon. I knew I didn’t want to travel too far, and if I could find one late spring that would be perfect since I was already training for Boston in April. Insert: Ice Age 50.

Start line! 50k runners are off!

Start line! 50k runners are off!

This race opens up in early December and typically sells out in less than 24 hours. So I had my laptop geared up, credit card in hand, ready to register the MINUTE the race opened! The Ice Age 50 has three options: Half Marathon, 50k and 50 mile. I opted for 50k, thinking it would be a good stretch to add 5 more miles after Boston.

On race day I rode down to La Grange with some friends who were running the half. Thayne and Parker would arrive later on, closer to the finish time. It was due to be chilly and wet and we didn’t want Parker outside the entire time. And my friends knew others running the 50m and 50k events too so were good sports about showing up early.

I had no real goals for this race other than to have fun and just finish it! It was a trail race, so I knew it would be slower than running on trails. I also knew the first 13 miles were the most technical and were an out and back, with the following 18 miles being two 9 mile loops on Nordic ski trails. I seemed to have found my “group” of people to run with for the first half marathon distance and we enjoyed chatting with each other about our running histories.

Let’s get this race started!

Let’s get this race started!

The first part was pretty much all single track trails on the out and back. It had rained fairly had the day before, but the trails were nice and hard packed with only one spot that was a bit hairy with the mud. Around 4 miles in a spectator told me I was the third female. I kind of scoffed and said “Oh, good to know I guess…” thinking there’s no way it’s going to stay that way. I don’t run trail races… or super long races, and I had no idea what I’d be able to bring today.

At the turn around point for the first 13 miles was an aid station, but I was good to go with my pack, chomps and water bottle. So instead I turned right around and kept going! I tried to kind of count and see how far back 4th place was from me (because 1st and 2nd were already about 8-10 minutes ahead at this point). She wasn’t too far behind and there were more ladies right behind her. Strong women!

I came through the first half marathon right around 2:05 (9:30ish pace). I was thrilled that I hadn’t had to walk yet… some of those trails were steep! I was happy with this pace so far and hoped I could keep it going on the loops.

Through 13 miles… now two 9 mile loops to go!

Through 13 miles… now two 9 mile loops to go!

Thayne had texted me at this point and said he had left our home and would be to the race in about 45 minutes. I knew I wouldn’t see him until I was about 22 miles in then, starting my second (and last) loop of the race.

The Nordic ski loops were much wider trails, a lot of it grass covered with narrow foot paths from other runners (or skiiers). I had lost my running buddies at this point but it was kind of nice to just follow the orange flags and be alone for a little bit. Most of this loop I was completely alone, doing my own thing. So I thought the elevation was fairly steep at times during the first 13 miles… but THIS elevation!! Wow! It’s not that the hills were long, but they were steep. Straight up. Right back down. Right back up! You almost had to sprint the down to get enough momentum to get as far up the other side as you could before needing to hike up (Go Go Gadget Glute Activation!)

I finished the first loop (22 total miles) and saw Thayne and Parker and my friends! I quickly gave them hugs and kisses and took off. I had been texting Thayne a little bit throughout the race telling him my average pace and that I was still (what?!) in third place! He texted me about 5 minutes after I left saying the 4th woman just came through mile 22. I had kind of been running in fear, if that makes sense. More so running with a sense of urgency. Not wanting to fall about and really push the pace, but wanting to make a big effort to run hard enough to stay in third.

Finish line feelings! Yess!

Finish line feelings! Yess!

On this loop I at least knew what to expect in terms of the elevation changes and kept my sprint down, run as far up, hike the rest method going. It seemed to be working so far, so why not! I hadn’t had to stop at any aid stations yet and I was so thankful that I packed as many snacks as I did. I started to pass quite a few more people on this last loop and some were 50k runners but quite a few of them were half marathoners. It was so great to cheer them on and have them do the same for me! I kept counting down the miles and realized at the 27 mile aid station that my watch was off by a mile… one less to go right away?! Heck yes! This also meant my average pace was faster than I originally thought!

I finished the race in 5:03 and change, meaning I ran 9:45 ish pace. I was THRILLED with keeping that pace through 31 miles! I only walked on a few of the up hills in the loops, I stopped once for a sweaty (for Thayne and Parker) kiss. Other than that I RAN 31 miles! And I finished as the third overall female! WHAAAAT?! Maybe this trail running thing is for me?

Garmin stats!

Garmin stats!

Bib, 50k key chain, plaque and a gift card!

Bib, 50k key chain, plaque and a gift card!

Right now, I have no more plans for any ultra marathons or even any more trail races. But this was a pretty good first mother’s day weekend for me. I got to do what I love to do, had a great result and then got to relax with my boys. Up next for me is a half in Idaho!

To go back to the race report archives, click here.

Nebraska

Before the race!

Before the race!

This race will always be so special to me. It was half marathon number 22, state number 18, but most importantly… my second half marathon pushing my cousin Martilee. (Our first race together was in Iowa!) I signed up for this race months ago (as usual) and asked my aunt Vanessa if it would be okay if Martilee could also race. She loved the idea, of course assuming Martilee stayed healthy enough. Martilee has Rett Syndrome, which has stolen so many things from her, including her ability to walk. There have been many races that I’ve ran for her and raised money to fight against Rett Syndrome, and I plan to continue to do so until there is a cure.

Race morning showed up a little warmer than I’d hoped at close to 70 degrees before the start, plus fairly decent humidity levels. This race wasn’t about me though, so I didn’t have any specific time goals going into it. I also knew that Martilee and her jogger were close to 130 pounds… but luckily this race in Omaha was fairly flat, unlike Des Moines!

Waiting to start the race!

Waiting to start the race!

Martilee and I lined up in the corral right around the 1:50 pacers. I was hoping that we wouldn’t have to dodge around too many people in the beginning of the race. We headed out on the run and found one of the few hills of the race right away! The sun hadn’t fully risen yet, so the race was still a nice temperature. My training had been going really well leading up to the race (I hired a coach in mid July) and I was feeling good about starting the race in the mid to upper 8 minute range. When running on any of the flats, Martilee and I could keep a nice pace without feeling like I had to put too much extra effort into the run.

The course was an out and back, along a nice wide road. About half the race we were only allowed in one lane, and the other half of the race we had the entire road blocked off just for us. I was really grateful for this as it was a little more crowded in the beginning than I expected and Martilee and I had to navigate around other runners quite a few times. We tried to be as respectful as we could and not get too close to anyone’s heels. But it can be really hard to navigate a heavy stroller!

After the first hill right at the beginning of the race, it stayed fairly flat for awhile. Even though the course was mostly flat, it had a few false flats which were almost worse than the hills because you could never seen when they were ending! I’m sure I felt them more with the stroller than I would have without. Around mile 5 we went by this beautiful little park before entering a northern suburb of Omaha. There weren’t too many race spectators so far, but this is where most of them were, including our family! It was so nice to see everyone and hear them all cheer for Martilee. She was off to a great start and running really well for the first 5 or so miles!

Martilee and I around mile 5 of the race. Feeling good!

Martilee and I around mile 5 of the race. Feeling good!

At the turn around for the half marathon, the full marathon runners kept going straight. The nice thing is this narrowed down the amount of runners by about half! It was also really neat to see everyone else still heading out to the turn around point and how many of them cheered for Martilee and told her how awesome she was doing!

Flying by around mile 7.5-8! Heading back to the finish line!

Flying by around mile 7.5-8! Heading back to the finish line!

After we saw our family the last time (until the finish) around mile 7.5-8ish the race started to get a little rough for me. The sun was up, the temperature was warming up, and Martilee was starting to get heavy. I was getting tired… and needed to dig deep to finish the race. This is when I started talking to Martilee. On the uphills, when I was walking, I talked to her. I told her how many miles we’ve ran, how many we had left to go, and what an awesome job she was doing. So many people passed us on these hills and offered help or amazing words of encouragement.

Entering the baseball stadium for our last lap around the park before the finish line.

Entering the baseball stadium for our last lap around the park before the finish line.

The race continued on, back the way we came. The police were amazing at blocking all the intersections and keeping us safe the entire race. The volunteers were also amazing with offering water and heed. I had my own bottle of Gatorade, so only took water to help keep me hydrated through the race.

We made it through the last few miles, running when we could (on the flats), sprinting when the opportunity arose (hello, downhills and giggles!), and walking when we needed to (up hills… ugh!) We continued to pass people and have people pass us. Spectators cheered for Martilee and she continued to be my motivation while I continued to be her legs.

The last part of the race was a lap inside the baseball stadium at TD Ameritrade park. Once we entered the park to make our last loop we could hear so many cheers for us to finish strong. It felt amazing to hear everyone cheering for her and us! Rett Syndrome… you're going down!

We did it!! Love you, sweet girl.

We did it!! Love you, sweet girl.

We were interviewed by channel 7 news in Omaha!

We were interviewed by channel 7 news in Omaha!

We finished the race, got our medals, and then someone from Channel 7 news in Omaha asked if she could interview us! I called down Martilee’s parents so they could give approval and then also assist with the interview and give more information than I may be able to give. I often feel like I need be doing more for Rett Syndrome awareness and feel so blessed when an opportunity to share Martilee’s and my story with so many people comes along. You can watch the clip here.

Once the race was over we waited for the awards ceremony. Martilee ended up taking first in her age group and came away with about a minute PR over our last race together! We finished in 1:57:52 (8:55 pace). I’m hoping we can run another race together again soon. I’ll continue to be Martilee’s legs for as long as needed… but I have so much hope that there will be a cure for Rett Syndrome soon. I’ll keep running for her and with her because I know someday she will get to run with me. I’ll keep going #untilshecan.

Nebraska is now finished, and Maryland is coming up next!

Hanging out after the race!

Hanging out after the race!

To go back to the race report archives, click here.