half marathon

Arizona

My build up to Arizona hasn’t been perfect. It’s had some great highlights with a 10k PR in crazy snowy conditions last month, nailed workouts, and the purchase of a new treadmill to make winter running easier. But it’s also had some blowouts… workouts not perfectly executed, workouts cut short, illnesses that caused missed runs. And this week. The week leading up to the PHX-Mesa half Marathon in Arizona was filled with some major GI issues (I’ll spare you the details…). I barely ate anything from dinner Monday night til race morning. My pre-race dinner was pretzels, a banana and Pedialyte for goodness sake!

Bib acquired!

Bib acquired!

Not sure what happened, but even as late as the expo Friday I was considering calling my coach and telling her I was going to defer to next year. That there was NO WAY I could run because I can’t even make it through my 20 minute shake out run without feeling sick.

Instead I got my bib, saw a few friends at the expo and just hoped that everything would pan out. I’d at least show up race morning and see what happened, hoping to not become the next running meme.

I had my race gear set out the night before the race, as well as some extra layers for warmup and post race. I decided to wear my new tank from the Omaha running store where I work: Peak Performance! I also had to wear my favorite Sparkle Athletic running shorts. They have some serious magical powers. This would also be my first race where I haven’t worn my normal shoes I run in. Instead, I ordered some racers after talking with my coach Lauren. They are extremely light weight! This would also be my first race using Spring Nutrition as my energy source. I’ve been using it now for a few months, and I really love the flavors, texture and energy I feel while using them. (Not sponsored…just love these products!)

Race outfit… we ready to tackle PHX!

Race outfit… we ready to tackle PHX!

Race morning I woke up about 4:15, knowing we had to leave our hotel by 4:45 to hop onto the bus that would take us to the start. I quickly changed, put on my extra layers, grabbed more Pedialyte, a bowl of instant oatmeal and a banana. I could easily eat in the car/ bus on the way since the race didn’t start til 6:30. I knew I had some time!

Hi Stephanie!!!

Hi Stephanie!!!

We found the bus and I hopped on with my friend Tom, who was also racing. I used to work with Tom in Milwaukee, and he flew in for the race. The bus ride took about 15 minutes to get to the start line. Not too bad considering it’s a city I don’t know and I didn’t want to try to find my way around at 5 am in the dark. Once at the start area we walked around a bit, hit the potties and I started my warmup. I ran two, very easy, very dark miles around the area before starting a few of my drills. I was sweating! I knew that was a good sign that the race temperature really was perfect (44 degrees.. yes!)

As we were heading to the bag check, I got to meet one of my athletes! I had three at the race, but before the race start it only worked out to find one. Stephanie I loved meeting you!

Closer to mile 9 or 10, but no race photos from about the first 8 miles due to running in the dark.

Closer to mile 9 or 10, but no race photos from about the first 8 miles due to running in the dark.

Once we dropped off our extra gear at bag check, we headed to the start line to wait for the last few minutes before the 6:30 am start where I took my first Spring Gel (plum). There aren’t many half marathons I’ve started in the dark, but it was kind of nice having close to an hour of the race finished before the sun came up! Anyway, we started off and my coach gave me a speed limit of about 7:15 pace for the first 5k. I really felt very good which was so surprising for me given how sick I felt all week. But I kept trying to pull back a little bit into my speed limit range. The cool crisp air felt so amazing. First three miles: 7:13, 7:11, 7:07… oops. But I did feel very controlled, and knew I could keep pushing in the low 7’s for quite awhile longer.

Right after the third mile I even took off my gloves, and unhooked my thumb holes. Really.. 44 degrees is my perfect racing weather you guys!

Miles four through six I still felt great. The pace felt fairly effortless and the miles were ticking by. I took my first Spring Gel during the race around 32 minutes (4.5ish miles) into the race. My favorite is the strawberry, and that’s what I took here.

Miles four, five and six were: 7:04, 7:02, 7:04. The sun was just starting to creep up, and the race crowds were peering out of their houses. The aid stations all screamed loudly as we passed which was so nice. It was around the 6th mile I think where we had our one and only up”hill” of the race. I looked back and we literally gained 10 feet the entire run… This small hill was just really two steps up to get over a railroad track and then right back down. This course is a slight downhill the entire way, losing about 165 feet. Just enough to speed you up a little, but not enough to notice while running (or driving) the course. Perfection, truly.

Miles seven, eight and 9 still felt mostly effortless. I started to take my last gel about 65 minutes in (mango, which has caffeine), but I just couldn’t get it all down. Not because I felt sick or anything, but the fatigue was setting in. More so mentally than physically. Nevertheless, these three miles were 7:05, 6:55, 6:55. I think about 9-9.5 miles was where I could tell my glycogen stores were running low, which is about 1-1.5 miles sooner than usual for me. I’m sure it can be attributed to not eating well this week with whatever stomach bug I had.

So serious.

So serious.

Oh, hey pain face.

Oh, hey pain face.

I knew these next few miles could be a little more challenging. But I was already about 65 minutes through the race and knew I just had 30ish left to go. I could that. Have you ever started counting down that way? Just 4 miles.. just 3.75. Only 3.5 to go. Okay… just a 5k left! Yeah, me too. That started right about 9.5 miles in. The slow countdown. The “stop looking at your watch” and “press into the pain” and “you are strong. you are strong. you feel good. you are brave. keep pushing.” type of talk. Over and over and over again. I knew I had slowed down a little but as long as I didn’t stop… I’d PR. Just. keep. running. Miles 10-12 were not my best of the race. They hurt… I had to physically and mentally fight for what I wanted. I saw 1:32 flat slip a little further away. I knew I was already about 20-25 seconds over that overall time and was doing whatever I could to not lose more time from it. My friend Tom was feeling good, so he left me around 11.5 miles. You’re welcome for the pacing!! Miles 10, 11 and 12 were: 7:11, 7:13, 7:14. Not what I wanted, but not totally a crash and burn. I was still running faster paces than any other half marathon average in my life.

Heather and I finishing!

Heather and I finishing!

Then something amazing happened. I recognized Heather McKirdy about 12.25 miles into the race. As she passed me, looking stunningly fresh like a spring daisy, I asked if she was Heather. She turned and said “Oh my gosh, Kristen!! Hi!”

First off… “hey!” Just fan-girling over here. Don’t mind me. Just wanted to say hi… you keep going! I told her not to let me hold her back. She replied she was just running easy (what… Someday this will be my running easy half marathon pace. I promise.) Then she said “You just got yourself an annoying coach for the last mile. Let’s go. Stop looking at your watch. Push it. Tuck into my shoulder. Come on!” And that’s what I did. I stuck as close to Heather’s shoulder as I could and pushed into the pain you feel 12.5 miles into a PR race.

She really, truly helped me speed up that last mile of my race. Mile 13 was 6:55, and my final push was 6:06 into the finish line.

I officially finished the Mesa-PHX half marathon with a PR of 2 minutes and 2 seconds. My time was 1:32:56. I could not be more thrilled with this finish and my race time, all things considered. I’m elated that my stomach recovered race morning and that my body allowed me to push it to a new extreme. I’m thankful for my coach, guiding my workouts and telling me to trust my body this week and that it will know what to do on race day. I’m thankful for my husband chasing me around the country as I chase my dreams. I’m thankful for friends to run with through easy and hard miles.

Almost there!

Almost there!

Finish line smiles!

Finish line smiles!

PR bell!

PR bell!

Overall, I was the 207th finisher, 61st woman and 11th in my age group. Some speedy people come to Arizona every February, and I totally understand why. This course is amazing. The spectators, aid stations, weather…. it’s an amazing venue to have a great day. Thank you, Phoenix for providing me with just that!

arizona8.jpg
blob

Post race, I met up with two of my three athletes for breakfast. Finally… I was hungry and could eat! Happy to say my stomach felt fine! It was great to meet and chat with both Stephanie and Sylvia over some good food. The amazing news… all three of us PR’d today, as well as my friend Tom! I couldn’t be more proud to be their coach and friend! Definitely a successful weekend in Arizona!

I can’t wait to see you two ladies again! Loved meeting you.

I can’t wait to see you two ladies again! Loved meeting you.

So Arizona was a great overall weekend. I now have 20 states completed, and 25 half marathons under my belt. I’m hoping the next one will bring another PR… so that I can auto qualify for the NYC marathon. For that, I need sub 1:32. Now that I’m 56 seconds away, I know it’s more possible than ever. Let’s see if the half marathon at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota can help me punch my ticket.

To get back to race archives, click here.

Green Bay Marathon

It’s been just over two years since I’ve ran my first marathon. Since then I’ve done a few triathlons and quite a few half marathons. This fall, my plan is to finish my first Full Ironman distance triathlon. Leading up to that, I wanted to run another marathon, sometime in the spring, to build up my running mileage first.

Let me preface this race by saying the marathon build up was flawless. Seriously. I’ve never felt better, fitter, and faster. Everything clicked these last 16 or so weeks. Speed workouts. Long runs. Even cross training. Perfect. Everything was pointing at a 3:20-3:25 marathon. Easy BQ. Then the race happened. Crash, bang, BOOM. I blew up.

At the race expo, ready to go!

At the race expo, ready to go!

The morning of the race we had received an email and text alert saying the race was yellow flagged. Pretty much, this just means that the conditions aren’t ideal and to start adjusting your goals a little bit. I looked at the weather… 75 degrees at 6 am. 90+% humidity. 70+ dew point. And this was 90 minutes before race start. Oof. Nothing I can do about it, but run and do my best and see what happens today.

Race day outfit, ready to go.

Race day outfit, ready to go.

I couldn’t get breakfast down. I had my usual (bagel, banana, orange juice, water) with me but I think I took about 2 bites of my bagel and forced the banana down. My body was clearly a nervous wreck.

I donned my race outfit (Team Martilee, for the win!!) and we were out the door by about 6:45. This would give me plenty of time to use the bathroom, take my gel and mentally prep for the upcoming 26.2. Hubby had his bike and was planning to follow around the course as much as he could!

I still hadn’t eaten much, and water wasn’t going down easy either… again, not a super great sign for things to come.

I put on my tunes, and once the race started I tried my best to keep the negative thoughts about the weather out of my mind. I was running what felt easy, but looked down in my first mile and saw a 7:30. WHOA. Slow it down. This is much too fast! I kept pulling myself back and tried to run closer to 8 minute pace. This course was really flat, but I knew I was running too fast. Every time I looked down at my watch I had crept back into the 7:40s.

Course map provided by race website.

Course map provided by race website.

Around mile 5 I took my first gel, and again I had issues swallowing it. I had used Huma gels throughout my training, along with both water and Skratch Labs. I had to count down from 3 to swallow my gel… again, not a great sign.

Some of the spectators had their sprinklers or hoses on and the amount of people running slightly off the course onto the sidewalk or yard to run in the cold water was alarming. It had to be creeping towards 80 degrees at this point, but the flags were still yellow on the course. The miles kept ticking by and I somehow kept running in the 7:40s-7:50s. Maybe I could do this? Maybe I can run a 3:2X:XX.

At mile 10, I started to get chills. I know my electrolytes were off. I tried taking a few cups of Gatorade at every aid station coming up, but in the back of my mind I knew it was too late. By mile 12 I wanted to walk. My pace had slowed to 8:30s. I took out my phone and texted my husband one word, that rhymes with duck. In all caps. He immediately replied and asked where I was. I was almost to him and he said to just keep moving forward.

I saw him right at the half way mark and started crying. I knew my “race” was over, but it was only half over. I have never wanted to quit something so badly as I wanted to quit that race. I stopped. He gave me a hug and then said “keep moving. There’s a lot of race left. You can get this back.” But mentally, I was done. In my mind I had failed. I walked. I wouldn’t run near what I was capable of. I knew I had a ton of friends and family following my race, all believe I’d crush it and BQ. I let them down. I let myself down. I just failed…

To be honest, the rest of the race is a bit of a blur between walking and running and thinking “Don’t let the 3:30 pacer pass you.” Then they do. “Okay, but you can at least beat the 3:50’s and come away with a big pr.” Then they pass you too. “Just break 4. You can do that.” Nope… there they go. So effortless. “Fine. Just PR. That’s all. Under 4:10. Come on.” Not even that.

I cried a lot. I walked a lot. I cursed. I threw a pity party. I stopped to stretch. I told myself to just run this block. I bargained with God. I did everything… except quit. I forced myself to run the entire last mile. Just look down and keep running.

My medal in front of Lambeau Field.

My medal in front of Lambeau Field.

I had to fight myself a lot in this race. I finished. My second marathon was slower than my first. I never even looked up my official time, but my watch had 4:16 something, 9:40 or so pace. I have never felt so defeated, finishing close to an hour after I thought I would. But, lessons have been learned. Give the weather the credit it’s due. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. LISTEN to your body. Adjust your goals. There are more races to come.

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

Eisenhower Marathon

After the expo, with President Eisenhower.

After the expo, with President Eisenhower.

Ahhh… it’s finally here! My first full marathon! I was excited, but also very nervous. I flew into Kansas City the day before the race, and my mom and sister picked me up from the airport. We headed to Abilene to go to the (small) race expo. I knew it would be small, as this race was also my first half marathon a year ago! You can read about that race here. Then we all headed to dinner (my in-laws, grandparents in-law, husband, sister and her husband, and my parents) before hitting the hay.

My mom and sister were both doing their first half marathon this weekend too! Last year, I ran the half, my sister the 10k and my mom the 5k. You could say this family runs!

Race morning… zero dark thirty! You guys… spring marathons are tough. You train all winter long in cool/ cold conditions and then race morning shows up and it’s already 75 degrees and crazy high humidity… oh and 30ish mph wind gusts. WHY?! Alas… that was the situation today. Nothing I could do about it but adjust my goals a bit. My only REAL goal was to finish the darn thing. but secretly I’d love to break 4 hours! That’s a tall order for a first marathon, or ANY marathon but let’s see what happens!

Getting ready to run!

Getting ready to run!

I knew the course, and knew there was really only one hill, that we went through a nice park both on the out and back in… and that the marathon course was just a double loop of the half marathon course.

Knowing this info, our families stationed themselves in the entrance/exit to the park area so they’d be able to see my sister and mom four times, and me eight times! Not bad spectating for them and easy since they didn’t have to move until after we started (and they’d have about 4 miles to get there) and until the last time I passed (around mile 22). I’m not sure there’s an easier race to spectate!

We took off and headed straight into the headwind for the first 3 or so miles… awesome. I felt pretty good and just tried to keep my pace nice and easy. I just recently got my Garmin watch, and I must say it’s nice to be able to see what pace you’re running! I headed out around 8:45 pace and tried to tuck behind a few taller people to use them as a wind block.

Mile 4 or so.. feeling good!

Mile 4 or so.. feeling good!

We climbed the hill and headed into our first loop of the park. Luckily the trees blocked the wind and the rising sun for a few miles too.

I decided to carry my own bottle this race with my Tailwind I’d been using for training. The course did have a few aid stations but I figured I should use what I trained with for months on end… even if I was totally tired of the flavor!

I kept cruising along pretty well, and remember hitting the first turn around point (about 6.5 miles) feeling really good! I knew I’d see the family in about a mile and a half, and once again before heading to the finish line for the first time.

Once down the hill, I got to run WITH the wind! Boy… I felt like I was flying!

But then… I crossed the finish line and there were cheers in the crowd! Until they realized I was turning around and heading back out… and the entire crowd let out a collective groan, as if to say “oh, yeah, she’s not done yet.” Right then and there, I feel like I lost all my mojo. Poof. Gone, like their collective sigh, blown away by the 30 mph winds I now had 3.5 miles to run straight into again.

Really, the only “good” part that came out of the next miles (13-17ish) was seeing both my sister and my mom bringing it home for their first half marathon. I was so proud of them! Even though I knew I wouldn't see them actually finish the race I could feel their joy and excitement building (all while mine continued to dwindle).

Around mile 18 I found a gentleman to run with (in the picture he has the red/ white/ blue shirt on). This marathon was his 129th. ONE HUNDRED AND 29 marathons. I couldn’t believe it! He was working his way through the 50 states for a third time. He just loved running in races, even if they weren’t his fastest. I ended up running with him until about mile 24 when my energy was pretty much gone and all I could think about was sitting down and eating pancakes.

No more smiles… lets finish this up!

No more smiles… lets finish this up!

I was thankful for the tail wind the last few miles, because if it weren’t for those big wind gusts I’m pretty sure I would have walked it the entire way back in. The wind pretty much blew me to the finish line. It wasn’t a pretty sight, but it was a big learning experience on needing a bit more marathon preparation for the next one for sure!

Finish line!

Finish line!

Yeah, I’m just gonna sit here awhile.

Yeah, I’m just gonna sit here awhile.

In the end, I finished in 4:10 and change, right about 9:30 pace. I did end up walking some. I let my mind get the better of me starting around 16 miles. I was very thankful to be able to finish, but I really feel like even though I “finished” a marathon I haven’t “ran” a marathon. I definitely want to do what I can to see if I can run an entire marathon, and maybe even try to qualify for Boston. Who knows how long it will take… but dreams worth doing don’t come overnight.

This race sparked a new dream, and I ended up getting second in my age group. Found that out while shoveling pancakes into my mouth. No one needs to know that there were only two of us in that age group…. :)

The cheer squad and runners, post race!

The cheer squad and runners, post race!

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