An Ode to My BRF

Two years ago this past week I made my way to the Chalet at Elm Creek in the early morning light. I was nervous, would I gel with the group, would I find someone who runs my pace, would I be too slow or too fast? As I pulled into the parking lot I saw a gaggle of women in brightly colored outfits standing around chatting. I made my way to the group and introduced myself. With introductions out of the way, we set out for a few loops.

As the group started running, we naturally fell in step. Slowly you and I broke away from the others. We easily fell into conversation and I felt at ease. The next few Saturdays, we found ourselves running together again. I started looking forward to my long training runs more than I had in a very long time. With the same goal of going sub-4 at the Twin Cities Marathon in the fall, I had found my training partner.

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All summer, we ran for hours at a time. While we ran we talked about a little bit of everything, getting to know each other. We talked about everything from our favorite post-long run treats to family and how we thought our kids would likely never give up nursing (thank goodness they finally did right?!). We found things we had in common like weaknesses for ice cold Coke and Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs. We learned how to push each other without making one another miserable. That fall, not only did we both achieve our sub-4 goals, we smashed them.

Since that first summer two years ago, between us we’ve trained for five more marathons. Every season growing stronger and faster. We’ve talked through losing loved ones, family discord and way too much about my nasty stomach issues. We’ve laughed and definitely complained as we trained our asses off. These runs served as therapy and entertainment. Your perpetually sunny outlook on life was infectious.

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This spring as we trained for what we both hoped would be our first Boston qualifying marathon, we reflected many times on our previous training. We’d come so far. Training with you had pushed me to a place I never dreamed possible. I knew that we were on the brink of achieving something we never thought possible that first summer. I had a feeling as we got on the bus together that morning, we were both going to do it. We were both going to qualify. After I crossed the finish line, I hurried back to watch you. Watching you, my BRF, cross the finish line, arms in the air, brought tears to my eyes. I was so proud of you! Proud to be your training partner and your friend.

BRF Finish Line LWTM

On our runniversary, I needed to take a moment to thank you. Thanks for spending hours on end with me before anyone should be out of bed on a Saturday morning. Thank you for bitching with me all the way up that damn Fernbrook hill.  Thank you for pushing me, motivating me and inspiring me to do more. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for helping Minnesota feel like home. Thank you for just being you.

Adventures in Travel and Recovery

What a busy three weeks it’s been since the marathon. I’m exhausted and while I’m not finally home, things are not really slowing down all that much. Quick and hopefully, abbreviated review of the past several weeks. I was going to add a bunch of pictures but then I may never actually publish this:

Week One:

I walked, walked some more, foam rolled and slept a little more than usual. I was itching for a run and met my BRF for a few loops around Elm Creek. We ended up doing nine miles which felt like plenty to me. After that run my hamstring was incredibly sore. Like so sore it hurt to push on it and walk. Ugh, more rest.

Week Two:

Off on a cross-country trip with the kids. Yes, just me and the kids, by myself for 12 days. First stop, Denver for my brother Ted and my sister Audrey’s high school graduation. Crazy that I have siblings in high school right? What is crazy is that when I graduated and went off to college, they were not yet four years old, younger than Ella is now. It was almost surreal watching them graduate. They are off to SOKA University and the University of Colorado in the fall. I think my favorite part of their graduation week was the time I got to spend with them. I feel like I missed they’re entire childhood because I went to college, then got married, had kids and now live states away. I got to do a long walk with Audrey, tour the Botanic Gardens with Ted and stayed up until 2:30 am talking to both of them. It was worth being exhausted the next day.

We had a great trip filled with lots of family time. My grandparents flew in from San Diego which meant we had four generations together. We went on a cultural adventure around Denver which included the Museum of Nature and Science as well as the Denver Art Museum. On our last day in Denver we also spent hours playing in and walking around the Denver Botanic Gardens.

I also got to sneak in a Florence and the Machine concert with my BFF Rachael. Our night also had to include a stop at The Market for my favorite cake. I ran a few times, slow and not far, but between altitude and an irregular sleep schedule, it was all I felt like doing.

Week Three:

Onto Indiana! Who has three siblings that were all graduating this year? Me! Next up was my sister Emma’s high school graduation. We arrived in Indianapolis LATE. We got to my mom’s house around midnight and the kids weren’t in bed until 1 am. Luckily we were working on Mountain Time which mean it was only 11 pm technically. The kids were so far off their schedule by this point, it didn’t matter. Luckily they slept in pretty much every day.

My grandma and step-grandpa Max drove up from Missouri for the occasion and I got to watch my brother Riley work his pastry chef magic on some of the best desserts I’ve ever tasted. We spent my time there eating. We had a special girls only trip to The Cake Bake Shop to toast to Emma’s graduation and my birthday. This is the second time we’ve done this with four generations and I think it will be a new tradition. It’s a good thing I went to Orangetheory and ran a few times while I was in town. While we were doing the girls thing, Anderson was busy with Papa riding in the Jeep and visiting the tracker store.

Late in the week, I got to watch Emma graduate with honors. She just looked so happy and I was proud of how great she did not only in academics but also in how many close friends she’s made in the two years since they moved from California. It is not easy moving across the country, especially in high school. Her graduation party was the next day and boy did we have good food. It was a nice party aside from one of her classmates asking me if I was her mom. I mean really. She is off to Indiana University in the fall.

Week Four:

We finally headed home! It was a two short flights but one long layover in Chicago. I was so happy to be home when we landed.I met my friends Morgan and Ashley for an easy, unplanned 10 miles that Sunday evening to get myself back on track. While I’m not really training for Chicago, I at least need to keep my base.

That brings us to this week and I still feel like I’m recovering. I’m working on a huge project for my old company and all of our summer activities are starting up. I hand wrote two other posts on the plane, but I cannot find them at the moment. Oops.

 

 

What’s Next?

I no longer want to crawl up and down the stairs. In fact, I’m itching to do more than just go for a walk. Not running feels so boring. I almost don’t know what to do with myself. Since the marathon I’ve done nothing. I’ve walked up to 2.5 miles at a time, spent a lot of time stretching and foam rolling. Oh and eating. I’ve been so hungry. My friends have been kind enough to bring me all sorts of treats from quiche to cupcakes, booze to gelato. Needless to say, my body has had plenty of calories to help it recover.

I am planning a very easy, no time, distance, or pace goal run Saturday morning with Amy. I’m looking forward to a chance to hear in more detail how the race went for her, other than the obvious setting of her new personal record. I’m also really looking forward to my first Orangetheory class in three weeks on Monday.

Looking forward to this summer and fall, I have a few things on my calendar. First up, the Rock N’Roll Chicago half marathon in mid-July. While I’m going to keep my fitness up, I’m not sure how much I will actually train for this race. We will see how Orangetheory goes on Monday before I decided whether or not I want to jump back into speed work so soon after a marathon. I’m more just looking forward to that being my first girls weekend away since before kids. It could also be the first training weekend for Indianapolis (see below).

In late August I have our local Esprit de She 5k. It will be my first 5k since the Bolt for the Heart on Thanksgiving. It’s always a fun night, but now that they moved it up to August, it could be a really hot one! They also dropped the 10k distance after the course measurement fiasco. Hopefully this year the course will not be a quarter mile short.

Back on New Years Day, I registered for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in November. Originally I did so because it was 50% off and it was to be my Boston qualifier back-up plan. Luckily I don’t need my backup plan. I’m not make a decision just yet, but I’m considering dropping down to the half. It’s about 23 weeks before Boston. That means I’d have about 6-7 weeks ‘off’ before training for Boston would start. That’s really not much time between training cycles. I have two fears, first that I’ll get injured, two, I’ll be so burned out that my training for Boston will suck. We will see how I am feeling in a few months. I could always start training for it and if I feel like it’s going to be too much, back off. Regardless I’ll do the race at some distance.

That will take me until the end of the year. There will likely be a turkey trot or another small race thrown in there for fun, but I don’t like racing too much. It’s expensive and hard on my body. More running for fun. That’s just what I need.

Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon {Race Recap}

You are strong, you are ready, you are going to do this. Trust your training.

Over the 26.2 miles of the marathon, I repeated this to myself over and over again. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t forget it. I needed my head to be in the game. I needed to focus on the race and not be distracted by negativity or doubt.

I’m going to pause here and preemptively apologize for the length of this post and hello unflattering pictures. Obviously I have not learned how to be photogenic during races. Maybe the professional pictures will be awesome. Anyway, I honestly still feel like I may have dreamed it all and the race is still to come.

Pre-Race

I woke up before dawn after a restless night of sleep. I quickly grabbed my pre-race food and went to the breakfast area of the hotel. I sat listening to the wind outside and watching the sunrise as I ate three pieces of almond butter and jam toast. I returned to the room, did my usual routine and after checking the hourly weather forecast, decided capris, a tank top, long sleeved hooded shirt and my wind breaker with an ear warmer and gloves would be a good idea. Once dressed I met Amy and her husband for a ride to the buses.

LWTM bus

I was strangely calm as we boarded the bus and even as we made our way into the high school where we stayed warm before the race started. It was great, bathrooms, music, water and coffee. We were able to easily find our friend Megan for a quick picture before we were all lead outside for the start.

Pre-Race LWTM

My game plan was to stick with the 3:30 pacer until the half way point. I had Josh’s voice in my head telling me that I could easily run an 8 min/mile pace. After the half point, I would assess how I was feeling and decide how to proceed. I easily found my pacer Don and told him I was going to do my best to stick with him. I didn’t realize that it was a gun start, not a chip start until he told me. We were outside maybe two minutes before the bell sounded and we were off. I made sure I got across that starting line quick.

The Race

We had a few little curves before we actually made it onto the trail. It was a cold first mile with a nasty headwind and temperatures in the 30s. I was glad I opted for my capris rather than shorts and compression socks. Once we were on the trail, the wind became a more of a side wind and we had a little bit of insulation from the trees after a long open patch. The first 5k flew by and I was just so thankful that I wasn’t having to do any weaving or worry about working tangents.

I chatted a little bit with the Don (pacer) and a few of the people around me. I was surprised and a little leary about my ability to maintain the pep in my step. I tried to just enjoy the moment. I looked around at the scenery and read every single motivational sign put along the trail by the race volunteers. It was a really nice touch.

I took my first gel a little early, just after the 10k mark. I had finished breakfast at about 4:45 am, so I was starting to get hungry. Though I was extremely careful about I ate all week, I was fearful of GDF (gel digestive failure), but the gel went down just fine. Our pace group started getting smaller. Some people sped up and other dropped back.  I was feeling amazing. The weather, though windy at times, was actually pretty ideal. It was a beautiful sunny morning and cold but not so much so that I was shivering.

The next several miles are a little bit of a blur. I knew the only real ‘hill’ was coming up and that some time after the turn I should see my family. As we curved around with the trail, I looked forward to that turn and didn’t even notice the hill. Around mile 11, I decided it was time to lose my jacket. I had thought ahead and put my arm band with my phone under it so I only fumbled slightly as I tried to pull it off and tie it around my waist without dropping it or tripping myself.

After the turn I knew it was pretty much a straight shot to the finish line. I took my second gel around mile 12.5. We cruised past the half way point at 1:45 on the dot. I had just set a new half marathon personal record by a minute and a half. Woohoo! More exciting to me at that point was that I was still with the 3:30 pacer and continuing to feel good except for some grumbling in my stomach. Up until that point, I had seen one porta-potty. With the stomach threatening to act up, I started looking around for a place to peel off the trail into the trees. I starting thinking, oh shit, I may have to actually relieve myself just off the trail where lots of runners will likely catch a glimpse. I drank some more water and kept moving trying to think of anything else.

Josh called just as we closed in on the 15th mile. Knowing that it was going to be very cold for spectators, I told Josh not to worry about trying to see me prior to the half way point. I figured he must be close. He just missed me at mile 16 but I saw some friends which was exciting! It always so much fun being able to see people you know on the sides.

At this point, it was myself, Don and one other runner. Don said that if we were feeling good around mile 23-24, to speed up and leave him behind. If not, that was ok, but he wanted us to finish with him. He did not want to cross that finish line alone. I assured him I was going to do my best. He was very positive and kept telling me how strong I was looking as we chatted a bit. Right around then, a runner I had met during my last 22 mile training run, cruised up to say hi. Only at a small race like this would we have bumped into each other.

I took my third gel at mile 18. I was starting to get tired mentally but physically I was feeling strong, really strong. I knew the wall could be coming but was hoping it would be just a tiny fairy-sized (as Ella would say) wall that I would easily overcome. After all, I was strong, I was ready and I could do it. I was doing it. I saw friends again who snapped this picture. That’s my friend Megan’s brother to my left.

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Our group was down to just Don and me by mile 19. I guess it was up to me to not let him finish alone. I saw Josh and the kids at mile 20. I screamed out to them in excitement and tossed them my ear band. Don yelled to the kids, “Mommy is going to Boston!”

Jess Mile 20 LWTM

It was then that it hit me. Unless something went drastically wrong, I was going to qualify for Boston. I started calculating in my head what my time would be if I slowed to a 10 min/mile. I knew that wouldn’t happen but it’s a lot easier to do that when running that to calculate an 8:30 or 9 min/mile over 6.2 more miles.

The next two miles started to feel a little more difficult. I decided to take a fourth gel between 22 and 23. I fell back behind Don a bit but no more than a few seconds. He kept looking back for me and I’d yell I was still there. Mile 24 was my fastest mile as I tried to get back on track with Don at 7:43. With us side by side again, he told me that he wanted me to finish before him. Jokingly he said then I’d be able to say that I beat the 2011 winner.

We ran past mile 25 and slowly, a red dot appeared before us. He asked me if I saw it and said, that is Boston. Right there. I warned him that I was going to hug him at the finish line. We inched closer and closer to the finish line. He said I had lied, the first half marathon wasn’t my new PR, this half was because we were going to negative split the race. Right as I got to the last trail crossing I heard Josh cheering, Don said go, go and I did my best to sprint through the finish line.

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As I passed under the big red arch, I saw 3:29:2X on the clock. What?!

Official time: 3:29:28      Average Pace: 7:59 min/mile

Post Race

I turned around and hugged Don, thanking him for keeping me going. Keeping me steady and helping me get my first Boston qualifying time and huge new personal record. I picked up my medal and t-shirt then went towards Josh and the kids.

Ella ran up and hugged me saying she was proud of me, which of course made me start to cry. As soon as Josh hugged me I started blubbering a bit. I was in shock. I had just run, like actually ran every single step of 26.2 miles. I negative split the marathon by 32 seconds (not huge, but a negative split) and qualified for Boston with a 5+ minute cushion.

Family at the finish line LWTM

I knew Amy would be coming through the shoot soon so I hurried, well as fast as I could, back to the sidelines to cheer her in. A few minutes later I saw our friend Dawn cross and qualify for Boston. I cheered her in and then waited anxiously for Amy. When we saw her we all yelled and cheered. She came through, hands in the air, celebrating her first BQ.

 

BRF Finish Line LWTM

We celebrated a little bit before we parted ways for showers and cleaning up. A little while later I heard that my friend Megan PR’d by 25 minutes too! It was a banner day for all of us. Josh, the kids and I grabbed some lunch before heading home because I needed something other than gluten-free bread, almond butter, jam and bananas which was basically all I ate last week.

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Of course I was pretty excited to check out my Garmin stats. Thanks to my awesome pacer, I ran pretty evenly throughout the race. Only six of the 26.2 miles were at an 8:00+ min/mile pace. The slowest of which was 8:03. My fastest miles were miles 24 and 26. I guess those fast finish long runs really helped.  The first half was done in 1:45:00 and our second half was done in 1:44:28. I was 70th out of 326 finishers, 5th of 25 women in the 30-34 age group and 13th of 114 female finishers.

This was a wonderful race. I wasn’t sure if I would like such a small race, but I loved it. It made me want to find other small races to do. The volunteers were amazing, even bringing candy, pretzels and homemade treats to the water stops. The trail was beautiful and flat. This course is meant for personal bests. Everything came together for me, the weather, the course, my training and fueling. I did it and I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to duplicate it again.

When we got home, I booked a hotel room stat for April 17, 2017. OMG, I’m going to Boston!