Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Archive for the category “#runtolive”

Sustainable Training: Knowing When to Walk Away

I expected this post to be a post-race recap following a great running weekend at the Cayuga Trails 50 Miler in Ithaca, NY this weekend. However, my body had other plans. I went out for a regular mid-afternoon run last Sunday, and the sun was finally out, which was glorious. However, my brain is clearly not in summer mode yet, especially with the persistently overcast and rainy weather we’ve had for the past month. Thus, I excitedly slipped on a sleeveless shirt, but neglected the sunscreen. This was most definitely a running fail!

Three hours later, and I was feeling great after a nice long run and a solid overall weekend of running. I helped the beautiful epicurean with some garden work, and then went inside to shower off and relax for the evening. No sooner had I taken my shirt off then the bright red glow of my shoulders and arms nearly blinded me!

I gingerly showered, although my arms weren’t all that sore yet. The heat, however, was radiating off of them with enough force to power a jet engine. I’ve had sunburns in the past, but have learned my lesson enough to slather on copious amounts of sun screen. The heat and sun simply took my pale, Northern European complexion by surprise.

It took about 2 nights before the full severity of the burns sunk in, and it became clear that these weren’t merely surface burns, but rather solid 2nd degree burns. My shoulders began to blister, which was of course made worse by the fact that I kept my #runstreak alive each day and the sweat simply had nowhere to escape my body. The nausea and flu-like symptoms set in at about the same time, and by Thursday, it became pretty clear that I was not in race shape.

Baxter had the right idea this weekend.

Baxter had the right idea this weekend.

I absolutely hate canceling race plans, and I’ve been looking forward to our camping trip up to Ithaca for the last month. However, I have to honest with myself and listen to my body. The Aikido ninja epicurean referred to this as sustainable training, and that is a very appropriate phrase. Sometimes it’s important to push through the pain, and other times it’s just as important to recognize when to pull back, let your body heal, and live to run another day. There will be other races, I will be running Cayuga next year, and we were able to cancel our reservations with minimal penalty, so all is well on that front.

I might not be able to shake that gross feeling in my stomach (different from the one that led to my vomiting!) when I think about not racing this weekend, but I know it’s the right decision. I was still able get out and find ways to push myself this past weekend, but I also took the time to make sure my body isn’t beat up and fighting itself the entire summer. There is a lot of pride in ultrarunning when it comes to pushing limits. We talk about the pain cave, and digging deep. We post memes that state “A DNF is better than a DNS”. All of these cultural attributes can make it easy to get sucked into ignoring your body, and I certainly admit that I’ve been guilty of that in the past. However, it’s one thing to push through the pain and discomfort that running for long distances can cause, and quite another to ignore actual injuries and risk more permanent damage.

Brandywine Creek State Park is quite lush and green after all of this rain!

Brandywine Creek State Park is quite lush and green after all of this rain!

I want to be running for the rest of my life, and I want to be finishing ultras long into my twilight years. That means sustainable training is a must. Of course, not racing this weekend also means I’ll be looking at upcoming races this summer and fall and working on finalizing future plans! Registering for races while ill is like shopping while hungry. Danger, Will Robinson! Wherever the path may take me, I’ll continue #chasing42!

#Chasing42 Fall Updates

It’s hard to believe that it’s already the middle of December, and the new year is right around the corner! I don’t think I realized just how hectic life was until now, after pausing to realize how much has happened since the last time I checked in. I’ve been putting plenty of miles on my legs, and immersing myself in all sorts of running-related events, ideas, and items. Below is a quick summary of everything going on, with the promise of more details to come 🙂

PNC Turkey Trot 10K- Despite the enormous number of Thanksgiving day races every year, I’ve never actually run an official “Turkey Trot” until this year. As it so happens, the Delaware Running Company is the main sponsor for the PNC Bank Turkey trot 10K, and I was offered a comped registration (Thank you, Delaware Running Company and MS Society!), so I obviously had to run! I hope up at a decent hour on Thanksgiving day, and got ready to head out. The start of the race was in downtown Wilmington, and was only 4 miles from home, so I decided to run to the start. Luckily, it was a 9AM gun, so I didn’t need to get up ridiculously early. I arrived with plenty of time to spare, and got situated, and stretched a bit. This was a pretty big race, with somewhere near 2500 people running, so the crowds weren’t thin, but everything seemed really well-organized. I made my way to the start, and ended up near the front of the pack, which  made me a tad nervous, but with such a big crowd, I knew it would be nice not to have to weave through too many people. I had no goals heading into the race, aside from going out and having fun on a beautiful day (temps were in the 40’s and quite comfortable). However, as happens pretty regularly, the racing bug bit me as the gun went off, and I took off hard. The first mile was all downhill, and I was flying, although not at full effort. Despite feeling like I had more speed, I hit the first mile in 6:15, which I knew was far too fast to maintain for the next 5 miles (my mile PR is 6:08 for perspective!). I pulled back a bit, and the route began climbing some decent hills along Brandywine Creek, which made slowing down even easier. I was still moving pretty well, and felt like handled the hills pretty well by the time I hit the turn around and anticipated getting the downhills back. I was still moving faster than I expected, although a sore left quad was causing me to hold back a bit as I made the push through the final 1.5 miles. I ultimately came through the finish line in 45:01, which was good enough for a rather sizable PR, and a nice speed-induced confidence boost! I definitely ran the 4 miles home a bit more gingerly, but it was a fantastic start to a laid back movie marathon Thanksgiving with the epicurean!


Rocky 50K Run– I had the opportunity to tackle this fat ass run on December 5th. The course traced Rocky’s route through Philadelphia in the second movie, and finished with a run up the iconic Art Museum steps. It was quite an eye-opening experience and you can expect a longer recap in a future post!

Upcoming gear reviews- I’ve had the chance to put several new pieces of running gear/technology to use over the past two months or so. Look for reviews of the Garmin Fenix 3, Stryd Running Power Meter, Racedots, and a few new pieces of apparel as well. This running gear junkie has been flying high lately!

Across the Years Part II– Although much of my running focus is currently on building strength and endurance to tackle the Georgia Death Race in March, I’ve also been building up time on my feet to go after my first 48 hour run. I’ll be returning to the Across the Years race, where I competed in the 24 hour run back in 2013. The combination of sleep deprivation, endurance, and nutrition over the course of 48 hours will create a challenge like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, and I have been thinking about it quite a bit. More to come shortly on this unique experience!

Runner’s World Run Streak- I decided to participate in the #RWRunStreak again this year, and it’s been going very well. I technically started on November 22nd, and I haven’t missed a day yet. I’ve also added a #corestreak to the mix, and have been doing at least 5 minutes of core work (planks, side planks, boat pose, squats, push ups, etc.) every day. My eager and enthused mind is entertaining the notion of keeping both streaks going into the new year, so we’ll see how I’m feeling at the end of the month!


Last but not least, it’s worth mentioning that it’s the middle of December and I’m still working up a sweat in shorts and a short sleeve shirt. By all accounts, this is an unseasonably warm late fall for Delaware, but I’m still excited by the fact that the temps have been so mild, and look to be holding relatively steady for some time yet. We’ll no doubt get our dose of snow eventually, but I’m being very effectively reminded of why I’m excited to be living in a more temperate climate zone!

So, are you having a hectic late fall/ holiday season as well? How are you staying motivated? Have you given any thought to your 2016 race schedule yet? I’d love to hear what’s on your mind, and find out how YOU are #chasing42 🙂


Guest Race Recap: Crooked Road 24-Hour Race

As as part of the #chasing42reports series, I present to you a fantastic tale of a great friend’s first 24-hour/ 100 mile experience. I was excited from the moment he let me know he was planning to tackle the distance, and would have been out there with him if it didn’t coincide with the JFK 50-Miler. As it turns out, he had a fantastic race, and the details below sum things up rather well!

Race Date: 11/21/15

Race Location: Rocky Mount, VA

Distance: 24 Hours


Race Summary: This is the 5th year of the Crooked Road 24-Hour Ultra hosted by the Crooked Road Running Club (CRRC) and located at Waid Park in Rocky Mount, Virginia. In years past, runners would run on a mostly flat certified 0.950423-mile loop within a section of the park. This year however, the course was changed to a certified 1.1815-mile loop. They offer ample parking and free camping for those who desire but there are numerous hotels at a great price in the town of Rocky Mount.

The registration fee is only $40 and instead of a shirt they gave registered runners a camping chair — something to sit on between running. Packet pick up is offered the afternoon before the event or the morning of. There is one aid station located at the loop check-in area with water, Gatorade, soft drinks, fruit, PB&J, and this year they provided hamburgers for lunch and pizza for dinner. Because of the newer venue, they got rid of the port-a-potty and we were able to use the indoor bathrooms.

They also have great race support via all the volunteers along the course. The greatest support came during the long stretch of night running when there is typically lower runner energy. I could hear the cheering from 3/4 of a mile away … even at 3 and 4 in the morning when we were all cold and weary.

It was difficult, at times, to continue on because of the “hobo fire” they started along the course. It was nice to warm up the body for a bit but really tough to get back on the trail.


Best Moment: The people; volunteers and runners alike, are amazing. Some of the runners stopped at certain times of the race and worked as volunteers, then got back on the course to run more loops. There were numerous stories from talking with other runners and walkers on the trail as well. I spoke with many people …

There was a 10-year old boy who was out to break his PR (which happens to be the Virginia record for his age group in a 24-hour race) of 17.5-miles. He was afraid another boy was going to beat his distance and decided to run/jog/walk 28-miles in order to maintain his title.

Another man on the course had never run more than a 5K but wanted to do something big in his life, something he could tell his kids about. When we spoke, he was just a couple of laps away from 50K. He said his body never hurt more and he had never had blisters on his feet the way he did that night but he wanted to finish strong.

Another woman appeared to have back issues and was a bit overweight but the only time I was her stop speed walking was when she was cheering on runners at the check-in tent from midnight to 4:00 a.m.

I asked about one man who was walking with an empty stroller. It turns out he was in an accident and they did not think he was going to walk again. They were wrong and he walked a 50K before midnight, took a nap, then started again in the early morning hours until the horn blew at 8:00 a.m.

There are many more people who deserve notice but I think runners just need to go, talk to other runners, and experience the stories for themselves.


Brief Bio: This is my first 24-hour event and while I thought it would be difficult to run a 1-mile loop for 24-hours, it really was not that challenging to stay mentally focused. Nutrition was also a big concern of mine. As a vegetarian, it is sometimes difficult to attend events like this and find calorie rich foods. This time I brought my own vegan friendly nutrition and it worked out perfectly!

Tailwind – 1,400 calories of Raspberry Buzz (w/ caffeine)
Tailwind – 1,400 calories of Naked
4 Dates stuffed w/ raw coconut
2 Dark mini-chocolate bars (85%)
2 Huma chia energy gels (cappuccino and mango)
2 Sweetish fish candies (vegan according to PETA)

My race splits for this event are as follows:
1:39:58 – 1/2 Marathon
3:40:54 – Marathon
4:35:19 – 50K (PR)
8:06:22 – 50M (PR)
11:06:05 – 100K (PR)
19:35:00 – 100M (PR)

Congrats to Stefan on an amazing race and a WIN!

Hiking with Joaquin- Part I

We had been planning our hiking adventure for several months. The first weekend in October promised excellent weather for a three-day hike across Maryland on the 41.9 mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail. The fall colors would be emerging, the temperatures would be cool and comfortable, and it would be a perfect weekend to camp out under the stars. I finally got around to purchasing a new hiking pack after extensive research and a desire for a carry-on eligible pack to make future international travel more convenient. The plan was to follow the full route of the AT over the course of three days, beginning in Pen Mar, PA on Friday, and finishing in Harper’s Ferry, WV on Sunday. That would give us plenty of time to enjoy the scenery, stop at scenic overlooks, and still set up camp with some daylight at our disposal. Alas, Hurricane Joaquin had other plans.

About a week out, the weather forecasts began to shift as a tropical storm in the Atlantic was quickly developing into a hurricane, with a projected landfall disturbingly close to our destination. There was plenty of rain in the forecast, and the temperatures were looking to be a bit lower than we had anticipated. However, plane and train tickets were purchased, time was requested off from work, and we were intent on converging on Washington, D.C. on Thursday (10/1) night for an early Friday AM departure. We made the decision to condense our trip into two days of hiking (approximately 20 miles each day), and to stay in a hotel in Harper’s Ferry on Friday night to allow us to spend more time on the trail and pack lighter for the journey.

Day 1 begins in Pen Mar, PA.

Day 1 begins in Pen Mar, PA.

I got my pack filled with the necessities, and hopped on the train Thursday night for the short ride to D.C. I was able to meet Stefan, Jamile, and Carla (who flew in from Iowa to join us) at Union Station, and we headed back to Stefan and Jamile’s house in Falls Church, VA  for a few short hours of sleep. The 5AM alarm arrived much too soon, but we are all up and ready to roll by 6AM and we headed out (after stopping for some much-needed coffee, of course). The plan was to leave one vehicle at the half-way point, and take the other up to Pen Mar for the start. It was a relatively easy drive, and we even found a wonderful little cafe for breakfast along the way. We arrived in Pen Mar, and the AT trailhead around 9AM, and embarked on our journey for the day. The weather predictions indicated a strong chance of rain the entire day, but we were prepared and determined to enjoy the experience. A little moisture wasn’t going to get in the way of an amazing hiking trip!

Gorgeous views, even on a cloudy day!

Gorgeous views, even on a cloudy day!

As it turned out, we encountered some light rain and wind throughout the day, but the dense canopy served as a rather effective natural umbrella. The trail itself was absolutely gorgeous, and I found it quite easy to get lost in the moment and find my bearing again only to discover that a considerable amount of time had passed. We found several amazing scenic overlooks with breathtaking views, despite the fog and cloud cover hiding a good portion of the natural terrain from us. The trail had its share of rocky and rooty sections, some of which were a tad bit tricky due to being slick from the rain, but we slowed our paced and carefully navigated them without incident.

We found a heavily graffiti-covered outlook along the trail.

We found a heavily graffiti-covered outlook along the trail.

Although this was a supposed to be a relatively busy section of the AT, we saw very few hikers on this first day. I’m guessing Joaquin had something to do with that! For the most part, we had the entire trail to ourselves, and it was delightful. We were able to enjoy the natural beauty that much better, and soak in the sounds of nature as they drowned out the technological buzz of our daily lives. We stopped to eat and drink when we were hungry, paused to rest at several of the shelters along the way, and let our imaginations wander throughout the day. I couldn’t help but think about Scott Jurek and Heather Anderson traversing these same trails, and marveling at the speed and distance of their daily journeys. I also found myself with a new-found appreciation for Bill Bryson’s AT tale, A Walk in the Woods, and smiling at some of our observations as we ventured around a cascading trail of new experiences and sites.

It was a bit rocky and slippery at times!

It was a bit rocky and slippery at times!

More than the hiking, though, I had been looking forward to the time with friends to reconnect and create new memories together. The transition to Delaware has gone quite well in many aspects, but leaving behind our community in Ames has been by far the hardest aspect. Throughout the first day, our conversations meandered even more than the trail itself, and it was wonderful to realize just how easily you can fall back into comfortable conversation with wonderful friends. I can certainly appreciate the allure of a solitary journey on the AT, especially from a meditative perspective, but there is simply something about the experience that can’t be captured in journals or photos. You need to be with someone to truly catalog the essence of the AT and recognize the history hidden between the rocks and roots, ready to be uncovered and added to with each new footfall. I was happy that I had three wonderful friends to share those moments with, and to add to the history together.

Stopped at a shelter half-way through the day.

Stopped at a shelter half-way through the day.

Filling up our water bottles at a fresh mountain spring- delicious!

Filling up our water bottles at a fresh mountain spring- delicious!

We made relatively good time, and covered a bit less than 20 miles the first day, arriving back at the truck at our predetermined halfway point with daylight left in the sky. However, we had overlooked one small detail. The keys to the truck had been accidentally left in the other vehicle, which was 20+ miles north of us at our starting location. We considered several options, including running the 15 or so miles along the road back to the truck. However, the temperatures were dropping, and he wind was picking up, and we weren’t really in the mood to run for a few hours. So, we decided to give Uber a try. None of us had used it before, but this seemed as good a time as any, especially considering the potential cost of a conventional cab that far off the beaten path. As luck would have it, someone responded in less than a minute, and we were tucked into a Ford Explorer 15 minutes later on our way up to Pen Mar to retrieve the truck and keys to the second truck. It was a really pleasant experience, and our driver was quite nice as well.

A celebratory selfie with Duane, our Uber driver!

A celebratory selfie with Duane, our Uber driver!

After our vehicle juggling, we made our way down to our hotel in Harper’s Ferry, ordered some pizza, and enjoyed a much-needed shower and hot meal. We relaxed for a bit, but it didn’t take long before our eyes were forcing themselves shut, so we retired for the evening. Day two was still ahead of us, and we were looking forward to another 20 miles of memories on the AT!


Learning from each Mile- Embracing Change

It’s amazing how fast the summer flies by when you aren’t looking, isn’t it? As a society, we focus a lot of our energy on the summer months as a time for vacations, relaxation, and a change of pace. I’m struck by how much this falls in contrast with many other parts of the world, where life goes on as normal year-round, and vacations of a sort aren’t limited quite as much. Nevertheless, this time of year marks a point of transition in my little slice of the world, although it’s a much more subtle note of transition when compared to previous years. For almost two decades, this time of year has been a “new year” of sorts for me as the academic calendar kicked back into full swing for the fall semester. However, I’m not teaching this semester so I’m left to observe the new beginnings of friends around the country and reflect on the many twists and turns that my life has taken as of late.

It’s been a busy month, despite not pouring over syllabi and getting my lesson plans in a row, but I certainly miss the excitement and energy that comes with the first day of class. There’s just something about the promise and potential of meaningful conversations, growth, and learning that is forever a part of my DNA and will always materialize this time of year. I have no doubt that at this time next year, life will have changed even more significantly and if all goes well, I’ll be back in the classroom where I belong. In the meantime, I’m left to plan for other life experiences, and continue to live each day as fully as possible and not take for granted this time I have to reflect and pursue other projects, interests, and ideas that constantly fill my mind with wonder.


I’m a firm believer in pushing the mind to explore those fleeting thoughts that linger on the edges, fade as you awake, and briskly pop in and out of our minds throughout the day. The world is such a fascinating place that there is truly no reason or excuse for boredom unless you succumb to the depressing reality that you are a boring person. This desire for information, answers, and the expression of creativity keeps me moving forward, both in my life as a whole, and in my running. When I lace up my running shoes and strap on my Garmin, I’m not only heading out for a workout, but I’m embarking on a small adventure with infinite possibilities. They exist all around me, and in my mind, expanding with each mile I travel.

I’ve always thrived on organization and planning, but have realized over the past few months that there is power and potential in the unknown. My summer training has been fairly abstract, and I’ve avoided any sort of organized training calendar. In part, this has been a de facto result of the most ambiguous and transitional months I’ve experienced in my adult life. However, I’d like to think that this has also been the result of a quest for mental strength. It’s easy to get caught up in the routine of a training plan. You target a particular race, and work your way backwards, confident that as long as you hit all of your distance and time benchmarks along the way, then you’ll have a successful race. The reality, of course, is far more chaotic. There’s no way to accurately account for the seemingly endless list of random scenarios that can alter your training and ultimately your race day performance. At the end of the day, running isn’t about training for a particular race. It’s about engaging fully with each run and keeping your senses alert to the plethora of new information to be gained from that run. Change is inevitable, and what’s left once you accept that is the importance of finding yourself in the moment and enjoying each run. The big picture will come together on its own, but I’d rather take advantage of the opportunity to listen to my body and stimulate my mind with each passing mile. They all have something to teach us as long as we can let go of expecting to know what the lesson is on any given day.


This notion of letting go, of course, is no small task. I’ve seen this on countless occasions as I watched student wrestle with the reality that what they thought to be the simple truth was in fact much more complex. I’ve seen folks enter the classroom expecting to learn one thing only to leave at the end of the semester having grown in ways they couldn’t even have fathomed months earlier. Information can be a powerful tool or a dangerous weapon, not only on a large-scale, but for us as individuals. We have unprecedented access to information at our fingertips, and can instantly gather enough “data” to provide us with what we assume is a pretty good analysis of what to expect. However, the moment we make up our minds about what to expect, we close every door that doesn’t lead to that conclusion. Of course, this happens subconsciously so controlling it is no easy matter. Many scientists would like to think they can do so, can be purely objective, but the reality is that we make countless subjective decisions before we ever begin an experiment…or a training plan. What would happen if we were able to free ourselves from those conclusions, and simply act? How would our lives be different is we had the power to simply go run? Setting aside any notions of fitness gains, time goals, target paces, or “A races” may very well change the act of running for us.

Clearly, I’m as guilty of thinking about those goals and gains as anyone else. I track my miles, monitor my pace, and keep track of PR’s for each of my races. These past months have taught me how limiting that can be, though. I moved from the flat lands of Iowa to the hilly and humid mid-Atlantic, and gave no real though to how those metrics might change. I naively expected my pace and volume to remain steady. I wasn’t ready to embrace the change around me, in part because I wanted to hold onto some aspect of the familiar. Now, I’ve managed to maintain my training volume, but unsurprisingly, my pace hasn’t been quite at the level that it was when I left Iowa. It’s amazing how heat, humidity, and hills can sneak up you, eh? Did I really expect my performance to remain consistent despite significantly different climate conditions and 10 times more elevation gain in every run? It took me all summer, coupled with a significant case of runner’s knee and an IT band that hates me, but I’m finally listening. I’m finally ready to embrace the change and listen to each mile. Even the miles with a 15% grade.


Winterthur: It’s a Magical Place!

Not only did I question whether or not Delaware was an actual state prior to moving here, but I certainly would have never heard of Winterthur Museum, Gardens, and Library if it wasn’t for the beautiful epicurean’s career field and her new amazing position at said library. You learn very fast when moving to Northern Delaware that the name Dupont carries quite a bit of weight in these parts! The Dupont family had a significant influence economically, socially, and politically in the area, as evidenced by the Dupont plant right down the round, and the plethora of streets, parks, and schools named after various members of the Dupont family. One such member of the Dupont family was Henry Francis Dupont. Unlike many of his other more industry-oriented family members, H.F.’s interests were more focused on horticulture and decorative arts.

A playful note in the Enchanted Woods!

A playful note in the Enchanted Woods!

Gates near the reflecting pool (and former family pool).

Grates near the reflecting pool (and former family pool).

More specifically, he became fascinated with antique American decorative arts and soon amassed the single largest collection of American antiques in the world. Even before his interest in antiques took hold, his green thumb guided many of his life decisions. He honed his craft, and on the grounds of his estate, created an amazing, sprawling, multi-dimensional naturalistic garden and landscaping masterpiece. That estate was Winterthur, named after the town in Switzerland where the family originated. Henry Francis donated the main mansion and estate as a museum in 1951 and continued to live in a smaller building on the estate until his passing in 1969. His legacy can be seen in vivid color as you explore the 60 acres of naturalistic gardens and the remainder of the massive nearly 1000 acre estate. Visitors travel from around the world to explore the massive collection of decorative arts, conduct research in the library collection, and explore the beautiful grounds.

Winterthur 3

The entire estate is incredibly visitor friendly, and accessible, regardless of your background knowledge of antiques or horticulture. Miles and miles of trails traverse the estate and allow for seemingly endless exploration. Very early on in my time in Delaware, I made it a point to explore Winterthur on foot, as I was there almost daily. Although the trails, both paved and unpaved, are intended to allow greater access to the grounds, they also present a unique opportunity for an early morning or later afternoon run of unprecedented beauty. There is something in bloom at any given time, and the diversity of plant and animal life creates a truly special environment.

It's hard not to stop and photograph everything!

It’s hard not to stop and photograph everything!

I’ve now been in Delaware for a little over two months, and have spent countless hours on the trails throughout the estate. It’s incredibly easy to get lost in the beauty around you and I always seem to find something new and unique with each additional run on the grounds. The estate happens to be right next to Brandywine Creek State Park as well (look for more in a future post), and it’s even an easy run home if I don’t feel like driving. As with the rest of the region, there is no shortage of hills, but the well-maintained trails simply can’t be beat and there are even several cafes on site in case you want a bite to eat when you are done. There is no question that I am lucky to have access to such an incredibly resource, and I am looking forward to many more runs and explorations to come! #chasing42

The diverse landscapes are simply incredible!

The diverse landscapes are simply incredible!

Did I mention the goats and flock of specially bred sheep?!

Oh, and did I mention the goats and flock of specially bred sheep?!

Market to Market 2015: The Speedy Streakers Strike Again!

It’s still hard to believe that my 10 years in Ames was at an end. Quite a bit has changed in my life over the course of those 10 years, not the least of which is my passion for running and the friends that I have picked up as a result. Thus, it was only fitting that my last weekend in Iowa was spent with an amazing group of friends doing what we love to do…run! This was the third year in a row that we’ve participated in the Market to Market Iowa Relay, and our Speedy Streakers team has the relay and the preparations down to a science at this point, which made for an amazing weekend. This race was my farewell of sorts as well, so there was plenty of chatter leading up to the race, and I was looking forward to a fantastic weekend of running and shenanigans!

Our goal, as a team, has always been to have as much fun as possible, with a little running thrown in, and we certainly hit the mark this year! We always find a theme so we can prepare costumes accordingly, and we landed on “Barrel Full of Monkeys” this year, although “What Does the Fox Say?” was a close second. The opportunity to dress up in a monkey costume was just too good to pass up, obviously!

We made it out of Ames eventually :)

We made it out of Ames eventually 🙂

The 78-mile relay begins in Jefferson, IA and follows a series of trails all the way to downtown Des Moines. We packed up the rented 15-passenger van on Friday afternoon and took our time heading down to Jefferson and our hosts for the evening. Interestingly, we managed to have a bit of trouble even leaving Ames, but only because we clearly had to stop at a few bars on our way out-of-town to help condition ourselves for the following day (minus our driver, of course). It’s carb-loading, right? The drive down took us to two other bars, including a stop for dinner, and a stop at a teammate’s Aunt’s house for more carb-loading. Did I mention that our team could easily be called the Iron Livers? 🙂

We awoke bright and early on Saturday morning (May 8) after a short but restful burst of sleep and donned our costumes before heading down to the starting line a few minutes away. We met up with some of the other Vardo teams and cheered folks as their waves took off. It was quite convenient that M2M was giving away bananas- we took advantage and grabbed plenty to hand them out to other runners. What else is a monkey to do?

Would you care for a banana?

Would you care for a banana?

From the beginning, our relay experience was about equal parts running and delicious Jello-O shots, and we made the most of the day. In previous years, I’ve added on additional miles by running various legs with other teammates, and I crafted a repeat performance again this year. However, everyone was in a nostalgic mood and wanted to make the most of the day, so we had multiple runners for 14 of the 17 legs of the race, and we easily tallied the most collective miles of any team out on the course!

Truly a team effort!

Truly a team effort!

We treated each exchange point during the relay as a mini-party and did our best to embrace the crazy of the day. The legs all blended together a bit for me, and the weather was relatively cooperative (not too hot, and some wind off and on), so it made for a beautiful day to be outside running. My legs felt great for most of the day, and I did my best to scale back my pace a bit this year. In past years, I’ve logged some significant miles, but forgot I was going long and also proceeded to run the entire day at more of a 5K than marathon pace. I was determined not to be quite as tired this year, and I succeeded for the most part. My legs were still plenty tired by the final collective leg, which several of us ran together and then met the rest of the team to run in the final 1/4 mile to the finish, but overall I felt great. I ended up collecting a bit over 33 miles for the day, which suited me just fine!


We crossed the finish line, collected our pint glasses, and were all smiles after another successful relay! We were committed to having as much fun as possible during the after-party this year so we decided to rent a hotel room in downtown Des Moines, not far from the finish, which meant no driving needed. We stopped by our hotel room to shower and then headed back to the after party to meet up with all of the other Vardos. I was able to see a lot of folks and inevitably, the line of “goodbye” moments began. It was wonderful to see so many people but talk about an emotional rollercoaster! Good grief, I love this group!



The rest of the evening was a blur of toasts, cheers, antics, late-night pizza, and some memories that I will hold dear for the rest of my life. Throughout the day and night, I did my best to forget that I was leaving on Monday morning and just enjoy the time. What actually happened was a mixture of bittersweet moments with some of the best friends anyone could ask for…I went out with a bang doing what I love with folks I love, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Transition and change are rarely easy, sometimes necessary, and hopefully a part of the relentless forward progress of life. I woke up Sunday morning and we stopped for breakfast on the way home. I’d fought the tears off up until that point, but the dam broke and the tears came flooding out into my coffee. I knew it was happening, knew it was the right choice, but saying “until next time” is never easy. This weekend wasn’t just about running, or having fun- it was about cementing relationships with some amazing people and being reminded what true friendship is all about. I knew I could take those things with me when I drove off on Monday morning…and I did. #chasing42

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