Chasing 42

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My 6-Month Reflection

It’s a bit hard to believe it’s July 1st already. The past 6 months seem to have flown by, and yet I find myself still wishing I had more time to get more things crossed off my ever-evolving to-do list. Regardless, this is as good a time as any to stop and reflect on the first half of the year as I look forward to the second half. I’ve had quite a busy winter and spring, and I’ve commented before on my period of goal-less activity. That being said, I’ve still accomplished quite a bit, and I’m really looking forward to the challenges that await me over the next 6 months!

It has already been a crazy 23, uh, I mean 2013!

It has already been a crazy 23, uh, I mean 2013!

31 in 31: I wanted to start the year off right by running every day in January, and it was certainly a successful start to the year! I also pledged to run 2013 miles in 2013 and I’m well on my way to that goal as well.

Marathon PR: My only major race during the spring was the Little Rock Marathon. When I initially registered, I was looking for an early marathon in the spring so that I could plan for multiple spring races. Although I didn’t get a chance to register for any additional marathons during the spring months, I was pretty darn happy about PR’ing in Little Rock! It was a great race and it left me hungry for more speed.

Speed Increase: Although I haven’t been as intentional about my speed work as I had hoped, I’ve still made some great strides has my speed and endurance have both increased. My average paces are continuing to drop, and I’m seeing times that I didn’t think possible even a year ago.

Nutritional Awareness: It can be easy to look to races when talking about goals, but I’ve been really pleased with the work I’ve put into my nutrition research as well. With the beautiful epicurean’s help, I’ve been experimenting with a lot of different foods, and exploring some great endurance nutrition substitutes as I work to remove the GUs and gels from my training.

Marathon Ready: My schedule was incredibly busy the first 6 months as I worked on finishing up my dissertation, and that meant not being able to travel to as many races as I had hoped. However, I pledged to keep my endurance up so I could run a marathon on any given weekend. I’m happy to say I’ve kept my training up, and have run an additional 5 unorganized marathon distances this year.

I’m A Maniac: I’ve talked about wanting to join the Marathon Maniacs since last year, and I hit my race goals to do so. However, I just recently took the plunge, paid my dues, and entered the InSane AsyLum. I couldn’t be happier! I can already tell that this group is a perfect fit for my brand of crazy, and I’m going to thoroughly enjoy meeting other maniacs throughout the country!

The 24-Hour Plunge: I may not have run this race yet, and in fact have many months of training left to go, but I’m pretty darn excited about simply registering! I’m going to voluntarily run for 24 straight hours around a 1 mile track. Brilliant!

Piling up the mileage in 2013!

Piling up the mileage in 2013!

As I look back on just the last 6 months, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have the support of family and friends, and the opportunity to lace up my shoes every day and see where the road or trail takes me. I hope your first 6 months have been full of memorable experiences and learning opportunities. Let’s make the next 6 even better!

Little Rock Marathon 2013: A Tale of Two Races

After an annoyingly wet, snowy, and cold winter, I was pretty sure that the perfect running cure would be a destination race complete with sunshine and warm weather. Naturally, I headed south to cross another state off of my list. Enter Little Rock, Arkansas. Mother Nature may not have cooperated, but I still returned home with wonderful race weekend with friends under my belt, and a GIANT medal around my neck!

I took off with two other friends on Friday afternoon for the 9 1/2 hour drive down to Little Rock. We stopped in Bentonville, AR for the night, and felt somehow obligated to at least go into a Walmart since it happens to be headquartered there. I picked up a cheap throw-away sweatshirt to wear before the race, as it had become evident from the forecast that it wasn’t going to be nearly as warm as I had hoped.

Fe-eling ready for a marathon!

Fe-eling ready for a marathon!

Sleeping in on Saturday morning was a rare treat that I certainly didn’t take for granted. We hit the road and got to Little Rock around 1pm and headed straight for packet pick-up. The expo was quite a bit larger than I had anticipated, and it took an extra surge of will power to avoid spending money on more running gear that I didn’t need (I know you’ve all been there!).

Ready to race!

Ready to race!

After getting checked into the hotel, food was a priority. We found a great Mexican restaurant based on a recommendation from Tonja’s brother-in-law, and it ended up being the perfect pre-race meal, complete with an excellent margarita! After our late lunch, we headed back to the hotel and relaxed for a bit in the hot tub. Incidentally, I wish I could soak in a hot tub before every run. I’m going to need to work on that. 🙂

The race didn’t start until 8AM, so we didn’t have to get up too early (plus we crashed pretty early the night before!). We headed down near the start and met up with another friend who drove up for the race from Mississippi, which was a very nice bonus! As we lined up in the start coral, the 27 degree temperature began to sink into my less-than-fully covered body, and I could feel a bit of the feeling leaving my toes. Was I in Arkansas or Iowa? The echoes of Southern twang and hospitality, along with the lack of snow on the ground provided the distinction I needed to remind myself I was still in a new state running a new marathon.

As the gun sounded, we all shuffled off at a reasonable pace. They released runners in waves, which meant it wasn’t nearly as congested at the start as it would have been otherwise. Kecia and I were running the marathon, and Tonja was running the half-marathon, and luckily, the two courses stuck together for the first 10 or so miles.

I went into the race hoping to break the 4:00 hour barrier, which would be a PR for me, and something I had never done before (my PR entering the race was 4:07). This meant running approximately 9-minute miles. We were all feeling pretty good at the start (hot tub, perhaps?) and we clocked the first mile at 8:43, and I knew we were going a bit fast, but I always start a bit fast so I wasn’t too worried. When the next two miles came in at 8:40 and 8:36, I knew I had to put on the brakes a bit or I was going to be in trouble. We ended up maintaining a bit faster pace for the first half, and crossed the half-way point around 1:55. The first half of the marathon had been a wonderfully flat and comfortable course, and Kecia and I both found ourselves smiling and congratulating ourselves on an excellent marathon choice. Then race #2 started.

Almost as soon as we hit 13.1 miles, the hills appeared. It was as if the marathon itself was scolding us for deciding to keep running. For about the next 3 miles, I’m pretty sure we did nothing but climb hills. We would reach what we thought was a summit, and then turn a corner to find another hill. I was having flashbacks to Kansas City! The hills finally ended, and the initial descent was steep enough that I felt like I was back in Trinidad. After that, the course leveled out for the most part and our miles remained consistent.

This was without a doubt my most consistently paced marathon. I never really hit a wall, and the back-and-forth motivation that Kecia and I had going for us meant we were always pushing each other and maintaining our pace. We did however notice that our Garmins were hitting the miles further and further from the actual race mile markers. We weren’t going out of our way to add distance by any means, but we still seemed to be accumulating additional tenths of a mile with each passing mile we ran.

Crossing the finish line

Crossing the finish line

By the time the end was in sight, we knew we were going to end up running additional distance, but we didn’t care. We pushed through with the finish line in sight, and it felt amazing as always to cross the finish line! My official chip time ended up being 3:57:12, and my Garmin time was 3:54:05…either way, I broke 4 hours!! I was absolutely elated to not only have reached my goal, but done so with so much time to spare. I happily walked up to accept my medal…and just about fell over when they put it on. This was hands-down the largest race medal I had ever seen, and it weighed enough to practically pull both of us down. Tonja was waiting at the finish line, having conquered her half-marathon in style, and we all shared the same happy glow that comes with finishing a race.

All smiles after a PR performance!

All smiles after a PR performance!

After changing out of our race clothes, we had a quick lunch, headed back to the hotel to shower, and hit the road for our 9-hour drive home. I would have normally been happy to stay the night in Little Rock, but I had to teach the next day so getting back became a priority. I was so incredibly thankful that Kecia and Tonja were game to drive home after the race! It was a long drive, and all of our legs were stiff and a bit sore, but we still had a blast along the way. The trip of course wasn’t complete without a stop at the Hillbilly Hideout for snacks and pictures— we were in Arkansas, after all.

Race medals- as big as our heads!

Race medals- as big as our heads!

We arrived back in Ames around 1AM, just missing most of the next snow storm that was blowing through, and thankful to be home. The lack of sleep made the next day a bit of a challenge for all of us, but the memories and the medals made it all worth it!

The Hillbilly Hideout!

The Hillbilly Hideout!

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