Let the obsessing begin…

The Derby Mini is now 11 days away. The mix of emotions I am feeling ranges from excitement to fear to acceptance. Elizabeth Kuebler-Ross coined the five stages of grieving. Perhaps I can coin the five stages of pre-race jitters. I did my 11 mile training run Friday. That’s the furthest I will run in preparation for the race; this weekend I will run about seven miles. I love taper time – I’ve put in the time, and now it’s time to rest my body and stick to easy runs.

My 11-miler was a mix of positive and negative. One of my students had been asking about running with me. I didn’t think he’d follow through just because he’s a 14 year old, and typically 14 year olds don’t want to hang out after school with a grandma/teacher. I saw one of the boys at Walmart after school yesterday, and he was completely awkward. This boy was serious, so I told him I would be running slowly because I wasn’t concerned about speed; I just needed to run 11 miles. He agreed to run with me until he had to be at track practice. The kid ran six miles! He had never run more than two miles at one time, so he really didn’t know what he could do. I know him well enough to know that he would probably push through, and would not back out during a run. I really enjoyed the run. He did so well, asked a lot of questions about racing, and listened when I gave him advice. The first half of my run went quickly. I dropped my student off at the track, ran to the bathroom, drank some water, and took off for the next leg of my journey.

The second half? It didn’t go so well. My left knee, which is NOT the knee I had surgery on, began to hurt. It felt exactly like my surgery knee did when those problems started. I had to stop and stretch, and then I’d run a little more, and then I’d stop and stretch, and so on. The really frustrating part was that my endurance was awesome. Honestly, I felt like I could have kept running had my knee not hurt. My last two miles were well under a 10:00 pace, the fastest of the 11. I just need everything to work at once.

I am really not sure what will happen come race day. I have run twice since, but only three miles, so my knee was fine. I ordered new compression socks (in a lovely gray, pink, and black argyle print); I have a knee brace; and I have Ibuprofen and Celebrex. I need one good day. You should hear the conversations I have with God when I begin to have pain. I am sure we will have lots of conversations on April 19.

Now is the time I also begin planning my race attire. When I just run here in town, I might or might not match. At a race, I will match. I bought a super cute Nike running hat in a lovely pattern of pink and black, and I have a Nike light pink tank that is really soft, and I know would feel great in a race. I usually wear a skirt just because I like them (once a cheerleader?). I have some compression socks, but they don’t match the pink of my shirt, which would literally stress me out that day (hey, it’s the little things!). Who would wear hot pink socks with a soft pink tank? Not me. Do you see why this sport can get expensive? I told my [very understanding] husband that if I have to walk part of this race, I am at least going to look decent! I also ordered arm warmers. For those of you who are wondering what the hell arm warmers are and why I need them, here’s the scoop. It is usually cool when the race begins, but then it warms up, and I warm up, after a few miles. I want to wear my pink tank, but it will be chilly, so I put on arm warmers, which I can slip off when I warm up. They will (I hope) tuck nicely in my skirt, and will be much easier to take off than an extra shirt or jacket.

Music. When I first started running races, I didn’t use music because I enjoyed listening to the crowds, and then I tried music, and I ran super fast [middle-aged-runner-nana-not-so-fast-fast]. Since then, I have continued to sport earbuds. And so I am also working on my playlist. This isn’t just a matter of playing songs I like; it’s also a matter of strategically placing songs. My first song is ‘Here Comes the Sun’ because we begin at 6:30 am. I have fun songs for the first half. For the second, and hardest, half, I have songs that inspire me. I asked each of my girls to choose a song for my list that would remind me of her. I have a song for my husband, ‘I’ll Stand by You’ because he is my biggest supporter. I have a song for God, ‘How Beautiful’ to remind me that without my God and my faith, I wouldn’t be out there running. I am going to add a song for my dad, ‘Jesu’, which isn’t really a running song, but it one song I remember hearing him play on the piano and organ. Running is such a mental activity; you’d be surprised how music can inspire the legs to keep moving. I hope I get through my playlist! I made sure it’s extra-long in case I end up walking some. Or a lot.

Time to grade papers..or look up race times…I’d better grade!


Drumroll, please…

I know – I just blogged last night, and I usually don’t blog twice in one week. However, I finally made a decision, and I want to share what gave me the kick in the butt I needed.

After posting my whiny blog about being uncertain about my ability to complete the Derby Mini, I received a text from a friend. I have known Katie for many years; I kept up with her success as she ran cross country in high school, and then received a scholarship to run at Belmont. We have been friends with her family for a long time, so I won’t forget the day that we received the news that Katie had cancer. We were in Virginia Beach visiting my step-daughter, and Katie’s dad called my husband to tell him that Katie had been diagnosed with Hodgkins disease. Katie fought the disease and won; and then she fought it again – and won again. Despite joining the ‘survivor’ list, the disease and treatments took a toll on her young body. Katie’s lungs have scar tissue, which hinders her breathing during strenuous activity. Long story short – at this time, she can’t run. She is now a junior high science teacher, and she coaches cross country and track. While she is involved in running, she can’t get out there and do what she loves. 

So, last night I received this text from Katie:  Run the Derby! I would give up lots to be able to run it, even if it was an 11:00 pace! Do it!

That’s all it took. I had been complaining because I might have to walk a little, or I might be slower than I was in the past. I have no reason to whine. I can run, and I am going to run for Katie. I am going to tattoo her name on my arm (Just kidding! Permanent marker will do!), and when the race gets tough – which it will – I will look at my arm, think about the battle Katie won, and I will be her lungs and legs. I will never be half the runner Katie was in college, but that’s okay. I am who I am, which is a middle-aged nana who loves running.

Incidentally, Katie will be home that day with her four-day-old baby!

This morning (before I could chicken out), I registered. And since it cost $75, I’m not backin’ out! I had planned to run five miles after school, and because the forecast was for sunny skies and 60 degrees, I was really excited about the run. It wasn’t sunny, and it wasn’t 60, but it was a great run. I don’t know if it was because I was now officially training, but I ran better than I have for months. I wasn’t worried about my pace, but at the one mile mark the little lady in my ear said I had run it in 9:49. My pace felt good, so I just kept it up. I ended with an average pace of 9:29, and miles four and five were 9:16 and 9:18 – smokin’! It was one of those runs that when I finish I just want to cheer for myself. People give me strange looks when I do that.

Though my time was good for me, there was this group of fast runners out at the same time. They happen to be my friends, Jennifer, Kelly, and Tomi Jo, and I am oh, so envious. I saw them take off, and wished I could keep up with them. As I was flying down the street, I came up with this analogy: I am a senior on the freshman team, and those three are varsity. I want to be on varsity, but know I just don’t have the ability (or young legs) that they have. Seriously, they just blew past me when I thought I was running fast!  

When I arrived at our humble cabin in the woods, there was a box outside. My new running shoes had arrived! Maybe those beautiful shoes will help me make varsity! Or not. But I’ll look good! 

Another Snow Day…

UGH!  It’s Thursday, and we’ve been to school a little over one-half day this week.  We are now going to be going after Memorial Day, and from experience, I know the kids are finished long before the holiday weekend.  Keeping them on task after Memorial Day is like herding cats.  Teachers should probably start stocking up on Motrin now.  I have cleaned my house, finished laundry (or so I thought until I discovered the stockpile of towels the girls were hoarding), and spent several hours on school work.  I can’t leave my house because our hill is covered in ice, and I won’t even walk down it, let alone drive.  And so here I sit.  Writing about nothing particular.  Just writing.

I am not going to go into my rant on Indiana’s government wanting to change our constitution to forever ban same-sex marriage, but I do want to let you know that almost 2000 people viewed my blog when I posted about gay marriage.  To put that in perspective, the most read blog I wrote prior to that post was about the Ironman, and it had 270 views.  Thanks to all of you who shared the post, and helped educate others that this is a real cause affecting real Hoosier families.  Normal, Christian families.

Oh………I lied.  I read something that annoyed me this morning.  The Russian president, who is clearly an ass, said they would not protest gay athletes, but that they – the gay athletes – should ‘stay away from the children’.  Really?  Because homosexuals are always perverts?  This makes me sick.  Just because a person is gay is absolutely no indication that he or she would be a child predator, no more than being heterosexual makes a man a rapist.  Why was Russia chosen to host the Olympics?  Thus far I have seen nothing positive that supports their selection.

Fitness.  I am really working to return to my former running self.  Last night I made tremendous progress toward that goal.  Since knee surgery in August, I have struggled to regain fitness and lose the weight I gained.  These snow days don’t help because I am stuck at home with my new Kitchenaid mixer screaming at me from the kitchen, We can make cookies!  Breads!  Cake!  Let’s stir things up!  I have ignored the calls so far (if you don’t count the mashed potatoes I made last night), but I don’t know that I can resist today.  Perhaps if I focus on last night’s run and the progress I made, I can ignore my mixer.

Last night I accompanied my husband to the gym; I was anxious just to get out of the house.  I planned to run three or four miles on the treadmill while he taught spinning.  That distance has pretty much been my max the past couple of months, and for anyone who has run on a treadmill, you know there’s a limit to how long one can tolerate the boredom.  I much prefer running outside, but this winter has made that nearly impossible.  And so I hit the ‘mill.  Everbody’s is busy on Wednesday evenings, so there were people around to chat with, and I had my playlist cranked up.  Someday I am going to forget I am not alone and bust out singing.  Last night I just mouthed some of the lyrics (I don’t think any sound came out), which I am sure could have made a great video.  As I listened and chatted and watched ESPN, I just kept running and running and running….six miles I ran!  I don’t know that I have ever made it six miles on a treadmill.  It might not be a big deal to many runners, but it gave me hope that I might be able to continue to increase my distance, which just a month ago seemed impossible.  I was resigned to just getting in short little runs to get my running fix.  Half marathons?  A thing of the past.  Today I think that I just might be able to once again run 13.1, maybe not as fast, but just finishing would be a thrill.  Stay tuned…

Oooh…There it is!  I love my mixer!  Listen…it’s calling me….

Not Quite What I’d Planned…

Yesterday was the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon/Mini Marathon, a day we had planned for since last summer.  We had a group of 20 runners who had planned our weekend together, and most in our group were running their first half marathon.  There were at least 5-10 other runners from Tell City who would also be running.  What a great representation our small town had at a big city race.  My husband, Gary, was running the full marathon; it was so important to him to have a good run, and we were all excited for him.

Since February, I have had several illnesses/injuries.  This is unlike me; I typically have a cold or two each winter, but overall, I am pretty healthy.  Not this year.  I have had a sinus infection, the flu, a stomach virus, IT band problems, and most recently, a pretty nasty eye infection.  That infection erupted the week of the race.  Great.  Two visits to the opthalmologist. and it seemed to be under control, but not completely healed.  I had also been babying the IT issue: two visits to the orthopedic doctor, a visit to the chiropractor, tape, stretching, rolling, and Motrin.  I wanted to run this race well, and had trained for months.  I was going to run this race, even if it was with one eye and a limp.

Raceday morning I taped up, took my Motrin, put on compression socks (that I happened to find in a nice pink plaid), and felt good.  I was able to get my contacts in, which was another plus.  I did not want to run wearing my glasses.  The excitement that morning was so very motivating.  The ‘newbies’ were nervous, and anxious to get started.  We took the token photo, and all headed to our assigned corrals.  Jackie and I were in corral B, so we took our places together.  I ran my last half marathon in 1:59:43, breaking two hours for the first time.  My goal for Derby was 1:58, which meant I needed a 9:00 pace.  The National Anthem was sung, a moment of silence was observed for the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing, and the gun when off.  I felt great!  I was running an 8:45 pace, and felt I would be able to maintain that pace.  It was also enough cushion that if I slowed later, I could still meet my goal.  With about 16,000 runners, the momentum helped move me along.  I had strategically planned my playlist, and felt energized by my music.

When I hit the four mile mark, my knee began to hurt, but it was tolerable.  The further I went, the worse the pain.  I started to think that I would not be finishing the race, but I was still maintaining my pace, and I just kept praying.  I just wanted the pain to stop.  I had already calculated that if I maintained an 8:45 pace, I would finish in 1:55, which would be incredible.  Please, God, just make the pain go away.  It didn’t.  It continued to worsen.  As we descended down a tunnel into Churchill Downs, the downhill caused pain that stopped me in my tracks.  I walked through the tunnel, and then tried to run again as we came out into the infield.  I couldn’t run.  I walked a little, and then tried to run again.  Pain ripped through my knee.  I thought to myself This is stupid.  You have to stop.  That’s it.  I can’t do it.  I can’t do it.  Dammit, I can’t do it.  I was done.  I had run eight miles, and could go no further.  As the other runners trotted by, the tears began.  I didn’t know how the hell I was going to get back downtown, but I knew I couldn’t walk five miles.  I had told our friend, Bob Walsh, that I might have to call him to come get me, but I did not want to make that call.

I found a police officer, and asked how I could get back.  He said he could have EMS take me, but I was not about to do that.  I wasn’t dying.  He told me where the best place to meet Bob would be, and, of course, it was about 1/2 mile walk.  I began walking away from the race.  As I walked, I cried.  The months of training were wasted.  I was so disappointed.  I was not going to meet my goal, not going to get a medal, and I would not be there to see all of my friends finish.  And when I did see them, I needed to be excited for them, and I knew how hard that would be because I was so damn upset.  I began to let people know that I had stopped because I knew they were tracking my progress.  I finally made it to a corner where I would meet Bob.  Because of all the streets being closed, he had to take the long way around, and it took about an hour and a half from the time I first called, until he arrived.  I just sat on the corner by myself, looking quite out of place in my pink and black running outfit and a bib number plastered to my front.

Bob took me back to the hotel, and by that time, I could hardly walk.  I limped up to my room, stopping every few steps as pain stabbed my knee, with tears streaming down my face.  I just wanted to crawl in the bed and stay there.  If you are a non-runner, it might seem a bit over-dramatic.  If you’re a runner, you get it.  Rather than crawl in bed, I had to change into warm clothes, and get back to the course.  I still had friends to support, and my husband to cheer on.  I made my way back to the race area, but it took quite awhile because walking was painful.  As I ran into friends along the way, I tried to keep my composure while congratulating them (I didn’t do very well).  I finally made it to the area where I had planned to wait for Gary.  I kept getting my text alerts as my friends finished.  They were all doing so well.

I am so very proud of all of the Tell City runners!  Every single first-timer met his or her goals, and just did an amazing job.  I think they are all hooked!  Others knocked time off their previous runs.  As I spent time with my friends who were staying to wait for Gary, their enthusiasm began to cheer me up.  As I read the messages from people on Facebook, I felt so blessed that I had so much support.  The kindness was overwhelming.  I also received this great text from my daughter Morgan:  You are finishing through all the people you coached – that’s your real success.  She has no idea what those words meant.  This wasn’t my day.  My friend Breanne said that God had another purpose for me that day.  I guess He did.  I do believe there are lessons in every circumstance.  And, though I am still disappointed, I will not stop.  I am going to take some time to heal this stupid IT band, and am already planning for a fall half marathon.  I will run the St. Louis Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon on October 27.  And now that I know I can run an 8:45 pace, that will be my goal.

What about Gary?  Well, he is incredible.  Truly.  He finished a full marathon in under six hours, which was his goal.  I was able to run the final block to the finish line with him (Gosh, it hurt like hell!), but I would not trade that moment with my husband for anything.  He has an artificial knee, and was told he could not run on it.  Really?  He just did.  I am so proud of his hard work, dedication, and determination.

We’re both moving pretty slowly today.  He is sore and tired, and my knee hurts.  Non-runners might ask why on earth we’d put ourselves through all of this.  Sometimes I ask myself the same question.  But, I will continue to run, to train, and to try to meet goals.  I can’t imagine life without running.  It has provided meaning; it has provided friendships that are unbeatable; and it has made me a stronger person.  So, I will be back.  I will continue to run races.  And I will continue to challenge myself.  Just not today.  Today, I’m taking a nap.

I cannot end this blog without congratulating my wonderful running team:  Jackie, Kassi, Kathy, Breanne, Tyler, Breanne, Blair, Danielle, Heidi, Derrick, Kara, Jennifer, Lisa, Tomi Jo, Krystal, Debbie, and Gary………….I am so incredibly proud to call all of you my friends!  Thanks for sharing this weekend with me.  I hope it’s the first of many.  St. Louis, anyone?

And, Bob Walsh, thanks for saving my butt!  I honestly don’t know what I would have done without you.  Sherry, Cathy, Caroline, and Scott, thanks for coming and supporting all of us!  Chris Hollinden, thank you so very much for coming to the race, running a few miles with Gary, and helping keep him on track to meet his goal.  And all of you who posted such kind words or texted me, Thank You!

The Evansville Half Marathon

Jennifer Land, me, and Jackie Fischer after finishing

Every race offers a unique experience.  Some are amazing; I feel great, run well, and enjoy the atmosphere.  Others are not quite so incredible; I feel tired, don’t run as well as I’d like, and the atmosphere is less than uplifting.  Sunday’s half marathon was an odd mix of the two.

Though I felt I had adequately trained, I hadn’t put in the miles I normally do when training for a long race.  I ran between 2 and 4 miles a couple times a week, and ran 5 miles during the week only a couple of times.  I did my long runs on the weekends, but never concerned myself with speed.  I taught Zumba classes 4 times a week while training, so I was curious as to what, if any, effect that might have on my running.  It is definitely a great workout, and I work different muscles, but I wasn’t sure if it would actually improve my endurance or speed.

In the days leading up to the race, I kept telling myself that I needed to be drinking more water so I would be properly hydrated – but Diet Mountain Dew and Diet Pepsi found their way to my thirsty lips.  I also knew that I needed to eat healthy (non-gassy) foods.  But then we went to this great wedding the evening before the race, and not only was there fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and bread, but there was this fantastic dessert spread.  I knew it was fantastic because my daughter made the cheesecakes (and someone had to test them), and I baked some of the cookies (I tested those too).  There were cupcakes, mini apple pies, cake pops…and on and on!  I have always admitted that I have an extreme weakness for sweets.  If it’s available, I am going to eat it.  No willpower at all.  So, we piled our plates with desserts, anxious to try each one.  That wasn’t exactly the best pre-race nutrition (but, gosh, it was delicious!).

In my previous post, I mentioned that cleaning out the system is necessary before a good run.  When a runner gorges on fried food and dessert, it becomes even more crucial to evacuate.  But sometimes it doesn’t happen.  It didn’t happen.  I won’t go into the particulars, but I had this really heavy feeling the whole time I ran.  It was not pleasant.  It actually took a couple of days to feel normal.  ‘Nough said.

Race morning, Jackie, Kassi, and I left town at 5:00 a.m.  It was a cold morning!  I had stressed all week over what to wear for this race.  We all ended up in running capris and long-sleeved shirts, which was perfect for the temps.  Once we all arrived at Reitz High School, the starting point for the Evansville Half, the waiting game began.  We waited inside to try to stay warm, all the while contemplating just how our runs would go.  We had agreed that we would each run our own race.  My first half, I ran with Jackie.  I am so glad to have met that goal hand-in-hand with one of my best friends!  However, we have discussed how we talked the entire way, and that now we are wise enough to realize that talking takes a lot of energy, and that we run faster when we aren’t chatting.  So we all lined up together, but once that gun went off, we were each in our own zones.

I really get into a different zone during a race.  I have so much running through my head that I am better off by myself.  My goal for this race was to be in the top 20 in my division.  In April, I ran the Derby Half in 2:04, which was a 9:29 pace.  I wanted to be able to run that pace, but really didn’t think I could run that fast again.  My strategy (and I use that term very loosely) is always to run hard – and faster than normal – as long as I can, and if I have to slow down, I will.  I figure it will still average out to be a faster time.  I took off fast (for me).  I didn’t obsess over my time throughout the race.  I checked my watch a few times when I hit a mile mark, and knew early on that I was running well.  I just knew I wanted to give everything I had so that I would have no regrets.  At about mile 7 or 8, the back of my knee began to hurt.  A lot.  I had never had that pain before, and wasn’t sure what had caused it.  The pain remained for the rest of the race.  At one point, I thought I might have to stop because it was so uncomfortable, but I just kept going.  I knew that I was limping at some points, and my race pictures show a miserable look on my face.  I just kept plugging along, and by then, I wasn’t really worried about my time.  I just wanted to keep running.  I finally got to mile 12, and I looked at my watch.  When I read 1:49 and realized that if I could maintain my pace, I would break 2 hours – which is something I NEVER thought I would do – I was determined to push through the discomfort.  I could hold up one more mile.  I got about a block or two from the finish line and heard my friends yelling for me.  I looked at my watch and saw that I was going to make it!  I kicked it up and sprinted (picture old-lady sprint) to that finish line.  1:59:43!  It was close, but I did it!  I knocked 4 minutes off my previous time, and I broke 2 hours.  I had also placed 19/119 in my division.  I was ecstatic!  Though I felt bad for my husband because he was unable to run due to having had surgery, I was surely glad that he was at the finish line to greet me.  He is my biggest supporter, and at that moment, I needed him with me.

I still don’t know how I was able to maintain a 9:09 pace for 13.1 miles.  I believe that the Zumba made a difference.  I also listened to music for the first time in a long race.  I found that I liked it, but I don’t think it made that big of a difference.  This was one of the hardest, most uncomfortable races I have run, so now I wonder what would happen if I had eaten properly in the days leading up to a race, hydrated with water, had no pain, and maybe even used some of those energy gels.  Could I run faster?

I have now run 4 half marathons.  My times have been 2:13 (Fall ’10) 2:08 (Spring 2011), 2:04 (Spring 2012), and now 1:59.  To know that though I am getting older, I can still improve my speed is so satisfying.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are too old to do anything!  I am looking forward to continuing to challenge myself to reach new goals.  Just a few short years ago, I could not even imagine myself running a mile.  Really.  It took me weeks and weeks just to be able to run one mile on the treadmill, and then more time to get up to two miles.  This coming April, I will be running my 5th half marathon, and with me will be several newbies.  I am so excited to get to share this adventure with them because I know how amazing they will all feel when they cross the finish line of their first half marathon!

I cannot post about the Evansville race without congratulating my friends.  First, Kim Strobel – my goodness!  Kim is a beast!  She tied for 3rd place OVERALL in the women’s group.  That’s 3rd out of over 1100 women!  She is just freaky fast.  I couldn’t be more proud!  Jackie Fischer beat her previous time by 4 minutes – amazing!  Kassi Rogers, who injured her foot a couple weeks before the race, and had to take several days off running, was determined to run the race, and finished with a great time – not the time she had hoped for, but she hadn’t hoped for an injury either.  Her determination is so impressive.  Jennifer Land had another fantastic race.  She has faced injuries over the past year and a half, and wasn’t happy with her time, but we all are.  She rocked!  Eric Kehl…he worked his tail off to get in at 1:57, also breaking the 2 hour mark.  Sarah Kluender fell on Saturday and looked like she had been in a fight (and lost), yet was also determined to run this race.  Amy Hollinden and Sophie Fischer ran the race together, and they managed to talk the whole way AND break 2 hours!  They came in at 1:57 as well.  Debbie Reed ran her first half marathon!  Getting in training runs was difficult because of her work schedule and kids’ activities, but she managed to get it done, and crossed that amazing finish line in her first 13.1!  I am so proud to call these runners my friends.  I have said many times that running is an incredible sport because runners are so supportive of one another.  When one of us is having a tough day or feeling bad about a run, there are plenty of friends around to lift us back up.  When someone has a great run, we are all sincerely happy for him or her.  I am truly proud of all of my friends!  Thank you all for inspiring me every single day.  Your passion, determination, and work ethic show me what it takes to be a better person.

Bring it on!

Jennifer and me after 2010 Half

We have complained; we have celebrated; we have whined.  We have trained!  Since mid-August, my friends and I have been training for our 4th half marathon.  4th!  It wasn’t that long ago – 2 1/2 years – that I said very adamently that I would never run a half marathon.  Who would even want to run for over two hours? I asked.  I don’t have the time or the energy for that!  But then something happened.  Once I found out I could run 5 miles, I wondered if I could run 6.  And then I ran 6 – and wondered if I could run 7.  And so it goes.

Two years ago, my running (and life-long-totally-amazing) friend, Jackie, and I began to discuss running a half marathon.  The Evansville Half Marathon.  We, along with my husband and some other friends, decided to try it.  We totally rocked it!  On October 10, 2010, we completed our first half marathon…13.1 incredible miles…and we held hands as we crossed that finish line.  Our pace just so happened to be 10:10 on 10/10/10!  How great is that!

We haven’t run another half together.  I have run the Kentucky Derby Mini twice since then, and Jackie and my other best-life-long-super spectacular running friend, Jackie’s sister, Kassi, have run Evansville and Owensboro.  So this Sunday will be my first half with Kassi.  And I can’t wait!  Jackie, Kassi, and I have done most of our long training runs together.  The wonderful thing about there being three of us is that one of us can always take the lead.  When the other two are having a less-than-fantastic run, someone steps up and pulls us along.  I have yet to be the leader on a long run, but have had some rockin’ shorter runs.  On our last long run, I told Jackie I was glad it was the last one because if we had another, it would be my turn to lead!

Our last long run was my favorite.  My husband drove us out to a little church in the country (Lillydale), and dropped us off.  We took the old, winding highway 10 miles back to Kassi’s.  It was a gorgeous morning, and the countryside shone with fresh dew and sunshine.  The hills spilled before us, beckoning us to challenge ourselves.  Dogs barked threatening us should we choose to approach their houses; cows munched on straw and were oblivious to our passing.  Some miles we talked; some we ran side-by-side in silence.  Our relationship is such that we can be completely comfortable talking non-stop, but we are also comfortable with silence, each knowing the other is lost in her own thoughts.  Kass was the rock star that morning.  She stayed about a block’s distance in front of us, but at the end, we all finished together.  The week before, Jackie kicked butt.  She not only stayed blocks ahead of Kass and me, but she also ran 12 miles when our schedule only demanded 11.  Kass and I stuck with 11.

This past Saturday, we each had other obligations, so our not-quite-as-long runs had to be solo.  I ran Saturday afternoon.  Though I had planned to run 6 miles, it was so beautiful out that I stretched it out.  When I got back to my car, I was at 6.6 miles.  For some neurotic reason, I like to end with even mileage, so I ran until my Nike GPS Sportwatch read 7.0 – exactly.  If you run, you understand.  This week will will do a couple of short, easy runs.  And then Sunday, if all goes as planned, we will have an awesome run.  The thing about half marathons is that so much has to go right.  My stomach cannot be in the least bit upset – can’t be too hungry or too full.  Bowels need to be regular (If you run, you understand – promise!).   The temperature needs to be in the 60s.  My legs need to be rested, but not too rested.  Clothing has to be completely comfortable (and cute).  Allergies need to be in check.  If all of this is perfectly aligned, I can meet some goals.  My main goal is for the three of us to be in the top 20 in our division.  After analyzing last year’s results (yup, I really do that), I feel this is very possible.  Maybe even likely.

This weekend, several of my running friends will be running the half marathon, and I am sure that I will forget or miss someone, but I want to wish them all a great run!  Kassi, Jackie, Jen, Kim, Eric, Tony (you are going to run, aren’t ya, Tony?), Amy H, Sophie, Trish…and all the other TC runners – Kick some butt this weekend!  I will see you at the finish line.  And to my husband, I am so sorry you can’t run this weekend, but am glad you will be waiting for me at the finish line (with a Diet Pepsi?).  I can’t wait until April, when we, along with a bunch of newbies, rock the Derby Mini!  Run On, Friends!

(Pictures and captions just wouldn’t go where I wanted them!)

Gary and me – after completing our first half marathon!

Jackie and me finishing our first half marathon!