Celebrating 10 Years

I cannot believe it’s been so many months since I last added to my blog. One would think that with our kids grown and on their own, life would slow down, but it just seems to get busier. Today we are having our first virtual school day, so I am home trying to stay warm, trying to keep our four dogs warm and out of trouble, and checking in with students as they complete their Elearning assignments. It’s a great day to write since I refuse to step outside.

Last week was my 52nd birthday. I don’t like to make a big deal out of my birthday at all, but I am pretty happy because it was also when I celebrated ten years of running. Ten years. When I started running, I honestly never dreamed that I would actually stick with it. I had never stuck with any form of exercising, and I didn’t really like running, so I just kept waiting to quit. And then something unexpected happened; it changed my life.

I didn’t plan to start running. My husband and I realized we were really out of shape in 2008. We were in Alaska on vacation, and everywhere we went people were biking, hiking, or running. We were struggling to hike. As my 42nd birthday approached, I was becoming more and more depressed. My dad died at 42 of a heart attack, and I just didn’t want a year of being 42. I finally decided to try running; I wanted to be proactive and take care of my heart, and of my mental health. I had always hated running, but I had a few friends who ran, and my husband had begun to run. I started by running on our gravel road. I had no idea what it would lead to. I had no idea that running would change our world. I had no idea the beauty I would experience because of running.

Running has done so much for me that I could write far more than anyone would ever want to read, so I’ll just give the highlight reel. First, running has given me confidence. After several months of trying to become a runner, I began to enter some races, starting with 5Ks. Crossing finish lines, no matter where I finish, has given me confidence in every area of my life. It has taught me that if I set goals, do the work, and get the the starting line, I can reach goals that I once thought impossible. Running also gave me the confidence to try new forms of exercise. I became a Zumba instructor, and taught several classes for a couple years. Then I got my certification to teach Tabata Bootcamp and taught early morning classes for four years. Through these classes and through Everbody’s Fitness, I’ve met so many inspirational and encouraging people. Most recently, I began to help coach our junior high cross country teams. Anyone who knew me in high school would find that hard to believe. Because I can’t keep up with most of the kids, I ride my bike alongside them and encourage (push?) them to keep going. I understand how hard running really is, and know the dedication these kids have for the sport.

Running has provided me with some fantastic experiences. I’ve not only run too many 5Ks to keep track of, but I’ve also run a few 10Ks, and 15 or 16 Half Marathons. We’ve run races in Las Vegas, Indianapolis, Chicago, and Virginia Beach, to name a few.  I’ve run while visiting Lake Tahoe, Tybee Island, and Louisville. While visiting new places, I’ve found that going for a run is a great way to check out the area. One of my favorite runs was in Chicago. I ran along the lake and had the museums in front of me, Lake Michigan on my left, and the incredible skyline on my right. In my world, that was heaven. Another favorite run was in Lake Tahoe. We were there for my step-son’s wedding, so I took advantage of being is such a beautiful place by making sure I got in early morning runs. One year while were in Las Vegas with several of my cousins and my sister, my husband and I got up early (yes, in Vegas), and ran a 5K before the others got up. We were back at the hotel in time to meet them for breakfast. The views during the race were amazing!

One of the best parts of running is the people. The running community as a whole is so supportive. Seasoned (and fast) runners cheer on the back-of-the-packers; everyone knows how difficult it is just to get to the starting line. The camaraderie of races is like nothing else I’ve experienced. The runners are friendly and excited about the possibilities of every race, no matter the difference in goals. One can see the determination and quiet nervousness of those in front who have the potential to place, and as the line goes on, one can observe the chattiness of those who are there simply to finish, or to spend those miles with their friends. I have run races alone, and with friends. Running with friends definitely makes the miles go by faster, but sometimes I like to run alone so I have no pressure to keep up with anyone, or to wait for anyone if I happen to be having a good day.

Running has given me the opportunity to share miles with my family. My husband and I have gone to almost all of my races together. We share our struggles and our victories. He encourages me to train and supports my running. He is always there for me when I need him to cheer me on. I’ve also had the amazing blessing of running with other family members. I’ve run my niece Erin’s first half marathon with her in Indianapolis, my niece Emily’s first half marathon with her in Bloomington, and my middle daughter Bethany’s first half with her in Indy. I cannot begin to express how much those races meant to me. Sharing a race experience is one of those times one won’t forget; it will always be a special memory.

Running has become something I share with my friends. The first friend I ran with was Jackie. We began together, desperately trying to add miles. In the beginning, we couldn’t imagine how runners actually talked to one another on runs. We could hardly breathe. As we became more experienced, we began to talk…and never stopped! Jackie’s sister, Kassi, then joined us. Because of schedule differences, the three of us don’t run as often now, but they have been my friends for over 40 years, and are part of my running story. They will always be my sisters. I’ve had some other running friends, but now I mostly run with coworkers after school. Kelly and Jennifer are much better runners than I, and they are much younger. They both push me to work harder. Most of the time they are a little ahead chatting away, while I follow, gasping the whole way. The three of us, along with our other friends and coworkers, Katie and Mary Jane, have run a few races together. The most important of those was the St. Jude Half Half Marathon. Katie is a St. Jude survivor, so that race is the most meaningful I’ve done.

I will never be a fast runner. I’ll never win races. I will continue to run as long as my body allows. I hope to experience new places through running, and to continue to encourage others along the way. I hope to always challenge myself and to set goals. I want my grandkids and my students to see that one is never too old to try something new or to get fit. If you are middle-aged or beyond and have thought about doing something new and healthy, do it! Know your limitations and start out small, but don’t let anyone tell you you can’t or that you are too old.

Happy Running Birthday to me!

 

 

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Over 50 and Training for a Mini

I haven’t blogged about running in quite some time, and there is actually a reason for that. Throughout the winter, I was a slacker. Like most slackers, I have a host of excuses, and some pretty valid reasons. Both my brother and my mother became ill at the same time. Trust me – I have told them how much I appreciate their timing. My brother was in the hospital an hour away for 27 days, in a rehabilitation facility for 10 days, and then he lived with us for four months. My mother hasn’t been hospitalized, but has had numerous doctor appointments, also an hour away, and I was her transportation and her advocate. I was exhausted, and despite the fact that exercise probably would have done my emotional state some good, my time was limited.

Before all of this, I had quit teaching Tabata Bootcamp classes at the gym. After four years of early morning classes, I just couldn’t do it anymore. Two mornings each week of getting up at 4:30 seemed to set the tone for the whole week, and packing all of my gear so I could get ready for work in the locker room became tedious. I had no idea what Tabata had done for my body until I was no longer doing it. Although I don’t really weigh any more, I have lost all muscle tone, and my abs are now buried under a roll of flab. I have back fat that hangs over my sports bra, and flabby arms. And my clothes no longer fit.

About a month ago, I had a dressing-room meltdown – at a most inopportune time. My husband and I had taken a romantic weekend away, and had a great time – until my meltdown. I decided to try on dresses at Banana Republic for my daughter’s upcoming graduation from college. Last kid – Mom deserves a new dress. I knew my clothes had been snug, so I grabbed a size larger than I had been wearing. Still didn’t fit. Not even close. And everything looked awful and seemed to accentuate my gut. I cussed. I fought back tears the rest of the day. I was grouchy. My husband knew not to say much, so his only response was “I guess we aren’t going to the Loft?” Hell, no, we aren’t. And that day I decided I had to make some changes. I had to take time for myself, and apparently I needed to stop eating.

I had registered for the Indy 500 Mini back in the fall, but because I hadn’t really run much all winter, my running sucked. I had pretty much decided I wasn’t going to run the race. But then I had my meltdown, and decided that I needed to run; I needed incentive to get out and train. The last few half marathons I ran were for other people. I ran my nieces’ first half marathons with them, and my daughter’s with her, and I ran the St. Jude Half with my friends. I needed to run the 500 just for me. After months of caring for others, it was time to care for myself.

I began to make exercise a priority again, but gosh, it was so much more difficult. I had not stopped running over the winter, but had run less. As I tried to increase my miles, I realized I was much slower than I had been, though I had never been very fast. I began to wonder if at 51, I should just accept that I am going to gain some weight and get flabby, and if I should just be glad I can run, and not worry about my pace. That’s all pretty difficult to accept. And I’m pretty stubborn.

So it began. Long runs on the weekends, and more consistent running during the week. My long runs have been less than impressive, partly due to the extended winter, and partly due to my being out of shape and slightly lazy. I have continued to push through, and this past weekend I ran 11 miles – without walking! That was a huge boost to my confidence. It was really slow, about an 10:53 pace, but I didn’t stop, and I felt great after. This will be my 13th half marathon, and I have run anywhere from a 9:04 pace to a 10:35 pace. I’d like to run around a 10:10 pace, but I would have to knock a lot of time off, and I should probably focus on just finishing without injury. A 9:04 pace? That was the one time I ran a half in under two hours, and it will be my only time. I still don’t know how I pulled that off, though I remember I had to go to the bathroom most of the race, so that might have contributed to my speedy time.

As I was running my 11-miler, I listened to a podcast to occupy my mind. When I train alone, I listen to podcasts rather than music. I’ve found it keeps me more entertained, and I focus less on minor discomforts. I had chosen the “Another Mother Runner” podcast. I’ve read Sarah’s and Dimity’s books and blogs, and have followed their podcast for a long time. I enjoy their honest, down-to-earth look at running, and have learned a lot from them.

As I was running and listening, I thought about how many of their topics don’t apply to me as much since my kids are grown. They talk a lot about juggling raising kids and working in runs. I am busy with teaching and extra-curriculars, but it isn’t a big deal for me to find time to run. I find my challenges have more to do with aging at this point in my life. I wish there were a podcast for runners who share those challenges, and even considered started some type of social media group or webpage for ‘older’ female runners. I’ve seen pages for females who are mother runners, runners who went from being over-weight to fit, runners who are in phenomenal shape and share workouts and nutrition information – everything but over-50 females who are now facing empty nests, menopause, grandkids, and aging parents.

So where do I go from here? I don’t know how to start a podcast, and don’t know that I have time to add something else to my schedule, but I’d consider it. I could start a Facebook group, but how do I get others interested? This blog is already up and running; I just need to write more often. I’ve been writing, but not for the blog. If you are a middle-aged female runner, share your thoughts. What would you like to see? What type of format would you be most likely to follow? Please share this with your friends, and let’s get the conversation started. How can we best reach and encourage middle-aged women who run?

The 500 Mini is in less than two weeks. No matter the outcome, I plan to have a fantastic weekend. My husband and I are going to Indy the day before, staying in one of the best hotels in downtown Indy, and we have tickets for Wicked for that night. I want to enjoy the moments without worrying about the finish. I want to take in the views and admire each step as we run around the 500 track. I want to embrace that I have legs that will carry me 13.1 miles.

Again, please give me your feedback, and share this post. Thanks for reading!

Half Marathon #12 Training

In eight days I will be running my 12th half marathon. The Indy 500 Mini Marathon has been on my bucket list for a few years, but it usually falls the same weekend we take our eighth graders to Washington, DC. This year our trip is the week after the mini, so my daughter Bethany and I signed up. We actually signed up when we were at the expo for the Monumental Half Marathon in November. Bethany was a little freaked out that she signed up for her second half marathon before she’d run her first. But hey, we got $5 off and a free tech shirt, so how could we go wrong?

Bethany and I have been training for a couple months. Now that I am 50, I’ve found my long runs just keep getting slower. However, last weekend we ran our longest run of 11 miles, and our pace was a respectable 10:35 (respectable for me, but maybe not for Bethany). Sunday I ran five miles with my fast friends. They make running look so effortless while I am about 15 feet behind struggling to breathe. They were chatting away, and would occasionally ask me a question, but I had no idea what they were even talking about. So why do I run with them? Because I love them, and because it pushes me. Sometimes I get comfortable just getting my miles in, but I don’t really push myself out of that comfort zone. If I want to run well, I have to be willing to be uncomfortable. We ran those five miles at a 9:45 pace, which at this point is super fast for me. Jennifer had already run five miles, and then added another 3.1 after our five…at an 8:15 pace. Geez.

Fast. Something I’ve never been, nor will I ever be. When I talk to my eighth graders about my running, they don’t get that concept. When I told them I was running the Indy Mini, some asked if I thought I would win. Sure, Kids. I’m confident that out of the 30-35,000 runners, I will win. I told them that really isn’t the goal of most runners. But it’s a race. Why would you enter a race if you don’t think you can win, Mrs. Stath? I tried to explain the age groups, and how my goal is usually to place in the top 20% of my age group. But why would you run over 13 miles for that? Ummm…because we get really cool medals and a shirt. I guess from a 13 year old’s perspective, the fact that a 50 year old teacher would run 13.1 miles to get a medal doesn’t make much sense. It made me ask myself why I really do it.

There are so many reasons to run a half marathon. First, there is no other feeling like crossing that finish line, knowing I did something that not many people do. I have done the work – and it is work – and accomplished my goal. Running it with my daughter? That is a pleasure that not many moms get to experience. Running this distance has been life-changing for me. I didn’t begin running until I was 42, and I ran my first half almost seven years ago at 43. I never dreamed I could run 13 miles; I thought it was silly to even want to run for over two hours. But I did it. It taught me that even as a middle-aged mom and grandmother, I could still meet new challenges. It gave me confidence to take risks. I love the camaraderie of the running community. When we go to Indianapolis next weekend, I will enjoy being surrounded by other runners at the hotel, expo, and restaurants. There’s just a different type of energy in the air.

Running long distance doesn’t come without sacrifice and sometimes discomfort. My hip began hurting a couple weeks ago. It was fine when I ran, but hurt after. It is better after a couple trips to the chiropractor, and I have three more appointments scheduled for next week, including one right before we leave for Indy. Runners also sacrifice time. Long runs take time away from family, not only during the run itself, but when I am crashed on the couch afterward. Thankfully my husband is supportive since he was also a runner. Knowing he will be there when I finish makes me look forward to the finish line even more.

Bethany, thank you for taking time to train with me and to commit to this race. There really is something special about pounding the pavement with you. I am so incredibly proud of you. Let’s rock this race! Do you think we can win?

Half Marathon #10

On November 5 I will run my tenth half marathon, the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon. It’s been two years since I ran an entire 13.1 miles; the last three I worked some walking in for various reasons. I need to know I can still run the whole route – that my knee can endure 13.1 miles of pounding.

However, accomplishing that goal is not the most important aspect of the race. This race is special because I will be running it with my daughter Bethany. She began running in January of this year, and has since run a couple 5Ks and a 5-miler. She decided this summer that she was ready to take on the challenge of running her first half marathon, and I agreed to train and run with her. When Gary and I began running almost eight years ago, our hope was that we would be a positive example for our kids and grandkids. We wanted to show them that it is never too late to live a healthier lifestyle; it is never too late to set and achieve goals. Since that time, all of the girls have worked fitness into their lives. Gary’s daughter Tamara and her girls have participated in Girls on the Run; Morgan has run a few races and was recently certified to teach yoga; and the youngest, Addie, has now begun running and hopes to work up to a half marathon. Gary’s son Bryce has always been active. He and his wife run, ski, and climb. I don’t know how much we have influenced our children’s choices, but I hope we’ve had at least a little impact.

bethanymom

Training for this race has been interesting. I haven’t worked as hard as I should. It stayed hot so long that my runs suffered. Our long runs have been slower than I would like, but we’ve kept running. This past Saturday we ran 11 miles, our longest training run. It went better than our previous long runs, and I feel that Bethany is ready for this race and will run well. I feel that I had better quit eating junk for the next two weeks and increase my water intake or I’m going to struggle. No matter what, I wouldn’t trade these past weeks of sharing this experience with my daughter. I cannot wait for her to experience crossing that finish line because I know it can be life-changing. I know she will gain a confidence she’s never experienced. I know she will feel a sense of pride that is unlike any other. I know she’ll want to sign up for another!

I have had the unique pleasure of running two of my nieces’ first half marathons with them, and felt so blessed that they wanted to share that time with me. After running a couple 5Ks and a 10K together, Erin and I ran the Monumental two years ago – it was 15 degrees that day. Emily and I ran the Hoosier Half Marathon in Bloomington. Despite being held April 9, it was 20 degrees at the start, and it did not warm up (I won’t even get into the hills). Now I have the honor of running 13.1 with Bethany, which I hope will take place on a perfect 55 degree day. There is something special about running a longer race with someone. If you run, you know that some of the best, most honest conversations take place when we are drenched in sweat, our muscles are aching, and yet we carry on…together.

I’ve written before that sometimes a race is about so much more than a PR or personal goals. My best runs have been when I’ve run for a greater cause, whether it was to help someone complete her first half, or to raise money and awareness for St. Jude. The medals earned represent time spent training and sharing in a common goal. The medals represent not giving up, even when it hurts. They represent achieving something that a few years ago seemed impossible.

Bethany, I am so proud of you! You’ve accomplished so much this year, and it is truly my honor to run with you. I pray for clear skies, perfect temps, strong legs, and settled bellies. Heck, maybe someday you, Morgan, Addie, and I can run one together. That would really be a miracle! Let’s eat healthy foods the next two weeks, okay? Good Luck, Bethany! Thank you for allowing me to be your running partner. Thank you for loving yourself enough to take on such a monumental challenge. Now go #BeMonumental!

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! 

Snow Day!

winter running A few short years ago when I began running, I was not fond of winter at all.  I found January and February to be very dreary, and anxiously awaited spring.  My friend Jackie and I had really gotten into running in the summer of 2009, and I had told her that I would NOT be running in the winter.  I would retreat to the treadmill and emerge when the daffodils began to pop through the thawing ground.  Why would I want to freeze my butt off outside?

As the temperature gradually began to go down, we just kept running.  And I kind of liked it.  I learned how to dress appropriately; I even started wearing running tights, which, by the way, are quite warm and comfy.  As winter settled in, we also settled in to our running routine.  Running in brutal temps and less-than-ideal conditions made us feel like true athletes.  We felt like beasts in the running world.  Granted, we are just a couple of middle-aged friends who happen to enjoy running, but on those particular runs, we were elite athletes training for our next race, and a little snow and potential frost bite would not keep us indoors!

We have just begun to see signs of true winter recently.  Of course, only in Southern Indiana can we run in shorts on Tuesday and leggings and multiple layers Wednesday.  And that’s no exageration  – Gary, my sister, and I went for a quick run before heading to the gym Tuesday evening, and Gary and I had on shorts (and I was hot), and by Wednesday night when Jackie, Kassi, and I ventured out, it was blustery and freezing.  I attempted to get out of that run because it was also sprinkling, but we decided (actually, Jackie decided) that we would run.  The first four miles were chilly, but once our bodies adapted, it felt great.  The last mile we turned and headed west toward the river.  And the wind was wicked!  We had to work extremely hard to push against the wind’s mighty resistance.  In our elite-athlete minds, that was good for counting an extra mile in our run!

Last night my sister and I went to Jasper (about an hour away) to watch my daughter swim.  It had begun to snow on the way there, and I wondered what we would find when we left the meet.  We stayed less than an hour because Addison swam early, and when we walked out, it was into blowing wind and icy temps.  We ran to the car, and as we were running, I told my sister that I would love to be out running.  She thought I was weird.  I told her that the snow falling made it so peaceful, and that when I finish a run like that, I feel like I can do anything.  She was not convinced.  At all.  And this from a woman who lived many years in Minnesota.

(What I don’t like to do in the snow is drive, and the conditions driving home from that swim meet were terrible.  I white-knuckled it all the way home.  We made it in about an hour and 15 minutes, which wasn’t bad.  The team?  It took the bus 2 hours and 40 minutes.  There was a whole lot of anxious parents.  Kudos to the bus driver, John.  What an incredible responsibility he had.)

My hope is if the snow hangs around a couple of days, I will get to run in the white stuff.  There isn’t much, but it will still offer a serene and challenging course.  Today – on our snow day – I have to go have some gross growth on my leg removed.  I hope that I will be able to get a run in since this nasty little growth happens to be right by the bend of my knee.  Let me digress for a moment…a friend, who happens to be a nurse, was at the gym the other night.  She gave me some rather strange advice.  She said to sleep with bacon – yes, bacon – wrapped on my leg.  I should put the fatty part over said growth.  Of course, I was apprehensive, but she said it would me the little procedure less painful because it would draw the nastiness to the surface.  Bacon it was.  So, the past two nights, I slept with bacon attached to my leg.  And I am admitting that on a public forum.  Sorry if you are grossed out.

If you run at all, particularly if you are new to the sport, don’t let winter drive you to the treadmill.  Get out and experience winter as a runner.  Put on some tights (they are much warmer than sweatpants because wind can’t go up them), layer up your shirts, get some cheap gloves with which to wipe snot, and a hat or earband.  Venture out and enjoy your beastliness!  When mortals drive by, they will envy your toughness (or just think you’re nuts).  You will be that elite runner, and probably start receiving requests to appear on the cover of fitness magazines.  Or maybe just the local newspaper.  Or maybe your friend can post your elite-athlete photo on Facebook.  Either way, you will have done what few would even attempt.

A Young Woman Running During Winter.

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.

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