October 19, 2011: She's real fine...my 4:09
On Saturday, October 15th I ran my first marathon—the WhistleStop. If you want to know my time, please read above. After several days of reflection, I’d confidently say I wouldn’t have done anything different. I ran a marathon, and I enjoyed it.
We arrive Friday night in Ashland for the packet pickup and pasta feed. No fish boil for me. Yes, it’s “part of the experience,” and yes, I may possibly offend my Nordic forefathers, but politely saying no to the vat of fish bodies and slimy potatoes was in my best interests. It just didn’t say, “Run a marathon tomorrow on a settled stomach!” I had a plate-full of spaghetti, however, and ate it with gusto. And we’d later find a cookie at the grocery store in Washburn for dessert.
Saturday morning arrives after a full night’s sleep (amazingly), and we enjoy a homemade breakfast at our B&B. I decide to pass on another “part of the experience” opportunity and have my driver/fan, Kris, transport me to a parking area near the starting line instead of taking the cold school bus from Ashland. Another wise decision. We enjoy the drive together, finding crossroads along the way, and I am able to keep my focus and channel my energy in a warm car next to a familiar face.
Rest assured I do get a bus “experience” from that parking area to the starting line. We disembark from the bus and walk up to the gathering area, the crisp feel of fall in the air. The starting area is chilly but the atmosphere electric. The first announcement I hear points me in the direction of the port-a-potties, so I join my fellow runners for a congenial chat in the line. We all agree that we’ll be timing things just about right by the time we make our way through.
The final moments before the race are tranquil. I find a sunny spot and do some loosening and stretching and reflect on the months leading up to this point. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve already finished the marathon; I have no fears that 26.2 miles is outside my reach. Today is just a time to enjoy and celebrate the successes of the weeks of long runs and training. Five minutes beforehand, we sing “God Bless America,” and moments later, a bald eagle flies above us.
Then. We’re. Off. After the exciting thrill that accompanied the first mile, I settle into a steady pace, enjoying a long run in my own world with a brisk wind at my back. The first several miles pass uneventfully. There’s a fair bit of maneuvering on the trail, as runners jockey for the two—sometimes three—worn-down tracks. I plod along and am passed with some regularity, but I also pass many. They would later pass me, but then I’d pass them once again in the final miles.
Kris shows up consistently, camera in hand, cheering me along. The aid station volunteers and other fans along the course are also supportive. I’ve run races with many more spectators, but no race has ever given me the exuberant support like this one. I come to recognize many faces along the way, as they track along with their specific runner. Many times I hear cheerful cries of “Go, 44!” (My bib number). Soon enough, I’ve already run a half marathon in two hours.
At around fifteen miles, I run by an aid station’s food offerings without any thought. I’m several feet past the crew of volunteers when one lady yells, "Cookies, pretzels, Salted Nut Roll!" I have no other choice than to turn around and grab one. I smile while eating it, appreciating how a simple candy bar brings me joy…and speed! I will repeat a similar circumstance with a chocolate chip cookie several miles later.
As I continue along, it’s interesting to watch the mile markers for the half marathon from this new marathon perspective. Since the race, I’ve tried to get my head around the bizarre passage of time and how the miles seemed to fly by, but how each mile was its own battle. Time also seemed to go faster watching the half-marathon markers instead of the full marathon markers. Running a marathon is a mental and physical challenge…and apparently also a visit into another time dimension.
I’m into my 17th mile when I see a man several yards ahead standing alone at an intersection, watching with his arms crossed. As I approach, he begins cheering vociferously and clapping. I’m nearly past him when I finally look and realize he’s cheering for me! My boss has surprised me and came out to cheer me on! I speed up for the next half mile, rejuvenated by the unanticipated support. He then shows up every couple miles to support me. I am now elated to have TWO whole fans for my last nine miles!
As I get closer and closer, I grow more and more excited. I’ve slowed down a bit, but I’m still passing people. Kris meets me at mile 24 and says, “I’ll see you at the finish.” I tell him I’ll slow down, so he can get there in time! ;) Shortly after that, a female spectator (who has not previously shown up along the way), thrusts out her arm to offer me a high five. She is effusive with compliments and praise, telling me I’m so awesome and what an accomplishment this is. And she’s right. This. Is. Amazing.
Right around this time, the weight of it all starts to really sink in, and I’m getting so excited and so proud, and so….short of breath! It is difficult to run when you’re gasping for air, so I encourage myself to keep breathing. I take several long, deliberate breaths, letting oxygen flow through my body, and I keep plugging ahead. Less than two miles now.
Those organizers must be ready for people like me because there were balloons and signs right in this area, encouraging us on. Some of these signs are funny, some are inspiring, and some are just odd. One warns a lady to watch out for squirrels; there must be a story there. These last couple miles, I feel like a rock star; people keep cheering—strangers, traffic guards, cops. They’re cheering just for me because, as far as I’m concerned, it’s only me on the course. And I’m just breathing it in, nodding, waving, and thanking them for their praise. I’m in my glory. I’m “almost there” as they say.
I come into town on the now-paved trail, and there’s less than a mile left. Eventually I’m taking turns and dodging cones, running into a headwind. I get confused about where the course goes, but I just go where they tell me.
And then I see Kris as I’m striding to the finish line. He’s cheering as I come within feet of my goal.
And then. I. Finish. Hallelujah! What a feeling!
The lady greeting me in the finish area, wrapping me in a foil blanket, likely thinks I’m in need of medical attention. I assure her that I’m great; I’m just emotional and happy! She asks if it’s my first marathon. I say yes, and she congratulates me wholeheartedly, hugging my shoulders harder.
I make my way to the food tent. I’m still relishing in the moment though and not at all hungry, so I catch my breath, find Kris, and we make our way to shirts and medal engraving. It’s at least fifteen minutes until I’ve finally calmed down and my systems have settled.
After I enjoy some donut holes and chocolate milk, I make my way to the boards with the times. I’m proud to have gotten close to my pipe-dream goal of four hours. I’ll tell Dad I purposely slowed down a titch near the end, just so I could safely say…
“Nothing can catch her…nothing can touch my 4:09.”
July 17, 2011: Thoughts from the finish line...
I got up oddly chipper this morning for a woman about to embark on a long run in the dead of summer. I figured I was all set though. My new fuel system had passed muster, and I was well-carbed with ice cream treats courtesy of the Curnows.
And most importantly, I was inspired.
On Saturday, I got to serve as co-timekeeper at the Half Voyageur Trail Marathon.
Consider the following:
~temps nearing the 80s at 9 a.m.
~26.2 miles of the area's most ruthless trails (from what I've heard....)
And throw in:
~ some of the happiest people I have ever seen who are glad to get up at 4 a.m. to volunteer
~ a winner who also won a 5-mile race the day before
~ well over 100 runners finishing a trail marathon with a SMILE! They sprinted, they bounded, they danced, and they pranced across the finish line (and maybe affected their finish time a bit). I saw one somersault across even...
So I gladly went out and ran my 12 miles today on the roads with some gentle hills...fueled not only by my Camelback but also by the examples of athleticism, volunteerism, and pure passion for running.
May 28, 2011: Gone to the Byrds
The Byrds were maybe on to something. There’s a time to laugh. A time to weep. A time to dance.
But this Bird has an addition.
There’s also a time to walk. And a time to RUN.
Last weekend I took to Fargo. It was a classic Minnesota road trip across the prairies and lakes, whose whimsical landmarks included numerous Paul Bunyans, a statue of a deer meant to look as if it were deftly soaring over a log (which is difficult when its belly is attached to said log), and signs directing you to Nimrod and Oink Joint Road. Ah, Minnesota….
I had signed myself up for a challenge last weekend. The Go Far Challenge. Hehe. Like, Fargo, but reversed. Oh, so witty, those Fargo-ans.
Back on track here. The challenge: 5k on Friday night and the 10k the next morning. Uff da! To coin a phrase…
On Friday evening, my friend and I walked the 5k, and of all the dozens of 5ks I’ve ever done, I can’t think of a 5k I enjoyed more! It is *amazing* what one can observe, hear, and take in when not concentrating on a PR or pushing through ____ (insert your favorite northern Minnesota weather phenomena here). A 5k race is a veritable carnival of the senses…without the Tilt-A-Whirl! The sounds: noisemakers, footsteps, cheering, clapping, and snippets of conversations overheard from runners passing by. The sights: matching outfits, coordinating headbands, face paint, costumes (two Batman/Robin pairs!), various shoes (Yes, I look at feet!) And most inspiring were the myriad reasons we were all there to begin with: to support causes or people, to honor those lost and to those who have fought, to remember grandmas, and - in one instance - to acknowledge a daughter who said it was a good idea!
One couple embodied everything there was to offer. Wearing matching shirts, I caught this as they passed us:
Guy: How are you doing? How’s your breathing?
Girl: Good! A lot better than I thought it’d be!
Maybe not the most earth-shattering conversation I’ll ever hear, but it was just….nice. Looking out for each other. Supporting each other as they finish a 5k. Love it.
This is why 5k events are so fascinating. Last weekend, about 7,000 people converged to go on a walk, jog, run, or sprint… for so many different reasons: to support the person next to them, depicted on their shirts, or written on a sign in the crowd, to support causes, or to reach a personal goal. I was just happy to be there, happy to walk with my friend, and happy to be with her and support her on her first 5k!
Happy to get a medal too, I guess. Medal number one? Check.
So I had a nice walk on Friday. But on Saturday, I was ready to run. The 10k. Get me out there!
I had something of a plan and set an 8:30 pace as a lofty goal. Alas, I didn’t gauge the depth of the pack very well and started out too far back. Doing the first mile in 9:15 did *not* comport with that plan. No matter though! That would just allow me to harness all that energy for the balance of the race. Which is what I did. I ran at a much stronger pace throughout the race, managing to pick off runners all the way to end. I ran into the Fargodome with a burst of energy as my legs spun around like wheels. I may have actually been smiling as I crossed the finish line!
Medal two? Check. Medal three?? Check! (See above Go Far Challenge.)
But there was no time to bask in the glory! I had a friend running the marathon also, so we promptly headed out to track her down on the route! We succeeded in finding her at several points to cheer her along and take in the spectators' scene!
All in all, I was glad to experience the full spectrum of Fargo Marathon weekend...
A time to walk. A time to run. A time to cheer.
April 19, 2011: Not another Fitger's report...
Okay. I lied...it is another Fitger's report!
This year was my third running of Fitger's. 'Running’ may be a bit of an exaggeration; it was more like slogging. But I did it, which is a victory in itself.
On their own, 5k races are great for people-watching. Throw in several inches of wet, spring snow and gentle (or not) winds, and you are subjected to the full, fitness-fashion spectrum, courtesy of northland runners... I saw a guy in a tank and shorts “warming up.” And there was the guy behind me - in his flannel, wool-lined jacket and furry-ear-flap hat.
After having learned from last year’s mistake of starting off too fast, I positioned myself further back.
Alas, I overcompensated. For the first mile, I waded through runners and (literally) stumbled over kids who stopped abruptly to walk. Not to be consumed by drudgery and frustration, I resolved that this would merely allow me to “save my juice” - as I tell my nephew - for the return up Superior Street. I spotted my target (herein called “Red”) about halfway into the race and kept her within my sights for the duration, even managing to pass her at one point.
During the race, I tuned in to the cacophony of sounds. The syncopated rhythms of shoes bouncing off the pavement, the myriad cadences of our strides, the whooshing of windbreakers in the breeze, the slosh-slopping of wintery slush, and the chirpy plopping of puddles all played like the Stomp! soundtrack in my head. Add a labored-breathing backbeat and random shouts of encouragement, and you have an unlikely yet inspirational racers’ symphony…who needs an iPod? The second mile went much smoother as I enjoyed the symphony of sounds. And despite the weight of my slush-logged feet, I was trucking along. Red had clipped by me again, but I’d let her push on because I was confident I’d get her in the end…
Back on Superior Street, I chugged onward. I eclipsed Red a final time, left her safely in my wake, and plowed to the finish line.
It was nowhere near a PR. And there wasn’t a trace of sunshine or warm, spring air to relish. But I enjoyed the determined effort. And the music.
March 21, 2011: Oh, deer...
I had 'friends' written first, but some of our readers are strangers. And I'm not like the lady at the bagel shop who called me Sweetie. I am not her Sweetie.
Anyway....this is my blog entry. Some people write clever entries about insidious songs that get stuck on repeat (btw - mine vacillates between "Mmmm Bop" and "Party in the USA"), some write about the extensive miles they run, some write about upcoming race goals or training opportunities...and then there's me. Today I write about deer.
Living in Two Harbors lately is something like living in a deer colony. One morning I had eight of them camped in my yard (which is in town). And nearly every run I've ventured on this past month has involved a deer sighting. They are not scared of me either. I don't run nearly fast enough to cause them any alarm, and I really think they are drawn to my mismatched ensemble, my steady wheezing (as of late), and the pleasant dinging of my watch at every mile.
Seeing my deer friends reminds me how neat it is to be a northland runner. I get to run in the northern woods and along Superior waters, and while out there, I'm part of the magical tapestry of Mother Nature. It's a primary reason I like to run. Running gives me an opportunity to be enriched by the area in which I live. I appreciate it deerly....