Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

USAF Marathon Race Report

Short and Sweet Story: I planned for a 4 hour marathon but some injuries reared their ugly heads and I finished with a 4:58.45.

Longer, more entertaining story:

This was it, the starting line of my first full marathon. I’m surprisingly calm considering everything that I have gone through to get to this starting line. Background: I had signed up for a Full last fall but had to injury default after suffering a hip and pelvic stress fracture last summer. I was on full rest, no exercise at all for 8 week, then allowed to slowly build up my mileage. I also developed Achilles Tendonitis within a few months of running again followed by torn cartilage in my hip in January. These injuries were healed pretty quickly but my sports doctor recommended that I not run more than three times a week to stay healthy. It took time but I built my mileage up and did a ½ in May and then started a training plan for a full. Training went exceptionally well, even considering the endless heat and humidity we had this summer. Since I was only able to run 3 times a week, the highest mileage I got in during a week was 36 miles. But since my speed work and long runs had gone so well during all my training, I had high hopes of finishing the marathon under 4:00. Then in August, I suffered the beginnings of ITBS on my left leg. I took time off to heal, did plenty of yoga and foam rolling, which for the most part, kept me either pain free or moderate pain during my runs. Two weeks before the marathon, during a 14 mile taper run, I felt what seemed like a knife stabbing me in my foot, Planters Fasciitis. I rested the entire next week, then ran an easy 6 where I had some discomfort. I pushed this aside and thought that my training and mental attitude would pull me through. I took the week prior to the marathon off again and rested. So the 2 weeks prior to my marathon, I had run a combined total of 20 miles.

My husband and I had committed to running my first marathon together so we picked the USAF Marathon in Dayton, Ohio. We heard It was a smaller marathon with lots of pageantry plus it was only 2 hours from home. Both our fathers are AF vets so we thought that would be a nice way to honor them as well. Brett’s parents (IL’s) came along with us which allowed our two children were able to experience the marathon atmosphere as well.

We started off Friday night by having dinner at PF Changs and meeting up with a RWOF friend, Maria – 13.1RunR – and enjoyed some runners fellowship and good food. IL’s had already been to the expo and picked up our packets. Our other friends were coming in later that night, they were running the HM, as was Maria. I would have liked to have been in bed earlier then we were but it just didn’t happen. I did sleep well so I was thankful for that.

Alarm when off at 5:00 and I was up and ready to go. Brett and I left at 5:45 to get to the start line. All our research said to get there early because traffic was a bear. They weren’t kidding. We took the website’s advice and used an alternate entrance but were still stuck in traffic for an hour. We get packed and hurry to the start line, which was close to a mile away. By the time we check our bags and use the bathroom, the national anthem had been sung and B-52 was flying over (VERY COOL!!). We gave up an chance of seeing IL’s and the kids before starting so we just hurried across the start line, in the very back of the pack. We pass the walkers and start to settle into a smooth pace. Another RWOF found me at this point, kakarot, so we chatted for a few minute and he sped up out of sight. There was a large, long hill from mile 1-2 but I’ve done my hill work (plus ran Hood to Coast in August so no mid-west hills were going to scare me!) so it wasn’t too bad. At mile 3, the 10K runners split off so the crowd lessened. The water stations were all very well staffed and organized, I can’t say enough about how well that was done or how much we appreciated their upbeat, encouraging attitudes. I had my Nathan Hand-held filled with Gatorade so I passed the first few stations. We were starting to get into our planned pace, 9:00, which for some reason seemed harder than it should be. I just shrugged this off as nerves since we had been so rushed to get to the start. This area of the course had some rolling hills but they weren’t challenging at all. There was an overpass that was a little rough but again, nothing too bad.

We left the base at this point and entered into a small town called Fairborn. Now, the USAF Marathon offered shuttle buses at the starting area to take supporters up to this area, mile 9-11, so people could easily see their runners. IL’s were planning on doing this so I was really looking forward to seeing the kids. We enter the town and it seemed like the whole town was on the road! Everyone was cheering, high-fiving, calling out our names and just having a great time. What a rush, I felt like a rock star! I keep looking for the kids but don’t see them. I had my iPhone because I was listening to music (don’t hate me but it was ok per the rules to have headphones) so I called MIL to see where they were. Turns out the buses filled up before they could get on one so they would just have to see us at the finish line. This really bummed me out. About mile 11, I noticed that my left shoelace came untied so I stopped to tie it. I also tore the KT Tape that I had on my foot/calf for my PF off because it was peeling off and I was afraid of developing a blister. Bad mistake, as soon as I stood up I felt a sharp pain in my foot. My heart sank. I watched the 4:00 pace group pass and Brett is encouraging me to hurry up to catch them. We pass a medical tent at this point and I ask if they have KT Tape, which they don’t. Ok, I just have to deal with this, it will probably loosen as I run.

I continue to hydrate well and take my Chomps like I always have in my training runs. Brett refills my water bottle several times so I know I’m staying hydrated as it starts to heat up. But at the ½ way point, I just feel completely defeated. My foot hurts, my stomach was upset and my mental attitude was shot. I stop to walk and Brett is shocked. I explain what was going on and get teared up. I keep saying that I’m not going to make 4 hours, please don’t be disappointed in me, run ahead if you want, I’ll be fine. He gets serious and tells me that I have to stop being emotional because that was messing with my stomach and that I needed to refocus, we’d get to the finish line together. So I do this and actually feel much better. I was concerned about not disappointing him (something that I didn’t even realized I cared about before this) that I was mentally going in the tank. Once I realized that he didn’t care what our time was, he just wanted me to do my best, then I relaxed and actually started to enjoy myself. I turned off my Iphone and started to pay attention to the other runners and the whole marathon environment. And I felt calm.

We started a new plan of walking for a 1/10th of a mile and running 9/10th ‘s. This works good for the next 5 or so miles. I just concentrate on searching for each mile marker (DH was wearing the Garmin so I didn’t have a real since of distance). I saw many, many runners stop and stretch in this area. It was getting hot, we were on a runway without any shade. But I wasn’t feeling too hot. Each medical tent that we passed had a few runners in it, we were also passed by numerous golf carts with runners in the back. I told myself that I wasn’t going to finish like that, I just needed to keep moving. We got off the runway and into some shade, which was very pleasant. We’re passed by the 4:20 group and I just shrugged at DH, like ”I’m sorry, I can’t keep up with them.” I had resolved that I was going to enjoy this race regardless of my finishing time. We pass mile 20 and I realized that every step I take is further then I’ve ever gone before. By this time, we were running ½ mile at a time and walking a 1/10th. I start to feel a little foggy about mile 22 and DH kept a good eye on my gait and face. He’s pushing for me to drink some Gatorade which I do. We’re merged with the back of the HM pack at this point (the ½ started 75 minutes after the Full did). I do remember at mile 23, a lady who had a table of cookies, candy and beer set up. She shouted out “cookies, Mike and Ikes and BEER”. Brett did a double take and shouted “Did you say beer?!?” and ran back to get a glass. The HMers were laughing at him and I just said “That’s my husband!” I also start to pass and be passed by the same few full marathoners. One man in particular was very inspiring, he was quite older and his calves were cramping so badly that he could hardly walk much less run. But he kept going and going.

The last few miles were just a blur, I was out of it and was just doing my best to put one foot in front of the other. Brett was doing great in encouraging me but also pushing me as we both wanted to finish in under 5 hours. We reach the base and know that we’re very close to the finish. I call IL’s to let them know that we were about 10 mins away. We can’t see the finish line because it was behind some large, vintage planes but we know it’s there. I’m running at this point and resolve to not walk again until I cross the finish line. I come around a corner and sudden hear someone scream my name “MARY!!”, I look over and see my dear friend, John, who surprised me by running in this marathon to support me! I instantly start crying while Brett says “Yes, John and his family are here but calm down so you can finish, we have less then 2 minutes to cross this finish line!” So I keep running and by now the crowds are heavy and we can see the finish. We spot the kids and Brett runs to them, pulling them over the fence so they can run with us. Kylie (6) runs with me while Brett carries Matthew (4). We cross the finish line as a family and I start bawling. I hug Kylie and thank her for being there and for all her support in my training. Brett and I go through the medal shoot and are awarded our medals by some Air Force officer (not sure of his ranking, I was too overwhelmed). He put my medal on me, shook my hand and told me that I did a wonderful job. I can hardly say anything but I thank him. Then he asked if I needed medical attention – guess I looked pretty bad! I said no and walked on. The mylar blanket lady asked me the same thing but I was feeling better by this point. Our best friends, who ran the ½ found us and we all celebrated/cried together. I had watched both of them and Brett cross the finish line last September in the marathon that I couldn’t run in so all of us coming together at the finish line was very emotional. 13.1RunR was also there, she got some terrific pictures of us running to the finish line. I so appreciated her sticking around for a few hours while we finished up our race. Thanks Maria, you’re the best!!!

We make our way though the food area, grab some pizza and go to find the rest of our group. I never find John again but did talk to his wife on the phone. He had planned on finding us at the start and running the whole race with us but with how late we got to the start, it just wasn’t possible. He did finish in a terrific time of 4:34, even with terrible foot injuries that reared their ugly head at mile 6. I do wish that we could have run together, we could have commiserated our injuries!

I’m not sure what caused my early issues, why I felt bad so early on. Maybe it was because I took such an easy taper while I was healing. Maybe that hurt my overall ability to run. It wasn’t a dehydration issue, I drank both Gatorade and water the entire race. I was feeling bad before the heat really kicked in. I carb-loaded plenty, starting early in the week. I can only think that I just didn’t have the weekly mileage that I needed to complete a strong marathon. I’m going to take plenty of time to rest and heal while cross training with swimming/biking/elliptical. My next race isn’t until Feb and that’s a HM. So I hopefully will be doing much better by then. I do want to do another marathon but not until I can safely add more miles into my week.

Thank you for reading this far and for all the encouragement you’ve given me through this whole year-long process. And I gotta give major thanks to Brett – he calmed me down, readjusted our pace and encouraged me every step of the last 13 miles. Honey, I love you and you really did get me across that finish line. Regardless of my finishing time, I still finished and am a MARATHONER!!

Here are our splits:

Mile 1: 9:19

Mile 2: 9:38 (huge hill)

Mile 3: 8:43 (downhill)

Mile 4: 8:52

Mile 5: 9:03

Mile 6: 9:17

Mile 7: 9:14

Mile 8: 9:18

Mile 9: 9:22

Mile 10: 9:33

Mile 11: 9:50 (tied shoe)

Mile 12: 11:06

Mile 13: 10:35

Mile 14: 14:28 (bathroom stop, talked to Brett about re-adjusting)

Mile 15: 10:24

Mile 16: 12:06

Mile 17: 11:58

Mile 18: 13:52

Mile 19: 13:15

Mile 20: 12:29

Mile 21: 12:12

Mile 22: 15:05 (longer walk break due to some dizziness)

Mile 23: 13:46

Mile 24: 13:47

Mile 25: 13:59

Mile 26: 13:23

0.2: 3:30 ish (Brett didn’t stop it as soon as we crossed)

Final Time: 4:58.44

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hood to Coast 2010

It’s 8:00 AM on Friday morning and I’m standing at the “timberline” part-way up Mount Hood in Oregon. The start line is here, music is blaring, teams were taking pictures and sponsors had their tents up. The parking lot is filled with vans, most of them decorated with van paint that listed team names and other sayings. One saying that was very popular was “Road Kill”. Hmm, were we really going to count dead animals on this adventure??
This Adventure started back in May. Hood to Coast is a 197 mile relay race that starts at the timberline of Mt Hood (elevation 6000 ft) and ends at the Pacific Ocean. This was it’s 29th year. 1000 teams of up to 12 people compete each year. My sister, who lives in Portland, has run it two times and this year she invited Brett and I to run on her team, Crampons and Crayons (it was made up of mountain climbers and teachers). We knew it was an once in a lifetime chance, Runners World had this race listed as one of their “must-do” races. For a sneak peak at the relay, visit This will give you an idea of what we were experiencing.

We live in Indiana so we flew out to Oregon on Thursday evening. Our plane into LAX was late so we had to literally sprint a mile to our correct terminal. The employee at the gate was paging us as we ran up to her, thank goodness we made our connection. We could not risk not getting to Portland on Thursday night since our team van was leaving at 6:00 AM to get to the starting line. As I sat down on the plane, I thought “well, that was the first leg of my relay race!”

We got into Portland on time and Sarah and her boyfriend, Mike who was our team captain were waiting for us. We head to their condo and go right to bed. With the time difference, it was 3:30 AM Indiana time.

We’re up and getting ready at 5:00 AM. Brett and I repack our running gear, double check to make sure we have everything we thought we could need. The weather was cool and the reports said it would be in the 30’s at the starting line. What a nice break for us, since all summer we’ve been training for our fall marathon in 90+ degree heat and high humidity! The rest of our van arrives (we have two vans, 6 runners in a van) so we head east to Mt. Hood, about an hour away. Our other team members were Jill and Jordan. Jill was a strong runner who had an amazingly positive attitude which came in handy many times. Jordan volunteered at this race last year and decided she needed to start running so she could be part of a team in 2010. So she had been training hard for many months. She was friendly and fun as well.

The road was a little busy with lots of mini vans and cargo vans. All had their team numbers taped on the front and back windows. Most were decorated in some way. As we’re driving we can see the mountain and I keep saying to Brett, “You’re going to be running DOWN that huge mountain soon!” Brett had leg #2, which was the bottom ½ of the mountain. Mike had decided on our legs based on our 10k times, running experience and desire. I had a decently fast 10k time and really wanted to be challenged so he assigned me leg 5, which was considered the 2nd hardest set of legs of the entire relay. Brett had the 3rd most difficult set of legs. Here is the statement about the difficulty ratings from the H2C website: To determine leg ratings, distance was considered negligible, with elevation drops and gains considered the primary influence. The assumption is that in relation to an "Easg" leg, an "Moderate" is 10% harder, an "Hard" is 20% harder, and a "Very Hard" is 30% harder.

I had 2 VH and and Easy. Gulp.

We arrive at the top of the mountain with plenty of time to look around and take pictures. But before we knew it, It was 8:15 and time for Jill to start the race for our team. Her leg, rated VH, was 5.64 miles long with a 2000 foot elevation drop! We’ve heard leg 1 was notorious for shredding quads so she took it conservatively and finished healthy and strong. We drove the van down to the 1st exchange point and waited for Jill. Brett changed into his cow costume (we had heard costumes were popular in the race so came prepared). And they were right, everyone started taking pictures of Brett, including the “Team Cougars” who thought he was about the best thing in the race (had to keep my eye on these ladies!! LOL).

Soon Jill came running through the exchange area and handed the slap bracelet off to Brett. FYI – we thought the bracelet would have a timing chip in It to record each individual leg but it didn’t, the only timing device was a chip that the last runner wore on the last leg. We recorded each runners time and our team accumulative time on a clipboard with a stop watch (DO NOT TOUCH THE STOP WATCH!!). Brett took off like a bat outta hell and we hopped in the van with Jill to get to the next exchange. As we drive past “The Cow”, we yelled out the window for encouragement. It sure looked like he was flying! Turns out he was, he finished his 5.67 mile leg, with a 1500 foot decent with a 6:13 min mile pace!

At exchange 3, Mike was suited up in his womens pajamas outfit and was ready for the hand off. We heard a few people in the crowd laugh and say “The Cow passed off to the PJ guy!” We were having a blast already. Mike’s leg was not as steep and took him through a little town. Next up was Jordan with leg 4, her longest and most difficult leg. It was on a major 4 lane highway with rolling hills and was more then 7 miles long, which was a long ways for a newbie runner. We stopped twice along the way to encourage her. She finished strong with a smile on her face.

I was up next, leg 5. I had studied my map and elevation chart. The leg was 6.08 miles long with a steady downhill for the first ½ and then a 3 mile climb, with a 400 foot elevation increase. I started on the major highway which was unsettling, even with the large shoulder that I was running on. Just having huge semi-trucks hauling double trailers filled with massive logs passing me at high rates of speed freaked me out a bit. I started off probably too fast, reaching the ½ way point in 25 mins. Now the route turned off onto a single lane side road. The only vehicles on this road were other relay vans driving to the next exchange point so I felt safer. BTW, I was wearing a pink tutu as my costume so I was getting some yells and encouragement from other runners. I was passed or “Road Killed” as I later found out, by a few other runners who apparently train on hills much larger then we have in Indiana. My goal time was 50 mins and I also wanted to finish the hills without walking. The last mile was torture, a 200 foot elevation increase in only 1 mile. But I put my head down and pushed through to the end. I was darn happy to see my sister, in her purple tutu, waiting in the exchange box for me! Finishing time for my first leg was 53:25.

I was a little discouraged about being passed by several runners until Brett and the other team members let me know that all the teams put their best hill climbers and strongest runners on this set of legs. So I was going up against the strongest runners in the event and doing pretty good overall. I did have one guy tell me that I helped him get up the hill because he kept trying to catch me but couldn’t. So, I guess I wasn’t “road killed” by everyone!

Leg 6, or Sarah’s first leg, was 7 miles and had some rolling hills. We stop to encourage her but also have to get to the next exchange point pretty quickly to meet up with our Van #2 runners. They would be running legs 7-12. We had several young men in this van as well as a couple who was running their 10th H2C relay. Once Sarah finished and passed the bracelet to Jonas, we handed off the clipboard off to another team member and drove into Portland.

This was a nice break here. Sarah and Mike live in Portland so we were all able to shower, eat a yummy spaghetti dinner and get some rest. I also tended to Brett’s blister that formed on the bottom of his foot during his run. A pebble had gotten into his shoe and he was running too fast on a steep road to bother stopping to get it out. Unfortunately it resulted in a blister about the size of a quarter. We drained it and put a blister bandaid on the worst part.

About 5:00 we drive to downtown Portland where the next van exchange was. This place was crowded and very busy. It was also the start for the Portland to Coast walkers team, who stagger started at 2:00 AM, and the Portland to Coast High School challenge who started while we were there. Nike was giving away free socks and another booth had light up pens, which came in very handy while writing on the clipboard in the middle of the night later.

Jill was up first and got the handoff from Daren. Her leg was pretty flat and along part of the river walk. It ended in an industrial area. She ran strong, road killing several other runners. Brett was up next and took off, limping a little. It was pretty hot at this point so when we passed him about a mile into it, he yelled for water so I threw a bottle out the window for him. He was wearing his cow costume and a long sleeved tech tee so he was pretty hot. We got to the next exchange and waited for Cow to come in. Mike donned a mullet hat and some other redneck type clothes and was ready to run. Brett said his blister had gotten worse and was very painful. It had grown so we put some more bandaids on it and hoped for the best.
It was after 6 by this time and race rules required each runner for the next 13 hours to wear a reflective vest, blinking light on the front and back and have either a head lamp or flashlight. Mike finished in the dark and Jordan ran her shortest leg, 3 miles, into the next town. I took the bracelet from her and was ready to run hard on my second leg. This leg was 5.69 miles long and rated “Easy, basically flat terrain on paved shoulder along Highway 30”. I really wanted to race this fast since it would be my easiest leg of the relay. I had a quick turn from the parking lot to the main road and felt a sharp pain in my ITB. Oh no. I run about .2 in pain and decide to stop to stretch it for a few seconds. I’m quickly passed by two runners, no big deal. I start running again, adjusting my head lamp which was driving me crazy and cursing my knee. About ½ mile in, I’m considering calling Brett on my iPhone and having him take over my leg because I was hurting bad and running at a 11:30 pace. But then I remember that other times when I’ve had ITB problems, if I run faster, the pain lessens. So I gradually pick up the pace and pass (my first road kill!) one of the guys who had passed me. This plan works so I know I can finish. Soon I’m out of town and it is dark. Very dark. I get a little nervous since I don’t have any idea where I’m going but I soon focus on a blinking red light about 200 yards in front of me and follow that. I hear my van mates cheering me on as they pass me, on the way to the next exchange. Now, this leg was rated Easy and flat but apparently Oregon flat and Indiana flat are not the same thing. It was a steady incline for the last ½ of the leg. I keep focusing on my pace and enjoy the moment. Soon I see a volunteer who shouts “runner 331” to the exchange person so the runners on deck would know who was coming in. Sarah shouts my name and I hand her the bracelet. Finishing time was 49:38, not bad considering the minute break I took to stretch.
We hurry to the next exchange where we would find van #2. We’re now in the country and on all back roads. The exchange though was swamped with hundreds of vans, volunteers, Honey Buckets (the porta-potties) and runners. Brett and I spot people in sleeping bags throughout the designated sleeping areas who don’t look like they were getting much rest, considering the noise level and headlights periodically shining on them. We remark that it’s going to be another sleepless night ( we had only slept about 4 hours the night before and not since then). We find the other van and get to the exchange. Sarah ran a little faster then we thought and was waiting for us, opps. She wasn’t upset though and we piled into the van and drove about an hour to the next van exchange area. Mike spotted a H2C field about a mile from the exchange that was nearly empty. We pull into there for the night which worked amazingly well. It was pretty cool, about 45 degrees but the tarp under us and the sleeping bags kept us toasty. I look up at the stars and tell Brett that I’ve never slept outside without a tent before and how thankful I was for being part of this amazing race. We both slept very well, without being disturbed by many other vans or runners. Mike really picked the best possible place for us to rest.
3:00 AM Saturday morning and we’re up. We quickly pack up and I make some turkey sandwiches for the group while we drive to the exchange. Jill is wide awake and ready to run her last leg. The parking lot was insainly crowded with volunteers doing their very best to get vans in and out safely. We double park so Brett and I wait in the van while the others go to find van 2 for the exchange. Soon they are back, minus Jill, and we drive to the next exchange. It is pitch back in this area, named Mist. The fog is low and it’s cold. Brett wasn’t too awake but he was ready to get his last leg started. As he’s waiting in his exchange area, a guy asks him where his cow costume was – apparently he was becoming famous among his other leg 2 runners. He was running without it since it was 4:30AM. His leg was 5.77 miles long and rated Hard because of rolling hills but he had a ½ mile downhill to finish. We drive to the next exchange and wait for him. Mike changes into his running clothes, giving the ladies in the van next to us a peep show. LOL. This exchange had a local fire department and church selling coffee and other breakfast foods so I grabbed the best coffee I’ve ever had and warmed up while we waited for Brett to come in. He finished faster then he thought considering his massive blister and was happy to be done. On to the next exchange!
Mike finished strong and Jordan started her last leg as well. We drive to my exchange and I get changed in to my Tinkerbell costume. Now, this leg, number 29, was rated VH and from what I had read on-line, was considered the most challenging leg of the entire race. It was 6.11 miles long, with a 3.5 mile hill with a 650 foot elevation increase, 300 of those feet in the last mile of the hill. Then it was a 2.5 mile, 450 foot decent. This “hill” was actually a mountain in the Coastal Mountain range. The team member who ran this leg last year lost an hour on it. I was nervous but also up for the challenge. I had gained some confidence in my hill climbing after the first leg and confidence in my mental strength after pushing through my ITB problem in my second leg. Plus I knew it was my last leg so I wanted to put it all out there and enjoy it. I wanted to finish in under an hour but would also be happy with not walking! The sun was up by this time, 7:00, so I didn’t need to run with any night gear, thank goodness.
Jordan meets me for the exchange and I take off. The hill for the first part wasn’t bad and I actually enjoyed the scenery around me. There were creeks, huge moss-covered trees and wildflowers. My van passes me, cheering out the windows. About a mile up the road, there they were again, stopping to encourage me. I get passed by a few runners, all who said something encouraging or commented on my costume. The van passes again along with a few others, all yelling “Go Tinkerbell” or “Great costume!” I’m really enjoying this leg and feel very strong. As I’m pushing up the hill, I keep thinking “I am getting stronger with every step” and “I’m never going to fear hills again” and “I’ll be running my first full marathon in 3 weeks and this is making me more prepared for it.” Good thoughts the whole way. Then I hit mile 2.5, which signaled the start of the really steep part. And it’s noticeable so put my head down and just push through. I’m slower but still running, not walking. I get passed by one or two very strong runners who encourage me. My mental attitude is strong, I’m enjoying this! Next thing I know, I see a bunch of vans and realize that I’m at the summit of the mountain. I get a huge smile on my face and wave at my team who was waiting again for me. One of the race’s sponsors was at the summit as well taking pictures and passing out water (only the second water stop we had seen the whole time). I thank them for being there and start to fly down the hill! It’s a steep decent and although I know I could lean in and really fly, I didn’t want to shred my quads so I take it conservatively. I am passed by several more runners but we all complement and encourage each other. My team drives past, shouting out encouragements again. I check my watch and see that I had 2 miles to go and only 15 minutes to hit my 1 hour goal so I lean forward some and pick up the pace. While I’m running, I think about the fact that out of my whole team, the captains chose me to run the most difficult leg. They had confidence in me and I was holding my own on it too. What a thrill! I also see an older man, probably close to 70 ahead of me. I pass him (one of only a few road kills I had) and we chatted for a minute. He said “let your fairy wings help you FLY!” How inspiring to see this old man taking on this epic mountain! Very cool. Too soon, I see the exchange point and decide to go for broke. I sprint as hard as I can to my sister, hand her the bracelet and yell “I love you!!” to her as she takes off. Brett screams from the sidelines that I finished in 58:58, I made my hour goal! I get a little emotional, knowing that my part was finished. Brett sees this and gives me a big hug and tells me how proud he was and happy that we were there. I was too.

Traffic at this point is a bear. Vans are backed up heading to the next exchange. We were about ½ a mile away and Jill decided to hop out of the car with the clip board to find Van #2 for our last van exchange. Sarah catches Jill while we’re sitting in gridlock and they run to the exchange together. We were about 15 minutes early but they were ready and waiting for us (no cell phone coverage for the last several hours to keep the other van abreast of our times so we were going by our estimated exchange times only). They had spent a restless night in the front yard of someone’s house with a few hundred other runners. But they were ready to bring the team into the finish.

We head into Astoria for breakfast and enjoy a large, calorie dense meal. Then we drive to Seaside, which was the finishing line. The town was already packed with vans and runners/walkers. We walk up to the beach/finish line and head to the medical tent to have Brett’s blister looked at. This tent is my only complaint about the whole race. It was staffed by one doctor and numerous chiropractors. The doctor took a look at Brett’s blister, told him to peel off the bandage, which ended up peeling off most of the outer layer of skin. So Brett just got up and left, figuring the doctor couldn’t do much anyways. Walking on the sand was pretty painful, though. We took a little nap by the water and waited for van #2 to finish. We get a phone call about 1:30 from them and hurry to the finish line and see Daren running towards us. As he gets to our group, we all run together across the finish line while the announcer calls out our name. What a thrill!! We get our medals and team picture taken. Our overall finishing time was 29:24.48, overall place 671, but 175th for mixed category. We were very happy with our time, just under a 9 min mile pace for 197 miles!!

After a great team dinner at a local restaurant, we say goodbye and drive back to Portland. We drive on part of the route and re-lived our runs. A couple of beers at a local brew pub and we were ready for bed. At the airport the next morning, you could pick out the runners by their slow walking, tee-shirts and bananas. We would all catch each other’s eye and say hi. It truly was an epic adventure and I’ll remember it forever.
Tapering Madness

So, we're 5 days away from the marathon.  I've been training pretty much for 12 months.  I don't think it's a coincidence that the date of this marathon is the same date as the first 5k I did after I finished healing from my stress fracture last year.  My main goal that day was to finish without walking, which was very difficult considering I had only been given the ok from the dr to run a week beforehand.  But I did finish and actually finished 4th in my age group. 
Anyways, back to the present time.  This marathon has been a long time coming.  Much blood, sweat, blisters and tears have been poured into it.  I mean, a marathon is like one of the most difficult physical activities that you can put your body through.  Only 1/10th of 1% of the worlds population attempts to run one.  That's mind boggling! 
My training has gone very well but has had some ups and downs.  I reached the 1/2 marathon goal that I set for myself in May at the Indianapolis Mini.  So after that, I concentrated on building my stamina and mileage for the marathon.  I followed a plan designed for first time marathoners but tweeked it a little bit.  I couldn't have the high mileage weeks that were recommended since I can only run 3 days a week for risk of injury.  But I did run those 3 days faithfully, all summer long.  I did not miss a single workout.  I ran on vacations, I ran in the rain, in the humidity, in the dark and in the blazing sun (2010 was the hottest summer in nearly 30 years).  I read magazines, websites, books, anything I could get my hands on about running.  And things were going really well.  I had a few bad runs but I had more good ones that keep me encouraged.  I knew that, baring injury, I was going to run this marathon.
But, injury did happen, as it does for so many runners.  I noticed my left knee hurting for the first time in late July but it would go away after a few hours.  But after I ran the Rock and Roll 1/2 Marathon in Chicago on August 1st, I was limping for 2 days.  Some research showed that I had ITBS, which is when a tendon that runs from your hip to your knee gets irritated and doesn't stretch well.  It's the most common running injury.  I did some yoga, stretching and rested, and the pain went away for the most part. 
I continued my training, August was my highest milage month with 130 miles.  My knee would occasionally bother me during runs but I could run through it.  I had two 20 mile runs, one was terrible and one was exhilarating!  After completing those runs, I knew I could finish the marathon.  Three weeks before the marathon, I ran in the Hood To Coast Relay in Oregon and felt strong the whole way (IT bothered me during part but I pushed through).  I was ready to "taper", which is a running term for the last few weeks before a marathon where you cut your mileage down to allow your body to rest and recover. 
Two weeks before the race, I was running 14 mile slow run at Eagle Creek.  Things were going great, knee wasn't bothering me and I was making good time.  Suddenly at mile 11, I felt like I stepped on a knife!  The pain was sudden and sharp, on the bottom of my foot from the heel to the pad.  I was 3 miles from the car so I had to keep running just to get home.  The pain lessened some but was still unnerving.  I googled "foot pain" and found that I most likely had "planter facitiis", another common running injury.  Again, it involves a tendon that gets irritated in your foot.  I'm limping for a few days, stretching, rolling my foot on a frozen water bottle, on a golf ball, use fancy athletic tape and rest for the whole week. 
I'm feeling pretty down, wondering why the heck am I getting injured when I'm following a good running plan and being smart about my training.  But life happens and so do injuries.  By the following Saturday, one week before the marathon, my foot was feeling 90% so I decided to go on a short run, just to test it out.  I figured that if I was going to be running 26.2 miles in pain, I wanted to know about it before I started!   The first 1/2 mile was painful on my foot but once it warmed up, it wasn't bad. My IT band gave me some problem at the beginning as well but warmed up fine too.  Six miles went pretty quickly and my mind relaxed.  Brett and I watched "The Spirit of the Marathon", a documentary about 6 people training for the Chicago marathon.  It was pretty good and got me in the right frame of mind. 
I iced my foot and stretched my knee.  My foot was pretty sore today, Sunday.  I called my friend who used to own the running store in Avon and explained my injury.  She has dealt with the same one herself and recommended getting insoles so I ordered a pair from a running website she suggestion, using her discount.  I'll rest the remainder of the week and should be good to go for the race.
I don't know what to expect from this marathon but I know that regardless of how fast or slow I cross the finish line, I will be forever changed.  I'll be a Marathoner. 
The Classics

I finally introduced the kids to a classic movie, The Princess Bride.  This movie is one of my favorites as a child and I was eager to watch it with Kylie and Matthew.  They loved it!!  Matthew kept saying "Cover my eyes" during the scary parts but then would pull my hands away from his eyes so he could watch.  Kylie thought Buttercup, the princess, was beautiful.  They both had a sword fight, mimicking the movies fight scenes. 
I'm so happy that they loved it as much as I did.   It's fun to share those common interests with them.