How I Run: Portland Women’s Run Club’s Kara Shierly

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In honor of our inaugural Portland Women’s Run Club season, I’ll be introducing our new team members via this interview series throughout the next few months. Get to know these impressive ladies, and come join us for FREE workouts Monday nights from 6:30-7:30 pm in Portland!

Last, but certainly not least, meet Kara Shierly. Kara’s another one of our fabulous new run captains for the 2017 season, and we’re thrilled to have her at the helm of the team.

After completing her first marathon earlier this year – at the happiest place on Earth, no less – she’s admits she’s hooked. So be sure to hit her up for tips, whether you’re looking for tips on training as a newbie or balancing high mileage with a busy career.

We love Kara not just because she rewards us with booze at workouts (Cinco de Juno margaritas, anyone?), but also because she’s into a whole lot of cool stuff – from rock climbing and knitting (not at the same time, of course) to gardening, boating and HGTV-inspired DIY projects.

It’s people like Kara with adventurous spirits and can-do attitudes that get me fired up to get out there and try something new…and I hope you’ll be equally inspired!

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1. What’s your favorite route? Anything next to water. Here in Portland it is the loop next to the river over the bridges.

2. What shoes do you wear? Asics have been my go-to for a while.

3. What other gear can’t you live without? A good pair of head phones. It is the worst when my ear bud falls out every five seconds!

4. What’s your best time-saver or “runhack?” I don’t have one. I hate being rushed; it’s my relaxing time.

5. What running-related thing are you better at than anyone else? I love mapping routes. I will look at dozens of combinations of roads to come up with one loop. And then I need at least one for every distance.

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6. What do you listen to while running? Mostly upbeat music. On really long runs I will listen to ted talks to give me something new to thing about.

7. What are you currently training for? I am looking to do a half in the fall, but right now there is nothing scheduled for me.

8. What are your recovery & sleep routines like? After a really long run is the only time I let myself have chocolate milk. I look forward to it the entire time!

9. What’s the best running advice you’ve ever received? “This is your run.” We run for us, and that is what matters.

10. What’s your favorite running-related memory? I don’t have a specific one, but I love the races and the training with my friends. It always leads to more fun with friends.

11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to go on a run with __________. My sister-in-law. She lives on the East coast, but running together is what we bonded over when we first met. I miss that.

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Thanks, Kara! We’re psyched to have you as part of our team leadership this year and look forward to more seasons of making memories together.

Friends, if you’re interested in being featured here (all levels & abilities welcome), please drop me a line at info(at)kineticfix(dot)com.

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Link-Up: Best & Worst of Racing

Best (or Worst) of My Racing History

Linking up today with Jessie over at The Right Fits to share some of the best and worst of my racing history! I read about this via my Coeur pal Erin over at SweetSweatLife and enjoyed her post so much that I thought it’d be fun to take a little walk down memory lane.

So without further ado, here are my best and worst…plus a few extra categories I added just for fun!

Best Start Line

Hands-down, the 2014 Detroit Marathon. I mean, c’mon, is there anything better than being in your hometown and hearing Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” blaring over the speakers as they count down to the start?!

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Best Finish Line

There’s nothing like crossing the finish line in your first 26.2, so my personal favorite here is the 2002 Chicago Marathon. But if I can also count a race I haven’t run (yet?) but attended, I’d have to go with Boston — an iconic race in a city full of spirit.

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The shot above is from 2004 while I was living there and going to grad school; we’d start our day at mile 26 to cheer runners along the last stretch. The shot below isn’t from the actual race (it’s from the Pats Superbowl parade), but gives a good idea of the crowd support at the end; I worked at Boston Sports Club Copley at the time, and we’d finish the day standing on that very same rooftop to watch people cross the finish line.

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Best Expo

Nobody puts on a pre-race party quite like Nike, which is why the expotique from the 2013 Nike Women’s Marathon takes the cake for this category. From live DJ, fashion show, social media integration and a host of other activities, it’s something that ever runner should experience at least once.

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Oh, and if your gut can handle it, they have a pretty sweet spread there, too. Care to carb-load with a macaroon, anyone?

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Best Crowd Support

Hm, this one’s a tough call. While 2002’s Chicago Marathon will always hold a special place in my heart for the thousands of people lined up along the route, it’s probably a close tie with this year’s Detroit Marathon.

Why? Well, anytime you can run through the wall (and not hit it) while running 26.2 is a win.

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Hottest Race

No question, I was burning up for most of the 2014 HITS Napa Olympic triathlon. Not only were we battling hot temps while on a course with little shade, but I also found out later that I was racing with a low-grade fever.

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Coldest Race

Hubby and I rang in the start of the holiday season with the 2010 Walnut Creek Turkey Trot…and froze our buns off in the process. At the last minute, I threw on an ill-fitting vest to try to keep warm, but ended up tugging at it for most of the 10K. Outfit fail!

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Most Beautiful Course

I’ll let the picture from the 2014 Lake Chabot Trail Run 30K speak for itself. You can see why it’s so easy to get hooked on the trails!

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Most Coordinated Outfits

Put a hot glue gun in my hand, and I’m not responsible for what’ll happen next. Case in point: I got a little crafty before the 2013 Turkey Trail Trot XI and made Hubby and myself some matching outfits to get into the spirit of this wacky race.

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Funniest Memory

Easily the 2011 Detroit Half Marathon. Here’s the before, with my sister, whom I was going to pace for her second half marathon.

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And the during, in which I proceeded to not only chatter incessantly in an attempt to keep her mind off the pain, but also take a bunch of pictures along the way to document our experience. She was clearly not amused.

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Best New Experience

Running a new distance (especially an ultra) can be scary. But tackling it with a friend, who just so happens to be an accomplished trail runner and fabulous pacer? Awesome, as you can see from this shot from 2014’s Canyon Meadow 50K.

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Best People Watching

Bay to Breakers. Every year. ‘Nuff said.

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Hilliest Course

While it may not rank as my hilliest race in terms of actual elevation, I remember the hills in the 2005 U.S. Half Marathon in San Francisco shocking me the most mid-race. Not only was it my very first 13.1, but I’d never run over the Golden Gate Bridge before, so the steep ascent, steady climb over and switchbacks on the Marin side were a rude awakening to Bay Area running!

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Flattest Course

I’m sure I’ve run on many a pancake-flat course, but the 2011 Oakland Running Festival Half Marathon sticks out as a particularly level one. It also helped me snag my second sub-two-hour time!

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Course That Took the Most Mental Strength

The picture below is from this year’s HITS Napa Olympic triathlon, and it’s also one of my toughest racing moments to-date.

Those other guys in the shot? Yeah, they’re done with their swims and headed out on the bike. Me, not so much — I’ve still got my second lap, and I’m pretty much trying A) to force myself back into the water for round two, and B) not to cry.

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Most Disappointing Start

Making a rookie racing mistake at the 2009 Nike Women’s Half Marathon meant that I had to run it without a time chip (forgot it in the hotel room), effectively meaning I didn’t do it (i.e. there’s no official record of my participation).

Lesson learned: Now I always put my timing chip on my shoe or bib the night before the race, and make sure to double-check it on race morning!

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Most Disappointing Finish

My face says it all in the shot below: Try not to puke.

In 2007, I ran the Big Sur Half Marathon and didn’t respect the distance. Not only was I under-trained and went out too quickly, but I was also coming down with a cold and mistakenly experimented with some Airborne and cold medicine that morning.

Big mistake. My poor friend Marlene was such as saint as I slammed into the wall at mile six, then proceeded to poorly manage gastrointestinal issues and leg cramps for the rest of the race before ending up in the fetal position at the finish line.

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Crappiest Weather

Despite Oregon’s reputation for rain, they say that it’s only been wet once or twice during the city’s very popular fall marathon. So, of course, my 2010 Portland Half Marathon was one of those lucky years where we experienced a downpour.

And, in case you were wondering, that’s not happiness on my face to be running, soaked and chilled to the bone.

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Most Surprising

My very first triathlon — a sprint in the local quarry — was 2010’s Tri for Fun in Pleasanton, Calif. My goggles leaked, the water was warm and full of goose poop, my bike was a poor-fitting Craigslist purchase, and my legs cramped on the run…but I finished with a smile and enjoyed every moment!

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Most Rewarding Race

Helping my sister cross her first 13.1 finish line in the 2009 Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon holds a special place in my heart. Not only is the city one of our favorites, but to share that experience with her was also something I’ll always remember.

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Coolest Medal

No one will argue with the Nike Women’s Marathon “medal” (below is last year’s version). As far as bling goes, you can’t do much better than that pretty Tiffany necklace!

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Best Worst Experience

A friend joked with me that Hood to Coast was the “best-worst race experience,” and after running this year’s event, I couldn’t agree more. It’s exhausting, intense and overwhelming at times, but so worth it for the 200-mile bonding experience…and getting to cross that sand-filled finish line!

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Got a best (or worst) race memory? I’d love to hear!

How I Run: Ultra-mama Sarah Evans

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Can’t you just feel the pure joy radiating from that photo above?! Not only is Sarah Evans an amazingly-inspiring social media pal from the Bay Area, but she’s also one of my very favorite runners to interview because her attitude toward life — and running — is positively awesome…and infectious.

We chatted on two previous occasions (about bouncing back after a baby and how she balances a growing baby with mounting mileage), but I wanted to include her in my new “How I Run” interview series to get her take on the questions below.

Read on for details on a few of Sarah’s favorite things, as well as this ultra-mama’s plans to tackle a “mother” of a distance (50 miles!) come December:

1. What’s your favorite route? I love a Mt. Tam summit (2,400 feet over 4.5 miles) or any trail in the Marin Headlands; there’s nothing like the view coming down Diaz Ridge switchbacks with the Pacific Ocean spanning in front of you…then knowing you have one heck of a climb back up and over!

2. What shoes do you wear? Asics Gel Nimbus forever!

3. What other run gear can’t you live without? As a Type A runner, my Garmin Forerunner 620. And my Headsweats visor!

4. What’s your best time-saver or “runhack?” Literally ‘running’ my errands to get in a run. Or if I want to get out for some fresh air instead of going for a walk with my daughter, I’ll run (you get more places, faster that way anyways!). I also always lay out my clothes and program the coffee maker for all my early-morning runs. It’s harder to make excuses with the smell of coffee and a trail of clothes waiting for you at 5am!

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5. What running-related thing are you better at than anyone else? Consistency. I have a strong mental game about not giving in or up. And maintenance. If you don’t do the maintenance work, you won’t stay healthy. Do the work ‘behind the scenes’ (meaning rolling, stretching, hip/glute strengthening, yoga, etc.) and your running will remain and continue to get stronger.

6. What do you listen to while running? A lot of relaxing streaming music (mixed with a few pop/upbeat songs) or my own thoughts and daydreams 🙂

7. What are you currently training for? Chicago Marathon in October (update: she PR’d with a 3:18!), then the NorthFace 50-miler in December.

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8. What are your recovery & sleep routines like? Compression socks, lots of hydration and legs-up-the-wall pose all help with recovery…plus, a burrito the size of my head doesn’t hurt either! I try to get at least eight hours of sleep a night — yes, this takes effort and work in itself to get enough sleep, but it’s just as important for a healthy being as anything else. I try to be in bed by 9:30 with no electronics, and a TV isn’t allowed in the bedroom. I value sleep!

9. What’s the best running advice you’ve ever received? First, if it feels ‘good,’ you’re not maxing out your potential or running hard enough…during a race it should ‘hurt so good!’ Second, run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must, just never stop moving forward (this particularly pertains to Ultra running). Third, fuel and hydrate early and often.

10. What’s your favorite running-related memory? Running during my pregnancy is a time in my life that is full of some of my favorite running memories. And not because I was breaking personal records or climbing the highest peaks, but because I felt strong, happy, relaxed and excited to share my love for running with my little one so early.

I enjoyed every last step of each run because I knew my time would become limited once baby arrived, so I didn’t take the freedom to run for granted. I ran some memorable races while pregnant, including a marathon the day I found out I was pregnant, and crossing the finish line at Boston marathon in 2013 only 10 minutes before the tragic bombing events, which put a lot into perspective.

I realized my full love and potential for running during my pregnancy, so it has to go down as a time of favorite running-related memory!

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11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to go on a run with __________. Kara Goucher and Lauren Fleshman, two amazing women who are moms, Oiselle pros and inspire me to be a strong mom, woman and runner!

12. Anything else you want to add? What running means to you will change in your life as time goes on; embrace that change and go with it. You may fall in and out of love with running, but it is always there for you when you need it. It’s a kind of therapy in itself and is the simplest, least expensive activity you can do anywhere!

Thanks, as always, Sarah! Runner friends, please email me — info (at) kineticfix.com — if you’d like to be featured 🙂

Race Report: 2014 Detroit Marathon

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They say that you learn more from the races that don’t go according to plan than the ones that do, and I learned two big lessons yesterday:

  1. Even though a race can go very differently from how you originally imagined, it can still be awesome for other reasons.
  2. Sometimes it’s best not to be left to your own devices; the guidance of a third party (i.e. a coach) can help immensely.

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But I’ll back up to the beginning… Even though I set two alarms — one at 4:45 and one at 4:50 — because I was worried I’d oversleep, I ended up waking up around 3:45 in a panic about my race-day attire. The weather, which had been hovering around the 50’s and 60’s all week, had dropped into the low 30’s and would only get up to the low 40’s toward the end of the race.

I only packed a tank, but once I decided to run 26.2 “ultra-style” with my gear, I bought a t-shirt as added insurance to keep my hydration pack from chafing. But when I tested my arm sleeves during my 10-miler last week, they rubbed the inside of my arms, so at 4:00 yesterday morning I made a game-time decision to run in a long-sleeve top with a t-shirt over it.

Like I said before, a lot can happen over 26.2 miles, and you don’t want chafing to be any part of that!

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Hubby dropped me off a few blocks from the start line at 6:35, so I had just enough time to dash into Cobo Center — Detroit’s big convention hall where they held the pre-race expo — for a quick bathroom pit stop before heading over to my corral. It was (literally) freezing outside, so a lot of runners were huddled inside until the last minute, but I got out of there ASAP because I’d have to fight the crowd to get to my corral.

Because my original anticipated finish time was 3:50, I was in corral D. I just happened to line up next to that pace group, bunching together with everyone to share body heat, and smiled to myself. Let it go; let them go, I thought, and made a mental note to check my ego because we’d be parting as soon as I started my 10-minute run/1-minute walk plan for the race.

As “Lose Yourself” blared on the loudspeakers, the horn blew for the start of each wave of corrals and, before I knew it, we were off! I hung with my group for the first 10 minutes, settling into a comfortable pace, and then watched the swell of people move off into the distance as I pulled over to the side for my minute-long walk segment.

“Save something for the end,” became my new mantra, as well as, “I might be seeing some of you later!”

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At this point, I still wasn’t sure if my leg would hold up, so I told Hubby and my parents that we’d plan for a few checkpoints along the way. The first of which was mile three, just before I’d cross the Ambassador Bridge into Canada. It’s one of my favorite parts of the race, but I knew that if my leg was giving me trouble early-on, I’d have to bail there because my cell wouldn’t work once we crossed International waters.

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Luckily, besides some minor twinges, I was feeling ok (definitely not 100 percent, but good enough to keep going), so we crossed over the bridge as the sun rose. My pictures don’t do it justice, but you get the idea; I was more focused my form while high-fiving the border patrol and then tackling the uphill portion.

I did, however, pull over and take a quick selfie during my next walk segment. Not only did these one-minute breaks become my lifelines later on, but they also allowed me to document some of the course, which I thought would be fun for posterity’s sake!

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Another one of my favorite sights on the course is the view of the Detroit skyline, as seen from Windsor. This is about five miles in and where I began fueling, which ended up helping immensely when it came to keeping both my energy and spirits up throughout the race.

During walk breaks I alternated a bite of Bonk Breaker and a few pulls of water with some sips of my Tailwind flavorless electrolyte drink (ok, and maybe a handful of M&M’s from someone along the course!). The goal was to take it easy to try to avoid gastrointestinal issues, and these all seemed to sit well on my stomach.

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Another one of my favorite parts of a marathon is the spectator signs. There were some along the Canada stretch that made me smile, including “You are NOT anywhere near the finish” and “USA runners, you only need to work 90% as hard here.”

I kept up my 10 run/1 walk ratio and felt like I had a steady pace, so I went into autopilot and switched back and forth between trying to keep my form in check and taking in all the scenery. Before I knew it, we were headed into the “Underwater Mile,” which is the tunnel that runs from Canada to the US.

Although it’s one of the race’s claims to fame, it’s actually one of my least favorite parts of the course. Not only is there not much to look at, but it also gets pretty stuffy in there. I had been heating up in the previous miles, and by the time we were three-quarters of the way through the tunnel, I could feel my shirt getting soaked with sweat.

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But it’s all worth it for what you see when you exit! There’s a huge crowd cheering loudly, plus a banner that we all slapped as we made our way around the bend toward mile nine.

This was the second checkpoint; as soon as I had reception, I texted Hubby and my parents that I was still going. We made plans to meet up around mile 15 as I headed toward my third checkpoint — more of a mental one — 13.1 miles.

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By this time, the sun was up and the air was crisp — perfect running weather. We ran along the Lodge Freeway, which I thought was pretty cool — especially because it was along here that the song “8 Mile” came on my iPod.

No better way to run through the streets of Detroit than with a little music from Eminem!

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I took the opportunity here to take another selfie during my walk break. Then we rounded the corner and went up the offramp, which I think was around mile nine.

This is where my legs really started to protest; oddly enough, it was more my left hamstring and knee, which started acting up — most likely because I was concentrating so hard on keeping my right shin happy. I kept going, but started wondering if I’d have to stop at the half marathon point.

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Around mile 11, I really started doubting myself. But right as I started slipping into that dark place, I felt someone reach out and grab me — my friend, former-XC-teammate-turned-pro-triathlete, Terra Castro! Her timing couldn’t have been better.

We hugged, and I told her about my legs as she asked how I was doing. “You’re good, just keep it up — you’ve got it.” she said, and it was just what I needed to hear to suck it up, re-adjust my attitude and keep moving forward.

The pain was more of a tightness than a sharp feeling, so I knew I could continue safely with with my 10 run/1 walk plan — the battle from here on out would just be as much mental as physical. But I was still going steady when we hit the turnoff between the half marathoners and the full marathoners, so I took the turn toward the full and texted my family that I’d see them at the fourth checkpoint — mile 15!

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The next few miles until I saw my folks were a bit of a grind; there was a long straightaway down a long stretch of road, and I just remember thinking how I had to thank my running coach after the race. I hadn’t run this far since August, and after taking five weeks off during peak training mileage, I was really starting to feel it.

Taking the walk breaks, as he suggested, were extremely motivating. Not only did they give me a chance to catch my breath, but they also were an ideal reminder to refuel and re-hydrate regularly, which I remained diligent about.

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The segment between miles 16-18 was actually another one of my favorite parts of the race. My legs were getting progressively tighter, so it was a welcome distraction to check out the beautiful tree-lined side streets of historic Indian Village with its huge, old houses.

Having spectators line up on their front lawns to pass out beer, play polka music and wave funny signs was also an awesome part of this section. It reminded me of my first marathon in Chicago where people in different neighborhoods would hand out food, drinks and really get into the spirit of the race.

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I spotted my family as we turned to exit the neighborhood — awesome, I made it to checkpoint five and was almost down to single digit miles! I stopped for a quick photo with my parents, and heard my mom say, “Go, Jennifer! You’re really going to do this!” as I headed off.

As I trekked toward mile 20, I knew that the toughest part was yet to come. Everyone around me was starting to slow as we all began to feel the effects of the miles. People were pulling over to stretch, I saw one gentleman with a bloody back from the pack he was carrying, and I started recognizing a few familiar faces from earlier on as we continued along.

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No, I hadn’t hit the wall, per se, but I was flirting dangerously close to it at this point, as were all of those around me. But all I could do was keep up my 10 run/1 walk pattern, keep fueling regularly and just put one foot in front of the other.

Although I did literally run through this wall. Couldn’t resist!

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Miles 20-22 took us to Belle Isle, which is a 982-acre island park in the middle of the Detroit River. It’s absolutely beautiful, but I had trouble fully enjoying it because I spent most of this stretch talking myself into not walking the rest of the race.

Knowing you’re down to just six or so miles is an incredible morale boost, but at the same time you’re questioning how the hell you’re going to keep your body moving for another hour. And by this point, my quads were screaming — I was paying for my under-training with a searing build-up of lactic acid — so I gritted my teeth and decided to try to make a time goal to keep myself motivated.

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I spotted Hubby between miles 22 and 23, and he ran alongside me for a few minutes to cheer me on toward the final stretch. He saw that I was majorly struggling, so he tried talking to me to keep me distracted, but I was in no mood for chatting.

At this point I knew I would finish, the only question was how long it’d take me. So try as Hubby might to engage me, I just smiled and thanked him, saying, “I love you! I’m trying to finish in under 4:30!” before popping in my ear buds and buckling down for the final 5K.

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By then I’d eaten my entire Bonk Breaker bar and drank up my 20 ounces of Tailwind, so I took half a Carb Boom energy gel (which I picked up at mile 16) along with a few gulps of water. I had a little more than two miles to go to the finish, and I wasn’t taking any chances by letting my blood sugar drop before the final mile or so.

Seeing the Detroit skyline come back into view helped — so close! — as did a change in scenery along the RiverWalk leading up to mile 25. Just. One. More. Mile. My legs weren’t locking up as badly as they did in my last marathon, but I was SO ready to be done already.

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My parents were lined up at mile 26, which was the perfect final distraction before the home stretch. The finish line wasn’t yet in sight, although I knew we were close, so seeing them right before we turned the corner gave me one last boost of adrenaline.

With the finish line in sight, I kicked it into whatever gear I had left and went as fast as I could for the final .2 miles. Regardless of how many marathons you’ve run, that burst of joy and relief you feel when crossing the finish line never gets old.

Official time: 4:17:17.

My legs were the angriest they’ve ever been after a race; I duck-walked down the chute to collect some food, get my photo taken and meet up with Hubby and my parents. But I was so thankful just to be able to complete this race — not to mention grateful to my PT for getting me to the start line and my coach for giving me a game plan to get to the finish in once piece.

The final to-do item on my race-day list? Kick-starting the recovery process with a deep-dish Pizza Papalis Chicago-style pizza and a warm Epsom Salt bath.

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Thank you all so much for following along and cheering me on for what’s truly been a roller-coaster of a training cycle. Looking through your tweets, posts and comments on race-day morning gave me just the extra “oomph” I needed to keep pushing forward, running happy and appreciating the small victories along the way.

And in case you’re wondering…yes, I still have that sub-four marathon goal on my list. But I’m going to give my body a bit of a break so I can heal fully, focus on becoming a better runner and try tackle some different distances in the meantime.

After all, they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. So, I look forward to that next new adventure together!

Detroit Marathon: Week 18 training recap

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Well, here we are — 18 weeks down, and just a few days to go! The bad news is that my calf has been acting up this week (aching after Monday’s treadmill run), but the good news is that I’m at peace with my game plan for race day, which is “slow and steady.”

After training took a turn for the worse in the past two months, my first objective was to heal up enough to get to the start (check!). Now it’s time to focus on getting across that finish line on Sunday.

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Here’s what the past week looked like, according to the original training plan:

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And here’s what I’ve actually been doing, as per my run coach’s recommendation:

  • Monday: Run on treadmill (30 run/1 walk x 2), PT exercises
  • Tuesday: Elliptical (45 mins), strength training, PT exercises
  • Wednesday: Run (45-60 mins), OFF, PT exercises
  • Thursday: Recumbent bike (30 min), strength training, PT exercises
  • Friday: Run (30-45 mins), Elliptical/bike (30 min), strength training, PT exercises
  • Saturday: OFF, PT exercises
  • Sunday: RACE DAY!

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As far as race prep goes, I’m treating it more like an ultra and aiming for stamina over speed. This means I’ll be carrying a hydration pack with some essentials instead of going for the usual less-is-more approach to race day.

Since I also lost some endurance during my time-out from training, I’ll need to fuel early and often to avoid the inevitable “wall” as long as possible. So I’m packing salt tabs, TUMS and both water and Tailwind flavorless electrolyte beverage in order to be self-sufficient on the course (this is helpful both physically and mentally, at this point).

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Also in my Ultimate Direction Jenny Ultra Vesta? A few Bonk Breakers, Picky Bars and Hammer Gels, along with my cell phone for emergencies (i.e. worst-case scenario = DNF), which I’m hoping I can avoid by skipping this week’s runs so I can rest up my legs and get my calf calmed down.

I’m hitting the expo on Saturday to get my race packet, but will be taking it easy other than that. It’s an odd feeling worrying less about time/pace and more about my ability to finish, but I’ll be following Coach’s orders and doing a 10-min run/1-min walk ratio to try to get ‘er done as swiftly — and safely — as possible.

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Stay tuned for race updates via social media, and I’ll be posting my race recap Monday. Any positive vibes & healing thoughts much appreciated in the meantime so I can finish healthy and strong; thanks very much!

Making a game plan for the Detroit Marathon

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It’s no secret that things haven’t gone as smoothly this training cycle as I would have liked. But rather than getting angry at my body and blaming it for not being able to hold up to the rigors of a tough running schedule, I’ve accepted responsibility for a combination of faulty mechanics and inattention to the finer points of injury prevention.

As such, my original goal time of 3:50 — which seemed well within reach based on my pacing prior to injury — is pretty much a pipe dream at this point. After taking a month off from running to heal my medial tibial stress response (aka almost-a-stress-fracture), I’ve come to grips with the fact that I’ve got to reset my race-day expectations.

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Frankly, I’m not sure exactly what will happen between when the gun goes of and when I (hopefully) cross the finish line, which both excites and terrifies me. Why? Well, a lot can happen over 26.2 miles.

But after giving it some thought, I’ve made the following goals for Sunday’s race to keep myself motivated and moving forward:

1. Good Goal: Cross the finish line, healthy and injury-free, regardless of time

2. Better Goal: Finish somewhere between four and five hours, depending on how the run/walk ratios go

3. Best Goal: Finish with a new personal record (anything under 4:07:46). Yeah right, but a girl can dream?!

Although my run coach and I have been discussing strategy this past week, I’m still digesting his suggestion for a 10 run/1 walk ratio. There’s a delicate balance between taking it slow and taking it too slow, so I’m trying to figure out the right mix of pacing and duration of runs to get me to the finish line as quickly as possible and in one piece.

Overall, though, I think I’m going to treat it like an ultra — over-prepare and find a steady pace so I can finish strong. My plan is to see how my final runs go today and Friday before finalizing the run increments, which I’ll probably end up tweaking during the race based on how my legs and lungs are holding up.

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Am I bummed about not being able to “race” this race? YES. But there comes a point where you have to not only deal with the reality of a situation, but also be appreciative of what you can do instead of what you can’t. Plus, three things have really changed my perspective on this race in the past few weeks.

First, one of Hubby’s and my most beloved friends passed away late last month. To describe him as the successful businessman, doting husband and loving father he was just doesn’t do him justice, however; he was one of those one-in-a-million people who made an impact on the life of everyone with whom he crossed paths.

So I’m dedicating this race to Burt Baptiste. And to his beautiful family — his wife, Danielle, and their two daughters, Milla and Emme. Their strength, poise and positive attitudes in the midst of tragedy have inspired so many of us, and I hope that I can have some small part in helping to make sure that his memory is never forgotten. #RIPBB

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Second, one of my running heroes, Kara Goucher, wrote a terrific blog post on handling setbacks with grace, patience and perseverance. The entire piece hit home with me (well, aside from the whole ‘professional athlete’ part), but one line in particular struck me as she was describing her injuries, disappointments and what has been a long road on her return to racing:

“Instead of stressing about how far behind we are, we need to focus on the progress we are making and continue to make….I may not be where I want to be, but I am so grateful to be here at all.”

With a laser focus on planning, training and prepping for a goal race of the season, it’s so easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. But even with our setbacks, our injuries, our derailed training plans, it’s important to keep things in perspective and find joy in the journey because you never know exactly where it’ll lead — or what you’ll learn in the process.

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Third, my friend Doris Steere has unknowingly served as inspiration by example while she’s been on her own journey this season. After dealing with similar calf issues eight weeks out from her goal race, she proceeded to break a rib three weeks out. But rather than give up, she hit it hard with rehab work and ended up at the starting line of Augusta 70.3, saying:

“I make no promises for race day except to try and do my best with the hand I’ve been dealt….without quality training sessions to look back on, I’ve got to rely on muscle memory, experience, determination and pure grit.”

And she did just that, managing to nab a new PR despite a blown-out tire, poor road conditions and an aggravated rib on race day. Now, if that isn’t motivation enough to keep on going when the going gets tough, I don’t know what is.

d5042a196e8f155d502ee76d8c240fe0So, final thoughts going into the race this weekend? Getting to the start line is victory enough this time, and even though I’m not sure exactly what shape I’ll be in when I get there or how the race will go, I do know the way in which I want to finish.

My week 18 recap will go up Friday, and I’ll be posting race updates on social media this weekend before the official recap goes up Monday. Thanks, again, for following along…here goes nothing! 

Detroit Marathon: Week 17 training recap

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Marathon training while crunching through fall leaves — even though this season’s program hasn’t gone exactly as planned, I can’t complain!

As you can see, the Hanson’s program doesn’t do a heavy taper in the final two weeks before the race (49 miles?!), which is good because I’m also slowly adding mileage to get my body acclimated for a few hours of activity at once.

Here’s the original schedule:

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And here’s my adapted version:

  • Monday: Revocycle class, strength training, PT exercises
  • Tuesday: Run outside (10 run/1 walk x 6 = 66 mins)
  • Wednesday: Elliptical (45 mins), PT exercises
  • Thursday: Run outside (20 run/1 walk x 3 = 63 mins), PT exercises
  • Friday: OFF, PT exercises, stretching & foam rolling
  • Saturday: Run outside (25 run/1 walk x 3 = 78 mins), PT exercises
  • Sunday: Elliptical (60 mins), strength training, PT exercises

I’ve got some new scenery this week, too, because I’m home in Michigan, visiting family and working remotely while I’m squeezing in my final workouts before race day. There’s still a whole lot of green in this picture, but the leaves are starting to change, so it’s a great time of year to be here.

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And my workouts are going pretty well! The upside is that I haven’t lost a lot of speed and I have been able to maintain some good endurance with my cross training.

But the downside, as I’m finding out, is that I must be compensating ever so slightly on my left side to favor my right. I’m feeling a few aches and pains in my left hip, hamstring and knee, so I’ve got to be careful.

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It’s also going to be tough to rein myself in on race day. I’m still mulling over my final goals because — as you can see from the pacing below, which was from my recent 20 run/1 walk workout — I could potentially make a run for it because it’s a flatter, more forgiving course than my last one.

But I don’t want to injure myself too badly in the process, so I’m going to see how the next few workouts go before making an official game plan. As much as I want to push myself, it’s not worth another round of rehabbing at the PT, so the toughest battle come race day could actually be the mental one.

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In the meantime, though, my coach has me sticking to my PT work, foam rolling some Trigger Point release techniques in order to keep things loose and functioning properly through full ranges of motion. The goal is to work up to a 60-minute run with no walk breaks next week before we bring mileage down toward the big day.

Onward to week 18; thanks for following along!