Chicago Marathon 2017 {race recap}

On the one year anniversary of my first marathon, I figured I would finally share about my race experience.

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My alarm went off at 4:45am on race day. I surprisingly slept pretty well but I woke up anxious that the day had finally arrived. I met the girls downstairs at 5:15am and we were off. We were on a tight schedule to pick up Jamie at her hotel, then head over to the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) tent in Grant Park. I was super amped up at this point. I was jittery because of the nerves and the chilly air at 5:30am. The walk didn’t seem too bad at the time, but looking back, it was a long walk before having a run a marathon.

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We arrived at the tent to find a full breakfast spread, the DJ pumping up the runners, and an area to stretch and foam roll. I had breakfast, used the potty, stretched, and finally checked my bag at the tent. We took a large RMHC team photo then waited until it was time to head over to the corral. Majority of the RMHC team was in corral H since that was the charity corral, but the tent cleared out a little bit from runners in the faster corrals.

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The volunteers led us to the corral around 7:20am. We headed in through the security check points and continued to walk until we found corral H. There was a lot of walking before the race ever started! We waited in the corral until about 8:10am when we finally started moving up to the start line. The nerves were really setting in at this point.

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I started the race with Heather and Julianna and we made our way across the start line. The start of the race was pretty congested and we were in the city surrounded by the tall buildings. The weather was amazing since we were in the shade of the buildings and the crowds were insane. My adrenaline was pumping hard. Right away, my watch lost signal and my first “mile” clocked at the 7 minute mark. I expected this to happen due to my last Chicago race, but I was hoping my new watch would be a little better. I shouldn’t have been worrying about my pace at all, but I immediately wish I had a pace band since I knew my watch was going to be completely inaccurate.

I will say this several more times, but the crowds were unbelievable. I was so happy during the first miles of the race, I was running with a huge smile on my face the whole time. The city was so loud and I was taking it all in. Greg texted me the first time around the 5k mark to tell me where they were set up. It was a whirlwind and I was so happy to see them so early in the race. Unfortunately, I did not give proper hugs or hang out as long as the kids would have liked and they were sobbing after I ran off.

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I was cruising for the first nine miles and feeling good. Greg texted me again around the 15k mark to tell me where to look for them. Just knowing which side of the street they were on was so helpful. The streets were absolutely packed for the entire race! Greg said that the spectators were so amazing and would let them get to the front when they knew I was close. I lingered a little bit longer this time. Greg rubbed my calf and I was texting with Amanda to see where she was in the race.

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Amanda and I texted for a little while. She offered to hang back so I could catch up, but I felt like that was a lot of pressure for me to get up to her quickly. My calf was starting to ache pretty bad. Around the half marathon mark, I stopped at the medical tent for Biofreeze. I stopped at a second tent a little bit later for Tylenol. My half marathon split was 2:23:21.

I kept an eye on my pace, but I knew that I just wanted to finish. I kept calculating in my head what my finish time would be if I kept my current pace. However, the likelihood of me keeping that current pace was slim. Towards the end of the race, I was running slower and walking more.

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I saw Mary Beth and Mandy (who flew in from Kansas City to surprise me!) in Chinatown, which was such a great motivator. They were so positive and it was so good to see their smiling faces! Just down the road, I saw Greg, Michael, and Rachel again. My parents had taken the kids back to the hotel by this point. I thought it would be the last time I saw them and we discussed how and where we would meet up after the race.

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I was down to the last five miles or so which seemed to last forever. I knew some of the other girls would be finishing the race soon since they were ahead of me. As it was reaching the middle of the day, it was insanely hot. Unseasonably hot for Chicago actually. I thought it would be fine since I had trained in the humidity and heat all summer, but we never ran at noon in the middle of the day, so this was all new territory. As I made my way into the last couple of miles, I spotted Greg, Michael, and Rachel again. I almost started sobbing. They had gotten ice water from Starbucks and refilled my Camelbak. I gave them my headphones and prepared for the last couple of miles. After they saw me in Chinatown, they decided to go ahead and find me again. Bless their hearts. I so needed it.

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I probably walked more than I should have in those last couple of miles, but I made my way back to the city and the finish line. I crossed the finish line at 5:23:14. I was emotional, but also so hot and so happy to be done. My finish time was slower than I anticipated or hoped it would be. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed with how the race went, especially the second half. I was bummed about the weather and aggravated that my calf started bothering me so early in the race.

On the other hand, I was extremely proud just to have finished the race! I joined the 1% of the population that has completed a marathon and that was something to be proud of!

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After crossing the finish line, I grabbed a banana and a beer. Like before the race, there was an obnoxious amount of walking after the race to get back to the RMHC tent. My feet hurt and all I wanted was to sit down. I was so happy to see some of my cheer squad waiting for me at the tent.

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I will say again how amazing the entire race was. The crowds, the city, the support. So many spectators looked me in the eye, called me by my first name, and said such encouraging words to me. I was overwhelmed with emotion throughout the race. I will never forget how the city rallied around every single one of the runners out there for the entire race. I will definitely be back Chicago. I am coming for a redemption run.

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I also cannot express the gratitude that I had for my own cheer squad that day. They conquered that city for me showing up at the most needed spots during the race and wearing the most appropriate shirt of the day. Each time seeing them gave me that boost of courage and energy that I needed to keep going.

Finally, I trained with the best runner friends that anyone could ask for. These girls made the 16 weeks of training not only bearable, but fun! We spent countless hours together before the sun came up. They were there for me in the good times and the bad times. I was so grateful to have run this race with them.

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Cheers to 26.2 miles!

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Chicago, you did not disappoint. See you in 2020.

USA Beach Running Championships {race recap}

On Cinco de Mayo we loaded up the SUVs and headed to Cocoa Beach for a girls night 10k race. We spent the afternoon getting settled in the hotel, picking up our race packets, and shopping at Ron Jon Surf Shop before heading to the port for dinner.

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We listened to live music, enjoyed some margaritas, and had dinner before heading back to the hotel. Once we arrived back, Vanessa and Juliana were ready to join in on the fun! We stayed up way too late laughing and enjoying our time without having to worry about bedtime routines, considering we had a race the next morning.

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5:45am came very early and we all reluctantly rolled out of bed to make our way to the beach for the 10k. The race had a half marathon option and a 10k option, both entirely on the beach. We all were running the 10k, so we waited for the half marathoners to be on their way fore it was time for our race to start.

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While others have run this race in previous years, it was my first time (spoiler alert, also my last time). Heather and I started off playing catch up with group because it was pretty packed at the start of the race. We ran pretty quick for the first mile and caught up with Cristina and Tracy. That was the end of the quick running. Once we caught up with them, we decided to switch to intervals, which eventually turned into more walking than running.

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It was a beautiful day at the beach. The ocean and the waves were gorgeous, but the part of the beach where the sand was nice and packed was covered by the tide. As we were running, we would creep down to the packed sand only to be dodging the incoming tide in order to keep our shoes dry. The dry sand was loose and slanted. From what I’ve heard, the hurricane really impacted the beach and the race conditions in previous years weren’t as bad.

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The race was 3.1 miles out and 3.1 miles back. As usual, the way out felt longer than the way back. By the time we were at mile 5, I was just ready to be done. The finish line was pretty far up the beach away from the water so the sand was very loose making it that much harder to get the seahorse medal. But alas, we finished, snapped a quick picture, and headed straight for the food.

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We headed back to the hotel for a quick shower before our families arrived to enjoy the rest of the morning at the beach. Overall, the beach race was a great experience. I am so glad that I did it. We had such a great time the entire time we were there. But, with that being said, I’ll be okay not running it again! I think I’m going to stick to road races.

Best Damn Race 10k {race recap}

In March, I ran one of my favorite races, the Best Damn Race 10k. This was my fourth BDR race and the third time running the 10k after switching to the half marathon last year. The race this year was just as good as it was in previous years. The weather was crisp and cool, but I decided to run in my tank top and save my long sleeve for after the race.

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As we got started, it was really crowded so the group broke up a bit. I ran with Amanda for a little bit in the first mile, then found Cristina in the second mile. I ran the first two miles straight through until we caught up with Heather and Tracy. For the last four miles, we switched to intervals. The intervals were so nice. I was pushing myself on the runs and enjoying the recovery on the walks. We ran, walked, and chatted the rest of the way.

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We finished in 1:02.09 which is not a personal record, but I felt really good about my finish time. This was my first race since the marathon and coming back from my injury. I finished with a runners high, which I hadn’t felt in a while. I remember how much I like racing (and running, to be honest). I am excited to continue running, recovering, and getting faster this summer.

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As usual, the after party did not disappoint. We all enjoyed bloody mary’s and each other’s company until we had to leave for the Smile Mile.

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It was such a fun morning! See ya next year, BDR!

Smile Mile {2018}

On Saturday, Kenley ran her first Smile Mile! The races were broken down by age and gender, so she ran with the other six year old girls. She ran representing her school, TLE, which had the third most runners out there on Saturday!

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We were excited to see her head out of the corral. She did a good job hanging towards the back of the pack at first to avoid the chaos. In the race prior, several six year old boys got trampled out there!

We didn’t get to see her run the mile so we headed over to the finish line to wait for her to come in. She came in jogging, looking all confused about why we were cheering for her, in just under 11 minutes!

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It was so fun to see several of her friends out there running! The weather was also amazing. It was a great morning of running.

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We’re already looking forward to the Smile Mile next year!

Lady Track Shack 5k {race recap}

The last weekend of January was the Lady Track Shack 5k! This is one of my favorite races and I have ran it for the last four years (I had to look back on the blog in order to fact check that statement). This year was extra special though because it was Kenley’s first 5k! Last year, she ran some of it, jumping in and out of the stroller, but this year there was no stroller! Kenley was excited about the race, but also very excited to see her friend Livie.

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We didn’t do any official “training” so I had very low expectations. I knew she would need some encouragement along the way and that there would certainly be walking breaks. I was hoping we would finish under one hour, only because we were heading down to Magic Kingdom afterwards.

Kenley ran almost the entire first mile before we needed to stop and walk. She asked for water many times leading up to the first water stop, so I will remember to run with a water bottle next year. There were times during the race where we would “run to the stop sign” then we would take a walk break.

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Towards the end of the race there was more walking (and whimpering), but there were so many encouraging women along the way cheering for her. It was seriously amazing!

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She finished the race running and we came in at 44:13! She did such a great job and I am so proud of her for getting out there and running her first 5k!

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She earned that medal!

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Thanks to the Orlando Track Shack for another amazing race! We’re already looking forward to next year!

 

Dark Side Half Marathon {race recap}

A few weekends ago, I ran my first Run Disney race, the Star Wars Dark Side half marathon! The entire weekend was quite an experience and unlike any other race I’ve done, so I’m going to try to hit on all of the different aspects.

You pay to play.

I’ll get the only con out of the way. Running is an expensive sport and this race is no exception. The Run Disney race fee was the most I’ve ever paid for a race. I also chose to stay on property the night before the race which was an added cost. All in all, it’s a commitment.

Race expo.

The race expo was at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. It started on Thursday since the 5k and 10k races were on Friday and Saturday. I originally wanted to go out to the expo on Thursday, but Kenley ended up having a soccer game. Based on what I have heard, I was anticipating long lines to pick up all of the pre-race goodies. We arrived at the expo a little later than I wanted around 2pm on Saturday. The expo ended at 4pm and I was surprised to find no lines at all! Kenley and I left the boys in the car and walked (and walked) up to get my stuff. The bib pick up station was located in the HP Field House, then we headed over to the Jostens Center. Since there were no crowds, Kenley got her picture with a Storm Trooper before heading in. The t-shirt pick up was at the very back of the expo. There were so many vendors selling so many great things. I wanted to buy ALL the Run Disney gear, but left without anything. Overall, the expo was great and the pick up process was quick and easy, aside from a lot of walking.

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Setting my alarm for the middle of the night.

The race started at 5:30am in the Magic Kingdom parking lot. The start time wasn’t that early considering I’ve ran races that started at 6am. However, we were taking advantage of the Disney buses since we were staying on property and we had to be ON the bus by 4am to ensure we were at the start line in time. Therefore, I set my alarm for 3:00am which was a first for me! We walked down to the bus stop and got right on the bus putting us at the start line around 4am. Transportation was a breeze. There were buses full of people pulling in, one after the other. We joked that if there was ever a zombie apocalypse, Disney should be in charge of the evacuation plan. It was like we were all zombies at that time too, considering it was the middle of the night.

We had more than enough time at the start line before the race started. One thing that surprised me the most were all of the the lines for the characters. There were probably 8-10 characters there for photo opportunities and each character had a publicized wait time. The wait time for Darth Vader at 4am was 70 MINUTES!

We had some breakfast, stretched, went potty, then headed into our corral. We were in corral G based on when we signed up for the race (late!) and corral G was the very last corral. While we waited, they played Star Wars movie clips and did trivia with the participants. The race finally started at 5:30am with fireworks! Each corral that was released got their own fireworks show. The start of the race was a big deal! Unfortunately, we saw a LOT of fireworks. We finally started the race at 6:20am, 50 minutes after the first corral started.

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Course map.

The race course map was released a couple weeks before the race which I studied intently. I don’t normally look at the course map before a race, but I was really excited about this one. I knew the first few miles would be pretty boring since the course took us from the Magic Kingdom parking lot along the back roads into Animal Kingdom.

Around mile 4, we entered Animal Kingdom as the sun was starting to come up. We stopped for the potty by the safari ride when we got into the park then ran around the entire park and out the entrance.

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The course then took us through the Animal Kingdom parking lot and up the main roads for the next couple of miles. After one large on-ramp just after mile 9, we entered the back side of Hollywood Studios and ran through the park.

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We passed mile 10 while in Hollywood Studios are were only another 5k away from the finish. At this time, the sun was up and blazing. It was hot! We headed out of Hollywood Studios and made our way towards Epcot and the finish line. Along the way, we ran pass the Swan and Dolphin Hotel and along the Boardwalk.

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We finally entered Epcot in England just before the mile 12 marker. The International Flower and Garden Festival was happening so it was great to see all of the fun foliage! We ran through all of the countries and out the entrance of Epcot. The finish line was in the Epcot parking lot which was lined with spectators and fans as we ran out of the park.

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Final verdict.

During the race, the course was insanely packed. I was bummed that we had to start in corral G because we were bobbing and weaving through people the entire race. We started behind the 3 hour and 30 minute pace group while our goal time was around 2 hours and 15 minutes. I now know the importance of submitting a time during the registration process for Disney races. I know the experience on the course would have been completely different if we were running with others who were our same pace.

Overall, the race was amazing! I was shocked by all of the entertainment along the way. I knew there would be characters to meet and greet, but I was surprised to see all sorts of other entertainment, such as sound effects, light shows, music, and movie clips along the way. What I thought would be the boring part of the course was actually just as fun as the rest of the course. We didn’t stop to meet any characters since there were lines at each stop. I also am too competitive with myself to think about stopping during a race. This was by far the most fun race I have ever done. We finished in 2:31.44 which I am considering a great time for a Disney race. It may not be anytime soon, but I will definitely be doing another Disney race in the future.

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Gate River Run 15k {race recap}

On March 11th, I ran the 40th Gate River Run 15k in Jacksonville, Florida. Greg and I picked up the kids on Friday afternoon and we headed north. It was our first time in Jacksonville, so I was excited for the kids to stay the night in a hotel and go exploring the next day. We walked over to Jacksonville Landing on Friday night for dinner with the hopes of watching the IU game, but no such luck. We had a good view of the first bridge I would run the next morning.

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Heather had a good view of the second bridge, the green monster, from her hotel room. Yikes.

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The race didn’t start until 8:30am, so I was looking forward to getting up a little bit later on Saturday morning, but no such luck again. Crosby was up several times in the night and we all were up at 5am when he woke up throwing up. Not the best way to start the morning. I considered just going home right then and there, but Greg told me I needed to run. I headed out to meet Heather and Nathan to walk to the race around 6:30am. Considering what I had left Greg with in the hotel room, I was incredibly anxious and jittery leading up to the race.

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We met up with Juliana at Everbank Field (where the Jacksonville Jaguars play) and waited until it was time to get into our waves. I made a rookie mistake when I signed up for the race and entered the non-seeded division putting me in wave 2. Heather planned on starting with me, but they wouldn’t let her into wave 2 since she was seeded in wave 1. I was bummed, but she ended up waiting to start in wave 2 with me.

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There was a lot of down time since we got to the race super early. I was bouncing around like crazy, still very anxious and nervous. I didn’t know the city or the race route and I kept texting Greg to see how Crosby was.

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Wave 1 started around 8:30am including the elite runners. The Gate River Run is the largest 15k in the nation so there were tons of professional runners running the race, which was really cool to witness. Wave 2 moved up and we were ready to start.

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Our first mile was really fast (8:27) but I knew we would slow down a bit moving into the first bridge right after the first mile. I slowly ran up the bridge being careful on the grates of the bridge. We continued on our way and had a solid first 5k before we slowed it down again. The weather was really great when we started but it quickly warmed up.

The middle of the race was really great as we ran through the neighborhoods in Jacksonville. The houses were gorgeous and the spectators were awesome. Each neighborhood had their own little block party. The spectators were having more fun than the runners. They were tossing donut holes to the runners and were offering Jell-o shots, beer, mimosas, and food as we passed. Before heading to the second bridge, several spectators were spraying the runners with a hose.

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Just after mile 7.5, we headed up towards the green monster. My legs were hurting, but the bridge was so steep that it almost felt better to jog up rather than walk. We found Juliana again while we were towards the top of the bridge, so the three of us made our way down towards the finish. The bridge was just as steep coming down and there was a lot of turns since we were coming down the ramp. We had to wind around the stadium to get to the finish. About .2 miles away from the finish, Heather tripped and fell. It was so scary. The road was packed so as I bent down to help her, Juliana immediately started blocking people from running into us. Another nice gentleman stopped to make sure she was also ok. She was able to get up and finish, thankfully, but she was bleeding from her knees and hands. After all of that, I finished with a 1:39:47 which was a PR! It wasn’t the finish I was hoping for, but I’ll take it.

The end of the race was insane. There were people everywhere and the area around the finish line was so small and tight. We met up with Nathan and Heather headed to the medical tent to get cleaned up. We all skipped the after party, which looked just as insane, and I headed back to the hotel to check on everyone.

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Overall, the race is a really good race, but I wish I was able to enjoy it more. I was worried about Crosby the entire time and then worried about Heather after the race was over. We had hoped to explore St. Augustine on the way home, but Crosby got sick the entire morning, so home we went. Both kids napped the whole way home. By that night, I was so physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. It was a long 24 hours. I’m not sure I’ll be back to Jacksonville for the Gate River Run anytime soon, but maybe eventually?