You're doing WHAT?
That's HOW far?
Are you CRAZY?
Yes, my friends and I ran a 50K trail race.
That's a little over 31 miles.
And yes, I'm thinking I might be a little crazy.
I'm not sure exactly WHEN the idea formulated, but sometime around the summer of 2016, my running partner, Cassie, and I were talking about future goals. We had both done a couple of marathons and had other friends who had completed ultra marathons (anything over the 26.2 full marathon, usually 50K, 50-milers, even 100-milers). Cassie decided she wanted to run a 50K before her 30th birthday, which is the summer of 2017. During a long run one Saturday, we decided that we would seek out a race and do it. There were a couple of other girls on the run that day, including our friend, Jennifer. We all said that it would be cool to attempt a 50K. I mean, it's just 5 more than a marathon, right?
As the summer turned into fall, Cassie, Jennifer, and I started running more and more together. Cassie and I set out and accomplished the Bourbon Chase Ragnar Relay, and Marshall University Half Marathons. Jennifer and I ran the Country Music Highway Half Marathon together (the first time I hit the sub-2-hour time). Sometime over the fall, I had a conversation with a Facebook friend about ultras in the area. She had suggested Playin' Possum 50K as a great one for beginners. It was north of Columbus, in Delaware, Ohio, which would certainly be a drivable distance for us. (Originally, Cassie and I explored the idea of doing "Rim to Rim" around the Grand Canyon, but cost was prohibitive.) As we looked into the course, "Possum" seemed quite doable, and the New Year's Day price was right, so we all three signed up. We were gonna do this!
Training was headed up by Cassie, our fearless leader. She worked out an awesome 20-week training plan and kept us informed of the long runs each weekend. The best thing about having TWO running partners is that when one is unavailable, you can usually run with the other. That is just about how this season went. All three of us are in very different stages of our lives, with different demands of family and work. We managed to schedule a few races together that fit into our training schedule, like Fallen Timbers 15K Trail Run and the St. Patty's Half Marathon in Louisville, KY. During the winter months, I ran several weekends solo, or split up the long runs, due to my kids' basketball game schedules or other family activities/travel. Other times, one of the other girls would have work obligations and I would run with only one of them. We tried to do as many Saturday runs together as possible. We completed as much as a 22-miler as a trio, and then Cassie ran Hall of Fame Marathon in Canton, Ohio, and then following weekend, Jennifer and I ran the Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon. I can't explain the kind of bond that comes from spending HOURS pounding the pavement together. God has truly blessed us!
When it came to race day, we had already run the 15K trail race, 2 half marathons, and 1 full marathon in preparation. Our longest "training runs" were 22-23 miles. Cold, wind, rain, hot sun,...we had run in it all. We were PHYSICALLY ready. But, ask any runner...especially a distance runner...and they will tell you that this kind of run requires more MENTAL toughness than anything else.
Playin' Possum 50K was held in the Delaware State Park, in Delaware, Ohio, just north of Columbus. The race directors, volunteers, and participants were amazing, kind, and super laid-back. The atmosphere was incredible. Packet pickup was held in the same picnic pavilion as the starting line, so we went on Friday evening to pick up our bibs and little goody bags of Playin' Possum 50K water bottles, stickers, and tech t-shirts. The weather was chilly, as it had rained during the day, but it was supposed to warm up for Saturday's race.
Saturday morning, we got up nice and early to prepare and get out to the park around 6:45am. The race start time was 7:30am, so that gave us time to park, use the facilities, and get ourselves ready.
My biggest fears about this race...the things that made me the most nervous...had nothing to do with the distance, the elevation, or the trail itself. I had just finished the Pittsburgh Marathon 13 days prior with a PR, I knew that even if I was walking by Mile 31, I was going to finish. I was already told that this was a great beginner course, because the elevation gain was not terrible. And while I am not a seasoned trail runner by any stretch, I knew I would be ok with running that terrain. No, the things I was most worried about were: having to go to the bathroom in the woods and crossing through knee-high water. Let's just go ahead and say it: I'm not what you call "the outdoorsy-type."
As we arrived in the starting area (picnic shelter, remember), I quickly located the "restrooms." There were three short-doored stalls with toilet seats on basically giant pipes into the ground. There was toilet paper and hand sanitizer. While most people would not prefer these "toilets," I was THRILLED to have a door, toilet paper, a seat, and sanitizer! Thank you, Lord! Ok, one fear gone. I was told that we would pass the starting area again at Mile 8 and Mile 20. Ok, I can wait until those points to go...I'll be alright.
The second fear: crossing water. We had been told that the one area we would certainly cross could be as high as waist-level. With the storms that had passed through, we had no idea what we would be in for. I was thankful that I packed an extra pair of running shoes and running socks, just in case. More on that in a bit...
Before the start, the race directors gathered the brand new, first-time ultra runners for a pep talk and a picture. 56 out of 127 runners were first-timers! We were told that when we finish, our reward was not only the horseshoe, but we also got to sign our names on the poles of the start/finish line, forever marking our first ultra!
After the pep talk, everyone gathered around for final instructions and we learned that proceeds went to Special Olympics of Delaware County, Ohio! Over $20,000 was raised between this race and a couple of others for the Special Olympics. It was truly a special moment when we were led by one sweet girl in the Special Olympics Oath. After that, everyone just turned in the direction of the course (no real starting line) and we heard "3, 2, 1, GO!" and the whole crowd took off in the direction of the little pink flags! It was kind of crazy to not have a gun or starting line, but off we went!
When I tried to look at the course map, I got a bit confused and overwhelmed, so I decided to just go with the flow and not worry about it. I heard people say that we hit the start/finish pavilion at Miles 8 and 20, and the first 8 were an out-and-back. Ok, I can do this. Jennifer, Cassie, and I headed out and stayed together really well. We met some other friendly runners, some doing this for the first time, too, and simply enjoyed the cooler air and cloud-covered woods. When the miles clicked by on my watch, we were running consistently between 10:00-10:45 pace. For the road, I would be disappointed with my first miles being that pace, but for trail, that was AWESOME! Maybe a little TOO awesome. I worried about going out too fast and losing steam later.
I could hear seasoned ultra runners in my head telling me, "Fuel early and often. Drink before you think you need to. Eat before you think you need to." But, for the first 8 miles, I barely drank anything and didn't eat anything either. While many wore hydration vests, I simply carried a small water bottle of Sword hydration in my skirt pocket, and dried pineapple, extra Sword powder, and paper towels (you know, in case I needed to "go") in the other pocket. So, at the water stops, I mostly drank water and refilled my water bottle (which diluted the Sword eventually, but I had extra powder to add along the way). Honestly, I enjoyed the first 8 miles and felt pretty good! We reached the pavilion and Cassie and I stopped at that "restroom," and felt even better. Jennifer didn't stop, so we said "bye," and blessed and released our sweet running friend.
The next section was another part of trail we hadn't been through yet. Miles 8-9 were pretty uneventful, still going at a good pace, and still around other runners. Then, we hit the water crossing. It was certainly not waist-deep, but it was about mid-calf. We were going to have soaked feet, and there was nothing we could do about it. The temperature was heating up, so when I walked through that water, it honestly felt very refreshing! And then came the "squish." You know, that sound when you have wet socks and shoes? Oh, it lingered on. Did I mention, I'm probably the only person who wore regular road shoes, versus trail shoes? What's the difference? Tread. Trail shoes have higher tread on them to grip the uneven surfaces, whereas road shoes don't. But, since this was only my second trail race EVER, I didn't know that I should invest in more shoes at this point. Anyway, squishy shoes and I kept going. I don't know this woman, but I found this picture of the crossing, so you could see...isn't she fabulous?
After the water crossing, it was a little ways until we reached the Dam Wall. This section is that one that everyone loves to hate. Long, high, and completely exposed to full sun. The good news is, it's flat, and just running in grass. The other good part was that Cassie and I were still together, making the time go by faster, even if we weren't talking. And, when we ran the first part of it, the clouds were still making it bearable. I can't remember exactly, but this was about Miles 11-12 or so.
When we reached the end, it was just before the actual Dam (grated bridge). We made a sharp right down a paved decline, and headed back into the woods for a bit. When we got near the end of the woods, I saw a picnic pavilion, and was excited about another aid station...but the nearest pavilion was empty. I'm pretty sure my face looked like a disappointed three-year-old. Until...I saw the real aid station at another pavilion just a few yards away. YAY! At that aid station, they had a variety of snacks, water, gatorade, and pickles. My calves were feeling tight at this point, and salt is usually a good option to help that. I decided I needed the pickle. The odd thing is, I hate pickles! I turned to Cassie and said, "I don't even LIKE pickles!" as I chomped down another bite. I threw away the last bite and we took off running again. Back up the incline, back on the wall.
As we crossed over the dam, we talked with a couple of guys who had done this race several times. They complimented us on how strong we looked and gave us a few heads up on what to expect next...mainly more wall. When we FINALLY got off the wall, we ran on a road for a while. Nice change of pace, but the sun was fully out by then.
Mile 15 was the next aid station, and there was a small out and back to get there. We spotted Jennifer and waved her on, and looked forward to the aid station. This one had more of the same, but also Mt. Dew and Coca-Cola. I couldn't believe it! Who would drink POP during a race? Well, then I saw Cassie take some and say how good it tasted, and something told me that it was a good choice. So...I took a 1/2 dixie cup full of Coke. Cassie just about fell over laughing, saying she was going to expose me to Facebook that I drank Coke! I REALLY don't like that stuff. There is something about ultras that apparently makes me want crazy, awful things like pickles and Coke!
Thankfully, we didn't have to go back to the wall...at least not yet. We ran a gravel/paved road for a while after that, trying to figure out how we would get dumped back onto the wall. Finally, we found the turn, and back on the wall we went...back in the hot sun. As much as I didn't feel like running anymore, I thanked Cassie for being there with me, because if it weren't for my fear of being alone, I would not have run as much as I did without walking. Running with my friend made me better.
And then back over the grated dam bridge we went. Then back down the decline, into the woods, and up to the picnic pavilions again. This was about Mile 17 and we decided to stop at the bathrooms there. These were better than the start/finish potties...they FLUSHED and had sink and soap! Then, back up the incline, back on the wall we went.
Half-way back to the woods, I felt something in my left shoe, on the pad of my foot. It could have been anything, since we had gone through the water crossing and then ran through grass, trails, and gravel for miles. But, all I knew was that it bothered me. I was ready to get back to Mile 20. I knew once I got there, I could change socks and shoes, and I thought I had moleskin in my bag, just in case. We finally got back off that dam wall and back into the woods. Back through the water crossing, and it was SO refreshing, I wanted to just lay down in it, but refrained. More miles to run.
By Mile 19, I was excited to get back to the aid station, but the longer we ran, the more I realized it was further than I thought. I was getting tired, and Cassie was getting a lead on me. There was a section of road and parking lot, so I kept her in sight. Then, back into the woods. It was shortly after I got back into the woods that I tripped on something and despite my best efforts to save myself, I fell. I fell hard enough that I completely rolled, but praise the Lord, I was not hurt at all! I was so thankful, but also a bit overwhelmed. I could feel my breath getting shorter and felt tears coming (which makes running so much harder). There were two other girls who were running near us during this time. Cassie had run on ahead, and since she had earphones in, she didn't hear me fall, but the other girls did. They stopped to see if I was okay and encouraged me that I was doing well. No injuries, except my pride. It was about Mile 20, and I was tired, mentally exhausted, and we hadn't reached that aid station yet. Liars! Turns out the shelter WASN'T at Mile 20, more like Mile 21. Maybe that isn't a big deal to some, but after 20 miles, I was MORE than ready to see that shelter! Delaying it was AWFUL.
I knew once I reached that aid station, I would meet back up with Cassie. It was kind of a whirlwind. I was tired, legs were crampy, and I had to change my shoes. Cassie's husband, Randy, was the best crew for us. He went and grabbed my drop bag, while I sat and untied my shoes. I found baby wipes that Jennifer had given us a week before, just in case, and cleaned off my feet. There was a slew of stuff at that picnic shelter, from vaseline to cookies. I was frantically looking for my moleskin, but realized it was in the car. I spotted a Barbie bandaid on the table and put that over the broken skin on my foot. Then, fresh socks and shoes went on. THAT was a HUGE blessing. Cassie was ready to rock and roll by then, so I filled up my water bottle again and dumped in my last bag of Sword powder. I don't even remember eating anything at that point, but I still had dried pineapple in my skirt pocket for an emergency. Just before leaving the area, I thought I might have biofreeze in my bag...I did! I ripped open the sample packet and slathered it all over my calves. AMAZING! Then...off we went!
As soon as we headed away from the shelter, my watch clicked over to Mile 21. I yelled back at one of the volunteers, "I just hit 21...is it 10 more miles, or 11?" He assured me it was 10. (LIAR!) I knew that I was moving at a slower pace than my speedy friend, so with earbuds in, Cassie didn't realize that I blessed and released her into the woods...just like Jennifer at Mile 8. Honestly, it felt good to go my own pace, slow as it was. I had taken ZERO pictures of the course up to this point, and I KNEW I would make it to the finish, so why not enjoy it?
I kept running, and walking, no cadence or method to the intervals. I really couldn't. Trail is SO different from road. On the road, I can plan intervals, breaks, when to eat, etc. On the trail, the terrain would decide when I walked. Bridges, rocky hills, tree roots, and mud were simply random obstacles on the path. Grace. I had to give myself grace. The temperature was rising, and I could feel it. I felt like as long as I was moving, I was good. Just don't stop moving.
From Mile 21-25 was the same route that we took from Mile 1-4. I recognized that we had been there earlier in the morning, and I knew at the end of it was an aid station again. By Mile 23, I was running better and realized that my foot didn't hurt anymore, so I was grateful. I figured in my head that I had 8 more miles to go, and even if I was WALKING and had a 15-minute pace, I would be done in two more hours, and under 6:30.
I had been running ahead of another girl in a skirt, and when I stopped for a picture, she caught up to me and we chatted for a bit. I think that was what made Miles 19-23 the hardest for me: I just didn't have anyone to talk with, so the miles went by very slowly. When I started talking with that other runner, all of a sudden, I was at Mile 24 and feeling good!
The aid station at Mile 25 had water, gatorade, and a variety of snacks again. I filled up with colder water (yay!) and looked around at food. Homemade peanut butter protein balls were there and sounded good, so I popped one in and overheard someone say the course was really more like 32 miles. Uhhhh...Not what you want to tell someone who has already run 25 miles of trail. I asked to make sure I heard right, and yes, it was really one MORE mile than I thought. I took a deep breath and gave myself a little pep talk as I walked away from that aid station. I also realized protein balls are a bit hard on the stomach and that was not a great idea.
From Mile 25, I had to go BACK the way I came, and the off to another out-and-back. We were told about this last one, where you had to go deeper into the woods, find a book, tear out a page to prove you had made it to that point, and then take it to the Mile 25 aid station again (which was about Mile 29 at that point). When I went into that last out-and-back, I realized I would hit over a marathon distance in that section! WOOHOO!
It was encouraging to pass runners and all of us shout affirmations to each other, but also a bit depressing because I knew I had so much more to go. I spotted Jennifer and she ran to me with open arms and gave me a big sweaty hug on her way out of the section. She said, "I'm SO DONE!" I asked her what mileage she had, and she said 28-something. I was at close to 25-something. Ok, not too bad. She's 3 miles ahead. I kept looking for Cassie and wondering where the heck this dang book was, and FINALLY saw her. She said, "the book is just ahead...and there's WATER!"
I a little bit later....I SAW IT AT LAST: A garbage can, water cooler, and a book with a sign:
I refilled my water, tore a page out of the book and put it in my pocket, and then looked at my watch a few steps later: I did it. I passed the marathon distance. I was an ultra marathoner!
Back on the same trail I went, hoping to get out of that section, and back to the aid station. THEN, I would only have a few miles left. Some moments I was proud of myself for still running. Other moments, I was disappointed I wasn't running more. But mostly, I kept saying, "This is crazy! I'm STILL ABLE to run!!!" I finally got out of the deep woods and back on the part of the trail I had done twice before. Back to the aid station. Refilled my bottle, grabbed a 1/4 peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and realized I had 3 more miles left. Three.
The last section of the trail was a new one. We hadn't run it before. There was one spot where the pink flags seemed to go two different directions, and I was questioning my judgment. I was right, but there was no one around me to find out for sure. Every pink flag was validation that I wasn't losing my mind, but I felt confident that I was.
I looked at my watch and I was at 29.88. Almost to 30 miles. 30 MILES!!! That's NUTS! Who goes out and runs 30 MILES?? Every sound I heard, I thought I must be close to the finish line. Then, I would see families fishing or playing at campgrounds, and I was reminded that we were in a state park on a Saturday. It wasn't the finish line. It was just the general public enjoying a beautiful day. Drat! Then...my watch bid farewell. Yup. It died on me. Just before Mile 30. Oh, don't worry, it delightfully declared that my run was saved. WHAT??? But, I'm not done!!! This ISN'T the end of my run! I'm STILL RUNNING!!! I don't know if I said that out loud, but no one was around to witness the outburst, whether real or imaginary.
So, I ran the last almost two miles blind. Not REALLY blind, but trail runs have no mile markers, and I had no clue how much farther. Eventually, that last bit of trail met up with the original one we had run several times, so I knew the ending of the route, but wasn't sure how much further that really was. It FELT like I was running blind. When I came out of the woods for the second to last time, there was always a volunteer at that point, making sure we continued on the right way and cheering us on. The nice man said, "You're doing great! Almost there!" I said, "Hmm, I've heard that 'almost there' stuff before!" (I'm pretty sure that if anyone says those three little words to me any time in the near future, I might punch them...just a little. I'm sorry...please don't tell me I'm ALMOST THERE, unless I can SEE the finish line. THAT is "almost there," not another MILE away!!)
The last little bit was through families playing in the park. I looked like death. I tried to ignore them. Everything hurt, but not the same kind of hurt that I felt at the end of the Pittsburgh Marathon. One last bit of woods before the finish. I did everything I could to stay strong, but I walked a bit in those woods, where no one could see. I wanted to run strong when I could see the finish. I got out and saw the parking area for that start/finish picnic shelter. I REALLY WAS almost there! The course was lined with signs for all the first ultra marathoners. It took me a minute to realize what they were, and then I spotted mine! I said I wasn't going to walk, but I stopped for a picture anyways.
Then, I ran all the way around the signs and above everyone else, I could hear Jennifer whistling and Cassie yelling for me. I ran in under that FINISH LINE sign and was immediately greeted with congratulations! It was AMAZING.
I took my horseshoe with pride. We got some pictures, and then I was given the giant Sharpie so I could write my name on the pole. I did it. WE DID IT.
The question after you finish a new distance is always, "Will you do it again?" It's hard to think about it at this point, but I do know that I am ABLE to do more than I think I can do, because it is Christ Who gives me STRENGTH. I give God all the glory and praise for carrying me through not only this race, but the 20 weeks of training that went into it.
Will I do another ultra? Maybe. I realize that I am much more comfortable with road races, but the beauty of the trail is enticing. There is certainly a different atmosphere around ultrarunning. The community is amazing and I love the laid-back nature of it all. For now, I will rest, regroup, and then pick up training again. Chicago Marathon is waiting for me on October 8th! 2017 is the year of the bucket list, and I plan to enjoy EVERY moment!
The day had come. My hometown race day. The full marathon. All 26.2 glorious miles around all three rivers and 13 different neighborhoods around the city.
In 2013, I ran my very first half marathon.
In 2014, I ran the Pittsburgh half marathon with my sister, and it was her first.
In 2015, we ran the Pittsburgh half again, but this time with my brother-in-law, too. It was his first.
In 2016, I was signed up to finally tackle the full marathon in the Steel City. When I signed up, we were also in the throws of paperwork for our international adoption. I needed something to keep me occupied through the waiting times, and running was it. The 2016 Pittsburgh full marathon was the first and only race I have paid for and registered a DNS (did not start). Why? Because it happened to be the SAME DAY that we brought our daughter HOME to the U.S.A.! Absolutely NO regrets on that one!
When it came time to register for 2017, I had to sign up for the full again. It was a bucket list item to run my hometown all the way through. Plus, let’s be honest, the medals are always great, and I knew the full marathon medal was WAY bigger! ;)
As my running partners and I had created a trio, we decided that the three of us would tackle a 50K ultra marathon in May 2017. I had no intention of putting an ultra on my bucket list, but...there it was. We registered in December for Playin’ Possum 50K and started our 20-week training plan in January. As part of our training, we sprinkled in a few other races for good measure: our first 15K trail race, St. Patty’s Half Marathon in Louisville, Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon in Lexington, and ...the Pittsburgh Full Marathon. (Cassie ran Hall of Fame Marathon in Canton one week prior to Pittsburgh, so it was just me and Jennifer at my old stomping grounds).
Note: It SEEMED like a good idea at the time to make Pittsburgh a “training” run for the ultra. At the finish line, I wasn’t so sure of our sanity when that plan was created.
Let’s get to race day…
Since I was very familiar with the first half of the race, I was excited to finally see the back 13 miles of the course. Over 20,000 runners participated in the weekend race, including the 5k, relay, half, and full. 3,439 finished the full marathon.
The weather the previous week was sweltering HOT, so I was extremely grateful for cooler temps, even though we battled a bit of wind. Everyone thought I was crazy for only wearing a tank and skirt, but it was perfect for that day. By Mile 3, I would have been hot in any more layers when the sun came out.
My husband decided to surprise me a few months prior, and arrange to bring our three children to the race and put us up in the Renaissance Hotel in downtown. It was a beautiful hotel, and only two blocks from my corral start. Perfect! It was nice not to have to worry about getting up at 3-4am, driving and fighting traffic/road closures, and try to find a good parking garage. If you know Pittsburgh, the way you get in is NEVER the way you get out. Aside from the logistics, I was pretty thrilled to have my kiddos experience a big expo for the first time, and to see me cross the finish line of such a big race. The boys had seen me finish two different half marathons a few years ago, but they were too young and quite a handful. This year, not only did the boys finally see their Mommy finish a full marathon, but my DAUGHTER got to see Mommy finish a race for the first time ever! There is nothing better than having my family supporting me!
Jennifer and I were at the corral very early, and I was spotting other friends here and there, who were running the half. We got settled into the crowd and huddled up in the cold and wind, waiting 40 minutes after the initial gun went off for us to actually cross over the starting line. The first few miles were frustrating, as the crowd was thick, and we should have been positioned closer to the front of that corral. A lot of bobbing and weaving and running on sidewalks to be able to keep from stopping around people. My goal for the race was 9-minute miles the first half and 10-minute miles the second. That first mile was about 10:30, just because of congestion. By Mile 4 it lightened up a little bit. It was nice to see the course changed so that we could run by PNC Park, The Carnegie Science Center, and Heinz Field. By Mile 5, I was chasing Jennifer, and I knew I would have to bless and release my speedy running sister. At Mile 6, I no longer saw her white jacket, and I knew I had to run my race.
Miles 7-10 were pretty uneventful, other than I noticed I was running with, and then ahead of, the 4:10 pacer. I don’t do well with sticking with pacers, but it was good to know where I was in relation to them. I was actually on track to sub-2 the first half, which I had been doing in training runs all season. I kept a small water bottle with Sword hydration in it, and pockets of extra Sword, dried fruit pieces, and an emergency almond butter packet. I don’t remember anything by water and gatorade on the course until about Mile 9, where I think they handed out GU packets. I have done all of those things, with no luck on my stomach. I decided to stick with what I had, and take water from every other water stop on the first half. I planned to run the first 13 without stopping at all...and that’s what I did. When I hit the halfway point, I was at 1:59:38. Perfect.
Before Mile 11, the course split between half and full/relay runners. I was honestly really happy for this. The crowd went down considerably, and I felt like I could breathe. I also realized, as we crossed the same bridge with only a barrier between us, how easy it would have been to stop at 13 miles that day. But no, I had 13 MORE to go! Mile 12 was uphill, and the biggest assent. I was expecting this, but it didn’t make it easier, considering my vow to not stop and hit that sub-2 half. I also had drunk a lot of water and Sword to keep from dehydrating, causing other problems, like needing a porta-potty! I told myself if I hit my first half goal, I would stop and go #1. I had never used a porta-potty during a race where I was trying to PR before, but I figured the one or two minutes wouldn’t make much of a difference over four hours.
I met my goal, made my pit stop, and felt so much better….except my legs. They were getting tired. I was like, “What the heck, legs! Tired already? That’s crazy!” Around Mile 14, I saw someone handing out pineapple pieces and I just about ran down a big guy to get some fruit. I felt desperate, because at this point, I had not eaten anything, only drank Sword and water. That pineapple was HEAVENLY. Shortly after that, another guy came up to me with my headband in his hand. He said he thought I had dropped it...and I guess I had! I was blown away that he would stop and pick it up and give it to me during a race! Awww, kindness! Love it!
Miles 20-23 were a bit tougher, but I could do the math well enough to guesstimate my time. If I kept 11 minute pace, I could still come in close to 4:20, if not AT 4:20. Why this time? Well, my very first marathon was at Walt Disney World in 2015. I ran for a charity I love (ShowHope.org), and I ran all 26.2 miles injured with tendinitis in both knees. It was a painful, 6:35 marathon. In 2016, I had redemption with much better training, no injuries, and finished my second full marathon with 4:35. It got stuck in my head that when Oprah ran her marathon in the 1990s, it was a 4:29. I just wanted to beat Oprah! I mean, come on! So, during the training season, I had long runs that would give me an estimated marathon finish time of 4:20, and my 23-miler was even on point to finish at 4:11. So, I really believed that 4:20 was possible, based on my training, but honestly, I just wanted to PR and beat Oprah, and I knew I could.
Mile 23 was glorious. Thank you, Pittsburgh Marathon, for Mile 23. It was a gradual decline the entire mile! WOOHOO! That felt nice to have some relief at that point. 3 miles to go. And more. I realized back at Mile 12 that my watch was clicking over mileage sooner than I saw the markers. I figured all that bobbing and weaving at the beginning added a lot to my distance. So...3.2+ more miles...I can do this….2 miles...I can do this...1.2+ miles...I can do this!...I saw my 4:20 slipping away. I cared, but not enough to push my legs to the capacity they would need to achieve it. I knew I would hit 4:20 or less at Mile 26, but I had a bit further to go. And it was ok. I was going to get a PR.
At Mile 26, I knew there was a turn to the finish line. I was looking all over the crowds on the street, searching for my daughter’s orange umbrella stroller, but I never did see it. Photographers were in the middle of the street, taking pictures as I could see the finish line ahead. I smiled...I waved...I was setting a PR...and I was almost done! I just hoped my family saw me.
I crossed the finish line, clicked off my watch, and it sunk in...I DID IT...and MAN, I HURT!!!! It was SO incredibly painful to stop, and once I got my medal, Jennifer spotted me and gave me the BIGGEST hug! WE DID IT! She was a marathoner for the first time with 4:08, and I set a big PR with 4:22:59.
WE DID IT!
We gathered up snacks in the shoot for the kiddos, and waddled our way to the exit area and family meeting area. As we exited, I realized, “Oh my gosh! I have to do this again at Chicago in October! Who’s great idea was that?”....and THEN, I remembered, “Oh my gosh! We have to run a 50K in 13 days! What were we thinking?” And then...just pain. Everything hurt. My back, my legs, my everything! We stopped for pictures a few places, and rang the PR bell (which I had never been able to do before because any PR race I have run did not have a bell)! That was SO rewarding!
We met the family at Point State Park, as they were enjoying the fountain and they were all so excited to see us and excited to tell how they saw me running and saw me finish, and got pictures!!! We all had a blast chattering away about everything on our little walk back to the hotel.
I can never thank my husband enough for bringing the family for this weekend. Having their support was AMAZING and more than I could ever have imagined! I want my children to always see me chase dreams. I want them to know that they can do ANYTHING they want to do and DREAM BIG and NEVER GIVE UP. I want them to see it takes HARD WORK to reach a goal. I want them to see the hours of dedication and the thrill of a win!!! It was truly an incredible day!
If you have ever considered running this race, do it! Of course, I am partial to my hometown, but the city of Pittsburgh does a fantastic job with this event. Top notch service, awesome volunteers and cheer squads, fluid stations at almost every mile on the back half, GREAT BLING (I mean, that medal is HEAVY!), and a super fun expo for the whole family. I am proud to say I’m from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
From my very first long-distance track meet in the ninth grade to 26.2 miles (well, 26.42 for me ;) )...I can happily close this chapter of racing in the beautiful Steel City ...for now.
I'm the kind of person who gets easily overwhelmed by details. I literally need a step-by-step...okay, a BABY-stepped plan. When I started thinking about clean eating and REALLY getting my health right for the first time EVER, I had a lot of unstated anxiety about it all.
We all say we know HOW to get healthy: Eat right and exercise. Right? Yes....but HOW?
Through the use of an accountability group, I learned:
The programs used in the accountability group REVOLUTIONIZED the way I lived. AND, I FINALLY had the support I needed to make it a LONG-TERM solution.
As a coach, I have found that there are TONS of people out there who know they need to "eat right and exercise," but they get tripped up with the HOW. When we feel overwhelmed or confused by all the different "diets" out there, we tend to give up before we even get started.
I'm here to HELP.
Wouldn't it be EASIER to have a game plan?
Wouldn't it be NICE to have daily SUPPORT for the journey?
Wouldn't it be AWESOME to be REWARDED for all your hard work?
You've come to the right place.
THE CORE CHALLENGE.
Welcome to The CORE Challenge. In this 35-day group, we will start with an entire WEEK of prep. That's right, a whole week to talk about what clean eating IS, how to use simple color-coded containers to measure portions, and how to meal plan and prep. Let's be honest, the EATING is the hardest part! So, I spend the entire first week getting YOU ready for success in the kitchen.
The next four weeks will be spent logging workouts and sharing awesome recipes we are using as our daily dose of dense nutrition with Shakeology (which now comes in regular OR vegan options). We will cheer each other on with each post and do everything from the ease of a FREE downloadable app for your smart phone!
YOU choose the workout program, but you must commit to following the provided calendar that corresponds. This is HOW you see progress. Professional trainers will be right in your living room, giving you all the tips you need to SEE RESULTS. As your coach, I will help you choose the right program for your current fitness level and desired outcome.
Fitness made SIMPLE.
25-60 minutes in the comfort of your own home, or take it with you to the gym!
Meal planning made SIMPLE.
5-6 small meals of whole foods, not processed.
Daily nutrition made SIMPLE.
Shakeology contains over 70 superfood ingredients to fill in the gaps and keep you healthy, give you energy, and curb those cravings for junk food.
Accountability made SIMPLE.
1:1 coaching AND group support for every day of the challenge...and beyond!
What is the theme of this group? CORE.
COMMIT to yourself and family at all times
OVERCOME all obstacles past and present and prepare for the ones in the future
RESIST regression and temptation
ENDURE all challenges past, present, and future and true strength and progression will come.
You have to be willing to COMMIT to being a better YOU. We will overcome TOGETHER. We will ENDURE together. You will have the TOOLS to learn HOW to RESIST temptation. YOU CAN DO THIS!
"You are what you are by what you believe” – Oprah Winfrey
Let's have some real talk for a minute. What is the biggest reason why people do not succeed? They don’t BELIEVE they can. During The CORE Challenge, you will learn HOW to start BELIEVING in yourself. Yes, the group support will be key. Yes, working out each day and eating right will boost your confidence. BUT--it is up to YOU to work on that BELIEF in yourself. HOW are we going to do that? By digging into a personal development book or podcast that speaks to YOU during this challenge. I recommend "Made to Crave" by Lysa Terkeurst, or "The Compound Effect" by Darren Hardy for starters, but there are TONS of resources out there that can fit your individual needs.
The one the most successful people use to accomplish their goals.
“Successful people are successful because they are willing to do what unsuccessful people are unwilling to do.” So simple. So true.
How do you join this challenge group?
You can join this private group for FREE with the All Access Beachbody On Demand Challenge Pack. This is a bundled option that gives you access to EVERY Beachbody fitness program ever made for 12 months! If you have Netflix, you can stream this! Imagine working through multiple programs over the year and NEVER getting bored! AND--this is about long-term solutions, so you never have to buy another program ever again! For 12 months, you can stream everything from Insanity and P90X to 21-Day Fix and Core De Force, PLUS all new programs released in the next 12 months, including YouV2 and the Shift Shop! It is truly the best deal in fitness! The best part?
In addition to the proven workouts, you will have access to each program's specific nutrition guide, workout calendar, and bonus workouts. You will also receive the portion fix container system, shaker cup, and FIXATE cooking show to give you all the latest recipes.
And last but not least, with the All Access Beachbody On Demand Challenge Pack, you ALSO receive your first month of Shakeology! This is our secret weapon to nutrition. Nutrition is actually 80% of the equation, and fitness is 20%. So, why not give you the EASIEST form of superfoods to cut your cravings, aid digestion, help your muscles recover, and keep you on track every single day? Yup! We include that, too! What are the benefits?
What is the cost?
Basic challenge packs range from $140-$205, depending on the fitness program (1 program) you want to purchase. (All packs also include your first month of Shakeology.) The All Access Beachbody On Demand Challenge Pack has just been SLASHED for this month from $199 to $160!! Say WHAT??? YES! For the same price as ONE program, you can have access to them ALL!!!
This All Access Challenge Pack includes your 12-month access to EVERY fitness program, portion containers and shaker cup, nutrition guide, first month of Shakeology, personal coaching, and daily accountability group! You don't want to miss out! When I signed on, I only purchased a ONE-program challenge pack. When I completed it, I purchased another fitness program, and so on. Last year alone, I spent over $300 on only 5 programs (even with my 25% off coach discount)! You can see how All Access, with access to HUNDREDS of workouts, is an incredible savings!
Are you ready to learn the HOW to health and fitness? If you have always wanted a step-by-step process that WORKS, this is it! AND you have personal coaching and a whole group of people ready to support you 100%!
Fill out the application below to get started TODAY!
Thank you for your interest in this group! I will contact you within 24 hours of your application to get started!
Wife. Mother. Runner. Coach. Adoption Advocate. I strive to share HOPE through my journey and help others reach their goals.