My First Marathon--Not Pretty, But Finished

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One morning, about a month ago, after a killer 19 mile run in the heat, I sat in a cold tub of water, looked up at Sweet Husband and said, "I don't know if I can do this."  

"That's ok," he said without a trace of his typical wise-ass humor.  "If you want to quit, honey, you can totally quit."

Even as tired as I was, my whole being rebelled at that word, as he had known it would.

"I don't think I'm very good at that quitting thing," I arched an eyebrow up at him in mock displeasure that he had suckered me in with his reverse psychology.

His eyes crinkled into a smile, "Nope, you're not."

***

I had a lot of time to replay that conversation on Saturday, as I ran my first marathon.

It was a perfect day.  I was feeling amazing.  Looking back at the splits even, I couldn't have planned it better.  

And then, sometime right around 21.5 miles, I stepped wrong.  There was a little divet in the road--not even enough to trip over--but it ganked my knee sideways.  I could tell it wasn't good, so I headed over to the curb.

I stumbled down and gingerly stretched my leg out.  Unfortunately, my tummy was a little queasy anyway, and...well, running gummies aren't yummy the second time 'round.  

A few of Kansas City's finest headed over to check on me.  I was afraid they were going to make me stop, but I was only 5 miles from the finish--so freaking close. With no aid station nearby, one officer offered me his bottle of water and his lunch.  I accepted the water, but nothing else was going in my stomach just then.  Seeing that I had my cell phone in case I needed to call someone, thankfully, they eventually decided I was OK to go on.  

As long as I didn't bend the knee I could keep moving forward, peg-leg style, but each time I tried to run a few steps my knee screamed and the nausea came back.  So, I started walking.  I knew that any time-goal was shot-to-hell, but I still just wanted to finish.

Not gonna make it pretty, it was about the most depressing 5 miles of my life. 

I was on pace to be done in about 4:40 when I hit the 21 mile marker.  I ended up finishing in just under 6 hours.  Sweet Husband came out to walk about the last quarter mile with me.  I had texted him to say I was hobbling in, but as the full story spilled out I started to cry.

"Hey, don't think about that now.  You're almost there."

And then, not at all in the way I envisioned it, I stepped over the finish line.

***

I'm still trying to process how I feel about it.  On the one hand, "Yay, I finished!"  On the other, I'd be lying if I said I'm not a little down about the difference between the race I had and the one I almost had.  

I'm also a little worried about how soon I'm going to be able to run again on my bunged-up knee.  Ibuprofen and ice have helped, but it still feels like the ligament is going to snap when I'm walking around.  Giving it a few days before I head to the doc, but it sucks.

***

To end on a happier note, though, a few very heartfelt thank yous....

First, to Ms. Cara Combs.  She's a kick-ass friend, in general, but these past few months she's been taking the Kid to the park and for coffee/chocolate milk so that Sweet Husband and I could both finish our long runs.  If you leave your kids sometimes to run (or do whatever your hobby is, really) you know that can take a huge toll in mama-guilt.  But Cara and the Kid were having so much fun together that there wasn't a thing for me to feel guilty about.

Next, to her hubby, Nick.  Although we've only known him for a year (inside joke), his good humor has quickly become essential to all our adventures.  Had he been along, I would have, no doubt, spent those last miles laughing my ass off at some crazy story about his dysfunctional co-workers.  Also--although he might kill me for saying it--dude can write.  (To post it again here would be vanity, but he penned a pre-race pep talk on my Facebook wall that made me cry.)

Then, of course, to my boys.  The Kid, who I hope grows up seeing that the minute you catch yourself wistfully saying, "I could never do that," is right when you should start trying.  And Sweet Husband...because of, well, everything, but mostly because of how amazing it is to get to walk (and run!) through life with someone who really knows you.

Last, but not least, thank you all of you (and Patti, too!), for showing up on Saturday, with awesome signs and cowbells, to boot!  I know I made it a long day, but being aware that my people were waiting at the end was a pretty big chunk of what got me through it.

The Ragnar Race Recap

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Several months ago, I entered a contest on the Another Mother Runner site and won an entry to a Ragnar Relay in Washington D.C.  

What is a Ragnar Relay, you ask?  It is an approximately 200 mile race, run by a 12 member team.  (The team is divided into two vans for logistics sake.)  Each runner rotates through for legs that can range from 2 miles to almost 10 miles, for a total of between 13 and 21 miles per runner.  And once you start, you keep going until you finish.  So, for example, our team began running at 8:30 Friday morning and had a runner on the course until we finished a little before 3 on Saturday afternoon.

It's about 60% running race, 20% navigational challenge, and 20% teamwork exercise.  And we did it all in tutus!

Why tutus, you ask?  Our captain mother runner, Dimity (who is as big in spirit as she is tall), had recently run a different Ragnar and had loved how the tutus--which are specially made to run in--made her team members distinguishable from far away.  Especially since none of us knew each other very well at first, the tutus were brilliant!

Of course, tutus or not, it doesn't take many hours to get to know people when you're riding in a van together cross-country.  I was lucky to be teamed-up with....

  • Nikki, who seemed like a quiet quilter-mom (check out her work), at first, but took on hills like a beautiful, smiling Mack truck.
  • Angela, who looked sweet and innocent in her tutu, but made a hobby of "tagging" the other vans with our logo when no one was looking.
  • Laura, who was incredibly chill until she started running, when she "killed" (passed) people with ruthless intensity.
  • Aimee, a super laid back ultra-runner, with a gorgeous Southwestern drawl.  (Aside: Do laid-back people become ultra-runners?  Or does running ultras make you laid back?  I can't decide which comes first, but every ultra person I know has that same "don't sweat the small stuff" outlook on life.)
  • And Janelle, our mama-hen who was vital to keeping track of logistics and tough enough to keep right on running after a pretty bad spill on a dirt road in the dark.

Other highlights?

A pony tried to eat my tutu.  Also, I thought I lost the slap bracelet "baton" after my 3 a.m. leg.  Thankfully, I had just pushed it up with my sleeve.  Even more thankfully, I had teammates there to point it out before I could freak out too badly!

But even more than that, I slept in a corn field.  I trekked down country roads with only the stars for company.  I ran in just a sports bra for the first time in my life, for goodness sakes.  

In short, I had a little adventure, which I think is a good thing for a mama to a not-quite-three-year-old to do every now and then.

A big old thanks to Dimity and Sarah of Another Mother Runner, as well as all the other companies that helped sponsor the team (Saucony, Nuun, Knuckle Lights, Hyland's, Sof Sole, 110%, NutZo, GU, Larabar, Ultimate Direction, Team Refuel, SkinFare, and, of course, Tough Girl Tutus--phew!).  And if you want to hear more about the race, my team (Team Dimity's) recap is here, and Team Sarah's will be up in the next few days.       

All of the Everywheres

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Today, it just so happens that I've ended up writing everywhere else!

First, At Bedtime on Mamalode.  This is one of those mommy memories I want to be able to feel and see and smell until I'm 100.

Second, the first of many Sparkle Kitchen posts for the Sparkle Stories blog.  Sparkle Stories is an original audio story subscription service for kids and their families--it's way cool!  I was tickled when Lisabeth asked me to join in a few times a month with a recipe inspired by the stories.  This first one--based on a character's trip to wilderness school--is all about catching and cooking trout.

Third, a handy little post about how I use Pinterest to Tackle Meal Planning at 5 Minutes for Mom.

And last, but not least, (for my running friends) I'll be heading to D.C. next week to run a Ragnar Relay with the lovely women of Another Mother Runner.  I'm running on Dimity's team, and from the looks of our Team Dimity Profile it's going to be an awesome time! 

Ohh, and actually, really last--the winner of the Greenitian giveaway is KC!

Go forth and have a wonderful Wednesday!

So, We Ran a Half-Marathon in the Dark

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Actually, it's more than that, even.  We paid a babysitter for the privilege.

It turns out that we live in the middle of a robust ultra-marathoner community.  (Technical definitions vary, but think "crazy-ass people who run 50 or 100 miles in one go".)  Two of the events put on by the local group are a pair of fun runs--"Coleen's Sweaty Fat Ass Run" in the summer, and a corresponding "Coleen's Frozen Fat Ass Run" in the winter.  Saturday night was the "sweaty" version.

The course was a 3-mile trail loop, through wooded areas and fields, and the idea was that you could run the loop as many times as you wanted between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m.  The boys (Sweet Husband and Nice Running Friend) wanted to get off a half-marathon for their 30, I needed to do at least 14 miles for my marathon training plan, and Nice Running Friend's Wife was--quite sensibly--just going to run as many times as felt good.

We managed two loops before it got dark, then stopped for headlamps.  I enjoyed chatting with our friends--it was a social outing, after all--but when I ended up by myself for most of loop 4 I wasn't sad either.

I can't think of the last time I've been in the woods alone after dark.  Sure, I was getting passed by the occasional speedier runner, but for the most part it was just me and the bull frogs.  The moon was a perfect sliver of fresh-cut Hubbard squash.  At one of the water crossings, I couldn't help but stop for a minute and douse my headlamp to look up at the sky.  There were stars I haven't seen since I was a teenager camping with my dad at the lake--the teapot (Sagittarius), the "marvelous M" (Cassiopeia).  One of my favorite yoga teachers often describes mountain pose as "standing purposefully on the earth".  For a moment there, in the dark, I was.

And then, we finished up--5 loops total--and headed for the smorgasbord of food.  (Ultra people are a little crazy, yes, but they know how to eat.)  Sunday morning's aches and pains were rough, but even so, I think this is going to become a thing.

She Got the Last Word, But I Got a Good Story

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I'm lucky in that I've never had anything remotely scary happen to me while out running.  I'm always a little on guard--particularly running alone early in the morning--but so far nothing...until this afternoon.

It was pouring, but I had gotten a little off my training schedule this past weekend so I really wanted to get in my miles for the day.  I stopped at Sweet Husband's work to leave him the car keys, and stepped back out into the tiny garden behind his shop to queue up my Garmin.

As I was waiting to connect with the Garmin mothership, an older woman stepped into the garden.  She was dressed almost like a nun, with a black hood and robe that completely covered her body.  She was carrying a rather large crucifix out in front of her like a priest leading mass.  That seemed a little odd in a rainy alley, but when she stopped to pick up litter in the garden I gave her a hesitant smile.  I'm quite agnostic, but any religion that directs people to clean up strangers' gardens is wonderful by me.

But then she shouted at me, angrily, "Your dress is scandalously short!"

I had on my favorite running skirt.  When I first tried it on I was a wee bit self-concious about it's length, myself, but it reaches just below mid-thigh, well covering up my bootie.  Further, it's the most comfortable summer running gear I've found.  It doesn't ride up like shorts do, and I feel like I can fly in it.

I forced my smile a bit harder, and moved to walk past her so that I could leave the garden.  And that's when things got alarming.

Trapping me on the narrow pathway out, she moved towards me, shaking the crucifix like she was going to smite me down with it.  "Your dress is scandalously short!" she shouted even more angrily as she stalked closer.

With my fight or flight response kicking in hardcore, I jumped sideways, trampling Sweet Husband's boss's wife's beautiful plants to get away.  (Sorry Debbie!)  I ran down the block, making sure she wasn't following before I finally stopped to gather myself.

And then I got mad.  Pissed-off, shaking, spitting mad.  How dare she judge me!  How dare she try to scare and shame me like that!  I ran my three miles in the pouring rain--hard and with fury flowing off me like the water.

I couldn't believe I didn't say anything back to her.  I've never been able to come up with witty retorts in situations like that, but I didn't even get out an "F-you, lady!"  Or better yet, "I'm calling the cops and reporting you for assault."  I was mad that it happened, but I was even more mad that I'd let her chase me away like a naughty little girl.

As I toweled myself off at home, I told Sweet Sister the story.  I got about to the part of her shaking the crucifix, when Sweet Sister started to crack-up.  "She was shaking a cross at you!" she exclaimed, in between peals of laughter.  

And then I started laughing myself.  After all, lots of runners can say they've been followed by a creepy guy, but being accosted by an old lady bearing Christ on the cross?  That, my friends, is a good story.