Tag Archives: Races

State 11: Oklahoma

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Hi y’all!  Bet you’re surprised to hear from me ;).  I’ve moved to a new site that is a better attempt at bridging my personal loves with my professional goals – come check it out!

That being said, this will be my final post on my beloved RunMem!  Thank you for your support, comments and suggestions over the past 3 years, it’s been a learning experience and I’ve loved connecting with each of you!  I will still be writing and creating much of the same content over at my new home and I truly hope you’ll follow me there!  Still have lots of racing to do!

A few months ago I completed State 11 (miscalculated my states…the next one was 11, not 12.  And I didn’t end up making it to Michigan).  So 11 it is!  Here’s the summary (a sneak peek for y’all before it’s up on the new homepage tomorrow morning):

A few months ago, I headed north to Tulsa, Oklahoma to participate in the Williams Route 66 Half Marathon.  I’d been to Tulsa only once before, on my roadtrip moving from Zionsville to Austin in August 2012.  My childhood friend Katie and her husband Justin graciously agreed to host me for the weekend, and that’s only the beginning of the Oklahoma hospitality.  Read on….

Saturday

I left Austin for Tulsa on Saturday morning after running with the ladies I’m coaching for the 3M half marathon (now in less than 2 weeks!).  The weather in Austin had turned suddenly and uncharacteristically cold, we’re talking low 20s, so I anticipated even worse in Tulsa.  I bundled up for the drive, gave little rascal Miley a hug and kiss (my first time ever leaving her!) and hopped in the car.

Bye little rascal – Be good!

The drive was fairly uneventful.  Austin to Waco to Dallas to the state line through nothing and nothing and nothing and then hello Tulsa!  The Oklahoma hospitality greeted me as soon as I crossed the state line.  There’s a toll road just on the other side of the Texas/Oklahoma border and I was in no way prepared for their style.  In Texas they just take a picture of your plates and mail you the bill but in Oklahoma they wanted exact change…..I was $1.40 short.  The sun had already set and temperatures were dropping.  I explained to the booth attendant that I was driving to visit a friend for the weekend and would come back through on Monday.  Then, this kind lady paid the rest of my toll for me!  She simply said, “Can I trust you?”  Yes of course!  She handed me a tiny manila envelope with her name on it and the final amount due, instructing me to drop it off on my way back out of the state.  With that she said good night and waved me through!

Oklahoma, I think you and my unprepared self will get along just fine!

Wide Open Oklahoma Spaces.

453 miles, one friendly toll booth attendant and 7 hours later, I found Katie’s house.  She and Justin came out in the freezing weather to greet me and carry my lightly packed bag inside.  I hadn’t seen their new house yet so after first being greeted by their two fur babies, I was given the full tour (proud to be the first to sleep in their guest room!).  Katie and I caught up on marriage (hers), breakups (mine), dogs (ours) and future plans (she with a new business, me finishing school and thinking of where to move next) over homemade pizza and wine before I snuggled in to the warmth of bed.

Typical pre-race fuel and excellent company!
Zionsville in Tulsa!

Sunday

I woke up rested on Sunday and checked my phone for the temperature.  I’m not one to wuss out on races because of weather but when 25 registered in my mind, I certainly thought about it.  The skies were clear though, so I bundled up the best I could and mentally prepped for 2 hours in the cold.

Y’all this is a problem #toocold #wuss

Katie and Justin’s cafe, Foolish Things Coffee, was just blocks from the start so we planned to head there so they could open for a few hours during the first part of the race.  Justin fixed me up a cup of their gourmet drip coffee while Katie scooped up some homemade granola for me.  I stayed in the warmth as long as I possibly could (7:59am) and then left them to find the start line.

An Oklahoma sunrise and a Foolish Things breakfast.
Ready to go – State 11!

Y’all, it was cold.  I had on a long sleeve Under Armour tight-as-hell insulating shirt and a fleece zip up over that.  My ears were covered by a Bondi Band and had gloves on both hands.  I could feel the burn on my face and the tiny patch of skin between my mid-calves and ankles, but otherwise was pretty comfortable as long as I was moving.  Talk about motivation to run….

I’m not the only crazy one!

There were plenty of other crazies at the start with me (see proof above) and we all commiserated over the temperatures.  A pair of boys next to me were saying they would be spending 4+ hours trying to complete the full…I’m so glad I gave that distance up!  2 hours sounds like plenty of time in the sub-freezing temps.  Thankyouverymuch.

My beloved Saucony Mirages – their third race! (Austin Marathon, Louisville Half, Tulsa Half)

Mile 1 – We started off with a confetti shower and headed away from the skyline into the residential hills.  I started thinking about my goal for the race – Katie and Justin joked I’d better PR for the sake of promoting their “Breakfast of Champions” but I knew that was out of the question.  I hadn’t been consistently training and honestly didn’t anticipate finishing without walking a bit.  I was going to enjoy my music, enjoy the crowd’s energy and enjoy texting and Instagramming through the miles.  Easiest goal ever 🙂

Mile 2 – Not long after the first mile mark and about halfway up our first significant hill, the two boys from the start line found me.  It was typical race conversation, opened up with a complaint about the hills.  I retorted with something about it being hilly in Austin and so it didn’t seem so bad, although the hills were comparable!

Mile 3 – I paused to take a picture and told the boys to continue on, that I could try to catch up.  Without expecting to, I did (I think they slowed to wait for me 😉 ) and we continued chatting about race histories (the one with the darker beard was trying to do a marathon in every state, the other one was running his first marathon).  I told stories of my first marathon and we kept moving.

Mile 4 and 5 – We’re deep into some historic neighborhoods now.  Beautiful homes, rolling hills and bright autumn colors.  Dad’s texting me, I’m impressing the boys with my ability to take pictures, post to Instagram and text while maintaining their pace.  Their pace, which they keep commenting needs to slow down if they’re gonna make it the full distance.

Mile 6-9 – I’m distracted by my company and fail to take pictures by the mile like I normally do but our conversation is interesting and we’re still trudging along at a sub 2-hour pace.  I learn the relationship of the boys – dark beard is a math teacher from Moore and light beard was his student last year.  Light beard is now in college studying something complex like engineering.  Dark beard knows the route well and warns me of the hardest strip along the river coming up.

Mile 10-12 – We’re finally along the river, a scene that feels happily familiar to me thanks to years of running along the mighty Mississippi.  The drawback is that it’s colder on the river, and I’m chilled deep to my bones.  I remember the Kings of Leon were on, and it’s getting harder for me to text because my fingers won’t move how they’re supposed to.  I’m still trying to stop to take pictures.  Our conversation is a little less but I still offer words of encouragement – those poor souls have a long way to go.

Before we separate,  I make them take a picture with me.  I’ve run several dozen races and have never made friends.  I’m always open to it, how great to be in a new place and make a connection with someone who loves what you love?  It had just never happened until today.  We exchanged information so I could continue to text them encouragement on their last leg of the race.  And I finally learned their names – dark beard, the math teacher is Ryan and his student is Zander (short for Alexander).  I promised to finish under 2 hours for them.

And I do.  I push hard the last mile to make it but I still felt strong – something about the cold weather or good company or a fast song.  State 11 done!

The boys end up finishing the full – Zander the first-timer leaves his teacher in the dust but Ryan sucks it up and gets it done.  And I’m still so grateful I stick to halves.

I reunite with Katie at the Cafe and am served a specialty mocha by Justin.  It takes that, a few hours and a warm bath for me to completely thaw out before hitting the town for Christmas shopping and margaritas!

I leave Tulsa on Monday with it on my mind for a final settling place for me, inspired by the Carpenters’ success at each of their entrepreneurial ventures, a little chilly, pleased with my new friends and tentative plans to reunite for a race this spring (though my Okie-loving grandmother already has us married off….).  And I leave $1.40 plus some interest at the toll booth on the way out of town.

Thanks Oklahoma!

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Marathon #3: Livestrong Austin Marathon – Part 2

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Yesterday I left you just past our last chance to ditch the 26.2 for 13.1.  Erin and I had marched up that hill and were headed into the most rolling part of the course.  She stopped for a refueling break and I bid her good luck and marched on.  I was feeling ok – 5 miles to the 30k mark and then just on from there.  The course was still on a gradual incline with some big rolls scattered in.  My blisters were getting worse and I was starting to have pain in my hips.  Minor details.

Miles 14-16 are kind of blurry.  I know that I was warm enough to start pouring water on my head.  I remember reading some of my texts at the 2 hour mark in between chomping sports beans.  My friend Koko was sending motivational texts that were so helpful – Today, the road answers to you, RunStrong.  Ha, that refocused me a little but I certainly didn’t feel that way.  Everyone who will benefit from the money you raised is thinking of you right now.  Run for them.  That helped a lot too.  I’ve had several close friends fight and beat cancer and they each had a mile dedicated to their fight.  I pulled on their strength and resilience to get one foot in front of the other.

Miles 16-18 were the last of the up hill portion along a long straight road.  As is typical in a marathon, I started losing my sanity around 17.  I was still fist pumping along, singing out loud a little bit (which I’m sure all of the people without headphones really enjoyed).  And then at 17 I had to stretch.  All I could think about was doing the figure-4 to give my glutes some relief.  And a calf stretch.  So I relieved the stiffness and forged ahead.  Right at mile 18 we turned around a corner to start the descent back into town.  Somewhere along those miles was a house set up with a gigantic poster that read – “Cocktails for Quitters” definitely considered it!

By 19 I was thinking about getting to 21.5 where I knew Lauren would be.  At this point my knees have joined the pain party and every step is more painful than the last.  I start to question my love for the sport and if I misremembered two marathons of this pain.  I focus on staying loose and changing my gait a little, keep your knees bent, arm swing, pull from the belt, land midfoot, eyes forward, keep moving.  For god’s sake please keep moving.  I should say here there was never any doubt that I would finish.  Not like at this point in the 2010 St. Jude Marathon where I’m certain I would have quit without Pops’ positive encouragement and laughs.  I wasn’t quite so delusional as then but I was definitely in the hardest part of the race.

The last 6.2 miles are known for being the toughest.  There’s a saying – the first half of the marathon is the first 20 miles, the second half is in the last 6.2.  Obviously mathematically that doesn’t make sense, but psychologically it does.  At mile 20 I turn my thoughts to the people who inspire me the most – my fellow runners.  Erin, Tiff, Brandon, Stef, Madeline, Sharon, Jen and my entire Memphis crew.  Princess, Becca, Leah, Tish, Linda, my dad, his running group, Koko, Anna, Kalli, Lynds.  They’re all pulling for me.  Keep going Jess.  I spend some time thinking about never doing this again.  Never putting my body through this torture again.  But I’m not totally convinced.

I turn the corner onto 51st street and know that Lauren is close – mile 21 and 22.  I had texted her the night before saying, wear your running shoes to the water stop, I’m gonna need you to run me up the hill to Duval.  I’m not sure she thought I was serious.  I see her and shout out her name, Lauren run with me!  She screams and cheers and comes running over.  You look so hot girl! (Liar.)  You’re doing great – how do you feel?! (Everything hurts, my joints, my feet but I’m not tired).  They told us we couldn’t tell y’all you’re almost there….(Haha, yea you can’t say that right now.  Did you party last night? Just talk to me.)  She went on to tell me how exciting the morning had been watching everyone and gets me up the hill.

Lauren on the left, Jeff on the right. My Hyde park cheerleaders!

Now we’re on my street, in my hood.  I’m struggling big time.  One water stop to the next.  Texting my dad pretty frequently but also starting to ignore texts.  I pass a guy getting assistance from spectators so he can stretch his only leg.  Lots of people stopping to stretch.  My knees are so stiff.  I’m really thirsty.  And I know there’s a hiccup of a hill just past my apartment.  But I also know my graduate school friend Jeff is on the corner.  Make it to him.

People are asking me if I’m ok, if I’m still running.  I even had a did you fall down?!  Pops said the tracking stopped around 13.1 miles and I hadn’t moved on the map – yes I’m alive – 3 miles to go.  It’s mostly downhill for a while headed to campus.  Still too painful.  I bury my thoughts deep in the music which has included Call me Maybe.  Twice.  No shame – it’s a surprisingly fun song to run to.  Especially when you think about the hot olympic swimmers acting it out……

Campus sucked.  One mile to go and I thought I wouldn’t make it.  While at the same time knowing I would.  It got really shady, cool and dark by the stadium – similar to the dark studying times I spend in that building (literally dark with no windows, not symbolically dark).  I lose my wits here.  Another stretch break and I can hardly put my next foot down on the pavement.  I almost lose my mind with my wits.  I hold back tears and run on through the longest mile in the history of miles.  And the very worst part of the entire race (except for the actual hill itself) was knowing that I was below the elevation of the finish.

I take a deep breath and keep going.  Into the sunlight, towards the capitol, stadium to my back.  My phone’s vibrating like crazy with support texts but I’m so sure that if I read them I’ll misstep and fall.  So I just run on.  My mind is racing trying to remember which route we’re taking up the hill.  It is taking all I’ve got to keep running.  Pushing it to the limit.  And then there it is.  800 m to go – it’s the same hill on San Jacinto from the start of the race.  The same hill I’ve run dozens of times on Tuesday mornings.  Except with 25.5 miles behind me it is enormous.  Plus, Erin had just passed me.  I give her a big holler to keep going and pull on some of her energy.  I see Sharon at the top of the hill with a camera and give her the best smile and a hook ’em.

The only proof I made it that far! 25.8 miles!

600m

400m

I’ve turned the corner onto Congress and it’s right there.  The big green finish line.  I’m about to finish my third marathon.  I’m proud.  I’m crazy.  I’m so tired.  But I’m gonna do it.  And I know that Erin and Tiff and Koko and Steph are waiting.  And a space blanket.  People are cheering.  And then, I’m across the line.  It’s over.

Instantly my muscles and joints are just like – that’s it, we’re done.  We carried your crazy ass for 26.2+ miles and now we’re gonna stop working.  Fine, I’ll hobble to my medal.  I found Erin and give her a big high five.  We take a few pictures and I reunite with my supporters.  I have salt caked to my face, I’m talking in circles and all I can think about is taking my shoes off.  With their help, I manage to get to my barefeet and put a sweatshirt on.  We walked around and talked for a while but I honestly have very little memory of it.  I told them I was a little out of it…..I do my best to struggle through a stretching routine but it’s pretty pathetic.  Two waters are chugged pretty quickly, as well as a banana and tiny bagel.  My stomach was begging for some real food without really being hungry.

UT Grad girls – marathon done!

But first I text my dad and tell everyone I see – never ever ever ever again.

I reunite with my training group – all of us had great success and were pleased with how we did.  Tiff and Brandon were speed demons, finishing well below 4 hours.  We got the required pictures and promised to find each other later for dinner – after showers, ice baths, naps and stretching.

The Celebration

We all met up at Chuy’s that night for drinks and TexMex.  By this time my knees are stiffer than wood, I feel like a 98 year old with arthritis and every step reminds me of the morning.  I try to stay seated or standing as changing either position requires great effort!  I had their Mexican Martini and it was such a perfect way to celebrate a big accomplishment.  I enjoyed having all the girls and Brandon for dinner and we shared funny stories from the race.  Our favorite motivational signs ( Don’t quit now!  – That’s what she said!), spectators cheering for Tiffany but not her husband Brandon.  We joked about never running another one.  Although I’m pretty sure we could all be talked into it again.  All someone has to do is mention it.  It’s a dangerous idea – don’t throw that shit around lightly 🙂 !

Tipsy marathon girls 🙂

Tequila to celebrate!

The Swag

I’m still feeling the effects of it today – although by swallowing Advils six at a time I’ve dulled some of the ache.

Coming soon – a recap of the joys of post-race…..lots of pain and complaining coming up!

Marathon #3: Livestrong Austin 2013 – Part 1

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Where to begin?  At the beginning I suppose.  The last time I ran a marathon (St. Jude 2010), I swore I would do only one more.  I would restore my feelings of positivity towards the race.  St. Jude 2010, marathon #2, had not been such a pleasant experience.  I’m not sure if I’m misremembering my first (St. Jude 2008) but for some reason no pain was involved.  The last 3 miles were hard for sure, but I don’t remember the pain I do from 2010, or from yesterday.  Here’s the evolution of yesterday’s race:

October

Some of my grad school classmates start throwing the dangerous idea of running the marathon around.  I know this is dangerous because once that seed gets planted, it grows very quickly.  Erin was thinking about signing up and it would be her first race.  Being the supporter of running that I am, I told her I would consider doing it.  Then Tiff got on board the “talking about it” train.  By the end of the month I knew we were doomed.

November

I signed up for the race.  The circumstances were just right for making a terrible decision like that.  It was finals week, anything to distract from studying.  And the price was set to increase the next day.  It didn’t help that I was participating in the Austin Distance Challenge and this would be the final race.  By mid-November, Tiff and I had joined Erin on the marathon path.

December

I ran two halves – St. Jude and Decker – and started to up the mileage beyond 13.1 for the first time in 2 years.  Tiff and I ran a fifteen miler before I left for Christmas break.  Something happened with my adductors though and I had to take a couple of weeks off running for fear of snapping my inner thigh muscles (they were so tight like rubber bands!).  Coincidentally I was also in Mexico…..drinking a lot of tequila and eating a lot of Auntie Em’s sweet treats.  Definite setback in training 🙂

BUT when I realized I was being held hostage in Mexico after having my passport stolen, I knew I had to get back into the long runs.  So I ran a 15 and 18 miler on the treadmill with the likes of Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey and the Salvatore brothers for entertainment.  Those were two crucial runs.

January

Arrived back and joined Erin for another 18 miler, ran the Rogue 30k and did one final run on the second half of the course with Tiff and Brandon.  I felt ready.  I knew we had put in the proper training, and while it wasn’t perfect by any means, and I certainly didn’t train for a time goal, I was looking forward to the run.

Race week

I took it fairly easy last week, eating well and exercising little (let’s just call it extreme tapering).  A friend and client, Sharon, is in town from Memphis and ran the half marathon yesterday.

Saturday

Brunch at the HQ!

Brunch at the HQ!

I joined fellow Livestrong fundraiser Erin, her roommate Stef and my friend Koko at the Livestrong headquarters in Austin for a brunch.  We had breakfast tacos and fruit while listening to the inspirational story of Amy Dodson, ultra marathoner, triathlete and 4 time cancer survivor.  Not only that but she’s done all of it with one leg and one lung.

Amy Dodson – incredible inspiration!

I really enjoyed the brunch.  The HQ is an amazing building with lots of uplifting yellow everywhere.  I still really believe in this cause, and will continue to support it.

The marathoners - we are Livestrong!

The marathoners – we are Livestrong!

We were able to get a picture with Amy too!

With our inspiration!

With our inspiration – Stef, Amy, me and Erin!

After the brunch, I met Sharon at the expo to pick up our packets.  It was a busy and energetic place with thousands of runners stocking up on gu, new apparel and checking out the t-shirts.

Sharon and I

Sharon and I

Because of all the people in town, I helped man the store for the afternoon and the Sharon and I joined Erin and her crew for a homemade pasta dinner.  I loaded up on the spaghetti and sauce (delicious) as well as some bread and even a brownie ;).  We had two first timers in the mix – Erin and Stef – and Stef’s friend was on her 7th state.  She’s doing it marathon style though, not half (crazy)!

All the runners – first timer, first timer, 3rd timer, 7th timer, and two halvsies.

When we got home, we laid everything out for the race – planned our breakfasts and Sharon hit the sack.  I stayed up a bit working on my playlist (which was awesome).

Sunday

RACE DAY!  I intentionally wouldn’t let my mind sink into the idea that I would be running for 4+ hours Sunday morning.  But the energy of that morning couldn’t be helped.  I love racing.  Even if I’m not shooting for a specific time, I love the energy of races.  I love the spirit.  I love the celebration, and maybe even a little bit the struggle.

5 AM – Bowl of oatmeal with a little peanut butter.  And a green tea.  Getting dressed, making sure bib and shoes and chip and watch and music are all with me.  Beans too.  Packed a post-race bag of warm things.

5:50 AM – leave apartment to head downtown to Erin’s.  She lives close to the start so we agreed the night before we would rendezvous at her place and walk to the gear check.

Our starting point, just north of the Capitol.

People were bustling about on our walk and my stomach started to get antsy.  I think my body was having a reaction to what it knew must be coming.  But I stayed excited yet calm on the walk to the start.  The weather was a perfect near 40, clear and crisp morning.  We had all put in our training.  I was well rested.  And it was go time.

7AM – The guns go off!  It took us about 7 minutes to get to the start but once we crossed that line I made sure to keep a slower pace.  There was a lot of road to cover.

Miles 1 and 2 took us through downtown.  There was a small hill within the first quarter mile but it’s one I’ve run dozens of times with the taco group – no big deal.  Weaving through the city was fun, and I tried to enjoy the crowds that I knew would thin out along S. Congress.

Miles 3-5 were a pretty gradual and constant incline.  I had run this part of the course before and it still didn’t seem too bad.  Was feeling good, Erin and Stef still around.  I made sure to focus on the mile at hand – energy levels high, and the only pain was in my bladder.  Erin’s too.  We knew we would have to stop soon.

Miles 6-8 were the downhill response to 3-5.  I leaned into each downhill and let gravity take over.  Maybe a little pain starting to appear but nothing too intense.  We stopped at the porta potties at mile 6 but decided the wait was too long.  Sparing most of the details, we scurried around behind a building to do our business – in good company too.  All part of the experience.

Mile 9 was the Livestrong Yellow Mile and our pace picked up a bit.  I had my yellow sports bra on and was getting extra encouragement from the fans.  That’s the best part of the race and it happened so early!  I’d been getting texts all along and would check my phone every hour for the encouragement from people tracking me.  Pops was telling me when I was going too fast and I said it was because we were on a downhill, and I had to pee.  Makes sense.

Miles 10 and 11 were pretty isolated but I had the Livestrong mentality and cancer-fighting inspiration fresh in my mind.  The half marathon turn off was around 11 – they went to the right and us to the left.  I looked at Erin and said “Last chance….” even though I knew it wasn’t an option, there’s always a tiny thought.  We turne the corner and a gigantic hill greeted us.  But we pushed up.  Erin was really strong and stayed close.

These back miles kind of blur together.  There weren’t a lot of spectators and the hills became more wave-like instead of a constant incline.  I started to feel blisters going up the hills, but nothing too awful yet.  Discomfort for sure, but no pain (and that’s in general too, not just relating to my toes).

Halfway – we reached halfway right at 2:05 so it’s close to 9:30 and it was bright and warm.  I don’t wanna say hot because I know what hot is after an August here.  The sky was so clear that the sun just shone down on us – I’m sure the spectators in their gloves and sweatshirts thought we were looney for running in tanks (and we are looney, but for other reasons).  I stopped at this water station for a drink, some vaseline for blisters and a quick stretch out.

Then I was off for the second half…….to be continued!