Pushing my comfort zone…

My daily inspiration.....given to me by Amy!

My daily inspiration…..given to me by my sister Amy.

I just completed week 5 of my ultra training and am I am feeling very accomplished. I am more determined than ever to nail this race.

My snow/ice trek to get in my CrossFit home WOD with Kathryn.

My snow/ice trek to get in my CrossFit home WOD  work out in with buddy  Kathryn.

I have nailed every workout on my training plan and am committed! I have never nailed every work out on any previous training effort. Why is this different? I am not really sure other than the fact I don’t like to fail. My first ultra attempt was a FAIL! I am stubborn, hardheaded, and I don’t like to fail.  While nobody has ever question my ability, for me… the successful completion of this ultra is 100% personal. I have a score to settle with myself.

This weekend I exceeded my personal distance record by running 31 miles. Prior to Saturday, my longest run was 28 miles ( my 1st ultra attempt). In prep for Saturday’s training run I was mentally, physically, and logistically prepared.  I knew I could conquer the distance.

My recruiting map.  I love planning routes..my running buddies think I am crazy

My recruiting map. I love planning routes..my running buddies think I am crazy

I rallied my non injured running peeps and they eagerly signed up to join me along my route! It was amazing it made the miles go by so quickly. I honestly could not have gotten through this without the company.  I only ran 3.5 miles alone( 15.5-19)! . Thanks BRF’s!

Our first stop mile 6 to pick up Kate!

Our first stop mile 6 to pick up Kate! Super shout out to Lizzy and Syd ( on ends) College Sophomores training for their first marathon, started with me at 6.45am for their 18 mile run! Impressive…I never did that in college.

I felt good the entire run. Don’t get my wrong… around mile 20 I was certainly tired and my hamstrings were screaming at me but I listened to my body and threw in some longer walking sessions. I know I will have to walk much more on race day.

Kayla joined me at mile 19-31! She chatted me up the entire way! Thanks Kayla

Kayla joined me at mile 19-31! She chatted me up the entire way! Thanks Kayla

My fueling, every 45 minutes, was right on! Thanks Byron Powell, author of Relentless Forward Progress for the awesome tips.  Byron’s book has equipped me with so much knowledge and confidence.  Back to fueling…while at times my fueling alarm seemed too often, I made my self eat, take my salt stick tabs, and flush it down with my strawberry lemonade Nuun. I also tested out my homemade protein balls which were super yummy. They will be a new race day staple.  My consistent fueling and hydration effort paid off.

As Kayla and I ran the final .25 up the HILL to my house,  Kayla was determined to conquer the  the hill as it defeated her several weeks prior. I joined her pursuit and powered to the  finish.   I was pretty darn excited to be almost done.

Finish Line Posse!

Finish Line Posse!

As we crested the hill, I spotted a car in front of my house. Out popped out Kate ( who ran 7 miles with me) and Kathryn ( who trashed her knee on the trail run the week prior) they were there to greet me and congratulate me on my 31 mile accomplishment!

I was blown away! The support and encouragement from my friends through out the day moved me to tears. Tears of joy and tears of celebration!  They presented me with a homemade personalized medal! #SUPERBLING  I will cherish it forever! It is happily displayed on my medal rack. It is my #1 all time favorite!

 

imageSo here is to a great week of training and most of all great friends! Friends make seemingly impossible task doable!

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Inaugural SNOW RUN!

Snow is an EVENT in the south.  It happens so infrequently, we southerners just get excited! Its rather comical. But hey its all in fun! We are like a bunch of kids…have you met a kid yet that did not like snow?

Our precious foster boy Emmett enjoying his first snow!

Our precious foster boy Emmett enjoying his first snow!

Headed out for SNOW run!

Headed out for SNOW run!

I was super excited to have my first ever snow run today with my buddy Kate from the “MITTEN” ( Michigan transplant) .No fancy Yaktrax just our good ole running shoes.  I did opt for my Brooks Adrenaline trail shoes  which kept my feet nice and dry.Thanks TheRUNNERBOX for my awesome neck gator.  It kept me warm and was an awesome tissue for my runny nose!

The run was a success as neither of us busted our a$$ on the ice patches.  We had some great laughs, got in a great workout ( #1 of the day…..we hit the afternoon Crossfit class).  We had a Blast!

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Excited for more snow miles tomorrow!

Down and Dirty… Tough Mudder, Charlotte, NC Recap

I can honestly say I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I registered for the Charlotte, NC Tough Mudder as part of deal with my buddy Kathryn.

KMac & JMart Save the Light Half Marathon 2013 Folly Beach, SC

KMac & JMart Save the Light Half Marathon 2013 Folly Beach, SC

She agreed to run the Twin Cities Marathon with me if I would do Tough Mudder.  DEAL! I registered and then read and watched the obstacle videos! Artic enemia, electric eel, electric shock therapy… what had I gotten myself into? I did not fret to long as I was excited about a new challenge and a running buddy for my fall marathon.

Team #BAMR Bad Ass MUDA Runners was officially formed and the recruiting for additional team members began. We recruited 12 team members but lost 3 prior to the event.  We were 9 members strong on race day!

Team #BAMR

Team #BAMR

crossfitHaving never participated in a mud run I had no idea what I was getting myself into or how to train.  The running was a no brainer for me it was the sheer lack of muscular strength that was of concern.   Luckily Kathryn had that figured out for us and talked me into a trying out Raleigh Crossfit. I had heard of Crossfit, seen numerous tweets about it but honestly had no idea what it was.  I went into my trial class not knowing what to expect (or what to wear) and left KNOWING I would schedule my foundations training ( to learn the 9 fundamental Crossfit movements) and add Crossfit to my weekly training routine.  I was hooked from day 1. I maintained my marathon training and incorporated in 3 Crossfit training days.  I love CF so much I have actually dropped a running day ( 3 post CF marathons completed and no regrets). The addition of CF to my training regimen has been  very beneficial to me.              ( perhaps a future post)

Obstacle recap, of the ones I can remember, from the Charlotte, NC event. Weather was overcast, chilly upper 40’s.

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  • To get to the starting line you must scale a small wall.  Don’t let the size fool you! I had a friend fall, crack a rib, and tear her intercostal muscle on this very wall. In complete BEAST mode she completed the course with the help of her team.  You go Sarah S! The day of our race, the medics were tending to a fellow mudder whom had injured themselves attempting the wall.  Be careful!
  • Running- the running between the  obstacles was similar to single track trail running.  Uneven surfaces, roots, rocks, holes, you name it.  Luckily, I had spent many miles on the trails during training. Tip: Leave the asphalt when you can and train on single track trail
  • Kiss of Mud– surprisingly I was able to  to do on my hands and knees based on height of the wire

    Mama Bean loving Mud Mile!

    Mama Bean loving Mud Mile!

  • Glory Blades– no issues with a foot boost, from team mate,  to pull myself to the top and and slide down the other side.
  • Arctic Enema– mentally and physically HORRIBLE! The freezing water completely stunned me, I could not catch my breath.  I pulled myself together, went under the wooden plank only to be welcomed by huge ice cubes on the other side. When I made it out I had an full body ice cream headache.  Torture! Thankfully they had Mylar sheets to help warm you up.  All I could think about was those poor people on the Titanic. Tip: close your mouth,  jump out far, to get to as close to the plank wall as possible.  
  • Cliffhanger– must have been a none event.  I don’t even remember it.
  • Warrior Carry– no problem, got practice with this in crossfit. I proudly carried Kayla whom is 2 inches taller than me! Tip: have team wait to distribute carry based on size and weight.
  • Balls to the Wall– no problem, due to notches in the wall for foot placement.  I was actually surprised they were there.  Would be much harder without.
  • Hold you Wood– no problem, the name of this obstacle brought many laughs and crude comments from our co-ed team with only 2 male members.  
  • Mud Mile– FAVORITE!  I found slugging through, and sliding into  the cold mud fun.  There were plenty of fellow mudders available to pull you up the dirt mound as needed.  
  • Berlin Walls– this one takes team work to hoist team mates up high enough to pull themselves over the wall. The drop from the top to the other side can be intimidating thankfully the landing is softened by a think layer of mulch.  Tip: don’t rush your drop from top of the wall.  Attempt to execute a safe landing.
  • Boa Constrictor– no issues other than being in a confined space. The pipe was so small I could not crawl on my forearms.  I had to side crawl.
  • Just the Tip– I did not make it past the first section and dropped into the cold green water.  Possibly easier without gloves.  Our 1 team mate who made it the entire way was glove free! Way to go LIZARD!

    Lizard!

    Lizard!

  • Electric Eel- UGG! Dive in FAST, low,crawl, shimmy, whatever it takes as low and fast as you can to get out.  It sucked! It was worse for some than others.  It was not as bad as I thought. I feel like having on two shirts help insulate me from the shocks. Tip: wear two shirts, keep you mouth closed and head down. 
  • King of the Mountain– Fun! team work is needed to boost each other up some of the bales.  Tip: use the twine to help pull yourself up.
  • Cage Crawl- I am very comfortable in the water so I had no issues with this obstacle.  Due to my layers of clothing I felt like I was floating.  For those not comfortable being on their back in water this could be tough.
  • Walk the Plank– Close your mouth, exhale from you nose ( or hold it) and JUMP! I forgot to exhale and got muddy water up my nose YUK! No fear of moderate heights no issues.  
  • Unknown Cargo Net Obstacle- Jump across water to a cargo net. If you miss you go in the water.  I caught the cargo net but lost my grip and fell into the water.  My left shoulder has hurt ever since:(   Way to go Sundrop and J-Wow for mastering this one!
  • Funky Monkey– HARD! After teammate slipped off first rung and fell onto her back on the metal platform (Thankfully she was fine) I decided it was not worth the risk.  I jumped into the cold water and swam across. The bars are slick and placed 1.5 feet apart. Way to go J-Wow who effortlessly tackled this obstacle!
  • Everest– I made it on 1st attempt! Thankful for the strong volunteers at the top who caught me and pulled me up.  Tip: seek out the group of volunteers that look strong enough to hoist you up. 
  • Electroshock TherapySUPER HORRIBLE! I swear they “juiced” up the shock on this one.  They hurt!  To make it worse the ground was thick, slick mud.  I kept falling and had trouble getting up (envision the person in the horror movie running away and they keep falling…that was me) . To increase the fun they placed  a huge hay bale, that had to be scaled right in the middle of the shock torture.  Scaling a hay bale while getting shocked non stop was ridiculous.  I finally make it over the bale only to face plant into thick mud. At this point, I was laughing out of fear I would never make it out.  Finally, I made it.  We were all so disoriented, we did not realize Mama Bean was stuck not able to get over the bale.  Fortunately, she decided to go around.  Sorry Mama Bean:( Tip: attempt to go as fast as you can.  Find mental strength in knowing this is the last obstacle
DONE!

DONE!

Enjoying the warmth of the finishers tent

Enjoying the warmth of the finishers tent

My random tips:

  • My only injury...random

    My only injury…random

    CLOTHES-Wear old clothes and shoes they will be NASTY! I wore long sleeve compression shirt under my team shirt.  It kept me warm and was a great barrier against the mud and shocks.  Capri pants and high socks! Its not the best look going but it provided a great protective barrier from scrapes and scratches.  We had BadAss Socks 🙂

  • GLOVES- I wore them and was glad I had them.  Half the team had them half did not.  Really no advantage just preference.
  • HAIR-If you hair it long wear it up or braided.  If you hair is short like mine…brace yourself for a seriously bad,muddy, hair day.
  • SHOES-We did not duck tape shoes.  Just tie tight and double knot.  Nobody lost their shoes.  The trails were littered with duck tape that fell of peoples shoes.
  • DROP BAG- Bring flip flops to wear after you toss your shoes, towel to dry off with after the COLD rinse down, change of clothes. Qtips to get a jump on your ear cleaning. $ if you want more beer or food. Phone so you can take post race photos ( we did not take on course..too risky)

    @Dunkyourkicks for pediatric cancer!  Great cause!

    @Dunkyourkicks for pediatric cancer! Great cause!

Overall thoughts– For me Tough Mudder is a “One and Done”.  It was fun, a good experience, new challenge,  but I did not finish with a strong desire to do another one.  It was a great team effort and I am most grateful for the friendships I enhanced and developed with my awesome team mates. I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard in my life. Tough Mudder is truly is a TEAM event.  Recruit as many “like minded” people as you can and stick together!  No team? No problem, there are plenty of volunteers and mudders at the obstacles helping each other out. The support is amazing!

Was it the toughest most physically and mentally demanding thing I have ever done? For me no. Ultra/marathon running and some Crossfit WODs(work out of the day) are far more physically and mentally challenging…FOR ME. The experience is so personal based on an individuals physical condition, experiences, and fears. For someone with fear or heights or water I think Tough Mudder would be mental torture.

Tough Mudder is a a quality event that will not disappoint! Give it a try! Getty Muddy! You really don’t know what you are capable of until you give it a try.

Thanks Tay Tay for the great collage!

Thanks Tay Tay for the great collage!

J-Wow (advid Mudder) surprised Southern B by showing up the the morning of the event...

J-Wow (advid Mudder) surprised Southern B by showing up the the morning of the event…

 

The SURPRISE got even better as J-WOW revealed he was not only their to support her on her 1st TM but he was part of the TEAM!

The SURPRISE got even better as J-WOW revealed he was not only there to support her on her 1st TM but he was part of the TEAM! We were so glad to have him! Especially SunDrop whom was the lone male team mate!

Twin Cities Marathon & Another Mother Runner CONNECTION!

9th State and 14th Marathon! Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, Oct 6, 2013

TClogo

Why Twin Cities?  I lost count of how many times I was asked this question leading up to the marathon and once we arrived in MSP (Minneapolis-St.Paul).  “You came from NC to MN for the marathon?  Wow!”  Yep,Twin Cities Marathon has been on my list of “must dos” since I decided to conquer all 50 States…before I die, or die trying. Little side note- RIP, Joy Johnson, 86,  whom died a day after running her 25th  NYC Marathon. What an inspiration! I always tell my family, If I die running, know I died doing what I love.

Bart Man! Big Sur Expo 2013

Bart Man! Big Sur Expo 2013

 Back to Twin Cities- Bart Yasso, whom I may be a tiny bit obsessed with, raved about Twin Cities in his book My Life On the Run. If by the way, you have not read this book you are totally missing out. After reading about just a few of Bart’s 1,000+ competitive adventures and being thoroughly entertained, I decided any events he put on a  “must dos” list would be added to my bucket list.  Thanks BART! Your recommendations have not failed me yet.

1st time meeting Dimity&Sarah Country Music Nashville Marathon 2011

1st time meeting Dimity&Sarah Country Music Nashville Marathon 2011

Additionally my fav gals, Sarah and Dimity of AnotherMotherRunner.com (whom I am a self proclaimed “SUPER FAN”), raved about their 2012 Twin Cities Marathon Weekend experience.  Little did I know, prior to registration and arrival, we would share a very special AMR connection. More on that later I promise…

So, Twin Cities Marathon landed on my 2013 race calendar.  Laura (my 50 States partner,  BRF, and recent newlywed) was consumed in her hectic personal life and for the first time in three years could not commit to a fall race. The beauty of our running relationship is that when we decide to do a race we don’t deliberate and ponder we “JUST DO IT” often via just text communication.

Airport Selfie headed to MSP!

Airport Selfie headed to MSP!

Luckily, my long time buddy Leigh, intrigued by my 50 states quest, was ready to tackle her second marathon.  No convincing needed she signed up, booked her flights and our hotel! MN Bound!

KMac & JMart Save the Light Half Marathon 2013 Folly Beach, SC

KMac & JMart Save the Light Half Marathon 2013 Folly Beach, SC

 My second recruit,BRF and Raleigh-CrossFit buddy Katherine, begrudgingly agreed to tackle Twin Cities (her 3rd marathon) if I would do Tough Mudder, Charlotte, NC with her in Oct.  Being an endorphin junkie, perhaps under the influence of an endorphin high, I did not hesitate and signed up for Tough Mudder.  AFTER, signing up I viewed the videos….Artic Enima, electrocution, etc. What had I gotten myself into? Clearly, I had not learned my lesson. (Pine Mountain 40 Beatdown)  Oh well, seemed like a great trade off and opportunity for a new adventure. Sadly, Katherine, fell victim to an ITband injury and had to cancel running Twin Cities 😦   On a happier note, we did conquer and survive Tough Mudder- Charlotte on 11/3.  Blog post coming soon!  

Expo Selfie

Expo Selfie

Leigh and I arrived in Minneapolis on Friday afternoon and headed straight to our hotel, Residence Inn at The Depot, walking distance to the start line!  We unpacked and laid out all our running gear (a running travel tradition). Nothing was forgotten…always a good sign!  Ready for lunch we walked across the street to The Crooked Pint.  I promise not to bore you with what we ate all weekend but I have to tell you I  had not idea how much Minnesotan’s love their tater tots!  Never having a tater tot that did not come out of a freezer bag, I found the Jumbo, house-made tater tots with Serrano peppers, bacon, and cheddar to be a delicious welcome to this first time Minnesota visitor. Hence, thought #1 I could live here! However, a diet of tator tots is likely not in my best interest.

imageAfter our late lunch we headed to the expo at the St. Paul River Center.  This was Leigh’s biggest marathon and marathon expo so we put a strategy in place to make sure we covered it all.   After we got our bibs, we headed to the furthest corner to start our expo journey. We were both really excited to visit the AnotherMotherRunner.com booth.  Boom! Right before our eyes it was the first booth we saw! We practically ran into as we rounded the corner.

AnotherMotherRunner.com CONNECTION! Amy ZP, JoAnne, Me, Jess, Leigh

AnotherMotherRunner.com CONNECTION! Amy ZP, JoAnn, Me, Jess, Leigh

The minute we reached the booth,it was  an instantaneous party and the beginning of our AMR CONNECTION! I can only imagine how loud we were or how this looked to the other expo visitors. JoAnn and I quickly made the connection that we had exchanged tweets days prior to the expo. Got to love social networking!  We shopped, shared stories of our AMR connections to Sarah and Dimity, took pictures, got restaurant referrals, exchanged contact info etc.  It was like we knew these ladies all our lives!  Amy ZP floored us when she  extended Leigh and I an invite to her pre-marathon dinner at her house. Despite only knowing these ladies for 15 minutes, they were no longer strangers, they were Another Mother Runners so we  we said YES!  We agreed we would firm up details Saturday via text.  JoAnn passed along some restaurant referrals for dinner and we reluctantly pulled ourselves away from the booth to explore the rest of the expo!  imageimageWe hopped in a cab to the Happy Gnome for dinner.  The Gnome, was packed,so we headed to the bar in hopes of scoring a table.  As we waited, we were so surprised when a cute Minnesotan couple tapped us on the shoulder and offered us their table. Why such kindness? They insisted we have the table so we took it.  Thought #2- I could live here people are so nice. Leigh and I were both blown away with the hospitality we had encountered over the past few hours. I had no idea how friendly Minnesotans were. Honestly, really never had a reason to think about it.  So being the good southern gals that we are we had the waiter deliver drinks to the nice couple ( who ended up sitting beside of us) to thank them.  Only to have them send a round back to us 🙂  Crazy! Full from lunch, we decided to share bacon wrapped Elk loin. Yum! The Happy Gnome was awesome its a don’t miss if you are in St. Paul.

Saturday arrived and we had no plans other than dinner with our new St. Paul friends. We shared text throughout the day and firmed up our dinner plans. Leigh and I worried what if they got caught up in the moment and invited us to dinner and now regretted it.  Little did we know the St. Paul gals were having similar conversations wondering if the Carolina girls(Leigh&I)  would really show up.

Sara and her AWESOME Sauce photo bomb. Rambling Rose Tri, Raleigh, NC

Sara and her AWESOME Sauce photo bomb. Rambling Rose Tri, Raleigh, NC

JoAnn texted Sara(AMR.com) and told her Leigh and I were coming over for dinner.  Sara’s comment,that I found highly flattering and funny was “Jenn is AWESOME-SAUCE”  Not sure what awesome-sauce is but this SUPER-FAN  will take it! Leigh and I were so excited to have dinner with the gals and their families.  Whenever one of us would get a text we would say “Is it from our new friends”  Just too funny!

We had time to kill before dinner so we decided to explore Minneapolis, by foot, since we did not rent a car. Typically, I rent a car, for some reason we opted out on this trip.  If I were to do it again, I would likely get a car.  First stop was Marshalls, which was the best Marshall’s I have ever been to.  We loaded up on awesome workout gear, which we have not been able to find in our local Marshall’s.  The best find of the day was a Life is Good Social Networking shirt for Leigh whom is an avid around town cyclist at home and whom does NO SOCIAL MEDIA. There was no passing up this shirt. SCORE!

This was made just for leigh! She bought it!

This was made just for Leigh! She bought it!

marshallsOne of my favorite all time comments from Leigh is ” Talk to MY FACE, not my FACEBOOK”  That so needs to be a bumper sticker!  Me on the other hand loves all forms of social media!   Leigh is a master shopper, so I found a nice leather chair in Marshall’s and took a social media break. I had to rest my legs…after all we were running 26.2 miles in less than 24 hours.

Next stop was the two story Target for provisions and h2omore shopping for Leigh, I forgot shopping was one of her skills:)  I got my traditional “big gulp” of water.  For some reason, part of the tradition, is I drink it straight from the bottle. I see no reason to  break tradition at this point.  After shopping we headed back to the hotel rested up and got ready for dinner with our St. Paul Friends.

Cab Selfie on way to dinner at Amy's

Cab Selfie on way to dinner at Amy’s

We were greeted by Amy who said “Can you believe you are at a strangers house for dinner?” I stated that Leigh and I laughed about it being the setting for an Another Mother Runner murder plot. 🙂  We all laughed  at the re-telling of how Leigh and I came to be dinner guest.  Everyone was so welcoming.  We shared great food, drinks, stories, and laughs!  It was like we had known everyone for a lifetime. Thought #3- I could live here. These people are so awesome!

Eric&Amy our adorable host

Eric&Amy our adorable host

Amy & Shannon sporting their compression gear!

Amy & Shannon sporting their compression gear!

Dinner Crew!

Dinner Crew and our New St. Paul Friends!

Shannon & Jo

Shannon & Jo

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end we had a big day ahead of us. We said our goodbyes and planned to hook up after the marathon for the post party at JoAnn’s. Wow! The most hospitable people I have ever met. Thought #4- I could live here! This neighborhood is precious and my neighbors would be great!

JoAnn, insisted on taking Leigh and I back to our hotel in Minneapolis (30 miles round trip).  There was no arguing this with her as she wanted to drive us along the marathon course route.  BONUS! I always drive the route and due to lack of car I had not seen any of the course.  Despite the darkness, we got a great personalized breakdown of a good portion of the course and the area. What a great night! JoAnn shared she had given AMR Sara the same course preview last year.

6:00am came to fast!  Fortunately, we were only several blocks from the Metrodome. The sun was shinning (rain was in the forecast) and temps were in the 40’s.  Perfect day for running. Finding our way to the bag check and starting coral was painless due to awesome volunteers. I did spot coffee, water, and pre-race snacks for the runners but we did not partake.

At the Start!

At the Start!

Off and running!

Off and running!

The course is just as described America’s Most Beautiful Urban Marathon! The course completely lived up to the description via TCMevents.org.

With mile after mile of parkways, lakes, rivers and tree-lined boulevards, the scenery can’t be beat. Add 300,000 screaming fans, 10 Cheer Zones, over a dozen course entertainment acts, and you’ve got an experience that you’ll never forget.
Somewhere between miles 5-6

Somewhere between miles 5-6

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The point to point course course winds around four beautiful lakes and along both sides of the Mississippi River. The course contains a few rolling hills; but with a starting and finishing elevation of approximately 840 feet and no climbs over 100 feet long, it’s nothing you can’t handle. 
The might Mississippi

The might Mississippi

The final stretch races past the clanging bells of the Saint Paul Cathedral and downhill onto the spectacular view of the State Capitol and the finish line!

The course will not disappoint!  Crowd support was HUGE! If you desire lots of support this is the marathon for you.  I would argue the crowds are bigger or equal to the Marine Corps Marathon.  There were VERY few spots without spectators. As a serenity runner, I found the crowds to be overwhelming at times. I learned to really appreciate the crowd free zones. Certainly, not meant to be a negative comment it is just based on personal preference. The course is flat.  Much flatter than I expected.  I would not classify this course as rolling hills( based on what I train on).   My hips reminded me most of the 26.2 miles I was running flat. The occasional incline was a welcome relief.  I do love to run some hills!

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Thad & Eric

I spotted Eric and Thad ( Amy and Shannon’s husbands) very early whom were spectating and cheering from their bikes.  They yelled encouragement every time they saw us. It was so great. Around mile 5 we found Amy and Shannon on the course.  We pinged back and fourth and finally joined running forces somewhere in the second half.  Somewhere before the half we saw JoAnn, Holi,and Jess.  Perfect timing as I was in need of a pick me up.  As wonderful as the course , weather , and general surroundings were I was not feeling my best. Surprisingly, Leigh and I ran the majority of the race in silence (anyone who knows us finds this SHOCKING!).  We were both silently struggling but doing our best to take it all in and enjoy the experience.  We agreed early on we came too far to impose ourselves with time goals.  Our #1 goals was to finish and enjoy! That we did! I have to thank our St. Paul friends for their on course support. They were the ENJOYMENT factor! Every time we turned around they were there!  1,215 miles from home and we have our own pack of roving  fans! “Go Carolina Girls!”  I can still hear Jess ” GET DOWN!”

While running I snapped this pic of our cheer squad!

While running I snapped this pic of our cheer squad! Mother Runners Rock!

We did not HIT the Wall at mile 20 we ran right thru it!

We did not HIT the Wall at mile 20 we ran right thru it!

Summit Ave! Still Smiling!

Summit Ave! Still Smiling!

St. Paul & Carolina Gals!

St. Paul & Carolina Gals!

I cannot say enough about this course. The locals embrace every aspect of the marathon weekend.  They have huge parties in their front yards with inflatables for the children.  One house had several large tents, picnic tables and were having a huge pancake breakfast! Too bad we could not stop in for some additional carbs. The mid race drizzle did not negatively impact the spirit of this event.  Rain or shine…twin Cities Marathon is a celebration!

Mother Runner Fans! post doughnut hole stop!

Mother Runner Fans! post doughnut hole stop…hence JoAnn’s full mouth. Roving fans need fuel too!

We happily crossed the finish line! Marathon #14 (Me) and #2 (Leigh) were done! Fantastic race!

DONE!

DONE!

imageWe met up with our St. Paul gals to celebrate!

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Another Mother Runner BOND!

Another Mother Runner St. Paul and Carolina Gals!

I can honestly say what started out as an Another Mother Runner CONNECTION through the miles transitioned to an Another Mother Runner BOND! These ladies(and gents), all of them, got me through!  I am forever grateful for the memories and new friendships!

JoAnn braved the traffic and picked us up and transported us to her house for the after party celebration.  We enjoyed awesome BBQ beef, chips, sweets, etc! It was a great way to top off an awesome day!

Jo's post marathon Bash!

Jo’s post marathon Bash!

Mike, Peg, and Jo!

Mike, Peg, and Jo!

imageAfter a great celebration, JoAnn once again insisted on taking us back to Minneapolis.  But oh no we could not go empty handed..she send us with a bottle of wine. Simply amazing! Never ending hospitality! Thought #5- I could live here. I am nice and cozy. I don’t want to leave, or for this weekend to be over.

Leigh and I were so grateful as we reflected on our Twin cities experience. I told Leigh this was a once in a life time marathon weekend experience that would be hard to top!

As I said earlier, what started as an Another Mother Connection quickly transitioned to an Another Mother Runner BOND!  The connection of runners, especially mother runners, is something very special.  Its hard to put to words…..its an experience!

“Its that bond of female runners that makes me want to be a better runner-to push a little harder”

~Cheri hill Lombardo

Thanks for the memories St. Paul friends.  We are looking  forward to our 2014 running reunion weekend!

Plane Selfie we sent to our St. Paul friend to say good bye!

Plane Selfie we sent to our St. Paul friend to say good bye!

Thought #6- I could live here!…. Reality, I would miss my family, and truth be told this SOUTHERN BORN and raised North Carolinian who does not even own anything close to a winter coat or snow gear would not survive the first day of fall…much less winter.  I now have some great friends in St. Paul and have a reason to visit!

Finished product! I surprised Leigh with one as well!

Finished product! I surprised Leigh with one as well!

As a thank you for the fabulous hospitality, Leigh and I sent our St. Paul gals personalized water bottles from aquavation.org.  Aquavation, a personal favorite, is a gift that keeps giving! Aquavation donates 20% of each bottle to a designated charity partner.  I designated Blue Ridge Boxer Rescue as the beneficiary.  Fitting since we are all dog lovers!  Check out aquavation.org!

shot of my computer screen.  Image printed on the bottles

shot of my computer screen. Image printed on the bottles

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Finish & Enjoy…Big Sur Marathon Plan

8th State, 13th Marathon, and my #1 all time favorite!

Big Sur International Marathon, April 28, 2013!

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Wow, is all I can say.  Everything about the Big Sur Marathon weekend exceeded my expectations.  Big Sur, is sitting pretty in my number #1 best overall marathon in every category.  I have often pondered keeping a running ranking of my marathon adventures and this just might inspire me to do that.

For anyone who asked about my experience I explained that Big Sur is the only marathon I have ever run that I enjoyed almost every single mile. If it weren’t for the uphill on mile 25, I would say I enjoyed EVERY mile. The pain of mile 25 was brief, just generally not appreciated so late in the race.

2, 765 miles!

2, 765 miles!

So what made the Big Sur miles so much more enjoyable than the previous 316.4? (12 x 26.2 + extra two miles on my ultra attempt) .  I am not exactly sure, but I will attribute it to  having just one single goal – Finish & Enjoy!

MY BIG SUR MARATHON PLAN! 

( taken directly from pre-race communication)

This is a difficult course and you should plan on adding extra minutes to your usual marathon time. Walk if necessary, Enjoy the spectacular music and scenery along the course and don’t worry about your time!

 I took the pre-race communications to heart and put them to action. The last thing I wanted to do was travel 2,765 miles and beat myself up over a missed PR. A mere 13 days after the attacks on Boston, just being able to run, in honor of those who cannot was a gift in itself.  

Despite Big Sur being my all time favorite marathon, I have struggled to feel inspired to put it into words.  (Hence,the delay of the race recap).  So I thought I would let my pictures tell the story

View from terrace

View from terrace

Lodging– Hotel Pacific, located right next to the expo, and block away from marathon transportation was fabulous.  Our room was huge and full of amenities.  It included a sitting area with gas fireplace, small dinning area with fridge, bathroom perfect for sharing with two showers etc  We loved it and felt like we were in a honeymoon suite.

http://www.hotelpacific.com/

courtyard view from room

Pre Marathon Relaxation

Pre Marathon Relaxation, while listening to Big Sur “Grand Piano Man” Michael Martinez

Our Bibs! Way to go Laura on Boston 2 Big Sur!

Our Bibs! Way to go Laura on Boston 2 Big Sur!

Race Expo- Monterey Conference Center. Was easy to navigate, staffed with super friendly volunteers, and hosted lots of great vendors.  We typically breeze through the expos(you’ve seen one you have seen them all) but this one we took our time to enjoy! My highlight was officially meeting Runners World, Chief Running Officer, Bart Yasso! I was giddy with excitement and was able to contain myself! The previous November, Bart gave me a “fist bump” during the Richmond, VA Marathon when I spotted him on the sidelines.  I am a huge fan!  His book My Life On The Run, is a great running read.

Bart Man!

Me and Bart Man!

Expo continued…the support for Boston was everywhere!

Runners signed banners in support of Boston and were able to contribute to The One Fund

Runners signed banners in support of Boston and were able to contribute to The One Fund

We met Michael Martinez, Big Sur “Grand Piano Man” who famously sits at mile 13.1 and plays his  Grand Piano. We purchased his CD.

Laura and i with David

Laura and I with Michael

No pictures of the expo massages but they were awesome and well worth $1 a minute!

Our weekend wheels! Fiat

Our weekend wheels! Fiat

Saturdays Highway 1 adventures – We drove through Monterrey Cannery Row. Although fabulous, and the best aquarium I have ever seen, we skipped visiting the  Monterrey Bay Aquarium in an effort to stay off our feet. Instead, we drove the 17-mile drive,  lunched in Carmel-by-the-Sea, and then headed down Highway 1 to Big Sur.

The Lone Cypress, one of the sights on the 17 mile drive

Lone Cypress- Americas most photographed Tree

Lone Cypress- Americas most photographed Tree

Carmel-by-the-Sea

Carmel-by-the-Sea

Lunch at Hogs Breath Inn!

Total tourist shot after lunch at Hogs Breath Inn. Thanks Uncle Zeke for recommendation...your hat is on its way!

Total tourist shot after lunch at Hogs Breath Inn. Thanks Uncle Zeke for recommendation…your hat is on its way!

Laura at Big Sur Bakery...too full to partake

Laura at Big Sur Bakery…too full to partake

ahhh...the view.  Gotta love Big Sur

ahhh…the view. Gotta love Big Sur

Bixby Bridge mile 13.1

Bixby Bridge mile 13.1

amazing coastal  views....

amazing coastal views….

starting line coffee

starting line coffee

Marathon Day- Early start as we loaded the buses to Big Sur at 4:15am.  Luckily, we only had to walk a block from our hotel. Its an early start, but its a major effort on the event organizers to transport runners 26.2 miles down two laned Highway 1.  In addition to the marathon Big Sur offers a Relay, 21, 10.6, 9, and 5k mile option.

1st race I have even participated in that offered water, coffee and food at the start!  Super bonus points for that!

Huddled to stay warm with fellow runners!

Huddled to stay warm with fellow runners!

Starting line

Starting line

Two Thumbs up from Bart Yasso prior to the start!

Pre-start Bart Sighting

Pre-start Bart Sighting

6:45am and we were off and running!  As part of my Finish & Enjoy Marathon Plan, I brought my phone to take pictures along the way.  The official description describes Big Sur Marathon  as a Point to point, moderately difficult, with live entertainment on the course. Featuring rolling hills, Big Sur is the largest rural marathon in the world, winding through redwoods, paralleling ranches, and offering stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.

BigsurElevation

I often stopped to catch a glace of where I had come from.  The view looking back is just as good as the views ahead.  It is 360 degrees of sheer beauty.

Mile 5 9 guess, looking back

Mile 5 (best guess), looking back

Just when I thought we might escape the famous headwinds, the course opened up and so did the wind. It was wicked but manageable.  Even the cows ran for cover….I was not as fortunate

Cows retreating from the winds

Cows retreating from the winds

If the winds were not enough , we soon caught the first glimpses of Hurricane Point (550 foot climb over 2 miles) starting at mile 10. I am proud to say I slayed Hurricane Point by running the entire way.  I was determined not to stop!

1st views of Hurricane Point

1st views of Hurricane Point

Way before you could see the Bixby Bridge, which famously signifies the halfway point on the marathon course, you could hear the the tones  from the Grand Piano.  It was absolutely surreal and uplifting. One of my favorite memories.  As  I approached the Bixby Bridge,  I found myself overcome with emotion and fought back unexpected tears. My best guess is they were tears of shear joy as i was having an awesome run! I attempted a short video that really does it no justice at all

The mile markers, each 7 foot tall, where the BEST, I have ever seen. They ranged from completely stupid, funny, to inspiring.  They had a unique way of telling a story and really personalizing the marathon to the region, local runners,  and area. Take a look for yourself- Big Sur Mile Marker Project.

13.1 Mile Marker

13.1 Mile Marker

attempt at picture with Michael Martinez...this makes me laugh

attempt at picture with Michael Martinez…this makes me laugh

Windy shot taken by a fellow runner.  My skirt looks like I was about to take flight.

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The end was in view, first glimpses of CarmelIMG-20130428-00192

Fresh strawberries at mile 24! Yummy!

Mile 24 treat!

Mile 24 treat!

The description for mile marker 25 says it all, about my only UNenjoyable mile of the entire course.  This “Doomsayer” needs to lighten up! You may be feeling a bit down at this point, but with the finish just over a mile away, the end to your race is just over the next hill. 

Doom uphill Mile!

Doom uphill Mile!

Finally, 26.2! The race Directors and organizers, donned in their BSIM Blue blazers, shook the hands of participants as they cross the finish!  Total class act! This years finish line included  the Boston Marathon Executive Director who personally shook the hands of EVERY Boston 2 Big Sur participant. It was amazing to watch as . Emotions were still very raw and many were moved to tears.

My bonus was a congratulations hug from Bart Yasso! Promise I am a fan and not a stalker!

With Laura, being a Boston 2 Big Sur participant, we enjoyed the awesome finishers tent that overlooked the finish line. I only joined her after I partook in the free 10 minute massage.

We did it!

We did it!

Laura’s Medals

Boston 2 Big Sur Bling

Boston 2 Big Sur Bling

It was amazing! Pleased with my 4:54:47 finish, which included 2 pit stops, and numerous video and  photo ops. It was not my fastest, nor my slowest but was my STRONGEST physical and mental FINISH.  My Finish & Enjoy Marathon Plan carried me through.  My only expectation was to enjoy and take it all in.  I accomplished that an much more!

I do have to credit Raleigh CrossFit, which I included in the last month of my training plan. I feel a new addiction brewing! #RaleighStrong!

Traditional post marathon margarita, overlooking Monterey Bay!

Traditional post marathon margarita, overlooking Monterey Bay!

035One and done in California! Big Sur International  Marathon was an excellent choice! This race should be on every Marathon bucket list!

Mark you calendars registration for 2014 opens July 15th.  It typically sells out in a matter of days so don’t delay. Register, train, and Finish & Enjoy!

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