She Believed, So She Did (Weekly Photo Challenge: Partners)

For those following my blog though the WordPress Reader, this post didn’t seem to appear when I initially edited it to publish yesterday. In the spirit of that often-seen running meme …. “How do you know if someone ran a marathon? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you!” ~ Kat

Travel. Garden. Eat.

As I sat on the bus at 5:45 a.m., I was reminded that the next several hours were going to come down to believing I could do it … I would do it … I was going to run a marathon.

Despite the weather forecast, my anxiety disappeared the day before the race (perhaps recounting the Top 10 Reasons I would not let the forecast mar my marathon experience was the outlet my nerves needed).

Grandma’s Marathon morning dawned warm and humid by Duluth standards, minimizing layers that needed to be packed for the early morning shuttle ride to the starting line.  While on the bus, my friend jokingly said to me, “Better start your watch now!” because it often seemed so slow to connect during our training runs …. and I looked down and saw an empty wrist — my GPS watch was still plugged into the charger at…

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She Believed, So She Did (Weekly Photo Challenge: Partners)

As I sat on the bus at 5:45 a.m., I was reminded that the next several hours were going to come down to believing I could do it … I would do it … I was going to run a marathon.

Despite the weather forecast, my anxiety disappeared the day before the race (perhaps recounting the Top 10 Reasons I would not let the forecast mar my marathon experience was the outlet my nerves needed).

Grandma’s Marathon morning dawned warm and humid by Duluth standards, minimizing layers that needed to be packed for the early morning shuttle ride to the starting line.  While on the bus, my friend jokingly said to me, “Better start your watch now!” because it often seemed so slow to connect during our training runs …. and I looked down and saw an empty wrist — my GPS watch was still plugged into the charger at home! I took it as a sign that time truly should not matter, and it was a reminder to be fully present during the journey that lay ahead of us that morning.

Lined up in the starting corral with 7,200+ runners at Grandma’s Marathon 2016! 
A good friend is someone who says, “Hey, do you want some company for 26.2 miles?” And then at mile 22 or so turns to you and says, “I must really love you a lot to have agreed to do this with you!”  My friend had run 13 marathons, the last being 15 years earlier …. and came out of marathon retirement to help me get to the finish line of my first.

It was a brutal day for a run.  It was over 70 degrees F at the start with humidity pushing 80%.  The flags signaling race safety in light of the weather conditions (based on the American College of Sports Medicine’s guidelines) quickly moved from yellow by the 10K mark, to red by the halfway point, to black (signaling extreme risk for heat exhaustion) for the last 8 -9 miles of our race.  We were not planning on breaking any records even on the best of weather days, and kept our pace slow and steady, walking through the aid stations that were staffed by volunteers every two miles beginning at mile 3, and then every mile beginning at mile 19, to maximize hydration, dump a cup of water or two overhead, and stuff ice cubes in the sports bra to help with the heat that was inescapable.

As we left the aid station at mile 25, there was no more stopping, and we picked up the pace, just wanting to be done!  Words were few, as we focused on the last turns to the finish line.  I could feel a burst of emotion seeing that arch of balloons marking the finish line, with Duluth’s iconic lift bridge looming in the background.  Partners in training and partners with hands jubilantly raised as we crossed the finish line together in 5 hours, 15 minutes — on a day that many seasoned marathoners said was one of their toughest, due to the warm temperatures and high humidity.

She believed, so she did ….

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge. “Partners” is this week’s theme. Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here: Partners.


The Hay Is in the Barn

Five days from now, I will be standing — uninjured — at the starting line of Grandma’s Marathon.  Goal number 1, check!  Five days from now, I hope to finish — uninjured — my first marathon.  Goal number 2, pending.

Between now and Saturday morning, the key will be to not melt in a pool of anxiety, obsessing about the weather (too warm! — substituting Powerade instead of my usual red wine in the evening to hydrate in advance!), phantom aches and pains that come and go (hello, foam roller and yoga!), and that subtle sniffle that threatens to turn into a full-blown cold (daily dose of Emergen-C!). Our training group coach, Tony, reminds us to relax when these nagging doubts creep into our thoughts and conversations, reassuringly telling us, “The hay is in the barn.” It’s hard to keep things in perspective as race day looms closer, but reflecting back over the past 6 months, I am reminded of the need to pause and be grateful.

“In running, it doesn’t matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say, ‘I have finished.’ There is a lot of satisfaction in that.” ~ Fred Lebow, New York City Marathon co-founder

I started the 22-week training plan with one of our local training groups back in January — you may recall my “Optimistic” post as marathon training formally launched.  The first evening group run was a balmy 7 degrees Fahrenheit (-13 degrees Celsius).  A few weeks later, a sunny Saturday morning provided an opportunity for Jack Frost to give me a new look mid-way through a 10 mile run, with -11 Fahrenheit (-23 Celsius) temperature at the start of the  run.

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”  ~ Alfred Wainwright

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Lake Superior kept changing things up to keep us entertained mile after mile — windswept, icy shores in March, even as the sun shone bright, as I finished 14 miles.

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There were snow-dusted trails in Iowa, while traveling to watch my son’s robotics team compete in March … and snow back up north covering the Lakewalk as I took my favorite running companions out for a joyful spring jog.

When blustery winds and snow continuing into April made open paths along the Lake a bit daunting, the Willard Munger State Trail provided sheltered beauty for 12 miles.

“I always loved running… it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.” ~ Jesse Owens, Winner of four gold medals at the Olympic Games

Thankfully, the snow did eventually exit to make way for Spring.  I made time for my runs while traveling for work, even setting an early morning alarm to accommodate conflicting schedules, to get the miles in.

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Given the choice, though, I would always opt for an evening run over early morning.  My circadian rhythm naturally gravitates toward the pink glow along the horizon of the big lake as the sun sets, backlighting the stark trees of spring.

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The miles grew longer, the grass grew greener, and the ice finally blew off the blue waters of Superior.

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12, 14, 16, 18  … and finally 20 miles. I am no speed demon, so these longer runs meant a half-day plugging along, 4 hours on my feet.  One of the 20-milers I had the benefit of running with my good friend and the training group, but the second one, I had to gut it out solo. Thankfully, I was graced with a perfect Duluth day that made the miles fly a little faster.

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“It was being a runner that mattered, not how fast or how far I could run. The joy was in the act of running and in the journey, not in the destination.” ~ John Bingham

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The Garmin GPS watch would beep to count off each mile, but I found that the further I got into training, the less I looked toward it to define my run. I often turned inward, visualizing the race, mulling over a challenge at work, or just taking time to smell the roses … or at least admire the tulips, as the case may be ….

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Come race day, despite thousands of runners pounding the pavement as the gun goes off, the act of running is ultimately a solo event —  each runner is dependent on his or her own legs, lungs, heart and mind.  And it is that mind that is more powerful than almost any physical attribute as the miles stretch on.

Bryce Courtenay’s words from one of my favorite books seem a fitting way to close, reminding us to take a deep breath, stop hitting “refresh” on the forecast websites, and exercise the power of positive thinking. Remember, the hay is in the barn and we are ready to run.

 “The power of one is above all things the power to believe in yourself, often well beyond any latent ability you may have previously demonstrated. The mind is the athlete, the body is simply the means it uses to run faster or longer, jump higher, shoot straighter, kick better, swim harder, hit further, or box better.”

~ Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

Good luck to all runners enjoying the beauty of Lake Superior’s North Shore and Duluth’s hospitality on Saturday — I will see you at the finish line!

Ciao! ~ Kat

Weekly Photo Challenge: Optimistic

I found myself filled with a sense of optimism as the intense pink-orange glow of the sun broke over the horizon of Lake Superior on Saturday morning.  A few minutes later, the large group of multi-layered runners headed out to the running path that follows the shoreline, and the first official long run of the 2016 Grandma’s Marathon training group was underway.

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It has been 5 years since I ran a half-marathon, and life has been full in the meantime, resulting in a pretty irregular running routine.  But, as our hometown marathon announced its 40th anniversary, and the commemorative lift bridge medal design and celebratory starter jackets were revealed, I decided if I was going to knock that full marathon off the bucket list, it needed to be Grandma’s Marathon.  I knew from my half marathon experiences that Duluth knows how to put on a race and support every runner from the first to the last.  I was not alone in this thought — after opening for registration on October 1, Grandma’s Marathon filled its 8,500 runner field by December 31.

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Over 100 area runners are signed up for a local running store’s training group, some running the half marathon, and some running the full, including many first-time marathoners like myself.  Three group runs are scheduled each week leading up to the June races.  We Duluthians are hardy folks, as we headed out Tuesday evening for the first group run in single-digit temps on the snow-covered path.

You may be asking yourself, why!?  Whether you are a runner or not, just watch the short video that the Grandma’s Marathon organization put together as registration opened, you get a glimpse of the beauty and great community support for Duluth’s marathon weekend:

Like I said, I am optimistic about this adventure.  My goal is to finish, and enjoy the journey.  Look for an update or two along the way.

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge. “Optimistic” is this week’s theme. Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here: Optimistic.

Merry Christmas, WordPress Friends!

May the Christmas spirit fill your day with infectious joy and peace!

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Ciao! ~ Kat