Monday, September 19, 2016

When you Plant a Seed...

It all started on June 5, 2016... Caolan had just finished her 2nd 100 mile race up at Kettle Moraine State Forest. I had paced her for 22 miles that night. Wait... scratch that, okay, let's be honest here, the seed was planted sooner at the Earth Day race back in April. However, that little tiny seed needed just a little water, just a little nudging, just a little fire to ignite my soul and make it grow. That's what Kettle did, it confirmed that I wanted this. I couldn't get it out of my head or out of my heart, the fire had been stoked. So on June 7th (or 8th) I signed up for the North Face Endurance Challenge 50K. 

The summer training went really well, almost too well. I kept waiting for the injuries to pop up, for my body to say NOPE! But it didn't happen. I trained well, I hit almost every single workout on the schedule (with very little tweaking by Caolan). My running buddy Jenna was training for Chicago, so we kept each other going on those 5am runs. 
The few weeks before the race were rough. I was a mess, my anxiety attacks were at an all time high. I am so very thankful that I have now surrounded myself with a few special people who lift me up, who support me, who are honest with me and tell me when to stop! 

The night before the race Caolan posted on my wall a special message that I carried with me for the whole race... 

“The ancestor of every action is a thought” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson Do not forget the seed that was planted back in June - the thought that grew and now the action before you. Remember that it is your mind that matters here. Your body will do what your mind wills. Have a wonderful adventure, even through the pain, the thoughts of 'Why the fuck am I doing this?", the highs and the lows, and then the lower lows which then fade into the next high. If your mind wills it, it will be..."

Race Day is here.....I was scared as hell, but relieved that I would no longer have to think what if... "I don't move fast enough, legs give out, stomach bothers me." It was go time...

Jenna and I at the start

Ann, Mark, myself, and Dave ready to go!

Ann and I met up as we planned and we had talked of hanging together as long as we could together. We knew we had our own races to run, but when it's 31 miles, a buddy for at least some of it is nice! We started out onto the main road towards ZZ. It was already warm and humid and I had a feeling it would be a long day.

Love this photo Jenna got of us out there running!

Ann and I moved along the first few miles. We past the first aide station at mile 1.8 and of course Jenna was there cheering us on. Onward we went. We were both familiar with the rolling cross country skiing trails and hills that we were currently on. We had trained on them before. I do love the tall evergreen tree stands. They make you feel so tiny but fill you with awe at the same time on just how beautiful they are.
Somewhere along the Green Loop in Scuppernong
We made it back around to the Scuppernong Aide station and Jenna was there with fresh bottles. It would be the only time that I would be able to "officially" get crew support. A quick assessment and I realized that my stomach was already getting that bit of a queasy feeling. I knew that I had to keep that in check today as it tends to be my undoing lately A quick handful of skittles and and off we went again. We continued on into a hilly but runnable area. I felt like I was going a bit fast, so I mentioned to Ann that I needed to slow down and back off a bit, and that she could go on at her pace. I was fine. Actually I was having fun, despite the heat and humidity that had my shirt soaked already.

Early in the race when I could still jump

I was pleasantly surprised to see that my crew Jenna was not going to have any of this rule following! At mile 11.5, she was there cheering me on. A quick change of a water bottle that was sloshing and driving me nuts, another assessment on the stomach, a quick trip to the medics for ice. I learned quickly that ice in the sports bra is an amazing thing, and just because there wasn't ice out in the open, didn't mean there wasn't any. I would do this several times! Off I went again.

Ann and I seemed to be playing a game of leap frog as I caught her again off and on through to mile 17, then I lost her (found out later her IT really gave her grief but she finished! I was so happy I had her around the first half). I knew this stretch was going to be long (and hot!) so, I decided now would be a good time to pull out my first brain bag note. See, Jenna knows me, she knows that my mind is my worst enemy. So she wrote me little notes that I could pull out for a smile, or inspiration. The first note said "FUEL!" Yep, she knows me. So I take a sip of my fuel. Then the next "Tell the negative voices in your head to STFU!" Okay, these are good!

Then came the meadow....I knew it would be hard, but I never realized how many hours I would be in the baking sun. I think there was a breeze, but I couldn't tell. I knew how I would have to deal with this.... I would have to walk, A LOT... So I did, and I was okay. I trudge through the unevenness of the meadow, running when I could, walking when I had to. Just trying to put one step in front of the other. 
The meadow
I was very excited to see that the Wilton aide station come up, but even more excited to see that Jenna was there! Her happy face was a welcome sight and she did a great job of making sure I did another assessment on how things were going. There may have been some bad words about the meadow, but I was starting to lose focus at this point. Moving forward and drinking fluids were the only thought I could muster. 
Wilton Aide Station 16.8 miles

The miles kept ticking by and we kept finding ourselves back in the meadow. However, at some point, I really don't remember when but I know it was before 22.5, I think, Jenna appeared again!  She was definitely persistent!  Always with a smile, always with an encouraging word.  Her being there mattered!
More Meadow

Things were getting blurry now and I think body parts were starting to hurt. I'd kicked my fair share of rocks with my toes, and they were starting to bark at me. I kept hydrating and occasionally fueling with the tailwind and a Cliff Banana Mango Coconut pouch. I don't think I really paid much attention to where we were or what was around me. It just seemed like there was MORE meadow, sand, a access road of some kind, and I noticed the sound of hunting rifles (and the sign that said open hunting starting September 1.... UH OH!). A good reason to NOT pull out the music. Then I noticed a young woman walking and attempting to run occasionally. She was doing the marathon and looked like she was in rough shape. The thing that stuck out to me was that she had NO water bottle. The aide stations were 5 miles apart, temps were near 80, and I know the humidity was still up. There was no way she was going to make it standing to the next stop.  I offered her some tailwind, which thankfully she drank. The aide station was coming up within the next mile or so, and her significant other was pacing her (against the rules, but he had no water either) so I was hopeful she would be ok. Then my favorite part, the photographers. I had been seeing them a lot today (I ended up with 47 pictures of me!) and was making fun of them picking some of the worst spots for good pictures.  
Why are you taking pictures here?!
I've got very little run left!
(the woman in the background
had no water bottle at all)
Finally Aide station #5. I had been slowly checking off each aide station, making note that I would not be missing cutoffs and that I was good on time. It was a mental game I played with myself all day. Since Jenna wasn't here, it was quick fill of the bottles, sports bra full of ice, tried to eat food (nope), and off I went again.
Aide Station #5
(missed Jenna at this one,
she was out running
her own long run)
The next 5.3 miles were hell! Here is the course description with my commentary in parentheses, "This stretch of the horse trail (I actually ran into horses that were not too happy to see me) contains a few extremely sandy sections (SO MUCH SAND!). Runners will want to run along the side of the trail to avoid the sand as much as possible (didn't help). The horse trails are mostly wide and flat (liars!) but this section does have a few rolling hills (with loose rocks) and one of the longer uphill (longer? It went on forever and was so steep people were walking up backward) segments on the course."  Yep it sucked!!!  Lots more brain bag letters came out and I might have hit my low point in this section. It was the first time all day, I thought, "I have a long way to go yet..." My feet were hurting, my quads were screaming at me, and all I could do was walk because you just couldn't run on this crap. Thankfully at the end of this, when I was was at the lowest of my lows... Jenna was there once again to cheer me on.  
Jenna coming out to find me at mile 27.7

Another final fill of the water bottles, have I mentioned I'm tired of Tailwind and NUUN? Another full sports bra of ice, and I'm off for the last 3.7 miles of my race.  My mind was very quiet and reflective here. I thought about my husband and boys, who puts up with my crazy and just smile and shakes their heads. I thought about Caolan, who helps me be brave, who nourishes my seeds of adventure and calms my fears with wisdom beyond any I have ever met. I thought about Jenna, who took a day away from her family to be there for me, just because she wanted to. I thought about my friends and family who encourage me, even if they don't understand.

Brain Bag notes
I finally made it back around to Scuppernong, and the last 1.8 miles, I knew this section, so it was like seeing an old friend. I ran what I could, but my body was tired and each step hurt my battered feet. I crossed the road, and began the final run down ZZ for the last mile or so. I couldn't believe I was almost done with a race that I never thought possible. I thought my body would fail me. I thought my mind would fail me. I thought I would let down my friends, my family, myself...and I cried. Tears of joy, tears of triumph, tears for the fact that I DID this, not anyone else.  No one could say "Well, you had a pacer", "Well it wasn't a hard race" "Well, it wasn't that far"  This was all me.  My mind, my body, my heart stayed positive. I smiled and I cried some more as I crossed the finish line. 
Crossing the finish line trying to hold in the tears
More tears
and more tears and a hug for Jenna

I learned a lot about myself this day. My task now is to take the lessons I learned and hang on to them and not let the self-doubt and anxiety take control of me, because when that happens, how can I continue to be brave and live a life full of adventure and love?
Live, Laugh, Love, Run! 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

What Fuels your Fire?

Fear of Missing Out, It's a real thing. Especially with Social Media and the circles that you travel in. You see what others are training for. You see the progress, the pitfalls, the races, the oohs and ahhs of the masses when they finish, and you feel like that should have been you. You could do that, right? An then that inner voice, says, "Hell No! You're not made for that! You'll break"...on and on it goes. That perpetual argument in your brain which is based on what you see and hear... Not what you feel.  

As Caolan has told me time and again, STOP!  Close your eyes, take a breath, and look deep inside to see what makes you happy. What fuels your fire.

That has been me for the last few months.  Sure, I've been training for some races I have on the calendar, but this year is different. As everyone is laying out their 2016 plans, I've been sitting here trying to decide what I want, what makes me happy, what makes me take that extra little breath and think "Should I?"

But it's not an ultra or some epic huge marathon that is making me excited this year.  It's the trails. The simple trails.  As a kid, my family would go camping and we would hike in the woods of Wisconsin for hours.  I loved it! It made me happy!  Fast forward to being an hasn't changed.  Every time I go hiking, or go to Colorado, just walking out on Caolan's trails, it makes me smile. I am a giddy little girl when Caolan, Abbie, and I go hiking up in the Rockies.  It makes my soul soar and my heart happy.

My Favorite View in Colorado

Hiking in the Rockies with Caolan and Abbie

So this year I will concentrate on running through the woods, or the mountains, or even around some lake at a park. I will feel the earth underneath my feet, look up at the trees or at the views. Slowing down to walk when the trail gets technical, running when I can, and just being present.

Mud and snow and Happy Feet

So my advice to anyone, as they watch the whirl of Social Media and feel like if they don't run further, faster, do more... is this....

I'm not missing out on anything.  I plan on helping and cheering on my friends who are taking on their own challenges and encouraging them on what fuels their fire. The race distance doesn't matter for me right now. I just want to run and be.... that's my goal for 2016. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Still Waiting and Recovering

It's been almost 4 months to the day of my foot surgery, and guess what...I'm still waiting and recovering. It looks very different than a few months ago, but at times it feels very much the same. I still hurt, I still worry, and I often don't see things getting better. 

(Now, before I go on, I have this disclaimer that I really do have the best husband and best friends in the world and they have been there every step of the way. However, this is how I've been feeling lately, and I feel that writing and getting it out there is the only way for me to move on).

The race season for everyone else has begun and many have run their first, or even second or third marathon of 2014, and yet still I sit and wait and recover. I knew it would be awhile and I thought I could handle it, but lately I feel like I'm doing a sucky job of it. In all reality, I'm very very sad. 

I've been going to physical therapy twice a week for 8 weeks now. I never miss, I always work hard, I do my home exercises (most of the time) and I try to cross-train with swimming, biking, and walking. I've even signed up for a sprint triathlon in August, thinking that would give me a reason to "train." I'm "progressing" according to the PT.

However, I'm missing running. Not just getting out there, but the peace and sanity it provides me. The quiet that I get in my brain that never ever stops (not even when I sleep). I feel lost and confused inside my head; day and night. I can't escape the twinges of pain, the aches in the foot, or the knowing that I can't run the way I want to....the constant reminder that I am "fixed" but yet still broken. 

Lately, I have felt like giving up running, fitness, and being active entirely. Why bother, why care... why even try?  It seems pointless because it seems there will always be a next step in my recovery. 

I often feel like I'll never be recovered and my friends will outrun me, even outgrow me, and once again I will be alone in my broken body and alone in my thoughts where the demons will devour me. (Maybe that explains the dream I had last night with fighting the snakes and demons that never seemed to stop!)

Within all this darkness and sadness, a quote that my dear friend sent to me plants it seed in my mind...I can feel it trying to take root itself into the sadness that some days consumes me... and every once in a while I feel the hope.....

"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up." ~Anne Lamont

*special thanks to Caolan for the quotes from Anne Lamont... visit her blog at

Monday, January 27, 2014

Waiting and Recovering

Being injured sucks! There's no two ways about it. You sit on the chair day after day with your injury staring at you in the face, with the twinges of pain, a constant reminder that you're not better...yet.

Now, I'm trying to stay positive, and it's hard. Really hard. I have an amazing group of friends cheering me on, sending me love and healing. Which helps some, but it's still a struggle. 

I'm not one to sit still. I absolutely hate it! I'm always bouncing around the house, bouncing around work, I just bounce! However, yesterday, things changed. I fell. I was managing my way around the kitchen in my knee scooter and tried to turn. The wheel caught and it fell, and I along with it. Of course what's the first thing that hit the ground, my right foot. Yes, my foot that just had surgery 7 days ago. My foot that has a bone anchor in it holding my Posterior Tib Tendon in place.  Amazingly, I didn't curse as I went down (very quickly). I think it was something more of a painful primal scream. Everyone came running into the kitchen and I just sat too much pain to even cry.  I managed with some supervision from my husband to get into bed and elevated my foot and iced it for the next few hours. This morning, I called the doctor explained what happen. Tomorrow morning, I will be heading back for more X-rays to make sure nothing came undone. 
That thought terrifies me! I don't want surgery again. I don't want to be out longer than I need to be. So I wait and hope I just irritated things and with rest and following rules things will calm down. 

This is my recovery spot!
It's no longer about wanting to run. Don't get me wrong, I really really want to run, but it's about getting my life back. It's about not being in some sort of pain 24/7. You see, this injury has been going on for over 3 months. In a sense it's defined me as the"injured runner". What's really sad, is that I have left that happen. 

I have a lot of work to do to get myself in a better mental place, and it is a lot of work. I need to be a patient patient and let myself heal physically. I need Ito let people help me and ask for help. But hey, I have another 2 weeks off of work to work on all of that...So the journey continues....and as my friend, Caolan, has reminded me...

Friday, October 18, 2013

Chicago Marathon 2013: The True Story!

"Whether you think you can, or think you can't...You're right!"  ~Henry Ford

On October 13, 2013, I finished my second marathon.  It didn't go like I wanted. It was ugly, it was painful, and I'm trying to figure out what went wrong. I'm trying to learn my lessons from this bump in the road.

The weekend started out amazing!  Saturday morning I was up early and ready to go. Hubby took me to the train station and I excitedly posted my anticipation to the world on Facebook! I couldn't wait to see all my friends from near and far. I was on top of the world. I knew my goal, and I had this! (People had told me this all week).

I feel like my mistakes started happening early on in the day. After we finally met up and dropped off our gear at the hotel, Jeni, Rylee, and Caolan made our way to the expo. We excitedly made our way around to pick up our bibs and shirts, then lap two, and walked around again, lap three.
Take a magnet, sign the sign!

"My Running Friends" Facebook Group!

Having fun at the Expo

This is what I wrote
I was trying to find something specific, so for the fourth time Jeni and I took another lap. No luck....I knew all the walking was not the best, but I felt awesome!!!  How could that be a bad thing? AND I was lucky enough to meet Deena Kastor. How cool is that!

After the expo, we made our way to the hotel. Luckily the room this time didn't have plastic covered mattresses and the room was much bigger with the kitchenette. We chilled for a bit, then made our way to dinner. 
Dinner at the Rosebud
We sat down, chit-chatted got our menus, and then it hit me... OH NO! I'm not hungry, I can't eat... I'm going to lose it.... I could feel the anxiety getting the best of me, I was crawling out of my skin. I wondered if anyone could see the fear and anxiety in my face. I tried to brush the feeling of "I'm doomed" away. I smiled and picked at my food, pretending to eat some, but I knew I wasn't fueling enough. 

Another mile walk back to the hotel (Gosh, I've been on my feet alot today). We settled in to our hotel room. I choked down some instant oatmeal I brought, hoping it would help with the nerves (it didn't). I was so jealous that Rylee and Jeni could fall asleep so easily. Caolan and I tried to watch "Spirit of the Marathon" through some sketchy wireless internet. Eventually, we gave up and went to "bed". I would have said to "sleep", but sleep didn't happen. I was also worried I'd wake Caolan, so I tried to lay there quietly later finding out, she wasn't sleeping either. 

The alarm went off, 6am! We got up, got ready, quickly wrote down my splits on my left arm, my inspirational quote on my right, and off Caolan went for her earlier wave. This killed me, I wanted to scream, "NO! Don't go!" I tried to believe I could do this, but honestly, I wasn't so confident anymore. Again, I brushed it off, put on my happy face, and made my way downstairs and met up with my running buddies for the race.
Pre-race jitters
In true Chicago Marathon form, we had issues with the porta-potties. Lines were too long, so Eileen, Esther, and I didn't get to use it one more time before the race. UGH! oh well, according to a friend I have a bionic bladder, so no worries for me.

The second wave always takes forever, so finally at 8:15, we crossed the start line, and we were off!  YES! finally, here we go. The first few miles went by like a breeze. I tried to watch my pace but my GPS went nuts. I couldn't tell how fast or slow I was going. I tried to watch my split at mile 3. I knew I was a bit ahead, but didn't think it was that far off (it was). Eileen had to split off from us around mile 5 due the lack of using the porta-potty before the race; so it was down to Esther and I. Around mile 5-6 things started going really wrong for me.

Now, if you get a squeamish you may want to skip this part. I was informed that some "snot rockets" needed to be launched but it would be done a distance away. Okay, shouldn't be an issue. NOTE: I apparently have a HUGE gag reflex and don't do well with snot rockets. For the next 5-7 minutes, I gagged and dry-heaved! Sadly, I think I pulled a muscle in the process too! From that point on I felt like someone had punched me in the gut and I couldn't recover. It hurt, I couldn't catch my breath, and I knew I was going to have to adjust my goals.

Around mile 11, I had to let Esther go on and run her own race. She felt strong, she was running great, and I couldn't let myself hold her back or let her pull me along anymore than she had. I had to finish my own race. However it was going to look, it had to be done. So I sent her off with a smile and a wave!

I made it to mile 13.1 before I had to make a final decision. Keep running and have the potential of not finishing, or walk "my race pace" and get through this marathon. If anyone has had the pleasure of walking with, they know my "race walk" is not a Sunday stroll pace. 

I'm not sure at what point the foot and knee started hurting, but I remember at some point that every time I tried to start running again, the pain would pierce through and up the leg. So again I walked. I walked through all the neighborhoods noticing all the things I didn't last year. The hardest part was that I noticed that people didn't cheer for the walkers. It felt like they were looking at you with a sense of sadness; "AWWWW, poor thing, she's walking." Ugh, I powered on. My best that day would look different, but it would be my best THAT day!

It was warm, I felt miserable, but I powered on.....
at least I wasn't the only one struggling in Chinatown

Finally the 26 mile mark appeared. Okay, I can run the rest of this...well, jog it. I crossed the finish line, arms held high, tears in my eyes. I did it! I finished my second marathon. It was horrible at the same time it was amazing. 

Walking through the finisher chute I finally saw a familiar face; Julie. 

She took one look at me and said, "What's wrong?" 

That's it! I lost it. I bawled! "Everything went wrong! I couldn't do it!! I failed." She hugged me tight and gave me some words of encouragement. 

I left Julie so she could celebrate her success with her friends, and I walked on trying to regain some sense of dignity. In reality, I just wanted to curl up in a ball and cry some more. 

Finally, I found Caolan. She put her arm around me and we meandered to a spot to sit down and wait. I felt like I let her down, like I let myself down, like I let everyone who followed me down. 

A very exhausted and sore runner
 Here we are, almost a week later. I'm still processing. I'm still grieving that it didn't go as planned. I have my ups and downs. However, at the same time, I can feel that grim determination of the runner I've become that I won't let this race define me or force me to give up. I will trudge on, I will run another marathon..... and I probably won't wait another year.

"Whether you think you can, or think you can't...You're right!"  ~Henry Ford

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” Helen Keller

On October 7, 2012 I finished my first marathon and was on top of the world. Today, 14 days later I have yet to run even a block. It's not from not wanting to, believe me, it's because I can't.

A few days after the marathon, my right knee starting hurting. Not the achy pain I'm accustomed to, but a sharp stabbing pain with almost every step. I freaked... NO! Not again! This can't happen again! But it had...and now I had to deal with my second real injury of running.

After my first 15k, I couldn't walk for a week because I sprained the bottom of my foot (overuse). I was in a boot for a week, and could barely put pressure on it. I waited it out, and it got better, and now that distance doesn't hurt.

Now, here we go again. This marathon was my first, and my body rebelled. It just doesn't seem to like new long distances. Something always gives, and this time it was my knee. Doesn't look like anything is "damaged" and it's probably from overuse, again! I've had knee issues since I started running so it wasn't a surprise.

When I first started running, I had some discomfort in that same knee, so I went to a specialist to get some help. He took X-rays, and gave me a 5 minute exam. I was told that my knee doesn't track right, and this "specialist" informed me I shouldn't run, my body isn't made for running; no other advice.
That was his advice?!

So my adversity to specialists is understandable. This time I'm going through a different route that involves "Agressively doing Conservative Therapy," ultrasound, electro-stimulation, and ice with my PT officeI am comfortable with this, since we are making these decisions together and working towards a solution, and they want me to get out there running again. If it doesn't work, we can go onto the more aggressive options.

So for now, I rest and wait ....but I hate waiting... It needs to get better now, I need to run....

Which really brings me to the heart of my blog. Injuries suck!! I mean really suck. You can't do what you want to do, and the pain and discomfort constantly reminds you of that. You poke and prod at yourself every few minute to see if a miraculous recovery has happened. You wake up in the morning and lay there for a minute trying to feel if the ache is there before you get out of bed, which determines how crabby you are for the day. It consumes you, while you wait and hope and wait some more, while everyone around you continues to run. You aren't mad at them, you just wish you could join them.

 I never realized how much I truly need and want running. I like the way it makes me feel, I like the way it makes me look, but most of all I like the friends I have made because of running.

They have put up with my whining and crying and understand how I feel. They don't patronize me, they support me. They give advice (wanted or not), but they do it all because they want me to get back out there. They want me to run and be back to my old self, because this one is pretty crabby.

So in the meantime, while I recover and wait, I plan. I plan for the new running gear I want, I plan for the next big race, I plan for the amazing trip to Colorado I am taking with my Facebook friends, and I plan on how that next marathon will feel with the changes to my training that will take place.

NOT RUNNING is definitely NOT the plan....

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The experience of a First Time Marathoner

"When You Cross the Finish Line, No Matter How Slow or Fast, It Will Change Your Life Forever" -Dick Beardsley (Spirit of the Marathon movie)

It's Saturday morning, I said goodbye to my boys, who wish me good luck, and my husband Bruce and I make the trek to Chicago. Why my husband insisted on driving is beyond me? I think between parking costs and traffic, this was not the most frugal choice. However, since I've already rushed him out the door an hour early, I let him has his way on this.

After some travel time and a shuttle bus, we reach the expo to pick up the packets. Bruce notices that Caolan and I are not in the same corral like we were supposed to so I begin to panic. I go to the customer service, get a new bib for me and suddenly freak out that everyone that is supposed to track me won't be able to. Okay breath, out of my control now. (This panic would consume me all night and the next morning). 

The expo itself is overwhelming. Vendors are lined up everywhere either selling their products or trying to get you to sign up for a race. I want it all, but end up with just a bottle of coconut water, a shirt for a friend, and my race magnets. (Hubby doesn't like stickers on cars).

We move on to the wall that has every runner listed. Of course since my last name starts with a W, I'm crawling along the floor looking for my name. Finally! 

Before we leave, I'm able to meet up with a Facebook Friend, Brooke, who is running with a friend as well. We chat for a few minutes and part ways. As we leave, I think about how every time I meet someone from our Women Who Run the World Group, my world gets a little smaller and cozier. I like that!

We make it to the hotel room, and relax a bit. It's still early and Caolan has not yet arrived. I worry some more about the bib change and hope it all works out. 

Caolan arrives at the hotel, obviously exhausted as she flops on the bed. She quickly discovers that it crinkles with every movement. Yeah, I picked a high class hotel. They have to cover their mattresses in plastic. The only reassurance is that there are no bedbugs!

The next morning, we wake up before the alarm rings. I eat just a bit, just so Caolan and hubby don't yell at me. I hate eating before I run, it just doesn't settle for me. What I really wanted was coffee, but that was not to be either, since the coffee maker didn't work well, and we only managed about a cup between the two of us. I'm STILL freaking out that no one will be able to track me, so I send out some quick texts and Facebook posts with Caolan's bib #, just to make sure. 

Hubby and I discuss briefly where he will try and be, and he reassures me that it's okay if I don't see him. We've spectated the Chicago Marathon before and both know how hard it's going to be! I kiss him goodbye, and he says he'll see me at the end. That man is such a trooper and I love him! I know it will be a long cold day for him as well, but he puts on a good game!

Now, I am a person that is always early to everything. So when Caolan needed to use the porto-potties, I glanced at my watch. The lines were long and we were already cutting it close. They close the corrals at 7:45, so I lean over to Caolan and tell her that this is NOT how I usually do things as I feel the panic set in. We finally find some empty ones, do our business, RUN to the corrals, jumping a fence along the way, and finally booking it up to corral K. At this point I'm thinking "Great! All that work and worry to change my bib to the same corral, and it did not make a damn bit of difference." Panic again! Then we wait, take a photo, and the nerves are building. What was I thinking?! Okay, breath. Here we go!

Finally we start! OMG! We are starting a marathon! The people on the side are cheering and it's so amazing that I am giddy thinking of it. Then we go into the tunnel under the first bridge. What I saw, was something I never would have thought of, nor ever want to see again. It's one of those deep dark secrets of marathoning I guess. Men were LINED UP facing the wall peeing. I about died. I think I said out-loud, "That's so not fair!"

As we made the first few miles through Downtown, I had one mission, to find my husband! Around mile two, I began looking for him, and again worrying that I wouldn't see him. Finally, on the OPPOSITE side of the street there he was standing alone, looking for me. I screamed at him something to the effect of "I LOVE YOU HONEY! I"ll see you later!" 

A bit further along, I was lucky enough to see my friends, Beth, Allie, and Aubrey standing there as well. I screamed at them, they held up the sign they made just for me. Sadly, I couldn't read it, and Caolan made a mention of that I had good eyes to see them before they saw me. 
My sign from Beth, Allie, and Aubrey!

My sign from Beth, Allie, and Aubrey!

The miles just started ticking by. I never looked at my watch. I just went by feel and the occasional, "Slow Down" by Caolan. She reminded me that if I ran this smart, all the people that were passing me now, would be walking by the end. We enjoyed these miles. We read the signs, laughed at the costumes and took in all that the Chicago Marathon had to offer. When we past the people with the Bloody Mary bar near Lincoln Park, I mentioned that was so not far. Caolan's response, "They don't deserve it, they didn't work for it!" As we kept going, I even cheered and waved as people shouted "Go, Sandra!!!" Yeah, I had my name on my shirt! I was taking every advantage that I could!

We passed the half way point, but sadly I didn't see hubby again. At this point we were back in downtown and there were so many people, 5-6 rows deep! This was the only time I looked at my watch, and I was only about 7 minutes ahead of my half marathon PR. WOW! This was going well. I knew the hardest was yet to come, but I was happy with the moment. 

About mile 15, things got rough. I didn't tell Caolan, but my knee was hurting something awful! There was pain with each step, but I wasn't stopping. We got quiet at this point, I knew she was watching and gauging me, and I think at one point she tried to make me laugh by reminding me that this was supposed to be fun! I think I cursed at her in my head at this point! This was not fun right now. This was hard and it hurt, how was I going to last 11 more miles. It might as well have been a million! I tried to listen to my music, it annoyed me even more, so I stopped. We were still moving away from downtown, and that pissed me off even more. 

Around mile 20, the cramps began in the calves. you know, that tingle you feel right before a full blown cramp. Caolan had been carrying HEED for me, but I knew if it didn't do something more soon, this was not going to go well. I had to walk. It sucked and I was pissed at myself for having to walk. I quickly downed some Gatorade, and laughed when Caolan mentioned how fast my walking was. I call it my "Walking with a purpose" walk. I needed to keep moving fast and not loose my pace. 30 seconds later, I began running again. We did the walk break again 2 more times, then some ladies on the street screamed at me "Sandra! You've got this keep going!" (At this point I was no longer cheering back, but giving the obligatory thumbs up or wave). However, it gave me what I needed to start running, and I never stopped. It might not have been fast, but I was going to run the rest. 

As we finished the last few miles, I noticed more and more people walking, just like Caolan promised. We ran past the free beer and jello shots being offered. Caolan stayed just a couple steps ahead, and I knew she was pushing me, and again I cursed her for it, because my legs were not happy with the quicker pace. 

Then we got to the last turn, the one I've been dreading since we started. THAT hill at the end, which now looks like a mountain. Now, this hill has kicked my ass before, but it was not going to win this time. With as much strength and determination as I could pull together I chugged up the hill to the top. I made it to the top and began heading downhill and the corner. Suddenly, I saw what I was looking for, the word FINISH! I don't know how many people were cheering, what they were saying and I really didn't even know where Caolan was at that point, but it didn't matter...I ran as fast as I could to that Finish line, and before I could cross it, I began to bawl and shake. Caolan came up beside me, and hugged me and held me as we walked along the finisher chute. 

The crying wasn't from being tired or cold. It was because I did something that I said NEVER to. I would NEVER do that, I could NEVER do that, and now I say I WILL NEVER STOP!  

After a bit of a confusing rendezvous with Bruce, and a celebratory dinner, that included the most well earned Bloody Marys, I slipped into bed, the day swirling around my head. My phone was lighting up with texts, phone calls, and Facebook with well wishes and congratulations! 

The next morning as Caolan left she said to me, "I hope it sinks in, what you've actually done." I'm not sure I entirely know what that means. I understand how special running a marathon is, but I've never thought that ME running the marathon was anything special. I'm not special. I'm a mom, a wife, a daughter, a teacher, and finally I'm learning to be Sandra as well! Who knows the adventures that await....

"When You Cross the Finish Line, No Matter How Slow or Fast, It Will Change Your Life Forever" -Dick Beardsley (Spirit of the Marathon movie)