Ironman 70.3 Steelhead Race Report

As I previously mentioned, life around the TTF household has been slightly chaotic thus the lack of a timely race report.  In fact, it’s been down right stressful!  But we keep on keeping on, right?  Yes!  So I showed up for Ironman 70.3 Steelhead overweight, undertrained but ready to tackle whatever the day tossed at me.  Remember, I do this for fun.  I run, train, TRI as a stress reliever and for a little bit of “me time” amongst the chaos.  Total bonus is when I get to spend time with friends.  Aby and Julie M were my race weekend support crew and we rolled into Saint Joseph & Benton Harbor MI with smiles on our faces!

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We hit packet pick up, listened to the pre-race meeting, figured out the new swim course, racked my bike and hit the expo while Aby constantly reminded us that she just wanted to go to the beachIMG_7760

There is something final about leaving your bike in transition.  Most of us are on our second or even third or more bike.  We started at the bottom with a low level road bike and worked our way up.  We have an emotional attachment to our bike that is hard for people who do not ride to understand.   Most of my friends actually have a name for their bike, I do not.  But I still love it.  And I spend a lot of time with it.  And it never sasses me or talks back.  Smile  So I bid my bike farewell and it sits in transition, awaiting my return and trying to soak up the calm before the chaos of race day begins.

When I return it is race morning.  It’s full on chaos.  Transition is packed.  It’s still dark.  Trying to set up transition in the dark, with 2499 of our new friends, just begs for things to be forgotten at the bottom of the transition bag!  But we are finally set up and started inching our wetsuits on for the swim start.   Wendy, myself & Judy getting ready to head to the beach for our 1.2 mile swim! 

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Swim waves went out in 4 minute increments.  Judy was in the first wave at 7:00 am and Wendy and I were 12 minutes behind at 7:12am.  There was a last minute change to the swim course to keep the swim start & finish close together on the beach.  The change resulted in us having to swim further out into the mammoth body of water known as Lake Michigan.  What Lake MI delivers on a given day is just a surprise so I was ready for the worst like IM 70.3 Racine in 2013 and hoped for the best.  New course:

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Water was calm at the start!  Yes!  But the course wasn’t as nice as the pretty picture above.  We were swimming at an angle and it seemed like every buoy turned us a bit and we had to reposition.  It wasn’t as easy as it appears, plus I felt VERY crowded in the water, both by the ladies in my wave, as well as the fast swimmers behind me.  It took me a good 3 buoys to get myself together and just do my own thing but then as soon as I’d get in a groove I’d have a swimmer in front of me swimming perpendicular to me.  I need to be more aggressive in the water but I’m not at this point.  Swimming is the easy part of the TRI and I don’t really rush.  When someone is swimming the wrong way in front of me, I stop and let them clear my path.  Doesn’t make for a very speedy swim but keeps me comfortable.  Something I need to work on for the future!  Anyhow, I finally navigate the swim course, it was marked well and easy to follow.  No clock when I got out of the water, which was odd, but I could make out the start line clock, that read 8:00 am real time.  That put me in the water for 48 minutes and I was happy with that considering my lack of swim training.  However, Ironman clocked me at 55 minutes via my chip so I’m not sure how I messed that up.  Or why I was in the water so long because overall the swim was decent, I wasn’t panicky, there were some rolling waves out on the back side of the course but nothing too crazy.  I kept moving but yes, I did stop numerous times to avoid “random” swimmers.  But it was a beautiful day and I kinda enjoyed the cool, crisp, clear water.

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No wetsuit strippers but I managed to get unzipped and unsuited.  On to the bike!  The bike as you know, can make or break you and is the longest segment of any triathlon.  This race is a half ironman, AKA 70.3 race, where all the mileage equals 70.3 miles at the end of the day.  1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike & 13.1 mile run.  I had been having bike issues most of the season.  Issues with my shifters.  Issues with getting out for longer rides.  Too many issues.  I really had no idea what I could do on the bike so the plan here was to hold back on the first half, eat, drink and relax.  Get thru the nasty/bumpy section of bad road, then try to be somewhat “fresh” for the last half and all those uphill sections (which suck the wind and energy right out of me).  One loop course, which is my preference.  I hit the half way mark (28 miles) right at 1 hour 30 minutes and vaguely remember thinking, “wow, if you keep this pace, you might break 3 hours”.  But then I dismissed the thought immediately because I knew that there were some nasty uphill sections to come.  I really didn’t have much of a strategy.  As I’ve said, I’m super bad riding uphill, I was down into single digits so many times, 9mph was very common.  But I USED the downhill.  No matter how tired I was when I got up the hill, I was ready to rush the down.  And I did that to the best of my ability. At the end of the ride, when my butt hurt so bad I wanted to toss my bike I was tired, that’s what held me together, crushing the downhill.  Then eventually the thought that just possibly, if I kept pushing, I might, just might break 3 hours on the bike.  And I did.  2 hours 59 minutes on the bike.  HUGE triumph for me after a summer (full year really) of trials and tribulations.  Happy girl. 

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After a phenomenal (for me) bike, I hit the run.  I hadn’t done one brick all season and my legs had trouble spinning off the bike.  Took about 3 miles to get in my groove.  Course had two run loops.  There were 3 big hills on the first loop.  2 on the second.  I walked the entirety of each hill.  I also walked thru each of the aid stations and made sure that I got enough fluids, ice and refueled with coke and small bites of banana.  Run went well.  I wasn’t dead but not speedy.  I thought I’d run a 2:15 but at the end of the day I was at 2:21 with the walking.  It was a good day.  We had cloud cover, which was  a HUGE help (especially to those who melt in the heat, like me).  Temps were in the high 70s at the finish (78 degrees).  It was a bit sticky with humidity but manageable thanks to the clouds. 

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I’ve now participated in all 3 Midwest Ironman 70.3 events.  Muncie in 2012, where I took a DNF due to a torn tendon in my foot (race was also downgraded to Olympic distance due to extreme heat – 108 degrees).   Racine in 2013 where the monster waves and bumpy roads stole the show.  And now Steelhead.  There were things I liked about each of these events.  The bike course at Muncie was FUN and the hills seemed manageable.  Not too steep but big enough to produce some speed.  The run in Racine was beautiful with scenic views of Lake Michigan.  But Steelhead was different.  It felt like home.  My family goes up to Saint Joseph MI on occasion for day or weekend trips, year round.  My friends Judy & Julie M both have “cabins” within a reasonable distance of the race site.  In fact, we actually went up and I was able to ride the course once before race day.  So, yes, it’s a big fancy race, but one that felt like it was on our home turf.  And there is no denying the home field advantage.  And that’s how this race felt, like I had an advantage cuz I knew where to hold back on the bike and where to push.  I really enjoyed Steelhead.  Great race.  Great volunteers.  Plenty of aid stations on the bike (3) and on the run (5 each loop). 

In closing, I’ll address the full Ironman issue one more time.  I’m frequently asked “when” I’ll do a full ironman.  First, a full Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run) just isn’t for everyone, so it’s important to realize that it’s just not what some people call fun.  But for myself, I’ve been dreaming about the full distance since my first half in 2008.  Then I was blessed with a bouncing baby boy in 2009.  Baby boy is growing, CRAZY and is becoming more self sufficient each and every day.  In fact, he started kindergarten this year and will be turning 6 in just a couple weeks!!!

Aby & Michael - First Day of School - 2015

I think we are finally at the point where I could tackle it, IF I could justify spending the money to register.  In fact, I’ve been upgrading my equipment for years so that I’ll be ready when the time finally arrives.  However, the last year has brought us a lot of change and financial strain.  We have taken steps to rectify the problem (Hello, NONPAYING IL renters, I’m talking to you.).   Then, maybe, I can tackle the full ironman.  It’s something that I think about every day.  I even think about it when I should be sleeping.  It’s definitely “on the list” but I need to make sure that its something the family can endure in terms of time commitment to my training and also the $$ commitment of the registration fee and travel expenses.  Plus, I need to find a race that will NOT interfere with Aby’s Cross Country season.  So those are a few of the reasons as to why I’m not YET an IronWOman.  But I’ll get there and it will be all the sweeter when I do because I waited for the right moment.

just because

Keep Pushing For YOUR Dreams – Amanda – TooTallFritz

Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon–Duluth MN

As most of you know by now, I’m on a quest to run a marathon in every state.  And I’m on a budget.  As a result, I’ve pretty much given up running races that are less than the 26.2 distance.  I’ve also pretty much given up running marathons in state’s that I’ve already “checked off” unless the race is free.  I pick races based on my (and Julie’s) calendar.  I don’t stress about the course.  Or the weather.  Or the details.  It’s an adventure.  The bigger, the better.  The more the merrier.  Join me!!

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We picked our Minnesota race because Julie said she wanted to knock off MN this year.  I can’t say this was my first choice for MN because, well, we are road runners!  But alas, it   fit into our weekend warrior calendar and it was super affordable at a mere $35 entry fee.  You absolutely can not beat trail races for the price, the hospitality, the fun and the level of commitment that they give to each and every runner.  The Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon wins the TTF Award for the “Best Bang for the Buck” in 2015.  I don’t even care that it’s only July.  They already won.  $35 entry fee = $1.34 per mile.  Our race took forever 7 hours & 37 minutes = $4.60 per hour.

The aid stations were stocked with coke, ginger ale, sprite, powerade (BLUE!!!!), ice, ice water, pretzels, M&Ms, candy, fig newtons, sandwich cookies, frosted oatmeal cookies, gingersnap cookies, potato chips, watermelon, bananas, salt, salt capsules, and a ton of stuff that I can’t remember.  I probably ate/drank more than the $35 entry fee.

There was also an army of volunteers who encouraged us, filled our water bottles, wiped our tears, recorded our numbers, pointed us in the right direction and handed us paper towels & wet wipes in case we needed to go to the bathroom clean up.

The race started promptly at 6am at the Lake Superior Zoo.  There was no big start banner.  No chip timing.  No pomp.  No circumstance.  But there were people making announcements to get us in the right spot and there were bathrooms. Runners came to run and everything else is left on the trail.

The first 2.5-3 miles of the race climbed the ski trails of Spirit Mountain.  Once we started hitting nice roads and fancy bridges we knew we were close to the top!

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Then we started seeing the ski lifts and we came out of the trees for breathtaking views of Lake Superior in the early morning fog.  Absolutely amazing.

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The trail was very well marked with orange ribbons.   I never once questioned our direction.  Organizers spent a lot of time clearing trail for us rather than just using ordinary trails already cut in the parks through which we ran.  There was a lot of planning to get us from Duluth to the finish in Carlton, MN on this point to point course.   It was a creative path.  A difficult one.  Not the most technical of all that I’ve ran but extremely hard and probably the most fun so far (and that’s saying a lot cuz we ran the Dances with Dirt Devil’s Lake WI Extreme Trail  Marathon last July).  Take a peak at the various terrain from steep trails along ridges, to roped off trails to help us navigate the terrain & not fall …..

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To hills, both up and down as far as the eyes could see.

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Beautiful ferns.  Bridges.  Obstacles.

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Water crossings.  Mud.  Roots.  Rocks.

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Parks.  Rivers.

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Every step of this was amazing.  And hard.  Very hard.  But we smiled and laughed almost the entire 7.5+ hours.  If you are a trail runner, the Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon is a must.  If you are an ultra runner, then this race is just a warm up for the MN Voyager 50 Mile Trail Ultramarathon at the end of July.  Like what you see in these pics?  Try the Voyager and you’ll get to run it twice.

As you know from the above post, we finished.  And were happy to see the car and some clean clothes at the end of the race.  To our surprise, we also received a very unique handmade finishers medallion and a gender specific soft, tee.  Nice!

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I’m forever grateful for the good friends I’ve made over the years while “on the run”.  A special thanks to Julie for running some of these crazy races with me!  I can’t wait til we tromp off into the woods for the next adventure!  IMG_7590

** Maybe We’ll See YOU On the Trail ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Marion Rotary For Shoes Marathon & Hot Weather Running Tips

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Marathon #21 was in the great state of Iowa, in Marion, just north of Cedar Rapids.  It was the Marion Rotary For Shoes Marathon.  And it was hot.  And hilly.  But I had a great group of friends who made the trip with me.  From left, meet Lindsay (Glitter Girl on the Run), Judy F, Amanda W (Get to Goal), Derek, Julie M & myself.

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We also met Kim from Running on the Fly and her friend, Barb (not pictured). 

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The 2015 Marathon for Shoes was held in June for the first time.  The first two years were held the third week in April and apparently the weather both years was crazy cold with either snow or wind/rain/sleet.  So the 2015 edition was pushed out til June and cold it was not.  In fact it was hot.  So hot that most of us would have done a choreographed rain dance had we thought it would produce a cloud or drop of rain from that beautiful blue but steamy sky.  But alas, no rain.

Packet pickup was at a local school gymnasium and there were a handful of vendors.  Nice, friendly people.  Easy packet pick up.  Free parking.  Nike tech shirt as the SWAG.  You could have been in and out with your shirt & number in less than 10 minutes.  But you had to get your packet the night before the race or there was a late pickup fee the morning of the race.

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The race started in front of a local high school at 7am.  Easy, free parking.  A handful of port-o-potties.  Chip timing.  Beautiful blue skies.  The race started on time without much of a production.  We were across the timing mat in less than 30 seconds, along with the half marathoners and a handful of relay runners.  Not a huge race, less than 500 people at the start. 

Then came the hills.  One right after another.  Then a few more. And the never really stopped.  The temps that were in the mid 70s at the start climbed to mid 80s by the finish.  The course was mainly on country roads with some neighborhoods.   There were a couple sections where we ran along busy highways separated from the zooming cars by orange cones.  Highlights were an old cemetery and a small park.   The coolest thing we saw was a piece of art in the form of corn stalks just before mile 7.

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Around mile 7, the half marathoners turned off and it got pretty lonely.  I’ll be honest, I was so thankful to have friends running this race!  We mostly stuck together and just dealt with the hills heat as it came.  Very slowly.  With lots of walking.  Aid stations were every 1.5 miles or so apart.  They offered warm water & watermelon AdvoCare Rehydrate (tasty and way better than traditional sugar laden sport drinks for your body!).  There were lots of people on bikes offering bike support, asking us if we were okay, calling SAG for those who needed a ride and calling 911 for those who dropped.   There were a handful of spectators scattered throughout the 26.2 miles.  The best spectator award goes to a nice couple who put out their sprinkler as we ran thru one of the last neighborhoods.  We were super thankful for that sprinkler and ran thru it like a bunch of 5 year olds.  I think I even squealed with delight!  Winking smile 

Running in high heat and 100% humidity is pretty dangerous.  I wouldn’t recommend it.  However, weather for pre-registered events is an absolute unknown.  There is no way to predict what the day will bring but only what we can do to make our chances to survive the elements a bit better.

Tips for running in the heat:

  • Wear a hat or visor
  • Wear sunscreen to keep your skin from frying
  • Dump water on your head and body to keep yourself as cool as possible
  • Wear light colored clothing
  • Use ice or cold water to increase the rate of cooling
  • Run thru sprinklers or open hydrants, if available
  • Use sponges or cooling towels if the event offers these things
  • Take your time, decrease your pace, and WALK to keep your body temp as even as possible
  • Replace lost salt with salt tablets, electrolyte drinks/gels or by eating salty foods

Bottom line, even if you do all of the above, your rate of success will depend on how your body can ultimately deal with the heat.  Some people handle it much better than others.  Some people can’t handle it at all.  One of my friends still has a headache from the heat and dehydration suffered on Sunday.  Another friend had no idea why we struggled so much because she “loves running in the heat”.   It’s all about your body and how it can adapt to the conditions and that is super hard to predict.

Ultimately, everyone in my group finished, most of us with bragging rights over our new “personal worst” time.  But we finished under our own power because we did what was necessary for us and that meant slowing WAY down to endure the weather.  Here is Judy and I running around the track toward the finish line.  We were two happy campers to have finished another marathon in yet another new state. 

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Being safe always trumps running fast.  It’s certainly not fun but something we all learn over time.  If you ran in Marion on Sunday and are feeling bad about your race, know that only 124 people FINISHED the full, only 243 FINISHED the half and there were only 9 relay teams that crossed that finish line.  Finishing really was winning in Marion IA on Sunday.  Be proud.

Amanda – TooTallFritz

Sunburst Marathon …. 2015

I’ve ran the Sunburst Races multiple times but each time, I’ve ran the half marathon.  It’s definitely the race with the most participants and a manageable distance for me when I’m also training for other events.  The full marathon, is a bit of a push.  Always difficult.  Always taxing.  Always an event where anything can happen.  But I took the gamble for 2015 and threw my cards in for the full.  26.2 here I come … and fortunately, Julie came too.  Smile

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This was our 20th marathon.  Although we haven’t ran all the others together, we have ran a good number together over the course of 2014 & 2015.  So it was a bit of a celebration and we were excited to be on the same number at the same race.

Temps were cool, in the low 60s at the start and climbed to 70 degrees by the finish.   This race is known to be a “hot one” so I was happy about the weather!  The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day.  Easy packet pick up the morning of the race.  Easy, free parking!  Cute shirt.  Early 6am start to get the marathoners on their way before things got too busy with the other races.

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Due to the construction at the Notre Dame stadium, both 2014 and this year (2015) boasted new finish line areas and new courses. 

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I thought the course this year was very well laid out.  We saw lots of sites.  Ran various trails & waterfront paths.  And we were mostly shaded, which is a huge bonus!

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As usual, the aid stations were plentiful, approximately every mile in most areas.  There were a couple aid stations that offered GU, wet/cold sponges & bananas.  Nice set up and friendly volunteers.

We ran thru the same neighborhoods as in previous years but didn’t spend so much time “circling” as we had in the past and that made me pretty happy.  I’ll be honest, I had not heard anyone say anything positive about the Sunburst Full from previous years.  Most of the people I know who have ran it previously don’t plan a return trip.  As a result, I was nervous about about the race.   But I think the course change really knocked it out of the park.  There were a couple spots that could still use some improvement but overall I think they really did a great job.  And they added a killer character building hill at the end.  Both the full and the half ran up “Hallelujah Hill”.  Or at least we were supposed to run up it.  Julie and I walked.  She probably could have ran it cuz she is a decent hill runner but I was in walking mode by then.  Smile

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The finish on the Irish Green was much better planned out this year.  There looked to be plenty of space to hang out and wait on friends.  Melanie & Jill were awaiting our finish after their first half at Sunburst so it was nice to see some friendly faces at the finish. 

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#20 is in the DONE column!  Next up, the Marion Rotary for Shoes Marathon in Marion, IA on Sunday! 

** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Pittsburgh Marathon Review – #RunnerOfSteel

I’m not really sure how I became this “crazy” marathon runner who’s current goal is to run a marathon in each of the 50 states.  If someone had told me 2 years ago that I would be running more than one or two marathons a year, I wouldn’t have believed them.  In fact, I would have thought them to be the “crazy” one.  Somehow, something changed. Maybe it was the fact that I would train so hard for ONE marathon a year and then never get the desired result due to injury, training fatigue, life, stress or weather.  Maybe I woke up one day and decided there were so many great marathons and too little time to run them.  Maybe my kids were driving me crazy and I decided to run more and drink less to blow off steam.  Maybe and most probably, I decided that if I ran more marathons, I could run fewer of those unsupported, boring, long runs.  Yeah, that’s probably it. 

Regardless, I’m on a journey that is taking me places.  Some of those places weren’t exactly on my “must visit” list.  And that makes things interesting in a fun and adventurous way.  On that note, we picked the Pittsburgh Marathon the way that we pick most of our races.   Julie said, “Hey, I’d really like to run a marathon at the end of April or beginning of May.”  I said, “If you wait til the beginning of May, I’ll go with you”.  Then we looked at the marathon calendar and tossed out a couple options.  I saw that Pittsburg was on May 3rd, pulled up google maps and discovered that it’s only 4.5 hours from my new home.  We registered a month in advance because Pittsburgh is in PA and that’s a new state for us.  Done.  Pittsburgh, HERE WE COME!!

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Pittsburgh, we came to find out is the City of Bridges.  I love bridges.  There are varying reports as to the exact number but according to Popular Pittsburgh, there are almost 2,000 bridges in the area!  More bridges than Venice, Italy!  What?  Really?  Check out this article HERE to see some of those amazing bridges and the history behind them. 

Race weekend.  We enter the city and it’s a pleasant surprise.  Nice city.  Lots to see & do.  Great expo.  Bridges, bridges & more bridges.  And hills.  Hello hills!  Smile  Course map below.

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Elevation chart, showing elevation climbs up to 985 ft.  That’s a lot for us Midwestern flatlanders! 

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Regardless, we kinda laughed about the hills cuz what could we do?  Nothing.  No need to ruin the experience by stressing about the course.  We’ll run Pittsburgh the way we run every race, mile by mile with one goal in mind, the finish.

First some sightseeing:  The Strip District for shopping and walking around.   Market Square which we found a little too late, lots of bars, restaurants & shopping.  Home of the Pittsburgh Steelers & Steeler PRIDE everywhere.  University of Pittsburgh.  Carnegie Music Hall & Museum (pic 1 & 2).  The University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning (pic 3).  The Heinz Memorial Chapel (pic 4).

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Race day came and we were excited and ready to run!  Temps were warm and the sun was shining.  There were 4 corrals.  Staggered start with 5 minutes between corrals.  Start was crowded and we spent the first several miles running on the sidewalks to get around the walkers.

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Then came the bridges and hills.  16th Street Bridge.  9th Street Bridge.  7th Street Bridge.  West End Bridge.  Birmingham Bridge – which isn’t yellow by the way!  It’s green.  Why isn’t the Birmingham Bridge yellow like all the rest? 

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The most difficult hill to climb was at mile 12.  I stopped running the climb about 1/2 way up.  Good decision on my part.  It was too much for my body so I took my time and ate a few of my Sour Patch Kids and watched everyone else struggle up the hill.  Smile  Best downhill was at mile 24.  One LONG downhill that I was thrilled to see, then it flattened out for the last 2 miles to the finish.

Great spectator support by all 13 communities!  I loved the music and bands.  The kids and volunteers.  So many great homeowners put out sprinklers and dug out water guns for the kiddos, fed us oranges, licorice, candy, pretzels, offered beer and handed out water in little dixie cups .  Many thanks to the firefighters who opened the fire hydrants for us!  Temps climbed to 78 degrees and it was full sun, all day long.  I was beyond thankful for the plethora of water stations, ice stations, cold rags, multiple fueling stations that offered either Carb Boom Energy Gel or Pure Protein bars.  This was a great race.  Not easy but a big city race, done right. 

There was never a dull moment.   Pittsburgh, you rocked this marathon and I thank you! 

Numbers: 

  • 14,635 Half Marathon finishers
  • 4,317 Marathon finishers
  • 2,316 5K finishers
  • 1,124 Relay Teams

Nice Shirt & Finishers Medal:

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Great race.  If you’ve been thinking about trying Pittsburgh, I’d highly recommend it.  Expect a big city race with great crowd support and plenty to see while you are pounding out the miles.  Try to take your time and enjoy the city and what it has to offer.  Lots of amazing buildings and homes with beautiful, old architecture.  Go run Pittsburgh!

** Enjoy the Race, No Matter the Terrain ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Go! St Louis Marathon Review …..

The Go! St. Louis Marathon was my first marathon of 2015.  I had previously skipped the Mississippi Blues & First Light (Mobile, AL) marathons in January, plus a February marathon in Texas, all due to a nasty case of Plantar Fasciitis.  So I was looking forward to St Louis and the new course which guaranteed a “flatter, faster” course. 

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I signed up for this event last year on an early bird special.  Before Ferguson.  Before family friends began telling us about the gang issue(s) in St Louis.  Before my PF took control of my life running.  As the event neared, I ended a running hiatus and started the “Oh Shit” marathon training plan.  You probably haven’t heard of that one but it’s the plan that an experienced runner “may” use when they have been forced to take time off and a marathon “sneaks up” on them.  About the time I started this “plan”, other Go! St Louis marathoners were probably getting ready to taper.   The Plan in its 4 week entirety:

  • Week 1 – March 1   – 10 miles
  • Week 2 – March 8   – 12 miles
  • Week 3 – March 15 – 15 miles
  • Week 4 – March 22 – 20 miles

Yep, that was it, then I “tapered”, i.e. ran normal mileage until the April 12th event.  This is obviously a “do as I say, not as I do” moment.  That’s not a real training plan.  Don’t try it unless you want to cry struggle thru your marathon.  I knew that this wasn’t going to be an easy race for me, I was just planning to finish it and knock another state off my list.  And that I did.  Success.

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Expo – Good location in the Chaifetz Arena which was about 1-2 miles away from most of the host hotels.  Easy to get too.  Lots of metered street parking.  A $5 pay lot.  Small, crowded expo but lots of friendly people & volunteers.

Race Day – Brought us cool temps (55 degrees) and overcast skies.  Yes!  Great start location on Market Street down by the Opera House.  Plenty of space and well marked corrals.  The view wasn’t too bad either.  Smile

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Race started on time and weaved thru downtown St Louis before taking us over the first bridge, where we crossed the Mississippi River into East St. Louis, IL.   Short jaunt on the IL side of the river, then back over a different bridge to head back to MO. 

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The second bridge bounced.  Maybe a suspension type bridge of some sort?  Regardless, it was a very odd feeling and some people even shrieked from surprise.  However, as soon as we were over the bridge we were headed down by the St Louis River Front via Laclede’s Landing.  Ah, The Landing.  The place that I heard so much about before our trip.  We even had one friend warn us to just avoid it “at all costs”.  But on foot, in a marathon, it’s all good.  And it was a beautiful area.  Flowering trees, lots of parking and restaurants/bars galore.  Local rumor is that the gangs have taken over this area and I’m pretty sure that’s a true statement.  There were zero spectators in the area.  And there were several  “young men” walking around various streets dressed exactly the same, even though they weren’t visibly together.  So I’m glad I got to see The Landing in a safe environment and I hope that St Louis is able to reclaim The Landing for the residents and tourists because its worth the fight.

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The first half of the race was great and most of the participants called it a day with the half marathon.  Go! St Louis boasted a net downhill for the first half and it was a nice course with lots of historic sites.  I was particularly impressed with the Budweiser campus.  Neat, and clean.  They even had a Clydesdale out for pics!

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Although that first half had a net downhill, there was a continuous grade, either up or down.  I tried to stay relaxed and slow that first half because I knew the lack of mileage hills would eventually take a toll on my body.  And I was right.  A little “niggle” in my right knee because a major pain in my right hip.  Regardless, I kept powering on, past the half, up the inclines on Market Street, up and down ramps and mini bridges, around the endless turnarounds in the middle of roads, thru Forest Park, past the Forest Park mansions (that were spectacular), and eventually back to the finish.  It wasn’t pretty.  But I made it.  I didn’t hate it.  And my foot held up well.  So I’m happy.

Missouri – DONE!  It was a great race.  Well done.  Nice town that’s working on improvement & restoring old buildings and neighborhoods.  Yes, there are hills.  And bridges.  And ramps.  And lots of pinpoint turns around orange cones in the middle of random roads.  But overall, it’s a good race and one where you’ll see the peeps ahead and behind you so definitely a good one if you have friends who are also running!

** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Bobcat Trail Marathon–Glouster OH

On Sunday, my friend Julie & I knocked Ohio off our list of states with the Bobcat Trail Marathon!

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As usual, we picked a weekend we were free & signed up for a race that was within driving distance.  We didn’t know much about it other it being a trail marathon.  I think we both figured it couldn’t be any worse (harder) than the Dances with Dirt Marathon at Devil’s Lake WI but we were about to find out.  Our one and only unspoken rule about our marathon running adventures is that we don’t obsess about the course.  We don’t spend any much time looking at the website and thinking about race day.  It’s an adventure and with adventure comes surprise and well, it’s always a surprise.  We pick races based on timing and our availability, nothing more.  The rest of what’s to come is a mystery.

The Bobcat Trail Marathon is in Glouster, OH at Burr Oak State Park.  It features 26.2 miles of running around a 660+ acre lake, thru the woods, mostly on single track, up and down leaf covered trails in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.  Yes, the Appalachian Mountains.  SURPISE!  In case you don’t know, Julie & I are Midwesteners.  You might even call us flatlanders.  We run and train in and around Chicago and we consider the Roosevelt Bridge a mountain.  Let it suffice to say that we only see mountains on TV and we don’t even really have “hills” on which to train.  So this was a difficult run for us to say the least.  But the lake was beautiful!

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Packet pick-up and the start/finish were at the Burr Oak Lodge.  Great location.  Great price on rooms. Great food in the restaurant.  Lots of activities for the family!  Plus it was super nice to be able to stay inside and use real bathrooms until just moments before the race began. 

If you’ve been to packet pick-up at a trail race, it’s  normally a non-event.  They almost always offer packet pick-up on race day.  You stand in a short line, tell them your name, they hand you a shirt and a bib.  You leave and get ready to run.  So easy!  Bobcat was no different.

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The race started on time.  The only distance offered was the marathon and we soon found out why.  We basically ran into the woods and short of a few road crossings, we never came out until we were back at the lodge/finish line.  It was a full day of single track trails around a huge lake.  No cell service.  Race officials were in constant contact with one another via radios and they kept very close track of the runners and made sure we all went thru each of the check points.  We were told to “not worry” and that if something happened, they WOULD come get us.  Comforting.  I think. 

The entire race looked like this.

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We ran single file 99% of the time.  Following the path of partially crushed/disturbed leaves.  I’m pretty sure the local wildlife “cut” this trail.  It was very technical with an endless amount of exposed roots & rocks buried beneath several inches of fallen leaves.  Super cool.  Fun.  Adventurous.  Yet totally exhausting.

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I fell on my face one time but didn’t get hurt.  Stubbed my toe & went “flying” countless times.  Slid both up and down hills on the fallen leaves.  Crossed numerous bridges & ravines.  We had one full on water crossing that was impossible to navigate without submerging ourselves ankle deep in a cold creek.  I climbed.  I descended.  I wondered how bad this would hurt “tomorrow”.  I wondered if I would lose any toenails from the nasty downhill’s.  Three days after the fact, my quads still feel like they went thru a meat grinder.  I’m definitely sore this time.  Like really sore but I still have all my toenails so far.

We carried our own water and were thankful to have it.  There were aid stations every 4-5 miles, some manned, some with just water jugs dropped along the trail.  Aid stations offered coke, ginger ale, heed, water, cookies, Halloween chocolate candies, chips, pretzels, chex mix, Hammer Gels & other goodies I can’t recall.  The only thing missing was the salted/boiled potatoes that most trail races offer!  Multiple places with park potties.  Multiple check points with volunteers keeping track of our progress and encouraging us to continue at whatever pace was manageable. 

We were at the end.  Like almost last.  Everyone we met seemed local and trained on the trail which we were running.  They seemed light on their feet.  Running was effortless for them.  It took slightly more of an effort for us.  But we still got the same medal that they did when we crossed that finish line!!  And something cool, when we finished, we were offered a choice between a medal or a finisher’s plaque with a picture of the lake.  It was a tough choice but we both picked a medal. 

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Best part of the race?  Locals decorated part of the trail with Halloween decorations!  But beware, if you spend too much time looking at the decorations and taking photos, you may miss a flag or two, get lost and run off course. 

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Worst part of the race?  The endless roots/rocks that necessitated spending the entirety of the race looking at the ground.  It was tiresome and very rough on the feet.

Absolute must if you run this race?  Trail shoes!  You need those babies to protect your precious feet!

All in all, it was a good event.  It certainly wasn’t my favorite of the year but a nice solid race that was well supported.  Very peaceful.  All the runners and volunteers were super encouraging and very nice.  Yet, we may have decided that we make better road than trail runners!  Our lack of hills for training, our injured feet and the occasional need for a potty or two, may keep our feet planted on the road for the next few races!  But only time will tell.  We are taking a short break to recoup, then we’ll see where our adventures lead us next!

** Adventures in Marathoning ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Rock n Roll Chicago – 2014 Half Marathon

I’m a big sucker for all things running but that doesn’t include events that are hyped up without delivering on the promised race experience.  In the past, I’ve ran Rock N Roll events but always walked away feeling like RNR got more from me than I got from them.  So when friends were signing up to run this 2014 Rock n Roll Chicago, I was hesitant but ultimately decided to suck it up join the fun.

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First order of business, packet pick-up. RNR Chicago is one of the only events in the CHI that mandates each participant pick up their own packets. Normally not a problem for me but it was a huge problem this year. While I did manage to pick up my own packet and as a result was late to the closing on my new IN home, I did hear from a “top secret” source that RNR does in fact have race day packet pick-up. Too late for me but hopefully this info will help one of you!!

Race day started bright and early with the gun going off at 6:30 am. Some might complain about this early start but with a July race in Chicago, I’d start even earlier if it were an option! There were 20,000+ participants, 34 corrals. However, corral placement was apparently “optional” and runners just jumped in wherever they wanted without any intervention from officials. Normally this would cause a real “cluster” effect but not here. The corrals were all spaced apart by 2 minutes and there weren’t a ton of people in each corral. So when our corral hit the start line it kinda felt like we were at the front, preparing to race for the win. I had runners all around me who should have been back an additional 10+ corrals but it didn’t bottleneck. In fact, I was in awe most of the race at how much space I had to run and how well the unmonitored RNR corral system actually worked.

Hitting the Start!

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I will say that I’m not a runner who needs music. I may turn it on when things get slow, then proceed to sing and dance my way thru the ugly miles. However, I rarely have headphones so this is sometimes annoying to other runners. Sorry, all!  I kinda expected that a Rock n Roll race would deliver, well, some rock n roll!  Not so much. There were some bands on course but not as many as I expected.  And some of the bands were singing the blues, so to speak. I would have liked a bit more pep from some of them. Oh well, maybe next year?

As for the course, I liked it a lot.  It was open and on decent streets. Aid stations about every 1.5 miles. One GU station. One sponge station. We did run on the Lakefront path for a short jaunt but it wasn’t too crowded. We even ran thru the tunnel under McCormick place and they added strobe lights and made it a fun and not too dark atmosphere.

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For all of you bling chasers, the medals were super cool. Here is the SUN 5K and the half marathon medals. Plus they added a SAT 5K option for additional bling and that 5K medal was slightly different (less ornate than the SUN version).

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But for me, this race was about friends.  Here is a photo of Lisa (my BFF from way back), Rachel, Allison & I before the start.  Those two girls in the middle came to Chicago to run their VERY FIRST half marathon ever.  I didn’t want to miss that!  They killed it too!

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Aby, me & Nicki at the finish.  We have ran so many races together over the last several years.  And thanks Nicki for never complaining about Aby coming along even when it means we can’t get into the beer garden.

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So that’s a wrap for me.  I still think the race is overpriced compared to it’s Chicago counterparts.  I still think they should deliver more Rock n Roll.  However, it’s a great race on the streets of Chicago and well, you can’t put a price tag on making memories.

** Go Out and Make Your Own Memories ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

 

 

 

 

Dances With Dirt – Devil’s Lake Marathon

 

I can’t say that I really had time to tromp off to nowhere Baraboo, WI to run a marathon. Realistically, I don’t even have time to write this post but sometimes you just gotta do, what you gotta do!  :) So last FRI, I packed it up and headed 3.5 hours north into WI to run the Dances With Dirt – Devil’s Lake trail marathon. I hadn’t read much of the website other than details on registration and where to stay. I “picked” the race because I wanted to knock Wisconsin off the list {as part of my long-term goal of running a marathon in all 50 states} and I specifically wanted to do Wisconsin prior to moving further away. There aren’t a ton of marathons in WI right now and well, Devil’s Lake was the only one on my “partially free” weekend. Therefore, I didn’t pick Devil’s Lake, it picked ME. There you have it.  That was the process of picking my WI race and pretty much how I live my life “married with children“.

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Eventually info did start trickling down to me that I was in for a race of my life but I didn’t really pay too much attention because I didn’t have any too many other options.  Let it suffice to say that I was prepared to “suck it up” and knock WI off the list!  Let’s do this, right?!?!?!?

Thankfully registration was quick and easy, on site the morning of the race since I had previously missed online registration. Multiple distances options were available from 10K to 50 miles. Plenty of clean port-o-potties on site. Well organized event with a few freebies from the sponsors. Julie, myself & Dawn at the start.

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We didn’t even run a mile before reality started to set in and we were climbing up, up, up.  On single track.  And we were walking.  Not running.

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What started out as a jaunt thru the woods quickly became a serious endurance event. It was much more difficult to climb at a walking pace than run at marathon pace. Granted I am currently out of shape. I’m also above my normal weight by a solid 20 lbs. So I didn’t expect a walk in the park but even if I had read the website, I wouldn’t have ever guessed this event would be so challenging. We climbed up. We ran or walked down depending on how technical the section of the trail. We picked our way thru large boulder fields. We navigated stairs. We followed a paved path at the top of the mountain that we couldn’t believe existed. We saw Devil’s Lake from a bird’s prospective. And then we headed down, passing people who came to Devil’s Lake to climb and repel with legit climbing equipment. Julie and I were in our normal running shoes, just taking everything as it came. Step by step. My trail shoes are packed away in a box and her’s are so old they wouldn’t have helped much anyhow.  So there were no trail shoes for the two of us!  We just kept moving, at whatever pace we could manage. One of our miles “up top” took 38 minutes. Yes, that’s 38 minutes for ONE mile. But the views were breathtaking and it was worth it.  Seriously worth it.  Look at these amazing photos.

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I wanted to squeeze in a report for this event because I know that other people actually research races before jumping in the car to check off another state.  :)  There are a few details that might help if you go to run an event at Devil’s Lake.

1) Take a fuel/water belt. You’ll be going thru A LOT of water. The aid stations are well stocked but usually 4-5 miles apart. In fact, due to the terrain, I’m amazed they had as many stations as they did.
2) Wear trail shoes if you have them, buy them if you don’t own any. The purpose of trail shoes is to protect your feet. They have a foot and toe plate made out of a tougher/stronger material. I stubbed my toe, on unseen roots/rocks, 4 times and went flying. fortunately, I didn’t break any toes and I managed to land “on my feet” each time. This isn’t normal so I’m thankful to come out unscathed. Plus I could feel the rocks under my feet thru my road shoes. Not the most pleasant thing. I would have loved to have my trail shoes.
3) Gaiters are optional. Not necessary in my opinion. We weren’t kicking up a lot of dirt or debris but that could be due to our pedestrian pace. If you’re a mover and a shaker, wear your gaiters.
4) Compression works!  I strongly encourage the use of either compression sleeves or socks for this event. Firstly, it will keep the blood flowing in your muscles when the blood wants to leave the legs and go directly to the lungs, as you are clawing your way up the hills!!!  Secondly, the compression socks will protect your legs against the tall grasses/weeds and/or branches that are pushing onto the trail. There are several sections that are pretty grown up. I personally don’t want my bare legs touching a lot of weeds/grasses/trees with which I’m not familiar. It would be one giant itch fest for me.
5) Bug spray is your friend. Use it. Reapply. And keep your mouth shut if possible. It’s SUPER buggy and you’ll be lucky if you only eat a couple of bugs.
6) Pray for an overcast/cloudy day. We got lucky. I hope you do too!  We heard some stories about previous years which were a smoldering hot.  It was 80 degrees for us and overcast. Super muggy and buggy.
7) Low light on the trails will be an issue. If you want to protect your eyes from the bugs, use photochromic sunglasses (I prefer Ryders Eyewear) or lenses with low tint.
8) Have fun. If you aren’t going to win there is really no reason to press down the hills and risk your life. Ego is one thing. Safety is another. I highly recommend running this one “for fun”.  It took me over 7.5 hours to run/walk/hike this marathon and my quads & stabilizer muscles have been shredded all week. It’s a rough one and well, I’ve hiked the Grand Canyon from Rim to Rim and this was way tougher and much more technical.  I’ve run/walked/hiked a lot of trails.  I’m not an “expert” but I’m experienced.  I’m not trying to hype it, just be honest.  It’s going to be tough.  If you don’t believe me, check out the warning on the BACK of the race shirt.  Swag below, back of the shirt says, “Dances with Dirt 2014 …. I realize that my participation in this event entails the risk of injury or even death”.  Truth.  But at least the medal is a bottle opener so you can drink lots of brews if you survive.  :)devlils lake_swag_backGreat race. Amazing job to whoever marked the trails because we never had any doubt that we were headed the right way. Huge shout out to the volunteers who hiked in the aid stations and their supplies. Thanks to the fastie trail runners who didn’t run Julie and I over as we were hiking our way thru the rough sections. And of course a special thanks to Julie for “getting in the car” to go run her VERY FIRST trail event ever …… with a mere 24 hours for advance notice. Girl, I owe you. Thanks to Dawn for awaiting our finish and making sure we survived before she left to continue her family trip. Dawn, Me & Julie at the finish!

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**Wisconsin Is In The Books {Under Unforgettable}  ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ragnar Chicago–Part II–Recap

I gave you a taste of the Chicago Ragnar Relays last week HERE.   It was a great experience and one where I can say that both myself and my teammates walked away with a new understandings of ourselves, our level of determination, and a certain respect for what each person was willing to sacrifice in order to finish this event.  I absolutely admire and adore each of these women because they chose NOT to give up but rather to stay and run each and every mile of the event from Madison, WI to Chicago, IL.  We started as 6 Ultra Badass Babes.

Start

We finished as 5.

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Runner/Babe #5 started her 12+ mile leg in the middle of FRI afternoon.  Ran well.  Ran happy.  We supported her.  We offered & she accepted cold water.  We offered encouragement and forced her to drink and dose herself with water to protect her from the 83 degree heat and full sun.  But it wasn’t enough.  Babe #5 finished her run with a smile but soon thereafter succumbed to the horrible symptoms of heat stroke and dehydration.  Babe #5 was admitted to the hospital where she could recover in a safe environment.   We were sad to see her go.  We were sad to “leave” her behind but we had a runner out on the trail in “somewhere” Wisconsin and it was impossible to be everywhere at once with one van and only 5 babes left to run the remaining 137 miles.  Goodbye Babe #5.

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I’ll admit, it was a little bit of a party in the beginning.  A celebration of sorts that we were actually running Ragnar after all the talking, planning, and training.  However, things turned serious after Babe #5 left.   No more marking “killz” on the van window.  No more checking off runs.  No more counting down to the finish.  Much like a marathon, we took it one mile at a time.  We were also hyper aware that if we lost one more person that it was over.  Like really over.  I’m not sure any of us really believed that we would be able to finish with the remaining 5 but we were all experienced runners.  We were all moms.  We knew that if we breathed a word of doubt that it would take life and wreak havoc.  The mind is a powerful thing and keeping it in check is sometimes the hardest part.

So we ran.  Mile to mile.  Exchange to Exchange.  Ragnar sign to Ragnar sign. 

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And we kept passing off that damn bracelet.  (Stock photo, I neglected to get a pic of our bracelet AGAIN).

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Our original plan was for each babe to run 2 Ragnar legs at one time, so that each person only ran 3 times.   Yes, only 3 runs but double the mileage.  This was our first mistake.   While it looked good on paper, it was just too many miles during the heat of the day.   So the babes who were running late morning and into the late afternoon really bared the brunt of the heat wave and it was not a good thing.  Each of those babes came off their runs in poor shape.  Hot.  Miserable.  Bitchy.  Dehydrated despite all attempts to keep them fueled and hydrated.  Each one suffered mild signs of dehydration & heat stroke & we had a bunch of really MUSHY tummies.   Because of their experience, most of them were able to force themselves to eat, drink and get themselves back on track quickly.  Not a fun game but we played it.  Over.  And over again.  And we just kept running.

Needless to say, our brains eventually activated once they cooled off and we threw our predestinated scripts run mileage charts aside.   Each babe got out of the van when it was her turn and ran what she could.  We didn’t care if she ran 3 miles or 10 miles.  We just focused on moving toward that finish line.  We didn’t want any one babe to run more than she could handle because as was previously stated, if we lost one more babe, we would have been done.  So we just kept moving  Kept supporting each other.  Kept checking on one another.  Kept running, walking, crawling toward the finish. 

The nighttime hours were hard.  They are hard in any relay race.  However, we had a van full of middle aged moms and well, we don’t stay up at night.  We go to bed with the kids.  So once 9pm rolled around it got hard.  11pm was bad.  1am sucked ass.  I got out of the van to run at 2 or 2:30am to run 7 miles and it was basically a WTF moment.  WTF was I thinking.  WTF made me think we could do this with 5 babes.  WTF was going to make my body RUN in the pitch black night thru the middle of Wisconsin.  WTF was going to make my blistered plantar fasciitis feet move it for 7 miles.   I was tired.  Discouraged.  Hurting.

But as with everything, it all worked itself out and eventually the sun came up.  The sun always comes up if we can wait long enough, right?  Well, it came up.  And while it was dark we figured out the answer to riddle.  Just run.  No expectations on anyone.  Just run.  No judgment.  Just run.  No mileage requirements.  Just run.  Just run.  Just run.  And look badass while walking running.  Smile

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Once the sun came up, it’s a bit of a blur.  We were all exhausted.  We had picked up a bit of a routine.  Once a babe finished running, she would hydrate, fuel, stretch, relax, and eat real food.  Then she would try to rest.  After resting, she would drive or navigate.  One babe was always running.  One babe was always “on deck” with running shoes on and fuel belt filled, ready to jump in at any moment when Runner Babe called it quits.  It worked.  And we kept moving toward the finish.  One mile at a time.  Then I saw it. 

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I saw Chicago, across the beach and beyond the tress.  And I knew we’d make it.  I admit, I started crying.  That was the first realization that we were going to finish.  I knew we’d make it.  Pure relief.  And soon enough we were Ragnar FINISHERS.  A mere 5 of us babes.  I understand that other teams may have done it with fewer but this was a real accomplishment for us.  Finishers.

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We had some help a long the way.  We had three generous BADASS sponsors. 

Bondi Band – Compression Socks 

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Family Fan Club – Custom Design Shirts & Van Decals

Ragnar Start Selfie   shirts-decals 

Relax Reflect – BADASS reflective tights & gear.  Buy your badass tights HERE!  Super cool!  Men & Women’s styles.

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Huge thanks to everyone who made this Ragnar Chicago experience possible.  From our sponsors, to our volunteers (Colleen, Nancy & Tammy), to our husbands and/or family/friends who helped with the kids, helped to shuttle us around and helped by sending well wishes and prayers, we thank you ALL. 

Ragnar Chicago is in the books.  It’s was an amazing accomplishment by 5 amazing women.  Not one of us could have done it alone.  And I’d like to thank Babe #5 for taking this journey with us and offering her continued support even after she left the relay. 

** Experience Ragnar ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **