Route 66 Marathon Race Review & Where NOT to Stay in Tulsa

The Route 66 Marathon is in the done column & so is the great state of Oklahoma!  This was my 25th marathon and the 15th state in my quest to run a marathon in every state.  In order to be totally honest, when Judy talked us into Rt 66 we signed up, I didn’t exactly know where Tulsa, OK was on the map.  So I think I asked a few questions before pulling the registration lever:  1)  Can we drive there?  2)  It’s the weekend before Thanksgiving, can Julie get time off from her retail J.O.B.?  3)  Is anyone else running?   Turns out EVERYONE was running, so it was a done deal.  We went to Tulsa, Oklahoma with 2000 other Marathon Maniacs, Half Fanatics & 50 States Club members.  I’m in the back.  Don’t worry, I can’t see me either.  Smile


Tulsa was a 12 hour drive from Auburn, IN.  Takes longer when you have car trouble and have to stop every 2 seconds to turn off the car to reset the code and/or try to find a dealership with an open service department, in God’s Country, on a weekend.  Yeah, that happened but we finally rolled into Tulsa early Saturday afternoon.  Tulsa is in the north east corner of the Panhandle State.  Hello, Oklahoma!


I was scheduled to be part of a Blogger Forum at the expo Saturday afternoon.  We made it in time for that and I got to meet some other bloggers and hear some great stories about running, blogging and life.  From left to right:  Esther, Jim, Joules, Angela & me.

Blogger Expo

The expo was a decent size but packet pick up was crowded and the computers went down causing long lines and some crabby runners.  Sad smile  Fortunately, we were in and out of the expo pretty quickly. 


We hit some key booths:  Garmin & Gypsy Runner (cuz Amy runs a lot of the same races that we do, so we are totally BFFs, right?), then on to the hotel and dinner.

Normally, I try to keep things positive and upbeat but from runner to runner, I feel the need to share.  If you are planning to run this race next year, I’ll tell you where NOT to stay.  The Holiday Inn Express & Suites Tulsa WEST – Sand Springs, 101 West Marrow Road, Sand Springs, OK.  Although we had called BEFORE we booked a reservation and were guaranteed late checkout, the manager did not honor that request when we checked in on race weekend.  And she was rude.  We were told to get our stuff out of the room on race morning, then come back after the marathon and she would check to see if they had a DIRTY room they had not yet cleaned.  IF she could find a dirty room, then maybe she would let us shower there.  Yeah, that didn’t happen.  I don’t want to shower in a dirty room where I don’t even know the former occupants.  This was a very unpleasant experience and now I’ve removed the Holiday Inn & Holiday Inn Express from my list of acceptable hotels.  I run a lot of races.  I travel for running, work and leisure and I have to admit that most places we stay are very accommodating.  Nobody has ever rudely sent me on my way, without a shower, for a 12+ hour drive, after running for 4-5 hours.  And hopefully this will never happen again.  We had multiple friends who had a great experience at the Double Tree, 616 W. Seventh Street, Tulsa, OK.  Do yourself a favor and stay there instead.  

Onto the race itself.  Very cold morning.  Race start and finish were in two separate locations but there were shuttles between those spots.  Win!!  We were underdressed and froze our bums off awaiting the race start.  But once the race started it was worth the wait.  There were starting corrals with very strict watchers making sure everyone was in their correct place.  5 minutes between corral starts.  Each corral was sent off in a flurry of confetti. 


As always the first 3-4+ miles were super crowded, although for once, I didn’t have to run around a lot of walkers who started ahead of me.  But the streets were narrow and I wouldn’t so much see the hills we were running but rather feel the momentum going up or down.  It was a strange feeling but a cool one.  The course was beautiful and a perfect highlight reel of Tulsa:  Cascia Hall, Woodward Park, Rt 66 Pedestrian Bridge, University of Tulsa & amazing neighborhoods that were both pet & kid friendly.  It looked like an awesome place to live with so many houses showcasing lots of unique character.

Rt 66 Bridge

Bands.  Lots of bands.  The Rock N Roll series has NOTHING on The Rt 66 Marathon.  Nothing.  I heard more live music in this race than I’ve heard in all of my combined races this year.  Everything from Folk to Gospel to Rock to Bongo drums (we saw that guy 5x, he was committed to us in a HUGE way).  Great show, Tulsa, really great. 

Community support!  Wow.  Marathons take a long time.  This one took me personally FOREVER to run.  The community was out in full force, even in the chilly temps, with kids, dogs, food, drinks, jello shots, mimosas, beer shots, and even offering therapeutic rollers for those of us who had gotten a “little” stiff from the hills.

Hills?  Did I say hills?  Yes.  Lots of hills.  More than I had expected and I didn’t fare very well on them either.  Without going into all the bloody gory details, I fell last week while running and managed to mess myself up pretty good.  Well, I didn’t really know how messed up I was til I started hitting those hills.  Apparently I did more than bloody myself in the fall.  My hips are WAY out of line now and I stretched some of the muscles around my right hip and left knee.  So I was a hurting momma in Tulsa on Sunday and to be honest, had it not been for my BRF, Julie, I would have quit.  I almost quit anyhow.  But she “carried” me thru and stayed with me even though she could have ran so much faster. 

So, did we take the detour?  Heck yeah!.  The Rt 66 Marathon offers a Center of the Universe detour.  It adds 0.3 miles to your marathon and you get a cool looking coin for taking the challenge.  DONE!


And we finished.  Cool medal.  Cool after party.  The Marathon Maniacs had their own special Maniac Corner where we traded in our medals for special Marathon Maniac medals.  Super cool.  This really is a must do marathon if you are a Maniac.  It’s a GREAT race with lots of support from the race volunteers, the local law enforcement and the community.  And THAT’s what makes for a  great marathon.  Julie, Judy & Me in Maniac Corner cuz we are definitely some sort of maniacs. 

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Thumbs up for Tulsa & the Route 66 Marathon!

** Rock the Route at Rt 66** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Indianapolis Monumental Marathon ….. 2015 Version

Saturday was the 8th running of the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis, Indiana.  There were 13,826 finishers, which is 395% larger than the inaugural event in 2008 (only 3500 finishers).  I believe this is a great representation of how running in general has evolved and increased in popularity over the last 8 years.  While marathon running has definitely seen a pick up in competitors (1,114 in 2008 verses 3,999 in 2015 here), the half marathon is where the real party is growth wise.  At the inaugural event in 2008 there were approximately 2,386 half marathoners in Indy but in 2015 there were 7,288!  Wow!  That’s amazing.  I love seeing so many crazy runners out there pounding the pavement!    Now let’s run!!


The race started at 8am on Capitol Avenue beside the Capitol Building.  It was a crisp 40 degrees with a light wind and the sun was just coming up.  Excitement was definitely in the air.  I knew so many people running.  Many looking to smash an old PR.  Some looking to just finish.  It was crowded.  Lines to the potties were long and when we went to get in our corral, there wasn’t room and we waited on the sidewalk until the gun went off.  There were 5 of us who wanted to run together.  Not ideal but hey, what’s ideal?  We had 2 young girls with us who were running their first half marathon.  The plan was to stay easy, relaxed and to make sure they were feeling GOOD when they made the turn off for the half.  I think we all remember our first half and it wasn’t because we were smiling at the end.  Okay, maybe you were smiling.  I wasn’t.  In fact, I wanted to give my running shoes to the first homeless person I saw.  That first half of mine is almost like a nightmare and if I can help even ONE person to avoid making the same mistakes I made, then I’m happy.  So I was very focused on keeping the girls close and keeping the pace easy.  That’s if they were even interested in staying with us cuz it’s hard to really know what teens are thinking.  But alas, we were a band of 5.   And that calls for a selfie! 


The first miles were crowded.  Very crowded.  The streets in Indy weren’t real wide in most places.  We did a lot of weaving.  Of course, ALL the walkers started in front of us.  So we ran, weaved, talked and smiled.  Dropped the girls at the turn off for the half (approx 7.5 miles) and was I pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t total desolation like we normally see when the half splits.  Lots of runners still in it for the full but things calmed down and we weren’t weaving very much.  It was after the split that I started to take inventory of the day.  It was a cool day.  No humidity.  Indy was relatively flat.  We weren’t running fast but not slow.  I had a couple “niggles” that were tightening but overall, I felt pretty decent.  I had taken a full week off previous to Indy.  I know most “runners” would gasp at that but I’m all about listening to my body and showing up as fresh as possible.  As a result, I was feeling pretty fresh.  I thought I could actually post a decent time if I could hold it together.  It’s been so long since I had a race with good weather, I honestly didn’t even know what “decent” was anymore but I was pretty comfortable in the 10-10:15 range and just held on to it.  No pushing.  Just patient, methodical running.  Mile 10, Halfway, Mile 15, Mile 18, Mile 20, all right in the 10-10:15 range.  And I ended up finishing under 4:30.  It’s been a long time since I finished under 4:30 and I was one happy camper!!!


Race was very well supported with volunteers, medical & police trying to keep the unruly drivers at bay.  We had water/Gatorade every mile, sometimes closer.  Lots of potties.  Multiple food stations, Boom Energy Gel, Oranges, Bananas.  Local residents had set up their own stations and were handing out beer, Twirlers, pretzels, Halloween candy and more.  The residents were very supportive and most of the drivers were very patient but I did see the police on multiple occasions dealing with angry drivers. I was very impressed with how well the officers managed the crowds; I know that’s a tough job.

This is a race where packets need to be picked up prior to race morning.  It’s a great excuse to stay over in Indy and enjoy the beautiful city.  View from our hotel overlooking Monument Circle.


Expo was a decent size and had a nice number of vendors.  Gender specific shirts.

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Finishers received a finishers medal and a finishers hat.  Nice touch.  I like finisher “swag” that isn’t just doled out at packet pick-up.


Overall, this is a great race.  I’d definitely run it again.  The course covered a good portion of the city and we ran on some great roads and thru some awesome neighborhoods.  Indy didn’t shove us off into the corner but paraded us thru town and showed us the sites.  It was a great experience and if you are wondering if you should run next year, do it.  #BeMonumental, you won’t regret it. 

Amanda – TooTallFritz

Long Beach Marathon Race Review

Marathon #23.  State #14.  Long Beach Marathon. Long Beach, California. 


The Long Beach Marathon was expecting close to 20,000 participants and record high temps.  The story was all about the weather and staying safe.  Unfortunately, I have a bit of experience in the heat, in fact every marathon I’ve ran this year (6 to date) has had temps above 85 degrees at the finish.  But that doesn’t mean I like running in the heat and it doesn’t make it easier and I’m not getting used to it.  In fact, I may be getting a little grumpy.  But the views around Huntington, Seal & Long Beaches made the heat tolerable.

IMG_8381  IMG_8420

What Long Beach served up besides temps near or at 100 degrees was a beautiful location,  a large expo and nicely ran race with multiple distance options.  There was a Kids Mile, 5K, Half Marathon, 20 Mile Bike and the Marathon.  The expo was large with almost 90 vendors.    Packet pickup was smooth, easy & they even offered a shirt exchange option, if by chance you needed a different size shirt.

Race morning, the roads surrounding the race all closed at 5am.  There were a lot of parking areas, some of which could be pre-paid prior to race day.  Lots of potties and a stream of people heading toward the start.  The 20 Mile Bike, Wheelchairs & Marathoners were scheduled to start at 6am; however, due to the heat, race officials also gave the half marathoners the option to start at 6am (instead of 7:30a).  So we had an additional 10,000 people opt to start running at 6am.  This resulted in total chaos.  There were no start corrals.  Just bodies of people waiting to start running. 


We started running about 6:15am, along with everyone around us.  Without start corrals, runners were not ordered according to pace and we all know the walkers want to start as close to the front as possible.  So the first few miles were slow and we spent a lot of time weaving around other runners without trying to expend too much energy since we knew it was going to be a tough day.  I immediately felt warm.  Like too warm.  So I was very focused on not pushing and staying as comfortable as possible.  At every aid station, I made sure to drink Nuun (if offered), water and dump water on my head and body.  I knew I needed to keep my body as cool as possible in order to squeak out a finish.  The first 6 miles were good.  It was dark, the sun was coming up, we were protected from the sun.  Around mile 6, we ran around Rainbow Harbor and had an amazing view of the Queen Mary.


Then we ran past the aquarium & start area, and into the sun as we headed toward Alamitos Beach and a long straightaway with beach views and full sun.


Things were still good around Alamitos Beach but I could feel my body slowing.  Involuntarily.  We weren’t running fast but too fast for me and the dance with the sun.   Alamitos Beach turned to Junipero Beach, then we passed the Belmont Pier and the Belmont Pool which is famous for holding the 1968 and 1976 Olympic Trials and because it was used as a training pool for the 1984 Olympics in LA.  But things were still good.  We were still smiling.  We were still together.  Lara, Me & Julie.


After the Belmont area, we turned out onto Ocean Boulevard and away from the sun, said farewell to the Half Marathoners and headed east into the surrounding neighborhoods.  That’s pretty much when the fun ended.  Miles 10.5 to approximately 23.75 were thru neighborhoods, on busy roads.  The highlights were the Marine Stadium and California State University Long Beach.  The University campus offered up a few hills but also some much needed shade.  Coolest thing I saw in these rough miles was this fun pyramid building on the CSU campus, which we passed 2x.

California State Pyramid

The race was well staffed, had plenty of water & Nuun.  Three stations for Honey Stinger gels.  Two stations for ice.  Two stations with misting fans.  One beer station.  Lots of port-o-potties, which were clean.  Volunteers and police were very supportive.  Residents were supportive offering cold bottles of water, pretzels, donut holes and oranges from their own homes.  But I’m not going to lie, it was hot and my tummy was super upset from the heat and the extra fluids I needed to survive the heat.  It was really quite miserable.  Julie, Lara & I split.  It was all about survival.  And we did survive but that was about it.  This is one race where I think I’d recommend the half over the full.  I don’t feel like I saw anything exceptional after we split from the half.  If you are in it for the beach views, you’ll see them all before mile 10.  Then it’s just more pounding of the city streets.

Finish was downhill.  Thank freaking goodness.  Cool medal.  Cool shirt.  And California is officially checked off the list.  Huge shout out to my friends Lara & Nels who shuttled us around, fed us, and housed us during out brief visit to the Golden State.

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What’s next?  Hopefully at least some cooler weather and maybe just one decent marathon time for 2015?  Race wise, look for me at:  Indianapolis Monumental Marathon (11/7), Route 66 Marathon + Detour (11/22), Huff 50K (12/19), and then we will be picking up our deferred races (due to injury) from last January for the Mississippi Blues Marathon (1/9/16) & First Light Marathon (1/10/16).  Yes, a double marathon weekend.  Sounds fun, right?!? 

Lots of races ahead.  I took most of the summer off for TRI training and we’ve spent a ton of time and $$ fixing up the IL house over the last month or so.  The IL house will be on the market at the end of this week and we are ready to get back to business as usual.    Let’s do this!!!

** Run Happy and Safe ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Fort4Fitness Half Marathon … 2015 Edition

It’s no secret that the Fort4Fitness Half Marathon in Fort Wayne, Indiana is my favorite.   I’ve ran about 30 half marathons so can say that with confidence.  This was my 5th Fort4Fitness half and my worst performance (2:06:49) here to date.  However, it’s also the location that holds my current half marathon PR (1:53:20).  Great race.  Great town.  Amazing experience.


I used to come from the Chicago area to run Fort4Fitness but am now local, living only 30 minutes away from the start line. Big win!!  However, this race is in the middle of Cross Country season, so I’ve missed it more than once due to motherly/spectator duties. It’s also on one of the busiest race weekends of the year.  This year F4F was competing with the Mill Race Marathon (Half & 5K) in Columbus, Indiana, the Chicago Half Marathon and the Quad Cities Marathon (Half, Relay & 5K).  Despite the busy time of year, F4F pulled 7,242 competitors to its various races on Saturday alone.  That’s not counting the kids or Seniors who completed their events on Friday night. 


What F4F does right and where other races might want to take note, is they realize that events like these use community resources.  Not only on the day of the race but in the months and weeks leading up to the big day.  So how do you keep a community happy about events that use the resources which are bought and paid for with their tax dollars?  You get as many community members involved as possible.  The F4F events are focused on community health.  Getting the community active and moving, not just on race day but all throughout the year.  They also have made necessary changes to accommodate as many people as possible.  When the race started in 2008, there was a half marathon and a 4 mile event.  Since that time the following events have been added:  kids and senior marathon, 10K, wheelchair events (half, 10K & 4 mile), and a Double Play and Triple Crown where you can participate in two or more events on race day.  If you are really daring, go for the Triple Crown and RUN.ALL.THE.RACES. (half marathon, 10K & 4 mile) for a total of 23.3 miles of fun and 4 medals!  

Participant Breakdown:

  • Half Marathon – 2,078
  • 10K – 1,887
  • 4 mi Run/Walk – 3,254
  • Wheel Chair Half – 9
  • Wheel Chair 10K – 8
  • Wheel Chair 4mi – 6
  • Double Play (4mi/Half – 30,  10K/Half – 27, 4 mi/10K – 67) – 124
  • Triple Crown (Half, 10K & 4mi) – 98

In addition to the runners, the community members really come out in mass to watch and cheer for the runners.  They line the streets with music, signs and banners.  Then the neighborhoods seem to have a competition as to which community can bring the most spirit.  Oakdale, you won this year according to my unofficial decision.  Congrats.  


One of my favorite things about this race is that there are long stretches where you can just run.  Some quiet stretches thru parks, others thru quiet neighborhoods with big fancy houses, and a lot of street time thru Ft Wayne.  It’s really a great mix for a road race, mostly flat, a few hills but nothing crazy. 

F4F provides a great race that you would expect from a big city but with the ease and convenience of small town living.  Packet pick up is easy & quick.  Parking is within a half mile of the race start.  Lots of free parking but I did pay $4 for a spot in a garage.  Potties, water & Gatorade every 1.5 miles.  Stadium finish inside Parkview Field with runners being announced before they hit the finish line.  Huge Jumbotron for spectators to watch incoming runners.  Stadium seating for spectators and plenty of room for the after party.   And concessions are open, so grab a beer and celebrate with friends after the big finish!

Gender specific shirts, designed by a local artist!


Nice medals, whether you collect 1 or all 4.  I only had time for one because I wanted to be present and spectate/cheer/scream my head off at Aby’s Cross Country meet.


I highly recommend making a plan to come to Ft Wayne next year for Fort4Fitness.  Registration is OPEN.  Race is Saturday, October 1, 2016.  Click HERE to register for any of the races, including the 4 medal Triple Crown event that is only $95 during this super early bird period.  Half Marathon is currently $45!  It’s deal time, who wants to commit?

See you next year!!

** Run The Fort ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

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!


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! 


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:

Steelhead Swim

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.


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. 

IM Steelhead_bike

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!!


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!


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

Marion Rotary For Shoes_logo

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.


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


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.


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.


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. 


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


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.


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


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


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. 


#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!!


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.

PGH Course map

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

PGH Course map

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.

Julie & I_start       start

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! 


  • 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. 


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


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!


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 **