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.

RNR header

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!

RnR start

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).

ragnar-bracelet

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

Ragnar CHI_2014

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. 

seeing chicago

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.

Ragnar Finisher

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

Bondi Band – Compression Socks 

bondi band socks_badass2Start  bondi band socks_badass 

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.

badass tights  badass tights2 

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 **

Ragnar Chicago–Part I–What I Learned

Ragnar Chicago was my second foray into the Ragnar Relay Series.  If you recall, I did the Florida Keys event in January 2013 and it was hot as hell.  FL Keys was a 12 person team.  Chicago was a 6 person team.  Through these two events, I’ve learned a couple things and I’d feel remiss if I didn’t share. 

1.  The most fun you’ll have at Ragnar is probably going to be decorating the van.

van  van2

2.  The most exciting part is probably going to be the start line.

Ragnar Start Selfie    Start 

3.  The team you start with will most likely not be the same as the one that crosses the finish line.

4.  Make sure you have a solid team.  I would suggest the following teammates:

     a)  one runner who could probably run the entire distance herself, if necessary. 

Ragnar CHI_Julie

     b)  a super experienced runner who has done the course before and knows where to find the smores.

Ragnar CHI_Judy

     c) a rock of a person.  Solid as can be, one who won’t get agitated easily and if she does, she’ll manage to fake it stay calm until the panic passes.

Ragnar CHI_Lisa

     d)  a jokester, preferably one with ADD because apparently people with ADD don’t need to sleep.

Ragnar CHI_Kelly

     e) a captain, cuz they need to zap someone’s credit card when the flags get lost.

Ragnar CHI_2014_2

5)  Ragnar is a LONG event.  You will get tired.  It doesn’t matter if you are running 3 legs or 8 legs, exhaustion will set in and so will the bitchiness.

6)  Sleeping in a van is impossible, no matter how tired you may be or how well intentioned your teammates are about making you rest.

7)  Sometimes you will refuse to get out of the van, even if someone needs water, even if there are free smores, even if there are naked men flaunting themselves, even if …..

8)  No matter how many miles you run, no matter how many times you say  you will “never run again”, no matter how tired you get …. all those negative memories fade when you cross the finish and have that free beer in your hand.

Ragnar CHI_finish_official     finisher medal

** Ragnar – Part I – What I learned ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Sunburst Half Marathon 2014

The Sunburst Races were on Saturday in the beautiful town of South Bend, Indiana.  Although this race has become a bit of a tradition, this year has certainly been a bit “non-traditional” for me and the family.  Yet, I’m happy to say that I was still able to participate!  I drove in the morning of the race and it’s about a 1.5 hour drive from most of Chicagoland. 

Sunburst 2014_welcome to SB

Traffic was light and the wait to get into the FREE parking garage went quickly.  I utilized race day packet pick-up with none too much time to spare, dropped my shirt back in the car, hit the port-o-potties which didn’t have too long of a wait, and managed to get to the start about 30 seconds before the gun went off.  Yes, my time management skills are in overdrive these days because I honestly don’t have a minute to spare!

And we were off!  I ran to catch up with my friend Kasey to hang with her for a few miles.  We chatted.  We complained that it was hot.  I acknowledged that I was over dressed in capris and tall socks.  I slowed down to a crawl.  I wasn’t much in the mood to “run” and that’s just kinda how I’ve been feeling lately.  I’m not hurt although my Plantar Fasciitis will probably NEVER go away.  I’m just overwhelmed and emotional and that really takes a toll on my body.  Plus I’m an emotional eater and drinker and well, I’d rather have a beer and eat ALL.THE.FOOD. after work than actually slug out a nasty workout.  So let it suffice to say that I’m not in great shape right now and my cute clothes don’t fit  I just feel sluggish and tired.  So I wasn’t looking to “kill” this half but just try to enjoy the atmosphere and give thanks that I’m able to run even if I don’t feel like it.

My “not so fast” attitude also allowed plenty of time for photos and making new friends! The 2014 course was changed in several areas to account for the construction in the Notre Dame Stadium which negated our normal finish on the infield.  I know this was upsetting to many but I liked the addition of a long out and back on a very shaded road in miles 5 & 6.  I was able to see all my friends in front and behind me!!  What I didn’t love about the new course was that it passed a sewage plant 2x in the 6th mile and with the 80 degree temps the odor was a bit overwhelming.  So I was happy at mile 7 when we put the stink behind us!

sunburst 2014_ mile 7

The last half of the course boasts several miles by the river on the riverfront path.  This is one of my favorite parts of the course.  We get some shade from the trees and it’s a very scenic run.

 Sunburst 2014_path.

Sunburst 2014_riverfront2

Sunburst 2014_riverfront

Then after the river, as soon as it starts to really heat up, we head into a subdivision with amazing residents who put out their sprinklers and shower us with their water hoses.  Such a treat on a hot day.  The people of South Bend really get behind the Sunburst Races and support the event by running/walking, volunteering or supporting the runners in some way shape or form.

The race is well organized offering a 5K run, 10K, half marathon and full marathon, plus a family 5K walk.  There were aid stations and port-o-potties every 1.5-2 miles.  They were well spaced, even considering the heat.  I also saw several people collapse in the heat and bike medics were busy chasing those call as quickly as they were able.  There are a few hills in this course but nothing crazy.  Plus lots of trails and shaded roads to help with the heat.

Sunburst 2014_road

sunburst 2014_ mile 11 path

Overall, I think this is a great race.  I understand that there were  few “hiccups” this year due to construction and need to reroute the course but I’ll still be back for 2015 and I hope to see YOU there as well. 

One more half marathon in the DONE column!

Sunburst 2014_medal

** Run South Bend ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Chicago Spring Half Marathon Race Review

I can’t say that the Chicago Spring Half Marathon was even on my radar until a free code for the race started circling on social media.  I looked up the race and proceeded to register assuming the free code would NOT work.  But it did work and all of a sudden I was registered for a half marathon on the Lakefront Path in Chicago. 

image

That short window where they offered the race for free resulted in a sell out for this race for the first time in it’s history.  While I got in for free with a lot of other people, I had other friends who didn’t get thru during the “free” window and they in turn paid to register in order to join the fun for the day.  It was a brilliant PR move and to be honest, had I not had the free code, I wouldn’t have registered.  I’ve ran several races on the Lakefront Path now and well, they are generally over crowded and not too much fun.  This race, as well as 13.1 Chicago, seem to be the exception to that rule.  Both races have an elaborate corral system, stager the start between corrals and manage to keep the traffic on the path controlled and enjoyable

And the views are pretty cool too. 

Chicago Spring half_views

Chicago Spring half_views2

Chicago Spring half_views3

The race also offered potties, aid stations and medical support every 1.5 miles or so.  There were 2 fueling stations offering energy gels.  I also saw at least two Race Guards running the race and offering support to runners.   I saw a lot of my friends thanks to the out and back course.  Yes, I may have ran the Chicago Lakefront Path a billion times but the views and seeing my friends race never gets old.   Xaarlin was also out there taking photos with her Super Pooch.  Thanks, girlie!!  And my apologies for spotting your pup before I even saw you. Smile

Chicago Spring Half_me running

The race was a simple out and back.  About a 10K out and then back with a little zigzagging thru a parking area to get back to The Park at Lakeshore East where a buffet breakfast awaited our finish!  Nice!

Chicago Spring Half_breakfast

It was a great day to be out and run in Chicago.  It was a great race.  It was very well organized and I really appreciated being able to grab breakfast without having to wait in a long line.  Everything about this race was smooth and easy, and I for one appreciate that.  We even got a cool shirt  and cool medal (photo of the medal courtesy of Nicole F because I have a mushy brain and forgot to take one).

Chicago Spring Half_shirt  Chicago Spring Half_medal

Lastly, another great thing about this race is that it also offers a 10K so that you friends, who don’t dig the half marathon, can also run!  Thanks for going Nicki!!

Chicago Spring Half_me& nicki

** Happy Running & Racing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Illinois Marathon …. 4th Marathon in 21 Days

image

The 4 for 40 Challenge is done.  Complete.  Mission accomplished. It’s always a win when I am able to complete a goal.  However, this was not an easy feat for me.  I called it a challenge for a reason.  4 marathon in 21 days is hard.  Some people make it look easy and those people are crazy but I had no illusions that it would be easy for me.  It was a challenge.  One in which my only goal was to finish the 4 marathons, be happy, be healthy and be able to move onto the next big thing.   It was impossible to know when I started the 4 for 40 Challenge but my life is about to change dramatically.  Had I not had the courage to chase down this goal, I may have never been able to attempt it.  In fact, I’m not even sure when my next marathon will be due to the upcoming changes that are in store for myself and my family.  So I’m proud that I had the courage to try something so challenging.  I’m proud that I followed my heart.  I’m proud that I did it even though it was difficult.  Challenge complete! 

As for the Illinois Marathon itself, it was a very well organized event.  The marathon weekend offered something for the entire family.  There was a 5K with 6,137 finishers, a 10K with 2,532 finishers, the half marathon with 5,663 finishers and the full with a mere 1,682 finishers.  The weekend also offered an I-Challenge for runner who wanted to participate in the 5K on FRI evening and then one of the other events on SAT morning.  Fun!!  Plus a lot of my area runners were also participating so that ups the fun factor for me.  Here are are a few members of my running club pre-race, and pic with my speedy friend & fellow Touch Chik Carmen who I got to see before the start.

IL Marathon_fnrc start  IL Marathon_carmen

Then we all headed to the potty lines that were super long.  I must say after 5 weekends in a row of racing, if I NEVER see another porta-potty as long as I live, I’d be okay with that.  The entire area reeked of shit poo.  And the lines were ridiculously long.  And many people were still standing in line with the gun went off.  Why are there never enough potties? 

The gun goes off.  The first couple miles were fun with drunk college co-eds hanging off their porches and balconies cheering us on.  Then we moved thru a neighborhood with lots of support.  It was a fun charged atmosphere but I could tell that my legs just didn’t have much in them, so I slowed the pace and tried to find a rhythm.  I just need to finish the race to complete my challenge and become a 4 star Marathon Maniac.    I could do it!  Pace didn’t matter but I soon realized that it was going to be a more difficult challenge than even I had anticipated.  My “wheels” feel off early.  Things just kinda fell apart both emotionally and physically.  The weather wasn’t my friend either and to be honest, I was hot and miserable and tired.  Like really tired.  A combo of stress, lack of sleep and “maybe” 4 marathon in 21 days had taken it’s toll.  I was toasted.  Moving on mile by mile and hating every minute of it.    The bright spot was definitely seeing the kids at mile 13.  But that made me even more emotional and I just wanted to pack it up and go home but alas my keys were in someone else’s check bag.

IL Marathon_Michael

So I kept moving.  Fortunately I had a couple friends who helped me out a ton.  Amanda W from the FNRC was out to run bits of the course with a few of us who needed help and she kept me moving forward mostly by text messages.   My friend Lisa told me to suck it up and just walk if I that’s all I could manage but reminded me that I needed to keep moving.  Yep, I needed that.   I also met many people on course who helped me thru mile by mile.  SaraJeanne ran a few miles with me early on between 9 & 13.  Then a guardian angel in a Marathon Maniac shirt, Laurie, kept me moving until Amanda W was able to come back to carry help me to the finish.  It wasn’t pretty, so thank you ladies for all of your help!!   Photo below of Amanda W, Jill and myself.  Jill ran her VERY first marathon at IL.  Great job, Jill!!

IL Marathon_Amanda Jill Me

The course was mostly flat with a few inclines but no real hills.  We ran through town, a forest preserve, back thru town (more drunken co-eds!!) and a lot of neighborhoods.  Then some more neighborhoods with winding streets that drove me crazy.  Lots of community support.  Always runners around me so I never felt alone.  Aid stations were spaced about 2-2.5 miles apart, which was pushing it for such a warm day (temps were low 80s degrees by noon).   Medical was every other aid station or so, which may have also been pushing it for the temps because I saw a lot of a runners down who needed help and most were be helped by other runners.  However, where the aid stations were missing, local residents were there to pick up the slack setting up sprinklers, handing out jelly beans, water, and beer.  Lots of beer.  I bet there were at least 4-5 beer stations on the course.  To be honest, if I had been feeling better, I would have been tempted by the beer but I was on an emotional roller coaster and alcohol may not have been the way to go for me.  Smile

Overall, this was a good race.  I didn’t love it and wouldn’t feel the need to go back but it was solid and I did love those drunken co-eds!  LOL!  I also really enjoyed my finish in the stadium and appreciated the  F’N Runners waiting for me even though, I took so long to finish this one.  Thanks, all!

IL Marathon_fnrc finish

Swag:

IL Marathon_swag

Good times!  Now it’s time for this lady to rest.  I’ll catch you later!

** Amanda – TooTallFritz – 4 Star Marathon Maniac **