TRI Lakes Triathlon – Columbia City, IN

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On Saturday, I participated in the Olympic distance Tri Lakes Triathlon for the very first time.  1500m swim, 25 mi bike, 6.2 mi run.  First Olympic distance race for me since 2008!  Tri Lakes is a local race, about 35 minutes from my house.  About 10 members of my triathlon team were participating,  I figured since I wear their kit, but rarely see anyone when I race, I’d join in the fun.  Go Team Tritaniaum!!

The race was small, 55 participants, at a very out of the way location on Skinner Lake.  Parking was at the Tri Lakes Tavern.  The tavern was kind enough to not only let us use their parking lot but they also opened early so we could use their facilities.  Love the hospitality of small community races! 

Small transition.  Close to the water & parking area.  Nice setup.

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Open water, 1500m swim in Skinner Lake.  Water temp was 82 degrees.  No wetsuits.  Easy, calm, out & back around a line of buoys, 2x.  Men started first, women followed 10 minutes later.

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I’m a slow swimmer and that was really amplified with such a small field.  Almost last out of the water.  But it was a smooth, easy swim for me.  Not stress or anxiety so that’s a win!  2:14 average per 100yd.  Right where I normally am, you’d think I’d eventually get faster, right?  Nah!  On to the bike.  Photo courtesy of TRI Lakes Triathlon.

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The bike is where I’ve really been struggling this year.  I’ve taken so much down time, that at this point, I’m starting to worry if my fitness is suffering.  The bike was 25 miles.  Should have been easy, even with the searing temps.  No.   It was a struggle.  I had hoped I could pick off some of the people who had passed me on swim.  No.  I had hoped that the rest I had taken would bring my legs back. No.  Dead legs.  The course had some hills, nothing noteworthy unless your legs are shot.  I could barely get up the hills.  I’m not a great hill rider anyhow but this was just insane.  16.1mph average on the bike.  Took me forever and I’m pretty sure I did better on my very first TRI.  I have better equipment (by far) now and I know what to expect.  I just can’t go any faster right now.  Super frustrating.

Run.  Heat & Hills.   That’s the theme of 2016 and I think it was the theme of most of 2015 too.  Everyone was walking.  I had grandiose plans of running the entire 6.2 miles.  No.  I walked up the hills.  Aid stations were pretty far apart considering the temps, there were 3 on route, plus a homeowner that was so kind as to give out water & ice!!  I think it was over 91 by the time we finished.  Most of the run was in the open, full sun.  Aid station at the turn around ran out of water but at least they had ice.  Athletes were just crabby and miserable & ready to finish.  Shout out to the 2 residents who put out their sprinklers for us!  Life saver!  Run:  12:09 min/mi average. 

Finished my first Olympic triathlon since 2008.   I was “almost” last and I anticipated it being way more fun than what reality delivered.  Summer racing, is always a wildcard.  Nice small town race.  Community members weren’t real active with the race but the few who were, really went out of their way to help us.  Another one in the DONE column.

At this point, I’m not really sure what to do about the fatigue in my legs.  I’d like to take a month off and lounge on a beach in Hawaii but that’s not my reality.  I’m heading up to ride the Steelhead course tomorrow since that’s my “A” race & approaching fast.  My legs still feel like poop from SAT.  I’m just not sure how to bring them back.  My nutrition is on point.  I’m definitely resting more.  Trying to get extra sleep.  Avoiding alcohol & sugar.  Adding in tart cherry juice & turmeric to help with inflammation.  Seeing the Chiro to help my damaged back.  So I’m focused on ME.  Just struggling a bit with the quad fatigue.  Hmmmm….  If you have any ideas (other than take a month off and sleep on the beach in Hawaii), let me know.

** Keep TRIing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon – 2016

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Year after year, I return to the Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon.  In fact this is my 4th appearance (2012, 2014, 2015 & 2016 – In 2013 I did IM 70.3 Racine which is always the same day).  Why have I ran so many times?  Don’t I like to experience new events vs repeating the same one over and over?  Well, this is a popular race & I always have friends who want to run.  My daughter LOVES this race.  I LOVE Chicago.  And ultimately, I go where my friends & family want to go.  And RNR Chicago is where the fun is in July!   #RNRCHI  So let’s run!

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Part of this year’s RNR CHI crew.  From Left:  Nicki, Me, Julie B, & Aby. 

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Aby & Nicki ran the 10K.  Julie B & I ran the half. 

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I must say, this was the most fun I’ve had (so far) at RNR CHI.  This was a no pressure year. I’m currently focusing on my nutrition & recovery so I can hopefully kill IM 70.3 Steelhead.  Therefore,  I wasn’t worried about the weather or what was to come, I just settled in with Julie B and ran.  The weather was amazing this year.  Coolish, high 60s at the start.  In the 70s at the finish.  Cloud cover.  Light breeze.  Little did I know that the great weather was due to a storm brewing nearby.  Hmmmm…..

Early 6:30am start, cuz its July & we want to beat the heat!!  Corral start.  Corrals were separated by 2-3 minutes.  Course was crowded but I never felt hindered.  Once thru the first mile, our corral had already thinned out and we were free to run whatever pace we could manage. Aid stations & porta potties every mile or so.  Bands every couple miles.  Gels between mile 9 & 10.  Cold sponges at mile 11.  The half was 100% on the streets of Chicago this year, from start to finish.  Nice course.  As for the 10K, they started with the half, then split early, within the first 1/4 mile of the race.  They turned off the streets and onto the lakefront path at Dusable Harbor, then ran the path to McCormick Place.  They finished with the half route for the last 3ish miles.  A couple pics from the course.

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This race is about fun.  I know some feel the need to race every event and that’s great, but that’s not where I am at this point.  I’d rather enjoy the run with friends than rush off and try to win.  Smile  So I’m thankful for my run friends, like Julie B who put up with my non-stop chatter while we run.  Fun day in Chicago!  And we beat the storm but just barely.  We finished and I immediately made a dash for my car.  It started raining, just as we hit the parking garage.  By the time we were out of the parking garage it was a total downpour.  So I missed hooking up with some of my other friends who ran.  I missed utilizing the VIP tent for the after party.  But ultimately, I go to an event for the running aspect and I loved RNR CHI this year!  Thanks Chicago!  Thanks Rock N Roll Marathon series!!!

At the finish with Julie B. 

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Swag.  Finishers medal.

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If you are interested in running Rock N Roll Chicago next year, they are doing an early bird pre-sale now!  The half is only $50, the 10K is $35 & the 5K is $30.  You can register here.   If you are interested in any of the remaining 2016 Rock N Roll events, feel free to use my discount code (TTF2016) for $15 off any half or full events.  I believe its active for every race EXCEPT San Antonio, as of right now.  I’ll be running the full in Vegas in November, then San Antonio in December, in case your interested.  Smile

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** Rock YOUR Run ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Ironman 70.3 Muncie – 2016

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Last weekend was Ironman 70.3 Muncie.  Close to home, within 2 hours of where I currently live in NE Indiana.  2016 is my second appearance at this event, the first time in 2012 just after I tore a tendon in my foot.  That year, I showed up to swim & bike, then I took a DNF since I couldn’t run.  This year, my only goal was a finish.  Little did I know, that’s all the cards had in store for me.

Packet pick-up was at the race site this year verses the convention center like it was in 2012.  Loved it!  The race is kinda “out of the way” at Prairie Creek Reservoir.  Definitely not a venue that you’ll stumble across unless you have Google maps loaded!   It was nice to see the venue in the day light.  I immediately noticed that the water looked calm & clean, despite the wind.  I also noticed the site was much better groomed than it was in 2012.   No pesky rocks this year.  Lots of nice grassy areas.  Clean beach.  Yay!!!

I arrived at the venue after 5pm because I was waiting for as long as possible to leave home so the kids didn’t kill each other weren’t home alone too long before hubby got home from work.  I’m so bad about looking at the event schedule.  And the last pre-race meeting was at 5pm.  I realized this as I was picking up my packet.  Good news, packet pick-up was fast since everyone else had already been thru and I was on to the meeting very quickly.  Cool SWAG this year.  Ironman 70.3 Muncie backpack & gender specific tee, plus we got a Cliff Bar.  This year they put the race specific logo on the bag & I really liked that.  The last several years, IM has given out generic bags that just say “Ironman 70.3”.  They in turn give that for each 70.3 event.  So if you do multiple 70.3 events, you get the exact same bag for each race.  Boring.  Happy to see the change for this year.

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Race day started early.  Transition opened at 5am.  Transition closed at 6:45am for a 7am start.  I was concerned about parking so got to the reservoir pretty close to 5am and was happy I had cuz parking filled up very quickly.  Set up transition quickly but it was still visibly dark.  And visibly chaotic. 

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Hit the potties & was surprised that it looked like there were only about 20 potties for approximately 2200 athletes (and their families/friends).  The lines were long.  Like really long.  Fortunately, I was there early enough to wait thru that line 2x.  Hydrate much?

Race started at 7am.  My wave started at 7:59am.  I believe there were 5 minutes between waves this year, which was a little better than the 3 minutes from when I participated in 2012.  This event was not wetsuit legal, the water temp on race day was between 77 & 78 degrees, which is typical for this event.  USAT rules do not allow wetsuits when water temps are greater than 76.1 degrees.   No wetsuit, no problem.  I must say, I was calm.  I’m not a fast swimmer but I can swim for a long time.  Like Dory, I “Just Keep Swimming”.  Once in the water, it seemed cool & refreshing.  Not much turbulence.  I always start toward the back of my wave (cuz that’s where I finish the swim) and always get jammed up in the beginning.  I may be slow but its inevitable that the breast strokers start ahead of me and I have to figure out a way to get around them.  I felt strong on the swim.  I was focused, stayed on course, pulled thru my stroke. I didn’t have the moments of panic that have visited in the past.  It was difficult heading into shore on the last 1/3 of the course cuz the sun was in our eyes and I just couldn’t see the buoys in front of me.  That resulted in me spending too much time checking my position but overall, I was happy with the swim and hoping my time would show as much.  It didn’t.  50:30 swim for 1.2 miles.  I was hoping for 45 minutes but overall happy cuz I was comfortable in the water and in my opinion that’s a win!! 

On to the bike!  As I moved into transition, I forgot about the swim and started focusing on the bike.  I was really hoping for a good bike split.  My last 70.3 at Cutting Edge in June had a slow bike split and I was hoping that was a result of 1)  the high temps and 2) still being fatigued from my double marathon weekend at the beginning of May.  I spent a lot of time resting in June, plus the temps at Muncie were much milder (70s & 80s).  So I and hoping my time would show as much.  It didn’t.  I couldn’t get any power/speed.  I wasn’t fatigued per say.  I was well fueled (thank you Tailwind Nutrition!!!).  I was hydrated.  I just couldn’t get any speed.  Why?!?!?  No idea.  I’m not going to lie, I was frustrated out there.  But I did see Sharon S. out on course & that probably the bright spot in my bike!  She got the first pic below.  Second pic was from an Ironman photog.  Great aid stations on the bike, every 15ish miles.  Food, water, Gatorade, gels, & potties.  It always amazes me how steady & brave the bike aid station volunteers are to hold out the water or Gatorade so we can grab it as we zoom past.  Smile

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Then my bike broke.  Initially, I thought the chain had just popped off, which was odd cuz that had never happened in the 3.5 years I’ve had this bike.  But it wasn’t just that.  My derailleur was also broken and my chain was jammed behind the brakes.  It was stuck.  Nothing I could fix roadside.  At that point, I kinda laughed to be honest.  I was already 38 miles into a poor bike split.  I figured, if the bike is going to break, I was super thankful it broke on  day when I was already having a subpar performance!!  Then immediately, my thoughts went to “OMGosh, am I going to have to DNF this race AGAIN (like in 2012)?”  Thankfully, I did not have to DNF.  Ironman SAG support came rolling up after a short while.  It took the dude a minute to figure out the problem, then he pulled out a giant wrench.  He removed the crank arms that held on the chain ring so he could get to the chain.  Fixed the chain, adjusted the broken derailleur and told me to take it easy and not shift much as I limped back to transition.  That did the trick to get me back to transition!  And my bike has been in the shop since Tuesday awaiting a new derailleur.  Hoping to pick it up tomorrow.  Anyhow, slow for me bike split:  3:40:39.  I was hoping to go under 3 hours but I was WAY off that before I broke.  I’m guessing that SAG found & fixed me within 20 minutes of the break, which is AWESOME.  I could have been there for an hour or more.  Thank you Ironman SAG!!  

On to the run.  Smooth transition.  Sprayed down with sunscreen again.  Took off on the run.  I had heard the run was hilly.  That was accurate.  At this point, I had nothing to gain by trying to rush, so I took my time.  Didn’t stress about the hills.  Or the heat.  Just ran. Walked up the bigger hills Walked thru aid stations, which were every mile apart.  Lots of run support.  Great aid stations.  Lots of potties. I tried to enjoy it.  One loop run which is unusual for IM 70.3 courses.  It was good.  Got to the turnaround and cruised back at whatever pace I could manage without pushing. Run Split:  2:31:32.

Total time:  7:09:20.  Not where I was hoping to be but hey, a finish is a finish.  My goal for the year is to go under 6 hours for the 70.3 distance.  If I don’t figure out how to freshen up these legs & find my power on the bike, that goal is going to be impossible.  I’m also having issues with my saddle this year.  I’ve swapped it out 3x already and just can not get comfortable (I’m flat out miserable).  UGH.  Hoping to get everything dialed in by Steelhead so I can make an honest attempt at the sub 6 hour finish.  Only time will tell if that’s a realistic goal (for this year) but I’m focusing on me this month.  Nutrition.  Rest.  Chiropractor.  And I’m going to get a massage the week before Steelhead to try to flush out any nastiness from my legs pre-race.  I must say, I was frustrated Saturday after my finish.  It was not the race I envisioned but honestly, there are so many people who would give anything to be out there just DOING something, that I must thank my lucky stars for my health, my motivation and the constant drive to keep moving, even when life isn’t perfect.  And who has a perfect life?  I, of course, have a lot to focus on other than my fitness but I continue to make fitness a priority while simultaneously managing the family, work and life.  So that’s a WIN in my book.  And the finisher medal to prove it.

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** Keep TRIing, Even When Things Aren’t Going YOUR Way ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Cutting Edge Half Classic 70.3 – Race Review

Effingham, IL is a town that feels like home. Its 5 hours from my current home, just north of Ft Wayne, IN.  Three hours from the south Chicago burbs.  It’s a frequent stop when I travel alone or with friends.  I’ve spent more time in Effingham hotels than anywhere else so it felt right to head there for the first TRI of the season, the Cutting Edge Half Classic 70.3 on the shores of Lake Sara.

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Pretty much my only concern about the weekend was the heat.  I knew I could cover the distance.  I still don’t feel 100% recovered from the 6 marathons I’ve already ran this year.  Make that 12 since last June.  But I’m getting there or at least I tried to really focus on resting last week.  Wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be but I was in a good place with it.  The forecasted temps though, had me concerned.  The “feels like temp” was predicted to be 105 by 2pm when I anticipated finishing.  I was hoping they would be wrong.  They weren’t.  Possibly the first forecast I’ve ever know to be exactly right.  Oh well!

Packet pick-up was easy and quick at the race site, inside, with real bathrooms.  About 100 yds from the beach.  Next to the finish line.  Option of race day packet pick-up.  Lake Sara was calm, clean and warm.  80 degrees, which means that wetsuits were not allowed according to USAT rules. 

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Transition was small.  It probably would have accommodated 100-150 racers.  Wooden transition “racks” that let our back tire slide into a slot.  Kinda cool and one I hadn’t seen before this event.  Enough space to put my transition bag behind the bike and out of the way without taking it back to the car.  Sweet!!  Speaking of the car.  If you are an iron fan, you may park a mile or further from transition.  And don’t forget your cash, cuz you’ll pay to park in that spot!  But at Cutting Edge, parking was about 100 yds from transition.  Easy.  No fuss.  Free parking. 

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Quick selfie with my bike.  Smile

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The swim.  One wave.  Two loops.  Each loop 0.60 miles.  Must stop swimming between loops, stand up and shout out your race number so they could keep track of everyone.  I thought this was a great thing for them to do and a smart way to watch the swimmers closely.  Also, I’d like to make a note about the swim setup.  They had the buoys out, parallel to the beach, going both to the left and the right.  The swim did not look crazy intimidating like some I’ve seen.  It was nice. The water was nice.  I was planning for a good swim, even without my wetsuit!!  Gun goes off, I was a bit nervous but was confident I could do it.  But alas I could not get a seal on my goggles.  I was a bit surprised because they had never failed me previous.  Then I realized I had both sunscreen on my face & an under eye moisturizer (cuz my allergies are leaving me with bags beneath my eyes every morning!!!).  Yeah, something “new” on race day.  Ugh, I couldn’t see anything.  My goggles were full of lake water.  The first loop was definitely easier than the second cuz I was around more swimmers.  It was harder for me, and my blurry vision, to see and stay on course the second loop!  I did attempt to dump the water and reseal my goggles at the half way point since I had to stop swimming and stand up to report my number.  Didn’t work.  So I just tried to swim on even though my eyes were irritated and I couldn’t see.  “Fast” swim for me, even with my stupid goggles & blurred vision.  40:05 for the distance.  But my watch only called it 1851 yards instead of the 2200 yds that I was expecting. It was the theme for the race, my watch not equaling the specified distance and I’m pretty sure the race officials were right.  I think my watch was just as overheated as I was from the very beginning. 

Bike.  2 loops.  Windy.  Hot.  My bike computer did not pick up my sensors.  I can’t read my watch in aero.  Yeah, I was flying blind but felt so slow.  Verified by looking at my watch a couple times, yep super slow but I felt powerless to change that.  Roads were decent.  Mostly tar & chip.  Aid stations every 10 miles.  3 turns each loop, around a cone in the road.  Course was well marked.  Course officials and/or police were at key intersections/turns to help.  Traffic on course but the drivers were courteous.  Wind was head on or a cross wind 90% of the course.  There were a few short places with it at our back & I was flying but yeah, otherwise, it was kinda miserable.  Not because of the course but  because of the wind and heat.  56 miles, my watch read 55.4.  Time – 3:25:19.  My last half IM had a bike time under 3 hours so I was slightly disappointed but I did it. 

Run.  2 loops.  Hot as Hell.  Where did that stupid wind go?  Aid stations every mile.  Glorious volunteers giving out cold sponges, soaking our nasty dirty, sweaty sponges in cold bowls of ice water.  Helping to put ice down the back of our tri suits.  Offering water, ice, gatorade, shade from their tent, electrolyte tabs, orange slices, bananas, gels, cheers and support.  The further we got away from the lake, the hotter it got.  So that “feels like” temp of 105 had to be so much higher out on those country roads.  I’m not sure I would have made it thru without the volunteers and aid stations.  The middle aid station even had a sprinkler.  Passed that sprinkler 4x and utilized it each time.  We’ve all had hot races.  Some people manage it better than others.  I’m big and soak in a lot of heat and sun and it just melts me.  But with the aid stations close together and knowing they had ice ahead, I was able to keep moving a little better than I normally would with a heat like this.  Many races in conditions like this will have hot water & gatorade.  No ice.  This race went above and beyond, I can’t even imagine the amount of ice they went thru and it was a saving grace for so many people, myself included.  13.1 miles. Time 2:37:52.  My watch said 11.8 miles and a time of 2:19.  Not accurate at all on my end.   

Overall, great race.  I’d go back.  I thought the course was very manageable.  It was fun to see the people I had met along the way and pass them on the loops.  Kinda made things go by faster.  I’d definitely recommend this event to newbies and seasoned triathletes alike.  And guess what, when I finished they had food. I’ve been to a couple of those iron events where I didn’t get food because they ran out (or were waiting on more) or because the line was so long that I didn’t have the energy to wait. Not the case at Cutting Edge.  Plenty of food and COLD drinks at the end.

I won the Athena division with a total time of 6:48.  Only one other Athena finished.  It was such a hot day and there were a lot of DNFs.  Only 67 age groupers finished.  2 Athenas.  1 Clydesdale.  My trophy & Heed were my division award.  Gender specific tee & finisher medal below.

 

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That’s a wrap for the first 70.3 of 2016.  It wasn’t pretty but I’m hoping I can only go up from this point.  Know that there are days where a DNF is not wimp out but a necessity.  But also know that when you look inside yourself, the answer will be there, its always easier to quit but if you can continue, do it.  The finish line is a sweet reward.

** Happy TRIing, All ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Flying Pig Marathon …. A Pigcredible Race

The Flying Pig Marathon was my 32nd marathon.  Let it suffice to say that I know a good race from a bad one and I’d put Flying Pig at the top.  This was definitely one of the best races I’ve ran to date.  I’d go back to run the hills of Cincinnati anytime.  They did an amazing job with a lot of people, in very warm conditions.  Plus I’d like to shout out kudos to the communities, all of whom embraced this race as their own and were PROUD to showcase their town, their neighborhoods and they brought fun, food, music & games curbside for the runners to enjoy.  Incredible, Cincinnati, absolutely incredible.  Thanks for letting me run YOUR town.

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The theme this year was “Get Oinked for Life”.  As I understand it, they have a different piggy theme each year.  But the swag is always amazing.  This year they gave a gender specific tee, poster, gym bag (with yoga mat holder) & a buff at the finish line.  I’ve seen finisher hats in years previous but it was a buff this year.

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Nice sized expo with lots of Flying Pig logo’d merchandise.  I normally don’t buy much from the expo but I had a feeling this was going to be a great race so I grabbed a visor & an insolated water bottle, which was a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati.  

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Lots of piggy photo ops too.  If you didn’t get your pic with one of the many cool looking piggies, then really, can we even be friends?  Get excited, people!  Have some fun!  WhoooHoooo!  Me & Lindsay Glitter Girl on the Run leaving the expo on the right.  Pigs FLY in Cincinnati!  Yes, they do.  And thanks, Lindsay for being excited about all the cool piggies!  Smile

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This race was much larger than I anticipated so getting to the start & into the corrals on Sunday morning was a bigger process than I anticipated.  We had plenty of time but there were a lot of people (over 39,692 participants for the entire weekend)!  I said goodbye to Lindsay as she went into our corral.  Pre-race selfie with Lindsay below! 

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Her run plan was to crush the hills.  My run plan was to 1) not let the hills crush me, 2) have fun, 3) find some bacon, & 4) run with my friends!  So I went back a corral to be with friends and hope that they would walk up some of the hills with me!  Found Julie B at waiting for us at the entrance to Corral F!  Julie B, Tamyra & I walking up one of the bridge inclines around mile 3.  All smiles. 

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The sun was coming up.  The fog was lifting.  It was turning into a glorious day and we were all happy to be in Cincinnati to Fly with the Pigs!

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I found bacon immediately within the first couple miles (blurry pic but I was excited!!).  Then I found Elvis.  We ran in and out of Cincinnati several times.  Over 3 different bridges, past a few more. 

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Past Horseshoe Casino & into Eden Park.  The views in Eden Park were breathtaking.  It was hard not to linger and enjoy the view.  Most everyone was stopping for pics & I love to see that.  Runners ENJOYING the race vs zooming past all the cool stuff!

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We said goodbye to Eden’s park, passed under a cool footbridge & headed to the split for the half & full marathons.

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The split was huge.  There were 12,532 half marathoners (including walkers) and they split at an intersection with one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen (pic below).  Then the full marathon continued and had 3,861 finishers (including walkers).  I would like to note that the full initially had 4,737 registered runners.  Not sure how many bowed out or dropped to the half pre-race but the conditions got very tough and a lot of people were not able to finish.  I really hope that we didn’t lose 850+ people over that last half of the race.  That’s a big discrepancy in registered vs finished.

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After we dropped the half runners, we started to stretch out and head toward the neighborhoods.  There are a lot of races where I’d tell you to stick with the half.  So many races put all the sites & fun in the first half because the number of half runners always trumps the full marathoners by a lot.  They focus on those runners and then just stretch out the course for those of us who “have to” run the 26.2 distance.  Cincinnati was NOT like that.  There was plenty to see and fun to be had in the last half of the race.  Plus, I’ve honestly never seen as better proration of volunteers to runners.  Even the people who didn’t volunteer in an official capacity brought the party to the curb as we passed thru their neighborhood.

I’ve never ran a race with so much entertainment.  Live music.  Boom boxes.  Car radios.  Bubble Machines.  Mini Basketball stations.  Cheerleaders.  Singers.  Bands.  Children cheering and high fiving.  Mascots.  Fun, fun, FUN!

I’ve never ran a road race with so many food stations.  Bacon.  Need I say more?  Chocolate.  Hershey Kisses.  York Peppermint Patties (Pig Mints!!).  Graham Crackers.  Chocolate Graham Crackers.  Twizzlers.  Pretzels.  Oranges.  Watermelon.  Fruit cups.  Swedish Fish.  Pringles.  Trail Mix.  Candy.

I’ve never ran a race with the level of community support that I saw in Cincinnati.  Full on block parties.  Lots of drinking in the early a.m.  More piggy decorations than I knew to exist.  Beer shots.  Mimosas.  Margaritas.  Music.  Cheers.  Laughter.  Painted streets.  Encouragement galore.  And dogs.  If you love dogs as much as Cincinnati loves pigs, then you will be in heaven.  Big dogs.  Little dogs.  Old dogs.  Puppies!!  Fat dogs.  Skinny dogs.  Hairy dogs.  Friendly dogs.  Scared dogs.  LOL!  I loved the Cincy dogs as much as I loved the people!!   

The race stretched out.  Hill after hill.  Big hills.  Little hills.  But always hills. Hard race.  Don’t let all the fun deter from the hills cuz Cincinnati is know for hills more than fun.  There was over a 1000 feet of climbing and just as much descending (ironically not much  more climbing than in Olathe KS for the Garmin Marathon that we thought was flat & fast!).

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Our turnaround point was the Village of Mariemont.  Cute community!  By this time, I was soaked.  It was hot. Full sun.  I was dumping water on my head & I was drenched.  So, no pics by me but I grabbed this from the Mariemont Inn website because I wanted you to have a small taste of Mariemont.  The entire area was just this awesome. 

Mariemont Inn

By the time we got to Mariemont and were headed back to the City, the temps were soring and the runners were starting to suffer.  Some had been suffering for quite some time. I was hearing a lot of ambulance sirens.  I was worried about those around me. I was doing okay but going at a very pedestrian pace.  Lots of walking.  Lots of water intake.  Lots of electrolyte intake.  I hit every sprinkler and loved the Cintas station that set up with icy cold towels, dry towels and full water hoses with shower heads!  About the time things started to get really bad, race officials had gotten ice and were bringing it back to runners.  They had gators loaded with cases of water, huge bags of ice and were proactively headed from the finish back toward the runners still on course.  I was very impressed that although they had not planned for the higher temps, they were proactive and did what they could to help the suffering runners.  That’s a great race organization that is able to react quickly to a less than ideal situation. 

There were also about 30 bike support people on course who were watching the runners very closely.  They had supplies on their bike and would go get something a runner needed.  Med & aid stations toward the end were stocked with margarita shot blocks with extra salt, Coca Cola and things that we normally don’t see at road races.  I was very, VERY impressed with the Flying Pig Marathon.  I will definitely go back and run it again. 

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Registration for 2017 is now open.  You can register HERE for the May 7, 2017 marathon for $70 (or the half for $60) thru May 15, 2016.  Get Oinked for Life!

I’m headed into triathlon season now.  My next marathon will be on October 1st in Fort Wayne, IN.  The Fort4Fitness event that I’ve loved since its inception in 2008 is offering its first ever marathon and I can’t wait to run in my back yard and rock the run in Ft Wayne.  Flying Pig reminded me a lot of Fort4Ftiness in the way the communities come out to support the runners and that made me even more excited about the upcoming Fort4Ftiness Marathon.  I hope to see YOU in Ft Wayne on October 1st!

** Run Happy, All.  Have Fun & Enjoy ALL the Races.  ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Kentucky Derby Marathon – 2016

I headed to Louisville last weekend to run my 2nd Kentucky Derby Marathon.  I love this race and it wasn’t difficult to talk me into a repeat visit.  I’m a huge fan of races in small towns where we can park the car at the hotel, then walk to packet pickup, dinner & the race itself. Its good for the runners AND spectators. 

MarathonMini Logo SPONSOR COLOR no year.eps

The expo is a nice size.  Not huge but a decent size compared to some of the smaller ones we have been to as of late.  Quite a few vendors to cover whatever you may have forgotten or to grab something special to remember your trip.  Packet pickup was quick and painless.  The full marathoners walked away with a gender specific tee & a hat for race swag. 

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Race day was just as painless.  The race started on Main Street about a block or two  from our hotel.  No gear check for us, so we just made our way to the corral and got in line.  Race started at 7:30a and we left the hotel at 7:00a.  Rain was on the forecast so we grabbed a selfie before we got wet.  Smile  Me, Katie & Julie M.  We tried  about 4 selfies.  I look equally as goofy in each one.  Yes, this is the best one.  No, I have no idea what’s going on with my hair.

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There are so many things I love about this race and I talked about a lot of them when I ran in 2014.  See that post HERE.  Race starts on Main Street and you run past all the local businesses, bars, restaurants, the huge YUM Stadium, the Louisville Slugger Museum and so much more.  The first miles of the race really showcase a lot of what Louisville has to offer, including the University of Louisville.  It weaves in and out of downtown.  Constant crowd support.  Neighborhood children out to cheer on the runners.  Good community support. 

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But honestly, everyone is just waiting for mile 8 and to enter Churchill Downs.  This was definitely a highlight for me last time and I was anxiously awaiting it once again.  By the time we got to this point, it was steadily raining on us and had been for a while.  So no pics from this round but I have some from 2014!

Churchill Downs

We run into the entrance of Churchill Downs, thru the area where all the tents are located and I envision various vendors for race weekend, then thru the tunnels, under the track and into the back lots.  Pic below from 2014.

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Even though it was raining, there were still several horses out practicing when we ran thru.  It’s very cool.  I’ve always wanted to go to the Derby and this renewed my interest to make that happen.  Cool venue and I love running it.

Once we are out of the Downs, around mile 9, the half and full marathons split.  Although, I always enjoy the company of the half runners, and find it way easier to keep a slow steady pace when all of them are around, I was ready for a bit of solitude and for the road to open up.  The Derby Festival Marathon weekend is best known for it’s “mini” marathon (half marathon to anyone how doesn’t live in Indianapolis IN or Louisville KY).  There were 10,434 half marathoners and a mere 1,811 full runners.  So the road did in fact open up quite a bit as we said goodbye to the “mini” runners.  But we weren’t alone.  There were always people around and still a good number of spectators out, even for a rainy day. 

Now we were headed for Iroquois Park.  This is the hardest part of the race with lots of up & downhill sections but the scenery is spectacular.  I must say, I found this section particularly hard last time (2014) but it really wasn’t that bad this year, thanks to all the ridiculously hilly races I’ve managed to run over the last couple years.  There were some tough ups but I walked them.  And I found a surprising number of downhill sections which I don’t remember from last time!  The gentle rain made everything that much more beautiful and the road was wide open so that we could easily run the tangents up and down the hills and around the winding roads.  Very nice. 

After Iroquois Park, it was all downhill.  Like seriously.  I think we may have had 1 or 2 inclines after that but it was otherwise flat terrain.  We ran past so many amazing churches and historical homes, back thru the University of Louisville campus and we were headed back to the downtown area. 

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The aid stations were fully stocked and staffed, even with the rain.  They offered water, Gatorade & Cliff Shots in several spots.  Lots of potties and medical stations, if you needed them.  Plus spectators who came out even with the weather.  By the time we hit mile 23, it was a full on downpour.  I was happy to have a visor and just kept my head down and ran.  It was then that the rain finally penetrated my shoes as we could no longer see dips in the pavement but rather just splashed thru.  It didn’t dampen anyone spirits but there did seem to be a lot of people cramping and hurting in those last miles and I think it was a lot about the weather and the cool rain on their warm muscles.  Julie & I stopped 2-3 times to dig Biofreeze out of our bags for people who needed some assistance.  But alas the finish became visible and we put another marathon in the DONE column.  We even saw our friend Erica at the finish.  She killed her race and beat us by a few minutes (or more).  Smile  Julie, Random Dude, Erica & me.

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The Kentucky Derby Marathon is an awesome race.  Great spectator support.  Great community support.  Great course.  Great police/safety.  Great aid stations.  And its fun without too many crazy hills.  Put this one on your list if you haven’t already, it’s worth the trip to Louisville to run the Derby. 

The Derby Marathon was the first marathon of the weekend.  Yes, the second double marathon weekend of 2016.  We finished, showered, and drove to Cincinnati OH for the Flying Pig Marathon.  Come back tomorrow for that recap. 

** Run the Derby Marathon ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Garmin Marathon, Olathe KS

The Garmin Marathon in Kansas is in the DONE column.  I’m slowly working my way thru the states.  I have an ongoing, long term goal to run a marathon in every state.  Slowly cuz well, I have a budget and a family.  I have basically given up all other racing, other than marathons (and 70.3 triathlons), in order to put all my $$ toward this goal.  As a result, I try to pick marathons in new states whenever possible.  I’ve also become a frugal traveler to save money and make the quest a bit more manageable.  We pile 3-4 people in the car/hotel room and don’t do much other than eat and run.  Kansas was state #19 and Garmin was my 30th marathon.  To be honest, this feels more like an adventure than a goal and each new state brings new friends and more stories for my golden years.  

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Kansas.  What do you know about Kansas?  I apparently knew nothing.  I imagined vast areas of grasslands, farm fields and flat terrain.  Like very flat where the wind would blow for days with nothing to stop it.  I was wrong. As I was driving thru Missouri bound for the border town of Olathe, KS, all I could see were hills.  Lots and lots of rolling hills.  I must admit I was slightly distressed.  I normally don’t have a predetermined goal time for marathons.  I normally just run what we can manage.  If we are all having a good day, we run comfortable.  If not, we run, walk, jog at whatever pace we can manage.  No big deal.  We just roll with the punches.  But this time, for the first time in a very long time, I had a goal in mind.  One which honestly, should have been quite manageable.  I was healthy (thanks to Dr. Goins at Optimum Performance in Ft Wayne IN).  I was strong.  I have shed some of the weight I gained almost 2 years ago with our massive move.  Most of all, I was confident that I could hit the numbers.  But the numbers would only compute if the terrain were flat.  I am a poor hill runner.  My body just struggles with the uphill & we have very few inclines in this area on which I can try to improve this weakness.  In fact my Saturday run group has gone out of their way all winter to run up each and every incline we could find, sometimes twice.  But it wasn’t enough.  No PR for me in Kansas.  But I tried and I walked away proud, knowing I didn’t give up before we even got started.  I rolled with the plan, hit the numbers until I could not physically hit the numbers any more.  So there you have it.  No PR in Kansas.

The expo was easy and fast.  A few cutouts of Wizard of Oz characters (See Tamyra, myself & Cindy with the Wicked Witch below).  Several booths but mostly local businesses & events.  The Gypsy Runner booth was definitely the  busiest booth at the expo.  I love her normal stuff but she printed a shirt specific to this Wizard of Oz themed race and it was awesome!  The “Don’t Make me Drop a House on You” burnout tank was quite popular and I was lucky to snag one before they sold out.  Me, Cindy & Julie in our tanks on race morning. (Available here at GypsyRunner.com).

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The race shirt was also very popular.  The shirt was gender specific and featured the image of the Wicked Witch with a quote saying “Never Surrender”.  So appropriate, although I didn’t know it at the time.

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The Embassy Suites was the host hotel and actually connected to the Olathe Convention Center where the expo was located.  Super easy expo, hotel stay & race start/finish. In fact we didn’t even move our car to go to dinner but rather walked across the street to a nearby venue.  It was a great decision because when we returned, we found that the finish line was already set up.  Had to get a pic all together at the finish!  Erica, Me, Tamyra, Judy, Elina, Cindy, Julie & Eric.  So fun!!

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Race morning came and the weather was comfortable, in the mid 50s at the start.  Unlike most race mornings, this one was particularly easy because the start was about 50 feet out the front door of the host hotel.  Nice.  Now, let’s run!  Tamyra, Judy, Me, Cindy, Random Dude & Julie waiting for the start. 

Group @ Start

The start was right on time.  The hotel was a top a hill.  Shocker.  As we crossed the start line, the view was a sea of people and a hill in the distance.  Photo credit:  Gypsy Runner.  She was probably shooting the hill ahead but she caught a glimpse of Judy (center in the black maniac tank/yellow visor), Julie is front right of Judy in the black tank & you can barely see my head in front of & above Judy & Julie’s head, I’m in a black tank too.  Love it!

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We were hoping to leave the hills behind as we ran away from the hotel but that wasn’t the case.  There wasn’t the usual chatter.  Some talk, but mostly just running.  It was a head down kind of race for me.  I tried to not look at the hills, which resulted in my head being low and on the ground in front of me most of the time.  I was hoping if I didn’t “see” them, then I wouldn’t really process them.  I was also hoping that if I didn’t acknowledge how quickly it was heating up, then that wouldn’t be happening either.  I was in denial, right? 

The aid stations were well stocked and spaced about 2 miles apart.  Lots of water, Gatorade, GU & potties.  I also saw several medial tents.  The race was very well ran, lots of volunteers, police and even a lady riding a bike dressed as the Wicked Witch. Photo credit:  Gypsy Runner.

Wicked Witch

The first half of the marathon course was on the streets of Olathe.  The last half was an out and back on the Mill Creek Trail.  Garmin boasted a new course this year due to the start/finish being moved to the hotel & convention center.  See map below. 

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I had high hopes that once we hit the trial, the course would flatten out and cool off as we entered the woods.  It didn’t.  I was getting pretty close to hitting the wall at this point.  I had ignored everything and was able to average between 9:18-9:41 thru the first 14 miles.  Then I hit the wall.  I wasn’t hurting, just didn’t have that pace left in my legs.  I needed to start walking some of the hills.   The Mill Creek Trail was pretty.  We crossed several bridges & creeks and it was a nice area to run.  I would have loved it and ran it frequently if I were a local.  Photo credit:  Gypsy Runner (pic 1) & Tamyra (pic 2).

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The temps heated up to the mid 70s during the race but we did have some cloud cover and a breeze toward the end.  Speaking of the end, I was kinda dreading the hill at mile 25.  I knew it was coming because we had to run down it around mile 13.  But I also knew as soon as I could get myself up that hill, I was in the home stretch.  Photo credit:   Gypsy Runner

Mile 25 Hill

Ah, the finish!  Just follow the Yellow Brick Road!  I’m on the left.  The two other gentlemen, I had met the day before at the original Kansas City Joes while we waited in line for BBQ.  They were on pace to pass me up before the finish but then took pity on me and ran me in since they were “in no hurry”.  LOL!   Photo credit:  SeeKCRun  who in conjunction with the Garmin Marathon allowed free photo downloads!  Nice touch!

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I was shooting for a 4:10.  Ran a 4:33.  I’m not sad.  I did what I could.  I didn’t give up until I didn’t have a choice.  And I know that 4:10 will soon be mine.  I’ll just have to wait til fall for it because the Garmin Marathon was my last chance for now. 

Elevation chart showed 940 feet of climb.  930 of decent.   Not crazy climbing for some but a lot for this Midwesterner.

Garmin Elevation

Very cool medal.  It’s huge and I love the Wicked Witch theme.  There were 588 marathoners who earned this medal!

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2037 half marathoners earned a Glenda, the Good Witch medal.  653 runners earned the Hot Air Balloon 10K medal.  Overall, the Garmin Marathon did a great job.  Stayed on theme.  Great support and even a great course.  There was an after party with free beer and several booths, lots of massage & chiro people to help stretch out the runners.  And the best part, upon completion, I walked straight into the hotel for a hot shower and my recovery drink.  Nice!

That’s a wrap  for Kansas!  Next up is a double marathon weekend with the Kentucky Derby Marathon on 4/30, then the Flying Pig Marathon on 5/1.  THEN I move into a fun filled summer of Triathlon.  I can’t wait! 

Happy Running, whether its up hill or down, just keep smiling!

Amanda – TooTallFritz

Rock N Roll Marathon Series – New Orleans, LA – Race Review

Marathon #29, State #18 – Rock N Roll Marathon New Orleans – LAIMG_9594

I recently received word that I was accepted to the 2016 Rock N Blog team.  I should have discount codes for all the Rock N Roll Marathon Series races for YOU sometime this week!!  As a result, I hustled to get some RnR races on my calendar!  RnR New Orleans has been on my “list” for years and it just so happened to fall on Leap Year weekend this year.  Mom and I always travel Leap Year weekend (every 4 years).  I didn’t know if she would be interested in a whirlwind trip to New Orleans but she was totally up for it, so away we went!! 

The expo was at the New Orleans Convention Center which is centrally located to the Riverwalk, close to Harrah’s Casino & a short jaunt to the French Quarter.  As with all Rock N Roll races, each participant is required to pick up their own packet.  We zoomed thru the expo, which was a decent size.  Grabbed my bib, the race tee & I bought a couple RnR items to rep my new team.  Race tee below.  Black.  Gender specific.  Brooks Running.

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This was a fun trip for mom & I, not a run specific trip, so I wanted to spend as little time doing run things as possible.  We stayed at the Hotel St Marie in the French Quarter.  I fell in love with the photos of the hotel on the internet and felt like it was a great place to give Mom a feel of the real New Orleans.  We loved it & the ladies at the front desk really took care of us and helped us with finding cool, local places for food and entertainment!  It’s an older, historic New Orleans hotel.  A mere half block away from the craziness of Bourbon Street but removed enough that we didn’t hear much of the hoopla.  See my pic below, isn’t it a cute hotel? 

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I have to give mom credit.  She was so adventurous.  She walked and walked and walked.  We ate EVERYTHING “New Orleans” that we could possibly consume:  Fried & blackened alligator, seafood gumbo, crawfish po’boy, crab stuffed jalapeno poppers, beignets, café au lait, catfish, redfish, shrimp, fried green tomatoes, chicken tchoupitoulas, creole green beans, creole jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, and shrimp & grits….. to name a few.  Smile  See pic below from the Royal House Oyster Bar of my pre-marathon meal of shrimp & grits.  So amazing.  Light.  Tasty.  Tiny bit of spice but nothing overpowering. 

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We also toured the city.  Cemeteries.  Ghost tours.  Parks.

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And we had a few drinks: café au lait & cocktails …. including Mom’s very first hurricane (we could only drink one cuz they were so strong).  I even tried a concoction called a “grenade”.  Just one of those too.  Gotta be careful with the cocktails in the Big Easy!!!

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Then as icing on the cake, I got to run the Rock N Roll NOLA Marathon.  Race started at 7:30 am but there were approximately 34 corrals.  I believe there were just shy of 35,000 bibs sold/registered between the 10K, Half & Marathon.  Approximately 2 minutes between corrals.  No policing of corrals so some just started where they wanted verses where they were assigned.  Then I heard complaints of a crowded course.  I did NOT have an issue with the course being too crowded but I DID pass runners the entire way, right up to the finish.  So I know that everyone wasn’t where they were supposed to be but I think it bothers me less than some because I just run my race and really don’t worry about what anyone else is doing.  I wasn’t going for a specific time.  I had my sore hamstring that I was babying, plus I knew the weather was going to heat up to 70+ degrees before the finish. Kinda warm for those of us who left a frozen tundra to head south for the weekend.  Those 2 things made me acutely aware that I should neither run too fast nor stress too much about the race.  I just tried to run relaxed but at a decent clip while my hamstring held and the temps were cool.  I never pushed the pace.  I had to stop a couple times to take motrin and add biofreeze to “hard to reach” muscles.  I just ran.  Happy to be running. Pleased with the amazing course that toured the Garden District, French Quarter, Decatur Street, Jackson Square, the French Market, City Park and looped over the levies for a rolling out and back next to Lake Pontchartrain.  Most of the route was flat.  A few rollers by the lake.  Mostly shaded course.  And I thought it was AMAZING.  Every step.  I was told it was “boring” the last 10 miles, but I didn’t think that was the case.  I loved the breeze off the water by the lake after we left all those amazing shade trees behind.  Honestly, I really loved it.  And I think you would too.  I finished.  My fastest marathon of the year so far, 4 hrs 19 minutes.  Hoping to improve on that in April but honestly, any day I get under 4:30 is a good day by me! Awesome medal & finisher jacket.  I’ve never gotten a jacket as FREE finisher SWAG!  So cool!!!

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RnR races are known for the after party, band and beer garden but to be honest, I always hoof it back to my family.  Everyone seemed to be having an awesome time.  The beer was flowing and the finish area was set up well to take care of runners.  Class act. I was very impressed with what New Orleans had to offer both to local tourists and to the RnR runners.  New Orleans, you got an “A” for how much you have grown post Katrina.  I’m so impressed that I can’t possibly put it into words.  You have rebuilt.  You are bigger and better.  You are now, once again, an amazing city. I hope to be able to revisit soon & run your lovely streets again and again. 

** Til We Meet Again, New Orleans ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

First Light Marathon Race Review – 2016

Day 2 of the Back2Back Challenge was the First Light Marathon in Mobile, AL.  I had heard of Mobile although I didn’t really know where it was located on the map.  Turns out we had a 3.25 hour drive southeast from Jackson MS to Mobile AL.  Not too bad. Then we drove into the charming town of Mobile.  What a nice surprise.   

First Light Logo

The expo was in the Mobile Government Center, maybe 2 blocks from our hotel and the Start/Finish area.  It was a small expo, even smaller than MS Blues.  But there were a few local running & TRI stores that set up booths.  One had clothing 75% off and I snagged a cute Nike tank for $8.95!!  Everyone was super friendly.  We were presented with long sleeve gender specific tech tees, plus our Back2Back Marathon Participant Award which was hand crafted by a member of L’Arche Mobile, a community of people serving those with intellectual disabilities in the area.  I was very touched by this.  I can’t imagine how long it took to make all of these canvases.  I later found out that our finisher medals were also created by the members of L’Arche, some of whom were at the finish line to greet us.  Smile  See my Back2Back partipant award below.  Each award was unique and hand crafted by a different member of L’Arche.  Lucy took the time to make this one for me, her story is below.  Thank you, Lucy!

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We were in and out of the expo in a flash, then off to dinner.  Mobile is the type of town that I love.  We parked at the hotel, walked to the expo, then walked to dinner on Dauphin Street.  We never traveled more than a 3-4 block radius from the hotel but had everything we needed.  This would be a good race to go to and stay for an extra day or two.  Plenty to do on Dauphin Street with shopping, eating and drinking establishments lining the way. 

Race Morning.  We waited in the lobby of our hotel til 5 minutes before gun time, then we walked out the front door onto the start line.  Yes, it was that easy.  The town was in Mardi Gras mode.  Mobile claims to be the birthplace of America’s Mardi Gras and the town and our hotel were decorated and ready for the upcoming season (which begins on Feb 9, 2016).  On race morning we posed by the Mardi Gras “ladies” and tree in our hotel.  Me, Julie, Laura & Judy.

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The race started on time with very little fanfare.  Very small race and it seemed that the majority of people on the start line were Marathon Maniacs who had come from MS Blues the day before, in hopes of conquering the Back2Back Challenge.  In total, there were 376 marathon finishers and 743 half marathon finishers.  There was no “crunch” at the start like the day previous.  Everyone seemed to be laughing and in good spirits even though the temps were cool for the area (low 40s).  Most of the crowd was stiff and sore from the day before so everyone started slow and with some sort of hobble in their step.  It was all very relaxed and a fun atmosphere.  To be honest, I really didn’t expect much from a race this small.  But I was quickly surprised.  The course started with a tour thru the Historic Garden District where we saw home after amazing home with Historic Landmark placards.  Many decorated full scale for the upcoming Mardi Gras season.  It was beautiful and put a smile on my face from the very first mile.  The rest of the course did not disappoint either.  It was flat (thank you, First Light) til mile 9, then we had a few rolling hills and a gradual beastly incline going up into the University of South Alabama campus.  The campus was quiet as the students were still on break but it was beautiful and I loved running thru campus.  Plus, I’m happy to report that we did not see any alligators OR snakes. 

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From the University, we moved on to the Botanical Gardens and then Spring Hill College.  A couple Spring Hill campus photos below:

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The course also had a lot of bike support.  The bike riders where constantly riding around us, talking to us, checking on us and offering support.  One bike support person even offered us a Cliff Bar when we were feeling particularly famished.  It’s REALLY hard to anticipate how many calories your body will need on Day 2 of a 2 day marathon challenge.  I was hungry.  Julie was hungry.  We kept eating.  And we were still hungry.  The aid stations here were different than most.  Normally the race officials can tell you exactly what will be on course and where you can find it.  Not at First Light.  The aid stations were all sponsored by different people, companies, and/or running clubs.  So they got to pick what they served at the aid stations.  Although there was not one gel on course, we received oranges, bananas, donuts, pretzels, potato chips, candy, pickle juice, chicken broth and I was even offered at shot of Corona, which I politely declined.  It was a great experience.  The aid stations were all well staffed and everyone thanked us for running.

In all, this is definitely one of my favorite marathons so far & this was #28 (State #17) in case anyone besides myself (and Julie) are counting.  I’d highly recommend it to anyone.  It’s scenic.  Fun.  Relaxed.  And lacks the hype and hoopla that so many races put forth.  The race fee is low.  I paid $52.15 with service fee to register in April for the January event.  They offer a gender specific tee, chip timing & a unique hand crafted finisher’s medal.  If you decide to try the Back2Back Challenge, you can hop a bus from Jackson to Mobile and First Light takes care of all the Back2Back awards/swag.  Swag below, plus a close up of the handcrafted finisher medal & a couple pics of the Back2Back medal which was a spinner.  Different on both sides. 

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Back2Back Medal:

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A note on the Back2Back Challenge.  I know its not for everyone.  I certainly wouldn’t recommend 2 marathons in 2 days in 2 different states to many but I had a lot of fun.  We took it super slow (5:09 on day 1 & 5:06 on day 2).  We walked, sang, laughed & joked our way thru the miles.  I must say it was easier than I anticipated.  I was fatigued but nothing that was insurmountable.  If you have gone for a shake out run, or a “recovery” run, the day after a long run or marathon, then you know that the first few miles you might be tight but for the most part everything loosens up and those little aches and pains work themselves out.  The hills in Jackson and the slant of the road in both towns did provide me with some aches that I normally do not get.  But thanks to my Injinji socks, I didn’t get any blisters until day 2 and then I only had 2 tiny blisters when I finished First Light.  Not bad for 52.40+ miles in 29 hours.  Smile 

If you need a winter marathon, or one in Alabama, put First Light on your list.  It’s not fancy but they give you everything you need and more, plus rice & beans, pasta salad, cookies, hot chocolate & beer at the finish.  All which can be enjoyed while listening to a local band.  Great experience.  I’d got back and do it all again if the schedule allowed. 

** Run First Light ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Mississippi Blues Marathon Race Review – 2016

Last year at this time, I could hardly walk.  The Plantar Fasciitis Devil had a firm hold on both of my feet.  I could move once I got warmed up but if I tried to run, I would tighten up after a few miles and normally be stopped in my tracks.  If I tried to “push thru”, I would be rendered useless for days.  I would tighten up when I would sit down.  Or go to bed. Or drive in the car.  Walking was nothing but excruciating to the point that my non-runner (and generally unsympathetic) hubby would walk thru the house multiple times a day to clear the floor of toys, dog bones, debris or anything on which I could accidentally step because if I stepped on anything, I would crumple to the floor in pain.  I wish I were exaggerating but if anything, I couldn’t possibly give an idea of how badly I was hurting if you have never experienced the deep grips of Plantar Fasciitis. 

For all who witnessed my pain, or if you asked my hubby or the slew of Physical Therapists, Orthopedic/Sport Med docs and Chiros that I saw when I moved to Indiana, the idea of me running “much” in the future was slim to none.  I was scheduled to run the Back 2 Back Challenge 2015 which was the Mississippi Blues Marathon & First Light Marathon double, but I could not do it.  I mean, I couldn’t walk, I certainly couldn’t run 2 marathons in 2 days.  So, I deferred my entries to 2016 with a hope and a prayer that I could get the PF under control within a year.  And I did, thanks to some amazing Chiropractors at Optimum Performance in Ft Wayne, IN.  HUGE shout out of thanks to Dr. Russell & Dr. Goins for everything they have done for me over the last year.  And for not taking the easy way out by just saying, “stop running”.  For the record, as of today, I am pain free.  Like zero pain when I walk or run or get up out of bed.  Pain free.  And I am beyond grateful.

So, the Back to Back Challenge was a GO for 2016.  The Mississippi Blues Marathon was Saturday, January 9, 2016 in Jackson, MS.  The First Light Marathon was January 10, 2016 in Mobile, AL.  Let’s talk about MS Blues today! 

MS Blues Logo

MS Blues offered a small expo at the Jackson Convention Center and easy packet pick up before the race or even on race morning, if necessary.  Parking was easy and free.  Packet Pick up was fast and painless.  We even spotted and shopped with our favorite marathon runner and expo booth, Gypsy Runner.  Thanks for hooking us up with some cool stuff, Amy!

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This year’s race was all about honoring BB King who passed in 2015.  They put a BB King CD in each of our race packets.  We also each received a harmonica with the date/logo of the event & a cool unisex 1/4 zip with BB King on the back.  Great swag.

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If you’ve talked to anyone about the MS Blues Marathon, you’ve probably already heard about the hills.  So let’s just get that out of the way right now.  This race is hilly.  And I don’t mean maybe.  Very hilly.  I think Judy said that we climbed over 5500 feet in elevation over the course of the race.  And descended about the same.  So many ups and downs on this course.  Pretty much non-stop.  But it was beautiful.  Great course thru stunning neighborhoods, amazing homes, great volunteers and police who were actually smiling and thanking us for coming to run their city.  Small race, with approximately 755 marathon finishers,  1871 half finishers, 307 Quarter Note finishers & 28 relay teams.  We had a lot of fun, even with the rain.  We started in the rain and finished in the rain.  In fact, there was as much rain as there were hills, maybe more.  Smile  Steamy pic of Julie, Judy & I under the lights pre-race.

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Pic of some of the course below.  Hello hill (pic 1).

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Selfie.

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Course below. 

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MS Blues really does it right and we really enjoyed ourselves.  They focus on the Blues element of this historic area.  In fact a portion of the proceeds from the race go to the local Blues Foundation.  Generally this race has a 9 different spots for live performers on the course but the weather was bad this weekend.  There were a few spots where we heard music but nothing like there would have been had it not been down pouring rain most of the day. 

We finished.  It was very slow going in the beginning because the streets just could not accommodate the number of runners.  We were really packed in tightly for several miles. Not a problem for us but if you want to race this, then plan a slow start or head to the front!  We just took it super easy and walked a lot of the hills since we were headed to Mobile AL for another marathon on Sunday.  We finished in 5:10 (factoring in way too many potty stops and a lot of hill walking) and the sun had finally came back out, minutes before we crossed the finish line.  Yay for the sun.  Judy, Julie & I at the finish.  Very cool BB King medal with a hanging guitar pick.

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There was a finisher party with food & music but the music wasn’t playing and the food was gone when we got there.  Supposedly more food was the on the way but my tummy was already upset so we waited a half hour and then left to get cleaned up and back on the road for the trip to Mobile, AL.

If you can hang out in Jackson after the race, there is a very popular Blues Crawl that takes you to some of the local music venues in Jackson post race.  There is also a Blues Trolley that does the driving in case you want to have a beverage.  We missed the fun but I heard that it’s amazing. 

** Run MS Blues Marathon ** Amanda – TooTallFritz