Rock N Roll Chicago – 2017 Edition

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The Rock N Roll Chicago 1/2 marathon is one that I keep returning to, year after year.  Not because timing is great for me (its my momma’s birthday weekend EVERY year).  But because my friends & family love this race.  Since I moved away from the Chicago area, this is a great excuse to come back & reconnect with some people I rarely get to see, plus Aby loves this race.  Its always been my MO to go where my friends go.  Racing with friends is always more fun!!  And for anyone under 30, MO is “method of operation”.  Apparently that’s not a common acronym at this point in time.  I was just informed the other day that Aby has NO idea what that means (and I use it pretty frequently).  Smile

Aby, Nicki & I hit the expo on Saturday at McCormick Place.  Always plenty of parking at McCormick.  Easy in and out.  We even received discounted parking this year which was a bonus!!  Plenty of vendors.  A couple photo ops. 

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Having to go downtown for the expo is a perfect excuse to enjoy the city by walking around, having a late lunch & Aby usually insists on ice cream.  Ghirardelli’s anyone?

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Race day starts bright and early to try beat the summer heat & humidity of the Midwest.  We got downtown around 5:15a for a 6:30a race start.  Temps were probably in the 70s and not nearly as hot & humid as normal.  Thank goodness!

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And we are ready to ROCK!  Nicki for the 10K.  Aby for her 3rd half marathon & as for me, well, I was just there to have fun.  I’ve probably done 30 some half’s at this point.  Not my race distance of choice currently but Chicago offers a 5K, 10K & half marathon.  Great for the whole family & a great girls weekend where there is something for everyone!  I particularly love races that have multiple distances so its more inclusive for runner friends at all levels!

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It took about 2 miles before I realized that I was going to have to say goodbye to my “little” runner girl.  Aby had a poor buildup for the race.  Lack of motivation after losing her favorite running partner this summer!!  But race day brings magic and well, she was ON FIRE.

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Good bye, girl.  I must admit, the miles kinda slogged on from that point.  I wasn’t tired or hurt but had just come off the IM 70.3 Muncie the week before and I was facing down 2 half ironmans within the next month.  I didn’t want to put too much effort into this race.  I want to be healthy and that means that I can’t give it my all every time I hit the pavement.  I’m at that point in life, and age wise, where I have to train smarter, not harder.   So I slogged thru the miles.  Slowly. 

The course winds thru the streets of Chicago.  I’ve ran the race several times at this point so I know the course.  The spectators were concentrated at key intersections but it was otherwise  a pretty quiet day.  Like a training run with lots of friends! 

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Highlight was that I knew I had a chance of seeing Aby around mile 9, where there is a short out & back on MLK Drive between miles 8.5 & 9.5.  So unless she had gapped me by over a mile, which was a real possibility, I had a chance of spotting her.  And had I been even a few minutes slower, I would have missed her.  But I saw her briefly, shouted “great job” and she shouted that she was going to try to “break 2”.  I said, “Go get it!!” and she was off again.  She broke 2 on her 3rd half marathon!  1:56 for her!!!!  Great job, Aby!!!

Once we finished the out & back on MLK Drive, we head toward McCormick Place & the last 3 miles of the course.  There is always a giant inflatable Brooks Running guitarist at the 10 mile mark.  Happy to see him, as usual.  Then on to finish the race! 

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Finished! 

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Aby was flying high from her new PR.  We all agreed that the race was great.  Well ran.  Plenty of aid stations.  Lots of places where the City of Chicago had opened hydrants to cool off runners.  Amazing volunteers, great course support, great crowd/traffic control.  Overall, if your going to run a race in mid July, in the heat & humidity of the Midwest, this is one of the best.  Thanks Chicago for continuing to support the Rock N Roll Marathon series & their quest to bring one of the best running races to Chicago, each and every year. 

SWAG – Gender specific technical tee & race medal below.

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Next up, the Ironman 70.3 Ohio.  So I’ll be back next week to tell you all about that race.  Have a great weekend & I hope you ROCK your runs, no matter how big or small, at whatever distance YOU love! 

** Rock N Blogger – Amanda – TooTallFritz **

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Lincoln Marathon Race Review & Fun Facts About Nebraska

When one thinks about marathon running, they might not immediately think Lincoln, NE.  But Lincoln is certainly thinking about marathons and the Lincoln Marathon strives to bring the best possible marathon & half marathon to approximately 13,000 runners each and every year.  The 2017 Lincoln Marathon was held Sunday, May 7th. 

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This was a quick trip. Timing with Track & Baseball was tight.  I might have gotten up at 3am to drive to Lincoln in order fulfill Mommy duties and still run the race. Maybe.  Uust Maybe.  Smile  I didn’t know much about the town of Lincoln.  I certainly didn’t know that Nebraska was the birthplace of the Rueben Sandwich (Fun Fact #1) or we would have eaten a Rueben while visiting!

The expo was held at the Cornhusker Hotel in downtown Lincoln.  Medium sized expo.  Great size for the amount of runners.  Organized.  Fun booths.  Easy in and out.   

Fun Fact #2 – Lincoln NE is the birthplace of the 911 emergency system that is now commonly used across the US. 

Race day arrived & we had detailed maps regarding downtown parking.  Parking was plentiful and ranged in prices from metered parking to covered garages.  We quickly found a spot a couple blocks from Memorial Stadium & we were headed to the start line with plenty of time to relax & hit the potties.  Lots of potties here, thanks, Lincoln! 

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The stadium was amazing, even empty.  However, I have now heard so much about Memorial Stadium that I wanted to share this pic, image source HERE.  Filled to capacity, the stadium will hold 90,000 spectators.  Go BIG RED!

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The race started on time.  The National Guard was visible & present.  Fun Fact #3, there are 5 army forts open to the public in Nebraska.  The armed forces have a real presence in Lincoln & throughout Nebraska.  The race was no different.  There was a special division just for National Guard members.  117 members finished the marathon & 5 finished the half, many in full gear with loaded packs.  And this doesn’t include those who volunteered time & helped with the race. 

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The course was pretty easy without a lot of turns, which is always our preference.  It is described as flat.  There are some rolling hills in Lincoln.  Nothing crazy but if you come from Chicago or NE Indiana, yeah, there are some hills, total of 502 ft of elevation gain. 

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We passed by the Capital Building shortly after hitting the first mile.  I’m not sure if it wasn’t visible or I didn’t notice.  I was fighting myself mentally & physically for a good portion of the race.  I was trying to trick myself into believing it was going to be a great day.  It was a great race.  And I felt good.  So I spent a decent amount of time in my head trying to move my body forward, even though I wasn’t remotely recovered from the hills & heat that Nashville threw my way 8 days earlier.  But I wish I had seen the capitol so I could take a photo.  Fun Fact #4 – Nebraska is the ONLY state that doesn’t have 2 houses in their legislature.  The norm is for a House & Senate but in Nebraska, they are unicameral & nonpartisan.  The legislature has 49 senators & is the smallest legislature in the country.  Even Alaska has more members than Nebraska!  Source.  Stock photo of the Capitol Building below.

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Image Source

We ran thru town, turned on Sheridan Boulevard around mile 3, passed thru the vicinity of Memorial Park & the Lincoln SE High School at mile 4, then hit 48th Street, passing Union College, until it connected with the Helen Boosalis Trail.  The trail was crowded but still lined with spectators and supporters.  I remember seeing a lot of dogs throughout the course & I think I high-fived more kids in Lincoln than any other race.  The kids were out in FULL FORCE to support the runners!  Lots of signs.  My favorite was a women holding a sign that said “Motivational Sign”.  Wow.  Creative or not?  Still thinking on that one.  Smile

Fun Fact #5 – Charles Lindbergh moved to Lincoln, NE in 1922 to learn to fly airplanes at the Nebraska Aircraft Corporation Flying School. 

We left the trail around mile 8.5 & headed up 20th Street to Irvingdale & Rudge Memorial Parks, then jogged over to 10th Street for a straight shot back to Memorial Stadium where we dropped the half marathoners at mile 13.  This greatly thinned the crowd & started the marathoners on an out & back portion for the final miles of the course.  It was heating up by the time we dropped the half runners and aid stations were a little further apart than I like when its hot.  Fortunately, we had a nice breeze, it was beautiful day & the aid stations were well stocked & had lots of friendly volunteers when we got to them.

After passing the stadium, we jumped on the Rock Island Trail (photos below) and ran the backside of campus to connect to Capitol Boulevard & Normal Avenue which was the course for our “out”.

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Once we hit Capitol Boulevard, we saw the Lincoln’s Children Zoo!  This was a highlight for me & we passed it at mile 16 & again at 23.  After the Zoo, we headed to the turnaround at Holmes Lake Park (approximately 19.6).  The “out” stretch was long but it was flat, we had some shade and a little bit of a breeze.  But it was long.  Really long.  My pace slowed considerably in this section.

Fun Fact #6 – Lincoln NE is the home of the National Museum of Roller Skating.

After the turnaround, we were headed toward the finish.  We knew exactly what to expect.  We knew where the aid stations were & how long until we could get ice.  And we picked up the pace by quite a bit.  Splits don’t look that impressive because of the amount of time that we needed to spend at aid stations for cooling & hydration purposes but we were moving pretty well between aid stations.  And one of the stats that came up in our finish results were the number of people we passed between mile 20 & the finish.  90 people! 

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The finish in Memorial Stadium was really awesome too.  I really enjoy finishes in big stadium’s like this one.  Nice race, Lincoln.

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SWAG:  Nice gender specific shirt in a v-neck, finisher’s medal & finisher’s key chain.  All commemorating the 40th anniversary of the event.

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Overall a good race.  Not as exciting on the “sites” as some that we have done but it was organized & done well.  Excellent support from the volunteers, National Guard, local police & spectators.  Excellent start & finish in and around Memorial Stadium.  And the lilacs were in bloom which always makes me think of Grandma C. 

Finisher Stats:  1050 marathon finishers, 9121 half marathon finishers.  81 degrees “feels like” temp at the finish line.

Fun Fact #7 – Kool-Aid was invented in 1927 by Edwin Perkins of Hastings, NE.

Nebraska is done.  That’s officially 23 states in the done column. 

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I’m hoping I can finish my quest to run a marathon in every state by the time I’m 50.  I’m 43 now but a lot of the states that we still need are ones which require airfare.  That means more $$ and in turn pushes out the time frame.  But it’s a long term goal and that’s what I like about it.  No pressure.  No rush.  Just grab the states as we are able.  Its FUN.  And that’s what running & fitness is to me.  Fun.  A way to connect with friends.  See sights that I would never see in a million years.  Like really, I can’t imagine why I would have traveled to Lincoln NE had it not been for the Lincoln Marathon.  It’s an adventure.  One day, one state, one race at a time …. and whatever happens in between.

** Until Next Time, Run Long, My Friends ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

The sources for the listed Nebraska facts, as well as additional info/facts can be found here or here or here or here.  Enjoy!

Georgia Marathon–Atlanta, GA

On the way south for Spring Break, the kids & I stopped off in Atlanta, GA for the Publix Georgia Marathon on March 19, 2017.

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This was my 40th marathon & my 23rd state.  I haven’t been to Atlanta for a long time so was excited to go back.  A few new additions to Atlanta include a huge Ferris Wheel beside Centennial Olympic Park (pic below) and the College Football Hall of Fame that used to be in South Bend, Indiana.  Noticeably missing was the old vibe from the Underground shopping area that is in the process of changing owners.  I was sad to see it so empty and hope that its revitalized by my next trip to Atlanta!  I loved the Underground!

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Photo Credit:  Laura Snead

The expo was small but hopping.  Music.  Giveaways.  Fun atmosphere.  Local businesses.  We were in and out in a short amount of time & I even bought a shirt, which is unusual.  

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We spent Saturday walking around town, riding the Ferris Wheel & just clowning around.

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Sunday was race day and the city came alive. A quick meet up pre-race with one of the awesome ladies from the Best TRI Club Ever.  Laura S, Me & Julie M.  Yes, I had to stand in the middle because I’m a giant. 

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Once the crowds rolled in on marathon day, Atlanta hosted 1463 marathon runners & 5227 half marathon runners.  Race day was charged.  It was a bit chilly at the start.  Dark.  But everyone was excited and ready to run.  We had heard the race was hilly but had no idea what to expect.  As Midwestern runners, we don’t have a lot of hills so honestly, a ramp or slight incline is a hill for me!  But we soon found the hills.  And lots of beautiful neighborhoods.  Plus we caught a great view of the city as the sun was coming up.

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This race really made me fall in love with the various Atlanta neighborhoods.  They shut down a lot of their town to let us run their streets on a Sunday morning.  The amount of volunteer & police support was off the charts.  I’d like to send a shout out to all the WOMEN on the Atlanta PD who were working the marathon route.  I’ve never seen that many women officers and I LOVED it.

But the theme of the day was definitely hills.  Small ones.  Long ones.  Steep ones.  Long, slow graded hills.  Rolling hills.  And then more and more hills.  We walked quite a few hills but tried to just keep moving.  The hills didn’t stop but neither did we!

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Both Julie & I were thinking this was the hilliest marathon we had ever ran.  It inspired me to go back over my garmin data for previous races.  We were wrong, this was NOT the hilliest road race we had ever ran.  That award goes to the Mississippi Blues Marathon in Jackson, MS with 1,319 feet of elevation gain.  Atlanta (the Georgia Marathon) ranked #2 at 1,265 feet of elevation gain.  #3 is Flying Pig in Cincinnati, OH with 1,020 feet of elevation gain,  just cuz I knew you’d want to know.  Smile  And of course, this only pertains to road races that we have ran to date. 

But even with the hills, the entire race was just fun.  Great atmosphere.  Lots of crowd support.  Plenty of aid stations with both fluids & food.  Candy.  Pretzels. Oranges.  Happy volunteers. Plus we ran thru 3 colleges which is always great.  Anges Scott College for Women (first photo below), Emory University (second photo below) & Georgia Tech. 

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The finish line finally came into sight & we not only received a medal but a cool, thin jacket!  We got to pick our color & size.  I think they had red, black & aqua jackets.  Nice perk!  Race shirt was a pale green, unisex, long sleeve tech tee, which I like.  It doesn’t fit me great but I do like the color and style! 

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Loved the Georgia Marathon!  Great town, great crowds & so many beautiful neighborhoods.

** Run Atlanta ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Little Rock Marathon – 2017

2017 has been all about preparing Aby & Annika to run their first marathon.  I must admit when they said they wanted to run a marathon, I tried to talk them out of it.  Marathons are long.  And hard.  And tough mentally & physically.  The distance will frequently break experienced runners.  The girls are young.  Aby is 15 & Annika just turned 17.  Yet they wanted to run a marathon.  It was really hard to wrap my brain around.  Its not something I would recommend for any teen, let alone those I know & care about!  Initially I wasn’t sure how to react but I put on the “mom hat” and explained to them that an early spring marathon would require them to be running outside, all winter long, in the early a.m. when I was running.  No sleeping in, I wanted them out there with me for every long run so I could monitor their progress, fueling & how they were tolerating the distance.  They would not be deterred.  In fact their first “long run” was the Huff 10 Mile Trail Race which was hilly, hard, snowy, cold, with freezing rain.  Absolutely miserable conditions. 

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I asked them after Huff, do you still want to run a marathon that requires winter training?  Yes.  So we signed up for the Little Rock Marathon.  The 2017 theme was “Runalicious” featuring candy, bright colors and lots of fun.

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An abbreviated training plan & a somewhat mild winter delivered us to Little Rock mostly healthy & ready to run.  The girls were slightly nervous but mostly calm.  I heard them say many times “we trained for this, we can do it”.  But they were notably tired from the travel so we tried to keep things pretty low key & not do much.  The Expo was a great size for a small town race.  There were 2181 marathon & 3699 half marathon finishers on Sunday, plus a 5K & 10K on Saturday.  Lots to do Marathon weekend .  Something for everyone.

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We hit the expo, picked up our bibs, walked around town, found ice cream, took some pics & then had take out for dinner.  I think we were all asleep by 9pm. 

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We woke up to rain.  Heavy but steady rain with a “feels like” temp of 43 as we headed to our corrals.  We were none too early either because I didn’t want the girls out in the cold rain for too long before we started to run.  I was a bit surprised to see how busy the streets were & the back up getting into the corrals.    Pace wasn’t an issue for us but I really wanted to be around the 4:30 pace group because that was the pace where we would start out.  I didn’t want to waste too much energy weaving around people in the early miles.   We were on the “just finish it” plan but we wanted to stay together & I wanted to try to keep a consistent pace.  I knew that I would have to be paying attention in order to keep them slow & steady.  They are XC runners and they just want to GO!

Pre Race:

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In the corral, headed to the start.  What are they thinking?

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And we are off!  Let’s Run!  #Runalicious

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The beginning is crowded.  Normal for most races & a great time to ease into a pace rather than take off and regret it later.  Also a great time for pics.  But apparently my selfie game was OFF cuz I couldn’t get all three of in a pic for anything. 

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The course had changed since I had ran in 2014.  I didn’t really know what to expect and was kinda okay with that.  This was my 39th marathon, 2nd time at Little Rock.  I kinda enjoy just running the course and enjoying it for what it presents.  We headed over to North Little Rock first, looped around.  Ran over a few bridges (steep inclines & declines, yes, please!).

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The girls were calm.  We all agreed that we didn’t feel awesome but we didn’t feel horrible and that’s a pretty sweet spot to be in on marathon day. It curbs expectation but also delivers a bit of hope.  Patience is the name of the game.  You must be patient in the marathon or you’ll have a very bad day. 

The rain continued.  Light but steady.  People were complaining.  We just ran past them & pulled our hats/visors a little lower to block out the rain & wind.  Back over the bridge into downtown Little Rock.  Over the trolley tracks.  I tripped but didn’t fall.  We laughed.  Down Market Street, along the Arkansas River, around the Heifer International campus.  And then back thru town, up a few hills.  Then I recognized a street from last time and knew the Governor’s Mansion was coming up.  Aby had asked me 100 several times by this point if the Governor would be out.  I didn’t know but was hoping so & sure enough, I could see his guards  flanking him from pretty far down the street.  I pointed out who he was (verses the guards) and the girls ran right up to him for a photo.  Thanks for standing out in the rain, Governor Hutchinson, you made their day!

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Then Little Rock Central HS:

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The Capital Building:

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My favorite part of the course – Miles 14-17:  Hillcrest area, Kavanaugh Boulevard, North Lookout Road & Alsopp Park.  Breathtaking area.  Aby & Annika running relaxed & easy between mile 16 & 17.

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After we left Alsopp Park, reality hit as we entered an out and back loop along Riverfront Drive.  The out & back covers miles 18-23.  I knew if something were going to go wrong, it would be in this section.  Not only is it boring but very windy because its along the river & a little daunting because you can see the runners in front of you coming back while you have seemingly “forever” until the turnaround.  This section is mentally exhausting but the girls looked strong.  Aby was starting to get antsy.  The 4:30 pacer crept up on us and we ran with her for awhile.  Aby was not happy.  She wanted to be IN FRONT of the 4:30 pacer.  Annika said, “who cares!”.  LOL!  But Aby really did not want to let her pass.  The pacer was only running with one other person so we ran with her for a while.  It was entertaining because everyone had something to say as she passed them.  Many, like Aby, were not happy.  “Oh no!”  was the common remark as she passed.  I told her it was like running with the Angel of Death.  Nobody was happy to see her that late in the game.  I asked if she was on pace, and she was ahead of pace.  She was planning to stop & walk at mile 20 to get back on track.  We stayed in her vicinity until she walked.  I didn’t want to stop at mile 20 but rather push on to mile 22 for our last “pit stop”.  Then I knew that we would be pushing to the finish. 

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After 22, it was heads down.  The pace was getting progressively faster but I knew there was a hill at mile 24 that was super ugly & would probably slow us down.  So I just let it go.  They looked good, hadn’t blown up, were well fueled, looking to run faster & well, I figured I had done my job at that point.  If something happened in the last 4 miles, we’d just deal with it.  And I’m happy to report, no blow ups.  They killed it!!!  The Lipstick Station at mile 26 was on the opposite side of the road this time, so I almost missed it.  I went back to grab lipstick for us, sending the girls on and it was a sprint to the finish for them.  Great job, ladies.  1 & 2 in their age group (15-19). 

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Awesome race.  Lots of crowd support.  Volunteers, police & everyone seemed happy that we were there.  Sometimes when a marathon rolls into a town, the residents aren’t happy because it’s a huge inconvenience for them.  I genuinely feel welcome each time I go to Little Rock. If you are looking for a smaller race that feels like home, this is a great one.  Elevation is much greater on the 2nd half, so save something for the bigger hills.  There were 3 hills that were bad enough that we walked part of them but otherwise, we ran the entire race other than potty stops (2) and the photos we took.  It was a great day in Little Rock & I’d be happy to go back.

SWAG was a unisex race shirt & lipstick (if you grabbed it at mile 26) and a medal that’s heavy and bigger than your head.  For those of you who ran 2014, I’ve added the two medals together for comparison.  They are both over 2#s and I can’t hang them with my other medals for fear of pulling down the rack/rod.

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Details on the 2014 Little Rock Marathon HERE.

** Hope Your Run was Runalicious ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

New Year & New Beginnings ……

I haven’t been publishing much as of late.  I’m in a zone where I’m helping Aby & her friend train for the Little Rock Marathon and that means lots of long runs, not so much racing.  Too many blogs do week by week training recaps.  I’ll let you read one of those if you are interested; you won’t find it here cuz really, who cares besides me?.  But I’m running.  In the cold, in the snow & we’ve had some surprisingly nice days too!  Running.  That’s what’s  happening.

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I’ve also been lifting dumbbell weights & trying to increase my strength without aggravating my back.  I ruptured 2 discs in my back last June and they don’t seem to want to repair, despite many sessions of Physical Therapy, Chiropractor, anti-inflammatory meds & several special cocktails of cortisone type shots in my low back & SI Joints.  I was asked to stop riding & swimming from September 12th thru December 26, 2016.  I did as I was told and I didn’t complain.  I didn’t get any better.  I eliminated all exercise other than 2 slow, easy runs per week.  I gained weight.  I lost strength.  I became frustrated.  I ate too much sugar.  No need to write about that. 

The first of the year (2017) brought a new beginning.  I started adding in more running & strength work.  I’m seeing slow improvements.  I can lift a gallon of milk.  I carried the laundry basket up the stairs today.  I can function, as long as I don’t have to sneeze.  Then you might actually see tears. Why does sneezing HURT so badly?

We’ve ran up some hills.

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We’ve discovered new trails.

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I finally got a new bike & started riding again.  Michael thinks its “the best bike ever” and was yelling the same when I took this pic.  Love that kid.  Pure joy.

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I started getting up earlier on Monday’s to go to Chicago “early” so I can take advantage of a Master’s Swim class before I go into the office.  That lead to my buying some training devices.  And believe it or not, I even know what to do with these things!  My swim WILL improve this year!

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2017 is off to a solid start.  I’ve really got my head down and am working on building strength & skills at this point.  I’ve registered for a few spring marathons & a few 70.3 triathlons over the summer.  My fall season is wide open so far because I had planned for over 2 years to do Ironman North Carolina in October 2017 but they canceled it after last year’s race.  For some reason, my fall is staring at me with wide eyes asking me “what’s up”?  And I just don’t know.  I have no idea how much I can build.  I have no idea how much will be taken out of me with what I’ve already committed to racing.  I have no idea how my back will feel as my training progresses.  I have no idea what I want to do in place of IM NC.  My “real life” schedule & the races in which I have interest, just don’t seem to be meshing this year.   I refuse to force races into my schedule.  Running & Triathlon is fun for me.  Its about fitness and challenging myself.  Its social.  It stops being fun if it causes stress or makes me miss something that I want to do in real life.  The family, in particularly the kids come first.  I fully agree with the Trace Adkins song, “You’re Going to Miss This”.  Time flies and kids grow up fast.  I don’t want to miss anything.  So maybe I’ll be racing this fall, maybe I’ll just be following Aby around from one Cross Country venue to the next.  Who knows.  Only time will tell.  I refuse to force the schedule.

Never Have to Force Anything

Wishing you all a healthy, happy and fun filled 2017!!  Chase those dreams but don’t forget what’s important along the way!

** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

What to Wear ….. Winter Running

Baby, its cold outside!!  And I don’t mean maybe!  Our long run last Saturday was a “feels like” temperature of –11.  Windy.  Cold.  Eyelash freezing kind of day.  And my girls had 14 miles on their schedule.  What to do?  Well, run, of course!! 

Its only Cold if Youre Standing Still

The key to running in the cold is all about having good gear.  And using it.  Don’t worry about looking cute or messing up your hair.  This is a safety thing.  If you go outside to run for hours in below zero temps, you must be smart.  I want you to go back home with all your fingers & toes & WITHOUT frost bite.  And always, if you don’t feel like its safe, then stay home.  It’s all up to your discretion. 

1)  Base Layers are key.  If you want to save money, look for last chance offers or clearance deals but bottom line, buy good base layers.  My favorite & an undeniably one of the best is Under Armour Cold Gear Mock Neck.  Its fitted.  Sits next to your skin & has a soft brushed fabric on the inside.  Its long.  Base layers either need to be tucked into your pants or long enough that they don’t ride up.  This top has a thin band of a rubber like substance around the bottom hem to help it “stick” to your clothes.  No exposed bellies that can get frostbitten!!  $49.99 from the Under Armour website.   Well worth the investment. If you want to save a little come, create a free account thru Ebates & get cash back for shopping online.  I’ve done it for years and its free $$ that not a lot of people know about.  Under Armour is currently giving 6% cash back if you shop thru the ebates site.  Super cool.

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2)  Pants.  Must protect your legs.  If they have a wind block, even better but I’ve had great luck with the Polartec pants from Athleta.  I pretty much only buy pants from Athleta because they offer TALL sizes.  I have the old version of the Polartec tights.  Aby has the newest ones.  Athleta is currently 2% back on ebates & they are having an Extra 20% off sale items with the code:  EXTRA20   Since most of the winter stuff is on sale now, you may be able to grab a pair for cheap, if you can find your size.  Great pants & tights for COLD weather.   I wore just the Polartec tights, without any other pants, last SAT in –11 wind chill & my legs were cold but not frozen.   Love, Love, LOVE them.

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3)  Jacket.  A good jacket that is wind & water resistant is worth its weight in gold.  I have a couple old ones that aren’t being made anymore.  However, I just bought Aby the Saucony Nomad Jacket off the clearance rack at an expo in November.  Her friends then went & found the same one on eBay.  So 3 of them have the same jacket.  It’s a good one, if you can still find it!  Its wind and water proof and she has gotten a lot of use out of it.  This is a bigger ticket item.  Expect to pay over $100 for a new item, from this year’s winter line.  Or shop the clearance rack at expos, the local run store or check out the Last Chance clearance deals at the big name running company online stores:  Saucony, Brooks, Mizuno, Nike.  Brand isn’t important, quality is the goal. 

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4)  Gloves.  Everyone is a bit picky about their gloves so you’ll need to look around and find what you like.  I personally have 4 different pair of Manzella’s.  A few of the Sprint and a couple in the Ultra line.   I have different thickness from barely there to a real lining.  Some people need mittens.  Others need gloves with the mitten flip top.  Figure out what keeps you warm throughout the season.  And if all else fails, don’t be afraid to use a pair of Hot Hands to keep you toasty warm!

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5)  Earband/Headbands, Hats, Neck Gaiters, Balaclavas & Face Masks.  So much stuff, what to wear?  Well, I pretty much own & wear all of these things.  Once the temp dips below 40, I usually wear an ear or “headband”.   This keeps my ears warm when the wind is whipping, even if the temps aren’t real low.  Its lightweight, wicks sweat & stays put.  I have one from Athleta from years gone by.  The girls have a cute one from Under Amour that was on clearance at an expo.  I also use the headband under hats (caps & beanies) to make sure my ears always stay covered.    I usually buy from a sporting good store in the Ski section cuz skiers know cold.   I’ll use a headband & beanie for most winter days. 

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Once the weather breaks into the “unspeakable cold”, you may or may not decide to stay indoors for running.  I still like to go outside.  It makes me feel tough to get out in the cold and put in a  few (or more) miles.  When people are talking about the wind-chill and how cold it is outside, they’ll also be talking about us running outside.  We need to make it back home safely so that they are talking about how crazy we are rather than our stupidity.  This is where the neck gaiter, balaclava & the face mask come into play.  Keep your skin safe!!

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6)  Socks.  Last but certainly not least, we must have good socks.  If its below 30 degrees, I don’t want to see any ankles.  That inch of skin between our tights and “no show” socks is important too.  Move to taller socks in the cold temps.  Some with wool properties that will wick sweat & help keep you dry might be a good idea.  Warm, dry feet are HAPPY feet.  I prefer Smartwool & Injinji socks but once again, this is all about preference.  In the winter I do my cold, snowy runs in my Injinji trail socks that are a midweight mini-crew style.  Keeps my toes toasty warm!  Injinji now has a nuwwol line too that has an Outdoor Midweight Mini Crew in Nuwwol.  I just ordered a couple pair of these since Aby & I share some of these winter run items.  Its hard to keep up on the laundry! image image image

The bottom line is that you CAN run outside all winter long, if you want.  There are very few conditions, short of ice, that you can’t dress for and tolerate.  I understand that its easy to use the excuse that its too cold but let’s be honest, usually that’s just an excuse.  Bundle up.  Keep moving.  And learn to enjoy running in EVERY season, even winter.

I’ll see you on the trail!

** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

2016 in Review …..

2016 was infinitely better than 2015 in so many ways.  First, our IL house sold!  Yes!  We didn’t make any $$ but it was a huge burden to be lifted from our shoulders & it allowed us to do some much needed work on our current house.  Second, the kids were insane but definitely adjusted better this year to our new hometown.  Third, I was able to run all year.  Although, I had some issues with my back, I was “mostly” healthy and while I was limited on my biking and some other things, I ran every step of 2016 with a smile on my face.  And that my friends, it a big fat win in my book!  Yay for running!!

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As for the stats.  I’ve currently ran 38 marathons/50Ks in 22 different states.  For 2016,  I ran 1132 miles & cycled 1450 miles.  I ran 12 marathons, 1 which was a 50K:  Mississippi Blues Marathon, First Light Marathon, Rock N Roll New Orleans Marathon, Garmin Marathon, Kentucky Derby Marathon, Flying Pig Marathon, Chicago Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon, Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, Rock N Roll Las Vegas Marathon, Rock N Roll San Antonio Marathon & the Huff 50K

Best Race of the Year goes to the Flying Pig Marathon.  I really can’t say enough about this race in Cincinnati, OH.  I heard it was good but, really, it was great.  Everything from the Expo to the race itself.  The community support was beyond amazing.  Entertainment.  They had every snack you can imagine on course (bacon!!!), stations where you could toss a basketball up to a hoop, cooling stations, great views.  Fun, Fun, Fun is how I would describe Flying Pig.  It really is a must do but yes, there are hills, and then more hills, and then a few more. 

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Best Course of the Year goes to Rock N Roll New Orleans.  It was really tough to award Flying Pig the best race of the year because RnR New Orleans was a close second.  I do think the crowd support and expo was better at Flying Pig and that’s why they get the win.  But I can’t leave New Orleans out of the mix.  Amazing race.  Amazing course.  Amazing city.  If you are looking for a city tour while you run, then RnR New Orleans is your race.  You see everything on this course from the French Quarter, Garden District, Decatur Street, Jackson Square, French Market to City Park.  The half marathon runs with the full the entire way til they turn off at mile 13 for the finish.  The full then goes around Lake Pontchartrain, over the levies & back toward the finishers party.  Amazing race.  I’d love to make a return trip and run it again.

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I also managed to squeeze in a half marathon at RnR Chicago, the Rat Race 10K in Ft Wayne, IN,  the 4 mile Galloping Gobbler, an Olympic distance triathlon at Tri Lakes, IN, the Fort4Fitness 100K Cycle  …. and 4 half ironman triathlons:  Cutting Edge 70.3, IM 70.3 Muncie, IM 70.3 Steelhead & Rev3 70.3 Cedar Point.  

It was a full year.  And I’m grateful for all of those finishes!  Some of those were much harder than others! 

Best SWAG of the year goes to the Huff 50K!  Although a close second goes to Flying Pig. And I really LOVED the RnR Finisher Jackets this year!

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Best pics of 2016:  The crew from IN & IL for the Garmin Marathon,  Aby & I at the Rat Race 10K (cuz she doesn’t like to take pics with me anymore!), and me & Nicki at the Rock N Roll San Antonio 10K.  Fun, fun, fun!

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Best selfie of the year:  Bike Selfie at the Cutting Edge 70.3

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That’s a wrap for 2016!  I hope that all of you had an amazing year!  More importantly, my wish for you is a happy, healthy, prosperous 2017.  Remember to keep dreaming, keep believing and if your goals don’t scare you …… they aren’t big enough!

** Cheers to 2016 ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Spartan Race FREE ENTRY Giveaway …..

In honor of the NBC airing of the 2016 Reebok Spartan Race World Championships on Christmas Day at 5pm EST, we are giving away ONE open heat entry to a US Spartan Race of your choice! 

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The 2017 Spartan Races will feature NEW season passes.  New medals.  New locations.

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Even with all the NEW stuff that Spartan is offering, they will still deliver the same great experience that will leave you walking away feeling like you REALLY accomplished something.  Who knows, you may even feel like a badass.  Smile

In case you’re new to the scene, a Spartan Race is an obstacle course race (OCR) that combines running & strength work to tackle obstacles in route.  Depending on what distance you choose, the event can be as short as 3+ miles or as long as 12+.  Lots of options, info on the various race distances from the Spartan website below:

There are three main types of Spartan Races.

For beginners we recommend the Sprint. Spartan’s shortest courses are 3+ miles and 20+ obstacles. Complete the race at your own pace. If you fail an obstacle along the way, you owe us 30 burpees before continuing on.

Ready for more? The Super is 8+ miles, 24+ obstacles, and often hosted on a tougher terrain.

The hardest of the three races is the Beast: 12+ miles and 30+ obstacles. We’ll leave the challenges of the course to your imagination.

For those who dare: check out our Ultra Beast, Hurricane Heat, Hurricane Heat 12 Hour and Agoge endurance races.

They also offer kids races and various events across the country.  No matter where you live, there is most likely a Spartan Race near you!  Put in your zip code on the race finder HERE & a map with pop up with your recommended location. There are so many great venues this year and several early season races that will deliver you out of this cold, snow & ice & into a nice warm climate.  You can check out the race calendar or plan your racecation to a warm local by clicking on one of the early season races below:

No matter where you decide to race or at what distance, as always HAVE FUN!

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Spartan Races has given me one FREE race entry to give away. US Races only.  Open Heat Races only.   What do you need to do to win?  Just comment below and tell me what’s the hardest endurance type event that you’ve ever completed.   If it’s a Spartan Race, great.  If not, we still want to know!  Giveaway begins NOW & goes until noon EST on Thursday, 12/29/16.  Let’s get some one a free entry to start off the new year!  Remember, you can only win if you leave a comment below! 

** AROOOOOOO *** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Rock N Roll Las Vegas Marathon … Strip At Night … Race Review + RNR Discount Codes

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This weekend I was at the Rock N Roll Marathon Series Las Vegas event.  Otherwise known as “ The Strip At Night”.   This was my first time at Rock N Roll Las Vegas and I was pleasantly surprised.   I haven’t been to Vegas for a long time but its relatively easy to navigate by using the monorail, cabs/uber or walking.   The expo is just steps from the monorail at the Las Vegas Convention Center and was open from Thursday thru Saturday.  This is one of the largest RnR events with over 40,000 registered runners!  They offered several races throughout the weekend:  5K (8249 finishers), 10K (5498 finishers), Half (22,052 finishers) & Full marathon (2655 finishers). PLUS there were 230+ people who participated in the Run Thru Wedding during the half & full marathon.

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Packet pick up was quick & easy.  However, if you wanted to purchase race gear, the lines were long, unless you were a Tour Pass Holder or a VIP.  Medium sized expo that could definitely cover you for anything you needed or left behind.  I was in and out because I had hubby in tow and didn’t want to thoroughly bore him but the expo looked fun!

Las Vegas to hubby & I is all about the sights.  We spend a lot of time walking around the strip, downtown, various casinos & checking out exhibits.   So by race time on Sunday night, I already had 70+ miles of walking on my legs.  If you want fresh legs for your race, I’d recommend getting to Vegas right before the race, then staying afterward to see the sights.  The Vegas event has some additional obstacles too.  It’s  a “must do” race because the course features the legendary Las Vegas “Strip”, at night, when all the casinos are lit up.  They only shut the strip down to vehicular traffic 2x per year.  For New Years Eve & Rock N Roll Las Vegas.  Its something to see and a huge event for runners, visitors & locals alike.  But do be careful of what you eat & drink leading up to this late afternoon race so that you have fun running & not running to the potties!

The half & full marathon started at 4:30pm on Sunday night.  Four different wave starts.  Numerous corrals in each wave.  I started in the first wave since I was a marathon runner.  Each wave started with a burst of fireworks. 

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This event is definitely crowded off the start but thinned out quickly.  It seemed like everyone was very excited and many people wanted to run fast.  Like really fast.   The sun was just starting to set when we began to run & it was cooling off.  Kinda nice. The first thing to be seen on course was the Vegas sign.  Welcome to Las Vegas.

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After passing the Vegas sign we were headed toward the more well known parts of the strip with lots of casinos and flashing neon lights.  This is only about 1.5 miles into the race & you can see that I already have plenty of road to run.  I didn’t feel hindered by the crowds and could run the pace I wanted. 

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2 miles into the marathon & half, the Luxor & Excalibur.

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Mile 3 – Planet Hollywood & Paris

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Mile 4-5, Mirage & Treasurer Island

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There was definitely an excitement in the air.  I think this race was about so much more than running to many of the participants.  I heard a lot of chatter about this being the first time at a particular distance.  So many spectators.  So much energy.  It was dark.  It was cool without the sun beating down on us.  It was beautiful.  The night was lit up with all the beautiful lights of Vegas.  It was an experience like no other.  This was my 36th marathon and I must say, it will stand out in my memory for a long time to come.

At mile 6, near the Stratosphere, we were welcomed to Downtown Las Vegas. 

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Around mile 8, Meb passed me.  Fast.  I heard someone shouting that Meb was passing & to say “hey”.  And then he was gone.  No pic for me.  Boooo!  Mile 9-10 down Freemont Street for a peak at the lights. 

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And as the lights of Freemont Street faded behind me, I knew that the “fun” was almost over for the marathoners.  As the half runners were joyful & close to their finish, we turned off around mile 11 into the darkness.  Away from the lights.  Away from the crowds.  Away from the “fun”.  Some streets were lit with streetlights.  Some not lit at all.  Random bands were out on the marathon route and since we were weaving in and out of parallel streets, in a very close vicinity, I could hear a band multiple times at various places on the course.  We still had a clear path, no question as to where we were headed or where to run.  It looked really confusing on paper but the route was well marked and there was never a question as to the direction we were headed.  I was impressed with the volunteers & the volume of Las Vegas PD Officers who were out on course helping us.  I can’t imagine the number of people it took, all working together, to make this a successful event. 

Miles 13-18 were all in and around the World Market Center.  Getting in and out of this area is where you will find the only “hills” on the course.  It was kinda nice for some varied terrain.  I really loved this section.  Looking at it on paper looks insane & confusing.  I couldn’t picture it in my head at all.  But we ran around the World Market Center several times in roped off “pathways” created by organizers.   There were a lot of lights & music that could be heard throughout the complex.  Cool area. 

Miles 19 & 20 were non-eventful.  Then we hit the strip for a millisecond at mile 21 near the Stratosphere.  We were on the strip for maybe 3/10ths of a mile before being directed off, toward the back lots of Circus Circus.  I now understand that this was the 5K route.  So if you ran the 5K, then you know the route of which I speak.  There was loud music & a huge display of fireworks with lots of neon lights.  By this time, I was not having fun.  My stomach was upset & I had some abnormal aches & pains.  I was ready to be finished.  Headed out of the back lots & back to the strip for 3/4 of a mile, then we were once again directed off strip for our final detour before the finish.  Mile 25 & we were about to return to the Strip for our final 1.2 & what we were all awaiting:  the finish. 

And the finish was sweet.  I was so happy to see it.  #36 was in the DONE column. 

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We received a spinning, glow in the dark Finisher’s Medal!

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And a gender specific Finishers Jacket with reflective accents.  I used my New Orleans Finisher Jacket on the left (below) so you can see both the back & the front; however,  I only received one jacket for finishing the Las Vegas race.  The race tee is in the middle.  Gender specific.

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I really loved the first 18 miles of this race.  I’m sure the miles that I had logged walking around Vegas the days prior to the race didn’t help me get thru the last 8 miles swiftly.  But I ran conservatively and tried to enjoy it.   Just kept moving toward the finish.  It doesn’t matter how many marathons I run, it still all about patience & surviving whatever the day & conditions bring me.  And trying to enjoy it, no matter what.  Smile

This race had 14 aid stations on the marathon course, 18 music stations (many which you could hear from multiple locations), and 3 medical stations.   They also handed out Glukos gels & gummies 3-4x.  It was a well supported race.  Clear direction as to the race course.  Members of the community, even in less populated areas were out and cheering on runners.  Great race but if you came for the party, stick to the half marathon because you’ll see everything & maybe still get back to hubby before he breaks the bank. 

Sound fun?  They are doing a early pre-sale for 2017 RnR Las Vegas HERE.  You can register thru Sunday, 11/20/16 for $99 for either the half or the full. 

If you loved Vegas and/or are trying to squeeze in a couple more RNR events, feel free to use my $15 off discount code (TTF2016)  for these upcoming events:  RnR San Antonio (12/4 – I’ll be at this one!!), RnR DC (3/11/17), RnR Dallas (3/19/17) & RnR Nashville (4/29/17).

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** As always, Happy Running ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Indianapolis Monumental Marathon ….. 2016

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Saturday was the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.  This was my 3rd time running this marathon.  First at the inaugural event in 2008, 2015 & then this 2016 version.  The race has grown by leaps and bounds because its well ran and has a reputation for being flat and fast.  This was my fastest marathon for 2015 and my 2nd fastest this year (and I’m not at all in good shape right now).  Its small enough to feel intimate but big enough to feel fun and like a real road race.  I really love it.

The expo is medium sized.  Local vendors.  We found some good deals from a local run store that had 30% off everything, even high tech winter run jackets!  Packet pick up was smooth & fast.  They also give a commemorative poster which lists every registered participants name.  Nice touch.  This is last years poster (hard to see with the glare in my sun room, sorry). The one this year wasn’t as cool and I doubt I’ll put it up but I love that they do this.

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The Monumental Marathon is a downtown Indianapolis race.  We stayed downtown so that we could walk to the expo, dinner and the start/finish line!  I think we left our hotel 30 minutes before the start and had plenty of time. There are start corrals but they are not policed so as always, plan for slower runners to find their way to the front.  Its inevitable.   The first mile is very crowded and slow.  If you are looking to hit a particular pace from mile one, that’s difficult and I’d encourage you to start closer to the front, or plan accordingly for that first mile to be a minute slower.  Try to take it all in before you put the hammer down, enjoy the city and the crowds and the remember why you run.

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This is a race where I normally have a lot of friends running with me, so we just start behind the corrals and enjoy ourselves.  We don’t rush.  We don’t push.  We just run.  Things definitely thin out after a couple miles but really, there are quite a few runners until the half marathon turns off around mile 7.5.  This year my crew had 3 high school girls in tow.  They were running the half.  One for the first time.  Two for the second time.  So I just stuck with them and had fun.  I love watching the enthusiasm of young runners.  These 3 ran Cross Country for their school this fall and they have a lot of spirit.  They entertained the crowd around them the entire time by cheering, yelling & singing.  I loved every minute of it.  This is what running is to me …. fun, fitness & friendship.  M, A & Aby (on the right). 

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They are getting ready to turn off for the half.  Good luck, girls!!

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The half and the full sold out this year. 2016 was the biggest year so far.  They had 8,154 finisher for the half.  2,762 finishers for the 5K.  And 4,237 finishers for the full.  There was also an extra medal for the runners who ran both the Indianapolis Half Marathon earlier in October, in addition to the Monumental Half.    More Bling = More Runners!

As the half turned off, the road opened up in front of me and I think we all sighed from relief.  I love the energy from the half runners but its nice to get down to business and start focusing on my race.  I remember feeling the same way last year.  It doesn’t scare me that the crowds thin.  We still have ample spectator support.  There were still a lot of runners out there.  I was never alone, just free to run whatever pace I wanted. It was a great day.  Warmish.  I saw several bloggers report that it was in the high 30s when we started but it wasn’t that cool according to my AccuWeather app.  It was 47-50 degrees by the 8am start time. No wind. And the sun was coming up. My crew had on arm sleeves and could have gotten away without them.  I was very comfortable pre-race in shorts, a tank & arm sleeves.  And it was going to heat up as we ran.  Time to get down to business and run.

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After the half split, we headed to the State Fair Grounds.  Then a long straight stretch down Washington Boulevard.  Love this part.  Lots of room to run and it’s a night straight stretch that doesn’t require much thinking.  Not a lot to see.  Traffic on the other side of the road but many motorists cheer us on as they wait in traffic.   Then onto Broadripple.  Riverview, which is short but scenic.  Meridian Drive.   Butler University.  Beautiful campus.  Lots of older alums hanging out but where are the students?  Indianapolis Museum of Art.  Lovely area.  White River Parkway.  Burdsal Parkway. Miles 21-22 ocne and go, that always seem to be a challeng.  Fall Creek Parkway.  Back on Meridian and heading back downtown, we are getting close!!!  We can see Monument Circle in the distance and keep pushing forward.  Finally, mile 25.  Then 26.  Then the finish.  That lovely finish.  Another one in the books.  Thank you, Lord.  Thank you, body.  Thank you, mind for pushing me thru another finish.

In all, this is a great race.   I’d love to run it again next year if it fits into my schedule.  Lots of water & potty stops, plus medial about every 1-1.5 miles.   20 aid stations in all.  They also had at least 5 food/fueling stations.  Plus so many kind spectators that set up their own personal aid stations offering Halloween Candy, beer, water, pretzels, oranges, etc.  Great race.  Great community & spectator support.  Thanks, Indy! 

Swag:  Gender specific tee, finishers hat & medal.  Last year we got a hat too.  That one had the year embroidered on the hat.  This one was more “generic”, probably so they can use leftovers for years to come. 

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Great race, hope to see YOU next year!

** Run Indy, Be Monumental ** Amanda – TooTallFritz