I can't even put into words how incredible Jennifer was. From the moment I arrived until the moment I left, she took care of everything, spoiled me rotten, and gave me more love, support and encouragement than I could have imagined. We got to spend so much precious time together - talking and talking and laughing and talking and eating and talking and laughing. I got to live in her home, meet many of her friends, see where she works, drive her car, and really get to be IN her life for a long weekend and I loved it. We were already best friends, but this time definitely brought us even closer. It was just as great as having her in my home with Josh and the kids and showing her all around where I live. I do believe we made the most of every minute.
The story can best be told with pictures, so here comes a lot of them. :) I will never remember every detail but here are some of the highlights.
Lauri and I had a long but smooth trip to Tallahassee. Jennifer was waiting for us outside at the airport and after some hugging and squealing (and tears) we were on our way to her house. Her new place is beautiful and after getting the tour, I did what any marathoner does after way too many hours sitting - I rolled! Jennifer snapped this mid-roll.
The next morning we got up to run. I had six miles to do and J was all excited to run together. She was proud to stay with Lauri and I for a quarter mile. It was fun! It was a really nice shake out run for me. It was a hilly area but the rolling hills were fun and it felt incredible to run outside in 45 degrees. I did the six miles (first three with Lauri) and some strides and felt great. Yay shorts! Yay no snow or ice! Yay sea level! :)
|Right before we ran together.|
|J, me and Lauri|
As we were leaving J's house, we found a package on the front step, and it was a PajamaGram from my mom!! She sent J and I really cute PJ's and we had too much fun opening it up and modeling. It was such a fun and thoughtful gift. Pam says these are our "Super Mom" and "Jennifer Gets her Groove Back" pj's. Indeed!!!
|I slept in mine the night before the race. J just modeled hers for a bit. She is gorgeous!|
On the way back from the get together is when my nerves hit. Instead of burying them though as I have in the past, I talked about them and dealt with them. I read my "Running Within Book", I prayed, I reminded myself of all that I had done well during training, etc. After a short but good night's sleep we were up and it was race morning! I woke up feeling good. I was focused, but excited and confident. J gave me a sweet card about how much she believes in me (she really is the best), and we got ready and out the door with plenty of time to spare.
We picked up J's friend Gary who was coming to spectate with her, and then got to Florida State University, where the race was starting and ending. Everything about the start of this race was perfect and easy. We parked, went inside a heated building, rested for a bit, used a real bathroom, went outside to warm up (I jogged about 3/4's of a mile nice and easy with Lauri and did two strides) and then we went back in, I took off my warm ups and went to the bathroom again, and we headed out to the start line about five minutes before the race start. No shivering outside for hours, no battling huge crowds, no hoopla, no long portapotty lines, no added stress. There were about 1200 runners doing the half and full combined and everything went very smoothly. This was my favorite race start ever. I felt ready to run, focused, and excited.
|Lauri and I before we warmed up.|
|Right at the start. J stood right next to me on the curb so I handed her my jacket right before we took off.|
A bunch of the half marathoners took off very fast at the start and some of the marathoners did as well. I did not take off too fast and stuck to my goal pace of 7:00-7:15. I settled into a groove quickly and just felt good. I kept telling myself, "I feel awesome. This is the best I have ever felt". It was true! I passed a lot of runners in the first few miles (those who took off too fast) and then settled in and there was not a whole lot of passing or being passed for a while. A super fast runner that I look up to a great deal gave me the advice to "rest early and work hard late" in the race, and I reminded myself of that often. I felt very comfortable.
J was an incredible spectator. Her and her friend Gary saw me at the start, at mile 1, at mile 6, at mile 13, at mile 15 and then a whole bunch of times after that too. They made signs, took my arm warmers, took my empty bottle and gave me a fresh one, took pictures, took video, had Josh and my parents on the phone, and of course screamed and cheered like lunatics. :) I could not have asked for more!
|J trying to stay warm!|
The course was an out and back. With the half marathon going on as well, I mentally broke the course up into quarters (to the half turnaround, to my turnaround, back to the half turnaround, and to the finish line). I felt great for both of the first two "quarters" and went through the half at 1:32:30, which is right where Sage told me to. Right past the half point my stomach went south. Now, this is the furthest I have ever made it into a marathon without stomach problems so that is progress, which I don't want to overlook. If I had stopped right then at the portapotty I likely would have only lost a minute or two and had a much better outcome, but I felt SO good running and did not want to stop and get out of my groove, so I tried to hold on to the next aid station (two miles) and then lost way too much time once I stopped. Lesson learned.
I really love this course. The almost straight out and back means very few turns, and it was pancake flat. The out and back also made it nice to be able to see the leaders ahead of you once they turned around and to see the people behind you once you turned around. I actually missed seeing Lauri when I was in the bathroom! She was the one runner I really wanted to see out on the course. It was never too crowded - no weaving at all.
For fueling in this race, I went back to my old reliable - Hammer products. I drank Hammer Heed and took two apple cinnamon Hammer gels (at mile 8 and mile 18). It worked well energy wise and while my stomach clearly struggled, it was not from the Hammer.
During the last "quarter" of the race the wind really picked up. I was running alone so there was no one to draft off of, but I did my best to stay relaxed, run strong, and not get discouraged or frustrated. I kept thinking positive thoughts. I knew it was slowing my pace some, but also knew I was still running strong.
I saw Jennifer at around mile 23 and she told me that there were five women ahead of me, and that two of them I could catch. She was SO encouraging! I didn't have any energy to waste on talking, but I was so grateful for her. I was surprised that I could catch some of the women because I figured after losing so much time with stomach issues that there was no chance I would place. I was running strong though and decided to just keep doing what I was doing and to try and reel them in over the last 3.2 miles.
I came up on the first girl at about mile 24 and was surprised because she had quite the lead on me at the turnaround (before I even wasted time). I passed her and told myself to work on reeling in the next one. Fatigue was setting in and the wind was tough at times, but I could see the girl ahead of me and knew I was gaining ground. I stayed patient, positive, and focused. She had a bike pacer with her and neither one of them ever turned around so I don't know if they knew that I was coming or not. The bike pacer peeled off with one mile to go, and that is right where I caught up and passed her. I expected her to fight back and give me a race, but I kept my eyes ahead of me, kept running, and didn't see her again until the finish area.
The finish line was GREAT. You ran into the FSU track and did 3/4's of a lap and then ran into the finish line. The track felt like heaven under my feet! Before the race started I had grand illusions of sprinting around the track to the finish, but the gas tank was on fumes. I was running strong, but definitely not at a sprint. :) Jennifer ran me in, and my official time was - 3:14:27.
Here are my splits - 7:02, 6:59, 7:04, 7:04,7:04, 6:59, 6:55, 6:55, 6:58, 7:06, 7:12, 7:07, 7:03, 7:04, 11:15 (first stop), 7:00, 7:08, 7:29, 7:20, 8:51 (second stop), 7:17, 7:20, 7:17, 7:35, 7:25,7:34, 6:48 pace for the last 0.3
We thought I had finished fourth overall, but the woman who crossed the line third was 48 (amazing!!!!) so she was Master Champion and I moved in to third overall. The men's race was VERY exciting. Three of them ran a 2:23 and change, and a young guy from Connecticut came out of nowhere and beat the two African runners that we wearing bibs #1 and #2. I was the 31st runner to cross the line, fourth female.
I talked to Josh and my parents, found a much needed shower, and then we went to cheer in Lauri (who set a PR even after a wrong turn!) and to wait for the award ceremony. Right after I finished, Jennifer gave me the MOST beautiful necklace with 26.2 engraved on it in Roman numerals. It is just beautiful.
As we were waiting I got an awesome compliment - another runner came over and he asked me what school I ran for. Ha! I told him I was 35, married, and have 12 kids and he almost fell over. :)
|Sitting in the grass, waiting for the awards ceremony.|
We went out to lunch at Outback with a couple of J's friends, and then back to her place for the most wonderful gift ever. She arranged to have one of the head massage therapists from Florida State University (he works on the FSU football team!) come to her house to give us sports massages!
|Lauri and I decided we both love Bob.|
Bob was fantastic and really knew what he was doing. He helped my piriformis which tends to get tight, told me I was tougher than the football players, and said he couldn't believe how relaxed my muscles were just hours after running a marathon and that I was an impressive athlete. He made my day. :)
Of course it was Super Bowl Day, so J had a party that night. She put all of my race stuff out on display...
and Lauri made me a gluten-free, dairy-free cake that J bought all the ingredients for. Marshmallow Fluff as icing. YUM.
Monday morning came early. J got a ride to work and I drove Lauri to the airport. Later in the afternoon I picked up J and we went out to a late lunch, then out with some of her friends for a little while, and then out to a fondue restaurant for dessert, before heading back to her place for our last night together for a while. We made the most of every last minute of girl time.
Now I am close to landing back in Salt Lake City. One three-hour car ride and I will be home sweet home. I have missed Josh and the kids terribly as I always do when I am away. I love them all so much and am so grateful that they give me the opportunity to go and race a few times a year, and that I got this extra long weekend to spend with my BFF. I can't wait to be home!
I do highly recommend this race. It is low-key and well-organized, and it has fast runners, a flat and shaded course with very few turns, and generous prize money. It is a great race!
It truly was a great weekend. I had more fun than I can say. Jennifer and Lauri were beyond wonderful. The race did not go exactly as I would have hoped, but I am happy with how I ran, it was awesome to place 3rd overall and win some money, and most of all, I am so happy with how I felt, mentally and physically. I got my racing groove back. I felt like a different runner than I did this fall, and I am excited for what lies ahead. I will continue to work with Sage Canaday as my coach. I felt confident in his training plan for me from the beginning (long and short term) and I could not be happier with how things have gone under his guidance so far.
Hard work, determination, faith, love, smart training, and more hard work - I do believe it pays off.