beer & bagel squatchy challenge

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Last weekend we participated in our first multi-race weekend: the Beer & Bagel Squatchy Challenge at Quarry Oaks Golf Course in Ashland, NE. This challenge consisted of a half(ish) marathon on Saturday followed by a 4-ish miler on Sunday. On hilly trails.

Having heard great things about Beer & Bagel in the past, we had started looking into doing the 4-miler a couple of weeks before the Chicago Marathon. We figured it would be a fun way to close out racing season, and even though trail races are more challenging than road races, 4 miles is a manageable distance. When we went to register, however, we discovered that they were also offering a halfish marathon distance, and that doing both races, or the “Squatchy Challenge,” qualified you for a special finisher’s medal. That was an easy choice. We like medals.

After Chicago I thought that I might have to skip out on these races thinking that they might be a bit too risky for my leg, but I’ve continued to take it fairly easy since the marathon and things seem to be healing up well (going purely off of feel here) so just as with Chicago and the Good Life Halfsy, I felt confident towing the starting line, taking it easy, and backing off if and when I felt necessary. I’m so happy that I was healthy enough to participate because this weekend of races turned out to be SO MUCH FUN.

Ashland is about a 30-minute drive from our house, so we left around 7:15 for a 9:00am race time. Since this was the inaugural year of the halfish, the race field was pretty small (just over 200 runners), so we were able to park quickly and fairly close to the start line. We stayed in our car for a few extra minutes (it was chilly – just under 40 degrees), had our breakfast (mini bagel with peanut butter, and a banana), put on our arm warmers (old socks with the ends cut off), and then headed up to the start line area to hang out at around 8:20. One thing that I love about smaller races is that it’s usually a much calmer atmosphere. They had a few sets of corn hole/bags set up so we did that for a while, stretched a bit, and made our way over the start line a few minutes before 9:00am. We lined up near the front since the race was not chip timed (not that either of us were super concerned with time). And then we were off!

The course was 3 loops of about 4.3 miles, alternating directions every loop. We ran together for most of the first loop, and then I split off to complete the rest of the race by myself. (I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that I do not run well with others – at least in races). The course was really beautiful with lots of different terrain that kept it interesting (and challenging) – part paved road, part golf course/grass, part dirt trail, plus three creek crossings of varying difficulty including one that you needed a rope to get across. There weren’t many flat areas which meant you were either going uphill or downhill at pretty much all times – both really hard in different ways. I thought I would hate having to do three loops of the same thing, but since this wasn’t an area where I normally run, I never got bored and the alternating directions made it interesting (and Kevin and I got to pass and see each other a couple times). I didn’t really have a time goal in mind for two reasons: (1) even though I always want to put out a good effort during a race, I was mostly running this for fun, and (2) trails are a whole different ball game and I have no concept of what a “good” trail pace would be for myself. I tried to view these races as a way to celebrate the end of our racing season, break in our new trail shoes, and start getting more comfortable running on trails (we want to do more of it this winter). I finished in 2:19 and then waited for Kevin to come in (at 2:55) – instant PRs since this was our first trail half!

This was the Beer & Bagel run, after all, so after finishing we headed to the beer tent and were pleased to find several local craft beer options awaiting us! There were bagels, of course, but they were also grilling up burgers, so we opted for those instead. The post-race atmosphere was so fun – everyone brought chairs and blankets and set up camp to enjoy beers, food, and the awards ceremony. (Note to self to come more prepared next year). We hung out for awhile afterwards, took some photobooth pics, and headed home – after all, we had to do this all over again the next morning!

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Sunday we left our house a bit earlier – around 6:45 for the 9:00 start – since we knew Sunday’s race was larger and didn’t want to have to park far away. We got a good parking spot and once again hung out in our car for a bit, ate breakfast, and then headed to the start area. We forgot chairs, but happened to have a blanket in our trunk so we found a sunny spot and set our blanket up so we’d have a place to hang out post-race. We found our friend Teresa just before the race and of course had to take a pre-race group selfie!

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Doing this course for the second time was much easier, since it was only one loop and because we knew what to expect. The course was almost identical to Saturday’s, with the exception of the last 1/3 of a mile where they slightly modified the finish. It was also A LOT more crowded and there were several bottleneck areas. Even though I wasn’t trying to sprint through this, I did want to try to run the whole time, but it was pretty much impossible because there were so many groups of walkers spread across the entire width of the trail. I don’t mind when people walk in races – I do, too – but race etiquette and common sense would tell you to stay single file and move to the right if you are going to go slower. It was a bit frustrating but I tried to run in the areas where I could remind myself this was just for fun, and now I know what to expect for next year. On Sunday, I also ran through the creek crossings instead of using the ropes/stones to get across – that was fun (and I definitely, literally got cold feet)! I finished the 4.2 (ish) mile course in just under 43 minutes, grabbed a beer, and stayed near the finish line to wait for Kevin and Teresa, who came in together at just under an hour. They grabbed beers and we took a post-race pic!

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We hung out after the race for quite a while – had more beers (when I went up for the second time, the guy insisted on giving me two – YOLO!), food (chili and bagels – totally hit the spot), and got our special Squatchy medals! For early November, the weather was amazing – chilly at the start both days, but warmed up to about 60 by the end of the races and was super sunny – perfect for being outside! Both races were very well organized, with simple packet pickup, a great t-shirt (“drinker with a running problem”), and an amazing race director, who personally thanked us for participating in both days of the race. I’m so glad it worked out for us to do these races, and I think they’ll definitely be a regular installment for us moving forward. I don’t think I could ever give up traditional road running and races, but we definitely want to incorporate more trails into our training to build strength and mix things up a bit. We’ve got some exciting stuff planned for 2016!

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2015 good life halfsy race recap

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThis past weekend we both ran half marathon #9: the Good Life Halfsy in Lincoln, NE. This was the second year for the Halfsy and after hearing from others how fun this race was last year, we decided to sign up waaaay back in March. Although we were really looking forward to this race and a weekend in Lincoln, it became kind of easy to forget about since we were so focused on marathon training throughout the summer and fall. So, it sort of snuck up on us and going into it we hadn’t done much running since our marathons two (Kevin) and three (Hollyanne) weeks ago.


Even though we only live about an hour from Lincoln, we decided to make a weekend out of it and head down early on Saturday morning and stay the night at the race hotel, the Holiday Inn Downtown. We arrived at the hotel right at noon, just as the expo (also in the hotel) was kicking off. We were able to check in early (always nice!) and head back downstairs to the expo. Packet pickup was simple and quick. They had an area for you to look up your bib number with sticky notes for you to write it down and give to the volunteers, who then gave you your race bag (which included a free Bulu Box)! There were a few other vendors set up, but overall a fairly small expo. In a second, attached room was a large booth selling official race gear. We went back to this booth a couple times throughout the day (and after the race on Sunday) because we couldn’t decide what we wanted. We both ended up getting a fun t-shirt and a hoodie (so comfy). We also grabbed a 13.1 Nebraska sticker for our car. They also had pint glasses for $10 that came with a drink ticket for the hotel bar or post-race party, so of course we couldn’t pass those up.

storyboard001storyboard004After stopping by the race gear booth we proceeded to a downstairs area to pick up our t-shirts – a long, sleeve tech shirt (purple for women, neon green for men) with thumb holes! Three cheers for a race shirt that I might actually wear!

There was a fun photo opp area so of course we stopped for a few selfies.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetOnce we finished up at the expo, we had an uneventful lunch while we watched the Huskers lose again. We then decided to stop by one of the local running stores in town, Lincoln Running Company; our race packet came with a Good Life Halfsy bracelet that got us discounts around town at local restaurants and shops, one of which was 20% a single item at LRC. We were in the market for some trail shoes so we thought we’d see if we could find some here. LRC had about 5 different trail shoe models for each of us to try on, and we both ended up with a new pair – I got the Mizuno Wave Hayate 2, and Kevin ended up with Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 3 – we’re all set for our trail races coming up this weekend!

We dropped our new shoes off at the hotel, and then walked a few blocks to a nearby Lincoln brewery that we hadn’t been to yet, Ploughshare Brewing Co. The place didn’t look like much from the outside but inside is a huge taproom with lots of fun different seating options, including a staircase to some upper-level seating! Having never been here before, we both decided to do a flight to taste several of their beers. We each got four different beers, and actually liked all eight that we tried, but especially liked the Oktoberfest and the Dandelion Saison!

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetAfter our flights, we headed back to the hotel to hang out and rest for a couple of hours before partaking in the hotel’s pre-race pasta dinner later in the evening. It was quite a spread – salad, breadsticks, steamed veggies, and a pasta bar with several kinds of noodles, sauces, and toppings! It wasn’t free, but we did get a discount (15% off) with our race bracelets, and the selection/taste was much better than a lot of the free pasta dinners that other races have.

We spent the rest of the evening watching the Royals game, and of course had to lay out our flatties for the morning! We were in bed by about 11:00pm.

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SUNDAY (Race Day!)

Thanks to daylight savings time and a 9:00AM race start, we didn’t have to get up too early. We woke up around 6:30, got ready, packed up our car, checked out of our room, and headed to the hotel breakfast buffet. We typically have a bagel with peanut butter and a banana for a pre-race breakfast, but we took advantage of the options and had bacon, eggs, potatoes, yogurt, and coffee.

The Good Life Halfsy is a point-to-point course, with shuttles offered from the finish area back to the start area after the race, so we had to get ourselves to the starting line. Since our hotel (and car) were near the finish area, we intended to get an Uber to the start so we wouldn’t have to deal with the shuttles afterwards. However, there were no Ubers to be found, so we decided to just drive ourselves. It was about a 15-20 minute drive to Seacrest Field from the hotel, and we were there by around 7:45.

For the next hour, we hung out with some other friends who were running as well, stretched, used the bathroom (the runner : port-a-potty ratio was great!), ate a banana, etc. It was a beautiful, unseasonably warm morning for November in Nebraska — it warmed up to about 75 degrees by the afternoon! At around 8:45, we started lining up by pace group, the national anthem played, and the race kicked off just after 9:00AM.

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Here’s a short race recap from each of us: 

K: As you all may know by now, I’ve spent nine half marathons chasing a time of sub-2:30. While I’ve set some PRs on a few of those attempts, I still could not seem to put together a race that would get me under 2:30. Coming into this race, since I was so focused on the Des Moines Marathon, I really had no expectations. It wasn’t until last week that I decided I would run around a 2:30 pace and just see what happened. I started off running with our friend Courtney, who was also attempting to run a 2:30 race. Here’s how it went down.  I ran a 9:59 pace for three miles. There was no need to run that fast, but it felt good. At about the 4 and a half point, Courtney told me to go ahead and she would run her own pace. I decided I would keep pushing to the halfway mark and see what happened. I knew if I could keep my pace under 11:00 minute miles I would have a shot at doing it. I came in to the halfway point at a 10:45 pace. I was pretty convinced at that point that, unless something went terribly wrong, I would be able to make it, but that I would still need to push it a little. As the race went on, the weather started heating up. I saw our friend Jeremy just past mile 7, and stopped for a Energy Singer. I started to chat for a minute and he made me keep running. It provided for a nice boost as I felt the energy zapping out of me. Every few miles there would also be cheer zones with lots of spectators, so that also helped. Just past mile 9, I saw our friend Vanessa who was coming back from a turn-around point, and then once I crossed the turn-around I saw Courtney was only a minute or so behind me, still looking strong. The last couple of miles got harder and harder, as my legs started to get more tired. During the last mile, I knew I had it in the bag, but my legs didn’t want to cooperate. I just kept pushing until we got to the final bridge, which was a killer! I slogged up the bridge (slow-jogged) and ran as fast as I could down into the finish! Final time of 2:26:32, beating my previous PR by SIX minutes!

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetH: Going into this race, I was still somewhat in recovery from my pre-marathon stress reaction “injury,” so I was planning to take it easy for this race and possibly run with Kevin. I’m not competitive with very many things, but I am competitive with myself when it comes to running. I was feeling good and knew I could run a semi-fast race, so when we started lining up, I stood by the 1:50 pace group. I wasn’t necessarily trying to PR (current PR is 1:49:31), but thought I’d try to stay with/near the 1:50 group as long as possible. Being a pacer is a tough job, and I’m grateful to the runners who volunteer to do it, but I was a little frustrated because our group started out way too fast. The first two miles were supposed to be 8:48 and 8:33, and they were both closer to 8:20, so by the time the 8:15/8:20 miles came in the middle of the race, I was already starting to feel burnt out. I hung with the group until about mile 10.5, and then slowly started to drop back a bit, but was still able to see them ahead of me for most of the rest of the race. My Garmin had been spot on the whole way, but somehow ended up about 0.2 miles ahead at around mile 11, which was a little disheartening. The last mile was pretty tough for me – I didn’t get that second wind that I often do at the end of races, and I had to stop several times for walk breaks. I knew I wasn’t going to break 1:50, or even beat my second best time (1:50:20), so made a new goal of beating my Des Moines Half Marathon time from around this time last year (1:51:50). I tried to muster a bit of a sprint to the finish line (downhill = ouch), and crossed in 1:51:09, for my third best half marathon time! It’s easy for me to be disappointed in myself, but I have to remember that I can’t PR at every race and for being injured and not running and eating like crap for the last three weeks, I ran a really strong and respectable race.


In the finisher chute area, we received our medal (that doubles as a bottle opener – I like this trend), and then had plenty of food/drink options available to us: water, gatorade, chocolate milk (favorite), granola bars, oranges, bananas, and Runza sandwiches (regional chain). A couple blocks away was the official post-race party in the Railyard area, where we could watch others finish, redeem our free beer, purchase race gear, hang out. We got our free beer, plus a donut from a shop in the Railyard, and rested our legs for awhile before heading over to catch a shuttle back to our car.

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Overall, a super fun race that I’m happy we participated in! Our only complaints were that there weren’t enough aid stations in the first half of the course, and that the post-race beer was hard to find (important!), so there wasn’t much to complain about. The race t-shirt, extra gear available for purchase, pre-race communication, and race day organization were all excellent, so we will definitely be back in 2016 to run our halfsies off!

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2015 des moines marathon race recap

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I still can’t believe I actually ran a marathon.  Me.  The guy who is NOT an athlete by any stretch of the imagination, ran 26.2 miles through the streets of Des Moines, IA, and actually ENJOYED it.  Well, most of it.  Luckily, I did not have any sort of injury that I had to work through.  My biggest obstacle was just tackling six point two miles more than I had ever run before.


Having come back from Chicago on Monday night, we only had three and a half days to prepare for our trip to Des Moines.  How I like to pack for trips that involve running is that essentially I will pack a ton of running clothes, and maybe one other outfit.  There is nothing I love mroe than getitng to hang out in running/workout clothes for an entire weekend, especially in the Fall where I get to wear one of my bazillion (that’s a number) 1/4 zips.  What’s that?  The Des Moines Marathon gives a 1/4 zip top to all participants?  I knew this race was for me.


I was able to leave work a little early on Friday (thanks, James), and Hollyanne was able to work from home, so I swung by home and picked her up and we were on the road.  Initially we thought that we might get to Des Moines in time for packet pick-up on Friday night, giving us one less thing to do on Saturday.  Unfortunately, traffic had other ideas.  There were two different accidents on the interstate, so it took us quite a bit longer than usual to get to Des Moines.  We decided to forego the race expo Friday night and, instead, we got dinner from this little wine, meat, and cheese place in Des Moines, called The Cheese Shop.  It was delicious, and I had probably one of the best mac and cheese dishes of my life.  We also got a meat and cheese plate, and I had two beers.  I might be a slow runner, but I’m definitely an elite carb-loader.  Trust me, you will sense a theme going on.  After dinner, we headed to my cousin Cindy’s house, where we were staying with her and her family (THANK YOU!!!), and we called it a night.


We got up Saturday morning and Holl and I jogged about two and a half miles around the high school in Waukee.  We nearly got trampled by a marching band that was coming straight at us on the sidewalk, but we decided to get out of their way, since there seemed to be about 100 of them, and they weren’t about to move for us. :)  After getting back to the house, we showered, got ready and headed back out the door.  We wanted to both drive the course and get to the expo early so we could have lunch and watch my little cousin’s soccer game.

We had done the half marathon last year, so I remember that course being extremely flat.  That was definitely not the case with the full marathon course.  The half and full courses split at about the 2.5 mile point, and the full goes on a long, gradual, up-hill for nearly a mile.  It then turned, and there were rolling hills for the next FOUR miles.  Luckily with rolling hills, there’s also a lot of downhill, so I knew I could make up some time in those spots.  We continued to drive up towards Drake University, where the course finally flattened out about mile 12, and the course then went downhill or was flat the rest of the way.  It was also nice to drive the course so that Hollyanne and I could see where some good places would be for her to see me during the race.

After driving the course, we went to the Expo Center to pick up my race packet and shop around.  Since it is a smaller race, the expo is a little small, but there was still a good amount of different booths.  I got a new stocking cap, mug, and a wall display for all of our finisher medals and race bibs.  We probably spent about an hour at the expo, and not wanting to get too tired from walking around, we headed back to Waukee to meet my aunt, uncle, and cousins for lunch.

Much to my surprise, when we got back to Waukee, my parents were there!  Hollyanne had sneakily arranged for them to come up for the weekend as well, which was awesome!  We got lunch at Jimmy Johns, where I consumed more carbs.  In case you haven’t caught on, I’m REALLY good at consuming carbs.

After lunch, we had a little time to kill before the soccer game, so Holl and I hopped in the car with Cindy and Craig, and did a little wine tasting before Izzy’s soccer game.  Penoach Winery in Adel was beautiful, and the wine was delicious!  I can’t wait wait to go back there at some point.  The soccer game was fun and Izzy did great, and even scored a goal!  A good time was had by all!

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After the soccer game, we all went back and changed before dinner.  I was able to lay out my “Flat Kevin” for the next morning, so I didn’t have to be running around like a mad-man in the dark trying to find some last-minute item.   We then headed to dinner, where, once again, I excelled.  The typical pre-race dinner for me involves pizza and beer, which is what I went with.  The key is not over-indulging in either of those, which I like to think I’ve mastered.  I am pretty sure I PR’d in carb-loading for this race. :)  After dinner, we went back, watched the Cub lose (sad), and I headed off to bed for an early wake-up.


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I got up about 5:45 on Sunday morning, so I could start my pre-race fueling.  I opted for a bagel with peanut butter before we left, and brought a banana to eat about 7:15, since the race started at 8am.  The early morning crew consisted of me, Holl, Cindy, Katie (Cindy and Craig’s oldest), and my mom!  We headed out of Waukee about 6:30 and got downtown to the YMCA by about 7am.  We had plenty of time to relax, use the restrooms (MUCH nicer than porta-potties), and soak up some heat before heading out into the 40 degree temperatures.  We walked down to the starting area about 7:40 and said our goodbyes, as they headed off to the meeting spot at mile 3.5.

With only about 7000 people doing both the half and the full marathons, there was no wave start.  Once the gun went off, everyone just worked their way up to the front.  I tried to start about in the middle, since I didn’t quite know exactly how long it was going to take me to finish, and I needed to make sure to finish before the cutoff time.  I also didn’t want to be the last person on the course with no spectators around for miles.  My plan was to try and not start out too fast, and save as much energy as possible for the back half of the course.

The first couple of miles felt good.  The pace I was at felt good, and I was passing some folks as we made it to the half/full marathon split.  This is the point where the marathoners do 16 miles on their own before reuniting with the half marathoners.  Once we hit the split, we spent the next mile going up hill.  It was one of those slow, gradual uphills that make you question why on Earth you chose to run the hill.  My pace slowed a little, but I got through it.  I hit mile 3.5 and saw my family for the first time, which was a good boost for what was about to happen over the next four miles.  I ditched my gloves and switched out my stocking cap for a hat, and Holl reminded me to slow down, then I was on my way.

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The next four miles consisted of me going up and down rolling hills.  I knew this section would be tough, but I also knew that the downhill portion would be helpful with my pace.  I tried to just focus on my surroundings (BEAUTIFUL homes) and keep my pace as steady as possible.  I came out of the hills just past mile 7, and saw my family again.  Knowing where they would be along the course helped keep me focused. as well as helped break up the distance.  I was sitting at a 10:40 pace and, once again, Holl reminded me to slow down and that I had 19 miles to go.  I’m kind of the worst when it comes to pacing.

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Over the course of the next four miles, I just tried to stay in a rhythm, and focused on fueling, every 5 miles like I had planned.  There were plenty of aid stations, so I never felt like water was too far away.  At mile 9, someone was handing out small cups of beer (probably like 3 ounces?).  Being the elite carb-loader that I am, of course I had one.  I had to make sure I had enough in the tank to go all the way to the finish line!

Once I got to mile 11.5, I saw my family again when we did a lap around the Drake track (home of the Drake Relays).  This time, my aunt and uncle had joined in on the fun as well!  Knowing I wouldn’t see my family again until mile 18, I knew I had to try and stay mentally strong during the middle miles.  I decided to stop and make a pit stop before continuing out of Drake Stadium.  I hit the halfway point at 2:30: 53, which, honestly, was entirely too fast.  YOLO, right?

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Miles 14-16 were pretty steadily downhill.  Between the 15 and 16 mile markers, I started to feel a shooting pain through the back of my calf.  It was a little un-nerving for me, as I’d never really felt that before.  Looking back, I think that with so much downhill during that portion, my legs just weren’t happy after 15 miles of up and down.  Once the course flattened out again, it pretty much went away.   The next couple of miles were rough, to say the least, as we went onto a trail where there were no spectators, so you are pretty much alone with yourself.

I came in to Waterworks Park at mile 18 in rough shape.  I had slowed considerably, but still felt pretty good, though was starting to get sore.  I saw the family again, which was a huge boost before taking a lap around the lake.  As I was running around the lake, I met a woman who was running her 100th marathon, which was pretty cool!  She looked like she was doing much better than I was at that point!

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I saw the family again at mile 21 when I came back around the lake.  I knew I would see them again at 23, before the finish line.  The next two miles were also pretty lonely, as it was down another trail where it was difficult to have spectators.  I was also getting to the point where I was starting to think I could make 5:30:00, which is what I was really hoping for (besides just finishing).  I saw three people drinking and spectating at mile 22, and I jokingly said that it wasn’t fair as I passed them.  One guy offered me a drink of his beer, and I gladly accepted!  Why not?  It tasted incredible!

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I saw the family one last time at 23, where I tried to veer off-course, so I could finish my race at Confluence Brewing Company, but they all made me stay on track. :)  Looking at my watch and my pace temporary tattoo (I would highly recommend getting one of these for a marathon), I knew 5:30:00 was looking more and more possible, so that kept me moving as fast as I could at that point.  Once I got to the mile 24 marker, I knew I had banked enough time that I was going to make 5:30:00 pretty easily, even if I had to walk the rest of the way (I was not about to walk the rest of the way, have no fear!).  I then began to realize that if I pushed it more (it’s hard to think of 13 minute miles as pushing it, but there was nothing left in the tank at this point), I could break 5:25!

The last couple of miles flew by as I kept trying to do the math in my head about the paces I needed to hit (math is hard).  I then saw Hollyanne’s cousin Anita at mile 25, which I didn’t fully realize until after the race.  I then powered through the last 1.2 miles and up the Locust Street Bridge to finish in 5:24:41!  I really had a great time and cannot thank Hollyanne and my family enough for all of the support they gave me along the way!  I never thought I would become a marathoner, but now I can’t wait to do it again!

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2015 chicago marathon race recap

It still hasn’t really sunk in that I ran a marathon. Most runners would tell you that running is about so much more than just running, and that’s true for a marathon x100. Whether I never run another one of these again, or run 100 more, as cheesy as it sounds, October 11, 2015, is a day I always want to remember. You only get one first marathon, and I’m so glad this was mine.

A little context for anyone who stumbled across the post and doesn’t know me personally: 10 days before this race (after a couple days of shin pain after running) I was diagnosed with a stress reaction (potential precursor to stress fracture) in my tibia, and was recommended not to run. I spent a few days resting and coming to terms with all that that meant, and then, in a moment of clarity, gathered some other opinions and based on that decided that unless my pain significantly progressed, I’d at least give the race a go (but at a slower pace if needed). In the week before the race I only ran a couple miles and otherwise tried to rest and ice as much as possible, which I ultimately think contributed to having healed “enough” to get through the race healthy and sans broken bones.


We got into Chicago on Friday morning via Megabus and after a quick breakfast and dropping off our bags at the hotel, we made our way to the expo at McCormick Place. I wanted to get to the expo as early as possible (Friday vs. Saturday) to avoid crowds and have everything in hand for race day, which I knew would help calm my nerves.

The expo was overwhelmingly huge, but there was tons of signage for the different stations and plenty of volunteers around to redirect you if you got lost (we did). I got all of the essentials first – race packet and bib, t-shirt – and then we made our way to a few booths that we had decided ahead of time we wanted to visit for different reasons (Brooks, Grandma’s Marathon, Goose Island, KT Tape, etc.). I highly suggest using this strategy because it can be easy to get sucked in and spend hours there, which is likely too much time on your feet right before race day. There were plenty of photo opps, which we took advantage of. This is also where my plans to not drink for the week leading up to the race went out the window. #yolo

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We stopped by the Runner’s World booth with our friend Vanessa and got to meet and get a photo with Bart Yasso! Pretty neat.

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My friend Teresa from work arrived at the expo a little while after us, so we met up for a picture and walked around a bit together. After talking about this race nearly every day at work for the last six months (sorry coworkers!), it was so surreal to finally be in Chicago together. I’m so grateful to have been on this journey with Teresa.

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We visited a few more booths at the expo — Although there was tons of stuff I loved, I was feeling weird about buying any marathon-specific apparel in case I didn’t start or finish the race. I got a couple of things that were more generic, including the softest hoodie ever, that just says “RUN” on the front, and told myself I’d buy something special if I did finish. I also picked up a 4:00-hour pace tattoo from the Nike Pace Team booth, and had Kevin grab a 4:30 (they were only allowing you to take one). I wasn’t sure if I’d be shooting for either of those times or if I’d even wear one, but wanted to have it just in case. Spoiler alert: glad I did.

Once we were done at the expo it was mid-afternoon, so we headed back toward our hotel, picked up a late lunch along the way, and pretty much hung out in our hotel/at the hotel bar for the rest of the evening. We got to bed super early as I know the night before the night before the race is the most important night of sleep, and we hadn’t slept much the night before on the overnight bus.


We had originally planned to go to a Runner’s World shakeout run where Bart Yasso, Deena Kastor, and Sara Hall would be, but we made the decision in the morning to skip it and instead give my leg an extra day of rest, icing, etc.

We went to an early breakfast, came back to relax for awhile in our hotel, and then spent lunchtime and most of the afternoon with our friends Jolie and T who were visiting T’s family for the weekend and also watching the race! Jolie and T ran Chicago last year, so it was great to talk to them more about it, which helped me feel more prepared and less anxious.


After a fun afternoon, we ended up back at our hotel around 5 and decided to forgo our dinner reservations and stay in and order a pizza instead. I wasn’t super hungry but knew I needed to eat something substantial the night before. We ordered a thin crust pizza from Lou Malnati’s and had it delivered, which was much less stressful than trying to go out to eat on a Saturday night in downtown Chicago. The pizza was delicious, and I finally was starting to feel pretty calm about the race and was able to eat a good amount.

I then got everything laid out for the morning. The week before, when I didn’t think I’d be running, I was so bummed for lots of reasons, among them the fact that I had spent a lot of time and money picking out my perfect outfit for the race. I ended up being really happy with everything I wore and used – in case you’re wondering, it’s these Athleta capris (large outer pockets on both sides – I carried chews on one side and my phone, in a ziploc, on the other side), this Lululemon top (really good at wicking moisture), a new pair of Brooks Glycerin 12s that I’d run about 25-30 miles in, and a basic Nike hat and sports bra. I even pinned my bib on ahead of time so I’d have one less thing to worry about in the morning. I knew I wouldn’t be able to rely on my Garmin for accurate distance, and therefore, pace, so I changed the screen to just show elapsed time.

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We watched a little bit of TV (always helps me get sleepy) and I think I was asleep by 9:15. I slept fairly soundly until about 3:00, and then woke up and fell back asleep on and off until my alarm went off. Normally I get really anxious when I wake up the night before a race and can’t sleep, but I felt really calm and just tried to keep resting and not stare at the clock. Not the best night of sleep ever, but certainly not the worst.


We set about 10 different alarms between the two of us, and also got a hotel wake-up call, but I ended up waking up a few minutes before the first alarm at 4:45. I got up, stretched a little bit, and much to my surprise, realized that my leg didn’t hurt AT ALL for the first time in over 10 days. WEIRD, but I’ll take it.

I got ready fairly quickly, made sure I had everything I needed, and started eating my plain bagel (purchased the day beforehand at Dunkin’ Donuts) with peanut butter as we walked to the train station. Our hotel was only about a mile or so from the start line, but I wanted to keep resting my legs as much as possible so we opted to take the train and get a bit closer. I’m glad we got to the train early, because they weren’t running as frequently as we thought they’d be and we had to wait over 15 minutes for the next one.

I got to the race area just before 6, and wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Kevin yet, so we popped into a corner coffee shop. I happened to see that there were only two other people in line for their bathroom, so I was able to use the restroom there, which is approximately one million times better than the porta potties. I wasn’t sure how much time I would need to get through security and what the lines would be like to get into my corral, so we parted ways a few minutes past 6 and I made my way through Gate 1 toward Corral D.

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There weren’t many runners around when I got to my area, so I stretched a bit, sat and rested and talked to a few other people, and had a banana and some water. Once I noticed it starting to get a little busier, I got in line for the bathrooms. I didn’t end up really needing to go again, but you never know, so for about half an hour or so I would stand in line, try to go, come out, and immediately get back in line. A much better strategy than waiting until race time when the lines are long and the corrals are closing. I went into my corral around 7:10, 10 minutes before it closed.

I took some time to take a few pictures (I wasn’t planning to have my phone, but ended up wanting to in case my leg acted up along the way and I had to DNF and find Kevin) and just soak it all in. It was an absolutely beautiful morning. I was a little chilly so I wore a cheap throwaway shirt until about 5 minutes before my corral started.

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I was feeling really good and confident that morning so I decided I’d put on the 4:00-hour pace tattoo and see how long I could stick with it if things kept feeling good. I wasn’t putting a ton of pressure on myself but I wanted to have it just in case, since I knew my Garmin wouldn’t be reliable. On my other arm, I wrote the mantra I’ve been using a lot this training cycle: “I can do hard things.”

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I typically am a ball of nerves leading up to race starts, but I was surprisingly calm standing and waiting in the sea of runners. I was so happy that I had decided to come to the start line and just so grateful to be a participant in this amazing event, no matter what happened. Deep down, I knew that I was really prepared for this and it was time to trust my training.

The race felt like four main parts to me so that’s how I’ve broken down the recap…

Miles 1-11
I was really surprised how fast we got started running after the 7:30 gun time – within 10 minutes. I felt really, really good for the first 10-11 miles, and was surprised how easy it felt to be running below my goal marathon pace (9:09). In the back of my mind I knew it was probably a little fast for my original race plan (to negative split), but I also knew my leg might start hurting and I’d need some time built in to get me through the back half and especially last few miles of the course. During the first 11 miles I got to see Jolie & T twice (mile 1, mile 6) and Kevin and our friend PJ twice (mile 4, mile 11) which was amazing and kept me really motivated. Here I am in the bottom left corner waving to Jolie & T!


Miles 12-17
These were undoubtedly (and surprisingly) the hardest miles of the race for me. I started to have pain in both of my ankles, and in my arches, and wasn’t sure if it was related to my tibia issue or not. I also got a massive cramp in my right quad. I slowed down but tried to keep moving because I knew it would be so hard to start up again once I stopped. I ended up pulling off to the side to stretch a couple times in hopes of loosening things up, which helped a bit. I was expecting to see friends twice during this stretch, but we ended up missing each other both times. I got pretty lonely (despite the 2 million people cheering) and just tried to focus on getting to Chinatown where I knew I’d at least see Kevin again.

Miles 18-24
Once I hit the 17-18 mile area and was well into single-digit territory, I got a second wind (I was still running slower than the first half, but felt much better mentally). This was probably my favorite part of the race because my mood had improved, I was paying closer attention to and really enjoying the neighborhoods, especially Pilsen and Chinatown, and I knew I’d see people I knew again. I started walking through aid stations and taking Gatorade at nearly every one, as it was getting warmer. Seeing Kevin, PJ, Jolie & T in Chinatown around mile 20 was amazing and a huge motivator, and was when I first felt for sure that I’d be able to finish the race (just wasn’t sure in what time). I tried hard to look happy (I was happy!) for all the pictures despite the fact that nearly everything in my body was starting to ache!

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Around mile 23 someone was handing out small dixie cups of beer, and I wasn’t about to pass that up! The carbonation actually tasted pretty good and it was a fun thing to be able to say I’d done. Just before mile 24 I took an Otter Pop from someone which totally hit the spot and gave me a nice sugar boost!

Miles 24-26.2
All throughout the race I’d been manually hitting the lap button on my watch at every mile marker, and comparing where I was against the pace tattoo. I’d been under every mile so far but had gone from about 6 minutes under earlier in the race to 2-3 minutes under up to this point. At mile 24 I realized I had about 23 minutes left to finish under 4 hours and knew I could do that if I just kept moving forward. The last couple miles are a long stretch but I loved every part of it because I knew I was going to finish, and meet my time goal too! I saw Kevin and PJ at mile 25, and Jolie at 25.5 or so, and somehow managed to still be smiling and looking strong!

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I didn’t have much of a sprint in me for the end, but I did try to pick up the pace in the last 400m or so once I realized I could break 3:58. Crossing that finish line was an incredible feeling of pride and accomplishment, and I’ll never forget it.

Official time: 3:57:34

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One of my goals was to feel good enough after the race to drink the free Goose Island beer they give you pretty much immediately after finishing. Mission accomplished.


It took me quite awhile to make my way through the finish area and find Kevin in the reunite area, which made me really glad I’d brought my phone so we could communicate along the way and find a meeting spot. I had a protein recovery shake and some pretzels, and we (slowly) made our way to the train to try to catch our friend Vanessa at mile 25. We made it with about 30 seconds to spare, and it was so fun to cheer her on to a strong finish for her second year in Chicago!

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After seeing Vanessa we headed over to Chinatown – at which point walking was becoming increasingly challenging – to see Teresa. We waited here for a bit and got to cheer on a ton of other runners, hold up our very popular “Beer misses you too” sign, and eventually spotted Teresa and chatted for a minute! It was so great to see her and encourage her in a pretty difficult part of the race. (She did amazing!)

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Once Teresa passed we took the train back to our hotel, I took the best shower of my life, and rested for a few hours before dinner and drinks with Jolie and T for the rest of the evening. It’s still sinking in and I’m still feeling all the feels from this experience, and especially being able to share it with some of the most important people in my life.

I can do hard things, and I’m a marathoner.

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