Monday, October 21, 2019

Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon

On Sunday I was finally able to run the Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon. It has been a bucket list race for me for many years. After finally getting back to running about a year ago, I knew it was high time to check Michigan off my 50 states quest. 

To be completely honest this was not the easiest race to train for because of the timeline. Being that it takes place in October, one must begin training in July. It was miserably hot and humid for the vast majority of my training season. In fact I had a genuine pity party about two weeks into it. I felt that I simply could NOT train in such conditions (even though I have certainly done it before). It made me really assess what I truly wanted; I had to dig deep if I was going to make it happen. 

Even then it wasn't the easiest of training seasons. Many runs did not happen. The ones that did were not stellar. I was lucky to make it to 18 or 20 miles tops. The ONLY shining victory was the fact that I grew to loathe speedwork less. That's huge for this girl! 

For twelve weeks I doubted my ability to run this race. I regretted purchasing my airline ticket. I waited until it was too late to secure lodging (unless I was a Rockefeller). I thought I was too slow and heavy to run this race. 

The kicker for me was logic. If I deferred to 2020, 2021, or even longer, this race would always require me to train through July, August, and Septmber, i.e. it was never going to be any better. I might as well make a go of it. However, my confidence was shot and I had as much self-doubt as any three people combined. I kept my plans under wraps for fear of "public failure." I only discussed this race and my plans with the people I speak with I referred to it as my "secret marathon." 

As fearful as I was, I boarded a plane on Saturday. For all of my fourteen prvious marathons, I was excited. This was a whole new ballgame for me. Fear has never been my middle name... until now. 

The expo was large and motivational.

I went to the expo and felt like a fake. I expressed my concerns to one gentleman, and he said, "Just do what you can do, and run a smart race." Is there more any of us can do? 

Of course I had to snap a photo in front of the flag of Denmark, since our current excnahge student is from there.

Seeing the finisher's medal up close was excellent. Would I earn one?

The question was, "What drives you to run?" My answer is on the white paper.

Like I said, I waited until less than two weeks out to try to get a hotel room. When that plan obviously failed, I reached out to my friend Molly. She hosted me back in 2011 when I had an overnight layover in Detroit. She didn't hesitate for a second. She even arranged for us to stay at her dad's home, since he was as easy drive from the course. 

I unloaded all of my race swag on my bed in her dad's home.

Not only did sweet Molly host me, but she also let me be her "plus one" at a pre-race dinner that night. We went to a gorgeous home in the area and were treated to a scrumptious, home cooked meal.

Check out my awesome friend and that incredible view!

I sat among Molly and fourteen new friends. It was so cool!

I slept decently that night. Naturally I woke up at least three times, though. It's my norm! My alarm "finally" went off at 5:15 AM EST (that's 4:15 AM for my body), and I tiptoed out of the house around 5:45 AM. My reserved parking spot ended up being 1.1 miles from the start. It was no big deal, though, due to the energy of the morning. 

I got into my corral and thought, "Well, what will be will be." I prayed A LOT about this race. I prayed the week before, the night before, the morning of, and even during the race. Have you ever prayed while running? You should! 

We started before the sun rose. That was new for me.

Once my corral crossed the start line, something unprecedented happened. I got a little emotional! After all I was FINALLY doing this particular race. Everyone had way more confidence in me than I did in myself. I think I literally felt their positive vibes as I started running. I didn't even take a walk break for quite a while. I was amazed. 

I was feeling very good out there. It was flat as a pancake, cool and breezy. That's a Southerner's dream! Before I knew it we were to head up the ramp to the Ambassador Bridge to Windsor, Ontario. I just couldn't believe that I was going to do it! 

The bridge was one of the three inclines along the course.

I'm literally on a bridge that separates two countries!

The good news about an incline of a bridge is that it must come back down on the other side. I hustled down it into Canada. Canada, eh! We were required to run with our passports. No one was stopped at the border, to my knowledge.  

Yep, that's Canada. They were blaring "Sweet Caroline" as I passed the entrance.

We ran several miles in Windsor, Ontario. It culminated with running down into the Windsor Tunnel back to the USA. Not only was it downhill (until the middle), but obviously it gave me the opportunity to lay claim to running under the water. How cool!

It was cool and rather lively running in the tunnel.

Of course, at the midpoint we had to run UP to the land. That was the second incline of the day. Getting out of the tunnel was a long-awaited, much-anticipated victory for me. You see, they had to open the tunnel up to traffic at a certain time. If anyone wasn't out by then, they would be asked to leave the course. 

I did it! I beat the cutoff!

After a little more time in downtown, the half marathoners turned off to finish their race. That is always a somber moment for me. You can hear their finish line hooplah, yet you still have another 13.1 miles to go. It was OK, though, because this day was unlike any other. I finally took my own advice and tried to truly run the mile I was in. The miles went by quickly, and I was feeling good. Yes - I was actually feeling good! What the what?!?! Not only was I concentrating on the individual miles, but I was also focusing on taking one Gu every three miles. That broke up the entire distance into smaller increments for me.  

Soon we went to my favorite part of the course: Indian Village. It's a neighborhood of gorgeous, historic homes. I could have stayed in there all day! I was thoroughly enjoying viewing the homes and the fall foliage.

Unlike Mississippi, Michigan is actually getting a fall season this year.

Somewhere past the halfway mark, my lower left back started to hurt. I wondered if it was a kidney. I asked a medic what she thought. She thought it was possible, but most likely just a muscular issue. The astonishing thing was that the ONLY thing hurting was that. Again, I ask you, what the what?!?! 

Mile 17 is always special to me because it means I only have single digits left to go.

In the teens my thought was, "Wow, the next thing I know, I'll be to mile 20." Then 20 came, and I was looking forward to 21 because I could take another Gu. There was always a little victory to be had. This was truly the race of the positive attitude! Having only one thing hurting also helped tremdously. In the past EVERYTHING has hurt by mile 20, if not sooner. 

"Just five miles to go!" I couldn't believe that I was feeling so alive, hadn't hit the wall, and was still HAPPY. That can only be attributed to the power of prayer! Even going up the third and final incline of the day into Belle Isle was a good experience.

I will admit that after Belle Isle and the riverfront area with no spectators, I was quite ready to be done. It was mile 24 or so, meaning I had taken my last Gu, so my little victories were waning thin. My mind knew that two more miles were nothing, but my body was ready to be at the finish line already. This is the point of the race when, frankly, Ms. Positive isn't so nice anymore. It was the final countdown, so to speak. 

Then it was a mile and a half... then just a mile... then a half a mile... then just a few more downtown blocks to turn through. I finally asked a lady, in an exasperated way, "Where is it?" Only a fool would not know that I was referring to the finish line. She happily replied, "Just around the corner!" Thanks goodness!

There it was; the finish line. It was still there. It hadn't been disassembled already. There were spectators, the announcer, photographers, and -- most importantly -- volunteers handing out medals! When I was within close enough proximity to break into a run, I got emotional yet again. I was doing it! I had done it! No sweeper van, no dying muscles, no defeated attitude. FInish #15 was steps away!

I did it! It was the best marathon of my 40's for sure!

I called my husband and let him know that I was done. What a relief! All that worrying had affected so many areas of my life, and now the burden was completely lifted. This marathon did not get the better of me. Onward and upward!

The 1.1 mile walk back to my rental car was more like a crawl. It didn't matter, though, because I was on top of the world. I did it, I did it!

There ya go! It's my first international race.

I got back to Molly's dad's home and got cleaned up. We went to one of her childhood favorites, National Coney Island, for lunch. She remarked how I sounded really good when I voice messaged her near the end of the race. What can I say? It was MY DAY! 

Sweet Molly and I

I have such a good taste in my mouth about Detroit. Molly gave me a tour of beautiful lakefront areas, I met such nice people, and my faith and confidence in my running has been restored. That's more than I could have dreamed would happen. Even a day later, I couldn't be happer!

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Navy Ten Nautical Miler

Today Chasen and I completed the Navy Ten Nautical Miler around and on the naval base in Millington, Tennessee. As always I will tell you WHY I chose to do this race: simply put, it is local and has an AWESOME medal. As such, it was a bucket list race for me. Once Chasen caught wind of it, he decided to join me. I really enjoy getting to do races with him!

Because the race begins at 6 AM (yawn), we opted to drive up yesterday to the expo. I did not want to run the risk of being late today and not being able to get my bib, etc. It's about an hour away, and one never knows how morning traffic will be. We were both quite pleased with the race swag!
Those are a lot of goodies!

Today we got up at 3:30 AM (double yawn). Oh, the things I do for running! We had to leave at 4:30 AM, and I wanted to eat and make sure my oatmeal had time to settle. Then, a minor miracle happened. We actually left a few minutes before 4:30! I am an early bird (when I have to be), but Chasen is NOT. Thus the minor miracle...

We got to park a few hundred feet from the start line!

Here we are before the race, fresh as tired daisies.

Before the race a Naval Chaplain sang us his rendeition of Elvis's "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" that ended with something like, "Runner Dear, You'll Need Motrin Tonight." We all roared. He did a great job, as well as with the prayer. The lady who did the National Anthem also did an outstanding job. 

I'd be remiss if I didn't say that it actually felt almost COOL at the start of the race. 68F with only 81% humidity is quite a treat for the Memphis area! I knew the heat would rise, so I aimed to enjoy the lower temps while I could. I was doing a conservative run-walk ratio and feeling GREAT!

One nautical mile is 1.15 land miles, FYI. Learn something new every day!

Because I was expecting it to be super hot, I was quite surprised at how well I felt for the longest time. I was taking Powerade at every stop, which was at each nautical mile, plus drinking my own water and having an occasional Gu. It dawned on me that this was the perfect day to close out my racing season, because I could bookend the middle two difficult races with successes. That's a great feeling to have as you are passing people!

We ran around the "military town" of Millington, and we even ran on base a bit. This event was very well staffed with both civilian police officers and military volunteers at literally every turn. I can't say enough good things about the organization of it all. Of course, I would expect nothing less from the U.S. Navy! 

There was actually quite a bit of shade on the course until the very end. At this point I did not feel so great, since the temperature was indeed rising. Once I got to land mile 10, which is just before nautical mile 9, I felt my body getting really warm for a second. This is how my brain works: I literally thought to myself, "If I pass out, I won't get my medal." So, I began to mostly walk. I could surely make it just over one more land mile!
 Almost there! In full sun! Ick. 

It's kind of tough to be "almost there" when you feel like you're out of gas. All you can do it keep on putting one foot in front of the other, ya know. So, I did. I finally got to the point where I knew it was one more straightaway, and then a sharp turn to the finish line. I could hear the hooplah, and I was ready for it! 

Because this race had a four hour time limit, it was very walker friendly. Thus, I had a lot of people behind me since I only started fully walking at the end. I smoothed out my shirt and shorts, turned that sharp corner, and tried to book it to the finish line. Done! 

 Just wait until you see that beautiful medal!

I met up with Chasen who was, of course, way ahead of me and had already completed the race (on basically no training, might I add). We went into the cool expo area again and got more drinks and snacks. It was GREAT to be out of the sun! 

Since this was my first nautical mile rice, by golly I set a PR!

There is my handsome husband!

It was so nice to not have a ridiculously long walk to Chasen's truck. That's a first! We got in the air conditioning and headed home. The best part was that we got to talk about the race the entire time. I love being able to do things with my hubby! 

 Ba-bam! Look at that gorgeous thing! 

This is the perfect way to end spring/summer 2019 racing.

The opposite side of the ribbon... Hooyah!

Now I have about eight weeks to simply base train before I get into my fall training season. These past four races have been such a long time coming; I can't wait to see how the rest of the year pans out!

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Great American River Run Half Marathon

I didn't know this race existed until about a month ago. I received an email about it from a local running store. When I saw the cool orange t-shirt and the medal, I knew I had to do it! It's a part of the Memphis In May International Festival. Anyone who knows anything about Memphis knows that Memphis In May is a HUGE deal. Even though I knew it would be brutally hot, I knew I just HAD to do the 2019 #MIMGARR Half Marathon. Chasen opted to do the 2019 #MIMGARR 5k. It would start just thirty minutes after my half.

Yesterday I ventured down to the historic Peabody Hotel to the race expo. It's an easy drive for me. Even though it was wicked hot outside, the Peabody garage is nicely appointed with an air conditioned walkway into the main building. Score! I made my way to the hall and picked up our goods.

 It was a rather small expo, but not the smallest I have seen.

I was in and out in a flash. It took less than thirty minutes, and I got free parking. Double score!

Chasen and I left our home just past 6 AM this morning. Phew. That's highly unusual for us. We found street parking and headed to the Mississippi River. I thought we had oodles of time. 

 Here are other runners ambling to the start. They must be 5k'ers.

After a quick visit to the port-o-potty, I noticed that it was 6:57 AM. My half was to start at 7 AM. I could neither see nor hear the start line. Oh no! I started walking much faster until I heard the start line hoopla. When I arrived the race had started by two minutes thirty seconds. Oh well... nothing I could do about it at that point.

This course went through so many noteworthy parts of downtown Memphis. The first little bit went through historic Beale Street. You can NOT visit Memphis without at least driving by Beale Street. 

 Home of the Blues

From very early on we were offered wet towels. We received a weather advisory via email yesterday. I knew it would be brutal, so I altered my race strategy from "give em hell" to "let's not die today." Just keeping it real! 

 Here is a shot of downtown from afar. 

After I got out of downtown a bit, I discovered what possibly very few people know: where all of the downtown carriage horses reside. There was a least a solid mile of odoriferous reminder of livestock. At one water stop I asked a lady, "When does the manure smell end?" I was serious. Phew. At that same water stop, a lady had a baggie of pills. I thought they might be salt tablets, but what she offered me was ibuprofen. I found that odd. I declined. 

 Har dee har har!

 I certainly do! LOL

After the miles of manure I was routed to beautiful Harbor Town. It's a lovely, well kept part of Memphis right along the Mississippi River, just south of downtown. I've heard people say that they live in Harbor Town so that they can be in Memphis without having to be IN Memphis. So be it!

 That's the I-40 bridge you see in the distance.

Just part a water stop manned by the Hash House Harriers, which was the BEST stop because they had a cooling fan, I had to go up the A. W. Willis Avenue bridge. I caught a look at it and made a horrible face. One Harrier said, "Oh, you got this!" Bless him.

 It's as bad as it looks, but I made it up and down.

By this point I was at mile 11. This was when I was to call Chasen, who went home to get a well-deserved shower after smokin' his 5k. Oh how I envied him! It was very much a "one foot in front of the other" day for me. The temperature continued to rise. The sun is not my friend. 

 The 5k'ers were long gone by the time I got to this sign. It made me smile.

Shortly thereafter I was routed directly to the riverside. I still could not see the finish line, but I knew it was coming. Lots of people were going the opposite direction with their awesome medals. I Have I mentioned how hot it was?

Finally, it was my turn to cross the finish line. The announcer called my name and city. It has been a while since I have heard that! Boy was I relieved. I was handed my medal and an ice cold bottle of water. PTL!

I called Chasen, and he and Isaac were soon in my sight. It was so good to see them! He took several pictures of me. This is, of course, my favorite.

 That's my fella and I! I want to make him proud.

Wouldn't you know we had to walk UPHILL to the car? Phew. Yes, after 13.1 hotttttt miles. Oh well, I'm tough. Ha! Chasen had me some necessary post-race goodies waiting in the car: a big ole pickle, a bottle of water, and a Coke Zero. That man knows what I like! 

 I got in the car like Fred Sanford. I ate my pickle like a champ, though.

We picked up some lunch on the way home. I told him that once I got home, I wanted to shower, nap, and watch TV. Basically, I did not want to leave my air-conditioned bedroom all day. I pretty much stuck to it! 

 How 'bout that cool orange shirt?!?!

 This medal was sooooo sorth it!

What a beauty! 

Am I going to do this race again next year? N-O. It was far too hot. I have another hot one coming up next week, and I am really adjusting my goal and strategy. The heat is NO JOKE, and safety is the #1 thing. It was a great course with lots of historic places along the way with excellent swag, and I am glad I made it through. But, my racing season ends in one week, and I am NOT sad about it. This is why most people train for fall and winter races, especially us Southerners. 

Stay tuned for the next one! 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Derby Festival Marathon

On Saturday I completed my 14th marathon, the Derby Festival Marathon, in Louisville, Kentucky. I chose this race as part of my 50 states quest for a few reasons:

1. It's driveable.
2. I would get to run through historic Churchill Downs.
3. The medal is pretty cool.
4. The timing was perfect. It wouldn't be too hot just yet in late April.

After getting both Isaac and our exchange student, Isa, squared away for the weekend, Chasen and I left on Friday to head to Kentucky. It took much longer than anticipated, due to a wreck on I-40. The race expo closed at 9 PM on Friday night, and I didn't get there until 8:40 PM. Eek!

I was in and out in a flash. Believe me, Kentucky is BIG on bourbon!

The race swag was pretty cool. The Louisville Slugger has the race logo on it.

When my alarm went off at 5:45 AM on Saturday morning, I did NOT want to get up. It wasn't that I was avoiding the inevitable; after all, this was my comeback! I have completely transformed into my "old self" to be able to do this race! It was because I was in the eastern time zone, and my body knew it was really 4:45 AM. Ouch!

By the time I showered, got ready, had breakfast, and "got empty," I literally had to hoof it to the start line. Hoof it -- see what I did there? LOL #racehorsereference

I made it! I was so excited for this race.

As I stood in the corral, I did my pre-race kicks that my chiropractor instructed me to do. A lady next to me commented that she was impressed that I could kick so high. Who knew?!?! Upon learning that I was doing the full, she "warned" me about the hills at Iroquois Park. I took it with a grain of salt. Hills are my middle name! #famouslastwords 

We began in downtown. There was so much excitement! I didn't even put on my podcasts until many miles later. I was so happy to be there. It felt like I had somehow "erased" the past five years of sedentarism and allowing life to get in the way of my health and fitness. I was BACK, baby! 

I was actually doing quite well! I was enjoying every second. One highlight was a young man's sign that read, "I trained for months to hold this sign!" Another highlight was taking a cup of water from a priest.

I heard someone call my name at around mile 6. It was sweet Chasen on one of those electric scooters you can rent in metropolitan areas! He actually scooted next to me until I went into Churchill Downs. It was the sweetest surprise EVER!

I did not know he was there! I'm easy to spot in my signature orange. Notice the lady BEHIND me.

Here I am just before I entered the racetrack. I was excited!

I read reviews of this race before signing up, of course. Many people said that running through Churchill Downs was underwhelming. Sadly, I have to agree. It's not like I ran through the barn or anything! I did, however, get to see a horse and jockey doing a practice run off in the distance at one point. 

The clouds were pretty, and it IS a landmark. So, there's that.

Believe me, friends, I was doing my best!

Mint julep, anyone?

As I exited the racetrack, the full marathoners went right and the halfers went left. Chasen, who was waiting on his scooter, said hardly anyone went right. This was just before mile 9. He stayed with me until roughly mile 10. At this point, the heat was beginning to rise, and I felt that I needed to "get in the zone," put on a podcast, and get down to business. So, I not-so-kindly asked him to depart. He said he would meet me at mile 20. I requested that he bring M&M's.

I was looking a little bit spent, I admit.

By this time the course was an out-and-back, meaning everyone who was literally eight miles ahead of me was headed back towards the finish. You can see them above, going the opposite direction. I did a calculation and determined that mile 13 would be the turning point, so I looked forward to that. It's always great to be the one telling those slower that you, "You've got this! Keep it up!"

Around mile 11.5, after the last water stop I would experience (stay tuned!), I entered hilly, beautiful Iroquois Park. I had no idea how long I would be in there, but I had been warned about the hills. I was not worried about them. Boy, was I wrong. 

Iroquois Park was a labor of love. As much as I love running in nature and being in the shade, this place was ALL UPHILL. Let me rephrase that. It was all UPHELL. It felt like I was crawling. Remember how I was looking forward to cheering on those behind me once I hit the turnaround point and got out of the park on the straightaway? Sadly, I realized I was THE VERY LAST ONE IN THE MARATHON. That's not exactly a confidence booster, especially after losing 60+ pounds and training for 6+ months for this comeback marathon.

See, I was DEAD LAST. Granted, I was lapping everyone on the couch!

Let's get real, people. This made me really sad. Like really, really sad. I felt like such a loser. However, do you know what I am not? A quitter. Susan Stout does NOT quit unless it's a matter of health or safety. All that was damaged here was a little thing called my ego. It was badly bruised. 

Eventually the police officer asked me to kindly move to the side of the road because it was time to open the course back up to traffic. I expected it, so that alone did not bother me. I was just grateful that there was still someone ahead of me that I could still see. 

That's Kelcie, my new BFF. She's the one that was previously behind me.

The gal in front of me grew to be an amazing ally. Her name is Kelcie. I figured out that God surely put her in the race quite literally to keep me safe. Even in the park there were times when there would be a fork in the road. With 100% of the course mile markers, water stops, etc. removed at this point, I would have had no idea where to go! Can you imagine? Without Kelcie I may have ended up calling Uber!

Smart Kelcie printed out the turn-by-turn directions for just in case.

Once we FINALLY made it out of the park at mile 15, I thought to myself, "Ughhhhh. How on earth am I going to make it 11+ more miles?" I was SPENT and demoralized. These are the times you find out what you are made of. Like I said, I am NOT a quitter. I certainly thought about it, though! I didn't want to let myself down. I didn't want to disappoint Isaac or Isa, or even Chasen. I didn't want Louisville to get the better of me. But, can you imagine having to go 11 more miles when you literally hurt everywhere from the neck down? My left shoulder was so tight it felt like I had been in an accident. My lower back, sides, and glutes felt ROCK HARD. They were so contracted! My right knee even hurt. 

I must say that my hip did not hurt. This was the hip that sidelined me for all of February. Thank God for small favors! What hurt most, though, was my pride. I was a sad sack. Here I was in an unknown city with zero course markings, no water stops, and a husband I wouldn't see for nine more miles. I could cry just typing that!

Do you know what kept me going? KELCIE. That girl has an iron will! She kept trudging along, and I kept following her. She had the foresight to contact the race director before the race and confirm that there would be a medal waiting for her regardless of when she finished. At one point she called her husband and told him to make sure they kept TWO out. Bless her!

We walked... and walked... and walked. We walked through the nice university area and then through some not-so-nice areas. I kept thinking, "Chasen would DIE if I was here alone." Like I said before, without Kelcie I would have been ALONE and lost in an unfamiliar city with no new water and some seedy areas. 

Sure enough at mile 20, up in the distance like an angel, was Chasen. He had to walk quite a way to get there (no scooter). He met me with M&M's and a Three Musketeers bar (my favorite). That man literally walked us all the way to the finish line. That's 6.2 miles, friends, in street clothes. 10 kilometers! I'll tell ya... I was glad to have him, both because I slowed to a point that I nearly lost sight of Kelcie AND because the course went through some desolate parts with an active homeless population. Again, I know Chasen would NOT have wanted me to be alone. He is the best!

He could have chided me or spurred me on a bit, but he did not. He simply walked beside me, kind of willing me to keep going. How will I ever repay him??? Those last 6.2 miles were torture. He's my HERO.

Finally, finally, finally, we rounded the last corner. I could see Kelcie, her crew, and two race people, one of whom was a man holding a medal! I actually RAN to them. I was sooooo glad to be done. Somehow I ended up with a marathon relay medal, so they will mail me my official marathon medal. I snapped a photo of Kelcie's medal for this blog.

Ain't she a beauty? The Louisville Slugger museum/factory is displayed.

Wouldn't you know that our hotel was about six blocks from there? Phew. I was DEAD by the time I got back to our room. Literally all I wanted to do was lie down on the floor. I told Chasen to take my picture because this was real life! Everything hurt and was on the verge of cramping.

I wanted to sit down all day! This was even better.

The amazing thing is that after a shower I was about 90%. Ninety. Percent. How on earth did that happen? I felt like I was on the verge of death just ten minutes prior. Also, for the first time ever, I experienced zero chafing and sore toenails. WHAT?!?! Today, the day after, I have ZERO soreness. I am 100%! WHAT?!?! 

Now what? You didn't think one bad day would deter me, did ya? Heck no. Better days are out there. It is all SO WORTH IT! Running makes me the best version of myself. I have fall race goals and ideas for the years ahead. You can't keep a good woman down! I'll see you out on the roads, friends.