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Race recap: PNC Milwaukee Marathon

27 Oct

This year, things were better. Much better. This year, this race had to be better.

I approached the starting line relaxed — as relaxed as one could be after battling some hamstring tendinitis the few weeks before the race and in the face of 25 mph winds and dropping temperatures. I lined up with the 4:30 pace group and planned to stay just ahead of them as long as possible.

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The race started at 6:30 a.m., so the sun wasn’t even up yet! It also started in a new location (in the Fifth Ward, in an area known as the Reed Street Yards, just southeast of the Harley Davidson Museum campus), so we had about 3 miles under our belts before we headed north and uphill on Lincoln Memorial Drive, along the lake.

I felt surprisingly good, considering my hamstring, back-of-the-knee, and calf pain kicked in almost immediately upon running. I focused on shortening my stride and increasing my cadence as much as possible, and I think that helped not only keep the pain manageable, but also distracted me a bit, since it forced me to think about something other than the pain.

The early portion of the course is my favorite, as it takes us through familiar haunts from the lakefront over to Brady Street and down Old World Third Street.

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I continued to keep the 4:30 pace group just behind me until about 14.5 miles, somewhere along Sherman Boulevard. I also saw Christopher on this out-and-back stretch.

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The first two-thirds of the race remarkably “flew” by, considering the wind (a 25 mph headwind all the way out Wisconsin Avenue), the challenging course, and the aches and pains in my right leg.

I kept on running, feeling fairly relaxed and in control — which is paramount amidst the gritty miles (Miles 16-22).

This portion of the race takes us through the lonely Miller Valley and then onto the quiet, albeit scenic Hank Aaron Trail and through Mitchell Park, before heading back to the Reed Street Yards.

I jogged (it was a much slower run by this point) and jogged and jogged, only walking into and out of the water stops. I continued to marvel at the fact that I had made it this far, and I was still running! I kept repeating to myself, “Be brave.” I continued to remind myself that I was doing much better, physically and mentally, at this point than last year.

It was around this point — Mile 21 to 22 — that my RunKeeper went from being about a quarter of a mile ahead (measuring long, which is typical) to being about a third of a mile or more behind (measuring short). I couldn’t quite process what that meant at the time, so I relied on the mileage signs on the course, and I pressed on through Miles 24 and 25, then down the 6th Street viaduct through Mile 26.

The last two-tenths of a mile — that was it! The crowd thickened. The finish line was in sight. My body had carried me this far.

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I hustled across the finish line, exhausted, relieved, and proud. I hobbled through the muddy finish area to find Christopher, who was with my dad, and we swapped stories (Christopher finished in an incredible 3:51!) over our free beers under the cover of a pop-up coffee trailer.

We hardly stuck around, through; it was too muddy, too windy, too cold.

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Marathon No. 5 done, albeit with a couple of asterisks next to it.

The marathon course came in short for many, many runners. We all received official word Tuesday, Oct. 18, that the course was, in fact, more than three-quarters of a mile short! (The turnaround on the Hank Aaron Trail was set incorrectly.)

Even though the course was short, you can only run the course that’s given to you, so I will proudly share my 4:35 finish — it was that tough of a course on the whole, and my aches and pains were that bothersome throughout the race. I still cannot believe I powered through all that. (And even if I had to run the regulation eight-tenths of a mile more, I would have come in ahead of 4:45, and I consider that a huge victory.)

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Distance: 25.4 miles
Duration: 4:35:07
Average pace: 10:31 per mile
Through 20 miles: 3:34:14

I served as a race ambassador for the Milwaukee Marathon, so I really tried hard to support and promote the race from the day we received our marching orders. I talked about it as much as possible within the context of my social media, and I volunteered to promote it at the Rock ‘n’ Sole Half Marathon expo in June, and I staffed the information booth at the expo Saturday. I had good intentions to do more, like visit the Quad Cities running stores, speak to the Corn Belt and Rock River Road Runners, but we got majorly caught up in searching for, buying, and moving into a new house.

If we’re being honest, though, I expected more out of my role. I know ambassadors were “expected” to recruit a certain number of people to the race to receive perks, and perhaps none of us met those benchmarks…but I haven’t heard a word about my “success”. If none of us, or very few of us ambassadors met these expectations, perhaps the race organizers could have scaled them down? I would have loved an additional thank you for at least making the attempt to get behind this race…which two years in a row now has run into its own problems, and is, as a result, not making a good case as to why runners should support it as the city’s only marathon and why it could be world-class, big-city race.

I want to continue to support the Milwaukee Marathon. I want it to succeed, for my city and for this sport. I hope the new organizers take our feedback seriously, and I hope runners who felt burned give them one more chance next year.

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I am a Milwaukee Marathon race ambassador!

3 Apr

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I am thrilled to be an ambassador for the Milwaukee Marathon this year!

The running festival, which features races at all distances for all abilities and paces, is sure to be the event of the year in the City of Festivals — my beloved hometown of Milwaukee.

Register at www.runmilwaukeemarathon.com and use the promo code “KaylaRunsMKE” for a discount off the marathon, half marathon, 10K, or 5K.

It’s more than a new name, new date, and new finish line. The @mke_marathon weekend Oct. 14-15 is an opportunity to challenge yourself and run the streets of Milwaukee’s distinctive and diverse neighborhoods.

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(Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon 2016)

Join me for one of the races. I promise you’ll have an incredible experience! And I promise, I’ll be one of your biggest cheerleaders, whatever challenge you take on.

The deets:

Milwaukee Marathon (or half marathon, 10K, 5K or even 1-mile)
Oct. 14-15, 2017
www.runmilwaukeemarathon.com
Next price increase is July 1.

Race recap: Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon

16 Dec

It has been more than a month since Christopher and I ran the Milwaukee Running Festival marathon…

I thought I might just skip this recap. But I know I would be remiss if this recap wasn’t here in the archives.

So, here it is, abbreviated and completely from memory!

First, some notes:

My training went pretty well until about the final month.

I started getting sick Oct. 1 and cut a scheduled long run of 18 miles down to 12 miles. I felt well enough to tackle 20 miles a week later, but I experienced aches and pains through most of the run, especially from Mile 13.5 and on. I slogged through a step-back run of 13 miles Oct. 15, again with aches and pains, mostly in my left IT band. I tackled another 20 miles a week later, tired and ready to be done with training.

I started feeling really sore and fatigued the next day. I thought it was related to the long run, but I soon developed a nasty, productive cough, along with other symptoms that persisted for two weeks. I went into the doctor the Tuesday of race week to see if she could give me anything to knock it out in time for the marathon. She diagnosed me with near-pneumonia and prescribed a Z-pack of antibiotics.

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And now, the recap:

I toed the starting line feeling decent, but extremely nervous. I had not run in 2 weeks, and I had barely worked out other than my regular yoga classes and one BodyPump class. I went into it knowing it likely would be difficult, but hoping it would be wonderful after a couple of weeks of true rest for my legs.

I lined up with the 4:30 pace group and planned to stick with them as long as it felt comfortable to maintain that pace.

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Through the first several miles, I felt remarkably good. We were clocking a bit faster than our prescribed pace, but we were chatting and laughing, and I remained comfortable, so I just ignored it.

We headed north up Lincoln Memorial Drive, then back south 0n Lake Drive toward Brady Street. We ran across what is (unbeknownst to me) called the Marsupial Bridge past Lakefront Brewery and then down the brick Old World Third Street.

But around this point, I started to feel some tweaks in my knees and IT bands that, truthfully, never went away.

We ran West down Wisconsin Avenue, through the Marquette University campus, then north toward the Sherman Park neighborhood. The half marathoners turned around at the 9.5-mile mark, while the marathoners pressed on; the marathoners cross paths with each other from about Mile 11.5 to Mile 14.5 on an out-and-back stretch of Sherman Boulevard.

At about the halfway point, I started to incorporate more walking breaks. I tried to make it from aid station to aid station and just walk a bit longer leading up to and coming out of the stations.

We wound through Washington Park, then down Hawley Road toward the Miller Valley.

I saw my dad at the corner of Hawley and State, and I was sore and tired and I just threw my arms around him and lamented my pain and struggle. He told me to keep going, so I did.

The crowd of marathoners was really sparse by this point. It was very quiet and lonely, which is just terrible when you are struggling to keep your head above water.

We jogged past Miller Park and then joined the Hank Aaron State Trail for about a mile. We even did a lap around a football field just before Mile 21.

Around this point, a pair of girls sidled up along either side of me and asked if I wanted to walk and talk — and maybe run a little — with them. The three of us would go on to finish the race together, mostly walking the last 5 miles, complaining that the hills were brutal, that the course was long, that none of us was having a good race.

I saw my dad again at Mile 23 in the Third Ward.

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We pressed on past the Summerfest grounds, across Lakeshore State Park, then past Discovery World and the Milwaukee Art Museum before we finished in Veterans Park.

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Another marathon finish in the books. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t my fastest. It wasn’t my slowest, either. (That title is reserved for my first one back in 2012.) But it was another marathon. And every single mile of the race and the training for it tells a story.

This just wasn’t my race. Maybe next year?

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It’s worth noting that the course was, in fact, almost a half-mile long. There were two errors, according to organizers, the first in the 17th mile and the second in the 20th mile. The exact amount of extra distance was 0.489583 miles. The organizers updated our times to reflect the added distance.

Distance: 26.7 miles
Duration: 5:27:03 (5:20:56 for 26.2)
Average pace: 12:14 per mile
Through 10K: 1:04:37
Through half: 2:20:59
Through 20 miles: 3:53:31

Race recap: Quad Cities Half Marathon

10 Oct

I’m back! And I have another (belated) race recap!

If you follow me on social media (my Instagram link is down and to the right on my sidebar), then you know I am training for another marathon — the Milwaukee Running Festival marathon Nov. 6. Christopher is training for it, too.

We wanted to work at least one half marathon into our training plan — just to give ourselves some incentive for logging all these miles, and to practice our race-day routines. We chose to return to the Quad Cities Half Marathon, a race we ran way back in 2012; it’s a well-organized race with a neat course and it’s only an hour from home.

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We were blessed cursed with unseasonably hot, humid weather, so Christopher and I agreed to go for our goal paces but let the chips fall where they might, given the conditions.

He lined up toward the 1:45 pace group, while I lined up closer to the 2:00 group. My friend and fellow fitness instructor, Andrea, who was running her first half marathon, lined up with me; we agreed to run together for as long as it made sense — if I wanted to and could go faster, then I would cruise on without her by my side.

Andrea and I ran together for maybe the first 2 to 3 miles before she hung back and I plodded ahead.

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I felt alright through the first half of the race. I was running at a consistent 9:30-9:45 pace, keeping my breathing in check and taking water and Gatorade at every aid station to stay hydrated given the climbing temperatures and bright sun overhead.

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Christopher waited for me (for 10 minutes!) at the halfway point, then we ran together for about 3 miles, along the river in Davenport and then across Government Bridge onto Arsenal Island. We separated at mile 11; Christopher was feeling like speeding up, having caught a wee bit of a second wind, while I was feeling like slowing down.

I was sore, but more than anything, I was just sapped of any get-up-and-go. I grabbed a piece of candy (sugar-coated gummy fruit slices–one of my favorites!) near the exit from the island, and I couldn’t even chew it because I was so tired.

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I ran my slowest miles (10:49 and 10:36, miles 12 and 13, respectively) on the island and then across the Moline Arsenal Bridge and back to downtown Moline. But I picked up the pace as much as possible through the final straightaway and clocked my fastest pace (9:24) to the finish.

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I breathed very rhythmically, in through my nose, out through my mouth over that last tenth of a mile. I crossed the finish line and got pulled over to the medical tent to sit down and slow my breathing, because it felt like every ounce of oxygen was caught up in my chest with nowhere to go.

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Christopher and I milled around the post-race party for a bit, grabbed some chocolate milk and then beer to refuel and celebrate another race–and a course PR! We waited for Andrea to finish, and then for a couple other friends to finish.

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Given the unseasonably brutal temperatures for a race, I was happy to have maintained an average of about 10 minutes per mile and finish only 7 minutes off my half-marathon best (and almost 15 minutes better for the course). It was just another marathon training run, just with aid stations along the way and a sweet medal at the end.

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Distance: 13.1 miles
Duration: 2:11:52
Average pace: 10:04 per mile

 

Race recap: Dam to Dam Half Marathon

29 Jun

It’s only fitting, really.

We haven’t run an official half marathon in four years, so I haven’t written up my recap until now—three weeks later.

Tardiness aside…

The Dam to Dam Half Marathon in Des Moines was a hot, humid, and challenging race, but it ended with big PRs for both Christopher and me—even if they were a wee bit shy of our pie-in-the sky goals.

As race day approached, I could not help but feel underprepared for the hot, humid weather in the forecast and undertrained for (hilly-ish) miles on the map. After training (to the letter) for and setting personal records at not one, but two marathons last year, and not really focusing on speed or shorter distances, I could not help but feel like I hadn’t given this half marathon its due.

Truly, I had, though. I had put in the miles, albeit mostly on the treadmill. I had put in the speedwork. And I had even put in some mild hill workouts, as our usual route includes some decently steep hills.

So, on race day, I just went for it. I knew I would set a personal record. And I knew I would be close to my big, scary goal of 2 hours. I didn’t know how close, though, given the circumstances. So, I just went for it.

Christopher and I were up at about 5 a.m., at which point we changed into our running gear, grabbed our breakfast, and headed out to the car, where we listened to the radio and ate bagels with peanut butter and bananas.

We drove over to the nearby mall, where dozens of yellow school buses were lined up to take runners up to Saylorville Dam, about a 20-minute drive. We arrived at the dam—on a winding, narrow two-lane road—and got an incredible view.

We used the porta-potties, finished a bottle of Gatorade, and headed to the starting line. Christopher and his buddy, Andy, who joined us for the race, headed to the front of the pack, while I stayed toward the middle. The runners were lined up by pace, but it was so crowded that it was hard to maneuver through the sea of people to the appropriate pace group.

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As such, the first few miles seemed to pass slowly, as I bobbed and weaved through the pack until the course and the crowd opened up.

Around Mile 3, I finally felt like I could start running and thinking about my goal pace, which was about 9:09. At that point, and for a few miles after that, I hovered around my goal pace, if not a few seconds slower.

The course has an overall downhill grade, especially in the first half, which is mostly through the quiet countryside. The big hill—Morningstar Hill or sometimes called Memorial Hill (so named because it is lined with American flags in honor of servicemen and women who have died since the first race in 1980) shows up around Mile 7. It’s about a mile long, starts out gradual, then becomes steep toward the crest. I slogged up the hill. But my pace remained sub-10:00.

The course has a few more rolling hills in the second half, which opens up onto city streets. The shade cover was absent in the first half, so the tree-lined residential streets offered some relief from the heat in the second half.

I saw my dad and the girls somewhere between Mile 7 and 8. It was so nice to see familiar faces!

Between Mile 9 and 10, the course ventures onto a bike trail, and about Mile 10, it takes runners over a wooden bridge over a ravine in total shade cover. It was fabulous, albeit brief.

About Mile 11, the course leaves the bike trail and enters the Principal River Walk, past the Botanical Gardens and over the really cool looking Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge.

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Then, just before Mile 13, there’s a steep, curving hill. It seemed cruel to send runners up another hill, under the beating sun, with less than a quarter mile to go. But it was exhilarating, because of the energy of the crowd, which lined both sides of the street, and the signage marking 400 meters to go, then 200 meters, and finally 100 meters.

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I blitzed across the finish line, and barely took note of my time, I was so drained. I had run the entire 13.1 miles, and I had stayed decently hydrated, but I was a sweaty, tired mess.

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After some water-drinking, bathroom-breaking, and wandering, we gathered near this water feature in the park. The girls happily played in the water, while Andy, Christopher, and I sipped Coors Light and rehashed the race.

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Christopher had a lofty goal of 1:40 and what he thought was a slam-dunk goal of 1:45. He came in at 1:47:11. He had been under the weather all week leading up to the race and just had lead legs—on top of the hot and humid conditions.

He still ran a great race and set about a 10-minute PR.

I came in at 2:05:07. It might be 5 minutes shy of 2 hours, but it also is a 21-minute PR and is only 5 minutes shy of 2 hours. I am proud of this race and know that, perhaps this fall, a 2-hour half is within my reach.

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Distance: 13.1 miles (RunKeeper clocked it at 13.23)
Duration: 2:05:07
Average pace: 9:33 per mile

Race recap: Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon

13 Oct

The Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon was the race of a lifetime! It marks my third full marathon–my second this year–and my first race in my home city. And it marks a new personal record of 4:29:29.

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This marathon was so different from the Bayshore Marathon in that I was kind of a lone wolf, both in training and during the race.

Part of me cursed the loneliness: I sometimes struggled to push through those early-morning long runs because I knew no one else was up before the sun running, too. I worried about racing without a partner–someone to keep me on pace, at least for half of the marathon, and someone to talk to, to help the miles pass.

But as it got closer to race day, another part of me embraced the loneliness: I had trained to my abilities and mostly alone (save for the standard last 6 miles of my long runs with Christopher and the girls ). I was prepared to run my race.

As such, I was very calm about the marathon. I knew I would hit my goal of 5 hours. I thought I might hit a more lofty goal of 4 hours and 45 minutes. But, I wondered if I could hit a pie-in-the-sky goal of 4 hours and 30 minutes.

IMG_20151003_134912The day before, Christopher and I met Mindy and Andi in Milwaukee to grab lunch and beers at the Milwaukee Ale House, then pick up our packets at the Italian Community Center. We had dinner back at home, then put the girls to bed. We shuffled off to our respective rooms about 9:30 p.m. and finally went to bed about 10 p.m.

I slept well, all things considered.

Mindy and Andi and I were up at 5:45 a.m., at which point, we promptly ate breakfast, then changed into our running gear. We headed out the door about 6:30 a.m.

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My mom drove us to Grafton High School, where we pinned on our bibs, put on our other gear, and then headed outside to the porta-potties. We met up with my friend, Jillian, who waited in line with us; we were in line for about 20 minutes, then headed to the start line.

I dashed back to my mom to give her a hug and a kiss and tell her, “I love you.” She said, “I love you, too.” and reminded me that Oma was with me and she would give me light feet.

(My mom had given me a guardian angel–a white angel encased in a clear stone, about the size of a large marble–to keep with me during the race. It belonged to my Oma. She had it in her pocket the day her aorta ruptured and she later died. I found it–it fell out of her pocket into the washer–a few days later. My mom has kept it with her, in her purse, in the car, ever since. I tucked it in my sports bra, on my left side, close to my heart and frequently touched it throughout the race.)

I lined up in front of the 5:00 pace group, but behind the 4:30 pace group, about where the 4:45 pace group had gathered. The race director counted down, and we were off.

Somewhere between Mile 1 and 2, as the course ventured into its only truly “rural” setting, the breeze blew in the scent of cow manure and wet hay. I laughed. “Good morning from Wisconsin!” I said. A few people around me snickered at the smell wafting in the air. “Smell our dairy air!” one guy said.

Just after Mile 7, we turned onto the Concordia University campus and straight into the wind. Luckily, within a few more turns, we headed south and out of the wind.

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Around Mile 8, I saw my dad, and then, steps away, Christopher and the girls! The line of spectators was crowded, as was the general pack of runners, so I opted to wave to them, rather than stop.

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About Mile 10, I saw my blog friend, Jamie, who I saw again a few more times, including just before the finish chute. Basically I would see my family, then I would see Jamie, then I would see my family again, and then I would see Jamie again. It was a nice boost to see someone familiar every few miles.

Just before the halfway point, I stopped to use the porta-pottie. By this time, I had caught up to the 4:30 pace group and decided to hang with it for as long as it felt comfortable and maintainable. But, in stopping to pee, I lost them and lost maybe 2 minutes.

But then, at the halfway point, I saw Christopher and the girls again; the girls were out of the jogging stroller and so, ran into the street. I pulled off to the left, hoisted Anna in the air, then bent down to hug her and Elise together. I grabbed hands with my dad, then headed off again.

At Mile 15, I saw my mom again, then at Mile 18, I saw my mom and dad, and Christopher and the girls. And then about Mile 22, I saw my dad, Christopher and the girls for the last time.

At that point, the course had neared ultra-familiar territory–the UW-Milwaukee campus, Lake Park, and Lincoln Memorial Drive. It was an incredible sight to head toward downtown, toward Veterans Park, past Bradford Beach, Villa Terrace, Alterra (ahem, Collectivo) on the lake–all with the Milwaukee Art Museum in the background.

The finish area neared. The cheers of the crowd gathered on both sides of the path and then, at the end, the finish chute grew louder. The clock came into focus.

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I saw 4:31 on the clock, and I grinned like the cat who ate the canary. I was so happy with my time: I had come in ahead of my goal of 5 hours, and I was merely a minute off my pie-in-the-sky goal of 4 hours and 30 minutes. And I felt good–strong, even.

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After I had my medal around my neck, I headed into the milieu. I grabbed some snacks, including a giant soft pretzel, and I put on my newly-purchased Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon long-sleeve technical jacket.

In the runner-spectator meeting area, I finally found Christopher, the girls, and my dad, and at that moment, I found out my time was actually sub-4:30.

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This was such an incredible race. I was so.freaking.steady. throughout: My average paces were 10:09, 10:27 (bathroom break), 10:19, and 10:16. My first half was 2:14:37, and my second half was 2:14:52–a difference of a mere 15 seconds!

I stopped at every aid station, but truly walked through only two or three of them. I took fuel every 4 to 4.5 miles. I just felt plain ol’ good, save for the typical aches and pains that come with running a marathon.

The Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon gets major points, not only for being the race where I set a PR, but also for being well organized, having wonderful spectator support, and having one sweet medal.

The spectators really made the race one for the books. There were tons of people at the designated viewing areas and major mile markers, where you would expect a lot of people, but there still were plenty of people at other places, even in the quieter residential areas. Everyone was cheering loudly and holding clever signs, and most everyone was calling out your name (It was printed on our bibs!). It was so unique to have complete and total strangers cheering for you by name. One woman even looked me dead in the eye and told me she was proud of me. I still have no idea if she is someone I should know or remember or not.

So…another marathon is in the books. I am so grateful to all who supported me–on race day and every day before it–especially my family; my best girls, Mindy and Andi; and of course, my amazing husband, Christopher, and sweet daughters, Anna and Elise. I am truly amazed at what my body, my mind, and my heart are capable of.

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Distance: 26.2 miles
Duration: 4:29:29
Average pace: 10:17 per mile
Miles 1-7: 1:10:57
Miles 7-13.1: 1:03:40
Miles 13.1-20: 1:11:03
Miles 20-26.2: 1:03:49

National Running Day 2015

3 Jun

Happy National Running Day!

Those of you who read my blog or follow me on social media (especially Instagram) probably think I’ve always been a runner, logging mile after mile, running race after race, racking up medal after medal. But those of you who know me in real life or know I’ve only recently become a runner.

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In high school, I managed the cross country team. I looked up to the coach and the athletes. I so wanted to be one of them. So to fit in, I did all the warm-ups and cool downs, and I kept ace statistics. I started my stopwatch in sync with the starting gun and bolted to the 1-mile mark, then hopefully the 2-mile mark, and always the finish line. I calculated splits in my head and knew the personal bests of a dozen or more runners. I congratulated our standouts and a buoyed our strugglers. I hung onto inhalers and sweatpants, and I offered sweaty hugs and homemade chocolate chip cookies.

It didn’t matter to the cross country team that I didn’t run. It mattered only that I showed up. I earned a major letter in cross country for my hard work and dedication, and I got as big of a round of applause and as many words of praise as the athletes.

After college, while working as a reporter for a newspaper, I made a decision to get healthy. I wanted to lose weight and feel better about myself. I wanted to be a runner. So, I ate fruits and vegetables, I drank 8 glasses of water a day, I weighed my food and counted my calories, and I exercised. I used the elliptical trainer, but I transitioned to the treadmill and learned to run by doing intervals of walking and running—a Couch-to-5K-type plan before Couch-to-5K was a “thing.”

Running reeled me in, hook, line, and sinker. I felt strong. I felt healthy. And I lost a few pounds.

I signed up for my first 5K race in March 2009—the Dick Lytie Spring Classic in Green Bay, Wis.—and my then-boyfriend (now husband) Christopher ran the entire 3.1-mile race alongside me. I vividly remember the experience: I crossed the finish line and dry heaved from over-exertion. Christopher assured the volunteers I was fine, I just had asthma. I did two more 5Ks that summer, and then Christopher and I did the Jingle Bell Run in Janesville, Wis., on Dec. 5, 2009—the race where at the finish line Christopher presented me with an engagement ring and asked me to marry him. aimg_2720 I did a few more races in Wisconsin in 2010. At the very end of 2010, after we had been living in Michigan for about 6 months, and after some blog interaction with a couple of girls from Grand Rapids, I found a true passion for running. We signed up for a 4-miler on New Year’s Eve, then a 5K each in February and March. michigan-023 Around that time, I decided to train for a big distance race—a half marathon (with Amy, who agreed to train and run with me). Christopher was working long hours and traveling with the hockey team, so I ran with Dexter to pass the time. We trudged through a cold, snowy winter. In poetic fashion, Amy and I crossed the finish line of the Oshkosh Half Marathon soaking wet and freezing cold; it was April, and it was snowing. img_0161 About a month later, Mindy, Andi, and Christopher and I ran the River Bank Run 25K. Then, around the turn of 2012, Christopher and I decided to run a marathon. It was a completely life-changing experience (my race recap is here). chris-kayla-2 We did some other races after the big one, then we got pregnant and had our twin girls, the loves of our lives.

Running took a backseat to everyday life. I yearned to run, to race, to add more bling to my collection. I missed the challenge, the rush. We ran a handful of 5Ks last summer. I was back in the game.

And then, around the turn of 2015, Mindy, Andi, and I decided to run a marathon together. It was another life-changing experience—but in a completely different way (my race recap is here). I trained well. I ran a solid race. I want to do it all over again. 11377218_647640052032898_6714283216273456172_n In the days leading up to the Wisconsin Marathon, I wrote this:

You [running] helped me find my strong. You make me feel tough as nails. You give me a rush of confidence unmatched by just about everything else.

Because of you, I get to hear my husband tell me, ‘You’re so beautiful!’ even in the midst of a run—sweat dripping down my brow, salt caked to my eyelids, spit stuck in the corner of my mouth.

Because of you, I get to see the looks on people’s faces when they find out I’m a runner; sometimes, they look at me like I’m crazy, but other times, they look at me with a hell of a lot of respect—especially those who are runners, too. I love telling them my story.

Because of you, I feel like I can do anything.

It’s all still true today. running-day-2015-e1433335063194 Today, 8 years after first learning to run; with 18 5Ks, 2 half marathons, a 25K, 2 full marathons, and a handful of other distances under my belt, and now with two daughters in tow, I run:

  • For the former fat girl who never thought she would be an athlete, let alone a runner.
  • For the quality time with myself, my husband, and my family.
  • For the stress relief and the confidence boost.
  • For the experiences it has given me.
  • For the friendships it has brought into my life.
  • For my daughters, to show them what it means to set goals and achieve them, to try and sometimes fail, to be strong, to be determined, and to be confident.
  • For myself, to prove that with a dream and some hard work, anything is possible.

Running really has changed my life. And I thank God every day for it.