Sunday, May 27, 2018

"But, why?"

An employee in a different department of my company recently asked me about chasing the 2:45 Olympic Trials qualifying standard.  I don't really know him, and he isn't a runner, but he had heard it through the grapevine.  I confirmed that it was my Big Dream Goal.  He then asked about me subsequently making the 2020 U.S. Olympic team, to which I kind of laughed and responded that there was no chance of that, as if I even made it to the Trials I would be among the slower competitors there, and probably a good 20 minutes behind the top 3 who would go on to represent our country.  He looked flummoxed and asked, "But, why?" - meaning why would someone strive to qualify for the Trials when the person had no chance at making it to the Olympics.

The shorter answer is that for people like me, the trials are our Olympics.  Of the 150-200 women who will start at the Trials, maybe 20 of them have a realistic shot at making the Olympic team.  For the rest of the group, the Trials (not the Olympics) is the Big Dream Race.

The longer answer is below.  This is also as close as I'm going to get to a Grandma's Training Journal series...after writing those leading up to my last two marathons, I'd hoped to do another, but life got too busy!

Selfishly, I never want to wonder "what if?"  I want to know that I did everything I could to accomplish something big that's important to me.  I'd rather give my all and fail then wonder if I could have if I'd only tried.  Even if I never get the standard, I'll be glad I tried for it instead of accepting that a certain marathon time was my limit.

I want to set an example for my daughter.  I feel like this is a "stock" answer to this type of question, but I want her to see what it means to truly dedicate yourself to a goal.  She knows I wake up at 4:45 a.m. and run before work, she knows I run every day, she sees me do the extras like foam rolling and strength training, and she sees me fuel my body well for performance.  She doesn't understand the implications of these things now, but I hope when she's older she appreciates them.  I also hope it helps her have a healthy relationship with her body (seeing it as strong and valuing it for what it can do) and with food (seeing it as fuel and something that helps her body).

I want to motivate others.  I fully believe that if I can do this then anyone can.  Genetics and personal history set some parameters on maximum athletic potential, but any one of us can find our personal best.  I'm never going to compete with Jordan Hassay and Molly Huddle, but I can sure work to whittle down my own personal records.  Although races are by nature a competition, the older I get the less I care how I fare against anyone else; that's why I went to CIM to take what was by far the worst placing of my adult life in a female field (65th) with a time that would win most marathons.  I cared most about pushing myself to my limits, and I always push farther in races that I do not win.  I think most/all runners would chose a PR over a win any day!

Chasing goals is a healthy part of human nature.  I feel very blessed to not only have a goal that I feel passionate about, but also to be passionate about the process.  Marathon training is miles and miles day after day after day for one race.  I can't imagine anyone doing it without loving the training!  I have family goals and I have professional goals, but this is my "selfish" goal...something I do for me, although I hope it positively affects others along the way.

I might never achieve the OTQ standard.  But, if I hadn't started chasing the standard, I would definitely not have ever run a 2:47:14 (6:22 pace used to be my 5K pace!).  When you set big goals, you might not reach them, but you will likely reach higher than you would have otherwise.  If you reach every goal, and if you reach every goal on the first try, you're not setting them high enough or truly challenging yourself.

I believe that God gives us talents for a reason, and although I'm certainly not the most talented runner out there, I am above average.  I think the passion I have for the sport is also a gift I've been given.  I hope I'm using my gifts for good along the way.  If one person comes in contact with me at some point and subsequently starts a personal relationship with God, then it was all worth it for that alone.  I try not to be preachy, but God really does weave the details in our lives in certain ways for a reason.

I am going to keep chasing this Big Dream.  If at first you don't succeed, try, try again, right?

Yes, yes I would

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Bill Snyder Highway Half: Sometimes Random Decision-Making Pays Off!

The short:
I entered the Bill Snyder Highway Half at the last minute, mostly so I wouldn't have to run the monster workout I had scheduled alone.  While the workout morphed from a split tempo to a continuous tempo when I found myself running around 2-3 other women early in the race, the outcome was much better than I would have predicted.  I finished 2nd overall female in 1:21:41, in humid 70 degree weather and during an 82 mile week, following an 81 mile week (both weekly mileage PRs for me).  There were a few wrong turns and hills that didn't help my finishing time, making me even happier to come away with the fastest half I've run in 2018.  Although a part of me really wonders what I could have done if I'd tapered (tapering improves performance by an average of 3%), I am trying not to regret that and focusing on the benefit that running this with so many miles on my legs will give me in my marathon.  I know more than ever that I have a 1:19 half marathon in me, but that goal took a backseat this season.  Always dream bigger, but thank God for what you have more than you ask Him for what you want.  Also, if you haven't tapered for any races all season, don't start doing the math on that 3% gain, hah!

Another fun fact:  My time was the 2nd fastest half marathon ever run in the state of Kansas by a 35-39 female, and the 21st fastest half marathon ever run by a woman of any age in the state of Kansas on a certified course.  Those rankings are found here.
You may not recognize me smiling AND
without a double chin in a finishing photo!
The long:
When I saw the workout I had scheduled for May 19, I thought it was just begging to be run within a half marathon race:  3 miles warm-up, 3 x 4 mile tempos at 6:07-6:14 with 0.5 recoveries (making the "meat" portion of the workout 13 miles long and at my half race pace), 2 miles cool-down.  Around the same time, my friend Michelle mentioned that she was running the Bill Snyder Half as a workout in her Grandma's training.  I've wanted to run this race for a few years, but it's never worked out before.  For a few weeks, I was 50/50 on entering the race, with the main barrier in my indecision being the 4.5 hour drive. After running a lot of solo miles in the weeks leading up to the race, I decided that having others to run the workout with was my only hope to hit the workout on tired legs would make me more likely to hit my goal paces and make the drive worth it, plus based on past results I thought I could win enough prize money to at least cover the cost of the trip, so I signed up two days before the race.   As it ended up, my brother-in-law's family also traveled to the race, so in the end we made the whole thing into an extended family weekend get-away!

I was in an 82 mile week (only my third lifetime week in the 80s), but I had the workout on tap whether I ran it within the race or not.  I'd run two halves already this season during 70 mile weeks (Rock the Parkway and Illinois), so I wasn't too worried about my lack of taper, plus I haven't raced anything tapered since the Houston Marathon, so racing on tired legs has become normal and I keep telling myself that surely it's good for me.  But on the other hand, when I bumped up to 80 mpw it sure showed me that I'd gotten comfortable with 70 mpw but wasn't comfortable at 80.  Side note:  last season mileage in the 70s still seemed very big to me and 60s felt normal, but this season 70s became normal.  Hopefully next season I can say that 80s are normal, but this time around I am feeling the increase!

Race morning started with thunderstorms, and the buses poised to transport us to the start of the point-to-point course were delayed to ensure runner safety.  The race director was great about giving updates and sharing his plans, but this is something that would have stressed me out if this had been a goal race.  As it was, I just rolled with the punches and chatted with Michelle on the bus until we made it out to the start.  I didn't have time for my full 3 mile warm up or strides, but I got in 2.2 miles and a few drills, with just enough time to spare to pee in a ditch.  Again, this was something that would have bothered me had this been a goal race (I didn't even do leg swings - the horror!), but I was just thankful I'd had enough time for what I did; at one time the race had thought they wouldn't start sending the buses until 30 minutes before the start due to the weather, which would have been a really tight timeline since it took about 20 minutes to drive to the start.  It sprinkled during my warm up and my shoes got pretty wet from puddles, but we didn't get rained on during the race.

The first mile of the course had a significant downhill drop, so many people got out fast.  I held back to what I felt was 6:20ish effort and ran a 6:05 first mile split (Strava said my grade-adjusted pace [GAP] was 6:21, so yay for my effort gauge!).  I saw four women get out ahead of me, and I knew who three of them were from Midwest racing and Strava.  I suspected one would be significantly faster than me, but I thought I could hang with the others so I didn't want to let them gap me by much (remember, I needed to finish in the top 3 to rationalize the cost of the trip!).  Mile 2 was all up incline, and I was aware of not putting in too much effort too early.  I pulled up with the ladies sometime in that mile and shortly after began chatting with Sharon.  I'd never officially met her before then, but we have a mutual friend and I knew who she was.  She mentioned that she was on PR pace at that point, and I told her I was supposed to run a split tempo workout but didn't see that happening anymore, so I hoped to keep plugging along at that pace, so we should go get her a PR.

We caught up with Chantalle, one of Sharon's Kansas City Smoke teammates shortly after, and Sharon encouraged her to join us in pacing together, which she did.  We also had men around us here and there.  Mile 3 had a some drop, then mile 4 was again incline.  If you've ever driven about any highway that goes into Kansas City, that's what the first 8 miles of this race were like - straight with long inclines and declines.  Early on I could feel the long inclines, but they weren't a problem; however, I knew that I was in for climbs during the race's final miles and was conscious of that.  I paid a lot more attention to my watch during this race than I have in any other race this season, partially because I wanted to hit the workout paces my coach had given me and partially because I wanted to help Sharon PR.
This is somewhere between 4-8

You can see the wet roads & our female pack

And you can see the long incline we are running up...also other
female runners make me look tall!
Mile 5 was fairly flat, then mile 6 had a huge drop.  It was my slowest GAP of the race, which I wasn't surprised about because I felt like I had the breaks on.  It was a mile you definitely could have hammered, but that could have come back to haunt your quads later in the race.  I was also conscious of not wanting to pound my legs during the peak of my marathon training - I would go straight into my biggest mileage week ever after this race.  Miles 7-8 had a gentle decline, which I enjoyed.  At that point Sharon, Chantalle, and I were all together, along with a man named Juvenal who trains some with Michelle (cue It's a Small World After All).  We came into town at mile 8 and I suddenly thought, "Wow, I feel good!"  I felt better than I'd felt at that point in my last 2 halves, which was particularly nice since I was running with two other women (no one wants to feel not good when running with a pack they hope to outlast!).  I'd been chatting most of the race and pushing the pace of our little pack without thinking much about it.

Shortly after that, Chantalle and Juvenal fell back and it was just Sharon and I.  Miles 9 and 10 had a little up and down but were generally pretty flat.  I checked our total time at mile 10 and told Sharon it was time to pound the final 5K for a huge PR for her.  I felt like it had become my duty to pull her along to a PR; I'd told her that we would be in the 1:21s, and in my runner's high state of mind I decided I was like Desi helping Shalane at Boston...helping someone else was helping me too!  I always find it amazing the bond that you can forge with someone through running miles next to them.  I was really excited to see her succeed!

Somewhere in mile 10 we started the confusing part of the course, which entailed switching between sidewalks and the road.  In several spots there were signs that had "right turn" indicated, but there were two paths to turn right on, and we made several mis-steps off the course.  Mile 11 was The Confusing Mile (also my least favorite mile - especially after the wonderful straightness of the first 8 miles), because it was super winding on paths through campus and it was really unclear which way to turn in multiple spots.  I assume the race wasn't allowed to spray paint on the campus paths because the rest of the course was better marked than that portion.  On 4-5 occasions I took steps in the wrong direction and had to correct.  I never went very far off course, but it affected my momentum more than anything.  I was leading Sharon by a couple of steps throughout this time, so sometimes led her wrong and other times she was able to go the correct way when a volunteer corrected me, and then we would be side-by-side again when I turned back the right way.  There were volunteers at all of the turns, which was nice, but most didn't voluntarily tell us which direction to go, so I also ended up asking more than I wanted to talk at that point in the race!  Mile 11 had some short but steep uphills, but overall the weaving was much harder than the elevation.
The drop from 6-8 was nice; the climb from 9-13 was not as nice
I knew that mile 12 had some elevation gain, and when we turned a corner to see a long uphill it was intimating.  I felt like I had a strong finish in me, but I don't think anyone wants to climb 70 feet during mile 12 of a half marathon.  I'd stopped looking at my watch after mile 10, and was just pushing to get both Sharon and myself in as quickly as possible.  I'm glad I didn't look at the mile 12 split because it was 6:34 - the GAP was 6:20 though, so although we did fall off pace a tad, it wasn't as bad as it looked.  I was happy to get over the hill and to shortly after see the mile 12 sign.  I'd pulled out a little on Sharon on the hill, and I think even though that climb hurt my time it likely was to my advantage competition-wise because I am more of a strength runner and generally good on hills.

I knew it was go time for me in the final mile, so I pushed with all I had left.  We had another long incline, then had to make a few turns in a parking lot going into the finish.  It was a massive stadium parking lot, and I was certainly feeling the race and the high mileage leading up to it on my legs, but I knew I couldn't let up.  I reminded myself that this wasn't about how I felt; it was about what I'd trained my body to do.  Sharon's husband and teammates were around the final stretches, encouraging her to get me, and I kept thinking that I had to keep the pedal on the gas or she was coming!  My final 1.13 was at 6:03 pace; my Garmin recorded it lumped together due to how I'd programmed the long forgotten workout into it.  As I rounded the final turn, a man told me, "You've got about 30 meters on her" and I was able to enjoy the final stretch because I knew that there wasn't enough real estate for her to make up that much distance.  I even remembered to smile for my finishing photos!
Final stretch
Clock shot by Jon Ibbetson

Professional clock shots

I really was smiling even though you can't see it!

How's this for running through the finish?  You can also see my
sweat-soaked pony tail.

5 of the top 10 finishers were women
running under 1:23:30!
Sharon came through just behind me, elated with her bright shiny new PR, and we hugged in the finish chute.  Michelle was in not long after that, and we all made quick fuel, water, and shoe change stops, then headed out for a cool-down together.  Michelle needed 5 more miles to hit 20 for the day, and I told here I'd run the whole way with her unless I got too hungry (typically low blood sugar is my biggest barrier for race cool-downs, but I carried some chews with me this time!). Sharon wasn't going to go the whole way with us, but after we couldn't find through streets where we thought they should be to get her back to the stadium, she ended up running the whole 5 too.
We look pretty good for having run over 20 miles!
The way my splits are recorded is proof that I
really intended to run the scheduled workout!
We then headed to the awards ceremony and received our awards from the legendary K-State coach Bill Snyder, the namesake of this race and the highway the first 8 miles were run on (his highway was the best part of the course!).  Luckily I did win enough prize money to pay for the trip!  After the race my family played in Manhattan with Jon's brother's family, which made the trip even more worth it.  When I told my coach about forgoing the workout and instead running 13.1 at the prescribed tempo pace, he responded, "I figured that might happen", haha!  At least I'm predictable!
Awards by Bill Snyder
Everyone wants to PR, and I am no different, but I feel that what I got from this race was just as valuable, and I am so thankful that I went to it.  I believe that if the final 5 miles of this course would have been more like the first 8, I would have PRed even without a taper.  I believe if I'd tapered I would have broken 1:20 (that 3% math is in my favor, equaling a 2:26 gain).  But none of that would get me to the Trials, and to hit a 1:21 half with 2 weeks of mileage in the 80s on my legs in warm weather was a huge confidence-booster going into Grandma's.  If I hadn't run this, I wouldn't have the confidence that I can race well in a long event at 70 degrees - because historically, I haven't! Remember 4 weeks before CIM I couldn't hit marathon goal pace in the Bass Pro Half Marathon in warm temps (I ran 1:23:50)?  Then there was my death march at the Dam to Dam Half Marathon, which was even a goal race that I tapered for (1:26:19 there when I was in at least 1:21 shape).  I should mention that the wind was very light for the Bill Snyder Half at 5 mph, which was a change from the Bass Pro race and from the other two halves I ran this season.  It was also cloudy, which feels cooler than the same temperature and sunny (fingers crossed for cloud cover at Grandma's!).  I also now know that my race shoes function just fine on wet roads and when soaking wet from puddles, so that is one less thing to worry about if it rains at future races!

I am excited to see what this all means at Grandma's in 4 weeks!  This season has felt very different to me than last season.  I've become more flexible and more thankful.  Leading up to CIM, I spent the whole cycle obsessing about focusing on a 2:45, and even though I didn't think I was quite ready for it on race day, nothing else was going to be good enough and I didn't enjoy my PR like I should have.  For most of my Grandma's build, I've felt like I have no chance of getting the standard this cycle.  Just recently I've started to think that maybe, just maybe, it's possible -- still not likely, but I don't think I will ever be confident about it because 6:17 pace is just so darn fast for 26.2 miles!  Whatever my best is on race day is going to be good enough though, and I am going to be thankful for it and for the process.  Each time I don't run 2:45, I will remember to be thankful that I can start another training cycle and keep trying...and for that reason I'm also thankful that I didn't get it at CIM or Houston, because my Grandma's cycle has been good for me in many, many ways.
My sister-in-law also raced, only a couple of
months postpartum with her 4th!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Nike Vaporfly 4% Shoe Review

The title "When you're desperate enough for a 2:45 that you'll pay $250 for a pair of shoes purported to make you 4% faster, even though you are highly skeptical..." was a bit too lengthy.

The short version:  I'm not convinced these shoes will help you race faster, but I am also not convinced that they won't.

The details:
Most runners have heard about the Nike Vaporfly 4% shoe by now.  I'm not going to include any details about the shoe's development, history, and supposed benefits, but you can read about those here, here, and here.  I'm going to write about my personal experience with the shoe, which I see as somewhat ironic because I work in a field where we always rely on research-based evidence above personal anecdotes.  But many people have asked what I think of them, so here is my opinion!

I purchased the shoes at the beginning of January, mainly because my 2:47 at CIM had me salivating for more and I'd known a handful of people who'd smashed already fast marathon PRs wearing Vaporfys in 2017 fall marathons. Although the shoes arrived about 10 days before the Houston Marathon, I wasn't bold enough to run the marathon in shoes I hadn't worn on a long long run and in a shorter race, but as it turned out I'd have needed way more than 4% in Houston anyhow!  I tried them out on a 2 mile tempo shortly after Houston, mostly because I wanted to test them while they were still within the return window, and I while ran faster than I expected to that day, I felt like there were too many variables at play to really judge much (the main one being that I was rested, a rare commodity in marathon training, since I'd taken time off/easy after Houston).

Since then I have raced four times in them, at the Big 12 12K, the Easter Sun Run 6.5 mile 10K, the Rock the Parkway Half Marathon, and the Illinois Half Marathon.  I wore them for a 5 mile tempo run and a split tempo workout prior to racing in them, and later in a 20 mile workout to ensure that my feet felt okay in them for longer distances.  I've done all of my other workouts and long runs in my "typical" training shoes, which are Hoka Cliftons.

What everyone wants to know first is do they make you faster?  Because we all want to run faster!  I even did the math before I purchased them...would a 4% increase get me from 2:47:14 to 2:45:00?  It turns out that mathematically I need a 1.5% improvement for about a 2:44:44 finishing time...sign me up for even half of the 4%!  So far, I don't think they actually make me any faster.  Whomp whomp!  The workouts I've done wearing them weren't any better than those I ran in my usual shoes.  I had one workout twice within a few weeks - 4 x 1 mile split tempos - so once I wore my Vaporflys and the other time I wore my Cliftons.  My splits for those two workouts were very close (neither were stellar), with the workout in the Vaporflys being a tad slower.  The workouts and long runs I've nailed have seemed more related to other factors, particularly the weather and feeling a bit more rested.

But, do they reduce fatigue?  I think they reduce leg fatigue, which in a marathon could certainly translate into faster finishing times.  Since I've only raced distances up to half marathons in them, I can't yet speak to how they influence my marathon performance...ask me again mid-June!  I have noticed that I've recovered quickly after runs in them, but I also can't say for sure if that is the shoes or the fact that I've been running higher mileage recently.  Racing 13.1 is going to take more out of you when you're used to running 50 mpw than when you're used to running 70 mpw.

How do they feel?  They feel much different than Hoka Cliftons and Saucony Kinvaras that I otherwise run in, which should come as no surprise because the heel to toe drops are very different, with my usual shoes being low drop and the Vaporflys having a high drop.  The Vaporflys feel stiff yet soft, and springly.  Their feel does make you think you'll be faster in them!  We all know that thinking is half the battle, so...  The first few times I ran in them my feet got slightly sore on the bottoms, I imagine because they are used to cushy Hokas, but since then I haven't had that issue again.

I am planning to race Grandma's Marathon in them next month, so I'll further evaluate them afterwards.  When you're whittling down your times, every little factor helps, so I figure why not try.  It's the same reason I'll wear a sports bra that doesn't rub, socks that don't blister, and (if it's sunny) sunglasses that eliminate squinting - every little bit helps.  At the same time, you can find me focusing daily on the other big and little factors:  my training (first and foremost!), core work, strength work, foam rolling, sleep, nutrition, heat acclimation, etc.  Even if a shoe does help, it can only help so much, and putting in the daily work is far more important.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Tale of Two Halves

If you follow my blog, you know that I raced two half marathons in April (if not, you can read more than you ever wanted to know about my races at the Rock the Parkway Half Marathon here and the Illinois Half Marathon here).  Running two of them two weeks apart really allowed me to compare the races.

First, I am happy to report that both races went well!  They were not PRs, but they were some of my top half performances.  I'm at the point where I need everything to align in order to PR, which means a very fast course, ideal weather, a taper, and competition to run with (I hope I can someday get fit enough to PR under bad conditions, but I am not there now).  For each of these races I only had one of these factors in my favor, but having people around me in both events certainly helped me get the best outcomes I could!
Finishing photos that didn't show how much fun I had racing were a common factor

The Courses:
Rock the Parkway
  • Out and back with a loop around a residential area and park, kind of a big P shape.
  • Hilly, with over 500 feet of gain.  
  • The most difficult uphills are in miles 2, 3, and 8. 
  • The most noticeable downhills are in miles 4 and 13. 
  • You cannot/should not run even splits because of the elevation.
  •  I think you can run fast on it, but it is not the fastest course you could find.  
  • Loop with some long straights but a lot of turns.
  • 215 elevation gain, but nearly all of that gain is unnoticeable incline.  There are no hills.
  • Winding residential roads and even more winding park path from miles 5-10.  Then mile 12 had a circle drive thing in it that I really disliked and might have run the wrong way on had I not been following someone closely.  On my post-race survey I suggested they remove that and move the starting line backward to make up the distance!
  • You can run pretty even splits since the elevation changes are minor.
  • Like RtP, I think you can run fast on this course, but I have definitely run much faster courses (most notably White River, Rock 'n' Roll Arizona, and the second half of the Phoenix Marathon, which is their half course).  However, these two are among the best spring races in the Midwest.
The Weather:
  • The weather was very similar for both races.  The starting temperatures were around 40* with wind chills around 30*.  The wind was over 20 mph at both events.
  • The temperature was perfect for me, and while obviously that strong of wind steals time from everyone's finishing time, I know the wind hurt me far less than a temperature of 70* with 100% humidity would have!
My Strategy:
Rock the Parkway
  • My plan for this one was to place as high as I could, ideally in the top 5 female positions.  I wanted to make sure I started conservatively, especially with the uphill in miles 2-3, but then I wanted to race, however strategically that played out.  I hoped this would get me a time I was happy with, but I didn't have much confidence at this point in my season.
  • I again planned to start conservatively, which is pretty much always my strategy so could probably go without saying.  I secretly hoped to beat my RtP time, but I also knew that it could be difficult since I'd run nearly all of RtP side-by-side with Janell, and running with someone always makes for a better performance.  I again wanted to place high in the field, but based on past results I knew it would take a PR for me to get into the top 3, and this year ended up being far more competitive, with the top 3 running 1:14-1:16 and 8 women breaking 1:20.
My Splits:
  • My Garmin splits are below for comparison purposes.  I ran more evenly at Illinois based on the terrain.
  • Both courses are certified, so both courses are 13.1 miles, but my Garmin read pretty differently.  This is related to the number of turns on the courses, as Illinois had waaaaay more.  My Garmin usually reads a little short (I'm still bitter that because of that Strava didn't give me credit for a full marathon at CIM!), but if there are a ton of turns it may read a little long.
  • I'd like to point out that although my Garmin split below has my RtP final mile at 5:53.0, my actual watch said it was 5:52.96, and I'm going with 5:52, haha!
  • I'd also like to point out the random start times of the races, at 7:03 a.m. and 7:34 a.m.  Illinois was officially supposed to start at 7:03, but I think RtP was supposed to start at 7:30.
  • I am pretty consistent with stopping my watch when I am 2 seconds through the finish, as both my official times were 2 seconds faster than I had on my Garmin.  Now if I could just remember to wait a little longer and to smile when I finish to get better photos!
  • Both races had high winds, but at Illinois we didn't have very long stretches running into them, which was a benefit of many turns on the course.  The main portion into the wind that I remember (and that my splits show) was mile 10, although many people mentioned that the final 5K was all into the wind.  At RtP, we ran into a headwind for miles 8-13, which definitely wore on me more and slowed those mile splits (in my opinion, by 10-15 seconds/mile when there was no block, so I think we'd have had a nice negative split without the wind).

Factors that helped me in both races:
  • Not looking at my watch.  I need to write a post just on this and how much it's changed my running this season!  At RtP I only looked at my mile 1 split (because I felt like we started slowly) and at Illinois I only looked at my 10K and 10 mile splits (because there were course clocks at those points and the 10K clock was wrong).
  • Not having goal paces or times.  This seems counter-intuitive because how can you expect to achieve goals if you don't have them, right?  I recently read that it's difficult to gauge your fitness during marathon training because you are always running on tired legs.  I didn't have a good gauge on my fitness going into RtP particularly; prior to RtP I'd only had one really good workout this season, and it was 20 miles long and occurred 6 days prior to RtP (too close to the race to obtain any physical benefits from, and it actually probably hurt my race at RtP...but it did give me a mental boost!).  Then at Illinois I wasn't sure how my legs would respond being 2 weeks off RtP, with a 21 miler the weekend between the races.  I wasn't tied to any specific pace goals, but wanted to run consistently and finish strong, with what my body had to give on race days.  I'm good at gauging my pace and what I have (even in terrible workouts I do not start fast then fade, I am simply consistently slow on my splits), so this meant I wasn't nervous at all.
Random thoughts about both races:
  • The higher mileage I'm running, the more 13.1 miles flies by!
  • I am proud of myself for being brave enough to race these without tapering.  
    • Before working with my coach, I never raced anything without at least taking the two days prior to the race off/light - generally for a Saturday race I would do Thursday off and Friday 2-3 miles, and for important races I'd do a short Wednesday also.  This meant that my weekly mileage was less consistent back then, which I now know held me back in my important races.  
    • I only started running 70 mile weeks in September 2017, but this season I ran solid halves during them.    
    • I run 7 days a week and my Fridays are always short, at 3-4 miles.  The Fridays before these races were no different, so although I don't count that as a taper since I run that every week, I do think it's worth noting that I had that short easy day in there so it was not as if I ran 8-10 miles the day before these races.
I'm glad I decided to run both of these races; I think they were just what I needed in April!

But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded. - 2 Chronicles 15:7

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Illinois Half Marathon: Just let it happen!

The short:
In my second un-tapered half in two weeks, I made it through 13.1 windy miles in 1:22:00, and felt like I got everything out of myself that I could have that day!  I started conservatively, ran without looking at my watch (aside from at the course clocks, which were at the 10K and 10 mile marks), and kept picking ponytails in front of me to try to chase down.  The race went by very quickly, I felt strong throughout, and I was able to close with a 19:04 final 5K and 6:02 final mile.  This was a competitive one - I won my age group (35-39), but was 11th female overall, which makes me feel old.  The race organizers did a fantastic job with the event - everything about the race ran smoothly and they treated me amazingly well as an elite entrant.  For that reason, I will return to this race, even though I did not like the curvy roads and paths that some of the course was on (don't even get me started on the circle drive thing in the final mile!).  My parents took the trip to the race with me, which was fantastic!

My official result is here.
My dad's video of my finish is here.
All smiles at the expo with my mom

The long:
Against better judgement/typical practices, I scheduled two half marathon races within two weeks during my marathon build-up and told my coach I didn't really need to taper for either of them.  For the Illinois Half Marathon, I secretly hoped to beat my time from Rock the Parkway on a flatter course, but I didn't know how my body would respond to racing two halves so close together, particularly when on the other weekends in April I ran 20+ milers.  My race plan was to just get out there and let it happen.

I traveled to the race with my parents, and greatly enjoyed the trip with them.  They may have enjoyed the perks that I received as an elite entrant even more than I did (they definitely liked the pre-race dinner lasagna!)!  There were several really fast women entered in the race, and although I'm not sure I will ever get over that impostor syndrome feeling when I line up with the elite field, I didn't feel intimidated before this race.  It's amazing how much not worrying about my split times and pace averages reduces my pre-race nerves!  I think I used to worry that I'd have to force my goal pace come hell or high water, and now I recognize that I can't force anything, but instead I'll push with all I have that day and it will be enough.  This also reduces my stress about factors I can't control, such as the weather and other runners.
I wasn't prepared for this photo, but it shows my
socks & the elite hospitality suite!
On Saturday morning I took advantage of the elite hospitality suite just off the starting line, then headed out for my usual 2-3 mile warm-up.  When my watch beeped 1 mile, I looked to see that I'd run a 7:17, which is faster than my warm-ups typically start (plus I'd felt like I was running about 8:15 pace).  Then when I ran my uptempo 3 minutes during my warm-up (with the goal of settling into half effort), I was at 5:56 pace, so I started thinking that perhaps I was going to have a good day!  On my warm-up I noted the strong wind that was going to be difficult to battle through when running north and west, but I was very thankful the temperature was cold (38* at the start), since this time of year can go either way!  That wind didn't help anyone, but a warm and humid day would have hurt my performance far more.
Can you find me?
I got on the starting line at the last minute, and dodged into the middle of the corral to tell my friend Julie, who was running the full marathon, good luck.  We talked for a couple of minutes while the wheelchair racers started, and then we were off.  There was quite a crowd for the first half mile or so, but it gradually thinned out.  I noticed many women out in front of me, and after the first couple of miles my race plan became to focus on the closest ponytail and move up, which was awfully reminiscent of Rock 'n' Roll Arizona last year and is probably my favorite way to race.  My pace felt brisk but comfortable, and I spoke with several other runners around me (a man who was running the marathon and was concerned he was starting out too fast, a woman who a mutual friend had identified to me as close to my pace and who I worked with for a bit, other racers who I briefly encouraged as I passed).  I got a lot of compliments on my compression socks!
Just keeping up my tradition of double chin
pose in race photos - I think it's part of my
running form!
The 10K mark came up relatively quickly, and was accompanied by a chip mat and course clock.  As we neared the clock, I saw it ticking to 40:50ish.  When I saw it, I thought, "Is this why I feel good??  Am I really running over 6:30 pace?!"  It became necessary to check my watch at that point, and it showed 38:5X, so I realized that course clock was started with the wheelchair racers who went off 2 minutes before the main field.  My 10K course split was 38:58, which is 6:16 pace.  I remember when my 10K goal was to break 39:00, so I always get a boost from seeing my 10K split times in halves in the 38s.

Shortly after we passed the 10K mark, we entered my least favorite part of the course, which included curvy residential roads followed by terribly curvy park paths.  I could not wait to get out of that park!  I kept chasing the women in front of me, but I was stuck in no-man's/no woman's land within the field at that point, and I couldn't hit a rhythm on the winding paths.  I knew from the course map that it had more turns than I'd prefer, but it was a big loop and didn't look nearly as bad as the winding areas were.  Partway through the park we turned directly into the wind and I felt like I was really losing it; the women I'd been gaining on seemed to be pulling out on me.  My mile 10 split confirms that these were pretty accurate thoughts!

I breathed a sigh of relief when we exited the park just before mile 10, even though we were still running into the wind.  I was slowly gaining on a man and kept telling myself to just get to him to tuck in behind him until we turned out of the wind.  Just as I was almost to him, another man came flying by me, just before the 10 mile clock.  I told myself to latch onto him, and then when we both passed the other man he latched onto us as well, so we had a pack and my adventures in no-man's land were thankfully over.  We passed the mile 10 clock at 1:02:56, which is 6:17 average, and I checked my watch to confirm that clock was correct.  I was vacillating between thinking, "If I run the last 5K in 19:00, I'll be in the 1:21s" and "What if I can't manage a 20:00 final 10K and I'm over 1:23?!"

I stayed with the stronger man (the other man dropped off) and running with him really helped me gain on the women in front of me.  He was in the full marathon and therefore not working nearly as hard as I was at that point of the race.  We passed one woman just before the mile 12 mark, and the man, who I'd spoken to enough to tell him that I was hanging onto him as long as I could, encouraged me to go get the other who was in sight ahead of me.  I pushed with all I had for the final mile, pulling ahead of the man before the full marathoners split off, and gained a lot of ground on the woman.  As we came into the stadium finish, I knew I didn't have enough distance to catch her, but I never let off, particularly when I saw the finishing clock.  I gave it my all to get through the line in a time starting with 1:21, but my official time ended up being 1:22:00.  Since they didn't give us tenths of a second on our official times, I'm just going to assume it was rounded and was truly between 1:21:59.6-1:21:59.9, haha!  My average pace for the course was 6:15, although my Garmin read a shade faster on pace and longer on distance; there was no hitting all of those tangents. 
Watch-stopping photos are also my tradition
Post-race glow
Garmin splits - I was pleased with my pacing
aside from mile 10 (Strava said the GAP was
6:21, which is not quite as bad but not what I
wanted consistency-wise)
This is my third best half finishing time, although my Garmin pace was 1 second/mile faster than what I ran in my second best time at Rock 'n' Roll Arizona.  The Arizona course was faster (and straighter) than this one and the weather better there, plus I tapered for that race and for my PR half, but even without those details I'm pleased to run one of my top times.  I'd say this is my second best half when you consider all of those factors, and I am proud that it came during a 70 mile week.  Last season I was so caught up in thinking that I had to break 1:20 in the half before I could try for 2:45 in the full, and while that would still certainly be ideal, I felt no pressure to do it in this half or at Rock the Parkway without tapering or peaking.
Expo posing
I truly found joy in the journey during this race, and just letting the best performance I had that day come out of me.  I ended up with 20 miles for the day, and I think anytime you make a half race into a 20 mile day it's a success!  I can't thank my parents enough for all of the races they've accompanied me to over the years, and for their unconditional support.  They would be just as proud of me if I ran a 2:21 vs. the 1:22, which is so much more meaningful than any race time.  I never appreciated them as much as I began to when I became a parent myself.

7 weeks after this race, it will be time to run a full marathon!
My parents have selflessly traveled the U.S.
with me as I've pursued running goals
They are truly amazing and the best supports I
could ever ask for!

Monday, April 30, 2018

April in review: Just keep showing up!

April 2018

Total mileage for the month:  306.8 (in comparison:  January - 207, February - 254, March - 298).  Wahoo, made it over 300!  This is my third time ever for that in a month, although last month was very close.
  • March 26-April 1:  71.1
  • April 2-8: 70.3
  • April 9-15:  63.7
  • April 16-22:  71.9
  • April 23-29:  70.5
  • April 30-May 6:  76.2
  • April 14:  Rock the Parkway Half Marathon in 1:22:42 (6:18 average) for 3rd overall female and a new single age Missouri state record for age 37.  Although this finishing time was 1:52 slower than my half PR of 1:20:50, the optimist in me felt like it rivaled my PR performance based on the weather (crazy headwind for the final 5.5ish miles) and course (over 500 ft of elevation gain), which was shocking (in a good way!) because my workouts haven't been as nearly strong as I was running last season plus I did not taper.  I also accomplished something I've been striving for for about a year, which was running the final mile of a half under 6:00.  My last mile was 5:52 (then 5:18 pace for the last 0.1), which I was so pumped about that I wasn't even upset that I got out-kicked for 2nd place (actually, kicking in trying for 2nd place is exactly what got me that fast of a final mile!).
  • April 28:  Illinois Half Marathon in 1:22:00 (6:15 average) for 1st in age group 35-39 and 11th overall female (this one had a stacked field!).  Like Rock the Parkway, this was no PR, but it was only 1:10 off and under the circumstances I was pumped about it.  The course was flat (215 ft elevation gain; felt like less), but it had too many turns and curvy running paths for my taste, and the wind was just as terrible as two weeks before.  I am still waiting for Strava to add WAP (wind-adjusted pace)!  I raced this without a taper as well, and ran a nice negative split, including finishing with a 6:02 mile.  I also had a great time traveling to this race with my parents!
  • Do I want to run a goal race half and nail a PR?  Yes; I am dying to try to break 1:20.  Do I want to run a marathon PR more?  Absolutely; that took priority when planning this season...and marathons are going to take priority for me until I either run one in 2:45:00 or reach January 2020 without doing so.
Every time I run a 1:22 I have a double
chin in my finishing photos
Less of a double chin here because it was
really 1:21:59.9, right?
  • April 4:  Medium long run of 11 miles, with 2 fast finish miles (6:32, 6:29).  I would have liked to run these at or under 6:15, but my legs said noooooo in regards to going any faster.  I had a big week March 26-April 1 (2 workouts, a race, and a long run), and I think I was feeling that plus my double and strength workout on April 3.  One thing I'm learning this training cycle is to not be too upset about less than ideal paces during higher mileage; if the effort is there on tired legs, the benefit is there and our bodies know effort, not pace.  I ran this one with Jessi, and always appreciate her pulling me along on the Wednesday double digits ones.
  • April 8:  2 x 4 mile + 2 x 2 mile tempos within a 20.5 mile long run (3.5 warm up, 3.5 cool down, me over-achieving by a half mile on a 20 mile day).  My goal pace range for the 12 tempo miles was 6:03-6:26, which is a huge range with the lower end being far too ambitious for 12 miles worth of work.  I secretly hoped that I could average 6:17, ultimate goal marathon pace, but I hadn't run anything recently that made that a realistic goal.  I ended up averaging 6:18 for the 12 tempo miles!  My splits were:  6:25, 6:25, 6:21, 6:19 / 6:25, 6:16, 6:23, 6:15 / 6:17, 6:08 / 6:19, 6:04.  As with every split tempo I ever run and as evidenced by my splits, it was always hard to get re-started after the recovery jogs, and I would have rather just run the whole thing straight.  I practiced drinking and took a gel during the run (half of it after each 4 mile tempo) without any stopping, so that was a perk of the recovery jogs.  I wrote more about this workout here, because it was a Big Deal to me.
  • April 10:  4 mile fartlek of 90'/90' (2 warm up, 2 cool down).  My leggies were tired for this one coming 2 days off of the big 20 mile workout.  I should have had an additional day between those two workouts, but since I'd had to push the long run workout back a day due to sleet and snow (!!!) I didn't.  I also had a double the day between the runs, so this workout was more about running hard on tired legs than anything.  I ended up with 9 pushes within the 4 miles, and my paces on them were 5:56, 5:59, 5:49, 5:59, 5:42, 6:10, 5:35, 5:53, 5:40.  I think the 6:10 one was up incline and the 5:35 one was down incline.  I always like to keep all of my fartlek pushes in the 5's, but I will blame the incline for the one that wasn't.
  • April 17:  Flippin' Fartlek (2.2 warm up, 2.3 cool down for 10 miles total).  This one is pushes of 6', 5', 4', 3', 2', 1' with recoveries of 1', 2', 3', 4', 5'.  It's always an interesting workout, because early your recoveries are so short (especially the 1' between the 6' and 5' pushes) and then later they are so long (that 5' between the 2' and 1' pushes takes forever!), and I have complaints about both too short and too long recoveries, haha.  My push paces were:  5:59, 5:58, 5:57, 5:52, 5:47, 5:36 and I felt good about that - especially because the first 3 were almost like running sub-6:00 pace for 15 minutes straight (actually I think it was slightly harder than running it for 15 minutes straight because the recoveries disrupt my rhythm).
  • April 24:  10 x 400 m. with 200 m recoveries (3 warm up, 1.6 cool down).  After I bombed this working last month, I wasn't particularly looking forward to heading back to the track, but the bar was also set very low on my season best 400 times!  I was hoping to average 1:25 or under, but couldn't pull that off (guess I didn't want to set the bar too high for next time!).  I was like clock-work on 1:27 though, with 8 of the repeats being 1:27, 1 being 1:25, and 1 at 1:28 - for 1:27 average.  The best I've averaged on this workout is 1:21, so this was grossly off that, but that was also on relatively fresh legs and with a guy friend pacing me.  I typically run slower on my workouts coming off weekend 20+ milers, and on my cool-down I realized that I'd run 55 miles in 4 days (4/21 - 21 miles, 4/22 - 8 miles, 4/23 - 14 miles, and 4/24 - 12 miles), so that may not have helped me.  I thought about how my friend Kris said that she never ran anything sub-6:00 in her training for CIM, and most of her tempos on marathon-training legs were in the 6:20s, but at CIM she averaged 6:13 pace for 26.2 miles!  With my marathon goals, running fast-ish on tired legs is better than running faster on fresh legs, for sure...but geez, why am I so slow at speed work this season?!  400s are so short that I never feel like I really get rolling.  I could definitely hold the same pace for 800s and 1600s (probably even 3200 - we will find out in May!), but I just can't go any faster.  I can finish half marathon races with 5:52-6:02 miles but my 400 m. repeat pace is barely faster.  Oy.
  • Doubles on April 3, 5, 9, 10, 17, 23, 24, and 30.
  • Strides on April 5, 13, 27, and at least a few before all workouts and races. 
  • Full body strength workouts on April 3, 8 (the afternoon of 20.5 mile workout!), 10, 14 (8 hours after racing a half), 17 (during a work conference call), 21 (immediately after a 21 miler), 24, and 29, and 5-10 minutes of core work nearly every day. When I first started lifting on my hardest running days I thought it was terrible, but I've gotten much more used to it.  The only one I bumped was April 28 after the Illinois Half, because after the race/20 mile morning, 5.5 hours in the car, and a 7:00 p.m. return home, it just wasn't going to happen.  I was going to skip that one altogether since I got no taper for or recovery from that race, but I ended up rallying to get it done on Sunday evening, while my family ate pizza nonetheless!
  • Favorite workout:  Obviously it was the 20.5 miler with 12 miles of split tempo!
Long Runs/Medium Long Runs:
  • April 1:  16.2 miles (7:24).  This was 3 miles of uuuugh, followed by 13 miles of good!  It took some time to loosen up since I'd run the Easter Sun Run "10K" and 10.6 miles total the day before, and since the wind chill was 22 degrees.  I ran 5 miles solo then 11 miles with my friend Kim who lives near my parents.  Happy Easter - by His wounds we are healed!
  • April 4:  11.3 miles (7:27), more details above in workouts.
  • April 8:  20.5 miles with a workout (more details above and here - clearly this was the highlight of this month aside from the two races!), and I am not sure on the average pace for the entire run because I split off the warm up and cool down on my watch.  If you want to do the math it was 3.5 warm up (7:39), 13.5 miles that was 12 miles of split tempo and 1.5 miles of recovery jogs (6:28), 3.5 cool down (7:37).  I ran this solo and the weather was ideal, around 30* with light wind.  It sleeted and snowed enough to make the roads hazardous on April 7, so I ran this a day late, and then about 2 hours after I finished this run it sleeted/freezing rained, so I certainly hit the weather sweet spot.
  • April 14:  18.3 miles total with the Rock the Parkway Half, 2.8 miles warm up, and 2.3 miles cool down.
  • April 18:  11 miles (7:39) - holy wind tunnel!  I have no idea how Boston Marathoners ran 26.2 miles into crazy winds, and thinking about that made me feel bad for complaining about it, but I complained anyway.
  • April 21:  21 miles (7:18).  Since I'd run a 20 mile workout two weeks prior, 20 miles didn't seem as intimating, but I was also pretty tired going into this run.  I never looked at my watch because the goal was just to get the mileage in, and I didn't want to get upset with myself if I was running 7:45 pace (I keep growing fonder and fonder of not looking at my watch this training cycle, which really is a switch after living and dying by it last cycle).  I ran a 15 mile loop with Daniel, Claudio, and Rebecca, and then I needed 5 more miles on my own to round off the 20 miles I had scheduled (I couldn't talk anyone else into running farther!).  For some reason I couldn't mentally bring myself to run a 2.5 mile out-and-back after they stopped, so I ran a 6 mile loop instead and ended up with 21 miles instead of 20.  I guess you know you're in the depths of marathon training when 6 miles seems easier than 5!  I finished the run feeling really, really good (definitely could have continued to 26.2).  After I finished this run, I drove the 5 minutes back to my house and did my 45 minute strength workout immediately, which I'd told myself I didn't have to do (immediately or at all that day), but I felt completely up for.  Although my long runs haven't been as fast as I was doing last cycle, I could have never done a full strength session after my 20+ mile runs or half marathon races last cycle, so I hope that counts for something!
  • April 28:  20 miles total with the Illinois Half plus 3.1 warm-up and 3.8 cool-down...I did not run a step over 20! 
  • Favorite long run:  I'm double dipping by selecting the same run as I selected as my favorite workout - April 8's 20.5 miler with a workout!  Apparently I am also seeing how many times I can refer to that run in this post, haha!  The half marathon race/long run combos were pretty sweet too, but I threw them out of contention since they were races.  I make the rules up as I go here.  
  • Boston!
    • My friend and coach's wife Kimi Reed placed 8th female in the Boston Marathon!  She was 16 seconds behind Shalane Flanagan and a place ahead of Edna Kiplagat (Edna ran exact time at CIM).  I was in awe!  Training through the terrible Missouri winter sure served her well.  I was so impressed with her performance in a field of professionals.  Times meant nothing in the horrible race day weather, and Kim gritted it out with the best marathoners in the world.  
    • I loved that the second place female, behind Desi, was a non-professional full-time nurse.  
    • Of course I loved that Desi won!  I love her secret to success:  Just keep showing up.  I loved it so much I used it as a title more than once. 
    • I loved that the 5th place woman didn't even start with the elite women, entering the race with a 2:53 PR that she blew away on Marathon Monday.  Simply amazing!  
    • For the first time ever, I've got the itch to run Boston...  My first BQ marathon was in 2004, so I've had 14 years of having no desire to run it (call me crazy, I know, but I hate large cities and crowds).  I have a friend who got on the elite women's start 3 times with a 2:47 marathon PR, so that would eliminate the running in a crowd thing...I am pretty sure I want to run it at some point, but not sure when due to my 2:45:00 obsession preoccupation compulsion neurosis mania craze goal.
  • My friend Jamie ran right on the OTQ standard at CIM in December: 2:45:02 gun time and 2:44:57 chip time.  USATF goes by gun time for the Trials, but they also note that they will accept appeals when it's close and chip time is under.  Finally Jamie found out that she got into the 2020 Trials - actually because I saw her on the list after randomly clicking a link to it that I saw on an article, because I was curious how many women had qualified.  She'd appealed but never heard anything back, but now she's on the official list!  Read more about it on her blog.  I was so happy for her, although I also sure wish she'd have received a much faster answer!  She has been training for Grandma's on the assumption that her CIM time would not be accepted...but I suppose she will just have to go get the A standard there!  Although, at this point the A vs. B standards seem to be a moot point since Atlanta was selected as the Trials host city and plans to pay expenses for all athletes who've qualified!
  • Atlanta was selected to host the 2020 Marathon Trials!  I've never wanted to go to Atlanta until now.  The Trials will also be on Leap Day, 2/29/20 - how fun is that?!
  • No days off again this month; I've run every day since 1/27/18.
  • My Garmin glitched and was out of commission for a mere couple of hours, which sent me into much more of a panic than it should have!  I had to re-set it, and then after every run I did for awhile it told me I'd set new records, since all of my old data was erased (this was a non-issue because I'd uploaded it all; it's on my Garmin Connect account, just not the actual device).  I will say, it was a good boost to be told I was setting records every day for awhile.
  • Since historically I've run un-rested halves in my training builds at about the same pace as my tapered-for full marathons at peak (see Bass Pro Half Marathon 2017 and Kansas City Half Marathon 2017; this also occurred at the Johnston's half marathon when I ran a 1:28 prior to a 2:58), and since I averaged 6:18 for my tempo miles in my recent workout 20 miler, after Rock the Parkway I told my husband that at the rate I'm going if Grandma's goes uber-well I will average 6:18 pace...which would be a 2:45:10.  It probably goes without saying that this would be extremely exciting, but of course I'd then agonize over those 10 seconds until the end of time.  If I were forced to pick a goal pace for Grandma's right now, though, I'd say 6:30ish.  But hopefully someday I can string my performances at Rock the Parkway and the Illinois Half Marathon together (1:22:42 + 1:22:00 = OTQ!), and I think racing those halves with mileage on my legs was helpful towards that goal!
Non-running life events:
  • Easter - He has risen!  Pretty amazing that Jesus died to heal us, mind, body, and soul.
  • It snowed on Saturday, April 7, after sleeting for awhile, so the roads were quite slippery and the wind chill was 8*!  I bumped my long run to Sunday since footing was bad, and ran Sunday's mileage on Saturday very slowly wearing screw shoes.  It snowed again on April 15, but not enough to stick.  I ran in a sports bra on April 30.
  • Albani competed in the Awana Grand Prix after she and Jon dedicated a lot of time to making The Yellow Speeder a fast car.
  • Albani was in a pirate-themed school musical.
  • My parents spent the last weekend of the month with us.  After our Illinois trip, we spent Sunday at church, eating out, and hiking.
  • Work continued to provide additional stress in my life this month.  If I hadn't worked late so many evenings, I'd definitely have written full posts about Boston and about Atlanta hosting the 2020 Trials!
Matching Easter dresses with my little!
My mom loves the grandkids in rabbit ears
We now have a year's supply of Easter candy
(this was 1 of 4 hunts she did!)
My sweet parents
My sister's family
More nieces & nephews + more egg hunting
I love seeing my dad as a grandpa
Cousin love
It snowed twice in April, which is not normal for Missouri
We love our winter weather library trips
The Yellow Speeder

My adorable pirate

I look about as tired as I was this evening!
Race weight isn't everything!
Church pose (Jon hated this photo of him
so I had to crop us out to publish it)
Hiking on our land out in the boonies
I think we should host a trail race here!