Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Last Chance to BQ.2 and I did it!! Woohoo!!!

     We all have dreams.   Qualifying for the Boston marathon has been one of mine since I understood what that meant. Although I have attempted this feat in at least 5 of my 8 marathons, I have always fallen short. As I sit back and look at how many amazing things happened for me to qualify and how absolutely flawless the timing was, I am in awe. God is so very cool. Sometimes He exceeds the desires of your heart beyond what you could even imagine. 
   Me and Angus doing what we do:-)

  As I began my search for a marathon that would be ideal for me to BQ, I stumbled upon the perfect course geared to qualifying people for Boston, Last Chance to BQ.2 in Geneva, Illinois. It was to be the inaugural running of this marathon, and it passed my coach's approval test!  Hallelujah!  My marathon was found. Now I wanted to recruit an accomplice or two. My sister/friend Angie, aka Angus, agreed to go with me.  Since she keeps me physically and mentally in check, I was thrilled to have her on board!  Our friend, JD, signed up too.  Despite running vastly different paces, there is just strength in numbers.  Ashley, JD's wife, and Jess decide go as our amazing Sherpa friends!  They rock!  People who aren't doing the event but are super supportive in helping you are priceless!   
        For the first time ever during any marathon training, I followed my husband/coach's plan exactly.  I was going all in!  No workout was left undone!  In efforts to show my true devotion this time, I also decided to change my eating habits. I committed to eating super clean for 21 days. This meant as little processed food as possible.  Fruit, vegetables, lean meat, and nuts were my staple. No bread, no sweets were allowed. My only grains were quinoa and oatmeal. On July 27th, I completed my 21 day challenge, and I did not want to stop!  The way I felt made eating healthy easy. I finally got the "food is fuel" idea!  I saw it work!  The healthier I ate, the better I ran!  I have since added some whole grain bread and some treats, but I honestly don't want the same foods I did before. Do not get me wrong, I eat. I eat a lot. I do not go hungry. I do not count calories. I just strive to make sure everything I put in my mouth has some nutritional value. Quality calories are my priority, and I am convinced that my new diet made a huge difference in my performance. 

    These are the big boys that I try to keep up with!

     Some of my favorite ladies of Shoals Cycle Club

   This is how I keep the people coming back. I offer 
stairs for sitting, muffins for eating, and water for drinking !

     Since I did not want to run more often, my coach prescribed some cycle training to help develop fitness. I rode my bicycle 1-2 times a week for 1-2 hours each ride. As the First Lady of the shoals cycle club, I was tickled to host a group of cyclists each Saturday for the pancake flat 20 mile first lady's loop!  I have an amazing group of cross training buddies that made for lots of fun training!

   Me and Carol trying to kill it!
           Buddy, Sissy, Kennyard, me, and Chris representing Borden Dental
    Tanya, me, Jess, and Bigfoot after the independence 5k

           Who rode their bicycles at the beach?  We did!

Enjoying an amazing meal with these lovelies on our beach trip

Running with friends is my very favorite way to run.  For this training period, I had somebody fast show up to push me every day on the run!  Speedy Carol ran on most every run with me since March!  Kenny is the perfect friend to provide live podcasts!  Angie is a great pace-Nazi and pushed me on my long runs and tempo runs!  Buddy was awesome for pacing me and Angie on lots of tempo!   Every weekend there was a great big group of friends to run with, many of whom have seen me through a plethora of races!  April, Cheryl, Deb, Carol, Stacy, and Steven even kept me focused and trained up on a girls beach trip the weekend before the marathon!  Honestly, I could not do it without my village!  
          I tell you, everything just fell into place this race!  Even my little aches and pains, from pump bump to plantar fasciitis, all but seemed resolved by race send off!  I didn't even get sick!  The work was complete!  I had done all that I could do!  Time to get this show on the road!  
   The Herrington's courtyard
           Our room opened to this!
           I heart homemade cookies and milk!
           This sweet man ran me down to give me the 
          banana that his boss would not sell me!  Hero!

         From huntsville airport, we had a short 2 hour flight to Chicago! JD had arranged a driver who picked us up at the door of O'Hare and delivered us to the Herrington Inn and Spa in Geneva. It was AWESOME!   Seriously, one of the best places I have ever stayed. Early check in was no problem. In the window filled dining room surrounded by the garden courtyard overlooking the river, we enjoyed an amazing carb loaded brunch. I can still taste those fresh blueberry pancakes! Yummy!  Stone hallways led to our cozy room with a fireplace and double doors opening to the courtyard/river. The Inn was positioned just a short walk to packet pickup, which was a breeze!  These race officials really had their act together. Once our formalities were completed, Angie, JD, and I were able to return to the Herrington for a relaxing nap. Jess and Ashley continued to explore the entire town of Geneva by foot.  We all met back up for an early dinner at Chiantis Italian restaurant, where I devoured delicious homemade rolls, garlic sauce, cup of minestrone, and half of the smaller portion of chicken tortellini.  On our way back to the Herrington, we made a short stop at the chocolate kitchen. We were so full that we could only sample a bite of Reese's gelato.  Actually, we were also saving space for later. The Herrington has turn down service including homemade chocolate chip cookies and milk in our own individual carafes delivered to our room before bed.  Princess treatment. Kate has nothing on us!  
      As we retired for the evening, we had plenty of time to leisurely shower and lay out our race kit. The zen music app was set, the peace and calming essential oil applied, and I went right to sleep around 8. This was an unusual, but ideal prerace night. 
      Race morning I awoke on my own 15 min before my alarm!  Got my coffee brewing!  2 cups of coffee with organic vanilla milk for creamer, one banana, and chocolate peanut butter filled the tank.  Put on my zoot suit, newly purchased arm warmers(last pair they had!), hokas, and my war paint(makeup). I was rested and ready to run!  
   Elite nutrition table. I am obsessed!

           We are ready to run!

     We had a short cab ride straight to the race.  I dropped off my nutrition at the elite nutrition tables.  What a brilliant idea!  I placed my premixed 450 calorie grape infinite water bottle with my number plastered on it in my square, that I shared with only one other person.  I was able to grab that bottle each loop and drink a gulp or two and throw it down when I finished, and it appeared back in my box the next lap!  So I ended up drinking a little every 3.25 miles for around 400 calories titrated throughout the marathon. I never ran out of go juice. I never fumbled for nutrition or even really slowed down. I didn't even need water or anything else from any other aid station. I just zoomed past them. It was genius, and I am quite possibly spoiled!!!
     With an overcast 43 degree start and a 53 degree sunshine welcoming us to the finish, the weather was beyond goldilocks perfect!  It was as if I got to set the thermostat to "perfect for a long run"!
     We had plenty of time to take a few pictures and make a porta potty lap before lining up to start. Jess and Ashley were able to stay right with us to the start, so we handed off our jackets minutes before the start. 

    I'm right behind James with Angie to my right. 
    This is how we ran for 15 miles. 
           James, my pacer

    The coach who helped me and Angie during the race
    Gleeful runner in front of Angie. 
   Fashion George to the left of Angie

     Everyone of the 300 runners at this race had a goal. They either wanted to qualify for Boston or make some specific time goal. Each person self-aligned themselves according to their goal pace. We said our goodbyes to Ashley and Jess, and wished JD well as he headed to the 3:11 pace group. Angie and I positioned ourselves at the back of the 3:31 pace group. We said a prayer, the National anthem was sung, and we were off!  Within a half a mile, I settled in directly behind the 3:31 pacer, James.  I adored James as a pacer.  Immediately, his run style reminded me of Buddy who had paced Angie and I on several tempo and marathon pace runs. He was steady as a clock. I felt extremely comfortable running right behind him.  It was as if there were a tether and he were pulling me along Although he was only supposed to do 4 laps with us, he stayed on for a fifth for me!  I was pumped. From the start, Angie was to my right-her chosen position. Unfortunately, there was a man with very large feet and a playful gait who loved to run right in front of her. Although he was quite cheerful, it was rather challenging to run behind him. Thankfully around mile 7, his coach joined him and he moved to the back of the pack. This turned out to be a multiple Godsend. Midway through the 4th lap, Angie took off her long sleeved extra layer and dropped a gu. The coach not only returned the gu to Angie, but offered to carry her shirt for her!  It's the little things that are huge during a marathon!
       The beautiful course ran through the Fabyan Forest Preserve.  The paths were about one car lane wide and mostly tree covered along the fox river with just a few gentle elevations and descents. It ran across 3-4 wooden bridges and through a neighboring town which appeared to be having a festival. Beautiful homes with meticulous landscaping including shrubs shaped into antebellum ladies graced the path. Even a wooden windmill!!!  Lots to visually take in for a 3.25 mile loop. However, I may have been hallucinating or the only one who looks around during a marathon!  Everyone else seemed to only see pavement. Lol!  Thankful for pictures to prove my sanity!
   3 miles left and 30 minutes to do it!
         Angie crushed it!  Check out those muscles!
           Checking my watch as I finish for my time!

       Three of the happiest runners on earth!
      We all BQed and PRed by around 10 minutes!!!

Angie stayed by my right until lap 5 around mile 15. At this time, our pace group began to pass another pace group. It became a little congested for a few seconds. Angie made her way to the clearing and settled into a slightly quicker pace.  In assessment of my own pace, I checked my watch. I had not run one mile above a 7:58 pace. There was no question. Although I still felt great, there was no test, no 5k, nothing that said that I had any business running as fast as I was. Not to mention even considering speeding up. So I happily watched as Angie glided ahead. After that lap, James left me too. Now myself, Katlyn, and Katie remained with our new pacer, George. George was nice and a fellow fashionista, which did provide for some mental distraction. Picturing him so happy to find the perfect aqua and gray argyle socks to wear with his argyle sweater and skinny jeans made me smile.  I hung with the remaining group as long as possible which turned out to be mile 19. At this time my quads began to burn a little, so I decided that I would run the 8:02 pace that I had intended from the start. Without too much trouble, I whittled away a few more miles at this pace with the 3:31 pace group still in sight. The legs got heavier. The mind got weaker. Around mile 22, I began to do math. I realized that if I ran a 9:30 to the finish line that I would still make my goal. The really surprising thing to me is that I did not have to slow to a 9:30!!!  Even though I did not want to go any faster, I was still strong enough to run an 8:20-8:50 relatively easily. This was unchartered territory for me!  Every time that I have ever gotten to mile 22 on pace, I am dying and struggling to do an 11:00 pace!  I was thrilled!  When I passed Ashley and Jess at 3:05 race time to begin my final lap, I knew that I would reach my goal!  3 miles to go and 30 min to get it done!  I got this!  The body was tired, but it kept moving!  With about one mile to go, I caught up to the gleeful runner and his coach. He encouraged his coach to pace me in. I went with him, but I quickly got side stitches. Approaching the final half mile, my pacer, James, also showed up to run me in. With the two of them encouraging me to the final stretch where I could see the time clock, side stitches were overridden. This was a very sweet moment!  I saw 3:32xx. I thought I can beat 3:33, so I began to kick it!  James peeled off to my left and began to cheer. I see Angus to my right in her space blanket yelling that's my sister!  She was so happy!  I see Jess and Ashley cheering at the finish!  I charge across that line and check my watch, as I started after the race clock, 3:32:57!!!  Boston qualifier!  What a great moment!  It is so very touching to have so many people truly believe in you and happy for you when you achieve your goal. That was the most awesome reward of the whole experience. A truly beautiful day. I felt so very loved. Thank you to all who trained with me, believed in me, and loved me!  I could not have ever done the work to get here without you!   My husband got to coach me for the best race that I have ever run!  What a sweet feeling! Special thanks to him as he has seen me fail more times than succeed. I'm glad you did not give up on me!  I think I'm finally moving up to the favorite student list instead of the duntz!  I love you!
   This is my coach! It takes a big hat to hold all his knowledge!
           I love him! 

After you BQ, you get to celebrate!  JD and most of Chicago had no idea what was coming!  We had a blast!  The fab five did it up right in Chicago!  It was an amazing trip!  Hoping we can do a Boston version in April!

           Giordanos. Best pizza ever!
           Signature lounge. Ladies room has best view in the city.  JD would not go in there. 
           Sweet surprise to happen upon Garrett's as I was craving it!
           VIP treatment at the Grande Lux Cafe. We are overlooking the magnificent mile
           Architectural boat tour.  So relaxing and interesting
           Billy Goat tavern. If you go there, leave a nice tip or take JD!

           Celebrating Ashley and Jess's birthdays

I can't back up my Segway! 
    Evening skyline view from the planetarium 
           The Fab Five
           Josh, our Segway guide, was awesome!  So much fun!!!
           We brought Chris to Lincoln Park and got his pic with the bean!
             This picture just makes me laugh!  
    These are the robes you get at the Palomar. 
           Angie being beautiful on her birthday celebration!  We loved the blowtique!
    Sitting on top of the world!
           Super woman of the Willis Tower Skydeck!
    Had to do it!
           We could squash cars below with these feet!
           The Art Institute
    Bobby at the Palomar is the best!   We had ideas, but he made the magic happen!  
           Subway with luggage. Think Dangerous Minds

My time may not make the cut for 2015 Boston as it is already full. Just waiting to see if i get in. Fortunately, another perk to this marathon is timing. Not only is a qualifier for 2015, but 2016 as well. I age up for 2016, so I will be qualified by over 7 min!  

Update:  I'm in for 2015!  Cutoff was 1:02 under qualifying time!
I was 2:03 under qualifying time!  I had just a minute to spare!  
       Best staff ever!  Love you ladies!!!

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