Race Report: Blue Ox Marathon 2023

Where will you be in 10 years? Had you asked me at the 2013 Blue Ox Marathon, my first time at this race, I never would have guessed I would be here now. There are so many amazing blessings in my life that I never could have dreamt up and also trials that I would never have anticipated. 

I originally wrote this post like a week ago and it was much longer. Like super long, too much and I don't have the emotional capacity to share anything besides mile stats and race deets at this point. Running is so simple in that way - like numbers are a weird source of comfort.

In a nutshell, we keep on keepin' on, trusting God in all things.

The structure of marathon training is very enjoyable - predictable, exact, a box to check. It is a time juggle but it's about the only thing in my life that is a box that I can check off! Most everything else is fairly repetitive, ongoing and requires way more emotional energy :) So marathoning is hard but also so simple. 

That must be what keeps me coming back for more.

I was originally signed up to run CIM again this year in December but decided to stay closer to home with mom going through this battle with cancer. That made for a short 11-week Blue Ox training cycle and, boy, did it fly by! Peak week was 70 miles and it was just a very enjoyable training cycle overall. 

For the first time ever, Leo was able to come to this race (it is smack dab in the middle of sugar beet season) and the four boys were there as well, of course. He had one full day off regular work and then lifter driving, so we made the most of a mini family vacation! Pool time, hotel fun, run a marathon "quick" and then off to the Science Center we went. It was a short but great trip together.

Race morning starts pretty late, which I appreciate as we usually are driving 2 hours to get there. On this particular morning, I just woke up at a normal time, attempted to eat quietly in our hotel room and headed out to warm up. 

The weather was a tad chilly but idea for Fall racing weather. 

I lined up by a 3-hour pacer that I was surprised to find! This was the first year I have seen a 3-hour at Blue Ox. His girlfriend was also shooting for sub-3, so I thought we could stick together and keep company for part of the race. For this race, I carried two small water bottles with me, one in the back waistband of my shorts and the other in the back pocket of my sports bra. This is something I had practiced in training and it went really well, allowing me to take gels when I needed them rather than waiting for training loops or for race day aid stations. 

Carrying those water bottles ended up being a HUGE help at Blue Ox. This is a smaller race and aid stations are limited. I used them mainly for a swig of sports drink but was otherwise well fueled with just my carry-ons. Aside from having one guy runner within eye shot for a while and the lead biker with me, I was alone for the first half of the race. 

Fueling went as follows (as I had shared on IG): 

6:30 - Half bagel + PB, banana & 12 oz of nun
Honey Stinger waffle a bit later
45 min prior to start - Clif Mocha caffeinated gel, since I didn’t drink a morning coffee as usual

8:30 - Gels approximately every 30 min, non-caffeinated Clif vanilla except the 1:30 gel was mocha caffeinated. I took about 4 gels down (with water) during the race and then a sip of gatorade at a couple aid stations.

Pacing went well! Not exactly to the plan that Coach Pooley at the Dakota Distance Project laid out but I felt like my effort was as good as it could be. I faded in the mile 17 hill start as we ran through the State Park. My legs were feeling some fatigue at that point and I was hoping they would hold up. The hills hadn't even started rolling yet! By now the biker and I were catching up to some half marathoners and lake-loopers, which provided some distraction and excitement! 

The goal was to run by feel for the rolling hills from mile 20 and on - easy up the hills, push it on the way down. Though pacing had gone really well through the beginning of the race, I knew I was falling off the pacing during these hills. Two miles hit the 7's but I did feel a slight boost once we got off the hills and had hit the homestretch. 

I reallllly wanted that sub-3 and kept pushing in case there was still a chance! Some of the tight turns made me a little worried, that my jelly-like hill legs would give out or something, but besides that I felt relatively strong. I do think much of that is because of the 20-milers in this training cycle! One went pretty terrible and felt harder (fueling/dehydration probs) than a race itself. Then the other was a solid effort... both building mental strength for race day.
2:57:06! A PR by 11 seconds and an effort that I felt proud of. It was even more rewarding to have Leo and the kids at the finish line, along with my sweet friend Amanda and her family as well!

In all things, to God be the glory! This has been such a hard year yet blessings and positive memories have been sprinkled throughout. As far as running goes, I'm glad to take a break from structured training for a while and then continue to push the envelope in 2024 with the DDP.

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Run Outside Belt Bag | Pens & Paces Review

Disclaimer: I received a Pens & Paces Run Outside Belt Bag in exchange for my review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador) and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

I am a child of the 90's and was rockin' an acid wash fanny pack wayyyy back then, so this new trend just speaks to my soul! Carrying a belt bag as my purse has been a very welcome transition as my kids have grown out of diapers and life is only getting busier.

Pens & Paces was created to empower women in running, When they released the Run Outside Belt Bag this Fall, I had to try it! 

First off, I absolutely love the olive color! I'm all about colors in the green family and find that this doesn't show dirt or wear-and-tear as easily as lighter-colored bags. 

The Run Outside Belt Bag features an adjustable strap, plenty of inside room - to fit my wallet, resistance bands, snacks, keys, etc - and then an outside zipper pocket that is the ideal safe place for my phone. This is the ideal bag to use on-the-go, wherever life takes you. Whether it's hikes on the trail, race expos, the office or school activities. I'm impressed with the quality and definitely recommend! 

Use discount code "BIBRAVE" for 20% off when you grab your own Pens & Paces Run Outside Belt Bag!

It also serves as a small kitten carrier ;) 

Check out more reviews from my fellow BibRave Pros: 

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Soaking Up the Sun (without the burn) | KINeSYS Active Sunscreen Review

Disclaimer: I received KINeSYS Active Sunscreen in exchange for my review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador) and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Our school year ended, I raced the Fargo Marathon and, then BAM!, summer took off in full swing from there after! I hardly was able to even wear shorts outside while training for Fargo (maybe in the last two weeks or so of training?) and then Minnesota swung from freezing to a whopping 80-90°F streak! 

My initial thought was, "wow, my Scandinavian legs will be glaringly white on race day" (which they were) and, "I sure hope we don't burn like crazy once actual Spring shows up." Transitioning from freezing temps to crazy hot is always a shock to the system. 

This review opportunity with KINeSYS Sunscreens couldn't have come at a better time! Owners Wade and Lisa Heggie have each had past experiences with skin cancers, which led them on a quest to find an effective skin protection for their children and themselves. Their search ended with the proven formula of KINeSYS — better than any other sunscreen they had tried in the past. Their love of the product led them to continue the business as a small family-owned venture. 

I was sent the following KINeSYS products to try:
  • SPF 50 Fragrance Free KINeSYS Spray Sunscreen
  • SPF 30 Clear Zinc with 25% Zinc Oxide
  • SPF 30 Vanilla Green-Tea KINeSYS Spray Sunscreen

From baseball double headers to hours spent at the pool to easing back into post-marathon mileage, we have tested out this KINeSYS line in a variety of activities. My favorite features of their sunscreen options - both spray and the rub-on style - are that they aren't greasy-feeling on the skin and that, if the product does have fragrance, it is a pleasant one and not overpowering. One of the sprays is a fragrance-free option. Sunscreen products often have a strong scent that gives me a headache but not KINeSYS!

For the kids, I used the Clear Zinc rub-on sunscreen for their faces and ears and then used the spray for everything else. I have been fighting with one kid in particular over sunscreen for his entire life because he hates the greasy feeling of it, but he handled the KINeSYS so well! 

I highly recommend adding KINeSYS to your summer adventures! It's been a great sun protection option for myself and my family as well. 

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Race Report: Fargo Marathon 2023

Disclaimer: I received free entry for the Fargo Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Here we are - writing the race report that I don't even know how to start. Training for Fargo went very well and I was able to run (and enjoy!) higher mileage than I ever thought possible. When I thought that training for Fargo in 2022 was the coldest, snow-stormiest I had ever experienced, I was then humbled by 2023. This training cycle included A LOT of speedy treadmill workouts and even treadmill easy-efforts and long runs. It was just cold, icy and snowy forever! 

Somehow I managed to not get sick at all in this training cycle (after a run-in with influenza over Christmas). That's a miracle for any parent-runner! 

The mileage progression went as follows: 
01 - 45.0
02 - 55.1
03 - 60.1
04 - 64.1
05 - 55.0
06 - 70.2
07 - 70.4
08 - 75.0
09 - 70.3
10 - 60.0
11 - 41.7
12 - RACE WEEK: 42.8 
So then we get to race week. On Monday, May 15th, we received the very hard news that my mom has a large brain tumor. With only fairly minor symptoms noticeable to family and close friends, this was a major shock - honestly, it's felt devastating. We are trusting God through it all, praying for miracles and making the most of the time that we have together.

The kids and I went to my parents' farm to spend time with family while my husband finished out the work week. I packed my running things and planned to taper and attempt to carb load as usual, and then decide if I was going to race or not when the day got closer. One of my brothers and his family picked up my race number on their way to the farm, which was super helpful as there is no race-day number pick up for Fargo. I asked mom if she thought I should race and she said she wanted me to, so I went with that. 

I was able to run as an "elite" for this race and the initial plan was to stay in the elite housing on the NDSU campus again and make it an anniversary weekend with my husband. In the new situation, I figured that if I wanted to race, it would be best to leave super early in the morning - run - and come home, to not miss out on any more family time. 


I did decide to race so my amazing sister-in-law and I left at 3:30 AM to get to the race on time. It was about a 3-hour drive and we showed up just in time to hit a slight runner traffic jam pulling into the Fargodome, though I was able to get to the elite locker room with plenty of time to get ready. 

After getting ready and doing a light warm-up down the Fargodome locker room halls, it was time to go. The plan was to fuel like I had at CIM, taking about 6 gels in and alternating that with sports drink at non-gel-taking aid stations. On race morning, I didn't feel quite right - like I still hadn't grasped that I was actually going to race and my stomach felt unsettled - but what do you do? Just keep going. 

I took a Clif Mocha caffeinated gel prior to the race, again mimicking the fueling strategy from CIM in December. I tried not to drink too much fluids but felt very thirsty all morning; despite hydrating well, I thought, during the race week. 

At around 7:45, we took off. Goal was to sit around 6:45 and then drop down to 6:30 later in the race. Leaving the Fargodome always goofs up the watch but I did have a nice group of guys that I stuck with for the first half. Looking back, my paces were a little speedier than they should have been but pacing slower likely wouldn't have changed the outcome this time. 

Gels weren't going down very well but I did manage to get three in over the course of the race. My stomach was sore and "sloshy". I felt like I had tunnel-vision from the start of the race and a tingly face (usually something I only feel during hot long runs or races?), and then hit a hard wall at around mile 16. That wasn't ideal and was wayyy to early in the game to feel that way! 

From around mile 18 and on, I couldn't get any gels in without gagging and I decided I better do what I can to enjoy the race.  I backed off on the pace and walked through aid stations while sipping sports drink and dumping water on my head. The 2nd place pacer bike was so kind and we were able to chat on and off throughout the end of the race. My effort actually felt conversational to parts of my body, while the rest of me was struggling to keep running at all. It was a weird disconnect! 

The biker gal announced "second place female!" to all the fans as we ran by and in my mind I was thinking, "for now at least! just hold on." That became the goal - just hang on to second, which was a better alternative than dropping out (I did consider that option as well :s ). 
We were in the final stretch where the course does a slight wrap around the Fargodome and I still had my semi-comfortable just-finish shuffle going on. Then I saw another bike pull up by us? Ahh it was the 3rd place bike and when I peeked over my shoulder, the 3rd gal was running alongside me. I took whatever was left in my Bambi-like, wobbly legs to sprint that last leg to hold my place. Per my watch, I pulled off a 5:51 and didn't trip over my own feet. I was happy with that. 

3:04:14. It's hard not to be satisfied with a finish time when you know you gave everything you had. On paper, I don't like the way the race execution looked but I am happy that I didn't give up when I wanted to and am proud that my mom is proud of me. She gets my medal for this one - ran this for her :) 

Being met at the finish line by a great friend from highschool and then my "cheer squad" sister-in-law Danielle was really wonderful. We grabbed coffee and giant burritos and then blasted down the interstate to get back to the family. I couldn't have done this 3-hour drive / 3-hour run / 3-hour drive road-trip without Danielle! 

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26

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Relive the Race | Handcrafted Coasters Review

Disclaimer: I received a personalized Handcrafted Coaster in exchange for my review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador) and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Running is an odd sport or hobby, if you would call it that. For the marathon distance, you put in months of training, run your face off on race day and then, after grabbing your finisher's medal & some food, you head home.

That's it! Hundreds of miles, weeks of training and the "big event" is over in a few short hours. Then you're back to the regular daily life, where I literally talk about running maybe 1% of the time - not including the blog or IG, of course. (That's literally why I use those platforms, for an opportunity to talk running!)

If running does come up in casual convos, it's like "oh, you like to jog?" ... To which I would probably respond, "Yes, I guess you could say that! It's pretty fun." < envisioning the last workout that left me nearly throwing up, sweat dripping from my elbows - is this considered a hobby? >

Most marathoners have a pretty extensive collection of finisher's medals and all the training & racing memories to go with them. Some hang by the treadmill, maybe some are in your bedroom or the closet. As a BibRave Pro, I was given the opportunity to turn one of my most memorable medals into a beautiful, custom-made coaster from Handmade Coasters

Handcrafted Coasters is business owned and operated by woodworking and running duo, Joe and Kari VandeMerwe. I decided to send them my CIM 2022 medal because it was my first sub-3 marathon and an amazing girls' trip with one of my best friends. 

There are so many great memories tied to this medal and, as the Handcrafted Coasters' website says, this handmade creation is the perfect way to "Relive the Race" whenever you look at it.

I received an envelope in the mail from Handcrafted Coasters and selected the Walnut from the six different wood options. After mailing in, it took about 3 weeks for my medal to return.

My medal arrived safely back home, now as a coaster, and with a handwritten 'Thank You' note! These coasters are beautifully crafted - coated in epoxy, the back is sprayed with lacquer and cork pads protect the surface wherever you decide to keep your coaster. 

Whenever I'm reading in my bookshelf corner, seeing this coaster is a reminder of my amazing race experience at CIM! 

Check out more reviews from my fellow BibRave Pros: She Runs By The Seashore, Bluegrass BAMR, and This Old Runner.

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A Gentle Feast: Cycle 4 Term 2

We've made it through the holidays, a bout of influenza and a pretty solid chunk of winter. It feels like a relief to be within reach of Spring. Maybe a month or two more of this frozen business to go! 

One of the best things we have done this year was state testing at the mid-point of the school year. Two of the boys were required to test this year and I wanted to have the process slightly more streamlined that the last. 

We did a couple testing things different:
  1. Testing earlier in the school year so we aren't missing out on beautiful Spring days at the end of the school year.
  2. We used the untimed online CAT instead of the paper form. This was easier to navigate with two testers and two younger kids running around. Plus, the results are instant rather than mailing in and waiting! We will definitely go that route again in the future.

Morning Time is a messy ordeal though I do like having all of the kids at the table, even if it's just for a short while. Artwork to compliment the artist study is always a hit and the toddler man loves to color, paint, bingo dobber... etc. Anything messy! Having something busy to keep preschool man and toddler dude busy makes the day go better altogether. Watercolors, play dough, counting cars, math pegs, bingo dobbers etc. 
Kandinsky Concentric Circles: Lazy mom asked them to use crayons :) 

In a continued attempt to streamline school and extracurriculars, I made a "morning time" board in the kitchen - where we will ALL see it and stay on task.  Covering Latin using Prima Latina this year has gone really well and the kids learn a few vocab words each week along with memorizing The Sanctus right now. We do work on our Spanish a little bit here and there as well. If something falls to the wayside in a week, it's generally Spanish! Woops.

Schooling the boys in "pairs" is working really well currently. While the older two work on independent studies, I have a window of time to do preschool with the younger two. For my oldest and second born who learned along side him, I used God's Little Explorer's for pre-k and My Father's World Kindergarten. Now for the younger two, timewise it isn't practical to use a totally separate curriculum for them. 

Instead, they listen in (or just play, eat or run) while we cover the older kid subjects and then 5-year-old works on his 100 Gentle Lessons in Letters & Sounds and Earlybird Kindergarten Math with me later. Toddler dude joins in for some of the 100 Gentle Lessons and he is working on a short nursery rhyme to recite while the other boys work on poetry recitation! It's something for him to do and he's proud to learn. 

We had really fun hands-on chemistry experiments in Term 2, enjoyed by all! The highlight was probably our "rubber egg" - here's a link to the video :) 

Okay, one more subject we have really enjoyed as a family: Geography! Halliburton's Book of Marvels has taken us on an amazing journey around the world. We read the chapter together and then watch a video linked in the A Gentle Feast curriculum. Mizielinskis' Maps book is a nice additional resource that we have also used for this subject.

That's a touch on our school subjects and then there's always the chickens & outdoor time. This is the highlight of being out in the country again! I have missed this. The kids are in charge of chicken chores every day and are learning the in's & out's of a small egg business.

We enjoy the nice winter days while we can and also the ice at the rink in town, while it's still frozen! Intramural hockey was a great time for all of us because it made me stay disciplined to take the kids skating at least once a week. Now we anxiously await the arrival of green grass and SPRING!

Explore the A Gentle Feast curriculum here and feel free to email me or comment here with any questions! Disclaimer: This post contains my A Gentle Feast affiliate link. If you click it, and make a purchase I will receive a commission.

#RuntheYear 2022 + Knockaround Slingshot Snow Goggle Review

Disclaimer: I received Knockaround Slingshot Snow Goggles in exchange for my review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador) and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

My 2022 running adventures have finally come to a close! It's been an amazing running year and also a pretty crazy exciting year as far as personal life goes as well. We moved to our dream farm in July, which was a lot of work and also so cool. The snow this winter has been intense but we love it out here.

After running CIM in early December, I planned to take a solid two weeks off of running.  That turned into one week off going as planned and then 10 days of doing bare minimum childcare + laying on the couch with influenza. And THEN a sinus infection followed that! Thankfully the kids are super hardy and were only sick for a couple days; unlike me. 

Finally, I made it back to running and realized I only needed to run 24 miles to "run the year" for 2022. My motivation to run in this icy, cold tundra was struggling but this new-to-me challenge got me out the door! I finished the 2,022 miles yesterday - which was a whopping 717 more miles than I ran last year! Insane. I'm not sure how that's even possible!

Our winter has been very white, snow-blizzardy and stinkin' cold, which created the perfect environment for testing Knockaround's Slingshot Snow Goggles. As a Bibrave Pro, I had the opportunity to pick snow goggles or sunnies (which are also awesome) and figured I best prepare for all the months of winter running that lie ahead. Snow goggles it is! 

Snow dogs on the frozen prairie

I have raced in snow goggles very sparingly, usually borrowing my husband's old goggles, but they would fog up and didn't fit me correctly. The Knockaround Slingshots are my very first pair of goggles that are MINE! That's not to say people in my family aren't mysteriously sneaking off with them though. 

So first off, Knockaround's Snow Goggles are useful for pretty much everything winter! 

Whether it be doing chicken chores for your kids because it's too cold to send them outside (think -35°F windchill)...

Helping the toddler ride his mini snowcat...

Snow blowing out the farm yard on our tractor without a cab or packing them along as emergency winter gear while driving to work in a blizzard. That's all Leo there! He prefers the magnetic yellow lens which are for overcast or low light conditions (VLT = 62%).

The Slingshot goggles have come in handy in so many ways - not just running - this winter! 

A few of the key features are: 
  • UV400 Protection 
  • Anti-glare and anti-fog coating 
  • Revo Sky Blue lens is best for sunny conditions (VLT = 14.5%) plus the bonus yellow lenses for low light conditions. Easy to swap out magnetic lenses! 
  • 45mm elastic strap w/ adjustable buckle

As for running, I have gotten so much use out of the Slinghots and we still have at least three months left of winter! Uffda. Having eye protection makes it much easier to run in our windy, flat open country and in almost any weather. On nicer days, I put the goggles down to run into the wind and then prop them up on my head when I have a tailwind. They fit well in either spot and any icing up has been very minimal, even on my coldest days of running.

The Slingshots are currently priced at $85 on Knockaround.com and that includes both magnetic lenses, a hardy case, and lens cleaning cloth. Definitely worth it! 

For 2023, I'm looking forward to another year of BibRave adventures and now taking on the role of Captain for my first year! I have a great group of cohorts to work with and look forward to all the year brings. On the running front, I will be building up my training base in January and then on to Fargo Marathon training - my first BibRave race for 2023 :) 

May God bless you & your loved ones in the New Year! 

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