A Decade of Marathons (and a whole lotta life, too!)

Ten years ago, I toed the line to my very first marathon. I was running it with a group of friends and acquaintances to raise money for my co-worker battling Leukemia. Little did I know how much that experience would change the next ten years of my life.

This is my run down of the past decade of marathons and major life moments, with the layout inspired by Teal's post at Miles to the Trials (definitely check it out!). From marathons to marriage to the birth of our three boys, I'm amazed by all the Lord has brought me to and through in the past decade.

Lots of mistakes made. Lots of lessons learned. Lots of memories made. And I wouldn't change a thing.

1. Walker North Country Trail Marathon, September 2010

Goal: Finish
Training: I ran exactly the miles in the Marathon Training Academy free plan I used. No strength work and minimal warm-up/cooldown or stretching time.
Biggest Victory: I completed my very first marathon training cycle!
Biggest Challenge: Running those long run distances for the first time.
Result: 4:07:45 (9:26/mile). Ecstatic, exhausted and totally caught off guard by the hills on this course. Did I mention I trained on 100% flat gravel and/or paved roads for the entire time? This was humbling but amazing. I had no concept of whether this time was "good" or not. I was just glad to be DONE!

2. Fargo Marathon, May 2011

Goal: Run faster than the first marathon on the road (vs. trail)
Training: Pretty sure it was the Marathon Training Academy's free training plan again. Once again, minimal to no strength training or warm-up/cooldown involved. Uffda.
Biggest Victory: I finished in better shape than my first marathon!
Biggest Challenge: The long run still felt daunting - especially doing all my runs alone.
Result: 3:34:29 (8:10/mile) Made the Boston cut-off before I knew what a "BQ" was; thankfully it was 3:40 back then. After realizing I qualified, I was extra happy it didn't take me longer to stop and tie my shoe mid-race. How bad would it stink to miss qualifying because of a shoe lace?! Lesson learned: Double knot. 

3. Eugene Curnow Marathon, July 2011

Goal: Run another trail race
Training: I had heard the course was hilly so I chased down as many northern Minnesota "hills" as I could. Besides that, my training approach really didn't change much.
Biggest Victory: A 3-hour training run on the state park trails by my parents' house. This had some areas that were similar to the race terrain. Good training move, self!
Biggest Challenge: Signing up for a marathon in July. As cold as it gets up here, Minnesota is also hot and humid in the summer.
Result: 4:35:26 (10:30/mile) and 3rd place Female. I felt adventurous, that's for sure. There were parts of this course where we cruised, parts where I had to walk and hills I had to crawl up in mud. Yeah, this was an adventurous (and much harder than expected) race indeed! This was the first time I ever "placed" in a marathon and that was super exciting.

4. Twin Cities Medtronic, October 2011

Goal: Run a faster BQ
Training: Ran hills more regularly at the local park and incorporated speedwork by perceived effort. By this race I had an official "running watch" so I could track my paces!
Biggest Victory: Running three 20-milers in this training cycle. They became much less daunting.
Biggest Challenge: The race was on a Sunday during a weekend conference I had for work. Thankfully the conference involved a lot of sitting and snacking - perfect for taper, right? - and my mom picked me up on the way to the race!
Result: 3:22:05 (7:42/mile). Totally surprised. That was way faster than I realized I could run and all of a sudden my future goals became more ambitious.

5. Boston Marathon, April 2012

Goal: Run a good time, take in the atmosphere and the history.
Training: I used the Hal Higdon Boston Bound plan and incorporated more hills. Strength training still hadn't caught on for me and I hadn't been injured yet to wake me up to it...
Biggest Victory: Hitting my first 50-mile week. My mom and I made this trip together a month before my wedding. It was the perfect mother-daughter trip.
Biggest Challenge: Training in the freezing cold Minnesota winter and then racing on a day in the mid 80's! That was unusual for Boston weather too.
Result: 3:43:25 (8:31/mile). A little disappointed but glad to have finished. I expected my times to continue getting faster with each race and this was the first wake up call - it just doesn't always happen! I started out fast and the heat absolutely killed me. I dumped water on my head (chafed majorly. ouch) and had to take walk breaks to avoid passing out in the last half of the race. Had to finish to get that medal - and I did!

♥ May 2012: Married My Handsome Guy

♥ March 2013: We Became Parents, Our FIRST Boy is Born!

6. Blue Ox Marathon, October 2013

Goal: Run my first race after baby, 7 months postpartum
Training: I don't remember which plan I used but fitting in training was difficult as I navigated running as a brand new mom. Lots of stroller runs! I incorporated the 30-Day Shred DVD in with my training because it was easy to do with a little one at home.
Biggest Victory: Finishing my first race postpartum.
Biggest Challenge: Mentally I didn't enjoy training that much because I struggled to fit it in; mom time management is definitely an acquired skill!
Result: 3:37:37 (8:18/mile). Very happy, especially to meet my chunky babe and my parents at the finish line! (Hubs couldn't make it because of sugar beet harvest) I was slightly bummed that I missed the BQ; just for the sake of running the standard.

♥ May 2015: Our SECOND Boy is born!

7. Fargo Marathon, May 2016

Goal: Run sub-3:30
Training: At this point I was using a plan a friend had sent me; specific purposes for each run taught me so much and I was learning to run faster.
Biggest Victory: Running three 20-milers in training (I barely fit one in during the previous cycle!).
Biggest Challenge: Going into the race dehydrated and exhausted, which really nailed me as a breastfeeding mom on a super hot (80's race day)
Result: 3:57:16 (9:02/mile). I kept on pace for the first 10 miles and then crashed hard; ended up walking the last half of the race. I was a bummed but not disappointed in my performance. I know I did the best that my body gave me that day. Pre-hydrate lesson is learned!

8. Grand Forks Marathon, September 2016

Goal: Run sub-3:30, for real this time
Training: I read Greg McMillan's book "You (Only Faster)" and used a training plan from there.
Biggest Victory: Again, learning more lessons in workout specificity and what training paces I should be hitting.
Biggest Challenge: Getting over the mental and self-doubt hurdle of Fargo Marathon 2016 and my body's physical crash there.
Result: 3:28:13 (7:58/mile), finished 3rd Female. This race was a confidence boost and reminder that I can run a marathon without crashing! My legs were burning a bit early on but I hit the BQ standard and that felt great. While I had no intentions to return to Boston, it made a nice goal to shoot for each race.

9. Blue Ox Marathon, October 2016

Goal: Run this marathon successfully, two weeks after racing Grand Forks Marathon
Training: Just piggy-backing off Grand Fork's training. In two weeks, there was only time to partially recover and then run again.
Biggest Victory: Not getting injured.
Biggest Challenge: My legs being broken down from the previous race.
Result: 3:25:36 (7:50/mile), finished 1st Female. Breaking the tape at this small local race was a big breakthrough for me. First off, that was fun. Second, I wanted to do that again (only faster)!

♥ November 2017: Our THIRD Boy is born!

10. Grandma's Marathon, June 2018

Goal: Run Grandma's, which was a bucket list race for me. 7 months post-baby 3.
Training: I did well getting in the miles and stuck to the McMillan method. Mixed in yoga and a little strength work.
Biggest Victory: Running a marathon 7 months postpartum, which I had said I would never do again. Smart or not, I did it.
Biggest Challenge: Training with a new baby and two toddlers in the house; felt like a juggling act. Granted, I did sign myself up for this! (or ran as a review for BibRave)
Result: 3:32:17 (8:05/mile), setting a new 7-month postpartum PR for me (previous was 3:37). My hips and knee felt a little weak during this race (ahem, strength train much??) but I was very happy with the finish time.

11. Fargo Marathon, May 2019

Goal: Show up at the starting line injury-free, finish in 3:15.
Training: Backpedal slightly to August 2018, I majorly injured my hip flexor and wasn't able to race or run consistently for 4 months. Goodbye Fall races! I had been using the Hansons Marathon Method, which was going SO well, but skimping on the strength work so newly postpartum caught up to me. 2019 goal was to train and just not get injured.
Biggest Victory: Hitting paces that I didn't realize I could using the Hansons Method and adding in strength work using Runner Connect's program.
Biggest Challenge: Getting over the injury elephant in the room. When I started long runs again or felt a little niggle here or there, I kept thinking it would happen again.
Result: 3:16:34 (7:29/mile), so happy! I didn't break 3:15 but I ran well and felt great, despite the cold, rainy, windy day that it was. Definitely counted this race as a personal victory. And a fun date weekend with my husband for our 7th anniversary!

12. Grand Forks Marathon, September 2019

Goal: Break 3:15
Training: This training cycle was perfect... until race week. I got a nasty sinus cold and wasn't sure if I should race. I stuck with the Hansons Marathon Method for training (but added in a 20-miler instead of only going 16) and continued strength work with Runners Connect and the 21-Day Fix DVDs.
Biggest Victory: I woke up race day morning and felt pretty good! I had people praying for me and I know that made all of the difference. Come morning, I was ready to race.
Biggest Challenge: The day before the race. Picking up my race packet while feeling absolutely terrible and keeping track of my energetic boys. All I wanted to do was sleep!
Result: 3:11:26 (7:18/mile), and 1st Female. ECSTATIC. I was so happy to finally feel like a healthy human again, to set a PR and to break tape again. The best part was that this race felt fairly "comfortable" as far as marathons go - there wasn't a point where I hit a wall. It got my wheels turning that I can run a sub-3:00 someday.

13. Blue Ox Marathon, October 2019

Goal: Successfully run these back-to-back races again. Finish 1st Female.
Training: Piggy-backing on Grand Fork's training. My knee and foot felt a little niggly at times, so I did less running and more focus on recovering.
Biggest Victory: Being able to get to the race? Because of snowstorms in the area, the weather was drastically different than two weeks ago. My kids stayed with Grandma and my dad drove me the 2 hours to the race :)
Biggest Challenge: Running in the sleet, rain and wind on very tired legs.
Result: 3:22:40 (7:43/mile), and 1st Female. Just glad to be done. That one hurt! The first half of the race felt "okay" but the last half was lonely and miserable; I'm just glad I didn't stop the many times I wanted to. Dad and I had coffee and some good food afterwards - that was a plus!

After this decade of marathoning, ironically I have zero marathon plans for 2020!
But 2021, I'm coming for ya :)

The overarching lesson that the Lord has taught me through all of these races is that improving at something (whatever it may be) takes time, experience and perseverance. Put the work in and reap the harvest.

Running looks very different in each season of life and I have learned to love the flexibility of this sport. It can be as intense or as laxed as I need. I jumped into marathoning completely clueless to all this running world had to offer and, now that I've got a taste of it, I'm excited to see what the next 10 years have in store.

May your 2020 be blessed!

Let's Connect!

Working that Winter Fitness in the Frigid North

I have been a bad blogger over the past six months. Life continues to get busier - and eventually something's gotta give.

Because the glorification of busy is my #1 pet peeve, I decided to drop some things from life in order to achieve a better (perception of) balance. (Rather than whine and make excuses for being too busy, why not just do something about it?)

One of the dropped "things" was stepping back from running reviews for BibRave, which ended up being a great decision, and then, aside from homeschool curriculum and race reviews, my blog writing pretty much came to a screeching halt! That wasn't on purpose necessarily; though maybe a writing break has helped to rejuvenate my love for writing.

As a mom of three little boys - currently ages 2, 4, 6 - I haven't written near as much as when I started this blog. Somehow the joys and the challenges of parenting these sweet, chaotic energizer bunnies has left me speechless. I realize how little I know in this life. And it's hard to put that into words! Simply put, our firstborn made me believe I was a pretty good parent; then our secondborn taught me not to judge another parent.

Thirdborn... I'm not sure what he's teaching me yet. He's the life of the party and very good at quietly sneaking into trouble. I love the uniqueness of each one of them.


Alas! That's a brief explanation of life lately. I'm going to do my best to write once a week with the lovely Friday Five gals. They give me that extra running and training motivation when my brain is mostly full of 1st grade math, appointments, phonics and diaper changes.

This week we are talking about Winter Fitness. It's so stinking cold and icy lately here that much of my "winter fitness" looks like this:

Runners up in these northern parts pride themselves on running outside all winter long; though I have definitely not been one of them lately. I do love to get out for my easy-paced efforts or long run but, as far as running fast, it's not safe on glare ice. Heidi from G Training assigned some stride workouts and tempo work for me which helps to break up the monotony!

Speedwork on the treadmill is better than no speedwork at all. Our running track is currently buried under loads and loads of snow :) Along with speedwork, I have been working on my hip/core and overall strength as well. I remember that one time being injured in 2018 and unable to run well for 4 months. My plan is to not do that again!

I haven't gotten around to writing a recap of 2019 yet or even what my goals are for the new year. In a nutshell, my winter fitness goal is: speed. I ended on a great note with a marathon PR of 3:11:26 in September but my shorter distances need work - which will in turn hopefully cut down that marathon time too.

Per my Garmin data, I ran a 10k of 42:12 during a tempo run and ran a 1:33:02 half marathon during my marathon PR - both of which are faster than my actual race PRs. Sooo that's my sign that I need to put a little more effort into my short distance races! The full marathon has been my first running love and, though I have ran quite a few marathons over the past 10 years, I feel like I have trained quite sloppy.

Garmin PRs (unofficial, most were during workouts)

And after an entire training season of running by our local track (yet never actually running ON it), I had the guts to run a mile time trial on an evening in October. I thought that the fastest mile I would ever run would be a 6:48 back from my college tennis days but I blew that time out of the water... somewhat on a whim. 5:59 at age 32 while recovering from my back-to-back marathon efforts. I felt VERY happy to beat my little college self! (Especially considering I had uninterrupted sleep and actual allotted gym time back then)

As much as short distance speedwork really isn't my favorite, I plan to keep grinding away at that and possibly I will learn to love it.

I look forward to the day that our track melts off again! I'll check on it at the end of April.

Let's Connect!