Kerstetter 5k: My runniversary race

Runniversary isn’t a word, per se, but it is part of my runner vocabulary.

In March 15, 2010, Elyria police officer James A. Kerstetter was shot and killed in the line of duty. At the time I was working for the newspaper full-time. While I was off work the night it happened (a Monday), I covered everything following: the vigils, press conferences, family interviews, and funeral. Although I never personally met Officer Kerstetter, I felt like I knew him from hearing stories from fellow officers, family and friends. He seemed like an amazing person I wish I could of had the pleasure of knowing.

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Source.

In July 2010, the inaugural Kerstetter 5k was held. They planned to hold it near his birthday, July 9. I knew of the event, but really had no intention of participating. The weekend prior to the race I was chatting with a few ladies I had recently met at Splash zone at the outdoor pool. I knew the ladies from spinning. They were both runners and at the time I had been running off and on to stay in shape. They mentioned that a group of them were running the race and said I should run it as well. I let the idea bounce around in my head for a day or two and then decided, yes I will run this race. It would be an awesome tribute to Jim and his family.

I think I ran once that week, on the treadmill at Splash Zone. I signed up the day before the race at the police station. The day of the race I was pretty nervous because I had never run an official race before. Although my time wasn’t the fastest, I remember more all the emotions surging through the pre-race ceremony and on the course after the gun went off. That day I dedicated that run to Officer Kerstetter and ran with him in mind. The course was tough, mainly the drop into a small park with a narrow drive and uneven terrain, I did my best and used Jim as my motivation to keep going.

As I ran down the hill on Kerstetter Way towards the finish line for the first time, the rush and overwhelming emotions that flooded over me was such an amazing experience. I completed my first official road race. And I did it to honor a man who lost his life doing his job to serve and protect.

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And today, July 12, 2014, four years later, I ran the fifth annual Kerstetter 5k.

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Me and Karie before the race.

I was nervous waiting to start the race. But once the gun went off and we took off I just felt great weaving my wave through the crowd.

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Can you find me in this photo? Source.

I ran the race with Jim in my thoughts and ran a strong race. I caught up with the Elyria PD, Lorain PD and OSP officers who ran in formation the entire 3.1 as I made the final turn back onto Kerstetter Way. It was a crazy mix of emotions running beside them as the crowd stood and applauded them as they ran toward the finish. Again, I became overwhelmed with emotions for the moment. I used it to push hard at the end to cross the finish line. I finished proud, just like I did four years ago.

This race, like every year will be, will be my way to continue to honor and remember Officer Kerstetter and show support to his family that he will not be forgotten.

This race also symbolizes my start in my running journey. I have promised to myself that I will run this race annually not only to honor Jim, but to allow myself to reflect on my journey and celebrate all I’ve accomplished, gained and experienced by choosing to make running a part of my life.

While in the past six months I’ve grown to enjoy other types of fitness workouts, I know running will always be apart of me. A way for me to relieve stress, give me time and space to think and allow me to enjoy the beauty of the world around me.

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“Sh$t just got real”

This is what Aaron said to me this afternoon after work when he saw the results from the week one weigh in for “The Hungry Games” weight loss challenge we’re apart of. I hadn’t seen the results yet of the 50+ people who are competing for a chance at some serious cash.

When I weighed myself this morning, I was very surprised and happy that I weighed two pounds lighter than my initial weigh in. I was hoping a day of horrible eating and six days of not so perfect eating mixed with some workouts here and there didn’t leave me disappointed. But after seeing that some friends had lost an impressive amount of weight the first week and seeing several people losing three and four percent (weight loss), I became not as proud of my success. Then I started thinking about all the things I didn’t do enough of or could have not consumed. I could have pushed myself more to workout on the days I just wanted to loaf around (thank you polar vortex). I shouldn’t have had that piece of cake at work on Monday. But, then I looked back at all the small changes I made and stuck with since the start. I’ve tracked my food intake every day since the new year, which has helped me make myself more accountable for my food choices. And, by doing so I did hit the goal of losing two pounds a week that I have My Fitness Pal set to. And I’ve been hitting my water intake goals while at work all week. (96 oz of water a day minimum)

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So, after hearing Aaron say we need to buckle down and get serious (not that I haven’t been, but I definitely knew I can improve in areas), I felt like doing this wasn’t going to be this daunting and impossible task. If,individually and together, we focus on collectively eating even better and working out more, we can continually have success over the remaining 11 weeks.

I have to constantly remind myself that this is only the first week. Weight loss isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. I’m not on The Biggest Loser and am working out with professional trainers 10 hours a day. I live in the real world. I have to schedule and plan my workouts and meals. It’s gonna be hard work, and I know that I will feel like caving in and giving up when times get tough. But I need to remind myself that I once before shed 50lbs. I can do this again and reach my goals.

So, this next week I am challenging myself to get the workouts in (no excuses) and get back on the running bandwagon. Hoping this, along with continuing to track my food intake, I can have another successful week on the scale!

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What motivates you to keep going to reach your goals? Do you evaluate your progress and modify your strategy?

Fallen off the radar.

I know I’ve fallen off the radar on this here blog. The last time I posted was after my second week of Indy Mini training.

Well, I am proud to say I completed the Indy Mini (my 5th half marathon), and helped my good friend Celina complete her FIRST half marathon! I am super proud of her for this awesome accomplishment.

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Indy Mini 2013 finishers!

Post-race I told her that Indy was gonna be my last half marathon. My reasoning behind it because I felt like the longer distance running was starting to take a toll on my knees. Plus, I really wanted to focus on getting more fit overall. Running is a great cardio workout, but it isn’t gonna sculpt and tone my upper body. I wanted to start weight lifting and focus on toning up and leaning out. She had expressed interest in running another half or bigger race. I suggested that we do the Akron Marathon relay.

But as the weeks passed post Indy and I read more about my CLE friends getting ready to run the CLE marathon, I began to get the “itch.” I had originally contemplated running the CLE half since it was two weeks after Indy, but I decided against it since the race entry fee was just too expensive. After looking more into the Akron Relay, I realized that we would need two more people (not one like I had originally thought) to complete our relay team. When I saw the Akron half marathon shirt for this year’s race I knew I had to run the half. Cute shirt aside, I knew I’d regret on race day if I didn’t run the half.

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Isn’t the half shirt SUPER cute?! Just hope guys like pink too!

So, I convinced my friend Celina to sign up for the half instead, along with her beau. She totally called me out on reneging on my “I’m not gonna run another half” statement. Hey, once you get a taste of the kool-aid, you want more. 🙂

Half marathon training officially begins July 8. I’m gonna be incorporating speedwork into my training this go around which is something I’ve never done before, but my main goal this summer is to regain some of my speed. So that means learning to do a track workout and running with others who are faster than me to help improve my speed. I still plan on lifting during my training. I have learned to love lifting weights, which is something I’d never thought I’d get into.

Until July 8, I’m gonna continue lifting 6 days a week with spinning Monday, Wednesday and Fridays and running Tuesday and Thursdays. Yeah, two a day workouts are gonna be rough in the beginning, but I’m putting my serious face on this summer to improve my overall fitness. And this half marathon training is gonna be balls to the wall, no excuses.

I know what I’m capable of and I’m not gonna get in my way of accomplishing my goals.

Shaking things up and trying something new

As the Cleveland (half) marathon approaches and my runs are increasing in mileage, I am trying my best to not skip any runs during the week so my long run on the weekends aren’t hell. Last weekend I ran 8 miles on Sunday only having run 3 miles on Tuesday. I didn’t plan to skip my runs on Wednesday and Thursday, but I was dealing with some personal things that just kept me from wanting to run. Thankfully my friend Jenine ran 6 of the 8 miles with me so it made the miles fly by and also forced me to push through the times when I wanted to stop and walk.

As the Hermes 10-miler sneaks up on me this week, I’ve been doing my best to get runs in no matter what. Tuesday was a fail because of a hand full of things. However, yesterday I made myself get up earlier enough before work to get miles in. Today, I wanted to shake things up. I decided to forgo eating lunch during my 30-minute break at work and hit the pavement to get in a 30-minute run. I have never done this before because my lunch break varies from day to day depending on what my assignment schedule is and sometimes I don’t end up taking a proper break until the last 30 minutes of my day. While it was overcast all day, the rain finally stopped early afternoon which gave to the perfect conditions to get a run in. I ran somewhere I’ve always wanted to run, but have yet to make it a route. It was a nice 3 mile loop that had some nice down hills to work the quads, and some small hills to get those in as well. Not too much flat terrain which made for a nice variety. Since I was on a time crunch, I was really forced to push myself to get the miles in before I had to get back to work. While this isn’t something I can do often, but it was a nice change in my routine. I actually felt refreshed and got an energy recharge. It would be awesome if more employers offered an extended lunch period so their employees can have the opportunity to exercise. I think it would make for a more productive work environment.

Something else new that I am venturing into is participating in two races in one weekend. Crazy, right?! I had signed up for the Hermes 10-miler several months ago as a perfect training run for the CLE half marathon. Most of the Hermes course is part of the half course for CLE so its a nice muscle memory training run. I ran it last year and enjoyed it so I knew it would be a race I wouldn’t miss. Earlier this week I signed up for the Tree Trotter in Wellington. Its a half marathon and 3.5 mile race in the Wellington Reservation. Its an NCN race and I have a free race with them from volunteering at a race last year. I figured signing up for the 3.5 mile race would be a good way to add miles to my week and shake out my legs from the long run the day before. The nice thing about this race is that it will be small and through the metro park on a crushed stone path. Its the first year for this race so we’ll see how the course and race goes.

 

I am really trying not to psych myself out for the 10-miler race on Saturday. Its been 6 months since I’ve ran 10 miles and I’m hoping I can survive without any injury or running out of gas in my tank. I’ve been doing my best to keep hydrated and eat healthy this week in preparation for the race. I know it will be a good bench mark of where I stand for CLE in less than a month. I don’t know what it is, but my heart and dedication to training isn’t in it like it has been in the past. I don’t know if something changed post marathon, but I find it hard to be super strict and dedicated 100% to my training like I was with my first and even second half marathons. I know I can run the distance, but I know my pace and endurance is much different. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I have lost a core group of my training buddies that made training more enjoyable. I know life happens, but I miss the camaraderie I gained through running with friends. I’m hoping this summer the #dirtyrunner Ragnar team can get in weekly runs together. I know it will not only help my running by running with these rockstars, but I know it will strengthen our friendships by spending time together.

 

How do you shake things up in your training to keep things new and interesting? 

Have you ever run more than one race in a weekend? Any advice on recovery post races?

Revealing my “secret”

Okay, so in my last post I said that I had a secret that I wasn’t quite ready to reveal because I didn’t want to jinx it.

Well today I can confidently reveal that I, Anna, gave up junk food for 40 days! Say what?! The girl who has the biggest sweet tooth this side of the Mississippi went without all those tasty treats for 40 wholes days? Without a meltdown?
Why yes ladies and gentleman, I managed to kick my sweet tooth for 40 whole days without caving.

After failing miserably during “no sweets” February, I knew Lent would be the perfect time to redeem myself. And after I saw that Jess said she was embarking on a no junk food challenge during Lent, I put myself up to that challenge.
Basically, the challenge stated no:
-white bread
-potato chips
-peanut butter or similar type spreads
-pastries
-fast food
-chocolate
-candy
-soda pop
-ice cream/froyo
-cake/cupcakes

I modified my list by allowing peanut butter since I use it sparingly in fueling my workouts. I do not eat white bread or drink pop, so these two were easy not to consume. Chocolate, I only like in moderation so going 40 days without it wouldn’t be a problem. The toughest part in my eyes would be eliminating the froyo, cupcakes and sweet, sugary candy I love. But, I started out in the right frame of mind so I knew I could make it through without caving in this time.
My secret was all in the thought process. I would find myself wandering up and down aisles at stores aimlessly just looking at what I couldn’t have and didn’t feel the urge to buy anything and pig out. I knew even though my favorite things taste good, but the ever lasting effects on my body weren’t worth the instant satisfaction.
I was put in several positions where food was available in a social setting or the things I couldn’t have we’re offered to me. I could have easily cheated because no one there knew I’d given junk food up for Lent. But I knew I would feel guilty for giving into temptation. After the first two weeks, I noticed that I wasn’t craving the sugary things I once longed for. My taste for them had disappeared and I was getting my sugary fix through fruits with their natural sugars.

As Easter approached, I did start planning what I was going to indulge in and what Easter candy I was going to buy.
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But also as Easter approached, I was very nervous about being “allowed” to have the junk I gave up again. Would I just fall back into old habits and this bit of progress would be for nothing?

But today, I can gladly (and surprisingly) say I didn’t go hog wild like I thought. I can thank that to a grumbly stomach I’ve had all day thanks to consuming 3 bud light platinums last night without having dinner.
My first indulgence was an apple fritter from Kiedrowski’s Bakery. O.M.G! So. Good! I ate it slowly and savored every bite!

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After church, we (Aaron and I) had Easter Brunch with Jess and her family. I brought PACZKIS and snoogles from Kiedrowski’s to share. I only had half of a half cut and a view Starburst jelly beans (the best!). I filled up on awesome egg bake, stuffed french toast and fruit.

The amount of available sweets in the house right now is crazy! But I am perfectly confident they will be able to last for a long time because I’m not planning in going on a binge fest.

So where do I go from here?

A couple weeks ago I decided to continue on my no junk food quest indefinitely. With one exception. I will allow myself one day a week ( Sunday) to pick a treat to indulge in. A serving size of something, not the entire amount of something. I know I can easily kill a bag of Twizzlers, Sour patch kids or any other sugary candy, but I’m trying to teach myself portion control. Enjoy a little of something to satisfy without going overboard. This is something I believe I can achieve now that I’ve gone an extended period of time without.

Trying to retrain my brain how to think in certain situations where I would reach for the junk to calm or comfort myself and replace those bad habits with positive, good habits. 🙂

Day 1

Today was the first day of the year of 27. Which I have deemed, the year of commitment and transformation.

Today was the first of my new year. I woke up with a purpose and a plan.
A plan to start a new work out program and a new bootcamp. A plan to forget all the negativity and thoughts from the past three weeks.

I have really struggled in these first few weeks of 2012. I’ve struggled to start again with a workout regime and get back on the healthy eating track. I’ve struggled a lot internally with my emotions regarding things in my personal and professional life. I’ve wasted a lot of tears over these last three weeks on the same old same old, and some new feelings and emotions I’ve never felt before. There was a point in the past few days where I have felt like I hit rock bottom and didn’t know what to do next. But as I wiped away my tears and steadied my breath, I knew that I needed to not focus and dwell on the negative and the things I can’t change right now, and get back to what I know makes me happy and puts me in a good place.

I decided that I needed to refocus all the negativity into my fitness again, especially running. I don’t know if I’m necessarily scared to start running and training for a race again, but I need to get back at it. I’ve got a half marathon PR to set and Ragnar to complete with some pretty kick ass runners. I want to put as my time and dedication into this training as I did for my very first half marathon. Which is kind of a hard mindset to put myself in since this will be my third. But I know I am basically starting over, so I need to take everything in stride and celebrate my small achievements.

So day 1 was pretty amazing. After my dr appointment this morning, I headed to the gym to get in my day 1 workout in the 12-week challenge. Today’s workout focused on chest and shoulders. Wide pushups, dumbbell bench press, flat bench dumbbell flys, narrow pushups, standing dumbbell tricep extensions, and tricep push downs. You do 12 reps of each three times with 1 minute rest in between. By the time I reached the narrow pushups, I thought my shoulders were gonna fall off. I know my upper body is my weak point, but man, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to finish the rest. I conquered through it and my shoulders felt like Jell-o. My goal by the end of the 12 weeks is to be able to do 12 regular pushups on my toes and not on my knees.

The rest of the afternoon was spent spending gift cards from Christmas, getting a shellac mani and throwing together an impromptu crockpot dinner before I headed off to my first bootcamp at a new place.

I purchased a deal from Living Social for a month of unlimited bootcamp sessions at Strong Fitness in Avon Lake. I really like bootcamp workouts because you burn tons of calories and work a variety of muscle groups. I was excited and pumped for to be able to go to two of the three classes offered a week.

The class was small, 10 of us. We warmed up with cardio for 6 minutes changing every minute or so between high knees, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, and squats. By the end of those 6 minutes I had sweat rolling off my face and tore off the long sleeved shirt I had on.

Next we partnered up and rotated through 5 different stations that had two elements to them, switching on the 30 second or so mark. Think Biggest Loser in a circuit 5 times through. By the end of the third circuit, my right side was aching and my head was pounding. My favorite circuit was the ropes. We picked up two thick ropes that you would climb up and gym class and waved them up and down while the other person held on to the other end and acted like a shock absorber. Remember my chest, shoulder workout from the morning, yeah, my shoulders hated me!  My least favorite was probably the bullfrog/burpee circuit. Half the time we jumped up back and forth like a frog and the other half we did burpees, or what I like to call HELL! This was the hardest circuit to keep your momentum and speed up in and I tired quickly. Luckily side planks followed hell and it was ALMOST like a breather, until my body started shaking holing myself up.

Hardest workout I’ve ever had, but I can’t wait to go back for more!

I just hope I can function well enough to get through Day 2 of my workout tomorrow and a 2-mile run! 🙂

Day 1= success! 🙂

The day I became a MARATHONER!

Sunday morning started off a little confusing because I woke up about 10 minutes before my 5:00 am alarm. The clock on the night stand in the hotel read 3:50 am and I thought I had another hour of sleep. But then when the boy’s phone alarm went off, again, I asked why he had it going off so early. He said it was almost 5 am. I immediately got up and looked at my phone and it read the same time. We thought maybe daylight savings time had ended, but I knew it wasn’t until the following weekend. Plus, we will fall back, not forward. So after we confirmed it was indeed the time our phones read, I began getting dressed and ready for my EPIC day!

We met my friend Jenine who was also running the race and her cousin in the hotel lobby at 5:30 am to take a taxi to the metro station. After we rode the metro to our stop in Crystal City we walked underground for what seemed like forever until we popped up on ground level right near our friend’s hotel who had a shuttle to drop us of near the start. The plan here was to eat breakfast and then take the shuttle. Since we arrived later than planned because we sat on the metro for about 10 minutes before it took off, there wasn’t much left for breakfast options. I munched on a half a plain bagel and found a banana while I used a real bathroom one last time before the shuttle arrived. I wasn’t too happy about the lack of breakfast I was eating, but didn’t really have much choice since I didn’t bring any other food with me.

Representing the 440 at MCM

We hop on the shuttle a little after 7 am and take a short ride to some sort of military housing near Arlington Cemetery. It was kind of crazy at this point because both runners and spectators were going the same way and the Marines were shouting for IDs to access beyond this point. I’d given the boy my ID, but a Marine said the runners could just show their bib, so I flashed my bib from under my throwaway shirt. After that, we made our way down a long road towards the start area. The sun was just beginning to rise over the horizon at this point. I looked to my right and saw this beautiful and bone-chilling site.

 

We had not made it to Arlington Cemetery before this, so I was trying to take in my surroundings while trying to remember where I was at and what I was doing. We hit a point where spectators and runners had to part ways, we said our goodbyes, and then Jenine, Jeff and I made our way to the port-o-potties for one last pitstop before the start. The port-o-potties were located on this slope of a hill that was just a mud pit since it rained all day the day before. As we descended down the hill, we were greeted with this gorgeous view of where we would be headed during our 26.2 mile journey through the Nation’s capital. 

After we made our final pitstops, we followed the crowd about a half mile towards the start line. Opening ceremonies had already started including posting of the colors by the Marines and a fly over.

 

It took us quite a while to navigate to our designated corral since the crowd of runners was so thick! Jeff and I said good-bye to Jenine as we past the 4:00 hour corral. Jeff and I headed down the highway farther to find a place for us to start. After chatting with two Marathon Maniac runners for a couple minutes, then the announcer came on to introduce Drew Carey to officially start the race and shoot off the starting pistol. 13 minutes later after passing the boy  Jeff and I were crossing the starting line mats and heading down the highway towards Rosslyn (the first of many cities) on our route. Holy heck! This is real, I’m starting the marathon.

Jeff and I planned to run together as long as possible since he is injured and planned on run/walking with an anticipated finish time of 6 hours. (Yeah, this plan went straight out the window after the first few miles)

I knew the first part of the course would have its share of hills, but I did not expect the slow and constant uphill that took use from mile 1 to mile 2.

Mile 1: 10:16/mile – a little faster than I needed to be, but I was feeling strong

Mile 2: 10:45/mile – surprising since there was a point where a little speed-walking was involved to propel me up the hill

Mile 3: 11:14/mile -hill recovery? who knows, knee pain started to kick in

Mile 4: 9:51/mile- woah speedy gonzalez! SLOOOOW DOWN!

Between miles 4-7 I was trying too hard to pace with Jeff at this point which would later lead to my running on empty feeling.

Once we crossed the bridge over into Georgetown, the energy from the crowd was AMAZING! This was the first time we could see the people running at a much faster pace as they were coming downhill towards us. We made a long stretch down a road that runs next to the Potomac River. It was really pretty and serene. But after a while it got pretty boring because it was just a big pack of runners and no spectators since there was no room. After about a mile, we turned right and shot straight up another hill. Ugh! I kept plugging away, but started to experience some pain in my left knee. Knowing I need to save my legs for the rest of the race, I power walked when I needed to keep up with Jeff’s pace and ran when I felt better. This part of the course was pretty tough, but when we came barreling back down the hill where we first saw the lead runners, I got such a rush of adrenaline from the crowd running through old Georgetown the next two miles flew by like nothing. By this time I had shed my throwaway long sleeved shirt and had taken some Advil to help alleviate some knee pain.

After we navigated the streets of old Georgetown, we began winding our way through West Potomac Park, which gave us beautiful sites of the city along the river. Around mile 11, I look to my right a little bit ahead of me and see Aaron with my camera up to his face snapping photos. Total surprise! I did not plan on seeing him until we reached the National Mall around mile 16. A hugh smile instantly covered my face and I ran up to him, gave him a kiss and said a quick “I love you.” Jeff and I kept on trucking and I see Aaron run ahead of us along the sidewalk so he could get some more photos a few yards down.

 

I really don't remember sticking my tongue out

Once we hit the halfway point, I was feeling tired. I knew at that point I started out WAY too fast and knee pain and by now, foot pain were ailing me. I was doing a lot of running and walking by this point. We were still in the Potomac park running along the river on a multi-purpose trail. It was kind of narrow and people were being polite and saying excuse me if they needed to pass. Around mile 14 or 15 is when Jeff and I parted ways since he felt like if he walked his knee would cramp up.

Honestly, as much as I enjoyed having someone to run with for part of the race, after Jeff and I parted ways, I was able to tune into the whole race and truly put myself in the moment. And the timing was perfect right before the National Mall.

Once we turned and headed down the National Mall, we were hit with an over-whelming amount of spectators. It was truly the most support I have ever felt during a race, and was SO glad I put my name on the front of my shirt. I know I had a smile on my face the entire time because not only of the sites around I could see, but being greeted by so many amazing people. Before I knew it, I saw a familiar face with a camera pointing at me and was super thrilled to see Aaron!

After I gave him a quick hug and kiss, I moved on down the road. But I must have gotten caught up in the moment that I began to cry and slightly hyper-ventilate. I stopped to walk so I could catch my breath and get my breathing back on tracking. Aaron jogged up to catch up with me and make sure I was okay and told me that Jeff wasn’t too far ahead of me. I thanked him and then went back on my way.

I passed the World War II memorial and wished so badly that I could stop and really look around but knew I had a race to run.

Here are some of my sights that I saw while running along the Mall.

So by mile 17 I was STARVING! Remember I said I knew I didn’t have enough for breakfast that morning? Yeah, coming back to bite me in the butt. Luckily, a kind spectator was handing out these !

SWEDISH FISH!

OMG! You have NO IDEA how good the first one tasted as I bit into it! I kept these around for about three miles, munching as I needed the energy.

We did some more “sight-seeing” before we made our way back towards Arlington getting an up-close view of the Capital.

After this, we looped back to “beat the bridge”, the 20-mile marker that you had to make by a certain time to guarantee to finish the course before it closed. On the way to beating the bridge, the fans again we’re unbelievable! Hearing my name over and over again. High-fiving spectators as I shuffled along. I even high-fived Steeler fans (eew!), but they were cheering me on so I forgave them for their poor choice in team loyalty. 😉 But let me tell you, nothing gives you more energy than running towards a little kid and giving them a high-five! Such a moral boost that you would not believe!

Once I hit mile 20, I knew it was all a mental battle from here. I’d run 20 miles twice before, so every mile after this would be a new milestone for me.

Miles 20-22 were the most boring on the whole course. We were running on one side of the highway. Small rolling hills along the way. No spectators. So I relied a lot on my music and positive attitude to keep me going. By this point, my feet were SCREAMING at me. No matter if I walked or ran, they hurt. But I knew I had come this far, all I had to do was survive a 10k.

These two miles gave me plenty of time to people watch. There were a group of 6-7 military men dressed in camo pants, maroon shirts, their boots and backpacks that probably weighed 70 lbs each at my guess. I had seen them earlier during the first part of the course. They stuck together, motivating each other and taking turns leading the pack. I shuffled past a Marine Staff Sergant wearing camo pants and his boots. He was running by himself. I totally respected these men running in what would seem like uncomfortable apparel to sport runners, but the norm to those in the military.

It was during these two miles that I really wished I had carried a hand-held water bottle because I felt like I was dying of thirst! Once we approached mile 22 we ran down an off-ramp and onto the streets of Crystal City. I knew this meant we were getting closer.

I totally missed the water stop at mile 22. At each water stop along the course they had Gatorade at the beginning and water at the end of the stop. I really think it should have been flip-flopped because it was just so congested. Or at least have water on one side and gatorade on the other. But, I missed the dividing spot for water and it was too late to turn back once I missed it. But up ahead there was a food stop, the third on the course. Dunkin’ Donut munchkins! A cake chocolate donut never tasted so good. It just sucked because I had nothing to wash it down with. But at this point I knew I just had to make it to mile 24 where the next water stop would be.

Crystal City was basically a loop so I saw the runners ahead of me heading back. I hate this parts of courses because you can never judge where the turn around point is and its very discouraging. But the supporters lining the streets were amazing and cheering us runners on. Again, people were handing out snacks and a group of spectators were handing out beer. Though I was parched, I was not that desperate to take Natural Light (eeck!). Finally, I saw the loop through a small park that would send us back the other way out of Crystal City and towards the finish. As I ran through the park, a Marine was standing there cheering us on and telling us only 3 miles to go. I high-fived him and kept shuffling along.

Finally I made it to Mile 24 and water was ahead. Marines were still handing out munckins and I took two-a glazed one and a chocolate one. Ate the glazed one with ease, but waited to eat the chocolate one until I had water. At this water stop, I took both Gatorade and water. I mixed the two, hoping between the electrolytes and the sugar, it would help me get the last second wind I needed to push on to the finish.

During Mile 24 we ran by the Pentagon. From the ground, it looks like any normal building. But as I ran along by it, I reflected on the tragedy that struck this location 10 years ago, and all those who lost their lives.

Mile 25. 1.2 miles to go. By this time I was walking a bunch and running when I gained enough strength to do so. As we made our way down an off-ramp and back on the highway towards Arlington Cememtery, my lower back on my left side began to hurt. So a lot more walking between 25-26, but I tried and tried to push hard when I ran.

Mile 26…SO CLOSE. I’m frantically looking around for the finish line. .2 to go and I’m a marathoner!

As I’m pushing along I notice the course turns left and then I though, WTF!?

WHO PUTS A HILL AT THE END OF A MARATHON?!

I began to run and wanted to push my hardest, but about halfway up the hill I knew this bastard would get the best of me. All the hills in Akron’s half had NOTHING on this hill. I pumped my arms and power walked up that bitch.

Once I reached the top and turned right, my legs were dead and it felt nearly impossible to sprint towards the finish line. I passed Aaron as I was approaching the finish line, still smiling and excited for what I was about to accomplish.

5:31 later, I crossed the finish line with my hands above my head.

I had become a MARATHONER! I had finished what I started.

After we finished, we walked a ways into these shutes where several Marines stood with medals hung around their arms. A very handsome Marine put a medal around my neck. I graciously said “Thank you, sir” and moved on. When I looked up, I was in awe of what was in front of me.

Iwo Jima Memorial

After getting some finisher photos taken and navigating the “get post-race food” line, I was finally able to meet up with Aaron. Exhaustion is what I felt. My feet ached, my back hurt and I wasn’t able to move fast.

Treking through mud post race was not fun, but the only way we could get back up to the street and head towards the finisher’s festival.

Post race I snagged a finisher’s shirt and met up with Jeff at the TAPS tent to retrieve my bag and take some photos.

One badass medal for this Marathoner!

kisses!

Wow. I REALLY did it. Thinking back on it Sunday evening and even Monday, it felt like it was almost a dream, a surreal dream. I DID it! 8 months of marathon craze, 18 weeks of training. Lots of weeks and runs of doubt whether or not I could actually complete a marathon.

But I did it. I completed 26.2 miles with a smile on my face and without a doubt or negative thought in my mind. It may have taken me five and a half hours to do so, but that is not what matters. The thing I am most proud of myself is that I never mentally gave up during those 26.2 miles. I did not allow a single negative thought to even begin to form nor did I beat myself up about not being fast enough or not at a smaller weight. I absorbed every single minute of every single mile and truly lived my marathon. That is the sweetest victory of all!

Now, the journey here was not done alone. There were many people a part of it that need to be mentioned and thanked.

First, Jenine. Thank you so much for signing up for this race with me and sticking with me through the entire training and making it to DC with me. Your wisdom, encouragement and friendship during this whole process helped keep me focused on the fact that I CAN and WILL complete a marathon. Thank you for running at my pace on our longer runs. I know I’m not a speed demon like you, but your company was definitely enjoyed and appreciated during our training.

Second, my dirty runners circle. It has been such a great pleasure exchanging stories, jokes and advice over Facebook and Twitter, and during meet ups at races and other outings. I’m glad many of the first time marathoners went before me so I could relive their special days via their blogs(TheHeldawg, KimiK, HungryinCle, MojaMala2, Justin_McI). Your daily support means so much and was definitely thought of during my 26.2 miles. I’m so stoaked to be part of club now! Keep runnin’ dirty!

Next, my friends and family in the Midwest! You guys have been there for me always and when I decided to take on this challenge, you did not discourage me but were my biggest cheerleaders! I love you guys so much and don’t know what I’d do without you!

All of you who donated to help me out Run MS. I ran the Akron half marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon in honor of my Aunt Anita who is currently living with MS. She is a strong woman who keeps going with her head held high while facing daily struggles this awful disease challenges her with. I am proud to say that I raised $400 for the National MS Society. All of you who gave to this wonderful cause, you are angels and I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Lastly, and certainly the most important person I need to thank: my wonderful and amazing boyfriend, Aaron.

Aaron, you were there with me every step of the way. From the beginning of our relationship, you wanted to be there with me during this amazing time in DC after only knowing me a week. Since then, you have been there to listen to me moan and groan about aches and pains, being woken up early on the days I had long runs as I crawled over you out of bed. You were my motivator during the week when I didn’t want to get up that extra hour early to get my run in before I had to get ready and go to work. You made it to as many races as possible to cheer me on in the training leading up to the marathon. You even popped your race cherry and ran a 5k with me on a cold March morning. You survived my many mood swings and emotional roller-coasters this training sent me on and still encouraged me, even though we both couldn’t wait until it was all over. And you made the 300+ mile trip with me to Washington D.C. and endured four-days with me and we didn’t die (either by plane or killing each other. hehehe 🙂 ). And on race day, you shocked me most when you walked the distance of a half marathon around D.C. to make sure you got photos of me and my friends along different spots of the course.  If there was an award for the best boyfriend, you would receive it hands down! You are my rock and believed that I could complete this challenge when I felt at times I couldn’t. I couldn’t ask for a better guy to have as my boyfriend. I hope the next marathon I decide to do, you can run it with me in your own unique style. Thank you, Aaron. I love you.

What’s next? As of now, there are no marathons planned in the immediate future. I am going to focus on getting fit and healthy again as the end of marathon training left me with crappy eating habits and some pounds gained. I want to slim down, tone up and work on getting faster.

I said before this race that this would be my marathon swan song. Now, I don’t think it will be my ONLY one, but it won’t be within the next six months. We’ll see what the future brings.

I finished what I started.

I AM a marathoner!