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mother. marathoner. blogger. reader.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Race Review: Carolina Marathon

When you're unhappy about a service or a product that you have received, you can complain to customer service. You can get a refund, or return the item in exchange for something else. But who do you complain to when you have a bad race experience? When the race doesn't even meet your lowest, most basic expectations?

I ran my 11th marathon yesterday and I'm still trying to figure out what happened.

The day started off perfectly fine. I ran this same race last year and although I knew there were some course changes due to construction, I was expecting the same level of preparedness and support I had previously experienced. 

This year, there seemed a fewer number of runners and as the race progressed the herd thinned out pretty quickly. By mile 3 or so I was pretty much by myself. Before mile 7, the course turned off the paved trail and made a left onto a two lane road. The shoulder of the road was sectioned off by cones leaving space for single file running. To my surprise, traffic was still moving in both directions and more then three cars passed me on my left. I had caught up to a runner in front of me and followed him into a housing development. There were two turns and both were manned by volunteers who gave no further directions. Both the runner and I continued to run about a quarter or half a mile before we realized that we must have missed a turn somewhere. A third runner caught up to us and agreed that she hadn't seen a course marking either. I took out my phone and brought up the course map and realized we had, in fact, missed a turn. So we started running again and eventually found a small, white arrow spray painted on the ground.

The course then led onto a college campus that was better marked although the volunteers were paying more attention to their phones then to directing the runners in the right direction. Last year the course was an out and back course, with a turn around where you received a bracelet. This year, we received a bracelet but there was no turn around and the volunteers were hazy about where we should go. We went straight, despite there being no mile marker or course marker. A police officer was managing traffic at an intersection and he told us to keep going straight. Eventually we hit a busy intersection with no volunteers, or signs, only a tiny arrow on the ground - which we only saw when we looked around the corner. This road led us to another housing development where there were no volunteers or signs, just a few small arrows. We ran up a hill, around a circle, and then followed cones through SOMEONE'S BACKYARD (which as a New Yorker goes against every instinct I have  - you just don't run through people's yards)! There was a fence gate open which led to a street behind the house. Luckily, before I went through the gate I saw a truck turn the corner. If I had been less observant and had just ran through the gate onto the road I would have certainly gotten hit.

The course then went back to the college grounds and then back to the paved trail where I stopped seeing mile markers at about mile 21. At this point, because I had gone off course and had to stop and restart my watch so many times, I had no idea how much I had left to run. Intersections were no longer being patrolled by police officers. I have NEVER EVER in my life been left out on a course. I was sure that if I had missed the cutoff someone would have told me. Last year, there were cyclists biking the route checking on runners, offering encouragement and support. This year, there was no one. 

Eventually, I reached an intersection where a man, not wearing any race gear or anything official or runner/race like, tells me to make a left off the trail onto a road. I look where he's pointing and to my dismay it is a hill leading to an overpass WITH NO SHOULDER. I said to him, "seriously?" and he says "yes." I gave him my most disbelieving stare and said, "well, let's hope I don't get killed." So, not only does this road not a shoulder but there is actual traffic coming towards me. Cars going over the speed limit, flying over the top of the hill, only braking when they see me. This is a road I would not run on during training, let alone during a race. I start losing it. I'm close to tears and trying not to panic. I get to the bottom of the hill and come upon an intersection with NO COURSE MARKINGS AT ALL. No arrows, no signs, no volunteers - NOTHING. Now if this had been at mile 4, I would have taken a deep breath and figured something out. But this was at mile 20 something, I was tired, hot, and really ready to be done with this race. I started to cry. Just as I was about to turn around and run back to the shady course volunteer dude, I saw another runner coming down the hill. Thankfully, she was in a much calmer state then I was, so I pulled myself together and got out my phone to yet again check the course map.

We figured out where we needed to go and once I was back on the trail, I called my running partner (who was at home watching my kids) to A. let her know I was alive because I normally would have been finished and B. to bitterly complain about the course. I told her that I had no idea where I was or how much I had left. At one point, I seriously considered googling the finish line at the baseball stadium and just running there, forgetting entirely about the course.

A few minutes later, I came off the trail and saw an empty aid station table so I figured I was at least headed in the right direction. Again, there were no signs or volunteers, so I just kept going. A man asked me if I had seen his wife because apparently she was lost as well. He told me to just keep going straight. Unfortunately, traffic was freely moving and there was no sidewalk due to construction so I had to run between cars stopped at a light on my left and orange and white plastic construction barriers on my right. If traffic had been moving, I would have been in trouble. I got to an intersection where thankfully there was a police officer in a car who told me where to go. That road was free from traffic but as I turned the corner so did a police truck picking up barriers so I had about a foot of space between the truck and construction barriers to pass. Thankfully, I knew where I needed to go to enter the stadium for the finish line but there was no signs and only one volunteer, not wearing any identifying clothing, pointing the way. There were people milling about and it was confusing and a little overwhelming.

I have run big races and little races. I have run races in cities and races in the woods. I have never in the 10 years I have been running felt so overwhelmed and downright unsafe during a race. I ran a 50k in the woods in Ohio, a race in a state I don't live in, on trails I had never been on, in the rain, mostly by myself, and I still felt more safe then I did yesterday.

I'm so disappointed. Disappointed that my quads gave out. Disappointed that I got lost. Disappointed that my last Greenville marathon went so badly. When I was leaving the stadium, I heard a volunteer say there were still 20 people out on the course. 20! 20 people with little to no help or direction, running in 80 degree heat. 

The race website does state that the course will close at 5.5 hours and police may stop monitoring before then. It mentions the changes in the course. It protects itself pretty well from having to take responsibility for my experience. 

What makes me the most upset is that if that had been my first marathon, I don't know that I would ever run one again. And not because it was hard, marathons are always hard, but because it was handled so poorly for slower runners. Not everyone is going to run a 3:30 or 4 hour race. And while I understand not being able to keep a course closed from traffic all day, the course should at least have "safe" places to run - no shoulder less overpasses, and road without sidewalks. And every FREAKING MILE of that race, EVERY FREAKING turn should have been clearly marked. When you have been running for 5 hours straight the least they can do is point you in the right direction. 

It's going to take me a while to recover from this mess. I might need to give up road racing for awhile. I don't know, I just don't know.                         

Friday, August 5, 2016

let's talk... about running

I feel like we haven't talked about running in awhile. Which you know is kind of the main focus of this blog so....

let's talk about about running!

Every summer I say that I will NEVER do this again. I will NEVER train for a marathon during the summer. But here I am, once again, training for a full during the summer. And not only for a full, but for a 1/2, and a trail 20k. And that last race? The 20k? It's billed as the toughest race in the South. A hilly, curvy course with a ridiculous amount of elevation change - it's definitely going to be a challenge.

Is it hot where you are? It is very hot here. Like fry an egg on the pavement kind of hot. I've been using my treadmill 2 days a week so that I can sweat in my basement at 9 am instead of sweating outside at 5 am.  I have discovered "Call the Midwife" on Netflix and between the tears and laughs, the miles fly by. The other three days of running consist of me slowly making my way around town and hoping that I don't look as terrible as I feel.

It always surprises me how hard it is to run during the summer. I always forgot how heavy the heat can be, how it envelopes you, and how it can suck your life force away. Coming off 50k training, I was putting up big numbers and now I'm lucky if I can run 3 miles outside without falling into a heap in the gutter.

I constantly have to remind myself that this ALWAYS happens. That I spend the summer whining and complaining and then fall comes with the cooler weather and running is fun again. Putting in the hard work now means that I can reap the rewards later.

Part of the problem is that my calves HATE summer. As soon as the heat hits, my calves seize up like bacon on a hot frying pan. After a few years of this nonsense, I realized that my primary issue is my water/banana consumption gets all wonky during the summer. It might be all in my head but I believe strongly that bananas are the key to happy lower legs. I've been home for over a week now and I'm pleased to report that they are much better and I ran practically pain free this morning. I have, however, seem to have developed a slight case of shin splints which at this point is just annoying. I haven't had shin splints since 2006, when I was training for my first marathon. I keep having flashbacks of me icing my shins while watching Gilmore Girls - which ironically enough could be me again in a few months (thanks again Netflix!).

I'm looking forward to the kids starting school next week so we can get into a routine - one that includes me going to yoga and trail running once a week. I know what it takes to make me happy :)

previous post: so many favorite things

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

so many favorite things

Working from the head down, these are a few of my favorite things...

If you know me at all, you know that other then running (and maybe my children), I love nothing more then a good book. In fact, if I'm not running, there's a good chance I'm reading. Just recently, I read a sci-fi thriller, Sleeping Giants, by Sylvain Neuvel that I finished in one afternoon and when I turned the last page, I looked up and was desperate to tell everyone just how good it was. I'm terrible at reviewing books - I find it difficult to say more then yay or nay. Thankfully, NPR has a great review on their website, which you should read and then head over to Amazon to buy the book. Trust me, it's a good one.

Moving on...

I'm not sure how I found out about puravida bracelets. I think Facebook algorithmed me and decided that I needed a new obsession. Well, they've got my number because I am completely and totally hooked on these bracelets. They lured me in with a Flamingo clutch that I drooled over and passively aggressively posted to my Mother's Facebook wall until she finally said, "what is it with that bag you keep posting about?" She bought it for me for my birthday and I'm in love. Since then, I've bought another clutch, and got three free bracelets. Speaking of their bracelets - they are fabulous. My biggest issue with bracelets is that they never fit right. I have little wrists and can not stand it when a bracelet sits in that space above your wrist bone. These bracelets are easily adjustable so I can find that perfect spot. They have every color imaginable, braided, flat braided, charms, the options seem endless. It's really taking every ounce of self control I have not to buy EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. I'm already planning (scheming) on how I can get myself a membership to their monthly club so I can get new bracelets in the mail and pretend its Christmas twelve times a year. #lifegoals.
picture courtesy of puravida
 Last but not least...

I don't know about you but I'm a big fan of leggings. I like to sit cross legged without my thighs feeling like their going to explode out of my pants. I tend to stick to basic black because most patterned leggings are for juniors and not attractive on my ample bottom half. Then, I discovered LuLaRue. It was purely by accident. Brenda, a high school friend, became a rep and instead of flooding my newsfeed with buy this or buy that, she simply posted pictures of herself wearing the leggings and living life. She looked so cute and so stinking comfortable, I had to be in the loop. I joined her Facebook group, LuLaRue VIP Closet, and was surprised by the number of people in the group. So many women, so many women in love with LuLaRue. It wasn't until I won a pair in a giveaway that I truly understood. These leggings are soooo soft. and soooo comfortable. Mine are a pattern in a soft pink color. I can't wait for the weather in Northern GA to turn cooler so I can wear them out into the world.

If you like to see what all the fuss is about, head over to Brenda's Facebook Group, https://www.facebook.com/groups/LuLaRoeBrendaLavan/?__mref=message_bubble, and check it out. She often offers giveaways and is having a pop up party tomorrow, Wednesday, August 3rd. You can email her, Brendalavan@gmail.comwith any questions. 

how cute are these? photo courtesy of LuLaRue

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Product Review: Nordic Track 1650 Treadmill

So my husband bought me a treadmill.

A Nordic Track 1650c to be exact. 

I never thought I would say this but I'm kinda in love. It's pretty awesome having a machine in your basement that's always there. Just waiting for you to turn it on and pound out some miles. 

I don't have a magic formula to help you pick the best treadmill for you. My husband is a bit of a tech geek and loves to research things so we subscribe to Consumer Reports. I read and re-read their article on treadmills about 10 times before I decided this little gem was for me. 

The machine itself works like a charm. Smooth ride, easily accessible buttons. There is a tablet holder that my 1st generation iPad fits in perfectly. I use a portable speaker because I like everything, except my kids, to be as loud as possible. 

The console is equipped with iFit, which is this interactive, monthly fee thing that supposedly does really cool things. I do not have iFit but I do have Netflix on my iPad which completes my life.

My only complaint would be that I wish there was a cool down option. When you're finished running you can either slow the pace down to walking or just hit stop. You could also start another workout to cool down but that just seems like too much work after a bunch of treadmill miles.  


As a Mom of 3, this treadmill was a HUGE help during my 50k training. I was able to run at night when the kids were in bed or in the mid-morning when the babies were napping. There was no stress about getting my miles in while my husband was traveling. This particular treadmill suits my needs perfectly and I would highly recommend it.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

taking a break does a body good (or in this case a toenail)

Last Wednesday, when I headed out for a run, I couldn't put my shoe on. Who knew that something so small like a toenail could be so painful?

The nail that I damaged during the 50k has gotten worse and worse over the last few weeks. Primarily because my toddler steps on it EVERY single time he comes near me. Steps on it, grabs it, pulls on it. It has gotten got to the point where I automatically pull my foot away and screech, "MY TOE!" every time he comes near me. I'm raising well-adjusted children.

I managed to run through the pain for a few days, but by the middle of last week it was clear that I was headed for trouble. The base of my toe was red and painful to touch. There was clearly fluid building up and shoving that poor thing into a pair of sock and sneakers wasn't helping.  

I needed to take a break.

That night, I asked my husband at least 10 times if he thought I should take a break. I repeatedly asked him to look at my toe (true love) and tell me what he thought. Finally, his mouth said, "Yes, you should take a break" and his eyes said, "enough already woman."

So, I did it. I voluntarily stopped running for 5 days. FIVE WHOLE DAYS.

and I didn't even cry.

It's one of the best decisions I've made in a long time.

Today, I put on a pair of socks and NO PAIN. Then I put on a brand spanking new pair of Montrails that my Dad bought me for my birthday and NO PAIN.

Then I drove to one of my favorite trails and ran 4 wonderful miles - NO PAIN.

Marathon training for the Carolina Marathon starts today and I am so thankful I was smart enough to give my toe time to heal.

Sometimes, as runners, we take running through an injury, or pushing through pain and exhaustion as a badge of honor. At times this is necessary, other times it is not. I don't know about you, but I'm in this for the long haul, and if that means taking a break, then that's what I'm going to do. Besides, I'm a real big fan of toenails.

previous post: Race Report: Another Dam 50k

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Race Report: Another Dam 50k

Guess what?


That's right people. This little lady ran 31 miles, at one time, on purpose, and survived.

It was amazing.

I'm still in a state of disbelief that it actually happened. Did I really do that? Was that me running through those woods? Up hills and down root-and-rock-filled single-track paths?

The thing is... it was me. I did it. I accomplished something I wouldn't have dared to dream of a few years ago. I ran and completed an ultra marathon and I loved every stinking minute of it.

The race was comprised of 4 loops, each loop about 7.9 miles long. Some of it was trail, some asphalt. There was even a grassy field portion that I ran the first time and was like "nah, I'll walk it" the next three times. Surprisingly, I nailed the trail portions. No falls, although there were a few trips and a particularly nasty rock that destroyed any hope for a normal big toenail.

By the end of loop 3, I was exhausted. It started to rain, and I went into loop 4 giving myself permission to walk any of it or all of it if needed. Looking back, I realize I didn't eat enough during loop 3. My GPS was behind and I had been eating based on miles rather then time. So, at the start of loop 4, I walked a little bit while shoveling gummy bears into my mouth. The sugar hit my blood stream and I ran the rest of the loop with no problem. There I was, running through the woods in the rain. It's quite loud in the woods while its raining. It's also quite peaceful and downright calming. There was no wall, no moment where I thought "I can't do this".  

I finished well under my goal time and was surprised to find my kids, my husband, my best friend, and her two children waiting for me at the finish. They even had signs! It was wonderful.

I spent the rest of the day, and most of the next, in a suspended euphoric state. And the best part is I wasn't even hurting that badly! I could walk! Go up and downstairs (somewhat awkwardly, but still I could do it)!

Overall, it was a great experience and I might as well be honest and say I'm hooked. Trails. Ultras. I'm in. I want more. And I really want to see how much farther I can go. 12-hour run? Gulp. 50 miles? I'm not sure where this journey is going to take me but I'm sure its going to involve my husband sighing and asking, "Where is this race again?"

previous post: 50k training: losing and moving

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

50k training: losing and moving

I've written and rewritten this post a dozen times. The last three weeks have been... challenging.

The day my husband left to go visit his parents, his mother had a debilitating seizure that signaled the beginning of the end. A week later, she died.

That night I ran 6 miles. Because that's what a runner does when she's hurting - she runs. 

My mother-in-law was not a runner. In fact, I'm pretty sure she thought I was completely, totally, and utterly insane but she never said a word. She would anxiously wait for me to come home from a late night run at the beach - I could visibly see her relax when I walked into the house - but she would never tell me not to go. She never gave an opinion unless it was asked for. She made my favorite foods when we came to visit and could whip up mittens for a winter run in a heartbeat. 

She loved me.

She accepted me, 100%, for who I am. She allowed me to have my bratty, immature moments and still loved me. She saw me lose my patience with her son and still loved me. We laughed over the cuteness and silliness of my kids and cried in each other's arms when our visits were over. 

I've been grieving and mourning for her, for our relationship, for months now, since they discovered the brain tumors that eventually claimed her life. Deep down, I'm half convinced I signed up for the 50k to have something to focus on. A goal to work towards to help me ignore, forget, and deny the reality of losing someone I love.   

I'm not sure how non-runners cope with life. If I couldn't run, I'm not sure what I would do. The treadmill sitting in my basement has been a lifeline during these last few weeks. Late night runs after the kids were in bed. Mid-morning runs after the kids were at school. Even with the funeral chaos and aftermath, I was still able to get in all my miles.

She would have been upset if she thought I was missing miles because of her. So I won't. I will keep running even though I am tired; I will keep running towards the finish line of that 50k - because I know when I do, she will relax and give me that warm smile I so desperately miss. 

Week 9

6, 4, 4, trails, 16