Deployment: 10% Down

My deployment donut of doom has some good news: this deployment is 10% dunzo! 10% done feels pretty good, but I’m also daunted by how much of that damn donut is still red.

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Deployment? There’s an app for that.

They say that every deployment experience is different, that just because you’ve done it before doesn’t make it easier, that experience doesn’t mean you’ll know what to expect. Although we are only 10% in to deployment #2, so far, I’d say that’s pretty accurate. I find myself left and right saying sentences that start with, “last time…” “during the last deployment…” “deployment number one…” and every other incarnation of the phrase. I can’t help but compare my experience with the first deployment to this one.

Last time, the deployment was 11 months+. This time, the deployment will only be 9 months.

Last time he went straight from Basic to deployment. Out of 18 months from January 2011 – July 2012, we only spent 8 weeks together, not consecutive. You’d think a shorter deployment would mean an easier deployment, at least on my end. I don’t think that’s going to be the case, though. I can’t help thinking that 9 months doesn’t sound that long. Eventually, I will realize just how long 9 months is, and I anticipate a rude awakening.

Last time Stephen spent the first half in the TOC before joining a line company on a COP (a more remote, dangerous location). This time he’s on a big FOB (aka safe) but regularly making trips outside the wire (less safe).

When Stephen finally got off the FOB and into the fray, he was so excited. It was his dream, it was why he enlisted. I, on the other hand, freaked out. At one point, I hadn’t heard from him in far longer than usual, and I was convinced something had happened. I was paralyzed by fear. I had put together a care package for him that I refused to send because I had convinced myself that he had been killed and it would just get returned to me. A tad mellow dramatic perhaps, but when your spouse is being shot at, that’s a real possibility. I spent the entire second half of that deployment feeling very fragile.

This time around, the danger is still there, but it seems to ebb and flow with his work schedule. Of course, something could happen to him even in the safest of locations, but for the most part, I don’t worry as much. I finally realized how much is out of my control and my internal worry spigot shut off.

At the sendoff. I didn't cry this time - that was definitely different.

At the sendoff. I didn’t cry this time – that was definitely different.

Last time I got phone calls. This time we talk online.

This is an improvement. I loved it when Stephen would call me. Hearing his voice unexpectedly was always like the sun shined a little brighter just for me. But it wasn’t really convenient. If he called, I wanted to answer and talk to him, but if I was busy, he didn’t want to talk. A few times he called me while I was teaching and while I was running (even during a race once), and I answered. I think it left us both frustrated.

This time around we message each other online or talk via Skype. It also helps that he has internet in his room, which he didn’t have last time. I don’t have internet on my phone, but that’s probably better. No more trying to talk when really we can’t but we want to try to anyway, as was the case last time.

Last time I had a full time job and my family nearby. This time I’m working part-time and my family is a day’s drive away.

As busy as I’ve been, I wish I was busier. I’m already thinking about finding a volunteer gig or a seasonal job to work during the summer. There won’t be any student teachers to monitor, and I’ll have too much time on my hands.

I also wish my mom and I could just randomly get together like we did before. She (and my mother-in-law and my friends) really kept my spirits lifted last time. It wasn’t even always deployment related; it just felt nice to be able to talk to people who knew me so well. I’m making strides at building more friendships here, but nothing replaces having your family close.

Last time I was an Army wife in a sea of civilians. This time I’m living near an Army post.

I felt really alone last time. I was surrounded by people who had no idea what my experience was like, or (in some cases) my experience was completely invisible to them. Like the coworker who told me, “oh, it’s going by so fast,” when I updated her on how much of the deployment was already done. It sure didn’t feel fast to me.

I thought living near Fort Bliss would make all the difference, but it hasn’t. I’m certainly enjoying the perks of Army life with weekly visits to the library and free yoga classes at the gym. Otherwise, it’s not that different. We haven’t had an FRG meeting since the guys left, I still don’t know any of the wives in our company (Stephen swapped companies 10 days prior to leaving), and most of my friends here have their men home. But, it is nice being able to talk with people who really get it. Julie has been a life saver in this respect. Even when we don’t talk about it, it’s nice to know that I’m not so alone.

Reunited in July 2012. This time I'll be present for the full Army she-bang. I'm very excited about that part!

Reunited in July 2012. Last time I couldn’t be there when Stephen’s unit returned from Afghanistan (since they returned to Germany). Our reunion was at a Dallas airport baggage claim. I’m very excited about being present for the whole hooah Army welcome home ceremony this time.

In the end, it’s a lot of trade-offs. Some things were better before (like having my family close) and some things are better now (our communication). What’s really better this time is my handle on my emotions. I still miss him (duh) and feel sad at times, but I feel like I do a better job of not letting those emotions run me into the ground. Maybe it’s because I’m so mature (sarcasm).

10% done, 90% (boo) to go.

Sprint to Bataan: 20 Days to Go!

Like the old saying goes, “When one race ends, another race is coming up on the horizon.” That is how that goes, right? Stacking races so close together is not my usual M.O., but when I heard about Bataan (and let the craziness of it set in for a while), I knew it was a race I could not pass up.

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  • It’s a noble cause: The race honors soldiers who were marched across the Philippines during World War Two. Many of them were from nearby Dona Ana County and the NM National Guard. Sadly, many of them died in the march and in the POW camp afterward.
  • The setting is one-of-a-kind: Not only is White Sands Missile Range a unique race location, it’s also really pretty.
  • It’s hard as hell: When I was working at the gym, I saw some soldiers exercising in Bataan race shirts. They told me it took them 9 hours to finish. That’s a shirt you can wear with pride. I find the challenge appealing.
  • The price: The half distance (14.2 miles for this race) costs the same as the full. I couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger on the half knowing that I could spend the same amount of money to participate in the full.
  • The timing: I debated doing Bataan next year so I wouldn’t have two full marathons so close together, but this year is the 25th anniversary of the race. Besides, I’ve already got my eye on a race for next March. (This one!)

Bataan is not your typical race. I don’t even know if it should be called a race. A great many military personnel participate, and many of them opt to do the “heavy category” carrying 35+ pound ruck sacks. It’s lots of walkers/hikers/run-walkers, but from what I can tell, not a lot of “traditional” runners like you’d see in a road race. That makes sense since it’s not even entirely on road. Much of the course goes through straight up sand. And I do mean straight up.

bataan elevation

Now you can see why I don’t have a time goal. The plan will be to go, pay homage to those who were at Bataan (in previous years, survivors were present to shake your hand at the finish!), and earn a badass shirt.

In terms of training, I’m loosely following a 4 week marathon-to-marathon training plan from Hal Higdon.

4 week m to m

An old running buddy once used Higdon’s plan for 6-weeks between races with great success. Since my aim is to maintain my endurance and not much more. I’m confident this plan will do the trick.

How did this week measure up in terms of running? I ran 4 times.

  • 1.25 miles the day after the El Paso Marathon
  • A slightly sore 4 miler
  • 5 miles (shaved off 1 mile because my knee felt wonky)
  • 95 minutes of running yesterday (8.25 miles in hilly McKelligon Canyon)

Plus yoga and walking Geronimo.

I’m kind of liking that my big races are so close together this time around. It’s like 2-for-1 marathon training! The weather is already heating up here in El Paso, so I don’t foresee much long distance running after this. I guess that’s good timing since my body will be overdue for a break after Bataan anyway.

How to Recover Like A Pro

I may not know how to pace myself or how to apply sunscreen (I ended up with a funny race tan on my back), but I sure as heck know how to recover from a big race like a professional. That’s not totally true – I have no idea what real professionals do – but when it comes to amateur professionals, I am both the most amateur and the most professional. Or something. What you need to know is that recovery is totally my bag, baby. One week post-marathon, and I am good as new. I don’t know if I’d say that I feel up to running another 26.2 right now, but I’m no longer walking like Frankenstein or grunting when I try to stand up. I consider that recovered! And I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t spread the knowledge. Here’s how I went from the finish line (feeling like dog turd) to a week later (feeling like a shiny new penny):

Race bling!

Race bling!

Ice, lots

I bought a 10 pound page on the drive home from the race. Before I ate my delicious food, before I washed off my stank, I filled the tub up with cold water and dumped the entire bag in. Then I got in.

I used to think people who took ice baths were coo-coo bananas, but a few years back, I became a believer. My only complaint was that the dang thing wasn’t cold enough! Afterwards I had the light bulb moment that I should skip the water and just dump the ice onto my legs, but I’ve heard you can get burns doing it that way. (See above where I state that I’m an amateur? It’s becoming apparent now, isn’t it?)

Food – mostly healthy – eat it + water

blizzard by lashyra

I will say that I’ve been on track in terms of eating clean. While I love to stuff my face after a hard race, I don’t like to immediately fill my tank with junk. In the last few days my junk food craving has turned up a notched (Arby’s French fries, I want you!), but I’ve been resisting, mostly. There was that one night of Taco Bell + Dairy Queen. So Worth it. I guess the key is to find the balance (oh, the elusive balance) between replenishing your body and treating yourself.

I’ve been mighty hydrated, though. No issues on that front. I have four different water bottles in my fridge, and I keep them full at all times. I simply pull one out, carry it around with me, drink it all up, then refill and swap out for another.

Move, even when you don’t want to

I may have chilled on the couch immediately after the race, but I did eventually get up and walk Geronimo to keep my legs loose.

I may have chilled on the couch immediately after the race, but I did eventually get up and walk Geronimo to keep my legs loose.

Austin, one of my most difficult half marathons (look at the elevation map if you want to have nightmares), was also one that resulted in the least post-race soreness. How did I manage that? I spent almost an hour after I finished walking around. I found my mom who was walking the half and joined her, I walked around the post-race area and felt giddy, and I walked for wayyyy too long to find my car. The beauty of movement!

For this race, I didn’t walk quite so much (I was tired), but I did take Geronimo to the park that evening. Monday morning, I put my running shoes on and jogged my way to 1.25 miles. Nothing fast or record breaking, but I got the juices flowing. Also juicy were my two yoga classes. (One of the yoga instructors calls deep stretches “juicy” so that was a little inside joke with myself there.)

Massage (this one is worth bonus points)

No Massage Envy for me this time. I went to a true blue spa.

No Massage Envy for me this time. I went to a true blue spa.

Stephen gifted me with a massage (he bought it online and worked on scheduling it without me even knowing it!) all the way from Afghanistan. He couldn’t be here for the race, so this was the next best thing. Even though having a stranger rub my muscles for an hour doesn’t compare to having him home, it was an hour of pure heaven. I honestly thought it lasted 90 minutes. I was so out of it, but in the best way possible. I showed up for my massage still a little sore, and left feeling 100% better. If a full on massage isn’t in the budget, you can still get just as good of an experience with a foam roller or the stick. (My stick got lost in our move – wah!)

There you have it. The not-so-scientific science behind getting yourself back to your old self post-race!

Reading Round-Up: February

February was a shorter month, but there was no shortage of reading taking place. I even managed to read one more book than I did last month. Halfway through the month I realized that everything I’d read had been written by a man. I made sure to mix it up a little and the last two books are by women. (Diversity, yo.)

1. Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden (non-fiction)

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Short version: The true account of Shin, who was born and raised in a North Korean prison camp, his escape, and how he has dealt with transitioning to life in the Western world.

The verdict: 4 out of 5 stars. It’s hard to gush about a book that is dark and ugly, and horrifically true. The things Shin endured are almost unfathomable, but almost even more frustrating than the torture he survived is knowing that others continue to live that way, and they are faced with the world’s indifference. I feel almost a sense of duty when I read a book like this to bear witness to someone else’s reality. It was hard, but it was also eye opening and important.

2. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn (epistolary fiction)

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Short version: Told through letters, the adorable residents of the  fictional Island of Nollop begin banning the use of certain letters as they fall from the founder’s statue.

The verdict: 5 out of 5 stars. I thought the concept of the book was clever, and the execution was spot on. The English teacher in me appreciated the uniqueness of the idea, the wit, and the difficulty level (the author had to omit more and more letters from the book as the story went on). It was something sweet to lighten my reading load between emotionally heavy non-fiction novels.

3. The Time of Our Lives: A Conversation about America; Who we are, where we’ve been, and where we need to go now, to recapture the American Dream by Tom Brokaw (non-fiction)

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Short version: As the longest subtitle of all time suggests, Brokaw reflects on where our country has been, where we are headed, and how we can continue (or in some cases, change course) for the better.

The Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars. Years in the biz have given Brokaw a keen sense of observation, eloquence, and even some really good ideas. While this isn’t the kind of book that I was dying to keep reading, I really appreciated his perspective on things. It was kind of like having a long chat with a grandparent. Even though I didn’t agree with everything (he was mostly fair but a few aspects were too sentimental even for me), I had to give him props for knowing what he was talking about and saying it so well. Unless you are particularly interested in the topic, however, you can probably pass on this one.

4. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan (YA fiction)

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Short version: Two Chicago suburbanites both named Will Grayson are struggling through high school and figuring things out, when their lives intersect following a chance meeting.

The verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars. I like John Green’s style. I’m drawn to his slightly off-beat, always introspective characters. The analogies, the symbolism, the fun, oh my! (The best line is when one of the characters gets food poisoning but declares it “awesome poisoning.” As in, he’s just too awesome.) But the plot? No. Just no. The meeting of the characters was almost unnecessary and pointless. The ending wasn’t fully realized. It read to me like a draft. As in, some things needed to be edited out to streamline what the real story was. A fun read, but definitely not a re-read.

5. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (Memoir)

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Short version: Joan chronicles her life in the year after her husband dies of a heart attack.

The verdict: 3 out of 5 stars. I’ve never read anything else by Didion, nor did I know what the book was about when I picked it up. (Sometimes I like going into a book blind.) She is clearly very intelligent and a very talented writer. It seems like what she is saying is on the surface, but there are layers in all of it. She has an interesting style of repeitition, which I thought was effective and I really enjoyed. But was I itching to read this book? Was I eager to pick it up after I put it down? No. I even had to force myself to get through the end. I can see how writing it was necessary for her, but I didn’t fell compelled to read it. On the topic of loss, I much prefer What Remains and The End of Your Life Book Club, both of which I read last year. This one had a feeling of hopelessness throughout. Again, I can see why she wrote it, but I didn’t enjoy reading it.

6. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (YA fiction)

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Short version: Typically a-typical story of high school love, conflicts, being on the outside, major family drama, and self discovery.

The verdict: 4 our of 5 stars. I love the main characters. They both have hard outer shells and soft, squishly, loveable insides. (The peripheral characters, particularly Parks’ mom, are also really well-developed and interesting.) The romance was a slow build, which I thought was more realistic than most of the love stories where it’s meet-bam!-in love. They are also dealing with some very real, very difficult issues. Some of the things that happen to Eleanor are painful to read, but in that I-can’t-look-away kind of way. The tough situations and layered characters would make this a good YA book club choice. (When I finished, I so wanted to have a big long discussion about this book with someone.)

*

Total # of books read so far this year: 11

Total # of pages read so far this year: 3,574

(Want to see the books I read in January? Go here. You can also join me on GoodReads.)

Run Less, Run…Slower?

My review of the Run Less, Run Faster program!

If you’ve been around for a while, you’ve heard me go on and on about RLRF. I trained 2/3rds of the way through the program last year for a race I didn’t end up running. (I abandoned ship when I realized that running a marathon the week before moving internationally wasn’t a great idea.) I made it all the way through the plan in the train up to the EP Marathon.

A quick refresher (or intro for those not in the know). RLRF has you completing 3 runs a week:

  1. An interval run (repeating sprints of distances between .25 mile and 1.25 miles)
  2. A tempo run (4-8 mile runs with fast middle miles sandwhiched between an easy warm-up and cool-down)
  3. A long run (between 7-20 miles at marathon pace + so many seconds)
A portion of the RLRF training plan.

A portion of the RLRF training plan.

All the runs are pace specific, and the program instructs you to aim to run them as closely to those times as possible. It should be comfortably difficult, which I found to be true of almost every single workout. They were a challenge but not impossible. You are also supposed to complete cardio cross-training (swimming, cycling, ellipticalling, rowing, whatever) twice a week. I don’t much like other forms of cardio, so I would do yoga and walk my dog instead. Not exactly what the plan suggests, but it’s what I wanted to do. This was my only real deviation. I followed the running workouts to about 95% accuracy. There were a few missed or shortened runs, a few times that I threw my pace out the window, but mostly, I did as I was told.

With all that you, you’d think that I would run faster. Did I? No. Sunday’s marathon was 5 minutes slower than my PR, and 8 minutes slower than what I was training for. But but but but but this in no way reflects on the plan. I felt totally prepared in terms of my training. My 18 mile and 20 mile runs were both cake, and I know I have a faster marathon in me. <–That right there is the problem.

Interval run, run less run faster

Notes for a particularly tricky interval run.

The book specifically warns against aiming for a finish time that is faster than what you are capable of at the time (they have a pages and page of charts to help you figure out what time goal is appropriate). The authors point out that runners have a tendency to get hung up on arbitrary goals. Damn you, tantalizing round numbers! (I was training for 4:22, but tried to reach for 4:15 on race day.) I read that part of the book thinking, “Yes, this is logical. I should set a realistic goal based on my current abilities and run an evenly split race. I should ignore the round numbers.” But then I didn’t.

I think my downfall, if you will, was three-fold:

  1. The 5 miles of downhill at the start of the race gave me a false sense of myself. I felt so good that I kept pushing the pace until I gased out. Even if I hadn’t pushed it, a 1,500 foot elevation drop at the start of a distance race makes even splits tricky.
  2. I didn’t show up to the starting line with the intention of running the paces I’d trained for. I didn’t just want to finish, I wanted to smash my PR! Instead, I got smashed.
  3. My plan (fueling, hydration, walk breaks) was abandoned from the get go. I don’t even have a reason why. Endorphins? Foolishness?

When pepping me up prior to the race, a few friends told me, “run your race!” I thought, “yes, yes I will!” In my brain, though, that meant, “I’m going to go for it! I’m going to run the hell out of it!” instead of probably what they meant “run the way you trained. Run your pace. Don’t be stupid!” Whoops.

Would I recommend RLRF? Yes! Absolutely! The book is loaded with more information than you’ll probably ever need (how to train for an Ironman, how to BQ, how to stretch, how to cross-train, and on and on and on), and the plan is sound. It is scientific, it is specific, and it is effective. You know, as long as you don’t blow it on race day.

Where my other RLRF peeps at? What other training plans do y’all love? After only running 3 days a week, I’m not sure I could go back to 4 or 5.

Food, Food, Gimme Gimme Food

Since Sunday, I’ve had only one thing on my mind: how to get delicious morsels of food into my stomach as quickly as possible. I’m experiencing a very strange phenomenon in which the more I eat, the hungrier I am. I’m not sure if my metabolism is straight up on fire or if my brain is just confused from all the Swedish fish I shoved down my gullet this weekend. What I do know is that my healthy food intake has spent the past month (give or take) in serious flux.

It appears as though my healthy choices have an inverse relationship with my distance from Stephen. Translation: he goes far away (I’m looking at you, Afghanistan!), and I start eating really poorly. Not cookie-dough-still-in-the-package poorly. More like frozen-meals-for-a-week-can’t-even-be-bothered-to-turn-on-the-oven poorly. The upside is that I did come up with a new style of cooking: Barely Homemade. It’s like Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee except everything is cooked in a microwave or purchased in a drive-thru.

I managed to come to my senses and eat healthier as the marathon approached. Healthier in this case means fruit, vegetables, and every carb known to man. My favorite easy yet healthy option has become salmon salad. The fresh fish selection is pretty sad out here in the desert, but I did find some decently priced vacuum sealed blackened salmon.

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15 minutes in the oven, chop it up, slap that bad boy on a bed of lettuce. Dinner is served!

I was on a mostly healthy uptick until race day. Now that the marathon has come and gone, I can eat whatever I want. {Insert evil laugh here.} I think I’ve been pretty conservative though. My post-race meal of choice was Chipotle:

Queen in the castle!

Queen in the castle!

Dessert was sorbet. So tame! So not unhealthy! I made up for it the next night by going to Dairy Queen. There was squealing and hand clapping when the server (fast food attendant? cashier? maker of all that is ice cream holiness?) flipped my Blizzard upside down. That’s the best part. I think they should offer refunds when the blizzard isn’t flipped. It ain’t a blizzard if you don’t flip it!

Yesterday I got off my kiester and bought groceries. (Ugh. Least favorite chore.) My pal Janelle is making chili for a cook-off at her work, and when I read about it on her blog, I thought, “Hey. I want chili.” So I made some! I followed this recipe from Inspiralized. It involves making “sweet potato rice” but you could skip that. Since it involved my two favorite kitchen appliances (the Vitamix and the spiralizer) I fo’ sho’ made that crazy veggie “rice.”

inspiralized soup

I proceeded to top it with a fistful of cheese and a pile of avocado. Totally healthy. Even if you eat 3 bowls of it, right?

One of the funny things about being post-race is that even though I feel totally “allowed” to eat unhealthy things following burning a million calories in one day, I don’t really want to. Although, the bag of sour cream and cheddar chips that I ate on my way home from the grocery store tell a slightly different story. And let’s be real, I always feel allowed to be unhealthy. I guess after the race it’s just that I almost feel like I should eat unhealthy. I’m ready to stick to the good-for-me stuff for now, though. Treats here and there, yes, I want, but mostly I want the healthier stuff. Emphasis on the “er” part of that. Let’s not kid ourselves about how healthy I actually eat.

It seems as though the spell of laziness, wallowing, and craptastic eating that accompanied the beginning of deployment has been broken. I’m ready for fresh foods and healthy choices, even if it means a little more work on my part. Bring on the smoothies, the kale, and the oats! Come forth Greek yogurt, flax seed, and quinoa! Lend me your millet, your bran, and your tofu! But, sour cream and cheddar chips, don’t leave me just yet. We can still be friends!

What kind of healthier stuff are y’all eating lately?

PS Want to see something funny? The official race photos are up! I think it’s pretty clear which ones were taken early in the race and which ones were taken later.

El Paso Marathon Race Recap

I’m not a big fan of suspense, so let me cut to the chase. Yesterday I ran my 3rd marathon. It was hard. I went out too fast. It got hot. I got tired. But I managed to pull out a finish time that I am proud of: 4:30:20.

The Garmin don't lie!

The Garmin don’t lie!

Now for the fun part – details!

The race is point-to-point, starting at the top of the Franklin Mountains and winding it’s way through Fort Bliss all the way to downtown. I was late to the only other point-to-point race that I’ve done (one must allot extra time for transit to the start!), so I woke up crazy early (3:00 am) and arrived crazy early (4:30 am) in order to ensure that my butt would be on that bus with plenty of time to spare.

I spent the 90 minutes that I had before the race started alternating between waiting in line for the porta-potties and staying warm on the bus. It was a cool 50-something and windy; nice for running, not so nice for standing around in a tank top. Eventually the sun rose and it was time to start.

During mile 1. I love a good sunburst picture.

During mile 1. I love a good sunburst picture.

  • Mile 1: 9:06
  • Mile 2: 9:19
  • Mile 3: 9:23
  • Mile 4: 9: 38
  • Mile 5: 9:36

I loved the first 5 miles. They were completely downhill, so what’s not to love? I decided to not worry about time during these miles and instead run at whatever pace felt comfortable. Fewer than 400 people were attempting the full, so it wasn’t too crowded. It was still cool out, and the views were gorgeous.

  • Mile 6: 9:33
  • Mile 7: 10:26 (my first walk break)
  • Mile 8: 9:40
  • Mile 9: 9:48
  • Mile 10: 10:06 (another walk break)
I love running!

I love running!

You’d think it was a good thing that I didn’t take a walk break until mile 7. In reality, this was poor planning. Those first 5 miles + adrenaline had me feeling good. So much so that I took my normal approach (walk every 4 miles, fuel like clockwork) and instead had a “just wing it” attitude. I also decided that “just PRing” wasn’t enough. I wanted to aim for a sub-4:15 finish. That meant a 9:45 pace. Seeing as this isn’t my first rodeo, I should have known better. Alas, I did say that I wanted to push myself and not run conservatively. Besides, I felt so good. What was the harm? {Foreshadowing!}

  • Mile 11: 9:59
  • Mile 12: 9:50
  • Mile 13: 9:46
  • Mile 14: 10:07

The wheels started to fall off around mile 14. I could already tell that my body was tired. (To bad I didn’t run the half! I had an awesome entire first half!) The previous 13 miles + plus the rising heat + my poor pacing + my lack of following the fueling/walking plan had taken it’s toll. Even though my pace was still decent at mile 14, I know myself well enough to recognize when my running is taking a downward turn.

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  • Mile 15: 9:53
  • Mile 16: 10:57
  • Mile 17: 10:39

Miles 11 through 17 were all on the same road with almost no turns. Turns, in theory, are annoying and dumb. A straight road sounds great. Except that it was so empty. No spectators, no pretty scenery. Nothing to distract me from my dwindling energy. Mile 17 was such a welcome sight. That was where we entered Fort Bliss. It was also the location of a Walking Dead themed water stop complete with people acting like walkers (seriously scary), an old RV, and volunteers with plastic cross-bows. The woman who high-fived me here was an angel in an earth suit. She gave me pep in my step, and I actually started to get a second wind. (As much of a second wind as one can expect after 17 miles of running.)

  • Mile 18: 10:12
  • Mile 19: 10:43
  • Mile 20: 10:40

I went from walking every few miles, to walking every other mile, to walking every mile. Thankfully, I passed my friends’ house during this portion of the course. Knowing they’d be there kept me in motion and was another much-needed boost. I was joking with the volunteers and feeling happy. Even though the middle miles had been hard, I was surprised at how quickly I had found myself at mile 20. Only a 10k to go.

I did not take this picture. I was too fatigued at this point to even unzip my spibelt.

I did not take this picture. I was too fatigued at this point to even unzip my spibelt.

  • Mile 21: 11:18
  • Mile 22: 10:47
  • Mile 23: 11:57

We were outside the confines of Fort bliss and headed downtown. By this point, my body felt better. Some aches and pains from earlier in the race had subsided. Unfortunately, my determination started to waver. I’m sure all the people around me at this point looked as pitiful as I did. Jogging, hobbling, walking, certainly not running. A few fellow runners cheered me on. I cheered them on. I told myself that I could go slow but I had to go. I’d run to an intersection, then walk to the next one, then run again. I’ve never walked for too long, but I also didn’t run for too long at this point. It was an internal push-and pull from here to the end.

  • Miles 24: 11:29
  • Mile 25: 12:19

The 4:30 pacer passed me around mile 24. I tried to stick with her, but I couldn’t hack it. I knew my goals were long gone before I got to this point, but it still sucked to literally see my goal fly by. All day long, friends and family had been texting me. During mile 25 I was really hurting, so I took some time to read through all the messages. Oh man. Waterworks. I told myself that I shouldn’t cry and “waste my hydration” :) but I couldn’t help it. I was overwhelmed (and exhausted) and so touched. I knew I had to keep going, even if it was slow.

  • Mile 26: 10:36
  • Final .2: 2:24 (10:04 pace)
Photo courtesy of Julie. This is my last bit of effort after I realized the timing mat under the blue awning wasn't actually the finish and I had to keep running.

Photo courtesy of Julie. This is my last bit of effort after I realized the timing mat under the blue awning wasn’t actually the finish and I had to keep running.

The last mile. Finally! I knew Julie was waiting for me at the finish, so I gave it everything I had. I felt like I was running an 8:00 minute mile. Haha! I also realized that I could still come in under 4:30 if I hustled. It was just too late, and I didn’t have anything left in me.

My stats:

  • 26.26 Finish time: 4:30:20
  • Average Pace: 10:18 per mile

I made some mistakes at this race. I went out too fast, I didn’t follow my plan, I let the mental demons beat me down. It wasn’t all a loss. I did some good things, too. I ran the tangents like a pro, I cheered on fellow runners, I thanked as many of the volunteers and spectators as I could, and I ran with other people in my heart.

Remember when I said in my goals post that this race wasn’t just about me? I was thinking of a few people in particular. My mantra during training and one race day was: For Ben, For Micah, For myself.

The words that kept me going.

The words that kept me going.

I tried to channel Ben‘s positivity. (I wasn’t entirely successful, but I like to think he would have laughed at all the snarky jokes I made on the course.) From Micah, I tried to embody his determination and his wife Linzi‘s strength. Maybe my time doesn’t reflect it, but I was successful in this endeavor. I wanted to quit over and over and over again during this race. Every time I considered it, I thought about their family. How they haven’t been able to quit and instead they’ve pushed harder. Finally, I ran to prove something to myself. To prove that I could set my sights high and dream big and go for it, which is what I did.

When I finished, Julie was there to greet me. I immediately told her, “Don’t ever run a marathon!” However, on my drive home I saw some people out running, and I thought, “I love doing that.” That meaning running. For me, that also includes marathoning. Crazy as that is. So at the end of March, I’m doing another one! This one will be a little different. It’s the Bataan Memorial Death March. The terrain will be difficult, I’m sure the heat will be even worse, and there will be no time goals. In fact, I’m predicting that it will take me twice as long to finish as this one did. I’ve got four weeks to rest, recovery, get back in gear, and do the whole shebang over again!