How do you stay motivated?

“How do you stay motivated?”

amy half marathon

When it comes to exercise, I get asked this a lot.  If I had “a A + B = C” answer, it may only work for a certain few and not pertain to your situation.  Honestly my motivation waxes and wanes.  Since I have been running off and on for fifteen years and dabbling in triathlon for three, I feel like I am at liberty to share a few things.

1) I need rewards:  I was reading this spring that we make our decisions based on rewards.  We may do something that is not always pleasant and maybe not fun because we reap the reward it provides.  For instance I hate cleaning but I love looking at my sparkly organized kitchen.  Running is the same.  In the very beginning and for many years afterwards it was unpleasant and I didn’t enjoy it.  But I loved the accomplishment afterward.  That reward motivated me for many years and still does during tougher weeks.

2)  I need more tangible rewards:  I was trying to incorporate track runs into my marathon training and I hated the anticipation of doing them.  Often I would skip them all together.  Because Jamba Juice and Dutch Brothers coffee are both close to the track, I would reward myself with a juice or coffee after a track run.

3)  I need to be running with others:  It took many years to find people to run with mostly because of my unpredictable schedule with babies and toddlers.  Now I love the fact I have to get up and meet my friend for a run.  It is a waste of her time to leave her on a street corner waiting for me.  I’m a bit of a people pleaser and in this situation it works in my favor.

4)  I believe our bodies were made to move:  Our ancestors had to endure physical labor or they would starve or freeze to death.  No one had to go for a run because they worked their bodies all day long.  Now with many desk jobs and work from home positions, we spend a lot of time sitting.  I don’t believe God created everyone of us to be an athlete, but I do believe we are to honor Him with our physical bodies.  Part of taking care of our bodies is getting out and moving.

5)  I need activities too…not just my kids:  The kids sporting world is overwhelming to me this day in age.  There are many options and so much pressure to be a star.  I honestly think some moms should have their children take a season off from sports and they as moms should pursue their own activity or sport.  Many moms I have spoken to share how running or going to the gym helps them be better moms because they are getting their exercise time in.

6)  I want to set an example for my kids:  My kids see me run and do triathlons and support me in my endeavors.  I don’t know if any of them will be runners or triathletes, but I am exposing them to it.  As a kid I remember my dad going to the gym or taking me on bikes.  If exercise is part of our normal lives, it makes it much easier for them to incorporate it in their lives as adults.

7)  I believe it is more than image and weight loss: I do not agree with weight loss companies that heavily focus on image and pounds lost.  That rarely motivates me.  I do not weigh myself on a regular basis.  I have found that when I do, I get too obsessed with the scale.  I get overly discouraged and I am more likely to quit and start eating whatever I want.

8)  I need healthier ways to cope with my anxiety:  I’ve struggled with anxiety pretty much my whole life.  Soon after I picked up running, I was working for a church as a youth director.  I was on the phone with someone I was trying to plan an event with and we were not seeing eye to eye on an issue.  I told this person he/she was not treating others fairly.  I have a difficult time standing up for myself.  I also tend to communicate with too much emotion.  I managed to hold it together but it was exhausting.  I hung up the phone fuming with anger.  I went for a run and pounded out four miles at a fast pace.  I felt amazing afterwards.  I remember telling my friend, “I had no idea running could do that.”  It really clears your mind and in some ways brings you back to reality.  So often anxiety clogs our brains making us only see anxious thoughts.

9)  I need to be outside:  I have appreciated the seasons, God’s creation, my own neighborhood, weather in general, and quiet mornings since I took up running.

10)  I am out there and trying and sometimes that is enough:  I’ve heard some moms don’t want to run outside or go to the gym because they fear everyone is watching them.  You may not believe me, but people aren’t watching you. Even if they are–who cares?  You’re out there and you are trying.  Some moms don’t want to enter races because they don’t want to be dead last.  Even if you are dead last, you are still faster than the person who is sitting on the couch doing nothing.  Focus on your own goals and don’t worry so much about what others are doing.  Really they aren’t watching you!  If anything they are cheering for you.  The running community is a pretty friendly one.

So there you go.  10 motivators.  Go tackle that run!


Marathon Mom Part 1: My First Marathon in October of 2006–Lessons Learned.

This was posted on my former blog in October of 2006…(the text in italics was written in 2015)

On Saturday we left Zillah, Washington and drove to Portland, Oregon. We stayed in a suite in a motel with my parents and Rob’s parents stayed next to us. I was really nervous–the marathon was constantly on my mind. My mom kept saying to just walk if I got too exhausted–there was no shame in doing so. Rob kept reminding me I was not competing to win–just go out there and have fun.

Lesson #1:  If you want a halfway decent night’s sleep don’t sleep on a hide-a-bed sharing it with your husband and also sharing a room with your parents and your almost one year old.  Granted we had just got done with seminary and living for a year with minimal income and we had to live extremely frugal.  

Lesson #2:  I did not blog about dinner, but don’t eat pizza as your pre-race meal. There are better choices.

I slept better Saturday night, but still woke up too many times. I almost woke up Rob at midnight and told him I didn’t want to run it anymore. It was not worth all the nerves. Somehow I got over those feelings of wanting to drop out. We left around 6:00AM and got lost. I almost missed the beginning of the race. I got to the starting line with only about nine minutes to spare. Thankfully Rob and Hailey got to see me start. I kissed Hailey before I crossed the starting line.

Lesson #3:  KNOW how to get your starting line.  Have a GPS (granted we didn’t have them back then and had cheapie cell phones), back up directions, and a map.  Study your map and know exactly where you are going.  Even if someone is driving you and assures you they know how to get there–you need to be responsible and have a good idea on how to get there too.  Leave super early and allow time to hit traffic or make a wrong turn.  You will not regret getting there early!

What actually happened…I think I still had PSTD from it and didn’t want to blog about it.  We had just moved to Oregon and did not know the area at all.  I had a map I did not really study and was way too reliant on Rob.  He said he knew where he was going, but we got mixed up with the freeways.  We thought the 205 went immediately into downtown when it goes around downtown.  We were staying right by the airport and got on the I 205 and just kept going.  We were supposed to merge on to the I 84 and then the I 5.  We ended up in Oregon City and my best guess was we were 17 miles out of the way of where we were supposed to be.

We stopped at a gas station and I am literally an emotional mess.  A gentlemen at the gas station guardian angel read our panic and let us follow him all the way to the starting line. He told us we had to push it and keep up with him.  My husband was trying to assure me by telling me I could run the Seattle marathon a few weeks later.  But I just wanted to be done with training and both our sets of parents were here from out of town…how often does that happen?

We made it but barely and it was AWFUL.  I learned from this incident that I really need to learn how to read maps and be more confident in navigating.  I don’t blame Rob.  We both were pretty dumb.

It was very challenging–much more difficult than I thought it would be! I was pretty nervous and that might have affected my performance a little bit. I also found it difficult to find a good pace. I felt really good starting around mile five until around mile seventeen. I enjoyed the scenery, performers (there are many musical groups that perform along the race course–my favorite was a harpist), and chatted with runners around me. By mile seventeen we had to run up this huge hill to the Saint John’s bridge. Most of the people around me started walking. I didn’t want to walk at all, but was advised I should. I would conserve energy that way. So I walked up half of it. Running across the bridge was beautiful.

Lesson #4:  Have a good idea beforehand what pace you want to go.  In training I was doing about 10 minute miles.  However I did not use Map My Run back then and I had no GPS watch.  Again our money was extremely tight and I only had the bare minimum. I carried an old fashioned stopwatch and I ran to the clock not the distance.  I should have run with the 10 minute mile pacing group, but my pace was all over the pace.  I was constantly going fast, slow, fast, slow until I hit the wall around Mile #17.  It is helpful to run with a pacing group or at least know which pacing groups you are running between.  

I started to freak out a little bit by mile 20 because I was feeling really exhausted and I still had six miles to go. I ran a little and then walked a little by that point. Many people were walking by that point. I walked quite the bit the last two miles. I was able to run the last half mile and crossed the finish line! My time was 4:38:00.

Lesson #5:  Lower your expectations for your first marathon and don’t beat yourself up if you cannot maintain a pace.  I was upset by Mile #20 because I had nothing left.  Even though my parents and in-laws cheered for me as I crossed the finish line, I was ticked off at myself.  I really thought I failed.  I never relished in the idea I completed a marathon and was “a marathoner” until a few days later.  I said I never wanted to do it again and “marathons” were not something I could do.  If you sometimes have a self defeating personality like me, you need to prepare yourself if things don’t go according to your plans.

There were so many choices on what to have at the aid station–two kinds of sports drinks, water, goo, bananas, bagels, Red Bull, gummi bears, and beer. I think the sports drink might have made me a little queasy at some points because when I just had took the water I felt better. The beer (just a small cup) was nice and I also liked the bananas.

Lesson #6:  Figure out what sports drink your marathon is offering and train with it.  This goes the same for what food they offer.  Or bring your own sports drink and food if you don’t mind wearing it.  BTW–this was the only marathon I ran where they offered a variety of food.  All the other runs I have run have just been water, sports drink, and gels.

I am really excited that I completed it and experienced it! It was awesome to have both my parents and Rob’s parents greeting me at the finish line. It was wonderful to see them cheering me on.

I was very sore afterwards. I was limping around (my right knee hurt really bad–I could feel it coming on around mile 24) and trying to keep my legs from tightening up. I need to keep doing some walking and elevating my legs. Surprisingly I am not nearly as sore today as I thought I would be.

I will post pics of the whole weekend when both parents come out to Salem later in the week. Both my dad and Rob’s dad took some great pictures of Rob’s examination, the marathon, and some cute ones of Hailey.

After this marathon I did not run much afterwards.  I think I felt like I accomplished a goal and was not sure what to do after that. So I did nothing.  I did not love the marathon as much as I thought I would and still felt self defeated.  I did some running here and there and maybe a 5K.  I also had my son about a year later.  I did not start training for anything until January of 2009, but by March of ’09 I found out I was pregnant.  So I postponed training for anything major until September of 2010 when I trained for my second marathon.

Lesson #7:  Just because your first marathon might have been disappointing, don’t assume they will all be that way.
I also raised around $200.00 so far for CRWRC. I am so excited to share these donations and help a family in need in Africa.

Race Report: Minneapolis Marathon 2015

I started running in 2001 at the age of 24.  I ran my first marathon in October of 2006 at the age of 29.  No one in my family ran back then and some thought I was crazy.  Why would I want to fork over one hundred dollars to enter a race not to mention the countless hours of training? It took my older sister many years until she finally “got it.”  I never held it against anyone. I knew what I was gaining from running and it was enough to keep me tackling marathons.

So my sister and I had talked about doing the same marathon at some point in 2015.  We live on opposite sides of the country.  I loved the idea of doing “a destination” marathon and traveling somewhere.  I wanted to do a spring marathon because I have found it much easier to train all winter  and run in the spring versus training all summer for a fall marathon.  I don’t work in the summer so you would think I have more time.  However, our summer weekly routine is not consistent. It is hard to train when you are home for a week, go out of town, home another week, and then go someplace else.  Not to mention the heat!

We looked at a marathon calendar and narrowed it down to a few options.  We chose the Minneapolis Marathon because the timing was the best.  It was the only weekend in the spring I had nothing going on.  The course looked great running through parks and along the Mississippi River.  I wanted to do a run in a larger sized city versus a small community marathon.  I had no idea I was signing up for a marathon that had only 700 runners.  Then I remember the large marathon is Minneapolis is the Twin Cities marathon which is in the fall.  However, my sister and I found some advantages of running “a medium sized marathon” versus one with 10,000 runners.

I awoke at 2:00 AM on Saturday, May 30th. I slept without waking up from 10 PM to 2:00 AM and felt pretty rested.  I think when it comes to this whole marathon experience I am grateful for all the solid sleep.  When it comes to travel and racing, I never seem to sleep well.  I had to catch a shuttle bus at 3:15 AM.  My husband did not appreciate the shower going followed by my hair dryer–but hey I was not about to travel all day without doing my hair.  I made it to the shuttle bus on time.  Everyone on the bus was curled up on the seats and trying to sleep but I was wide awake.

4:30 AM seemed way too early to eat breakfast so I waited until around 5:15.  I get up this early to workout so it didn’t feel excessively early to me.  I did enjoy a breakfast burrito at one of the new restaurants in Portland International Airport.  I boarded my flight and had a three hour layover in Kansas City…which by the way is one of my least favorite airports.  It is claustrophobic, not enough food choices, and the bathrooms were not very clean.  I got to Minneapolis in the late afternoon and my parents picked me up.  We enjoyed a pasta dinner at Olive Garden with my sister and her husband.

My sister, her husband and I all shared a motel room.  It felt a little bit like a slumber party.  It reminded when we all went to Texas together on a mission trip when I was in high school and they were in college.  We went to bed pretty early.  Again I slept amazing right to the alarm when my brother-in-law said, “Ladies it’s time to get going.”

Marathon 1

Another great thing about this marathon is I felt like I got the nutrition right.  I ate everything I trained with.  I had a Honey Stinger organic vanilla waffle bar and a few homemade mini zucchini muffins while in the motel rooms and a half wattle bottle full of Ultima sports drink.  I ate a banana in the car.  I had a Hammer gel while at the starting line.  I felt like I ate enough and everything was sitting well.

We drove to the starting line from our motel and had a little bit of a scare.  As my brother-in-law drove on a major highway, a “wrong way driver” was coming at us.  She was on the wrong side of the median.  There was not very much traffic on the road so my brother-in-law easily pulled off to the shoulder while slamming on the horn.  We did not want to turn around in fears we were about to witness a head on collision.  I think I saw her get off the highway, but our hearts were pounding.  Our guess she was a drunk driver coming home from a party in the early morning hours.

Thankfully we got to the starting line in one piece.  We had to walk about a half mile to it.  After a stop at the port-a-potties and snapping a few pictures, I lined up with the 4 hour pacing group.

Marathon 2

This was my first marathon with my little ipod shuffle.  I also wear my iphone on my arm band. This was for the purpose of texting my brother-in-law and parents following the race if I could not find them. A small race advantage is finding your family right away.  I don’t listen to music through my iphone because we don’t get much date per month with our plan.  So I am the dorky runner that wears a iphone on my arm and a shuffle clipped to my shorts, but I am OK with that.   I have not run my previous marathons listening to music.  The jury is still out on whether I would run with music or without should I run another marathon.

On one hand I loved having music at the very beginning.  This is when my nerves are at their worst.  Having the music calmed my anxiety level and “pumped me up.”  I focused more on running and less on trying to keep up with the pacing group.  However, I really got tired of the music by around Mile #21 and looking back I could have turned it off.  By that point I did not care about anything but finishing strong.

Marathon 3

The run started through many scenic parks and we could not have asked for better weather.  It was in the 50’s and sunny.  My brother-in-law cheered for us at Mile #4 and then a few miles later. Again another small race advantage is he did not have to deal with a lot of traffic and weaving through crowds. This was very motivating.  I was able to stay between the 4 hour pacing group and the 3:45 group most of the first half.  As we get further into the city we ran through the University of Minnesota.  At around Mile #12 the half marathons turn off and go to the finish line.  Us full marathoners keep going and then turn around at Mile #17.  We were going down some massive hills and my only thought was “Oh no we are going to have to go up these on the way back.”  I trained on big hills (there is no way around them in Oregon) but I still hate them.

At the turn around around Mile #17 (or it could have been closer to #19) I felt like I was dragging.  My brother-in-law yelled to try to stay on the 4 hour group’s tail.  I really tried, but it was extremely hard.  I hated having them pass me, but I could not keep up with them.  Once I stopped to walk through an aid station, they were almost out of sight.  I was a little disappointed because I wanted to break four hours.   I knew if the 4:15 group caught up to me, I would not PR at all.

I tried to think positive thoughts.  It is a beautiful day.  I am running in a marathon–my fourth!  How many people can do that?  I worked hard in my training.  I gave it my best.  I am not walking but running mostly–how can I ask for more than that at this point?

The big hills that came at Mile #22 and #24 plain stunk.  They were terrible and I had to stop and walk up most of them as were many others.  My right knee often starts to give out around this point on marathons and my form falls apart.  It is almost harder to run downhill so I did not appreciate reaching the top and going back down.

Marathon 5

Once I saw the Mile #25 sign I put in my last surge of energy and I ran most of the way.  It was a blessing to see my dad at Mile #26 and I pushed as hard as I could to the finish line.  I was excited to see 4:04 as I crossed the finish line.  I did not break 4 hours, but I did PR.  The 4:15 group never caught up to me!

My sister had suffered an IT band injury while training.  I was not sure she would be able to finish let alone run the marathon.  So I had a twinge of anxiety as I saw the 4:15 group finish followed the 4:30.  Her husband said she was strong until Mile #20 maintaining a 4:15ish pace.  While watching her I was shivering. I had my cell phone out of its case so I could snap a photo of my sister as she crossed the finish line. I left my jacket in the car and they did not give out space blankets.  My dad lent me his sweater, but as I put it on I clumsily dropped my phone on the asphalt.  The phone still works but has a nice scratch going across it.  I tried to not let it ruin my mood.

My dad somehow found himself in a conversation with a homeless person. My brother-in-law and I stepped away in fear we would be too distracted and miss my sister coming in.  My sister crossed at 4:55 and she looked strong.  It was amazing to share this moment with her.  My first ever marathon with a family member and I could share it with my sweet sister.

Marathon 6

We left the marathon soon after.  Honestly walking to the car was almost worse than the last few miles of the marathon.  This might be TMI but if you are thinking of running a marathon, your bladder can do weird things post run.  I intentionally went to the bathroom right before getting in the car so we would not have to stop.  It was only about a 15 minute drive back to the motel so I assumed I would be OK.  A few minutes into the drive I had to GO…BAD!  There was nowhere to stop…we were downtown and there were no discreet bushes or trees.  My brother-in-law graciously dropped me off in front of a hotel where I went as fast as my sore legs could carry me to the lobby bathroom.  Then I waited on a street corner until he could come back from me.

The rest of the weekend was relaxing and a time of celebrating family togetherness.  We had a lunch at the motel and said good-bye to my brother-in-law who was flying home that afternoon.  My sister, parents, and I went out for a nice dinner.  The following morning we had breakfast together and I met an old friend who lives in the area for coffee.  My sister and I did not have a firm plan for the rest of the day.  We just wanted to explore Minneapolis.

Marathon 9

We started out an outdoor sculpture park my husband and I had gone to about fourteen years ago.  There was a mini golf course with actual art you golfed around.  I had never see anything like that and we had fun playing mini golf.  Who won you might ask?  We tied of course. Then we went to the Minnehaha Falls which my husband and I had also gone to in November of 2001 and it was COLD! I loved having more time to sit and view the falls.  No major hiking for us–we were SORE!  We had dinner at a Lebanese restaurant we found on the Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives website.  Then my sister wanted to go shopping.  I felt a little dead by that point but I did go to a few stores with her and bought presents for the kids.

Marathon 11

I wanted to be home in time for children’s school musical.  When I booked the trip the musical was scheduled for before I left.  Because of auditorium rental schedule changes, they had to move it to the last week of school.  Because my bus was running fifteen minutes behind I missed the oldest child’s piano solo, but my husband recorded it on his phone (LOVE technology!).  I saw the rest of the program.  By the time I got home I was exhausted and jumped right into a crazy week of wrapping up work, 8th grade graduation, Education meeting, end of the school year picnic, street hockey, strawberry picking, husband’s Open House, husband’s karate test, and more Open Houses.  Let’s just say I am glad our pace slowed down this week!!

I am blessed to have completed Marathon #4.  I have not made any firm decision on future races or triathlons this summer or fall.  Let’s just say I am already back to running, swimming, biking, weights, and street hockey–I just can’t seem to slow down.



Marathon Mom: My Third Marathon June 2012

This is a re-post from this blog written in June of 2012.  Everything in italics was written in 2015.

I ran my first marathon in Portland in 2006.  To be honest, I did not enjoy very much of it.  It was more challenging than I ever imagined.  In December of 2010, I ran my second marathon in Sacramento.  Someone asked me why I was doing it a marathon if I did not like it the first time around.  I said, “Because I want to try it again.  I think it could go better the second time around.”  And it did.  At the time I had a five-year old, three-year old, and one year old and I needed a weekend alone.  So a weekend in Sacramento running in the California International Marathon plus lots of alone time, reading, eating out, meeting fellow runners was a good thing.

Now I have to tell you that three times is a charm.  Running in Seattle last weekend was even better!

Warning this post is very long!  I want to share my whole experience.  For those thinking about trying a marathon, please contact me if you have any questions.  I am a high school track drop-out.  I struggled to run a full mile when I took up running in 2000.  I never believed I could do this.  But I can.  And you might love it as much I do.

We left Friday afternoon. We had to be at the Runner’s Expo no later than 7 PM so I could pick up my racing packet.  I kept reading the lines on the Final Information directions, “You must pick it up by Friday.  NO EXCEPTIONS.”  If anyone has ever lived near a big city, you recall how unpredictable traffic can be.  I recall the time it took Rob three hours to drive from Cellular Field in Chicago to my workplace in Gary, Indiana (the same amount of time it can take to drive from Chicago to Michigan on a normal day).  We could not get on the road until 11:30 AM due to morning obligations, but thankfully we only hit traffic in Tacoma and then into Seattle–it was not the prolonged stand-still never-ending kind.

Of course it was cold, pouring rain.  Does it ever NOT rain in Seattle?  I was grateful I packed rain coats for all three kids.  We had to pay ten bucks to park, but we found a spot.  After parading around the expo, we took three hungry, thirsty, and somewhat exhausted kids to our motel about ten minutes from downtown.

We stayed fairly close to the University of Washington by a massive shopping mall with fun stores we don’t have here in Salem.  But no time for shopping.  We enjoyed a family dinner at the RAM Brewery.  This was a highlight for me.  As we were eating together, coloring kid’s menus, and glancing at the Track and Field Olympic trials on the TV, I realized how much easier it is going out to eat in a sit down restaurant versus a year ago.  I recall visits to Red Robin or Applebeeswith kids constantly playing with everything on the table, crying, climbing on everything, and not wanting to sit for more than two minutes.

The two oldest watching a movie in bed.

After dinner it was getting close to 8 PM.  We had to get up at 5:15 AM.  Rob told me I was in charge of setting the alarms.  He said he would set six alarms.  I had to laugh because anytime we have to catch an early flight, alarms keep going off every five minutes.  I set three.

It took some stern warnings and lots of shushing before the kids settled down.  Rob and I watched TV on his iPad in the motel bathroom…doesn’t get any more romantic than that.  Even though I was in bed at 10, I probably woke up every hour.  At 1:30 AM, the youngest was stirring.  She is all the over bed when she sleeps.  Plus the room was way too hot.  I put the fan on cool and managed to get a few more hours of sleep.  My mental alarm woke me up twenty minutes before the first alarm sounded.

Everyone was up by 5:15 AM.  We managed to get everyone dressed in the car by 5:40 AM.  I munched on a granola bar and downed a thing of Gatorade.

Lesson #10:  Eat a good pre-race breakfast.  If you don’t think you can stomach it right at 5 AM, eat gradually.  Take some of it in the car.  Eat what you have trained with.  

Nerves were pretty intense by that point.  We did not hit traffic until we hit the I-5 off ramp.  Then we were in stand still traffic.  I think we went a mere mile in twenty minutes.  It was at that point the youngest started coughing and the gagging quickly turned into vomit.  I hate throw up in the car–there is nothing worse.  So I am grabbing baby wipes trying not to get any on me.  Running 26.2 miles smelling like vomit?  No way.  Disgusting.  Then I am freaking out to the point of tears.  What if she has a stomach bug and what if I am getting it too?  How can I run 26.2 miles if I have a stomach bug?  My stomach hurts right now.  But is it just nerves?  I tend to be a little bit of a drama queen when it comes to stomach bugs and illness.

Lesson #11:  Know there is always a possibility you will have to miss a race due to illness especially if you have young children in the house.  It has happened to me yet, but it certainly could.  Know there is absolutely nothing you can do about it except any preventative measure you can like getting a flu shot, washing hands, etc. Try to avoid being around sick people and crowded public areas at least two weeks before.  This is not always doable especially if you have sick kids.

And we’re not getting any closer to the starting line.  Roads are starting to block off.  It’s 6:20 AM.  I see droves of runners walking towards the Seattle Center.  So I jump out of the van, grab an apple, and follow them.  Rob takes the kids back to the hotel for breakfast and rest.

Lesson #12:  If crowds and traffic cause massive amounts of anxiety, pick a small marathon.  Seattle was HUGE.  So many people everywhere and hard to get around.  

I get to the Seattle Center and there are thousands of people, but not a single sign directing runners.  Where in the world is the gear check?  I ask six people and the sixth person knows and says I can follow her.  We make our way all the way to the complete other side of the Seattle Center and check in our gear.  I make my way back checking the clock.  It’s 6:45 AM.  Fifteen minutes until start time.  Do I have time to go to the bathroom?  I HAVE TO go to the bathroom.  I go into one of the buildings.  The bathroom line is somewhat decent. I will take the flush toilet over the port a potty any day.  I overhear someone say it’s a wave start for the race.  You start with your group number.  If you miss your group, you just join the next one.  I’m in Group #20.  That explains why some of these people are not in a hurry even though the gun is going off in less than fifteen minutes.

Lesson #13:  Gear check is great but you don’t need to use it.  If you can leave your jacket with someone who will be at the finish line, it can save you the hassle.

I make my way to my group.  Originally I said I would finish the race around 4:15 hence why I am in this group, but I wanted to shoot for four hours.  The 4:15 pace group is right in front of me.  Do I want to try and catch up to the 4 hour group?  Stick with the 4:15 group?  Or ditch the pacers and run my own pace?  In my previous marathon, I was having a difficult time keeping up with the 4:15 group.  They were about seven minutes ahead of me.  I have trained better this around and my pace is faster.

Waiting for my group to start was probably the worst of it.  When I am nervous, I just need to talk to someone.  Anyone.  I found a group from Boise to talk to and then some American Cancer Society runners.  We waited about twenty minutes before we could start, but it felt so much longer than that.

Then we finally got to start and were running through the streets of Seattle.  I realized how eclectic the race crowd was–people in banana costumes, tutus, and brightly colored socks.  Tons of charity runners from the American Cancer Society, Leukemia/Lymphoma Society, and a group running for fallen soldiers dominated the crowds.  Bands lined the course and cheerleaders dressed in bright tie dye outfits.

By around mile five we were exiting out of the city and closer to Seward Park which was by far my favorite part of the race.  It was a beautiful park along the bay with a beach waterfront.  It was at this point I caught up to the 4:15 pacer.  A few other women were running with her. She was a petite lady with a thick Australian accent.  She was so peppy and upbeat.  I discovered most of the pace runners were stay at home moms to young children.  Most of them had run marathons before and continued the hobby like myself.  We swapped marathon stories, talked about our kids, and the places we lived. We even had a great conversation about working with middle schoolers.  Our pace leader is a middle school principal.  These ladies really carried me through most of the race.  I was grateful for them.

After the park, we were back on regular city streets and then up the ramp to the I 90 (which they close off–no way we’d run side by side with big semi trucks).  By this point I was having “the runner dilemma” of whether to stop at the bathroom or keep treading along.  I was impressed this marathon had a massive amount of port a potties along the course.  Too often there are a few and the line is long.  So I made a pit stop because there was no wait.  I managed to increase my speed again and catch up to the 4:15 crowd about  a half hour and approximately three miles later.

We were heading in the other direction now on the I 90 hitting the tunnels one by one.  We would soon take the down ramp and run by Century Link field.  It was about Mile #19.  I was running slightly ahead of the 4:15 group.  At one point I could not even see them behind me.  Once I stopped at an aid station and walked very briefly, they always passed me until I caught up.  By that point most of us were quiet focusing on the run.  One step in front of the other.  The next mile to the next and the next.  You don’t really think about anything at that point–just keep moving.  It is almost more difficult to stop and then start again than it is to keep running non-stop.

By the last mile one of the 4:15 girls took off and wished me luck.  The pace leader encouraged me through the last mile.  I told her my right knee was hurting and right thigh starting to ache, but there was no way I was stopping.  I was going to keep going.  Even up the killer hill a breath away from the finish line.  Who puts a hill by the finish line!?  We finished together side by side.  Final time?  4:11:22!  Not breaking four hours, but a personal PR.  My time in Portland was 4:38:00 and Sacramento was 4:22:00.

When I finished my first marathon I was angry and frustrated.  When I finished my second I was giddy and thrilled.  When I finished my third I cried!  Apparently my husband and the kids watched me finish.  There was such a massive crowd and my mind was focused on pushing forward–I did not even see them.

After being handed water, Gatorade, bagels, smoothies, chocolate milk, and a space blanket, I meandered over to gear check.  I grabbed my cell phone and celebrated with my family over the phone.  Then I had to try and find them which turned into a game of cat and mouse.  He put the kids in the van and was in bumper to bumper traffic.  I can hardly walk faster than a turtle’s pace and I am trying to figure out how to get to Denny Way.  I heard other runners on their phones saying, “I’m all turned around.  I don’t know where I am.”  It took some back and forth driving and walking, but we finally found one another.  The only thing on our agenda was getting out of the city.  Especially because the near perfect warm, sunnyish weather quickly turned into a downpour.  I am so thankful the rain came after I had already finished.

There were just over 3,000 marathon runners and 14,000 half marathoners.  It was a BIG event.  I was grateful and blessed I could be a part of it.  I realize I can do something not everyone can do.  I do not take it for granted.  It is a gift and opportunity God has blessed me with.

What’s next?  I am walking all this week and getting into the pool a little as my body recooperates.  Then we’ll see. Maybe some biking, weight training, and a little running again.  Maybe another marathon in the future.

No pictures of the actual race yet.  I have to surf through all the professional photos they took of us.  It is very difficult for my husband to keep tabs on the kids and take pictures at the same time.  I did see some runners taking their cameras with them on the race.  I might have to do that next time.

Following this marathon I ran casually in the summer.  Then I started swim lessons that fall and began triathlon training and completed my first triathlon spring of 2013.

Marathon Mom: Second Marathon December, 2010

The following was written in December of 2010…everything in italics was written in 2015

Wow I did it! It is still setting in that I completed my second marathon. What a totally different (and better!) experience than four years ago. I learned so much after I ran Portland. I set new goals I was able to achieve this time around. It was a pretty amazing weekend and one I will never forget. My final time was 4:22:00. My mile pace was around 10:04.

At first when I thought about running a marathon this fall, I wanted the whole family involved. It was important for me to see Rob and all three kids as I crossed the finish line. I wanted them there in their Team Winter shirts cheering for me. They were my number one supporters throughout this whole process. The more we looked at different marathons in the Pacific Northwest, the more we realized this was not possible. Rob mentioned the idea of me taking a trip by myself to Sacramento. I am always talking about how I never get any “alone time.” The California International Marathon offered free shuttle to the starting line from area motels. The Ramada Inn in Discovery Park also offered free shuttle from the finish line, convention, center and airport. I could easily do the whole trip without renting a car. I scoped out the map and Sacramento looked fairly easy to get around. The marathon course looked doable. It was only my second marathon so I did not want anything too hilly. It seemed perfect.

I flew out on Saturday and six people sitting around me were all running the CIM too. The guy sitting next to me was an experienced marathoner hoping to qualify for Boston. I appreciated talking to seasoned runners the whole weekend. I never felt like I was a “true runner” until now. I was a high school track drop out. My freshmen year at Calvin, a girl on my floor encouraged me to train for a 5K. My response was, “3 miles. Wow, I could never run 3 miles!” And even after I ran Portland in 2006, I thought my marathon days were short lived and over. It is a wonderful feeling to talk with these fellow runners and feel like I am part of something. There is much I can learn from them too.

I took the city bus from the airport the the Convention center downtown. I was impressed how well I did venturing around an unfamilar city. I picked up my packet and spent a little time exploring the expo. I had lunch at Wolfgang Puck express in the expo and finished reading a book I started on the airplane. It was the first time in I don’t know how long that I LOVED to be myself. I craved the alone time and I soaked it all up. I left the Convention center and checked into my motel. I did a quick two mile run on a bike path in back of my motel. I was a little leary about how safe the area was. I saw some possibly homeless men or drifters wandering around and it made me a little uncomfortable. The sun was beginning to set. I loved the colors on the trees and the river. Plus the warm air was wonderful. I ate dinner at a restaurant next to the hotel and ordered pasta. It was not great, but it was not terrible either. I read more of my book and noticed all the runners venturing in. It was awesome to see many people like me…30 or 40 somethings who took a weekend away leaving their kids with their spouses to come run. Some came with groups of friends or family, but there were a lot of people like me who came alone.

Surprisingly I was pretty calm and excited about running. The night before I ran Portland I was an absolute mess. This time I watched a movie and read more of my book. It was relaxing. I was able to fall asleep around 9 PM. I awoke a couple times in the night. I was a little concerned my cough in my throat turned into a sinus headache. It was in and out. I did not feel it all night. I awoke around 4:30 AM to runners getting up and walking around outside. I got on the bus at 5 AM in front of the hotel. Our bus was jam packed with runners. There was no free seats and tons of people had to stand. I ended up sitting next to a chatty girl from Coos Bay, Oregon. She talked the whole entire trip to Folsom and even told me I could ask to her “Shut up” if she was being annoying. It was a good distraction. My nerves were starting to act up and I was concerned about my sinus head ache. I was still coughing as well. She was also trying to qualify for Boston and shared some good running tips. I found her after the race back at our motel and she did qualify.

We got to Folsom around 6:15 AM. It was pretty dark and you could not see very much. The portapotty line was massively long. By the time I used the bathroom and turned in my sweat bag, I had about fifteen minutes until the start. I decied to join a pace team. In Portland my pace was all over the pace. This was the major reason why I hit the wall at Mile #19. My goal was to get around 4:15 – 4:25 so I joined the 4:15 team. I figured if I could keep up with them most of the way, I could beat my time. The pace leaders seemed really upbeat and chatty. That would get me through the race.

The gun went off and I had that feeling I always get when I am racing. I feel like yelling “Ahhh! I am running a marathon!” The sun was starting to come up and some of us realized it was going to get warmer. We were all overdressed. We were told how cold it was the year before. So many people regretting their long sleeve shirts. I was wearing my short sleeve Team Winter shirt with my blue long sleeve shirt under it. I figured I could change in one of the port-a-potties if I got too hot. I was keeping up fine with the pace team. We were running through more a rural area passing cows and farmland.

Lesson #8:  Dressing for a race especially in an area of the country you’re not used to is not easy to figure out.  I typically add 20 degrees to the current temperature and dress according to that.  So 50 degrees means dressing for 70.  However I have a good cold tolerance.  I seem to be able to wear shorts while others need to be in running tights.  I would much rather be cold than overly hot.  Another idea is run with a sweatshirt or long sleeve t-shirt that you can shed right away.  Buy one from Goodwill.  Some marathons even donate them to local charities.

By around Mile #8 I really started to feel warm. I felt pretty uncomfortable. I also felt like my pace was too quick and I would not be able to continue the 9:40 miles. I was hydrating as much as I could. I was not sure what to do. I tried to talk to people to distract me. I found whenever I talked, I felt like I had to cough. My sinus head ache was going in and out again. I am so used to running alone that the team leaders were almost distracting. I could not get into “the zone” I can usually break into it by this point. At the halfway point, I ducked behind a storage shed and took off my shirts. I put my short sleeve shirt on and tied my long sleeve shirt around my waist. Instantly I felt way more comfortable. What a big difference! I lost the pace team and was not sure I would be able to catch up to them. As long as I stayed in between the 4:15 team and 4:30 team, I would beat my time. That was my new goal. I figured the 4:15 pace might be too much for me. My sinus head ache was gone. I think it was due to being too warm.

Around Mile #14 we started running through all these little cute communities. There were little shops and people cheering along the side of the road. I was able to get “into the zone” and my pace dropped to about 10 minute miles. I felt way more comfortable and knew I could continue. The gu and Ultima helped so much. I was thankful I had trained with both. By Mile #19, I was absolutely pumped that I was not totally dead. I COULD KEEP RUNNING! I walked through the aid stations and probably 30 seconds to a minute after the aid stations. It was almost more work to stop and start again so I ran as much as I could. My pace got a little slower by about 5-10 seconds, but I was averaging 10 minute miles.

As we approached downtown, the crowd started to get larger. The last two miles were grueling. When are we there? Are we getting any closer? I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. My form was starting to get sloppy, but I wanted to finish as strong as I could. I was really excited when I crossed the finish and I saw my gun time was 4:25! I shaved almost fifteen minutes off my Portland time. I felt so much stronger too! When I finished Portland, I felt like an absolute wreck. I swore I never wanted to do it again. This time I was so pumped. I had several post marathon conversation with people about what marathons I wanted to try in the future.

The rest of the weekend was very relaxing and included a nap, more reading time. a short walk, and I watched a documentary. So nice to have that alone time. In my current phase of life, I never get it. Or on a very rare occassion.

I would love to do this again in another year and a half or two years if I am able. It takes a lot for Rob and I am forever grateful for all his support. I really could not do it without him and my finisher medal is partially his. It really is a team effort and he is absolutely amazing in all he does for me. He has taught me to have an attitude of “feeling blessed” not guilty.

Lesson #8:  Your spouse and family HAVE to be on board with you 100% if you are going to take on any kind of race that is going to require you to train 3-4 months of the year.  If they don’t understand “running” you might have to “sell it to them” and explain why you really want to do this.  If you spouse is not supportive (which thankfully I never really dealt with) it is going to be a source of frustration and probably a strain in your marriage.  Make the decision TOGETHER what long races you plan on doing.

I will continue this blog, but I will not update it as often. At this point I am seriously considering doing the Eugene Half Marathon in May. It is part of the Eugene Marathon weekend. I could probably do the full, but it is more of a timing issue if anything with the long runs. Team Winter will be at the event and I would love to do an actual race with some other Team Winter participants. I think Winter herself is doing the half. Right now I am going to take two full weeks off from all exercise. Then I would like to get back into Rob’s ab workouts he does in karate. They are brutal and not fun at all, but they really work. It is only about 10-15 minutes of torture. Then I will run outside about three times a week. If it works to do Eugene, I will start training in February. Rob and the kids should be able to watch me do Eugene as he would be off on that Sunday.

I still think about the duoathlon or triathlon idea. It is going to be awhile before I can do that as I don’t have a good bike and would need to book a couple more swim lessons. I might look into the local running club. It sounds crazy, but I need to learn how to run with other people. It might help with pushing myself more and pacing.

I loved traveling alone and would not have it any other way. I do sometimes wish I had “a running friend” or someone to go to races with. Trena fulfilled that role for a short while, but she moved to Hawaii. Most of my friends and family members who run are in the Midwest. So maybe the running club might help with that. Or maybe running is my “alone time.” Since I am so extroverted and around children all the time, I am hardly ever alone. Maybe running fills that space inside of me.

Lesson #9:  Running with others is helpful especially if your ongoing struggle is motivation.  You know if you have to meet someone on a street corner, you are less likely to roll over and go back to sleep after the alarm went off.  With that being said, it is hard to find people to run with.  I am very extroverted and not afraid to go to things alone but it took me a very long time to find running buddies.  I like a little of both–running with others but also getting my alone time.

Following this marathon I took two weeks off which turned to a full month.  I went from hard core training to zero training and my mental health fell apart. I don’t recommend doing that. I hoped to do some races in 2011 but this was the summer of sickness…I had strep in May, strep again in June, and a stomach bug in August.  It was SO frustrating.  In December 2011 I began training for my third marathon.

Triathlon Journey: Swimming in the Open Water


Last May I did my first sprint triathlon and was hooked.  I wanted to do a mid summer triathlon that required swimming in the open water (my first tri took place in a pool).  I had grown up playing in lakes, rivers, and ponds so I had little fear of not seeing my feet on the bottom.  I had never swam laps in the open water.  I had only learned to swim about eight months before this and had only been swimming laps regularly for about three months.

So when my friends invited me to swim in their lake last June, I was excited.  Here was my chance to swim across it because I knew I had the endurance.  But it went terrible.  I could not stay in a straight line.  I veered so off to the left so I was completely off course from my friends who were swimming.  Coming back I felt so panicky my husband rode next to me in a kayak.  I kept wanting to grab the kayak.  He kept telling me my stroke was off.  How come I can swim in a pool but not in a lake?  I was on the verge of tears and threw my goal of an open water triathlon out the window that day.

When we were in Michigan last summer, I was thrilled we were staying on a lake.  Lots of open water practice right outside my window.  But I was incredibly nervous and anxious.  The times I did try I felt exhausted after two minutes.  How come I can swim for an hour in a pool but only two minutes in a lake.  My brother-in-law said, “Your stroke is off.”  Then my sister-in-law watched me, “Yeah you know your stroke is off?”  Again I was constantly veering off to the shore and almost hit a dock “head on.”


So my husband said to put the goal off for a year and focus on swimming at the pool.  Why should I focus swimming in the pool when I am trying to learn to swim in a lake?  But I took his advice to heart.  I became a regular at the pool early Wednesday mornings.  I worked on my stroke (which used to be really off), my speed, my kick–everything.

I asked some triathletes this spring when it would be warm enough to get in the open water.  I asked some of them if they could give me lessons.  One of them said, “You can totally do it.  Just have confidence in your swimming.”  Um…I was confident last summer and then I had to hold on to a kayak and almost hit a dock.


DSC09185So last week I went to my friend’s lake and took my eight year old with me…mostly for moral support.  I jumped in the water (which surprisingly with a wet suit was quite comfortable). I started swimming and then I looked up–I was going pretty straight!  And I had the endurance–I felt like I could swim for a long time!  I yelled to my daughter, “I can do it!”

My goal on this triathlon journey is to do an open water tri in July.  The moral of this story is 1) sometimes you have to wait for things…at times it takes a little more hard work and postponing your goals  2) sometimes your husband gives the right advice and you should follow it


Running In Eugene and Portland and back to Salem

I am still recovering from a fast paced (but fun!) weekend.  On Friday morning after I was complaining about rising early and how cluttery the house felt, I was thankful to see the beautiful sun.  Despite a full day I did get to sneak a run in the late afternoon.  Then in the evening I got to take all three kids with me to the gym for a time to swim.  My oldest swims on a non-competitive swim team and needs no assistance in the water.  She’s learning breaststroke, pre-butterfly, and flip turns–things I don’t know how to do but wish I did.  My middle son wants to ditch his water wings and is close to being “water safe.”  My youngest is a fish in the water like her sister.

Then on Saturday morning I had the honor of celebrating life at my friend’s baby shower.  During my busy week, I feared I would not get the shower games and prizes together in time or the food planned in time.  However it all came together beautifully.

Saturday afternoon my friend and I drove south to Eugene  to visit one of our other friends who moved there.  I have only been to Eugene one other time last spring for a conference.  I wanted to go there my birthday weekend and run on Pre’s trail in memory of the track star of the 1970’s Steve Prefontaine and see Pre’s rock where he tragically died in a car crash.  My friend had plans on my birthday.  I am so glad I waited because the 60’s sunny weather was perfect running unlike the rainy windy cold on my birthday.  IMG_0253

Any running geek needs to visit Eugene aka Tracktown USA.  Steve Prefontaine wanted a trail similar to the style and terrain  of European trails to run through Alton Baker Park near the university campus.


And it was a perfect day for a run.  The park was very busy with runners, walkers, bikers, dog walkers, and people sitting by the ponds relaxing.


Steve Prefontaine died on May 30, 1975 when he swerved into a rock on Skyline Boulevard and flipped trapping him underneath his car.  I could see how the accident could happen as the hill going up to Skyline was extremely steep, there is little shoulder, and few street lights.  Runners come to this rock and leave running shoes and medals.  Or they touch the wall and run back down the hills (which I saw a nearby runner do).


My most favorite part of the day was spending time with quality time with friends.  It is nice to have little to no agenda or schedule and simply get caught up on life.


I am grateful for the friends God has blessed my family with here in Oregon that sometimes have had to serve as “our surrogate family.”


Our running weekend continued.  The alarm went off super early Sunday morning and I had to nudge my oldest out to bed.  We were headed north this time to Portland to run in the  Shamrock race.  Did you know St. Patty’s weekend has the most running races of any holiday?  I actually heard the same thing about Thanksgiving so I am not sure which is correct.


I am so thankful we could hitch a ride with another friend and I did not have to deal with big city driving in Portland. My big city driving days like navigating through Chicago are over.  My friends were all doing the 15K while my oldest and I were doing the 5K.  Our race was about 1 1/2 hours after theirs.  My youngest was content to hang out in Starbucks and get breakfast.  There are Starbucks cafes pretty much everywhere in Portland.


The weather thankfully cooperated.  It was not nearly as cold as last year, but with a slight misty rain off and on.  Our race started about 15 minutes late (which is a long 15 minutes when you’re waiting at the starting line).  All the races were delayed because of an Amtrak train.


Since I’m so paranoid about missing races since I nearly missed the start to the Portland Marathon in 2006 due to getting lost (which is another story in itself), we did wait at the starting line a long time.  We could have stayed in Starbucks longer.  My oldest had a great attitude despite my needing to be at everything early.


It was the third 5K I have run with my oldest and so far the best.  She ran really well and only took a few short walk breaks.  Her time was 40:11.  She sprinted at the very end.  It was the first 5K I have ever run where I had to wait a minute or so for a streetcar to pass, where I dropped my cell phone and camera simultaneously (which is why I took an old camera), and where I ran carrying two hats, a coat, and water bottle.  It was still was fantastic!

People ask me why I like to run so much (or declare how much they dislike running).  And I don’t have a good answer except that running is me.  It’s who I am and it’s what I do. It’s my work of art.  The fact I can share it with my kids brings even more meaning.  This is how Pre said it:

“Some people create with words or with music or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, ‘I’ve never seen anyone run like that before.’ It’s more than just a race, it’s a style. It’s doing something better than anyone else. It’s being creative.”