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Monday, April 23, 2012

Final Recap - Blue Ridge Marathon

From my notebook, Mile 20:  "Anyone can run 20 miles.  It's the next 6 that really count." - Barry Magee.

Mile 21:  "You CAN do this.  You WILL finish and it will be AMAZING.  You are an inspiration to me."  - Kristy

Kristy and I ran a 10K together last September.  It was my first 10K and, I believe, her first as well, but she had already done one half marathon at the time.  We both had a finishing time goal of less than an hour.  She had a fancy watch to tell us our pace throughout the run and she had to reel me back in a couple of times at the beginning.  I had only run a 5K at that point, so I wasn't considering the extra 3 miles I would be tacking on at the end.  We made it to mile marker 6.  Yep, mile marker 6! and I had to stop and walk.  STOP AND WALK, just .2 from the freaking finish line.  We could even see the finish!  We had it in sight.  I had previously given her permission to encourage me or yell at me, whichever she deemed necessary.  Sweet girl didn't have it in her to truly "yell", but she did her best...I just simply gave in to the heat and exhaustion.  I walked for about 20 seconds or so, before digging in and sprinting to the finish.  Our final times?  Kristy - 59:xx; Audrey - 1:00:11.  I deserved that.  I did indeed spend the rest of the day kicking myself for that walk break.  She and I both knew I would!

Well, Kristy, I was walking when I read your encouraging words this time, but it gave me enough umph to break away from my comfort zone of walking with my new friend and do some jogging.  And you know what?  It felt good.  I was still capable! 

Does the song from Clueless come to mind for you, too?
"Alllll by myself!!!"   :)
I managed to run past Mile 21 marker and didn't stop to take the photo.  I was on a runner's high.  I was going to finish this damn thing.  And I was going to finish it strong! 
Excuse the inevitable "leaning down fat roll". 
My husband says I'm ridiculous to even think anyone will notice, but how could you NOT?!? 
Still smiling, right?!  I couldn't see anyone behind me nor in front of me at this point.  I had just passed a water stop with some more super encouraging volunteers.  The told me bib numbers 155 and 156 weren't far in front of me (liars, lol), and I explained to them I was under the impression we were to run in order.  Which is precisely why I was going so slow.  Haha!

Pretty, right?  This was on the Greenway.  There were people out playing and riding bikes and jogging.
Mile 23 in my notebook:  "There will be days you don't think you can run a marathon.  There will be a lifetime of knowing you have."  - Thomas and Jennifer Harning.

I would repeat these words before the finish line once I caught up to my final "new friends".  They were absolutely what I needed right at this moment.

Know what else I needed?  A reminder of Ashley's words about this last part being run from the heart.  On the twins' 3rd birthday they had a checkup at the doctor.  When the doctor placed the stethoscope on Jack's chest he said, "Do you know what I am listening to?"  Jack nodded.  I asked, "What?  What is in here, Jack?"  as I tapped my chest.  Jack said, very sweetly, "Jesus."  I thought of this moment as I jogged and walked the Greenway.  I passed a church called "Jesus is Lord".  I saw a sign, way above the trees in the distance, that said "Jesus Saves".  Yes, He does.  He has saved me so many times in my long life, and I had NO reason to think He would fail me now.  I pushed further.

Another note to make you, hopefully, smile.  I remembered when our sweet cat, Steve, died a few months ago.  Explaining his death was hard when it came to the kids.  It was hard to explain to myself!  He was only 3-ish.  Anyway, I explained to Jack that Steve was in heaven with Jesus...ever since then, if you ask Jack who lives in his heart, he will answer "Jesus and Steve".  So, I ran mile 23 for Jesus and Steve!  Our sweet tabby cat who would follow us anywhere we walked around the neighborhood, and always greeted me at the door after my runs.

When I saw Mile marker 24, I knew I was in the home stretch.  I also realized I was very much alone at this point on the Greenway, so I took advantage of that moment to express myself appropriately...
Take THAT mile 24!
I started a light jog at this point.  I was all done.  Ready to be at the finish line with my husband and Jack and Henry...ready to get in the car and drive back to Charlottesville to move on with my life! 

In the right hand corner of this picture, you see two women?  I caught up to them very soon after this mile marker, we would cross this finish all together.  Running!
25 miles.  25 freakin' miles.  Ups and downs and curves and beautiful scenery and sunny skies and threatening clouds.  6 hours of highs and lows.  I received a text message from my husband saying, "Almost there!" 

I met Christine and Anna at this point.  A 16 year old beautiful girl with her mother.  Anna had decided to attempt this marathon as her first, and her mother wasn't going to let her go it alone.  Awesome.  Inspiring.  I told them I hope one day my sweet Zoe will undertake such a thing with me.  Maybe something a little "easier"?  Ha.  They had such great attitudes at this point.  I had been seeing them off and on throughout, but this was my first chance to actually talk to them.  I shared some of your encouraging words from my notebook with them.  I learned that Anna is the oldest of 3.  They trained appropriately, but still just didn't feel quite as equipped as they had hoped to feel.  Two sweet souls that managed to get the smile back up on my face and lifted my spirits as we closed in on the finale.

At some point either right before this marker, or right after, there was a professional photographer. 
Us three girls made sure to run strong past him as he captured our final moments! 
Once we began our run for the photo, we just decided to hit it home strong.  As I came around the final turn to the very last tiny bit, I was greeted very excitedly by these cuties...

It's fuzzy...because in the words of Forrest Gump, "I was RUNNING!"
Jack and Henry joined me as we sprinted over the finish line.  It was like the Wizard of Oz ending!  I saw Rich again and Susan and then turned around to catch Anna and Christine's finish.  So exciting!!  This is the moment when the ran began to fall.  Drops at first, then full on RAIN.  It was glorious.  As though the skies were just holding back until I was at a safe, comfortable place and then my sweet heavenly Father was crying his tears of joy over my accomplishment. 

The rain helped me to focus on getting the kids back to the car and out of the wet.  Then, as I sat in the back seat and realized my legs were going to begin to cramp a bit, I slammed my hand in the sliding back door.  This definitely took my mind off the pain in my legs!  Ha.  I quickly changed clothes and listened to the boys excitedly tell me about their fun-filled day.  I was brought back into my life, just as I had "left" it.  Barely enough time to even register all that had just happened, I hopped in the driver's seat and began the 2 hour drive home. 

I didn't have much time to truly reflect.  These three blog postings will serve as my journaling about the experience.  It was more than meaningful to me.  I can't put certain thoughts and feelings into words, but I just have to say - without ever knowing this would be something for me to overcome, it is absolutely, 100% something I had to do.  And I did it. 

I don't know if I'll run another.  I like to think I will at some point, but it's not in any immediately plans.  This experience has rocked me to my core and I truly believe I am supposed to do more with it than just keep it in my mind.  It has changed me.  I don't mean to sound melodramatic, but the Blue Ridge Marathon was a high point in my life that I never expected to have. 

Does that even make sense to anyone else?  I hope you have enjoyed my pictures and my words.  I hope you will conquer your own mountain one day and share the story!  Memories are great to have and to hold, but you never know what someone else might get out of hearing them in your very own words.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Blue Ridge Marathon..."personality part"

Mile 7 was over and done with.  As was the first hill.  I had made it!  I was feeling pretty good!  Some tightness after all the walking, but I stretched out a little bit and began the jog downhill.  At this point I found myself alongside a man named Rich.  Rich told me about being diagnosed with cancer at age 7!  He had been cancer free for over 26 years...having celebrated his 26th year in 2010/2011 by running in 10 full marathons.  Blue Ridge would mark his 18th marathon and the 17th state on his quest to run in all 50 states.  WOW, right?  Great guy.  Great attitude about everything.  We jogged for almost 3 miles together and all I got was pictures of the mile markers because our conversation was so intriguing.  We ran straight through those miles, only stopping for water at the water stop.  It was great.

I told Rich, during our run, I would remember 8 and 9 as the ones I passed when running with him
because these are the only 2 pictures I took AFTER passing the sign. 

I caught Mile Marker 10 is where Rich had to leave me for a minute...
I took that moment to snap a quick picture of my excitement at being in the double digits! 
You may still be able to see Rich.   Hahahahaha.  Completely unintentional!
Rich did catch up with me at this point, but then he went ahead as we came to the absolute bottom of the hill and I needed water.  I thought I might catch back up to him at some point, but I didn't see him again until the finish line, where he congratulated me and we exchanged Facebook information.  What a cool guy!  Rich, maybe I'll run with you again some day!

The volunteers at this water stop were very concerned about me!
While I am taking this picture they are yelling, "Miss?  Miss??  Are you okay?!"
Hahahaha.  I popped right back up and showed them the camera.  Must've been quite a relief for them!
These past couple miles were gorgeous.  Beautiful scenery all around, peace and quiet.
By the way, in case you didn't notice...we're going up again!
This is what the "up" led to this time.  Are you kidding me?!?
I stopped to stretch at this point.  I even had to remove my right shoe because the top of my foot had a sharp pain that was really, really bothering me!  I rubbed my feet a bit and did some stretching.  Until a very helpful fellow runner came by and said, "Let's go!"  Haha.   He must have recognized the look on my face that I would have been content to "stretch" (or lay in the sun) all day.  I got up and got a move on!
Sorry I missed the 13 mile mark, but this marks a very important mile! 
That ever elusive 14-miler that I just could NOT fit in during training.  This is a downhill, so I must have accidentally "flown" by the sign and then turned around at the last minute. 
This is me "flying"!  And realizing I have finally run 14 miles!
it was at this point that we were seriously going downhill...and I was feeling kinda tired.  Or a lot tired.  I was by myself at this point, and I started getting a little emotional.  Reading my notebook got me choked up, so I put it away. 
I came down the hill from the left and then a sharp curve led to the road on the right.
It was pretty cool, and great views all along.
At 15, I was a little bit nervous because I had heard "rumors" of a very steep incline at mile marker 17...
No sign of it yet, though?
There's the mile marker!  Where's the hill?
Yeah...I would be regretting those thoughts verrrrry soon.  Hahaha.
See behind me?  Yeah.  Not an optical illusion.  Just one HELL of a HILL.
Miles 15-17, I think is when I started running with Susan!  She is from Murfreesboro and we were both doing 2/1 intervals.  This was her second marathon and she had on a sparkle skirt and I kind of realized we needed to be friends.  We chatted a bit...a lot about how hard it was, but also a bit about our lives.  Anything to take our minds off the pain!  I found a bit of strength at some point, I believe just before this mile marker?  I started up my run and said "I'm sure I'll see you soon!" to Susan.  I did see her soon...as she passed me during my walk up the hill we were about to climb!  I saw her again as she was cruising back down the steepest hill of my life - she encouraged me with tales of Bloody Mary's!  Bubbles!  Music!  at the top of the hill!  So I pressed on...
I just came from the right...to run UP the left.
Will it ever end?!
Mile 18!  Surely there is an end coming soon?
Up in the distance there is a group hanging outside their house with water and gatorade and playing music!  "Against The Wind"  hilarious.  They were laughing and having a good time and really cheered my spirits...
P.S.  The 2 women up the hill would be my partners across the finish line!  More on them later...
I can still muster a smile!  Hooray!
If my memory is to be trusted, this mile marker is at the tippy top of the crazy "Mile 17 Hill". 
Also known as Peakwood Drive.  This is indeed where there was music and bubbles and very friendly people and a port-o-john and Bloody Marys.  I did not partake in the alcohol, but I enjoyed some light conversation with the "locals".  It was a very welcome break.
Wait, what?  Seriously?!?!  I have completed 20 miles???
Flat roads, some cars driving by (good distraction), and an end in sight...so to speak.  I mean, I couldn't really SEE the end, but I knew it was less than 10 miles away.  As my cousin Jenny said in a text message, "Only 6 miles left!  Like a walk in the park.  And without the kids!"

How did I use my personality to make it through this middle "hunk"?  Well, I did engage in conversation with volunteers at the water stops.  As long as I could still make people laugh, I felt like I must be ok.  I realized at some point I hadn't eaten anything during the run, so I did munch on a couple of Gu Chomps, but I wasn't feeling hungry.  Not really thirsty, either, but I took water and Gatorade every chance I got.  I was by myself for some of this portion and I was okay with that.  I had my ipod in the trusty fanny-pack, but never felt the need to use it.  I did meet a really nice gentleman earlier in the run and we kept passing each other.  He was on his 5th marathon, 3rd time doing the Blue Ridge.  !!!!  Really nice guy with a lot of great information, about the race as well as other "Adventure Races".  I enjoyed our chats immensely.  In fact, as I wrap up this portion of my recap, I believe I was hanging out with him. 

At the top of the hill (mile 19) I really felt done.  Like, really done.  Even walking was beginning to hurt.  The downhill wasn't encouraging me.  I kept getting emotional, but if I allowed myself one full tear I knew I would be in full-blown panic attack mode.  I couldn't allow my mind to think about the fact that I was truly on the finishing side of this accomplishment.  If I started to think about how far I had already come, I would feel my chest tightening up and my eyes burning.  So I pressed on.  One sweet volunteer at this point must have seen how I was feeling.  He was just sitting in a chair by the road...I wouldn't have known he was "working" if it weren't for the bright green shirt!  He smiled at me, and I thought I smiled back.  He didn't have anything...no water or gatorade or even a first-aid kit that I could see, but he asked me if he could get me "some water...or something?"  True to my nature, I politely declined, but my voice caught.  It is impossible to put into words, but something about the way he said, "You're doing great" was just different from the way all the others had been saying it.  I will likely never know this guy's name, but he is the reason I kept going on.

Blue Ridge Marathon Recap, Miles 1-7-ish

Holy Moly.  How are you feeling today, you ask?  Well, sore.  And tight.  And walking a little bit like a 9 months pregnant woman?  Hahaha. 

The marathon was amazing.  It was just flat out TOUGH.  And beautiful, and thought-provoking, and inspiring, and sometimes so hard I wanted to die, but sometimes so awesome I cried!  Wow.  A lot of emotions I squeezed in to 6 hours and 40 minutes.  Probably the slowest 32 year old marathon finishing time ever.  ;)  just kidding. 

Here we go...mostly pictures, but I do want to share some of the encouraging words I got to read at each mile...

Starting Line!  See the girl in the blue sparkle skirt??  I didn't know at
 the time we would be running together for a bit in the second half!
#1. First time for short socks!
#2.  Check out those snazzy shoes...
#3.  Don't I look "professional" with my bib on my leg?
#4.  Yeah...there's a bit of the fanny pack.  :)
Apparently I missed the Mile 1 marker.
Woohoo.  It's all fun and games at Mile 2.
From my notebook, sweet Sandy said "Throw back your shoulders, let your heart sing, let your eyes flash, let your mind be lifted up, look upward and say to yourself...Nothing is impossible!  Norman Vincent Peale"  I did exactly as you instructed!  And it felt good!  Might have looked a little crazy to others...   :)

Mile 1 asked for a picture of Jesus...my camera didn't capture it,
but the sun shining through these trees was just awesome.
P.S.  I tried to get a picture of a woman in tie-dye, cause I think
Jesus would wear tie-dye to watch a marathon.  :)
Here we go!  Uphill #1.  I seriously thought, hey, this ain't so bad...
The sign past the mile marker says "Entrance to Blue Ridge Parkway"
For anyone who's ever driven the BRP, it was pretty cool to be running on it with no traffic!
By the way...still going up....
But I'm still pretty chipper!
Lots of walking at this point.  Up, up, up
Kristy told me to dig deep and find my strong.  I was feeling good about it at this point...
Later, however, these words would come back to me several times.  Thanks, Kristy!!!
Mile 5 and some GREAT spectators!!! 
Oh, and more up.
Pretty unflattering picture, sorry. 
I was trying to get my shirt words in it
West End Community Church!  Represent!
Here we really go...where those people are, they are going to make a sharp right...
And begin the ascent to Roanoke Mountain
"No Stopping"!
Seriously.  Up...
I'm loving it, can you tell?
Check out the rockstars behind me...running!
Um....more up...
See how the scenery changes, but the road is still going UP?!
Success!  At the time I was being told "The worst Hill/Mountain is over!"
And I thought, "Hooray!"
From my notebook, "Mile 5:  It's not 26.2 miles...It's 10 water stops.  Take a picture of your water stop."
I believed those nice people when they told me the worst hill was over...this was the water stop at the "top". 

View from the top.  Breathtaking.
I missed the picture of the mile 7 marker, but I know this was past Mile 7.
Well, I am going to post the rest in a little bit.  Sorry!!  I just wanted to share this from my notebook...

"Mile 17: ...Just remember: Run the first part with your head, the middle part with your personality, and the last part with your heart..."

My sweet friend, Ashley, who wrote this isn't the math freak that I am, so she had no way of knowing how much it would drive me crazy that 26.2 isn't evenly divisible by 3.  Hahaha.  Sorry.  Anyway, I am considering those first 7+ the first part.  I ran that with my head.  I jogged, didn't push myself too hard during my run intervals and pretty well stuck to the 2:1 ratio I had planned on.  I paid attention to good stretches during the uphills and I really made it a point to feel GOOD.

I will post the personality portion (and maybe even the finish, too) later today!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Needing your help for the marathon

Not financially!  Just emotionally?  Mentally?  Whatever.  Here's the deal...

In 5 days, for those who may have missed it, I will be running/walking/jogging/hopefully finishing my very first full marathon.  Not only that, it's the Blue Ridge Marathon which promises to be "America's Toughest Road Marathon"...so that's awesome.

If you missed that news or are new here, then you also likely don't know I am not prepared in the traditional way for this race.  My longest run EVER is 13.24 miles, with the most recent being a half marathon one week ago.  My highest mileage week (in the past 6 months) was 23 miles. 

While some of you "seasoned" marathoners are likely cringing at these facts, and maybe some of you think I am crazy or stupid - and all of those thoughts are fine.  I've had them myself.  Basically, I am setting out with NO goal (except 8 hours or less cause that's the time limit) other than just crossing that finish line with a smile on my face....I need YOU to help me smile.

I have set up an email address - audrey26miles is at hotmail.  (writing it out like that apparently helps with not getting spammed?)  Anyway, that's it.  Take away the word "is" and replace "at" with the symbol...you got that, right?  Hahaha.

Here's what I would like from YOU  (yes, you!)...encouraging words, amusing anecdotes, photograph instructions.  Just whatever!  My sister is "manning" the email inbox and has a cute little pink notebook ready to write in.  She will seperate the notebook into 26 sections for me to read at each mile marker.  I bought myself a fanny pack (eek!) and I will be carrying my notebook and a camera.  And some Gu chomps, but that's not important right now. 

I had already planned to take a picture at each mile marker of my face (ugh), but I am not doing this solely for myself.  I want a nice "finish" to my weight loss and fitness journey...I'm not saying I'm done, it's just that I feel like I need to focus on other things in my life.  I want to show everyone it is possible and that ANYONE can do 26.2 miles.  Maybe everyone already knows that?  I know that even just one year ago I had no idea I would ever run a 5K race.  I vaguely remember a life of seeing 5K posters and signs and advertisements and never giving a one of them a second glance.  I knew all about the Belle Meade Boulevard Turkey Trot every year, but I literally had no idea what that meant.  I can't even really put into words how clueless I was about the whole running "game".  I remember, years ago, running a little bit on the treadmill - to lose weight - and one mile was my limit.  I even remember giving up on that because I was so discouraged by how hard it felt and how little calories it seemed to burn. 

A Marathon was never on my bucket list.  Neither was a half marathon.  If I had made a bucket list in my life, I doubt anything running or fitness related would have even made the cut!  My husband joked the other day that I am doing the bucket list concept backwards.  Ha.  Basically I am completing things and then choosing to write them down only when I can cross them off.  Whatever works, right?

Please consider helping me out on this.  Here are some examples:  You could write "at mile 16 I want her to see "GO AUDREY.  You can do this!  You are strong!" and I want her to take a picture of herself with another runner."  Or at mile 3, get a picture of how many people are ahead of you.  At mile 25 get a picture of everyone behind you!  You get the drift, right?  Just some fun instructions...even if you wanted to ask for a picture of me with a thumbs up by mile 7, or my tongue sticking out at mile 1. 

THANKS!  Again, the email is audrey26miles at hotmail.  Have a great day!!!
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