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Today I spent 4 hours cheering for the athletes competing in the first-ever Ironman triathlon held in my city. Despite some initial reluctance, I ended up having a great time.

Keeping me company for the afternoon was MJ @BklynRunner. Before we headed uptown to cheer, we fortified ourselves with a healthy lunch and had some good girl talk. While in the restaurant, who should wander in but one of my coworkers, with her boyfriend! Apparently they were all doing the exact same thing–grabbing a bite before going to cheer a family member who was racing today. Nice.

Next MJ and I took the A train up to 175th St, and wandered over to the base of the GWB, where the athletes would be coming over at around mile 17 of the run, the third and final part of the race. We arrived as the first dozen runners were coming through, and set up camp at 180th St. and Cabrini Blvd.

The crowds were pretty sparse, and no one had a sign, so I felt a little self-conscious about taking out the one I made. It was a little edgy, see:

But, after a few minutes I unfurled it in all its profane glory. The athletes started catching on, and I got a variety of great responses. I absolutely loved when they would look at me and say back, “Fuck yeah!” Lots of people gave thumbs up, or the rock and roll waggle. MJ started counting how many runners would point at me, I lost count around 25. No less that 5 other spectators took a picture of me with the sign, and so many athletes got a chuckle or a smile out of it. The sign was a hit, and I was glad I was able to give the runners a boost at such a tough part in the race.

MJ and I also bumped into MK @mpkann and EI @herroyaltallnes, who were volunteering as cheerers with the Hell Gate Harriers. It was fun to chat with them, too.

We could not stop marveling at the spirit and endurance of these athletes. They were coming down the hill towards us with smiles, totally pumped up. I was amazed at how they could be so perky after 8, 9, 10 or even more hours straight of strenuous, exercise. I can’t say I was necessarily inspired, because I know my distance limit is the marathon, but I was most certainly impressed. I also couldn’t stop thinking about my brother, who has competed successfully at the Half-Ironman distance. I know he wanted to do a full Ironman but has backburnered that plan due to his complicated and fragile digestive system. I hope one day he’s able to, if he still wishes to.

Because there are only 2500 competitors, and they are much more spread out on the course, it’s supereasy to spot your runner in an Ironman. MJ and I had no problem seeing CB @Lord_Baker go by, a dashing devil in his red tri suit. We also spotted SC @cutlarock, who after having crushed the swim and bike, hobbled through his run due to godawful plantar fasciitis (I feel his pain). He stopped and chatted with us for a bit. Finally, we saw NZ @experiri much earlier than we expected, which was so cool! He looked strong and happy, we were so proud. In fact he ran by just as I was trying to track his location on the Blackberry.

I think it’s the coolest thing to have such athletic friends! I like being around people who make fitness such a priority, and who challenge themselves be accomplishing such daring athletic goals. Also, it does not hurt that literally every single person who ran by MJ and I on that course was unbelievable gorgeous. I mean, these men were HOT. All kinds of faces, but let me tell you, those bodies were like from outer space, in a good way. I can imagine how hard they worked to be so fit, and they deserve all the admiration they get for their efforts and for their appearance.

All in all, it was a great day. I am wiped out! My arm’s sore from holding up my sign for four hours, and my plantar fasciitis is throbbing in both feet. My whining is ridiculous in the face of what the athletes accomplished today, which is exactly why I point it out: it’s good for a laugh.

Congratulations @Lord_Baker, @experiri and @cutlarock–YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!

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In order to squeeze all the juice out of the Green Mountain Relay, you must suspend your disbelief in love at first sight.

I’m not talking romantic love here, people. I’m talking about how my teammates all put aside that normal, gradual progression towards friendship and instead assumed our friendship was pre-existing, we just had to take it out of the box and pop in the batteries. Instafriendship. Boom, I got your back.

Admittedly, was worried. I worried that personalities wouldn’t gel, or would clash. I worried people wouldn’t feel included, or wouldn’t open up. I wanted everyone to have a great time; I wanted them to love this relay as much as I do.

Why did I worry? Silly TK.

It worked, like it always does. Slow White and the Eleven Dwarves all fell in love. We encouraged, joked, supported, empathized…and tweeted. There was a lot of tweeting, which was excellent. We also rubbed, tickled and spooned, but that was mostly Van 2 and I can’t share the details.

As captain, I did my best to have everything run smoothly. I wanted all the details covered so all my dwarves had to do was run and laugh, not necessarily in that order.

Here I must mention how much it means to me that NI, TW, SS, and AC returned to run with me again. I’ve been in the foxhole with them. They are the through line–the strand upon which I string the beads–connecting 2008 to 2012.

For me, the Green Mountain Relay is a potent mixture of new fun and old memories. Even though I am always thrilled with the present team, every moment from the past three GMRs I’ve done rise up throughout the weekend to tweak my nose. I pined for the affable, snarky, and weird spirits of runners with whom I’d shared a van before. God, I love those runners.

It was hard not being out there on the road this year. 99% of the time I was totally fine, in the moment and having fun. But when the tee-shirts got handed out and there wasn’t one for me? And when our medals were disbursed and there wasn’t one for me? The reminders that I wasn’t a runner this year pinched a little. Just a little, because otherwise I loved that I was there to help out managing the timesheet, driving the van, etc. Also, I loved that I could jump from van to van to hang out with everyone, and sleep in a bed while my dwarves were running legs 19 to 30. The sleeping, yeah that was pretty sweet.

Everyone ran their hearts out. They ran through direct sun and humidity, through the darkest dark; up intimidating mountains, and down quad-trashing hills. Some even ran through congestion, fever, and nausea; some ran extra miles. These are not runners we take for granted.

To the teammates new to SWATED this year: MW, SC, BG, MK, LL, LR, JS, MW–you were what I expected, and you were so much more. It was an absolute delight to get to know you to begin with, or to get to know you better. You are now SWATED alums, which means you have a standing invitation to return to the team.

Another person I’d like to mention is Paul, the race director. Over the past 4 years he has become a friend, too. I owe him–for without him founding this relay, I might have never met the dozens of wonderful runners I now consider friends. Late Friday evening, he texted me. “Just checking you got a race medal and tee-shirt for being team captain?” That really meant a lot to me, I was really touched he thought to ask. Thank you, Paul. I love your race.

Ultimately, we placed first in our division, and fourth overall. That was pretty thrilling, because I am after all still a competitive woman. However, it’s also slightly besides the point, since the point is (as I have already explained) the people with whom you fall in love at first sight. Image

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It’s my fourth.

Damn, I love this race. (And by race I indicate not just any relay, but the Green Mountain Relay. Just that one.) It’s a little torturous, like that emotionally unavailable lover who is your sexual ideal in bed? But that might be the appeal: the elusive hunt for the perfect team chemistry (everone’s fast, gorgeous and funny!), and the perfect race (no bonking, cement legs or nausea!).

It might be fair to say that, as a non-running captain of Slow White and the Eleven Dwarves, I’ve perhaps lost the hunt this year. I’m certainly not complaining, but it’s been hard to captain this team by myself. It’s been one of those labors of love. Love for myself–I want to participate in this relay again because of the ways I get to connect with other runners for 48 hours. Love for others–even though it would have been easy for me to bail when I knew there was no way I could run, I held up my end of the bargain for the rest of the team. And love for this race–it holds such sweet, sweet memories for me; and it needs teams to support it through participation. I guess I stuck with it to keep both my memories of and the future of the Green Mountain Relay alive.

Just saying, though: the ceaseless recruiting, endless emails and follow-up, the failed attempts to schedule a happy hour? They all reminded me of how crucial a good co-captain is to this experience.

But isn’t that true of most of life? Sure, I can take care of it myself. Sure, I can get it done flying solo. But the grind is a lot less wearing (and sometimes a lot of fun) when you’ve got a partner to share the drudgery. It leaves more time to share the laughs.

(Sometimes I worry that I take the metaphor too far in this blog. I take it so far that it stops being true. This metaphor could very well be headed in that direction. Pay attention; let me know what you think.)

This year, I captained well enough. Not as wonderfully and exhuberantly as I would have liked, but well enough that the rest can be filled in by my marvelous teammates. Teammates who, to a one, I am thrilled and honored to spend a weekend with. I kind of already love these people; I can’t wait to see how they handle being canned in a van. Canned in a van, with me.

So I might not have a co-captain, but I have a whole damn team. Lest we forget: Snow White would be dead in the woods, thwarted by an evil bitch, if it weren’t for her seven dwarves.

(Now that I think about it, that metaphor ended pretty well. Do you agree?)

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It meant over eleven hours of travel, but I didn’t really care. The line-up of professional athletes at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix made it worth the trip. Plus, I’d get to spend a good amount of that time with my Green Mountain Relay teammate Mike, the Connecticut half of the twin set that is completed by my friend Matt, podcaster of the Dump Runners Club. Mike picked me up at the New Haven train station and drove us to Boston, and we watched the track meet together. I’ve never run track myself–didn’t start running until my mid-20’s–so I love going to meets with people who have competed on the track themselves, as their commentary help me learn more about the sport. Plus, Mike’s pretty hilarious (don’t tell him I said that).

Here are the superstars I got to see on the track yesterday: Jenn Suhr, Maggie Vessey, LaTavia (!) Thomas, Matt Centrowitz (in his pro debut), Andrew Badderly, Silas Kiplagat, Galen Rupp, Mo Farah, Jenny Simpson, Sara Hall, Shannon Rowbury, Meseret Defar, Kirani James, David Oliver, Tirunesh Dibaba, Lauryn Williams, Morgan Uceny, and Delilah DiCrescenzo (perhaps just as famous for the song written about her by The Plain White T’s as for her running).

Mike and I had seats just inside the finish line, and the Reggie Lewis Center is a small arena–it’s a 200 meter track, and the bleachers are maybe 10 or 15 rows deep. We felt like we were right next to the action. The first event was the Men’s Masters Mile–the winner, Charlie Kern, was totally cute (hey, I only blog about the most essential details of the race here). Apparently, he’s a big deal at the distance for his age group.

The amateur races are adorable–the youth relay, the junior miles, and the high school 4 x 400 and 4 x 800 relays. Mike gave the race analysis and I provided the color by critiquing the kids’ hairstyles.

It seems like every track meet I attend, there’s Jenn Suhr trying to break the American Record and the World Record. I don’t understand how she gets so many tries over the bar, and honestly if I was a pole vaulter I’d be so discouraged by her dominance I don’t know if I’d bother to show up. But last night she broke the American Record again (which she set in 2011). So that was cool to be present for.

I was enjoying myself so much that I had great pangs of remorse I have to miss the Track and Field Olympic Trials in Eugene, OR this year.

The Women’s 800 meter race was exciting not only because of Maggie Vessey in bumhuggers and a racing bra (who Mike thinks is so hot. What’s the consensus here?) but because first and second place both finished with the same time of 2:02.37. Apparently The Maggster had a more aggressive lean at the tape and got the win over Erica Moore (so, less was Moore this time?). Mike was also all jazzed about David Oliver, who ran for his alma mater. When Oliver came to sign programs for the kids, Mike couldn’t help himself, he told me five times what a great guy Oliver was–perhaps the sole criteria being that he’s a Coloradan.

The Women’s 2 Mile race seemed to be more of an exhibition race, a chance for Tirunesh Dibaba to run a low-profile race as she kicked off her season. She won by 30 seconds and lapped most of the other racers by the time she crossed the finish line. Both she and Meseret Defar were like hummingbirds on that track, so slight and sprightly.

So, the men’s 3000 meter race was not at all what I expected. Or rather, Centro’s race was not what I expected. Perhaps I was looking for too much based on the hype of his 2011 performances. But watching him race, I just did not see the zip and ambition in his effort that I’d been hoping to see. It looked like he was just out there looking to hang in there with the pack but at no point did it seem like he was trying to make a move to move up, or flash out towards the finish. He came in seventh (granted he set a PR and beat Badderly, so no doubt I’m being harsh on the kid). The win-place-show was an exciting duel, though. Silas Kiplagat, hot off his win at the Madison Square Garden Open the weekend before, was the favorite but he was bested in battle between Caleb Njiku and Dejen Gebremeskel. 1-2-3 went to Kenya-Ethiopia-Kenya.

The appeal of sprint events is lost on me, but the little girl in me loved the 60 meter race’s post-finish. The women cross the finish line with so much speed that they cannot slow down before they reach the end of the arena, so they run headlong into gigantic mats placed along the far wall. Pow Smash Pow! Now that looks like fun to me–just turn your head so you don’t break your nose.

Talking about hairstyles–not one woman ran in pigtails, though a few kept their tresses unfastened and flowing. Anna Pierce had her hair all entirely hot pink for the Women’s 1000 meter (yeah yeah Mike I know she’s a steeplechaser. Yeah I know you were, too…). Morgan Uceny came in second after having a provisory lead during the middle laps.

In the first lap of the Men’s Mile, Mo Farrah (Mo fucking Farrah!) took a startling tumble, and even though he popped right back up, it took him a few laps to get back in the mix and after tracking in the top 3 for a lap or two was ultimately outkicked by Ciaran O’Lionaird, Taylor Milne and Galen Rupp for 1-2-3. I’d voted (through the text messaging game New Balance sponsored) for Rupp to win. Hey, I’m a sucker for a wonderboy (e.g., Ryan Hall, Alan Webb). In this video on Flotrack, Mo talks about the fall. Mike was so psyched Ciaran won the race, because he’d texted him to win–and Mike ended up winning a pair of New Balance sneakers for choosing the winning racer.

By now you will have all read about Jenny Simpson’s stunning flame-out in the Women’s 3000 meter race. After holding second place and trying to take down Meseret Defar for most of the race, she completely burned out and finished dead last. Sitting in the bleachers, Mike and I could see her strain starting to build in later laps–her face even looked kind of pale and pasty–and to say she faded over the final 4 laps would be an understatement. To her credit, Jenny completely owned up to her performance (how could she not?) in the press conference afterwards, saying, “that’s what it looks like when someone dies in a race.” I was a total fangirl to see Meseret zoom by, basically agog each time she pranced past. I cheered enthusiastically for Hall and Rowbury, too–it seemed like all the Americans (except for Simpson) were happy to hang back at least a half a lap behind Defar, and then ultimately be lapped by her. Hall came in fourth and Rowbury in fifth; again the thrill in this race for me (well, the battle for second place was interesting) was seeing such talent in action just 15 feet from me.

On the drive back to New Haven, Mike got lost (instead of heading towards Rhode Island we ended up by Salem, MA) so I didn’t get home until 2:30 AM! Admittedly, he drove much better than I remembered from the relay in 2010, and I was grateful for his company. Despite the crazy travel involved in getting to the track meet, I am so glad I went. I saw some of our nation’s and world’s best runners do their thing, live and in the flesh, right in front of my eyes. Track meets of this calibre are hard to find around the country, so we’re really lucky in the New York area that we get a few each year. The SuperBowl is tonight, but as far as I’m concerned the Grand Prix was much better entertainment.

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I emailed my friend MT, the voice of Dump Runners Club and one of my Green Mountain Relay teammates, to ask his opinion and analysis on my half-marathon splits. I thought I’d raced poorly since I missed a negative split, and wanted his opinion as to what I could have done differently. I’m sharing the email he sent me, because I think it’s a very helpful way to build a race strategy for a half-marathon. Also, he makes me sound like a racing genius. I pasted my splits so you can see what he’s talking about.

TK,

Garmin-

Okay I did some serious analysis. First of all, it was damned near perfect as far as I am concerned. (even if it it didn’t feel that way). As you may remember, I judge a half in 3 phases….the first 5 miles, the second 5 miles and the final 5k. You ran very evenly the entire race. Your first 5 miles averaged 7:53, second 5 was 7:51 and final 5k was 7:54. BTW I assumed the last 1.1 was 1.1 and not 1.25 as your watch showed. I am sure you ran more than the 13.1 distance but that is the race. This is based on Garmin.

Mat(t) Times-

Next, I looked at your splits and determined that you were actually going faster over your last 5k than then what the above shows. So I estimated the last 1.1 based on splits. Then I put the “extra” time evenly divided back into the previous 12 miles. Here are my alternate splits for you, First five miles avg=7:58, second 5 = 7:56 and final 3.1 was 7:40! This is more closely with what the mat times say. Which mean you have a super fast finish and were increasing your pace at every phase of the race.

I think your mat times are what happens and shows why you ran so well. Congrats.

 -Matt

p.s. Sorry if this is confusing

How awesome is that? And look at who was smiling at me from the in-flight magazine on the way home. 

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The leaders in the women's race, coming off Mile 5 along Memorial Drive.

For some reason, I didn’t get any photos of the men’s race. My friend @tejasrunnergirl took a fantastic one of their butts, which you can view here (along with her fantastic blog report of being my primary support crew at the Houston Half-Marathon.) Do click through and observe the wondrous spectacle that is the rear view of male marathoners.

The women, turning into their first out and back along Waugh Drive, about a quarter mile short of Mile 7.

The women pulling away from Mile 13 along Memorial Drive, you can pick out Kara and Janet Cherobon-Bawcom (5th place finisher)

Desiree Davila, Shalane Flanagan, and Kara Goucher crank into Mile 22 along Memorial Drive

Deena Kastor, heading up Waugh Drive with about 3.5 miles to go. She would finish 6th.

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It had been a long time since a half-marathon had been my full-stop goal race. Wait: I must self-correct. The distance hasn’t ever been the specific focus of my training–I’ve always leaned on it as a fitness test leading into a full marathon. Standing in my corral on Sunday morning, I felt set apart. I wondered how many of the other runners had trained as hard and as specifically as I had for this race. No doubt, I was being judgemental when I assumed most of them had signed up to run it for fun, or as a longer training run. 

After a fabulously uninterrupted six hours of sleep (no doubt, the small and warm company of @tejasrunnergirl‘s dog Lola helped with that), I awoke at 4 AM, immediately ate a bowl of highly-salted oatmeal, and then moved methodically through the rest of my race-morning timeline. Body Glided, hydrated, sunblocked, bibbed and bundled, by 4:50 I was in the car, with @tejasrunnergirl at the wheel. Bless her soul for waking in the middle of the night to shuttle me to the start–whenever I’d set out on four wheels this weekend I ended up hopelessly lost. (There must be some preexisting and unresolved bad karma between me and Houston.) @tejasrunnergirl dropped me off with a hug and a big, encouraging smile; I arrived at the George R. Brown early enough that I could attend the 5:30 AM Catholic mass.

While my relationship with God (or the Universe, the Cosmic Lifeforce, or whatever you want to call it) has gotten much stronger this year, I remain quite uneasy about organized religion, including the one within which I was raised. After so many years away, the rituals and vocabulary seem strange and rigid to me. But I decided that I wasn’t against giving a little thanks to a Catholic God before I headed out to conquer the concrete streets of Houston. It ended up being a beautiful gathering. The priest had given mass at the Houston Marathon for over a decade, so in a way he was one of us runners. I was moved by sharing the handshake of peace knowing that everyone around me was about to undertake the same momentous running effort. I also took the opportunity to turn the results of my race over to God, and asked to be satisfied no matter the outcome. That’s my way of taking out an insurance policy against bitter disappointment, just in case everything went terribly wrong out there. Note: this prayer did not lessen the huge amount of pressure and tension I felt.

The rest of the pre-race period couldn’t have been timed any better. I checked my bag, found two blocks to run a 10-minute warm-up, had some quality time in the port-a-potty, then headed to the corral. There are seeded corrals in Houston, but they aren’t broken down by pace–I still had to weave my way up to somewhere between the 7’s and the 8’s. I stretched, told myself to relax, used the port-a-potty one last time (love when they have them in the corral), and tried to ease my game face into something a little bit friendlier than the frown I knew I was wearing. No dice. This is when I surveyed the crowd and wondered who else was out here with serious intent today.

After a few absurd speeches (Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter, the mayor) and a scarily enthusiastic prayer (personally, I don’t think God gives a shit how our races go, but whatevs, Preacher), we were off. I was feeling rested but under pressure. Prepared but not necessarily kicky, which might have been because I felt so tight, all my muscles, everywhere.

I knew the first mile was going to be the slowest simply because it was crowded, but when Little G beeped 8:11 I freaked out (I was aiming for 8:05) and sped up a bit too much. My arms were still chilled by the cool breeze. Mile 2 came in at 7:42. That’s when I started repeating the mantra The road will open before you. I can’t say I was feeling especially strong or fluid at this point. I was still warming up, my breathing felt ragged. In fact, whenever I felt relaxed and comfortable, Little G would show me that I was running slower than PR pace and I’d have to push it again. Although the miles did click by quicker than I’d expected, at no point in this race did I just feel like I was cruising. I suppose if you’re chasing an ambitious PR, that’s about right, but it worried me some, and I was constantly doubting if I could maintain the pace. I didn’t know, so I just kept pushing, mile after mile.

My 5k split was 24:42, or a 7:55 pace (of course I didn’t know this at the time). Not bad considering Mile 1 was 17 seconds under that. I had the niggling thought that I might have gone out too fast, but I was working with the knowledge that 7:55 was the slowest I could run and meet my goal, and as a carrot I’d set Little G’s virtual partner at 7:50. Feeding the hunger for more speed was @tejasrunnergirl’s remarkably optimistic battle cry of “1:40,” which she had been repeating to me all week long. I didn’t know my mat splits until after the race,  on the course I just had the autolap mile reports from Little G to work with. I was dismayed to see that even by Mile 3 I was over a tenth of a mile up on the course distance, which meant that I’d have to run even faster than Little G said to meet my goal time.

Somewhere around Mile 6 my left foot started to really hurt me. You know, the fascia. Pounding the concrete roads in my racing flats was aggravating the tightness that I’d been keeping at bay through acupuncture and massage-by-golf-ball the past few weeks. Each time I hit a timing mat, I’d think OK @BklynRunner, do your thing! She’d generously agreed to tweet out my splits for my friends. I didn’t know it at the time, but the sub-8 splits I laid down those last five miles gave me a 10k PR (49:27, over a minute improvement) in the middle of the Houston Half-Marathon. (That’s kind of hot, right? 2 PRs in one race?) I kept telling myself I’d done all those fast finish workouts, into headwind, uphill. I decided to go for broke and keep pushing hard. I ate a Hammer gel with some sips of Gatorade; I had trouble catching my breath during the “snack;” this slowed me down and Mile 7 dropped to a 7:57 pace (from 7:49).

The volunteers, by the way, were all so kind. Whenever I said thank you, they all responded with words of encouragement. It was very refreshing to be around such polite, happy people.

Then I saw @tejasrunnergirl, who was waiting for me close to Mile 7. The entire mile leading up to me spotting her went by in a flash because I was focusing on finding her–so grateful for that distraction. When she saw me she went bonkers cheering, there was jumping, waving and shouting involved, plus this awesome sign. Clearly @tejasrunnergirl knows what’s what. I told her my pace (7:50’s) which I hadn’t yet realized had dropped by practically ten seconds.

I struggled the next three miles to drop the pace back down to the 7:50 range. Little G tells me Miles 8 and 9 were 7:54 and 7:55. I was a nearly a quarter of a mile off the race’s mile markers, so I knew I was tracking with less speed against the clock. I felt in my bones that I wasn’t going to negative split, which for me is the sign of a race poorly executed. (After much mind-bending math more than 24 hours after the race, I can confirm that I did not run a negative split. The first 6.55 miles took me 51:36; the second took me 52:42.) By this point my left foot was hurting so much that when I’d roll it along the road in my stride, I told myself the massage felt good. I should have raced in my trainers on that concrete–but there’s a lesson learned the (literally) hard way. Also, my lower back was starting to talk back, and I suspected I might be dehydrated.

Mile 10 was where @tejasrunnergirl was meeting me next. Perhaps it was out of vanity (I didn’t want such an incredible athlete to see me hurting or slowing down) but I picked it up to clock a 7:44 there. This time she was holding up her “Toenails Are Overrated” sign, which I could see from a mile away since it was flourescent green. She told me I was looking good but I was feeling the strain. I admitted to her that my foot hurt bad. Right before I saw her, I’d crossed the 14.5k mats in 1:12, or a 7:51 pace.

Mile 11 was painful (7:50); and in Mile 12 I gritted my teeth and pulled out 7:43–but Little G’s splits were still 0.15 of a mile behind the course markers, so I knew I was about 4 or 5 seconds behind the pace Little G was telling me.  The out and back between miles 7 and 11 seemed endless, but it was broken up by @mdwsterNYer catching me on the way back with a big shout. I barely acknowledged her as I was already hurting but I was so grateful to catch a glimpse of my Monday morning running buddy; it brought me back–you’re just running, dudette! I know how to run. I started to feel waves of the chills come over me, and I knew I was dehydrated, so I made a point to grab a cup of whatever and sip it each time I passed the “runner’s bar.”

I was wearing the same shorts and singlet I’d worn for the New York City Marathon back in 2008, which still remains my greatest race (even though I’ve bested the time, I have yet to execute a race as perfectly). I deliberately chose the outfit for that very reason; but unfortunately I just didn’t have a negative split in me on January 15, 2012.

Somewhere right before the 20k mark (20k-1:38:30, or a 7:58 pace) there was @grapevinerunner along a quiet stretch of road. I was looking for her, I knew she’d have a sign. By this point I was too exhausted and dizzy to read the whole thing–all I saw was that it was designed like a tweet and had my handle in there! Even better were her spoken words, “You’ve got this TK. Just a little bit more, you’ve got this.” Even though I’d been confident since the first mile I’d break 1:45, I wasn’t sure by how much–that was what kept driving me forward, that desire to burn myself as far away from 1:45 as possible. Hearing my friend tell me I had it, and feeling her support in my bones, let me release some of my tension. That’s right–I’ve got this. No matter the result, today was a great race. I kept running.

Not 50 feet up the road, I looked to my right and who did I see but Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan and Adam Goucher, running along the course towards us, out for a little recovery run! I couldn’t believe it; I snapped awake. Hi Kara, Hi Shalane! Hey guys! Kara oddly ducked her head, while Shalane and Adam looked over, wondering who was calling out. I ran a few more paces, kind of shocked at the sighting. Then I thought, Well, the least I can do, given their effort yesterday, is run faster now. So I put the pedal to the metal, thought about how I have a high pain threshold (if this is true or not I have no idea; I might have lied to myself to get the job done), and hammered out a 7:16 Mile 13 and ran the last bit to the finish at a 6:40 pace.

I crossed the line and my eyesight was blurry, I couldn’t catch my breath, and I felt the ground pulling at me. I was a little faint. I’d been here before and knew what to do; I found the smiley old guys monitoring the finish line and let them escort me forward. I let them ask me how I was until I felt I could walk on my own without fear of tipping over. Hey, it’s been over a year since I’ve been on a date: I was grateful for the opportunity to lean on a kind gentleman’s arm for a short walk.

With my official time of 1:43:18, I’d pulled out a half marathon PR by 3 minutes and 18 seconds. Along the way I PRed in the 10k by a minute and seven seconds. I know I had that crazy grin on, the one where I’m so bursting with happiness that I look like a deranged dervish. I got my medal, my bag, and met @grapevinerunner, @mdwsternNYer and @tejasrunnergirl at the reunion area. We swapped stories until I thought the ground buckled beneath me–um, time to eat!

And there you have it. Not my most strategic race ever, but perhaps my gutsiest. I had the help of excellent training as designed and assigned by my coach, Meg Stolt; the bolstering support of friends new and old; and the calming force of God reminding me that I am so much more than my race results. I had the inspiration of the Olympic marathon trials the day before, and the good fortune of absolutely perfect weather conditions–high 40’s/low 50’s, no breeze and overcast. In a big shift from my usual attitude of low confidence/modest goals, I went with the motto of “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” I dreamed bigger. I dared to believe I could break 1:45 by multiple minutes, and then did it.

I hope everyone else out there had the same support and success as I did yesterday, regardless of their degree of serious intent. Running is running is running, virtuous and joyous in its essential execution. The goals are a separate thing, to be spared of outside judgement or ranking. I am a runner; but I can talk about other things if you’d like.

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