Desperado Duel Bike Event 07/15/17

When the time rolled around for the annual Desperado Duel Bike Race, (details on website ridesouthernutah.com), I quickly hopped online to register because I was already familiar with the course and scenery. Back at that time, the event featured 100- and 200-mile options, hence the word “dual” in the title. I had previously ridden the century ride (which is actually 109 miles, not 100) back in 2005. I recall vividly the headwind that was present for the distance between Circleville and Panguitch, roughly 30 miles. It took me 6 hours and 48 minutes to finish that thing! The 200-mile option is no longer offered, but instead are 50, 100, and 150-mile courses (hence the spelling of “duel” now). This time, I opted for the 50-mile distance (actually closer to 52, per my bike calculator) which was described as an out-and-back course starting in Panguitch and winding through Red Canyon in Dixie National Forest along Highway 12 near Bryce, Utah (check it out on utah.com/bryce-canyon-national-park/bryce-canyon).  This is what the Ride Southern Utah website states about the course:

The 50-mile route has a total gain of 2066 feet. It has one Category 2 climb at the beginning of the event. (The climb rating system goes from 1 to 5 with 5 being the easiest). You’ll climb 1205 feet in the first 13 miles — an average grade of only 1.7%. After that, the course flattens out and you’ll only gain 867 feel in the final 37 miles. 

Panguitch (Utah) is a drive of about 1 hour 45 minutes from St. George. Its elevation is 6624 feet and population approximately 1500. The 4000 feet of elevation change from St. George to Panguitch translates to meaning it is MUCH cooler this time of year! We were all too happy to leave the 100-degree temperatures and trade them for the 80’s.

I was privileged to work at the event’s packet pickup for 4 hours that evening, meeting other riders and mingling with some high-energy individuals who motivate and inspire me — and make me laugh.

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And none of my activities would run as smoothly without the help of my husband, who is always willing to participate and be where I need him when I need him to be there.

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Pictured here with Kellie, one of the greatest bike riders I know, both mountain and road. For real.

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My dear and long-time friend, Sherri, having also registered for the 50-miler, arrived in Panguitch Friday evening. We coordinated plans for race morning, which was to meet at the starting area around 6:45 a.m.

The Sandman always makes himself scarce prior to any event in which I participate. Sleep had NOT been in abundance on Saturday morning when I awoke at 4 a.m. I readied for the ride and again worked at packet pickup from 5 to 6:30 a.m. I then donned my biking helmet, shoes, and gloves, and found Sherri among the approximately 300 riders; she was looking like a million bucks, as usual.

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Sherri wanted to stick together, but I encouraged her to climb the hill at her own pace (she is a much stronger rider than I). At 7 a.m., after a little instruction from the race director, Margaret, we crossed the starting line and ventured out in the 55-degree temperature. As expected, Sherri was knocking out the miles one at a time more quickly than I was, and I finally lost sight of her at about mile 5.

The course took a sharp left and we were on highway 12, heading due east toward Bryce Canyon National Park. Bikers were directed to leave the roadway and take the trail that parallels the highway. The trail is maybe 10 feet wide and covered in shade offered by the tall pine trees surrounding it. I am pretty sure I had a perma-grin on my face, and for certain I called out to anyone who may have been listening, “THIS IS THE LIFE!!” I took a couple of selfies during that stretch of trail, first making sure that no other bikers were around me (I did not want to take any chances of causing an accident).

At about mile 20, the course turned north on to Johns Valley Road. It was along this route that some of the faster 50-milers were heading back down, and I was looking for Sherri. I counted about a dozen bikers by the time I reached the aid station at approximately mile 25, which was loaded with all the best goodies that bikers crave! The line to the port-a-potty was long and I decided that I could “hold it” for another hour or so. I set back out quickly, reversing my route and heading back toward Highway 12 south along Johns Valley Road. I passed Sherri, who was going the opposite direction, and I later learned that a big group of bikers had missed the turn at the intersection where Johns Valley Road is to the left and Ruby’s Inn is to the right — and that group of bikers went straight, which means they added a couple of miles, at least!

I busted back down the trail pedaling as fast as my little legs would go. I mostly stayed in a small clump of bikers, leaving enough space ahead of me to allow me to see the trail. The only close mishap was coming around a corner and seeing a young boy, maybe 3 years old, on his little bike with training wheels right in the middle of the trail. At that point, we were going 20-25 MPH and I was not sure what he would do, but he stayed put and we swung around him.

I felt really good the entire way back, eventually separating myself from the other bikers by a couple of minutes. My goal was to finish under 3 hours, and the time clock read 2:59:47 when I passed under it. Goal achieved! Sherri came in at 3:11 (but remember, she had more miles) looking strong and invincible. My time put me at the 7th female out of 49 in the 50-mile category, and 21st out of 110 overall (men and women in 50-miler).

Here is Sherri at the finish line, with husband in the background:

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I chatted with my friends on the tandem bike, Shaun and his daughter, Kira, who had finished a few minutes ahead of me. I also warned them that they would be mentioned in my blog. They were a powerhouse!

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I found Todd busy hauling coolers in preparation of aid station supplementation, so I rode my bike to the house 2 blocks away where we had spent the night, quickly showered and packed up, then headed back to the finish line where a post-ride meal of lasagna, bread sticks, Caesar salad, and berry cobbler had my name on it.

Lastly, while heading back to St. George via Panguitch Lake (which was part of the 150-miler course), we passed some of the 20 or so gutsy bikers who were pressing up the steep hill toward the lake (a downhill reward would await them) and I captured this photo of the guy in the lead, at least as far as we were able to ascertain. Check out his kit! (A “kit” is the term used for a cycling outfit that includes shorts/bib, jersey, and sometimes socks, shoes, and helmet).  For other fun biking lingo, check out this link: https: greatist.com/fit/ultimate-guide-cycling-lingo

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I was again impressed with how well Red Rock Bicycles sponsors an event. Margaret and her team have the system down pat. Their next bicycle event for road biking is the Fall Tour of St. George on October 21st with 35, 75, and 100-mile options. Ride Southern Utah!

Logan Peak Trail Run 6/24/17

I have pounded pavement for over 20 years. I have run the same courses over and over again. I could nearly run the St. George Marathon blindfolded. Having said that, transitioning to trail running has been a welcome change. I accepted the challenge from dear friend Sandy when she suggested that we sign up for the Logan Peak Trail Run. She had run it two years prior, and I trust her judgment. I copied the following description from the ultrasignup.com website:

The Logan Peak Trail Run traverses the mountainous area around Logan Peak through Logan Dry Canyon and Providence Canyon (the main drainage’s just south of Logan Canyon). During this challenging event, runners travel a bit over 26 miles on a predominantly loop course with over 6600 ft elevation gain. Amazing views, lots of climbing, and varied terrain/habitat are just a few reasons to run this course. The elevation gain/loss makes this event roughly comparable to many 50 K races. The race is a spectacular opportunity to experience the outstanding trails around Cache Valley, and Logan is a great place to hang out and have fun.

Runners also have an option to complete only the Syncline Loop (avoiding the 1070 foot climb to and descent from Logan Peak), for which they will receive an official time but not an overall place.

The fact is, however, that this trail run constitutes 28 miles, not “a bit over 26 miles” as described. And if one missed the final turn to the home stretch, one can easily add an extra mile, which I did. Heck, 29 miles is so close to 30.1 miles (a true 50K distance) that I should have just kept going. I am an over-achiever like that at times.

I was anxious to get registered, thereby having something to look forward to (spending a chunk of the day with my running buddy, surrounded by spectacular scenery and cooler temperatures than we have become accustomed to in Southern Utah). As far as training for this, I chalked up a couple of 4-mile runs in the hills just east of my house; I really did not train on the terrain nor for the distance that would be required of me for this endurance “race.” Regardless, I was determined to give it my best shot.

About a week prior to the event, an email from Jim (the event director) announced that the option of ascending all the way to Logan Peak was out secondary to excessive snow and subsequently no access. I was somewhat relieved, feeling like the 22-mile option (“Syncline Loop”) was more within my grasp. However, due to grumblings of the registrants as well as a very warm week leading up to the event, Jim emailed an update just days before the event, stating that ascension to the peak was back in the mix. The one drawback, however, would be that we would not have any aid for a solid 20 miles; aid stations were not possible where they would have been otherwise because of the snow-covered trail. Having been suffering from a nagging hamstring injury, Sandy was reticent to attempt any distance at all, but at the last minute decided to pursue it with the encouragement and support of her husband, who was also participating.

Race day arrived, and with a 6 a.m. start time and packet pickup prior for the hour prior to that, I had my alarm set for something like 4:30. When I awoke at 3 a.m., nervous that I needed more time to prep, I set my alarm for 4:15 but did not fall back asleep. A very patient and supportive husband drove me and my hydration pack to the start line at Gibbons Park at the base of Dry Canyon in Logan. I immediately met up with Sandy and her husband (and also their daughter). We gathered on a grassy knoll with the 106 other runners for brief race instruction presented by Jim, and following his verbal countdown, we were off and heading for the hills.

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The trail quickly narrowed and we made way for those who opted to actually RUN it. As for me, I was determined to save something for the second half. I have not decreased the size of the following photos since I want the reader to have a greater appreciation of the scenery we encountered within the first mile….and every mile subsequent to that.

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The course description is as follows:

Start to Aid Station #1: The course proceeds about 0.5 mile from the start up to the Deer Fence/Bonneville Shoreline Trail then north another 0.5 mile to the Logan Dry Canyon trailhead. Runners then climb up Logan Dry Canyon for about 3.5 miles on single-track trail to Aid Station #1/4.

Aid Station #1 was not a figment of our imagination. It was stocked with Mountain Dew, Coke, water, Cheez-Its, gummy bears, M&M’s, and all the essentials for regeneration of energy. From this point, we were on our own (as far as water and food rations go) for the next 20 miles. We pressed (hiked) on, at this point turning south and appreciating that the trail was leveling out somewhat. Again, course description posted here, except there would be no Aid Station #2:

Aid Station #1 to Aid Station #2: From Aid Station #1/4, the course turns right onto the South Syncline Trail and continues over to Providence Canyon (a little more than 2 miles on single-track with spectacular views). As the course enters the Providence Canyon drainage, the South Syncline Trail merges with the Welches Flat jeep trail, which rolls up and down for about 4 miles until joining the main Providence Canyon jeep trail. The Providence Canyon jeep trail climbs for another 0.75 mile, and then you follow the main forest service road 1.5 mile north to Aid Station #2/3. There are a few side trails along here. Pay attention to the course markings.

We paid attention to far more than the course markings; we were really into opportunities for photos, selfies and otherwise.

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Sorry, but I will not spare the reader from large photos. I would make them even larger if I could — the scenery was THAT spectacular, and I would love for you to see the detail of each and every leaf and rock, both of which were in abundance.

We soon encountered our first ridge of snow, and seeing this up ahead of us made me panic just a tad. I was grateful for the single hiking pole I had opted to bring.

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The barrier of snow proved to be less of an obstacle than it had first appeared. We had been made privy to the fact that the course would be more like an obstacle course than just a trail on which to run, but when we did encounter flat, smooth sections of it, we ran.

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Before introduction to my next photo, I have to also introduce you to a trail running legend, a man whom I met along the course. I had heard of him and had seen his name in race results time and time again, but it was on this day that I was actually fortunate enough to meet him in person. He is James McGregor, and here I have captured a shot of him (far right, photo forefront) agilely making his way along the course. And yes, he is a distant cousin who is knowledgable about the rich history of our McGregor heritage.

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At this point along the course, runners were chatting and exchanging details about their experiences, whether on other trails or on this one in years past. We formed friendships quickly. There was ample opportunity to chat about the common bond we all shared; trail running.

With the need to restock our water supplies ahead, we looked forward to the spring spoken of in this course description as offered by Jim:

Station #2/3.
As you are above Providence Canyon on the jeep road, there will be a water source coming from a pipe into a trough. This water is really cold and good and as far as I know safe. I’ve drank from it numerous times and never had an issue.

Though the runners had thinned out by this point, a half dozen or more of us found ourselves at the spring all at the same time, which can be seen in this photo to the left. And it was very true that the water was REALLY COLD AND GOOD, and hopefully “SAFE.” As far as I know, no runners had any “issues” secondary to drinking it. I filled my hydration bladder to the brim.

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Sandy and I lingered a little longer at the spring than the others, and found ourselves likely bringing up the rear for the next many miles. But who cares? We sure didn’t. We stopped to document the beauty every chance we got.

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In the following photo, you can see the orange trail marker tied to the tree. Obviously, the trail was obscure, so it was important to pay attention to these markers in order not to get lost.

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Sandy and I knew the steepest part of the course was still ahead. We held a steady pace and used our poles to assist us through mud, snow, rocks, and under and over trees. Remember, there was no Aid Station #2:

Aid Station #2 to Logan Peak and back to Aid Station #3: It is a 900 foot climb in about 2.5 miles on jeep trail from Aid Station #2/3 up to Logan Peak. In most years, at least part of this is on packed snow. Along the way you can look down and see Providence Lake and a huge bowl called the Rodeo Grounds. The course returns the same way from the peak. Runners who wish to avoid the trek to Logan Peak (the Syncline Loop Option) can skip this section and proceed to the next section. (Finishers who take the Syncline Loop Option receive an official time, but not an overall place; note also that the distance for the Syncline Loop Option is NOT an ultramarathon distance.)

There was no question whether or not we would make the trek to Logan Peak. It did not look that daunting. Why would we come this far only to cut it short? That would be crazy.

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On the way up to the peak, Sandy’s husband was coming down, which meant he was at least a full hour ahead of us on the course. We took advantage of the meeting with a few more photos.

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Once at the top, a.k.a. Logan Peak, we touched the phone tower as we had been instructed to do. Apparently, in years prior, there has actually been someone assigned to be there to witness said contact, for without it, all the effort was futile and would not “count.” Here I am with new friend, Celeste, touching the tower (and feeling really good about it, obviously). I learned later that some runners not only touched the tower, they wrapped their arms around it and KISSED it. 🙂

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Realizing I had cell phone service at the top (underneath a cell phone tower, no less), I made a FaceTime phone call to my husband, sharing the view with him from atop 9700 feet while he was sitting in the car somewhere down around 4500 feet.

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Sandy and I were followed up to the top by another runner, and we imposed upon him to capture our achievement in a couple of photos.

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Here is Sandy descending from Logan Peak, running as if she did not have a pained hamstring and 14 miles under her belt already.

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Having passed the halfway point, we were looking forward to some more amazing scenery and downhill portions. It’s true what Jim said, though, about the most varied section of the race (and remember there was no Aid Station #3):

Aid Station #3 to Aid Station #4: This is the most varied section of the race, with pine forest, fir forest, aspen groves, wildflower meadows, sage slopes, short snow fields, mountain springs, and spectacular views into Logan Canyon and the Naomi high country. Leaving Aid Station #2/3, runners turn left and take the main forest service road north for about 1 mile, before turning left onto a spur road. About 0.4 mile down this spur road, the course makes a left turn onto single-track trail. This trail rolls for a little less than 2 miles until encountering a T junction at the bottom of a descent through fir trees. Make a left at this T (the trail to the right goes to a spring). Continue along this single-track for another 1.5 miles, eventually climbing gently to a sage/wildflower covered ridge. From this ridge, runners descend 1.25 miles back into Logan Dry Canyon. Along the way, there is a high mountain spring. When the trail comes to the canyon bottom, it makes a sharp right turn and then descends gently about 0.25 miles to Aid Station #1/4.

There are two water sources along here. The first is a side trail off of a switchback. It’s about 100 yards down this side trail and is a spring coming out of the rock. I have also drank from this water and not had any problems. The other water source is about half a mile from Aid Station #4. It comes from a pipe into a trough and is really cold and good. I highly recommend filling your pack/bottles here as there may be limited water at the aid station.

The photo below gives the reader an idea of the obstacle courses along the trail. There were many times that we questioned the course, but managed to always find the orange markers tied to trees.

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Suffer through these photos, if you must. I insist.

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And here is one section where we had zero trail but trusted the footprints of the runners in front of us. I was not tempted to stray from the course — not even to take a look to see how far the drop-off was. Where is an inner-tube when you need one?

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The view of Logan and nearly the entire Cache Valley was spectacular.

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We saw no other runners from when we started the North Syncline Trail until Aid Station #4, where we informed the volunteers there that we knew of at least one other runner behind us. It turned out there were four. We had run out of water about a mile before finding the next spring, where we gratefully filled our hydration bladders. It was just a quarter mile from the spring to Aid Station #4 (which was also Aid Station #1 coming up).

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Once we reached Aid Station #4 and grabbed a handful of melting M&M’s, we headed back down the course on the same trail we had come up many hours earlier that day. Sandy’s watch was keeping track of our distance (as was mine, unbeknownst to me — but it about fell off my wrist with the buzzing announcement that I had just set an all-time exercise record… 2022 calories burned, 457 minutes of exercise, not quite 63,000 steps, and a total of 31.49 total miles for the day).

Aid Station #4 to the Finish: This last section (4.5 miles of mostly single-track) is simply the reverse of the first section of the race. Enjoy the downhill and the great views down Logan Dry Canyon into the Cache Valley!

Here you can see the elevation chart. I am in the process of losing my two big toenails, so if that tells you how that downhill section felt to my feet….

I sent Sandy on her way ahead of me for the last 3 miles since she felt good and my legs felt like rubber. One thing I did not want to risk was spraining an ankle (or worse) on a trail where the only way out is walking. I jogged solo slowly and, in my nearly delirious state in the 80-degree heat, missed the last turn to the finish line. I admit that I shed a tear or two during that last extra mile.

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Though I was nearly last out of 109 finishers, taking 9 hours 25 minutes to run 29 miles, I was THRILLED to have finished such a difficult run! And I RAN to the finish line where my patient, supportive husband and friend Sandy were waiting for me with open arms. A cold Diet Coke never tasted so good!

 

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Me and cousin James at the finish line. He is 74 years young and, while this was his 75th or so ultramarathon, it was my first at age 55. I hope longevity is in our genes!

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At breakfast the following morning, this was my view of Logan Peak from where I sat at a table in Logan. Yep. Been there, done that. HAPPY TRAILS!

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Double Nickles

Here it is nearly July, and I am just now getting around to telling you about the anniversary of my birthday earlier this month. Time just marches on, sparing no one. It’s true that time is a he, as in Father Time, just like nature is a she, as in Mother Nature. Father Time has a way of stealing the hours from a day to the point where a week seems to be comprised of 5 days rather than 7. The older I get, the more quickly time seems to pass. I cram as much as I can into the time I am allotted, and the older I get and the more I accomplish, the more I realize how much there is yet to do — and how very precious time is; it is definitely a gift, and we should not be wasting any of it.

My birthday fell on a Wednesday this year, and I had purposely left the day wide open to do some of my favorite things. I started off with a long bike ride, intending to bike 55 miles (one for each year) and had a very good start.

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However, the temperature rose very quickly and, after a couple of hours and about 35 miles, I realized that I could be content with cutting the distance short (riding as far as how old I feel, rather than how old I actually am).  With other things that I wanted to accomplish, I made the decision to settle for 40 miles and move on to the next project.

I parked my bike and loaded up my cleaning bucket, then drove across town to my mom’s house. There on her front door was this poster:

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My mom is my #1 fan, obviously. She turns 85 later this year but does not use that as an excuse for simply a verbal “happy birthday, daughter!” Rather, she still spends hours being creative and productive. After cleaning her four toilets as well as performing various other household chores, I accepted some birthday cash and a kiss, then drove back home to swap out my car for the truck.

My next destination was the Lifetime store on St. George Boulevard, where I quickly picked out a bright orange kayak (I had done a little research on these) and used my birthday money to purchase it. Off to the pool I went, convincing Todd and others to join me for a cool time. That kayak fit perfectly on the water, and soon three of my grandkids were navigating it around the pool effectively and efficiently.

 

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Using barely enough time to shower and clean up, I whisked my best boy off to dinner with me at my favorite restaurant, Cappeletti’s on Tabernacle Street.

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Having my birthday fall on a Wednesday meant that I got to party with more than just family members; I attended my weekly Adult Beginning Hip Hop class at The Vault and continued the celebration with much dancing and exuberance. Having over a dozen people dancing in a circle around you while chanting a birthday wish trumps being sung to prior to blowing out candles on a cake every time!

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Returning home to this on the counter was nearly more than I could take in; a dozen beautiful roses from my husband.

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Extending the festivities out 10 days post-birthday with husband, sons, and grandkids, hosted by daughter-in-law, was the “icing on the cake” (so to speak). Other than my youngest grandson, age 2, insisting on blowing out his own candle — and dousing it by putting his mouth over the lit flame — the evening was perfect.

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Birthdays are a welcome event for me, and with age comes wisdom (or so they say). I know for certain that with each passing year and more candles to count, I have more blessings to count as well.

 

Life and Its Changes

Life—it just has its ups and downs and it changes with wind and oh,  it’s ever so busy these days with all of our obligations.  With that change, comes adjustments and a reorganization of life.

I started a cooking blog recently and it is taking more of my time than I realized.  With all of my other obligations, I’ve had to make some of those changes in life, so I decided with a heavy heart to put all of my energy into the cooking blog.  My friend, Tia, will carry on doing this blog and keep doing a fabulous job.  She is top notch at everything she does and this blog will be no exception.❤️

Thank you to all of you readers. We have quite a following for only being live a short time–about 2,000!!  So exciting!!!  As a parting post, I would like to share one of my favorites from my itsapegslife.com blog Raspberry Chipotle Salmon with Zoodles. Just click on the link and you’ll have it. 🙂

I hope you like it!! Run happy, dear friends! Hugs to you all!

Pal Peg


 

HELPFUL HINTS for runners

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by here and read. I know the last thing we need is to waste time on the internet, but I try to be selective with my topics. I hope that today’s will benefit you in some way, especially with the upcoming summer racing season.

I will cut right to the chase, so to speak, and share with you some hints/tips that I have acquired and used over my years of running (in no particular order):

SPONGE: If I am going to be running in the heat, I sometimes cut a new sponge to fit inside a pocket or even in my hat, then every few miles I dunk it in water and wipe my face and arms with it. Wring it out on top of your head and store it again until the next opportunity to wipe down. It’s very refreshing and helps wash the salt off!

ICE: If you’re fortunate to be offered ice during a race, don’t pass it up! Put it in your shorts, your bra, your mouth, or your hat! I have filled my hat with ice during the last few miles of a few marathons, and it kept me cool and alert.

SHADE: Even if it means crossing the road to get to it, seek the shade! It can be a few degrees cooler and can make a huge difference. The road will be cooler for your feet, also.

SLEEVES/NECKERCHIEF:  I just learned that some of the name brand apparel companies are making arm sleeves with fabric that protects from UV rays. Wetting the sleeves with water before and during a run keeps you even more cool. The sleeves extend from the wrists up just past the elbows.  I recently ordered some made by Pearl Izumi on Amazon (all white) for $16. I have also worn a cold, wet rag around my neck but this can be tricky at times.

CHAFING: There are few things more miserable than chafing from a rigid sports bra! I have heard horror stories about chafing in other body parts, too. I have to tape up (I use KT brand tape) prior to my long runs, applying it to areas that are susceptible to chafing. Some runners use Aquaphor, Body Glide, vaseline, or another anti-chafing solution. I suppose protecting the nipples is a good idea for the guys, too. I know of Band-Aids made just for this, or KT should work, too. Don’t wear anything that hasn’t already been put to the test before a race (see APPAREL).

APPAREL: Never wear something new during a race (especially marathon) without trying it out first, whether it’s an article of clothing, shoes, socks, earbuds, or sunglasses. Even if it’s something that’s been in your closet for a long time, give it a whirl before going the distance. I once wore a skort that was too big for me (I had forgotten that detail) and I had to hold it up for the first 13 miles (alternating hands) until I found someone with a safety pin to cinch it in. And remember that darling tank top you just had to wear? The one with the seams under the arms? You will be reminded of those seams with every swing of the arms starting about mile 4 (see CHAFING). For your choice of apparel, I highly recommend light-colored wicking fabrics if warm temperatures are forecast (dark colors absorb the heat, while light ones reflect it). Extra credit if your shoes or shoelaces match something else you’re wearing.

LISTS: I am a fan of lists. I makes lists of lists to make. For real, before a race, start making a list a couple days beforehand of the items you will need. As something comes to mind, write it down. Check the weather report and decide if a light jacket or blanket will be useful while waiting at the starting line. What about a big garbage bag? I ran one marathon in a black garbage bag due to unrelenting rain. I was grateful for the protection. However, I ripped it off after 8 miles because I was sweaty and wet anyway. Will you need sunglasses? What direction will you be running — into the sun or not? On the night before the race, set all of your items out where you will have quick access to them on race morning. This takes some of the stress out of race day!

MUSIC: I generally run with music played on an iPod. In fact, I would say that I do 95% of the time. However, some race events do not allow earbuds to be worn, so be aware. My music is hand-picked and categorized by pace. I have a 10K pace list of songs selected based on a faster pace. I run to the rhythm of each song, and I know that if I can get to the finish line before 12 songs at 4 minutes each have played, I will have a decent 48-minute 10K time. That is just an example, because each song is not exactly 4 minutes (my iPod tallies the total time of that folder and I can customize as necessary).

Whatever the distance, whatever the pace, and whatever the reason, find joy in the journey! Happy trails!

 

 

IronMan 70.3 St. George

With Boston in my rearview mirror, I have recently been able to focus on the next big goal, which was the biking leg of the IronMan 70.3. I had tucked my bike away for the winter many months ago, then dusted it off recently to “train” for this goal, which was to bike 56 miles on a tough, hilly course (elevation gain over 3500 feet) as part of a relay team. I received invitation from long-time friend Cheri many months back, asking if I would be interested in participating on her team and represent the biking portion. I consented quickly. Due to Boston being my main focus for the first four months of this year, I was especially anxious about knocking out so many miles on a bike in a reasonable time. This was the IRONMAN after all!

Cheri had a friend of a friend who consented to take the swimming leg, so we were set. However, said swimmer backed out early on, so we were left with the task of finding a replacement — which we did. A dear friend of mine who has an extensive past history of swimming agreed to team up with us and start training. Alas, due to other constraints, she, too, had to bow out just a few weeks prior to judgment day. Fortunately, a mutual friend of both me and Cheri committed to participate with us. Her name is Anji, and she has a plethora of triathlon experience; we felt blessed to have her.

After reviewing the biking portion of the course in my mind and doing a little math, I sent Cheri a text message in late March, suggesting that I hoped to bike the 56 miles in 3 hours 45 minutes.

Fast biking has been a daunting thing for this girl, as I know many who have taken spills and broken bones. My bike is just an average, run-of-the-mill Trek bicycle which I purchased about five years ago at Al’s Sporting Goods in Logan, Utah. It gets me around in fine fashion, and I have never had justification to “upgrade” components and such. I know of some who have $10K invested in a bicycle! But as they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and, therefore, I am content with the “as is” status. One of my favorite friends on earth, Amber, is an avid biker and lives in Northern Utah, where winters are severe which make bike riding from October through March nearly impossible. Amber knows my leave-the-light-on policy with her, so on occasion she loads up her mountain and road bikes, then heads down south to visit us in Southern Utah. On one of these recent visits, she agreed to give the IronMan course a trial run with me. We set out on a Friday morning in cool temperatures but dealt with a strong wind which did not play in our favor. I managed a 52-mile ride that day, sending Amber on ahead of me through the climb in Snow Canyon to fetch her car at my house about 10 miles away. After a long 4-1/2 hour ride for me, she picked me up at a bike shop and drove me home. My hopes for a 3:45 time were dashed and I feared I would be a letdown to my teammates. But in hindsight, I am grateful we had to combat the wind that day because it proved good training for the wind at IronMan. It was the heat that many were unprepared for.

The day before the event, I scheduled a full-body massage with massage therapist Penny Cole, my first time under her skilled hands.

Totally relaxed, I went directly to the IronMan Village where I met up with my two other team members for check-in and packet pickup.

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We had a few questions to which we sought answers, but it seemed that as one was answered, another one cropped up. A group text message exchange went on throughout the day. Taking my packet and instructions, I then I loaded up my bike in my truck and drove to Sand Hollow for bike check-in. At that time, there were only several dozen bikes being racked, nothing in comparison to what it would be like the next morning. I cannot even compute the value of all of these bikes. The following two photos were taken race morning, courtesy of friend Tiffany (race participants were not allowed to have iPods or cameras as they were deemed a distraction, so I borrowed photos from others who were volunteers).

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I sent my teammates a photo pointing to our assigned spot, #4025, as if that would help.

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I always look for opportunities to make new friends, and in the course of bike check-in, I did just that. Meet “Cowboy,” who, I am told, is in charge of the IronMan as far as rules and regulations go. I will have to find out his real name, but he has vast knowledge about this event and was a great resource for details. Randomly, another athlete who was checking in his bike was wearing this year’s Boston Marathon shirt, and when told he could not take his dog into the caged area with his bike, I offered to take the leash and wait with his dog while he got his gear set up. We chatted briefly about the recent marathon, and I again realized what a small world it really is. It’s amazing to me how one item of clothing can trigger a conversation and unite two otherwise complete strangers.

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That night, I had the opportunity of attending a Brian Regan show at Tuacahn. I chose for my date (since Todd could not attend secondary to supporting his son’s graduation in Logan) the beautiful Joann, whom I met at the Boston Marathon but who is a local St. George girl and avid runner. Two thumbs up for Brian! Nonstop laughter was the order for the evening. It definitely served as a pleasant distraction so that my mind was not constantly on IronMan and worrying how it would unfold. Yes, I am a worrier.

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It was after 11:00 p.m. Friday night when I set my alarm for 4:20 a.m. and crawled between the sheets of my bed. Surprisingly, sleep came fairly easily and I fetched about 4.5 totals hours that night, which is double what I get most nights before an event such as this.

Arising at 4:20 a.m. Saturday morning, I quickly dressed in my biking garb, made a peanut butter and honey sandwich for breakfast, drank a protein shake, and headed to Town Square to catch a bus to Sand Hollow. It seemed wrong to be heading the opposite direction (6 miles to Town Square from my house heading west, with Sand Hollow about 7 miles from my house to the east), but riding the bus up was my only option. Unloading from the bus in the dark, I walked to the caged bike area and quickly spotted my dear friend, Tiffany, who volunteers at IronMan each and every year. She had a big black marker in hand, headlight on her head, and was calling out to athletes with offerings of body markings (writing their race number on their arms). If you could bottle the energy of a positive person, I would choose Tiffany; I am pretty sure that what I lacked in sleep was made up for with her enthusiasm as we exchanged 2 minutes’ worth of words. I love her so much. Her other task that morning would be stripping swimmers of their wetsuits as they climbed out of the water, and she has some great stories about that.

I quickly found Anji, and we documented our union in a couple of photos, seen here.

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Following her assistance with tire inflation, as well as reviewing team protocol, Anji left with the last wave of swimmers to embark into the cold water of Sand Hollow. Our assigned wave start time with the swim was 7:37 a.m. Runners have a 1:10 time limit or they DNF (did not finish), meaning they cannot move on to the next event. Anji claimed that she would need that entire time to complete her swim, though I was somewhat skeptical. Regardless, I got comfy in the staging area for the relay teams. We were instructed that we had to wait there for our swimmer (as opposed to wandering aimlessly around the racked bikes). It seemed like mere minutes had passed when I saw Anji running toward me in her full wetsuit, fussing with the zipper in the back. I quickly grabbed the timing chip that was secured via Velcro to her left ankle, shifted it to my left ankle, then ran (in my cleats) to my bike, hoisted it off the rack, and ran/walked it to the exit. We could not mount our bikes before a specific line on the ground. Once across that line, we had a green light (figuratively speaking) to hop on and pedal.

The wind had picked up considerably by this time. The relay teams were the last ones on the course, so it was as if I had some catching up to do. I found a comfortable rhythm just in time for the first big hill, at which point I shifted gears and powered up and over. Bikers pressed on to Hurricane, where at mile 12 we had our first Aid Station. Other than being somewhat rattled by witnessing a biker being strapped on a stretcher by ambulance personnel, I felt really good and opted to blast past the aid station, since I had sufficient water in my bottles and adequate bladder capacity to store the water I was ingesting.

We took a hard left and headed west on State Street in Hurricane, using the right lane of the eastbound traffic. Bikers were starting to spread out, and for every two bikers I passed, it seemed one passed me by. “On your left” was called out often. I felt great and looked forward to seeing my friend, Jason, at about mile 26; he was stationed there with his job (Washington County Sheriff’s Department). He is a great supporter, and his big smile and thumb up out the window of his driver’s seat gave me added energy.

It was fun to scan the crowds of spectators for familiar faces, many to whom I called out. I wish I could express adequately that spectators are a huge factor in any sports event, for without them we would have no reason to perform.

The wind behaved reasonably from our east-to-west angle of travel, but as soon as the course headed back east, the momentum became sluggish and progression came less effortlessly. With the Snow Canyon section looming just ahead, I knew I would have to put on my game face. If I had been wearing a baseball hat, I would have turned it around backwards. I stopped at the base of the hill at the last Aid Station and, with the assistance of brothers who were there volunteering and representing a local bike shop, I had fresh water in my bottle after emptying my bladder in the port-a-potty. The tailwind that followed us up the canyon was definitely heavenly. I imagined angels lining the sides of the road, cheering us on and offering words of encouragement. It reminded me so much of this mortal life as we plow through challenges in front of us, slowing us down but also making us stronger in the process. I was assured of the presence of angels when a particular butterfly fluttered around me for the two steepest miles of the five-mile climb. I actually called out to the butterfly, saying, “Granny! Thanks for coming. I knew you were going to be here with me — now help give me strength to get up this hill!” Many bikers had given in to the hill and were walking their bikes. In my mind, I had bargained that once I got to the top of the hill where it intersects with SR18, I could then relax and float downhill the last 11 miles to T2 where Cheri would be patiently waiting for me.

Boy, was I wrong.

The sense of accomplishment of rising to the hill’s top was short-lived, as immediately upon turning south, we were “hit” (it felt like, literally) with a fierce headwind. Where normally I would be able to coast downhill, I had to continue to pedal to keep forward motion. I have never had to grip my bike handlebars in such a manner before. “White knuckles” has an entirely new meaning. I passed a few bikers along the descent who had stopped along the side of the road, one of them even vomiting. The temperature had risen to mid 80’s, and combined with the wind, it was proving too much for some. I again realized how blessed I was to still be upright and closing in on my goal. However, those last 11 miles were the hardest miles on my bike in my life. I had run out of water but knew I had to hang on until T2. My watch revealed that I could possibly meet my goal of 3:45, and I was anxious to send Cheri on her way before the heat climbed any further.

I unmounted my bike in the designated section and then walked it into T2 and toward the relay racks, where I mounted it at #4025, then found Cheri sitting with other relay runners on a patch of grass under a shade tree. Apparently, the timing system had messed up and had indicated that I had completed my biking leg a full hour before I actually did, sending her into a panic and scrambling to get to T2 via her husband. I am sure that took a lot out of her, that added to the fact that her running shoes had been stolen out of her garage (among other things) in the days leading up to this event. She did not act rattled at all, however, as I wrapped the timing chip around her left ankle and sent her off on her 13.1 mile run in the heat and wind.

I walked my bike to my truck, loaded it up, then returned to the Athletes’ Village for some fruit and potato chips chased down by an ice cold cola drink.

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I had opportunity to chat with friend and ultra fast runner, Amber, in the food tent while sitting on the cool grass. Her relay team had nailed each leg, even with biker Steve taking a tumble on his bike. I checked my watch and then headed to the finish line for the next half hour where I waited for Cheri to run in. By that time, Anji had gone home and showered, then returned for the finale. I had a little time to call my mom, as promised, with an update on my status. Yes, she is a worrier, too. 🙂

Not long after finding a good spectating spot near the finish line, our runner girl Cheri came in with long strides and a smile on her face.

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We did it! We finished the IronMan 70.3 relay! Our summary breaks down like this:

SWIM (1.2 miles) = 50:11   BIKE (56 miles) = 3:46:17    RUN (13.1 miles) = 2:01:15

Below are the bike and run elevation charts, respectively.

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Our total team time, counting T1 and T2 (transitions), was 6:43:37.

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After our team dispersed, I connected with some of my favorite people in the world, Nicole and her mom, Sydney. They are like family to me. I admit that I missed having Todd with me to assure me and put my worries to rest, but I know he was where he belonged at son’s graduation at Utah State.

Participating in an IronMan event has been something I have always aspired to do. I dream that one day I could actually compete in one solo, but until then, I boast that my teammates were top-notch and nothing will alter the positive experience and the memories made on May 6, 2017. Will there be a sequel? Just wait and see…..

Boston Marathon 2017

Yesterday, while flying across the country from east to west, heading home from a five-day adventure, I jotted down some key topics that I wanted to touch on with this post. Without being too long-winded and boring the reader, I hope to accomplish my goal here of giving others an inside view to what running the Boston Marathon is like.

So, as you likely already know, one must “qualify” for Boston, meaning the Boston Athletic Association has set up a grid of qualifying times, depending on one’s age and gender. The female 50-54 age division requires a 4:00 or faster marathon time which has been run on a sanctioned course. It just so happened that I met that requirement at the St. George Marathon in October 2015 with a finish time of 3:57:18 — a whopping 2 minutes and 42 seconds to spare! Oddly, qualifying for Boston was not even on my mind that day. I was simply running my own race at my own pace. When I discovered that it was a BQ time, I discussed with my husband the option of getting registered and making a weekend out of it with him; he gave his consent. I received my acceptance notification from B.A.A. via email about a week after others (who had registered) had received theirs, so I honestly had discounted the idea that it would happen. You see, even though one may run a qualifying time, that is still not a guarantee of entry. There are so many people who are now qualifying and registering that B.A.A. has had to tighten up the requirements with faster times, and even then they skim off the top, meaning they accept the FASTEST times of those who qualified in each particular age division. My bib assignment was #23589, and my calculations lead me to believe that numbers went up to #23600 for those who were accepted (just 11 numbers shy of the cap); once again, I squeaked through.

All that being said, it did not mean this opportunity meant less to me. If anything, it meant far more. I made reservations for airline and hotel last November, then just waited patiently for the time to pass….

There is so much to tell about the entire marathon experience, let alone this experience on a BOSTON MARATHON level. This is the marathon of all marathons, the oldest in the country, celebrating its 121st year. Hence, it gets a lot of attention and lures world-class athletes who compete for the first-place status. I could go on and on about all that, but due to lack of time right now (I would refer reader to the B.A.A. website where all the history is revealed), I will cut right to the chase, so to speak.

As part of my race preparation, I had ordered a black tank top to wear. It is not just any ordinary tank top, though — no sirrreeee! This tank top boasts my running accomplishments to date which include 20 years, 40 marathons (including this one), over 200 races, and 24,901 miles (the circumference of the earth). That is featured on the front. On the back, I have listed the names of 26 friends and family members who are dear to me and who have influenced my life in a positive way. That list could have been extended to hundreds of names, but I chose immediate family members and close friends. Besides that, there was not room for more.

The names are arranged in a column down the middle of the back, looking somewhat like a spine, with the title at the top, BOSTON 2017.

I also chose to wear a pair of red compression socks to commemorate the Boston Red Sox baseball team; we were able to attend one of their games the day prior to the marathon — and they won. 🙂

Getting back to this story, Todd and I picked up my packet at the marathon expo. The packet contained my bib #23589, which was to be affixed to the front of my shirt. The bib also houses the chip which measures the time from start line crossing to finish line crossing. It did not matter that I was assigned to Wave 3, Corral 8, because my personal time only began when I crossed that starting line in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, on April 17, 2017.

I have to post credit here to the St. George Running Center owners Kendra and Steve, who have given back more to the community of St. George than they have taken away from it. One of their running shoes brands, New Balance, offered to make shirts for those of us running the Boston Marathon (see below photo). We met at the finish line last Saturday to take a group photo. These are some amazing athletes and people!

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The night before the race, I ate shrimp scampi which was delicious and so satisfying. I made a true effort to carbo-load starting the week prior. I tried to spare my legs from too many miles as we toured downtown Boston. I have to put in a plug here for my dear friend Conor, who dedicated his weekend to be our tour guide. He even took the day off work on Monday to spectate with Todd alongside the thousands and thousands of other spectators who lined the course on both sides for 26.2+ miles. Conor currently works in New York City but grew up on the outskirts of Boston, so he knew the ins and outs of the city. His knowledge and guidance were priceless.

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Another enormous helper was Tim, with whom I became acquainted via text messaging and Messenger. Tim, it turns out, has his own blog called thevoyageofdh.wordpress.com and started following my son’s blog (Tyson) which is drivetofive.com. Are you still with me? So because of Tyson’s blog, and because he lives in Boston, Tim learned of my pending trip and offered numerous suggestions of places to go, things to do, etc. He was a very valuable resource for us, and I regret that we were unable to connect during the three days we spent in Boston due to his activities or ours.

As per tradition, I set out my running attire the evening before, checking the items off my list in an effort to account for everything I might need. I left the hotel and took the train (Redline, inbound) to Park Street, where I disembarked and walked to Boston Common. It was there that I had arranged to meet up with Natalie, long-time friend and running buddy. We loaded up on one of the dozens of buses (hundreds, more like, maybe even thousands) that took approximately 32,000 runners to the starting line in Hopkinton. It was quickly obvious that the weather would play a role in our performance. It was at least in the high 60’s if not low 70’s when Wave 3, Corral 8 (packed tightly with energetic runners dressed in colorful apparel) was turned loose.  Prior to that moment, four of us (me, Natalie, Cheri, and Joann) had been caught up in the long porta-potty line and then temporary-tattoo-application table, not realizing that our Wave 3 runners had long since departed for their respective corrals. We literally ran to our corral to get ahead of the yellow-bibbed runners, those who had registered under the charity option.

And we were off. The first few miles of the course are downhill, which played in our favor. We maintained about a 9-minute mile pace, weaving in and out of other runners while at the same time keeping track of each other. Natalie had asked to run with me and when Cheri showed up at the runners’ village in Hopkinton, I was grateful, for I had considered running my own race (which I had planned to document as much as possible, and documentation takes time!). We lost Joann somewhere along the first few miles, then the three of us stuck together until mile 7. At that point, I felt that the pace was taking its toll on me, and I opted to linger longer at a water station and let Cheri and Natalie run on ahead (but only after a Facebook Live video).

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I had my phone on airplane mode up to this point in an effort to preserve the battery, but once I was solo, I kept in touch with Todd and Conor. I knew they were tracking me via my bib through an app the B.A.A. offered, but I also was coordinating with them the specific place where they planned to be along the course. They let me know that they would be at mile 14, just past Wellesley, on the left-hand side of the road.

The heat started to get to me — I mean really get to me — about an hour into it. We had a decent tailwind but I felt zapped to a level that I have never felt before. Feeling faint was my main complaint, and it required more-than-usual effort to lift my legs high enough without stumbling.

At precisely mile 13, I saw that I had missed a call from my parents. I called them back and my mom asked, “How was it?” She was not aware that this race had started later morning as per tradition. I got a little emotional as I described to her, “It’s really hard, mom! But Todd and Conor are just up ahead, and that is my focus right now.” I assured her of my love for her and ended the call with a promise for a full race report later. At mile 14.50 (but who is counting?) I called Conor in a panic, believing that I had somehow missed them. Seriously — this was highly possible due to the 3-deep people lining the sides of the streets. I was prepared to go back if I had to, but Conor said, “We’re just past the streetlight — keep coming, KEEP COMING!!!” And there they were at mile 14.65, on the left-hand side as promised, offering hugs, smiles, and encouragement. It was the boost I needed to press on.

Press on I did, though dizzy and somewhat delirious. My progress had slowed down considerably. I sent Todd a text message that I felt like I might pass out, and he ordered me to ingest some sugar stat. Now this is the truth: I pulled off the course briefly and walked over to a family gathering where there was a variety of food. I approached a young mother and asked if she could spare anything with sugar in it. She selected a mini muffin and handed it off to me. It was dried out and stale, but I ate it anyway. I also accepted offerings of other food items after that, like orange sections, Otter Pops, and…. beer, though I did not drink it (I did not realize it was alcohol until I got a whiff of it, and I don’t drink alcohol, even in dire situations such as that). At about mile 20, when I realized that I might be in trouble, I stopped at a medical tent to ask for something salty. I was given a paper cup full of pretzels, which I ate gratefully.

There were some fabulous distractions along the course, including spectators dressed up in costume.

Besides the 26 names on the back of my tank to think about, I was carrying with me a few tokens to remind me of the support from friends and family, one of them a quarter which I actually found on my last training run before Boston. As it was lying there on the road, it seemed to say, “Please, pick me up and take me with you to the Boston Marathon!” I know it was a sign from Granny (see my prior post) and of course I picked it up and took it with me. Coincidentally or not, I also found a quarter on the Boston Marathon course, and I am pretty sure it was my Aunt Marieta, reminding me that she was there to support me, too. Friends with me since the age of 10, Connie and Penny had mailed me some elasticized bracelets to wear during the race. It was their way of offering support. Let me also add here that they also offered monetary support — as in helped pay my way to Boston! And a band from Tia2 was proudly worn as well.

I admit that not all went as planned during the race. Besides the heat and probable dehydration, I also lost a valuable pin that my sister had provided for me to wear. It was a handmade clay pin of an artist holding a painting palette, about 1.5 inches tall and 1.5 inches wide. I pinned it to the upper strap on the left side of my tank top (as can be seen in pre-race photo above) but somewhere early on it must have decided to give running a try and worked its way off my top to the pavement below, only to be crushed (I imagine) by thousands and thousands of runners. Discovery of this fact made me sick inside, and I had to alert my sister of the bad news. She assures me that she is not upset and that she rather likes the story it made. I aim to make it up to her somehow, though. The blue corn is something that my grandson Beckam had colored and given me.

Another mishap was a house fire which we ran past at about mile 4 or 5. It appeared that the fire was accelerating quickly due to the black smoke billowing out of the garage and front door, and witnessing the family outside scrambling to get hoses hooked up to combat the fire was rather unsettling. I felt helpless and could not imagine how a fire truck could access their home, since runners spanned the road for miles elbow to elbow.

The last 10 miles are somewhat of a blur. I turned my music up loudly to try and drown out some of the spectators’ cheering which translated to a constant high-volume noise that was constant and unrelenting. I have a testimony about songs that match the moment I am in. But that’s a topic for a later blog. Music is a daily part of my life, and without it while running, I would suffer.

Realizing that I was on target to finish under 4:30, but still not able to resist documenting the experience via photographs and videos, I hastened my pace and disregarded the miserable state I was in as I focused on the finish line. The last turn of the course delivered us onto Boylston Street. I ran straight down the three blue stripes that were painted on the road, right smack-dab in the middle. I ran as fast as my tired legs could go. I ran past the places where the bombs had gone off four years prior, the bombs that killed three and wounded hundreds. I thought of my Pal Peg, who shares this blog with me (she was mere feet away from the first bomb near the finish line when it exploded on that fateful day in 2013). I thought of the power of love and the outpouring of support, not just by the people in this town called Boston, but also in our nation, a nation united! My watch revealed 4:31 when I crossed the finish line, and though I wanted to curl up in a ball and suck my thumb (I borrowed that line from Cory, a friend who inspires — he has a blog, also, called factory.com), I had Todd to find, for I knew he would take good care of me — and that he did and continues to do on a daily basis as I quickly recover to baseline. I am forever grateful for his patience and support of this passion of mine.

Now in hindsight, looking back two days since the marathon, there are a few thoughts that stand out. In no particular order, let me share some of them with you.

Support: You can’t even begin to imagine the enthusiasm of the spectators. It’s something that cannot be comprehended unless experienced personally.  Energy: It was palpable. It was infectious. Determination: Exhausted runners who resorted to walking were set on finishing regardless of the time clock. Camaraderie: The common bond between runners was unmatched. Complete strangers joined up to spend a few hours together with the same goal, leaving behind their differences. Passion: There was such a sense of dedication which earned all of these athletes the privilege of participating in the Boston Marathon.

Finally, a short video which I took of the spectators just before turning the corner onto Boylston Street and down the final stretch. Can you feel the love, too?

( video to be added when my son can help me this weekend)

I had earlier vowed that this would be my last full marathon, but since there is going to be another party on the St. George Marathon course this October, I had to submit and register! Look out St. George Marathon, here we come!

Happy trails!