Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Lifetime of Fitness

A friend of mine posted a question yesterday on Face Book...What does lifetime fitness mean to you?  That question got me to thinking because I know I WANT it, but I wasn't exactly sure how to put it in words.  Being a verbal processor, I'm doing what I always do when I don't know how to answer a question...I "talk" until I figure it out!

My answer yesterday was:   
To me it's about balance. Balanced nutrition, balanced workouts (to include appropriate rest). It means not focusing on a short term goal (a specific race or losing weight for an event) means adopting fitness as a lifestyle for a lifetime.
Not a bad start...but as usual, I have more to say than would be socially acceptable in a Face Book post.

I can remember the first time I thought about fitness.  I was in the Army (Arkansas Army National Guard to be more accurate).  I was going to be going away to Basic Training for eight weeks and I had heard it would be physically grueling.  I started going to the gym with my dad.  I did sit ups using a bar (by the way--that really works your quads in can you were wondering!).  I worked out with some machines.  I may have even jogged around the indoor basketball courts (13 laps made a mile but I'm sure I lost count and never made it even that far).  The work outs where at best sporadic.

When I got to Basic, I didn't have a choice about fitness.  They say after 21 days of doing something it becomes a habit.  Well, I think that's wrong, PT (physical training) did NOT become a habit.  You know, come to think of it, maybe it would have been a habit--to go work out with a group of about 180 women with drill sergeants yelling commands of what to do next--if I had stayed in that environment.  But I didn't.  I went home.

We were required to pass a PT test (so many push ups and so many sit ups in a two minute period for each exercise and a 2 mile run in a certain amount of time).  I barely passed mine every time I had taken it, and always with someone's help.  Out of the whole time I was in the military, there was only one time during that period of my life I self-motivated.  I was running pretty much every day-trying to increase my two-mile time speed by running two miles (not the best plan, but better than nothing at all).  Then...I got married and suddenly getting out of bed wasn't as easy as it was when I was single.

Not mine, but exactly like it!
From that point until a year ago I was an on-again/off-again (mostly off again) exerciser.  I remember joining a gym after my son was born.  When he was a year old I had gotten back down to my pre-baby weight....and then I got pregnant again.  After my daughter was born, I tried to go back to the gym, but the child care there was less than sub-standard.  So, I bought a Jane Fonda video tape, complete with an aerobic step!!  When that one got old, I bought several other tapes.  Then...we moved to a much smaller house with no room to do my grapevines and step-kicks across the floor! 

So, I started walking...when it was nice outside, and when my husband could watch the kids, and when I didn't have anything else that needed to be done (read: I wanted to do it more than I did).  I had just about gotten into a good routine of walunning (walking more than running) about four times a week...then I got divorced.  It took a couple of years for life to settle back down.  I got remarried, and joined another gym.  I went regularly, until I lost the weight I wanted to lose.  After that I went sporadically.  Then...we moved.

At that point I got a very stressful job.  Just at the time I needed exercise the most, there weren't enough hours in the day for it.  I had two children, a step-son, and a job that took more time than I had.  I convince my husband we needed to buy an elliptical.  It was the cheapest, smallest (read: useless) one I could find (I think it was $175 from Sears!).  I may have used it a couple of times.  Maybe.  A few years later a friend sold us a (REALLY NICE) dreadmill.  I think the kids used it more than I did...until I went through my second divorce.

I started walunning about four miles pretty much every day (sometimes twice a day)....for about a year or so.  Then...I moved a couple of times, met my current husband (he's a keeper BTW)...and got out of the habit.  About the time I got married for the third and final time, I joined a gym and hired a personal trainer.  I worked out with him for 12 weeks....and loved to hate him.  As soon as my time with him ended, I pretty much stopped going to the gym.  Then...I moved, again.  I stopped exercising with any consistency and I gained weight. 

I had gotten up to what was just about my heaviest non-pregnancy weight when I took the best job I've ever had in my life---HOMEMAKER!!  That was a year ago January...  Once again, I set a goal-to run a marathon in December of the same year.  I found a training plan, and started following it.

Little did I know that somewhere along the way (I'm not exactly sure when it happened)...exercise went from being a means to an end to being the end itself!  It's part of my life now.  Yes, I'm "always" training for a race, but that isn't why I exercise.  I do it because when I don't I feel like something is missing.  It's not a habit, it's part of my life.  It's very much like brushing my teeth.  I might go to bed with out brushing, but I don't go a whole day without it.  Even when I don't feel like it, I do it anyway because I know it's good for me and I'll feel better afterward.

When I sat down to write this I thought I hadn't really had a lifetime of fitness...but the truth is I've had a lifetime trying to figure it out.  I've wanted to have it in my life, but it usually revolved around a specific goal (mainly losing weight, or more recently running a marathon), that had an end.  As it is now, I can't imagine a time in my life that I will not be doing some form of exercise.  I love it.  I love what it does for my body, my mind, my spirit. 

It's a way of life, a way of life I love.

Thanks for stopping in!  Come again soon!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hood to Coast--Little Did I Know

I remember the first time I heard about the Hood to Coast race.  I thought it was some kind of cross country thing (like literally across the country-from the Hood (NYC) to the coast (LA)).  Don't ask me why, I have no idea.  That's just what came to mind when I heard about it.  Little did I know I would soon become well acquainted with the race.

Then, quite some time later, I was listening to The Marathon Show as the host, Joe Taricani, interviewed the director of the Hood To Coast movie.  I knew right then an there I would eventually run the race.  Little did I know just a short week after the movie premiere I would be forming a Hood to Coast team!!

Let me back up just a bit.  When I heard the movie was going to play at a local theater, I bought my ticket.  Even though it snowed a few days before the show (making roads icey enough most locals didn't want to leave their houses) my running buddy/neighbor/friend, Turtle, being from Ohio, agreed to drive us to the single-night showing.  As we watched, I could feel her excitement for the race surpassing my own.  When I told her I "planned" on running the race "one day" she quickly told me she was in.  Little did I know she was a make-it-happen kind of gal.  Within 24 hours, the event became much more than just a race.

I thought the only way to enter the race was by sending in a registration a year in advance and then hoping to be picked for the lottery.  Little did I know, there is also a guaranteed way to be entered into this race as a first-time raising $15,000 for American Cancer Society.  (The money is raised a year before the actual race.)  Turtle, being the visionary I have come to realize she is, decided this goal was certainly achievable, if we could come up with a team.  Little did she know, I knew THAT was something I could certainly make happen.  In less than a week...we had a joined with twelve other Huntsville women as passionate about fighting cancer as they are about running (we have a team of 12 plus two alternates).

There have been a couple of changes, but this is most of the team...

We are:

In the next year and a half you'll hear quite a bit more about the team, the race, and my training.  In the mean time, check out our team blog, Journey to the Hood, read about who we are and who we're running for.  While you're at it...why not go ahead and MAKE A DONATION to American Cancer Society or even join our team (in our efforts to fight cancer, not to run the race-we had to cap that at 12!).

Thanks for stopping in, come again soon!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I am David O'Keefe

The overall winner of last year's McKay Hollow Madness was David O'Keefe.  He won by well over five minutes!!

I have the pleasure of knowing David and have been trying to casually ask him questions about his race strategy without making it seem I am pumping him for information.  But, he's one of those, "I just go out and run as hard as I can" kind of people who make it seem so easy.  Like there's no planning involved or necessary...just RUN.  ((Now, I don't know if that's really how he thinks because I've never come out and asked him...but that's my impression anyway.))

So the other day while running trails, trying to familiarize myself with the course, among the mantras of "I am a billy goat.  I am a hurdler." and "I CAN.  I WILL" I also found myself repeating (more times than I really care to admit), "I am David O'Keefe!!"

I felt like I was really saying (pause the music and press play)

Amazingly enough, just saying it made me feel like I was running faster!!  Like I said in yesterday's post, I don't believe in mantras.  And, let me be very clear, I don't really believe I'm bat...I mean David O'Keefe.  I didn't fall and hit my head...

To me, "I am David O'Keefe" isn't about winning the race...Again, I have no delusions of winning McKay (even female masters) (this year...).  It's about much more than that.  David is a genuinely good person who loves the Lord.  He works hard at everything he does, whether that's his job, leading Bible study, being a husband and father, mission work, or running.

"I am David O'Keefe" is a representative conglomeration of ideas I'm coming to believe about myself.  The idea I really can run faster and stronger than I have in the past...the idea I can run with more confidence...the idea I can run in such a way someone else might look at me and think "You make it look easy"...the idea running can be a part of who I am but not take away from who I am in Christ.

There's no doubt in my mind I'll use this phrase again during the race, but don't expect to see THIS David O'Keefe at the finish line around the 2 hour time window...I'll be a hurdling billy goat muttering under my breath, "I CAN.  I WILL." about the time the real David O'Keefe is getting his award! 

Thanks for stopping in...come again soon!  :D

What Comes First, The Apple or the Seed?

I've never been a big fan of mantras.  I believe in transformation from the inside out; as I think therefore I am.  Or, as my husband likes to say, "actions and emotions flow out of core beliefs."  I don't believe a person can repeat words enough to change what they truly believe.  I think it takes stepping out in faith on an idea (or, said differently, taking action on a thought) until that idea becomes a deeply held core belief.

Let me give you a real life example.  When I was young, I fell off a rope swing in my back yard.  It wasn't high up, but the fall was enough to knock the wind out of me.  For the next 15 or so years, I became increasingly afraid of heights.  It finally got to the point I couldn't be on my first husband's shoulders (he is 6'5") without having a near panic attack (even in a swimming pool!).  Until the fear manifested into a phobia, I would have told anyone I was NOT afraid of heights...but my actions told a vastly different story.  My deeply held core belief was that it was not safe to be high up because I might fall.  Saying I wasn't afraid didn't change what was going on inside of me much less my behavior.  The only thing that would change it, was action.  (I have a degree in psychology...I had learned about desensitization.)

So...armed with the idea there was nothing to fear about being high up, I began to step out (or in this case UP) on that idea...testing it out if you will.  Now, if I had fallen and gotten hurt, my fear would have most likely solidified.  However, as it were, after some time, I was eventually able to take a job as an insurance adjuster (read: climb many tall and/or steep roofs in a single day!)....and even skydive!  It wasn't the act of SAYING I wasn't afraid, but the ACTION of acting as if I wasn't, until I truly wasn't.

So, I'll say it again, I just don't buy into "mantras".  I will never win a race by saying "I can win, I will win"....unless I already believe it's possible.  However, having said all that...I think mantras can have an impact on the "stepping out in faith" phase of the process.

For the longest time I could not (would not) believe I had earned the right to be called a "runner".  I didn't think I had run long enough, fast enough, far enough, well enough.  Even in yesterday's post I said I "still have doubts I am a runner."  However, the truth is, my actions are showing otherwise.  I run.  I coach.  I (for the most part) don't quit at the first sign of fatigue.  I do believe I am a runner, or I would not run.

I can't say when the real turning point was...but I think it may have been when I came back from (almost) five weeks off.  Even my husband couldn't believe I didn't quit.  I couldn't keep holding onto the belief I wasn't a runner because the fact was undeniable ...I was in fact running.  The continued ACTION of doing the thing has (almost) solidified it in me. 
Scottish Thistle-hardest weed to kill

There are still times, however, the old (long-held) belief of "I can't run" pops back out like a deeply rooted weed.  It's in those times the mantra of "I AM A RUNNER" can help-- but only if coupled with the ACTION of continuing to run.  It's the ACTION that is doing the real work, but I think repeating the mantra while in action helps dig out that root of doubt and allows the fruit of the truth to grow.

I didn't think all this through the other day before (or during) my trail run...but as I said in yesterday's post, I did actually use a few mantras on that run.  In addition to "I am a billy goat" and "I am a hurdler"...there were two others I repeated over and over.  One I'll devote a whole post to, tomorrow.  The other one was "I CAN.  I WILL." 

The idea I'm about to (a) run the longest distance I've gone so far, while at the same time (b) running a VERY HARD trail race is daunting to say the least.  I have had doubts I can finish.  Beyond that, I've had doubts I can/will finish well.  I'm not saying I think I have any shot at WINNING even female masters.  Competition is tough.  (There are no age group awards.)  However, I want to believe I CAN/WILL not only finish, but finish well.

The action of running strong (which I certainly did the other day, and have all the times I've been on those trails recently) coupled with the mantra "I CAN.  I WILL." is (hopefully) driving out the old belief of "I can't.  I won't."  The new belief came first...otherwise I would never even try.  It might have been a seedling of a thought at first, but when fertilized with the action of stepping out in faith -acting as if the belief were true- the seedling can grow into an apple tree full of fruit. 

"Finish" doesn't have multiple meanings, but "finish well" certainly has a variety of "flavors" (some more widely loved than others).  But, for the moment...I'll continue to nurture the apple tree of belief that I CAN and I WILL finish McKay Hollow, and finish well.
Apple tree-to-be

I'll write about my favorite mantra from the run, tomorrow.  Until then...tell me what you think?  Do you use mantras?  Are they words you already truly believe but need a little reminding in the moment?  Or are they just encouragements for moments of struggle ("beer at the finish line", "run to eat"...)? 

Thanks for stopping in, come again tomorrow...for the rest of the story!  :D

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I am a Billy Goat!

It's funny to me to think I have run 13.1 straight miles, but still have doubts I am a runner.  I wonder how far or how fast I will have to go before I convince myself once and for all I can do it?? 

Yesterday I made significant progress toward that end.

As much as I love road races and people on the course and cheerleaders urging me toward the finish line....I love trail running.  I love the challenge of varied terrain.  I love all the sounds (squirrels running through the leaves, woodpeckers pounding on trees, my water bottle sloshing in it's carrier).  I would love to say I like the sights, but the only times I've taken a look around during a run the only sight I really remember is what the ground looks like as I nearly plant my face in it!  (That's one reason I like to hike the trails I run because that's my opportunity to take it all in.) 

In less than two weeks I'm running what I believe is one of the toughest trail races in the state, the McKay Hollow Madness 25K ....and I'm NOT ready.  I haven't put in quite enough trail miles (or any kind of miles for that matter) and I haven't seen the whole course.

So, yesterday, I decided to venture out on parts of the course I hadn't really been on before (hiked parts of it, but I've never run on them).  I had just enough time to go out two miles and come back.  It looked like it would rain any second so I left my phone in the car (something I NEVER do when I run alone-what if I fall and break my ankle?).  I figured I'd rather limp in with a broken ankle than have to replace my phone because the bottom dropped out of the sky.  The only reason I wish I had taken it (since the sun came out about a quarter mile later) was all the missed photo ops!  (However, it was the best thing that could have happened because stopping to take pictures would have broken my rhythm to pieces!)

My strategy for McKay is to run when I can, and let the times the trail is unrunable be my recovery.  There are stretches of the course that will certainly challenge this plan.  Not only are there are some long runable sections out there, the meaning I'm assigning to "runable" is changing!  A few months ago I wouldn't have tried to run on the very rocky parts but yesterday my mantra (among others) became "I AM a billy goat"!!  I realized about the time the run was over that it should have been "I am a MOUNTAIN goat...but whatever, the mantra worked.  I found myself running "top speed" across some pretty rocky path. 

At one point I was running down hill on what looks to be some kind of creek bed that is basically all rock.  I set my mantra on replay in my mind.  I could feel myself start to lose control just a bit, but I didn't want to slow down (I don't think I could have at that point, momentum had taken over) so I put a mental picture in my head of goat being chased by a mountain lion!!!  As I made it safely to the end of the descent (which was not very far at all), I just started to laugh out loud at the hilarity of it all.  I think that's another reason I like trail running so much--no one is watching me and I can go into full-on dork mode!!

When I came to the first downed tree (BIG tree, lots of branches-no way to go around it) first thought was to come out and take a chain saw to it in order to clear the path.   Then I thought better of that idea...plenty of the competition will not be expecting this and will lose some time navigating the obstacle.  So I devised a plan of attack to get over it as quickly as possible (this is why I want to know the course!).  I also checked my watch and made a mental note of how far this tree is from the aide station (to give myself an idea of how long it would be until I could take a breather)! 

As I got over it and continued running...I came upon another downed tree!!  In that short 2 mile strip there were no less than four downed trees!!!  Most of them were just the trunk over the path so, instead of being discouraged, I just changed my mantra to "I am a hurdler!"

Thanks for stopping in, come again soon!  (More mantras to come!) 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Finishing the Mardi Gras Half

So...where did I leave off?  Mile 8ish was really hard until I saw Team Hoyt.  Seeing them didn't make the running easier, but it took my mind away from what I was feeling (physically speaking).  I went back to watching people, reading signs, cheering the crowd and thanking volunteers.

When I passed over the 10 mile mat, I cheered for myself because I had no doubts at that point I would finish well.  I only had a 5K to run.  I told myself I was nice and warmed up for my 5K race and I could turn up the speed now....or maybe I would wait until I got to mile 12.  About that time a woman said, "HOLY *&$@, WE JUST RAN 10 MILES!!"  I had to laugh.  We got to talking and I found out this was her first half and she had never run this far before.  She owns a gym in north Louisiana and leads groups similar to No Boundaries.  Most of the people in her group are straight off the couch, working on running their first 5K.  She was FULL of way more energy than she should have been at mile 10.  She asked me what I thought about her turning up her speed.  I told her she really did have a lot of energy, but my honest opinion (which was worth nothing since I didn't know anything about her) was that she should wait just a little longer to pick it up, then kick in a sprint the last little bit.  At the same time, she could slowly increase from here on out.

She opted for the latter, and I opted to stay with her.  My pace went steadily down throughout miles 11, 12, 13 and the finish.  However, I went from being happy and chatty, cheering spectators and thanking volunteers to a non-speaking heavy breather.  Mile 11 was spent speaking in short phrases.  Mile 12 was spent focusing on breathing and picking my knees up--FORM, FORM, FORM...BREATHE.  Thankfully my new found friend still had the energy to chat it up!!  When the "conversation" died--because I lost my ability to hold up my end--we were joined by another girl who asked us to please keep talking because she was using our chat to keep herself going.  She said she had opted to wait in the port-o-potty lines in the beginning like I did so she was one of the last people to start.  This was her first half.  She had spent the entire race trying to catch up to her training group (who started a few corrals ahead of her).  She had passed a few of them, but still hadn't met up with the bulk of her group.  She said all this in phrases, but much longer strings of words than I could form.  I knew she already had a better time than I did and obviously had more energy left than I did.

Around mile 12.5 I told them they obviously had more in their tanks than I did and they should go on without me, pick up their pace because the race was almost over and they both wanted to give it all they had.  They tried to get me to hang with them...but I knew I was holding them back so I told them to press on.  I thought about trying to keep them in sight and throw in my kick at the end...but I was running on fumes by that point.  Once they were out of sight (which took mere seconds) my pace dropped a bit.  I knew I only had less than half a mile to go...but I seriously didn't know if I would make it!!  I started telling's less than six minutes.  You can do anything for six minutes...and this is less.

And...then...I saw them.  The "GO Friend" girls!!  I tried to smile and cheer my "friends"...but all I could think was "don't puke in front of all these people before you even make to the finish!"  Then I saw the "RUN Kay-Kay! ALMOST THERE" guy. (Knowing it was an investment that would "certainly" yield a return) I mustered every ounce of energy I had  and screamed to be heard over all the cheering, "YES, I AM ALMOST THERE!!! I AM!!"  That carried me all of about half a tenth of a mile of a mile.  My mind started playing tricks on me, telling my body it wasn't going to make it.  Things like "the finish line is too far away..." and "what do you think you are doing out here" and "you know you aren't going to make it" kept playing over and over. 

I was out of "tricks".  Cheering the crowd wasn't working (much less happening), there wasn't enough time for Gu, I couldn't even remember what form was much less focus on it, I couldn't "disassociate" because leaving my body took more energy than what I had left!! 

And then I saw HIM.  My husband.  His bald head.  His goatee.  His big ole smile.  He cheered for me.  I looked at him and prayed I wouldn't throw up because he had the camera pointed at me!!  I wanted to smile at him, I just couldn't.  But seeing him and knowing my daughter (and her friend) where close by infused me with the little bit of strength I needed to get to the finish line.   As soon as I saw it, a guy in a purple shirt FLEW past me sprinting for the finish.  I wasn't very nice to him in my mind.  So sorry guy in the purple shirt.  But, somehow I found a reserve I didn't know I had and kicked in my own burst for the finish!!  (I finished with a pace of 6:45!!) 

2:19:14.  An almost 20 minute PR.

A volunteer put a medal around my neck, I had my picture taken (and had recovered enough to pose!)...and started looking for food.  I LOVE post race bananas!!  Seriously, I do.  That's when I finally saw my daughter and her friend.  They had seen me cross the finish daughter was so excited I had broken 2:20...and so proud of me that it didn't matter her friend still couldn't understand why all these people would run a race they had no chance of winning!

We spent the day walking around New Orleans (which I think seriously helped me not be sore)...and EATING fantastic food.  I allowed myself to have what ever I wanted to the rest of the trip--crawfish and cheese, gumbo, biegnets, ice cream, Aunt Sally's pralines, BREAD!!!  Thankfully the "hangover" wasn't as bad as I feared it would be.  A week later I would say it wasn't worth it, but it sure felt like it was at the time that good food was going in my mouth!

The whole trip was amazing.  The apartment we rented, the neighborhood, the race, the food.  I have loved New Orleans since the first time I visited (about 25 years ago).  There's no doubt they are going to be feeling the effects of Katrina for years to come, and may not ever fully recover without some scars...but the town has an artesian well of spirit that will not ever run dry, no matter how much water is dumped on them.  I think I was somehow able to tap into that spirit at the finish line!!

Thanks for stopping in, come again soon.  (I'll post pictures soon.)  :D

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Where'd You Get Those Beads??

I can't believe it's been two weeks since the Mardi Gras Half.  Time flies.

A year ago I was worried about trying to run 3.1 miles without walking.  Mercifully that race was shortened down to 1.6 miles or I never would have made it...and even then it took me 19 minutes and 41 seconds to get it done (an average pace of 11:51).  In New Orleans I ran 13.1 miles in 2:19:14 (average pace of 10:38).  I'm not writing that to brag, I'm writing that to remember!!  Wow.  I really did that.

I went into the race believing I would either not be able to finish, or end up walking.  I had made peace with anything that might happen, knowing I had not run enough miles to feel properly prepared.  At the same time, I wanted to run the whole thing.  Even though there were a lot of my friends at the same race, I intentionally didn't meet up with anyone at the start.  I wanted to simply run my own race and see what would happen.

We walked to the start from the apartment we rented.  Although it was only a couple of miles away, it took us a LONG time to get over there.  It was such a beautiful morning we stopped several times to take pictures.  I knew it was chip timed, so I decided before hand to just NOT stress about anything-even if I was the last person to cross the start line, that's when my time would begin.  I was glad for that when I saw the lines for the port-o-potties!!  Holy blue water, Batman--the day before at the expo I made a remark about there being plenty of them...boy was I wrong!!  Long story short, I didn't cross the start line until about 30 minutes after the horn blew!  But, I sure didn't have to stop along the way!  (Very good decision to continue to wait in that line!)

When I registered I guessed at my finish time (2:20---how close was that, huh?) so I was assigned the 14th coral, however, I really started with 19/20.  I can't say how much I appreciate a staggered start.  Even though I started pretty far back in the pack, with walkers and a lot of "intervalers" I really didn't have a hard time dodging people at all.  I did pass A LOT of people along the way, and played leap-run/walker with a lot of people, but there was only one time in the whole 13.1 miles that I had an issue with being stopped by someone in front of me--and that was at a water table.  I think, overall, it was a very well-run event.

I had signed up for runner tracking-something RnR does where they text people (who you put on a list beforehand) with your splits at 5k, 10k, 10 mile and then the finish.  I also wore my phone and had set up my "Map My Fitness" app to tweet my mile splits.  As I was running I had the sense that all "my people" would be "watching" me so the few times I wanted to slow down I kept on going so I wouldn't let anyone down.  The truth is, no one who was "watching" cared even a fraction of what I cared.  I don't mean that in a bad way, I just mean I would have been the only one "let down" if I had slowed.  However, the feeling of having a personal audience was very motivating!!

One of these days I want to wear a video camera on my head so I can capture the entirety of a race.  I just don't have the mental capacity to remember all that I would like to after I'm done running.  There were costumes, and signs, and people I saw along the route that added so much to the already amazing experience of running 13.1 miles in New Orleans....but I just can't independently recall them all.  There were several people with signs who somehow made it to several points along the route.  The course was NOT spectator guess is that was somewhat intentional so they could manage traffic a bit.  But, because of that I didn't expect to see my family at all until the finish.  So, seeing the same couple of groups of people several times on the course brightened my run immensely (probably more than seeing a bunch of strangers should).  The reason I think it helped was because of my inclination to cheer the spectators as much as (sometimes more than) they cheer the random runners!

One group had a sign that said something like "Run Kay-Kay! ALMOST THERE!!".  The funniest thing about that sign?  The first time I saw it was about mile THREE!!  I yelled out, "I sure wish I was Kay-Kay!!"  I said pretty much the same things when I saw them at miles 7 and 10!!  But when I saw them at mile 13, I just about cried and yelled out as loud as I could "YES!!! I AM ALMOST THERE!!".  Another group had a sign cheering on three different people (Go Julie, Go Sally, Go Barbie....) and they had added "Go FRIEND"!  I cheered my heart out saying "HEY THERE FRIEND!!  IT'S ME--I'M 'FRIEND'!!!"  They loved it and cheered their hearts out for me.  Seeing them three more times really was like seeing my good buddies out there cheering for me!!

But, those weren't the best two signs I saw.  One of my favorites was held by someone having what looked like a big party in her front yard.  Let me back up just a minute....the roads we were running on were completely closed.  They had posted signs stating they were going to be closed, and there would be NO street parking the day of the race.  If you've ever been to NOLA you know that parking is a premium....and EVERYONE parks on the street.  The partyer's sign...."I got my car towed for YOU!!"  There were about 5-7 people out there drinking (at 8ish a.m.) and cheering for all of us as we ran by.  I couldn't help it, I had to tell her thank you!!!!  She wasn't mad, she was happy and yelled back "you're welcome!!!".  It was awesome.

But I think my favorite was a sign held by a little boy that same something like "GO complete stranger GO!!"  I cheered for him and said "Thank you for being out here cheering for ME!!!"

There were spectators the ENTIRE route.  I loved every minute.  But...the best moment came when I unexpectedly saw MY family!!!  Because they had been getting my tweets, they knew exactly where I was and were able to catch me at about mile eight (maybe?).  I almost broke down crying I was so happy to see them out there!!  I didn't see them again until the finish line...but by that point I was running on fumes and couldn't even muster enough enthusiasm to smile.  (In fact I was praying I would throw up because I saw my husband holding the camera up taking video and I didn't want THAT captured on film!)

I took some Gu with me, and more or less forced myself to take one about every 40 minutes.  I like them, but at the same time I always get worried about ...intestinal distress...  Let me just tell you...if there was any doubt in my mind if Gu makes a difference, this race wiped it out completely.  I could feel myself wearing down but a few minutes after taking the Gu (5 or so), I had a noticeably renewed pep in my step!  I also made sure to take in fluid.  I stopped only one time at a water table...the other times I ran by someone holding out a cup and filled my Amphipod.  The one time I stopped was because there wasn't a person holding a cup, so I had to go to the table, and I ended up getting a little boxed in.  I added 1/2 a Nuun tablet to very other bottle of water.

Mile eight was hard.  I can't quite put my finger on why, but I kept mentally counting...8-9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 13.1.   Over and over and over until I heard music.  At first I thought it was coming from the French Market, but I kept hearing it long after we had passed that area.  Even though it was getting louder I knew it wasn't one of the bands who dotted the race course, because it was radio type music, not live type music.  Then I saw where it was coming from....Team Hoyt.  (At least I'm pretty sure that's who it was-not like I interviewed them as I was running, but people around me were talking, saying that's who it was.  But, that race is not on their calendar, and neither of their names appear on the results I can't be completely sure.  But if it wasn't them, they have twins.)  For anyone who hasn't seen any of the videos, grab the tissue and watch their story below (don't forget to pause the music player before you press play on the video).  I'll finish my race recap in the next post because there's no way I can follow this!!  (The first five minutes is their story from the Today Show...the second five is a video.  It's worth 10 minutes of your time-you're life will be touched.)