May 20, 2016

Notable Race Experiences

Today is the four-year anniversary of running my first marathon. Can you believe it's been four whole years?! I wish it had been a better experience, but if I'm being honest, it was one of the worst race experiences I've had since becoming a runner. It was 85 degrees with 100% humidity that day, and I was on the course for nearly 5-1/2 hours.

I was dealing with a knee injury, and it was causing me problems throughout the whole race. I lost my running partner, Jessica, during the first mile or so (we reunited at mile 20, which was awesome). Due to the heat, I was taking in much more water than normal, and I wound up with terrible stomach cramps in the last 10K of the race--which led to a long bathroom stop in a porta potty that felt like a sauna. Let's just say that I was thrilled when it was over!

Thankfully, I've only had a few races that have been miserable, though. The majority of my races have been good experiences, and a few have been amazing. In honor of the anniversary of my first marathon, I thought I'd reflect back on some more notable races over the last six years.

Most Memorable Races:

1. Shamrock 'n' Roll 10K (3/17/2013)-- This remains my "most shocking" race result. Prior to this race, I'd only run a handful of sub-8:00 miles, and that pace wasn't even on my radar that day. I was expecting to finish the 10K in around 53:00, maybe 52:00 if I was feeling good. The race had pacers, and I started between the 52:00 and 55:00 pacer. I will NEVER forget that heart-stopping moment when I was at mile 4.5, and I saw a pacer ahead of me--and I realized it was the 50:00 pacer! Never, in my wildest dreams, did I imagine running a sub-50:00 10K. I made it a mission to catch up to him, and I finished in 49:23.

2. Rockford Half-Marathon (5/19/2013)-- This race is memorable because I had to keep it a secret until the day before the race! My sister had gotten into running because of my virtual 5K, and after that virtual race, she decided to keep training for longer distances. By May, she was ready to run her first half-marathon. She lives in Illinois, and I'd told her that I wasn't able to be at her race. She was disappointed that she'd have to run it alone, and it was SO hard not to tell her that I was planning to show up and run it with her! Shawn (her husband) and I worked out all the logistics, and I arrived on Saturday morning. The surprise went off perfectly, and I ran the race with Jeanie. She crushed her goal time of 2:30, and I loved being there to see her do it!

3. Lake Cadillac Team Marathon+ 10K (6/22/2014)-- This race was part of an impromptu road trip that Jerry and I took in the summer of 2014. I was looking for a local race, and came across this one (not exactly local, however--it was a four-hour drive). We decided on Friday night to go ahead and make the trip up there on Saturday, spend the night, and run the race on Sunday. It was so spontaneous! This race was unique because it had such a small-town vibe. It was kind of old-school, but that added to the charm of the race. The course was GORGEOUS, and Jerry and I ran the 10K together, without any time goal. It was a blast! (So much fun, in fact, that we're going to repeat the trip this year).

4. Escape to Belle Isle 5K (7/19/2014)-- This was a very special race to me because it was my boys' first 5K! My mom even came with us (Jerry had to work) so we had a fun morning. Eli stuck with my mom through the race, and I ran with Noah. To the kids, a 5K seemed nearly impossible, and we chose to do a run/walk method. Noah did great, and even though it was very difficult for him, I was SO proud to watch him cross the finish line! A few minutes after we finished, we got to watch my mom and Eli finish. I couldn't have been a prouder mom that day, truly. It made me wish I'd started running at the boys' age.

5. Detroit Free Press International Half Marathon (10/18/2015)-- The race that wasn't really meant to be. I'd signed up to run the full marathon with Thomas, who would be coming all the way from Portland to do it. Due to my stress fracture, I had to back out of the full. Since I was still able to walk, though, I decided to drop to the half-marathon and walk it. Jerry, who had been planning to be a cheerleader that day if Thomas and I were to run the full, decided to walk it with me. I don't remember anything that we talked about during the race, but we had a blast chatting and pointing out scenery along the way. It was AWESOME. We even had a shot of bourbon during the race! Even though I was bummed to have missed the marathon, everything worked out well.

6. Blooms to Brews 10K (4/10/2016)-- Even though this was just a six weeks ago, I had to include it as one of my most memorable. I spent half a year working on my goal for this race! It was because of this race that I dropped back down to my goal weight (and beyond) and took my 10K pace from 11:00/mile to 7:54/mile. I busted my ass to get to the starting line of this race, and even though I didn't have a blast during the running itself, I was THRILLED to have met my goal!

Some other notable stuff...

My current personal records:
5K- 24:51
10K- 49:03
Half-marathon- 1:52:07
Marathon- 4:16:38

My Top 4 Favorite Race Courses:

1. Detroit Free Press Marathon- This course is AMAZING. You go over the Ambassador Bridge into Canada, and run along the riverfront, then run under the Detroit River through a tunnel back into the U.S. In Detroit, my favorite part is Indian Village, which has these amazing houses on a tree-lined street (the trees are changing color for fall). This is my all-time favorite course of any race I've done! And I'm not just being biased ;)

2. Lake Cadillac Team Marathon+ -- This race goes around a small lake, and the perimeter is 6.9 miles. It's very flat, and the lake is beautiful. The "team" part of the marathon is due to the race being more of a relay method (not required, but that was the inspiration for the race). Four-person teams run the perimeter of the lake (the first loop is short, and then the other three loops are the full 6.9 miles). Each team member gets to experience the loop of the lake, and the exchange point is at the starting line. I can't wait to run this again next month!

3. Ragnar Relay Great River-- This was the first Ragnar I ran (actually, it was my first road race!) and the course was absolutely gorgeous. It certainly didn't hurt that my first leg was at sunset through some country roads! There are some insane hills on the course, but the scenery is so pretty (it runs right along the Mississippi River) that it's worth it. I've done three Ragnars, and this was my favorite course.

4. Glass City Marathon-- I've done the relay three times, so I've run three sections of this course. It goes through some really nice areas of Toledo (lots of parks/scenery) and it finishes on the football field at the University of Toledo.

My Favorite Race Medals:
(When I first started running, the medals were pretty important to me! Now, I honestly don't care about them, but I have a big box full of medals, so here are some of my favorites...)

1. The 2012 Detroit Free Press Marathon medal. I love this race's medal not just for the medal itself, but also the ribbon. The ribbon has the American flag on one side, and the Canadian flag on the other. Very unique!

2. The 2013 Ragnar Relay Florida Keys medal. There is something about this medal that I just love! Maybe the fact that it is also a bottle opener? ;) It's kind of funny--after I had done Ragnar SoCal, I was at my hotel room for the last night I was in San Diego, and my other teammates had left already. We had a bunch of beer leftover in our fridge, so I was going to drink a few while I packed and got ready to leave in the morning. Unfortunately, my roomies were the ones with the bottle openers, and I didn't have one! I wasn't able to drink any of the beer. It wasn't until the next day that I remembered I had a bottle opener on my medal--doh!

3. The 2015 Kona Chocolate Run medal. I like this simply because it looks like a candy bar with a bite taken out of it :)

4. The 2014 Runner's World Heartbreak Hill Half-Marathon medal. The heart in the center spins around.

5. The 2013 Martian Half-Marathon medal. This one is fun because it looks like an alien head! My kids have been dreaming of earning one of these some day--they love it ;)

My Favorite Race Shirts:
(Like the medals, the shirts used to be important to me, but now I'll usually only wear it if it's cotton--it makes a good shirt to sleep in.) I had so many race shirts, and I never wore them, so I turned them into a quilt! My sister-in-law and her mom helped me, and it's AMAZING. I like it much better than the shirts themselves!)

My very favorite shirt was probably this one from my first 5K--the Detroit Free Press 5K in 2010. It's very simple, but I love that it looks like an interstate sign.

I also like this shirt from the Martian 10K--again with the alien head!

Fun Facts:
  • I've run a total of 62 races over the last 6 years.
  • My shortest race distance was 5K, and longest was a full marathon.
  • My favorite distances is the 10K--not short enough to be a sprint, but short enough that you have to be able to run hard for a good distance. They don't require a ton of training (unless you're looking to set a personal record) and the training is easy to fit into one's life.
  • My favorite races are the ones where I pace a friend.
  • I still get nervous before every single race, even if I plan to run it at an easy pace.
  • I run best with a five-days-per-week training plan. More, and I get burnt-out; less, and I don't get in enough mileage to feel ready.
  • The farthest I've ever traveled for a race is 2,405 miles--to Woodland, Washington for the Blooms to Brews 10K.
This was kind of fun to see all my race history laid out like this! You can see links to all of my race reports (as well as my running story) on my Running page, if you're interested. I'm saving up my Delta SkyMiles on my American Express card right now so that I can go somewhere for a race next year, only I have no idea where I want to go! Any suggestions? :)


  1. Im going to say Hawaii as well.

  2. NOLA for Mardi Gras, there has to be a race somewhere in New Orleans during Mardi Gras right? The only other place i could think of is Rhode Island or Baltimore...i just love the scenery/landscape by the ocean and not so ghastly hot and humid!

    1. There's actually not a good Mardi Gras road race, because of all the parades. But the Crescent City 10k is HUGE and super famous down here. Otherwise I'd say run the Beach to Beacon in Maine.

  3. Well you know I'm going to say Wisconsin ;) but I suppose a trip to the state next door isn't that exciting! I love the Brewers half marathon/10K though! (Last year it was my first half marathon, I'm doing the 10K this year.) It's just so awesome to run through the stadium at the end!

  4. Loved reading this, thanks for sharing!!

  5. AnonymousMay 21, 2016

    This was such a fun post. My runnaversary is the 22nd and I
    have been very bad ab0out blogging....maybe I will do a similar post :)

  6. Loved reading this blog, it's so interesting to hear about your different top races :)

  7. If you ever get the chance I highly recommend lululemon's SeaWheeze in Vancouver! I've done it twice and it's just an incredible experience. I would move to Vancouver if I had the chance! The only downside is the race sells out in under 5 minutes every year!

  8. Either course along the Avenue of the Giants: or

  9. She.Is.Beautiful Santa Cruz, CA or Santa Barbara, CA. Both are a 5k or 10k and both are runs along the ocean. So beautiful! Love them both! Also, the Big Sur Half Marathon is beautiful and along the ocean in Monterey, CA. Even though they are local (not so much Santa Barbara) for me. I still find myself in awe with my jaw dropped at how lucky I am to be able to run these courses!!

  10. Loved this post :)


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