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After years of sloth, I am now a mama who runs and practices yoga. I write about exercise; parenting a grownup child as well as two little kids; and whatever is annoying me at the moment.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Bangs or no bangs?

In a month, I will run another marathon, the Wisconsin Marathon in Kenosha.

Why? Because there are cheese curds at the finish line, my friend Krista reminds me.

Yum, cheese curds.

Southeast Wisconsin is also home to one of the very best places on earth, the Mars Cheese Castle.  That is worth the drive up north.

Cheese castle!
I've been actually kind of psyched for this race.

After running the Des Plaines River Trail (DPRT) marathon last fall, I was was happy to discover that it's possible to really enjoy a marathon. The key was doing it with good friends and taking it easy. You know, making a point to actually try and enjoy it.

After several sucky-ass marathons of trying to stick to a pace and set new PRs (personal records), this changed -- for the better -- my view of running marathons and the two 50k ultras I've done the last couple of years.

So run Kenosha for the hell of it? Sure, why not.

But, the last month or so, some nagging aches -- if I'm honest with myself, it's stuff I had last year, too -- led to a bunch of stuff that made me have to slow way down on running. Sports doc diagnosis: some kind of hamstring/hip tendonopathy, piriformas syndrome, etc. Get some physical therapy. Bleah.

So, time to apply the "bangs vs. no bangs test".

I am never, ever satisfied with my bangs.

I grow them out.

Then I decide my forehead is wrinkly and I get bangs again to look younger (a cheap alternative to Botox, I rationalize.)

Now I'm not liking my bangs and growing them out.

This weird mental test applies to other stuff, too. Skip the race or drop to a half marathon distance or cross-train like crazy and just have the best race that is possible, even if I'm DFL (dead effing last).

Yes, this is the world's dumbest metaphor.

So, I'm growing out my bangs again and they're a mess right now.

So's my "training" as I shove a step and bodypump class or a spin class into my schedule, run lower mileage during the week -- and curse when things ache. (The physical therapist I'm seeing is doing so much to help -- I'm better, just impatient).

I've made myself go to the pool the last three Friday mornings -- I am a terrible swimmer and don't really like it. So I'm just doing separate drills to practice armstroke and kicking, which are both astoundingly exhausting.

(But it's kind of cool, too... I am going to try and stick with it.)

How everything shakes out on race day -- who knows.

But hopefully my bangs will be long enough by then to pull back and out of my eyes as I'm running toward those cheese curds.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Feminism and princesses? Sure.

Our littlest one is turning 5 this week. Naturally, the celebration began early, with a birthday party yesterday.

Ever my girly-girl, my daughter had planned her outfit for weeks. Impractical, slightly-too-large pink sparkle dress, tiara, silver-sparkle mary-jane shoes and butterfly wings.

Sure enough, when I got home from my run yesterday morning, she was already decked out like a junior fairy on her way to the national fairy convention.

Also naturally, there was a wardrobe change mid-party into something more practical as the party moved to our backyard on a moderate March day. It may have involved a pink unicorn shirt.

As my husband cut the cake (naturally, princess/rainbow-themed) I thought of this question a woman asked me years ago. 

She had infant twin girls at the time, and she wondered if it was bad to have pink things and books about princesses, because these things could teach her girls that you can only have a good life if a man saves you, or some logic like that.

Interesting question -- but to me, the answer is simple. Who do our girls take their cues from throughout their lives? Though Sofia the First is a pleasant role model on how to be nice to other people, our girls look to the other women and girls in their lives, and how they interact (and are treated) by men. Strong women, decent men makes for strong girls.

I've been lucky to have many of both in my life, and hope I am that for my daughter.

Which brings me to the "F" word. 


Holy crap, I can't believe it's 2016 and the F word is still freaking people out.

Look at events in recent months: 
  • Madeline Albright implying that young women who support Bernie over Hillary are going to hell. 
  • Gloria Steinem's comments implying that girls go to Bernie supporter rallies to meet guys. (Still not clear if that's exactly what she said, but let's stick with it for now). 
  • Lands End's knee-jerk reaction to pull Steinem from their spring catalog after some people freaked out, which in turn pissed off some women who are not afraid of the F word. My Facebook feed was filled with a number of posts of friends swearing off Lands End forever.
Though none of these women invented feminism, this generation -- one ahead of my Gen X self -- were trailblazers. Their methods, their approaches, can be debated elsewhere. 

But they saw and went through crap that frankly, I went through less of by the time I became an adult somewhere around the early 1990s. (Also subject to debate). As a 24-year-old, a reporter and new mom, I watched Hillary be pilloried for using the last name she was born with and for snapping "I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession." I was like, yeah, me too.

In fact, I've worked for a lot of dudes over the years and been fortunate to work for decent human beings. (One of my worst bosses, actually, was a female narcissist... but I digress.)

A running buddy of mine, a generation younger than me, told me a story recently that reminded me the "F" word is still a thing. A friend of hers told of her decision to keep her given name and not take her husband's. My friend's husband observed that it was feminist (a positive thing) to choose to keep your name or change it. The woman purportedly snapped "why does everything have to be about feminism?"


So here's my messy argument on feminism. The generation before me -- they had to deal with some crap. My generation has dealt with some crap. Younger generations will do the same. But I believe that it's getting better for women, generation by generation.

I also hope there's a day that comes when women are no longer afraid of the word "feminist". It's not something to be afraid of. You can be a Democrat or a Republican and be a feminist. Have a career outside of the home, or stay home. Work hard to support other women, not tear them down. Even if they're on your last nerve.

It's about expecting and getting fair treatment, without having to be a dude or act like a dude. Eyes on my face, not my chest, not calling me baby, sure, but also the really important stuff like equal pay and swatting politicians away from anything having to do with my uterus.

In fact, you can be the girliest girl, twirling in your impractical, slightly-too-large pink sparkle dress, tiara, silver-sparkle mary-jane shoes and butterfly wings at your party while watching Sofia the First and vote for Bernie. 

And Lands End? Just ordered my kids' sandals from there -- they had a sale that beat all the other ones I found online. After all, it's not like they stuck Trump on the cover of their spring catalog...

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Si, hablo (un poco) espanol


Day to day, like a lot of folks, I move through life one foot in front of the other. Kids. Husband. Work. Running. Friends. Repeat.

Sometimes I worry I should be challenging my brain more.

You know, learning new stuff.

As it is, I barely read books anymore, wasting too much time goofing around on my phone in spare minutes here and there -- spare minutes I used to spend jamming my face in a book. (I've slowly begun The Bully Pulpit, which is about 1 million pages and I should finish it sometime in 2018, the rate I am going.)

One of things I've always thought I should do is learn Spanish. I took a bit in college, but retained about 10 words and phrases. Una cerveza, por favor. Donde esta el bano? That kind of stuff. I spent far more time learning German after living in there (in what was formerly West Germany) a long time ago. Ja, Ich kann Deutsch sprechen aber Spanisch ist einfacher... (I can easily murder German and Spanish both.)

And then at one point in my career, my inability to speak Spanish posed an obstacle. I moved past it, no biggie, but it always bugged me a little.

Last summer, a friend told me about Duolingo, this really cool, free app. And I decided something that I can now mostly say in hobbly Spanish: Nunca es demasiado viejo para aprender. Not too old to learn.

(I've never, ever understood the resistance by some in our country to honoring and welcoming bilingualism. You know, the folks who say "This is America! Speak English"! I think it's the coolest thing in the world to be multi-lingual, always have.)

It's been about seven months now, spending 10 minutes a day on the app on average learning and doing review lessons. This app is seriously great.

The 1,000 verb tenses are confounding, but it's not too bad to learn otherwise.

And I've had some recent, albeit "pequeno" successes:

-- I am able to in a messy but understandable to our wonderful babysitter text her in Spanish, and understand nearly everything she says back. Recently she asked what year M, my first grader, was born because they needed to figure out what Chinese animal he was for Chinese New Year. We had this conversation via text in Spanish! I was so excited.

-- I recently made small talk with a friend's sitter who only speaks Spanish, with whom I've never been able to get past "Como estas?" I learned that she doesn't like nieve, or snow.

-- I can now read some billboards and know that when it reads "segunda temporada" that means the "second season". (So House of Cards is starting its cuarta temporada en un poco tiempo...)

--I know how to say "I like running" or "Let's run on Monday": Me gusta correr. Vamos a correr el lunes.

Where I still fall down is listening to it and being able to understand and converse. I strain my ears now at the local Harvestime mercado, trying to understand las cajeras as I check out. I have a long way to go and probably need to take a class in conversational Spanish at some point.

But I'm not giving up.

God, it's fun to learn something -- just to learn something -- again!

Soy muy feliz que puedo hablar un poco de es espanol. Va a aprendar mas!

Now, back to the Bully Pulpit...

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: 1,275 miles and a year of mistakes, fun and awesome running

My 6-year-old son went to bed unexpectedly at 6:30 p.m. one night earlier this week, skipping his favorite dinner of Little Caesar's pizza, which we call "pizza store pizza" at our house.

He slept solidly for 12 hours. He does that sometimes.

The following morning, I came home from an early morning spin class to find him crouched in his room, groggily playing with some toys on his rug -- with no pants on.

I asked him "Hey buddy, what's going on? Where's your pants?"

Sometimes he has the cutest little voice in the morning. He squeaked in response: "Mommy, I made two mistakes."

What are those, buddy?

"I accidentally wet my bed." Ah, that explains the no pants.

OK, buddy, no biggie, You were really tired. What's the second mistake?

"I slept in my clothes, mommy."

Those sound like accidents, buddy, not mistakes.

I had some accidents and mistakes, too, in 2015. I didn't read nearly enough books. I spent too much time looking at my phone. I broke a toe. I swore too much and should have eaten more fruit. I never drink enough water. I need to be less judgmental and more forgiving.

All of that said, what a great year.

1. I'm so grateful to my awesome husband, who built dozens of awesome fires in our backyard fire pit, even somehow starting from sometimes rain-soaked wood. (He's also an Eagle Scout).

He put up with my alarm going off as early at 3:20 a.m. so I could go run 20-milers on trails 45 minutes or more away, as well as my general appetite for running and yoga.

And of course stayed with the kids when I disappeared to run.

He took a sledge hammer and smashed a chunk of concrete buried in our yard that was the size of a small meteorite, so he could plant new trees on the side of our house.

He was a great sport about spending a week last spring in California, seeing family and putting up with my fantasies about landing there someday, water crisis and runaway housing prices aside.

Etc etc.  He's great.

2. My kids, now 23 years, 6 years, and 4 years old. My middle guy, M.C., is having a great first grade year after struggling behaviorally in earlier grades, and after much drama and angst with some of the past schools he's attended. He's my complicated, analytical, whipsmart little guy, bless him.

I'm so happy to have all of them, proud of them, and loving where we're at.

Foggy December run
3. Running!!! 1,275 miles in 200 runs in 2015 in dripping heat, snow, rain, ice, fog and everything else Chicago throws at you.

Sometimes runs had themes to them, for birthdays and holidays. Fortunately, treats followed those runs. #lemonoreos. I also rediscovered my love of Fig Newtons.

My running friends were amazing as always -- the ones I've known a long time, and the new ones, too.

I didn't beat last year's 1,400+ miles thanks to breaking my toe last Groundhog's Day, but I ran my second 50K, a marathon and ran with my super friend Jessica in her first 10K race ever.

I ran the Chicago lakefront, including a spectacular "holiday lights" run on Michigan Avenue and Millennium Park with friends. Other runs included Waterfall Glen, the Illinois Prairie Path, the new 606 trail, Bullfrog Lake, the Des Plaines River Trail and the North Branch and Green Bay Trails. Also Veteran Acres in Crystal Lake, the insanely, bitterly cold but shockingly gorgeous Frozen Gnome 10K. Which my friends have talked me into again...

Outside of Chicago, I got runs in at Kettle Moraine in Wisconsin, Schaller, Iowa, Omaha, western Michigan, Cloverdale, Calif., Monterey, Calif., Los Angeles and Washington D.C.

4. My job. I'm really grateful for it.

Now, for 2016:

1. Run my first 50-miler, DPRT. And actually train smart for it. This will take some work and some research. Fortunately, I know a few ultrarunners... :-)

2. Do weight training at least once a week. How is it that I could get off my butt right now and run 20 miles, but I am dying doing a few pushups?

3. Drink water

4. Read books. Seriously.

5. Keep learning Spanish and try to be able to understand it and speak it. Six months of Duolingo has helped me to be able to read and write a little, which I'm really proud of.

5. Crew an ultra race.

6. Make more mistakes. Hey, it's gonna happen.

Running photos from the year:

Monday, November 16, 2015

Paleozoic 50K: Race report and what's next...

I finished my second ultramarathon last weekend, the Paleozoic 50K

It's the same ultra I did last year -- a really well-run race by awesome race directors Bill and Michelle Thom in the hilly, leafy Palos Forest Preserve southwest of Chicago. 

It was great, but hard. Compared with the DPRT trail marathon I ran a month ago, this was much, much tougher.

Leading up to race day, I was not thinking much about the race. Work felt like more of a zoo than usual, with multiple deadlines and challenges to my mental energy. If I didn't fall asleep on the couch at like, 8:45 at night, I was crashing in bed only to wake up at odd hours like 3 or 4 a.m., unable to get back to sleep. 

I have no idea what I really ate during the week, and I know I didn't drink enough water. I'm really bad about that.

So, when Friday rolled around, it was a long day, but I was able to be home by 6-ish. I was exhausted, and wondering how in the hell I was going to run an ultra. 

I decided to keep my expectations low and give myself all the time needed to finish.That proved to be a worthy strategy.

The morning of the race was beautiful, matching the day's forecast of sunny and highs in the 50s -- incredible weather for mid-November in Chicago.

I got up early to the sunniest morning. Since I was up alone in the house, I quickly gathered my race gear and caught up on the headlines I had noticed just minutes before falling sleep at 8:45 the night before about the horror in Paris. Dear God. I felt a little guilty getting to get up and go run a race when so many were suffering. 

My running pal Krista picked me up. This ultra was her first, as it would be for Lindsey, Krista's awesome friend who has run with us a few times.

We talked about Paris on the way down and I read the latest on CNN.com. We made great time and got to the race start more than an hour early. Frost laid across the grass like a glittery blanket -- it was so pretty! Lindsey arrived and climbed in Krista's car to stay warm and chatter. She was nervous, I could tell.

Weirdly, I only felt a little bit of butterflies. I was pretty sure I was in for a tough race, which proved to be right.

We heard the start horn blast as we stood under the picnic shelter. Oops, we weren't paying attention to the time! We laughed at ourselves.

The course has 50K runners run the same 15-ish mile loops twice. I felt OK the first few miles, but not great. I chalked it up to being tired. Krista seemed to be enjoying herself. It was so pretty out and warming up quickly, so I made a point to focus on the beautiful day.  Lindsey, a faster runner, was ahead of us from the beginning. I hoped she was having a great race.

We ran into another woman running her first ultra. Turns out she was also an Ironman, like Krista, so it was nice to listen to them talk about Ironman races. (I have no desire to do an Ironman. But I noticed plenty of Ironman shirts on this race course.)

The first unmanned aid station is about 3.5 miles from the start and 4-ish miles from the turnaround, where there are volunteers and food. I knew by then it was going to be a tough day. 

Sometimes when I do a long run I will feel pretty good after a few miles. I felt OK, but not "good". I still had my "oh well" mental attitude, though, which was good. I've blown up at too many races in the past to put high expectation on these things now.

That's why I love trail running. It's low pressure and just chill. My tightly wound self needs that.

We got to the first turnaround and took a break, which helped.

Running back to the start line to complete our first 15-ish-mile loop was, well, hard. I noticed Krista got quiet, too. I was worried that a kidney infection she had been fighting was coming back, but she assured me that she was fine -- just tired, too.

Well then. Nothing like having a running pal in the same boat as you.

A mile or two from completing the first loop, I admitted I was a little panicked because I couldn't see how I had the stamina to do another loop. 

The hills felt so big. I knew I was undertrained for hills -- I hadn't been able to run down here for six weeks. But man, they were kicking my butt.

Krista is nearly 20 years younger than me and a wise old soul, I've told her. She's also way more chilled out about stuff than I am, which is one of the many reasons I like her so much. She quietly told me that it would be OK, and to just focus on finishing the first loop. 

I tried to focus on that and not thinking about repeating the whole loop a second time. My hip bones ached a little, but I noticed that I really didn't feel too achy anywhere else, which was good. I was just tired. You can run tired, I told myself.

We got back to the picnic station, when Bill, one of the race directors, enthusiastically greeted us and told us we looked strong. Gosh, he and his wife are just so nice. They're like that at every race of theirs I've run.

I considered telling Krista I was thinking about dropping out. But I felt like a jerk. This was her first ultra. And we're both stubborn and don't like to quit.

So I kept my mouth shut and we headed out. A few miles later I confessed what I had been thinking to her. She had thought the same thing. Ha! Too late now. We were in this till the end. (And I doubt we would have dropped out. Stubborn!)

We agreed to continue walking the hills. 

When we got to the manned aid station/turnaround the second time, I was tired but I had rallied a little. That was encouraging.

We saw our friend Terri in the distance. She had promised to come spectate. She did that last year, too.

I hugged her hard and surprised myself by getting a little teary. She asked me "are you OK?" and I sniffed "yes, it's just hard, we're OK." Terri stayed with us at the aid station and offered to get me a Diet Coke and meet us at the next station, which we figured we'd hit in about another hour. I began to look forward to that!

From that point on, it was a slog. Krista and I walked and ran. At one point in the course, a very large tree had fallen on the path and you had to go over or under it. The first loop, we laughed about climbing over the tree, because there was no easy way to do it gracefully.

That third and fourth time climbing over the tree? Oh Lord.

The final time we could barely lift up our dead legs. Hoisting ourselves up, we just sat on top of the tree and laughed at ourselves. Dorks. Krista asked me if my feet felt tingly, too, and I noticed they really did. It felt so amazing to not be on my feet.

Around Bullfrog Lake, someone alongside a line of parked cars yelled "Flatlander!!!!", noticing my Flatlander Ultrarunner shirt. It was the Flatlander group! I've only met a few of them -- it's a growing group of folks on Facebook who run ultras. Many of them do 100-mile races around the country and tell amazing stories. I'm in awe of them. 

And their cheering really helped pick up my spirits. XXXXX

I realized that many of them would have been at the funeral earlier for Alfredo Perro Pedro. He was a local ultra runner who, based on what I would see on this Facebook page, was much loved by this group. 

He had been diagnosed with ALS just a year ago. The FB page in the last year had been filled with photos of him in a wheelchair or stroller, sitting covered in blankets at races to cheer on others, or being pushed by friends in races. I never met him, but cheered for him and hoped for the best. 

Last Sunday, after co-hosting a baby shower for one of our running friends, I learned he had died, just 47 years old. My heart went out to this group of runners who lost their friend, and here they were, out cheering loudly for runners doing little ol' 50Ks. They're such a great bunch of people. I hope to meet more of them eventually.

I'm also 47 years old. His death sure reminded to appreciate every day and every run. You just never know.

Also during this leg of the run, we noticed how low the sun was in the sky, even though it was mid-afternoon. The day had a surreal quality to it, given that even at midday the sun was never really high in the sky. Since dusk was 4:30, we knew we had to keep moving. You know, so the wolves wouldn't get us.

(I like to joke about wolves eating us. This summer, we were doing a pre-dawn trail run with headlamps, when we came upon three sets of glowing eyes in the woods. I utterly freaked and assumed they were wolves. Because, you know, wolves are running around Cook County. They wound up being deer. Dork.)

As we neared the final unmanned station, I checked my GPS and noticed we were at 26.3 miles, officially past the 26.2-mile marathon distance. Krista, I said, you're an ultramarathoner now! I high-fived her. Yay!

Minutes later, we were at the aid station, with Terri and a delicious Diet Coke. Krista and I both remarked how we were rallying at points during these last few miles. Still tired, but encouraging. The end was in sight.

A few miles later, Krista ran slightly ahead of me and finished strong. Terri and Lindsey were at the finish line. Neither had ever met the other, but they had already figured out they were there to watch for the same friends. 

I was so happy to be done. And so happy we stuck with it. So, so glad. Race time: 7:19:21, just eight minutes slower than last year. I'll take it! 

The next morning, I woke up to the typical stiffness and soreness, but nothing too bad, thanks to the cold bath I reluctantly took when I got home to bring down the inflammation.

I puttered around for an hour in my still-quiet house, drinking coffee. 

I decided it was awesome that I could finish and stick with a tough race. My marathon the month prior I had felt so strong and great -- and this race had been very different.

I decided right then that I would run my first 50-miler next fall, the DPRT (flat!) trail where I had done the marathon last month.

If I can run 30, I can do 50!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Saying "I love you" on Snapchat

My son Tory was home recently for his 23rd birthday. I had just upgraded my phone to the iPhone 6, and so I gave him my old-but-still-working 4s. Baby's first iPhone!

"Yay, I can snapchat again!" He was so excited, since his cheap flip phone is pretty limited.

I thought Snapchat only existed for pictures of guys' junk, thank you Anthony Weiner, so naturally, I was worried.

Of course, Tory just laughed at me.

He does that a lot.

Oh mom, he explained. It's like texting, but with pictures that disappear.

Now, why would you want a picture to disappear? What if you want to look at it again, I demanded to know.

More laughing.

Fortunately, I have a work colleague who also is a millennial.

And he explained snapchat this way: It's like you're sitting in traffic, and it sucks. Instead of posting to Facebook or twitter or texting it to a friend, you Snapchat a photo of the traffic and say "this sucks". The traffic photo isn't something worth saving.

Aha. I *think* I get it now.

(I think that way you're not using up your alloted monthly texts, too, so there's that, though  you're using your phone's data... but I digress.)

So I joined Snapchat. And struggled a little to work it. (Tip: write your message first and then take pic)

So one morning this week, I couldn't sleep. I got up at 4 (UGH) and saw from Facebook that Tory was up.

I snapchatted a pic. He snapchatted back. I was like, why are you up?? He asked me the same thing.

We texted, er, I mean, snapchatted dark, grainy selfies to each other and "I love you" messages. He said he was going to bed. I decided to (unsuccessfully) go back to sleep.

I couldn't look at his grainy photo again, because it disappered, but I was still smiling, thinking about it as I laid on the couch downstairs in the dark.

Just days after I joined Snapchat, this great New York Times story published this week. Hey, we're on to something!

I love my boy. I love that Snapchat became a thing for us. I love seeing his goofy smile and "I love you mom" messages that I've gotten from him this week.

Here we are in our goofy glory:

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Best marathon ever: DPRT race report

Me, Kylene and Krista: Happy to be done!

Yesterday I ran my best, most enjoyable marathon, the Des Plaines River Trail marathon (DPRT) with two wonderful friends, Krista and Kylene.

First, I can't say enough good things about the location of the race itself. The Des Plaines River Trail in Lake County is just stunning. Leafy. Tranquil. Flat, gravel trails that are kind to knees.

Until I began trail running, I had no idea such amazing trails existed in the Chicago area, from the Des Plaines river to Palos and North Branch in Cook County. Our Lake Michigan, which is stunning, is the probably the best-known source of nature for Chicago, but these trails are something else.

The race, too, was top-notch, with 50-mile, marathon and half marathon options. (I would love to do my first 50-miler here some day...)  Ample aid station staffed with the nicest runners, many ultrarunners. The aid station near Mile 14, our turnaround, had sweet pickles. So delicious. Mile 11/18's aid station had CANDY CORN. The best. I love candy corn!

This course also had some of the best markings ever. Great signage on which way to go, and even signs saying "wrong way" to make sure we never got off course.

And the weather was so unbelievably lovely. Just six days prior was the Chicago Marathon, where temps approached 80 degrees -- the type of marathon weather that makes me blow up and throw up. (See: Omaha marathon, 2013.) Yesterday's starting temp: 34 degrees and sunny.

After warming at fire pits just prior to 8 a.m. in the Half Day Forest Preserve, the race director made a few announcements. "If you're running your marathon under 4 hours, god bless you, start at 8 a.m...." Most people laughed. Since we were running probably a five-hour marathon, our "wave" start was 8:04. Mind you, the marathon had only 275 spots so it was pretty chill and nothing like large marathons, where it can take you 30 minutes after race start to cross the start line.

We were off! Krista, channeling her adorable and energetic dog Tucker, ran ahead of us for a while. Kylene's co-worker Matt was running his first marathon and ran ahead too. At the points we were either running with him or crossing paths later in the race, he appeared to be having a great time and a great race.

Several miles in, it was just the three of us. It was great. I've done so many of my training runs with these two that there's a natural comfort level of chatting and silence, too. I really enjoy them.

It took several wooded miles to calm down the race jitters in my head. After peaking mileage-wise two weeks ago, I had been struggling with a left calf that was chronically tight. My brain kept scanning my body, noticing every little ache and creak. This being my seventh marathon, I know that this is largely just race nerves, so I kept mentally telling myself everything was fine. (The compression sleeves I wound up buying and wearing wound up being a great help during this race -- my calves were largely fine throughout. Whew!)

At the first aid station, I chatted with another Flatlander, a nice guy names Alec who was getting ready to do a 100-mile race in a few weeks in Arizona. I'm always in awe of these 100-mile folks. I was feeling calmer by then, too, which was nice.

Mile 11 was another aid station, where Krista's husband and aunts were, with big signs for her. Krista's family is so supportive and amazing, and they're so kind to her friends. I just love them.

A few more miles to the turnaround just past Mile 14 flew by. I was really feeling good by then. And oh man, drinking real Coke and eating pickles was just the best. I also noticed I blew out holes in each of my favorite smartwool socks. Oh well.

Around this time, thoughts crept in my mind about past marathons. I've never had a really good marathon. I've always blown up at the end, and wind up miserable or sick. They have all been road marathons, and this was my first trail marathon, so that was a positive. I also had started this marathon nice and easy, even gently asking friends if we could slow a bit.

My goal was to finish smiling, inspired by Florence Kiplagat at last week's Chicago marathon, where she gleefully jumped up and down at the finish line after winning it. Photo courtesy of Getty Images below:

After the turnaround, the miles are just ticking by. I'm achy, but nothing major.

My friend Krista, though, began to struggle. She had developed a kidney infection two days before the race. Though she was on antibiotics, she started feeling pain in her lower back. She's not a complainer at all, but I could tell she was hurting.

We did some walk/running to the Mile 18 aid station. By this time, I was really worried about her. She was hanging in there, but obviously in pain. I told her it would be OK if she needed to stop -- her health is so much more important and besides, we're running a 50K in a month, so it's not as if our racing season is over with this marathon. Her husband Scott and aunts talked to her too.

Krista, though, did not want to give up. That girl is tough. We continued on, with Scott agreeing to meet us at the next aid station at Mile 21.

Krista was able to run/walk from there. She kept telling me to go ahead, but no way was I going to leave her with no water or phone. Kylene, who was running and walking at this point, had both and said she'd run with her. I ran ahead to the next aid station to see if they had medical volunteers. They didn't, but Krista was fortunately just a few minutes behind me and seemed to be doing OK with the running/walking. She had color in her cheeks, so I felt better about her.

When I left that aid station, I marveled at how great I felt. I don't think I've ever felt great at Mile 21. Wow!

The last five miles through the woods were gorgeous. It was a little lonely. My right hip flexor growled at me. My left calf decided to join the chorus. But overall, I still felt like I was running at a pretty decent clip.

(My splits for actual running time wound up being pretty decent! See below:)

I had to laugh at myself at one point. I pass a couple walking their dog in the woods, and as I did so I said "good morning". Then it dawned on me that it probably wasn't morning anymore -- sure enough, it was around 1 p.m. Running for hours really makes it hard to track time!

Around Mile 25 I was really ready to be done. I was still OK, but definitely tired. I also ran out of water in my hydration pack. It was probably only 50 degrees at this point, but the day was sunny and I definitely felt a little warm.

Some nice people I passed started cheering really loud for me as I passed them, which was exactly the boost I needed at that point. I thanked them and told them so. The guy there said "you're really moving well!" That was so great to hear.

Finally I saw the finish line and started to cry a little. I was so grateful to have had such a good marathon. I heard someone calling my name and realized it was Lindsey, this amazing friend of Krista's who I've run with a bit and just love. I was smiling as I crossed the finish line -- I was so, so happy!!!!

I asked Scott, who was able to track Krista through Kylene's phone, if he had heard anything or could see how far they were away from the finish line. Thank goodness, he said they were close and Kylene had not called him, which I took as a very good sign.

Minutes later, my friends crossed the finish line and we all cheered wildly for them. I was so glad to see them, healthy and happy.

Kylene announced she was never running a marathon again, haha, silly girl. Of course she will. :-)

Next race up: Palezoic 50K, an amazing trail race with amazing race directors!