The Weekend Before the Excursion

More than anything else on Saturday, I missed having a running buddy by my side.  I have never been fond of large races and for me they are that much less enjoyable when running one alone.  With well over 10,000 runners at the start, you can imagine it was rather crowded and I don’t necessarily like crowds…guess that wasn’t really the place for me. Having said all that, I will say Savannah Rock n Roll did a very good job of managing the runners and all the logistics that go along with it. 

My husband and I took the 1.5 hour drive up to Savannah on Friday afternoon and headed directly to the expo.  Bib pick up was smooth and quick and I spent a little time shopping there, managing to pick up a new running belt with two detachable bottles.  I am hoping this one will finally work for me as I have difficulty finding one with bottles that is comfortable.  I have always loved my Spibelts, so I have high hopes this will be the winner.  After leaving there, we did a little shopping, had dinner, and settled into the room for the night. 

It was another early morning wake up because I chose to buy a shuttle ticket between my hotel and start line to alleviate the transportation issues I knew would be present had I tried driving downtown that morning.  Doing so meant standing around the start area for nearly two hours, but it truly was the lesser of two evils.  A little before the 7:30 start, I made my way to my corral and actually crossed the official start line around 7:50.  From there, it was a relatively uneventful race for me.  As expected with the large number of runners, I had to do the “bob and weave” quite a bit around large groups or those who would stop dead in front of me, but all in all, it was not as bad as expected.  The on-course support was excellent and there were tons of individuals out to cheer on all runners.  That is one thing I do love about this race.  It has some of the best spectator support I have ever experienced. 

As the miles ticked by and I would glance at my Garmin, I knew I was keeping a good pace and feeling good throughout.  I was pleasantly surprised when I crossed the finish line a full two and a half minutes faster than my finish a couple weeks before in Myrtle Beach.  I had again posted my best time since my ankle and knee injuries & surgeries well over four years ago. It was somewhat amusing since this is the race that pretty much started that ball rolling in 2011 when I ran the inaugural Savannah Rock n Roll on what turned out to be a fractured ankle.

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I collected my finisher medal, water, chocolate milk and various snacks and then made the long walk to gear check to grab my bag and get a warmer jacket on.  Then it was all the way back to near the finish to catch a shuttle back to my hotel.  While waiting for the bus to fill, I checked my texts and saw Rhonda’s great news!

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While, Sue was busy running in Savannah, Lisa and I were doing another Carolina double but this time in reverse.  We started our weekend in Florence, SC with the Run Like a Nut Half Marathon which is part of the Pecan Festival.  We arrived on Friday and picked up our packet at Fitness Forum.  It was quick and easy.  After dinner, we relaxed in our room and prepared for the morning.  Race morning was a little chilly but nothing that we couldn’t manage.  We headed over to the start.  We had driven the course the day before so we knew what to expect – at least that is what we thought.  Not sure what we drove but it WAS NOT the Half Marathon course!  We were actually thankful as that was boring…..this course was through beautiful neighborhoods.  I somehow managed to not get my GPS started on time so my timing on my watch was off.  We had a great pace going and then at mile 1 Lisa’s right knee buckled.  We stopped and then walked a minute but she insisted she was fine.  I was feeling really great and just felt like running.  I threw the intervals out the window and went with my body.  The race was fairly flat until mile 11 when they threw in a few hills for fun.  We headed for the finish line and I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I FINALLY had a new PR!  September 2013 was my last PR.  I have only been close a couple of times to breaking it but today, I beat it by 2 min and 15 sec!  I was beyond elated!  We also found out that Lisa placed 3rd in the age group!  A great morning indeed. 

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We showered up and headed to Wilmington, NC to pick up our packet for Sunday’s race – the Battleship North Carolina.  Packet pick up went quickly – once we went to the right building.  We ended up in the Civic Center in the middle of the Marine Corps Ball practice…..oops.  After getting our packets, we headed to get breakfast for dinner and then to the hotel for a night of disappointing football.  Morning came and the temps were much lower than we had prepared for!  Because we had to park and then take a shuttle to the race start we left a little earlier than normal.  The shuttle went smoothly and we had plenty of time to use the port-a-potty before the race.  I chatted with Sid Busch (a fellow Navy retiree who has run over 200 marathons) and we both agreed it needed to warm up quickly!   

We started the race knowing that today we were taking it slower, using the 2:30/30 intervals, as neither of us wanted to have any possible injury.  Well, 1 mile in and Lisa’s knee buckled again!  I knew this was not good.  She walked it off and then at 1.5 it did it again and this time I saw the tears forming.  I was prepared to put her on a medical vehicle or walk the entire race.  We ended up walking for a bit as the bridge we had to cross had metal grates.  First of all – I am not a fan of bridges.  Secondly – I am not a fan of heights.  You could see through the grates!  As my knees were turning to jelly, I just knew I was going to vomit everywhere.    I didn’t and we made it across without incident.  Taking it nice and easy we ran a gorgeous first half with the back half being a tad boring.  Then we headed back across that dreadful bridge!  I still felt sick as we walked it again.  Once we crossed over and the sigh of relief came all I could think about was the finish line and the fact that United States Marines in dress blues would be giving us our medals.  My heart hurt just a little as I was wishing my son, Brian, would be one of those Marines but I knew that wasn’t possible.  We rounded the corner of the last ½ mile or so we something caught my attention and I saw MY SON’S vehicle parked at the bottom of the hill!  It has distinct markings so I KNEW it was his!  I was so full of emotion.  I hadn’t seen him in a while and with tears blurring my vision I desperately searched the crowd for him.  Then with the finish line in sight I saw him!  He was standing right past the finish line.  I ran through, got my medal and got the best prize ever (even better than a PR) – a giant hug from my son.  I was crying. Lisa was crying.  It was amazing!   

Next up, Sue and I, in true Thelma and Louise style take off on a 10 day excursion together with 7 races in 8 days! 

Sue’s 50th Half in Nashville

Where do I start to tell the tale of an awesome and inspiring weekend?  How about the beginning?  Yes, but I also need to condense or we’ll be running #60 for Tim and I’ll still be writing about this one (#29 of my 60). 

After a good amount of driving and an extremely frustrating car rental experience the previous weekend, I decided to fly instead of drive to Nashville to enjoy Birthday Bash Weekend.  Birthday Bash Weekend has become an annual tradition between myself (Sue) and Sharon (Tim’s mom).  As background, Sharon and I met when she moved with her family to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan the beginning of our fifth grade year.  Living in a very rural area with few others my age nearby, I quickly forced her to become my best friend – LOL – honestly, we just hit it off from day one as I recall.  I could fill pages and pages of our escapades and evolving friendship, but that would be totally off-subject and unnecessary.  Suffice it to say our bond is still strong; no matter how our separate lives have evolved in the decades since.  In an effort to insure we actually see each other periodically, a few years back we decided to establish a tradition of getting together somewhere near our birthdays in September and October…that tradition has become the Annual Birthday Bash.  When I finally found a Nashville race that fit my schedule this year and it fell in October, it only made sense to incorporate the two.

On Thursday, October 27, Sharon picked me up at the Nashville airport at 8:30 am; yes, that means I had been up since 2:30; so after a marvelous homemade breakfast at their house, a nap was in store for me.  The remainder of Thursday was pretty laid back just hanging out with Sharon, Tim, and John.  Later in the afternoon, we took a short ride to pick up mine and Rhonda’s bibs and shirts and a quick stop at the mall and grocery store.  After dinner and before Tim left for the Titan’s game, we got together for a quick family and friends photo session with my #20for 20 tank since both Tim and John would be out of town on Saturday.  Later that evening while watching the Titans game on TV, Sharon showed me the running scrapbook she is creating for me.  I am telling you, this woman is artistic! I laughed, smiled, cried, and was totally in awe as I perused the pages she transformed from a pile of pictures handed to her last year. 

On Friday morning I was awakened by the scent of another scrumptious breakfast creation from Sharon.  After breakfast and more down time, Sharon and I headed out to lunch. Oh—M—GEE!!!  The Chocolate Covered Strawberry is quite the find.  Not only is the food marvelous, but the atmosphere and décor are unmatched…transforming a large old home into a quaint hideaway.  An amazingly delicious lunch of soup and sandwiches and dessert, fruity drinks, and take-home cheesecake had us almost rolling out.  If ever in the Nashville area, I highly recommend it.  Every plate is adorned with a one-of-a-kind chocolate covered strawberry.  A stop at Kroger and we were headed back to their home knowing Rhonda and family were pretty close, and they did arrive within the hour.   

Can I just say again how excited I am every time Rhonda and I are reunited?  This time was extra special because the girls and hubby were with her.  We all had a good visit; Rhonda’s girls thoroughly enjoyed playing with Hawk, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, last year’s rescue dog for the Shaw’s.  Laughter was plentiful when Tim asked how Rhonda and I met and after an awkward moment of silence we coughed up the true story.  We’ll reserve this for another time, but Tim’s comment to Rhonda’s daughters probably says it all: “Now girls, listen.  These are all the things you should NOT do.”  In all reality, he was right, but sometimes you just gotta go with your gut and trust God.  If we hadn’t, none of this would have ever happened.   

During that time, Tim showed us the trackers he wears and the computer program showing his progression – one of the ALS TDI projects he is involved in and why we continue to run and ask you to donate to our fundraising site.  It was absolutely fascinating and fortified us to continue forging ahead.  Speaking of the ALS TDI fundraising, since this race was to be my 50th lifetime half marathon and it was special since I would be running it in Nashville, I had put out a plea for donations dedicated specifically to this run.  I am excited and pleased to report that several of you rose to the challenge and exceeded my request.  In total, we raised $365 for ALS TDI that weekend!  THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!! 

Soon it was time for Rhonda and family to leave so they could get to the home of their friends where they would be staying over the weekend.  But not before a couple pictures of three people now bound forever – two friends who run for a reason and the man who inspires them.

After yet another delicious home cooked meal (do you see a pattern of food here?  I think I gained five pounds in five days), later that evening I had the pleasure of attending a high school football game with the Shaw’s where Tim’s younger brother is on the coaching team.  It was a nail-biter between two rival teams, and Ensworth (our team) pulled it out with a 21-20 win in the last 25 seconds of play!  I even caught a glimpse of Tim McGraw in the stands.  After the game, we went back home and I quickly headed to bed for my normal race morning early wake up. 

Saturday, race day, came and it was pretty much a normal weekend morning with waking around 4:00 am, prepping and gearing up, then Sharon drove me to Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park where I met up with Rhonda and we made our way to the start line of Race13.1 – Nashville.  It was literally a matter of minutes before the national anthem began and the start gun was sounded and I was again enjoying a run with my best running buddy.  The 13.1 miles passed quickly as we chatted and enjoyed the scenery.  It was a nice course which covered a variety of venues.  An attempt at a selfie in front of the Titan’s training facility was not as successful as we hoped due to the angle of the sun.  But hey, the sun was shining, so no complaints!  We wound around a clean industrial park area, a golf course, and another park before heading up along the river walk where Sharon and Hawk were waiting to cheer us on.  It started to warm up and the water stops dwindled, causing fatigue and the beginning effects of dehydration.  Luckily there were several stations in the last 1.5 miles to help begin the rehydration process – a little late, but better than not.  We raced to the finish line and it truly felt surreal that I had just done that for the 50th time.  Fifty half marathons, what?  I distinctly remember just six years earlier crossing for the first time and saying “Never Again!” 

And the best news of the day…Rhonda has a brand new grandson!!!!!  How exciting is that?  She headed back to be with her family and to check on her daughter and grandson and Sharon and I went to her home so I could shower, eat, and relax.  The afternoon and evening were spent mostly watching football and visiting.   

On Sunday Rhonda and family headed home to South Carolina while Sharon and I attended the morning church service then headed downtown to enjoy a tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Before I knew it, Monday had arrived and I was boarding a plane back to Savannah.  Another enjoyable Birthday Bash Weekend was over, this one with an additional special memory attached.

 

Running the Carolinas

With another great weekend in store, Sue drove north and Rhonda and Lisa headed east to Fayetteville, NC to meet up on Friday, 10/21.  We checked into our hotel and went directly to packet pickup and then to Texas Road House for a pre-race meal.  Once our tummies were filled, we went back to the hotel and got our gear set up for the next morning’s race, which came too early.  It was a crisp North Carolina morning, but we were lucky enough to have a hotel that was just across the street and a brief ten minute walk to the start area of Race 13.1 Fayetteville.  Rhonda has mentioned before how much she loves this race series, but it is worth repeating.   These are smaller races which we’ve come to love and the communication and support is phenomenal.  

At 7:30 am we were given the start gun and we quickly headed up the ramp to The All American Expressway to begin the long, laborious trek back and forth, back and forth…..  This course was quite challenging due to the route being exclusively on a highway.  Our entire side of the road was closed off to traffic and we had the full three lanes available, which at least made it bearable.  But this type of race course is definitely least enjoyable; not only because of the lack of scenery, but the frequent and changing slant leads to discomfort in multiple areas of our bodies.  And then after one of the turnarounds, there was the wind.  OoooWwEeee;  we’ve all been in worse, but it was a total surprise as we hadn’t noticed it had been at our backs for the past five miles!  Needless to say, it seemed like this race lasted forever and we were thrilled to see the finish line when we finally rounded the corner (although the blow-up arch had been taken down because of the wind).  Lisa was feeling stronger and pulled out ahead after the first few miles.  We were all thrilled to learn she had obtained a PR (personal record) that morning!  And Sue earned a second place spot in her age group.  All in all, it was a good morning’s work. 

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We started back across the parking lot towards our hotel, but somehow got turned around and circled the entire mall, adding what seemed like another mile or more to our return trip.  A stop in Starbucks for lattes and a warm up helped immensely.  Back at the hotel, we quickly and efficiently completed the routine of showers, repacking, checking out and coming up with a meet-up plan for the next stop.  Myrtle Beach here we come!   

A good portion of the drive on Saturday took us through less populated areas and we were able to see the beautiful countryside.  Sadly, we also got a glimpse of major damage caused by Hurricane Matthew just two weeks earlier.  There were so many trees down, roads washed out, and homes with temporary tarp roofs.  It made us pause again to count our many blessings and say a prayer for those affected. 

After several hours of driving, we met again at the Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon race expo…all of us with very full bladders after rehydrating post-race and driving back roads with no rest areas.  We picked up our packets and browsed the various vendor booths then made our way to the hotel we would be staying at.  Since it was too early to check in, Sue left her car in the parking lot and hopped in the back seat of Lisa’s with the outlet malls programmed into Mona (Lisa’s GPS).  A couple hours of shopping made for some very hungry runners who stopped at Cracker Barrel to eat breakfast for dinner. 

After dinner, it was back to the hotel for a relaxing evening.  Sue gave Rhonda a ride on the luggage cart as we headed to have a drink at the bar.  Feeling full and comfy, we headed up for a good night of sleep.  The alarm came way too early and Rhonda decided she was playing hooky and staying in bed.  Well, Sue said no way and yanked all the covers off……not that Rhonda would’ve ever missed the race but it was funny!

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Another nice race morning in store and a short walk across the parking lot to the race start.  We had encouraged Lisa to run hard and she did!  Another PR!  This girl is on fire!  Sue and Rhonda had a nice pace going and ended up 10 min faster than the previous day.  We were quite shocked.  We were looking all over for Lisa, called her phone several times, sent text messages – nothing!  With the wind chill coming off the Atlantic Ocean we were getting cold and hopped on the shuttle back to the hotel with hopes that Lisa would listen to her messages or be at the hotel waiting on us.  No such luck.  No Lisa anywhere.  We both hopped in the shower and were completely ready and still no sign of our friend.  At this point panic and the what ifs were beginning to set in.  Rhonda tried calling again, and that is when reality hit – Lisa’s phone WAS IN THE ROOM!  Now what?!  We had to check out by 11…..30 minutes to go.  Rhonda decided to go check the lobby just in case Lisa was waiting down there (she didn’t have a key because she always loses them).  What a relief when the elevator door opened and there stood Lisa waiting to get on!  We were thrilled and caught up on the entire story as she got ready for our departure.  Lessons learned – Lisa will take her phone and she gets a key for the race. 

 

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

After running 2 days of the Appalachian Series (Wed and Thur) with Sue, I then flew to Minneapolis on Friday, Oct 14 to start my weekend …..literally – planes, trains and automobiles. 

I arrived in Minneapolis mid-morning which gave me plenty of time to get my rental car and find my way around.  The race and packet pick up were actually located outside of Minneapolis in Long Lake, MN.  I plotted my path and it was much closer than I anticipated so I found a quick bite to eat, went and got some water for the night and then walked around the mall for a bit.  Packet pick up was in the same place as the race start at the Gear West store.  I got my packet and the best race shirt ever!  I love it!  Made my way back to the hotel and got all checked in.  I then decided to venture out and pick up a personal sized pizza for dinner.  While out I realized there was a cupcake store not far from the pizza place so thought why not?  Well, that is when my excitement really started.  I parked the rental car, grabbed the keys, my purse and my phone.  When I closed the door I locked the car and put the keys and my phone in my purse.  I went in and paid cash for the cupcake and walked back to my car.  The area wasn’t busy at all.  Once I was back in the car I went to pull out my phone to use the GPS feature to get back to the hotel……only to find that my phone wasn’t in my purse!  Trying to not panic as my driver’s license, debit card and credit card were in the phone case as well, I took a deep breath and dumped the purse out.  I put everything back in one item at a time – nope not there.  I then got out of the car and moved the seats to check in and around and still no phone!  Shaking a little, I closed the car up and slowly walked back to the store looking everywhere as I did so.  Still no phone in sight.  Maybe I left it on the counter.  I checked and the clerk said sorry, no phone.  I thought well, maybe one of the few people walking by saw it and turned it in so I went into the cleaners and the Subway shop…..still no phone.  I am at a loss what to do.  Not knowing my way but figuring I could maneuver to the hotel and get ahold of my cell carrier, my husband and the card companies.  All the while saying some prayers and also trying to figure out how I am going to get a rental car in Des Moines the next day!  I still had my military ID in my purse so flying wouldn’t be a problem.  I got down on the ground and looked under the car.  You guessed it – no phone.  I slowly pulled the car through the parking space thinking maybe I just couldn’t see it.  Once through I got out and looked again.  The entire time my heart is pounding and I am fighting the dread.  No phone in the parking space.  I decided that I needed to get a move on before my card was maxed out in Minnesota and slowly creeped through the parking lot desperately searching.  I decided to drive by one more time and this time pull in from the other direction and that is when something catches my eye.  I park and jump out and there on the inside of the tire of the car next to me is my phone!  I cannot believe it!  Had I not done the one last look it would have been ran over.  I was now saying prayers of thanks and heading back to my room.

Saturday morning came after a good night of sleep and I headed to Long Lake for the Gear Western Country Half Marathon.   It is a small race, which I love.  I planned it where I would only have to wait about 5 minutes and it was time to start.  The area is beautiful and by far the friendliest people I have ever encountered.  This was making my list of “hope to do again one day”!   The weather was perfect.  I couldn’t ask for a better day.  I was hoping to finish quickly as I needed to drive back to the hotel, shower, eat and head to the airport for my early afternoon flight to Des Moines, Iowa.  I finished faster than I anticipated, enjoyed the pancakes and sausages at the end and hit the road.  I found out a week later that one of my friends that lives in California was at the same race and we didn’t even realize it!! 

I made it to the airport with plenty of time, returned the rental car, took the train to the ticket counter and then on to Des Moines. 

Des Moines was much different than the beautiful place I had just left.  I got my rental car and headed to the hotel where I checked in and then walked to the expo.  I made it there quickly and then found my way to the starting area so I knew where to go in the morning.

I had a restless night and woke up definitely not feeling refreshed.  Headed out to the Des Moines Half Marathon and was hit by the 100% humidity and 60 degrees!  Crikey!  It was a good thing that I wasn’t in a rush today as I could tell this was going to be rough.  The race was much bigger than the day before and I really wasn’t feeling it but I knew that those with ALS have more moments than I do of not feeling like dealing with it so I started and ran my best but making sure I drank water at every station.  Both days I followed my normal Galloway 2:30/30 intervals.  I finished much quicker than I expected.  The course was rather boring in my opinion but then it could have just been my mental attitude. 

Once I finished I made my way back to the hotel where I showered and prepared to drive 2.5 hours to Nebraska to see my Grandmothers, some Aunts, Uncles and Cousins.  Whenever I am this close to my home state I try to pop in even if only for a couple days.  I spent Sunday afternoon and evening with my Mom’s side of the family and then on Monday I went to visit my Dad’s side.  Tuesday morning I flew back to SC so I could prepare for another double weekend. 

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