My Favorite Quote:

"There is an inner beauty about a woman who believes in herself, who knows she is capable of anything that she puts her mind to. There is a beauty in the strength and determination of a woman who follows her own path, who isn't thrown off by obstacles along the way. There is a beauty about a woman whose confidence comes from experiences; who knows she can fall, pick herself up, and move on."

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Marathon #7: Brookings or Bust!

Friday, May 10, 2013
We headed out for Brookings, SD around 3:30pm on Friday.  We all met up at Justin and Kathryn's house in Bloomington so that we could caravan out there together in two vehicles!  We had 10 people going on this trip - 6 marathoners, 3 half marathoners, and 1 team manager/photographer!  This would be my 7th marathon, Paul's 3rd, Ieva's 2nd, and Dad, Luke, and Vogel's 1st!  For our half marathoners, it was Justin & Kathryn's 8th (not to mention Kathryn is currently 24 weeks pregnant with my first step-grand-daughter :) and Eric's 2nd.

We headed southwest on the country roads for a 4 hour trek to Brookings.  On the way, we passed through some windmill fields.  As majestic and awesome as they look, there was a point when they began to clutter the landscape and make it look like crap.  You could actually see the MN/SD border because South Dakota's government doesn't subsidize them and ours does.  When we approached the border they just disappeared!  It was a relief to see the beautiful countryside again :)

Windmills for miles...

Once we got into town, we headed straight for the Brookings Children's Museum for packet pickup!  We made it just in time!  It closed at 8pm and we showed up around 7:30pm.  We snapped a few photos and then headed out to eat some carbs at the Italian Garden.  There were coupons for this restaurant at the packet pickup, but apparently the owner failed to notify the employees about this and they were not prepared for the bombardment of runners!  We waited patiently to be seated as a group of ten and finally gave up and split into two tables.  Once at our tables, we waited close to two hours to finally get through getting our food, eating it and paying.  Everything was screwed up, people's orders, even the checks.  The wait staff started to take it out on us it seemed.  One guy even said he was quitting after that night.  We didn't get out of there until 9:45pm!  We headed over to the Days Inn to check in and by this time, we were exhausted from the events of the day and all went straight to bed.

Team "Johnson - Krech - Vogel"

Saturday, May 11, 2013
My phone alarm went off at 4:50am.  I jumped into the shower and then proceeded to Kinesio Tape my hips and groin.  I have battled a groin/hamstring issue throughout this training and I no longer had anyone to help me with it.  I had to learn to tape myself this past month and I actually got pretty good at diagnosing and taping.  My training became non-existent for the past month as well and this is why my injuries got so bad.  My strength declined rapidly and my hips and IT band starting to act up badly.  The only problem was that my IT Band pain was now in my hips and not my lateral knee.  I had been in severe pain just walking each day, let alone run!  I figured out the past week that if I put a KT starburst on each hip, then I might be able to finish the race!  I also watched countless youtube videos to find the right groin tape job that I could do myself.  That SAVED me.  That was my primary concern and I pulled it off.  I'm actually pretty proud of myself :)

When I turned off my phone alarm, I saw a Facebook notification alerting me to the fact that it was my birthday.  I had completely forgot in all the commotion of the race!  I was more excited for everyone's big day, that I forgot it was mine :)  I turned 39 on race day and in all honesty, could really have cared less.  I was more interested in getting my dad to the finish line!  My dad was the first one to wish me Happy Birthday since he was rooming with us!  The rest of the gang sang as loudly and obnoxiously as they could at the continental breakfast in the hotel lobby :)  True Johnson-style.  My brother Paul was sporting an interesting ear-bud invention.  He was sick of his ear buds falling out, so he butterfly bandaided them to his  He explained it was because of cauliflower ear from his wrestling days!

Joe Cool

As we were leaving the hotel to head over to the race, we were approached by a runner asking for a ride.  This is the second marathon now that we have picked up a hitch hiker!  We called him "random Matthew" and came to learn that he was freakishly fast and took 3rd place overall with a sub 3-hour race.  Sweet.

At the last minute, I grabbed my wind breaker from the room and then we were off to Pioneer Park - the site of the start and finish!  Once there, we sat in our vehicles for a minute since it was SO COLD!  The wind was unbelievable and the temps were freezing cold.  I wore my windbreaker until the half split and even after that, I wished I hadn't taken it off!  The course was incredibly winding, which gave our team manager a great opportunity to follow along with us and take pics!

The course - squashed into a couple of miles!

Pre-race frozen huddle!

At the start line w/ Eric!

Once at the start line, I stood with a couple minutes to go and realized that I did absolutely no warmup.  I basically walked from the truck, to the restroom, to the start line.  It was so cold that all I could think about was not freezing, rather than preparing for the run ahead!  I was also running the entire race with my dad and was not in true race mode, so I wasn't thinking in race mode either!  I got my music ready, set the Garmin to ready, and waited for the gun!

Once on our way, I was worried that my dad would take off too fast.  He didn't though and kept to an easy 10 minute pace.  I asked him what pace he would like to run for the race and he said 10:45 and that he wanted to sub 5 hours.  I was confident that we would make that with no problems.  My dad was pretty excited and nervous about the race.  I was with mixed feelings.  I had never run someone else's race before and this was previously slotted as the race I would BQ at.  My brain wanted me to open it up and run as fast as I could, but my heart wanted to run side by side with my dad the whole way.  Also, my hips and groin hurt too much to race this one, even if I wanted to...

Paul and our family friend Vogel (Josh Vogel) didn't start together, but both were at the front.  I was in the middle with my dad.  Everyone else was behind us!  It was so much fun to have the whole family on the course with me :)  That was amazing and I hope it happens again!

We hit the mile markers one by one.  My trick to racing marathons is to not think about the entire distance, but rather to set small goals of one mile at a time and have a mini celebration at each one.  Some times I just "whoo-hoo" in my head.  Other times, I "whoo-hoo" out loud to the crowd - these are the mile markers that I thought I would never see and thanked God that I made it to them!  With my dad that day, I waited until the significant ones (10K, half, 20 mile) and congratulated him.  He was busy singing out loud to ZZ Top and running zig-zags across the street :)  This would change by mile 16 ;)

Dad and I across the street - early in the race!

My sister-in-law Ieva!

Justin and prego Kathryn in neon!

I made the comment to my dad that it was so great to have the family on the course with us!  He said "It's awesome.  You are awesome."  That comment made my entire birthday.  I was constantly told by my family that I inspired them all to run.  It never really seemed like a big deal though, because my family constantly inspires me in many ways.  It's just what we do.  Inspiring them was my contribution to a family of equally inspiring people.  I thought about how great it was that my dad was running a marathon.  A few years ago, my dad couldn't get out of bed, walk, dress himself, or go to work.  He saw all kinds of doctors over a year's time and no one could figure it out.  In the end, it was undetected gout, plus a twisted nerve in his back.  Once he got better, he asked to run a race with me.  We started with a 2 mile race in Eagan, then a 5K in St. Michael, a half in Woodbury, and now a marathon in Brookings!  My dad has also given up alcohol and smoking.  I had never battled these addictions as my dad did, so I was humbled running by his side that day!

As the race went on, I had to stop to use the restroom 3 times.  I felt bad to keep stopping my dad, but I usually run a pace that I burn off my liquids at and that I am not out on the course as long.  This was a pace that I didn't usually run at and found myself having different things to deal with along the way!  My injuries held off until the upper teens and then I was beginning to worry about finishing the race!

Paul and Vogel!

Dad and me!

Eric shedding a layer!

After the half split, the full marathoners would come to realize that the wind they thought they were battling in the first half was NOTHING compared the great wind storm of the Dakotas that we faced beginning around mile 16.  Mile 16 was a water stop in the middle of a field.  A mile before, someone wrote in chalk on the sidewalk "Make this trail your bitch!"  As we thought we were "owning" it, little did we know that we would get pummeled ten minutes later.  The course was pretty cool as it had a ton of variety - residential streets, parks, gardens, SDSU campus, disc golf course, sidewalks down main street, etc.  Mile 16 - 19 beat us up good.  The wind first hit us from the side.  I had to turn my head away from it just to breathe.  Then we had to turn into it as the course turned.  I had tears running down my cheeks purely from the wind.  I held my hat tight and pushed through.  I hoped my dad was behind me because I couldn't look back.  This went on for the rest of the race.

We'd get a mile break, then it seemed that we would turn right back into it!  Mile 19 was a nice break and we saw Lizzie one last time before the finish for a photo opp!  I gave her my jacket and she had to untie it from my waist for me.  My hands were completely numb and I couldn't pinch my fingers together to get a grip on anything.  As I battled this with my gear and using the restrooms, I made the decision to donate to the MS Society when I got home.  I couldn't function and felt awful for people that dealt with that feeling permanently.

Paul and Vogel - Still together!

Dad fueling on a snickers bar - mile 19!

Luke still in it, even with ITBS!

Ieva had decided not to run a few weeks ago, yet here she is at mile 19!

Almost everyone was battling something that day.  I had my injuries and recent life changes that seemed to defeat my inner drive.  Luke had IT Band issues that knocked him out of his long training runs.  Ieva had trouble running on her own for the long runs and decided not to run the race (until that weekend :)  Paul was the only one with perfect training and was going for a 3:38 - which he hit on the nose!!!  I was excited for Paul, but envious.  3:38 was my goal for the race as well, but it would have to wait for another time.

Dad started to slow down after mile 20.  His pace slowed to 12:15 for awhile.  I struggled at that pace as it was not natural for me.  It seemed I kept getting ahead of him.  I didn't want him to think I was showing him up, but I wanted to keep pushing the pace to below 12 minutes so that we would hit his goal.  He started to slow even more - down to over 13 minutes.  I would have to walk every so often for him to catch up, but I kept his goal in sight the whole time.  I kept asking him how he felt and keep telling him he looked great!  However, this pace started to really hurt my hips and groin.  Every foot strike shot through my hips with agonizing pain.  I felt like they were swollen.  My knee felt on the verge of locking up and I prayed my KT would keep it from doing that.  I knew that had I decided to race that day, it would have not have ended well with my injuries.  Once we hit mile 24, I felt too much pain to last much longer.  I just took it one step at a time. 

I took my headphones off so that I could listen to my dad's breathing and feet.  He was at a shuffle and wasn't getting his feet up that high.  I had trouble assessing him.  I would have thought he was about to stop, but then he would keep going!  Near the end, I told him we had "point two" to go.  He said he couldn't sprint and that he had only the shuffle in him!  I told him he would finish in time and just keep doing what he was doing!

As we neared the park, we saw everyone in our family who had already finished cheering loudly for us!  I was really excited for my dad and teared up :)  He was about to cross his first marathon finish line!  AWESOME!

The final stretch!

Bringing my dad in :)

Proud finishers!

We crossed the finish line as they called our names over the loud speaker as we crossed over at 4:52:25.  It was very exciting to get our medals placed around our necks.  We headed over for the post race food and free burgers!  It was incredibly cold still and now our sweat was freezing on top of it!  We didn't have long to wait for our final finishers though!  Luke came in at 5:01 and Ieva came in at 5:23 (a 40 minute PR for her!!!) Paul and Vogel both got their 3:38 finish earlier that day!

Paul and Ieva!

Luke and Lizzie!

Luke, Dad, Paul, and Vogel!

Now that Brookings has come to an end, I have mixed feelings.  Over a year ago, I was registered for the 2012 Brookings all by myself.  I was ready to BQ and had the power to do it...except...I had a boot on my foot and had to defer to 2013.  Over the course of the year, so many things changed in my life and my running became a metaphor for my life.  When my life had incredible inner drive and passion, then so did my running.  When I went to toe the line, I was excited that I had no idea at all how the next few hours would unfold.  In life, I was excited that I didn't know how the next few months would unfold for me and I learned to ease up on my expectations and learn to enjoy not knowing what was next.  I learned that running wasn't meant to be an addiction for me or something that frustrated me or made me impatient, rather it was meant to be a series of life lessons for me.  The boot tamed me and changed me as an athlete, coach, wife, and mother.  I quit taking time from my family to go on long runs and I learned to let go of the guilt of missing a training run.  But the past two months of my life did me in.  And therefore my running seemed to suffer as well.  As I ran the race that wasn't mine, I still finished and got my medal.  It didn't seem earned though.  I need to find my inner drive and passion again.  I need to run for myself.  I was bummed to look at the results and see that I would have easily won my age group and got an award at Brookings had I run my usual that day.  The competitor in me is disappointed at the missed opportunity, but the daughter in me is absolutely proud of running beside my dad all 26.2 miles - and that I would never have wanted to miss out on!

Post-shower Medal pic!

In the end, I got to watch my dad run every step of his race and I couldn't have asked for a better gift for my birthday!  I got to watch my brother Luke as he crossed the finish of his first marathon with a painful and swollen knee that started at mile 4.  I watched Ieva PR by 40 minutes at a race that she didn't necessarily want to run.  I was there for my brother Paul to meet his goal of 3:38 and Vogel to finish his first marathon crossing the finish holding hands with Paul (dorks).  We all fought that day to cross the finish line no matter what our goals and I was so proud to be a part of it all!  We are a tough crew no matter what our life's battles are.  I plan to register for my next race in September and hope to be ready to BQ.  If I'm not, then I will still run and continue to learn whatever life is trying to teach me :)

Event: Brookings Marathon
Place: Brookings, SD
Theme Song:  "Shake It Out" - Florence and the Machine
Date: Saturday, May 11, 2013
Time:  7:00am
Overall Place:  155 of 195
Gender Place: 50 of 67
F30-39 Place:  10 of 12
Final Time:  4:52:25 (11:10/mile)