Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sink or Swim...

Whether it's the winter weather blues of training or the tough tasks of everyday life, somedays you can surf the waves, while others you are doing everything you can to tread and keep from sinking. When faced with a big wave, I have decided to swim. I have determined my nagging left hamstring issue that was growling on the left side of my bum -since crossing the finish line at the trials, has started barking. It's time to apply the "physical therapist" mindset... and not the "more is better" athlete mindset. I will take this week to stay off the pavement and road miles in order to tone this hami down!

Spread the love and the knowledge:
I believe in practicing what you preach. After visiting Lincoln Elementary school in Charles City, Iowa on Friday afternoon and speaking to the K-5th grade students about setting goals, working hard, not giving up, and continuing to set new goals, I realized I am in the 'not giving up' phase and must take a different route than expected when faced with a bump in the road (just as I told them to do). I had such a great time presenting my Olympic Trials marathon experience with the ~230 kids, and sharing with them what it takes to be a competitive marathoner. The best part were the questions that just kept coming after the presentation... "How many days did it take you to run a marathon?" ..."You ran to Texas for that race?"... "So, did you get that medal because you won the race, or because you just finished?"... "How many practices did you do for your marathon?"  I think I confused some of them with my comparisons of how far I have ran across the country, when adding up my training mileage...but oh well. I tried. A huge thank you to Saucony, for supplying me with a crazy amount of stickers and draw-string bags to give the kiddos. They were pumped! 

This week's training plan... swim, not sink:
After taking a nice rest day on Sunday, I started my week -away from running, at 5:30am, in the pool at the Cedar Falls YMCA. I am amazed that the lighter-haired women, who take up the middle of lane 1, can do their water aerobics for over an hour straight... AND chatter with the lifegaurd. I have to laugh at myself when I realize that I am having a "silent challenge" of swimming laps longer than they are pushing floating dumbells under the surface.  I attempted some deep water aqua jogging and was plain fed-up with it after 9.5 minutes... resorting back to my usual front crawl.  Overall, it is an enjoyable and refresshing start to my morning and I continue to remind myself of the words that TJ Tallakson, hubby to training partner Ashley Tollakson, shared with me while training in Tucson:
"Focus on the donut, not the donut hole". When it comes to training injuries, you really have to listen to your body and make smart decisions now, in order to obtain the true goals in the future. If anything, the goggle marks under my eyes seem to cause my patients to do "double takes" at me, each morning in the hospital.

Swim... bike, and run:
A shout out to TJ Tollakson: Ankeny Iowa native, professional triathlete, entrepreneur, Vitamix fanatic and advocate, and all around BAMF...married to a stud, as well. Check him out on the latest cover of Triathlete mag, go buy a copy today!!

Keeping the (Chocolate milke) glass half full:
Listen to the bod, be smart about your training, and when it comes to facing a challenge -use your stuff...and swim! Oh- and go love anotha brotha, tis the season! A very Happy St. Valentine's Day to all, especially Mr. Herrick...rumor has it a giant homemade valentine made it to his doorstep today and the real valentine will be back in West Des Moines with him on Friday! Have a great week!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Post-Marathon events, training, and sponsorships...and plans to come!

Hello and happy February! It is hard to believe that the Olympic Trials Marathon was 3 weeks ago today, already! This June-uary weather has made the runner in me hit the streets more than I should be, as I try to heel up some tightness and soreness. The "off season" makes me ancy and I just can't seem to keep the running shoes off!

My schedule has drastically changed from final marathon training preparation, leading up to Houston, to completing my 3rd of 4 clincial internships for my Doctorate in Physical Therapy. I have completed 3 of 8 weeks, working at Allen Memorial Hospital in Waterloo, Iowa as a student intern, inpatient physical therapist. I am learning a lot  and enjoying the experience! I have been blessed with a family home stay, in Cedar Falls and have really enjoyed getting to know them and being part of their family for these 2 months.

The voices on my shoulders: The runner  and the physical therapist. The runner: The sun is out, the temps are high, and it's a great day to get out there and run! You will get out of shape if you don't... The physical therapist: The tightness in that left hamstring is not getting any more lose with every step you take running! Take time off from running, recover, and STRETCH!
I hear these two voices EVERY DAY!

The Cedar Falls neighborhood I am surrounded with provides various residential roads, turns, hills -big and small, and mininmal traffic. Fellow runners can be spotted at 5am or 5pm, making it a safe and comfortable atmosphere. I even see and join in the miles with my "host Dad", which is a great time to chat and catch up on our day. I have also had great opporunity to swim laps at the local YMCA, using sweet water proof headphones, courtesy of my "host mom". I have never had the bumpin' tunes with my strokes... it.is.awesome! The time goes by like craze. My host family their own "gym" set-up in the basement, equipped with a recumbent bike, elliptical, treadmill, pully machine, yoga mats, physio balls, foam rollers, bosu balls, and dumbbell rack... I drooled a little when they gave me the tour :) As you can see, I am truly blessed with my training and home in Cedar Falls!

Prior to competing in the Olympic Trials in January, I was selected to be a part of the Saucony, Team Hurricane program and will continue to represent the Saucony company in my races, training, and running activities. Saucony is a brand that exists for runners... to inspire them, bring new ideas, forcing them to be better and to drive the company's design and engineering. Saucony produces running shoes, as well as running gear and products to fit the needs of all levels of runners. I enjoy their philosophy of, "At Saucony, a good day is when we get to run. A great day is when we inspire someone else to run." Check the company out at: www.saucony.com for shoes, gear, apparel. It is an honor to have the financial support for gear and supplies to assist my running career. I am excited to speak to an elementary school in Charles City next week, to share my marathoning experience and to provide them with some fun Saucony gear and philosophy for an active, goal-driven lifestyle. I look forward to representing the Saucony name and team as I continue to race and inspire others into a healthy and active attitude for life.

I am also very excited for my recent sponsorship selection for PowerBar Team Elite. PowerBar is a sports nutrition company that aims to help athletes reach goals through proper nutrition and training approaches. From energy/protein bars, energy gels, sports drinks/mixes, protein supplements, to  training gear and training plan articles and resources, PowerBar is a great reference for any athlete in training. Check out the website and everything it has to offer at: http://www.powerbar.com/
I am pumped to have the financial support for training nutrition and supplies, and to represent this brand in my running.

Plans to come...
I will be running my first race of the spring -Shamrock Shuffle 8k, in late March in Chicago with my fellow Runablaze Iowa club teammates. I will run 2 half marathons in April and May and will start the summer season off with the Dam 2 Dam 20k in June. These next few months will include a lot of school and internship work, as I work toward my graduation on May 26, 2012. The training will be consistent, but will be secondary to my Physical Therapy future and career potential. Stay tuned for more posts, ~1x/week to read up on my training and who knows, likely some funny experiences I get myself into.

Happy Weekend! Go move those legs!

WAIT-  How could I forget?!... Justin and I did some training a couple weekends ago in Des Moines. I shouldn't tell you this, but as a post-marathon reward, we downed major chow at Zombie Burger... just minutes before hitting the ice. Don't tell PowerBar. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Olympic Trials Marathon write-up

Houston, Texas—Go big. And go home…OR, just go home.

“Everything’s bigger in Texas”…

5:00am - Alarm goes off. My first thoughts (usually, a little dramatic, as my mind takes a few seconds to come to reality): “S#*%, I am running 26.2 miles today” but QUICKLY re-routed the brain waves to: “S#*%, I AM RUNNING IN THE OLYMPIC TRIALS TODAY!! Let’s DO THIS!”

5:15am - Red glitter band headband: on, most of the uniform/warm-up: on, marathon mentality: on. Pre-race breakfast for my marys is a preferred banana and oatmeal…and coffee, DEFINITELY coffee. Explanation is (hopefully) not needed…

6:00am - Justin and I head to meet (training partner) Ash and (her husband) TJ, to start our 0.9 mile walk to the George Brown Convention Center (directly adjacent to the start/finish, where all Elite Athletes are required to warm up, check bags, and be escorted to the ‘Calling Area’ before the race begins). The temperatures were quite ideal for a marathon, ~high 30’s at 7am with minimal wind and ~low 40 degrees by the 8am start- of the men’s race. Walking those 10 blocks toward the race in the dark, I had few jittery nerves running through my body (or through my mind). Ash and I seemed to have pep in our step, but I felt excitement and readiness to just get this sub 3 hour party started.

6:30am - The Elite Athlete warm-up area is already bumpin’ with athletes, coaches, and support personnel, as we take the escalators up to the designated athlete warm-up area. Some seemed to rest in chairs, while others paced the hallways in their warm-ups. Numerous runners held styrofoam coffee cups in hand, while others sipped bottles to stay hydrated. Ash and I, and our “athlete support” men (Justin and TJ), found a row of chairs to spread out our things and we just sat, and took it all in. We spotted our 3 other Iowa racers (Robyn Friedman, Erin Moeller, and Jason Flogel) in the room, and seemed to relax more as we talked with them.

7:00am - Ash and I decided to shake out the legs and utilize the separate warm up facility available for running indoor loops, along with various other men and women competitors. We continued to keep our nerves at bay, as we seemed to converse about non-race topics… why neither of us could wear our hair in a braid and race comfortably…my memories of warming up in confined spaces for indoor collegiate track meets… and, as Ryan Hall (2nd place finisher and London Olympic Games qualifier) came into the small arena to jog, we joked about whether or not it would be professional to give him a good luck slap on the booty, as he cruised by us… we decided it would probably be best not to find out.

7:35am - “First call for the men, First call for the men” was announced, as Ash and I returned from our (2nd or 3rd… I lose track) bathroom trip.  I organized my warm-up gear, leaving behind one bag of extra shoes and clothing, while taking only minimal warm-up clothing and fluids in my race bag. I looked around and saw many of the women competitors stripping down to their uniforms and lacing up the racing flats, as the men seemed to disappear down the escalators. I could hear cheering coming from the crowd, just outside the windows of the G.B.R. Convention Center and for the first time in the entire weekend- felt the true stomach butterfly’s begin to flutter in the gut.

7:40am - “First call for the women, First call for the women” was heard, in what seemed like seconds after the men’s second call was announced. Justin stood close, as I quickly gathered up my race bag, checked my larger bag with the athlete personnel, and continued to feel more butterflies flutter. Women seemed to be quickly exiting the athlete warm up area and making their way toward the large windows that revealed the loud and excited spectators that waited for the athletes to emerge. As I heard “Second call for the women, Second AND LAST call for the women”, Ash and I knew it was time to march. Justin gave me one last big, bear hug, as he said, “Good luck, Babe. Just have fun. There’s no pressure. I love you”… that seemed to flatten some of the butterflies… but they had escalated to an army.

7:46am - As I walked along side Ash, toward the escalators, the women surrounding me seemed to be suddenly quiet. I looked down at the way I was cradling my race bag, and realized my tight grip-hug on the bag was quite equal to my nervous emotions in my head, and my heart. Ash looked at me and said, “can you imagine being here, running this, without anyone else?” I was suddenly reminded how extremely lucky I was to have 3 other women, from Iowa, that I know to take on this experience with. Ashley took me under her wing, as I ran my first marathon in Twin Cities, just 1 year and 2 months ago, and she continued her lead in Houston, as we were about to start the biggest race of our lives. We walked out into the brisk 40 degree air, and the wind seemed to tunnel through the city street. We quickly found a spot on the curb for our race bag, fluids, and gels, and began jogging small loops in the competitor “Calling area”.

7:55am - Hearing the national anthem play before each sporting event has brought goose bumps and an escalade of emotion over me, ever since I can remember hearing it as an 8 year old-playing Little League.  Standing on that street in Houston, watching the multiple American Flags blow in the wind, scanning the blocks worth of red, white, and blue Olympic signs and banners, while standing completely still with my competitors and the thousands that surrounded the start line… was like no other national anthem I had ever been a part of before. Listening to the beautiful words brought emotions of pride, gratitude, disbelief, and pure honor; not only to have the ability, but the opportunity to have this unbelievable experience for our country. 

8:12am - The men’s field had started 12 minutes prior, and the announcer was yelling out the names of the top men, as they came around the curve of the first 2.2 mile loop. The women’s field suddenly flocked toward the end of the calling area, as the race officials corralled us together. At this point, my nerves were combined with chills and jitters of excitement to hear that gun go off.

8:15am - Ashley and I found ourselves at the back end of the pack as the women jogged to the start, just before the gun was fired. Frank Shorter, Gold medalist (Munich, 1972) and Joan Benoit Samuelson held the gun for the men’s and women’s races.  The front of the start line was occupied by a BMW SUV, the lead car for the women’s leaders on the course. A BMW convertible was also seen, carrying the main announcer for NBC broadcast and just one of the many cameramen’s on the course.  Little did I know at the time that not far behind me was another set of cameramen sitting on the back of motorcycles.  I cannot remember the last time I had started that far back in a pack of runners, from the start line, but today- I did not care. The first 2.2 mile loop would be filled with 90 degree turns and congestion, and I was not about to get flustered… there would be 24 more miles to let the legs really stretch out.

First loop (2.2 miles) The start line was paralleled with crowd-filled bleachers on either side, as I passed through the Road to London, Olympic Trials Marathon archway to begin my 26.2 mile journey. The entire 2.2 miles were loud with cheering, whistling, and those blessed, clanking cowbells. The short loop downtown seemed to go by in a flash, even though our first mile split read 6:40 as I crossed by the MILE 1 sign. So much for a consistent 6:10-6:12 pace! I stuck to Ash’s shoulder and we seemed to weave from the middle of the pack, toward the edge of the street in order to give ourselves some room for our stride. It is hard to tell what pace you are truly running at the start of an exhilarating race… your adrenaline is pumping, your legs are fresh from the taper, your heart is beating like a drum, and to top it off- the tall buildings of the city seem to deflect any accuracy of my GPS wrist watch.  As I looked down at my GPS to see my “average pace” for those first 2.2 miles, I realized that I hit the “stop” button instead of the “split” when I came through the MILE 2 sign… meaning, my average pace had lost 2 miles worth of running and was no longer even near-accurate. I truly did not know my average pace… but again, at this point I did not care. I was just taking that first loop for a joy ride.  Each female wore a bib number on the front of her respective uniform, displaying her last name in capitalized letters. The bib pinned to the back of the jersey displayed our actual bib number, which was the rank number from our original qualifying time. My back read 94 (of the 189 competitors) and I enjoyed the game of passing any number, especially one lower than 94. Again, at this point in the game, the heard of cattle that I seemed to be running in was quite packed and I just let the pace of the group take the reins.

Second loop (2.2- 10.2 mile) The race seemed to just begin as the compact group of runners began to spread out and head west, out of Downtown Houston. The first water stop came and went, but the crowds of fans and loud cheering continued along the entire 4 mile stretch out of the city. I seemed to stay about 5-10 yards behind Ashley, but we both gradually moved up on other women and I began to even out my pace to a consistent ~6:11-6:12 minutes per mile. I heard multiple cheers of “Let’s go KELLY!” and “YEAHHHH KELLY!!” … to the point that I was convinced one of the girls near me had the first name of ‘Kelly’. That or, I just had a last name on my chest that was easy to read and pronounce. Regardless, I cannot tell you how many times I was supported, with my last name in the cheer, and how great that was. I was not surprised to see a bright orange tee shirt over a grey hoodie, with jeans and running shoes, as I heard the voice of my Dad yell, “Let’s go DK! You’re looking great!”  I can always count on my Dad to be at one of the furthest points away from the crowds and where I need encouragement the most on any course. The crowds of enthusiastic cheering continued as I made my way west, on the one side of the median-divided Memorial Parkway. Justin stood just to the left of my path, and yelled to me “use the tangent! Get to the middle of the road!” The triathlete in him wanted me to be as efficient as I could with the curve of the course. We rounded Shepard Drive, hearing loud cowbells and cheers of “I like your pink shoes!” and the course was heading back East on Allen Parkway, back toward downtown.  The course made a quick hairpin turn (180 degrees) 2 miles before we returned to the city district, and I was able to see how many women were behind my tracks.  I saw my teammate, Robyn (7th at the 2008 Olympic Trials), as I entered the hairpin turn and she was blazing back out with a big group of women. Ash was about 60 seconds ahead of me at this point, according to her husband (TJ) as he rolled his bike to a stop and cheered me on.  Coming back into downtown, I rounded the MILE 9 sign and reminded myself that the first 8 mile loop goal was to “RELAX” and hit the 6:11 splits.  I went for my first Powerbar Gel and continued to gain on the women ahead of me. Running into the East, I was blinded by the light of the sun but led by the sound of the loud cheering.

Third loop (10.2-18.2) I passed by the camera lady of the day, my mom, as I hear her excited voice scream “Let’s go Danna! YEAH, let’s go girl!” and the video camera held up, in one hand, proud. Being her first marathon experience with me as the competitor, she was by far one of the most pumped up fans on the course. My brothers and I joke that my mom asks a lot of questions and digs deep into the minds of her children, when it comes to our competitions, but I truly have nothing but envy that my mom’s passions are only that of her children’s. She expresses the emotion that I don’t always wear on my sleeve and she witnesses the time and effort that goes into being an athlete. Never judge a mother’s athletic knowledge by her athletic background. I came through the long straight-away of the start/finish line and could only smile as the crowds seemed to make me pick my feet up faster. I had no idea how far back (or front) I was compared to the majority of the pack, and the spectators did not seem to notice either. Waving American flags and screaming my own last name propelled me past and into my 2nd, 8 mile loop of the race. “LIGHT” is the goal of this loop, to convince the mind and legs that I am light and floating through my stride.  Suddenly, a megaphone of screams comes to ear and I see my friend and training partner, Coll, and her husband, Jason (holding the megaphone) and screaming my name. I continue West through the city and out of the downtown for the 2nd repeat 8 mile loop. I have yet to run for more than ~half a mile with a consistent competitor, as I seem to be making up some ground and running up on women ahead of me. Although the 13.1 mark is the “half” distance of the race, I have never let myself believe that to be true. The 13.1 is simply just another marker that I want to have a certain split at. I roll through the MILE 13 sign and see the clock read 1:20:40… perfect. In planning out my race, I set it up to run the first 13.1 anywhere between 1:20:30-1:21:30, giving myself a 1 minute window to ease my mental clock.  I knew if I wanted to finish with a strong race and strong time, the biggest sin in a mary is to beat the legs up too much in the first 13.1 BUT if you go out too conservative, you sell yourself short of a quality time and overall effort.  During the first loop of the 8 mile circle, I heard a fan yell out, “I like your red headband!” and again as I returned into the city, on that loop. I proceeded to hear that man scream that 4 more times, running past him on my way west, and back east into town…He seemed to laugh when I gave him my signature “marathon thumbs up” and flashed a smile.  Justin continued to pop up multiple times and run his way to many mile markers of the course, taking pictures, video, and cheering loud and proud.  I entered the hairpin turn for the 2nd time and threw up the fist to Ash, and she returned the sole sister signal while she was coming out of the turn.  I kept her bobbin’ blonde ponytail and bright orange jersey in sight, doing my best to get myself closer to the pack of women surrounding her.  I continued east, back toward the skyline. I ran under one of the pedestrian bridges that arcs Allen Parkway and hear “YEAH DK! You are looking SO STRONG!” from friend and training partner, Ellen, who also seemed to run herself all over the course to super fan.  Coming back into the city district seems to give the legs a natural adrenaline and surge of energy with the increased sights and sounds of the supporters, including another Des Moines training pal and super fan, Mark.  I still have no idea where I am in the midst of the 189 women, but this only drives me to push on and pass more.  I see my mom again, as I loop her cheering territory and smile as she continues to hold her hand-held video camera. Just past her, the next runner in route to catch seems to have a familiar stride and uniform. I come up on Runablaze teammate and my marathon/physical therapist role model, Robyn, and hear her say, “Go get ’em girl!” Coming through the start/finish line straight away for a final trip back out on the course, the crowd seems to be louder than the lap before. I hear the announcer yelling that the men’s leaders are rounding the MILE 26 mark and Meb has taken a flag from a fan, as he rounds the final corner before breaking the tape… I clear the finish line and begin my final 8 mile loop before the Men’s champion has a chance to site the finish.

Final Loop  (18.2-26.2) Leaving downtown for the last time, I think to myself “I am feeling great. This is where it really gets fun”… The goal in the race plan for the final 8 mile loop is to think “Smooth”, making any type of robotic stride feel as natural as possible. This is also “gut check” time, how many women can I catch? I take in Powerbar gel #2 just after 18.2 and prepare the mind for just 8 more miles. Because of my mistaken “stop” push on the GPS at mile 2, I am unaware of my true average pace, but seeing the running clock at each mile marker told me that I was not on pace to run a PR (my best time being 2:43:54) but the drive of the Olympic Trials, and the drive of placing as well as my feet could carry me, pushed me into the last incline outside of the city. The legs were definitely heavier than they were at this point, one loop ago (8 miles earlier) but the mental drive pushed on. The amount of spectators seemed to have decreased in the areas outside of the city, since the men’s field was finishing and the women’s winners would be getting close. I see TJ on his bike brigade once again and hear him yell, “Lookin’ good D! Ash is about 40 seconds up, keep pushing!”  Another Justin cheer spot and he tells me that many women are starting to fade.  Continuing to gain on women, my body starts into a running robotic-like stride mode. I suddenly do a double-take to my left and realize Ash is on the side of the road, stretching her hamstring. Instinctively, I yell “C’mon girl, let’s go!!”  The turn to return east seems to be further away than I remembered, but I use the sporadic fan support to push me on. Those cowbells and cheers using my last name, meet me at Shepard Drive, for one last turn to press on eastbound.  I come to the hairpin turn and roll through MILE 23… and think “Just a 5K left”. The legs seemed to grow heavier. I saw the NBC helicopter flying over head and the flags that lined the street remind me of what this race is all about. I repeat a mantra prayer and dig deep. The 4 months of sub 4am alarms, the extra workouts at the YMCA, the treadmill speed work that I truly disliked, the soreness and fatigue coupled with school, whatever the sacrifice was- it was all for this day and this moment. I would fail not only myself, but my family, training partners, friends, classmates, and anyone I have ever inspired along the way, if I did not give the last 3.2 miles all that I could give on this day.

The Final Stretch- I rounded the final curve, after seeing MILE 26 and have nothing but near-numb legs and a smile to show. The streets were lined with fans hanging over the fences, waving flags, and still cheering me by ‘KELLY’. I make my last and final left curve-turn and see the ‘Road to London’ archway and Olympic Trials Marathon signs lining my final 100 meters to the tape.  With each stride, I thought about the sacrifices that each person in my life made to make this finish possible and the pride of this day, I would be able to share with them. Almost unknowingly, I felt myself lift both my arms for a quick “pump up” wave and laughed as I heard the cheers heighten, even if it was only for a few seconds. I crossed the line and felt the release of every single emotion that had built up over the last 2 hours, 45 minutes, and 42 seconds.   That’s just what seems to happen after 26.2, the Runner’s High, gone BIG.

In the End- Did I qualify for the London Olympic Games? No.  Did I expect to? No. Did I meet my goals? YES- without a doubt…

1) I set myself up to finish strong and allowed myself to enjoy the entire race and the entire experience.

2) I beat my 94 rank, as I finished 82 out of the 189 (finishing in the top 50% of the field)

3) I broke 2:46:00 (the time required to get into the race) proving to myself that my previous marathon was not a fluke-fast marathon time, but that I have the ability to run that time, from my own drive.

At 1 year and 2 months old to the sport of the marathon, I am confident that I have a lot of room to grow, learn, and mature in the journey of 26.2. This was my first ride at the Olympic Trials, but if I have any input in my running career, I will say that it will not be my last rodeo. Giddy-up!

PRE-Race recap!

Pre-Race Friday

Day 2 in Houston didn’t begin until after 8am on Friday morning, as I let my body sleep until it was ready to rise. I met Ashley to run our 4 miles- easy in the hotel lobby, and Justin finished up his long run with our short jaunt. On both Thursday and Friday runs, we headed West from our hotel- away from the busy streets and stoplights of downtown Houston. We followed paved trails through “Bayou Park” that ran on either side of the river. The two streets that paralleled this river were a part of the marathon course, leading the runners west, away from downtown, and then looping back on the other side of the river- coming back East into the city. Ash and I did our usual, “socialized running” and it seemed to feel like a typical run back in Des Moines… rather than the last run before the biggest race of our road running careers, yet. The 4 miles seemed like nothing, after the miles of training, and Justin and I were back in the hotel room and showered by noon.

Justin and I met my Saucony rep in the Saucony hospitality suite to obtain my new racing uniform, gear, and full bag of Saucony goods. Turns out, she is also the rep for the Elite Triathletes that Saucony sponsors… so she and Justin enjoyed talking about his background.  I was recently accepted into the grass-root program for Saucony, as part of their regional standout runners, or “hometown heroes” called Team Hurricane. I am very excited to have the support and assistance of such a brand, as I continue to train and compete. It is an honor to represent the Saucony name and company as I race locally, regionally, and nationally.

From there, Justin and I headed to the host hotel for the Olympic Trials event, to attend the athlete technical meeting with all men’s and women’s marathon participants. Justin was named my “Athlete Support” credential, and was then able to get into all the restricted zones with me, as the elite athlete during the entire Trials weekend. This credential would typically be used for a professional runner’s coach.  The reality of my weekend truly hit me, as Ashley, Justin, and I entered the room and sat with the other 320 (men and women) competitors and their coaches.  The names and faces that I witnessed walk through the door for the meeting… were the nation’s best of the best 26.2 athletes. Me, the small town Iowa girl, who reads and envies the talent and abilities of these individuals in each month of Runner’s World and daily videos on Flotrack.org, could barely take it all in at once… Deena Kastor, Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher, Desi Davilla… Ryan Hall, and SO many other idolized runners surrounded me, all in the same room.  Get it together, Kelly! I eventually regained my focus and was able to tune into the meeting J

We obtained our bib numbers and timing chips following the meeting and headed to the athlete hospitality suite to have our uniforms reviewed and cleared to race in. Each athlete was required to present every article of clothing that would be worn the day of the race. Brand names and club logos were measured and covered with tape if the logo was greater than the required size. Double logos on one item were also covered, only allowing one logo to be shown. The entire uniform and warm-ups were then photographed and the athletes name and number shown. Whether this was all completed due to the NBC television coverage standards, or for further reasoning, it was quite interesting and not something that we had ever seen with any other televised professional sporting event.

Justin and I left the Hilton host hotel and met my parents outside in the courtyard “Discovery Green” park, directly adjacent to the start/finish line of the race. We took some fun photos with the Olympic Trials start/finish, signage, and posters. The Olympic Trials Opening Ceremonies was held outside, on the courtyard, with a large stage and jumbo-tron. I enjoyed meeting various fellow-competitors, as we processed in together, holding our American flags and smiling to the cheering crowd. As I walked toward the large crowd of family, friends, and supporters of the event I was overcome by pride and emotion, as I rounded the corner and walked in front of the cheering fans, standing on their feet, cheering, flashing cameras, and cheering. As they seated us, in the athlete area, I walked by the front row and out of instinct- stuck my hand out to the gentleman in the first row and said “Hey Bill, thanks for being here tonight and for your support!”… As Bill Rodgers looked up at me, smiled, and replied with a happy “Hey! Best of luck to you, tomorrow!”  GREAT guy.

The Opening Ceremonies included speeches from former Olympians and concluded with a booming fireworks show. Somehow, I was randomly asked to do an interview with the local Houston news station, with “Cheeta”, the newswoman (yes, Cheeta…”just like the cat!” she told me). I am not sure if my 60 seconds of coverage made it onto the Houston news on Friday night, but it was just one more fun experience to add to this weekend of events!

We concluded our Friday night with my preferred pre-race meal: #12 from Jimmy Johns and a 12 oz. bottle of Chocolate Milk… my true fuel for success.  Back at the room, I competed my uniform prep of pinning the bib numbers on and lacing up the timing chips on the shoes, and getting all my ducks in a row for the big day. A little stretching, a little massage (compliments of my “Athlete Support” Fiance) and the most important: Bedtime- 10:15pm.

Sweet Dreams!


Friday, January 13, 2012

Houston, Here we ARE!!

Wind, snow, ice in the midwest vs. Bob Kelly = Bob Kelly wins, NO question.

Wednesday's workout called for 6 miles easy. I enjoyed my last Des Moines run with sole sisters who will compete this weekend. Ashley- in the Trials, and Coll- in the Houston Marathon, held on Sunday.
We met at our usual early-morning-hour and had our "social hour" of miles and shared our excitement for the weekend.
Wednesday  night was to be my last night in West Des Moines, before an early alarm clock on Thursday- to jump in the car with Bob and Kath (and Justin) and to make the 3 hour drive to Kansas City Airport. With the midwest winter weather that quickly rolled in on Wednesday afternoon, my parents arrived to pick us up at 8:30pm on Wednesday night. Thanks to my Dad's safe driving and intelligent road-tripping knowledge, we were all sleeping in a hotel near the airport by midnight.

I enjoyed a long conversation with a fellow trials competitor on our ~90 minute flight to Houston. It will be so fun to meet so many women that seem to live my life. My mom shared her excitement on the plane, not only to be witnessing my marathon (her first) but also to return to the city that was her, and my Dad's, home after they married... almost 37 years ago. She shared memories of having drinks at the top of the downtown Hyatt, revolving restaurant, just to enjoy the city sites from above, with my Dad. They would hit up the Gulf, traveled into the city every weekend to experience the festivals and city life... something that their small home-town of Iowa scenes had not offered them before marrying.

We arrived in Houston by noon on Thursday, hopped into our bright red, Mazda2 rental car and arrived at our downtown hotel. Justin and I headed out for a "shake out" run, along the streets of the course.  2 miles easy, 2 miles at marathon pace (6:10-6:12 minutes/mile), 1 mile easy. Houston seemed to have strong winds from the West, so the wind pushing me back toward the hotel brought my average "marathon pace" of 2 miles, to 6:08.  We finished out our afternoon as we walked to the Hilton, host hotel, with Ashley to obtain our athlete credentials and check in.

As I walked into the Hilton Gardens, I was suddenly hit with the feeling "this is it, I am here!" Olympic Trials signs and posters surrounded us as we made our way to the athlete check-in area. Ashley and I showed our identification and retrieved our goodie bags and packet information. Justin is my official "athlete support" credential, which will allow him into the areas that most "family and friends" will not be able to access on race day and leading up to race day. (This would be the credential that a professional runner's coach would have). We hit up the Elite Athlete hospitality suite for some food and comfy seats before heading back to our hotel. Justin, my Dad, and myself enjoyed an afternoon snooze before preparing for our dinner.

The BP VIP Dinner was put on by the Trial's official sponsor (BP) at the Museum of Natural Science, a few miles from downtown. This event was SO fun! The Museum was completely dim lit, with the dinosaurs haning out above and various artifacts surrounding us in the Great Hall. Drinks were offered to all guests, a variety of small plates were offered for dinner and dessert selections, and tables lit with candles for all guests to dine. A presentation was held in the main auditorium, where BP honchoes gave opening remarks, and the legends of marathoning also spoke: Frank Shorter (1972 Gold Medalist), Bill Rodgers, and Steve Jones. I enjoyed Frank's emphasizing comments, that no matter what your (rank) number says on your bib on Saturday, that you deserve to be here. After our dinner and dining, I worked up the courage to grab Frank and Bill for a quick snapshot... they were such nice gentlemen and wished me the best of luck.
We finished out our night making a quick-trip to a (very interesting) supermarket on our way home. "FIESTA!" was bumpin with rap music and Houston folk, as Justin and I found their Chocolate Milk stock. This is a MUST pre-race drink, and I needed to load up my hotel mini-fridge!  Mom said "NO, Justin" to the "sodee-pop" he found... apparently, not everything is bigger in Texas?

MAN, what a GREAT start to our Houston experience. My parents also had a great first day, going on a goose-chase to find a supermarket, for groceries downtown... it sounds like they met some interesting corner store owners, but had a lot of fun doing it. My dad is thoroughly enjoying the home-state brews of "Shiner Bock" and seems to be excited to witness my 3rd go at the 26.2 race.

Thanks for following and stay tuned for a Friday update, hopefully later today! Today's agenda: LAST run of 4 miles easy with Ash, Elite athlete meeting, number/timing chip pick up, and meeting my Saucony reps to get the uniform and shoe hook ups. Can't wait!

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sub-marathon-pace funday

The taper allows for rest and decreased mileage but the legs do require some "wake up" early in the week, before race day. Today's wake-up-workout was 2 mile warm up, 4 x 2 kilometer (~1.25 mile) reps between 6:10-5:55 minute/mile pace, with a 2 mile cool down. The 6:10 is my goal marathon pace, and the wokout called for a pace between marathon pace and 15 seconds under MP.

I headed to Gray's Lake just about the time the temperature broke into the 60's. In my half tights and long sleeve, I never thought I was going to be able to "heat train" outside, in Iowa, for Houston!? It was smokin'! And the Des Moines-ians knew it too... as the loop aruond the lake was bumpin with everyone from Mom's pushing strollers, to 80 year old+ mall walkers- turned lake loopers. The best part, are the smiles that consistently flash as I ran by each individual. The warm days of winter in Des Moines, remind me of the sunny days of Seattle... everyone suddenly perks up, has more energy, and just cannot get enough time outdoors.

The conditions were ideal, with just a tish of wind blowing the warm temps from the South, but the legs felt slightly fatigued. I busted out the first 2k too fast, at 5:47 minute/mile pace. Whoops! Rep #2 took the hit from the (too fast) Rep #1, as I averaged 6:01 minute/mile pace. I was dead on, with #3 and #4, as I hit 5:55 for both bouts.  I enjoyed the 2 mile cooldown in the sun and pondered whether or not the sun gave the skin a little tan for the Houston prep :)

I headed to the Y for a recovery swim of 20 minutes easy, before getting some stretching and relaxing in the moist sauna.  Compression sleeves are on the calves and I am set for a quick nap, before cheering on the boys Boone Toreador basketball team!

The little (but BIG) bro, Chris, has been lighting the net on fire this season and he is so fun to watch. I cannot wait to see where his academics and athletic talent takes him in 2 years, as he (already?!?) nears the college level. Recently, Chris was nominated for the 'Fareway Athlete of the Week' award and needs YOUR HELP to win! Simply text the letter "A" to  91217 , TEN TIMES (per phone) and help him win! The FOX news at 9pm (CST) in the Des Moines viewing area, will announce the winner on Friday (1/13) night. Who could beat this stud?...

Gooooo Toreadors!
Have a great night,

Monday, January 9, 2012

It's officially taper week...

Well, I have been off of school for almost 3 weeks... the holidays are officially over... and the Trials taper is HERE.  A great majority of the information I shared with you last week, about the tapering process and the emotional/mental feelings that come along with it, have started to set in. Unfortunately, the one who has to witness my rollercoaster of emotions this week, is my Fiance. Bless him.

I think of myself as the "Type A" personality, constantly working on or fixing something, over analyzing, trying to perfect the mis-perfections, and keeping each area of my life organized and planned. It's just what I do. I just hope Justin can live with it! Taper time does not compliment this lifestyle or personality, but wedding planning does :)  I have managed to keep myself "busy" each day, so much in fact, that I have not even started packing for Houston or the 8 weeks I will spend in Cedar Falls- beginning the day after I race. Way off my norm, but hey it's probably good for me to have some wiggle room in my life. If you watch Modern Family, I would fit in scary close with Claire and her meticulous ways... luckily, I found my "Phil" in life...

I finished last week with the following workouts and training:

12 miles, with the first 6 miles at an easy pace and the second 6 miles at 6:30-6:50 minutes per mile. My body seemed to thank me for the extra sleep I have been gladly giving it, and the lack of any alarm clocks in the dark of the mornings! I completed this run solo, on the paved bike trails of West Des Moines. I still can't believe it is January and we have these running "heaven" conditions!

To think that Wednesday was a beautiful run...Thursday somehow topped it. I joined my training partner, Colleen, for a noon run IN SHORTS! As I drove to meet her near her work and run our 8 miles at an easy pace, I realized the level of my excitement for this mid-day sunshine run caused me to forget my GPS watch and sunglasses. Oh well, "talk test" is the perfect indicator for your "easy" running pace.

The long lost alarm clock rose from the dead. I met Colleen at Grays Lake for one of our last "tune up" workouts of the training plan, at 5am. As you near the end of your training bout for any big race, the last difficult workouts are key for building confidence and a positive vibe toward your fitness. The workout called for 2 miles of warm up, 2 x 4 miles at the goal marathon pace (6:10-6:12 minutes/mile) and 2 miles of cool down.  Although my legs seemed to scream- why are we not still resting in bed? - my mind was into it and I was ready to rock one of my last pace workouts. The point of this workout is to place yourself in the middle of the marathon-mindset and to remind your body of the pace that is to be held for the full 26.2 millas. I was pleased to see 6:11 for my average on the first rep of 4 miles. A quick 5 minute jog and we started the second rep. Especially in the early morning of the day, your mind can wonder, but just like in the race- keeping focused and in-tune with your mechanics and what the bod is saying- is the key to staying on pace. Second, 4 mile split average- 6:07. Knowing that it was not easy but it definately was not hard, confirmed a confident pace workout.  I headed home for a little breakfast, joe, and Today show, before getting a 30 minute swim in at the Y. I continue to sit in the moist sauna to stretch, visual, and relax the mind for 10 minutes... worth it.

14 miles easy with my favorite group of weekend training pals. TACO, definition: We meet at an old "Taco Bell" (it is now a beauty salon) building every Saturday at 6am and run the same 3 loop course, for anyone and everyone to join. It is the fastest hours of running I have experienced, as you have so many feet to pick-n-choose to run and chat with. Full of wide age ranges, men and women. They don't descriminate.  The rest of my Saturday was spend with my mom, as we hit jackpot on a "mother-of-the-bride shopping day". Foxy finds: dress, shoes, matching clutch... all reasonably priced. Can't wait to see her show it all off on the big day!

6 miles easy was in the company of Justin's youth triathlon team (Z3) and a few other training friends. We enjoyed the miles with the younger kids at 7am, taking a hillier gravel route on the West side of West Des Moines. We finished as the sun was rising for another crazy-warm-"winter" day. Justin and I enjoyed the remainder of our Sunday attending church and hitting up our favorite coffee spot, where he happily graded English papers and I attempted to plan our wedding day.

8 miles easy, at 5:30am, with some fun, short-but-sweet hill sprints. I met up with my Trials training partner, Ashley, and our good friends Jenny and Mark as we ran near the Drake and Des Moines University neighborhoods. As much as I dislike my alarm sounding in my ear, having your workout complete, enjoying a cup of joe in my Grandma's old recliner, along with Matt and Ann (Today Show) as the sun starts to come up, hits the spot.  I met up with Grandma Kelly for her weekly physical therapy appointment and shared lunch together. My 85 year old Gma could easily fool you for 65, with the activities she gets herself into. I hesitate to challenge that women to HORSE, ping-pong, pool, AND bridge (if I even knew how to play!)... just to name a few. What a gal.

Well, more to come as I near my departure for the big dance. Have a wonderful evening and enjoy the beautiful weather in the Midwest!