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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Did Someone Say Two Half Marathons In One Weekend? Yes Please!

Double the bibs and double the hardware.

I'm the kind of person who likes to set running goals in order to keep herself motivated and focused. I register for races early, tell the world my plans so that I have to hold myself accountable, and then I start training (posting on social media every step of the way). When that race is over, I set a new goal and repeat the process.

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy running, a lot, but a runner is lying if they tell you that they have never been in a running rut. To keep things fresh, I like to set what I call a "big" race goal for myself each year. A few years ago I decided to run a half marathon. Last year I decided to run my first full marathon. This year I went "half" crazy and decided to run two half marathons- in ONE weekend! Yes, I accepted and completed the I-35 Challenge by running two races that are literally located in cities along Interstate 35, during the same weekend. It was a few days ago and it was just as amazing as it sounds.

For the last four months I have been training for this challenge the best I could. I searched and searched online, talked to some runners I know, but couldn't find a true "Two Halfs In One Weekend" training plan anywhere. After thinking about how I run and what it would take for me to be prepared to run back-to-back halfs, I came up with a training plan. I am proud to say that I came close to following it almost exactly, and it worked well in helping me to be prepared physically and mentally for the challenge. I felt totally ready.

Basically I ran about 25-35 miles per week varying the length of the runs from 5 to 8 miles most of the time. For the last several months (prior to this last month) I also ran two back-to-back longer-ish runs every other weekend, like two 8s, 9s, 10s or 11s. And then this last month I ran a few 8s and 10s, but focused more on shorter, much faster runs, as I really wanted to PR my first of the two races. I wasn't sure how sore I would be after running my heart out trying to PR, so my goal for the second half marathon was to just finish respectably.

The smile of a new PR!

The first of the two races was the Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon, half marathon option.  My husband ran with me, it was his very first race ever- let alone his first half marathon! He is naturally faster than me so I knew he would push me and help me PR. We figured that we had to get about 8:45 average pace for me to PR. We actually blew that out of the water with an 8:35 pace, and finished in 1:52.22. My previous best was 1:55.49 back in the 2014; so I ended up shaving almost 3 1/2 minutes off my previous best. I was stoked!

After the dust settled we showered, we picked up the kiddos from my sister's house, drove along I-35 to Des Moines, picked up my IMT DMM race packet at the Iowa Events Center, checked into the hotel and got ready for round two the next morning.

As the day wound down and the evening rolled in, several factors started to make me second guess my decision to run another half the next day. I started to get a horrendous cold and sore throat with a fever, aches and chills. I couldn't sleep because I was nervous my alarm wouldn't go off and I was sharing a bed with several kiddos- one of which was a 3-year-old that insisted on kicking me in the head all night. My cortisone shot from my torn rotator cuff (surgery planned for this December, yuck) still hadn't kicked in, and after running as fast as I could earlier in the day, my shoulder hurt- a lot. And to top it all off, I weirdly locked us out of our hotel room with my race gear inside earlier in the day and it took several hotel staff and a bent hanger to get us back in the room. Oh and how could I forget that it was only 30 degrees outside on the morning of the race? Icing on the cake was how sore my body was when I woke up from after the Kansas City marathon the day before. My legs literally felt like tree trunks.

It never crossed my mind NOT to do the challenge, but I definitely dreaded getting up that morning. This was the very first time I had ever woken up race morning not super pumped to run. Before the race started, standing out in the freezing temps with aches and chills, legs and feet screaming with soreness, I definitely didn't feel much excitement. But that did change, as my inspiration to stay on course was my little brother. He had agreed to run the IMT DMM leg of the I-35 Challenge with me, even though he had never run a race of any distance before.

When I looked over at my brother at the starting line, standing beside me, chatting with complete strangers, laughing, cracking jokes, jumping around to keep warm, things started to change for me. He was just the most excited I had seen him in, well, maybe ever. THAT changed something in my mind. I decided not to worry about my pace, the distance, my aches... I decided to just run with him. He was so very excited just to be running his very first race, ever, and I remember that wonderful feeling.

After a few miles I no longer noticed the aches and pains or the freezing cold; I only noticed how awesome it was to run and cheer my brother on along the route. Honestly, I lost track of the miles most of the time and just ran. I didn't worry about anything- I just ran.

I ended up having so much fun and getting so much enjoyment out of it.

Both races complete!

Eventually, we got to the end. And I DID IT! I ran TWO HALF MARATHONS IN ONE WEEKEND! It was incredible. I am so glad I did it. What an accomplishment!

You know what? We did pretty good too. I still finished in the top 25% of all women with our 2:06 time. Not too shabby for the girl always picked last in gym class.

Since training, Tweeting and blogging for the IMT DMM blog, I have met many runners online that were doing the I-35 Challenge too. Some ran one full and one half, some ran two halfs like me, and some "full" crazy ones even ran two fulls in one weekend.

I have to say that I am inspired.

I think.. I think... that I could challenge myself to run even more next year. I mean, I ran my two halfs this weekend with a torn rotator cuff and a really awful cold, sore throat and cough- among other obstacles... just think of what else I can do?!

I am sensing a new goal for 2016 coming on... :)

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