Saturday, October 31, 2009

My Little Man

I'll get back to regular posting soon, but for now I wanted to share a quick video of Tucker.  He LOVES looking out the front door, and he's learned that if he goes to the door and meows I'll usually open it for him.  The problem is that it's getting colder around here, so I can't open it quite as often.  I always feel kind of bad when I have to tell him no.

Untitled from Mel Belle on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Run for Mercy 5K

On Saturday, I had the joy of being involved with the Run for Mercy 5K.  I've been part of a team that planned the event beginning back in May.  It was exciting to finally reach our event day and see all of our hard work going into action.

We had 435 registrants and raised close to $30,000.  We're hoping that a few more giving envelopes will come in that will put us over the $30K mark!

I have some AMAZING friends who came out even though it was cold and gloomy to run or walk the race.

I really don't even know how to put my thoughts into words other than to say that I feel so incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to plan this event that raised money for a cause that I support.

I'll let the pictures speak for me today, and I hope to share some more thoughts once I'm a little more removed from the event.

My awesome team!

I did remember to take moments to breath and smile.

A sweet friend and her kids

People checking in - our registration went so smoothly!

People lined up at the start

Runners taking off into the woods

Two of my friends finished fifth and sixth in the race!

The Chick-fil-A kid helped start the kid's fun run.

We had some awesome door prizes!

I got to work with two amazing women in addition to our committee to help plan and pull off this awesome event for Mercy Ministries!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Recovering from the 5K

The 5K went extremely well.  As in we had 435 registered and raised around $29,000!

I'll be posting a full report (with pictures!) sometime this week.

In the meantime? I'm EXHAUSTED.

I really think that planning and executing a 5K is more tiring than running a marathon.  No lie.

I also think this must be what it feels like to have a wedding.  You plan something for months, and then it's over in the blink of an eye.  Amazing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Planning the Race Instead of Running It

Have you ever planned a 5K?

It's good times, let me tell you.

I've mentioned a few times that I'm involved with doing volunteer work at Mercy Ministries, a non-profit here in Nashville that helps young women struggling with various issues such as eating disorders, self-harm, depression, etc.  They have a home here in Nashville as well as homes in Louisiana, Missouri and California.  It's an organization that I really believe is changing lives for the good, and I'm always so happy to give some of my time to doing things that help make that happen.

In May, I signed on as Event Chair for the First Annual Run for Mercy 5K Run and Family Walk.

It's finally going to actually happen on Saturday.

It's been quite the journey.  I've worked with an amazing committee to publicize the race, get business sponsors and donations, and plan all of the nitty gritty details that need to be dealt with to make a 5K happen.

There's a good bit to it, but everything has really been falling into place.  It's been amazing to be part of this process and see everything come together.

There's still a good bit of work to do in these final three days before the race, but I realized today that I don't feel stressed out over it.  Sure, it's keeping me busy, and sure, I can't hardly think about anything else but the race... but it's been fun.  And rewarding.  And exciting.  And I'm looking forward to seeing the event come to fruition on Saturday.

We like to dream big, so we originally set a goal of having 200 people signed up.  As of today? 315.

We also wanted to raise $50,000.  As of today, we're halfway there with $25,000.  We believe it's possible to get closer to our goal before it's all said and done.

If you have any interest in making a donation and supporting this organization, you can do so by clicking on this link.

If you live in Nashville and would like to join my team and run the 5K, you can sign up by clicking on this link. Registration closes at midnight end of day Wednesday, but we will have race day registration at the park for $25.

My posting may be sparse... or might not make sense... or may not exist at all until I get this event behind me.  I'll be sure to let you know how it goes.  

Monday, October 19, 2009

Runner Quirks

We all have quirks, but I find that we runners have some that are even more funny.  

What is one of your runner quirks?  Share it with me in the comments, and I'll compile a list of all of them later.

One of mine? I have a tendency to keep a snack in my purse any time I know I'm going to be out and about for quite a while.  Today's choice - a small sample box of Cheerios that I picked up at the expo in Chicago.

(Another quirk about me is that I don't drink milk.. thus, it's easy to eat a box of cereal out and about!)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Post-Chicago: How I PRed by 20 Minutes and What I'm Planning Next

Actually, I don't really know for sure how I pulled this one off.

When I ran Huntsville in 2007 and PRed by 26 minutes, it seemed big... but it was on a flat course on a cool day whereas my previous best was on an incredibly hilly Nashville course on a hot day.  It made sense that I had a big difference in time.

But Chicago is also flat.  And it was 40 degrees and sunny, the perfect marathon weather. 

So to pull off another PR by 20 minutes?  It felt HUGE to me.

I don't have a magic recipe, but here's what I think helped me pull it off:
  • I never set a time goal.  I had placed absolutely no pressure on myself about my performance.  I went into it wanting to have fun, because if it's not fun then why bother doing it?  I think this kept me relaxed and calm before the race, so it was ultimately easy to stay relaxed during the race and run an even pace.
  • They say that the kind of sleep you get in the 2 weeks leading up to a marathon are more important than the night before.  I managed to sleep 10 hours per night most of those nights, and then I slept a solid 7 the night before.  I had rest in the bank for sure.
  • I ate carbs at most meals before the race... pancakes for breakfast, pizza one night, and my usual pre-race past meal.  
  • I laid off of anything other than water and Gatorade the two days before and made sure I was completely hydrated.
  • I had trained in heat and humidity for months and on super hilly terrain, so the cold and flat course were a welcome relief to my body.
  • I ran several races in the month or two before the marathon to get a reminder on how to pace myself and run strong in a race as opposed to what it feels like when you're running a long training run.
  • The crowds.  Hands down, I am sure that they were a big part of why I was able to keep smiling and keep going.
The truth is that while running is a big part of my life, I don't get as worked up over it as some people might.  I'm a fairly healthy eater, but I'm not super strict with my diet.  I drink a Dr. Pepper here and there (although never more than one a day).  I'm not a heavy drinker by any means, but I don't avoid alcohol during training.

I followed the FIRST training plan and only ran 3 days a week and supplemented in with some cross training, but I have to be honest - I didn't follow it to a T.  I missed some runs.  I missed some cross training.  I only had one long run over 18 miles.  I rested when I needed to rest and ran when I was sure it was a good idea.

I'm not saying that's ideal.  I probably need to be a bit more strict if I want to break 4:00 because if there's one thing I know it's that I have to work for it... I'm not naturally that fast.  But still, I think that being relaxed and flexible ultimately made the biggest difference for me.

As runners, we all have to determine what works best for us.  What I've done might not necessarily improve someone else.  There are plenty of people who run 50-60 miles a week and do great, but I know that's not for me.  I max out around 32-35, and I'm very comfortable with that.  I like being conservative in my training.

So what's next?  I've been ironing out a new training plan.  I'm going to continue with only running three quality runs a week.  I even signed up for a track clinic on Tuesdays for the rest of the year that will help me get my weekly speed sessions done.  Plus, I thought it'd be fun to train with others on a track and get to work with a coach for a bit.  

I'll be running the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville on December 12. (Anyone else want to join me and Amy at it?)  Would I love to break 4:00?  YES.  Would I love a new PR whether I break 4:00 or not? YES.  Am I really going after this at this race? Not really.

Don't get me wrong.  I plan on training well and running a good race.  It's just that I've never run two marathons within two months, so I want to be careful.  I don't want to put a ton of pressure on myself and not ENJOY it all.  Whatever happens happens.

I'll be going after that 4:00 in time.  I'm thinking I'll make it a serious goal when I go into my next training cycle.

For now? I'm happy being at 4:11:22 and knowing that I'll be running my sixth marathon before the year's end.  I'm a marathoner.  It sometimes is all about the numbers, but it's also more often all about the experience.  I love the experience.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Chicago Marathon: The Race Report

I can honestly say that my fifth marathon has ended up being my favorite - and not just because of the awesome 20 minute PR!

I had remained feeling surprisingly calm and slept a solid 7 hours on Saturday night.  When I woke up, I felt great!  I got ready and slipped out of the apartment to make the walk over to Grant Park.  Steph lives about a mile away, but as I got closer I found myself in the midst of a thick crowd of runners making their way to the start.

The atmosphere was already amazing.  I am not normally the sappy type, but I found myself tearing up as I walked along with all of these other people who were taking on the same challenge as myself in less than an hour.  It's really amazing to be a marathoner sometimes.  We are an interesting group of people to say the least, and I just find myself in awe that I'm part of it sometimes.

I quickly managed to find Nicole in the open start corral, and I was sooo excited because I really needed someone to talk to while we waited for the start.  We chatted, we took pictures, we talked strategy.  It was great!

Before long, someone sang the Star Spangled Banner and we all started stripping down.  Let me tell you... it was cold!  I ditched my pants but opted to keep my hoodie for a bit.  Clothes were flying everywhere - it was insane!  You can't help but laugh as people strip down to tiny running clothes and start flinging sweats to the sides of the corral.

I never snapped a photo of the flying clothes, but here's one that shows how packed we were in the corral.  All the body heat actually kept us kind of warm.

Next thing I knew, we were off!  I can't tell you how exciting it felt to start running.  Normally when I start a marathon I'm trying to keep my cool and all, but I couldn't help but smile and laugh over how crazy it was to be running with so many people. 

In the next picture, we're about to go under a road and stay in a short tunnel for a bit.  When we were well into it, we realized everyone had started cheering.  Nicole and I got on board and gave our own cheers and yells and woo's.  The roar of all the runners cheering made me feel like I was in a packed SEC football stadium (Neyland, in particular).  It was AWESOME.

Nicole and I had talked and decided we'd start the race together and see what happened.  I felt confident that I couldn't hang with her since many of her training runs had been faster than mine, but early in the race I felt great and had no trouble keeping up.  We were talking and laughing and taking in the crowds.  I have never been to a race with so many spectators OR runners!  It seriously felt like a dream come true to be 26 years old and running in such a big and famous marathon.

This picture that mom snapped around mile 3 shows just how packed both the course and the sidewalks were!

Mom, Steph and Patrick were around mile 3.  They had no idea we'd be on them so fast, so we stopped to snap a quick photo.  You can tell we're still pretty pumped up and excited here.

We kept going along our merry way, and I was making every effort to just soak everything in.  I had decided to run with my name on my shirt, and I have to say it was one of the best decisions I made this weekend.  Hearing people call out your name not only makes you smile and feel like a celebrity, it totally does help you to keep running well.  There's really nothing like hearing someone yell out, "You look awesome Melanie!" even if it is a perfect stranger.

Early in the race I heard a voice beside me and looked over to see a guy that I knew from my high school days.  Crazy!  We knew we were both running, but I never in a million years thought we'd just bump into each other out on the course.  It's always fun to say hello to people you know in a race.

I also decided to run with a disposable camera.  I could have gotten better pictures with my own, but I didn't want to risk something happening to it.  I kept it tucked in my sports bra and hardly noticed it was there.  I snapped this awesome photo somewhere along the way.

My entourage next found me somewhere near the half.  As you can see in the below picture, I'm still smiling.  This wasn't just because I knew they were taking pictures.  I felt great!  Nicole is on the phone with her group letting them know that we were getting close.  I also ran with my phone, mostly because I wanted to be able to find my people after the race.  It was useful in sending quick texts to Steph to alert them of my progress, especially since I was still running faster than I had told them to expect.

I'm not going to lie.  I had some moments where I wondered if I could keep this 9:15-9:30 pace that we were hitting mile after mile.  I felt great when we hit the half in 2:04:27, but I really wasn't so sure I could run that fast the second half.  I decided to ignore these feelings and to keep on keeping on.  It REALLY helps to be running with someone because if Nicole wasn't stopping, I wasn't about to stop and lose her company.

We saw her entourage around mile 15 and kept plugging away.  We talked less during the second half, but it was great to have someone next to me that I could talk to from time to time.  We did our best to keep encouraging each other.

Because of how cool it was outside, I didn't stop at every single water stop like I usually do.  When I did stop, I only took several swallows.  I knew there was little risk of dehydration since I was hardly sweating, but I also knew I needed the electrolytes.  I always took Gatorade.  I also ate two of my GU Chomps every 45 minutes or so.  That was it in terms of my fuel.  I skipped the salt capsules since it was so cold.  I ultimately never had to stop to use the bathroom, which was a first for me in a marathon!

My feet started hurting around mile 17.  I imagine this was in part due to the fact that I had been on my feet a lot in the days before the race.  This is of course not ideal, but I didn't want to go to Chicago and just sit around.  I went into this race with no set time goals, so I decided I didn't care.  At this point in the race, I kind of cared.  I just told myself to ignore it and continued to soak in the crowds and kept a smile on my face.

I had debated about whether or not to use my iPod, and I ultimately left it in my suitcase.  I'm really glad that I did.  I think that absorbing in all of the crowds of runners and spectators was really the best thing for me personally.  In a smaller race, I would have wanted it for sure.

Before long, we hit Chinatown and saw my crew again around mile 21.  As you can see, I was still smiling.  Part of this was because I really was having soooo much fun and enjoying every bit of the race, and part of this was because I knew if I forced myself to keep smiling then it's easier to ignore the aches and pains.

I also realized around this point that I ran 22 miles in 3:30.  When I ran 22 miles in training last month, it took me 4:00.  Of course, that day was hot and humid and the course was hilly.  And it was just training.  But still!  I was kind of shocked and impressed with myself.

Here's the thing about mile 22.  It was easy to say to myself that there were only 4 more miles to go.  It's like, "OK, I can run 4 miles in my sleep.  This is a cake walk!"  But somehow, it's kind of hard to lie to your body and pretend like you didn't just run 22 before starting on these last 4.

At this point, I was realizing that Nicole and I had been running an incredible race for us both!  I was going to PR and she was going to have an AMAZING first marathon!  When we saw her family at mile 15, her boyfriend told us we were on course for a 4:11 finish.  I didn't admit it out loud, but I was kind of nervous about whether or not I could really keep the pace and finish that fast.  Instead, I told Nicole that if we pulled that off, she'd finish a full hour faster than I did in my first marathon.

We kept taking it one mile at a time, and before long we hit that mile 25 sign and saw my family again.  I was of course still all smiles, and the photo below was snapped when I turned back and yelled, "I'm getting a PR!" and Steph was like, "Yes you are!" and it was all super exciting.

Mile 25 seemed kind of long. :)  Before long, we finally got to make a turn and head over a bridge toward the mile 26 sign.  We turned the last corner and started heading toward the finish.

There was never a time when either of us felt like we could take off and leave the other, so we stuck together for all 26.2 miles.  Neither of us had any sort of sprint in us, so we proudly kept our pace and coasted across that finish line.

4:11:22.  I had a PR by 20:01.  Nicole had an amazing first marathon.

And then the pain hit.  

It wasn't as bad as it could be.  I started slowly walking through the chute and collected my blanket (thank God for that one because I was instantly an ice cube when I stopped running), my medal, some food and water, a beer that I could only get 3 sips of down before handing it off, and took finisher photos.  I was moving slower than an old woman.  I couldn't believe I had just been running, and now I could barely walk.

Nicole and I split up to find out families.  I called my dad and sister to tell them the big news.  We finally all reconnected, and I had to get Steph to put my pants back on me because there was no way I could do it myself.  Patrick offered to carry me and I considered it, but I knew I needed to walk it out.
We reconnected with Nicole and took some pictures.

After lots more hugs (seriously - I could NOT have ran this well without Nicole!), we started making the walk back to the apartment.  It was slow.  

I showered.  I ate some soup.  I ate a chocolate donut.  I napped for an hour.  And we had dinner at The Cheesecake Factory because after you've run a marathon you can so go have a pomegranate margarita, lots of bread, pasta, and part of 2 different kinds of cheesecake. (Hey - mom and I like variety!)

I don't know how to explain it, but I had so much FUN the entire 26.2 miles!  Sure, there were moments when it hurt.  There were moments when I kind of wanted to walk a bit more than the few steps I walked every couple of miles when I drank some Gatorade.  But for the most part? I had a freaking blast.

It's amazing to run a race with that many other runners.  It's amazing to run a race with spectators 6-8 people deep for the majority of the course.  It's amazing to run with someone else that you've never even met but that you've been in touch with during the entire training process.  I'd like to do that more often!

I will run this race again.  Hands down.  The only complaint I have about it?  I could do without the Bank of America logo being the focal point on EVERYTHING like the shirt and medal.  I get that they're the big sponsor, but dang.. why can't running being more of the focus?

All in all? I had an amazing weekend and a spectacular race.  I seriously had the time of my life.  We averaged 9:36 per mile, which I think is pretty freaking awesome.  We only slowed 2 minutes in the second half. (I may not be the fastest, but I'm incredibly consistent as a runner.)  Sure, I would have loved to have broken 4:00 at this one, but I am so super pleased with every tiny detail of how this race went.  Besides, I need a goal to work toward. :)

I love how things are after a marathon.  We all wear our medals around town that night.  Strangers offer us congratulations and we're all super excited when they actually ask how we did and want to let us talk about it.

It's also just plain funny.  I had a bit of an interesting time hauling my suitcase up the stairs to take the el to the airport on Monday.  It was bad enough to have to climb stairs.  My suitcase with all my clothes and expo loot was another thing.  But I made it.

Once at the airport, we discovered that it was once again stairs to get us to where we needed to go.  I noticed about 5 other people lingering near the bottom as the rest of the crowds heading up.  I knew that they, like me, had all run the marathon.  There's no way that we're all letting everyone go up ahead of us just to be nice!

And I love talking to other runners after the race.  Everywhere I went while I was still in town after the race, I encountered someone else who had run.  It's fun to chat with people who have also traveled from other places to share in this experience.

I am a runner.  I am a marathoner.  And I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Thanks for hanging with me on these posts.  I thought of a lot of you while I was out there.  This community online has certainly been a big part of my training.  Thanks for all of your support, encouragement, advice, well wishes and congratulations.  You all rock!

Chicago Marathon: The Race Expo

I love a good race expo.  While I've been to plenty of races where the race expo is basically just packet pick up and a sample or two, the Nashville expo is usually quite large and takes a while to check out.  However, Chicago is like twice as big!  I was super excited about it and definitely managed to come home with a lot of excellent things.

For example, I made some purchases in addition to the free race shirt (blue, in the middle).  I bought this great grey long sleeve shirt at the Nike store.  I also picked up another pair of my favorite Brooks running shorts (Epiphany) and splurged on an awesome Brooks lightweight jacket.  Since I spent a good chunk of change at the Brooks tent, they sent me home with their special expo shirt for free!

I also got a ton of other stuff for free.  The samples at this expo did NOT disappoint.

Of course, all of this is fine and dandy... but the most important thing about the race expo is picking up your race bib and timing chip.  I was pretty excited that my number started with 13 since that's my lucky number.  (Don't think it's so weird.  If you were born on a Friday the 13th, it'd be your lucky number, too!)

I love wandering around expos and checking out all of the various products.  There was definitely a ton of awesome gear that I would have loved to take home if I were made of money.  I also tried a lot of the free beverage samples and found that I really do not like the taste of pretty much every recovery drink out there!

My favorite booth at the expo was hands down - the Brooks tent.  This isn't even because of the fact that I love Brooks shoes and clothing.  They were the only company to really get creative, and I love a little creativity.  

They were set up like a tent on MASH.  Instead of MASH, it was BRASH for Brooks Running Athlete Support Hospital.  I didn't realize I never got a good picture of the whole set-up, but it was impressive to say the very least.

Once in the tent, they offered you a Gatorade cocktail.

You could then see a podiatrist (I let him check out my foot because sometimes in yoga I can feel a knot in one of my arches.  He said it probably isn't serious since it's not ever hurting, so that was good.  I'll get it checked out if it ever causes pain) and/or get your running analyzed to determine which shoe you need (the official Brooks doc said that the Adrenalines I was already wearing were a perfect match!)

In order to keep things running efficiently, they assigned you a number so that you could wander around and come back.  I love organization.

I even got to take a photo with their version of Klinger.

He would make announcements and play helicopter sounds.  My favorite was when he announced something to the effect of, "Tonight's seminar on how running can lead to injuries has been cancelled... due to indifference.  That is all."  The whole thing was really quite clever right down to having all the people working the tent in special BRASH scrubs.  I. loved. it.

Even though I am definitely a Brooks girl through and through, I couldn't help but get tickled over this Asics logo.  In particular, I like how it points out that we usually do 26.2 on Sundays and holidays (although before Chicago, every marathon I've ever run has been on a Saturday.  Maybe we do it differently in the south?).

I originally stood in line for an hour at the Asics booth to meet Deena Kastor.  When I was about 8 people from her, they told us she had to move to the next booth.  Being a total type A personality, I found this rather annoying.  There were a TON of people still in line.  They should have either 1) only had her at one spot in the expo for the entire time she could be there or 2) had someone not let any more people get in line at a certain point so that none of us wasted time standing there for nothing.  There's no reason to not be organized with this.  Asics didn't win any points with me over this.

However, I booked it on over to the Spirit of the Marathon tent to attempt to see her there.  (Sidenote: If you haven't seen that documentary, I totally recommend you check it out!)  I was more successful this time and got to chat briefly with her and get her to sign my race number!  It was totally exciting.  I also met Jerry, one of the other people featured in the documentary.

Sadly, Ryan Hall was not at the marathon this year.  I did find this giant poster of him... I'm hopeful that someday I can meet him in person.  Of all the famous runners, he's SO my favorite.

I ended up going back to the expo on Saturday for several reasons.  There were some bloggers I wanted to meet, and I couldn't resist trying to meet Dean Karnazes when he was there.

First up, I connected with Tom from Runner's Lounge.  I know a lot of us are big fans of the lounge, and let me tell you - Tom is super nice.  He took time out of his day to sit down with me and my mom and friends to give us some super helpful tips on how they could get around to see me a ton on race day.  Thanks Tom!  If you ever have the chance to meet him, definitely do so!  He rocks!

Next up on my list was to find our girl Laura from Frayed Laces over at the Brooks tent.  I was of course thrilled to meet her in person and spend a few minutes chatting about what it's like to be on the eve of my first post-injury marathon.  She's totally awesome!

Nicole from The Marathon of Life and I had already planned to meet up at the expo.  I had just sent her a text when I turned around and found her right there!  It was crazy!  We were so excited and chatted for quite a while and introduced our little entourages that we had brought with us.  It's so fun to meet a fellow blogger for the first time and instantly feel like you've known each other for ages!  We made some plans to meet up in the morning and continued to enjoy the expo.

Then I stood in line for a while so I could meet the famous Dean Karnazes.  I was pretty excited about meeting Deena Kastor the day before, but I was practically giddy over meeting Dean.  I was seriously the sixth person in line.  I ended up chatting a lot with the two guys in line in front of me... I love when we runners get together and totally nerd out in conversation about all things running!

Once I got up to Dean, I told him about how I had seen his 50/50 documentary and LOVED it and he just seemed so excited as he thanked me for watching it.  I had taken my copy of Ultramarathon Man and he wrote in it to keep running with my heart and signed it.  I also got him to sign my race bib before snapping a quick photo.  It was a totally exciting minute in my day.

All in all, I give this race expo two thumbs up.  I had such a great time getting around to everyone I wanted to meet whether it was a famous worldwide runner or a famous blogosphere runner.  I love the things I decided to buy.  I'm going to be snacking on free samples for weeks.  I think that the expo experience was top notch, and it was kind of funny how excited I got over everything.  I really was like a kid on Christmas morning about it all.

Get ready everyone... my next post will be all the details and pictures from the 4:11:22 that I spent running on Sunday!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Chicago Marathon: Exploring the City

There's no possible way for me to describe this past weekend in one post, so I'm breaking it all up into three sections: exploring the city of Chicago, the race expo, and the actual marathon.

My mom and I flew up to Chicago on Wednesday evening.  There's something about landing in Chicago at night... the city is absolutely beautiful.  Unfortunately, it's difficult to capture it while landing without getting a blurry photo.

My best friend Stephanie lives in Chi-town, so she greeted us at the airport and led us back to her place.  We joined her husband and had a yummy dinner at Rock Bottom before crashing for the night.

On Thursday, I started my day with something that I think is really super neat.  I'm sure some of you are familiar with the new race review site Racevine. They were doing some giveaways a while back, and I got lucky and won a free City Running Tour! Since I was heading to Chicago soon, I opted to cash it in while on my trip.

The basic idea is that you get a guided running tour of the city.  Right now, City Running Tours is in Chicago, Austin, Charleston, NYC, and DC.  A guide meets you wherever you're staying and then leads you through the city on a run at your preferred pace.  The guide points out things and tells you things much like any other tour guide would do.

My guide, Andy, met me at my friend's place Thursday morning and we set out on my last training run before the marathon.  (It was great to have this planned, otherwise I might have just slept in and not run at all.) Typically, I wouldn't run a 5-6 miler before a marathon, but I was excited about winning the tour and figured it'd help work out some nerves before the big race.

Andy pointed out various things of interest and shared some interesting facts.  We also chatted about running and the upcoming marathon.  If there's one thing I know for sure it's that we runners love to talk running with anyone we can, so it's always nice to chat with someone new about it all.

All in all, it was a really fun thing to get to do.  It's a super neat way to get to explore a city, and I'd definitely recommend that you check it out sometime.  In addition to the 6-mile tour, you also get a shirt!  Who doesn't love a nice new shirt? According to the website, the tour is $60 for the first 6 miles and then $6 per mile after that.  It looks like you get a discount if you have a group.  This is a bit more pricey than what I'd pay considering I'm a young single gal on a budget, but if you've got the cash then I say go for it!  If they ever start this here in Nashville, I'll be likely to apply for a job with them!

After I got cleaned up, I joined mom and Steph for a quick breakfast.  It ended up being kind of rainy, so we decided to stroll along Michigan Avenue and do some shopping.  It's fun wandering in and out of stores, especially the ones where I'm just browsing and could never afford to buy what they sell.

Then I had the most exciting moment of the day... I found my name on a wall outside of the Nike on Michigan Avenue!

I seriously got SO excited!  I mean, I realize that all of the runners in the marathon were listed there, but I still felt like I was a famous person or something.  It is SOOOO cool to see your name in print on a big wall on the most popular street in Chicago. Way to go Nike for making my day!

I went inside and checked out all of the official marathon gear, and ultimately I bought myself a really cool long sleeve shirt.  I also signed a little note on the wall inside the store where they were letting people leave messages.

Thursday night led to dinner at a mexican place and then a drink at the bar inside the Trump building.  Friday morning brought a delicious breakfast at Yolk before heading to the expo. Friday also ended up being quite rainy, so it was nice to have a reason to be indoors all day.  We rounded the night out by ordering deep dish pizza.  I pretty much ate carbs for every meal while I was in town, but with a marathon nearing it seemed appropriate.

Saturday ended up being sunny and clear (though still quite cool.. and it was hard to get used to since it's still been so warm in TN), so we went to do some sight seeing after breakfast at West Egg.  We checked out the Navy Pier, Millenium Park and the Bean, and Grant Park and the Buckingham Fountain.

It was really neat to be over in Grant Park on Saturday and see all of the marathon stuff being set up.  I had really been quite calm the whole time we'd been in town so far.  It was almost as if I hadn't realized yet that I was going to be running a marathon.  However, by the time we got to Gioco for dinner on Saturday night, my brain shifted into planning mode.  I had to pull out my notepad at the table and make a list of everything I needed to do before going to bed in order to get my brain to stop thinking so much about it while we ate.

In my next post, I'll share some fun and exciting stuff about the expo including but not limited to how I met some famous runners, how I met some running bloggers you all know and love, some of the awesome gear I splurged on and about all the awesome free samples I collected.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Chicago Marathon Update

I ran it.


This was not only a new PR, but a PR by 20:01.

Freaking A!

Excited. Stoked. Ecstatic. Thrilled. Happy. Moved. Proud.

I'm also exhausted.

But it's so worth it.

I had more fun at this race than I have ever had at any of the multiple races I've run.

An awesome race report and tons of pictures will be coming your way later this week. For now, I'm going to enjoy my last evening in town with my mom and friends before heading back to Nashville (where I'm hoping it's nowhere near as cold as it is here.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Video Blog: Heading to Chicago

I decided that I had a good bit to say about my preparation for the Chicago marathon.  This video is a bit on the long side, but if you want to know about my state of mind as I head to Chicago tomorrow then check it out.  Plus, I offer quite a few reasons to have a good laugh at me. :)

Good luck to everyone running Chicago or other races this weekend.  I'll be back to blogging on the other side of my fifth marathon.

Untitled from Mel Belle on Vimeo.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Revel in the Small Things

Sometimes I have to remind myself that I need to delight in the little things.

For example...
  • I found out that you can track me when I run the Chicago marathon on Sunday!  They have this site where you can enter either your email or cell number and receive emails or texts at 4 different spots.  If anyone ends up wanting to track me, you can sign up now at this site.  I think this is pretty cool.
  • I put all my summer clothes away and pulled out my winter clothes.  It feels good to have that done.  I'll probably still need some of the summer stuff here and there for another month or so, but I always like getting things changed out so that the most likely stuff I need is in my main closet.
  • How I Met Your Mother was particularly funny tonight.
  • I caught up on all my ironing.  I hate to iron.  But now it's done.
  • I had a $5 off coupon to use today at PetSmart when I bought Tucker food.
  • I spent time with a dear friend today.
It's funny because I really haven't had the time to do things like I thought I would when I first lost my job.  Of course, a big part of this is because I'm planning a 5K happening in 19 days.  And training for a MARATHON I'm running on SUNDAY.  And sleeping a lot to prepare for a MARATHON I'm running on SUNDAY.  And enjoying a social life.  So the little things have just had to be enough for the time being.

But still... after the marathon and after the 5K, I'm hoping to knock out some major stuff on my to do list.  Like cleaning out a bunch of stuff to get ready for a yard sale.  And figuring out what kind of job I want to pursue and going after it.  And finding a new place to live since I'm going to be moving sometime in the coming months.  And maybe catching up on the stack of magazines sitting on my coffee table (can I help it that I'm OCD and read them pretty much cover to cover?)

For now?  I'm kind of just STOKED to be heading to Chicago.  It's going to be excellent to see my best friend.  It's unfortunately been 8 months since I last saw her, which is far too long.  I am looking forward to meeting some fellow running bloggers (no one seemed down with a major meetup, but if you want to try to get together then shoot me an email and we'll figure something out!)  I can't wait to enjoy the expo.  I look forward to showing my mom around Chicago since she's never been.  And honestly? I'm looking forward to getting that Chicago marathon medal and wearing it ALL DAY... even to dinner and whatever bar we might land at for celebratory drinks.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Race Report: The Middle Half

Alternatively Titled: The Race that Wasn't Really a Race

I know what you're thinking.  "This chick's running a marathon next week and she goes and runs a half marathon 8 days before?!"

Hear me out though... my training plan called for 10 miles at marathon pace for this weekend.  I have also run The Middle Half both years that they've had it, so I felt like I couldn't skip out on it this year.  Who doesn't like to run a race every year they've had it?

So I decided that as long as I took it easy and didn't actually race the half marathon that it wouldn't be so bad to use it as my final long run for Chicago.

My cousin, her husband, another friend and the Bob were all running, and we grabbed a quick photo before the start.  Fall weather has arrived in middle TN (though don't get too excited for me.. there's always a few more hot days lingering somewhere about this time of year) so you'll notice that we all look quite cold.  We were.

This was my cousin's first half marathon ever, so I decided that it'd be fun to keep her and our friend company and try to help pace them along the way.  This ultimately ended up being a really good decision: it helped me to not overdo it, and I believe it helped them to reach my cousin's goal of a 2:15.

I love this next picture.  It's like we're all perfectly in sync.

It was perfect weather for running.  I wasn't cold once we started running, but I never really got too hot either.  We managed to consistently hit 10:00 minute miles, only losing a little time here and there when we walked water stops.  Speaking of the water stops, they were superb this year!  They finally realized that no one likes that Accelerade crap and served Snapple antioxidant water instead.  It was quite good and easy on the stomach.  Not only did I appreciate this change, I was also thrilled that all the Snapple and water was ice cold! Loved it.

Around the halfway mark, we were still smiling!

It was kind of nice taking it easy and feeling good.  I felt like running the 13.1 was a walk in the park, even though I was running it around the pace I'm hoping to keep for 26.2 next week.

I kept encouraging the girls to keep moving forward as we ran the final miles back to the MTSU track stadium.  We all were thrilled to see the end and picked it up to finish strong.

We finished in 2:14:25.  This was indeed my slowest half ever, but that was kind of the plan all along.  I wasn't racing.  I didn't need to end up running too fast.  And honestly?  If I can be at that time at the half mark next week I'll be in good shape.  I finished feeling like I could have kept going if I needed to do so.

We all snapped a few more pictures and enjoyed some of the post-race food and company.  There were a lot of other people running or spectating that I knew, so it's always fun to catch up with everyone.  

I think a big part of what I love about running is the running community.  Races always feel like such a social outing!
I LOVED the medals this year, but it's partly because green is my favorite color.

All in all, it was a great event.  I kind of hate that I couldn't race it because I think I could have gotten a new PR if I had, but I'm feeling super confident now about having a good race one week from today (!) in Chicago.

I was also thrilled for my cousin doing so well at her first half as well as for how well everyone else did!