It's a very slow process - two steps forward, one step back - but I'm inching in the right direction. - Rob Reiner

November 25, 2013

The Gobbler Grind - Aptly Named

On Saturday, I made a bad decision.  For some reason I decided that even though it was going to be 10 degrees the next morning, and I had completed a half marathon the weekend before that I needed to do another one.  And so on Saturday, I went to packet pick-up and signed up for the Gobbler Grind Half Marathon - and what a GRIND it was.

You know me, I love to race.  Small, big, whatever I love race day.  But in this instance, I won't lie, there was little about this race that I enjoyed and I questioned my sanity throughout it.  The weather certainly did not help.  Many people signed up months ago and well you can't know for sure what the weather is going to be like, but I did know and still signed up.  I have no excuse.

I got up early on Sunday morning and layered up.....two pair of pants, 3 shirts and a vest, 2 pair of socks, 2 pair of gloves, a t-shirt neck wrap, a thin beanie and a stocking cap.  I felt just like Randy in A Christmas Story.  I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to move, much less run.  But it was COLD.  It was about 12 degrees, and wouldn't reach 20 by the time I was finished.

That's me on the far left
I arrived at the race at 7:30 and the race was scheduled to start at 8:00.  I hopped out of the car and hit the porta was cold!  I started questioning whether or not I had on enough clothes. I went back to my car and decided I would wait where it was warm til closer to start time.  At 7:45 I decided it was time to make my way to the race start.  I slow jogged to the start to warm up some and then just tried to keep moving before the race started.  Finally at 8:00 it was time to start - no wait - what's that an announcement - THE RACE START IS DELAYED TIL 8:15.  - FAIL!!  I'm sorry, I have a real pet peeve about this at any race, but when it is 12 degrees....start the race on time...I don't care what it takes!!  People were clearly unhappy.  I timed everything so I didn't start freezing cold.  Now I had 15 minutes....not enough time to go to the car and back, so I had no choice but to stand there and get cold.  I kept moving and stretching, but I was getting colder by the second.

OK, finally we really did start.  I felt stiff, and immediately felt some pain in my right medial shin.  I had been having some pain there that was starting to get a little worse, but in the cold it was really bothering me.  I didn't feel fluid or loose at all, but I wasn't freezing which was good.  The first few miles went by fairly quickly, as they usually do in a race. 

I figured they would have a really hard time getting volunteers for this race and I wasn't wrong.  We finally reached the first water stop at mile 3.5 or 3.6 (which seemed really far) and you had to literally stand in line while the 2 girls at the station filled a cup at a time.  One holding the cup, one pouring.  They had one jug of water.  But at least this stop had water.  Of the 5 or 6 water stops on the course, only 3 had water...the others were out....again FAIL.  Come on, I know it wasn't super hot and we weren't losing a ton of fluid, but you still need water - and there was also a full marathon...I was worried some people wouldn't stay hydrated.  And water was all they had...maybe there was some Gatorade early in the race, but the only thing that was ever available when I reached the aid stations was water.  Yes, this race was getting on my nerves.

For the first 5 miles, the course runs along a trail on a little creek and is pretty flat.  You were also protected from the weather somewhat.  I was feeling pretty good, but then about mile 5.2 you begin to climb, and then the course takes you out on a main road.  You start climbing, and climbing, and climbing.  The wind was only about 5 mph, but when it's 12 degrees it can feel like 30 mph.  All of a sudden I was freezing!  We were running straight uphill into a head wind.  This was no fun.  You climb from 5.2 to 7.2.  It's only about a 150 foot climb, but a 2 mile climb is tough (at least for me).  And once you finally crest the top you think you are in a for a nice downhill right...well not so much, you get to crest two more little 50 foot climbs.  Finally after about mile 9  you get a nice downhill stretch and then it flattens back out as you get back on the trail.

That little 4 mile stretch really took it out of me.  I was just ready to be done.  And soon I was - 10 minutes slower than my half the previous weekend. I crossed the finish line and found some much needed water.  A guy finished a few minutes behind me who had some very negative words to say about the water situation, which wasn't cool because there were some kids around. 

Anyway, I was glad to be done and I couldn't have been much colder.  I hadn't felt too cold during the race, but now I was freezing.  I headed back to my car and just sat their and turned the heater on.  I was shaking too bad to drive just yet.
Jack wearing my half marathon medal....taking all the credit as usual
And that was it, I finally made my way home and headed back out for my step-son's Birthday lunch.  A long hot shower would have to wait til later. 

Honestly, I know the cold weather definitely had an impact on my thoughts on this race, but come on a 15 minute late start, no water at half the stops, and did I mention no mile markers on the course?  And well, just that hill in the middle didn't make me too happy, but it's not like I've never ran a race with hills, there are plenty of those here in Kansas City, but I just wasn't a fan of this race.

What I did appreciate more than anything were the few volunteers.  I know they had to be absolutely FREEZING standing out there not able to keep moving like we were.  I know how cold I was volunteering at the KC marathon a few weeks ago and it was like 40 degrees, so honestly they had to be cold.  And I know the race organizers want everyone to have a great experience and the weather probably impacted their ability to get everything set up and organized the way it might have been I can't judge it too harshly.

For the race you got a hoodie, a medal and bag...all of which they ran out of...but they are ordering more for everyone which is nice.  I did get my bag and medal, but not my hoodie, which was the main reason I decided to do the race.  I should have it in a few weeks.

Unfortunately, as I said in the very beginning this was a bad decision.  I think I came out of it with my first running injury in 2013.  I woke up this morning barely able to put any weight on my right leg.  I am HOPING it is just a really bad shin splint.  I have a 5K Thursday...which I will take super easy if I run at all, and then it's probably no running for me for a week or two to see if I can get this to heal up.  I think I might have just over done it a bit lately.  I've done 2 marathons and 3 half marathons in 7 weeks....yeah, maybe a bit too much.

Oh well, I've had a blast doing most of them, so hopefully this is just a bit of a set back.  And I won't mind a little time off anyway.  It's been a long year.

Anyone else had a race in the FREEZING temps this weekend?

November 22, 2013

Am I Too Slow To Run Races?

Image Credit:
I was reading a blog today, when I came across a comment that frankly, really ticked me off.  I'm not kidding when I say my heart was racing, as I was writing a response to the comment.  I was really mad.  I still am.

I will be civil and I won't call this person out by name, nor tell you where you can find the comment.  I'm not here to start a war, just share my own opinion, just like this person did.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and I get that.  As an additional note, the topic of the blog post where this person commented really had little to do with their comment.

Verbatim Comment:  "Coming from a track background and having run from an early age, there are a lot of people I think who shouldn’t run races… I believe races should have cut off times, maybe 2h15/2h30 for a half, and if you can’t finish in that time start on a shorter race. Do some training before you start wanting to run races. Over 2 hours of exercise is a lot and you shouldn’t be taking on something like that if your aren’t ready for it.  All that said lots of people want to walk a half and that has pushed away cut-off times opening the door to people who shouldn’t be lining up."

I have ran around 25 half marathons.  All of them have been between 2:23 and about 2:35, with a few slower than that in the beginning.  According to this comment, apparently I shouldn't be running races, because if I run this slow it is clearly due to the fact that I am *unprepared*.  I guess I need to go back to the drawing board, and maybe start doing 5Ks or 10Ks again, until I can increase my speed.

Wow.  I just honestly couldn't believe this comment.  While, I agree that some people do line up to the start line of a race unprepared, that's on them.  And, even if they do, they could still run a 2 hour half marathon because they are just naturally faster.  What does race time have to do with being prepared?  And a 2:15 cutoff - well that's right about mid-pack.  I'd be thrilled with a 2:15 half.  Do you really think we should cut 50% of the runners out of races?

I am a slower runner.  I own that.  I work hard, I train hard, but I am slow.  My training has paid off with faster times and often new PRs at know why.... BECAUSE I AM PREPARED.....BECAUSE I TRAINED. 

And do we really want to discourage people from attempting things they might have thought impossible?  I LOVE watching people at the end of the race.  That person that has the sweeper behind them, who's worried they won't make that cutoff....they PREPARED for this race day.  They may be 200 pounds overweight, but they are doing something extraorindary.  They got off their couch and started walking.  They are trying to find their way to health and fitness and a better life.  They worked to be there.  They didn't just show up and think *maybe* I'll walk a half marathon today.  No, they put in miles to be prepared to walk that half marathon, and hope with everything in them that they finish in time that day.

In general I think the blog world is so welcoming to all atheletes of all abilites.  This comment just really set me off.  It seemed so mean.  Maybe it wasn't intended to come across the way that it did, but that's how I read and interpretted it.  Like I said at the beginning, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and this one is mine.

So, what's your opinion?

November 21, 2013

Richmond Half Marathon Review - A 2013 PR

Well this review is a little delayed because I have been out of I'll make this one pretty short and sweet.  Or as short and sweet as possible for me.
Photo bombing Lincoln.....funny or terrible????
After two marathons in 5 weeks, it was quite a relief to be "just" running a half marathon this past weekend.  It was only two weeks after my Bass Pro Marathon and I was feeling pretty worn down and tired.  I honestly wasn't expecting  much from this race.  Since about June I've been doing all of my long runs using a walk/run method and focusing mostly on endurance vs speed.  So *spoiler alert* I was pleasantly surprised when I ran my fastest half marathon of 2013 on Saturday - and only 3 minutes off of my not to shabby.

As many of you know, this past January, I was truly blessed with the opportunity to take a job that I love working from home - but technically for a company in Richmond, VA.  I have traveled there a few times for work.  I tend to either go there or Washington, DC.  So, when I heard about how awesome the Anthem Richmond Marathon was supposed to be, I thought it would fun to do a race/work trip and Jim could check off another State from his 50 States Marathon quest.  Win-Win.-Win.
Me & Jim along the James River - Virginia is for Lovers

So Jim and I headed to Richmond last Thursday to spend a few days exploring the City before race day.  Richmond is beautiful City full of rich history.  Honestly, if you want to read all about the City and some of the things we did.....go read Jim's Post here.  I know many of you read both of our blogs, so I won't bore you with the details again if you've already read them...and if you haven't, well really why "reinvent the wheel" as they say, when he's already done  a fine job.  I will say it was nice to explore the city as usually the only thing I see is the hotel or the building I work in.

So forward to race details.  We headed to the expo on Thursday when we arrived.  It was a pretty standard expo, however, I have to say for the size of the race, they had a lot of race specific apparel available which was a really nice touch.  There is a lot of civic pride in Richmond and there were tons of Richmond Running and VA specific running apparel.  Stay Classy Richmond.  The expo was very well organized and made it easy to get your bib & race swag.  We wandered around the expo and I left empty handed...which almost never happens, but Jim managed to score a few finds.  We ended up going to the expo again on Friday to meet up with "The" Miss Zippy.....she was really awesome!  It was great to meet her.  Her race didn't end up going as planned for her, but as always she had a great attitude about the whole thing.  I wouldn't have expected anything different.

Amanda "Miss Zippy", Me, and Jim

The next morning was race day.  We woke up to mild temps in the mid 50s and RAIN.  I soooo hate rain.  I know a lot of people don't mind it or even like it, but after having my worst ever running experience during a driving rain in Oklahoma City, well it's just stuck with me and now I panic every time it rains.  The rain was supposed to clear out around 5 am...but it was coming down pretty hard at 7am as the 8K kicked off.  We were fortunate that our hotel was literally a block away from the start line, so I waited it out as long as possible. 

In the end it was only light rain, but it was on and off throughout the day.  With the mild temperatures it actually helped keep you cool and really wasn't a factor in the race other than just being wet most of the race and having to dodge puddles throughout.  The main thing was post race.  I had to wait about an hour for Jim to finish and I was petty cold.  Luckily I had packed a dry shirt, jacket and pants.  I was just really wishing for some dry shoes and socks....oh well.

The Anthem Richmond Marathon consists of a marathon, half marathon (the American Family Half Marathon) and 8K.  Each race starts 30 minutes apart with the 8K starting first, then the half, then the marathon.  I thought this was kind of weird at first, but each race kind of stays on its own course, so you never run in to the other racers...which was kind of different, but if you started in the right pace group kept you from dodging and weaving in and out of other racers which was nice.  Overall there were almost 20,000 racers in all 3 events, so it's pretty large.
Wet & rainy start

I literally walked down from my hotel about 7:05 for the 7:30 start.  There was light rain, but it wasn't bad.  I found my corral and waited for the start.  I did notice a few people who had obliviously gotten down there who were soaked from head to toe and shivering violently.  I felt really bad for them and was so thankful to have had a hotel so close.

I was not in any way planning to try to PR this race.  I knew I didn't have that kind of speed in me  But I did want to try to run well and my goal was to try to finish around 2:30.  The race started and it was a nice flat stretch.  My first mile was a little too fast, as usual at a 10:30 pace.  I knew if I wanted to run strong throughout I'd need to slow it down - which I did and ran an 11:10 pace the 2nd mile.  Throughout the race I was pretty much between 11:00 and 11:15....very consistent, with the exception of mile 8 where I had an 11:57 mile.  I honestly can't figure out what happened there and don't remember having a particularly slow mile, but this was toward the end of a stretch of about 3 or 4 miles that had some pretty good rolling hills.  After mile 8 though, it was back to a pace around 11 - 11:10. 

The half marathon course is fairly flat overall, but definitely has some rolling hills, which is actually kind of nice.  The course isn't as pretty as the marathon course, but still took you through some pretty parts of town, and a really beautiful park.  The spectators were really awesome!  They weren't all along the route, but when there were spectators they were awesome.  They have "party zones" where groups of spectators gather and they really make it a lot of fun.  I thought it was great that they were all out there despite the rain.  The volunteers were awesome too!  They had plenty of aid stations and some "junk food" stations as well with gummy bears and other assorted things.  This was a fun touch, though I didn't take much other than a couple of gummy bears.

Michael-Zan Queen of the Jungle
I really felt great the entire race and I was pleased to be finishing as strong as I started.  My final full mile was 10:54 - my 2nd fastest mile of the race, and my last .23 on my Garmin was a 9:10 pace! 
During that last about half mile, you pretty much go straight down hill.  I can't decide whether this is good or bad.  By this point you are pretty tired, and it's nice to go downhill, but it was extremely steep and with the rain I definitely found myself using my legs to slow things down a bit.
Me & Jim recreating some great graffiti
 I ran across the finish line in 2:26 and was very happy!  My half marathon PR is 2:23.  I had just come within 3 minutes of my PR without a lot of effort.  I had started strong and finished strong.  I was very pleased with the overall race and my results.  It felt good to know I hadn't totally lost my speed.  Pretty much all year my half times have been around 2:30-2:35, so this was a very good race. 

I crossed the finish and got my medal and finishers fleece blanket and then picked up my gear bag.  I headed to the finisher area where they had PowerAde, Power Bars and Pizza!  Yes, pizza.  I wasn't feeling pizza at this point, but it was a nice touch.  I then made my way back to the finish line to wait for Jim.
Jim trying to replace some bricks at historic Tredegar Ironworks

It wasn't long before I saw him coming through and looked at the time and realized he was having an AMAZING day!!  He was going to set a huge new marathon PR!  I was so thrilled for him.  He crossed and I rushed to try to find him.  When I finally did, it was probably kind of like a movie moment.  Our eyes met from across the way and when I saw him, my face lit up in a huge smile and I literally ran to him and wrapped my arms around him and said you "FREAKING KILLED IT", but I don't think I said freaking....and it was at this point that a girl beside us said "Are you guys bloggers.  I read your blogs".  LOL, that was funny and I had to apologize for the cursing.  I always find it so crazy when we run into people we don't know who read our blogs.  She was super nice and had just ran what I would consider to be a AMAZING race time, but she hadn't met her goal, so no matter what your time is we all know how that feels.  But she still seemed to be happy and have a great attitude and it is always fun to meet someone who reads our blogs.

We grabbed Jim some food and then headed back up the UPHILL to our hotel.  But we were both happy.  We had both had great races, and once again we had a wonderful time to share together.  Virginia is for Lovers....and for Runners!!!!

November 12, 2013

How Rude, but I "Mustache" You Not to Laugh

This blog post has zero to do with running.  It is simply an embarrassing story, but one I felt was funny enough to share with the entire world - embarrassing or not.

One of the great benefits of working from home is being able to run little errands over lunch on occasion.  Last week I got a wild hair that I would go get my nails done over lunch.  It's not something I do very often, so it was a nice treat.  I have been to this salon a few times and really like it.  This one, like most in the area is owned and fully operated by  Vietnamese men and women. 

I am always amazed at how well they speak English.  They have very strong accents, which can sometimes be difficult to understand, but I am always in awe of their ability to speak another language.  I can barely come up with a half sentence in Spanish.

Anyway, I just wanted to give you a little background.  So while I was doing my nails, the girl looked across me at the table and said "Would you like to have your eyebrows waxed today?".....I remember the last time I looked in the mirror thinking they needed some work, and I was thinking she must think they look awful if she is asking so I said "yes, actually I would, that would be great".

She finishes my nails and takes me into another room where she starts waxing my eyebrows.  While she is doing this she again looks down at me with disdain and says "Would you like me to wax your lip?" ....."Uh, no I replied, I'm good".  "But you have lots of hair" she replies.  I kind of laugh, feeling a little embarrassed but again replied "No I don't think so, not today".  She then abruptly gets up - where is she going.....but then she comes back with a handheld mirror, which she puts into my hand and brings up to my face - "See, right here, and here, you have very much hair, if we wax it you will look much more better".  At this point I'm pretty mortified and so I just said....."ok yes, please go ahead and do it". 

So she waxes "my mustache" and seems very pleased with herself.  She brings the mirror back, "see much better".  It's just funny, had this happened in a expensive salon and a woman there had said this to me I probably would have been furious and asked to speak to a manager, but somehow coming from this sweet girl with a thick accent, I just find it amusing...a little humiliating still, but mostly funny.  In fact, my cousin was once fired from a job for a similar encounter when she straight up asked a lady if she would "like that mustache taken care of today".  My cousin is sweet as she can be, and has a very thick Southern accent, but apparently that was still not enough to keep her customer from being furious.

Anyway, I just want you to know that I'm not some kind of bearded lady or anything, I'm just a woman with dark hair.  All women have some hair on their upper lip, but when it's dark it shows up a bit more.  Apparently mine was worse that I thought because it never really bothered me before and I had never had it waxed before. I know.

So there you have it....but now I please "mustache" (must ask) you not to laugh at my facial hair.

Have  you ever had an embarrassing moment like this before or had someone ask you something fairly inappropriate in normal everyday life?

November 11, 2013

Many Things Monday

To start with, Happy Veterans Day to all of those who have served our Country, to those who are currently serving and to all of those family and friends that support them.  Below is a picture of one of my favorite Veterans - my Grandfather.  My grandparents were truly wonderful people and I miss them both dearly.

Next, as I mentioned in my last post Operation 40 kicked off today!  My first challenges:

  • Weight Loss Challenge (via DietBet) - Lose 4% of my starting weight in 4 weeks
  • Weight Training & Core Work - 3 times a week for 4 weeks
  • No Starbucks for a week...yes, I know that doesn't sound like much, but when you have an addiction you have to start somewhere. 

Running Clinic

I attended a natural running clinic this weekend.  I have been working on my running form for awhile now on my own, but notice in pictures I'm clearly still not getting it so I thought it would be helpful to have someone watch me and critique me.  It was an hour and I was the only student which was really nice!  A few things I learned...both good and bad:

      THE GOOD
  • My running cadence (turnover) is good.  (So I guess that's not my excuse for being slow)
  • I have a good natural "lean" forward
  • It was good that I had already transitioned to a lower drop shoe which makes natural running more easy.
  • I appeared to have strong hips which didn't sag on impact.
     THE BAD
  • I am still heel striking....grrr...he did say it's a very quick strike before I move to midfoot, but I am hitting there first but it's not really impacting my speed, just harder on the body.
  • I have a lot of tension in my shoulders and arms which is causing me to expend a lot of excess energy.
  • I have a bit of crossover when my feet land - partially do to the fact that I land on my outer feet and then roll my feet inward.
  • I have pretty much zero ankle flexibility
  • Tucking the hips in when running
  • Focusing on midfoot striking
  • Leaning forward at the chest
  • Keeping my cadence the same
  • Easing the tension in my shoulders
It was a great experience and I plan to continue slowly working on my form.  He gave me a couple of stretching and strengthening exercises as well.

Have you ever done a running clinic before?  It was my first one.

November 07, 2013

Operation 40......And So It Begins

First off, I want to THANK YOU all for the very, very nice comments on my Bass Pro Marathon Post.  As always, the blogging community is so wonderful!!

But, now on to the meat of this post.  On Monday, November 11th I will officially kick off what I am loving calling "Operation 40". 

In just 22 short weeks I will turn the BIG they say.  While I am incredibly proud of what I have accomplished from an athletic perspective over the last several years, I would like to go sailing in to 40 in truly the best shape of my life.  So, I have a lot of work to do.  And I mean a lot.

I had been trying to decide how to go about Operation 40 and I've decided that I will do a series of short challenges, that I will hopefully incorporate into my life after the challenge period is up.  Operation 40 is not just about losing weight, although that is a major goal, it is about making better choices and living a healthier lifestyle.

So on Monday I am kicking things off with a little Weight Loss Challenge with a few girlfriends.  It is going to be EXTREMELY tough.  It is a 4 week challenge and during three of the weeks I will be traveling  at least a few days, and for the one week that I'm home the entire week....well that's yes, it's going to be tough.  I used DietBet to set up the game.  If you've never used it before it's kind of cool.  Basically everyone  has to lose 4% of their starting weight in 4 weeks.  Everyone that does splits the pot.  You can make the game public or private.  I made ours private for more motivation.  I think it helps to know those you are competing against.  If you have any interest in joining it let me know and I can send you the invitation.  It's by invite only.  The bet is $25 and you are guaranteed to at least get your money back if you lose 4%, but you could win some money too.  But you would have to let me know before Monday to get you added to the game.

Other than that I will be doing other challenges throughout the 22 weeks.  They will probably also be 4 week challenges.  Here are a few ideas of things I'm thinking about.  I won't do these all at once, but pick one or two every few weeks so things are always rolling on or off

  • No Starbucks
  • No Soda
  • Squats, planks or other fitness type challenges (certain # a day or amount of time per day)
I also want to add in some other goals, like I don't know maybe biking and swimming again....ha!  I am a triathlete but haven't really biked or swam since I need to get that going again.

I'm also *thinking* about doing the December 5K a day challenge.  Would anyone be interested in that?  It might be a really difficult one for me this year because I will be traveling some in December and will have some pretty full days in the I would have to figure that out.  No pressure to officially join, but let me know if you'd be interested and I might make this a 2nd Annual Challenge.  If you weren't following my blog last year - you can read about what I did here.

I will also post about the other challenges I will be doing along the way, so feel free to join me.  I will need all the help and support I can get to make Operation 40 a success!!!

So do you think you'd be up for the December 5K a day Challenge?  How about the Weight Loss Challenge starting Monday?   If so, leave me a comment below.  If you are interested in the weight loss challenge I will need your e-mail address.  You can e-mail me directly at

You can't really see the words I put below these images very well, but the first one says Me Today, and the 2nd Me in 22 Weeks???  Maybe :)

November 05, 2013

Bass Pro Marathon a Somewhat Spontaneous Marathon & PR

As you remember, although I managed a 1 minute PR at Chicago, the race didn't go as expected and I really wanted a "redemption race".  Once home I immediately started searching races.  I ended up with a couple of options that were 3 to 5 weeks away- there was Bass Pro in Springfield (hilly), Indianapolis (flat) or I could change my half marathon to a marathon at Richmond (also hilly).

Ready to run the Bass Pro Marathon on Sunday

After thinking through the pros and cons about a million times I decided quickly that Indy was out - even though it would be a flat course it would be an 8 hour drive and another long race weekend and I just didn't want that.  It really came down to Bass Pro (which was only about 2 1/2 hours away) or Richmond...where we were already going.  I decided on Richmond because I would have 5 weeks between it and Chicago and thought I might have a better chance at a PR.  I decided to sign up for the Bass Pro half and would add about 7 miles to it for a training run...and Jim decided he wanted to go give the 5K a decisions done and made.  For a short time.....

So as Bass Pro got closer I kept thinking about it.  It was a really small race - only 500 marathoners and it was hilly, but they had pace groups that were doing the run/walk method, and there was a group that was estimated to finish around 5:40 to 5:45.  I kept thinking about it, but kept telling myself Richmond was the way to go. Finally last week I really compared the elevations of each race, and while they were both fairly hilly, Richmond was much hillier and I was just kind of wanting to be done with the whole marathon thing.  The idea of even just one more 20 mile training run was exhausting.

So on Tuesday of last week, I made the decision to switch races.  It was the last day you could officially change races so I just did it.  I didn't tell anybody, that way I had an "out" in case I just wasn't feeling it, I would just run the half - unofficially and stick the prior plan.
Jim & I pre-race
I went in the Bass Pro Marathon with a different mentality than I originally thought.  I was running  a 2nd marathon just 3 weeks after Chicago on a much more challenging course.  I had decided that I really didn't know if I could PR and that was ok.  As a matter of fact, I really thought a PR was out of the question.  I was truly ok with that.  I just wanted to get in a 2nd marathon while I was still "marathon fit" and just have a good race where I felt ok.  I realized it might get super hard at the end and I might be cursing and I might finish 30 minutes slower...but I was ok with that.  I was going to do it and give it my best and just be proud of myself for *hopefully* completing 2 marathons 3 weeks apart.
I didn't really like the shirt...too flowery for me

Jim and I drove to Springfield on Saturday morning and arrived at the expo around lunch time.  We wandered around the booths and picked up our packets where I got - what I think is one of the ugliest race shirts ever.  I'm all about girl power, but this one was just a little too girly for me.  The men's shirts were made from words and circles and I thought they were much cooler than the women's shirts made all out of flowers....Oh well, I will still wear it, and I found a cute zip up fleece that I liked that just had "marathon weekend" on it so I'll wear that more anyway.

After picking up our packets we wandered around the always entertaining Bass Pro store.  Bass Pro originated in Springfield, MO and this is the original store.  All of their retail stores are pretty cool, but this was is just awesome...if you don't mind a few "stuffed" animals.  So in traditional Jim and Michael fashion we wandered around and took ridiculous pictures with the wildlife and other stuff...good times :)
Just a sampling of our ridiculous pictures
Race morning came and I felt good.  I felt ready.  We headed to Bass Pro where I would attempt to meet up with the group that was doing a run walk.  There were two groups I thought about joining - one was doing a 2 min run/ 1 min walk, and the other was doing a 2:30 min run/ 1 min walk.  The first group was estimated to have a 13 min pace, while the 2nd was expecting to have a 12 min pace.  I decided the 2nd would be much too fast for me and found the group that was doing 2/1.  I was hoping this would feel *easy* as I had done a 4/1 in all my training runs, but I knew the 2 minutes would be a bit faster than I was running my 4, because my planned pace for the 4/1 was also 13 minutes.

After waiting in the bathroom lines, we literally didn't head to the race start until about 1 minute til the start time.  I was feeling a littler flustered as we tried to push our way out of the store...I've never seen anything like it.  The race wasn't that big, with only about 2200 people in the marathon and half marathon, but it seemed like there were a million people.  The race had literally started and we were still standing inside Bass Pro trying to push our way out. 

Hopefully I run fast enough to outrun the bears!

We finally got outside and the race was already underway.  I looked for Jim (who wasn't starting for 30 more minutes) and waved and then off we went.  Almost immediately I had a side cramp.  Crap I thought, this was exactly what happened at Chicago.  I started out with a side cramp and kept them for much of the race.  Luckily it subsided in just a few minutes and never bothered me again.

When we first started I was running with Tricia - who was doing her first half, Amy and Elaina who were both doing their first marathons, and Katie - the "leader" for this run walk group.  We only ran with Tricia for a mile before the half marathoners turned off.  Yes, that's right, there were only 500 people in the marathon and we only ran with the half marathoners for 1 mile, so the race spread out very quickly.

My initial running group...I'm trailing in the back
We settled in to a nice 2/1 pace and honestly it felt great.  Katie had mentioned that after she warmed up she would probably change up the pace and at mile 2, she says, she wants to do a 1:30/30.  So I had a decision to make...stick with 2/1 which is closer to what I trained to do, or move to 1:30/30 to stay with the group.  The main reason I had decided on this race was because of the pace groups.  I thought they would 1) help me maintain a slower pace in the beginning and 2) and most important just have someone to run with.  This marathon has about 30 turns, and I'm not kidding.  That was the one negative thing I had read on the race.  People said it was very easy to miss a turn and get lost so I really, really wanted to stay with people.  I knew the 1:30 would feel great, but I was a little afraid the 30 seconds of recovery wouldn't be enough when I was used to a minute.  but overall, it was still a 3/1 pace really, so I thought I could do it and decided to stick with the group.

Within another mile or so Amy decided she could go faster, and ran on ahead.  Then there were just the three of us - me, Katie, and Elaina.  We talked and got to know each other and it was cool.  Katie was awesome and really encouraging.  Before I knew it we had hit the half marathon mark and it seemed like it has just flown by.  We were averaging a 12:20 pace at the half...yikes, that seemed really fast and I had a feeling I was going to pay for this speedy pace at some point.  That point came sooner rather than later.  At about mile 15, I was starting to feel that heaviness in my legs, and the 30 second recoveries were starting to feel like 5 seconds.  The 1:30 run still didn't feel too bad, but I just wasn't ready to run again after 30 seconds.  But I kept up, and kept telling myself to just make it to mile 16 with them and then I could fall back if needed.  It was around mile 15 (I think) that we also passed the 2:30/1 group...that I thought would be too fast for I really knew I was going to fast.  I made it to 16, and was definitely starting to trail them some.  I was close and could usually catch back up during the walk break, but I was definitely running behind them.  But after 16, I thought, ok you can at least make it to 18 with them.

The Fall colors were amazing, it was hard not to take pictures along the course
Around mile 16 is where I first saw Jim too!  After his race, he got in the car and tried to catch me along the course.  This was a really nice boost and it was great to get some free race pics too.  I kept trailing slightly behind Katie and Elaina, but close enough to stay within ear shot of them.  Katie kept telling me "You can do this Michael, you've got this" she was great.  She suggested changing their run walk ratio since I was struggling, but I didn't want to interfere with their race and they were both looking strong so I told them that and said I'd fall off when I needed too.  Finally right about mile 18, I realized I just couldn't keep it up anymore.  I told them goodbye and good luck and headed out on the final 8 miles on my own.
A couple of pics Jim took of me on the lonely course

I might be power walking here

I was still feeling pretty good, but I knew I needed more recovery to get to the end.  At this point I was still at about a 12:25 or 12:30 pace overall, so I knew that even with slower miles coming up, if I didn't totally crash I might PR after all.  I reset my watch to a 1:30/1 pace.  I was hopeful that if I kept this pace for a few miles I would feel recovered and could go back to the 1:30/30 pace for the last 2 or 3 miles of the race.

Miles 19-20 were hard.  I was tired, and I was alone and I felt like I still had a long way to go.  The rolling hills along the course were also starting to tire me for sure and going out a bit too fast was definitely taking it's toll.  But I hung in there and just tried to press along, knowing that a PR was possible if I just kept going.

Once you hit mile 20 in a marathon, they say that's where the real race starts and that is so true.  If the marathon were 20 miles, I'd be a much better marathoner.  That's when the pain really starts to settle in.  Your legs start aching and burning.  You can feel every muscle in your lower legs just burning with pain.  Your feet start to ache, but at the same time you know you are now on the downward slide and instead of counting the miles you've done, you can start counting the miles you have left.  At 20 miles....only a 10K left.

Around mile 22, I start doing the math in my head and what it will take to finish the race with a 5:30 something.  I still think it's possible for me to finish around maybe 5:38 or 5:39.  I want to give it all I've got, but my legs don't agree with me.  I tell myself just make it to mile 23 and then I will switch back to the faster pace and try to push it to the end to get in under 5:40.  But I just don't have much push, the hills just keep coming. They aren't large hills, but enough that I can't run up them, no mater what my run/walk pace while my watch is beeping to run or walk, I'm just pretty much doing whatever I want to.
Hugging mile 23

Finally I reach mile 24 - only 2.2 miles to go.  I look at my watch, it will be close, but maybe there is still a possibility, but I really don't think so.  I know I will get a PR, but the likelihood of a 5:30 something finish is starting to diminish.  But I tell myself to push and just try.  I decide to start running more and walking less....and that goes well for a half mile, until I reach what seems like a huge hill at mile 24.5.  What the heck???  A hill at the end of a race??  I decide I don't care, I will run up the hill and I did...and then immediately I felt my stomach get really uneasy.  I felt like I needed to go the bathroom, right now.  I knew I was pushing a little too hard this late in the race and my body wasn't going to have it.  So I knew I wouldn't be able to have that strong push to the end - it just wasn't going to be worth it.  I backed off a bit and powered through.  Which was good, because you basically climb from mile 24.5 to mile fun, though a nice downhill to the finish.

Continuous rolling hills, with a nice uphill at the end....over 1200 feet of elevation gain

My Garmin finally hits 26.2 miles and I was at 5:39....if only the race was over, I'd have my under 5:40 finish, but as with most races, the distance isn't exact for whatever reason so I had to keep on going.  In the end I would finish with 26.52 miles (a 1/3 mile over) with a 5:43:32 officially.  I was still ecstatic when I crossed the finish line.  Just 3 weeks after Chicago on a much hillier course I had just taken 10 1/2 minutes off my PR!  Jim was waiting there to take my picture all smiles, because he knew I had PR'd.  It was pretty awesome.
Super Happy new PR by 10 1/2 minutes!

I am still *a little* disappointed that I didn't get the finish time I had really hoped for and was really disappointed to learn my official pace was 13:06....when my Garmin pace was 12:57 - I really just wanted a marathon time in the 12s....but really, it's not a big deal and I'm SUPER happy.

I crossed the finish line and got my AWESOME medal.  I then found Jim and headed inside to warm-up and get a post race massage.  I found out that he had gotten 1st Place in his AG and he got a super cool plaque!  I was so proud of him.  He was a little disappointed because he had been 7 seconds on his 5K PR...but really can either of us complain?  We then enjoyed some delicious Olive Garden and made our way back home.  All in all, another great race weekend!!!
Finish Line with medal in hand!