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Last weekend we headed out to Las Vegas to run the Rock and Roll Half Marathon there. In many ways, it was one of those Murphy’s Law trips.

It started out on Friday afternoon when we picked Kai up from day care. Her classroom smelled horrible, bad enough that we asked what was going on. It was because of Kai. She had thrown up a few minutes earlier. We didn’t think much of it, sometimes babies seem to eject their food at random.

We began our drive to Louisville to the airport. At some point we noticed a smell, commented on it, and moved on. I guess that our noses adjusted. It did not even occur to me that it might be Kai, so I was quite surprised when I opened the back door of the car to retrieve her from her car seat and found her covered in vomit. Head to toe, a thick coating, all over the car seat as well, you know, the one that we were about to pack to bring with us.

A massive, but swift, cleaning operation ensued. Many of you know that we are not exactly known for getting to the airport early. At some point, as we used Chris’ undershirt to scoop piles of vomit out of the car seat, we debated if we should just cancel the trip, but decided that we couldn’t cancel. Last time we were supposed to meet Chris’ parents in Nevada we cancelled because that was the day we found out that I had a giant tumor in my chest. Nope. We would not cancel. We would press on this time.

By the time we had cleaned and bagged as much pukey stuff as possible, we were under the gun to get through the airport fast.

First stop, the ticket counter. We had mobile boarding passes automatically delivered our phones, but Kai’s needed to be printed. Let’s just say that it wasn’t as straightforward as usual.

Ten minutes later, we were booking it through security. Except only Chris and Kai booked through. I drew the lucky number and needed to be strip searched. Not really, but it was the most time consuming and invasive pat down that I have ever received and, in India, I received quite a few airport pat downs. I consider myself an expert in the subject.

Finally we were on our way to the gate, just in time to hear the agent paging us to board our flight. Like literally us. ‘Passengers Brittany and Chris, bound for Houston, your plane is ready to depart. The airplane doors will be closing in five minutes.’

We made it. Whew!

When we finally got up in the air, it was a few minutes past Kai’s bedtime and she was clearly expressing that she wanted milk. Now. As soon as we were cleared to move about the cabin, Chris went on a mission to ask the flight attendant for some milk. For some reason this made her very angry. We were in the front row of the plane, so I could hear the exchange well, but I have no idea what went wrong. After the milk incident she refused to speak to us, make eye contact with us, or even give us water. All the way to Houston. Thankfully Kai did not have another milk meltdown.

We eventually made it on to Las Vegas without incident, although, while in Houston Chris mentioned that he had an upset stomach.

By morning, Chris wasn’t alone. Our morning started off with bringing Kai into our bed to try to trick her into just one more hour of sleep. That came back and bit us when she almost immediately threw up all over herself, us, and the bed. By the time I got her bathed, changed into clean clothes, and had washed the contents of the puke bag from the night before, I realized that I didn’t feel so well either.

Long story short, I spent most of the day feeling like Kai must have felt and feeling pretty guilty that we had dragged her halfway across the country. By dinner time, Chris was on my case to go pick up our race packets for the following day. I reluctantly went, armed with a plastic bag in my purse.

Things seemed to be going better until the next day as we were leaving for the race. The wind was beginning to pick up. By the time we started, there were sustained 20 mph winds and we seemed to be running straight into them. Ugh. It was like running in place. Fortunately, I had no idea how slow we were running because my Garmin stopped working properly during mile 1.

Poor race performance aside, I have mixed feelings about the race. It was pretty awesome to run down the iconic Las Vegas Strip all lit up at night. In some ways, that was enough to make it a pretty cool race, but some of the other circumstances negated that, at least in part. Possibly due to the wind, there were no visible mile marker signs, no clocks on the course, and no signs at the water stations marking water versus Gatorade. There was also too little regulation on who got into which corral resulting in many walkers at the front of the pack. In summary, I’m glad that I ran the race, but I probably wouldn’t run this race again.

Naturally, this trip could not end without just a little bit more drama. When we landed in Louisville again, just a few minutes late, we booked it back out of the airport knowing that it would take every minute that we had to make it to the kennel before it closed to pick up Duke.

About halfway home, the gas light came on in my car. Seriously? We debated if we should keep driving to our exit off of the interstate or stop for gas sooner but not be able to pick up Duke. As you might expect, we pressed on. Fortunately we made it to our exit and a gas station with about half a gallon of gas in the tank. I dropped Chris off downtown at the Jeep to go get Duke and headed home with Kai.

Whew!

Or not. On the way home I noticed that a certain smell was emanating from the backseat. This one was coming from Kai’s diaper. At least we were almost home, the best possible place to deal with that.

When we got home, we burst through the door at full speed with the intent to make a beeline for the changing table as soon as I disarmed the alarm. Unfortunately, the keypad on the alarm seemed to be jammed up. The keys usually beep when I press them, but they were not making any sounds and the alarm was not disarming. In sixty seconds, the alarm would sound.

Quickly, I rushed back outside to the car to strap a poopy, screaming baby back into her car seat as the ear splitting sound of the alarm came to life inside our house. Instantly, my phone was ringing with the alarm company checking on me. I assured them that we did not need any emergency services, but also that I would not, in fact, be able to disarm the system.

They instructed me to sit tight for 7-10 minutes until the audible siren turned off, then they could talk me through disarming the system manually. Did I mention that it was very cold, rainy, and windy outside? Changing Kai’s diaper outside during this episode was not an especially appealing option.

Eventually, we got into the house, got Kai cleaned up, and returned to normalcy. Usually, I feel some type of post-trip let down, but, by this point, was surprisingly eager to return to work and my regularly scheduled routine.

Yesterday I promised that we would talk about ducks next, but I changed my mind. I want to talk about the Indy Women’s Half Marathon instead. If you have followed my blog comments extremely closely (Seriously, you don’t?) for the past few months, you might recall that I was egged on to sign up for the Indy Women’s Half Marathon on September 1. If you don’t recall that, now you know.

I had mostly forgotten about it until yesterday. Somehow, as I thought about the fact that I have not run in a week, the race sprang to the forefront of my mind. At first, I dismissed it. After all, I’ll never be able to PR considering the circumstances.

A few hours later, I got to thinking about it again. No, I didn’t develop some delusion that I could PR. I’m not even sure if I will be able to run the whole thing, but I did decide that I should run it. Or as much of it as possible anyway. I think it will be good for me to have a training goal, even if it is just to finish the 13.1 miles, and really, 13.1 miles is not all that far anyway. This should be totally doable.

So, there it is, I’ve put it out there and I’ve made up a very conservative training plan running three to four days per week. I think that four runs per week is an attainable goal, even on ‘aftermath of chemo’ weeks.

As for this week of non-running, I think I just need to write it off and regroup this weekend. This week my hair has been playing games with me and, in an effort to preserve it until Chris gets home, I have been trying not to stress it at all. This means that running was out because my bouncing ponytail would rip it out unnecessarily before he got home. I was also nervous that the extra shower that running precipitates would cause even more hair loss. In an effort to regain control of my life and resume normal activities, I have determined that the hair has to go. In fact, I have decided that less hair should actually enhance my ability to run as I won’t have to deal with washing and drying it each time.

Ahhh, the silver lining. I knew there was a silver lining.

According to Runner’s World, here’s the plan for the next 10 days or so.

It is kind of a low ball plan, in the back of my mind I intend to be an overachiever and go a bit beyond this. I’ll let you know how that works out for me. Up until the hair loss thing stopped my running dead in its tracks, I was running quite a bit more than this plan calls for. In theory, one week off shouldn’t be a game changer.

For real, a duck update coming soon.

I was really excited about this race. I had an awesome run last weekend and I felt good about going out there and running a great race.

Things didn’t go exactly as planned. I don’t run well in heat or humidity and I crashed and burned.

I went out and ran my first few miles within seconds of my target pace. I felt like I was in a good groove and I had a positive outlook.

At some point after that, I’m not sure where exactly, we’ll call it mile 5, I began to feel super crummy. My stomach was cramping. Bad. I wondered if I ate my banana too close to start time or was I running too fast? My legs were happy with my pace, but for some reason my stomach was just not cooperating.

I am not sure how far along on the course I was because my Garmin started going crazy from the massive amount of sweat that was pouring off of my body. I am far to Garmin dependent to actually read and comprehend mile markers as I run. Pshhht. Reading mile markers is for non-Garmin wearing Luddites, please.

Anyway, I tried to run through my stomach cramp for a few minutes, but eventually I gave up and walked a bit. I’m not sure how long I walked for since my Garmin wasn’t cooperating, but probably a minute or so. I started running again, this time more slowly, but the cramp came back. Again and again. Ugh.

Chris and I finished together. Well, he could/should have beat me, but he stayed back and loped through the race with me and even let me “win”.

At the end we sprinted the last half mile, well as much as one sprints at the end of a half marathon anyway,  and inches before the finish line Chris stopped short to make sure that I would finish first.

That was sweet Chris. Thank you for trying to spare my ego after a long, hot, humid, frustrating race.

I think the moral of this story is that I should try to get more outdoor runs in. That would probably help me adapt to running in the warm weather.

I generally decide to run inside when it is warm or humid so that I can run in my temperature regulated environment at the pace that I choose. Let’s face it, my first week or two (or maybe more) of outdoor warm weather runs are not even going to touch my “happy run” pace zone.

A few weeks of slower runs will probably pay off in the end by conditioning me to run in warm weather and thus allowing me to enter and **enjoy** a few more summer races.

At first I was really disappointed with this race, but then I got real.

I did not train as hard for this as I did for my PR race in March. I also trained wimpy inside on my treadmill and was not prepared for the temperature or 98% humidity. My bad.

What I did do right is that even though I ran slow, I felt like I was running as fast as I could muster at the time.

Running a PR or even just breaking 2:00:00 was not in the cards yesterday due to my lack of preparation and my failure to run outside enough to prepare for the heat and humidity. My bad.

I feel like I left everything I had in me on that course yesterday so I’ll take it and in the future I will try to get more temperature appropriate runs in ahead time.

Thursday morning Chris instant messaged me at work. “Brit, do you want to run the Flying Pig this weekend?”

The Flying Pig is a series of races, 5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon and there were still spots open in each race.

Before I knew it, I was standing in the registration booth in Cincinnati signing up for a marathon the following day.

Chris is that guy who is very charming, so charming that people, me included, seem to go along with all of his crazy ideas. This was no exception.

After signing up for the race, we bummed around Cincinnati a bit. The downtown is not a particularly interesting or impressive neighborhood, especially considering that many places were closed because it was the weekend. We had some Chipotle for lunch, went back to our hotel for a nap, then had Rock Bottom for an early dinner. I think it is the only time that I have ever been to a Rock Bottom and did not order a beer.

I was asleep by 6pm trying to make sure that I got enough sleep before waking up at 4:30 for the race. It turns out that waking up at 4:30 does not seem like a good idea no matter how early you go to bed.

We woke up to heavy rains and sporadic lightning. The local newscasters kept threatening that the race would be cancelled. Fortunately they were wrong, but I kept thinking back to what had happened to the racers in Nashville a week earlier.

It turned out that our rain was a blessing. Between the rain and the breeze, I stayed cool enough to run a decent race. I think the temperature was very similar to the temperature in Louisville last week, but this felt a million times better!

I think it also helped that wore my vented “Alaska, way bigger than Texas!” hat which kept my head cooler than my non-vented Penn State hat. I should really invest in a running hat, but I don’t need one all that often, usually if it rains I just run inside.

We left the hotel around 6am to head to the “Starting Swine”, haha, for the 6:30 start. It took a full 15 minutes to actually cross the line, probably because people were slow in ditching their garbage bag ponchos in a huge pile in the middle of the road.

When we finally got started, it became evident that we were so far back in the pack that we were surrounded by people intending to walk the entire half marathon. We spent the first three miles or so cutting back and forth around them until the crowd thinned a bit.

Miles five through eight had some serious hills, but we tried to focus on maintaining the same effort level from the first few miles regardless of the pace. Thankfully the pace didn’t suffer much and neither did my legs.

We got some flat and downhill relief from miles nine and ten before another killer hill on mile eleven. Things were looking good after that!

Special thanks to the beer tent during mile fourteen! I did not drink my beer because I didn’t know what it would to do my stomach, but Chris was happy to have his and mine as well!

Mile seventeen had another killer hill. You would never guess it from the elevation map, but it was a doozie! That was the only portion of the race that I walked, about 30 seconds of that hill. I was against walking it, but thankfully Chris talked me into it. That hill surely could have killed my legs at that point!

Right before mile eighteen was the Penn State Gu tent! “We are!”…”Penn State!” I had a great time cheering with you guys! It really lifted my spirits and gave me energy to power through the next few miles which was really important because just after the eighteen mile marker, Chris and I parted ways until the finish.

The last eight miles were uneventful. I got to mile 20 by thinking “Just two more miles until you eat your last Gu, then it is the home stretch.”

After mile 20, I just concentrated on doing my standard Tuesday morning run. Six miles, you do this all the time no problem.

Thankfully the crowd support was awesome for the last few miles, which easily carried me through to the “Finish Swine” and a new PR. Granted a slow one, but I’ll take it!

Chip time: 4:28:29, Pace 10:15/mile

After months of anticipation, I completed my first marathon last weekend. For weeks I had been agonizing over what pace group to join, which socks would be most likely to keep my feet blister free, how many Gu’s to eat and when, and many other seemingly trivial race-day details. On February 7th at 6:30 AM, I started my race and a big new learning experience.

My typical MO is to ignore advice, instructions, and most words of warning and try things out for myself. I went about my first marathon endeavor as usual. Big mistake. Partway through running 26.2 miles is not the time to be thinking about what great advice you were given and have chosen not to follow.

Most of my try-by-doing strategies worked. I alternated between Vitalyte and water to balance my fluids and electrolytes. (Who gives Vitalyte at a race instead of Gatorade anyway?) I ate my Gu’s every 5 miles eating the last one at Mile 20. My favorite purple Mountain Hardwear shirt and my Mountain Hardwear Pacer Advance running shorts kept me comfortable, cool, and dry-ish, if not a little bit salty for the whole race! I even made a good sock choice; I finished the race with only two blisters.

The most problematic decision that I made was to start the race too quickly. If I had slowed my pace by a minute or so per mile at the beginning, I probably would have finished many, many minutes earlier. This advice was given to me many times, but of course I did not listen. Next time I will pace myself better. Yes, there will be a next time. While 4:38:53 is an okay time for a first-time marathoner, I hope to better that sometime soon!