Race Recap: Tobacco Road Marathon… The Magically Painful Day I Qualified For Boston

Now that I have returned to the world of people who can walk normally and go down stairs without cringing, I felt like it was time to give you a full run down of my day at the Tobacco Road Marathon.

Abbreviated version:

I QUALIFIED FOR THE BOSTON MARATHON!!!!!!!!!!

Very long version:

Race weekend started Friday night with a relaxing night in. Ross left that Friday morning for a business trip in Asia, so I was on my own. I planned a date with a frozen vegetarian burrito, huge bottle of water, and reruns of “Grey’s Anatomy” on Netflix. I know, wild night, huh? And in case you were wondering, when Ross is out of town, yes my meals do consist predominately of frozen foods or meals that can be prepared in under 15 minutes. Just so there is no question about who is the cook in our family…

Saturday the goal was to stay off my feet as much as possible to rest up for the big smack down that would be the race on Sunday (do people still say “smack down?”). I went to the race expo early in the day, picked up my race bib and parking pass, and quickly made a lap by all the tables and vendors. I already had everything I needed for the marathon, so it was more for curiosity sake than anything else.

Mom and Larry got into town late afternoon and we had a delicious carb-o-load pasta dinner at The Boot in Durham. Eggplant parmesan was exactly what the doctor runner ordered. And a trip to Local Yogurt for chocolate peanut butter frozen yogurt with crumbled Reese’s cups. I offered Larry my last few bites (I was pretty stuffed from the eggy-parm) but he responded that in several hours I would be 20 miles deep in a long run and I would wish I had that frozen yogurt. I agreed… and licked the bowl clean.

We turned in early, and in a blink of an eye my alarm went off at 3:45 a.m. (which is just a gross hour to set an alarm for). I went through my normal long run morning routine of water, banana, water, PBJ sandwich, water, get dressed, water, until we left the house at 4:50. It was a quick 30 minute drive over to Cary, and thankfully traffic was light (imagine that at 5:00 a.m. on a Sunday!).

It was quite chilly at the pre-race tent area, and I was so, so, so thankful I had “splurged” and bought the race day parking pass last minute on Craigslist a few days prior. Folks without a parking pass (hundreds of runners and spectators) had to park at a satellite lot and ride a shuttle over, before shuffling around in the cold for an hour plus, until the race started. The logistics were well-planned and it looked like everything went quite smoothly, but I was so happy to be able to hang out in the car (in between frequent trips to the porta potty) and stay warm.

At 6:15 Mom, Larry and I said are good-byes and I trudged over to the massive crowd of shuffling bodies while they headed off to get in position to spectate. Mom’s good luck message was “Don’t run too fast. Just take it easy. I will see you soon! I’ll  be the one with the poster!” I am not sure if she was being completely serious or ironically funny (it can be hard to tell with us sometimes) but I laughed and joined the swarms of anxious starters. I looked for the Pace Group signs to find the corral I wanted to start with, and was able to push up to the 3:25 group. I knew this was an extremely optimistic place to start, but it was all part of my race strategy.

(Now is where you ask me what my race strategy was….)

Well since you asked, I will tell you exactly what my race strategy was! :)

Most (like 95%) of coaches, training guides, and running articles will tell you that the most healthy and effective way to race is by negative splitting (which means your last half of of the race should be faster than the first, and you are gradually getting faster the longer you run). The reasoning behind this has a lot to do with how your body burns energy, fatigue, and so forth. I get it, I really, really do. But…. I suck at it. I am what I call an “excited runner.” Whether it is a race I have been training towards for months or just a long-run with friends that I have been building miles for, I tend to jump out of the gate like a prize pony at the Kentucky Derby, ready to go go go go go. And somewhere along the way, I ease into a rhythm, stay fairly consistent for a bulk of the miles, perhaps clock a couple of slower than pace miles towards the end, before I kick it back up a notch at the end. So usually my fastest miles are my first few, and usually the very last one. It’s a weird way to run, but it has always worked for me.

So, my plan was to kick off with the 3:25 pace group, bank some time when I was excited in the beginning, hope to goodness to hold on to that speed for as long as I could, then hang on for dear life as I burned through all the energy I would have for the last few miles. I joked with my friends before the race that there was a good chance I was going to qualify for Boston, but there was a good chance that I would blow up and wouldn’t even finish the race. But I was going in ready to give it 100% of my all, and hope I didn’t bust along the way.

When they rang the bell signally our start, we all took off across the line. I made sure to completely lift up my outer layer shirt so that my bib would be completely exposed and would register as I crossed the start line (and thus leaving no shadow of a doubt to creep in 17 miles later).  My watch was calculating nicely, so I was happy as a clam. Except that the race started up a hill, and it really hurt. I was a little nervous when our first half a mile was way over pace (which is pretty normal as you shuffle through the crowds at the start), so I kicked it up a notch to get away from the masses. Somewhere in the starting herd, I passed the 3:25 Pace Group.

Without a Pace Group to guide me, I was on my own to gauge my speed (which I wasn’t too worried about since I had done all of my long runs this training cycle on my own). But in the absence of a Pacer, I started playing a mental game with myself. I needed to run at a 8:12 per mile pace to hit 3:35:00 which is the Boston Marathon qualifying time for my age group. However, if I actually wanted to have a chance at running Boston, I needed to be closer to the 3:30 – 3:33 time frame, which was around 8:00 pace. So I convinced myself that I needed to run a 7:50 pace, and added every mile below that pace to my bank of extra time. It may sound silly, but I was totally able to “convince” myself that this was the reality when it was in the heat of the race (since 70% of running is a mental effort anyway).

After a couple of miles on the open road, we hit the Tobacco Trail a bit passed mile 2. I was on the look-out for Mom and Larry, unsure as to where they would pop up along the way. By mile 3 I had stripped off my outer long sleeve shirt, but I was hesitant to toss it. You see, the long sleeve I was wearing was my lucky race shirt. It was an old, grungy, stained long sleeve shirt that had started every single half and full marathon with me. And every race I was prepared to toss it and never see it again, but every race it somehow found it’s way back to me (most notably was the Crystal Coast Half Marathon a couple of years ago… I tossed the shirt at mile 2, and some kind spectator took it to the post-race party and it was the first thing I saw once I hit the finish line, sitting on the side of the road.) So, by this point, this shirt and I had a good thing going, and I really didn’t want to separate from it. So for a couple of miles, I ran, water bottle in one hand (packed with energy gels), and a long sleeve shirt wadded up in the other hand. It wasn’t really the most energy-efficient way I have ever ran, but I didn’t really mind. Around mile 4 we passed an aid station and one of the volunteers shouted “Wow! You are running carrying your shirt?!” I didn’t really think it was that amazing, but his comment made me smile, and gave me the encouragement that I was doing the right thing by keeping a hold of my lucky shirt.

The race was set up as T-shape with two out and backs on the American Tobacco Trail. By the time I got to around mile 7 the race leaders were starting back towards me on the trail. The (insanely competitive) racer in me decided to count the females that passed me by the time I got to the turn around. By mile 8 turn around point, I was still in the top 20 females.  My friends Ashley and Nestor were at the turn around cheering and snapping pictures, so tossed them my lucky shirt, gave them a big smile and started off in the other direction.

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Mile 8 turn-around… me with my lucky race shirt, behind a very tall man.

Miles 8 – 19 were a straight shot down the south end of the American Tobacco Trail. I was a little nervous about this section because it was a long straight stretch that wasn’t overly entertaining. But I kept taking it one mile at time, and tried to just focus on staying on pace for that one mile. At mile 12 I still felt pretty strong and was making really good time and putting a lot of extra seconds in my “bank.” I realized I was going to be really close to breaking my half marathon goal for the year (a sub 1:40 half) and decided to go for it. I know… I should NOT have been worried about my half marathon split, and I should have been focused on the bigger picture. But, I argued, if I didn’t get the marathon time I wanted, at least I would get my half goal, so I went for it. My watch clocked a 1:39:48 half, beating my half marathon PR by 32 seconds.

Trees for miles

My next group of friendly faces were around the 14 mile marker, with cheers from Mom, Larry, and some awesome Bull City Running Company ladies. Mom had her homemade race poster, complete with another embarrassing selfie picture I had sent her months ago. I have really got to stop sending her those…

In a couple of miles my pace started easing back and I began looking for my next spectator support. I strategically placed my lovely supporters throughout the course at places where I thought I would need them the most. Laura, my training buddy from Richmond, was there to yell for me at Mile 16, which was the boost I needed to get me to the far south turn around, where Ashley and Nestor surprised me again.

Not sure why I am smiling... I felt like poo.

Not sure why I am smiling… I felt like poo.

Around this time the 3:25 pace group passed me, which was totally expected but still a little deflating. I knew I was slowing down, but was trying to hold on to any speed I had left. Mile 18 had been a sluggy 8:28 pace, which wasn’t terrible, but I knew I couldn’t fall into this pace and still hope to qualify. Mile 19 I picked back up to 7:57, but somewhere in there I started to fade. I had 7 miles to go, and I was starting to panic. Miles 20 – 24 were not pretty. My time was way off, and I started questioning whether or not I was going to make it in under 3:35. The 3:30 pace group passed me at mile 23 and I started to freak out. The 3:35 group was still a good ways behind me, but I knew I needed to be close to that 3:30 group if I had hopes of actually running at Boston next year. I later realized that the 3:30 group was running faster than their goal pace, but at the time I was afraid I was watching my qualifying dreams jog away in a bright yellow shirt.

When I hit mile 24 I knew I had to go. We were off the trail, back on the open road, and it was all or nothing. I kept visualizing the map I had made obsessive notes on for the days leading up to the race, and on mile 24 I had written GO! in large letters. If I wanted to qualify for Boston, I had to take off, and I had to do it now. I started picking up the pace, and when I rounded the corner at about 24.5, my cousins Peter and Cara were there yelling and jumping up and down. I had no idea they were coming to the race, and was totally surprised to see them. They ran behind me for the next mile, occasionally yelling out “Wooo Katie! Yay Katie!” which gave me the push I needed to get to mile 26 and the down hill finish.

Rounding the last corner I saw my sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and nephew, my mom running beside me, and Laura biking ahead. I just had to sprint the last 0.2 miles. At this point I had no idea what my final time was going to be, unsure if my watch was completely correct. I figured it was going to be close.

When I crossed over the finish line, I checked the clock and was shocked… 3:30:34. I had qualified for Boston. I had gotten a PR by 9 minutes. I was exhausted.

BQ victory bell

BQ victory bell

After congratulations pictures, obligatory ringing of the victory bell (once for my BQ and once for my PR), and sweaty hugs for all my friends and family, we made our way to the recovery area. I got in line to get my results, and Laura jumped in next to me. She seemed antsy. The rest of my fan club/family was no where to be seen. I told the officials my bid number and waited. They checked the results, passed the computer to the next official, and waited. After a minute they wrote down my time, and said “congratulations you qualified!” I already knew that based on the race clock time, but hearing it out loud from a race official was really cool. At that point Laura let out a huge sigh of relief and told me that my bib didn’t live track. It had registered that I hit the 3.4 mile marker, but they hadn’t gotten any live updates on me after that. My mom was terrified that my bib hadn’t tracked again, and I would be devastated. I don’t know why the live tracking didn’t work (I am cursed perhaps) but the official results came in, so crisis averted.

You qualify for Boston, you get a free shirt. I have barely taken if off since.

You qualify for Boston, you get a free shirt. I have barely taken if off since.

I have to be a bit more long-winded and say thank you (again) to the wonderful people who made me feel so special on race day. I know for a fact I would not have reached my goals without your support – you are amazing:

  • To my Mom and LarBear: thank you for putting up with my obsessive training, high-set goals, and crazy race moods. You two are my favorite spectators.
  • To Ashley and Nestor: you get running… and you get me. That’s rare. Thank you for surprising me multiple times on the course as paparazzi and for taking the best finish line video. (Ashley was crying while she was cheering… it’s priceless.)
  • To Laura: thank you for riding your bike up and down the ATT and for supporting me in my BQ journey. You knew it was a long shot, but you knew I could do it. You’re next my friend.
  • To Cara and Peter, thank you for being my running cheer squad for the last big push. You had me smiling at a time when my whole body hurt and I wanted to sit down and cry.
  • To Courtney, Matt, Ty, Sky, Mama G, and Mr. B: thank you for being such supportive in-laws and for representing the Bowden name in Ross’s absence. Y’all make a girl feel real special.
  • And to all of my friends and family who sent messages, texts, and calls… thank you for supporting me in this crazy journey. I am so proud to know each of you.
The best cheer squad a girl could ever have

The best cheer squad a girl could ever have

So that my friends is the magical day that I qualified for Boston. I have some more post-race feelings to share, but that will have to be another post for another day. I am pretty sure you are tired of reading at this point, and I know I am surely tired of typing. That’s all for now!

Running Durham… Again?

Thank you all for your kind words and congratulations on Richmond. All of your sweet messages are perfect timing to get me psyched up for my second marathon, which is this weekend.

You like the way I casually worked that in there, don’t you?!

I know, I still don’t have you caught up on everything that happened from last fall until now, but I thought I could interrupt the months worth of recap to give you a peak into what my life is like right now. Well, at least the running part.

After Richmond (November 15th), I took the next month and half to recover and eventually start running again. The holidays were a great distraction from my minor post-marathon depression (yes, that’s a thing), and I started the new year with some casual long-ish runs (6 – 10 miles every other week). One Saturday morning I decided to really push myself, and ran a half marathon distance (13.1 miles) on my favorite green-way just to see how fast I could do it. I averaged an 8:12 per mile pace, and was thrilled that this was my second fastest half time ever… even beating a couple of race PRs but without the race environment.

Two weeks later I ran the Little River Trail Race, my first ever single-track trail race. It was a 10 mile race, and my longest ever trail run. I wiped out pretty hard once (typical in trail races), and have a nice little scar on my knee to prove it, but I popped right back up and finished the race in 1:29:34, with a pace of 8:57 per mile. For those of you who don’t know, single-track trail running requires a lot more effort than road running because you are constantly watching for proper footing, the hills tend to be short and steep (like running stairs), and it is more difficult to find a steady rhythm. On average you should expect to add 1 – 1.5 minutes per mile to your road pace to find your trail pace, depending on the difficulty of the trail. 

The very next week I met a few (super, crazy fast) runners for a casual 10-miler. Well, I thought it was going to be casual… but we ended up moving at 7:49 pace. It was a totally unexpected tempo run, but I held on. I kept looking at my time, thinking “wow… I still have some speed in there somewhere.”

So you see where this is going…. At this point I decided I needed to sign up for another race. By now I was back to running fairly consistently, and I wanted to take advantage of the speed I still had built up from Richmond. So on January 19th I signed up for the Tobacco Road HALF Marathon. I really wanted to break 1 hour, 40 minutes on a half this year, as last year’s time was only over by 20 seconds, so I set my sites on that goal.

A couple of days after I registered I was talking to Ross about my goals for the year, both tied to running and otherwise. My two big running goals included breaking 1:40 in the half, and I wanted to hit 3:35 in the full (the Boston Marathon qualifying time for my age group). Ross listened attentively, and after a minute or two he said “Well, why aren’t you running the full marathon at Tobacco Road?” I hemmed and hawed, made excuses, considered upgrading my registration for a few days, then decided there was no way I could be ready to run a full marathon in such a short amount of time. Although I had been running fast lately, I had not really logged the miles needed to ramp up for marathon training, so I tried to push that possibility out of my mind.

But as the days passed I found myself googling “last minute marathon training” and “how to qualify for the Boston Marathon in 6 weeks.” It was ridiculous… Ross had planted the seed and I just couldn’t shake it. On February 4th I officially upgraded my registration to the full marathon.

So now is where I should tell you that I kicked my butt in high gear and trained like a mad person for the next 6 weeks. But, I didn’t. I think it is a combination of knowing I can run the distance after having done it once already, mixed with a ton of external factors ( I will get to those in a second). A lot of the issue with my last training cycle is that I had no idea what I was doing, what to expect, or what would make or break my success. So I poured everything into it, hoping for solid results.  This time around I have more balance; I made it a point to focus on my long runs on Saturdays, plus one tempo run during the week, but the rest of the time I just did whatever I had time for.

To offset my new zen and balanced attitude towards training, I had two major kinks thrown in to my training over the past month. For one, we took an (amazing, life-changing) week long trip to Costa Rica at the peak of my training cycle. I only ran once the whole week, for about 2 miles. I called it my mid-training-cycle-extended-taper (no, that’s not a thing). :) Yes, there will be a blog post about our trip at some point, but it will probably be next week (I have a race this weekend you crazy people!).

Upon our return from our trip we were greeted with over a week’s worth of sub-freezing temperatures, snow, and ice which highly limited my ability to run more than a couple of miles a day with the exception of one 14-mile run, in the ice and snow, in which I felt like every step could land me on my booty. So yea… I am definitely less prepared this time around.

But, I feel pretty good (or at least ok) about the race. I have had some really strong and speedy long runs in the past month, including an 18 miler at 7:58 pace and a 20 miler at 8:25 pace. If I can just hold on to that 18-mile pace for 8 more miles, I will be set to beat my race goals.

So what are my goals exactly? Well, I really do want to qualify for Boston, so that means I need to run 3:34:59 or faster. But if I actually want to run Boston, not just qualify to register, I have to shave off a couple of more minutes off of that time. Boston only takes the fastest of the fastest qualifying times,  which means that just because you get your qualifying time, you are not guaranteed a spot.

But in an effort to be extremely honest with myself (and you), and if I am be truly realistic, I have to remind myself, I am under-trained. I realize that. If I have a really, really good run, it is totally possible for me to qualify for Boston this weekend (EEEK!). However, there is also a good possibility that my time will be somewhere around my Richmond time (high 3:30s, low 3:40s) or slower. And if that happens, I will of course be disappointed, but there are always other races. And as my mom pointed out last week, just a few short months ago I wasn’t sure I would even be able to run a marathon, and here I am running two within 5 months like it is no big deal. Just a finish is an accomplishment in my book. (Thanks for that revelation, Mom!)

So that’s where I am this week… pre-race jittery, anxiously checking the weather, playing race-day scenarios in my head… very OCD-like. It’s my happy place. :) I’m also scouting out strategic places to spread out my cheer squad along the course to keep my hyped up, so if you plan to be at the race or if you want to join in on the spectator fun last minute, let me know so I know where to look for you!

Tobacco Road Marathon, here I come!

Race Recap: Richmond Marathon

Caution: Lost post ahead… I had months to reflect, and now I am going to share all the feelings….

My last post sounded a big negative when it came to my description of training. Yes, it was exhausting… Yes, it was stressful… But it was also a really exciting few months. Every week I was accomplishing something I had never done before. That’s the really cool part about training for a distance you have never run before… every week was a mini victory, celebrating my first 14 mile run, 16 mile run, 18 mile run, and so forth. It was an amazing feeling to meet these weekly milestones and I had an incredible support system putting up with my excessive phone calls and ramblings about the art of marathon training. I remember telling my mother-in-law one night that training for the marathon was one of the biggest things I had ever done in my life; I had devoted so much time, energy, and strength into it, and I was so proud of how far I had come.

As race weekend kicked off, I was extremely blessed to have a huge part of that support system right by my side. Ross, my parents, and Ross’s parents all traveled to Richmond with me, along with several friends who were also racing either the half or full marathons. I knew I would have so much love and support on race day, which added to the excitement and pre-race jitters.

We took off of work on Friday, and left for Richmond around mid-day. It was only about a 2.5 to 3 hour drive, but I wanted to be there in plenty of time to get settled in with as little stress as possible. The race expo was held at a convention center, and also served as the meeting place for my fan group (the aforementioned two sets of parents, which from here on out will be referred to as The Parents to eliminate the need to specifically list the four different people in attendance). Because I was already uber emotionally charged, the race expo was a bit of a sensory overload for me. Everyone wanted to walk around and look at all the cool gear for sale, but once I had my bib and race t-shirt, I was ready to fight my way out of the crowds and zone out. We went our separate ways from The Parents, and met up with our friends Doug and Katharine who we were sharing an AirBnB with (Richmond was Katharine’s first ever half marathon). We had a fairly relaxing and uneventful evening and we turned in early for bed.

The next morning proved to be exactly as forecasted. Bright sunshine with a side of Arctic Blast. Yes it was sunny and gorgeous, at least from the inside of your warm bedroom, because outside it was a frigid 18 degrees. I layered up in my predetermined race outfit (compression shorts, tall compression socks, and my favorite wicking t-shirt), then smothered myself in extras including an odd combination of old yoga clothing, warm winter accessories, and a heavy winter jacket.

The house we were renting was only a few miles from the race start and we made it to the start line area right on schedule. We found a parking spot fairly easy, and it was there that I ran into my training partner Laura. We had decided weeks earlier that it would probably be impossible to find each other in the literally tens of thousands of people on race morning, but as fate would have it, we parked in the same lot, at the same time, and were able to spend the morning nervously laughing and talking together. I remember thinking how perfectly the morning was going, and that everything was exactly following my plan.

And this is where things started to fall apart.

The half marathon had a tapered start, with the first waive at 7:30a.m. and the last at 8:00a.m.. The full marathon, as it had the smaller number of participants of the two distances, was an all-at-once start, starting at 7:50a.m.. A little bit after 7:00, Laura and I walked over to watch the first few waives of the half take off. I thought it was weird that the full race started before the half-ers were fully “off and running”, but the thought quickly left my mind. Call it pre-race absentmindedness. At that point, I should have realized, hey, you should probably go find your starting coral, but for some reason I was pretty zen about the whole thing, just watching the half waives take off. After what I thought had only been a few minutes of watching, I casually asked Laura what time it was. 7:47a.m.

7:47a.m.

Our race started at 7:50a.m.

I was no where close to my starting coral.

I didn’t even know where my coral was.

Our eyes met, both reflecting terror and panic, and we both took off running, tearing through the crowds towards the start line. I had originally planned to give Ross my extra layers of clothing at the start (they weren’t my favorite pieces of clothing, but I hadn’t intended for them to be “throw away” clothes either), but at this point I was literally stripping as I ran, tossing fleece pullovers, extra gloves, pants, and ear warmers as I made my way through the crowd. At some point in the chaos I lost Laura.

I found my way into the starting group right as the gun went off. Then I realized I had never set the GPS on my watch. I looked all around me, saw a guy with a pacer shirt on, and asked him his pace time. 3 hours, 35 minutes. Now 3:35 was my stretch-strech-stretch goal time, so I figured if I just started off with him while my watch loaded, I would be ok. Then we crossed the starting line, and we were off.

The first three miles were a wild blur. There were so. many. people. and I felt like I was constantly struggling to find my rhythm. Without my watch I had absolutely no idea of my pace, so I held back more than I thought I needed to in order to avoid bolting out of the gate at an overly ambitious pace. I listened as other nice folks around me chatted up with each other, but constantly looked at my left wrist, pleading for my watch to pick up. At around 3.4 miles, she finally kicked in.

For those of you who do not actively train with a GPS watch, you may not understand why it was “such a big deal” that my watch didn’t load. In the most simple way, let me explain it this way. I ran every single mile of my 5 months of training with that watch telling me my pace, distance, and total time. Was I overly dependent on it? You betcha. Did that come back to bite me in the butt when it didn’t load properly on race day? You better believe it. Would I train differently without the watch in the future? Absolutely not. I am Type A after all!

Once my watch was tracking properly I was able to settle into a more normal pace. With a few miles behind us, people started to warm up, stagger out, and find the group they would be spending the next few hours running beside. I met a couple of very nice people, including one man who ran dozens of marathons a year, not to mention the multiple ultra-marathons and triathlons he had under his belt. Needless to say, he was quite a bit more calm, cool, and collected about the Richmond Marathon than I was.

Because I had obsessively studied the course elevation map, I knew mile 7 would be my fastest mile of the race. It was still early enough that I was riding the “start of the race wave” and it had a significant downhill, with the first fan Party Zone at the bottom. The Richmond course was set up around 4 distinct “Party Zones” with music, signs, and tons of spectators to hype you up along the way. I knew The Parents planned to be at the first two Party Zones at Mile 7 and Mile 13, Ross was planning to meet me somewhere around mile 16, and then everyone would be at the finish.

Mile 7 was as expected, very fast compared to my overall pace (7:20 as I recall), and The Parents were jumping up and down, screaming for me at the Party Zone. Mom had even created a fabulous sign with my face on it (note, never send your mom selfies if you don’t want to see them blown up on a poster). I was all smiles for the next mile. (I later found out Mom had friends, family, and tons of supporters from my home town write me encouraging messages on the back of the poster. Thank you to each of you for your kindness!)

The Moms

The Moms

Most races I fall into a rhythm repeating a little mantra over and over as the miles pass. Sometimes I find myself counting to 8 repeatedly on training runs (I spy a little OCD), but usually during races some sort of motivational sentence pops into my head. It isn’t predetermined or thought through… it just happens. For the Bull City Race Fest it was “you’ve found your pace, now run your race”, which was my mind’s was of telling my body to keep up my speedy pace for a fast time. But thankfully in Richmond my mind provided a mantra that was a bit more encouraging: “You’re doing it, you’re running a marathon” was on repeat for a  significant amount of time for miles 8 – 18, and every once in a while I would find myself smiling a dopey little smile at the thought that I really was running a marathon.

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Captain of the Fan Club: Mama Bear. Always ready to give a thumbs up.

Perhaps now is a good time to interrupt and mention my goals for the race. First and foremost, my main goal was to “just finish.” This was my first full marathon after all, and although I had put in fairly extensive training and I was definitely prepared, weird things can happen during a marathon and I wasn’t entirely sure how my body would respond. Goal 2, was to finish in under 4 hours. All of my half marathon times were under 2 hours, so I felt like 4 hours was a totally attainable goal (note: to find your marathon goal pace, you do not simply multiple your half time by two. It would be insane to try to keep up your half marathon pace for 26.2 miles). Goal 3 was 3:45. This was the goal that I really, really wanted; the time I had trained towards for months, but I knew it would be incredibly challenging. And as mentioned earlier, my way-far-out-there, if-miracles-rain-down goal was 3:35 (the Boston Marathon qualifying time for my age group), but I was only half-way entertaining that thought as a possibility.

So the halfway point came and went. Passing through the second Party Zone, I knew this was my last chance to see The Parents, so I yelled out exactly what I thought my mom needed to hear “I feel great! See you at the end!” And at that point, I did feel really great. I was still on a wave of excitement, my body felt strong, and my watch was finally working. I don’t recall my half way split but it was somewhere in the high 1:40s so I knew I was on track to for my pace goals.

Miles 13 – 17 were quiet; beautiful scenery and gentle rolling hills. It was in this quiet that my mind started wandering. I call it “assuming the worst case scenario” and I tend to gravitate towards this way of thinking any time I feel panicky. I think of what would be the worst case scenario, then I convince myself how I would deal with it, so that if anything less than the worst happens, it won’t seem like a big deal. (Hello, my name is Negative Nancy, nice to meet you.)

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Richmond, Virginia

So around mile 15 I convinced myself that my bib number wasn’t tracking. Because, with my GPS watch also over 3 miles behind, that would be the worst case timing scenario. I remember them telling us in passing at the race expo to be sure that our bib was on the very outer layer of clothing or else our bib wouldn’t track. I knew I lifted up my outer shirt crossing the start, but did I get it high enough to uncover the full bib?

At mile 16 I was in full out panic mode over the fact that I was not going to have an official time for my first marathon. (Which in my mind was proof that I did the marathon.) So when I saw Ross at mile 16, waiting for me on the bridge with a flat tire on his bike, the first thing I said was “are you getting text updates from my bib number?” No. “Is mom getting text updates?” No. So my bib in fact wasn’t working. The worst was happening. Ross did a great job cooling my panic fuse and sent me on my way to finish the last 10 miles.

Running across the Lee Bridge, fighting a pretty strong headwind

Running across the Lee Bridge, fighting a pretty strong headwind

Around mile 18 my stomach started feeling weird (energy food combined with anxiety). I had a mental stern-talking-to with my body, that “NO. I was NOT allowed to fall apart now. I would not panic. I would NOT freak out. And I WOULD keep running my very first marathon.”

Mile 19, the 3:35 pace group finally caught me (I had held them off until then), and I felt myself getting engulfed by their pack. I held with them for the next mile, and explained to the lead pacer that it was my first marathon, my watch wasn’t working, I felt like I was panicking, and I just wasn’t sure what was going to happen. He gave me some encouraging words, but at that stage, it wasn’t helping. But then we crested the top of a little mini hill, and over on the side of the course were my mom and mother-in-law, running in their winter clothes, jeans, and heavy boots, falling into stride with me going down the hill. I laughed out loud and fought back happy tears as they squealed and ran beside me for the next block. It was exactly what I needed, at the exact right moment.

The last 6 miles of the race were very hard. I had run out of fuel, and although the last 6 miles should be where you pick up the pace, I just settled in to finish. The 3:35 pack was long gone ahead of me, but I knew I was definitely under 4 hours. Where I would fall in the 25 minute spectrum, I had no idea, but all I could do was finish.

The last 0.2 of the race was a very steep downhill, so I gave myself the go-ahead to open up my stride and I sprinted down the finishing chute of my first marathon. I could hear The Parents yelling from somewhere, but all I could see were blurred faces and my finish time as I passed under the big clock.

3:39:21

DSC_0134Post-race hours were all about pictures, congratulations, text messages, social media posts, and forcing myself to eat. I eventually found out that I was correct, my bib did not track. I didn’t have my official chip time, and I didn’t have my GPS watch time, so I had to go by my gun time. Laura started a few rows of people behind be, and her gun time was 45 seconds longer than her chip time, so I am assuming my time was sub 3:39, but I don’t know for sure. Thankfully my mother-in-law was quick on the iPhone and recorded my sprint across the finish line, and you can see the clock above my head reflecting that time, so I do have that to go by. And the hilarious screams recorded in the video. It’s a keeper.

My Fan Club

My Fan Club

I tried not to be discouraged that I didn’t have my official time, but it was a little bit of a rain cloud over my sunny weekend. Perhaps I am too focused on time, and yes I think that is the case, but it was disappointing to work so hard for a time and not have the “proof” to show for it.

But overall, this was one of the greatest weekends of my life. I felt so loved and so supported from my fans along the race course, and all the texts and messages sent by friends. And most importantly, I was so proud of myself for my accomplishment. I had finished my very first marathon, and crushed my first three time goals.

IMG_0318Most of the studies I have found show that only 0.5% (that’s a HALF of a percent) of the US population has finished a marathon. That’s a pretty slim number. I am so proud that I can now call myself not only a runner, but a marathoner.

Running Durham

As I mentioned Tuesday, my new job is keeping me really busy. I am very thankful that my commute is short (less than a mile and a half), and I get to come home most days to see the fur kids at lunch. I have a fancy new “business-world” wardrobe, and I work consistently from 8:00 – 5:00. It’s a huge change from my last position, but I am really enjoying it in ways I didn’t think I would.

But while my hours are consistent, I lost the flexibility of working from home. All of the little things (laundry, dishes, running errands, etc) that I used to be able to work in throughout my day now have to get done in the 5 hours I have in the evenings from the time I leave work to the time I fall into bed at night. Let’s just say I have learned to overlook dog hair and dust. :)

With a huge career transition at the end of August, you would have thought I had enough on my plate last fall, right? Well, most sane people would say yes… but those of you who have known me for any length of time, or anyone who has just read over a few of my past posts, will tell you I have never claimed to be a totally sane person. So, right when I was completely rocking the boat by changing careers and adding all new scheduling challenges to my life, I decided to train for my first full marathon.

But first, some background info: I was on the cross country and track teams for a couple of years in high school, and I ran for exercise throughout college, but I never really ran consistently until we moved to Portland and I finished my first half marathon. After that, I was hooked, and ran any small race (distances less than 13 miles) that my friends wanted to do.

Once we moved back to NC, I convinced my mom to run a half marathon with me in February 2013, and then I ran the Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon here in Durham the following October. Eventually it got to the point that I wasn’t finding the half distance all that challenging. Sure my speed was getting consistently faster, which always gave me a new goal to work for, but the actual feat of “finishing the race” had lost some of its wow factor for me. And as running a full marathon had always been on my bucket list, I figured it was now or never.

Bull City Race Fest 2013

Bull City Race Fest 2013

In late summer I signed up for the full marathon in Richmond, Virginia which was to be held on November 15, and joined a training program through my local running store. The training program met twice a week, Tuesday nights for speed workouts and Saturday early mornings for long runs. I soon fell into a very strict regimen of running; I added miles, stressed over my pace, and became a bit of crazy person. Looking back now, I see that. But at the time, I was in uncharted water, and terrified that the slightest divergence from “the plan” (my training schedule), would throw me for a loop and destroy my ability to finish the marathon. I spent a large majority of my free time either running, thinking about running, or planning my next run.

Although an emotionally and physically exhausting time, compounded with the stress of learning my new job, a really cool thing happened a long the way. I made new friends: some really great people who were by my side on this scary little adventure called marathon training. Training buddies who understood the feelings and physical pains I was experiencing. We suffered through hours of training together, celebrated with brunch, then planned out the next week of training. Soon the slightly-awkward and forced conversations of our first runs together turned into deep stories and emotional confessions. If you ever want to become really good friends with someone, run for three hours together at 6:00am on a Saturday.

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Celebrating an 18 mile run with Laura and Jenny over brunch in downtown Durham.

As part of our training we all ran the Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon a few weeks before the full marathon. As an old veteran of this course, I warned my training buddies to take it easy and just enjoy the race. The course has some mega hills and we were all a little nervous about injuries so close to the marathon. Of course, I didn’t listen to my own advice and shot across the start line like a jack rabbit. I finished in 1:40:20, taking over 7 minutes off my last personal best for the half marathon distance. It was a nice confidence boost to show me my training had worked, and I was ready for the Richmond marathon!

Bull City Race Fest 2014

Bull City Race Fest 2014

The next weekend we accomplished our longest run before the race, peaking the training cycle at 22 miles with a run along the entire length of the American Tobacco Trail.  It was a really cool feeling, running through 4 cities and 3 different counties over the course of a Saturday morning long run.

The far southern end of the American Tobacco Trail

The far southern end of the American Tobacco Trail

Exhausted from weeks of building, with a half marathon PR built in, we gave ourselves two solid weeks of tapering before the race. A couple of last minute anxiety-filling training sessions with friends were thrown in, but days flew by and it was race weekend!

Stay tuned for a full Richmond marathon recap over the weekend!

Catching Up with an Old Friend

Do you guys and gals out there have a friend or two who, due to busy schedules, physical distance, or just…. well…. life, you haven’t been the best at keeping up with? A friend who you love and care about, and probably think of quite regularly, but all too often you don’t make the effort to actually reach out and check in? But the good thing about that friend is that when you do get together, over a glass of Oregon Pinot Noir or a NC craft beer, you pick right back up where you left off, and things just click… as if you had been talking to each other every week for the past year?

I am thankful for my friends like that: high school friends who have known me even longer than my husband, Oregon friends who became my west coast family, and even Durham friends who also work full time, and juggle the weight of career obligations, family time and an ever-increasing social calendar. So for those of you who are one of these true friends…. thanks for being there for me and thanks for always making it easy to pick up where we left off. You rock.

And on that note, to you… my beloved blog… I do count you as one of these friends. I think about Backseat Boone on a very regular basis, and even write mental drafts of posts I want to update you on, but all too seldom do those thoughts actually make it on paper… or the computer. With my new job, I now spend a large majority of my life away from the house, and while I love this new structure (and wearing something other than PJs every day), I no longer feel the loneliness that was a huge drive for me to talk to myself through this blog (and yes, I was laughing at my own jokes).

However, a few people have pointed out to me that they miss Backseat Boone. And I miss it too. It has been exactly 6 months today since my last post. 6 months without a pointless rambling, pictures of the animals, or update on our adventures, and for that, I do apologize.  I hadn’t realized it had been so long, until, well I realized it. And at some point I feared too much time had passed and I wouldn’t be able to catch you all up on everything that had happened… or even if anyone still wondered what was going on in the world of Backseat Boone. But then I thought of my friends… the friends who I will always have time to catch up with, no matter how long has passed, and I changed my mind. And so, I vow to catch you up. I’ll start back in early September where I last left you, and I will fill you in on all the big stuff. It will take a few posts, a lot of words, and of course too many pictures, but I am excited to get you up to speed. So tune in tomorrow for more, and thanks for being my friend.

Hugs,

KB

3 Cheers for 3 Years

This week we celebrated the three year anniversary of the day we met down front wearing a white dress and a fancy tie, said “I do”, then boogied the night away. Before later going to Chick-Fil-A for milkshakes and waffle fries still wearing said white dress and fancy tie (that’s a good story if you haven’t heard it before).

So yea, three cheers for three years! Woot married people!

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In honor of the day we got all dressed up and married, we spent last Saturday night “roughing it” in one of our favorite places in the world.

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As I mentioned last year (when we took this same trip to celebrate our second wedding anniversary and one year in our little house), backpacking in Grayson Highlands State Park is one of our favorite escapes. The hike is only moderately difficult compared to some of the other adventures we embark on together, but hiking 1.5 hours into the wilderness and waking up in the mountains always gives us a recharge on our happy scale. And I decided to up the intensity of this weekend’s hike by running 14 miles before we left for our trip (which also happened to be the longest run of my life ever). #crazy

Like always, the beginning of the hike was filled with the excitement of tiny ponies and happy cows. Of course, I ignored all of the signs that said “Don’t pet the ponies” and made friends with this little fuzzy head. I mean seriously?! What’s it gonna take to get one of these for my backyard?

IMG_0690While I was squealing with delight at all of the tiny pony butts, Ross was taking pictures of the cows. He always seems to capture the most tranquil shots of these guys:

IMG_0698Once we picked out our camping spot (Ross found the best one ever), we enjoyed a delicious dinner of lasagna, wine, and dark chocolate. I made Ross take an “anniversary selfie” with me at the camp sight, but right before we snapped the picture, Eisley jumped in. I guess she figured she belonged in our original family photo, because technically she was a Bowden before I was.

IMG_0722Although the lighting is terrible in this picture, I wanted to show you what it is like camping with our little munchkins.  Clearly, Ridley doesn’t mind the “rough” conditions accompanied with camping.

IMG_0734Around 1am (when I was fast asleep and oblivious to the world), my three bedfellows woke up to the sound of sniffing and scratching at the outside of the tent. Ross later told me his initial thoughts were “Please don’t be a bear… please don’t be a bear” (although he claims it was more for fear of the dog’s safety than his own). He said he got really still and just listened… hoping to predict the behavior of the mystery bear in our camp ground.

Ridley let out a low, rumbly growl (which is so un-Ridley), of course, in his best efforts to protect his favorite mom who was still sleeping like a baby.

But then… the bear starting eating grass.

And then Ross realized, it was not in fact a bear, but just the cows from earlier…. the herd, passing through our camp site. Oh Grayson Highlands; you and your silly wildlife.

Not too much later a nice summer storm passed through, and proceeded to sit, stuck on the ridge, for the next 4-5 hours. I woke up several times through the night and just laid there listening to the sound of the pitter patter on our tent. Thankfully, we stayed very dry and warm, and it was actually a surprisingly relaxing feeling. Good ol’ mountain rain.

When we finally got out of the tent around 7am, the clouds started breaking up revealing the most perfect sunrise. This my friends, is why we are mountain people.

IMG_0744IMG_0746 We planned to pack out early since everything was so wet, but the sunrise sucked us in and we ended up having a relaxing morning at camp with hot quinoa cereal and coffee from our French Press. Even in the wilderness my Hubs is the best coffee maker in the world. :)IMG_0747.JPGIMG_0737.JPG

IMG_0755Thank you Ross, for teaching me to be more adventurous and rugged. I love that you love me better with no make up and dirty hair. You are my favorite husband and the best dad my fur kids could ever have.

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Happy third anniversary!

Ch-ch-ch-changes

I’ve been a bit quiet for the past few weeks, so I wanted to break the silence and come out with some big news and a life update. Before you start jumping up and down and screaming “Ooo! Ooo! I know, I know!” let me get the obvious out of the way first… No, I’m not pregnant… No, we did not adopt a third dog or a second cat… No, we are not moving. Now that you are settled down, and perhaps a bit stumped, please read on.

I have been going through a huge transition period in my life, which has come from (and given way to) a lot of soul-searching and routine-changing. The dust has settled, just for the moment, so I thought I would share with you.

The big news: I decided to leave my job, the place I called my work home and second family for over three years. It was not an easy decision, as I was very happy with my career progress and totally enamored with my coworkers, but ultimately it came down to the fact that I was spending a huge majority of my life home-alone (I had a remote office, for those of you who didn’t know), and I was facing the reality of the chance that I may never be in an office again (or at least not for a very long time). For those of you who know me well, you know I am an extremely social creature, and I decided that for my mental happiness, and long-term career potential, I should look elsewhere.

And honestly, the new position just fell in my lap. I heard about the job through a friend, and it all worked out in perfect timing. After a lot of debate and self-reflection, I felt very peaceful with my decision to accept.

This week I started my new role managing client relations and accounts for a team of financial advisors. I am flexing my analytical muscles and recalling my course knowledge from the MBA program on a daily basis, and it has been really good to learn something new. And so far, it feels great to put on a skirt and heels every day (although I am sure there will be days when I miss my working from home “uniform” of PJs and sweats).

So, besides the new title, what’s new for me? Well, I suddenly care less about doing dishes and folding laundry… It’s amazing how being out of the house 10 hours a day totally changes your perception of what is important during your precious hours at home. Which also means I probably won’t focus as much attention on big house projects in my free time, because I’ll be catching up on the little things. But you can always count on us to throw a few projects for you in there… In fact I have a few back logged to share with you soon.

So thanks for your patience while I get this new routine all figured out, and check back with us soon. I’ll try to post a least once a week moving forward, even if it’s just to say hi. :)

All About Grout

Y’all, the bathroom is done.

Actually it has been done for over a week, but I have been relishing in its beautiful completeness all by myself for the past several days. No seriously, I sometimes just walk in there and stare. It’s like my little secret oasis. (This all may sound so weird in reference to a bathroom, but when you have been dealing with a construction zone for 10 weeks, a finished bathroom is a luxury.) I still haven’t taken a bath in there yet (I really gotta get on that) but it is on my must-do list. Like stat.

But I know it’s not just me. Henry spends a lot of time “hanging out” in the bathroom too. It’s his new favorite place. :)

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Anywho, because you are really only here for the pictures, without further adieu, I give you, our bathroom.

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Pretty great, huh? I apologize that the lighting is terribly inconsistent. I am hoping one day we will have a wide angle lens for our camera and we can get some pro-quality shots for you. Or you can all just come over and see it in person; I am sure we could fit at least 6 people in there at the same time. Just be sure to take off your shoes! ;)

(Special shout out and thanks to Corey and Joe for the post title. Because let’s be serious, this bathroom is really spectacular because of that charcoal grout. Meeeow!)

 

Trimmed Out and Painted Out

Holy moly friends. We are literally two days away from having a finished bathroom. Two. Days. Not even a full 48 hours. By 5pm tomorrow my bathroom will be done-zo, and then I am heading out for a girls weekend at the beach to celebrate. :)

There were two key components to yesterday’s progress. The first was to make sure every non-tile surface was “touched” and given a fresh coat of paint. This not only gave the walls an extra brightness, but also covered up any dings, nicks, or stains that accumulated during construction since the first couple of coats of paint.

DSC_0013The second task, which is pretty evident in the picture above, was to scrape as much as possible of the old paint off of the reused trim, then prime and paint it. I was a little concerned it may be strikingly obvious as to what trim was new and what was old, but I am happy to say it all blended together nicely. And I love that we got to keep the original 80 year old trim in our renovated bathroom. :)

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You may also notice that the flowers are officially gone!

DSC_0021Yes, that is the same window frame from yesterday, just with a whole lotta love :

photo 4I am very happy with our decision to go switch to a window without segmented panels. The new window is so much brighter, and really “pulls in” the outside (which so happens to be a row of bamboo… and the neighbor’s black security fence).

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Another small detail about the window that I find just adorable is the small niches that serve as the “handles” to open the window. I feel like this little detail gives the brand new window a little character.

DSC_0022So that’s where we stand at the start of Thursday’s work. The plumber should be here today, and I am SO excited to get our fancy sink installed! :)

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A (long overdue) Bathroom Update

Friends, family, random people who stumbled upon this blog by searching “bathroom renovation that took for-ev-er”, I  have an announcement to make.

We are on the home stretch. The end is in sight.

There is a very good chance I will have a fully completed bathroom by the end of the week. (Insert a dramatic pause here to let this wonderful news soak in.)

The painters are coming for touch-ups today, the plumbers are going to install the sink and toilet tomorrow, and the electrician is finishing the wiring on Friday. I am so happy I can’t stand it. I would add an entire row of emojis giving thumbs up and awkwardly huge smiles if I knew how to do that on wordpress. Alas, I cannot, so you will have to settle for this awkward smiley face that doesn’t even capture half of the excitement that I feel. :) There you go.

Anyway, you are probably a little confused as to how we got so far in the progress of the bathroom when the last time we talked the bathroom looked like this: DSC_0248 Sure, that’s not a terrible-looking bathroom, but there was still a lot to be done. So let me bring you up to speed. While I was in Portland, I received daily updates from Husband on the shower tile installation.

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I just love, love, love some white subway tile!

And here she is all pretty and sleek, with just one row of  top tile to go, and pre-grout.

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When I got home from my trip, I discovered that the subway tile was completely finished and the floor tile was polished off with some snazzy charcoal grout:

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We opted for a darker grout to help make the white tiles POP! and also to help hide stains (dirt, dust, mildew, etc). We carried that same concept (and grout color) over to the subway tile on the walls:

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EEK! Grout “in progress” shots are scary. Good thing that stuff cleans up easily!

The most gratifying step in the whole process has been re-glazing the tub. Pre-reno our original cast iron tub had started to chip and rust. No matter how often or hard I scrubbed and cleaned the tub, it never looked clean. Which means I haven’t taken a bath (or as my family calls them “tub-baths”)  in over two years. Actually, it’s probably been closer to 3 years. Now I could go into a long-winded rant on the difference between a shower/rinse-off/tub-bath/etc but I don’t feel this is the time or the place for all that nonsense. Just know I have showered in the past three years, just haven’t taken a true bath. Anyway, for some crazy reason I cannot find a single picture of the tub “before” but just believe me when I saw it was rusted and gross, but we wanted to keep it anway. :)

So after it was sanded, re-glazed, and re-finished, boom!

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Oh she is so so pretty. And I love her so so much.

Also on the completed list, is the trim work and custom built-in:

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Ooo pretty!

Look at all that storage space!

photo 2 (2)The glass panels go in the mirrored medicine cabinet, which has also been installed, over here:

photo 1Whoa whoa whoa… is that flower trim I spy? Were we really so enamored with the original design of the bathroom that we brought back a little bit of that flower power goodness?!

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NO! Heck no! Definitely no!

We decided to reuse the original trim (including the window trim with flowers) to keep the historic integrity of the renovation, and of course to reduce, reuse, and recycle! You may notice they replaced the sashes in the window (yay new panels, yay bright natural light), and then they just popped the original trim back over the casing.

photo 4But don’t worry, the flowers still gotta go.

So that’s where we are now… so much done and the finish line in sight. Who wants to come over for a bathroom party when its done?!

photo 1P.S. Sorry for the terrible photo quality of these images… I took them all on my iPhone  in a scramble right before the contractors came over this morning. I promise semi-professional quality photos next time (which means I will have Ross take them.)