Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Race Report: Firecracker 10K

In which I am forced to reconsider my goals...

The Firecracker Run has been a long-standing 4th of July tradition in the Quad Cities, but in recent years, the organization has left a bit to be desired. I was happy to hear that race directors extraordinaire Joe Moreno and Dale Manley were taking over - so much that I quickly allowed Dale to draft me into volunteering the day before.

Working packet pickup was a blast. I lucked into a shift populated by friends of mine from the Cornbelt Running Club, plus we were busy pretty much the entire time. That meant moving fast, tossing t-shirts to one another, and before I knew it, time to go home! As an added bonus, Dale had special volunteer shirts for us. They were just like the race t-shirts, only red instead of blue - and both shirts are technical fabric. SCORE.

I woke up bright and surly the next morning and managed to snag the same parking spot I've had every time I have run this race in the past. As the runners milled around, I could already feel the sweat beading on my forehead. It was going to be a hot day.

The 10K course at the Firecracker Run is hilly and challenging. And of course, since the race is held on the 4th of July, you can pretty much count on it being brutally hot and humid. This makes it a perfect tune-up race for the Bix 7. I was looking forward to seeing how it went. It was not a morning when I woke up confident I was going to rock things out, so I decided to largely ignore Paula Garmin and just run by feel, then see how it worked.

Sure enough, the race was tough. I have trained pretty well on hills, so I was always able to pass people going up and felt comfortable flying down. The heat took a toll on me, and I took water 3 or 4 times - more than I probably would under better circumstances.

The last mile is a downhill (hooray), followed by a straightaway, then a turn, then about a quarter mile to the finish line. I was feeling tired. As I turned the corner, I saw a guy I recognize from the track. I don't know his name, but I think of him as Hardcore Guy. Hardcore Guy will run track workouts wearing a weighted vest, run on the football field wearing a parachute for drag, then relax by running bleachers.

Hardcore Guy was looking tired. I ran up beside him and said, "Come on. Let's go." My intention was to get Hardcore Guy to finish a little stronger, but being hardcore and all, he picked up the pace, which got me to do the same, and we sprinted to the finish. Somehow we lost track of each other in the finishing corral, but I'd like to say thanks to Hardcore Guy for making me work a little harder.

Hardcore Guy helped me push the pace, but my time was nowhere near a PR: 58:14. I'm certainly not ashamed of this time, but it made me rethink my 1:03:00 goal for the Bix. This race was on a hot day and a hilly course, neither of which are excuses I could use to say my Bix pace could be better, since the conditions would likely be the same. 1:03:00 just might not be in the cards for me this year, and I need to be okay with that. I truly lost a lot of speed coming off of the stress fracture last fall, and it will take time and work to build it back up.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Other People's Running

For the past few weeks, much of my running efforts have been focused on what can only be described as Other People's Running. I've ramped up the volunteer efforts this year, most recently dedicating myself to helping out with Cornbelt Running Club's kids' track program and volunteering at the Quad City Senior Olympics.

When I saw the list of volunteer opportunities for Racing Team members, kids' track was a natural choice for me. Go out and have fun with kids, one of whom could be Jack? You bet! The program is totally free, lasts six weeks, and introduces kids, aged six (plus bonus 5-1/2 year old Jack) to ten to the fun that is track and field.

Some of my fellow volunteer coaches have been focusing on a single event, but I've been roving with the littlest kids, answering their questions and keeping them corralled. Every week starts with a 1/4 mile warm-up... and a lecture from me about what a warm-up is. Specifically, that we do not attempt to kill the warm-up by racing as fast as we can around the track; that it is not a race, and that in fact, it would be smarter to wait until we actually are racing before putting in such efforts, and that if you are first around the track during the warm-up, nobody will be impressed. Most of the kids listen to me, but there are a few who tear off as fast as they can, then inevitably find themselves walking on the back straightaway and dramatically collapse at the end, claiming to be too spent to stretch. I have no sympathy for that and remind them that they should have listened.

After stretching, it's time for the entertainment that is a bunch of little kids attempting to do the hurdles. The club has special kid hurdles, an ingenious invention of squared off swimming noodles with little pegs that attach to traffic cones. Almost to a person, the girls are much better at hurdles than the boys, far more capable of leaping gracefully over them and less likely to crash into them over and over again. Jack is a crasher. There's usually a lot of setting hurdles back up after he tries it. The good news is, he has fun with it and seems to be getting better.

Next, we do some running. One week, the focus was on sprints, and the coach spent a lot of time showing the kids how to get into proper starting position - a feat that intimidated me so much that, when I ran track, I was always grateful to not be a sprinter so I didn't have to worry about my starting stance. The next week, we had the kids try some distance running, with an 800. The woman in charge of running was not so sure the little kids would be able to make that distance. I offered to bring up the rear to make sure everybody was okay. One of the kids, who is, shall we say, not a good listener, decided after about 50 meters that he was "too tired" to continue. He did, however, have the energy to turn cartwheels. I told him to knock it off and run; luckily he did.

After running, it's time for either relays or long jump. The kids have been incredibly excited about relays. Something about the baton is just cool to them. They also love the long jump, and seem to be totally unaware that most of them suck at it. I have taken to giving them some gentle coaching, like, "That was good, and I think that next time, you can do even better if, instead of stopping when you get to the place where you jump, you ran up until that spot, then jumped."

The best part of working with these kids is their absolute enthusiasm. "Can we please run another lap around the track?" Well, okay, if you were good. Jumping into a pit of sand? Never tried it, but bring it on. I see a few kids who have some real talent - there is a girl who is only 4-1/2 but can rock out the hurdles like nobody's business, and my boy can churn out 800s all day long with a smile on his face. But even if I'm not coaching the next Usain Bolt or Kara Goucher, my hope is that I am working with a bunch of people who will sign up for several 5Ks a year, finish in the middle of the pack, and have fun with it. I just want them to love running.

I want them to be just like the people who competed in the Senior Olympics. The Senior Olympics is a very cool event, held all over the world, in which people who are 50 years and older (40 for track and field events) compete in a variety of athletic events. We are talking everything from a 5K road race to basketball free-throws to kicking a soccer ball for accuracy. I intended to volunteer for the 5K, but thanks to the charm of the race director, I wound up helping out with the triple jump, the softball throw, and the discus as well.

As a runner, despite having competed in track for six years, I spent almost no time watching field events. The men who did the triple jump had to explain the rules to me and were really nice about helping me measure the distances. I have never tried the triple jump, but let me tell you, it looks hard. I admire anyone who is willing to attempt it, no matter what their age, but the men who were over 70 and decided to give it a shot just for fun are incredibly cool in my book. And if you are over the age of 20 and own your own discus? That's badass.

The softball throw moved the athletes to different points on the field, at different angles and distances, where they attempted to toss the ball into a target. I learned that a couple of the women competing had played professional baseball in the All-American Girls League, as seen in the movie A League of Their Own. These women managed to be professional athletes during the time before Title 9. They are heroes to all women in sports - and they are still competing. Awesome.

Working on Other People's Running has given more focus to my own running and my goals. Yes, I would like to put some new PR's on the side of my blog. But more than that, I want to have fun with my running like the kids do, and I want to keep it up for my entire life, like the athletes in the Senior Olympics do. I want to love running forever.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Race Report: Race for the Cure

In which I log my first DNS...

My husband Steve and I have been running Race for the Cure together for years. The race always falls some time near or on our anniversary, so it's a great time to spend together. I love the camaraderie of the atmosphere and am happy to run for such a good cause. This race would mark our fourth Quad Cities Race for the Cure, a number I can easily tally by counting the t-shirts in my head (pink and blue, pink and green, pink and ugly puce color, pink circle).

It was raining before we even left the house, and did not let up even a little bit all morning. Race for the Cure always attracts new runners and first-timers, and I was afraid that people would see the weather and stay home. Happily, that was not the case. The streets were crowded with eager runners, many of them in pink.

But the rain was the least of our problems: there was also lightning. The start time was postponed, but finally, volunteers with bullhorns directed everyone into the iwireless center. There, the race director announced that the race would have to be cancelled. He explained that after every flash of lightning, they were required to wait 30 minutes. After the last one, even if there was no more, they would no longer have the police support required for everyone to run safely. It was disappointing, but clearly, the only choice.

Steve and I took about a half mile run to get a cup of coffee. There's always next year.

Race Report: Mustang Madness 5K

In which I survived the heat... kind of

Yep, I am way behind on my posting, and I need to get into what's going on, but I'd hate to leave out a race report!

A few weeks ago, determined to feel better about my unfortunate experience in Madison, I signed up for the Mustang Madness 5K. It was on a Friday evening, which is novel, but the biggest appeal was that it was a cross country race! Cross country is always way more fun than running on a road or track, so I eagerly signed up.

The night of the race, it was brutally hot and humid. I knew a PR was not in the cards for me. That instinct was cemented when I took a warm-up on the course and saw how hilly and challenging it was going to be. I always say that if I'm not going to run a good time, I might as well have a good time, so I set out to do just that.

All of us lined up on a big white line painted on the grass. I can't tell you how many times I found myself in that very position during high school cross country meets, and it was a thrill to do it again.

The course wound through trails in the woods, around sports fields, and back through the woods again. Although it was well staffed with volunteers, there were no mile markers, so I had no idea how far I'd run or how I was doing - especially because my beloved Paula Garmin was lost.

The hot weather really took a toll on me - and on my fellow runners as well. I saw plenty of people, including some who I knew were strong runners, taking walk breaks. I did the same, because just slowing down didn't seem like it would be enough. I even took advantage of the water stop, something I never do in a 5K. The water was cold and tasted amazing.

After what felt like an eternity, I emerged from the woods, finish line in sight. Finally! I kicked to the line, sure that I'd finish in around 30 minutes. I was surprised to see the number 27 on the clock. When I wasn't walking, I must have been running a lot faster than I'd realized.

After the race, people hung out, ate bananas, and generally talked about how challenging and sweaty the race was. It was tough, but I'd absolutely do it again.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Chasing Awesome

Spring - and the first pikermi ("half marathon") season of the year is officially behind me. It was really a mixed bag for me. After injuring my leg and being unable to walk after last fall's Quad Cities Half Marathon, my main goal for the spring was to run smart and not re-injure myself. I managed that, but not much else. Brutal allergies made the Lincoln Memorial Half Marathon a brutal experience. We all know how things went for me in Madison. The only saving grace of the season (well, besides not breaking my leg) came with a solid 2 hour effort at the Quad Cities Distance Classic

In short, I survived. I didn't get hurt. But I didn't do anything truly amazing, either. I can't help but notice that all of the PRs there on the side are from 2009 or later. I need a new one. I need to come up with a big audacious goal and just go for it. So here it is:

I want to run the Bix in 63:00.

I considered making my goal one hour or less, but honestly, on a crowded and hilly 7 mile course, that might be awfully hard to pull off. 9:00 splits will also be hard to pull off, but I feel more confident I can do it.

Training officially starts today. I'm going to rock some hill training, a lot more speed work than I did this spring, and smart eating.

Can I do it? Maybe, maybe not. But I know that I need to try. It's time to chase down some Awesome.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Race Report: Madison Half Marathon

In which I am thoroughly humbled...

The Madison Half Marathon was a day of firsts for me.

  • First DNF

  • First ride on the SAG wagon

  • First trip to the medical tents

  • First field-style IV

What happened? I thought that since I race 13.1 every chance I get, that it wouldn't be a big deal for me to run one - even under bad circumstances. I was wrong.

I woke up that morning after a bad night's sleep, with my stomach cramping, feeling lousy. I felt so bad that I could only eat a few bites of my breakfast. Still, I got dressed and ready for the race, despite feeling sick and knowing that it was going to be an unseasonably hot and humid day.

Not smart.

Steve and my uncle dropped me off at the starting line and I was immediately sick. Steve came and talked to me, basically waiting to hear why in the blue hell I would still want to run the race. I convinced him that I was "probably okay," and that I actually felt better after having thrown up. This is sometimes the case - maybe I could have risked going to the office that day, but again, running 13.1 miles in really hot conditions? Not my best decision.

I tried to soak in the festive atmosphere. The marathoners started their race 20 minutes prior, and the course took them through the area where we 13.1'ers were gathered. That was very cool - watching them run was inspiring and exciting, and naturally we cheered for them like crazy. After they passed, it was time to line up.

I still didn't feel good and vowed to race carefully - run slowly, take walk breaks as needed, and get in plenty of fluids. I had already taken a walk break before the first mile and was running at the edge of the course in case I had to duck off to get sick. Not a good sign.

At mile 2, I wanted to switch from sipping on the Gatorade I had in my Fuel Belt to water. It was hot, I was feeling rough, and grabbing two cups of water felt like a good choice. The water made my stomach feel sloshy and even worse than it already did. A bad cramp seized me, and I found a semi-secluded parking lot where I tried unsuccessfully to get sick.

Running made my stomach feel worse, and I was starting to feel weak from the stomach cramps, lack of food, and the heat (already approaching 80 degrees before 9:00 AM). I made a tough decision: walk to the next aid station, then drop out of the race.

I have never, ever quit a race in the 25 years I have been a runner. It felt absolutely terrible to have to say, "No, I cannot do this. I am not strong enough, and I cannot fight through this. I cannot finish what I started, and no matter how hard I try, I cannot do this thing I have been looking forward to for months." It sucked, and I felt miserable... and still sick.

I saw a volunteer on a bike and flagged him down like I was hailing a cab. I told him that I was sick and couldn't finish the race. He calmly led me to a shady area, and as he was about to radio for support, a marathoner joined us. Her name was Tiffany, and she was dehydrated and needed to drop out as well. Volunteer Steve gave me cold water and Tiffany a bottle of Gatorade from his saddle bag and assured us that there was no shame in dropping out on a day like that.

A few minutes later, a medic on a bike joined us. He said he'd wait for the SAG wagon with us, so the bike volunteer moved on to see who he could help next. The medic checked our blood pressure, pulse, and temperature. He found my pulse to be a little weak and Tiffany's a little fast, so he kept checking us to make sure we weren't deteriorating.

While I wasn't trying unsuccessfully to be sick, I talked to Tiffany. As you can imagine, it was a bonding experience. She was running her first marathon and had been kicking ass before she started to feel so terrible, running at a 3:15 finishing pace and hoping for a BQ. As you can imagine, she was heartbroken at having to quit. I assured her that she could still do it, just not that day. It was the first hot day we've had, and not having trained in hot weather made the race much harder than it could have been. I suggested she look at a fall marathon for her BQ and hope for better weather. There will be other races.

The SAG wagon arrived after an hour. The driver apparently had been quite busy picking up fallen runners around the course and was having trouble navigating all of the roads closed for the race. She finally got us to the medical tent.

At this point, I was feeling really bad. I was hot, dizzy, weak, and my stomach was killing me. I was also depressed - the medical tent was right at the finish line, so I had to watch runners crossing the finish line looking happy and collecting their finishing medals. I would not get and did not deserve one of those medals and would not get to feel the amazing accomplishment that comes every time you cross the finish line.

In the tent, doctors and nurses quickly got me settled in. The gave me a bottle of water, put a bag of ice under my neck, checked my vital signs, and asked me questions about how I was feeling. Dr. Smith asked how long it had been since I was sick (hours at that point) and since I'd had anything to drink (also hours at that point). He said I needed to get some fluids in me and suggested that I either try drinking some water, or they'd just give me an IV. I said I'd try for the water and see how it went. He agreed that was a good decision.

Like so many things for me that day, that didn't work out for me. A few minutes later, I was dramatically sick. Dr. Smith calmly said, "Okay, an IV it is," and sent a nurse over to hook me up. Not surprisingly, she had trouble getting a vein because I was so dehydrated and admitted that there was more blood than she would have liked. My race team singlet now has blood stains to remind me of this day.

The IV had me starting to feel better. Other things that made me feel better were learning that the course conditions were so bad that the race director called the race 4 hours in. That lots of other runners had to quit as well. And the point that one of the doctors made, which was that although it was unfortunate that I couldn't finish this race, what was really important from a health standpoint wasn't the race, but all of the training I'd put in.

With the hydration of two IV bags came some clarity. I should never take my ability to run - at any distance - as a given. No matter how well conditioned I am, some days my body is just not going to cooperate, and I have to be able to accept that. And the reason I can accept that is that any single race is not the be all, end all of my running experience. As the doctor said, what's important from the point of view of my health is my training. I love the challenge and accomplishment of racing, but there will always be another race. Tiffany will finish her first marathon, and someday, she will qualify for Boston. I will race my next pikermi ("half marathon") in a few months, and when I do, I'll get to the line feeling healthy and knowing that I can finish the race strong.

Steve arrived to take me home just as I was realizing my other important lesson: the doctors who volunteer at medical tents at major races are, across the board, really hot. I am grateful for the humility and perspective this lousy experience has given to me. I am grateful that my husband will be there for me to hold my hand when I'm feeling sick. I am grateful to the volunteers who helped me - the guy on the bike, the medic, the woman who drove the SAG wagon, the nurse who gave me my IV, Dr. Hot Asian Guy, Dr. Abercrombie and Fitch Model, and Dr. Seth Meyers Only Even Hotter. I will be back, and I will be smarter.

Volunteer Report: Wild 5

I debated whether or not to run the Wild 5 5K race on Saturday. Yes, it was just a 5K, and yes, it was sponsored by my favorite running store, and yes, race team members were encouraged to run. But at the same time, it was the day before the Madison Pikermi ("half marathon"), so racing seemed like a bad idea. Then it hit me: I'd volunteer instead! I emailed the race director and asked him to put me to work. He said, "Thanks. Please come at 6:30 AM to help with registration."


I fueled up on coffee and arrived just in time. I worked with a fellow race team member on passing out packets for pre-registered runners. It's a simple job - get their race number from the alphabetized stack and hand them a packet, t-shirt, and tell them to go outside to get their chip. There were about 400 pre-registered runners, so it went quickly. People were in high spirits, thanks to the beautiful weather. Almost suddenly, our shift was over. We looked out the window and saw the race begin. Sweet: no line for the bathroom!

One of the race organizers asked if we had time to stick around and clip chips - they did not have enough people show up to help. I've clipped chips before, and it's a fun job. You get a folding chair in the shade, a milk crate for runners to put their foot on, a pair of clippers, and a bucket to put the chips in. The fun part is that you get to watch every single runner cross the finish line. We saw the winner, who blazed through, then immediately got bottles of water for the guys who finished second and third. We saw fights to the finish, groups of friends running together, and a guy pushing a jogging stroller with two pretty big kids in it. And we saw the very last finisher, an overweight teenage girl who clearly worked her butt off out there, looked tired and hot, and still picked up the pace coming to the finish line. I congratulated her on her strong finish and she said that she had just run her first 5K. I am happy that I played a small part in that experience.

Three hours of volunteering flew by in no time. I was finished by 9:30, and I racked up some good running karma. Great way to start the day!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Race Report: Imagination Library 5K

In which I fail to kick ass or take names...

There were several reasons for me to run the Imagination Library 5K (a race that took place nearly two weeks ago, thus making me hugely late with this race report). I hadn't raced since the Distance Classic and I don't like to go too far between races, especially when there are so many to choose from in the spring. There was a kids' race, and it would be fun if Jack and I both raced. It was a pretty day. It's in my running club's race circuit and I really, really want to win an award again like I did last year. But the most important reason was this:

I really needed a run.

An incredibly busy week of work had me burning the midnight oil, then waking up early to burn the... morning oil? My candle burned at both ends, it would not last the night, but oh my foes and oh my friends, it made a lovely light. Poorly executed metaphors and literary references aside, I was working my ass off, and consequently had not been running in a week. I needed to get out there, open it up, and feel the burn.

Steve, Jack, and I arrived at Bass Street Landing, a lovely area in downtown Moline overlooking the Mississippi. Jack was thrilled at the contents of his goody bag, which included the usual t-shirt, plus an assortment of random stuff that will please a 5-year old - a ruler, pencils, a bookmark, and a sticker. He was even more happy to see that they were setting up a bounce house. I got warmed up and the boys found a good spot to watch the race.

I blazed through the first mile way too fast. At my next 5K (probably the June Bug Jog because - you guessed it, it's in the circuit), I swear to Yoda I am going to make myself run a negative split. Once again in this race, I completely killed the first mile, then faded. Not helping matters, I started having stomach cramps, motivating me to pick up the pace a bit just so I could be done. That's never a good sign.

I worked really hard in this race, and as I was approaching the finish line, really hoped that my efforts would be rewarded. A PR or an age group award would make my suffering justified. My finishing time? 25:10 - not nearly good enough for a PR (though my best time this spring, beating my time at Steve's Old Time Tap Spring Chaser by 34 seconds). Then I discovered that the age groups were in 10 year increments, not five, so I was in the 30-39 category. That put me sixth in my age group. I would have been second if it were 35-39, but that's not the way they gave awards at this race... and even if it had, they only gave out hardware to the first place winners in each age group. I consoled myself with a breakfast sandwich and a banana from the post-race spread.

Jack ran his 1/2 mile race in a state of utter delight. He grinned through the whole thing and triumphantly told me that he passed an 8-year old. Then he scored a finisher's medal and another goody bag, this one containing a great book. Post-race, Jack bubbled over with joy, talking about how much he loved running and wondering when his next race would be.

As always, I can learn from the little guy. If you look at the clock or at my place on the leader board, my race wasn't what I wanted. But was that what I wanted most? Nope. What I wanted most was to put on my shoes and run hard - and that's exactly what I did.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Race Report: Quad Cities Distance Classic

Mother's Day was the third time I have run the Quad Cities Distance Classic, and the race has always been good to me. In 2008, it was my first ever pikermi (race of 13.1 miles, for the uninitiated), and despite some of the worst running weather nature could invent, gave me a time of 2:05 that made me very proud. In 2009, I had a perfect running day. Everything came together for me, and I ran a PR of 1:56:51.

I had high hopes for this year's race. I have just come off running a hard-earned personal worst of 2:10 at the Lincoln Memorial Race and knew I could do better. If I got to the starting line healthy and rested, I should be able to blast that bad time away.

Then, work heated up in a way that's very good, but very busy at the same time. I spent the past week waking up, grabbing a cup of coffee, and immediately sitting down at my computer to get in an hour or so of work before time to leave for the office. I'd work steadily, eating food of sporadic nutritional value, then come home and work some more.

Still I thought I had it under control (ish) until Thursday. I was in a meeting and had more and more changes piled up on the project I was working on, making it more and more clear that I was going to have to stay up very late to get it all done before going in to work on Friday. "That's fine," I told my boss, "But have you all forgotten that I have a race to run on Sunday? This is going to cost me a PR." Sure enough, Thursday saw me working all day, taking a break to volunteer to stuff race packets, then coming home to work until 2:00 AM, grab 4 hours of sleep, then work over coffee at 6:00. Not the best way to get ready for a big race.

I slept well on Friday and Saturday, then Sunday brought fantastic weather for running - cool and sunny. I ran over the course several times in my head, thinking about how I would tackle each section of the familiar miles, and picturing my goals.

Gold: 2:00
Silver: 2:05
Bronze: Beat the Lincoln Memorial time of 2:10

With a tough week of work tempered with ambition and good running weather, I felt reasonably assure of a silver - but set Paula Garmin to lead me to a gold.

Just like last year, and despite my repeatedly reminding myself to relax, I zipped through the first mile too fast, coming in at 8:35. In miles 2 and 3 I got on pace, clocking in 9:06 and 9:04.

I sped up at mile 4, thanks to a sweet downhill - 8:54 - and apparently let it carry me for another mile of 8:54.

The middle miles of the course take you from a dicey neighborhood to a park and a path by the river. It's scenic, but challenging for me. You don't have the thrill of "I just started" and have not yet hit the great "almost finished" feeling. I ran those miles trying to relax and focus.

Mile 6: 9:07
Mile 7: 9:11
Mile 8: 9:19
Mile 9: 9:11

It was at mile 9 that I started to feel really tired. With only four miles to go, I started bargaining with myself. I should absolutely hold on until 10, and I didn't want to run after 12. I decided that at mile 11, it would be okay to take a short walk break. Until then, I bribed myself with music and jelly beans.

When I got to the 11 mile mark, I started to walk and, as Ron Burgundy says in Anchorman, "I immediately regret this decision!" As soon as I started to walk, I realized in a way I hadn't before just how dead tired my legs were. If I had just kept running, I don't think it would have been so apparent. I picked a curve in the road ahead and willed myself to run again when I hit it.

Then I looked at my watch and realized that if I kept a reasonable pace, I could still finish in 2 hours.

"Just hold on," I told myself. "Just hold on."

I passed a volunteer who was clearly a fellow runner. Instead of just saying, "You look great! You're almost there!" he said, "Pick the person in front of you, pull on them, and pass them. Then get the next one." Hey, that's some advice I could use! I started to do just that when my iPod kicked on my favorite running song, "All These Things That I've Done" by The Killers. It was perfectly timed, with the lyrics, "If you can hold on. If you can, hold on."

I held on. Up a short hill, around a corner, and through a parking lot, heading to the track, I held on. Once I got to the track, I knew I'd be fine.

Sure enough, Steve and Jack were right there, cheering for me like crazy. I handed Steve my Fuel Belt Batgirl Running Utility Belt and he grabbed it as smoothly as if we'd been practicing. Jack yelled, "HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY" and I turned the corner. There, my mom and stepdad were waiting, a very nice surprise.

I chicked a guy ahead of me and sprinted to the finish. Dale, the race director, called out my name as I crossed the line.

The result? 2:00:54. Gold medal finish!