Marathon 25 – 5 days away!

When I sit back and think about it, I am truly astonished!

The Quarter Century mark!  I know there are people out there who have run hundreds of marathons.  You know, those 100 marathon clubs, and such.  Well, with my marathon this weekend, I feel like I am really hitting a pretty significant milestone.

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The All American Marathon this Sunday will be my 25th marathon.  What began as a simple quest, pushing myself further than I ever thought possible, has turned into quite the passion.  It all began in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in 2012.  My first marathon.  Races, places, I’ve been a few places since that first one.  My journey has taken me to 8 different states.  Of course I’ve run the majority of my marathons in my home state of North Carolina, but I’ve ventured out a few times.  ;). Tackling America’s Toughest Road Marathon in Virginia, enjoying plentiful neon at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas marathon in Nevada, running past Moose at Big Cottonwood in Utah, being cheered on twice by millions of spectators in Illinois at the infamous Bank of America Chicago Marathon, running high up in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, and most recently taking a running bite out of the Big Apple at the TCS New York City Marathon.  Many, many more inbetween.

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Yes, the journey continues.  Still loving it, still competing, and doing more pacing.  I’m not shooting for the elusive Boston Qualifier this weekend, I am pacing instead.  I will lead the 4:00:00 group to a fun finish for my 25th this Sunday.  I’m getting very excited!  The All American Marathon this Sunday is a milestone to celebrate for me.  It also kicks off a new chapter.  Where will the next 25 take me?  The possibilities are endless!  Cheers!

2016 Revel Big Cottonwood Discount

Registration is already open for Big Cottonwood Marathon & Half for 2016.  Talk about a jump start!  The 2015 race was just a few weeks ago.  They open it early so that folks can plan in advance, and get in on the lowest pricing.

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With that being said, current pricing is as follows, and will stay at this price until 4/12/16.

Half Marathon $79.95

Full Marathon $99.95

My plan is to head back to Utah for this race in 2016 (since it’s one of my absolute favorites) and have created a team that you can join for an even lower price.  Joining my team gets you an additional $5 off current pricing, and if you “Like” them on Facebook during checkout they offer another $5 off.

My team name is “Chasing Boston”, so when registering, just choose “join a team”, and enter that name.  We don’t have to run together, but we can save money together, right?  This past race I had over 20 people join my team, all saving money along the way.

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The Big Cottonwood course is a fast, downhill race that qualifies tons of folks every year for Boston, hence the team name I chose.  So?  What are you waiting for?  Join in on the fun in Salt Lake City.  You may even see a moose or two during your race down Cottonwood Canyon.

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I didn’t qualify; but I’m ok

Now that a few days have passed since my BQ attempt at Big Cottonwood, with each passing day I am becoming more and more comfortable with the idea that I will not be at the 2015 Boston Marathon.  Looking at pictures from my days in Utah, how can I really be disappointed?  I ran an amazing race, my fourth best marathon out of 14 overall.  I got to see a new part of the country.  I got to run in beautiful natural surroundings.  At the end of the day, it was incredible.

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As I sit here I can’t help but feel that it still stings a little bit, but soon enough I will be over it.  There will be other chances for Boston, just not next year.  All things happen for reasons though, so as I come to terms with it my focus turns to qualifying for 2016.

I still have a very busy fall running schedule.  I actually have two more marathons this fall, so I may qualify at one of those.  Maybe I won’t.  After giving it my all this past weekend in Utah, I am not sure I really have the legs to be honest.  It may have to wait until next year.  I’m ok with that.

Next up is Chicago.  Yes, running in Chicago will be just a treat.  I am looking forward to the crowd support and running the streets of Chicago, one of the big marathons in the world.  Time to turn my focus to that.  I just want to enjoy the marathon in its simplest form, feet on pavement.  I will run it keeping in mind how lucky I am to be healthy enough to run 26.2 miles.

Big Cottonwood Marathon – Race Recap

A whirlwind of a trip, I got home from Utah late last night.  I had the most amazing time not only traveling to Salt Lake City for the first time, but participating in the Revel Big Cottonwood Marathon as well.  I have so many images and memories fresh in my mind, that I think it’s time to share them.

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Saturday morning, September 13th, 2014.  The day that would find me competing in my 14th marathon, and 6th this year.  I had everything I needed for race day laid out for my wake up call at 3am.  I have been struggling with a bad case of bronchitis, so upon wake up, I was happy that I felt fairly good.  I worried a lot however, about how my lungs would react to running a downhill course starting above 9,000 ft. In elevation.  My sea level training runs certainly wouldn’t help, so the nerves of coughing attacks had me a bit on edge.

Staying at a host hotel, the Crystal Inn (a mile from the finish) has its advantages.  Three charter buses pulled right up to the street outside of the hotel at 5am sharp for those of us staying at the hotel to board, and immediately ride right up to the start at Brighton Ski Resort high in the mountains.  Equipped with my race bag, a long sleeve shirt and throw away gloves, I was on my way.  The buses left about 5:25am.  It took about 40 minutes to make it to the start, in the utter darkness of an early morning.

We piled out of the bus, greeted by 36 degree temperatures.  Glad I had the extra layer, and race provided Mylar blanket for the wait.  The starting village was well equipped with port o potties, had plenty of space to walk around, and even had a tables set up with cups of water and Gatorade.  At over 60 races, I have never seen pre-race drinks available.  Certainly a nice touch.  As I looked at the stars in the clear dark sky, I prepared my mind and stretched my legs.  I threw my drop bag into a large truck at 6:45 to make my final preparations.  About a minute later an announcement was made that the race would be delayed 15 minutes so that several late buses had enough time to get to the start.  With that news, I was irritated that I had just gotten rid of my long sleeve shirt.  The race was delayed again about 10 minutes later, the eventual starting time being 7:25.  Certainly the longest delay for a race I have ever been in.  I tried to take it in stride, and just enjoy the rising of the sun and the illumination of the surrounding area.

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Lined up with over 1,500 runners, the gun went off.  Knowing that I was hoping for a BQ at this event, I started just behind the 3:25:00 pace group leader.  My plan was to wait until the crowd thinned a bit, and then increase my speed and catch up to the 3:20:00 pacer.  We started actually uphill, running through a little village of ski chalets that surrounded the base of the ski resort.

As the course turned downhill, I thought ok, here we go.  The views were amazing.  More beautiful than I had ever imagined.  So much eye candy to keep focused on.  My neck still hurts today from straining and enjoying all of the views along the way.  No lie!

One of the biggest treats ever during a race came up just a mile and a half into the race.  A moose!  Right on the side of the road.  Seriously, I thought, am it really seeing a moose in its natural environment?  Wow!

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See?  It was unreal.  Photo credit to this woman’s friend.  I knew that stopping for picture taking wouldn’t bode well for a Boston attempt.  The first few miles I just tried to find a good rhythm, taking advantage of the downhill grade.  I felt like I was flying, and yet there were tons of runners ahead of me, flying even faster.  It truly was a unique running experience, and I knew that I had 15 miles through the canyon to enjoy.

I made my way.  I passed that 3:25 pacer, and then passed the 3:20 pacer.  I was clipping along.  In  looking and mapping out my race a few weeks back, I figured that I wanted to be coming out of the canyon, 15 miles into the race at an overall pace of 7:30.  I figured that pace would give me enough cushion to hit my BQ goal over the remaining miles which included about 6 miles of rolling hills.

Hitting the timing mat 5.3 miles into the race at 37:50, my pace was 7:08.  Happy, for sure.  Can I keep it up though?  That was my question.  My lungs were holding up ok a few coughing attacks, but tried hard to keep them under control.  A few tenths of a mile later was moose sighting #2.  This moose was further back from the road, standing in a clearing and just watching the running spectacle in from of him/her.  I was amazed how many runners around me completely missed seeing both of those majestic animals.  So many runners has ear phones in, and just were focusing on the road ahead.  I didn’t understand.  Weren’t we there to enjoy the views?  To enjoy the sounds of the rushing waterfalls, babbling brooks and streams?  For me, the views and sounds will last in my memory longer than the run itself.

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Moving right along I hydrated when needed, and tried so hard to keep focused on my breathing.  The combination of my illness, the elevation and running at a pace I don’t often run at, has left me with a very sore chest today.  Nearing the bottom of the canyon, I crossed over the half way point in 1:38:05.  Overall pace 13.1 miles in was 7:29.  I was right on track with where I wanted to be coming out of the canyon.  Turning onto Wasatch Blvd., the race became a whole new beast.  Coming out of the canyon, no longer shaded from the sun, my pace began to decline.  Having just run 15 miles downhill, a change of elevation from near 9,000 ft. to just under 5,000 ft., heading out onto a 7 mile out and back stretch with rolling hills completely in the sun was a massive challenge.  This challenge greatly affected my pace.

I watched my overall pace on my Garmin tick further and further upwards.  I was disappointed, but trying to stay positive.  I was losing speed at an alarming pace, and was not thrilled about it.  Even though there were beautiful views of downtown Salt Lake City in the distance, I found it harder to concentrate on my surroundings.  I was laboring more and more.  My lungs were killing me.  Right around the turnaround point on Wasatch was the 18.75 mile mark timing mat.  I crossed in 2:27:01.  Still ok overall, even with my struggles, but with twinges of calf cramping and aching Achilles on both sides, I knew this overall pace wouldn’t hold up.  At this point my overall pace was 7:50.  Totally thrilled with that on most days, going for a BQ meant it had to be better than that.

Trying hard to keep hydrated to stave off cramping, I spent too much time at the next two aid stations.  I also had to take my one and only potty break.  Paying a lot of attention to my Garmin, my pace was dropping.  Between miles 19 and 23 my Boston dream at this race went up in smoke.  I knew it, but couldn’t do anything about it.  I couldn’t push myself any harder.  I wasn’t giving up, but I felt the pangs of disappointment.  Looking back at my pace during this section, I am actually a bit disgusted.  Why couldn’t I have been healthier?  Why couldn’t I have felt 100%?  During this four mile rolling section heading back toward Cottonwood Heights my pace was 10:21.  Ugh!  Goodbye Boston.  This wasn’t the day.

I still had a great race going, and I wanted to finish as strongly as possible.  With the out and back section behind me, I turned onto Fort Union Boulevard for the final 5k, the race finish in the distance.  23.1 miles in, at 3:12:04, and overall pace of 8:19.  Time to push, and finish this race.  Because of the unique nature of this race course, it doesn’t lend itself to much spectator support.  I missed it.  This last section though, running through Cottonwood Heights, the support was tremendous.  People in passing cars on the other side of the road yelled out words of encouragement.  Family and friends and residents gathered all along the road to support us.  Many thanks to you all!  It’s always just what I need at the finish.

Getting closer and closer, I could see the finish approaching.  I ran as fast as it could.  Finally running through the finish at 3:41:59.  Greeted by smiling faces of a crowd of awesome volunteers, an amazingly huge, beautiful medal was placed around my neck.  No matter what, I was still proud, I was happy.  I then was given a freezing cold towel, which was a blessing.  I draped it around my neck while I grabbed a water and a few cups of diet coke.  I stopped for a moment, leaned on a table and washed my salt covered face with that refreshing towel, washed my hands and neck.  It was a moment of refreshment that I truly needed.  Looking back toward the finish line I snapped the picture below.

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I can’t imagine a more gorgeous finisher area.  I ran right down that canyon in the background.  Hobbling a bit, as my legs started stiffening up, I walked further into the finisher village.  Lots of great food choices, but I only grabbed one slice of pizza, and gnawed on that as I proceeded down toward drop bag pick up.  Because of the late start of the race, I had very little time to recover and rest before I had to head out and back to the hotel.  As I searched for my bag, I was greeted by Jared Rohatinsky, who so graciously offered to find my bag so I wouldn’t have to bend down to pick it up.  Yep, it’s the little things sometimes that can make a race.  Was great to meet Jared finally.  Barely able to walk with any pace now, I had to summon up some final energy to walk back to my hotel.  I had 45 minutes to walk that mile, shower, pack, checkout and board the shuttle by 12:15 back to the airport.  I made it though.  A couple of flights later, I landed in Raleigh and drove home.  I arrived at midnight, and couldn’t have been happier to lay down in my bed.

My take aways and final thoughts about this race?  I’m sure there are few around that compete.  This race was amazingly organized from start to finish, had great volunteers, course and swag.  The weather was perfection.  A nice chilly start, and a mild finish.  Finally, let me just say that from every direction, the entire time I was in Salt Lake, Murray, Sandy and Cottonwood Heights, every person I met was super friendly and polite.  What a great first impression of Utah.

Big Cottonwood Marathon finish:

Chip time: 3:41:59.  Pace: 8:28. Overall finisher 379/1487. Age Group: 56/124

To Revel Races and Brooksee Events, thanks for the memories!  Big Cottonwood was incredible, and I cannot wait to participate in more of your events.  I’ve got Revel Rockies and Canyon City on my list already for next year.

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Revel Big Cottonwood is tomorrow!

My trip so far has been smooth as silk.

I arrived in Salt Lake City yesterday evening about 5pm.  Uneventful flights, smooth sailing.  I am staying at a host hotel, the Crystal Inn, about a mile from the finish in Murray, Utah.  The staff couldn’t be more helpful.  They have all been so kind.  They sent a free shuttle for me to the airport to pick me up and drive me here.  They offer a breakfast and light dinner right here in the lobby, so it is very convenient.

Upon my arrival yesterday, I was immediately blown away by the beauty of the mountainous area that is Salt Lake.  I’ve just been in awe of the Wasatch mountains.

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I did not rent a car for this trip to try to save some money.  Turns out, at least staying at this hotel, that you really don’t need a car.  When it came time to go to the expo today (about 8 miles from the hotel), they offered to drive me over to the train station nearby.  The train ride is like 10 minutes, and only cost me $5.00 for a round trip ticket.  The Expo was at Sandy Civic Center, and was very well done.  Lots of space, more vendors than I expected, and a great race shirt, throw away gloves and Mylar blanket in the race bag for the chilly start tomorrow.  What a nice touch!

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I met the race director Josh, who seemed to be taking the enormity of the day and overnight ahead of him all in stride.  I’m sure the race will go off without a hitch.

So, my race prep.  I’ve continued to struggle with my bronchitis, especially here at an elevation much higher than I am used to.  I had a great nights sleep last night, and felt a little better.  Still struggling with intermittent coughing and hacking.  I really hope I survive the 9,000 ft. Elevation at the start tomorrow without hacking up a lung.  I managed to go out for a 4.25 mile shake out run late this morning in beautiful sunshine.  Temperatures here, with a cold front that dipped down from Canada last night, were in the 40’s when I woke up today.  It was about 50 when I went out for my run.  Perfection!

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Dinner tonight, and turning in early.  I need all the rest I can get before this epic race tomorrow.  I have dreamed about this race for a long time now, and tomorrow is the day.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my trip so far.  Tomorrow is a wake up call at 3am.  Buses are loading here at the hotel at 5am, and we will begin the journey up Cottonwood Canyon to Brighton Ski Resort where the marathon begins.  A 7am start time, the temperatures will indeed be chilly.  Probably in the 30’s.

I’m pretty excited.  Can’t wait to share my race experience with you.  Stay tuned.

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Big Cottonwood Marathon – 3 days away!

I cannot believe it, but my 14th marathon is now just a few days away.  The Revel Big Cottonwood Marathon is this Saturday in Utah, and I cannot wait to get this running adventure started.

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It seems like eons since my last marathon back in May.  I’ve spent virtually the entire Summer preparing for an honest attempt at a Boston Qualifying time, and now it’s almost upon me.  That chance for a PR, that chance to get to Boston.  It has been a very personal journey, with many highs and lows.  I am optimistic.  

Being sick this past week has not helped at all, but I am finally on some heavy duty antibiotics to hopefully kick this crud out of my system for good before I toe the line on Saturday morning.

Revel posted late yesterday that the Half marathon had sold out, and that there were only a few spots left in the full. I’m thinking that I will gather with many other happy runners in a few days to take one epic journey down Cottonwood Canyon, enjoying the beautiful surroundings.  The weather forecast looks perfect.  Temperatures in the mid 40’s at the start high up in the mountains at Brighton Ski Resort.  Daytime high of around 80 degrees at the finish, but will more than likely be in the low to mid 70’s when I finish.

I am so looking forward to meeting some new faces, and really enjoying my first race in Utah.  Marathon #14, State #5.  This love affair I have with running continues to grow.  Look out Big Cottonwood, here I come.  

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It’s the final countdown!

Everyone around me is gearing up for Fall.  You see, I am originally from upstate NY, and up there, you could just about bet on a change in the weather come Labor Day weekend.  It would be 85 degrees the day before, and 60 the day after.  I’m sure it wasn’t that drastic, but Labor Day up north meant the end of Summer.  The start of school, the end of sleeping in.  

That is really not the case here in NC.  We will continue to have sticky, hot weather sometimes right up to near Halloween.  Fact of the matter is though that one of my kids is already a week into college, and my younger is starting his Junior year in High School tomorrow.  I’ve already hear the complaints, but I explain it like this….  As a kid/young adult you get to have Summers off.  That’s like three months of rest, relaxation, sleeping in, etc..  As an adult in the working world, you may get two, three or four weeks off a year.  Quit the complaining already, right?

Summer means more daylight hours to get my training runs in.  Sure it means more heat, but I think that training in the heat makes me more ready for nice Fall weather racing.  As we inch closer and closer to Labor Day, what does that mean for me?  First, another run in just a short bit.  Yes, training continues.  It’s winding down, but still moves forward.  Five more days until vacation remain.  A week off, then a week of work and my first Marathon of the Fall season.  Big Cottonwood is only 20 days away now!  It’s creeping up fast.  

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Summer is always a mixed bag of emotions for me.  Due to where I live, and the heat, most of the time I chose not to race.  As a result, I get really antsy, and look forward to those race days.  I haven’t raced now since June 6th.  Two and a half months ago.  That’s a long time without racing for me.  Last year I mixed in a July 4th 5k, and a Half Marathon in August in NY to keep my race legs satiated.  This year, I held back.  

Fall season is packed with racing excitement.  I’ve tried really hard all Summer to push myself, but not overdo it.  I don’t want to get injured before or during the season, so I have really listened to my body, and have maintained a good regime, yet not too extreme.  

The countdown is getting exciting.  As I near vacation and race days my mind fills with the anticipation of running, and running a great race.  I will take them one by one, focusing on having fun, but also pushing my limits.  So excited to see Utah for the first time, to run Chicago for the first time, and to run some tried and true Fall favorites here close to home.

What exciting Fall races do you have planned?  Do you get antsy when you haven’t raced in a few months? I sure do.  

Vacation Request

I made a really big mistake this Summer.  All good intentions behind it, but it ended up being an error.  Back in the early Spring, as my kids were winding down their school years, I imagined a nice Summer trip to the beach for us.  Maybe the Outer Banks, Wrightsville Beach, Myrtle or Hilton Head.  A great idea that went up in smoke.

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Due to a busy work schedule, and an even busier social schedule for my sons, our vacation never happened.  As Summer approached we had graduations, a few races, parties, yada, yada yada.  You know how that goes.  All of the sudden my oldest now is in college, and my youngest is starting 11th grade on Monday of next week.  We didn’t make the time, or make it a priority.  Something happened.  

So, as a result, I have not been on vacation since March.  Far too long!  I am in crazy need of some time off. Luckily, that time is soon to be here.  Without the kids, finally vacation looms just around the corner.

Officially just 9 days away now, I am chomping at the bit to get the hell out of here.  I have spent the Summer working hard, and training hard.  It’s time for a well deserved break from the madness.

Thankfully Fall will be filled with some much needed time off, play time, relaxing time, and races galore.  First up is a trip to Vegas.  I like to go at least twice a year.  Looking forward, let me tell you.  Once back from Vegas, a few days of work, then my trip to Utah for Big Cottonwood Marathon.  From there, the Smoky Mountains for a long weekend.  A local race at the start of October, then a monumental trip to Chicago for a little thing called a marathon.  It will certainly be a whirlwind six weeks ahead, and I SO need it!

Did you get to enjoy a Summer vacation this year?  Where did you go and what did you see?  Maybe your stories will tide me over during my lengthy nine day stretch at work I am starting today.  You see, my next day off is vacation on August 30th.

Big Cottonwood Training Update

As most of you probably know already, I am running to qualify for Boston at the Revel Big Cottonwood marathon next month in Utah.  With officially under four weeks left, my training has been spot on.  Here is an update so far for August….

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I’ve gotten a run in 14 days so far in the month.  I am actually taking today off, as I have run the last six days, and need a break.  I have the next two days off from work, so it’s the perfect time to try to squeeze in my last long run of the training cycle.  Then, it’s taper.  Actually I have a built in taper planned, in Las Vegas in a few weeks.  I will not be doing any running at all while there.

My last long run of 17 miles went pretty well.  I will try for 19 tomorrow or Wednesday, depending on the weather.  My short burst, and downhill training have been going great.  Increasing my strides to take advantage of the downhills, and building endurance on the uphills.  I really do feel good, except for my nagging hamstrings, which are extremely irritating most days.  I will take some time off this winter to deal with them once and for all.  

This past week consisted of six moderately short runs.  All hill based, and hell bent for downhill speed.  Having already run five marathons this year, one Half, one 10 miler, and one each 10k and 5k race, I know I can knock out the distance come race day.  My focus has been solely on working my quads.  I’ve been told by many this is the most important part of training for a downhill race such as a Big Cottonwood.  I want to be as ready as I can be.  I really want to go for it on September 13th, and have no regrets.

I truly have been trying to lose that five pounds I told you about in an earlier post.  Less ice cream, and a better diet overall have helped.  I have lost three pounds, and feel confident that with smart decisions over the next few weeks, that I will be right on target.  I typically hover around 170 pounds, and I would like to be at or near 165 on race day.  

So, as the countdown to Cottonwood continues, so does my commitment to finishing training as healthy as possible.  I am not sure that I have ever been so focused on one race.  Sometimes I have to pinch myself as a reminder that I have a big Fall season planned with many races, not just Big Cottonwood.  I am running the Chicago Marathon for God sake!  I can’t forget about that amazing adventure.  And Greensboro Full, and some Halves, as well.  

I love running!  I love racing!  I love marathons!  

 

Training week recap

I can’t believe it, but I actually got all of my planned training in this week.  A real relief considering the wacky week overall.  Tons of work, and just sort of a week that felt like I barely had any time to myself to think, much less run.

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Have you ever had one of those weeks?  Boy, I’ll tell ya.

I got in some great downhill training this week.  Five runs, all focused on downhill training.  Look out Big Cottonwood, here I come!  I also got in a long run of 17 miles, which considering the heat and humidity here in the south, is just awesome.  We actually had a bunch of rain and cooler temperatures this past week, and for the cool off, I am grateful.  

I can really feel the training in my feet at the end of the day.  And quads.  Increasing my pace and stride on the downhill portions of my runs has been key.  I am hoping that factor alone will propel me to an amazing finish in Utah in a few weeks.

Big Cottonwood Marathon is four weeks away now.  The time crunch is ON!  

As I head into another week of preparation for my upcoming BQ attempt, I need to throw a bit more focus on my eating habits.  Time to start really watching my snacking, and my water intake.  More water, less snacking.  Simple!  Well, not for me.  I am a nibbler.  I promise not to buy any corn chips for the next four weeks.  Oh, who am I kidding, that will never happen.  I just have to cut back.  Way back!  I also will limit my nighttime indulgence in ice cream.  My downfall.  I promise to eat it just two times a week.  I must adhere to this!  I really want to drop about five pounds in the next month with better overall eating.

So, that is the plan.  Better, more healthful eating, and sticking to my training plan.  

The only way I am going to see the results that I want to see, is to maintain this focus.

Have a great week everyone!