Illinois Marathon Recap

Marathon three is in the books and what a day it was. As one of my running friends summarized, we started with a drizzle, then some rain and wind, and ended it with a course closing, race cancellation, downpours, some thunder, and many stubborn runners (me included) who chose to complete the race.

Before I start, I apologize about the length of this post - I normally don't go into this much detail, but so much happened, it just got out of control. I totally understand if you skim / barely read this small novella I've written and just look at the pictures ....

The weather forecast predicted a 90% chance of rain for the 7am start of the Illinois Marathon, but when we awoke at 5am, it looked like the rain would hold off until after the start of the race. We optimistically mused, perhaps the rain would hold off for several more hours (we were sorely wrong).

Race morning preparations always seem harried - getting something to eat, drink, getting dressed, putting on the Body Glide, etc. I foam roll and go through several muscle activation exercises before each run, which takes about 20 minutes. This morning, I was joined by my husband, Scott, who was running his first half marathon. We picked up a friend en route to the pre-race group meet up for a group photo.

Pre Run Group Shot
We all look so dry - Dave, Kumaran, Chris, Scott, Nancy, Me
These are folks I work with - four of us running the full marathon (Dave, on the left end, was running his first marathon), the other two running the half. I would have liked to have met up with folks from the Second Wind running club, the people I trained with, but there wasn't enough time. It always seems like a big rush on race day - probably due to the culmination of nerves, adrenaline and the excitement in the air.

I normally try to take a photo of the start line, but I didn't want to mess with wrestling with my phone, tucked away in the recesses of my FlipBelt. A slow drizzle filled the air as the wave start commenced. By mile 2, it was raining intermittently. I started the race with a garbage bag on, but quickly heated up and discarded it by mile 3. Of course, I missed its protection at mile 6 during a steady rain. In the end, it simply would not matter!

The course splits around mile 12, where the half marathoners head south towards the finish line, and the marathoners, well, they get to run a lot more. You get to experience the 80/20 rule in action - 80% of the field turns south, and 20% turns north, and as a marathon runner, you suddenly feel all alone. At this point, I was still running with a friend, Sandeep, who I knew from my Marathon Training group.

Mile 13
Mile 13 - the only photo of me taken on the course. Sorry MarathonFoto, I know I'm not supposed to use this here, I hope you understand. Can you get your photographers to properly expose their photos, because maybe then I would purchase one...

For me, miles 13-16 are usually a blur. It feels like no-man's land. The intermittent rain progressed to a steady one, the temperatures hovered around 50. I was wet, but not too cold. I came to thoroughly appreciate the course supporters and course volunteers - they were out in these miserable conditions, cheering us on and keeping the intersections safe.

My friend Nancy lives along the course, between mile 16 and 17 and I left a banana and some water at her house. I did this last year and I think consuming the entire banana and 12 ounces of water really helped me with last year's hot conditions. Even though it wasn't hot this year, I still stopped, ate the banana and took a long drink. Maybe it's the "placebo effect", but I was starting to feel twinges of cramping in my left calf. After this stop, those went away.

At mile 19, things started getting interesting. That's when the race organizers, working with the National Weather Service, made the decision to close down the course and cancel the rest of the race because of the threat of lightning / thunderstorms moving into the area. Police cruisers started sweeping the course with this announcement, that we should seek shelter, etc.
Side note: when a race gets shut down, that means people finishing the course after the time of the cancellation do not receive an official, certified time result. So, if you were trying to use this race as a Boston Qualifier, and you finished after the official cancellation time, you are out of luck.

So what does a runner do after learning the race has been canceled? This runner keeps on running.... Note: at the time of the announcement, it wasn't raining, and I felt it was safe for me to continue. A race cancellation also means that course support / traffic control, etc goes away. I was familiar with the entire course, the area and general traffic patterns. For me, the risk to continue was low.

With the race officially canceled, I knew I could stop any time and I would still receive a Finisher's medal and blanket. But I wanted to see my daughter who was waiting between miles 20 and 21, so I continued. When I got there, it was raining, but I was super happy to see her:
I'm really happy to see my daughter. Or delirious.
I also wanted to see my good friend, Jill, her boys and my son who were in charge of the Mile 21 Aid Station. As I approached, I noted they had already started breaking down the water and gatorade tables. I gave Brian a high five and Jill a big hug. They looked cold and bedraggled. I could have stopped and gone home with them, but that internal, inexorable force often referred to as "runner's stupidity" propelled me on.

I kept running. The rain kept falling. The police continued to broadcast the course cancellation over their loudspeakers. Somewhere between miles 22 and 23, I was surprised when I saw one of my friend's daughter, out in the rain, cheering people on. Lia recognized me and pointed to the shelter where her family were and they all started cheering me on. Their oldest daughter, Hannah, came out and started running with me. Hannah is in the eighth grade, probably 3" taller than me and a great athlete. She stayed with me for a quarter mile, running in Uggs boots. She really lifted my spirits.

Which brings me, again, to extol the volunteers and neighbors along the course. Even with the course officially closed, even with police instructing them to "seek shelter", many course marshals still maintained their posts. Even if the police came and removed their course markers, they stood on the corners, in the rain, cheering us on. Families along the route opened up their garages to provide shelter, warm blankets and drinks to the runners who heeded the course closure.

There was a bus at mile 23 to take runners to the finish line. I kept going. At this point, there were less people along the route, but I approached a line of course supporters, all of them holding out cups of beer. I took one, slowed to a walk and drank it. I declared "I really needed that" - it was so refreshing.

It started to pour, you know, the type of downpour that sounds like rocks hitting your roof, the kind of downpour that causes people to wait inside the grocery store because they know they will get soaked if they try to run out to the parking lot. The song playing on my iPod belted out these lyrics:

Hope when you take that jump, you don't fear the fall
Hope when the water rises, you built a wall
Hope when the crowd screams out, they're screaming your name
Hope if everybody runs, you choose to stay
Yeah, life imitates art sometimes.

I finally came in sight of the Illinois Memorial Stadium, after the mile 24 "death hill" (the only real "hill" on the course), after the police barking at us to "stop running in the street" at mile 25. The race ends at the 50 yard line of Memorial Stadium, a great Finish line. On my iPod, a special (spiritual) song started playing as I entered the stadium:

Feels like it's been miles and miles
Feels like it's an uphill climb
Sometimes I get weary on the way
But when I look back at where I've been
When I look back, I'm sure of it
I was right there in Your arms and I can say
Through it all, through it all
I can see You carry me
And I probably started crying.

The course clock was still active, I crossed that finish line in the pouring rain with the worst expression on my face for the
I was probably crying because of the song playing on my iPod. Who would have thought there was someone still taking photos? This is so bad, it's funny.... Please laugh with me or feel sorry for me.
A volunteer was there, standing in the pouring rain, to hand me the Finishers Medal and Blanket. I wanted to hug her. I saw my friend, fellow training partner, Aldo, on the sideline - he had just finished, too. Then friend Jim. Hugs all around.

Here's Aldo and me, after I changed out of my soaking wet clothes:
We Actually Finished It, Race Cancellation and All

My "official-unofficial time", 4:22:48, a PR by a minute and 30 seconds over last year (A PR is a PR, and I'll take it!)

The Finisher's Medal:

My husband completed his Half Marathon in 2:24:31, a great time, with a negative split:

He completed his race before the cancellation,so his results are "official-official".

All of my co-workers in the first photo finished their races, even though all four of us running the marathon finished after the race had been cancelled. It certainly was an Epic Adventure, one we won't forget for a long time! I bet we'll all be back next year, too. And if you read all of this, thanks for staying with me!


Friday Five - New Songs for my Running Playlist

My marathon is this Saturday and I've been busy psyching myself up for it. One of the things I've done in the past week is tweak my Running playlist. I've bought new songs, removed some older songs, reordered things and played the songs in car during my work commute to "test run" the music.

Here are Five new songs I've added:

Outside by Calvin Harris, featuring Ellie Goulding
I love the beat and tempo. And sometimes I feel like I'm on the outside...

Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson, featuring Bruno Mars
So indicative of 2015, with its infectious riffs and it always pumps me up. And it's Bruno Mars!

I Lived by OneRepublic
I have three OneRepublic songs on my Running playlist, so I must like them! For this song, the lyrics really speak to me
I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second
That this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
With every broken bone
I swear I lived

Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon
It's just a fun song that makes you want to dance

And for something a little less dance-y: Riptide by Vance Joy

I am looking forward to grooving to these songs - they will help me with my final six miles.


Best Laid Plans - Running in the Rain

Best Laid Plans Of Mice and Men often go astray – Robert Burns

I thought I had it all figured out after last Saturday’s final Long training run – my planned marathon outfit had been flight tested, my wireless headphones checked out, and my running playlist updated. We headed into full taper mode, keeping a watchful eye on the upcoming weather for Saturday’s race.

In the process of stalking the weather, I learned that the Weather Underground web site provides a very comprehensive hourly forecast, complete with precipitation, wind speed and barometric graphs - perfect for this engineering geek....

See that Blue Bump on the Lower Bar Chart - High Chance of Rain Saturday
Earlier in the week, the forecast called for 20% chance of rain with temperatures cooler than normal at 40-60 degF. No problem, actually very nice weather for running. But as the week progressed, we watched that chance-of-rain percentage grow to 80%, with the most probable rain falling during race time. While I don’t mind running in the rain, I’ve never run more than 60 minutes in a light rain and that was in the summer with no wind. Another factor – while the temperatures will hover between 45-50 degF (not too bad), there will be a 15 mph wind from the east, so for the last 6 miles, we will be running straight into the wind (not good).

There's no denying it - it's going to rain and I'm going to have to run in it. I found myself pouring over race photos from Monday’s Boston Marathon (I think it was colder there), noting what people are wearing, researching “running marathon in the rain”, and settled on the following adjustments:
  1. Instead of a short sleeved UA tech top, I will run in a long sleeved merino wool shirt from PEP. I’m choosing this shirt because the wool will keep me warm with the cold rain and wind. If I get too hot, the sleeves are loose enough for me to push up. I’m also putting a fresh shirt out on the course, just in case I need it (one of my friend’s house is at mile 16).
  2. My pricey, brand new wireless headphones will stay at home, and I’m going with a pair of wired Skull Candy headphones. If they don’t survive the rain, no big deal. I’m not concerned about my iPhone because it will be protected by a Lifeproof case
  3. I originally planned to wear a cute running skirt, but that no longer works because of the wired headphones. My phone, with the Lifeproof headphone adapter no longer fits in the pocket of the skirt. Instead, I’m going with the running shorts I wore for the Chicago Marathon.
  4. FlipBelt. I’ve run with this all winter long, and hadn’t planned on using it on Saturday, but it will now hold my iPhone. I will attach my race bib to the Flip Belt, too, instead of pinning it to my shirt. This will make any needed shirt adjustments easier (like getting a fresh shirt half way through the race).
  5. [Sorry if this is TMI] I'll use Aquaphor and Body Glide on my feet. I expect they will get wet and I’ve read these products may help minimize blistering. I also used waterproofing spray on my shoes.
  6. I will don a trash bag / disposable rain poncho to keep me dry-ish and warm(er) while waiting for the race to start. Just so you know, I've opted for the sleek trash bag look with the tall, white kitchen bag variety because deep down, I want my race photos to look fabulous.
  7. I normally run with a white brimmed hat in the summer as it keeps my head cool (black hair is notorious for soaking in the sun's heat), and in rain it is a must. I convinced two co-workers to go out and buy wicking running hats this week for the race.
I do know this - even though I cannot control the weather on race day and I cannot control the course conditions, I can control the way I talk to myself during the event - I will stay positive, I know I can get the race done.

Finally, since I can't have a blog post without some sort of photo, here is one I took last week, during a foggy morning run.
Come What May. Each Day A New Chance. #shirleyruns #seenonmyrun #blackandwhite #spiderweb

Good luck to all my friends - fellow marathon training buddies running in the Illinois Marathon events! My husband will be running his first half marathon and several co-workers are running the full marathon. It's going to be great!


Selfies Using Camera Awesome and the Interval Timer

Most of you who read my blog know that I take photos while I am out running. Occasionally, I take a running selfie and I am often asked how I manage to capture a selfie of me running down the street. Obviously my arms aren't that long and I'm not using a "selfie stick"!

The trick - using an interval timer. With an interval timer, the user sets a time interval (in seconds) and the camera takes a photo once that time has passed. It continues taking photos at that time interval until you tell it to stop.

All of my running photos are taken with my iPhone, but the native camera does not have an interval timer built in, so it's off to find an app. While the similar Self Timer functionality comes pretty standard with most camera apps, an Interval timer is rare. At the time (two years ago), I could only find an Interval Timer on the Camera Awesome app and that is what I've used ever since. You set the time interval from 1 second up to 60 seconds. I normally set mine to 3-5 seconds. In the screen shot below, it is set to 4 seconds.

Camera Awesome Interval Timer

Once I initiate the timer, it counts down to 0, takes the photo, resets the timer, counts down again, takes the photo and repeats until you hit the stop button. The app signals the interval countdown with beeps so you know when the camera is going to take the next exposure. All the photos are stored within the app. Then you choose which photos to keep and export those to the camera roll.

Things can get tricky when determining where and how to place the phone to take the photo. The "best" way is to use a little tripod - the Joby Gorillapod has bendable feet to wrap the phone around posts or other objects. I'll be honest - I own a Gorillapod, but rarely use it (because I'm lazy and I don't want to carry it with me when I run). Instead, I find all sorts of things to prop my phone on - the ledge of a park bench, the lip of a mailbox, wedged in between a rain downspout and the building it is attached to, in a snowbank, in the crook of a tree's branches, just to name a few:
Group shot
iPhone Wedged in a Tree - Leaves From Branches Framed this "Selfie" Group Shot

Into the White Abyss #shirleyruns #selfie #runhappy #snowday
iPhone Stuck in a Snow Bank

Note - I protect my phone with a LifeProof case, which allows me to stick it into a snowbank without the fear of damaging it.

So there you have it - my selfie tricks, revealed. The Camera Awesome app has other great features, like filters, frames, etc, but in the end, I mainly use it for the Interval Timer. And the app is free!


Fish Tale (With Dolphins)

On our last day in Florida during Spring Break, we met up with a guide, Captain Cam just before the break of dawn. Cam was taking us out for a half day in shore fishing excursion. We felt lucky as we booked the event the day before - this would be our last "touristy" opportunity as my parents are selling their Florida home and this will most likely be our last visit to the area.

We got in the speedboat and Cam stated "we're going over there to get bait", gesturing towards Sanibel Island. In my naivety, I thought there was some bait shop "over there". You know, worms that are kept on ice, worms that you buy.

In reality, "over there" was the pylons of the Sanibel bridge and getting bait meant casting for it with a net, the bait being little fishes / minnows. Several boats were already out by the bridge, starting their day the same way - casting for bait.

Today's Adventure #florida #fishing #sanibel

The process of casting nets was fascinating to watch - the swirl of the net, the sheen glistening off the fish scales, minnows twisting. All against backdrop of the rising sun.
Cast Out

There were visitors, waiting for a morsel to come their way
Waiting for a Morsel

Bait in hand (really, in a reservoir towards the back of the boat), we traveled into the mist of the bay. The fog enveloped us, the rising sun all but gone. It felt cold, grey and silently eerie. We had been in this waterway before - years ago, when visiting the Edison-Ford winter estates - the Caloosahatchee River.

Through the Fog

We stopped at The mangroves along Shell Island. Cam baited and cast the lines. Brian got the first bite, almost immediately, but lost the fish just as fast. The waters were full of Yellow Jackfish, a medium sized fish, not willing to give up the fight. Brian and Scott managed to reel their catches in, but it took me several tries before I got the reel technique down. These guys were strong and challenging (for me, I'm more or less the spectator on this excursion). We kept two of the Jackfish, releasing the other 6 or so.

First Catch of Day #florida #fishing #mysonpickedthathashtag

Yeah, I Caught One - it's Me And Jack.  #fishing #florida #feelsslimy
Yeah, my fish feels slimy!

The sun started to peek out and Cam took us out between Sanibel and St James. His boat tops 70mph, so we held on to our hats!

We were now fishing for trout with lures. They had to be at least 15" to keep, so the smaller ones were released. On occasion, a fish would swallow the rubber lure and wouldn't survive the extraction - we watched long necked water fowl scoop up the dead fish and gulp it down its skinny neck. Other birds swooped from the sky, taking lunch into its talons. Nature in action.

En route to our third location, Cam spotted a dolphin swimming along side the boat. "Let's see if I can get him to jump the boat's wake" - and the playful dolphin did just that! We just stood there, amazed. I got out my camera and started shooting. That dolphin jumped the wake 4-5 times. That experience "was not on the tour brochure", and certainly a special bonus.
Playing Along 1

playing Along 2

playing Along 3
Overall, we brought home 4 nicely sized trout and the 2 Jackfish. Cam filleted the Jackfish and simply gutted the trout. We grilled up half the Jackfish for lunch (tasted like Mahi-Mahi) and my mother pan fried two trout the next morning. They froze the remaining fish and enjoyed them the following week when my sisters came to visit.

The experience was completely unexpected and a great way to end our trip. I've recently read where happiness is found more in experiences vs physical things and this day certainly proves that out.


For the Birds

My husband recently relocated the platform bird feeder so that it sits less than a yard from the back of the house, conveniently situated close to the living room windows. He also bought and filled it bird seed, an important element to attracting birds to the feeder (yeah, obvious, but something I just never seem to remember to do, LOL!).

I like my new photo set up!

Dinner Conversations

This set up also attracts birds to the pond.
Bath Time

Of course, the cats love their new entertainment package.
Cat TV


Along My Run | 14 | March Randomness

Five Things that happened along my run in March.

1. I ran in snow. While snow is not abnormal for March, we received over 10" on March 1. Of course, I ran in it and determined that running in 10" on un-plowed streets was really exhausting. That morning I elicited comments from neighbors ranging from "That's hard work" to "You go!" to "You are absolutely crazy".

2. I ran in the dark again. And in fog. With the time change to DST, the mornings are dark again. I normally don't run in the fog when it is dark out, but that day, I had friends running with me, so we all braved it together.

3. I ran two 20-milers. Yes, it's part of marathon training, but these runs were particularly hard - I was nursing a foot injury during the first one. After the second 20 miler, I came down with a huge cold, which tells me my immune system was already weak and running set it over the edge.

4. I ran in shorts and a tank top for the first time this year. Being in Florida made this possible.

5. I ran to the Southern Most point in the US while visiting Key West. Just to say I did it.

March 2015 Runs
1. slowly drifting, 2. Into the White Abyss, 3. Last Week of Morning Daylight. Need to enjoy it while we can , 4. Bundled Up This Morning. Waiting for Spring, 5. This Route Again, 6. Spring Thaw, 7. 20 Milers Through the Woods and Along the Prairie, 8. The Last Quarter Mile is The Hardest But Worth It In The End, 9. Ventured out of the neighborhood and caught this , 10. Sunrise in Key West, 11. Way Down South, 12. Another Great Start

Because of my foot injury (extensor tendonitis) and late March sickness, I'm feeling a bit behind in my marathon training. With the race less than 3 weeks away, there's really no time to do much more other than try to get my lungs back to normal (my asthma flared back up when I got sick), build back some of my cardio fitness and hope for the best.

March's Running Stats:
Total Miles: 113 (out of planned 144 - ouch!)
Average Pace: 9:24 Minute / Mile

This Month's Running Quotes:
We all have dreams. In order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.
– Jesse Owens

Runners understand this, this deep desire to cultivate resilience. It transcends the repetition of our gait and gives meaning to the stride of life.
– Kristin Armstrong

I will finish this mile. I will do something I never thought I'd be able to do. So I do.
– Jennifer Fliss

And this - so true -
That's the thing about running: Your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is.
– Kara Goucher


Cast a Wide Net

Hopefully you catch what you seek.

Cast Out

In this case, "we" were out catching live bait for an inland fishing experience. (I say "we" because "we" were in the boat with our fishing guide - in reality, he was doing all the work). I feel fortunate to have captured the scene above - it's not every day I find myself underneath the Sanibel Island bridge at sunrise with a slew of fishermen. I have many more photos to share from that amazing experience, hopefully later this week.

Until then, I hope you cast out and find what you seek.


The Orchid

In warmer climes, the orchid is often found growing where ever it gains a foot hold, even in the crook of a tree branch.

Peeking Out

Thriving outside its comfortable pot. Adapting to the situation at hand. Maybe I could learn something from that orchid.


Five Things from Florida's Spring Break - Key West

After a four year hiatus, we took a Spring Break trip to visit my parents in Fort Myers, Florida!

They are in the process of selling their Florida place, so it may be the last time we get to enjoy it. As a result we did all sorts of things we normally don't do.

1. We took the high speed ferry to Key West and spent two days roaming the island, drinking in the azure water and skies.
Lazy Days

Play Time

2. We snorkeled the third largest barrier reef (of course, the largest is in Australia, the second largest is in Belize)
Overhead Star #florida #sailing #keywest
We've snorkeled in Belize and while the water is clearer there, the variety of coral and aquatic life was very similar in Key West.

3. We parasailed:
Endless Summer #florida #keywest #parasail

4. We enjoyed the local fare and had the best coffee, compliments of Cuban Coffee Queen:
Time for Breakfast #florida #keywest #cubancoffeequeen

5. Of course, I took a morning run down Duval street to the Southern most point in the US and watched this sunrise:
Way Down South #shirleyruns #florida #keywest #runhappy #irunoutside

It was a wonderful, warm getaway. We did lots in Fort Myers, too - more to share in the coming days!

Sharing with Nancy's Random Friday


April 2015 Desktop Calendar -Free Download

Nothing smells like spring more than the fragrant Lilac. Lilacs remind me of my childhood, growing up in Massachusetts. There they tend to bloom and peak towards mid-end May, right around my birthday. Here in Central Illinois, they arrive a month earlier.

For this month I have two versions to choose from.

The smaller bloomed Korean lilac (Miss Kim) grows at the corner of my house:

A more traditional, yet variegated, common lilac:

Here are the links to Download April's free desktop calendar, hosted by
Free April 2015 Calendar - Miss Kim Lilac
Free April 2015 Calendar - Variegated Lilac



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