You’ll Get There, I Promise

I think I’m in the habit of trying to do the impossible…

Or at the very least, what might seem impossible to me.

In the midst of training for Chicago I got an e-mail from The NorthFace Endurance Challenge. I have a soft spot for this race, you see, a weak-in-the-knees adoration for this endurance challenge.

It was my first marathon ever last year.

So, you know it pulled at my little heart strings until I officially registered for a second round. Only this time I decided to go for the even more impossible.

The mini-ultra.

The 50K.

I just added a few more weeks of training after finishing the Chicago Marathon. I was tired, wornout, overwhelmed, scared and nervous…but I was stoked to complete another new challenge.

Come beautiful Saturday morning on November 17th, I had all the same feelings. I was tired, but excited. Overwhelmed but prepared. Nervous but amped. And when the race started I was off again on cloud nine. My feet, one after another, doing what they know best, my eyes on the road ahead, my hot pink fingernails waiting to give me my superpowers when I needed them. I know my mom thought I was crazy when I stayed up late just to paint my nails on race eve, but there was method to my madness. Superpowers, duh.

And I definitely needed them.

There’s no play-by-play for this race recap, just as there wasn’t for Chicago. I think what is happening is that I’m becoming so overwhelmed by emotions that everything seems to happen in a blur. I am so humbled by my running experiences, grateful for my capabilities, and beyond thankful for all the support I’ve received. I remember the race in moments, and these are moments I hope to remember for the rest of my life…

…all the runners lined up at the start, nervously chattering about how it’s “just five more miles.” Me, standing there in the middle of it, smiling like a kid in a candy store.

…reliving all the sites of Kansas City and remembering running the same streets last year and how magnificent I felt when I finished my first marathon. The same hill, the same bridge, the same buildings…they all felt so nostalgic.

…my friends who were running the half marathon catching up with me and giving me words of encouragement. Then watching them as ran ahead, finishing a great race of their own.

…coming to the first aid station that offered sliced oranges. An orange has never been so delicious.

…the stairs. Four flights to be exact. At least they were going down.

…splitting away from the marathon runners and beginning the out and back route that added those no-big-deal five more miles.

…looking down at my pink fingernails and summoning them for some of those superpowers now.

…the smiles, waves, thumbs up, nods, and words of encouragement as the leader 50k-ers passed back along the out and back route. Those small gestures meant oh-so-much.

…seeing my dad at mile eighteen. I knew it was him from half a mile away…pride just beaming out of him.

…wanting to stop around mile twenty. I’ve never wanted to stop so bad. I decided to walk and eat another orange…then dug deep and found some way to keep going.

…seeing my sister. Her voice screeching as she cheered me on. Then seeing her again, driving in her car, yelling out her window. And again.

…coming to terms with the fact that I needed to walk again. So I did. And at the encouragement of one of the wonderful Kansas City Police Department officers, starting to run again.

…striking a conversation with another runner. Come to find out the only race he’d ever ran was a 5K, and here he was running a 50K right next to me. I told him he was doing great, and he admitted that it was only because he knew I’d been behind him for awhile and he didn’t want me to pass him.

…a mile later, passing him.

…walking for a third time up the longest and hardest and steepest hill, probably in the world.

…the feeling of knowing I only had two miles to go. I was actually going to finish this.

…the little girls who were cheering and told me that the finish line was so close.

…coming around the corner…the same corner that I rounded on August 27th, 2011…hearing my sister’s voice again…trying to hold the tears back and myself together long enough the make it a few more yards to the finish line…seeing my dad standing there…hearing the announcer call my name…

…and crossing the finish line after four hours, forty-seven minutes, and thirty-three seconds. Another seemingly impossible task…finished.

If there is one thing I can tell you, it’s that you can really do anything you want to in life.

My heart is so full of pride and gratitude and thankfulness. For everyone who has given me so much support through everything, I can’t thank you enough.

ang

My Proudest Moment, Marathon Recap

My alarm went off at 4:25am Saturday morning with Willow Smith exclaiming she whips her hair back and forth. It is kind of the best song to wake up to on race morning because, while it can be startling, it’s upbeat tempo and catchiness makes you want to get moving and dance right there in bed. I would like to be able to say that I went to bed early the night before and had a great night sleep, but sadly that wasn’t the case. I attempted to finally fall asleep around 2:00am, but when Willow woke me up I opened my eyes and wondered to myself if I had been sleeping or if I had just been laying there with my eyes closed. I wasn’t sure.

I had everything laid out from the night before, so getting ready was easy. I made sure that I was well prepared because most of my anxiety was centered around being late or not making it to the start in time and with everything that I needed. I popped two pieces of bread in the toaster, made cinnamon toast, and pretty soon my ride was there to pick my girlfriend and me up!

One of the neatest things about the whole day was the fact that eight of my friends were running in the marathon relay (they had two teams of four), so they were all there with me at some point in the day, if not the entire day! We all met up, loaded up the cars, and carpooled out to the start of the race.

We made it there in plenty of time, so I had about thirty minutes for all my nervousness of being late to convert to nervousness that I was actually going to run an entire marathon. Now I just wanted to race to start…I was ready to run!

Because the it is late August in the midwest and the temperature was expected to get up to the mid to high eighties, each runner had to carry some sort of hydration with them for the entirety of the race. At first I thought this was going to be such a burden because I have never run carrying anything (or wearing some sort of hydration pack), but they gave out free NorthFace water bottles with a hand strap. It was kind of the coolest thing ever. I grabbed my water bottle (which was dark gray, black, and PINK…how meant to be since it matched my race outfit and nail polish?!), and soon enough Dean Karnazes was giving his motivational speech to send the runners off!

Right out of the gate, after only a few tenths of a mile, the hills started. They were only small rolling hills, so I told myself not to get scared. I practiced running all the hills of my little town so I was ready to conquer these rolling hills. Hills are my friend! (If you say that over and over it will come true, right?!)  Also during the first few tenths of a mile a nice (very muscular) man commented on my headband and continued to tell me and another runner about a marathon in a different state that the last mile is sponsored my Mary Kay and they hand out red lipstick to all the runners. He said all the lady runners have beautiful finishing photos with perfect red lips. It sounded quite intriguing!

Little did I know I was talking to Dean Karnazes…the Dean Karnazes who was named one of the hundred most influential people in the world…the Dean Karnazes who ran fifty marathons in fifty states in fifty days. A.MAZ.ING.

Everyone told me not to go out too fast, and amazingly I followed that advice. I finished my first mile at nine minutes and fifty-two seconds. The hills were still trying to scare me a little bit, but the first few miles were flying by. After the first mile, I averaged between a 9:13 and 9:30 minute mile which I thought was great, but I feared I wouldn’t be able to maintain. At mile five I took my first delicious mocha Clif Shot, and between mile six and seven I passed the first relay transition and was cheered on by two of my friends!

I was seriously feeling great! A little bit after the transition area I fell into pace with another runner…an older man from Mississippi who was training for an ultramarathon. He had just got back from Australia where he had ran a marathon and was going to be running a marathon for the next three weekends in a row. He talked to me for quite some time and really helped the time fly by. Before I knew it, I realized I was running just under nine minute miles with him by my side! I am so sad that I never got his name, but I did find his picture in the race photos…

If you ever see this, 26.2 tattoo man, thank you for helping me so much in the beginning. Good luck with the rest of your races!

While running with him, we rounded a corner, and all of the sudden I hear this loud, high-pitched shrieking. “It’s her! THAT’S HER! AAAHHH! OH MY GOSH! THAT’S HER!” I turned my head to see what that familiar voice was and I saw my little sister jumping up and down yelling for me and cheering me on! It was seriously the best feeling in the world at that point, and I don’t think I stopped smiling for a few more miles. She drove along and cheered me on two more times before she had to go to work. Thank you sis. 🙂

Soon after I spotted my sister, I saw a pretty, hot pink sign up ahead. This time it was my mom and her hubby! As I waved and passed by them I saw tears in my moms eyes as she asked me if I was feeling okay. I told her I felt great, beamed, and continued on. Again…I probably wore a silly smile for the next few miles!

Now, do you remember those “rolling hills” I mentioned early on? Well, I failed to mention that they started getting bigger and bigger…around mile five or so. Pretty much the entire course was full of crazy, insane, mean, nasty hills (and that is putting it nicely). I lost my 26.2 tattoo guy on one of these hills, but I was still feeling great so I continued on at a pace that felt comfortable. I was definitely afraid that I wouldn’t be able to keep up my pace, but I just thought as long as I felt good I would just keep going!

The whole course was very beautiful. In the beginning we ran through to Country Club Plaza in Kansas City and through some beautiful neighborhoods. Part of the time we were running through the tall buildings of downtown and by Crown Center. Around mile ten I passed a water station that was supplied with Gu, so I took one and continued on a cute, little bridge that ran up to the Missouri River. The river looked beautiful from the bridge, but as I looked ahead I noticed that the bridge did not go over the river. It just seemed to stop. That’s strange, I thought, how does this bridge go down then?

Stairs.

That’s right, stairs going down right smack in the middle of a marathon. Just what my legs needed, right?! Actually, it did feel somewhat nice going down…however, there were a few steps up again a few feet later. Interesting.

It was worth it though, because running along the Missouri River for quite some time was very beautiful, peaceful, and calming.

From studying the course elevations before race day, I knew that there would be a steady uphill from mile twelve through fifteen. So far I hadn’t noticed any uphill…in fact, as I was running alongside the river it felt like the most level, un-hilly part of the course so far.

Pretty soon I passed the second marathon relay transition area at the halfway point and saw two more of my girlfriends waiting for their leg of the race and cheering me on! I truly felt like the luckiest girl in the world to have so much support!

I could feel more of the steady uphill now and my pace had fallen slightly, but I still felt amazing and like nothing could stop me. Around mile fifteen I saw my little worried mom and her hubby again with their “Go Angela!” sign in hand. I had told my mom before the race that I was scared of this particular portion of the course because of the elevation, and it was huge to see her waiting there for me near the top. I smiled and tried to reassure her that I was doing just fine!

Miles fifteen through nineteen went through a very shady (thank goodness) and tree-filled place. There was also a pretty little waterfall that sprayed a little mist at me! The truth is I had no idea where I was, and there were a few times I felt alone and a little bit afraid. I didn’t see anyone ahead of me and the road was so curvy that I didn’t notice anyone behind me either. The road was sprayed painted with arrows every so often and at every turn, but I was afraid I would miss one and get lost! I remember praying to God one time just to keep showing me the arrows!

I remember being so excited when I knew my mileage was in single digits to the finish. Nine miles? Nine miles is easy! I took another mediocrely delicious mocha Clif Shot, and I finally felt for the first time I was certain I would be able to finish the race. I definitely didn’t expect to feel this wonderful this far into it! There was no way that I would let anything come between me and the finish line now that I’d made it so far! I kept telling myself just keep going.

I emerged from the woodsy area around mile eighteen or nineteen still feeling ridiculously okay. At one point I had convinced myself that my hot pink nail polish had special super powers that gave me energy. It might have been true. The shade was becoming less and less as the sun was getting higher, and at one point there was a voice behind me encouraged me to head toward the side of the road that provided a little bit of shade. I turned my head to see the 4:15 pacer trying to help me out by giving me tips. He caught up to me and tried to give me some motivation. He said he’d be maintaining a 9.30 pace and that I could try to stay with him if I wanted to. He provided little tidbits of advice: relax your arms, take it easy up the hills, we’ll make in up on the downhills, loosen up your legs. He offered his extra Gu to me and ultimately he kept me from slowing way down once I was beginning to reach my limit. Again, I wish I had known his name and told him thank you again because he helped me so much for those few miles around twenty…

Thank you so much 4:15 pacer man! 🙂

Right before the water station at mile twenty my hope was again reignited when I saw the most handsome six foot eight inches topped with sweet curly hair standing at the top of a hill! The hubby’s proud smiling face put another goofy smile on my own face. He came prepared with more mocha gu (which I dreaded the thought of consuming at that point) and some raspberry Clif Bites. I was so grateful to chew on the little gummies instead of forcing down anymore weird gooey stuff! I was so happy that he was there, and that moment became even more magnificent as I passed through the third and last relay transition area, saw two more of my girlfriends cheering me on, then turned the corner to see my mom and her hubby one last time before the finish!

Did I mention that I am the luckiest girl in the world to have had so much support?!

I remained with my 4:15 pacer man for about another mile, but as awesome as I was feeling, I was beginning to feel the fatigue set in. He assured me that he was running with a four to five minute cushion, but pretty soon I couldn’t keep up a 9.30 pace anymore. I just kept reminding myself how close I was to the finish and to just keep going. I would be happy with simply finishing…I never expected to finish in 4:15 anyway! I was still feeling on top of the world!

Then mile twenty-three happened.

Remember those hills? Let me prove it to you!

Mile twenty-three was sometime 3:30 and 3:50. Do you see those elevation lines that go straight up? I mean straight up!

As I was already feeling quite a bit tired, I faced the biggest hill of the entire course…and it was big…never ending…ginormous…horrendous…and it was about three quarters of a mile…straight up! As I approached it I told myself out loud, “Angela, you can do this. Just keep going. You can do this. You can do this.”

The hill curved around and then I saw another Heaven sent gift standing with bad knees and a hawaiian shirt. It was the first time I had seen my dad on the course and he started running with my as soon as I reached him (for his knees’ sake it was a good thing that hill completely slaughtered my pace). I honestly don’t know that I could have made it up that hill without stopping to walk without him by my side.

I was finally to the point where I just wanted to finish. I was completely proud of myself and completely ready for the marathon to be over. I kept counting down in my head…thirty more minutes, you can do it…twenty more minutes, you can do it!

My sweet hubs was there every mile to the finish. He would refill my water bottle and tell me how much further I had to go. He was amazing there helping me get to the finish. He was carrying my phone for me, and I found out later that he did this…

Seriously. Can I get any luckier?

There were so many lovely police officers and volunteers along the entire course directing and stopping traffic to help all the runners. Near the end there was a lady cop who told me I was near the finish. She also said, “Your sister is going to be so proud!” She had seen my sister at the beginning of the race cheering for me, and that pushed me even more to just get to that finish!

Ten more minutes…seven more minutes…five more minutes…four more minutes…

I finally saw the street to turn on to get to the finish line and I was filled with so much excitement. I started to choke up but immediately made myself stop because I couldn’t breathe and I still had a few tenths to go. I saw my dad and he ran with me right up until the finish chute.

I finally left the knot in my throat take over and started crying as heard my mom and dad and Matt and girlfriends’ voices as I crossed the finish line after four hours, fourteen minutes, and thirty-one seconds.

I have never felt more proud of myself in my entire life. You really can do anything you set your mind to.

The icing on the cake? I finished 4th out of 13 in my age group, 8th out of 33 women, and 34th out of 92 marathon runners.

The giant pink frosting flowers on the cake? I had so many people who love me that supported me in so many ways throughout this entire process and through the entire race. I couldn’t have done it…any of it…without all this love in my life.

Thank you to everyone.

ang

Speechless and a Giveaway Winner

Wow.

I’m still on cloud nine from Saturday, and as much as I’ve talked to my family and friends about the race, I am a little speechless. Once I find the right words, I will write my race recap…I promise it will be sooner than later!

For right now, another reason I am feeling speechless…all your support for Girls on the Run!!!

I have raised just over six hundred dollars for this amazing organization as a SoleMate, and I definitely could not have done it without all of you! There are still a few donations trickling in from my design work, so when I know an exact total I will share it with you! There is still some time to donate if you wish (just click here)!!!

Thank you to Nancy, Joey, my momma, Gay, Elaine, Carolyn, Carly, Amy, Terrie, Mag-pie, Cathy, my mom-in-law, Candice, Cathy M., Soap It Up, Carin, my momma (again!), Sarah, Terry, Uncle Johnny, Theresa, Beverly, and Jen P. for your direct donations!

Thank you to Candice, Kim, Carrody, Chris, Janelle, my sister, Aunt Mernie, my momma (times 3!) for purchasing notecard sets from angheartsdesign! Thank you to the people I am working with right now for other design work!

Now for the giveaway!!!

The winner of three notecard sets and three Soap It Up soaps is…..

Ms. Terry Shu!!!

Let me know which soaps scents and which notecards you would like!!! I can’t wait to get them to you, and thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting Girls on the Run and for encouraging me my entire life!!! I love you lady!

ang

More Than Just A Race Recap

Thank you for all the support and prayers regarding the tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri, and now also in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Kansas. It looks like today is going to be another difficult day…as I am writing there are warnings all around Kansas City…even closer to home.

But as I had mentioned, something really great happened to for me this past Saturday, and I’d like to share it now…

A few weeks ago I was searching the internet for races. I found a 5K race that was in my town, and I thought it’d be a great race to sign up for since I’ve recently become a new resident here.

I decided to register for it.

Also a few weeks ago I got my weekly e-mail from the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Kansas City with a list of all the local children who needed Wish Granters. I typically never even open these e-mails because I am too afraid that I won’t be able to devote enough time to do everything I could to make a child’s wish come true. I was trained in wish granting and volunteering almost two years ago, and although I have volunteered at some events for Make-A-Wish, I had yet to sign up to actually grant a wish.

Something told me to go ahead and open this e-mail.

I first skimmed down the column that said where the children were from. Then I noticed that there was a someone from my new town. Then I skimmed over and saw her name and condition.

Gabrielle S., 9 years old, Osteosarcoma.

I had this meant-to-be feeling about her, so I decided to sign up to be one of her Wish Granters.

Little did I know that these two decision I made would relate to one another! A few days later I realized that my 5K race was created to benefit little Miss Gabi!

The Race T-shirt

I was able to meet Gabi on Friday to talk to her about her wish. She is seriously an amazing little girl…and she is beyond precious. Since I now knew I was running for her, I made sure I got her autograph on the t-shirt that I was going to where for the race!Saturday morning my hubby drove me to the race. This is the first race that he has been to, and since the race was pretty small and had no timing chips, I had him time me because of our bet. I didn’t think I’d run the 5K in 24 minutes or less, but I wanted him to witness it, just in case I actually did.

We got to the race a little bit early, so I drank some water and stretched a little bit in the hub’s rusty ol’ truck. There were a few people warming up for the race, and one looked to be a seventy-year old man. The hubby looked over at me and said, “You better not let that guy beat you!”

Gabi’s oldest sister was going to sing the National Anthem before the race, and I didn’t want to miss it, so the hubby and I left the truck and headed over to the crowd. We got to the start area with perfect timing as Gabi’s dad gave a speech thanking everyone for their support and saying that today was a good day because Gabi was full of smiles. A good day indeed. Then their priest said a prayer. We prayed for Gabi and her journey ahead, for Gabi’s family, and we even prayed for the rain to hold of until the race was over! Then we all said the Lord’s Prayer together. This was very touching moment. Then Gabi’s sister sang beautifully, and it was time for the runners to head to the start line. As I made my way to the start line, I stopped by Gabi’s wheelchair and stole a hug from her! 🙂

Before I knew it, I was off and running! I ran fast, passing and passing and passing people until I fell into my pace. Pretty soon I was huffing and puffing, but I tried not to slow down. This was my first 5K in a long time (almost a year) so I wasn’t used to running the shorter distance. I told myself it was okay that I was breathing so hard because the race would be over before I knew it. I was keeping up with some men, so I just told myself to stay with them. A little ways in I came to the realization that I was following a bunch of men…not women. I didn’t see any girls up ahead of me.

After about two miles I ended up passing one of the men I was keeping up with. I rounded a corner and just went on by him and it felt great (sorry guy). But soon after, I was passed by another woman.

Nnnnnooooooooo!

I told myself, it’s okay Angela…you are doing your best. Just don’t let her get too far ahead!

Then I was passed again…by a man…by that old man who was warming up in the parking lot! That seventy-year old man!

Nnnnnoooooooooo!

But I just kept going and running the fastest that I could. Once I knew I was at the home stretch I felt a little inspiration. I picked it up a little bit, and guess what? I passed that woman back up! I didn’t know if there were more girls ahead of me, maybe just beyond where I could see, but when I came to the home stretch, one of the volunteers informed me that I was the girl in the lead! I was so excited that I ran a little bit faster!

I was the first female to finish, and with a time of 25:09. It wasn’t under 24, but I was still ecstatic to have won!And even though the bet was initially that I had to run a sub-24 minute 5K for my hubby to run a race with me, I must’ve sparked a little somethin’ something’ in him, because afterwards he said, “What do I get if I run a 5K under 24 minutes?” After a bit of talking (and some playful trash talking), our conversation turned into, “You can’t be sad when I beat you at the next 5K!” So, he’s going to sign up for a race anyway, and we have a small wager on who’s going to win! 🙂

Since my hubby was only spectating (and timing), he told me that Gabi had been pushed in her wheelchair with the start of the walker’s for awhile, and when the winning male runner rounded the corner for the final stretch to the finish line (after only about 14 minutes!) Gabi was pushed back through the finish alongside him, and that he slowed down so that she could win! What a special moment for her!

All in all, this was an amazing day, an amazing race, an amazing run, for an amazing cause. Beyond my happiness for having a great run and winning, it was more amazing to see the support for this precious jewel of a little girl. I am positively sure that her autograph and hug were good luck for me and probably the reason I won. 🙂

ang