Thursday, April 28, 2011

Three Things Thursday

1. First I have to send out a big congrats to JJ Watt on being the 11th pick in the NFL Draft tonight. The Texans got themselves an amazing pick in both a player and a person. #DBWH

2. Sorry if I came off a little whiny in the last post. I didn't mean to. I blame it on the weather. Seriously. I don't think we've seen the sun in like over a week. And of course it rained today. Again. So it was indoors to the treadmill. Again. I pounded out the 6 miles I needed (and topped 100 miles for the month - that's two months in a row!). The run went fine, but the sports bra I was wearing? Not a good choice. I had won an Enell Lite sports bra a couple months ago when Fleet Feet had a Diva Night. I don't wear it very often. And when I have worn it it was for short runs, like the 2 or 3 miles variety. Tonight it was the only one clean and I thought nothing of it. Mental note: Do NOT use this bra for runs longer than 3 miles! See the bra has the hook and eye closures up the front of the bra. Well. Let's just say those hooks and eyes must have gotten hungry since they took a nice chunk or two of skin off my chest. Ouch.

3. I won't be able to watch the Royal Wedding tomorrow morning. And I kind of wanted to (if only to see Kate's dress). Nope. Instead I'll be awake and driving to Madison (yay!) for a two-day work conference. Good thing I upgraded to a Droid a couple of weeks ago so I can find out what Kate's dress looked like during a conference break! And another plus? It's alumni weekend on the University of Wisconsin campus. Might have to swing by my old stomping grounds before heading home Saturday.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Three running tales on a Tuesday

1. I'm not going to lie. There's a little part of me that feels like I failed on Saturday. That 15 mile run that was on the schedule? Technically it didn't get done. Although I did manage to run 11.6 miles. Initially I had plans to drive out to the park where my Fleet Feet group had been meeting. But then I didn't get to bed until late. Which meant I didn't get up early enough and soon it was noon and I still hadn't gone. I was dragging my feet. Part of it was I scared to run the long miles alone. But I put my shoes on and headed out.

The worst part about waiting so long was that the wind had picked up. So the first 4-5 miles were straight into a steady 20 mile per hour wind. Tough. I got the wind at my back for some, but by then I was at the point in the run where I was making a lot of turns, so it seemed like I could never escape the wind. By the time I made the last turn and was headed home, I was beat from battling the wind for what seemed like almost the entire 11.6 miles. So I stopped. I guess I could have tacked on the extra 3.4 miles (or even headed downstairs to my parents' basement and their treadmill), but my legs were trashed. So the plan called for 15, I finished 11.6. A part of me feels like a bit of a failure. But then there's a part of me that's saying, hey at least I got 11.6 miles done.

2. Monday called for a short 3 mile recovery-type run. To sum it up: It was hard. The hardest 3-miles I've run in forever. The only thing that kept me going was that I was running with my friend Jess.

3. Since Mother Nature decided to dump 2 inches of rain on Oshkosh today I headed indoors to the treadmill. And let me tell you, after Monday's run, I was not looking forward to attempting 7 miles on the dreadmill. Once I started running I was having this argument with myself about the reasons why I could/should cut the mileage down. Ultimately I stayed strong and busted out the 7 miles. In order to make it a bit more entertaining, I ran miles 2, 4 and 6 at a faster pace and took the other miles slightly slower. It got done.

Bonus: Is it bad that I'm looking forward to the Green Bay half marathon, not only for the race itself and another chance to set a new PR, but also because it means I'll be able to have a little bit of a break? For the chance to not feel guilty about not running?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Prepping for a new mileage number

It's kind of a scary number. But I've spent sometime logging out a route along roads I've run many times during the past few months.

There's nothing left to do but run the 15 miles the training plan is calling for in the morning. The other scary part? I'll be logging the miles solo. No training group. Just me. My shoes. And my music.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ran in circles for a long time. But I didn't fall down!

You ever have one of those runs where you stop and go, "Whoa. What's going on here?"

It was one of those runs tonight.

I'm being a little flexible with my training plan this week since it's just a few days after the Oshkosh Half Marathon. I did a short recovery run last night and tonight, even though the plan said 3 miles, I wanted to get in the 7 miles that I supposed to have done on Tuesday. Just some minor flipping.

But I really wasn't in the mood to run 7 miles on the treadmill. I just didn't have it in me tonight. And it was still pretty sloppy outside (the 6-inches of dang snow Mother Nature dumped on us yesterday was starting to melt) and I really didn't want to destroy the new pair of shoes I'm breaking in on their second run. I was psyching myself up for the treadmill when it hit me.

The running/walking track at the YMCA. You know, the one where 11 laps equals a mile? Was I up for 77 laps or would I get dizzy after running in circles for that long? Didn't matter to me. .

I got to the YMCA and started to run. The first mile? It seemed pretty easy and honestly I thought I was going fairly slow. But when I finished lap 11 I glanced down at my watch: 9:15. Uh, what? Knowing I still had 6 miles in front of me, I tried to hold back a bit. I guess I was successful since I clocked a 9:25 for the second mile. But I was still feeling good. So I tried to keep the pace. The next three miles were all in that 9:15 to 9:30 range. In fact my two slowest miles - 9:44 and 9:56 - were during the last two miles where my legs were starting to get a tiny bit angry with me.

I finished the 7 miles in 1 hour, 6 minutes and 30 seconds for a 9:30 min/mile pace. Umm, where did that come from? Did I get new legs overnight and nobody tell me? Because I don't think I've ever done that before. Not that I'm complaining.

Obviously I had a good night running in circles at the track. My only gripe? There were a lot of walkers up there tonight and most of them understood how it worked. Slower folks on the inside lanes, don't walk 4 people across. Well except for one couple. They were spread out across the entire track and I'd have to weave around them every lap. You'd think after I passed them 15 times (remember I was going for 77 laps) they'd get the hint and realize they needed to walk on the inside and not spread out. Nope. Did it the entire night. Frustrating. Especially when I'm trying to pass them on a tight corner. Grrr.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mother Nature, where the heck is spring?

Did I sleep through spring, summer and fall? Because today felt an awful lot like winter. Or winter with a little spring/summer storms thrown in since there were time when it was raining, snowing and hailing at the same time.

And I have to admit, hearing thunder and seeing the big bolts of lightning in the sky while you're brushing snow off your car is a bit freaky. All we need is a tornado or two and we've got all the major weather systems we typically get here in Wisconsin covered.

Obviously Mother Nature is confused. Or having a weather crisis.

And that crisis is why I ended up doing my first post-Oshkosh Half Marathon run inside on the treadmill. But the run? It felt fabulous. Didn't feel like I just turned in a PR at a half on Saturday. I like it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Oshkosh Half Marathon Race Report

It will definitely be a race I'll remember for a very, very long time.

And not just because I smashed my PR. Nope. There was so much more that went into it.

Like all the miles I logged with the Fleet Feet training group in the months leading up to this day. Or the friendships I've made. Or the laughs we shared over our team carbo loading dinner the night before. And that's not even including the weather. Oh Mother Nature. We are so not friends anymore. Not after what you threw at us runners on Saturday.

For the second time in a week, the weathermen were right. And actually? I think the weather turned out worse than they predicted. It started Friday night with wind. And cold temperatures. And rain coming down so hard that when combined with the wind it was coming down in sheets. Needless to say I went to bed Friday night hoping and praying that there would be a miracle and I'd wake up to bright sunny skies.

I didn't.

Still raining. Still cold. Although the wind had died down momentarily. I got the phone call from my Mom though, "You won't be upset if I don't come watch, will you?" No. Heck. If I hadn't put in the miles and formed the bond with this team, I don't know if I would have gotten out of bed. But I did. I eventually decided on a race day outfit (nothing like waiting until the last minute), grabbed my waffle smeared with peanut butter and I was out the door.

I met up with the rest of the Fleet Feet crew, we stowed our bags, took a quick group photo and we were off to the starting line.

I was going to be running the half marathon with Krystal, one of the assistant coaches. We've run together a bunch of times over the last few months. While waiting in the rain for the national anthem we discussed a plan. She asked me what my goal was. I told her initially I was hoping for 2:30 but with the weather I wasn't sure. She looked me in the eyes and told me she was pretty sure I could still do it. So we decided on a plan of attack, start out kind of conservatively, but build up a little bit of a cushion, and still have enough left in the tank to push it at the end. Sounded good to me.

The gun went off. We started to run. And a bit of info, the jacket I was wearing? Yeah, it was already completely wet. This was going to be an interesting 13 miles. I made it 2 miles before I stepped in a huge puddle and my feet were left making a squishing sound with every footsteps. Oh well. They weren't going to stay dry anyway.

The first two miles were through the college campus that's in town and out to a cemetery. Once we hit the Mile 3 mark, the route reminded me more of what I'd expect to see on the trails. We were going to be running on the Wiouwash Trail, which snakes along the Fox River. On a dry day, it's great. A crushed limestone-type surface. But Saturday? After constant rains for nearly a day? It was mostly puddles and mud. While some runners were trying to dodge the puddles and mud, after a bit I just decided to run through them. Remember, my feet had been soaking wet since Mile 2.

We got off the trail around Mile 6 and headed onto an out and back portion. I kept my eyes peeled for some of our faster training buddies. The wind had picked up at this point, and Krystal told me to tuck in behind her so I didn't have to face the full brunt of the wind. I did. We kept running, hit the turn around point and headed back.

Miles 7 and 8 passed. Still raining. Still running. Still feeling pretty decent. We hit Mile 9 and head into South Park for a loop. Starting to struggle a tiny bit, which isn't surprising to me. This is that part of the half marathon when in the past I've began to struggle. But I know I can run the distance. I've done it before. We hit the water stop at the end of the park. So far I've been doing a fast walk through the water stations, mostly because I can't seem to multi-task - that whole running and drinking thing was giving me problems. I linger a bit too long on the walk this time.

"Come on. Let's go."

I start running again. We keep going. I'm starting to zone out a bit. Just after passing the Mile 10 marker, Krystal looks at her watch and does some math in her head.

"We're still below goal pace, but we're going to have to pick it up a bit."

We keep running. There's a man running the half marathon while carrying an American flag - he runs most of the local events - and we pass him somewhere between Mile 10 and 11. I almost get a face full of flag since I'm paying attention to the ground at this point. I take a very short (I'm talking probably 20 seconds), non-water stop walk break. It's the only time I walk during the race other than the water stops. I'm starting to struggle. It's still cold. It's windy. By this point, the rain had turned into sleet, which had turned into snow. Which meant it was colder than it was at the start. My thighs are feeling like ice cubes.

We make the last left turn. Straight into an icy north wind. And not just a gentle breeze. More like sustained winds around 15 to 20 miles per hour.

But I ran. Kept putting one foot in front of the other. At times it felt like I wasn't even moving. There was no talking between Krystal and I. She was in front of me blocking the wind again. She'd keep looking over her shoulder to make sure I was still alive. At one point, probably with less than a half-mile to go, I remember pleading with Krystal for one brief walk break.

"No. The bridge is right ahead."

I shut up and kept running. Over the bridge. You could see, and hear, the finish line off to the right. A quick right turn onto the river path. My legs felt alive again. I felt myself speeding up. There might have been a runner passed. A quick left and then another quick right and I'm inside the Leach Amphitheater coming down the finish chute. I hear the people yelling. I see my coaches and teammates. I cross the finish line.

I hit stop on my Garmin. Krystal (you can see her in the blue jacket in the photo above) comes up behind me.

"You did it."

I glance down at my Garmin.


I did. I thank Krystal and give her a hug. Without her I'm not sure I would have been able to do it. Heck, without the entire Fleet Feet group I know I wouldn't have been able to do it. Coach Jim is the first one of the group to meet up with me. He congratulates me and hands me my well-deserved chocolate milk. We head back to our tent. Change into dry clothes, grab a massage and recap every one's races - we all hit personal bests. And of course we mention our next goals - two are running halfs in Indy next month and a bunch of us are running events at Green Bay. Sounds like there will be a little Fleet Feet cheering squad along the route as well!

As I'm walking back to my car what I did Saturday really started to sink in. The 251 miles I logged - whether it was slow, fast, hilly, solo or with a group - and the determination I had that I would hit that 2:30 half marathon. Not only was a new PR for me, but I'm talking about a PR of the 13 minute, 53 second variety (my previous PR was set at Fox Cities in September 2010). And then I think to myself, the Oshkosh Half Marathon was only supposed to be training run for me. That 2:30 mark was supposed to fall at Green Bay next month. Makes me wonder what I can accomplish a month from today if I continue to work hard and Mother Nature gives us good weather conditions.

And of course, since I followed J.J. Watt's Dream Big Work Hard philosophy, I had to tweet about it. And I got myself a retweet (that's 3 for those keeping score at home). Needless to say, I've still got big dreams so I'll still be working hard.

The stats:
Time: 2:30:05
Overall: 1,040/1,241
Females: 475/604
Age group (30-34): 79/104

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A teaser

It was cold. And windy. And wet. It started as rain and somewhere around Mile 11 it switched over to snow.

In short? Brutal.

But you know what? All of the hard work I've been putting in these last three months paid off! 
 I walked away with a new PR this morning at the Oshkosh Half Marathon! 
Or more like wobbled away since I couldn't really feel my frozen legs. Once I thaw out I'll be back with a race report. It might take me until tomorrow though. It was that cold.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Three Things Thursday: The Oshkosh Half Marathon edition

1. Dude. The Oshkosh Half Marathon is so close! Right now (almost 11 p.m. on Thursday night) it's less than 36 hours away. Needless to say it was hard to concentrate at work today. I had all these half marathon thoughts going through my head. Good thing I took Friday off. The day will be full of phone shopping (smartphone here I come!), expo-ing with my a friend and heading out for a training team dinner. And at some point I've GOT to figure out what I'm going to wear Saturday.

2. Since I headed out for that very first bone-chillingly cold run with the training group on Jan. 22, I've run 251.15 miles over the course of 49 runs. My schedule was 12 weeks with five runs per week. That's a total of 60 planned runs. I missed 11 - 2 were during the first week when I didn't actually have a plan in my hands, 5 were due to work-related madness, 2 after my car accident, 1 for a migraine, 1 just because I needed a day off. That final run I missed? It was today. And I don't feel too bad about missing it since it was a mile. I'll get that in in walking tomorrow.

3. So do I have goals for the Oshkosh Half Marathon? I guess. Technically I'm using this as a training run for next month's Green Bay Half Marathon. But of course there's that little voice in my head that keeps whispering goals. But given the weather conditions - windy and wet - I'm not sure I can achieve the goals I have in mind. That doesn't mean I'm not going to try though. After all, I didn't put in all hard work these last three months for nothing.

A Goal: To finish with a sub-2:30 half marathon. That elusive goal I was chasing all last year.
B Goal: A new PR would be nice, so anything 2:43:57 or less.
C Goal: Just finish and have as good of a time as I can while running 13.1 miles in the wind and rain.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I don't think I can, I know I can

Just need to keep this in mind on Saturday.

During the last two and a half months I've conquered hills. I've dealt with sub-zero temperatures. I've dealt with wind. There have been mornings of single digits temps and what seemed like gale force winds. And there were the Tuesdays when I thought I was going to die on that treadmill but I killed those hill repeats.

I've put in the work. I'm not going to let Mother Nature and the windy, wet and cold morning she brings me on Saturday defeat me. I will finish the 13.1 miles. The clock may not read the numbers I want to when I cross that line, but some weather isn't going to stop me from trying.


Note: I'll be back on Thursday with some final thoughts on the training cycle and maybe even put some goals out there.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Don't be playing games with me Mother Nature

Dear Mother Nature,

I'm not sure we can be friends anymore.

Yes. You were super kind and gave us mid-70s and slightly humid weather on Sunday. It was wonderful. Even if the night ended up with a tornado outbreak here in northeast Wisconsin and I had to deal with hearing the tornado sirens go off not once, but twice when my county was under a tornado warning. But luckily that storm cell with rotation that was heading right towards me? It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. Or at least I didn't see it since I was hiding out in the bathroom.

And it's been pretty nice so far this week. But then you give me a forecast like this.

Seriously Mother Nature. Did you forget? This weekend is the Oshkosh Half Marathon. As in, I've got to run 13.1 miles. The temperatures? I can handle those. Remember you made me run through some pretty nasty temps this winter/spring (remember below zero temps with a windchill?). So lows in the 30s with a high in the low 40s? I can handle that. Heck it might even be comfortable.

But this whole rain/snow thing? Unacceptable. Don't even try to tell me I'm lying. Yes, there's no snow listed in that above forecast, but just ask some of the weathermen out there and they'll admit to uttering that "S" word. Come on Mother Nature. Enough with the snow. It's April. I don't care if I live in Wisconsin.

If you change the forecast. Just tweak it enough so the precipitation disappears. Or even holds off until the afternoon, I'd be happy. Heck, I'd even consider staying friends with you. But if you let it rain, I'll be very unhappy. And you don't want to make Badgergirl mad. Because I'll send my friend the Honey Badger after you.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bring on the taper

This morning was the last long run before the Oshkosh Half Marathon next week.

Although after logging "long" runs of 11, 12 and 13.5 miles the last three weeks, I have to admit it's kind of weird calling 8.5 miles long. Kind of scary when you get to that, "Ah, it's only 8 miles" mentality.

But anyway. 8.5 miles. Originally it was supposed to be a 9 mile run, then Coach Jim decided to bump it down to 8. And then he mapped out a route and it ended up being 8.5 miles. The run felt great. I was happy with the pace - which I kept pretty steady save for that Ballard Road hill that made a comeback this week - and my legs were feeling good. I pushed the pace the last mile. I wanted to finish strong, including the last hill of the training cycle. I haven't downloaded the data from my Garmin yet, but I'm anxious to see what kind of pace I was holding during the last quarter-mile or so, because I felt like I was booking it.

And it felt so good.

So with the run done, I'm officially starting my taper. I've got four short runs on the plan for next Monday through Thursday. And when I say short I mean short. We're talking something like 4, 2, 3, 1. Yes. A one-mile run on Thursday. Love it.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Three Things Thursday

1. Totally didn't want to go for my 4-mile run after work tonight. I seriously considered skipping it and instead heading out in search of a new pair of running capris. What. It's running related. It kind of counts as training. Right? Then I remembered I missed Monday's run and I really couldn't miss two runs this week. So I got home, changed into running gear and hit the road.

And let me tell you. That run? Amazing. As in it was one of those runs where I tried to go slow. But couldn't. I seriously tried to keep it somewhere in the 10+ min/mile range. Impossible. So I'm knocking off sub-10 minute miles. And it feels good. So I get to thinking. Can I manage this kind of pace for four miles? You bet I could. I finished 4.1 miles in 40:12. Take a look at the splits: 9:43; 9:43; 9:57; 9:51; 1:00. I'd say that's a good, confidence boosting run. Just what I need a week before a half marathon.

2. Race day is on April 16. Which means it's time to start obsessively checking the weather forecast and trying to figure out what to wear. So far the 10-day forecast is calling for perfect running weather. Let's hope the weathermen stick with that forecast.

3. In non-running news, I owe a reading report for March. And normally I'd do a stand alone post, but the reading in March? There's not a ton to report. I finished one book, Everything Nice by Ellen Shanman. That puts me at six books for the year and 4,883 pages. The rest of the month was spent reading Les Miserables. I'm 280 pages in. Only a little over 1,000 to go. If I'm lucky - and read A LOT - I might get it finished by the end of April.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A lunchtime runner newbie

I finally did it.

I've read about so many bloggers who sneak in runs over their lunch hour at work. Me? Never. Yes, I get an hour for lunch, so I could totally squeeze in a few miles. But I'm a heavy sweater. It's not pretty. A short 2 or 3 mile run would leave me dripping in sweat. A shower would be necessary. Trust me.

So I've never run on my lunch break.

But today? Today I did.

See last night was election night. And since it took FOREVER for results to come in, I was at work super late. Meaning even if I wanted to, it would be really difficult to get up early and get the run in before work. And normally I wouldn't worry about it. But tonight? I had plans with my friend Jess after work. A little girls' night: a seminar on core work at Fleet Feet and dinner. So if I wanted to log the 3 miles I needed today, I'd have to figure something out.

Lunchtime it was.

I packed my gym bag and adding in the shower necessities. Since I worked late the first two days this week, I have a few extra hours to play with, so I could take a longer lunch. As the noon hour approached, I was getting a bit nervous. Would I be able to fit the 3 miles in, shower and be able to go pick up something to eat at my desk?

The clock struck noon and I bolted from my desk. By 12:10 I was at the YMCA (a perk to working in an office one block away from the YMCA), had changed and was upstairs securing myself a treadmill. And by 12:11 I was running. I just had to do a quick 3 miles with some "faster" miles thrown in. So after a half-mile warm up it was time to set the treadmill to a 9:30 min/mile pace. Twenty-five minutes later I had 3.1 miles done and I was sweating buckets.

Time to shower, get dressed and reapply makeup. It was hard to stay dried off in the locker room. A bit warm in there, but I did the best I could. Threw the hair back in a wet ponytail and I was out the door with 15 minutes to get myself some lunch. A quick stop at the bagel shop and I was back at my desk with 1 minute to spare.

Lunchtime run done.

It was nice being able to run over my break, but I'm not sure if I'd like to do it on a regular basis. I felt a bit rushed. And for some reason I still felt sweaty an hour after drying off after the shower. But I'm glad I did it and glad to know that the lunchtime run option exists for me if I ever run into days like this again.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Catching up on Monday

I was a bad blogger last week. Things happened. Kind of exciting things. And then I didn't blog about them. So you get a random mix of stuff.

Let's talk miles: For the first time ever, I broke into the triple digits for a monthly running mileage total. In fact, I finished with 111.7 miles. I hit that magical 100th mile somewhere around Mile 2 during Monday's speed work session. My previous monthly high total? Well it was 73.4 miles in February. But before that, you'd have to go all the way back to March 2010 when I logged 72.5 miles. And while we're talking miles, when I add in Saturday's long run, I'm now at 258.9 miles for the year, only 741.1 miles to go before I hit the 1,000 mile goal for the year.

Highlight of the weekend: Not only did I finish 13.6 miles, clocking my fastest 13-miler in the process, I also managed to get a Tweet retweeted by JJ Watt, the former Badger football player whose Dream Big Work Hard philosophy (#DBWH) I've adopted for this half marathon training cycle. Yeah, I did a little happy dance when I saw that. For those keeping track, that's the second time this training cycle I've gotten a retweet from JJ Watt.

With all the miles I've been logging, it was time to head over to Fleet Feet to get myself a new pair of Brooks Ghost 3s. I went Sunday since the weather was utterly craptastic. And I think everyone had the same idea. Because there was a long line of people waiting to get some new shoes! But after 45 minutes of wandering around the store, it was my turn. I promised the girl I'd be easy and quick since I knew exactly what I wanted. 10 minutes later I was walking out with my new shoes. They look exactly like my current pair, except they're a lot cleaner! Soon it'll be time to break them in.

The running week didn't get off to the best start today. Since it was super windy, cold, and looked like it was going to start raining at any moment, I packed the gym bag and was going to do my speedy 3-miler on the treadmill after work. Of course minutes before leaving the office news breaks. And since I'm the only reporter there, I'm sitting at my desk for another 2 hours. Leaving me hungry. And kind of cranky. And food won out over the run.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Last long run in the books, bring on taper

So yesterday was the last long run before the Oshkosh Half Marathon - which is now in less than two weeks!

The group had 13 miles on the schedule, and after last weekend's awful 12-miler, I was a wee bit nervous heading into Saturday's run. Yes. Nervous.

Luckily it was pretty nice running weather. I got to the park and temps were hovering right around 31 degrees, it was overcast (although the sun was trying its best to peak through) and THERE WAS NO WIND! Yay! We got ready to head out, I pushed start on my Garmin and nothing. Yup. I was the proud owner of a dead Garmin, even though I had charged it. Or at least I thought I did.

No Garmin. But that's OK. I relied on the running buddies in the group for time and distance. And actually I didn't worry much about that until I finished the run.

We started running. Nothing too exciting. Dare I say the run was feeling easy? So much better than last weekend. Somewhere around Mile 6 I started to get a cramp in my left calf muscle. I stopped to stretch and crossed my fingers it would go away. Not really. I started to run again, because I wasn't going to let this ache derail my final long run before the spring's first half marathon. I upped the water intake a bit to make sure it wasn't any dehydration issue.

I slowed down a bit due to the calf pain and lost the rest of the group, but one of the assistant coaches hung back with me. We chatted. Kept running. Soon we were hitting the "new" part of the route. One that featured this nasty hill that was almost a half-mile long at a 4.25 percent grade. Yeah. Those curvy hills that are so steep you can't really see that top? Not so fun. But it got done. Just like the rest of the rolling hills over the final 3 miles of the run. I wasn't paying attention too much to time or distance, but every once and a while Sam, the guy I was running with, would tell me - "We're at Mile 11" or "Just passed Mile 12."

Close to park entrance I heard a beep and Sam told me, "Just finished 13 miles in 2 hours and 31 minutes." And of course this came as we were reaching the top of the second to last hill on the route. But more importantly, that's the fastest I've ever run 13 miles. My past half marathon results? More in the 2:45-2:55 range. Guess that goes to show me what I am really capable of doing when I follow a plan and don't start slacking and skipping runs 3 or 4 weeks before the race.

After hearing the news from Sam, I started to push it a little bit. Because honestly? I still felt good. The legs felt like there was still energy in them. A few minutes later we hit the parking lot and the run was done. According to Sam's watch: 13.6 miles in 2 hours, 37 minutes. I'll take it.

And unlike last week when I walked away from the run seriously wondering if I'd be able to do this, I got in my car Saturday with a huge smile on my face. Because I just ran my fastest 13 miles ever. And that included slowing down due to a nasty cramp and the relentless hills.

So Oshkosh? That pancake flat half marathon I'll be running in less than 2 weeks? I'm so ready. Bring it.