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I did it! I ran a PR in the half marathon at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on October, 28, 2023. 1:43:14
Before this weekend, my PR was from 2016 at Run Revel Big Cottonwood. That was before kids and it was also down a mountain.
After running the full at Monumental last year (to prove I still could after having two kids), I told my coach I wanted to focus on speed this year and race half marathons vs. running another 26.2.
My second girl, Sloane, was born in April of 2021 and I ran two half marathons in the fall that year - just under and just over two hours. Then in 2022, I ran 5 half marathons and the Monumental full.
Before this weekend, I’ve run 4 half marathons in 2023 and I’ve gotten faster with each one - Indy Mini (1:53:24), Fargo (1:50:47), Geist (1:48:50), Fort Ben (1:48:18).
But even though I’ve been getting faster and putting in all the work prescribed by my coach, Rachel Sinders, I’ve been doubting whether or not a PR was possible this year. My self talk has not been very kind.
But without further adieu…
Before the Race
I’m going to start three days before the race because I did something differently this time. I carb loaded. Yes, I had pizza the night before but this carb loading was on a whole different level. A friend of mine, Cindy, told me about Featherstone Nutrition carb loading and apparently a lot of distance runners swear by it.
There’s a calculator you use to input your weight, race distance and time and it spits out a recommended number of days and number of carbs to consume per day. For me, it recommended 550G per day for three days.
I had no clue what this really meant until I started eating and counting carbs. Dear lord 550 is SO MANY! Thank you to people who chimed in and gave advice like Nicole Dobranski who sent me a voice message telling me about some of the things she did to carb load - like eating multiple bagels a day and using syrup. This immediately made me picture Buddy The Elf when he’s putting candy and pop tarts on top of spaghetti. That’s basically what you need to do.
Seriously this was me
Some of the things I bought at the store were bagels, graham crackers, pop tarts, pasta and Body Armor. Pop tarts have a ton - 70G in two. Drinking carbs is the key because you cannot just eat them. The first day I failed miserably because I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. The second day I did better and then by day three I felt prepared (literally ate 4 pop tarts for breakfast).
Spoiler alert - I PR’d the race and I do give some credit to the carb loading. You should try it if you haven’t.
On Thursday I grabbed smoothies with my coach, Rachel (mine with juice vs. yogurt for more carbs). She was fresh off of a trip to Colorado after spectating the Chicago Marathon but still made the time to see me before my race.
We sat outside with my dog, Dug, and she pulled out a white piece of notebook paper with two race plans on it.
- The PR plan
- The conservative, postpartum-PR plan
She told me I’ve put in the work for the PR, but if I wasn’t feeling it I could still have my best race of the year. One of the nice things about having a coach is you want to make them proud - or at least I do (I’m a people pleaser). Leaving our meeting, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.
On Friday, I volunteered downtown at the expo from 10-4. I’ve volunteered every year I've been on the board - this was year three. The first year, I was on my feet the whole time stuffing packets and my back hurt during the race the next day. So for the last two years I’ve been at the information desk where I have the option to sit down.
Also for the last two years we’ve partnered with Brooks and they’ve given our team amazing gear. I got a couple jackets and some new Glycerins to match. I ended up wearing both jackets over my volunteer shirt because we were stationed under the air conditioning. 🤣
I loved getting to know the people I was stationed with. Kara Sugarman is married to our board President and like an idiot I told her she looked familiar and asked if we’d met before. We have met a couple times at our events. Kara was so kind and even shared Athlete Bouquets with her running group while we were chatting.
Al left the board right before I joined and works for Lilly. He can’t run anymore but still likes to volunteer. Nick also works for Lilly and heads up their running club and corporate cup participation. A fellow board member, Irma Tragesser, joined us fresh off of a mission trip to Africa. She also works for Lilly, so I joked it was me and a bunch of smart people working the info booth. An added bonus was getting to spend some time getting to know our race Founder, Carlton Ray.
Not long after the expo opened, Lindsey Hein showed up! If you don’t know Lindsey, she used to live in Indy but is now in NC. She has a running podcast called “I’ll Have Another with Lindsey Hein”. I’ve always been a fan of hers and was so happy to see her. As we were catching up I told her about my podcast, 𝔽𝕚𝕟𝕚𝕤𝕙 𝕃𝕚𝕟𝕖𝕤 & 𝕄𝕚𝕝𝕖𝕤𝕥𝕠𝕟𝕖𝕤, and she gave me a hard time for not telling her about it.
I’m a perfectionist and never think anything is good enough so I told her I’d been waiting to tell her about it. Waiting for what I really don’t know. She immediately took a picture of us and shared my podcast on her Instagram. We talked a little bit about how hard it is to make money podcasting (I make $0 doing it). She’s been doing it for seven years, pretty much from the beginning of podcasts.
Not sure what I want out of the whole thing, but I do know it’s given me a chance to get to know people I otherwise wouldn’t have and that’s worth all of the time it takes.
Believe it or not, the number one question I got asked at the info table is “where do I get my packet?”. This is always funny to me because it’s always in the back and the sign is gigantic. I’d walk around the whole place before asking for help, but some people walk right in and ask where to go without so much as a glance around the room. Hey, at least it’s an easy question to answer!
Another common request was advice on the best places to spectate. I felt like it was a lot of pressure helping people determine their race day plans, and I really hope I didn’t steer anyone wrong. But since I ran the full last year and had my family at the halfway point, that’s where I told most people to go. Plus, Broad Ripple is a nice place for non-locals to grab a bite or a drink.
Before heading out, I made sure to grab my bib and snag a picture at the CNO booth. I’m a sucker for a good camera photo booth and they’re great quality! While I had a chair, I didn’t sit in it much. I was ready to get off of my feet.
My husband, Zach, who had been traveling all week landed around the time I left and offered to grab pizza on his way home. I grabbed the girls from their schools and we had a quiet night at home. I probably ate three breadsticks and half a pizza to cap off my carb loading. I also drank two Pachangas - my favorite beer. Usually, I go to bed at my normal time since trying to go to bed any earlier results in my laying wide awake worrying about missing my alarm.
The Morning of the Race
As luck would have it, I woke up 15 minutes before my alarm was set to go off. This was a big win because our 6yo daughter has been sneaking into our bed in the middle of the night and I didn’t want to wake her up. The weekend before, I had to share my pre-race routine with her and it was tough.
My routine starts with coffee. Strong coffee. And this isn’t for the caffeine but for the poop. Runners get this. I wake up early enough to drink two cups while I simultaneously make my crunchy peanut butter toast with banana slices.
Sydney didn’t wake up and I got to enjoy my routine in the dark quiet of the morning while trying to quiet the negative thoughts in my head. I made the mistake of watching the saddest episode of Lessons in Chemistry and was ugly crying on the couch.
The coffee worked its magic and I successfully went to the bathroom before tiptoeing upstairs into my room to get dressed. This time, I did wake up Sydney who came in the bathroom to keep me company while I finished coating myself in Squirrel Nut Butter and getting dressed. My coach, Rachel, had dropped off “Team RMR” tank tops and I absolutely love mine. My first Bakline tank. Highly recommend, but I love mine mostly because of the group of athletes it represents.
I hugged and kissed Sydney and Zach and left my house a little after 6:30am. I used Spot Hero for the first time and snagged a spot in the Senate Parking Garage for $10. This will be what I do every year now. It worked seamlessly and I was super close to where Rachel was having us meet up before the race.
The forecast was “warm”, but it was colder at the start than I expected. A lot windier too (but nothing compared to 2022’s wind). I had a long sleeved volunteer shirt on inside out over my tank. It was inside out on purpose because I didn’t want people to think I was working. Although my friend, Alex Baker, thought maybe I’d gotten dressed in the dark. 🤪
A good crew of us showed up for Rachel - Alex Baker, Amanda Luper, Jennifer Conner, Jordan Huffman, Anja Cullumber, Levi Bess, and a few others. We chatted nervously and took a group pic. When the nice man who took it got down on a knee while we were up on the steps I said, “That’s not my best angle, sir.” We laughed but PSA just hold the phone as high as you can to take a good picture.
I hugged Rachel and the others and Jordan and I left together to go to the bathroom. The lines were long but we had plenty of time and they moved fairly quickly. I forget a lot of what Jordan and I talked about because I was so nervous and in my head. We’d met at an RMR running event a few months earlier and also had a chance to meet up for a run this summer up at Lake Wawasee. This was the first marathon she was running that wasn’t the Marine Corps Marathon in D.C.
After the bathroom it was corral time. We were both in corral B and given the time I was looking to run, my coach recommended I get as close to A as I could. So we cozied our way into B and to the back of A where, thankfully, Ashley Haynes found me. Ashley and I had planned to meet at the start and run together until she split off with the full marathoners. Just a couple weeks before, Ashley ran her first 100 miler at the Indiana Trail 100. So, this was “just 26.2” for her.
I run alone 99.9% of the time. Not necessarily because I want to, but because my super flexible schedule allows me to run whenever I want (which these days is not 5am). Perhaps in another season of life I will form a crew of running friends again, but for now I’m mostly solo.
My friend and fellow RMR teammate, Chris Jones, had offered to pace me months before. I didn’t want the pressure at the time (the pressure I made up, that is), but with Ashley it felt fine to casually agree to running together the night before. I told her I needed to do close to 8 minute miles for the first half and that I’d love it if she’d pace me so I wouldn’t have to worry. She obliged and spent time checking her watch and slowing us up and down to maintain pace.
One of my favorite moments from the early miles was someone I’ll call “running bro” because he had on the big “windshield” sunglasses. Running Bro kept cheering everyone on. He was pumped up and wanted to get everyone else around him in the same mood. There was a lot of fist pumping and a lot of “LET’S GO!”s At one point I said jokingly that I’d like him to stay next to us the entire time but he didn’t hear me.
We checked off miles quickly (a couple faster than 8 minute miles). I’d ask Ashley after we passed each mile marker how close we were and I’d be happy when she said we were a little under (because it explained how I felt at times). The pace was hard, but I felt really strong.
There were more “running bros” who ran by us moving really fast with no shirts on - two in front and one trailing them. I said something like “Come on bros, v-formation.” and made Ashley and another runner laugh. I should say I mean no disrespect - they were buff and moving way faster than us. It was simply amusing.
As we kept creeping closer to the halfway point, I kept wondering if I could keep it up. My race plan was to do half of the miles at around 8 and then get faster and faster. This was already feeling fast and I had Ashley with me - could I keep it up without her? I voiced some of these concerns out loud and Ashley would quickly shut them down. “You can do it.” She’d say.
I missed a Nuun station when I wanted some which was frustrating. For some reason, the station only had Nuun on the left side vs. both sides and I’d chosen wrong and stayed right. Oh well, I’d had my first Gu already and hit the other water stations so far for hydration. Shortly after this miss, I saw Lindsey Eaton and she screamed my name which made me forget about it completely.
The exact mile escapes me, but I ran into my friend and Carmel Running Club President, Gabby Behr. She was running with a friend and we were all short of breath but said our hellos and good lucks. They were running the half as well, so it was nice to know I would be around them for the second half if I needed someone to carry me home.
Then, before I saw it coming, Ashley said it was time for her to go. I'd told her I didn't want to do the second half without her and she said I could always join her for the marathon. 🤣 At the split, the half marathoners stay left and the full marathoners stay right and head towards the Indiana State Fairgrounds. She's so fast she was in the right lane before I realized what she'd said. I started yelling things like, "Don't embarrass me with how fast you run the rest of the race!" (Which she did) It's fun to cheer the full marathoners on as you run alongside them for the final moments. Last year, I got to be in that right lane and I loved it. There was definitely a moment of FOMO, but as I was about to run under the arch and make the turn for the half, I saw my friend, Renae Saager!
I should have known she'd be out cheering. She's a new mom and fellow runner and is SO FAST with her phone I tell you, she screamed at me and captured a video of me running by - the only one I have from this day and I'm so grateful she captured this moment. This gave me a huge burst of energy and confidence as I sped on alone for the second half of the race.
Mile 1 - 8:15
Mile 2 - 8:11
Mile 3 - 8:00
Mile 4 - 7:40
Mile 5 - 7:53
Mile 6 - 7:52
Mile 7 - 7:40
After splitting from the full marathoners it's a little quieter. When you make the turn, at least for me, it feels like you're heading back downtown. In reality, you're not and you have more distance to cover before turning back and running south. This is a hard mental part of the race for me, I just want to be heading towards the finish line. Around mile 8 there was a guy with a table full of PBR shots. This was something Lindsey Hein and her crew used to do when she lived in Indy and I loved it! Of course, I stopped to take a shot without thinking. PBR reminds me of the final mile of my sub-4 Chicago Marathon when a spectator handed me one and I poured it all down my face. It was glorious.
Shortly after my "beer mile" I encountered "corn girl", a girl dressed as corn. I should have talked to her and gotten her story, but I was focused. At one point, a guy she knew came up to her and they effortlessly chatted for a while before he sped on. At the rate I was working, I had no idea how they were holding a conversation but was happy for the distraction.
"Corn girl" is in the background of this picture
At mile 9, we turn to head in the direction of downtown, but we aren't quite on the home stretch just yet. Right after 10, we turn onto Meridian - my favorite part of the race and perhaps the most difficult. When you turn to face south, you can see all the way to downtown and it looks like it's right there. It's not. The finish is still 3 miles away. However, being able to "see the finish" really helps me dial it in and see what I have left. "Less than 30 minutes to go"
Mile 8 - 7:51
Mile 9 - 7:53
Mile 10 - 7:41
Last year, the wind nearly took my feet out from under me when I made the turn onto Meridian. This year, it was windy, but nothing compared to what we experienced in 2022. My body was still feeling really strong. It was at this point I knew I had it in me to get it done. I said encouraging things to people as I passed them and as people passed me. When I cheer others on, I'm also saying the same thing to myself, so it's kind of for both of us.
I saw Tracie Hunter, aka @indianarunnergirl, holding a sign in the middle of the road. I held out my arms and yelled her name (or just loud noises, I'm not sure). Tracie just finished her third world major of the fall - Berlin, Chicago, then NYC. 🤯
There was a woman walking wearing ghost shorts so naturally I yelled, "Ghost! Let's go!" Another guy encouraged her too and she started running again. There was a kid running with his dad that made me smile. And at some point "corn girl" passed me and I just couldn't catch her.
In the last couple miles, I looked at my watch and tried to do the math to make sure I was going to PR. Doing math while running is damn near impossible, but I knew most all of my miles had been under 8 with some cushion. I didn't know how far ahead I was, so I decided I was going to see how low I could get my "new number" as in - the new number to chase. I gave it everything I had left in the tank.
In the last mile, I saw my favorite sign of the day, one that said "FUCK YEAH!". I yelled "Fuck yeah!" to the girl holding it. Turns out this was the November Project's cheering section. I wish I had a picture of this sign!
On the second to last turn, all of the local running clubs have tents and I got to see several familiar faces - one being Christi Dee. She had just run Chicago earlier that month and was one of our cheerleaders for the day. It was so good to see her and hear the cheers of everyone else. ONE MORE TURN.
When I made the final turn and saw the finish line the emotions hit me. My eyes started welling with tears, but my legs didn't slow down. As I got close, I hear Lindsey Hein, our finish line announcer and my friend, yell my name. I looked at my watch and saw it was happening. I crossed the finish and threw my hands in the air. I stood in that moment in awe of myself. I started ugly crying. It was an overwhelming feeling, in the best way. My mind spends a lot of time trying to tear me down, but in this moment, all I could feel was proud.
Mile 11 - 7:46
Mile 12 - 7:42
Mile 13 - 7:23
New PR - 1:43:14!!!!!!
After the Race
I looked up and saw my coach Rachel, and my friend Lindsey. Rachel said something like, "Watching you cross that finish line was the best." and gave me a hug. Lindsey hugged me too and a race photographer, Michael Durr, captured it.
This picture is everything. It depicts exactly why I run. To make myself proud, to be a part of this community, to show my girls what it looks like to achieve goals you set - ones you doubt you can accomplish. I run because I can. I run for those who can't. And all of these feelings came crashing over me in this moment. It was hard to breathe.
As I started to walk forwards I saw our Executive Director, Jed Cornforth, who said I was going to make him cry. He told me congratulations as I continued crying and making my way through the finishers chute. A fellow board member, Gina, gave me my medal. I was so disoriented from running and crying that I forgot my space blanket - Rachel went back to grab me one. We took pictures and I chatted with a few other finishers (words were hard to put together). One of them was Jay Eiteljorge from Fishers Running Club aka @every_day_jay22. Also a fellow mom from Sloane's daycare, Erica, and her friend said hi. Her friend told my my ponytail looked amazing bouncing back and forth in front of her - I'd pictured it as a rats nest, so this was nice to hear. I have so. much. hair.
I hobbled away from Rachel and saw our past Board President, John, who gave me my medal last year and at this year's Fort Bend half. He asked if I'd done it and I nodded as we exchanged high fives. I saw Kara again and she was so happy for me. I saw Riley, Sydney, Colleen and Rob from our team and they all said nice things as they hustled around the finish area.
I grabbed a water, some pretzels and not one but TWO chocolate milks. I told the volunteer that it was why I ran, so I needed two. He laughed and said, "Well, that's not why I run but OK!" I looked ridiculous juggling all of the things and a nice woman asked if I wanted a bag to put everything in - yes, please.
Next, I went to the results and awards tent where I saw a previous board member, Kathy, who volunteers every year. She congratulated me on my PR and said there were a lot of people saying they had PR'd - not to mention two new course records. The weather had been kind to us this year. Since I also ran our Fort Bend half, I got another medal for Indython along with a pair of socks I ended up using as makeshift gloves.
In my texts, my husband, Zach, had sent a screen shot of my results to my family. I'd gotten a smattering of other texts from friends and my dad called me to wish me congratulations. He asked what I was doing and I said I was buying time before I had to go home and be a parent.
The beer line was long, but I got in line and it moved fast. Thankfully, this year Sunking had my favorite local beer, Pachanga, on tap. I traded my drink ticket for one and went to find a place to sit and enjoy a few sips. I got COLD, FAST. What was perfect running weather quickly turned into miserable celebration weather for me since I had opted not to check any gear at the start. I braided my hair and put on my finisher beanie and put on my new socks as gloves. I made my way back towards the club tents where I knew Christi would be and where Rachel was heading.
On my way, I ran into a friend, Drew Beechler, and his wife and family. We exchanged pleasantries and congratulations as I finished up my beer so I could leave the area. I'd missed the male marathon finisher but the female was getting close, so I moseyed my way up to the finish line. I was so happy to run into my friend and previous Indianapolis Monumental Marathon champion, Whitney Bevins. We hugged and found a spot along the barricade to watch for the winner. We cheered her in along with couple other Olympic Trials Qualifiers before saying our goodbyes.
I made it to the club tents and saw Sara Farny, a board member of the Fishers Running Club and owner of Solemates Coaching. She was sporting the most perfect purple bathrobe to keep her warm after racing. Solemates had nine athletes racing, so her and her partner, Tracie, were posted up cheering them all in.
Christi was bundled up for winter and still shivering when I found her. I thanked her for cheering and we got some pictures and cheered for a bit. Rachel was no where to be found and I decided I needed to get into my warm car. That day I was thankful for remote start as I turned my heat on full blast so my car would be ready for me. I walked the half mile or so back to the parking garage. On my way I encountered a walking tour and asked one of them what they were learning about. It was a Black History walking tour of Indianapolis. The man on the microphone stopped to congratulate me in front of the group and give me a business card.
When I was about to cross the street I almost got hit by a scooter and the driver was none other than my coach, Rachel. My friend, Jennifer Conner, was with her and they were heading to see a fellow RMR teammate, Amanda Luper, finish the marathon. I told them to give her my best and was bummed I wasn't going with them to cheer. The warmth of my car was sounding better and better though.
My former roommate and friend, Sue Young, was also downtown and I was trying to meet up with her before leaving. Luckily we'd both parked in the same garage and she'd just gotten back to the garage as well. I met up with her for a hug. It was the first time she'd run a half marathon in ten years - since we ran back in the day. She told me that the Finish Lines & Milestones podcast had motivated her and that made me feel really good. Proud of you, Sue!
Top picture is 2013 and bottom is 2023
I got in my warm car and headed home. I called Zach and planned to meet him at Fat Dan's for a celebratory meal with him and the girls. Thankfully, I got to nap afterwards. My best friend, Alyssa, and her family came over for dinner and I was telling her daughter, Abby, about my race.
She asked me, "Do you remember when I came to see you at your race and you won?" I tried to explain that I hadn't won but she wasn't having it. "No. No, I remember the race and you won the race." She said with all the confidence in the world. And you know what, I did win. I get to do this.
Thanks for reading. Happy running!