18 years of Henry

I was just 24 years old in 2005, graduating from PT school, and I wanted to use one of my first paychecks to get myself a dog. I had always wanted a dog growing up but my dad thought dogs were outside pets, destined to live on farms and help with hunting. (Newsflash: my parents got their dog Lucie a month before we got Henry. They did not move to a farm or begin hunting in the process).

When my boyfriend Nate and I drove to Ashland, Missouri to choose a puppy from this Cockapoo litter, I remember a few things. Nate was so allergic to the farm cats that he had to wait outside of the barn. And I remember Henry, the smallish guy with a lot more white fur than his golden-colored siblings, coming over to me in a super chill way as his siblings were bouncing all over the place. He put his head in my hand, then promptly took a nap in my lap. He chose me on the spot and I was completely obsessed with this fluffy boy from day one. I was so incredibly happy to have a puppy to love on, care for, and to treat him like an actual human baby (practice makes perfect, I guess!). Many memories are a blur from this period in my life but the intense happiness of getting my puppy hasn't faded.

His puppy days were....interesting. Nate and I each lived with friends and we both worked full time. I'd come home on my lunch break to see Henry had escaped from his playpen I had set up in my bedroom. I wanted to see how he managed to accomplish such a feat, so I put him back in and he demonstrated his insane pull up skills. He lifted himself up and out of the gates by pulling his chin up and over the top, toppling over the other side and onto the floor. Little puppy was a determined dude. He chewed our shoes, chewed a lot of wooden furniture, and he loved to tear up any stuffed animals (of which there were plenty because we spoiled the heck out of our 'baby'.) I remember when he lost baby teeth and it was so horrifying to find those little needles around the house!

Henry escaped from the fenced-in back yard a few times. He was so incredibly fast as we chased him around the neighborhood, trying to entice him back home. I'm sure he thought it was a fun game we were all excited about playing it, but in reality we were super annoyed to chase this stinker around for what seemed like an hour. He was a naughty puppy and I love thinking back about that type of energy he once had. Many of our present day friends are getting puppies and I just smile and nod and remember those days (with rose colored glasses but also, no). 

When I think about the constant force of Henry throughout our lives, and how important he's been to us for major milestones, I first think about when Nate proposed to me in 2006. I knew a ring was coming and was just a *little* eager to get this show on freaking the road after dating for five years through college. Nate took Henry outside to pee and when they came back inside, Henry jumped up on my bed with a ribbon tied around his neck. I think Nate had to tell me to look closely at the ribbon, and there was my engagement ring, tied around a very proud Henry's neck. 

Every milestone after that moment crashes together in a blink as I look back over our many years with Henry. 

There was the move from St. Louis to Milwaukee, two days after our wedding. Henry rode in the U-haul, or maybe he was with me in my black Mazda Tribute. He always HATED riding in cars and would pant, face backwards in the back seat, and his breath would become so horrible that we could smell his anxiety from the drivers seat. I remember his first time (only time?) swimming in Lake Michigan, too. He was such a trooper with all of our activities for him. I know he went on runs with me, possibly up to 3 miles at a time, but I honestly barely remember any of those miles we logged together. He'd poop at the groomer or the vet nearly all of his life, no matter how long we lingered outside before his appointment. There was just something about those inside rugs that needed to experience Henry's nervous poop. 

All of Henry's dog friends flash into my mind: Sammy, Lucie, Bailey, Sampson, Riley. All of these dogs have gone before him. All of his friends are gone. There were actual dog birthday parties for this crew, complete with birthday hats and expensive dog treats. Henry really didn't mind all of the attention and he knew his spot in our life was as Top Alpha Dog. Oh, he was SO spoiled, you guys.

When we announced my pregnancy with Truman, we told the grandparents by putting a t-shirt on Henry that said 'I'm going to be a big brother, and you are going to be GRANDPARENTS!' He has always been an integral part of each milestone as we've grown our family. Because of course he was. Our best boy.

The day we brought Truman home from the hospital is a day I'll never forget. Not because we brought our first born baby home to begin our life as parents, but because of what our first-born fur baby did in response. Short version of the story is that he completely freaked out, lost his mind, and we did the same. Nate slept with Henry in a headlock in our bed. I slept on the couch with newborn Truman. Henry was yipping and whining all night long and Nate just kept squirting him with a water bottle with crazy eyes, saying 'I think it's working!' while Henry shook out approximately 12 ounces of water from his fur. 

With each subsequent baby we brought home from the hospital, Henry mellowed more and more. And in fact, he started to really enjoy the kids when he realized they all drop people food from their highchairs. Henry began a steady diet of goldfish crackers and puffs, and even graduated himself to stealing chocolate, pizza, and loaves of bread on the countertops. 'These little humans aren't so bad after all,' I could almost hear him say to me with those serious eyes. He definitely jumped up on our dining room table several times, proving that he was agile and very driven by people food and didn't care about our stupid rules.

I remember experiencing sadness like I'd never known before, when we went through my miscarriage between Truman and Cece in 2011. Coming home from the heartbreaking ultrasound, I sat on the floor and just sobbed. Nate was consoling me of course, but I won't ever forget my fluffy white dog who sensed my pain. He walked over to me and cuddled up on my lap while I cried, similar to what he did as a puppy in that barn when he chose me. He's always been my constant friend and to say that we will miss him is a severe understatement. My heart is breaking again just thinking about this next chapter without our Henry.

All of our passwords still contain his name. The sound of his nails clicking on our hardwood floors won't be another constant in the soundtrack of our lives. His puppy attacks, his yodeling, chasing the kids around the house and barking, his love for playing fetch for about 3 throws before he was over it.....all of these memories spill out of my brain. It's also been so long since *that* Henry lived with us; the energetic, younger version hasn't been with us in years. 

I don't remember when he stopped jumping up on our couches and our bed. I don't remember the last time he stole food right out of a kids' hand. I don't remember the last walk we took together, or when he last barked at a stranger.

Looking back at photos helps put the last 18 years in perspective. He used to make eye contact with us for photos. He used to hear us when we said his name. He used to get so excited when he'd hear our car pull into the driveway and would greet us with a wagging tail. He used to take walks and runs with us, and would bark at leaves that blew past our house. He was always so skittish around guys and would tuck his tail when a new person came to our house. 

None of this happens now. Henry is just sort of existing, because he's still here physically but he's a shell of a dog at this point. He can't see because of full cataracts. He can't hear us say his name. He can still smell but it's not anything like it used to be, so when we drop food he doesn't pounce on it and needs to be guided to his loot. He's falling down our stairs, and peeing on the landing nearly every night. I remember him being so embarrassed if he had an accident 5+ years ago. And now, we don't even think he knows when he's going. There's been so much pee and poop lately and I hate myself for getting frustrated as we clean it up, yet again. 

When I try to pet him he will allow that for a few seconds but then he usually pulls away and gets back to pacing around each room of our house. He walks right into us and into the walls sometimes. He will stare at the back door for no reason at all. He sleeps probably 20 hours a day, getting up to move from his bed in our room to the kids' bathroom floor mat. Pacing, pacing, pacing. He doesn't quite know what to do with himself anymore. I realize these are all signs that he's no longer living his best life but it's killing me to even type this out right now.

In June of 2022, Henry had a big scare that we think was a major seizure from a brain tumor. We really thought that was it for our guy. But he pulled through and has been living on borrowed time for the last year and a half. Looking back at photos tells the story of our best boy, steadily declining ever since that summer. And still, he isn't making it easy on us to decide when enough is enough. (THIS IS SO HARD, how do people do this??).

In my mind, any obvious red flags would be a no brainer to let him go. If he's in pain, we will say goodbye. If he stops eating, we will say goodbye. If he can't walk, or get up and down our stairs anymore, we will say goodbye. But none of these obvious red flags have happened. And yet, all of the yellow flags are waving hard at us. He's here but he's not. He is so so old and so so tired. 

We are worried about something happening to make our goodbye more traumatic and stressful than it needs to be. What if one of these falls down the stairs means a broken leg? What if his 'stable' tumor on this thigh busts open? What if he has another seizure? What if he goes into a crisis when we are out of town and our sweet dog sitter, or my in-laws, have to handle it? If he stops eating, or is in serious pain, will that make things easier for us to decide or somehow much harder? I don't want to be selfish keeping him around because we are avoiding the inevitable. But it's just so hard. 

Talking to Nate about all of this, he said that if he is 126 years old and this is his quality of life, he wouldn't want to live anymore either. (I guess we should add that to his will?) But what more could we ask for in our dog? He's had a wonderful life. He's been our best dog, our only dog, and more special to us than we could have predicted back in 2005. He's been our constant. Our companion. He's lived 18 wonderful years with us. I'm so sad to let him go. He can never be replaced, so please don't ask if we are getting another dog--I cannot go there mentally right now.

The average life expectancy of a Cockapoo is 12-15 years. He's given us 18.5 because he's a freaking wonder. The kids all wanted him to break the Guiness Book of World Records, which I'm told is 22 years (not a chance). I wish we could have another 18 with this guy, but I do feel like he's already gone in a way. I've been a wreck ever since we made the decision, in case you can't tell.

Telling the kids our plan for the at-home vet to come to the house was another awful experience. They are all so sad to say goodbye. We've never done this before and it's already excruciating to begin the grieving process. I hate this. 

But I love you, Henry. Thank you for giving us these memories, and all of these years with you as our number one. There will never be another dog like you. 


On April 6th, with sunshine streaming through the windows of our home, and surrounded by all of his favorite people, we said goodbye to our best boy. It was peaceful and heartbreaking. It was time but it was so incredibly difficult to let him go. The kids, Nate, Tony, Lois and I all gave him so many hugs and kisses before sending him over that rainbow bridge to run and play again. 


Twin Cities Marathon 2022 (Third Time's a Charm)

I love reading back on these posts, and know about 2 other people that will enjoy all of the nitty gritty details of my third marathon experience. Avert your eyes if you don't care at all (the masses agree)!

After Chicago 2021, my second marathon ever and the first since having kids, I didn't really know what to do next. I was real tired and pretty defeated by the Chicago race. I really wanted to beat my pre-kid marathon time in Chicago and I really did not do that. 

I ran a half marathon in May 2022 to test the waters a little bit. It went well, I came close to a PR for my 11th half, but I still couldn't quite pull the trigger on tackling another full marathon. But I also couldn't quiet the voice in the back of my head telling me I had unfinished business with 26.2. This annoying voice got louder and louder in my now 41-year-old mind. And because I know myself, I knew that if I signed up for another full I'd want to go ALL IN, which requires a mega-time commitment from myself and my family. Sigh.

I talked to Nate over our anniversary trip to Napa Valley, and told him I really wanted to run the Lakefront Marathon for a bit of redemption from Chicago. I knew I could get a better time and I *still* wanted to beat my 2008 Lakefront time. Younger, carefree Julia was becoming this evil character for me to compete with---I wanted so badly to prove I'm a better runner now, faster, more efficient. I also wanted to hire a running coach for the first time ever, because I wanted a customized training plan for my very specific goals. We talked it over for a few days and he gave me his blessing, saying that 'at least one of us should hit our goals'. His hip has been acting a fool for about a year now and it's a real bummer. 

In early June, signed up for the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee, set to happen 10/2/22. I wanted to sleep in my own bed, miss as little soccer that weekend as possible, and have my kids and friends/family THERE at the race. Plus, Lakefront was where I ran my first marathon back in 2008 so I could just taste the redemption. I knew the course had to change this year because of construction, so it was no longer straight downhill the entire time. Darn!

I used a training plan from the internet starting June 6th, and by June 27th I had hired Tristen at HAT House to be my running coach. This is when things got real for me. I trained for a total of 17 weeks, 13 with Tristen, which boasted a total of 567 miles all together. I ran 5-6 days every single week. My longest run was a 20 mile run, which I did twice, both of which had a 'fun' 10 miler tacked on the day before or after. I did speed work at the track which involved running 800s at a 7:00-7:20 pace....something I never thought possible, but I did it and shockingly loved it. I ran hills and didn't totally hate them. I ran mostly alone but sometimes with friends, but the relaxed social time I was accustomed to getting 2-3 times per week morphed into more intense, fast solitude. 

I trained my butt off, made sleep a priority over several social events, woke up at 5:00 or earlier to get my runs finished before starting the day with the kids. It was a lot. But it was awesome and it definitely gave me a boost of confidence to know I could hold FAST paces when I needed to, and I ran my fastest half marathon ever during training with a 1:52 time (8:26 min pace). I felt amazing after that 13.1 and knew my training was working.

I tell you all of this to say that I was ready. My training was successful, I didn't get injured even though my peak mileage was 47 miles in a week and I typically run about 15-20. Completing a training cycle like this was absolutely worth celebrating, regardless of what happened on race day! 

But it also put my head in a place where I was (really) amped up to see what I could do on 10/2/22. I had four time goals: 
1. Beat Chicago 2021's 4:40, 
2. Beat Lakefront 2008's 4:19, 
3. Beat Nate's Chicago 2009's 4:15, and 
4. Get sub-four hours. 

I told myself I'd be happy with any of those check marks and tried not to get TOO focused on my time goals, but oh it's so hard as a runner to be a free spirit and to 'have fun' and 'be chill' as they say. Or maybe it's just hard for me because I always seems to put pressure on myself to achieve goals, and may be a little tough on myself at times. :) 

Regardless! The Lakefront Marathon was cancelled just three weeks before race day, which was a small crisis averted only because Nate and I decided traveling to the Twin Cities Marathon on the same day would be totally doable. We pivoted and decided to make it a semi-family event, pulling Truman and Cece from school and sports and Nate took off work so we could make the 5 hour drive to Minnesota. I am not a flexible person (shocker) but once I wrapped my head around the location change, I was all in for the experience. 

The week before the race, I got a bit of the kids' cold and tried to sleep as much as possible and lay very low during my taper. I focused on mentally prepping for the race while still running almost daily but less mileage, blowing snot rockets and feeling like a garbage can for a few days. Then I talked to Tristen on the phone about race day. I was kind of freaking out as you can imagine, but this pep talk got me all fired up.

She wanted me to break the marathon into three chunks of time: miles 0-14, miles 15-19, and then finally miles 20-26. She wanted me to shoot for a pace of 8:35-8:43 min/miles depending on how I was feeling and depending on the millions of other variables that go into race day. She said to avoid getting TOO SET on my pace, to be flexible and willing to roll with whatever came my way (ahem, SO HARD). Tristen told me I'm so much stronger now, a faster runner, and that I am 100% capable of running these paces as proven in my very consistent training. She cautioned me to stay away from falling back into old routines of running 9 minute miles because I'm capable of more now. I decided to trust my training, trust Tristen, and trust my own body in this race. I knew I'd leave it all on the course and give it my best. AND I REALLY WANTED TO MEET ALL OF MY TIME GOALS.

The four of us made it to Minneapolis the Friday night before the race. We stayed in a hotel downtown 1 mile away from the start line, hit the expo, ate lunch with friends, and welcomed my sister-in-law Brittany from Oregon. We ate a big Italian dinner out that night and I was feeling pretty wiped out/tired/nervous afterwards. All day long I felt like my chest was crampy/tight/spasming and didn't know if it was my lingering cold or plain old anxiety. I went to bed around 9:30 and woke up at 1:00 and then at 3:30 am I was up for good, unable to fall back asleep. I know this is normal before a race but I also think I require more zzz's at my old age than ever before, and my energy was already pretty zapped.

I got out of bed around 5:30 and started getting ready in the tiny bathroom with the door shut to avoid waking the children. Nate got up with me, and after my coffee and choking down my breakfast of cold/untoasted English muffin with PB, I said I was ready. We let the kids sleep, although Cece did wake and give me a hug goodbye, and walked to the start line together. It was dark and pretty chilly at about 50 degrees, and there was hardly anyone else walking down (very much the opposite of Chicago's start line experience). I hit the porta potty, we found Katelyn and talked with her a bit, and then I hugged Nate goodbye as he went back to the hotel to get the kids moving. 

One more portapotty stop with Katelyn and her friend, who are both at least 10 years younger than me and shooting for 3:30s as their finishing times (!!!!), and it was time to line up in my corral. I was wearing a long sleeved t-shirt that I could toss in the donation bin at the start line, but noticed I was shivering/shaking and my jaw was chattering as I waited for my 8:06am gun time. I tried to relax and calm down because I was super excited and just wanted to RUN already. But I realize that killed a lot of my energy along with sleeping like dog crap the night before this race. I took a gel at the start line beacause it had been awhile since I ate breakfast, and sipped on the disposable water bottle I wanted to use for the first few miles to avoid the water station bottle necks.

No time to overthink when I cross the start line, because I was getting the show on the freaking road! The first two miles went quick but I also had to keep finding 5 sights, 4 sounds, 3 feels, 2 smells, 1 taste to keep my mind focused. I did find my 8:40 pace pretty quickly. I was right by the 3:55 pace group from the start and felt really strong and consistently hit 8:36-8:43 for the first six miles. I took my second gel at mile 3.5 and continued to focus on being present and really looking around at every spectator, sign**, and beautiful fall tree.

At mile 7, I remember celebrating the halfway point of my first "chunk" of this race. AND I saw my family with signs and happy smiles, which energized me greatly. I took gel number three and continued to sip my water. Oh, how I wish we had pictures or a video* of me here because it might have been the best I looked all race day! Here's the race photo I did purchase because I love it, and it's probably from around miles 5-9. 

At mile 8, I started saying, "8 and feeling great." Over and over again, in my head, and reminded myself to stay in this mile and think of nothing ahead of me. Let the mental workout begin.
At mile 9, I repeated, "9 and feeling fine." For these two miles my watch was beeping that I was behind, because I crept up to an 8:50 pace. I tried not to worry too much about it and noticed an awesome drum line under bridge here. 

"Mile 10, and gonna win". I don't know what that means but it rhymed. I took my pace back to a 8:33, which pushed it a little, and in hindsight this was probably WAY TOO FAST. I think the 3:55 pace group was right behind here, and heard them chatting about pace and felt annoyed because they were supposed to be doing 9:00-and I felt like I was going WAY faster. 

Also, looking back my heart rate was INSANELY HIGH (for me) at this point. It registered as 177 bpm at mile 10 and I usually never get above 145 bpm even with my longest, hottest runs or with speed work. I know this is very weird, to have such a low HR during training runs but it's my norm---so having a rate that's over 20 bpm higher is real stressful for my body (I think!). Here's where I say my heart rate was high from the beginning of this run, even at rest BEFORE the run, and remained too high throughout. More overanalysis on this later.

At 11, Nate had planned to see me again but he texted a few minutes after I passed the mile marker saying they just missed me. I know my water bottle was empty and I was concocting an elaborate plan to have Nate refill it and hand it to me again at 14, but when they weren't there I think I stopped at my first water stop because I needed to take gel number four. I walked super quick through and sloshed it all back, replying to Nate I'd see them at 14 instead.

Mile 13: I saw my family unexpectedly at a turn and felt SO happy about that, and also being at the halfway point. Possibly around now a spectator said “all of you are finishing under 4 hours, you got that?” And I believed it. I briefly dreamed of how it would feel to be finished with a half marathon right now but also felt strong, and knew the 3:55 pacers were still behind me. 

With mile 14 came Erin's crew, and they were so pumped to see me! I loved that because they totally didn't understand WHY anyone would run a marathon and I think they sort of get it now:) I told myself I’d start my music after seeing them, so I did, and popped in both AirPods but kept them pretty quiet. I remembered to celebrate my first chunk of the race being done. Whoo hoo! I hit a 9:00 min/mile average here and started to feel tired, but I was super happy that my quads were okay. In Chicago, they started shutting down at mile 14 for some reason and I've pondered that issue ever since. I had my tiny water bottle handed to me from a random spectator, which I may have grabbed around 13 and kept til maybe 15 but it's a little blurry. 

Next came the second chunk of this race, miles 15-19. And as per Tristen, I really needed to focus on these because they were the most important miles. I took my fifth gel at 15, and told myself only 2 more god awful gels! I probably drank from the water stop, too, because I had the tiny water bottle but was feeling so thirsty. I noticed my diaphragm was cranky like I couldn’t take a deep breath, or felt water logged. With my music in my ears, I lost focus on the spectators/other runners/my pace and form a bit here. I knew I wouldn’t see my family during this chunk and needed to prepare for my hills, but looking back I probably should have skipped the music as a distraction. 

From miles 11-16 I hovered right around a 9 min mile. Watch kept beeping at me but with music on I could block it out, (don't nag me about my pace, GARMIN). I knew I was slightly slowing down but also felt secure in keeping right under a 4 hour pace. 

At mile 17, I officially started feeling like a slug. My friend Ali called and I figured out how to answer it with my air pods. I was struggling, and couldn't even lie to her when she asked if I felt awesome (no). There were hills now and my legs didn’t want to go up them. I remember my watch said 9:30 pace which isn't horrible but I knew I was slipping. I indulged in my first water stop where I walked more than 3 steps and tried to regroup. The 3:55 pacers hadn't passed me yet. I wasn't panicking just yet.

Then mile 18 happened: a 10 min mile. I tried so hard to push harder, thinking, "Well, this is a classic wall point." I told myself I would NOT run a 10 min mile, knowing Tristan said even a 9:00 isn’t my full potential anymore. I just literally could not get my legs to go. I started bargaining with myself to not care as much and just keep moving. I wanted to walk, as my brain told me I’d feel instant relief. But I didn’t walk because I knew it would feel impossible to start back up again (the lesson learned in Chicago). I did feel myself getting passed a ton though, and I didn't even notice when the 3:55 pace group pulled away. Notable: there was a big screen of fans sending videos to runners, which was super cute. I think I had one AirPod in here and started hearing a few random text messages from friends come in. I knew so many people were tracking me and thinking of me and I didn't want to let them down, but by God I was tired. Why are marathons so hard?

At mile 19, I took in water and my sixth gel. I had to choke it down, and my stomach was feeling super gross. I definitely walked a few extra steps to recollect myself, then tried to find a few people in front of me and pretend to pull them in with a rope. Somewhere around here saw another Strider with Team Rehab shirt and let that feel like a good sign. I knew this was the final leg of my second chunk and I'd be crossing the Mississippi River next, ready to enter the last phase. 

Mile 20 was the start of my final leg and the start of the hills. Tristen had prepared me for the hills and they didn't scare me, and honestly they didn't affect my pace all that much. I was still hovering around a 10 minute mile and then I (finally) saw my family. I wanted to show them a big thumbs down and cry a little, but instead I just blew a big raspberry with my lips, and gave them high fives with a half of a grin. I was so tired but didn’t want the kids to be worried. 

Nate jumped in and jogged with me thankfully. He asked how I felt and I said not good, tired, wanted to walk, thirsty but might puke. He said I was doing great and the 4:00 pacers were in sight. I looked up and did see their little sign about 5 people in front of me. He said 'just a little faster and you'll still get under 4.' I found that hard to believe but it was slightly exciting. He said my estimated finish was at 12:04pm and I started at 8:06. "Ok I can do this, I want to get up there so badly but I'm also giving it my best right now and can't dig any deeper." He said I just needed to get over the hills then push and I'd be there. "I’ll see you at the finish. I love you," and he went back to the kids. I wish he could have run with me the rest of the way to pump me up but it wasn't in the cards this time! 

Miles 21-23 were (as promised) one big long gradual hill. They weren’t killer because I was already in the pain cave and I did expect them. I think I stopped for water both at 21 and 23. Saw a woman really struggling and crying and being very negative. I didn’t have it in me to pump her up. I was solely focused on moving forward and not walking. I saw many many people walking. I saw a mom stop running to get a group family pic and she looked so happy, which made me smile and feel slightly envious that she was enjoying this race while I was hating it. People were calling me out by name and I would muster up a thumbs up in return, but no eye contact because TIRED.

I remember at 20, 21, and 22 staying IN that mile, flashing my fingers at my side to remind myself where I was. (2, 1, 2, 1, 2....2, 2, 2, 2, 2). I would say goodbye to each past mile by slightly waving my hand at the ground, like BYE MILE 21, NEVER WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN. These hills did completely kill my pace though, as I registered 10:39-11:08 here. I'm a broken record at this point, but I definitely wanted to pick up the pace but my legs said otherwise. I will never stop overanalyzing why this happened. :)

At mile 23, I told myself 'just 3 miles. Let’s go.' Some down hills now appeared and I knew the uphill was done. I was getting tons of texts here that I loved hearing. I decided that I may be slowing down like CRAZY but I will not walk! Did stop for my final water stop at 23 but didn’t take the final gel here. Felt thirsty but water logged. I took a small sip and dumped the rest down my back as I was getting pretty hot. I also felt like I was passing a lot of people who were walking, and I would not allow myself to walk no matter how slowly I was running. Forward is a pace and all of that. 

Okay, let's go! Mile 24-saw Erin's family again!! And I told myself this was my old basketball number, I must have done hard things in high school and pulled through so I could do it again now. Pulled out both AirPods here right before seeing Erin cause I noticed the crowds were awesome and many cheer sections. Possibly some good music too, I think I remember half-dancing to Ed Sheeran.

Mile 25--I dug out my phone and took pic of the mile marker flag. It was so beautiful. I knew I could do one freaking mile. I wasn’t looking at pace at all (it was a 10:30), and just told myself to keep moving. Saw the Capitol and whimpered got a pic. I think I was grunting and mumbling here. I was almost finished.

My family was on my right side by the finish, just as Nate had texted me. I was looking for them and staring at the finish line at the same time. It was all downhill at the end, and I tried to push it but also didn’t want to fall on my face because my quads were now toast. I think I said, 'Aw man!' when I saw the clock time of 4:14, because until this point I didn't do any math in my head to know what my finish time would be. I also didn't feel *that* bummed because I WAS ALMOST FINISHED! PRAISE BE. 

I saw my family cheering for me, remembered to raise my arms up, and felt the sweet relief of stopping when I crossed the finish line. Official time? 4:07:38.

I saw my friend Ali to my left as she works the entire finish line, she asked how it was and I didn’t know how to respond, kinda stunned. Legs felt like actual jello and I wasn't walking in a straight line, which felt a little concerning. A guy said to keep walking, don't stop. I got my precious medal, Ali said to walk slowly and she’d get my people from their VIP spots she had secured. I grabbed a fruit cup and took a selfie, then chugged some water. I kept walking and went all the way out but should have waited cause the fam was inside the gauntlet too, but I didn't really know what was happening at this point. I found a curb by the big screen, Nate called me, I sat and removed my shoes (SWEET RELIEF). 

My family appeared and I got my hugs, a picture with them, and we chatted with Katelyn (who finished in 3:32 like a boss). We couldn't find Brittany, my amazing sister-in-law, who had watched the finish line from the other side. Nate called her and he was going to have her meet us inside the family meeting area, but I quickly decided we just needed to meet her at our car and get the heck out of the sun. 

I started to return 78 text messages from friends and family because I have a helluva support system that I don't take for granted. I texted Tristen, my coach, and felt nervous she might be disappointed in me for slipping away from my ultimate goal of a sub-4 hour race. Turns out coaches don't get upset with you for giving it your all, and she was super proud of me (just like everyone else). 

Well, they are all *proud* of me but Truman did admit that he's a little disappointed I didn't get under 4 hours. He's our first born rule follower who likes to follow a plan (Ahem, like his mama) so he doesn't quite understand why I didn't 'just run fast every mile.' He wanted it badly for me, and now that I've had a few days to decompress, I'm also feeling a little disappointed.

I know that smashing three out of four time goals is amazing. A 12 minute PR over my pre-kid self is truly everything I wanted out of a marathon....except that I wanted a little more. A 33 minute improvement over my Chicago marathon last year is also pretty impressive. But I feel like sub-four is also very attainable for me. I had perfect weather, amazing training, no injuries, did great with hydration and nutrition, tapered well, carb loaded, and my stomach was rock solid during race day. ALL SO GREAT. But still...

Other runners understand the mixed bag of emotions after a marathon. Non-runners absolutely do NOT get why I'd be even slightly bummed right now, so I'm not complaining to anyone (besides Nate) unless they specifically ask how I'm doing and I can tell they really mean it. I think I need more time to process and figure out why I couldn't hold my race pace. Maybe I needed a few miles to warm up? Maybe I just went out too fast and should have tried for more of a negative split despite the looming hills? Maybe my heart rate was high because I was more anxious than I thought I was? Maybe I was dehydrated even though I felt like I was good? My heart rate average was 157 for this race (usually 130s/140), and even my resting heart rate before the race was up near 75-80 and it's usually 60. 

Maybe I just cannot run less than a 9 minute mile average for a marathon. Maybe I should stick to halves and get faster and faster with 13.1. Maybe I was just overreaching with my goals I set for myself and I should cut myself some slack for once. Maybe 4:07 is good enough.

One thing I know for certain is that I'm taking time to rest, recover, and NOT run. I'm about to lose 1-2 toenails, my foot is killing me in a 'stabbing, something is NOT right' way, and I have absolutely zero desire to run right now. I am LOVING sleeping in until 6:40 and not working out at all, but it's only day 4 after the marathon so who knows how long this vibe will last. 

I might sign up for another marathon next year (cringe, breath hold, cringe). I don't do well when I can't check a box that is important to me. The question is, how important is it for me to run a sub-four hour marathon? The jury is still out on that one, my friends. 

*many more pictures found in Instagram, I don't feel like adding the same ones here!

** My Favorite Signs: 
"Why?” With a dog picture
Giant heads of people. One giant dog like 10 feet tall
You run better than our government 
You are really good at exercising
Where’s everyone going?
If it were easy, I’d be doing it
Run like your mom used your full name
Vikings score is…
Run like you got the last beer from Wisconsin 
Power up, punch here 
Giant Dino guy 
I’ll run with you tomorrow at 6am, meet here!
Tomorrow is a rest day

My Chicago Marathon 2021

In 2008, I was 27 years old and a newlywed, when I ran my first full marathon. Then I ran 9 halves, had 4 kids, and decided I wanted to do the impossible: run another full marathon, post-kids at age 40. I know, I'm a little bit crazy, as most runners are:) I trained with my friend Katie the summer of 2020 until I injured my calf and then the marathon was cancelled anyway that year due to Covid. On the scheduled race day of October 11, 2020, I was actually in bed with Covid. Sick, exhausted, and finishing rehab on my calf. It was not a fun time. 

Enter summer of 2021, when the Chicago Marathon was set to be ON, even though Covid is still not off. It would be the first time in 2 years that road races (not the virtual kind!) would happen. Chicago is a 'major', it boasts 35,000 runners and an incredible spectator turn out of at least 1 million people. So we trained beginning in June, through a hot/humid summer, in the dark, waking at 4:30am and running long runs at 6:00am on weekends. We'd run another 2-3 times during the week and I'd strength train 2 days per week, plus another day or two of cross training (Peloton!). There were Covid scares and quarantines, Nate had knee surgery the week before my race, I had started a small business, and so many other life distractions during those months of training. 

The time commitment to running a full marathon is what gave me pause, waiting 13 years in between my last. But Nate and I agreed to make this a priority in our family for this summer, knowing he'd have to pick up the slack in parenting most weekend mornings while I was out running for 3+ hours. I'd miss soccer games and social events. But team work makes the dream work, right? 

I had one really big goal for these 18 weeks of training: avoid injury. At 40 years old I know I cannot run 70 miles per week, nor do I want to. I'm proud to say I achieved this goal during our training cycle, which was no small feat in itself!

I had four goals for the race itself, in order of importance: have fun, finish, beat my previous time of 4:19 (or even Nate's previous time of 4:15), and don't poop myself. I totally smashed 3 out of 4 of those goals as you'll read soon. 

So how about I recap the marathon itself now, as it's taken a full day for me to compose my thoughts? 

Katie and I met at the starting line at 6:30, but our wave wasn't set to take off until an ungodly late 8:00 am. We were nervous as we kissed our husbands goodbye, but so READY to get the show on the road finally. We hit the porta potties, sat on the concrete and chatted, and then Katie waited for one more porta line before our corrals closed at 7:45. I was in awe watching all of the thousands and thousands of runners fill in the gaps in our corral. These are my people, a diverse crowd of runners with a common thread of focused determination to run 26.2. Old and young, big and small, but everyone tied together by grit and maybe a touch of stubbornness. The energy was pure electricity that morning, and we chatted with a few runners around us to get pumped up. Notable was the couple behind us, who had been friends since high school. It was her 9th marathon and his 3rd, and they were so positive and upbeat about the race ahead. 

When our wave FINALLY started to move, I knew it was game time and snapped a picture of the start line. No more anticipation, it was actually happening! 

I was prepared to go super slow in the beginning, because of the crowds of runners and because a classic rookie move is going out way too fast in the start. We did manages to stay under a 10 min/mile pace, for the first five miles which was perfect.  In those first four miles, I saw two sets of our friends from back home on the sidelines, each and every time we saw familiar faces it felt like a biggest surge of energy. We first found our husbands and Katie's kids and parents at mile 4 and I felt SO stinking excited to see our crew! 

Another remarkable memory is when we ran past an older couple, with signs on their backs that read 'this is my 100th marathon' (!!!!). I yelled over to them that they were incredible. I asked where their first marathon was, and they said 'Chicago!'. They said it was in 1980 or 1981, and I told them this was Katie's first marathon:) They were adorable and pumped us up, saying we needed to enjoy this race because it's just the best. I asked if this was the hottest marathon they've done and they said, 'Well we are from Arizona, so no.' They said the coldest was in Fargo, we thanked them for being amazing, and we were off. One hundred marathons, you guys. 

I took 1/2 of a gel at 5.5 miles, and then by mile 8.5 Katie waved me on while she made a bathroom break. I had hoped to run the first 10 with her, but I also had high hopes of my time goal and for her first marathon, she just wanted to finish (spoiler alert, she totally did it!). So I gave her a quick hug and a pep talk and went ahead. I wanted to push faster but still felt like maybe I should keep my speed in check until the first half was completed, not wanting to tank later.

At mile 11 I took a full gel, and realized my stomach was feeling mighty fine! I saw more friends on the sideline somewhere around here and got another surge of energy, right before rounding the corner near 13 and seeing a man down. 

He was on the left side of the road, someone was lifting his legs overhead (to get the blood back to his head, I guess) and another person was rubbing his chest because he wasn't responding. Immediately I started to spiral mentally. I saw an RN and then an MD with an AED walking towards the scene, and another runner said 'You need to get back there fast!' It really shook me up more than it should have, but I just kept wondering what the hell we were doing out there. That was someone's husband and I felt teary just thinking about him when I heard sirens starting from afar. I still have no idea what happened to him but I'm hopeful he was 'just' passed out from exhaustion and dehydration. 

Crossing the 13 mile marker, I remember telling myself to pull it together. I think I first popped in one AirPod to listen to music and vowed to myself that I'd listen to my body even MORE than before and I honestly didn't even look at my pace again until mile 20. This is also when it registered that my quads were on FIRE. I knew this was really really early in the run to have burning quads but had to push along. My legs never felt this bad on any of our long runs but I tried not to think too much about it while jamming to my marathon playlist. 

Here is where I should mention the Event Alert Status system for marathons. 

The week before the marathon, we started getting emails about how the event had moved into the Yellow/Moderate zone because of the heat and humidity. Slow down! Hydrate! Find extra water stations/ice bags/wet sponges on the course. They were less than ideal conditions for sure, and although temps in the 70s aren't usually that oppressive in October, they certainly feel horrible when running for multiple hours. Later in the race I noticed that they had moved us into the Red category. This was the forecast from the marathon app, check that humidity. Barf.

Anyway, I saw Nate and Katie's husband at mile 14 and instead of just pumping my fist 'hello', I wanted a hug from Nate. So I ran over and snagged a sweaty hug and told him my quads were on fire, and that I saw a guy down back there. He assured me I was doing great and he'd see me soon, so I was off on my way towards 15. 

Boys town was up next and I yanked out my AirPods to fully experience the joy here. I freaking LOVED this neighborhood with the drag queens dancing up on platforms, along either side of the race. The signs there were hilarious and the happiness was just contagious. 

I was running along side of the 4:20 pacers for awhile there. It got us a lot of cheers 'FOOOOOOUR TWENTY, BABYYYYY!' and I was thinking that I still really wanted to be ahead of this pace group. But my quads were failing me big time at this point and I was nervous they'd lock up all together. I was taking in a ton of water along the way, carrying my own water bottle at first and then I started using the water stops by mile 15. I'd take a small sip and then dump the rest on my head and down my back to cool off. The wet sponges were pretty cool too, and I did grab handfuls of ice to put under my hat and down my sports bra. 

Mile 16 seemed impossibly slow and so far from the finish line. Looking back at my pace, this is when I struggled to stay quicker than an 11 min/mile average.  I kept repeating 'sweet sixteen' in my head and tried listening to music, pulling out my air pods when I'd come across 'real' music in a neighborhood. I wanted to pull energy from the crowd and talk to other runners around me but I also felt so depleted that I just couldn't. I had to go internal for a bit and work things out alone, in my mind. 

At mile 17 I took another 1/2 of a gel and started making myself walk through each water station, just a little longer each time. I also stopped to the side and stretched my quads for the first of about 3 times at this point. It hurt so badly to stretch but I was still scared they'd lock up if I didn't. I saw another person down, stretcher on the way and had to avert my eyes to stay focused. 

Some of the signs along the route were seriously epic. A few of my favorites that stuck with me: "Smile if you peed a little", "Your legs hurt because you're a badass", "Toenails are for losers," "You obviously got Moderna", "Remember that you paid for this", "You're almost done #fakenews" at mile 2. There was a guy dressed up as a vintage coach with a clipboard that made me LOL, actual nuns, a runner dressed as the pope, spectators in blow up panda costumes (that gave me an aggressive high five), and a ton of signs that had the mushroom from Mario Brothers on it that said 'touch for power'. I tried to slap every single one of those along the way! 

I saw Nate on the left side of the race at mile 18, so I hobbled over to him for a quick chat. He said he was going to meet me near the finish line and my heart sank a little because I wanted to see him again before that. It seemed so far away. He asked how I felt and I said 'not great, can we PLEASE get an Uber after this to get back to the hotel?' and he agreed. I kissed him and hobbled off, and he texted me a few minutes later to say 'You are crushing it'. I think he knew I needed more pep talks and it totally worked. I had my phone in my pocket and when I had an AirPod, I could sort of hear when a text came through. I was getting so many texts all morning and couldn't read them all but did glance down a few times. So many of my crew were tracking me on the marathon app and apparently it was working well all morning. Saw Truman say 'Good job mom' once and felt teary. Oh, the emotions at mile 18. 

Every time I stopped for water, it felt harder and harder to get started again. I had to talk to myself and dig deep. And somehow it was mile 19! I took a picture because I remember thinking 'this is the most beautiful site I've seen and I want to remember it.' I also took one at mile 20, plus a selfie, and saw a sign that said '6.2 to go' which got me seriously amped up. We did a 20 mile run for the longest training run, and I told myself this was officially the longest I'd run....in 13 years. :)

At mile 20, I also looked at my watch and saw I'd been running for 3 hours 45 min. My initial goal of beating 4:15 was very obviously out of the window, but I let myself dream of being done in just 30 minutes away. Instead, I thought about finishing in 4:30 which I knew would also mean a big push. I tried to go a little faster here and my legs would.not.do.it. I took my last 1/2 gel at mile 21 and threw the packet away aggressively, the taste in my mouth was so disgusting! I had also been using my own LMNT electrolyte drink in my holsters which really tasted like hell, but I knew I needed electrolytes and didn't want to deal with the Gatorade on the course.

Everything gets a little blurry after this, but I ran through Chinatown and didn't even see the big paper dragons---the one thing Nate prepped me to enjoy. I snapped another pic of mile 22 and saw my college friend again with signs just for me. I wanted to take a picture of her and my sign but I just couldn't muster up the energy, but it did give me a little more pep in my step! I refused to quit on myself and my stubborn tendencies were shining at that moment. I remember checking my heart rate, which strangely never really gets above 145 bpm even with super hard workouts. It was right at 146 which reassured me, because it definitely felt a little fluttery/weird for a hot minute.

Mile 23: 'Just 3 more miles. A simple 3 mile loop at home. Just 3 more miles. I can do this'. I must have allowed myself to walk even longer at this mile marker though, based on my slowest pace of the entire race. I saw Katie's sister waiting for her to jump in and run, and I gave her a huge high five. I told myself I would never, ever do another full again. I'll stick to halves, and try to get faster. Or maybe I'll never run again, or just take a month off....I don't know, but I was bargaining with myself that I never have to run again if I don't want to. I repeated 'beast mode' as a mantra along with 'we can do hard things' and anything else that I could pull from the depths of my soul to KEEP GOING. I wanted to walk forever and ever but I also just wanted to be finished as soon as possible.

Mile 24: 'Just two more freaking miles. 20 minutes. I CAN DO THIS!!!!" I remember stopping to stretch, walk for about 20 seconds, and then almost started to cry when I got started again because my quads hurt so badly. They were just wobbly, like they might give out on me but I knew I couldn't let that happen. I tried to tell myself that this was nothing compared to childbirth, especially to Wallace's med-free birth when I was stuck at 7cm for 2 hours. It honestly didn't help my mental state that much to think, 'I didn't die then and I'm not going to die now!' :) I told myself that pain is just temporary and I'm equipped to handle the pain. But I also wondered how long it would take me to recover from this race.  

I hit mile 25 and got a text from Nate saying he was up on my right side. I was very aware of how tired I looked and like my gait was totally sloppy, out of control. I pulled my AirPods out for the final time and tried to just be present. I counted my steps like, '1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3' and just tried to get one foot in front of the other. I saw Nate at 25.5 and tried super hard to muster up a smile for him. Which reminds me: every time I saw a pro photographer I decided to fake it until I made it, with goofy smiles and poses that I hope will translate into pure insanity. 

I looked up and saw the infamous hill around mile 26. I told myself that I could NOT walk it, no matter how slowly I jogged, and I didn't walk. I kept going. Even when I saw a woman sitting down, passing out, and someone was grabbing her by the shoulders. I kept going, wanting to see the finish line so badly.

I turned my head to the left and saw the most glorious site of my entire life (at that moment). The finish line!!! I snapped a blurry pic and went for it, my legs and feet basically numb at this point. I choked back an exhausted tear and remembered to smile for all of the cameras. They were announcing our names as we crossed the finish line, and if they did say mine they totally botched my last name but I didn't even care. I did it. I finished in 4:40 which is not at all what I hoped, but I can promise you in that moment time didn't matter. 

Crossing the finish line after a race that brutal, that humid, that intense was truly magical. Euphoric, even. The relief was immediate and I gladly accepted a water bottle as the herds of champions walked through the gauntlet. I heard the medals clinking and someone handed me mine. It was beautiful. I high fived a dude next to me, and we kept walking down to collect protein shakes and bananas and whatever else we could hold. I got a reflective blanket and a wet towel for my neck and called Nate to see where to meet him. 

Notable: not one time did I have to stop for a porta potty! Yes, I peed my pants but no poop issues, praise be! And if my Strava is accurate, which it doesn't appear to be, I only walked about 4 minutes total for the whole race. Total steps that day: 54,411 and 31.16 miles trekked. DANG.

It was a bit of a bottle neck getting out of the finish line area and I ended up sitting on a curb, removing my socks and shoes, and telling Nate to come and find me on the corner of Jackson and Columbus. I sat starting at my poor blistered feet, sipping a disgusting banana protein shake, and returning a few texts to friends. I felt so much support from my girl gang, my family, my friends, and even YOU, dear internet. So many people were pulling for Katie and I all morning, and we are pretty lucky to have such an awesome support system! Then Nate called to say he couldn't get in to me, and I needed to walk out to Michigan ave. I said I would try but I would be barefoot because NOPE to putting on my shoes again. 

I had a stranger snap a picture of me as I walked past tall buildings (barefoot, ha), and then I found my guy. He gave me my slides and held my stinky shoes and gave me a big hug. I had another stranger snap our picture and then Nate told me he had bad news: no Ubers available for at least 30 minutes, so we had to walk the mile to our hotel. I fought back a tear and just said 'ok but I'm going painfully slow'. 

We made it back, I showered and discovered about 5 places of intense chafing, and collapsed into the bed. I tried to nap a little bit since I had slept awful the night before and had just run for 4.5 hours:) I honestly haven't been sleeping great since the night before the marathon, but I know my body needs the rest. We stayed the night in our hotel Sunday night, and left Monday around 11 to come home.  I missed the kids dearly but also feel some serious post-race blues. I'm exhausted beyond words and so incredibly sore. But I'm happy and proud of myself for not giving up. 

I know that runners are more than their times. Missing a time goal is really small potatoes in the grand scheme of things and yet, it feels pretty lousy after the fact. I definitely gave it my best that day and for all of my training. But I don't feel like my time accurately reflects my training, my fitness, or my abilities. For reference, my typical half marathon time is 1:52-2:00. I really wanted 4:14 or less on Sunday, and I'm not totally sure what went wrong (besides humid conditions, and crazy-angry quads). While 4:40 isn't 'bad', it's just not even close to what I had hoped to get. Fellow runners will understand this, right?

*If* I do another full marathon again, I'd do just a few things differently: I'd remember to make a sign with my name on my chest, so strangers could cheer for me. I'd line up friends to run with me in segments to keep me going. And I'd really love to see my kids as spectators! Chicago's crowds just did not allow for that this time, and Nate had planned to run with me but then he needed knee surgery so that was out. I'd train about the same, I think----maybe focusing on more speedwork, but I'm also really glad I didn't push so hard that I got injured. 

Before the marathon, when Nate and I were eating a big Italian dinner, he asked me if I was planning to run another marathon after this. I said, 'It depends on how I do tomorrow. If it's a great race and I'm pleased with my time, then I'll be done. If not, I'll probably have to do another'. The night of the marathon, he said, 'Well, so are you going to do another?' I want to say YES. It's just too soon to tell. Once I can walk without a limp I'll let you know. I still feel pretty chewed up and spit out by Chicago, and need to plot my revenge once fully recovered. 

I know that nothing in life is a guarantee and I feel serious gratitude for being able to complete this Chicago Marathon. I did it. What a whirlwind, a magical, horrible, wonderful whirlwind. 

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