Monday, October 11, 2021

2021 Crystal Lake Half Marathon: The one that almost broke me.

 I won't mince words about this race. Physically and emotionally it was one of the hardest race I've ever done.

Everytime I sit down to write this post I'm also at a loss for what to say, because the circumstances that drove the emotion behind this race are still very real to me. I'm still dealing with them every day (and yeah I'm gonna be vague about all of that). The truth is, this race was only the beginning of what are turning out to be the most taxing months of my life. Eventually the dust will settle, but I'm still so far from that "finish" that I can't even comprehend how to explain what I was going through emotionally during this race.

But I guess let me try?

I spent all summer thinking I would cruise through that finish line (due to the hard work and training all summer!) with a smile on my face and get a great picture ringing the PR bell, knocking 10 minutes off last year's time.

Spoiler alert: It did not go that way. I did PR...but it was a fight at the end. It was a fight to knock 5 minutes off. Hell. It was a fight to show up for the race. So read on to find out about that.

I'm going to skip my normal full-race-experience recap and just get into it. If you want logistic details, see my CL Aquathon post, because most of that stuff is the same.

Getting to the Start Line

On Saturday morning (September 4th), after a tumultuous night, I somehow managed to get my 2 mile "shakeout" run in. At this point, I realized I had hit probably the lowest of lows in my personal life. I was - to put it mildly - a massive fucking wreck. But after 12 weeks of training hard for this race - the early mornings and speed workouts and long runs and everything - I decided that I couldn't not show up. With everything going on, I felt I deserved to do this one thing for myself.

So I left my house, drove to packet pickup, and then went to my mom's and...did nothing. Which I suppose is exactly what I needed to do before I race. Do nothing, interspersed with lots of crying.

As the night wound down, I got ready for bed and did my pre-race prep. I laid out my outfit, packed my gear check bag, and ran through my plan for the next day. In the end, I knew the accomplishment would be just showing up, but I spent all summer chasing a goal and I couldn't let that go. I knew it would be a struggle - I was coming off more than a week of poor sleep, poor eating, poor mental state...etc etc etc...but I owed it a shot regardless.

Flat Christina, ready for the race.

Coach Megan picked the absolute perfect design for this tank.

I laid down and tried to sleep (I was exhausted), but my alarm still went off at too-early-o'clock the next morning.

I got ready, but I felt physically sick the whole time. I grabbed one of the kids' granola bars to eat before the start and barely choked it down. I got in my pre-race coffee, and packed up my pre workout to drink 30 minutes before the start. I hydrated like I knew I had to, praying I wouldn't have gut issues from stress.

My mom drove me to Main Beach, parked and gave me a kiss and a hug and reassurances that I would do fine. I trusted that she was right.

I love that this race starts at Main Beach, because there's nostalgia all over for me. This is where I went to summer camp as a kid, and even though it's changed it's somehow exactly the same. Here are some pre-race pics, to give you an idea:
Race morning at Main Beach!

Right before my warmup and shakeout run. I know there's sadness in those eyes, and I embraced it. Making it to the start became the goal, and I met it.

Smith's beach chair!

One of the racers was a firefighter who geared up for all 13.1.

Beautiful morning at the beach.

Hanging out before the start, talking with the other Performance Training Runners (I'm all the way on the right!).

FYI: I'm so grateful for this training program and the group of people who came with it. Seeing and training with them every Wednesday was a fun addition to summer, and they made me feel 100% less alone on race day ❤
The Half Marathon Performance Training group! It was a fun 12 weeks getting to the start line! (Left to Right: Bill, Coach Megan, Cori, Me, Sue, Kristi).

Pre race gear check, trying to shove my pack and sweatshirt into a tiny purple bag. I'm a chronic over-packer 😬

I saw these two women SO MANY TIMES out on the course!!

Race Director Trudy Wakeman out by the start!

Walking to the starting line.

I love this race-day atmosphere!

Shout out to Cori (all the way on the left - blue tank, orange shoes), who was subjected to one of my race morning breakdowns and gave me a little pep talk before we went out.


Last year I PR'd this race by 8 minutes, and I hadn't even trained for it. I'd actually run a 10 miler the week before, just to make sure I could run double digits. And after getting that PR I wondered..."what if I had actually trained...?" So when the training program was offered, I signed up right away.

And after 12 weeks of solid training with a coach - which PS was one of the best investments ever - I was off.

I'll let you Where's Waldo? this one.

I really need to work on landing over my foot more consistently...

I was going to put my personal life on hold for 13.1 miles.

I was going to run around a town I love and relive a lifetime of memories as I did.

I was going to push my pace as long as my body would let me, and then I would slow down and enjoy the rest of the run.

I had my mantras lined up.
My 2016 Chicago Marathon mantra: You can. You will. You already are.
A text from my coach after my hellish week: Your run fitness is solid.
And a line from Luca for whenever I needed to shut up the voice in my head: Silenzio, Bruno!

I forgot to take a picture until after I had already showered :(

I stuck to Coach Megan's advice and took the first two miles pretty easy. I had plenty before me, I didn't need to impress anyone. I will say though, it's hard to not get caught up in the race atmosphere and burn through those first few miles on pure adrenaline.

I hit Mile 1 in 9:32, going a little fast. I hit Mile 2 in 9:44, my sunglasses steaming from the cold air hitting my hot face, right when the sun was peeking over the houses and blinding me. Convenient...

I did my best to take my mind off of anything that could make it falter. I kept my pace easy by talking to other runners. I thanked volunteers. I talked to spectators and thanked them. From Miles 3 to 4 I followed another runner who I was keeping pace with by staring at his bright red shoes. I congratulated and had a whole conversation with someone running his first half marathon, having worked up to the distance from 10k in the spring. He had a funny shirt that said on the back "Yes I am: ✅ Crazy ✅ In Pain ✅ I paid to do this" - it still wasn't as cool as my shirt, but props to the guy!

Mile 3 rolled in at 9:25 - and Mile 4 matched it with 9:25 again. Mile 3 surprised me because it was mostly on crushed limestone through Lippold Park, so when we emerged I wasn't going to slow my roll. If I did it on trail, I could do it on road, right?

Somewhere around this time I decided to keep my miles sub-10 as long as I could. I was confident I could get to 8 miles without having to drop pace, so on I went.

Mile 5 had us coming back toward the lake, and I clocked in at 9:37. Another good mile, on pace.

Aside: I'm including this next, seemingly random picture because I owe this woman a shout out. When I went for my warm up jog (which ended up being very short, and not at all the 5-10 min it was supposed to be), I had another massive breakdown. I could feel it coming so I ran away from the beach area, and got to a point where I just had to stop and let it all come out. This woman - whose name is Olivia - came over to comfort me and make sure I was alright. (I was decidedly not alright, but she stuck around to make sure I would be okay.) So she gets a shout out for being a good person and comforting a complete stranger.

Now where were we? Ah yes. Mile 6.

I was pretty sure there would be photographs between miles 5 and 6, and that my running group friend Kristi would be volunteering. I was excited for a little boost, and I was feeling awesome coming around the turn back by the lake. I saw Kristi and she cheered so loudly for me ❤ I riled up the spectators (no one was cheering!) by saying "I need you to cheer louder!!" and they did! I made faces at Dana as I ran by her:

Making faces at Dana

Still feeling strong and - as always - happy to be racing.

I ran through Mile 6 in 9:28 and was still feeling good, but this is where the course starts to get a little less exciting, and I admittedly usually feel good through this point. I was keeping a very good pace though, and was consistently passing people so I tried to focus on putting one foot in front of the other - at that good pace.

Mile 7 hit in 9:39, and I felt good enough that I thought it was time to move the goalpost. I knew I would run another sub-10 mile with no issues, so I decided to aim for the first 10, sub-10. Doing so would ensure I banked enough time that I could walk during the last 5k if I needed to and (hopefully) hit my PR goal.

Mile 8 (9:32) brought me out of Wedgewood and onto Golf Course Road, which I'm very familiar with. I had to choke back a moment, remembering hopping onto the sidewalk and running with Ant Man on this part of the course last year. It was another reminder that the kids wouldn't be at the finish, which I was really upset about.

But I pushed it down and kept going. I was starting to feel the miles and the pace. When I hit Mile 9 in 9:29 I had another flashback - this was where I started to fall apart during the race last year. I just kept telling myself 'one more mile and you can do what you want' to keep my legs moving at that sub-10 pace.

The further I went, the more I felt it. I was so grateful to finally hit Mile 10 - 9:38 - and I stopped to walk and drink some water. I'd hit my 10 miles in 1:35: 34, which I'm pretty sure is a record for me. And I took that win. Shit was getting hard, and my physical and mental game were both slipping. This is also the part of the course I like the least - it's residential and boring without any real crowd support all I wanted was to get onto the prairie path.

I did my best to work on a .1 walk, .9 run ratio. I told myself I'd done the work, I would PR no matter what (true, even if I wouldn't meet the time goals I wanted), and I just needed to keep moving. 

Mile 11 came in at 11:02. A definite drop. I walked my .1, then went onwards with the running. My run pace had slowed to about 10:40 and felt like a crawl, so I was definitely done banking any kind of time. It was pure attrition at that point. Just get to the finish.

The last two miles of this race are deceptively windy. I know CL like the back of my hand, and it's maddening knowing just how close you are to the finish as the crow flies or the car drives, but that the course takes you the opposite direction...multiple times.

By the time I got to Mile 12 (11:42) I was so done. I was doner than done. I was the donest. And I still had a mile (and a quarter, the course is long!) to go. And I knew it.

And around that point is when I thought about everything that was going to come with the finish line, and my emotions started to break through. I was tired from everything. My life alone exhausted me. This race was exhausting me. I didn't hit my (albeit, lofty) A goal. I didn't keep pace. I still had a mile left. I was going to cry at the finish and everyone would see. There was no way I wouldn't cry. The kids wouldn't be there. As much as I wanted them there, to hear Ant tell me "Mommy you're all sweaty!" and to have Dre immediately try to hug wasn't going to happen. And I was reaching my breaking point. My life was falling apart, and I was about to too.

Silenzio, Bruno!

So I thanked the volunteers.

Silenzio, Bruno!

And I thought about how a year ago, my left hamstring was really bothering me by this point, and now it wasn't.

Silenzio, Bruno!

I thought about how this course isn't 13.1 miles, and why don't they move the start back .15 miles, or move the finish up .15 miles? It would probably be easier to move the start, right? Hmm, I wonder if I just am not running enough tangents? But surely that wouldn't add .15 miles?

Silenzio, Bruno!

Bottom line, I distracted myself enough. I gave feeble waves to people walking their dogs.

And just as I came up on 13 miles...there was Coach Megan, ready to run me in.

Annnnnd I started crying. While running. Which is such a fantastic thing to do to your lungs when they are already on fire. I knew this could happen (Megan being there, not me crying) but having tangible support for what had become the hardest mental part of the race was overwhelming.

And Megan did exactly what her coaching had done for me all summer: She pushed me to what I thought was impossible. My pace dropped from 10:30 to 8:30. I rolled past mile 13 in 10:09. I told myself "There is only a quarter mile left. You have run a quarter mile a million times. You can run this pace for a quarter mile. Silenzio, Bruno!" Megan queued me into shorter strides up the last (evil) incline. Around the turns. And she peeled off right as the finish line appeared.

In I ran.
Feeling it.

Not the smile I had at Mile 5. This was pure determination.

Do you even run if you don't have a race picture starting or stopping your Garmin?

There it was in front of me. After 2 hours, 10 minutes, and 33 seconds, the PR bell I'd been chasing for a year.

And I rang it. While I cried.

As I cried, my mom, my cousin Jennie, and my Best Runner Friend Lisa joined Megan in gathering around me and comforting me as the moment and all of the emotions went through me. It still brings me to tears because as I have continued to walk through some of the hardest months of my life, what has stood out to me is how supportive the women around me have been, and how grateful I am for that.

I won't lie. I sat there crying for so long that someone actually had to ask me to move so she could ring the bell. I felt bad...but also didn't care. Because sometimes running is about more than running. It is about everything that comes with your life. Sometimes it's about chasing something, and sometimes it's about running from something.

This race turned out to be both.

I owe these finish line pics to Lisa. She had the foresight to step back and take them, knowing that sometimes we need to mark even the hardest of moments. She also drove 90 minutes from Milwaukee to see me finish, after finding out the boys wouldn't be there...because she's the best Best Runner Friend ❤

I can't write a post about this race without giving a massive shout out to Megan for helping me through. Her coaching kept me moving and chasing goals all summer, even if it was just hitting paces for speedwork. I cannot tell you how much of a difference it made having a coach, and it's become a necessity for me in my running "career". The Half Marathon Performance Training program is a gem and a steal, and if you're targeting the CL Half (or any fall half) next year, you should sign up. Smith PT and Running Academy offers run coaching for all levels, and Megan is who you work with. I have nothing but great things to say - if you're questioning it, just do it. You won't regret it.

Megan and I have some ultra fun adventuring planned for 2022, and I know she's just as excited as I am. No matter what (else) comes at me in life, I'm at least relieved to know I don't have to plan out my own training schedule 😉

Finally...I have no shame in saying I've become attached to this race. How can you not become attached to a home town challenge? As long as I can keep my ducks in a row  uhh in the same general vicinity of each other err in the same pond, I will be back for it again next year.

2:10:33 is the time to beat.


(And ps...I'd like to have fewer reasons to cry next year.)

Friday, September 3, 2021

2021 Crystal Lake Aquathon

Alright peeps, I'm gonna try VERY hard to bring race reports back, and after I hit "publish" on this on, part of the goal is being timely about them too.

I fell off the wagon for a while last two were from the 2019 Cocoa Classic 5k and the 2020 Frozen Gnome 10k, both of which I published like a month after the actual races. And I kid you not, I just deleted drafts I'd started for the 2019 (!!!) Pleasant Prairie Triathlon and the 2020 Crystal Lake Half Marathon (which I PR'd...and am running for the second time in 2 days!).

But, whatever. Since I have another race coming up this weekend, it's time to get this one published! You know I like to go all out and in depth for these, so go get a beverage to sip while you read all about...

The 2021 Crystal Lake Aquathon!

About the Race
The Crystal Lake Aquathon is produced by Smith PT & Running Academy, out of Crystal Lake, IL.

It's the only Aquathon in Crystal Lake (in Illinois?) and they go all out to make sure it's accessible to those who want to participate. There are several options for the race:

  • Sprint distance: 500m swim, 5k run
  • Olympic distance: 1 mile swim, 10k run
  • Swim Only: 2 mile swim
  • Relay options: Sprint or Olympic
  • Kid's race: 250m swim in shallow water, 1 mile run (ages 7-13, can be done as a relay) 
  • Adaptive Swim: 1 mile

If you're really interested in the courses: The Sprint and Olympic distances had different swim courses, but the same run course (Sprint was 1 lap, Olympic was 2 laps). The Olympic, 2 mile swim, and Adaptive all had the same swim course (Olympic/Adaptive was 1 lap, 2 mile was 2 laps).

There were multiple packet pickup options - including Friday, Saturday, and race day. The swag was good - I love the t-shirt from this race (it helps that the logo is legit!). This year's "medal" was a multi-purpose tool/bottle opener (like, one that's actually sturdy and functional!) so you can relive the race memories with each use! (Kids got sunglasses instead.)

The race benefits Girls on the Run of Northwest Illinois, and they even have a cheering booth set up on course. GotR is a great cause regardless, so having the girls (and their coaches) on course showing their support is a nice touch.

If this race interests you, save the date for the 2022 race - August 7th!

The Lead Up
The Crystal Lake Aquathon was August 1st (holy shit a full month ago 😂), and it was a blast! Not that you'll believe that from these first few paragraphs! It was my first race since April (at the Ornery Mule Earth Day Trail Race). It was also my first foray back into multi sport since September 2019, when I was 12 weeks postpartum from Baby #2 (aka Andre) and did the Pleasant Prairie triathlon (thanks, COVID).

And let me tell you...the imposter syndrome was real before this race. At a race surrounded by triathletes, I have never felt less like one. I flashed back to the PP tri where I put my wetsuit on backwards 🤦‍♀️ (which I never wrote about, but yeah, that happened).

I also spent the few days leading up to the race feeling like I might be getting sick. I know this is a touchy subject these days, but it's pertinent to the story (as you'll discover in the run section). I spent the week thinking I was having allergy problems, and nailed some runs including a speed workout, which lent itself to "not sick" - but with 2 kids in daycare who will open-mouth sneeze into my face, there's always a chance it's something else.

Anyways: I woke up the day of the race feeling okay, but still had that question mark feeling in the back of my throat. Once I was up and moving I felt fine, so I put it to the back of my mind, and instead panicked about the swim. 

My life has been pretty lite on swimming this summer, and there has been no open water swimming, so I was beyond nervous about the swim portion the week of the race. Like, to the point of nausea. My biggest concern was that it wouldn't be wetsuit legal because of the increasingly hot weather, and my lack of swimming meant I wanted the buoyancy of my wetsuit to help me along.

I had to get over it though, and came to terms with the fact that I wouldn't be able to wear a wetsuit. As my Papa Bender said in a text right before race day:

Remember, it doesn't know it's a lake - it just thinks it's water, which is the same stuff you find in a pool - and those don't freak you out at all.

Always good advice from Papa Bender! I kept these words in my head all morning, right until I was feeling settled and confident in the water.

This sweet little boy woke up and came downstairs just in time to say goodbye to me!

I headed out from my mom's at 6am, and on my way to Three Oaks I ate a banana and granola bar. I felt sick with nerves with every bite I took. I just was not feeling good. I waited to drink my preworkout (Nuun Prime) because my routine is to drink it 30-45 minutes before I start an effort and the race didn't start until 7:30.

I got to the park with plenty of time to pick up my packet and set up my transition (which I forgot to take a picture of). Even though I was really hoping for wetsuit legal water temps (ie under 78 degrees) I left my wetsuit in the car. The water temp the day before had been 78, and even though it was a cool night I wasn't going to get too hopeful. I knew I'd have to go back to my car to drop off my packet goodies, and figured if I got lucky I could grab it then.

Well...I completely lucked out! When I walked up to the pickup table a sign said the water temp was 73 degrees...which meant the race would be wetsuit legal! I also saw a few friendly faces (my coach, and someone from the run group I'm doing for the CL Half) and got checked in, bibbed up, and grabbed my timing chip.

I found a spot somewhere easy to remember, laid out what I had, and then walked back to my car to get my wetsuit bag. Which, PS, this is my wetsuit these days - I'm fairly certain it fell victim to Ovy's boredom at some point:

Random pic of the body marking area and Trudy Wakeman:
In green on the left is Trudy, who did the race production for the event. The race wouldn't have happened without her!

I had so much extra time that I walked around a bit to loosen up my legs and called Anthony to chat. I wasn't able to video chat him because something's up with my speakerphone, but I took some pictures to send him, and a video describing the (1 mile) swim course. 

Looking out at perfection. Could not have asked for better race weather!

Selfie time! Sporting gear from another local race organizer too. Might as well stamp "I'm from Crystal Lake" on my forehead haha.

Denise (Race Director) called us all over to walk us through the swim course, since we couldn't see part of it from the starting line. The most important information was this: You turn at the duck, you turn at the unicorn, then head to the flamingo to finish!

I'm not joking either! Normally swim course buoys are boring - you turn at triangles and circles indicate you swim straight. But they'd set up the course with a giant yellow duck for the first turn, a giant unicorn for the second turn, and a bright pink flamingo to indicate when to head back to shore. So fun!

Finally, here we all were, just before the National Anthem played. I'm in the front of this pic all the way on the right, kinda leaning forward!

The person on the left looking towards the camera is Jacqui Guiliano, and she won the Olympic race!

The Swim
I put together this pic to show the normal OWS swim path at Three Oaks (on the left) and the race course for the Aquathon (on the right) - use the 3 islands as a reference point. The portion of the lake I'm used to swimming in is contained right in front of the beach, inside all of the islands. The 1 mile path for the Olympic swim was outside all of those bounds, and reached much closer to the center of the lake:

In the end, the swim was mostly uneventful. I had a little bit of anxiety at the beginning for two reasons. The first is that I wasn't actually ready for the start! I hadn't put my goggles over my eyes, and didn't have both my earplugs in because I'd been listening to the national anthem. Such a silly reason to not be ready, but there you go. I got everything on/in as I waded into the water, and then started swimming.

Which led to the second reason to be anxious...everyone started at once, which I've never really experienced. My first Sprint tri in 2016 had a little bit of that, but the other starts I've been in were much smaller and more spaced out. So the chaos in the water at the start meant I kept my head 100% above the surface for the first few hundred yards. I didn't want to get kicked, and I didn't want to get swum over, and I thought the best way to do that was to be heads up the whole time.

As we started. Not sure which one is me! And it honestly felt like we were WAY closer together than this pic shows!

Once I settled in, it was easy swimming. I had to stop for a couple seconds to adjust my goggles - I'd put them on so quickly that one of the straps was dangling over my head, and the left lens was leaking like crazy! After I fixed that, I was good!

I ended up at the front of the back-pack swimmers, which is where I kind of expected to be. I'm not a fast swimmer. I'm a pretty strong swimmer - in that I can swim distance for ages - but I do not go fast. And after months of swimming maybe once a week I just do not have the strength to even go me-fast. I honestly expected a 2:10/100 for this (or slower), and someone managed a 2:06! I'll take it!

The other silly thing that happened during the swim - which was weirdly a huge help in calming my nerves - was that I could not get myself to pee. TMI for all of you, I'm sure. It's super common in races for people to pee in the water before the end of the swim, and I was a total noob and didn't go to the bathroom right before we started. Going into the water I could feel I had to go, so starting at about 600 yards I tried...and I just couldn't. I spent 1,300 yards trying to pee, and it did not happen.


As soon as I got out of the water, I booked it to the bathroom to pee. Which also meant taking off my wetsuit in the bathroom 👍😂 I swear to god I've done this whole "race thing" before...

And in spite of all the noob-moves, I still managed to look like I had some kind of experience doing this when my friend/coach Megan snapped these pictures of me heading into transition:

It was uneventful, and I took my time, even aside from the pit-stop thing. I had a bit of adrenaline flowing from the swim finally being over, and I was trying to relax and ensure I wouldn't book it too fast onto the run course. I actually sat down to put my shoes and socks on (the adrenaline was making me shaky), and I shoved some Honey Stinger Chews in my mouth for good measure.

Socks on.
Shoes on.
Hat on.
Bib on.

Time to run!

The Run
Because of all the hard work I've been putting into my run this summer, this was the part I was really looking forward to. I knew I was a bit fatigued from the swim and all the anxiety that went with it, but I was hoping for a good 10k.

As I started the run, I noticed that my lungs During the swim I thought the feeling was anxiousness, but as I started to run I realized it was probably more like Day 1 of a cold. My chest felt a little tighter than normal, and even though my body felt great, it became apparent that my lungs were going to hold me back a bit during the run.

Before I go on, I want to say this: For all the flat pavement on offer in Crystal Lake, this course offered very little of it. I knew going in that was the deal, but yikes, the hills still surprised me! I also chose trail shoes for this run, because I knew it would be a mix of crushed limestone, dirt/grass, and pavement. If you do this race, trail shoes are a good choice!

As far as goals for the race Coach Megan had given me a few: 1) Push the effort 2) Short strides uphill 3) FALL on downhills.

In addition to these instructions, I decided to not walk any of the first lap, and was rewarded with a sub-10:00 pace for the first 5k. I won't lie, even with the hills I wanted more, but my lungs were working very hard and I was feeling some fatigue from the swim so I accepted what my body gave me. By the time I got to the second lap I was pushing to only walk aid-stations.

Let's get the bad out of the way:  My least favorite part of the course was the grass hill during Mile 1 (and 4...stupid loops). First of all, I hate running on grass. Also, it was a hill. That we had to run up, then down, then up again. And it was steep running!! But really, that up-down-up-down thing was my biggest cause for resentment. It gave me a lot of practice with the whole short-steps-up, fall-down thing though 😂

Here's an illustration, with distance and elevation for fun:

Did I mention it was on GRASS? I hate running on grass.

Coming off that hill back to the rec area, where there was plenty of support.
Rolling through mile 1 after some tough hills, another picture courtesy of Coach Megan!

Now - my favorite part of the course! I think it was probably the picturesque little stretch along the lake right at the beginning of the course, but I also enjoyed the bit through the marsh (mile 2.5 and 5.5) because it gave another good view of the lake. So...I liked the flat(ish) parts where I could look at the lake 😋

This next pic is coming up on mile 2.5

This part of the race (mile 2-3) was really amusing to me...because I got passed by Jacqui. That's right...I wasn't even one lap in and she passed me on her second lap (so over 5 miles in). She went on to win the race overall. Because of where I was in the race, I was able to see how far behind her the guy in second was...and it was significant at that point, so I knew she'd win the whole race and I was really happy for her.

It's not often that a woman gets an overall win in a race - but it happened for both the Olympic and the 2 Mile swim at the Aquathon! Woohoo!

As I came back into the rec area for Mile 3 I saw my mom with the kids. I'd purposely dressed the kids in neon so they'd be easy to spot, and it worked!. I stopped to give a (very quick) hello, and to drop my water bottle off - it was starting to annoy me. I let my mom know I had about 30 minutes left (I hoped it wouldn't be more).

The second lap was more of the same as the first, just at a slower pace. I pushed where I could (ie not the first lap with the hills, haha) and kept my head in the game, convincing myself to only walk the water stations. My legs were up to the challenge, but lungs were burning and I could feel my diaphragm starting to get agitated as I tried to keep pushing. I could tell it would take a few days to recover from that!

I was really looking forward to the finish as I looped around the marsh the second time, and was grateful they put such enthusiastic volunteers at the end of the course. One of the women LOVED my kit, and told me so every time she saw me (4x, because I passed her twice on each loop). I was also so happy for the boost the Girls on the Run team gave me right as I lollipopped the last out-and-back turn...I was ready to be done!

The Finish(it deserves it's own section in this summary 😂)

I was really looking forward to the finish, not only to be done but because I knew the kids would be there and could cross with me. And I'm sharing a bunch of pictures that were taken as I finished, because Dana (race photographer and PT at Smith) took some great ones and Megan captured pictures with Ant being a butt in the background.

So as I came up, the kids were waiting because they told my mom they wanted to finish with me. As I walked up Ant was standing there, waiting for me and Andre saw me and ran up and slammed his little body into me. Andre started trying to climb me, so I picked him up then held my hand out to Ant and said, "Come on! Cross the finish with me!"

...and he did nothing.

Parents, you know this moment. When you know your child wants to do something and they just totally freeze and act like they don't. Kids!!!!

I kept coaxing him, and he just stood there. I was standing there, about 10 feet from the actual finish and this kid was not moving. The volunteers sitting at the picnic table recording times were staring at me and saying, "You need to cross!! You can't be done until you cross!! We can't write your time down!"

It was so comical and I had to start laughing...because then Ant sat down.

And I was like, "Alright dude, you can sit there, but there are other people coming and Mommy has to cross the finish line!" Megan captured it in this photo she sent me - you can see Ant sitting down a few steps behind me.

I got my medal from Cory (on the left in pink) who's been in my run group for the CL Half this summer! Dana is on the right, snapping some awesome pics!

Now, my favorite finish line photos ever - I *so* wish Ant had joined us!!!

As soon as I crossed, he followed me through. He really wanted to see my medal:
He said to me about 15 times after this "You didn't let me finish with you!"

I sat down literally right next to the finish because I was toast. Ant was a very good post-race helper!

Post Race Stuff
We sat for a bit and then enjoyed the post race party including the largest charcuterie board I've ever seen - it was the size of a picnic table (literally). Post-race food was courtesy of Fork it! Foods, and I've learned it's called a "grazing table". Even though I can't find a picture of the Aquathon table, this picture from their IG will give you an idea. And it was yummy!!

We also stayed for the awards ceremony, which isn't something I usually do but would like to start making a habit of. It makes for longer race days, but I really need to start showing support back to this amazing community, and sticking around for a bit post-race does just that!

One of the great things about Three Oaks is there's so much space! So while we waited for that ceremony the kids ran around like crazy. Andre even decided to chill out for a bit, right in the middle of transition 😂

I asked my mom to snag a picture of us with the lake in the back, and this was the next 3 minutes of my life:
Trying to take ONE good picture includes taking a hundred bad ones, with no promise you'll get a good one.

My favorite of the bunch.

And the closest we got to a "good" one.

Overall, I really enjoyed this race and am grateful I got to do it. Even with all the nerves, 2020 taught me to never take racing for granted. I will definitely be back for this one again next year, hopefully with a stronger swim!

Thank you to Smith PT (Denise!!) and RPT (Trudy!) for such a well organized race. It means a lot to not have to worry about stuff on race day, and good organization is the crux of that. And a massive thank you to every volunteer, from packet-stuffers to course setter-uppers to day-of cheer leaders and water-stop attendees. Races don't happen without volunteers, and I hoped I managed to thank everyone I saw on race day (hopefully I got you twice!). Big thanks to Crystal Lake (and Fire/divers and PD who were on site!) for letting it all happen too!

As always, mad kudos to my mom and Anthony for everything they do for me. Training and racing don't happen without a support system, and I will never take my main supporters for granted ❤

Bring on the next two days!