Jack + Jill 26.2: Halfway Point Thoughts


This past week marked halfway to the big shot at trying to get a BQ.  8 weeks under my feet, 8 more to go.  As I’ve been running this week, I’ve been reflecting on how I think it’s going and will continue to go until we get to Washington.   Generally, some days I feel like I’ve got a really good shot.  And other days I think there’s no way I can run that fast for that long.IMG_9477

Stuff That Makes Me Feel Confident:

  1. I haven’t missed a track workout.  I’m really proud of this!  Even on the cruise ship.  Even on days when I couldn’t do it in the mornings and I had to hit the treadmill or run in the heat of the afternoon.  I’m logging those fast paced miles and I know that it’s keeping me strong.
  2. Strong long runs.  Until recently, I’ve logged some relatively fast, not too painful long runs.  I try to keep those in mind as they’ve gotten harder in the past week or two.
  3. No major injuries.  Aside from falling down on a hike in Alaska and jamming up my back (fixed by Dr. B), I’ve had a relatively pain-free training cycle thus far.  This has never been the case in my past three rounds of marathoning.  I give credit to strength training, yoga, and regular chiropractic care.
  4. Race conditions.  It will be cooler.  It’ll be downhill.  I’ll have lots of people around me.  And it’ll be game day.


Stuff That Makes Me Worry:

  1. I haven’t run long enough.  I wanted to have at least one or two 20 milers under my belt by now but the most I’ve done is 18 twice.  I’m glad that these runs don’t leave me too sore or tired the next day but I still want to hit that 20 mark.  Because there’s being conditioned for that long AND having to hit it at goal pace.
  2. I miss my running partner.   I’ve been logging some of these longer runs on my own because M has been battling her own injuries and our schedules just don’t match up well.  It makes getting those longer miles in super boring even with playlists and podcasts out the wazoo.
  3. It’s f*cking hot.  I did a 16 miler last weekend and was soaking wet hair to bra to shorts to shoes and it didn’t even rain.  I wish it would have rained – I would have been just as soaked but cooler.  It makes hitting the distances hard, and the paces harder.  And it’s only going to get worse.
  4. There’s only 7 weeks left.  That’s all.


Yesterday, I tried to go out for a simple six miler.  One mile easy, 4 miles hard, one mile easy.  I quit at 2.5.  I’m not one to give up mid-training run but it was in the afternoon.  It was hot.  My legs were shaking and felt like I was running sub 7s but I was barely even in the low 8s.  I sat down on the west side of the Tulsa bridge and cried for a minute while I thought about what I was gonna do.  I decided that probably not enough rest, and not enough food (I really have a mental block with later in the day runs.  I don’t want to eat too much and get a cramp so I usually end up not eating enough) and the heat contributed to how I was feeling.  I threw in the towel because I really want tomorrow to go well.  I want to feel strong and rested when I hit the pavement at 5am.


I’m feeling pretty discouraged.  And I have to come to terms with now the thought of what if we don’t get it?  This is classic Sprenkel.  I always like to think of the worst possible outcome to something, and how I’ll handle it.  So, I’ll keep lacing up and doing the best I can these next seven weeks with a huge emphasis on proper rest. Then come Sunday, July 30, I’ll give Jack and Jill my best shot. But if I don’t get that 3:30, I’m betting that I’ll hit a massive marathon PR in the process and have a breathtaking new state to cross off my list.


Photos by Kayla Tandoc.

State 20: Garmin Half Marathon, KS

On this journey to run in all the states, sometimes I just pick a race that works with my schedule and budget, and sometimes I have a specific race in mind.  Kansas had a specific race.

The Wizard of Oz has long been a favorite story of mine.  I wanted to be Dorothy so badly when I was young that I dubbed my then-crawling little brother “Toto” and only responded to my parents if they addressed me as “Dorothy”.  My mama, being the superwoman she was, put together a homemade Dorothy costume out of a blue overall dress and patent red shoes from Walmart.  It was perfect, except for the reluctancy of “Toto” to actually follow along.

So of course I wanted to run in a Wizard of Oz themed race.  And of course I would dress up as Dorothy.  Due to conflicts the first two years I lived in Tulsa I couldn’t make the race but last April, I set an intention to get it this year.

I recruited Chap to drive with me through the pouring rain up to Olathe.  I managed to keep him company for the first two hours of our late Friday night drive and then gave in to the ZZZs somewhere in the flatlands of Kansas.   Since we weren’t planning to stay to tour around Olathe, I booked a last minute Priceline hotel pretty close to the start.   Once we arrived, I looked up the closest Starbucks for my morning fuel, plugged in my watch to charge and set an alarm.


Flat Dorothy

I woke up, but not to my alarm.  Simply from the habit of having to be up around 6am most days of the week.  The clock said 6:07 (start time 6:45).  Shit.  I scrambled into my outfit and my running shoes, grabbed my watch and forced Chap awake.  Thank goodness I packed several Superhero Muffins from the Run Fast, Eat Slow cookbook because my extra sleep threw the chance of oatmeal and coffee out the window.  I chowed down on two of those muffins while carefully dressing up as Dorothy.

Being an out of town race, I hadn’t picked up my packet yet so that was the first order of business but every single route we tried was jam packed with traffic.  When we tried to get onto the interstate, the merging lane and the on ramp were bumper to bumper and not moving.  I thought about getting out right there and warmup running to the start.  Chap suggested we just backup in the shoulder lane off the on-ramp and take a backroad.  I’d blindly trust that man to go anywhere so I let him call the shots.  We found the backroad and he got me as close as he could to the start before the roads were blocked off.  Thanks babe.

As I was running down the road towards packet pickup, I got wind that the start of the race was postponed.  Probably because of all the trouble getting to the start.  So, I relaxed a little, grabbed my bib number and had time to revel in the fact that it was in the low 50s and not raining.


The skirt is flared from the incredible headwind, not from my blazing speed.

I knew to expect a hilly race and had no plans to PR.  I just wanted to log some miles in pursuit of our marathon race in July, dressed up as Dorothy.  And I got exactly that.  The hills just rolled and rolled.  But I kept a steady pace through most of the race.  A lot of that is due to a fellow states-chaser and new running pal Jon.  We fell into step early on and started chatting about running (duh) and from there just hung together the rest of the race.  We saw other characters from the movie, fell into the 1:50 pace group led by a guy Jon dubbed “Drill Sergeant” who rattled off random facts as we crossed each mile (Did you know that there is a 5 year old boy who has run over 48 marathons?!  And the oldest person to ever complete one was 101 years old!).

When we got into the back miles it leveled off a little bit but the wind really started picking up.  At this point we had passed the Sarge and his group but could still hear his chants.  I heard him yell up to us, “Dorothy, get behind that guy and draft off of him.”  So I did.  For the rest of the race.


There’s no place like the finish….

The last hill was brutal.  It comes at about 3/4 of a mile to go.  But I told Jon I wouldn’t quit on him and he stayed close enough for me to stick with him.  A few other runners joined conversation about different races and the hills.  This is definitely one of the chattiest runs I’ve done.  Maybe it was my costume 🙂

The course finally leveled off to a strong finish.  Chap found me and I posed for some pictures with some fans of the costume.  This was one of the best post-race parties I’ve ever seen.  They had a beer buffet of craft and less crafty beers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches and margaritas from Chuy’s.  I had two more miles to log for training so Chap joined me on two loops around Garmin’s campus and then we had our party.

This was a wonderful race.  Aside from the trouble getting to the start, it was very well run, very friendly and a challenging but fun course.  I won’t be doing it again (no repeat states except home until the country is finished) but would definitely recommend it to friends.  And I highly recommend wearing a costume.  The “Go Dorothy” cheers definitely kept me going.  So much that I might become a costumed runner!


Also, how do people wear these costumes without pants underneath?!

Thirty Thursdays: Break My Half Marathon PR

Hi friends!  The big 3-0 gets closer every day and I’m still working on checking things off my fun 30 before 30 list.   Today’s story came completely unexpectedly.  One of my fitness goals for this year (and really, if any runner is being honest, a goal since the last time I set a PR) was to set a new PR in my half marathon distance.  My previous best time is 1:47:36, set on the St. Jude course in Memphis, TN one December morning over 5 years ago.  I was young, I was coaching running and I had a pace mate Russ who leisurely jogged along beside me taking all the shots of beer offered while keeping me company and dragging me through the last two miles.

This racing season has been so rewarding to me.  I trained specifically for the 5k distance and finally nailed some PRs down in the St. Patrick’s Day and Spring Fling races.  I did not at all feel trained or ready for the half marathon distance.  Rather, I chose this race because it was local, free to me because of Oklahoma Sports and Fitness membership and it was a good time to start building mileage up before the July marathon.  I was absolutely not expecting to PR or even try for one.  Right up to the start line.

IMG_7375On race day I was all on my own.  It’s not often that I race alone but I don’t mind it either.  I run this sport for me and while it’s so wonderful to have company and share the miles, going alone will never stop me from doing a race.  I worked late the night before again, and was up way earlier than I normally would have been to take Chap to the airport.  This completely threw off my rest, my eating schedule and my coffee plans.  But, I wasn’t worried about it because I just wanted to enjoy the race.


I waited until the last minute to trot on over to the start line.  I was so glad I did because it was freezing in the high 40s in just my shorts and a tank top.  I’m pretty sure my teeth chattered the first two miles.   I got my app all set to track (Strava), Maren’s Deluxe album pulled up on Spotify (country music to keep me from going too fast), and stuck my phone in my beloved side pocket.  Got the GPS started on my watch, waved to some friends and waited for the gun.  We were off and I still had no plan.  Since it was a smaller race, I was near the front.  I felt myself getting swept up into the lead runners and made a mental note to slow down.  It was a beautiful day, I was loving my side-pocketed-shorts and the basking in the anticipation of a new flat course.

Eventually my app talked to me and said, previous mile in 7:45.  WHAT?  Way faster than I felt like I was going, and way too fast to maintain for 12 more miles.  The next mile ticked by in the neighborhoods of Jenks: 7:32.  DAMN!  Still way faster than I thought I should be going.  But, it wasn’t hard.  I was in a good rhythm and hanging stride for stride with a fellow OKSandF teammate so I thought I’ll just keep this pace as long as I can.

I expected to hold it maybe to halfway, or just a little past.  I remember texting M saying “I’m running 7:30s!”.  And texting my dad, “racing a half this morning, just did 5 in 37:45”.  I like these longer races because they allow more time to really hang around a group of runners.  I had several women that hung around me (or me around them) for many of the middle miles.  Miles 3-6 I hung behind a duo that were super chatty.  I didn’t listen to them but stayed one stride behind.  Then I passed and was passed, passed and was passed another gal for a few more miles.  Every time I shifted positions with any of these people, there was also a positive energy transfer.

Finally we made it to the turn around on the riverside trail, just a little over halfway.  I was ready to slow down but was also in my favorite part of the race – the heavy-traffic part of an out and back.  I cheered for everyone that I could as they passed.  Sometimes I ran out of breath but it’s fun scanning the lines of runners for friends and Insta running buddies.  I really started to slow down a mile or so into this turn around and my friends I drafted on for a while passed me again.  One gal said, “come on you can hang with us” and I just waved them on.

The last three miles were a struggle.  Between doing the math in my head of the average minute per mile I needed to run to break 1:40, then to PR, then to stay below 1:43 and trying to actually stay moving, my brain and body were hurting.  I noticed the fatigue in my arms (yes, still), and a blister forming under the ball and big toe of my right foot.  My right knee was getting stiff and tight and my lungs and ribs were tired of breathing.  But the road was flat and the weather perfect so I tried to keep moving.  I thought about my Fit Camp girls, my running girls, Teresa and Steve and my family.  Thought about mimosas later in the day and a nice nap.


Sprinting and crawling to the finish

I am not ashamed to say that I walked a good part of the last three miles.  I tried to take 100 deep yoga breaths running to every 6 deep yoga breaths walking.  Not sure how the numbers fell that way but they did.  I was walking along when a gal I’d been behind for a while earlier came up behind me.  “We’re so close, let’s go”  This got me running again, but I couldn’t stay with her even though she was so encouraging.  We were able to quickly talk about our sub 1:45 goals and she powered in to a strong finish.  I did not have such a strong finish but I got there!  I ran it in too but man did it feel like I was running fast and not going anywhere!  But I made it.  I killed my PR and beat 1:45.  I was so, so surprised (even though that math back towards mile 10 pretty much secured a PR in my head).  My official time was 1:43:38.  I was so surprised because even though I’d been training fast for the 5k distance, I had only done one long run since the last half in October.  That partially explains why I bonked out at mile 10, but it doesn’t explain to me how I was so strong for 10 miles.  I’m pumped though!


PR for me!

I would have loved to hang around and search down my new friends from the race but instead had to jet off to teach.  I could not have asked for a better day to run and ease into the routine of weekend long runs.  I’d highly recommend this race to local Tulsans!

Next up on the race calendar: Boston 5k on April 15 (have decided to run for fun, not race), Garmin Half Marathon on April 22 (not trying to PR, but guess I know how that can go now!) and that’s it for April.  Next main focus is the big mileage increase for July, and then will target another September PR.



Race: Spring Fling for a Cause 5k

Many of you know that a small piece of my heart and life lives in Muskogee.  This opens up an entirely new willingness and radar for additional races.

Chap watched me struggle to break my long-standing 5k PR for nearly a year when he suggested this Spring Fling for a Cause 5k in Fort Gibson.  It’s flat, it’s an out an back (my favorite for short runs) and it’s during the time of year when temperatures are likely tolerable.  I put it on the calendar thinking it could be a backup race in case the St Patrick’s 5k wasn’t a PR.

This race rolled around and I so wasn’t into it.  I worked late the night before, had to drive out to Muskogee and got in around 11pm only to wake up to 16 mph winds and rain (thanks Michelle for teaching me to read the windometers).  And I lost my running partner.  A broken nose injury benched Chap so I was facing the out and back on my own.

Even as we sat in the car at the start line and I watched maybe 100 people scurry about, I didn’t want to go.  The rain had just picked up, it was in the low 50s and the winds were crazy.  But Chap said, “You won’t regret it.”

With 2 minutes to start I scurried to the start line, turned on my watch and Strava app and bounced around to stay warm.  Then we were off.  I had a goal to try for sub 7s the whole time which would get me my sub 22 target.   It was raining and windy but I couldn’t really tell which way the wind was blowing.  We were running down a paved, flat road that would eventually wind us around a corner before we turned around.  I had about ten people in front of me, mostly males and one female, before I just zoned out.  I tried to keep my pace around my track workout pace and as close to the 7 minute mark as I could.  For this I use my Garmin and keep the display on the elapsed time and pace screen.

I remember beginning to slowly pass the tail end of the pack in front of me.  The lead pack is normally far out of my reach but small town races are a different story.  I started ticking past them one at a time.  First the gal, then two fellas running together and then one guy on his own.  The first mile marker went off on my app and I checked my watch – mile 1 was under 7.

I was banking time as my dad would say.  I kept my pace as close as I could to that until the turn around.  That’s where I met the wind and realized that before when I didn’t know what direction it was coming from, it definitely wasn’t blowing against me.  But now, when I’m halfway in and pretty tired, I can feel it.  I fought through it the best I could to mile 2, also under 7 minutes.   A guy pushing a baby in a stroller motivated me to stay on pace.  I just kept chasing him, we caught the same pace for a little bit and then I pulled on past.

The last mile was the toughest.  I was feeling similar fatigue in my arms that I felt in the St. Patrick’s Day 5k.  (Which Chap later attributed to me moving my arms too much in my stride.  True statement, and good observation.)  I wanted to walk.  So much.  But I just kept refocusing my mind on my breath, on the strength I knew I had from weeks and months of consistent track and circuit work, and on the finish line which was just a flat road ahead (ok, and maybe on the donuts and fella at the finish).

When that third mile time went off on my app, I checked my watch and the distance to the finish line and pushed it.  I thought for sure I could beat the 22 minute mark.  I was running as fast as I thought I could to the finish and just as I’m about to cross the line, the guy with the stroller comes blazing past me.  Talk about a strong finish.

I was just relieved to be done and so happy to have another PR even though I was only 4 seconds off that 22.  They handed me a water bottle instead of a medal at the finish and my arms were so weak I threw it right at Chap’s broken nose (on accident!) so I didn’t have to hold it.  There’s more work to be done, and I am thrilled with the progress made this season!

We stuck around for the awards ceremony which gave me plenty of time to eat a few donuts ;).  Chap knew some people so he was chatty and I just tried to stay warm.  For the first time ever I placed as the first female in a race.  I still can’t really believe it.  And fourth overall.  Sure, it’s a smaller race but come on, me?  The girl who had to be bribed in to running over 10 years ago.  I’m not sure I’ll ever place first in that division or top 5 overall again so I tried to soak it in.  I’ve got some pretty cool hardware to show for it, and a lot of motivation and inspiration to set up the next training cycle (time to drag out the distance by 10-23 miles!)

If you don’t mind making the drive from Tulsa to Ft. Gibson the morning of a run, I’d highly recommend this race.  Flat course, reasonable registration fee, excellent cause (Special Olympics), well organized, small, great food after and great trophies!

It’s easy to get caught up in missed goals.  At the end of each race, PR or not, I try to reflect on the “fun” of the training, the will to race and the spirit of the sport.  I like how strong being fast makes me feel,  and the reward for the work put in.   It doesn’t come easy, and it certainly hasn’t come quickly but with consistency, I’m chipping off those seconds of my PRs.


2017 St. Patrick’s Day 5k

If anything will bring me back to the blog, it’s a good race recap.  And since the 2017 Sweetheart Run Double ushered in spring race season, there will be plenty of recaps coming up.  Yesterday’s 5k is the first of 5 races (Ft Gibson, Aquarium, BAA 5k, Garmin) happening over the next six weeks!

I ran this course last year as a coach to a client so I was very familiar with the up and down layout of this short race.  I’d also run the north part of it earlier in the week on a 10-miler with Michelle.  Psychologically I felt prepared.  Physically (save some lingering respiratory issues), thanks to StudiOne Fit Camp and track days, and consistently running with faster partners, I felt prepared.


Mary, my stroller partner

I rested completely the two days leading up to the run – no circuits or miles, extra naps and earlier bedtimes.  I wrestled all week with wanting to finish my Fit Camp program and giving this race a shot.  It’s not my target race so early in the week I was motivated to keep up with my normal workouts.  But by Wednesday night I was feeling pretty beat down and let the spirit of the race win me over.

Friday night was a low-key night at home with leftover homemade chicken noodle soup and an attempt to pack up for a trip the night before instead of the morning of.  It worked, mostly.  This race has a later start so I was able to get up in the morning and finish tidying up, load my car, grab coffee, drop some things off at the studio, realize I only packed my running and circuit shoes, go back home, and make it to find parking. With 15 minutes to spare, I sat in the car for a while debating my race outfit.  It was drizzling with more rain in the forecast (hat on).  Low 40s and cloudy (mid-length tights, long sleeve shirt).  Considered a rain jacket but thought I would be too hot.


Waiting to start

While I was searching around for my race pals, big and cold drops started to pour down so I caught some shelter under a shop overhang.  This is definitely up there among least desirable start conditions I’ve had.  I hang out until they announced 2 minutes to start.  I managed to find Catharine and Jessie, talk quickly about goals and then the gun went off suddenly.

False start.

We take a minute to push back behind the line and then get a true countdown.  Then we’re off.  I have my phone in my favorite side pockets with music and Strava tracking the miles.  Watch on my wrist to help me not go out too fast.  And a general goal to keep it as close to 7 mins a mile as I can.

The first mile is mostly flat, and I feel pretty strong.  I can feel tiredness deep in my legs but part of that is the 5k race and part is all the activity early in the week.  When that first mile goes by and my pace is read, I don’t feel as tired as I should for a sub-7 mile.  I try to mentally prep for the inclines that I know are coming.  They’re not too steep or long but still noticeable.  Thankfully I start to hit the faster runners coming back upstream and their energy fuels me enough to get to the turnaround.


All downhill from here into the flat finish.  I love running against the crowds (Sweetheart Run, Tulsa Run, St Patricks) and it carries me to the end of the runners.  The flat finish still stretches out in front of me and I start to notice tired forearms and pains in my upper back.  I want so badly to walk or pause but I try to just keep moving. I haven’t seen Michelle at all, and I know Catharine is right behind me.  I alternate thinking about members and how they inspire me at Fit Camp until finally I’m across the line.


Tough, rainy effort

I go hands to knees in an effort not to puke and get a friendly pat a squeal from Michelle as she comes across right behind me, followed not too far by Catharine.  We all realize and briefly celebrate our PRs.  I am so, so relieved to finally have another after chasing last year’s Go Short PR for over a year!  My Strava even says I broke 22 minutes but I’ll keep working on an official sub-22.  We take a few pictures in the rain, a little immune to the cold now. And then I have to dart back to the car to hit the road for vacation.  Next up: Ft. Gibson Spring Fling for a Cause.


Training gals, PRs for most!

Races: The Sweetheart Double

Last weekend I ran for the first time in the Tulsa Fleet Feet Sweetheart Run.  When I first put it on the calendar, I was thinking I would race the 5k in my ever-continuing effort to break the 22 minute mark.  Then I discovered their option to do the 5k and 10k, one right after the other.  I figured this would be a fun option, especially as I increase mileage a bit with upcoming half marathons (and a looming full in July – I know, I still don’t know how that happened).  Also, since there are few things better than running with friends, I enlisted the company of Teresa for the 5k and Michelle for the 10k.  I tried to rally some more friends but was unsuccessful.

The plan was to run with Teresa in the 5k, and chase Michelle in the 10.  The race fell on the day exactly 9 weeks from my Boston 5k race, so I’ve been in speed training mode for a while – including track workouts, circuits and partner runs with M, who is faster than me.


Flowers and a bib, true love.

I spent the night at Michelle’s, mostly because I currently don’t have a toilet in my house (post about the bathroom renovation is forthcoming) but also because who doesn’t love a sleepover?  We are a sight to be seen getting ready in the morning.  Making sure we’ve got coffee, food, bibs, shoes and gear all before heading out the door is a chatty, calm chaos with some pump-up music in the background.

We met up with Teresa at the Studio and walked to the start line.  It was a little chilly and overcast but I knew we would warm up once we started running.  Cassi and Steve were there to cheer us on!


StudiOne community is the best.

In true Michelle and Sprenkel race form, we barely made it into the corrals before the gun went off.  I stayed with Teresa and Michelle went on to run a 4th place age group finish.  Teresa really wanted to beat her 5k time from last year, but I should have coached her better out of it considering she hadn’t run even close to the same training as she did the race before.  Life was just tough the weeks leading up to the race and didn’t leave much time for training.  If I had one wish for her, I would love that her competitive side could subside so she could just enjoy being out in the race (but I also know it took me years to develop that kind of relaxed approach).  I loved running with you T, and am so proud of the runner you are, and are becoming!  Can’t wait to race out there with you again!


Blurry but smiling!


Our prizes!

I had about ten minutes to find Michelle.  We reviewed our plan at the start line which was basically run fast but don’t kill us.  I would stay with her as long as I could, like I do on our longer training runs, with a more specific goal of staying under an 8 minute average.


Start line!

The first part of the course led us out of the flat Blue Dome neighborhood.  We were mostly downhill out of downtown towards the river. We both had our watches on, and the Strava app going but I wasn’t paying too much attention to pace.  My effort to this point felt strong, kind of in that perfect not too easy but not totally taxing zone.  We were a little chatty and I was just thinking of staying with her as long as I could.

We cruised right down the Denver hill and my next goal was to really push the flat two miles we had left before we had to go back up the hill.  This is also the part of the race where the lead runners started to run back against us.  Michelle pointed out there were only 9 females ahead of us, we had a good chance of placing in the top 10 ladies.  Soon, we were part of that lead pack running against the big stream and that is always encouraging to me.  With the breaths we had (Michelle had more than I did), we cheered on people running against us.

Then we were at the hill, four miles behind us, 2.2 in front of us.  We fell into the climb with another gal in a St. Jude singlet and the three of us pulled each other up that hill.  Michelle pulled ahead of me, and I could hear her expletives as I let out exasperated sighs and our new pal commiserated with us.  It was long and moderately steep – several blocks. There were moments I thought I would puke but seeing those two girls in front of me kept me in a run instead of a walk.

The ending was not glamorous.  I was hot and humid by mile 5 and taking the cups of water to pour on the top of my head.  This trick makes me look really really sweaty but also quickly cools me down.

When that final stretch of a few turns around the block hit, I tried to draw on thoughts of track workouts, step ups and jump lunges – all things from my training that make for strong legs.  If anything, it’s distracting and helps tick off some distance.


Glamorous action shot

Finished strong, reaching my goals and hitting a 10k PR.   We hung around for a little while to get our official results – a 2nd place age group for M, 3rd for me.  9th overall female for M, 11th for me.

Overall, I really enjoyed this course.  I loved doing the back to back races and getting the magnetic metals for each was clever.  I’m very pleased to be placing in age groups in 10k distances and satisfied with how the harder running and circuit training is paying off.  It hasn’t been perfect but it has been consistent.


2 and 3, 9 and 11.

Next race: Saturday, March 11, St. Patrick’s Day 5k.

My StudiOne Story: The Start

A few posts back when I asked you, the readers for some content inspiration, a good friend of mine and fellow blogger (go see her at Midlife Moments) suggested I write about what it’s like to “run my own little kingdom” at StudiOne.  I loved this analogy for it (who wouldn’t want to be compared to royalty!), and have spent the past week thinking about where to start.

Obviously the beginning is a very good place to start.  The trouble with this story is that I am not exactly sure where that beginning is.  I usually go way back to my basketball playing days, or my first days running with my dad when I talk about my love for fitness.  But that’s not the start of the Studio story.  When did I decide I wanted to have my own place?  And then it came to me.

Memphis, TN 2008

In 2008, I was two years into my college experience at Rhodes College.  And I was fairly unhappy.  I attended Rhodes to play basketball (that’s not the only reason I went to Rhodes, but that’s the reason I chose Rhodes over some others).  I played for two seasons before deciding in 2008 that I would hang up my basketball shoes.  The reasons were many and ranged from it wasn’t what I expected, I felt less fulfilled playing than I did with my high school team, I wanted to study abroad (the biggest one), and just a general and slow loss of heart for the game.

Somewhere in there (originally the email was to continue Spinning which I had discovered in my first summer home from college to help deal with that Freshman 15), I dug up that email Mama Sprenk sent with a list of gyms in the area.  At the top of the list, known for bringing Spinning to Memphis was Inside Out Gym.  I didn’t have a car at this point in college and one particular afternoon I was so upset with school and basketball that as soon as practice was out I ran there.  I arrived minutes before they were closing and was greeted by Natalie.  I think she was startled by my bright red face and heavy breathing (I had to run fast to get there before close!) but she talked with me beyond closing time, and really listened to what I was saying and looking for.

That day, I signed up for a rowing competition and I think from that day forward didn’t go a single week without setting foot in that gym until I moved away from Memphis.  From there, I branched out to Spinning and came to know the group of regulars that attended.  Lisa’s classes were my favorite and I made it a point to get to as many as I could on Tuesday nights and every other Sunday.  Somewhere in those months I transitioned from student to teacher in Lisa’s mind and at her nudging found myself at a Spinning certification workshop in Nashville.  And then I was teaching (terrified) my own classes.  This is the first half of the beginning.  I found my teaching heart and transitioned from a sad and wandering college student with no particular major in mind and became a teacher.

The next part was Natalie.  She announced that InsideOut would host a training group for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon in December of 2008.  I went to the call out meeting and she was so encouraging of the entire group of never-done-this-before-ers that I was convinced I could do it!  So, as a junior in college, finally able to legally drink and with no commitments to basketball practices or games, I signed up for this challenge (willingly giving up Friday nights to books and sleep, or DDing so I could get miles in on Saturday mornings).  This is the second half of the beginning.

That race changed my life.  It gave me a confidence I hadn’t found anywhere else.  I discovered a discipline and a follow-through that I didn’t know I had.  I’ve shared this story before, but I want to share it again because this was one of those transformative days of my life.  And there is no magic like the marathon.

I finished my first marathon in 4 hours and 36 minutes, 1400-somethingth place and absolutely enjoyed (most of) the experience.  I started in corral 8 at a ten-minute pace, with Janet the Unicorn, my training partner since August. Our guidebook had suggested we choose an animal to imitate when the running got tough.  She chose unicorn so that when people passed her, she would visualize poking them with her horn.  I chose to be a gazelle because of the way I run.  A glide, sort of shuffling along.  And because I don’t pick up my feet, I sometimes trip over cracking sidewalks.  Luckily this did not happen during the race!  Here’s a breakdown of my experience mile-by-mile:

Mile one was chilly – two layers on my head, four on my top, two on my bottom and one on my hands, but cheerful.  People chattering and laughing and cheering as our feet pound the pavement.  I’ve started my first marathon, there’s no going back now.

Mile two was a little warmer and takes me down along the Mississippi River towards the bridge.  I can feel the heat start to settle in all my layers and manage to remove on layer on my hands and top.  The streets are already littered with articles of clothing and lined with people cheering us on.  Before I know it, I’ve made it to Beale Street, which is much cleaner and less chaotic during the day than when I normally experience it after hours.  I catch my mama in my big Rhodes sweatshirt cheering me on with my aunt in front of Silky’s and drop off those layers.

I hit mile three and stop for my first water, realizing quickly how pointless it would be to try to run and drink at the same time.  More water ends up down my front than in my mouth so I stop for just a sip and then pick it up again.  Powerade is in the Coca-Cola cups, water in the white.

The fourth mile goes right past St. Jude and there’s a band playing outside the fire station.  By this point, I’ve (illegally) put in my headphones and am looking forward to the familiar stretch of North Parkway.

At mile five, there’s a sign on a tree – “Kelly – will you marry me? Answer at the finish!”, and as a girl, I naturally pretend that I’m Kelly and I’m excited for her.  Then anger sets in – who asks someone to marry him, then makes her run 8 or 21 more miles to answer?!  At least she had something to think about for the rest of the miles.

Mile 6 is on the bridge over I240 and I stop for my first half of a GU pack and some water.  It’s hard to open the Gu and squeeze it into my mouth while standing on a bridge that feels like it’s moving, either because of the runners on it, the flow of traffic below it or my delusional self.  I manage to refuel less than gracefully, but according to the plan, so I keep running.  This stretch of North Parkway has plenty of signs attached to trees – “Go Mom Go!  We Love You”  and “What are you running from?” I try to read them all, and then drop one layer off with Pete at his house and get a quick word of encouragement.

I’m looking for Katherine at mile 7.  She’s promised to be there in her formal dress and heels.  The Deltas were doing their charitable duties at a water station despite having been to a formal the night before.  Chip was there too in fact, he’ll be in big trouble if he doesn’t make it out to cheer.  She wasn’t at mile seven, so I keep running.  I eventually spot Lyndsay, Koko, Chip and Samson at Snowden.  I consider running over to them to say hi and hug but decide to keep running.


My favorites

I get to mile 8 and see the beloved Deltas.  I sneak a quick hug from Katherine, not in her dress as promised but I’m so glad to see her that I overlook it.

Eight and nine were inside the park and very scenic.  I notice a tingling in my right foot but run on.  More than a third finished!  I catch the InsideOut crew – Lisa, Donna and Kiersten for the first time in the park.  Lisa and Donna have cameras and I give my best fun/triumphant pose.  Thinking of Kiersten keeps me occupied for the rest of Overton Park.  This year she completed an Ironman Triathlon and won her age division.  She’s run in multiple marathons and is someone I look to for fitness inspiration.

Mile 10 and 11 are a long, straight stretch down Poplar but Chris is going to be at Angelus, right past mile 10.  I run past Angelus and he’s not there.  Maybe he’s at McNeil with Marc and Jeff.  Get to McNeil and still don’t see them.  A little disappointed, I cheer myself up by convincing myself it’s because I was running faster than I anticipated and they just missed me.

Eleven goes right past another children’s hospital – LeBonheur.  There is construction underway for a new wing of the hospital and the kids’ faces are blown up and cover the fences for that entire block.  Seeing the smiles and hope on their faces was like having twenty more cheerleaders on the run.  My energy was instantly re-filled.  If they can fight, I can absolutely finish this marathon.  Someone trips on the trolley tracks in mile twelve and I’m thankful it wasn’t me!  She hops up and keeps running while I squeeze down some more Gu.

At mile thirteen, there was a big sign pointing the half-marathoners towards their finish line and the full marathoners down the road to the second half.  It absolutely crossed my mind to turn, but with the encouragement of fans on the road, I choose the path less traveled.  Suddenly, it’s just me on the course.  The tingling is in both feet now but I dismiss it.  I’m halfway there and headed back down Beale Street.  I’m feeling confident but aware of aches and pains.

I’ve run mile 14 past the FedEx Forum plenty of times during training and am familiar with the big hill by the parking garage.  I didn’t enjoy it during the training or the race.

I find my mom and Christi again at mile 15 and stop for a quick hug this time.  More Gu and water and I’m off again.  Looking forward to the roomies!

Mile 16 and 17 are another familiar part of my three and eight mile trails and I like to look at the houses and pretend what my life would be like in each one.  The pain in my feet is bad and unfamiliar.  I’ve heard stories about people breaking bones when they run but not being able to feel it.  In my seventeen-mile state of mind, I decided I had snapped one of the tarsals in my foot.  The identifying of that bone leads to the identifying of the rest of the bones in my body: thank you comparative vertebrate morphology.  Somewhere back in this stretch there’s a beer and candy stop and I get a little chuckle out of it.  I thought about stopping for a quick drink but considering how dehydrated I was and what a lightweight I am…..I decided against it.  The InsideOut crew was on this patch too.  It’s amazing how helpful and uplifting familiar faces are.

That gets me to eighteen and some more Gu and water – still on the every three miles plan, it’s working well.  Then, there are my three roommates.  These are my best friends, my drinking partners, my sisters.  They will be my wedding party, my children’s unofficial aunts and my escape when life gets overwhelming.  I love y’all.  See you again in three miles.  Now it’s one foot in front of the other.  My pace has slowed way down and I’m struggling to find songs that keep me going deep in the heart of Cooper Young.  I eventually settle on GirlTalk as I make the turn off of Young onto East Parkway.

The miles are getting longer now and I’m running with a fairly consistent group of strangers.  I have this antsy feeling too.  Get me to the next multiple of three so I can have water and Gu, get me to Rhodes so I can see familiar faces.  Get me to the next damn mile marker.  On and on.  Thinking about that gets me to the nineteenth mile.

I’m stopping for water at every mile now to help break up the run but every time I stop to drink, it gets harder and harder to pick up running again.  I’ve done this so many times I tell myself and manage to hit the road again.  We’re in the street and the cars are in the right lane coming at me.  There’s a lady on her phone, a man passing on my right, someone walking on my left.  And here I am in the middle, still running my first marathon.

Finally I can see the corner and make it to the intersection.  I had started off thanking all of the officers at the intersections but this one I just didn’t have the energy for.  When I saw Andy, Cory and Chris, I was so overwhelmed that I just ran to them and gave them all a hug and kiss.  Where are the girls?  Where’s the camera?  We need a group picture, y’all are supposed to be in it…..Jess!  Don’t stop running!  Run with me, please, please run with me -we need a picture.  And they did.  The three of them ran with me from East Parkway to McLean.  Cory in his jeans, Andy on the phone with “Bunyon” (Katherine) telling her to run fast in her Uggs.  Chris telling me in between breaths how out of shape he is.  Andy chanted “You are the Sprenkel, the might might Sprenkel…” I tried to talk to them but they wouldn’t let me, I needed to save my breath.

I stopped at 21 for a Gu and water and the boys were fascinated by the Gu, Powerade first, water second.  Twenty-one was a big marker because every step I take after this is farther than I’ve ever run in my life.  I keep telling the boys that.  We’re running still and McLean is getting closer.  I’m looking for my cheerleaders and then, there they are.  Hooray!  I stop for a quick picture with Chip, Koko, Audrey, Lynds, Kelly, Samson, Marc and the running boys.  It turned out to be my favorite photo and worth the extra seconds it put on my time.

I can’t stay long though because I might not start running again.  My thoughts turn to mile 22.  A little further down North Parkway, I literally run into Meredith, enveloped into a great big hug.  She runs with me for a little while, cheering me on with her contagious energy.  Also a Delta, she is quite dedicated for being out there the morning after a formal.

I get to my Mama again at mile 23.  It was easy to see her in the bright red Rhodes sweatshirt and I held back tears as she ran with me (“run” is not in her vocabulary, except when referring to me or my dad) a few blocks.  I dropped my iPod off with her and continued on, promising to find her at the finish.

My aunt Christi found me at mile 24 and in her puffy jacket and green scarf, helped me make it down the rest of North Parkway (that’s a long stretch!).  ALl my thoughts were on taking the next step – one, two, three, four , five, six, seven, eight….one, two, three…..

She was still with me at mile 25 when we reached the heart of the city again.  Still taking tiny sips of water at every mile but it doesn’t help the ache in my bones.  My legs are stiff and begging for relief.  Crid helps pull me up a tiny hill (literally tugging on my arm) and the runners around us are cheering us on.  She jokes that people will think she’s been running for the previous 25 miles and she looks pretty damn good!  She has to leave me shortly before mile 26.  Once a marathoner herself, life happened.  I climbed the rest of the last cruel hill right after mile 26 (not really that long at all, but seemed huge.  I just rolled my eyes)  I’m trying to think of anything to keep my mind off of actually running.  It drifts to the festivities of the evening.  Chip is taking me to his formal….I’ll wear my new purple dress….are we dating yet?…..almost there……definitely can’t wear heels tonight…..where’s the damn stadium?….I need a nap….come on Autozone…..I want a hot bath.

And then – there it is!  I can see the stadium and suddenly I perk up.  I know there’s less than .2 miles to go since I just passed the final mile marker and I turn into the stadium.  The last few hundred yards are actually on the baseball field.  I can see someone not too far ahead of me and try to catch him.  Still an athlete you know.  I feel like I’m sprinting thought I’m sure in actuality I’m not going that fast.  I think of my dad and all of our time running together and wished he was there.  He was, after all, the one who got me into this…I’m holding back tears again, just trying to stay on my feet.  And then I’m across the finish line!!  There was no triumphant breaking of the tape or throwing my arms in the air.  But I finished.  I was rewarded with a finisher’s medal and a foil blanket and then scolded for trying to walk off with my timing chip still attached to my shoe.  Did they honestly expect me to bend over?!  I was suddenly aware of the pain and cold all over my body but we managed to get it off an I limped down the chute.

I could hear my name coming from the stands.  I climbed the baseball stadium stairs (also cruel of the Memphis Runner’s Club) to find the best reward of all – Audrey, Lynds, Koko, Katherine, Meredith, Emma, Courtney and Lacy.  They surrounded me in a big hug despite the sweat and salt crusted to my face and my stale odor.  THe tears I had been holding back for miles finally came.  My mama joined us and I have never felt so loved and supported.

Throughout this experience, I learned not only the strength the human body possesses to do things put before it, but also what the soul can endure when surrounded by loving, encouraging family and friends.  And the rest is running history……


So, that marathon planted the seed.  And there you have the beginning of the kingdom.

Up next week, Memphis part 2.