musings on running, life, and everything in between


Last Chance Review of Last Chance BQ.2 Marathon

Alright, so my jaw just dropped when I realized that this race recap is two weeks late…BUT, better late than never??

The Last Chance BQ.2 Marathon-Chicagoland was September 12. And it was AWESOME. It’s not a cheap race, especially when I saw the lack of real food afterwards, but it will get you to BQ!

It’s an interesting premise. A race that is solely set on getting you to Boston. You actually have to submit a qualifying time to get IN the race. In other words, Boston has got to be more than just a bucket list to “one day” cross off. You had to be within 10 minutes of your qualifying time at marathon from 2014 or 2015, a half marathon at your qualifying pace in 2014 or 2015, or a marathon at qualifying time in 2013. This is only the second year of the race, but last year 60% of the field BQ’ed and last year’s reviews online were glowing.

The registration process was easy via their website and communication was good.

Geneva isn’t super-close to me for a quick roundtrip drive, but I decided I didn’t want to mess around with race day packet pick-up so I got it done in just under 1.5 hours. Packet pick-up was at Geneva Running Outfitters, and the race director was actually there helping with packet pick-up. There was only one person in front of me, a guy from Georgia, and the director was super-nice and personable. There was a long-sleeve, gender-specific tech shirt in the Boston colors, a water bottle, and a chapstick, all in a bright yellow drawstring bag.

I hemmed and hawed about what to eat for dinner the night before. I went with a white pizza and picked some of the cheese off. I had been drinking alot of water that week and eating pretty mildly, so I figured I’d be ok.

Here’s my race outfit, although I ended up changing out my shorts. I was also torn about wearing the old Kinvara’s, but the new ones still felt stiffer than I wanted and I was afraid of it rubbing on the run.
Race morning was a bit rough. I got to bed fine, but a 4:30 am wake up is no fun. I had treated myself to a piece of Momentum jewelry. I wrestled with which motivational statement to get. “Make it happen” seemed like a good one.   I made a mapping error and was a bit rushed getting to the parking lot. Good thing I left early enough! We parked in a business lot across the street from where the race was starting. It actually helped me get a little shakeout/warmup in, running towards the start/race village. The sun was barely coming up.

Things were pretty quiet at the start. I made sure to get my bottles in my “elite” table. One of the coolest features of this race was that every runner had an elite-style set up. 11988622_10208301904692425_15571114270966449_nThey had 10 tables that were taped off with runners’ numbers. You were given two numbers that matched your bib to tape to your bottles. Since you were doing 8 loops, you had 8 shots at your own hydration (although there was water and gatorade at two places on the course also). You’d grab the bottle off the table and a bit of the way down the course, they had a “drop zone,” a target you threw your bottle at. They would then get your bottles back to the table before you came back around. It was the perfect amount of time to grab and drink.

The weather was absolutely perfect. Well, it was misting a tiny bit when I left the house, but it cleared up before I got to the start. It was in the 50s for most of the race. There was a little bit of wind later in the race, but barely noticeable for most of it.

As we got ready to line up, I had a small moment of panic because I couldn’t find the pacers. My plan was to stick with the pacer for the 3:37 group. They purposely had pacers 3 minutes under each of the qualifying times. Perfect. I realized, though, the pacers were wearing bibs with their times on their backs and not carrying the sticks you usually see. 
Patty and Jen were trying to see me at the start, but they were late. Probably because they were doing selfies….


I’ll be honest. I didn’t have a clear plan of attack for the race. I was thinking I’d try to stick with the pace group as long as possible, but I wasn’t sure how the pacing would go. I’d never run with a pace group, and this one was supposedly 40-50 deep. I wasn’t super-close to the pacer (it wast just one guy, Tom?, who we’d swap out for another guy, Scott?, halfway through), but I made sure I could alway see him. I’m really glad I decided to stick with the pacing group because by the second lap, I’d already lost count of the laps. Ha. It was actually a relief to mentally let go of keeping aware of the pace and just get pulled along by the group.

Just in case you’re wondering why my upper chest looks so lumpy, I was storing my gels in my bra. My race belt didn’t have enough room for gels and my phone, and my shorts only had room for one.

The first lap was good. I felt a little nervous but also strong. Little did I know that these fools were getting ready to cheer me on each of the laps. I had made threats about not coming to see me possibly fail, but thankfully they didn’t listen. Seeing them all their different signs, and hearing Swati on her crazy megaphone, made me look forward to each lap. It was seriously amazing.


12004837_10208301904292415_7887830290073945556_nI found out later that Stephanie’s (with the poms above) husband works for a TV show and they were using cue cards from on set.

Ha! I just realized that I’m wearing the same shoes as this other runner. I ran behind her for a good deal of the race. it was weird, though, because she was listening to music loudly and didn’t hear when we shouted at her to move because of people coming from behind us. And she wore a shirt that said “”

This sign made me laugh out loud. I yelled, “Classy, ladies” as I ran by. 11200915_10153360452094934_2902290599689748049_nThis next shot is one from the official race photos. These ding-dongs were doing some laps to get their training miles in (well, not Jenny, she’s just crazy), and were mistaken for runners in the race.

21205816420_0c68af7527_oI had been nervous going into the race that the 8 loops of the same route would make me crazy. It actually helped me pace myself better. I knew different landmarks along the route and knew how to break down each loop. The fact that each loop was just over three miles helped make the marathon much more manageable and “bite-sized” without being overly micro-managing in feel. There were some route features that were annoying though. We ran over some weird construction bits and over a ramp that was a tiny bit slick the first couple loops. There were two bridges also that were picturesque, but one bridge was super-bouncy as we ran over it. Every time, I kept thinking of “shake shake bridge” from a Dora the Explorer episode. I kept envisioning myself bouncing on the bridge and then flying into the air. 

The mix of running by some houses, woods, and under a bridge all helped keep the landscape from being monotonous. And even the tiny shifts in elevation helped keep me focused on what I was doing and not drifting off too much. I cannot believe how strong I felt almost the entire run. There was no point where I began to doubt the existence of God like I do at almost every marathon. My pace was solid and I was following the pacer well. There was a tiny bit of chit-chat with some other runners, but most of us ran in cheerful, mostly quiet camaraderie. People wore earphones but alot of people elected to keep one out. Since the course was on a trail and they couldn’t completely close the course, we had to keep our wits about us to watch and listen for cyclists, walkers, and other runners. As we got further along in mileage, we also started getting passed by some of the speedsters.

Patty actually joined me for part of the loop, but it was still early enough that our group was a bit crowded. She could also tell that I was doing ok and didn’t need anyone encouraging or scolding me. A cyclist almost clipped her with a side mirror, though!

The aid stations were helpful for grabbing water in between the sips from our “elite” bottles, particularly as it was placed about halfway through the loop. I grabbed Gu from the table a couple of times, although I couldn’t manage the chocolate one. I kept grabbing the fruity ones, which was annoying.

My GI was pretty happy most of the race as well. There was a moment where I thought it was going to try and give me trouble, but it settled down. I really feel like the diet from the week before helped alot. I always eat without abandon, and I’m beginning to think that strategy wasn’t working for me…

One point that made me cuss up a storm was losing a hair band. I had decided to wear braided pig tails. It had briefly crossed my mind that it was possible I would lose a hairband, but I thought that sounded paranoid and ridiculous. Well, exactly halfway through the race, I felt a sudden loosening of one braid and the wind rippling through my long hair. I quickly snagged it before the braid completely came out and got it tied up with the other hair band and prayed that one wouldn’t go. I did decide that I could use my headband to tie it all together in the worst case scenario. Thankfully, I didn’t have to do it.  21379597021_6551465ebe_oJen and Jenny ran in the last loop with me (psst, I love those ding-dongs). At first I thought I was going to have to chase them off, but they ended up being really helpful. By the last loop, the pace group had broken up mostly. What had been a tight pack before was a loose glob of people. I could feel myself starting to lose the gravitational pull of the group to keep up. Having those two along kept me moving. They cracked jokes, scoped out the half-naked speedsters, and kept my mind off how tired I was. As we crossed the last bridge, about a quarter mile out, the pacer told us to kick it in if we had a kick. I did. And in retrospect, it makes me wonder if I could have pushed a little harder earlier on or overall because it was a big kick…but you can never tell. Even when Jen and Jenny kept telling me that I totally had it, I wasn’t ready to believe them until I actually saw the finish line. Anything can happen those last 3 miles of a marathon.

But I kicked it in and gave it everything I got. I almost wept in joy and exhaustion. Then I slapped myself and got myself together…just kidding.


Julianne, who is from Massachusetts, said the flags along the route had the names of the towns the Boston Marathon ran through. I’m glad someone knew because I kept thinking that “Framingham” was a framing store sponsoring the race.

The post-race was a blur of hugs, congratulations, and sheer joy. They did have Mylar heat sheets for us, although I was rather warm by then. I was so moved by the friends that came out, and even my husband bringing the cranky ankle-biters. Thankfully the cheer crew brought food, because there wasn’t much in the way of post-race food. They had m&m’s, generic cookies, and chocolate milk. I drank the chocolate milk and the kids fought for the m&m’s.
There were QR codes on our bibs so we could scan them ourselves to get the unofficial times. 3:36:16. Of course, I berated myself for not pushing 16 second harder and getting under 3:36. Ha.


When I got home, I treated myself to an awesome (NOT!) ice-bath. I debated skipping it, but I had a work event that night. YUP. After a marathon. Yes, a work event that required formal wear and heels. I chose to wear my medal as appropriate formal wear accoutrement.   Finally, because the girls hadn’t tortured me enough, Swati took it upon herself to TP my house that night. As someone who didn’t grow up in the US, she missed out on the great joys of trashing someone else’s house as a way to “celebrate” something they’ve done. I know, I don’t get it either. She was actually quite considerate in the way she TP’ed. It was draped for easy removal. Mr. UnRunner may have scoffed at how “inadequate” he thought it was.
All in all, it was a great race and a great experience. Multiple people said they were planning on running this race next fall if they wanted to qualify. Between the pacing, cheering, and general well-run aspects of it, it was a fantastic experience (although better post-race food please!).

Now, my dear friends, is the great wait. For those unawares, QUALIFYING for Boston is one thing. Getting IN is another. Boston registration deadlines are contingent on how much “buffer time” you have from your qualifying time. First couple days are for those with more than 20 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 5, and then everyone else–although the “everyone else” is sorted again by those with more or less time. The last couple of years, the “cutoff time” has been 90 seconds. Meaning, if you had a time that wasn’t more than 90 second faster than the qualifying time for your age group, you didn’t get into the race. Hence the BQ versus getting in.

Last week they made the announcement that only 5000 spots were left after the 5+ minutes registered. Which leaves the rest of us biting our nails. Supposedly we find out tonight…Wish me luck!

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It takes a village to qualify for Boston–my love letter for BFF

I am breathing the rarified air of Boston Qualifiers, and I am dumbfounded. This was hands-down the best marathon experience of my life. I ran solid, never took walk breaks (except once through an aid station), and had a big kick at the end. I’m not even as sore as I usually am the day after.

And it’s because of this group. [Note: I’ll do a real race recap later]


Despite all my threats and grumbles about people showing up to watch me potentially fail, they showed up anyway, and I DIDN’T fail because…surprise…support helps you. I know. Shocker. Trust me, I’m still trying to puzzle that one out.

I knew these two crazies, Jen (as in my partner in crime this spring) and Patty, both already qualified this year, were going to be there early.


Early, as in early and dark. When the sun was just starting to think about rolling out of bed.


I knew they were coming and saw them at the end of my first lap. But then imagine my surprise when I saw these guys further down.


Stephanie Harri left after the race to get ready to play TWO weddings (she’s a violinist…AND a chiropractor). Crazy!


Swati Saxena, REALTOR EXTRAORDINAIRE, is the lovely lady in green who owns her own personal megaphone. 

She also baked me several vegan treats. AND drive me home in my own car to save my legs.


Julianne, on the left, is from Massachusetts and was secretly working to coordinate the ambush of love.

And just in case you think we’re a classy bunch of ladies, here’s a sign to disprove it.


My dear Jenny, standing tall in the middle with her ever-present blonde ponytail, ran with Jen for my last loop. I don’t think I would have kept up my pace without them that loop. She actually ran her first 13 miles since this winter. Jenny also realized that I had lost a hair band halfway through the race (which is why I went from two French braids to a single pony tail half French-braided) and tried calling some of the girls on their way to see if they had an extra!

And, finally, on the second-to-last loop, or maybe it was the last loop (it was hard keeping track), I saw my family. And seeing my husband and kids cheering me on (well, Wyeth was kind of crying and trying to grab me, but I’m sure he was cheering on the inside…) helped push me through. I abandon them in the early mornings to go run these distances, smoothed over with sugary promises of donuts. But sometimes they still cry when I leave the house. So I ran to make it worthwhile.



And then there were people who were supporting me from afar, sending texts and messages, and even ladies that weren’t there race day but helped make the signs (Aimee, Erin F), and I still used some of Coach Lizs speed workouts. I have never felt so awash in love and support. Like EVER. These people have endured my countless rants, obsessions, early mornings, late nights, annoying FB posts, and anxieties about running and about this race. Seriously, I am humbled beyond words, and feel that I am not worthy of this. Really. I mean, I think I’m funny and mildly amusing, but I will admit that I really am not such a sparkling personality to warrant such an outpouring of affection (I’m awkward and can seem standoffish, I’ll admit it. I’m also prone to handshakes and sideways hugs vs full-frontal hugs.). It goes to show you how much we all need one another, and how much more can be accomplished with the love and support of others. IF you just let them in at least a teeny, tiny bit. So to all the amazing women of BFF and my awesome family, this time was for you.

P.S. One funny note. Someone asked the group how many people they knew in the race. They said one. HA.

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Marathon Prepping

So…in 24 hours, I will be close to finishing the marathon. Eek. So of course I’m freaking out about preparing and getting everything ready. I have already been texting with Patty and Jen about the weather (it was raining hard this morning). They have assured me that there is no rain forecast for Geneva tomorrow.

This is a link to some things to consider in the days leading up to the race. If you want a super-simple digest version of it, here it is:

  • Don’t do anything crazy different
  • Drink a lot of water during the week of the race
  • Eat more carbs. Some people recommend decreasing fiber and fat a few days before to help your GI. My friend Kirsten also eats very bland and simply. NOTE: When carbo-loading, it’s better to do your heavy meal two nights before
  • Get as much rest as you can the week before, but focus on quality rest two nights before. The night before a race is always hard to get good rest because of nerves, so you’ll want some good sleep “banked.” (This is unfortunate as my husband was sick last night, and I chose to sleep on my 6 year old’s trundle bed, which then invited my children to play musical beds all night and a short bout of insomnia for the 6 y.o.).
  • Try to do some light stretching or yoga the day before, but nothing too hard. Stay off your feet if you can. If you want a massage, it should be gentle and you should do it earlier in the week as you want any residual soreness to be gone by race day.
  • Lay all your stuff out the night before and make sure any regular breakfast foods, drinks, etc. are stocked up (check this EARLIER in the day so you have time to buy anything you need!)
  • Set multiple alarms
  • Work on visualization (I had a dream my clock time was 3:37:05. Let’s go with that…

Me last night trying to pre-emptively stave off any potential sickness. My in-laws are in town and also just told me they got sick–and thus will be avoiding my family today (they’re staying at a hotel nearby).

And here’s a checklist of things for race day…


  • Bib number
  • Timing chip
  • Race information (location, bib number pick-up, etc.)
  • Identification (passport or driving licence)
  • Cash and credit card
  • Mobile phone


  • Watch or GPS
  • Music player and headphones (if so inclined)
  • Shoes
  • Socks/compression
  • Shorts or running tights
  • Running top
  • Sports bra (as needed)
  • Arm sleeves or warmer layer/jacket (contingent on weather)
  • Hat/Sunglasses
  • Gloves (contingent on weather)
  • Running belt (if you use one)
  • Safety pins (to pin on your bib)
  • Nutrition for during the race
  • Hydration for during the race (if carrying/bringing own)
  • Sunscreen
  • Chapstick
  • Body Glide or Vaseline (as needed)
  • Throw away clothes to stay warm at starting line (contingent on weather)


  • Rain coat, poncho or bin bag for staying dry before the start
  • Warm top and bottom for before and after the race
  • Plastic bag for wet race clothes if you’re changing
  • Drinks and food for after the race (I like a disposable water bottle for drinking pre-race)
  • Towel
  • Bag for all your gear (with gear check ticket attached)
  • Tissues, band-aids
  • Recovery food/drinks (if you want your own)
  • Sandals or change of footgear
  • Ibuprofen

In putting together this list, I realized that I will need to get some warm throwaway clothes, and stock up on some nutrition. One thing that I will also be doing different than other races is bringing my own hydration. I THINK that I don’t have issues with Gatorade and my GI, but I’ve decided to not take any chances. I’ve been training with Nuun and Scratch all season, so I’m bringing my own bottles. One of the really awesome aspects of this race is that they have an elite-style table for people to put out all their own hydration/nutrition, etc. so they don’t have to carry it on them. After the tables, there’s a “throw zone” target where you throw your bottle and volunteers set them back in their taped-off section, ready for your next use.

I’ll try to post a tiny update tonight with my race outfit and tomorrow with the race results. Thanks for all the kind words and support, everyone. I couldn’t have made it this far without all of you. If I qualify, I couldn’t have done it without all of your support. However, if I don’t qualify, it’s because you failed me…Just kidding! Maybe…


Keep on keepin on; T minus 4 days

So…it’s race week. This is what I’ve been training for all summer. And I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’ve been all over the board in terms of nerves, excitement, dread, fear, and anticipation. I was all crazy about trying to prevent anyone from coming initially, but I’m trying to just accept whatever support people want to give. I don’t take compliments very well, and people willing to give up their Saturday mornings to watch me run around a big circle 8 times is a pretty big freakin’ compliment. Thankfully, only a couple runner friends are planning on coming, and I think I want to keep that way. Whether I succeed or fail, I will inevitably cry and I’d like to keep the audience to a minimum. Excepting the 300 random strangers, course officials, and spectators that will be there also. Obvs.

I feel like I need to Google the things I’m supposed to do the week of the marathon. Even though this will be my tenth, I feel weirdly nervous and unsure about it. I’m going to try and eat pretty bland this week (something my friend Kirstin does marathon week) and avoid anything too fiber-dense a few days before to try and minimize the GI issues. I’m working on getting at least 40 ounces of fluid everyday, although I generally drink way more than that. I’ve watched the course video. Printed the pace band. I plan on foam rolling the heck out of myself, and probably trying to squeeze in a chiro/massage appointment.

I don’t have a race outfit. Suppose I can think about that some more. And I’m still back and forth about which SPECIFIC pair of Saucony Kinvara 5’s I should wear. Total loser I am. I know.

In the meanwhile, my friends Patty and Jen (of “running with Jen”) have been weather tracking like it’s their business. I had to yell at Patty at Champaign to stop looking at the radar on her phone when we were in bed the night before the marathon. They have already assured me that the conditions will be prime. I feel like all my nasty hot, humid training the past few weeks would have prepared me for heat, though. Or so I think… Track workouts are pretty brutal when the humidity is at 80%. 

Because I’m a pseudo-researcher and a nerd, I liked that the marathon organizers put up the breakdown of participants and the qualifying times they will need. I’m in the most popular pace group it would seem. I hope the wave of people running will help carry me to victory…

I think I read on the site that it’ll be about 40 people in that group. I guess ladies in my age group (or older men) either have a hard time hitting the time in other marathons OR we are one of the biggest demographics for runners??

I got to meet up with an old college friend, who was visiting from Seattle. In preparation for race carbo loading, Shelley and I split three breakfasts. I like that kind of friend and that kind of math. We both wanted savory AND sweet, and there were no breakfast combos. Thus, frittata, bulgur bowl, and amazing pancakes. My friend Yolanda will forever be the person who introduced that 3 breakfasts/2 people idea to me. She was also my first marathon partner, so I will take this epic breakfast as a good sign for marathon week.  Because I’m on my taper and the marathon ladies had their first 20 miler Saturday, I got to run with the lovely Corey (and Julianne, but I was a bum and forgot to take a picture with her too) for most of my 12ish miles. I think we were deliriously happy to be done. I don’t enjoy wearing drenched running gear on long runs.
 In other news…school has started for everyone in the house. It’s been a bit of a juggle as there have been changes in child care and schools and schedules. We are still working on it.

This was my almost 6 y.o. at his first day of school. He refused to cooperate with any picture-taking. It also sums up my feeling about marathon-training lately.

I know I’ve been writing less recently. I think I spend so much time thinking about running that I’m fried. I just want to watch some more bad horror films and not spend more free time on running. I’m pretty sure that’s another sign of being overtrained. And it’s not that I find running a time suck or a burden like I did a few weeks ago. I am just ready for this marathon cycle to be done.

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Almost Go-Time (and I secretly feel emotions)

Alright good people, in about 24 hours I’ll be on the course. I’ve been doing the usual prep stuff. Drinking water like there’s no tomorrow. Eating tons of carbs, which may include my more-than-generous allowance of sugar. I know that that’s not quality carbs, but it IS simple and easy to break down. 🙂

I had my last short run before leaving town (I plan on doing a little shakeout run later today after driving for a few hours down-state). I was tempted to run later in the day Thursday since it was cold, but then this girl (the cutie in the middle–next to the other cutie, ha) RSVP’ed to the morning run, and I had to get my butt up for the 5:45 run. For a 3 miler. Ugh. BUT, I have literally not run with Kirstin since July of LAST YEAR. We had run the Holy Family Maritime Marathon in Manitowoc, WI in June (where Jenny BQ’ed) and she started getting some weird crunchiness in her ankle. Almost a year later of PT, seeing orthos, and finally seeing my magical man Craig, she’s on the road to recovery. Which is a good thing, because both those girls in the picture are doing Ragnar with me. Kirstin did like 5 marathons in 2013, so it was nuts she’s been not running for so long. We had a good little crew last spring that we called the BFF Early Train–cuz essentially there’d be different parts to it as we “picked up” and “dropped off” runners depending on their needed distances. I miss that crew (Kirstin, Jenny, and Corinna). We have high hopes that we’ll all be together again some day. Which might need to be sooner, since all 4 of us are on the same Ragnar team!

I think I need to work on my selfie skills. Although I am not sure that’s necessarily a skill I want to be good at…

Other things I’ve been doing to prep for this race: icing my wonky ankles and foam rolling like a mad woman. I had to laugh when I pulled out this ice pack from my freezer. My 3 year-old is a bit obsessed with putting her name on stuff, which I guess includes the ice packs.

We went out to dinner as a family last night to begin the carbo loading. Because it was Italian, we had to get the gelato afterwards. This place, Mancini’s, has this crazy good dark chocolate gelato. You’ll notice in the picture that a certain small human’s hand is moving towards “sampling” mine–in addition to his own.

I have, admittedly, made fun of my fellow runners for freaking out about the weather. I refuse to get sucked into it. Jen actually asked me, “Do you think at all?!” when she kept asking me about various factors about the race and I said I hadn’t thought about it. Part of it is my busy-ness factor and part of it is my refusal to obsess about things outside of my control. I HAVE looked at the weather and route and all those other things, but there is a delicate balance between being aware/prepared and getting worked up/obsessed about it. I know myself and my ability to fixate/freak out can be monumental. I’ve decided to go with the less obsessed route. We’ll see if it pays off in an sort of way.

To be honest, though, I just checked the weather now that we’re 24 hours out, and it’s looking dubious. Hit up the local Salvation Army and got a giant zip-up fleece to throw away at the start and a children’s rain/windbreaker. One of the bloggers I follow who ran Boston said that she rain with her throwaway windbreaker the whole race. I still haven’t figured out what I’m wearing yet (and I can hear Jen yelling at me already for that, ha, and yelling at me for making her sound crazy…which she is, btw). To distract myself, though, I painted my nails in U of I’s colors, with a Boston-yellow lightening bolt. I might reconsider the lightening bolt to a stripe, though, as it seems bad juju with the weather…

I never had this much school spirit…

Finally, whatever happens tomorrow, I could not have gotten here without all my awesome women. From the early morning training runs to encouraging words. I am running this race for them–especially the injured ones! The women I’ve met and befriended through my running group BEST Foot Forward really are the best. In the last 12 hours, I’ve gotten a yard sign from the group, a good luck card from Coach Liz, and some amazing shoe bling from my friend Julianne (who’s totally going to BQ once she fully recovers from baby and injury!).


Anyone will tell you that I am not an emotional, mushy person, but I swear these girls bring it out of me. Good luck to everyone running a race tomorrow and pray (if you do that) to whatever god(s) that it doesn’t rain or that I don’t get struck by lightening.

Runner Tracking: Bib #1246