Wednesday, November 5, 2014

50 States sub 4 Hours: Mission Accomplished 10/12/14

50 States sub 4 Hours: Mission Accomplished 10/12/14

50 sub 4 finish at GMAA in Vermont on 10/12/14

After 3 marathons, I swore I’d never do another one. They took sooo much time to train for and I hated doing all the long runs. So, how did I end up with a marathon in every state in America? After losing 80 pounds in 2003/2004, I wanted to cross an item off my bucket list and run a marathon some day. I joined a running group in July 2004, and the leader of the group, Tom, was planning on running Rocket City Marathon in AL in December. He printed out Hal Hidgon’s  novice training plan for me and offered to train with me. I thought, “why not?!” Long story short, I ran it in December of 2004 with goals to:

1. Finish
2. Run under 4 hours
3. Qualify for Boston. 

I always set multiple goals which are often high reaching. I was thrilled to have accomplished all 3 goals, running a 3:32:59!!!  I was sooo sore afterwards.  We had a hotel with no elevator and rooms on the 2nd floor.  Man, how would I get down the stairs after my shower?  I think everyone has had that moment!  I discovered walking downstairs backwards :)

I qualified for Boston, so I went! Loving to go out fast and loving downhills, Boston was a bad set-up for me. It was also a hot year in 2005. I ran a 3:36, disappointed I that didn’t run faster than in Alabama. In 2006, I went back for Boston redemption and ran slower. My race was not what I’d hoped, and I thought, “I suck.” Three marathons and SLOWER each time (I thought I should keep getting better, not worse). I know what some of you are thinking...someone call the WhaaaaaaM-bu-lance!! Many people would kill for those times. It seems ABSOLUTELY petty looking back, but we have all had those moments where things didn’t go our way and we had a pity party for ourselves. I swore to my husband that I was done running long distance races. No more marathons!

About a year later, a girlfriend of mine had heard about the Goofy (1/2 marathon on Saturday/marathon on Sunday). I thought that sounded insane, but I LOVED DISNEY (my kids had all the animated Disney movies mostly as an excuse for me to watch them)! She sold the race well. She offered that we could just do it and have fun. There were supposed to be characters on the course...we could stop and take pictures with them and not worry about time. Four people in my running group decided to do the Goofy in 2008, plus my husband would take on his first 1/2 marathon since we were going to do it leisurely. It was a blast! I realized that I didn’t always have to beat my time. Running could be fun and should be fun. (I had so much fun, I did it four years in a row, and even got my daughter to do her first 1/2 marathon)! 

Disney Marathon 2008 Mike, Traci, and Sulley :)
I learned that sometimes I need to reassess what and why I do things in life. I started running because I liked it. I needed to make sure that I didn’t take it so seriously that I sucked all the fun out of it. The Goofy Challenge opened back up the marathon world to me. In 2008, I did 3 more marathons that were close by (KY, OH, IN)...6 states down. 

In 2009, I did another 4 marathons (FL, OH, IN, TN). 7 states down. The Goofy and Flying Monkey Marathon (TN) had such AWESOME medals!! I started on a quest for other cool marathons with FUN medals. 

2010 was the year I started to get a little crazy in terms of race quantity.  I found that the Texas Marathon had the biggest medal in the US! It was as big as a hot plate and weighed 1 kg!! 2010 was a great year for me! I finally broke 3:30 (3:29 in January in Texas, 3:21 in September (Tupelo, MS) & November (Monkey), and 3:14 in Baton Rouge in December). I actually won a couple of marathons and started doing doubles (Saturday/Sunday marathons). I also found out about the 50 States Club, 50 States & DC Club, and the Marathon Maniacs. I joined all of them!  Along the way, someone told me about the 50 States Sub 4 club, so I joined it too!! I ran 21 marathons in 2010 (TX, FL, CAx3, AR, WA, KY, IL, OHx2, ND, MN, NCx2, MS, MO, NY, TN, LA , and DC (I know it’s not a state, but I needed it for the DC club)...19 states and DC down.

2011 got even crazier. I was pumped that I had won a couple of races and was getting faster. I never rested...I just pushed harder (not a good idea I would later find out). I ran 3:21 in September & November of 2010, 3:14 in December, 3:09 in January, 3:07 in February, and won 3 races between January and March of 2011. In April, I ended up with a partial tear of my hamstring which brought my running to a hault. I was humiliated as my hamstring literally took me out at the Gansett Marathon. I had bib #1 and finished almost DFL. I literally walked the last 7 miles and drug my leg through Boston two days later in a new PW of 5:22:48. My Physical Therapist, Lauren, miracle-worker extraordinaire, helped me work to get back sooner than expected. I actually still managed to run 24 marathons (FL, SC, AZ, GA, MD, HI, RI, MA, CA, OR, IA, SD, MT, MIx2, NV, ID, CO, OH, UT, IN, WV, TN, KY), my first 50 miler (IL), and first 100 miler (LA) run a PR of 3:01:19 in St. George, UT...36 states and DC down.

St. George 2011

Long story short...2012 brought 24 marathons (IN, AZ, LA, KY, VA, IL, NJ, ND, WI, OR, WY, AK, CO, MN, OH, PA, NH, NY, NM, KS, TN, DE, KY), 2-50k’s (KY, MS), a 50 miler (PA), a 100 miler (NC), a 12-hour (IN), and a 24-hour (NC). 2012 was by far my craziest year in terms of quantity. In 2012, I also met Keith Straw and under his pink tutu spell agreed to do the Grand Slam with him if we both got into Western States. I had no idea what I had just agreed to.  In addition, I met Connie Gardner at Tussey Mountainback 50 miler in October who informed me about the USA 24-hour team. I decided to try to qualify for the team on New Year’s Eve and managed almost 138 miles to secure a spot...46 states and DC down. 

2013 was amazing. I ran for Team USA in the Netherlands and was 4th in the world with  142.730 miles! We won gold. The Grand Slam was 6 weeks later. Little did I know that I couldn’t race ultras as frequently as marathons. I ran the WSER training runs (70 miles in 3 days) 2 weeks after the Netherlands, a marathon a week later, and a 12 hour the week after that. I started the Grand Slam in a hole, with grand expectations and was just happy to finish. I wasn’t even close to the goals I had set for the Slam, but I LEARNED A TON! I learned a ton about nutrition, mountains, and A LOT about the importance of Recovery. I puked more in 2013 then my entire families lifetime incidences combined. 2013 brought major highs and major lows. I did a 50 miler (KY), a 12- hour (IN), 9 marathons (IN, KYx3, OH, CT, RI, WI, TN), 4-100 milers (CA, VT, CO, UT), and a 24-hour (Netherlands). 2013 added only 2 new states: CT & VT and helped me get a sub 4 redemption in RI.

2014 brought 8 marathons, and 6 ultras so far :) I got a new PR in the 100 mile twice and set records (pending ratification) in 48 hours in AK! 

I finished my 50th state in Maine (May) completing the 50 States Club and 50 States and DC club!! It’s been a fantastic year so far! My family came out to celebrate my 50th state in Maine. It was nice to have everyone there! My husband, Mike has been my biggest supporter and has tirelessly been to the majority of my marathons and spent gazillions of hours crewing. My daughter, Mackenzie even ran 1/2 of the race with me, which was a wonderful mother’s day present. My son Logan, ran briefly with me as he and my husband hopped along the course to cheer and crew. My parents were there to cheer, take pictures and help me celebrate! One of my friends, who I met marathoning, Jennifer, came to run the whole marathon with me. The RD gave me bib #50 and was super welcoming. I was interviewed by the race announcer at the end of the race, and given a momento to remember the event!  
I finished my 50th sub 4 state in VT (October) Vermont. I had to repeat VT for the 50 sub 4 club, because I couldn’t run the VT 100 in under 4 hours :)  50<4 was a weekend with friends who I have met marathoning. Kino, Steven, Jeff, Ken, and myself. It was nice to have an extra day and a half to see Vermont. We toured Vermont at a beautiful time of year when the leaves were changing.  We did some sight-seeing, wine tasting, maple syrup scouting, and ate a lot of great food! The marathon course and weather were beautiful! Ken and Steven drove around the course crewing and banging cowbells with drumsticks. They were an awesome support and photographic crew! It was a laid back and hilarious weekend and a phenomenal way to end my 50 state journey. 

50 States Quilt :)
This has sort of turned into an autobiography which I always thought were boring to read, so I was thinking what could make this tolerable? :) TRIVIA

Best Marathon Medals:
Surf City-wooden surf boards
Boston, Big Sur B2B, Newport (from left)
North Country, ET, Grand Island Trail, Missoula (from Right)
Flying Monkey-laser wood with monkeys
Wineglass & Newport OR for blown glass
Tupelo-skull & cross bones
Airforce-quality & cool
Flying Pig-love the double sided medal and pig butt
Texas- ENORMOUS, presented in a satin-lined box
Minneapolis-stained glass wedge
Backside Trail Marathon-real horseshoe

Airforce, Monumental, Flying Monkey, Texas, Goofy (3), Surf City
Airforce, Erie, New Hampshire, Wineglass, Day of the Dead, Pilgrim Pacer, Monkey, Rehobooth, Otter Creek, Carmel, Backside Trail Marathon

"the shrine" as my hubby calls it. My marathon medals are along the
ceiling in the basement in chronological order.
Best Swag:                                      
Flying Monkey
Baton Rouge
Backside Trail
Western States 100 miler

Fastest Courses
St. George
Newport OR
B&A Trail

Most Scenic
Big Sur
Maine Coast
Newport, RI
Yakima River Canyon
St. George

Best Big Marathons
New York 
Marine Corps. 

Most Fun: 
Grandfather Mountain-stay for free admission to the Highland Games afterwards! 
Marine Corps-great sights and everyone is dressed up for Halloween
Disney-stopped to take pictures with characters and ride Rockin’ Rollar Coaster

Coolest Awards
Charleston (framed photos)
Lost Dutchman (framed prints)
Flying Monkey (crochet monkeys)
St. George (red rock awards)
Tallahassee (pottery plates)
Destin Beach Ultras (shell from AC-130)
Newport, OR (hand carved gray heron)

Best Value
Baton Rouge

Best Post-Race Spread: 
B&A Trail
Flying Monkey
Fargo (cookie dough & chocolate milk)
North Country
Favorite Shirts
Destin Beach Ultras
B&A Trail
Flying Monkey
Six Days in the Dome
Kettle Morraine
Planet Adventure Winter Trail Marathon

Most importantly, I want to thank my family for all their support in this journey. Visiting all 50 states was a super cool way to see the USA, but also took a lot of time. My husband, Mike has been phenomenal! He has driven all over with me to go somewhere, get up uber early, and drive around a course cheering in often crappy conditions. He has crewed me in the rain, sleet, wind, stayed up for 48 hours straight, put up with my sometime grumpy, ultra persona, massaged me, talked me off the ledge when I was nervous before racing, and countless of other supportive tasks. Thanks to my kids who think I am crazy, but support my running dreams. Thanks to my parents who worry about me damaging my body, but knowing that running is my passion and supporting me anyway. 

Thanks to my local friends who keep me company on all those long runs, let me bounce crazy ideas off of, give me their advice, and help me with my training plans! Thanks for your help with crewing, pacing, know who you are :)

Thanks to all the friends I have gained along the way!! It is amazing how many people I have connected with through races over the years. I have gained many good friends and connections! I appreciate all of your support!

Thanks to the Running Skirt girls who started sponsoring me in 2011 after I won the Hawaii marathon! Thanks to Dry-Max who picked me up in 2013 prior to the 24 Hour WC. Thanks to Hammer Nutrition and Coast Headlamps who have picked me up in 2014!!  

I couldn’t have been as successful without everyone!!


  1. That's an amazing story. Very motivational, thanks for sharing. One day I hope I can run sub 5.

    1. Thanks soooo much! Can't wait to hear that you did it!