chords and cadence

Another runner's writ

#NotAllRaces: Music City Half Marathon Recap

Not all races are created equal. They all have the same bones: starting line, finish line, heartbeats, nerves, and an apparatus that times you. Everything else is a variable: weather, the course, the competition, how your body feels, aid stations (or lack thereof), gear you wear (or forget), the number of tolerable porta-potties (oxymoron?), and the post-race fuel available (I really don’t get why there isn’t chocolate milk every single time!)

Races are beautifully complex, and running one is a completely new experience each and every time. I love that and yet I wrestle with it. Last Saturday’s race was one I am still having some mixed feelings about. On one hand, I placed first in my age group by about three minutes and I didn’t pass out. On the second hand, it was a slower time than my last race that I didn’t even place in, it was one of the toughest races my mind has had to conquer (on a seemingly not-so-challenging course), and perhaps most frustratingly, I’m still sore in my hamstrings and lower calves, despite lots of time on the foam roller, lacrosse balls, and stretching.

It’s. Thursday.

Without much more melodramatic lamenting, here is how it all went down.

Race Day

I woke up at 6a.m. in order to get some fuel. I wasn’t hungry, but knew if I didn’t put anything else in my stomach then, I’d have to eat too soon before the race. So I choked down half a serving of oatmeal, stretched, gave myself a mantra (Run strong, run fast, run your best), and crawled back into my warm bed for 20 more minutes. After getting back up and guzzling a cup of coffee, I went on my way to Nissan Stadium in downtown Nashville, where the start and finish lines were. It was spitting rain, grey and ominous. I didn’t bring a hat to wear and I left my sunglasses in the car, dismissing any inkling the weather might change.

Within 15 minutes of getting out of the car, I found a comfortable spot in the middle at the chute. The excitement butterflies that usually visit my stomach at the start were there, but barely. I was disappointed; I love the pre-race butterflies. Did they sleep in? This worried me for a second until I got distracted by the gun going off. A symphony of watch beeps filled the air, and with no music, I set off with the crowd.

I felt good, strong and excited when I started. I charged up the first hill (a bridge) with ease and passed a few people. But then, within the second mile, I started feeling a twinge here, a tired muscle there, and is that a side stitch? Seriously? Way too early for me to be comfortable with. I told myself that this one was not gonna be as blissful as I hoped. Not all races can be the same. Run strong, run fast, run your best.

We ran through an industrial part of town before getting up alongside the Cumberland River on the greenway, which sounds nice, but it was kind of brutal. On one side, there’s a river…not exactly your soothing babbling brook. On the other side was the backside of office buildings and warehouses…not exactly your daydream vista. And we were running against the wind. I began digging deep in my psyche and convinced myself to get comfortable being uncomfortable, because with 8+ miles to go, this wasn’t gonna be a dream run. My splits were not indicative of how I felt, however. They were better, a much-needed confidence booster. Run strong, run fast, run your best.

As we looped back, we came into contact with runners still coming from the other direction. A runner coming from the other direction shouted to me, “You’re in the top 10! There’s one right in front of you!” What?! Despite feeling the burn, I felt a boost. Run strong, run fast, run your best. The sun had come out, did I mention that? Did I mention that the sun came out about a mile in, and I had foregone the sunglasses? Never doing that again. The sun beat into my eyes the entire way back, causing a dehydrated-induced headache. I had half a Honey Stinger waffle and water around mile 8, then took some PowerAde from an aid station at mile 10, to try and ward off the dehydration – knowing the damage was done. Run strong, run fast, run your best. My pace had fallen a little bit, and I struggled mentally and physically. I was not having fun. My mantra took a different turn. Run strong, run fast, run this b*+ch.

Woulda looked cuter with sunglasses on, but nope!

I tried to gain a little momentum coming back down the bridge, but as we ran around Nissan Stadium for the last .60, I knew I wasn’t going to make up for what I’d lost in the last 3-4 miles. Run…your…best. Seeing my husband about .10 from the finish gave me the kick I needed. 1:46:25 and I was DONE.

Post Race

I was so happy to be done with that race. Like, hallelujah. My mood changed when I crossed the finish line, got my medal and a water bottle. By the time Jacob found me, I had sat down and nearly finished the water, wanting more.

I felt disappointed not to have even beaten my time from February. My goal for this race was far from met – I wanted to run my original PR of 1:41. So, HA. HA HA HA.

When I got a print-out of my data, I saw that I was 1 of 15 for females, 25-29. I was shocked. This couldn’t be right. But it was! My mood lifted from there, and standing on the podium felt pretty nice. The race organizers, Team Magic, had nice prizes for those who placed and I appreciated the cup, new socks, gift card to Nashville Running Co. (my favorite) and some weird-looking things you put in your shoes after you run so they don’t smell. They’ve already been tested and given a thumbs-up!

Three things in common with these people: We just ran, we’re between the ages of 25-29, and we just were told to put our hands up over our heads for a photo-op. I had time to run to my car and get the shades.

The Takeaway

Not all races are going to give me the warm fuzzies. Since my last race went so well and filled up my soul so much, I had expectations that this race would do the same. When I struggled (and so early on), the warm fuzzies fizzled into doubt and disappointment. I fought hard to keep those feelings far, far away.

Races are all about struggle! Despite placing, I wasn’t fully satisfied with how I did, and that’s okay. I can learn from it. I take running seriously, but when my brain voluntarily changes Run your best to Run this b*+ch, I guess it’s telling me that not all races are considered equal; lighten up, sign up for the next one, and don’t you dare think you can live without your sunglasses. B*+ch.

 

SPLITS + DATA

8:16 // 8:02 // 8:07 // 8:18 //8:05 // 7:53 // 7:45 // 7:50 // 8:02 // 7:56 // 8:08 // 8:19 // 8:07 // 1:32 (.20) = 1:46:25

301 elevation gain

My Big, Fat 10th Half Marathon!

Man. Oh. Man. A new race recap.

I know, you’ve been waiting since last spring.

But here it is. A chronicle of my 10th half marathon (!!!!!) the Cedars Frostbite Half Marathon in Lebanon, Tennessee, y’all! I love milestones like this.

I look at racing as part test, part celebration. After weeks or months of training, over a hundred miles put in for 13.1 it all comes down to just that: 13.1. It’s a celebration to complete training, it’s a jubilant feeling when other runners are around you, excited about the same end goal of simply running their own race. I love pushing myself and surprising myself and proving to myself that my legs and lungs and limbs can complete difficult tasks. And I love coming home and adding my race bib to all the other race bibs I’ve ran with since 2012. Thirty-one and counting.

As a prelude to all this, race week has a special place in my heart.

RACE WEEK

Race week is deliberately preparatory, which the Type A in me LOVES. You bet your butt I have my meals planned, my workouts planned, my sleep schedule planned, my race day outfit planned. I am READY. It probably scares my husband a little bit, but I tell myself it’s endearing. All the planning is exciting to me and builds the anticipation. It’s like the Rocky theme playing in a loop throughout my week, even as I sit in meetings and stare out the window at work. The pump is omnipresent. 

This race week, I was feeling mentally ready, but my body was being less than agreeable. I followed my training plan and ran a tempo workout on Monday night, but couldn’t complete it; my shins started burning with 15 minutes to go, so reluctantly backed off. Thursday morning I went for a run with my friend Elizabeth, and we both agreed to take it waaay easy (she was racing Saturday, too). But even our waaay easy run wasn’t that easy to me. I knew that I probably hadn’t given my body enough rest lately, that I’d been pretty gung-ho throughout the training period. Moral of the story is listen to your body and take rest days seriously!

img_9547

Ready to race!

RACE DAY

This glorious race started at 11a.m. and was $8 without a t-shirt. That’s like finding a unicorn! Just glorious. But wouldn’t you know I woke up before my alarm Saturday morning, 7:30 a.m.  I was quite annoyed at my internal clock for not indulging in the late start time and sleeping later!

Abuzz with plenty of coffee, water, and an oatmeal with peanut butter and banana breakfast, husband and I picked up Elizabeth and headed east to the Cedars of Lebanon State Park for the Frostbite Half Marathon.

Although the sun was shining, it wasn’t a warm morning. Around start time, it was creeping up to 40 but wasn’t there yet. We debated on what layers to wear and what to leave in the car. I decided to keep my Oiselle jacket on with a t-shirt and arm sleeves underneath. I never got too warm or too cold the whole time and I’m convinced it was because of quality gear! Oiselle, you do good work. I also wore capris if you were worried I forgot pants. I didn’t.

After getting our numbers pinned on and last-minute snacking was out of the way (try Honey Stinger waffles and thank me later), we got our spots in the mass of racers. We held our hands over our hearts to a George Jones rendering of the National Anthem, which just tickled me. I love living in Tennessee sometimes!

The gun went off and with it hundreds of GPS beeps chimed as people crossed over the line, mine included. This was my first race with my new Garmin Forerunner 220. I was excited to try it out! Spoiler alert: It did awesome and my splits are listed below. Thank you, Jacob! 

Even though they say to never try anything new on race day, I ran without music. I’ve never ran a half without music before. I mostly wanted to avoid holding my darn phone and dealing with the headphone wires and more importantly, wanted to challenge myself mentally. I remained easily motivated and kept a consistent pace sans tunes and ended up getting lost in my own mind anyway.

Side note: Do you ever just run and lose yourself for a minute? Do you feel like you have an out of body experience and you’re not thinking about anything but your body is still moving and reacting? So cool.

My goal was a 8:30 min/mile average pace to get a sub-1:50 time, and as the miles ticked away, the more I felt comfortable around my ~8 minute pace. As I was racing, I constantly kept checking in o

Yay, Liz!

Yay, Liz!

n my body to see if anything was hurting or needing attention and it was all systems go! It felt as though I had set my brain on auto-pilot and my body was just doing its thing. It was incredible and mysterious and still challenging all at the same time. How does my body do that? How does my brain do that? That feeling of non-feeling, if you will, made me just love running even more, again. It was all encompassing. It was another countless time when I felt such a deep love and respect for this art of running. Even still, I can’t articulate how it makes me feel.

After passing by a couple of basset hounds racing me in their front yard, I started to kick it in around mile 11. Throughout the final mile I started feeling my energy drain pretty noticeably. I’d hastily gobbled a Clif gel with some water around an hour in, but didn’t finish the packet because I was worried about slowing down too much. Plus, I never practice eating on the run, so it felt awkward.

 After seeing Jacob and speedy Elizabeth cheering me on near the finish, I kept up the sprint and left it all out on the course. To my excitement I came in at 1:45:20! Dizzy, thrilled, pumped up and proud of myself. But also very dizzy.

Elizabeth had, predictably, killed it, placing 2nd in her age group with a 1:41:?? time. Yeah, give that girl a high five! I was so excited for her because I know how hard she trained for this race and she did awesome.

img_9537WHAT’S NEXT

More running, that’s what! Yes, it is possible I’m still on my runner’s high from Saturday…

Tale as old as time, once you finish one race you’ll be scrambling to find your next one! I have a couple in my sights and can’t wait to zero in and start up training again. I was happy to see what I could do with this past race since it’d been too long since my last half. Gauging where I am can now set me up for more specific training and goals for the next one.

I’d love to work on speed + endurance for this next one, knocking a couple minutes off my time. I’ll know full well to back the heck off when my body is just not into it. Maybe take a couple more waaay easy runs, sans music, and just get lost in the footfalls.

SPLITS + DATA

8:09 // 8:04 // 8:22 // 8:05 // 8:02 // 8:17 // 8:02 // 7:57 // 7:54 // 8:02 // 7:39 // 8:04 // 7:55 // 6:47 (.10) = 1:45:20

37 degrees // 501 elevation gain

WHY Pace

So here’s the thing: every runner has their own pacing benchmark, right? They have their established, standard pace by which they base all other paces around: Happy pace, race pace, sick pace, slow pace, sore pace, friend pace, friendly competition pace, sunny day pace, icy day pace, rain pace, gotta pee pace and so on.

And then there’s WHY pace.

Neurotic runners like me don’t like WHY pace, no sir. Even if it’s supposed to be an easy day. Even if you’re still sore from a strength training workout. Even if you had a couple great runs at happy pace in the days leading up. Doesn’t matter. No excuses. There’s no place for WHY pace.

WHY pace graced my presence last night. What was supposed to be an easy 50 minutes at RPE 2 turned out to be 50 minutes of WHY? I was hydrated, the weather was cool, I had good tunes on, but no matter how I tried, mentally, physically (without pushing too hard, because it was supposed to be “easy”) I just couldn’t get out of a slogging, stupid, WHY pace. Confused and embarrassing myself, I wanted to quit. But I didn’t have anything better to do, my husband was out of town and couldn’t pick me up, and most importantly, quitting a run based on your pace being awful does nothing to please the running gods and they’ll remember that on race day.

So I ran at WHY pace, begrudgingly almost accepting it at minute 24, with 21 minutes to slog through. Not feeling sore, not feeling sick or tired. Just, WHY.

I’m all about how certain runs can teach you lessons; I know the lesson here is that I need to be patient, that we all have bad days but that there’s no such thing as a bad run. And, so, fine… I’ll accept that. But sometimes, even if the who, what, when, where, and how can be answered, the question of WHY pace just can’t. And that’s where I’m leaving that.

Welcome, 2017!

Well, hello, 2017 and hello to you, reader. Sixteen days ago, a lot of people said BYE FELICIA to 2016. I wanted to, but couldn’t honestly. I can’t deny that it was an incredibly blessed year for me, personally. I married my best friend and love of my life, traveled to new places, stood by one of my good friends as she married her best friend, and was engulfed by so much love and support from family and friends, my heart still feels crowded in my rib cage. Not to mention, the Broncos won the Super Bowl, my husband’s team won the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship, and after a couple of years of lackluster running, I noticed the spark spring back in my shoes. So yeah, 2016 was good to me.

Predictably, I was prompted to reflect on what I wanted for the year ahead. The verdict: develop and practice patience, set more running-related goals, and be a good wife. Each of those focuses are complex in-and-of themselves, and I’m looking forward to diving into them.

Along with my running-related goals is blogging more, whether I feel like I have anything interesting to say or not. I’ve read and been fascinated by some of the most mundane stuff I’ve found strewn around the internet (Thanks, Pinterest) so maybe my words will be someone else’s late-night binge read.

Looking ahead: I have been training for my 10th half marathon on February 4th. I participated in the annual Runner’s World Holiday Streak and have been following an 8-week intermediate training plan that incorporates speed work.

I’m planning on posting my training schedule, just not tonight because my laptop is about to die and it’s past my bedtime. BUT, I needed to get back on the blog. Better than nothing, I tell myself!

More soon, thanks for reading.

How to Have a Happy Trail Run

Without warning, it hit me: I really, really needed a good nature fix. I was starting to twitch. I needed more than a weekly, leisurely nature walk that didn’t get my heart rate up enough. I need to be out there longer. Sweat. Climb a damn hill with dirt on it. Burn my quads. Do a snot rocket.

The fiance came out with me for a 4.5-mile hike on the Mossy Ridge Trail at Percy Warner park on Sunday after church. Not more than 50 yards on the trail, it gnawed at me: Where have you been? Why not here? for I am nothing if not a girl in her happiest place on Earth on the trails surrounded by tall trees.

Hill Bench in its glory

I like how they put this bench at the top of one hill and the bottom of another. #foresight

As previously posted, running and I recently re-kindled our relationship and that has included small appetizers of trail running on the safe 2.5-mile Warner Woods Trail. I was secretly ashamed of myself that a short run like that would wipe me out like it did, but only because I know how much I used to tear it up. I wanted to run more and get back to what I used to do, but fear and self-doubt was successful at talking me down. You can’t do what you used to do three times a week anymore like it’s nothing! You’re almost 27. That’s considered your late 20s… Remember the creaking you hear in your knees? Better do some downward dogs instead.

I decided I’d had enough of the negative self-talk; it was time to stick it to the man/myself. I decided to pick up where I left off with trail running and allowing myself grace, I went for a long trail run and bucked any comparisons to my previous altitude-trained, 23-year-old self. And while I had an undeniably awesome, transcendent time (per usual) I did forget some crazy essential tips that could’ve made the beforeduring, and after a little more enjoyable.

Here are my tips for a happy trail run.

Before

  1. Load your car with a fresh towel or two, and a bandanna to bring with you as a sweat rag. Sweat pouring into your eyes and stinging them as you try to dominate a hill is just salt on a wound. Preventable!
  2. Drink up well before the run! Seriously, hydration is and will be your best friend. I’m no scientific expert, but drink enough so that your pee is clear. K? I’d like to make note that this is the first time I’ve talked about pee on a running blog. If you’re a runner, you are so impressed with me right now. Bring along water for after your run, an electrolyte drink (I love Nuun when I have it, or zero-calorie Powerade), and snacks in your car for when runger takes over on the drive home.
  3. Wear an article of clothing with a pocket for your car key. Yesterday, in full rookie mode, I wore no-pocket yoga pants and I improvised. MacGyver skills, while impressive, shouldn’t be necessary when we have been blessed by the existence of pocketed active wear.
  4. Naïveté isn’t cute or safe. Map out where you’re going and check the weather so you know what you’re dealing with. Unless you’re adventurous and have your phone with you, are fully prepared for the elements and have a load of time on your hands, knowing where you’re going and in what conditions are a must.  And since this is trail running, if you can check the elevation gain on the trail, DO. IT. unless you like to learn the hard way that a 4-mile route gains 225 ft. in a quarter mile. Hey, depending on your level of masochism, that may be a picnic! It would be for me on a good day!
  5. Sunscreen and bug spray yourself. I totally remembered this yesterday… totally.
  6. Tell someone who loves you that you’re bad ass and going for a trail run. And/or bring your phone. The good and bad of it is: the world is unpredictable and anything can happen. Turn your phone on “Do Not Disturb” if you really wanna feel like you’re unplugging, but still have a safety net.

    There's no place like a trail that smells like Jasmine

    Right here I had to stop and take a picture because I was breathing really hard but also because it smelled overwhelmingly like jasmine and I felt like I was not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

During

  1. Taylor’s Heaven on Earth = trail running with an eclectic mix that puts her back in Colorado. This includes, but is not limited to: Sam Bush, Infamous Stringdusters, Railroad Earth, YMSB, String Cheese Incident, Punch Brothers, Greensky Bluegrass, Grateful Dead. If you want my playlist, I’m happy to oblige. NOW: The important part of this that I MUST stress is keep the volume low enough to communicate with others on the trail. Guys, I was coming up behind this girl yesterday with her Beats By Dre turned up and although I was kindly alerting her that I was coming up on her left in plenty of time, she had NO CLUE I was around until I had to slow down and squeeze by her (and give her the stink  eye, because REALLY?). Not only for your own safety (hi, random attacker!) but also for the courtesy of others – keep your volume down so you can still hear what’s going on around you. Which brings me to my next point…
  2. Be kind and let people know you’re coming up behind them. Call out a little ways out with a friendly “Hey there! On your left!” Don’t whiz past them like they’re in your way – trails are for everyone to enjoy responsibly. Practice the Golden Rule here. Make friends. Be good.
  3. Pick up your feet! Trail running is not without things you will be challenged to negotiate quickly! Get into a zone and pay attention to what’s ahead of you. You will be amazed at how your brain works to anticipate what’s to come and how your body responds. If you find yourself timid to go too fast down a hill littered with roots and rocks, take it slow but prepare yourself for next time by doing some drills: running stairs, high knees, and butt kicks, or lateral exercises like shuffling and grapevine. Strength training helps, too. Now, give me 10 squats!
  4. HILLS – try not to look at what you have ahead of you too much for too long – it will mess with you mentally. Just take one step at a time as you ascend. Yesterday, I was halfway up a hill before I realized I was running up a HUGE one, and guess what? I had enough (mental?) energy to take me to the top! Then, at another hill, I sized it up as I approached it and didn’t make it up without psyching myself out. Trail running is a mental game, like anything else, and there are ways to hack it.
  5. Stop and smell the flowers. Don’t hold yourself to a strict time limit. Allow yourself to stop and soak in the nature and beauty around you. That’s what trail running is about! Recognize you’re blessed enough to be where you are, feel the burn in your lungs and the pulsing of blood in your legs. THIS IS LIFE! THIS IS WHAT IT IS ABOUT! And then keep going.

After

  1. That towel you packed? Sit on it and save your car seats. Wipe the sweat and dirt and mud off ya, if you got so lucky.
  2. Luxuriate with these. Especially if you want anyone to actually come close to you when you get home. Or, any baby wipe will do.
  3. Drink water, eat something. Avoid headaches, literally, and thank your muscles with carbs and protein.
  4. Check for ticks. Lyme disease ain’t no joke.
  5. Foam roll within a couple hours of your run so you’re not out of commission for the next three days with Icy Hot as your main squeeze. Foam rolling can really ruin a DOMS party in your muscles.

I won’t admit to how many of the above I had to re-learn yesterday, which was the real impetus behind this post. But that’s what I get for staying away so long!

Returning to the trails to run them made me feel more than ordinary; I was no longer a boring person with a desk job. I sank into my zone, listened to each and every note in my hippie music and didn’t do a whole lot of thinking otherwise. It was simple: I had a happy trail run, and after reading this if you go out and try it, I really hope you do too.8926bb1859448aa8bd7cdcc00995a5c6

 

How I Abandoned a Relationship and How I Got It Back

Ever since I seriously took up running and racing in 2012, I’ve kept every single race bib on a safety pin. The older bibs are starting to fray and rip, but I’ve salvaged them with Scotch Tape like a mother saving her kid’s decade-old first art project (“Remember when you did this?”). In 2015, the stack nearly plateaued with the addition of only. two. bibs.

I know what you’re thinking. I’m a lazy monster.

Obviously, 2015 was a metamorphosis of sorts. Instead of running being my main squeeze, an actual human completely edged it out in my heart and soul (Aww. So corny. I had to. Hi, Jacob!). Also happening in my heart and soul were thoughts and ideas and realizations that resulted in me switching careers. So that took some attention and care too. Plus, I flirted with a lot of other forms of exercising that got me excited and feeling ripped. So, running got pushed to the side. “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Any runner will NOT think I’m crazy talking about my relationship with Running as if it were a real, warm, humanbody. When you know, you know. You know?

After I began feeling steady in The Changes of 2015 (a fiancé, new job, creaking in both my knees when I climb stairs), the ground thawed, tulips bloomed and allergies were blessing literally everybody. The sweet spring air and Daylight Saving Time successfully lured me outside more and more like sorority girls to a Luke Bryan concert. I started feeling the familiar butterflies I had at the beginning of my relationship with Running. Could we be starting anew?

With aplomb, I decided to test the waters with my maybe-rekindled relationship and signed up for the Moosic City Purity Dairy Dash 10k. The Fiancé would be out of town, so Running and me would have the time we needed (and he was totes cool about it).

I showed up to the Metro Center of Nashville on a bright, sunny, already-mid-60s morning. My shorts and t-shirt were comfortable, my shoes felt good. I left my phone in the car and just carried my I.D. and car key. No GPS, no Garmin, no music in my ears. It was FREEING.

Surrounded by all the runners – big groups, couples, women in tutus, anxious-looking teenagers- I felt energized. I wasn’t attached to anyone else there, but I certainly wasn’t lonely. I felt comfortable being back in a sea of other runners. “What chute are we actually starting in?” “Beautiful day, isn’t it?” “Good luck!, Thanks, you too” I tightened my ponytail, ignored the side stitch I just gave myself by chugging 24 oz. of water (dammit, I know better!) and loved the feeling of my heart beating in my chest with anticipation of hearing the gun go off.271087f7-d0c4-49cb-8499-307bef81e713

Running without a Garmin for the first time in forever, I counted the number of seconds between the gun and when I crossed the Start. Fifteen seconds.

I got into a groove pretty early on and felt on top of the world. I wanted to see how long I could maintain my pace, and started moving up pretty quickly. We passed the Tennessee Titan’s practice facility and I’m pretty sure I heard them yelling “1! 2! 3! 4!” as if doing jumping jacks. *cough*GO BRONCOS*cough* I was passed by a faster, smaller girl (hereby referred to as Fast Girl) who was friendly, saying “Thank you” to the cops standing by, protecting the course. She became my rabbit, even though I’ve told myself a million times to never compare myself to another runner (they could be having the best running day of their life or the worst. You do you).  The course took us up along the greenway that borders the Cumberland River and was as flat as all my jokes.

After Mile 3, the runner’s high started kicking in. I felt euphoric. My pace was strong, I was strong, and I thought to myself that who I was in that very moment was the best version of myself. It had come back to me: I am in love with running.  I am in love with who I am when I am running. Running is the best. I realized I had forgotten how much I loved this, but now I remembered and why.

At Mile 5, I caught up to the Fast Girl and we commented about how nice the shade was we were taking advantage of. We quipped how much we liked the flat course and encouraged one another on a great race. She told me to go ahead for the last mile, so I did. I crossed the finish with no one around me, but was cheered on by people at the finish line.

The clock said 50:45 when I finished, so I concluded my time was 50:30, based on when I actually crossed the Start line. I surprised myself, as I went into the race thinking I’d be satisfied with anything under 55 minutes.

About a minute later, Fast Girl finished and came up to me telling me I had a great race. We shook hands and told each other we pushed the other, and thanks for that.

I wandered around for a little while afterwards, nursing a cold chocolate milk and wondering when they would post the 10K results. Seeing when I finished made me curious to know if I had actually placed. After hearing too much “Cha Cha Slide” from the DJ, I decided to get my sweaty butt home for a shower and food. Thank God for the Internet so I could look up the results later.

I learned I placed 2nd for females ages 25-30, and placed 13th female overall. With those results, I know that Running wants me back, and I want it back too. I put myself out there and what I got in return was more fulfilling than I anticipated. So, we’re trying this again.

Tonight I have to add my bib to the stack…and maybe reconsider an upgrade to the bib-keeping system. I have a feeling the stack won’t be plateauing this year.

Down by the Heart of Gold on this Harvest Moon

My memories of first hearing Neil Young were so long ago, boy bands did not exist in my life. Hanson hadn’t mmm bopped and N*SYNC didn’t want you back (yet). But Neil was there, and my naive little ears really liked the guy.neil young

Growing up, when the Colorado summer weather was decent enough for it, we would eat dinner outside in the summer. Mom and Dad always keep a rotation of five or six CDs in the stereo – some of Dad’s favorites, some of Mom’s, and some mutual – and it seemed like Neil was always a mainstay. Heck, even if we didn’t eat outside, we’d still play music during dinner. Neil Neil Neil, always in the rotation. He was one they never disputed.

Music adheres to your memory. Music makes for moments in time you take with you and hold on to and go back to. And for me, I can remember so many instances where I heard Neil Young and I just felt at home.

But there’s a full moon risin’
Let’s go dancin’ in the light
We know where the music’s playin’
Let’s go out and feel the night.

Throughout my life there have been different, sometimes very random times when I have heard Neil Young or listened to him that at the time were so inconsequential, but now have stuck to my memory. And I’m glad they have; they’re like old pictures I would choose to keep.

June 2010. I was in Berlin, Germany starting my summer semester abroad. I had three months in Europe ahead of me and was making new friends left and right – all of us zealous and optimistic and blissfully ignorant American student tourists. A group of us went to a bar one night in Kreuzberg where they had an open mic night. A German was singing and playing Neil’s “Heart of Gold” in the small, dimly lit bar and at the moment it sounded so pure that it made me miss home for the first time in weeks. Although Neil is very much Canadian, and I knew this, I missed America just a little bit, just by hearing his song.

I want to live,
I want to give
I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold.
It’s these expressions
I never give
That keep me searching for a heart of gold.

When I came back that summer from Berlin, my parents weren’t able to pick me up from the airport. They left a car for me at the airport to drive back to Boulder. I hadn’t driven in over three months and I distinctly remember missing the act of driving – just being on an open road with the windows down, music blaring. The freedom that comes with operating your own transportation! In the CD player of the Chrysler Pacifica? Neil Young’s Harvest Moon. I knew they hadn’t planned that, but it couldn’t have been better for my homecoming. You bet your ass when “Unknown Legend” kicked off that I rolled all four windows down and cranked it up.

Somewhere on a desert highway
She rides a Harley-Davidson
Her long blonde hair
flyin’ in the wind
She’s been runnin’ half her life
The chrome and steel she rides
Collidin’ with
the very air she breathes
The air she breathes.

I have wanted to be that woman, that unknown legend, so many times. On a desert highway, and yes, on a Harley Davidson. In another life…

Fast forward a couple years. I started running a lot. I listened to a lot of music – Black Keys, Tom Petty… But I wanted to dig a little deeper and downloaded Neil’s Greatest Hits. It took me to a whole new side of Neil – the gritty rock, electric-heavy “Cowgirl in the Sand,” “Southern Man,” and “Ohio” were good motivators to grind a little more on the road.

You take my hand,
I’ll take your hand
Together we may get away
This much madness
is too much sorrow
It’s impossible
to make it today.

Deep as sin of a song, I’ll tell you what. The darker stuff spoke to me in a different way than the lighter, folkier Harvest and Prairie Wind. I hardly ever seek out “dark music,” but when I came across it, it cemented Neil as a virtuoso in my mind. The man has reach.

A young Neil Young.

A young Neil Young.

Then, in the summer of 2012, I got a job pouring beer at Red Rocks concerts. To this day, one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. Making people happy by serving them beer at one of the greatest concert venues on the planet and catching free shows…take me back please? I digress.

Of course I signed up to work when Neil came on tour with Crazy Horse. Luckily that night I was able to get off early enough to catch a good part of his show. He was wearing a white button down shirt that flowed with the reverb and riffs that he played. He was an enigma. I was mesmerized. He had this aura around him. And I really have only ever used “aura” in my writing maybe three times in my life. I don’t use “aura” flippantly.

I can’t speak much for what he has put out recently i.e. The Monsanto Years, but man I am thankful for what he has produced. His craft has given me so many memories; places in my mind to go back to and automatically feel at ease.

Neil’s not the only musician who makes me feel at home when I listen to him. So I hope to start a series and write more about my other favorites. And for most of them, I have to give credit where credit is due: My parents have heavily influenced my taste in music and therefore have made me out to be an old soul. I think I should have grown up in the ’70s because damn. Music was SO. GOOD. in the ’70s. Notice how I went this whole blarticle without once mentioning CSN/Y? It’s because that’s another blarticle for another time.

I just discovered Neil Young’s documentary Heart of Gold on Netflix, so I’m off to watch it and go, well, home.

What the road has taught me

da3ab7ebadf0159a5a5b581358844d64I’m in my mid-twenties. Like college, these are formative years – just with a lot less house parties and homework and more routines and early nights. And a big girl job. And insurance payments. And #responsibilities.

Relationships, careers, health… they’re taking shape for me right now and setting me up for the rest of my life. I pay for car repairs with money I forlornly look at as a woulda-been weekend getaway vacation dollars. It’s how it should be, I suppose, as I get used to life as a grown-up person. It happens, right?

Being a contemplative, reflective person (hence, writer) has rendered me thinking about lessons and growing up and what I’ve learned lately. This proclivity guides me to lessons I’ve learned from roads, trails, and sidewalks, fields, bridges, and other places I’ve stretched my legs.

What the road has taught me (so far):

1. There are potholes, detours, fallen trees, bee hives, and crazy stroller runners. Adjust your route accordingly.

2. Calves that don’t fit into skinny jeans because of mileage are exempt from following fashion trends, and should therefore legitimize yoga pants as acceptable everyday wear. I’m sure I can get some guys to back me on up this, right, fellas?

3. I’m tough. I can fight. I’m a bad ass. And I rarely let myself believe it. I should believe it more.

4. Listening is best. Don’t waste your breath.

5. The sun can shine your entire run, or you can get caught in a rainstorm. Keep going.

6. A little mud never hurt anything. Actually, mud is best.

7. Sometimes you have to follow the rules; they’re there for your own good. (Stoplights, amirite?)

8. Pushing yourself gets you further. Every. Time.

9. Snot rockets, farts…sh!t happens. Laugh at it. Laugh at yourself.

10. Bringing people with you can make it a lot more fun than going at it alone.

11. At the same time, it’s necessary to have your alone time with the asphalt under your rubber soles, the clothes on your back, and your thoughts. It can be scary, being left alone with your brain. Go to that scary place anyway.

12. Squats, lunges, stretching…preparation for the road is important – don’t ignore the fundamentals.

13. The best views have the most brutal ascents.

14. Run the mile you’re in. Be where you are.

15. Never compare yourself to another runner. They could be having the best – or worst – running day of their life. Withhold judgement.

16. Take care of yourself. Rest days are necessary, and the road won’t disappear if your shoes aren’t on it.

Any runner can atest that the road and its lessons are akin to life; it’s ridiculous the metaphors and similarities. Maybe that’s why so many follow the road. It’s not just cardio. It gives more, and it takes more.

I still have a lot of lessons to learn from the road, from life. I’m in my mid-twenties, so that damn well better be true! I’ve got my alarm set for tomorrow morning and I’m gonna go out on sore hamstrings and see what I can learn from the road tomorrow, even though I’ve ran it a hundred times or more. It may be that I should always carry an extra hair tie (ok, I already know that) or it may show me what I’m really supposed to do with the rest of my life, or at least the next few years (crossing my fingers). Either way, the road has taught me many things so far and I’m grateful for the road.

What’s it taught you?

Tough Mudder Tennessee 2015

When was the last time  you did something for the first time?

Thumbs up! Ready to tackle Tough Mudder! Jacob's third, my first.

Thumbs up! Ready to tackle Tough Mudder! Jacob’s third, my first.

That question bounced and tripped and rolled over in my brain for the next four hours (and some-odd minutes) as I leaped, swam, pushed, ran, walked, heaved, laughed, gasped, and grunted my way through my first Tough Mudder.

For the past two years, my boyfriend had done Tough Mudder with his friends. Each time he came back, he was on fire about it. The obstacles sounded impossible, the conditions sounded grueling…and yet, in my masochist form, I really wanted to do it. I needed to.

So, I kindly decided to crash his party and join him this time. Boys can’t have all the fun, right?

A couple days beforehand, I got a little nervous looking at the obstacles (again). Although I strength train, my upper body is nowhere near 1. my boyfriend’s, 2. any of the tough ladies I saw who were crushing it in YouTube videos. Despite my pretty good fitness level, I felt like I was a beginner. I let myself be totally intimidated. Lucky for me, Jacob gave me a pep talk and my nervousness gave way to domination preparation.

The morning of, we drove down to Pulaski, Tennessee in the pouring rain while listening to “Sabotage” by Beastie Boys (my request), The Rolling Stones and other pump-up hits. From the get-go, I started mentally prepping myself: I was going to be very uncomfortable. It was going to hurt. I was  going to be cold and dirty, and that’s just the way it was going to be. But most of all, it was going to be worth it. And hopefully really fun.

New friend! All smiles now... note: Cleanest I'd be all weekend.

New friend! All smiles now… note: Cleanest I’d be all weekend.

I was relieved to learn I wasn’t the only girl on the team, even though I knew that the guys would be cool if I was. I quickly bonded with Laura whose first Tough Mudder it was also. There was also Amanda, a kick-ass lady who had given birth only four months ago! #badassmom

What struck me was how unapologetic Tough Mudder is about their sponsor presentation. So corporate, it felt completely contrived and was a little annoying. Before we even got to the starting line, we were inundated by Cellucor pushing their pre-workout energy drink something-or-other and warmed up in the “Cellucor Warm Up Spot” or something like that. There were obstacles that had Oberto, Toyota, Radisson, etc. all over them. I know how much money I paid to do this thing…I can’t imagine how much sponsors shelled out to get their names on a “beached whale” obstacle. But I digress…

At the starting line (after you get over the 10 foot wall first, of course) we listened to the National Anthem and then were told to “take a knee.” I had comforting flashbacks from high school cross country. The motivator guy came out with his microphone and gave a pretty damn good speech. Goosebumps, chills, all that. As he prepped us for the event we were about to put ourselves through, he asked us a simple, yet compelling question: When was the last time you did something for the first time? I think Jacob and I even looked at each other with an expression of, “Yeah, when WAS the last time?” It held a lot of power.

Well, that romantic notion quickly floated away on the breeze as the air horn went off and we started running – up a long, huge ass hill. Well – bring. it. on. Tough Mudder. I eat hills for breakfast… Oh if I only knew what lied ahead.

That first huge ass hill. Photo courtesy of Tough Mudder.

That first huge ass hill. Photo courtesy of Tough Mudder.

The first obstacle were trenches. Your average 10-feet-deep, muddy, no-grip, gotta-ask-for-a-boost-to-get-out-of trenches. Immediately the camaraderie spirit took over everyone and as soon as you jumped down into one trench, you were being helped up. Then, you turned around and helped the next person (or people). It was a pretty cool thing and an experience that gave you a little faith in humanity. If we could all help each other out like this for an obstacle race – think about what we could do for each other in everyday life! (hint: now’s the time to go commit a random act of kindness)

Now thoroughly dirty and 100% in it, our group caught up and ran/jogged to the next obstacle. “Rocks in my shoes! Mud in between my _____” complaints started coming out (and wouldn’t really stop, though it was more commiserating and laughing and self-deprecation).

Throughout the 10.2 miles, we encountered over 15 obstacles. I had a few favorites, and a few not-so-favorites.

The Arctic Enema is infamous within the Tough Mudder community, and for good reason. You slide into ice water (with actual ice, like the kind at Sonic) with a fence overhead to keep you lying on your back, and are forced to go under the ICED water in order to cross a threshold to get back up. Then, you have to jump over a board in the ICED water before you get into another pool of ICED water, and then make your way out. Icy dicey. Now. I’ve done a polar plunge or two before. Growing up in Colorado, I’ve done the usual jump-from-the-hot-tub-into-the-snow gig. But this. This shocked my system so completely, I couldn’t even mutter a curse word. Nothing came out. I just had to keep moving.

The Cry Baby was next and reprehensible. You start by swimming into cold, muddy water and underneath a portal where you come up for air only to be met with excrutiating gasses. I think it was probably menthol as it had a hint of Vicks to it… but I coughed and sputtered as I army-crawled through, hoping to goodness my contacts would still remain on my eyeballs. Yuck.

The King of the Swingers was my favorite by far. We climbed a rickety wood platform that sat on the edge of a 14-foot deep pool, about 20 feet high. There was a rescue scuba diver at the other side. Huh, reassuring, I thought. The feat was to leap out, grab the bar in front of you that would swing you out over the water…and you were supposed to hit the bell on the other side before you let go and fell to your death, I mean the water. Of course, it was a fear for a lot of people to overcome – heights, water, falling… And I was nervous too! But when it came my turn, the bell rang for us to go, and I didn’t have to think twice. I just went. I didn’t hit the bell, but when I plunged into the water, the adrenaline rush was REAL. I would have tried it again and again. So, I’m taking this to mean I should go sky diving. Totally.

If that face doesn't tell you anything, I don't know what will.

If that face doesn’t tell you anything, I don’t know what will.

My (other) least favorite was the Electroshock Therapy: running through volted wires hanging down over hay bales. If you trip from the voltage, good luck getting back up. Luckily I didn’t trip, but enough said.

Between obstacles, the course was beautiful – and tricky. Rugged and lush, the woods of the farm we were running on had plenty of hills to keep the dirt baggiest dirt bag begging for mercy. I found my trail running experience came in handy, as that’s essentially what a lot of it was. At one point, Jacob, Laura and I started running down this hill with little to stop us and a LOT of momentum. Slip-sliding on mud, grabbing tree limbs for “stability” as we leapt by, I realized at one point we were all just laughing. We were having so much fun, that we were all laughing out loud. When was the last time you DID something like that?

Those hills, though… I kept up with Laura for some of them, and walked some with Jacob and our other teammates. Brutal, those hills. Like nothing I’ve ever ran!

Looks can be deceiving. We were extremely muddy.

Looks can be deceiving. We were extremely muddy.

By the end of the challenge, I had cuts and scrapes I couldn’t even tell you how I got them. I was probably the dirtiest and least attractive I’ve ever felt. And yeah, it was awesome and liberating. I felt exhilarated. I asked myself why it took me so long to do something like that, and I resolved to challenge myself more. To go out on the edge and do new things more often. To TRY. Although there were obstacles I couldn’t overcome and had to give up on (seriously, strength was just not at the right level), I was satisfied that I even tried each obstacle. I owed it to myself (and the $165 I paid, right?).

Despite the expensive ticket in and the ridiculous corporateness (and the cheap t-shirts, c’mon man!), I can’t recommend Tough Mudder – any obstacle race that tests your mental and physical abilities – enough. You’d be hard pressed to find a grittier, more challenging, fun, adrenaline-pumping time with obstacles that you can’t really make in an afternoon with your buddies (and live to invite your closest friends over). After TM, I felt empowered, confident, and kick ass. Maybe I had a lot of boosts up the walls, and was pulled up the Mt. Everest thing…I still did it. Despite running half-marathons and marathons, I learned more about what I was made of. The sense of accomplishment was REAL and I’ve been on a motivational kick ever since. Better sign up for my next race right now…

After our celebratory beer and spraying ourselves off at the official spray-off station (where nakedness was displayed without shame by other Mudders) we indulged in Chick-Fil-A and warily drove home. The next day was full of soreness, ICY HOT and stretching, but I still wouldn’t have traded it for a safe Saturday at home. I made a new friend, and got to share the experience with my boyfriend, who, I must brag, kicked total ass and looked good doing it!

Now. What was the last thing you did for the first time?

The team! Looking good as ever.

The team! Looking good as ever.

11 Reasons I love the treadmill (and you can, too!)

In the fitness/running world, ‘treadmill’ is often synonymous with ‘suck.’ FullSizeRender (2)

In the runners’ world, it’s affectionately nicknamed the ‘dreadmill.’ Clever.

There are multiple articles touting the shame you should feel for using the treadmill, why you should always run outside instead. There’s even a Pinterest page dedicated to the dreadmill. And that’s okay; I get it.

I’m a runner, that’s no secret. But what is? I love the treadmill. Especially this time of year.

Here are reasons why I love the treadmill (and you can too!)

1. I can completely zone out: Dial in my speed (7.0mph for a slower day, 7.2 for a normal, and 7.7-8.0 if I’m feeling fast); swipe to my go-to playlist of the week, and have at it. I don’t have to think about which route to take (which is good for an indecisive one like me), if I’ll get lost or go too far before I run out of fuel or sidewalk. I just plug in and go.

2. People watching. There is usually always someone entertaining at the gym to watch. The dancing dude with a bandana who’s probably rocking out to Guns & Roses, the old lady reading Home & Garden on the elliptical while her husband tries hopelessly to get in the groove beside her, old friends saying ‘hi’ to each other and shooting playful jabs… it’s good people watching while you work out. Entertainment enough. There’s also the mental wish list I make when I see cute workout clothes I want.

3. Pure safety. Nashville doesn’t have the safest streets (read: no sidewalks in a lot of neighborhoods). It’s safe to use the treadmill; I won’t get hit by a car or end up in the wrong part of town. Especially when I have to run at night and solo night running makes me uneasy, the treadmill can be a godsend.

4. Hill interval workouts. I can perfectly dial in my incline, set myself at a certain challenging speed, turn up my music and settle in to the discomfort. I can focus on challenging myself just a little better because I have control over the elements of my workout. I usually come up with my own pyramid workout, but if you need some ideas, this is a good place to start and modify to fit your goals and abilities.

5. The fan. With high and low settings, it’s dreamy and feels stupidly luxurious.

treadmill-racing6. It can push you, if you let it. Wanna push yourself to get faster? Set it at a certain speed and work on sustaining that speed for 60-90 seconds. HIIT workouts are the BOMB on the treadmill, taking the guess work out of pacing. If you don’t have a track nearby, the treadmill can be vital to work on your speed.

7. I can check myself out. Before you get all judgy, here me out: I can check my form in the mirror and see where I’m a little off-balance. Helps a ton, truly. You wouldn’t want to lift weights in a room with no mirrors all the time because proper form is important, right? Same with running. Take a chance to check your form.

8. I nerd out on the numbers. Sure, I have my Garmin when I run outside, but I love the data presented to me on the treadmill without having to slow down (heaven forbid, right?!). I can see my average pace, if I need to kick it up a notch, see how far I’ve gone, and my incline percentage. It’s the only time I love numbers.

9. Beverages. I’m talking Nuun water, coffee, tea… the cup holder is plain awesome. I’ve ran with all three before on the treadmill feeling spoiled for getting to do so. You just can’t run with coffee without looking like you’re late for something.

10. Asphalt sucks sometimes. Face it: constantly pounding the pavement can be not-so-friendly on your joints. Show ’em some love by getting on a more forgiving surface like the treadmill (or trails).

11. Because it’s better than not running. When I’m faced with running in the rain, sleet, bitter cold, sometimes I can turn on my beast mode and do it. But sometimes I just really don’t want to, or it’s unsafe. A lot of times, I can only run at night and stories of runners (read: women runners) being assaulted/kidnapped/even killed rightfully frighten me.  What am I gonna do? Not run? No, thanks. I’d rather keep my sanity. The treadmill is a privilege, really.TreadmillHC

I’m not saying every workout on the treadmill is sunshine and roses. More like fluorescent lights and sweat. But it gets the job done, at the end of the day, when I’d rather not be outside, which isn’t often.

Show the treadmill some soleful spirit instead of disdain. And stop calling it the dreadmill. Name calling is rude.

Happy running!

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