chords and cadence

When God way up in heaven, for whatever it was worth, thought he'd have a big old party, thought he'd call it planet Earth. – Grateful Dead

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!

Race recap: Women’s Running Series Nashville Half Marathon!

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Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, wake on up, it’s running time!

I’m the prodigal daughter of this blog, I swear. Every time I abandon it, something happens, and I come back to it with guilt and an intent to make amends. I’ll be better, promise!

What spurred my return this time is nothing Earth-shattering. It was a race I ran yesterday that kicked my butt into blog-gear. Big woop. But it was my first race since April (the Country Music Half-Marathon that I still should write about someday), and I trained for it starting in July when I was in Colorado. High altitude training FTW! and it was something that I wanted to do for myself, for the sheer joy of it, and because I like myself the most when I am running.

So, a race recap:

The Women’s Running Series Nashville Half Marathon and 5k benefited the Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Foundation. Its runners were predominately and predictably female, with the hairier sex sprinkled in here and there for support or pacing. No male would place – just women. This excited me because sometimes you just like running with others who understand the struggle of the just-right sports bra. The struggle is real.

The Expo was very well organized and skinny, but that was probably for the best. Had there been more exhibitors, I wouldn’t have had time to peruse them all anyway, and probably saved myself some money in the long run. The information about parking was only a little helpful; in Nashville, for most events that take place downtown, you can park at LP Field and walk over the Shelby Pedestrian Bridge. There wasn’t any literature affirming nor denying that. So, I told my boyfriend to park over at LP Field and walk over the bridge to come see me at the finish, but there was a game going on and he missed me. My fault for assuming, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only Nashvillian to do so. I digress.

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Nancy pulls of pink really well.

The Start was appropriately right in front of the Country Music Hall of Fame, with a beautiful burgeoning sunny sky. The temperature was perfect. I am definitely an early bird, and another reason I enjoy racing is because I’m surrounded by those who (generally) are early birds, too. I feel less weird and not-my-age.

I was really happy to see my fellow Girls on the Run buddy, Nancy! She is a coach for the GOTR group I volunteer with, as well as an elementary school counselor. She is always a source of warmth and happiness and reminds me of my Oklahoman aunt. We snapped a quick selfie before I tucked my phone into my FlipBelt (highly recommend) and the gun went off.

The course rounded down to 2nd street where we turned left to go up Broadway. I’ll never not love the sight of the neon signs of the honky tonks on Broadway, even at 7 a.m. when last night’s beer-soaked mats are laying out on the pavement to be pressure-sprayed off, because it’s Nashville and so hot right now.

Anyone from Nashville knows that if you go west on Broadway from the honky tonks, you go uphill. That was a gift to us within the first mile; the first of many. I tried to hone in my pace, knowing that adrenaline was definitely pushing it. I ended up pacing well in the long run with an average of 7:54, but made myself nervous from my first mile pace.

What I loved and didn’t expect about this race were the amount of energetic crowds out to cheer us on. Within the first mile we had two groups of motivators – one being an exceptionally cute cheerleading squad with an average age of 7. One group of college boys in Hillsboro looked like they had kept the party going from the night before and made sure that all the ladies running by were complemented and encouraged. Aaaand they were blasting “Eye of the Tiger,” to which I gave two thumbs up.

Throughout the course, happiness never eluded me. Different muscles started nagging and my feet were reminding me that I’ve maybe put too many miles on the Pearl Izumi N2s I was wearing. But the sun was shining. I was running. I was surrounded by strong, healthy, active people who wanted to make the best out of themselves by doing what we were all doing. I was struck with what seems to happen every single time I race: meaning, gratitude, and joy. I thought, more than once, “I don’t do this nearly enough.”

The hills we ran were a challenge. I’m not going to say, ‘I love a good challenge’ because it’s used too much and falsely and people should stop throwing that around willy-nilly. But I digress. I love certain challenges, and running up hills is one of them. Also finding the perfect combination of frozen yogurt and its toppings. As well as avoiding Target for clothes shopping. IMG_4991

The whole race, my Garmin was off from the course; I would hit a mile about .15 in front of the official mile marker. So, when I ran down 2nd street and saw my watch tick to 13.1 and still didn’t see the finish line, the Type A runner in me got a little, well, ticked, temporarily breaking me from my running-induced euphoria. But as the finish line came in sight, I cleared my head and kicked it into gear.

Expecting to finish around 1:45:00, I was very satisfied with my 1:43:43 (where my Garmin said I had gone 13.24!). Turns out my chip time was the exact same, so I must’ve zig-zagged a TON to make up for that extra mileage.

I juggled a banana, water, and granola bar while I took out my phone and found a tent where ladies were welcome to “freshen up.” The tent was complete with perfumed lotion, deodorant, cleansing wipes (for which my very sweaty face was grateful) and other things I don’t normally think of using straight after finishing a race because half the fun is just being dirty because you earned it. Anyhow, this was a thoughtful measure and a testament to keeping the race very ladylike.

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He’s way taller in real life.

I met up with Jacob who is always so supportive of and happy for me. I’ve done races before where I’ve had no one to cheer me on, which I am totally fine with, but whenever you do have support and encouragement from those who care about you, it makes a pretty huge love dent.

Being a lady event, there were mimosas instead of beers for each runner after the race. I felt fancy and silly drinking mine with a plastic champagne flute while Jacob just hung out and pretended not want one of his own. This race would definitely be perfect for groups of women who can all take part in the girliness of it together. I would do it again next year, and try to rope in some girlfriends, which is an awesome transition into:

MY NEXT RACE! It’s the Rock and Road Marathon Relay with three great friends in Nashville: Elizabeth, Erika, and Katie. We’ve already gotten to run together which has been a great way to spend time together and get a good workout. I hope we get to do it more before our race, and continue after because I’m of the opinion that combining good friends with exercising is like binging on ‘Scandal’ with wine. Only much healthier and less expensive.

STAY TUNED. THE PRODIGAL DAUGHTER OF RUNNING BLOGS IN NASHVILLE HAS RETURNED.

25 Thoughts on my 25th Birthday

birthday-cake-sliceWell, I turned 25 yesterday and while I always tend to over-think EVERYTHING, this milestone was looked at from all angles thrice-over, and inspected with a fine-tooth comb. The night before, I was up late thinking about my life and my goals and my past and my future and how I’d better get to sleep cuz I signed up for Hot 26 at 6am.

When I was a (more dedicated) runner (over a month ago), I felt like I had plenty to share when it came to running and life as the two related to each other. Now that I’ve taken some time off from my addictive habit and jumped into some other ones (hot yoga, namaste), I’ve been contemplating other things to write about. I’ve suffered a bout of dreaded writer’s block.

But then the big 2-5 comes into view. Cue the contemplations, the ponderings of life – finally giving me some fodder to feed my creative needs – for now, anyway. I won’t promise it will be even all that exciting, but for me it works, and that’s more of what I’m going for these days.

I give you: 25 Thoughts on my 25th Birthday (or: Taylor’s Stream of Consciousness As She Tries Not to Think About Birthday Cake)

1. Find a partner to stick with who appreciates the finer things in life like you do. Like ice cream.

2. A good pen always extracts better verbiage.

3. Why haven’t they invented a way to eat popcorn or dry cereal without it getting all over your lap/the floor/your keyboard/in between seat cushions?

4. Let’s spread the word about providing basic recycling bins and sustainable materials everywhere, k? It’s 2014. Enough of this let’s give you a separate plastic bag for each of the 20 items you bought at Kroger today nonsense.

5. Talking to yourself has a stigma that it doesn’t deserve. YOU TELL ‘EM, TAYLOR!

6. Walking through the rain – not running – is a great exercise in vulnerability.

7. I don’t care if it’s expensive and high-maintenance: Pedicures are essential for runner-yogis.

8. Never think badly about who you were in the past – you’re pretty awesome nowadays.

9. Fresh basil can turn anything into magic. Except maybe coffee, which is magic enough thankyouverymuch.

10. I fully trust that drivers everywhere would be more relaxed on the roads if more people used their blinkers. But especially the drivers in Nashville, Tennessee.

11. You should sweat every day by making your body move somehow. Our bodies were designed for movement, and the stigma with sweating should also be wiped out. Pun intended.

12. It’s never too late to say “I’m sorry.” There is no statute of limitations on genuine apologies.

13. Playing phone tag is better than not trying.

14. Say ‘no’ when you have a feeling your brain will heave a sigh if you say ‘yes.’

15. There should be a requirement for disconnecting from all technology for at least at least five hours a week for all people with smartphones.

16. While I’m at that: America needs to make like France and tell people it’s illegal to check your work email after 6p.m. C’mon, Obama!

17. If we all learned about what it takes for a single flower to grow – the miraculous science behind it – we would not take so much for granted and we’d all probably move our offices outdoors and be a happier human race. Probably.

18. You can have multiple places you call home and you don’t have to justify them to anyone.

19. Long, silent drives are cheap therapy. Long, silent night drives are practically sacred.

20. Tell whoever you’re thinking about that you are, in fact, thinking of them the very moment you do. Don’t miss a chance to make someone’s day.

21. If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.

(Alright, I’m gonna give that one to my boy Jimmy Buffett. I didn’t really say that. You can quote me on everything else.)

22. There should always be room in the grocery budget for fresh flowers, especially if your favorites are available. And men: don’t tell me you don’t have a favorite flower. Don’t be a pansy! (har har)

23. Never take anything personally. It’s easier said than done, but with practice you’ll find it to be quite relieving.

24. Why isn’t there a service that delivers wine 24/7? Don’t steal that. I’m on to something.

25. Always save room for ice cream.

 

Struggles of seriousness and self-identity

I started training for my first half marathon a little over two years ago. By the time I crossed the finish line of the Horsetooth Half with a New Belgium beer waiting for me, I had already caught the running bug. I shopped at Fleet Feet. I wore running clothes when I wasn’t running. I subscribed to Runner’s World, learned about Plantar Fasciitis and how to pronounce it, and gleefully discovered a whole big world of sweaty, carb-scarfing people who loved running as much as I did. I began to identify as a runner, and quickly many who knew me did too, and I was really proud of it; I wore it like a badge of honor. Heck, I created this blog because of it, essentially.

Fast forward, and sparing you details, I injured my foot during marathon training with 7  weeks to go before my third marathon this spring. I took 11 days off of running and jumped into cross training: cycling, swimming, yoga and strength training. What shocked me was I didn’t miss running. My familiar, neurotic don’t-miss-a-training-run self was out to lunch in China.

I missed out on a few weeks of crucial mile-building for the marathon while waiting for my foot to get back to normal. As it stands, about a week out, I have decided the smartest thing to do would be the half marathon instead. I know better than to fight through 26.2 miles, even if my foot feels fine-ish now, without having built up the mileage the right way. Plus, to keep running healthy for the rest of my life without a prolonged injury is ideal.

The struggle doesn’t lie in the fact that, for the second time now, I’m switching from the full to the half marathon. I’m secretly (or not so, now that it’s on the record) relieved. The struggle is in how I self-identify.

The more I’ve cross-trained, the less I’ve wanted to run. The more I’ve explored cycling HITT workouts and shakti kicks and chin-ups, the more interested I’ve become in pursuing fitness goals outside of running. As a result, I feel like less of a runner, like I’m betraying my sport.

If I don’t self-identify as a runner because of my own subjective definition, then who am I? (Okay, anyone else picture Zoolander looking up at the stars and asking the same question before his matchbook-size cell phone rings?) I know there is more to me than my PRs and mile splits, but everyone is proud to self-identify somehow; it’s personal, and it can mean a great deal.

Recently I had a wake-up call through a conversation with my mother. She was giving me a thousand reasons why I shouldn’t be so hard on myself and I was coming up with a thousand and one reasons why I should. She finally said it, casually, but it was like a light switched on: “I think you take things too seriously. Your dad and I have talked about it,” she said. Instead of getting butt hurt, I laughed because I knew it was true. And not only true, but something so easy and relieving to change. I gauged the notion of taking things too seriously with my boyfriend too, demanding he not spare my feelings, and tell me honestly. He agreed with my parents. Confirmation received.

As a result, I’ve been (trying) not taking this whole not-feeling-like-running thing too seriously, but there is a little part of my brain that is knocking: “Whooooo are you?!” I know it’s silly to structure my self-identity around a certain number of weekly miles on my calendar, but I have for the past few years, and breaking away from that, like any habit, isn’t easy.

Next week, I will be thrilled and excited to run the Country Music Half Marathon. I will miss running with those I’ve trained with, and not being able to say I have three marathons under my belt. I’ll be excited about the carbo-loading, the celebrations afterward.

I may just do a cartwheel over the finish line or something fun and weird. That wouldn’t be taking things too seriously now, would it? Maybe I could find a new identity in just that.

Race recap: Tom King Half Marathon

When you’re a runner, there are good days and there are great days (runners know that bad days are eradicated by simply lacing up), and Saturday was a great day.

After many races big and small in the past two years, I know how to prepare myself for a race: physically, mentally, and emotionally. It takes practice to get it right for y-o-u. Me, I need: coffee, some carb action, and feel good tunes. Sunshine helps. In preparation Friday night, I thoughtfully laid out my race wear: Oiselle on top, Nike (skirt!) on bottom, Pearl Izumi & Swiftwicks on the feet, and yes, that was an overall endorsement (sponsor me?!). I set my alarm with an Allman Brothers song to wake me up. No end-of-the-week beer, and a 9:30pm bedtime kept me in line. Delayed gratification.

SATURDAY – The Tom King Half Marathon, Nashville

I woke up refreshed and maybe a little too excited to toe the line at 6:30am. I mean, I know I’m not the only one who gets psyched to race 13.1 miles, but I know it’s not a widespread, uh, sentiment. For fuel, I ate a peanut butter, honey, cinnamon tortilla and a HoneyStinger vanilla waffle (Psst: Endorsement. Sponsor me?!), drank some coffee and water and thanked the good Lord for such a beautiful race day.

Parking was a breeze and without the wonder of technology or pre-planning, I happened to find my running buddies so we could wish exchange high fives and talk some smack before the gun went off.

Although there were over 1,200 runners for the race, there weren’t waves, so being in the middle of the pack took around 50 seconds to actually cross the starting line. Once past it, though, I zigged and zagged and found my sweet spot. I’ve resolved not to listen to music during races because it blocks out the community that the race itself inspires. I was hesitant to go in without music but I did. I realized  one of my favorite parts to a race is at the beginning when other runners are nervously chatting to each other about pace, early morning mishaps, or just an audible expression of gratitude.

After the first mile, I ran 7:52. Visions of stardom and sponsorships ran though my mind, but then remembered my goal race pace should have been around 8:15-8:20. Woops. I chalked up my fast feet to being anxious and resolved to keep my pace in check, because bonking sucks and is a rookie move. I am no rookie, and I will not bonk. Well, it turns out I never ended up slowing down and kept a sub-8 minute mile pace throughout the race because I just felt that good. Throughout the race I was encouraged by others, namely a guy in a wheelchair with a partner running by his side. Also, a girl had some tunes blasting from her iPhone locked in an armband, and I appreciated that, too. I tried not to worry too much that I neglected to swipe on some Bodyglide…

As we came down to the last mile coming into LP Field, I went all out. After running down into the tunnel and out onto the field, I had enough left in my tank to sprint to the finish. I heard cheers and “Go Taylor!”, and I saw the time on the screen (below) and my watch: 1:41:22. (Official chip time: 1:41:57). Boom.

Photo credit: Boyfriend.

Photo credit: Boyfriend.

I was elated, and somewhat alarmed myself with how good I felt. I kept thinking: Shouldn’t something ache? Am I gonna fall down soon? Should I go run some more? Where was Ryan Gosling to give me my medal? My Runner’s High should’ve gotten its own dang medal. Mine was pretty cool, though.

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Thanks, Jacob, Devyn, and Erika for coming out! Y’all are the best. Support means everything, people!

Here’s the takeaway: Being prideful in a race can hurt you. Ignoring what your body needs is stupid and shouldn’t come at the cost of shaving seconds off your finish time for PR. I’ve learned this. BUT NOT THIS TIME. With appropriate pride, I tuned into myself and truly didn’t need to slow down, catch a water break or down any energy gel. I surprisingly did awesome for not having music to dictate my quicker cadence. Because of all that, this race felt perfect. It proved my training has been paying off more than I was ready to give myself credit for. I underestimated myself, and that’s a pretty gratifying feeling to have once its realized.

And, as it turns out, I won 3rd place for my age group! I was second behind a girl who finished in 1:27:something, so no qualms here!

After this amazing race, I have to negotiate my goals for the Country Music Marathon in a little over six weeks. After this week of training, I’ll make some adjustments.

Thanks to The Nashville Striders, Nashville Running Company, and all who volunteered, making this race such FUN and a great PR.

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