chords and cadence

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Archive for the category “Marathon”

Remember Two Things

I’d like this post to be void of mention that I haven’t written in a while. But cat’s already out of the bag.

I’ve not written in some time. I’m sorry about it, moreso for myself since writing is like therapy. Whether or not other people read my writing has little effect on why I have a blog in the first place. But I do, so here I am, and now that we’ve addressed this, I’d like to move on by saying:

Happy March!

Instead of slogging you through the last 8 weeks of marathon #3 training, I’ll just update you with the biggest stuff:

1. I ran 119.65 miles in February, teaching myself to count the extra mileage every time! By the time I calculated it, I was already dressed up to go out to dinner with my boyfriend on the last day of February. I lost Dedicated Runner points (those are real things.) when I decided not to finish the last .35 and instead go eat a bison burger. I’ll keep in mind that every little bit adds up this month.

2. I am a “wimp” and I’m okay with it. January sucked, okay? It just took one big blow to my tough runner ego when it decided to be ugly and freezing and utterly merciless. I bundled up a few times but mostly gained mileage on the treadmill. The thing I’ve found hard to deal with is the lack of snow; I would gladly bundle up for snowy runs more often. Like this:

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February was a little better, and I enjoyed the outdoors a little more. But yesterday we were iced in, so I took my run to the treadmill again. What I’ve learned is that adjusting to what fits for you (and not comparing yourself to others in the process) is a success in itself. At the end of the day, I ran, the miles counted, and I still got better.

Overall, I have felt the best this training season than I ever have. I feel myself getting faster each week and my endurance is elongating (is that right? I say so). Although my training diet derailed around NFL Playoff Time/Super Bowl/Post-Super Bowl depression/cruise vacation, I got back into fighting shape.

I’m running my first race of the year this Saturday, the Tom King Half. I’m shooting to PR by hitting a 1:45:59. It’s a flat course, and I’ve heard very PR-Friendly.

How have YOU endured this season running in the Polar Vortex?

Do you laugh in the face of -3 windchill?

When’s your next race?

run

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A post obligatory: Recapping 2013

End-of-the-year reviews are EVERYWHERE on the Internet right now.

Miley Cyrus. Obama. Twerking. Progress and lack thereof in Congress. Music. Twerking. Lists of bests/worstsGIFs. Politics. Twerking. Food porn. Selfies. Bad fashion choices. Ridiculous feats of viral social media. 

Honestly? My guilty pleasures. Maybe I’m just a sucker for looking back on things and reminiscing. Okay, not maybe, definitely. I’m loud and I’m proud about it.

Luckily, since this is my blog, I get to self-indulge and do my own end-of-the-year review, but not in twerking (other blog), for RUNNING, races and milestones. What did you expect?

Without further distraction from this very important post, I give you:

THE 13 RUNNING-RELATED THINGS THAT MATTERED IN 2013.

1. I ran my first marathon.

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Sometimes you shamelessly gotta be a fan of photos of yourself. I’m a fan of this one.

The inaugural Asheville Marathon in Asheville, NC, took place a day after my dad’s birthday on March 3. The race was tough and cold and beautiful and went through the Biltmore Estate grounds. I finished in 4:02:50 with frozen snot on my face and some great moral support at the finish. I’ll never forget finishing and just wanting to sit down SO BAD that I was irate about it. I guess you have the right to be cranky after running 26.2 in 25-degree weather. Brrrr.

2. I ran my second marathon 7 weeks, 5 days later.

Crossing the finish with Daniel Hudgins, Ariel Schwartz, and myself. All wrought with emotion.

Crossing the finish with Daniel Hudgins, Ariel Schwartz. All wrought with emotion.

This marathon was cray cray. I had high hopes for a warm spring marathon after Asheville, but the rain gods decided to throw the party of the year right on the Country Music Marathon in Nashville. Lovely. It was raining from the start and didn’t finish until it was too late to even matter. What kept me going through this race was who I ran with. Shout out to my East Nasties! Heyo! I would not have made it in 3:57:46 if not for their grit and encouragement. We sang/gasped “Eye of the Tiger” at mile 23. I felt like I was running in a wet suit and wondered when I’d get to see Shamu. We kicked it in on the last mile, and held hands as we crossed the finish line for Boston.

3. The Boston Marathon bombings.

It wouldn’t be right not to acknowledge the impact this tragic event had on my sport. On one of the most celebrated days in running – the Boston Marathon, April 15, 2013 – we all know what happened. Three lives were lost, and 170 people were left with life-shattering injuries. Our nation was struck again with tragedy, but out of it came resilience and hope. The running community here and all over the world came back stronger for it, proving: If you’re going to weaken the spirit of anyone, marathoners are the wrong ones to target!

4. I joined Girls on the Run as a practice session volunteer and running buddy.

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On our December 7th race at Percy Warner! 28 degrees.

Giving back to your community should be on your list of priorities, or “New Year’s Resolution” if it isn’t, k? I kicked off 2013 deciding I finally needed to get involved in helping out my world in whatever ways I could. I was blessed to find Girls on the Run, a non-profit organization that fosters self-esteem, confidence, and strength in the hearts, minds, and bodies of elementary school girls through a 10-week program and training schedule with a 5k race at the end. I completed two semesters helping out, and have thoroughly enjoyed it. The girls have shown me what it means to be inspirational, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn from them. DID YOU RUN A 5K WHEN YOU WERE 10-YEARS-OLD IN 28-DEGREE WEATHER? THEY DID! I mean, dang.

5. I ran the Bolder Boulder on my birthday with my mom.

Sun. Mom. Boulder. Running. Birthday. Happy.

Sun. Mom. Boulder. Running. Birthday. Happy.

To ring in year 24 with some pizzazz, the fine folks at the Bolder Boulder (dubbed by Runner’s World as America’s best 10k) decided to hold the event on my birthday and welcome me with a free race entry and a parade in my honor. Just kidding. That would have been too much. But it DID happen on my birthday, my amazing mother ran it with me, I was back in my happy place (Boulder), AND two great friends came to surprise me. Bliss didn’t even begin to describe it.

7. I ran three trail races.

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This hill was featured in the Music City Ultra Trail 10k and 50k. It was a you-know-what.

I didn’t get to hit the trails as much in 2013 as I did in 2012. I guess that’s what happens when you 1.) move from Colorado to middle Tennessee and automatically have less options, and 2.) get a bonafide J-O-B that doesn’t allow the flexibility trail running kinda needs. Thankfully, the racing community in middle Tennessee is strong and adventurous, and I found three great trail races: The Nashville Running Company Peeler Park 10k, The Music City Ultra 10k & 50k (did the 10k), and the NRC’s Bell’s Bend. I loved all three, but the Music City Ultra was probably my favorite. It was so untamed, I got a little lost, it was brutal, and I won 2nd place for females. Trail races are opportunities to dig deep, get a little unconventional, and experience something totally different. Not to mention, you get a little more dirt on your legs, which I’m always a fan of.

8. I dropped running my 3rd marathon, and ran a half instead – and PR’d.

Bling bling.

Bling bling.

With my new job, I had a lot on my plate during marathon training for Chattanooga 7 Bridges. I had a lot of stress at work and wasn’t able to train properly for my third 26.2 of 2013. I flip-flopped on what to do, finally deciding to do the half and enjoy the lesser risk of getting injured or not finishing. I ended up with a PR of 1:46:07, felt fantastic, and had a great supporter in Chattanooga resident, and my world-travel partner Dorothy. I decided that half marathons are my jam and I want to do more in the future.

9. I PR’d in the 5k and ran it with friends.

East Nasty running crew. Blasty blast.

East Nasty running crew. Blasty blast.

Each year, East Nashville is home to the Tomato Festival, where tomatoes come together with art and it is a big love fest for a weekend. There’s also a race. I ran it with friends from East Nasty and PR’d with 22:18. I ran a 6:51 mile, which blew my mind. We drank beer before 10a.m. and I was so happy.

10. My parents indulged me on a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot in Denver.

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Bill and Trudee rock.

Before cooking up our non-traditional Thanksgiving meal of homemade manicotti and smoked ham, my parents ran the Denver Turkey Trot with me. My sister and our dog cheered us at the finish. I loved getting to re-visit my old stomping grounds in Denver, and loved being home. My parents are the coolest!

11. I found THE shoes.

Pearl Izumi N2 road. Shoes are a girl's best friend.

Pearl Izumi N2 road. Shoes are a girl’s best friend.

You know when you find THE ONE? You get excited about their arrival. You can’t stop staring. You don’t want to be apart? Yeah, that’s what I felt this year when I discovered Pearl Izumi’s N2 road shoe. The ones pictured above are my second pair (I go through shoes fast). Thanks to Nashville Running Company, and my bff who works for Pearl Izumi, I was introduced to these babies and was able to get them again even under a tight budget. Score!

12. I pledged to streak again.

Yes, as part of the Runner’s World Holiday Running Streak, I pledged to run at least one mile each day from Thanksgiving Day to New Years. It’s Day 21 right now, and I’ve still got it!

13. I ran in six states in 2013.

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Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Colorado, Mississippi, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. From trails to the beach, my obsession with running took me lots of places I never would have gone.

So what’s up for 2014? I am scheduled to run the Country Music Marathon again in April, with high hopes that it will not rain at least the whole time. I’m looking forward to training with my East Nasty group again, and build my speed and endurance.

2013 was an epic year in running for me. As for twerking, well… I’ll leave that up to the other ubiquitous “Year-in-Review”s.

Race recap: 4 Bridges Half Marathon, Chattanooga, TN

I went to a show at the famed Bluebird Cafe here in Nashville last Friday. The show was in-the-round style, where four or five songwriters sit in a circle in the middle of the venue, with tables and chairs scattered all around for the audience. You can even read the lyrics on the sheet music in front of the songwriter, you’re so close. That intimate.

The songwriters all had hits you’ve probably heard on the radio before, if you listen to country radio (sung by someone much more glamorous, but probably less talented – at least, in terms of actual musicianship, but I digress). What made the two hours that much more intimate and valuable was that the songwriters had so much respect and admiration for each other. At one point in the evening, each songwriter took their turn to brag on another songwriter, and it was all one happy love fest. And so it goes in Nashville…

I share that anecdote because 1.) I wanted to brag about the fact that I ACTUALLY got into a show at the Bluebird (thanks a lot, Hayden Panettiere) and 2.) because it’s my turn to brag on something and I wanted to cleverly tie in an anecdote. BOOM.

So let me brag on this, the 4 Bridges Half Marathon in Chattanooga. Let me paint a picture for you. And by paint, I mean show you a picture via the Internet.

photo (1)That’s a bridge in Chattanooga, stretching across the Tennessee River. There are four bridges that do this to connect the city, hence the name of the half marathon. Chattanooga is nicknamed The Scenic City, and I’ve bragged about it before, so start getting jealous of me right now.

So imagine my anticipation in running a race here. I know, RIGHT? And it was also a little complicated given the fact that I had to defer to half status instead of full, but I’ve beaten that horse enough. What’s with that saying anyway? I don’t like beating anything except for other runners up hills. And maybe eggs.

OKAY, OKAY: RACE DAY!

For once in my life, I was going to run a race that wasn’t wrought with unappealing weather (note: totally embellishing, but still wringing out my jacket from CMM) I was thrilled. Forecast was in the mid-40s for the duration of the race, so I was good to go in my sleeves, racerback, and quarter length pants.

The start of the race was packed with people, and it was dark as the sun didn’t really rise until 7:50am, 50 minutes into the race.

I ran with music (it had been a while since I’ve raced with music), starting off with “Little Black Submarines” by The Black Keys. I felt good, having eaten some trail mix and a banana for breakfast, and water. I consistently moved up, keeping an eye on my Garmin. Smiling. Feeling awesome and all kick-ass like.

One criticism about the race: I am pretty sure the mile markers on the course were off. I know distances vary a little bit depending on how much you zig-zag, but I’m talking about .20 off at some points. Still, I was in great shape time-wise, so it didn’t bother me as much.

My first “AW HECK YEAH LIFE IS SO GOOD” moment came when we crossed the first bridge, heading north. The sun was just starting to come up to our right, over the three other bridges. “Loving Cup” by The Rolling Stones came through the headphones, and I felt so happy I could have hugged the sweaty stranger running next to me. (I didn’t, though. I passed him instead.) It could have been the endorphins, but I thought to myself that this feeling of happiness is only so strong when I am running. Races, running, sunrises, perfect songs… they are the bread and butter of my life. They keep me excited, feeling fresh, and determined to make the rest of my life just as kick ass as I feel in that moment. I hope to goodness you have found the equivalent of that in your own life, or are currently on a quest to do so.

The course was relatively flat, with steady, short inclines here and there. I only fueled up with a gulp of Powerade around mile 10, and even then didn’t feel the need for it.

I started kicking it in at mile 11, and killed the last hill, happy that I was familiar with the area so I wasn’t psyched out with how long the hill was.

I crossed the finish line at 1:46:47, according to my Garmin (my official results are still being processed I guess) which is a PR! With numb digits, I hugged Dorothy, who saw me finish and was so cool for waking up early to see me. She also took this awesome photo below.

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What makes it so awesome is the photobombers. Like, kudos. Bravo. I’m not even annoyed. I hope this shows up in a Buzzfeed post about photobombers at races someday, because it’s perfect.

The first order of business was finding coffee, and then pancakes. In that order. My fingers were freezing, after all.

Coffee was eagerly gulped, pancakes hastily eaten. A perfect race day, on all accounts.

POST RACE THOUGHTS

I love the distance of a half marathon, and I want to try to run more and really make them my go-to race. My time was good, but it could get better. It’s an approachable enough distance for me to tackle with speedwork, long runs, and my general attention span and level of patience. Not to say I’m swearing off marathons, but. I think halfs are where it’s at.

My splits were as follows:

Mile 1: 8:44
Mile 2: 8:17
Mile 3: 8:16
Mile 4: 8:21
Mile 5: 8:02
Mile 6: 7:59
Mile 7: 8:15
Mile 8: 7:58
Mile 9: 8:07
Mile 10: 8:03
Mile 11: 7:59
Mile 12: 8:06
Mile 13.1: 7:43

I’m not sore today thanks to my foam roller and some yoga, and feel like I am good to run.

This race really gave me a lot more confidence than I went in expecting to gain. I am inspired to run and train again without the marathon schedule so dauntingly bold on my calendar. I know, I did it to myself. 

Not sure what my next race is, but in the mean time, I’ve got this on the wall with the others. Half marathon number 5 in the books!

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Metaphorically speaking

It’s 9:13pm on a Friday.

I’m in my pajamas, glasses, and I’m wearing a green face mask because I’ve been known to live it up on Fridays.

I went to the gym tonight at 7:30, listened to an episode of “This American Life,” and I did the stairmaster. The gym was as empty as you would think at 7:30 on a Friday night, which was nice. More room for lunges.

The socially-conditioned don’t-miss-out-on-anything part of me (that I wish were non-existent) feels like a total loser. But the authentic part of me couldn’t be more relieved to have this kind of night, regardless who may be “TGIF-ing” it up downtown with adult beverages and live music. I need this introverted Friday night in with just my mason jar of ice water, my mint green face mask, and my foam roller. I can’t be bothered. Really…you don’t want to see this face mask. Sometimes you have to get ugly before you can get pretty…

It’s like the night before a marathon for me, except I’ve been training for this marathon since March, and it’s going to last over a week, and I’m getting paid for it, and I might get to meet Steve Martin.

Tomorrow I leave for the World of Bluegrass – part business conference, part artist showcase, part award show, part festival, and wholly a bluegrass mecca. I’m part of a crew of people running the whole shebang. It’s like game time, guys. Starting Line kind of stuff. I’m antsy, waiting for the official to pop the gun.

Only a super dork would compare a work conference to a marathon like this, but I’ve never claimed to be “cool.” The two relate thus: You study and train and lose a little sleep. You re-adjust other aspects of your life to focus in on this one thing that is a little restrictive of your social life and your freedom to get up in the morning without a single task ahead of you. You turn down late nights and late night drinks. You turn into a little bit of a loser (or at least you feel like it). But crossing the finish line, you are overwhelmed with pride and joy, knowing you did your best and feeling like you accomplished something totally monumental and all that turning down and turning in early doesn’t matter anymore. So where I’d usually get a Gatorade and a bagel after crossing the finish line, I’ll probably get something a little less carb-y and hopefully a picture with Steve Martin after this one.

So while there’s that metaphorical marathon, there is another real life marathon I’ve still trained for: Chattanooga 7 Bridges on October 20th.

After lamenting about my fatigue and frustration to anyone who would listen (lookin’ at you, mom and pops!) I was reminded that at the same point in training for my last marathon, I was working from home, not stressed out in the least, and able to really focus on training. Really, I would get to run on my lunch break and take foam roll breaks during the day. It was primo.

This time was a whole different animal that I didn’t wisely take into account before real life marathon training began again (the animal being that metaphorical marathon. confused yet? me too). Hard as it was, I decided to give myself as little of a break as I could get away with. In an attempt to speed up “recovery” or what training I had lost, I kept close track of what I ate, how much, and when in relation to running. I took rest into account as well as the mental fatigue I was feeling from work. It seemed that once I did that, I was starting to run better again. Kick-butt Taylor came back to life, kicking butt again.

It’s not all bagels and Gatorade and pictures with Steve Martin yet, though. The real hurdle next week will be the metaphorical marathon AND training for the real life marathon at the same time. I’ve really adjusted my training expectations and goals to be realistic for my schedule next week and have faith that whatever workouts I do get in will be quality enough. I’m looking forward to finishing the metaphorical marathon, coming back to Nashville with my metaphorical medal (read: picture with Steve Martin, hello you should know that by now) and ready to re-focus on the real life one. Marathon number three in less than eight months.

So, please excuse me, I have some mint green face mask to wash off, some foam to roll and some marathons to run.

It’s game time.

East Nasties post marathon

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East Nasty finishes 26.2 at the Country Music Marathon, April 27, 2013 in Nashville, TN. Yes, we were soaked. Yes, we had the time of our lives. Yes, we’d do it all again.

Race recap: Country Music Marathon (or: Crazy is as crazy does)

It has been brought to my attention that I might be crazy.6c5e08deaf2e11e2bcc022000a1fcf26_7

But crazy is as crazy does, and crazy runs 26.2 miles in pouring rain and would probably do it again.

Please don’t commit me yetI’ll explain.

The Country Music Marathon (Part of the Rock ‘n Roll series) was my second marathon in seven weeks. In between Asheville and the CMM, I had several hot dates with my foam roller, yoga-ed my heart out, had an affair with the stair master, and toyed with Hal Higdon’s prescribed in-between-marathons training regimen. As the assigned mileage on my calendar ticked away without being fulfilled, I became increasingly anxious about finishing another 26.2, and uninjured at that.

But then.

On the day most celebrated in the running world, our sport and its loyal supporters were targeted and attacked. People lost limbs and lives, and spirits sunk, to say the absolute least. But in the aftermath, a great quote started floating around:

“If you’re trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong ones to target.” 

You’re damn right.

Calf problems, a pulled butt muscle, an anxious psyche, unfavorable conditions… I became impervious to all of it. This was a race I had to run, because there was now a bigger picture.

Saturday morning, the rain made its crescendo as we filled the corrals and did own little weird pre-race rituals. I found the East Nasty group, with whom I started training at the beginning of the year. We all had a sub-4 goal, and planned to stick together. It was four other men ages 25 to 50-something, and another girl my age, and me.

Appropriately, there was a chilling moment of silence for Boston and everyone held up a peace sign. We sang the national anthem, and they played ‘Sweet Caroline’ to which everyone sang along like you would in a bar at 1am: With gusto. It was awesome and I just got goosebumps thinking about it again.

The details of the next 26.2 miles are nothing less than soggy. I stuck with my light-hearted group and caught back up when I had to tie my shoe, and again when I had to pee. I fueled up around mile 9 first with some GU blocks, around mile 15 with an orange slice and some raisins, and at mile 20 with half a GU pack. My legs started feeling heavier around mile 15, and by mile 19, my IT bands were on fire. My quads were tensing up, and I knew finishing was gonna take guts.

At mile 25 (a nice long incline), it was me, our fearless pace leader Daniel, and Ariel, the other East Nasty lady runner- a couple had gotten behind. We decided we would finish together and hold hands at the finish for Boston. We pushed each other that last 1.2 miles and when we crossed the finish, I saw the clock at 3:59:50, yelled awkwardly out of emotion, and almost cried because I was happy/so relieved to be done. But, guts. I didn’t cry.

It’s funny how hard exhaustion just slams you after you stop running for ~4 hours; I hit a wall and wanted nothing more than to be dry, off my feet, and reassured that I was indeed badass/I’d be okay/there was a hot shower waiting for me somewhere. We took some pictures, I wolfed down a PowerBar and some Gatorade and limp/walked back to my car as fast as my post-marathon legs would let me.

After all was said and done, I know I wouldn’t have gotten my goal if it hadn’t been for my group. They made me laugh, pushed me, reigned me in when I was feeling overly-ambitious, and generally kept my spirits up. Like the sense of community running richly fosters, together we were cold, determined, and hell-bent on not letting the rain, acts of terrorism, or chafing skin get in the way of our goal, for the bigger picture.

3:57:46 chip time, y’all. 

And yep, I would do it all again.  I’m owning it: I’m just crazy.

Huge shout out to my amazing city and its people. All of the spectators, volunteers, police personnel, and race organizers in Nashville blew me away with their enthusiasm and loyalty on such a yucky day. Humanity won. It will always win.

“On the Run” by Isabella Lauf

In college, my best friend had a foreign exchange student for a roommate for one year. She was German, which was good, because we were learning German. Needless to say, we became great friends and share many fond memories.

Isabella Lauf is a student in Germany, working on her thesis. She recently asked if I would answer some running-related questions for a piece she was writing.

She did me proud, and taught me a few things. I am happy to spread my love of running, and happy it could help a friend in need.

You may find it by clicking here.

Bella and I at the Grand Canyon on our way to Vegas for Spring Break.

Bella and I at the Grand Canyon on our way to Vegas for Spring Break.

 

What taper temper?

Marathon number two is in five days, and let me tell you:

This taper ain’t got nothin’ on me.

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See?

Happy as ever.

No soreness, no fatigue. Ready to tackle hills, spills, and anything else that may come up.

Looking forward to crossing the finish line for so many who can’t.

Looking forward to going for a little run with 30,000 other runners.

Country Music Marathon: I’m ready for you!

((in the headphones: Chris Thile: ‘Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground’)

 

Pray, run, repeat

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After yesterday’s events at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, my sport changed.

After a tragedy like this, there’s so much to say.

But actions speak louder than words.

In 11 days, I will run 26.2 miles, just like I signed up to.

Just like thousands of others did yesterday, some of  whom did not finish.

I will run for those unable to finish, and who will never be able to run again.

I will pray, run, repeat.

Race recap: Inaugural Asheville Marathon

I keep wanting to find the right word to define my first marathon experience. But I’ve always struggled with decisiveness and there are far too many diverse adjectives to describe what I went through yesterday to pick just one anyhow. So I’m not gonna.

It was fun, cold, frustrating, beautiful, thrilling, lonely, exhaustive, funny, windy, painful, challenging, inspirational… See what I mean? I could go on if you want.

The Inaugural Asheville Marathon was the hardest thing I’ve ever set out to do. Every inch of my leg muscles are angry at me this morning, I feel a cold coming on, and I’m really spoiled for getting to stay in my pajamas all day with bottomless coffee and movies. I think they call this a ‘marathon hangover.’ And I want pancakes (okay, not atypical).

As a writer, I want to hash out every detail of the race. But I think I’ll refrain from self-indulgence and give you the take-aways. I’m saving you from a novel, reader, even though it’s still pretty lengthy. I dunno, get a cup of coffee first?

The good, bad, and the ugly:

-It was 25 degrees with a 10 degree wind chill when I woke up at 5:30 am on Sunday, and there was fresh snow on the ground. Luckily I’m a Colorado girl so I wasn’t intimidated too much. Spectator Boyfriend is awesome for getting up with me when it would have been very easy to stay in the warm hotel room and meet me at the finish line later in the morning. He wasn’t any warmer than I was, and he was still out there cheering me on. Big props to him.

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-The race was held all on the Biltmore Estate. The views were breath-taking and I decided North Carolina and I should be friends. The course took us through forests and valleys, past a field of horses, big barns, and a massive vineyard. At mile 12, we passed a field of cattle who mooed at us, cheering us on. It made me smile.  Mile 6 took us right in front of the Biltmore Mansion. I couldn’t help but take a picture, albeit off-kilter (see below).

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-I threw off my jacket at mile 5 feeling fantastic and warm, only to feel stupid for doing so halfway through, when the real test began; the wind kicked up, and it became more of a trail race with lots of hills and chunky gravel. Luckily I thrive on that stuff, but I imagine other marathoners who expected pavement and dirt roads were probably not so thrilled to be mislead by the course description. The biting headwind was unforgiving for the last 13.1 miles, as if to really test your mental and physical strength. It did.

-There were only two times I questioned my sanity for choosing to race 26.2 miles, and both were when my head was down, fighting against the wind and calling it rude names.

-My playlist started out on the bluegrass side of things, with the first song of the morning being ‘Help You’ by Trampled by Turtles. Random, and absolutely perfect; it put the biggest smile on my face. When I needed to dig a little deeper, I switched over to my Rock playlist with heavy doses of Foo Fighters, old Neil Young, Tom Petty, and Jack White. For a final kick, I needed some dance music and finished on NERO’s ‘Crush on You.’

-I sucked down a mocha Clif energy gel at mile 14 (Okay, pause: Why aren’t they easier to open with numb fingers?!), and scarfed cookies from a water station at 21. In my handheld water bottle I had half coconut water and half water which proved to be a good combo. All of that was enough fuel for me and I never felt any cramps, side aches, or nausea. Victory!

-The volunteers at all the water stops were the best motivators! It was cool to have my name printed on my race bib, because perfect strangers were cheering ME, Taylor, on. I tried to thank them all in my zoned-out, marathon runner state. They were all very much appreciated.

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-We were cloaked in blankets immediately after finishing, which was about the best thing ever. My hands and fingers were numb, and I was sure I looked like death. It was confirmed that I didn’t look like death, nor did I have frozen snot on my face, which was surprising/a relief. My legs felt like Jell-O, and all I wanted to do was sit down right away. The tents were heated, but pretty small and packed. I scarfed down a banana, pretzels, a chocolate doughnut, and part of a muffin (carbs, I love you). We didn’t stick around post-race because I was freezing, probably a little cranky, and wanted a hot shower and a beer. My wishes were granted, and crankiness stopped.

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-Spectator Boyfriend had been to Asheville before, so he played tour guide and showed me the Grove Park Inn. It was built out of stone in 1913 and looked like it came out of a Brother’s Grimm fairy tale, but on steroids (so, very cool). After cleaning up, we went there for a victory beer, to enjoy the views and relax. I had the local Highland Kasmir IPA and highly recommend it because HOPS. Looking out over the Blue Ridge Mountains and drinking craft beer was my definition of a perfect post-race reward. I felt like I was back home in Colorado; it hit the spot.

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-I finished 7th in my age group with a chip time of 4:02:50 (my goal was around or below 4, so all things considered, I’m thrilled). My pace was 9:19, and I only ever stopped running for a bathroom break at mile 23.

It’s crazy: I’m a marathoner. I will never not be a marathoner for the rest of my life. I guess that’s life changing, isn’t it?

So, I’m not done. My next marathon (the Country Music Marathon here in Nashville) is in a little less than 8 weeks (seven weeks, five days to be exact), so I have until Saturday before I begin training again. This time I’m wishing for warmer weather, a sub-4 time, and no risk of frozen snot on the face. There’s a good chance of victory there. One thing’s for sure: I’ll miss the supportive cows.

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