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#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

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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!

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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

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.

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.

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.

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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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.

What’s “off season”?

After finishing Chattanooga 4 Bridges, my go-to reaction has been to find the next race. Whether it’s been another marathon, or another half, my fiendish impulse since I’ve bursted into a serious runner has been to search for, nail down, and train for my next race, and write a blog about it. I mean, that’s what addicts do, right? Search for their next fix? (I mean, I guess some of them could write blogs…)

But. I’ve had a nagging feeling of “what’s next?” Instead of relishing in the ubiquitous thirst to nab another goal, the nagging feeling has been just that: NAGGING. I have been reluctant to it. I don’t want that feeling. I don’t want “what’s next?” yet. I want it to leave me alone.

Because of this reluctance, I’ve been wondering what’s wrong with me. Since January 2012, I have been training for something; it has become a huge part of my identity, and one of which I am very proud. For 21 months, I’ve trained for half marathon after half marathon, then trail half marathon, marathon number one, marathon number two, marathon number three (turned half marathon) with even more races in between.

Luckily the impending identity crisis was avoided today when I happily found my answer to “what’s next.” It’s what they call “off season” and I hear it’s pretty common, even for elite superstar runners like my hero Kara Goucher.

Yeah! Off season! You know, a time where you cross train, go to Disneyland, race for fun in a tutu, move down to your villa in Miami (unless you’re LeBron James and you already live there. Which makes me wonder: where does LeBron go in the off season? I digress.), stay out late at smoky karaoke bars and not worry about feeling good for a 12-miler at 7am, eat pancakes because you want to, not because you have a massive hunger after running 20 miles.

So that’s what’s what, guys. I’m in the “off season.” I wish I could say I’m going to Disneyland or moving down to Miami, but I haven’t convinced my boss that bluegrass is prevalent down in Miami. I mean, let me know if I’m wrong, and you’ll be my favorite person in the world. I’ll call up LeBron and we can all chill, my treat.

To keep up with my fitness (because I can’t sit still, even if it is the off season), I’m enjoying the gym rat status and getting lost in new beatz I’ve loaded on my Shuffle: Lady GaGa’s “Venus” makes me giggle like a school girl; Bruno Mars’ “Treasure” is my jam; I pretend Drake is serenading me in “Make Me Proud.”

I’ve been modeling my workouts after the Tabata method, going hard on one exercise for a certain amount of time, resting a short amount of time, and jumping back in for another set. This has made my overall gym time shorter,  but I’ve walked away feeling like I’ve worked harder and I have rendered myself quite sore as a result.

I’ve relied on treadmill and Stairmaster intervals for cardio, as well as short sprints around the indoor track, which give me a lot of confidence when I pass by all the walkers and “joggers.” Yoga has been practiced a lot more, making me wonder why in the world I wasn’t a yoga practicer in Boulder. I’ll never know.photo

I fully believe there is a season for everything, so this concept of an off season shouldn’t come as a surprise to me. But I’ll be the first to admit: I have been swept up in the race craze. It’s not hard to want more, to dig deeper, and to put another tech tee in your drawer. While this is also the season for being thankful (which should be an exception to the whole “season” thing altogether) I am thankful to say that I’ve discovered that the time is right for an off season.

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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