chords and cadence

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Archive for the category “Racing”

Not all days are treated equal

I ran one of the best races of my running life on Saturday.

It was the Tomato 5k in East Nashville, and I had decided to do it somewhat last minute (if you don’t know me, I’m a planner and “last minute” meant three days before). I had friends I was running with, and I knew the course because it was like my home turf with my beloved running group. I wanted to PR and knew I would unless some dire situation happened like missing the gun because I was peeing, or being tripped by a novice rollerblader. Especially with my new baby Garmin, I would be unstoppable.

For my own abilities, I pretty much was unstoppable. My first mile was the fastest I’ve ever known to run: 6:51. From there I kept it consistently under 7:30 to finish the 5k at 22:18. I got 2nd place for my age group, and was 18th in women over all. My friends called me a beast, and I welcomed it. I drank two Corona Lights with extra lime before 10am to celebrate it.

I was riding pretty high after my PR-breaking day, and nothing but my legs knew it better the next day, Sunday, aka Long Run Day. Hal Higdon said I should have ran 13 for marathon training. My legs said, “Shut it, Hal.” And so I took the day off (with minor bike work, a long walk, and stretching at the gym, because I CAN’T NOT BE ACTIVE EVER).

Even though my body told me I was needing rest, my brain wanted to run. I’m pretty good at listening to my body though, and had to tell my brain to think about being Forrest Gump in my head instead and deal with it for at least 24 hours.

When I got up to run this morning to make up for not running Sunday (Mondays are typically ‘no running’ days), I pushed through sore legs to get my butt out the door for at least four. The sun was rising. The humidity hadn’t quite set in for the day. I thought about how fast I ran the other day, and how a day off and four miles would equal success and a brilliant boost in ego. I started off at a normal 8-minute pace…for like, half a block.

After that half block, my legs felt like sacks of flour, and my Garmin was telling me that I was slooooooooow. I didn’t see numbers. I saw SLOW blinking at me instead. I couldn’t believe it! I felt like I was working so hard, and I was running two whole minutes slower than my pace not two days earlier. “WTF. WTF, Monday?! WTF, Garmin?!” I thought.

I got a little pissed at first. But running always helps put things into perspective: Not all days are treated equal. No day is the same when you’re out in the world, making things happen.

Progress happens. Changes take place. Your hair looks different. You smile is a little more awkward than usual. It’s not Saturday morning anymore, it’s Monday, and your soul knows it and it’s spreading rumors to the rest of your body. So your body is not responding, and it’s rendering you slow and feeling weak. You’re not wearing your lucky socks. You’re feeling weak when yesterday, you felt on top of the world.

Like it always does, running helped me look on the bright side.  I decided what counted was the fact that I got my butt out of bed and out the door this morning and pushed through, regardless of the disappointing time on my watch. I may not have given myself an ego boost this morning, but I’ll get another chance tomorrow.

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My East Nasty crew, post-race, pre-beers. These guys are awesome.

In the meantime, I’ll just celebrate fact that I am living a life where no two days are the same. I will keep trying for progress and change, and will have no great expectations because life is different each and every day. And whether I’m a planner or not, that is something I am grateful for.

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Rewind: May

Lots happened in May, guys! Lots of really great things.

I ran, I went to the beach, I ate well, I drank well, I saw live music, I danced, I saw mountains, I saw my family, I flew, I laughed a lot, and I ran some more.

Total mileage: 75.5

My mileage decreased because I didn’t have any marathons, nor was I training. I was just running for sprints and grins (but still keeping track of mileage because I am just a tad OCD. We’re all a little weird).

Within this Rewind, I have a race recap! (TA-DA!) of the Bolder Boulder. I’m still pinching myself because it was so dang’d awesome.

I flew home to Colorado for a super quick weekend…needed to see my kick-ass family, mountains, and friends. Since I was back, I wanted to soak in all of the outdoor goodness my higher elevation home offers. So, I ran stairs with a friend at Red Rocks, hiked 6 miles, biked ~20 miles from Frisco to Breckenridge and back. Then I turned 24 and ran the Bolder Boulder 10k (America’s All Time Best 10k!) with my awesome mother. I know. I sound like Iron Woman. I wasn’t always like this, but I’m glad I am now.

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The Coughlins take a photo op in Breckenridge

The past couple races I ran were grey, squeaky, and wet. The sun decided to peace out on me for those races. But as we drove into sun-kissed Boulder on May 27th, the sun wasn’t peacing out anytime soon, and the sky was blue, speckled with white clouds. The Birthday Gods and the Race Gods supposedly had a little get-together and agreed that there would be nothing but sunshine for my day. Thank you, Birthday and Race Gods. May I see you working together in the future!

My mom and I took places in our given time waves, and as I slowly moved up to the starting line at 8:15am, my adrenaline started pumping and I had a shameless shit-eating grin on my face. I will never get sick of that at-the-starting-line feeling.

Throughout the 6.2 mile course, I ran with men painted like tigers, Teletubbies, firefighters, fairies, hippies, dads and daughters, moms and their moms, kids, superheroes, and wheelchair racers. I ran past belly dancers, the first house I lived in as a sophomore at CU, a slip-n-slide, and friendly college kids on summer break offering tempting cold cans of PBR. I was beyond thrilled to run in Boulder on such a beautiful day with such happy people. It was just a dream for me, guys. It’s how I want to spend my life: Outside, being active, and surrounded by happy, active people. I wouldn’t complain about free PBRs either.

My time was 52:50, which I wasn’t thrilled about, but I wasn’t looking to PR anyway. Plus, I figured the slower starting time held me back a little. And the altitude. And the walkers. And being tempted by cold PBRs. But as much as I try to just run for joy and whatnot, I still am a perfectionist when it comes to running and yes, times DO matter. We’re all a little weird.

What was really, truly the icing on the (birthday) cake was not running through Folsom Field (oh, the memories!), and not seeing the thousands of people cheering on the sidewalks and lawns and street corners, but being surprised by these two girls (the sister and photo-bomber excluded).

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Ashlee (far right) and Maddie behind her. Kara (sister) is on the left, and Photobomb King.

Ashlee and Maddie have been such strong, positive, solid friends (I wish Emily and Erika would have been there to complete our group!). We’ve laughed about boys, shared beds in hotel rooms, and have many great pictures and stories that we will never share outside of us. We are that group of girl friends and I am blessed to have ’em.

I hope to do this race again, but I know it’ll never be as good as the first time (insert ‘that’s what she said’ snicker here).

Ashlee, me, and Maddie having some fun at the Boulder Creek Festival after the race.

Ashlee, me, and Maddie having some fun at the Boulder Creek Festival after the race.

And that, my readers, was May.

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.

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.

2013: Cheers!

photoAlthough this is my virgin post of 2013 (Happy New Year!) it will not be about my (sure to be insanely original) New Years Resolutions. No sir. You’re welcome. Cheers.

However, I will be mildly self-indulgent and reflect (briefly!) on 2012. And then we’ll really move on. You’re welcome. Cheers.

I finished out 2012 having run over 1,200 miles, four half-marathons, one 10k, at least one mile for 42 days straight, and more hills than you can shake a Garmin at. I ran at 10,000 feet, the desert, and sea level. I ran happy, and I ran sad. I ran in rain, snow, sleet, and heat. Through all this running, I ran into a new passion and I have never been happier in my life. (See what I did there?)

I also did the little thing of packing up my car and moving halfway across the country by myself to the city of my dreams and now I’m living happily ever after frequenting honky tonks and bluegrass jams, but that’s for another blog.

2012 was good to me and I was sorry to see it go. 2013 has got to step it up, big time.

Might I run into Kenny Chesney/Luke Bryan/Keith Urban out in Nashville somewhere?

Might I hit 1500 miles?

Might I not only finish my first marathon, but another one six weeks later?

(I’m gonna say yes to all three of those. Ah, the power of positivity.)

My first marathon (in beautiful Asheville, NC) is in eight weeks, on March 3. As the training mileage increases, so does my excitement, anxiety, and frequency of Icy Hot applications (my apartment smells faintly like the stuff and I am totally okay with it).

The Country Music Marathon and Half in Nashville is April 27th, seven weeks later, and I signed up for 26.2. I figure after a week of recovery, I can jump back into a reasonable training routine and be just as ready. (Anyone else done this? Pointers?)

Besides races and personal goals, I decided to dedicate to giving back this year too. I’m excited to say I have volunteered with Girls on the Run, a non-profit program that gets girls from 3rd through 8th grade active, into running, and promotes healthy living and positive self-esteem. At the end of their 12-week program, they run in a 5K race. I’ll be running with the girls twice a week for practice. I can’t wait to ignite a passion for activity and establish self-esteem and good habits in the hearts of some sweet little girls!

So there you have it. That’s what 2013 looks like for me, although the race entries will hopefully increase. Nothing like smashing goals and setting new ones! How far will you go?

Oh, and I gotta give you some music in this entry. Welcome, The Lone Bellow. Rootsy folk + harmonic vocals + soul. They will blow up in 2013, mark my words. Enjoy!

That’ll work

Last week during East Nasty‘s Wednesday run in Nashville, I found myself running strong in a pack of dudes, which has been kinda typical lately. I can dig it.

There are old dudes with hairy legs and short shorts (the older the age, the shorter the shorts?), young bros in frat tanks (it’s December y’all!), and normal dudes about whom I can’t find anything witty to retort. We get along.

But I wasn’t the first lady to finish. I was second behind a leggy, blonde Victoria Secret model (probably) in too-hot booty shorts (even I couldn’t stop staring). When she ran, she didn’t jiggle. At all. No cellulite. In fact, she was still pretty tan, and it was dark, and it’s December. Barbie.

I tried to pass VS Model because I saw her as my competition. As the only females running in one of the fastest pace groups it would seem pretty natural to want to beat the other. We weren’t friends, we weren’t necessarily there to support each other. It irked me that I was thinking this way, because it isn’t my normal motivation when I run with a group. But this week, it so was.

She kicked my butt and looked like hot stuff doing it. I’m pretty sure I had a lougie on my sleeve that somehow missed the ground.

As we got water from the orange Gatorade troughs, VS Model asked no one in particular what our time was. Four miles in 29:forty-something was the answer. Just around a 7:30 pace.

“That’ll work,” said VS Model coolly sipping water and unbuckling her reflector belt like yoga had just ended. I guzzled my water, wished I had a cool reflector belt to coolly unbuckle, wiped the sweat from my forehead/eyebrows/neck, and I envied her. Not only was she a model, clearly, but she was a fast one. And she beat me. She had won.

Later that night after online shopping for my own too-hot booty shorts and at-home spray tans (Dear Santa…), I realized something.

I beat the boys, too.

I have blonde hair, too.

I can rock a 7:30-minute mile and take names, too.

And you know what?

That’ll work.

A date with the Rocky Top Trail Half

67670_10151318839106469_2133823999_nWhen it comes to me and running, I prefer the dirt. I prefer roots and twigs and steep declines. I’d take snakes over stop signs any day. Dirty, rocky hills are my milk and honey.

So why, oh why, have I not done a dang trail race yet?!

In November, after asking myself the same thing for the last time, I signed up for my biggest challenge yet: A half marathon trail race in Kingsport, Tennessee. Challenge = accepted. (and OMG, hills.)

So last Friday, I packed up my stick shift with an overnight pack and double-checked I had a fresh tube of Icy Hot. I queued up the tunes (Foo Fighters, AC/DC, and Radiohead) and drove 4.5 hours to the northeast corner of Tennessee and anticipated the upcoming event like a first date.

What will it look like?

How nice will it be?

I hope I don’t trip and fall.

I had butterflies! My first real trail race. I had been a trail hound for the past year, but this time was going to be the real deal. I was crossing my fingers for a hill or five to really test me. Bring. it. on.

I woke up to 38 degrees in the Smokies with the familiar pre-race jitters bouncing around in my stomach and the adrenaline idling in my veins like it knew what was coming. When I drove to Bays Mountain Park where the race was, I originally missed the exit because I was too distracted by distracting myself with singing ‘Banana Pancakes’ by Jack Johnson to ease my nerves. Thanks, Jack.

When I got to the starting area, the line for the single bathroom was pretty long, and was inside the Bays Mountain visitors’ center. There was a dummy dressed up as a moonshine man, holding a Mason jar of what was probably supposed to be moonshine, but looked like Gatorade. Solid, I thought. This will be legit.

The course started on an incline and we were warned: Jockey for a position from the get-go, because it turns into singletrack where you can’t pass anyone for the first two miles.

There were plenty of switchbacks and inclines in the backwoods. Leaves blanketed the trail, making it that much more thrilling because you weren’t guaranteed to not land on a tree root or in a ditch when you came down around a turn. At one point, we ran across a one-lane, rickety wood bridge with the pond water so high up, one false step and you were soaked and cold and probably wouldn’t finish. Fun with a capital F, folks.

And oh my goodness, guys: The hills. I passed full grown men (well, and full grown women). I kicked ass and took names on those hills; they seemed to give me more energy than drain me of it. And I was happy to notice I didn’t completely tire out at the top. I was able to keep a consistent pace, which was probably around a 10-minute mile.

The solitude of running through the woods let me focus on my breath, which I hadn’t ever done in a race before. To focus on deep, cleansing breaths that matched my cadence was soothing and powerful. I would like to credit it to the yoga I’ve been practicing lately, so Namaste to that!

My playlist ended about .5 miles from the finish line, which bummed me out; I had wishfully predicted finishing with ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ but noooo, the playlist quit before I did. I muttered a couple German commands at myself like a drill sergeant (SCHNELL!), and it worked well enough.

I finished in 2:08:37. I placed 2nd for women ages 20-24, and 3rd for women overall. I got a pint glass for my efforts, and plan on buying my favorite beer, and drinking out of it, like, tonight.

My legs felt oh-so-good, and oh-so-sore. The race was everything I wanted. I was alive. I was uninjured. I was the kind of happy that only comes from running a great race.

So… I’m really, really hoping for a second date soon.

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