chords and cadence

Another runner's writ

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WHY Pace

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

And then there’s WHY pace.

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

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

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

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

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How to Have a Happy Trail Run

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

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

Hill Bench in its glory

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

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

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

Here are my tips for a happy trail run.

Before

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

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

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

During

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

After

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

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

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

 

25 Thoughts on my 25th Birthday

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

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

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

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

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

2. A good pen always extracts better verbiage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13. Playing phone tag is better than not trying.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25. Always save room for ice cream.

 

Struggles of seriousness and self-identity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

photo (1)

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.

Gut reaction: It’s half time.

There comes a point in marathon training when you have your doubts.

You question your abilities, mental fortitude, grit, stamina and sanity.

Getting over all that is part of what makes marathon training so worth it; when you cross the finish line knowing you had all those doubts and fears, and you just beat them over the head with your tired, sweaty, perfectly muddy pair of Pearl Izumis.

But, there is a point in training sometimes where all that doubt comes from a legitimate source that forces some introspection, a heavy dose of realism, and most definitely some disappointment.

I’ll spare the diatribe, but I’ve gone through the latter.

So in 9 days, instead of running 26.2 miles that I have not trained properly for, I will run 13.1.

I won’t get injured or disappointed. I will run my first half-marathon of 2013. I will run it in under 2 hours.

And I will enjoy it, dammit.

Stay tuned…

Running on bluegrass, survivng a mid-run bee sting, and R&R: Colorado style

Right now I am sitting in my parents’ living room in Evergreen, Colorado with my feet up and football on tv (Broncos on soon!). The sun is shining the prettiest light on the golden aspen leaves outside, and any hints that it snowed two days ago are long gone.

One week ago I was eating huevos rancheros with extra hot sauce in a sleepy, bluegrass-hungover Raleigh, NC, jonesing to come home to Nashville.

Life has been a bit of a blur lately. I’ll catch you up as to why.

World of Bluegrass Week

Remember that metaphorical marathon which was the subject in my last blog?

Well, I didn’t get a picture with Steve Martin. Nor did I technically meet him, but that’s okay. We sat by each other offstage during Punch Brothers’ set and I’ll take that memory to the bank. I also sat backstage while Tony Rice accepted his Hall of Fame induction, and miraculously got his 20-years-gone voice back. I met Ricky Skaggs, Rhonda Vincent, Noam Pikelny, Fiddle Player of the Year Jason Carter, and THE Del McCoury. I heard amazing music, and got paid for it. THAT was my metaphorical medal that I took back to Nashville. It looks good in my apartment, trust me.1276333_10151733233498759_2074428410_o

SO – World of Bluegrass went as well as we hoped, and then some. We blew away everyone’s expectations of the week, even our own. It was a 100% success.

As for the literal marathon training, I got up at 5:45am five out of seven days to run on the hotel’s fitness center’s treadmill, totaling 26 miles the whole week. I was thankful for the clean and open facilities, but would have loved to run outside. It was just too dark to do that. At the end of each day, I was rendered completely spent after running a business conference, award show, seminars, and putting out fires everywhere in between. Even being so social all the time was draining! By the end of the week, I felt increasingly in need of alone time, and for a good long run outdoors.

Back in Nashville

My first full day back in Nashville, I had the opportunity to seize my nature fix. So I did. For the first time in too long, I started off on the Cane Connector trail at Percy Warner. The weather was perfect; a crisp 72 degrees, with no doubt that fall was starting to make itself comfortable. I listened to the Eddie Vedder Pandora Station (highly recommended) and was feeling refreshed, fast, and blissful with every hill. During a Led Zeppelin song (“Back to California” to be exact) I felt an odd, sharp pain on my left index finger. Still running, I looked down and saw a determined little bee, the source of the sting. At first I didn’t know what to do; I was kind of stunned. I was at least three miles from my car and was worried about the effect the bee sting would have on me since I probably wasn’t hydrated well, and was prone to feeling woozy anyway. I put on my Big Girl Pants and kept running, figuring the adrenaline would ease the pain of the sting. It did, mostly, and I survived the run while still meeting my projected pace. Still waiting on my “I’m Brave!” sticker… should be coming in the mail soon, right guys?

I thoroughly enjoyed back-to-back nights of yoga (inversions, ftw!), and a great 6.5 miler with my East Nasties. Being without World of Bluegrass work responsibilities, I felt like a kid on Summer Vacation with extra time and less stress on my hands, filling it with yoga, running, Girls on the Run, and friends. It was spectacular.

Colorado: Surprise!

If you don’t have a best friend with Buddy Pass privileges, I’d suggest you finding one. Thanks to my best friend with Buddy Pass privileges, I was able to make an impromptu trip back to Colorado just four days after getting back from Raleigh. My parents had plans to go to Vail, invited me to join, and suggested I surprise my sister. Surprising my sister made her cry (in a good way), and I also surprised a good friend from college.

Surprises spice things up for the people you care about in life. Pro tip: Do it as much for you as you do for them. It’s awesome.

Whenever I’ve come home, my version of R&R consists of being even more active and playing outside, and this time was no different.

My mom proved that even though I’m a marathon runner, she can still kick my butt. “Let’s go to Tabata class and stay after for Butts and Guts!” she said. “It’ll be fun!” she said.

My hamstrings, butt, quads, calves, toes and eyelashes can attest that it was very fun. They’re still shaking from having so much fun.

We decided to forego a rest day for a hike in the high country, taking in the awe-inspiring fall colors and taking advantage of the crisp autumnal weather. I’d like to believe I’m much more eloquent through the written word than I am through the spoken one, but even those colors leave me searching for words. It is impossible not to believe, or even entertain the idea, that the leaves changing colors is proof that God exists. If you’re lucky enough to be surrounded by a forest of golden aspen trees with the sun shining through, and snow on the ground, you’re lucky enough.

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Today, I took a shake-out run around our neighborhood in the hopes that the lactic acid would get to moving around in my sore lower-half a little more. It felt good, but I noticed the thinner air.

Looking ahead

I head back to Nashville in a few hours and tomorrow resume a normal work week with a normal routine. But I forget what ‘normal’ is.

With less than three weeks to go until 7 Bridges, I’ll start getting into the tapering phase of training, even though ‘training’ has been a relative term this go-around. But I’m not looking behind me in my lost mileage, lost long runs, lost speed workouts. I’m only looking ahead.

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.

Miles(tones)

One year ago today I was driving east on I-40, blasting Tom Petty’s Greatest Hits with all of my possessions in the trunk, backseat, and passenger seat of my stick shift.

They would stay there for another 22 days until I would finally upchuck all of it into an empty apartment (mine, alllll mine) in the Germantown neighborhood in Nashville, Tennessee. I would spend the first night there in a sleeping bag on the hardwood floor, feeling nothing but bliss, a little bit of apprehension of Southern bugs, and a stiff back in the morning.

365 days ago, I had a future that was trepidatiously uncertain, scary, and absolutely thrilling. Fast forward 365 days, and I have a life that is absolutely thrilling, comfortably uncertain, and still a little bit scary (but hey, what good is life if it doesn’t scare you once in a while?).

I reflect a lot. I’m a writer, comes with the territory. So naturally, I’ve recently been heavily reflecting on the past 365 days. They have been a whirlwind of change, challenges, surprises, upsets, hilarity, discovery, adventure, incredible growth, and unbelievable potential.

I’ve ran two half-marathons, two marathons, and a few trail races and 10Ks.

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I’ve visited five new states.

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I have met countless of brave, inspiring, fun, funny, and amazing people whom I am incredibly grateful for (and can’t wait to hang out with this weekend).

I have a solid, legit job in the music industry – my main reason for taking the leap of faith to Nashville in the first place.

I fit back into clothes I could have worn in middle school.

It’s safe to say I am living the dream. I really, really am.

I hope that 1.) You celebrate this milestone with me by having a good craft beer tonight (New Belgium Ranger IPA, anyone?), and 2.) that my story inspires you to go boldly in the direction of your wildest dreams. Like, real big ones that make your parents question your mental stability and raise their eyebrows.

When I was driving across Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and west Tennessee, I didn’t know what was next and it was thrilling/scary/weird/liberating. But I knew I had nothing to lose for going, not with the support of my friends, and family.

Have faith. Blast your favorite song. Sleep on a hardwood floor the first night in your brand new apartment. Make your life a little less certain.

Where will you be in another 365 days?

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