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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.

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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!

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