chords and cadence

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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

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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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.

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