chords and cadence

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#NotAllRaces: Music City Half Marathon Recap

Not all races are created equal. They all have the same bones: starting line, finish line, heartbeats, nerves, and an apparatus that times you. Everything else is a variable: weather, the course, the competition, how your body feels, aid stations (or lack thereof), gear you wear (or forget), the number of tolerable porta-potties (oxymoron?), and the post-race fuel available (I really don’t get why there isn’t chocolate milk every single time!)

Races are beautifully complex, and running one is a completely new experience each and every time. I love that and yet I wrestle with it. Last Saturday’s race was one I am still having some mixed feelings about. On one hand, I placed first in my age group by about three minutes and I didn’t pass out. On the second hand, it was a slower time than my last race that I didn’t even place in, it was one of the toughest races my mind has had to conquer (on a seemingly not-so-challenging course), and perhaps most frustratingly, I’m still sore in my hamstrings and lower calves, despite lots of time on the foam roller, lacrosse balls, and stretching.

It’s. Thursday.

Without much more melodramatic lamenting, here is how it all went down.

Race Day

I woke up at 6a.m. in order to get some fuel. I wasn’t hungry, but knew if I didn’t put anything else in my stomach then, I’d have to eat too soon before the race. So I choked down half a serving of oatmeal, stretched, gave myself a mantra (Run strong, run fast, run your best), and crawled back into my warm bed for 20 more minutes. After getting back up and guzzling a cup of coffee, I went on my way to Nissan Stadium in downtown Nashville, where the start and finish lines were. It was spitting rain, grey and ominous. I didn’t bring a hat to wear and I left my sunglasses in the car, dismissing any inkling the weather might change.

Within 15 minutes of getting out of the car, I found a comfortable spot in the middle at the chute. The excitement butterflies that usually visit my stomach at the start were there, but barely. I was disappointed; I love the pre-race butterflies. Did they sleep in? This worried me for a second until I got distracted by the gun going off. A symphony of watch beeps filled the air, and with no music, I set off with the crowd.

I felt good, strong and excited when I started. I charged up the first hill (a bridge) with ease and passed a few people. But then, within the second mile, I started feeling a twinge here, a tired muscle there, and is that a side stitch? Seriously? Way too early for me to be comfortable with. I told myself that this one was not gonna be as blissful as I hoped. Not all races can be the same. Run strong, run fast, run your best.

We ran through an industrial part of town before getting up alongside the Cumberland River on the greenway, which sounds nice, but it was kind of brutal. On one side, there’s a river…not exactly your soothing babbling brook. On the other side was the backside of office buildings and warehouses…not exactly your daydream vista. And we were running against the wind. I began digging deep in my psyche and convinced myself to get comfortable being uncomfortable, because with 8+ miles to go, this wasn’t gonna be a dream run. My splits were not indicative of how I felt, however. They were better, a much-needed confidence booster. Run strong, run fast, run your best.

As we looped back, we came into contact with runners still coming from the other direction. A runner coming from the other direction shouted to me, “You’re in the top 10! There’s one right in front of you!” What?! Despite feeling the burn, I felt a boost. Run strong, run fast, run your best. The sun had come out, did I mention that? Did I mention that the sun came out about a mile in, and I had foregone the sunglasses? Never doing that again. The sun beat into my eyes the entire way back, causing a dehydrated-induced headache. I had half a Honey Stinger waffle and water around mile 8, then took some PowerAde from an aid station at mile 10, to try and ward off the dehydration – knowing the damage was done. Run strong, run fast, run your best. My pace had fallen a little bit, and I struggled mentally and physically. I was not having fun. My mantra took a different turn. Run strong, run fast, run this b*+ch.

Woulda looked cuter with sunglasses on, but nope!

I tried to gain a little momentum coming back down the bridge, but as we ran around Nissan Stadium for the last .60, I knew I wasn’t going to make up for what I’d lost in the last 3-4 miles. Run…your…best. Seeing my husband about .10 from the finish gave me the kick I needed. 1:46:25 and I was DONE.

Post Race

I was so happy to be done with that race. Like, hallelujah. My mood changed when I crossed the finish line, got my medal and a water bottle. By the time Jacob found me, I had sat down and nearly finished the water, wanting more.

I felt disappointed not to have even beaten my time from February. My goal for this race was far from met – I wanted to run my original PR of 1:41. So, HA. HA HA HA.

When I got a print-out of my data, I saw that I was 1 of 15 for females, 25-29. I was shocked. This couldn’t be right. But it was! My mood lifted from there, and standing on the podium felt pretty nice. The race organizers, Team Magic, had nice prizes for those who placed and I appreciated the cup, new socks, gift card to Nashville Running Co. (my favorite) and some weird-looking things you put in your shoes after you run so they don’t smell. They’ve already been tested and given a thumbs-up!

Three things in common with these people: We just ran, we’re between the ages of 25-29, and we just were told to put our hands up over our heads for a photo-op. I had time to run to my car and get the shades.

The Takeaway

Not all races are going to give me the warm fuzzies. Since my last race went so well and filled up my soul so much, I had expectations that this race would do the same. When I struggled (and so early on), the warm fuzzies fizzled into doubt and disappointment. I fought hard to keep those feelings far, far away.

Races are all about struggle! Despite placing, I wasn’t fully satisfied with how I did, and that’s okay. I can learn from it. I take running seriously, but when my brain voluntarily changes Run your best to Run this b*+ch, I guess it’s telling me that not all races are considered equal; lighten up, sign up for the next one, and don’t you dare think you can live without your sunglasses. B*+ch.

 

SPLITS + DATA

8:16 // 8:02 // 8:07 // 8:18 //8:05 // 7:53 // 7:45 // 7:50 // 8:02 // 7:56 // 8:08 // 8:19 // 8:07 // 1:32 (.20) = 1:46:25

301 elevation gain

How I Abandoned a Relationship and How I Got It Back

Ever since I seriously took up running and racing in 2012, I’ve kept every single race bib on a safety pin. The older bibs are starting to fray and rip, but I’ve salvaged them with Scotch Tape like a mother saving her kid’s decade-old first art project (“Remember when you did this?”). In 2015, the stack nearly plateaued with the addition of only. two. bibs.

I know what you’re thinking. I’m a lazy monster.

Obviously, 2015 was a metamorphosis of sorts. Instead of running being my main squeeze, an actual human completely edged it out in my heart and soul (Aww. So corny. I had to. Hi, Jacob!). Also happening in my heart and soul were thoughts and ideas and realizations that resulted in me switching careers. So that took some attention and care too. Plus, I flirted with a lot of other forms of exercising that got me excited and feeling ripped. So, running got pushed to the side. “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Any runner will NOT think I’m crazy talking about my relationship with Running as if it were a real, warm, humanbody. When you know, you know. You know?

After I began feeling steady in The Changes of 2015 (a fiancé, new job, creaking in both my knees when I climb stairs), the ground thawed, tulips bloomed and allergies were blessing literally everybody. The sweet spring air and Daylight Saving Time successfully lured me outside more and more like sorority girls to a Luke Bryan concert. I started feeling the familiar butterflies I had at the beginning of my relationship with Running. Could we be starting anew?

With aplomb, I decided to test the waters with my maybe-rekindled relationship and signed up for the Moosic City Purity Dairy Dash 10k. The Fiancé would be out of town, so Running and me would have the time we needed (and he was totes cool about it).

I showed up to the Metro Center of Nashville on a bright, sunny, already-mid-60s morning. My shorts and t-shirt were comfortable, my shoes felt good. I left my phone in the car and just carried my I.D. and car key. No GPS, no Garmin, no music in my ears. It was FREEING.

Surrounded by all the runners – big groups, couples, women in tutus, anxious-looking teenagers- I felt energized. I wasn’t attached to anyone else there, but I certainly wasn’t lonely. I felt comfortable being back in a sea of other runners. “What chute are we actually starting in?” “Beautiful day, isn’t it?” “Good luck!, Thanks, you too” I tightened my ponytail, ignored the side stitch I just gave myself by chugging 24 oz. of water (dammit, I know better!) and loved the feeling of my heart beating in my chest with anticipation of hearing the gun go off.271087f7-d0c4-49cb-8499-307bef81e713

Running without a Garmin for the first time in forever, I counted the number of seconds between the gun and when I crossed the Start. Fifteen seconds.

I got into a groove pretty early on and felt on top of the world. I wanted to see how long I could maintain my pace, and started moving up pretty quickly. We passed the Tennessee Titan’s practice facility and I’m pretty sure I heard them yelling “1! 2! 3! 4!” as if doing jumping jacks. *cough*GO BRONCOS*cough* I was passed by a faster, smaller girl (hereby referred to as Fast Girl) who was friendly, saying “Thank you” to the cops standing by, protecting the course. She became my rabbit, even though I’ve told myself a million times to never compare myself to another runner (they could be having the best running day of their life or the worst. You do you).  The course took us up along the greenway that borders the Cumberland River and was as flat as all my jokes.

After Mile 3, the runner’s high started kicking in. I felt euphoric. My pace was strong, I was strong, and I thought to myself that who I was in that very moment was the best version of myself. It had come back to me: I am in love with running.  I am in love with who I am when I am running. Running is the best. I realized I had forgotten how much I loved this, but now I remembered and why.

At Mile 5, I caught up to the Fast Girl and we commented about how nice the shade was we were taking advantage of. We quipped how much we liked the flat course and encouraged one another on a great race. She told me to go ahead for the last mile, so I did. I crossed the finish with no one around me, but was cheered on by people at the finish line.

The clock said 50:45 when I finished, so I concluded my time was 50:30, based on when I actually crossed the Start line. I surprised myself, as I went into the race thinking I’d be satisfied with anything under 55 minutes.

About a minute later, Fast Girl finished and came up to me telling me I had a great race. We shook hands and told each other we pushed the other, and thanks for that.

I wandered around for a little while afterwards, nursing a cold chocolate milk and wondering when they would post the 10K results. Seeing when I finished made me curious to know if I had actually placed. After hearing too much “Cha Cha Slide” from the DJ, I decided to get my sweaty butt home for a shower and food. Thank God for the Internet so I could look up the results later.

I learned I placed 2nd for females ages 25-30, and placed 13th female overall. With those results, I know that Running wants me back, and I want it back too. I put myself out there and what I got in return was more fulfilling than I anticipated. So, we’re trying this again.

Tonight I have to add my bib to the stack…and maybe reconsider an upgrade to the bib-keeping system. I have a feeling the stack won’t be plateauing this year.

Remember Two Things

I’d like this post to be void of mention that I haven’t written in a while. But cat’s already out of the bag.

I’ve not written in some time. I’m sorry about it, moreso for myself since writing is like therapy. Whether or not other people read my writing has little effect on why I have a blog in the first place. But I do, so here I am, and now that we’ve addressed this, I’d like to move on by saying:

Happy March!

Instead of slogging you through the last 8 weeks of marathon #3 training, I’ll just update you with the biggest stuff:

1. I ran 119.65 miles in February, teaching myself to count the extra mileage every time! By the time I calculated it, I was already dressed up to go out to dinner with my boyfriend on the last day of February. I lost Dedicated Runner points (those are real things.) when I decided not to finish the last .35 and instead go eat a bison burger. I’ll keep in mind that every little bit adds up this month.

2. I am a “wimp” and I’m okay with it. January sucked, okay? It just took one big blow to my tough runner ego when it decided to be ugly and freezing and utterly merciless. I bundled up a few times but mostly gained mileage on the treadmill. The thing I’ve found hard to deal with is the lack of snow; I would gladly bundle up for snowy runs more often. Like this:

snow

February was a little better, and I enjoyed the outdoors a little more. But yesterday we were iced in, so I took my run to the treadmill again. What I’ve learned is that adjusting to what fits for you (and not comparing yourself to others in the process) is a success in itself. At the end of the day, I ran, the miles counted, and I still got better.

Overall, I have felt the best this training season than I ever have. I feel myself getting faster each week and my endurance is elongating (is that right? I say so). Although my training diet derailed around NFL Playoff Time/Super Bowl/Post-Super Bowl depression/cruise vacation, I got back into fighting shape.

I’m running my first race of the year this Saturday, the Tom King Half. I’m shooting to PR by hitting a 1:45:59. It’s a flat course, and I’ve heard very PR-Friendly.

How have YOU endured this season running in the Polar Vortex?

Do you laugh in the face of -3 windchill?

When’s your next race?

run

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.

Pray, run, repeat

photo (4)

After yesterday’s events at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, my sport changed.

After a tragedy like this, there’s so much to say.

But actions speak louder than words.

In 11 days, I will run 26.2 miles, just like I signed up to.

Just like thousands of others did yesterday, some of  whom did not finish.

I will run for those unable to finish, and who will never be able to run again.

I will pray, run, repeat.

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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