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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

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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.

11 Reasons I love the treadmill (and you can, too!)

In the fitness/running world, ‘treadmill’ is often synonymous with ‘suck.’ FullSizeRender (2)

In the runners’ world, it’s affectionately nicknamed the ‘dreadmill.’ Clever.

There are multiple articles touting the shame you should feel for using the treadmill, why you should always run outside instead. There’s even a Pinterest page dedicated to the dreadmill. And that’s okay; I get it.

I’m a runner, that’s no secret. But what is? I love the treadmill. Especially this time of year.

Here are reasons why I love the treadmill (and you can too!)

1. I can completely zone out: Dial in my speed (7.0mph for a slower day, 7.2 for a normal, and 7.7-8.0 if I’m feeling fast); swipe to my go-to playlist of the week, and have at it. I don’t have to think about which route to take (which is good for an indecisive one like me), if I’ll get lost or go too far before I run out of fuel or sidewalk. I just plug in and go.

2. People watching. There is usually always someone entertaining at the gym to watch. The dancing dude with a bandana who’s probably rocking out to Guns & Roses, the old lady reading Home & Garden on the elliptical while her husband tries hopelessly to get in the groove beside her, old friends saying ‘hi’ to each other and shooting playful jabs… it’s good people watching while you work out. Entertainment enough. There’s also the mental wish list I make when I see cute workout clothes I want.

3. Pure safety. Nashville doesn’t have the safest streets (read: no sidewalks in a lot of neighborhoods). It’s safe to use the treadmill; I won’t get hit by a car or end up in the wrong part of town. Especially when I have to run at night and solo night running makes me uneasy, the treadmill can be a godsend.

4. Hill interval workouts. I can perfectly dial in my incline, set myself at a certain challenging speed, turn up my music and settle in to the discomfort. I can focus on challenging myself just a little better because I have control over the elements of my workout. I usually come up with my own pyramid workout, but if you need some ideas, this is a good place to start and modify to fit your goals and abilities.

5. The fan. With high and low settings, it’s dreamy and feels stupidly luxurious.

treadmill-racing6. It can push you, if you let it. Wanna push yourself to get faster? Set it at a certain speed and work on sustaining that speed for 60-90 seconds. HIIT workouts are the BOMB on the treadmill, taking the guess work out of pacing. If you don’t have a track nearby, the treadmill can be vital to work on your speed.

7. I can check myself out. Before you get all judgy, here me out: I can check my form in the mirror and see where I’m a little off-balance. Helps a ton, truly. You wouldn’t want to lift weights in a room with no mirrors all the time because proper form is important, right? Same with running. Take a chance to check your form.

8. I nerd out on the numbers. Sure, I have my Garmin when I run outside, but I love the data presented to me on the treadmill without having to slow down (heaven forbid, right?!). I can see my average pace, if I need to kick it up a notch, see how far I’ve gone, and my incline percentage. It’s the only time I love numbers.

9. Beverages. I’m talking Nuun water, coffee, tea… the cup holder is plain awesome. I’ve ran with all three before on the treadmill feeling spoiled for getting to do so. You just can’t run with coffee without looking like you’re late for something.

10. Asphalt sucks sometimes. Face it: constantly pounding the pavement can be not-so-friendly on your joints. Show ’em some love by getting on a more forgiving surface like the treadmill (or trails).

11. Because it’s better than not running. When I’m faced with running in the rain, sleet, bitter cold, sometimes I can turn on my beast mode and do it. But sometimes I just really don’t want to, or it’s unsafe. A lot of times, I can only run at night and stories of runners (read: women runners) being assaulted/kidnapped/even killed rightfully frighten me.  What am I gonna do? Not run? No, thanks. I’d rather keep my sanity. The treadmill is a privilege, really.TreadmillHC

I’m not saying every workout on the treadmill is sunshine and roses. More like fluorescent lights and sweat. But it gets the job done, at the end of the day, when I’d rather not be outside, which isn’t often.

Show the treadmill some soleful spirit instead of disdain. And stop calling it the dreadmill. Name calling is rude.

Happy running!

Race recap: Women’s Running Series Nashville Half Marathon!

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Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, wake on up, it’s running time!

I’m the prodigal daughter of this blog, I swear. Every time I abandon it, something happens, and I come back to it with guilt and an intent to make amends. I’ll be better, promise!

What spurred my return this time is nothing Earth-shattering. It was a race I ran yesterday that kicked my butt into blog-gear. Big woop. But it was my first race since April (the Country Music Half-Marathon that I still should write about someday), and I trained for it starting in July when I was in Colorado. High altitude training FTW! and it was something that I wanted to do for myself, for the sheer joy of it, and because I like myself the most when I am running.

So, a race recap:

The Women’s Running Series Nashville Half Marathon and 5k benefited the Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Foundation. Its runners were predominately and predictably female, with the hairier sex sprinkled in here and there for support or pacing. No male would place – just women. This excited me because sometimes you just like running with others who understand the struggle of the just-right sports bra. The struggle is real.

The Expo was very well organized and skinny, but that was probably for the best. Had there been more exhibitors, I wouldn’t have had time to peruse them all anyway, and probably saved myself some money in the long run. The information about parking was only a little helpful; in Nashville, for most events that take place downtown, you can park at LP Field and walk over the Shelby Pedestrian Bridge. There wasn’t any literature affirming nor denying that. So, I told my boyfriend to park over at LP Field and walk over the bridge to come see me at the finish, but there was a game going on and he missed me. My fault for assuming, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only Nashvillian to do so. I digress.

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Nancy pulls of pink really well.

The Start was appropriately right in front of the Country Music Hall of Fame, with a beautiful burgeoning sunny sky. The temperature was perfect. I am definitely an early bird, and another reason I enjoy racing is because I’m surrounded by those who (generally) are early birds, too. I feel less weird and not-my-age.

I was really happy to see my fellow Girls on the Run buddy, Nancy! She is a coach for the GOTR group I volunteer with, as well as an elementary school counselor. She is always a source of warmth and happiness and reminds me of my Oklahoman aunt. We snapped a quick selfie before I tucked my phone into my FlipBelt (highly recommend) and the gun went off.

The course rounded down to 2nd street where we turned left to go up Broadway. I’ll never not love the sight of the neon signs of the honky tonks on Broadway, even at 7 a.m. when last night’s beer-soaked mats are laying out on the pavement to be pressure-sprayed off, because it’s Nashville and so hot right now.

Anyone from Nashville knows that if you go west on Broadway from the honky tonks, you go uphill. That was a gift to us within the first mile; the first of many. I tried to hone in my pace, knowing that adrenaline was definitely pushing it. I ended up pacing well in the long run with an average of 7:54, but made myself nervous from my first mile pace.

What I loved and didn’t expect about this race were the amount of energetic crowds out to cheer us on. Within the first mile we had two groups of motivators – one being an exceptionally cute cheerleading squad with an average age of 7. One group of college boys in Hillsboro looked like they had kept the party going from the night before and made sure that all the ladies running by were complemented and encouraged. Aaaand they were blasting “Eye of the Tiger,” to which I gave two thumbs up.

Throughout the course, happiness never eluded me. Different muscles started nagging and my feet were reminding me that I’ve maybe put too many miles on the Pearl Izumi N2s I was wearing. But the sun was shining. I was running. I was surrounded by strong, healthy, active people who wanted to make the best out of themselves by doing what we were all doing. I was struck with what seems to happen every single time I race: meaning, gratitude, and joy. I thought, more than once, “I don’t do this nearly enough.”

The hills we ran were a challenge. I’m not going to say, ‘I love a good challenge’ because it’s used too much and falsely and people should stop throwing that around willy-nilly. But I digress. I love certain challenges, and running up hills is one of them. Also finding the perfect combination of frozen yogurt and its toppings. As well as avoiding Target for clothes shopping. IMG_4991

The whole race, my Garmin was off from the course; I would hit a mile about .15 in front of the official mile marker. So, when I ran down 2nd street and saw my watch tick to 13.1 and still didn’t see the finish line, the Type A runner in me got a little, well, ticked, temporarily breaking me from my running-induced euphoria. But as the finish line came in sight, I cleared my head and kicked it into gear.

Expecting to finish around 1:45:00, I was very satisfied with my 1:43:43 (where my Garmin said I had gone 13.24!). Turns out my chip time was the exact same, so I must’ve zig-zagged a TON to make up for that extra mileage.

I juggled a banana, water, and granola bar while I took out my phone and found a tent where ladies were welcome to “freshen up.” The tent was complete with perfumed lotion, deodorant, cleansing wipes (for which my very sweaty face was grateful) and other things I don’t normally think of using straight after finishing a race because half the fun is just being dirty because you earned it. Anyhow, this was a thoughtful measure and a testament to keeping the race very ladylike.

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He’s way taller in real life.

I met up with Jacob who is always so supportive of and happy for me. I’ve done races before where I’ve had no one to cheer me on, which I am totally fine with, but whenever you do have support and encouragement from those who care about you, it makes a pretty huge love dent.

Being a lady event, there were mimosas instead of beers for each runner after the race. I felt fancy and silly drinking mine with a plastic champagne flute while Jacob just hung out and pretended not want one of his own. This race would definitely be perfect for groups of women who can all take part in the girliness of it together. I would do it again next year, and try to rope in some girlfriends, which is an awesome transition into:

MY NEXT RACE! It’s the Rock and Road Marathon Relay with three great friends in Nashville: Elizabeth, Erika, and Katie. We’ve already gotten to run together which has been a great way to spend time together and get a good workout. I hope we get to do it more before our race, and continue after because I’m of the opinion that combining good friends with exercising is like binging on ‘Scandal’ with wine. Only much healthier and less expensive.

STAY TUNED. THE PRODIGAL DAUGHTER OF RUNNING BLOGS IN NASHVILLE HAS RETURNED.

Race recap: Tom King Half Marathon

When you’re a runner, there are good days and there are great days (runners know that bad days are eradicated by simply lacing up), and Saturday was a great day.

After many races big and small in the past two years, I know how to prepare myself for a race: physically, mentally, and emotionally. It takes practice to get it right for y-o-u. Me, I need: coffee, some carb action, and feel good tunes. Sunshine helps. In preparation Friday night, I thoughtfully laid out my race wear: Oiselle on top, Nike (skirt!) on bottom, Pearl Izumi & Swiftwicks on the feet, and yes, that was an overall endorsement (sponsor me?!). I set my alarm with an Allman Brothers song to wake me up. No end-of-the-week beer, and a 9:30pm bedtime kept me in line. Delayed gratification.

SATURDAY – The Tom King Half Marathon, Nashville

I woke up refreshed and maybe a little too excited to toe the line at 6:30am. I mean, I know I’m not the only one who gets psyched to race 13.1 miles, but I know it’s not a widespread, uh, sentiment. For fuel, I ate a peanut butter, honey, cinnamon tortilla and a HoneyStinger vanilla waffle (Psst: Endorsement. Sponsor me?!), drank some coffee and water and thanked the good Lord for such a beautiful race day.

Parking was a breeze and without the wonder of technology or pre-planning, I happened to find my running buddies so we could wish exchange high fives and talk some smack before the gun went off.

Although there were over 1,200 runners for the race, there weren’t waves, so being in the middle of the pack took around 50 seconds to actually cross the starting line. Once past it, though, I zigged and zagged and found my sweet spot. I’ve resolved not to listen to music during races because it blocks out the community that the race itself inspires. I was hesitant to go in without music but I did. I realized  one of my favorite parts to a race is at the beginning when other runners are nervously chatting to each other about pace, early morning mishaps, or just an audible expression of gratitude.

After the first mile, I ran 7:52. Visions of stardom and sponsorships ran though my mind, but then remembered my goal race pace should have been around 8:15-8:20. Woops. I chalked up my fast feet to being anxious and resolved to keep my pace in check, because bonking sucks and is a rookie move. I am no rookie, and I will not bonk. Well, it turns out I never ended up slowing down and kept a sub-8 minute mile pace throughout the race because I just felt that good. Throughout the race I was encouraged by others, namely a guy in a wheelchair with a partner running by his side. Also, a girl had some tunes blasting from her iPhone locked in an armband, and I appreciated that, too. I tried not to worry too much that I neglected to swipe on some Bodyglide…

As we came down to the last mile coming into LP Field, I went all out. After running down into the tunnel and out onto the field, I had enough left in my tank to sprint to the finish. I heard cheers and “Go Taylor!”, and I saw the time on the screen (below) and my watch: 1:41:22. (Official chip time: 1:41:57). Boom.

Photo credit: Boyfriend.

Photo credit: Boyfriend.

I was elated, and somewhat alarmed myself with how good I felt. I kept thinking: Shouldn’t something ache? Am I gonna fall down soon? Should I go run some more? Where was Ryan Gosling to give me my medal? My Runner’s High should’ve gotten its own dang medal. Mine was pretty cool, though.

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Thanks, Jacob, Devyn, and Erika for coming out! Y’all are the best. Support means everything, people!

Here’s the takeaway: Being prideful in a race can hurt you. Ignoring what your body needs is stupid and shouldn’t come at the cost of shaving seconds off your finish time for PR. I’ve learned this. BUT NOT THIS TIME. With appropriate pride, I tuned into myself and truly didn’t need to slow down, catch a water break or down any energy gel. I surprisingly did awesome for not having music to dictate my quicker cadence. Because of all that, this race felt perfect. It proved my training has been paying off more than I was ready to give myself credit for. I underestimated myself, and that’s a pretty gratifying feeling to have once its realized.

And, as it turns out, I won 3rd place for my age group! I was second behind a girl who finished in 1:27:something, so no qualms here!

After this amazing race, I have to negotiate my goals for the Country Music Marathon in a little over six weeks. After this week of training, I’ll make some adjustments.

Thanks to The Nashville Striders, Nashville Running Company, and all who volunteered, making this race such FUN and a great PR.

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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:

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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?

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Activation Confirmed: Training Beast Mode In Progress

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Shelby Pedestrian Bridge, 6:15pm, 18 degrees and windy. So?

It took 18 degree windy weather, 10 hill repeats over the Shelby Pedestrian Bridge in downtown Nashville, and a bum numb enough to eliminate all certainty that my running tights were still up to light a fire.

I’m nearly three weeks into training for the Country Music Marathon. Blame it on the “Polar Vortex,” too much “pop star in jail” media attention, less frequent sunny days or whatever, but I haven’t had the same fire I’ve felt for training that I had 12 months ago. It has left me cynical, unmotivated, and confused (because my Broncos are in the Super Bowl and shouldn’t that be motivation enough? Wes Welker! Eric Decker! OMAHA!) But I digress.

Unlike my purist runner self, I’ve taken 80% of my runs indoors when my iPhone tells me it’s colder than 35 degrees outside. I’ve ignored Training Beast Mode Angel on my right shoulder who says, “tough it out, Taylor. You’ve done this before. You’re a RUNNER.” Training Autopilot Angel on the left is louder, though: “yeah, but…” and I pop myself in the car and head to The Y.

I’ve found comfort in the temperature-regulated gym, predictable treadmill settings, and getting lost in the album Clarity by Zedd. I’ve chosen comfort over discomfort. I’ve settled for good enough over just plain good. Although I’ve completed my workouts, I’ve felt mentally weak and overall defeated.

I was dreading last night’s East Nasty prescribed workout: 10 hill repeats (total around 7 miles) with cold weather and wind. I waivered: I could always take it to the Y (again), leave my warm car and run inside to the warm gym, get on the treadmill, zone out and complete the work, and go home. But my East Nasty training group comes with an elemental dose of accountability. That group is always there, always showing up, and always putting in the work. When I miss a workout, they give me crap because they care. When I show up, they push me harder. This is something the gym doesn’t have. This is something that inspires courage, pushing limits, and getting out of my Y Comfort Zone.

Although my fingers and bum were numb from the beginning, about 15 of us showed each other (and ourselves) what we were truly made of. In comparison, there were about 50 people who showed up for the workout last week when it was a balmy 45 degrees. Each incline presented a new opportunity to shed any annoyance, any fear, any stress or frustration. Each decline offered reward, encouragement, satisfaction. The breath we saw pushed out from our own working lungs was gratifying.

We showed up. We started. We finished. And we crushed even more hills than we did the week before. Beast mode? Beast mode.

Digging deep (with help from accountability) I found some courage, picked it up, dusted it off and used it. That friction started a fire, and I can’t wait to run outside today. Forecast says a high of 28; Training Beast Mode Angel on my right shoulder winks and says, “You got this,” and Training Autopilot Angel on the left shoulder has nothing witty to retort.

She’s streaking…again.

YES! It’s awesome, it’s hard, it’s motivating, it’s fun, and it’s hard.photo

Last year I pledged to run  the Runner’s World Holiday Running Streak: at least one mile every day between Thanksgiving and News Years – 40 days – and joined an Facebook group for accountability, encouragement, and motivation. To echo the blog of a good friend, it has been the group that keeps on giving. Throughout the year we have cheered each other on past the 40 day streak, sharing with each other our triumphs, failures, and asking questions and advice on running. The impact some social media has had on my motivation should not be overlooked; this group is incredible, and I’ve only met one person in real life.

So, yes, it’s the second year for me to pledge running at least a mile for 40 days straight. I was successful last time, and it was convenient since I was training for my first marathon at the time. I got ’em all in (okay, except maybe ONE time, aaaand I can’t remember my excuse). Eventually, running every day motivated me to think outside myself when I went on runs and I wanted to dedicate my runs to those who weren’t able. Recap here. And I’m pretty sure I didn’t gain any weight while still drinking egg nog and eating more sweets than usual because CHRISTMAS TIME.

This streak comes at a good time in my lazy-I-mean-off-season, just when I’m due for a good kick-in-the-butt. And because egg nog and sweets because CHRISTMAS TIME. My goal is to not only complete the streak successfully (duhhh), but to figure out my next plan of attack. I feel I’ve grown a little soft not being in training mode, mentally and around-the-abs.

Yesterday (Thanksgiving) my parents indulged me in a Turkey Trot in Denver, and today I ran at Red Rocks with a friend. So far, so good.

Just like I’ve been encouraged through this, don’t think you’d get away reading this blog without me pushing you to do it, too. You should know better than that!

Here’s a short list why you should consider streaking:

1. You get to tell people you’re streaking

2. Studies show you gain at least one pound during the holidays. Ain’t no one got time fo’ dat

3. You can join our awesome group

4. I will go on a run with you, and I’m a lot of fun

5. Egg nog/cookies/pie/fruit cake (Just kidding, no one likes fruit cake, amirite?)

6. It’s fun, challenging, hard, motivating, hard, and fun

7. Running is the best

You in?

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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.

National Running Day blog post

I love running so much, I feel like National Running Day is equivalent to Valentine’s Day: I get butterflies in my stomach thinking about it. I can’t wait to see it later (and I saw it this morning, too). I would buy it flowers, but I think I’m too nervous.

I could be self-indulgent and pour over every magnificent run that stands out in my head (be glad I’m sparing you…) but today, I don’t want to reflect on me + running. Honestly, that’s all this blog is about.

To shake it up, here are some of my most favorite quotes on running, or quotes that have inspired me to get out there. I hope on this National Running Day that you are inspired to lace up your shoes – whether you wore them yesterday, or two years ago and can’t find the other pair – get out the door, and see what your legs can do. Do that has made me who I am, and I have never been so comfortable in my own skin.

What can it do for you?

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What? You haven’t left to go outside yet? Okay, here are some more…

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My personal favorite:

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Happy National Running Day! Now get out there!

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