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Archive for the tag “Trail Running”

How to Have a Happy Trail Run

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

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

Hill Bench in its glory

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

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

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

Here are my tips for a happy trail run.

Before

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

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

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

During

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

After

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

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

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

 

Tough Mudder Tennessee 2015

When was the last time  you did something for the first time?

Thumbs up! Ready to tackle Tough Mudder! Jacob's third, my first.

Thumbs up! Ready to tackle Tough Mudder! Jacob’s third, my first.

That question bounced and tripped and rolled over in my brain for the next four hours (and some-odd minutes) as I leaped, swam, pushed, ran, walked, heaved, laughed, gasped, and grunted my way through my first Tough Mudder.

For the past two years, my boyfriend had done Tough Mudder with his friends. Each time he came back, he was on fire about it. The obstacles sounded impossible, the conditions sounded grueling…and yet, in my masochist form, I really wanted to do it. I needed to.

So, I kindly decided to crash his party and join him this time. Boys can’t have all the fun, right?

A couple days beforehand, I got a little nervous looking at the obstacles (again). Although I strength train, my upper body is nowhere near 1. my boyfriend’s, 2. any of the tough ladies I saw who were crushing it in YouTube videos. Despite my pretty good fitness level, I felt like I was a beginner. I let myself be totally intimidated. Lucky for me, Jacob gave me a pep talk and my nervousness gave way to domination preparation.

The morning of, we drove down to Pulaski, Tennessee in the pouring rain while listening to “Sabotage” by Beastie Boys (my request), The Rolling Stones and other pump-up hits. From the get-go, I started mentally prepping myself: I was going to be very uncomfortable. It was going to hurt. I was  going to be cold and dirty, and that’s just the way it was going to be. But most of all, it was going to be worth it. And hopefully really fun.

New friend! All smiles now... note: Cleanest I'd be all weekend.

New friend! All smiles now… note: Cleanest I’d be all weekend.

I was relieved to learn I wasn’t the only girl on the team, even though I knew that the guys would be cool if I was. I quickly bonded with Laura whose first Tough Mudder it was also. There was also Amanda, a kick-ass lady who had given birth only four months ago! #badassmom

What struck me was how unapologetic Tough Mudder is about their sponsor presentation. So corporate, it felt completely contrived and was a little annoying. Before we even got to the starting line, we were inundated by Cellucor pushing their pre-workout energy drink something-or-other and warmed up in the “Cellucor Warm Up Spot” or something like that. There were obstacles that had Oberto, Toyota, Radisson, etc. all over them. I know how much money I paid to do this thing…I can’t imagine how much sponsors shelled out to get their names on a “beached whale” obstacle. But I digress…

At the starting line (after you get over the 10 foot wall first, of course) we listened to the National Anthem and then were told to “take a knee.” I had comforting flashbacks from high school cross country. The motivator guy came out with his microphone and gave a pretty damn good speech. Goosebumps, chills, all that. As he prepped us for the event we were about to put ourselves through, he asked us a simple, yet compelling question: When was the last time you did something for the first time? I think Jacob and I even looked at each other with an expression of, “Yeah, when WAS the last time?” It held a lot of power.

Well, that romantic notion quickly floated away on the breeze as the air horn went off and we started running – up a long, huge ass hill. Well – bring. it. on. Tough Mudder. I eat hills for breakfast… Oh if I only knew what lied ahead.

That first huge ass hill. Photo courtesy of Tough Mudder.

That first huge ass hill. Photo courtesy of Tough Mudder.

The first obstacle were trenches. Your average 10-feet-deep, muddy, no-grip, gotta-ask-for-a-boost-to-get-out-of trenches. Immediately the camaraderie spirit took over everyone and as soon as you jumped down into one trench, you were being helped up. Then, you turned around and helped the next person (or people). It was a pretty cool thing and an experience that gave you a little faith in humanity. If we could all help each other out like this for an obstacle race – think about what we could do for each other in everyday life! (hint: now’s the time to go commit a random act of kindness)

Now thoroughly dirty and 100% in it, our group caught up and ran/jogged to the next obstacle. “Rocks in my shoes! Mud in between my _____” complaints started coming out (and wouldn’t really stop, though it was more commiserating and laughing and self-deprecation).

Throughout the 10.2 miles, we encountered over 15 obstacles. I had a few favorites, and a few not-so-favorites.

The Arctic Enema is infamous within the Tough Mudder community, and for good reason. You slide into ice water (with actual ice, like the kind at Sonic) with a fence overhead to keep you lying on your back, and are forced to go under the ICED water in order to cross a threshold to get back up. Then, you have to jump over a board in the ICED water before you get into another pool of ICED water, and then make your way out. Icy dicey. Now. I’ve done a polar plunge or two before. Growing up in Colorado, I’ve done the usual jump-from-the-hot-tub-into-the-snow gig. But this. This shocked my system so completely, I couldn’t even mutter a curse word. Nothing came out. I just had to keep moving.

The Cry Baby was next and reprehensible. You start by swimming into cold, muddy water and underneath a portal where you come up for air only to be met with excrutiating gasses. I think it was probably menthol as it had a hint of Vicks to it… but I coughed and sputtered as I army-crawled through, hoping to goodness my contacts would still remain on my eyeballs. Yuck.

The King of the Swingers was my favorite by far. We climbed a rickety wood platform that sat on the edge of a 14-foot deep pool, about 20 feet high. There was a rescue scuba diver at the other side. Huh, reassuring, I thought. The feat was to leap out, grab the bar in front of you that would swing you out over the water…and you were supposed to hit the bell on the other side before you let go and fell to your death, I mean the water. Of course, it was a fear for a lot of people to overcome – heights, water, falling… And I was nervous too! But when it came my turn, the bell rang for us to go, and I didn’t have to think twice. I just went. I didn’t hit the bell, but when I plunged into the water, the adrenaline rush was REAL. I would have tried it again and again. So, I’m taking this to mean I should go sky diving. Totally.

If that face doesn't tell you anything, I don't know what will.

If that face doesn’t tell you anything, I don’t know what will.

My (other) least favorite was the Electroshock Therapy: running through volted wires hanging down over hay bales. If you trip from the voltage, good luck getting back up. Luckily I didn’t trip, but enough said.

Between obstacles, the course was beautiful – and tricky. Rugged and lush, the woods of the farm we were running on had plenty of hills to keep the dirt baggiest dirt bag begging for mercy. I found my trail running experience came in handy, as that’s essentially what a lot of it was. At one point, Jacob, Laura and I started running down this hill with little to stop us and a LOT of momentum. Slip-sliding on mud, grabbing tree limbs for “stability” as we leapt by, I realized at one point we were all just laughing. We were having so much fun, that we were all laughing out loud. When was the last time you DID something like that?

Those hills, though… I kept up with Laura for some of them, and walked some with Jacob and our other teammates. Brutal, those hills. Like nothing I’ve ever ran!

Looks can be deceiving. We were extremely muddy.

Looks can be deceiving. We were extremely muddy.

By the end of the challenge, I had cuts and scrapes I couldn’t even tell you how I got them. I was probably the dirtiest and least attractive I’ve ever felt. And yeah, it was awesome and liberating. I felt exhilarated. I asked myself why it took me so long to do something like that, and I resolved to challenge myself more. To go out on the edge and do new things more often. To TRY. Although there were obstacles I couldn’t overcome and had to give up on (seriously, strength was just not at the right level), I was satisfied that I even tried each obstacle. I owed it to myself (and the $165 I paid, right?).

Despite the expensive ticket in and the ridiculous corporateness (and the cheap t-shirts, c’mon man!), I can’t recommend Tough Mudder – any obstacle race that tests your mental and physical abilities – enough. You’d be hard pressed to find a grittier, more challenging, fun, adrenaline-pumping time with obstacles that you can’t really make in an afternoon with your buddies (and live to invite your closest friends over). After TM, I felt empowered, confident, and kick ass. Maybe I had a lot of boosts up the walls, and was pulled up the Mt. Everest thing…I still did it. Despite running half-marathons and marathons, I learned more about what I was made of. The sense of accomplishment was REAL and I’ve been on a motivational kick ever since. Better sign up for my next race right now…

After our celebratory beer and spraying ourselves off at the official spray-off station (where nakedness was displayed without shame by other Mudders) we indulged in Chick-Fil-A and warily drove home. The next day was full of soreness, ICY HOT and stretching, but I still wouldn’t have traded it for a safe Saturday at home. I made a new friend, and got to share the experience with my boyfriend, who, I must brag, kicked total ass and looked good doing it!

Now. What was the last thing you did for the first time?

The team! Looking good as ever.

The team! Looking good as ever.

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.

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

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

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

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

World of Bluegrass Week

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

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

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

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

Back in Nashville

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

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

Colorado: Surprise!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking ahead

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

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

Views

I like views.

I like starting at the bottom of something, and looking up ahead and thinking, for a split second, that I need to come up with an excuse to turn around.

I like convincing myself that there is no valid excuse at the moment, that moving and going will erase the lazy desire for said made-up excuse. (You are dumb, you made up that excuse last week. Time to get original.)

I like picking up the pace.

I like slowing down when there’s a slight change of environment so I can enjoy it.

I like saying hello to others.

I like getting to the point where I feel grateful.

I like the feeling of “almost there.”

I like pushing through the last few challenging maneuvers.

And then I like the views.

There’s no denying that views are spectacular, pretty much wherever you go. The word ‘view’ automatically implies an aesthetically pleasing scene. Sometimes thrilling, sometimes just…nice.

From them, you can see what you can’t when you’re living your normal life.

People and cars look like ants.

Things like clouds and trains and rivers and airplanes get more and more lethargic the farther away they are. The world is suddenly big and there and opened up, like it always is, but just especially in that moment for you to notice.

At the view, I like knowing what it took to get there.

I like looking forward to a different perspective during the descent.

I like the challenge of not looking at the same thing the same way twice.

I like seeing the same thing again, and finding confirmation I’m going the right way.

I like getting back to the start, knowing I have another experience under my belt, and another story to tell.

I like views.

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When was the last time you did something for the first time?

When was the last time you did something for the first time? Or even realized you were doing something for the first time?419601_10151632395851469_280030731_n

When was the last time you ran like a kid? Swung on the swings during your lunch break? High-fived another runner out on a run? Drank mimosas with your friends at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday while it stormed outside?

I’m not currently following a training schedule (when you’re on one from November-April a break is necessary), and it’s changing how I run. Now instead of aiming for mileage, time, or speed, I am aiming to just feel joy. To run happy. To do things for the first time, or at least be present in the moment and being attentive while I’m there.

This isn’t to say that I didn’t find joy in my training runs, I did very much. But this joy is different; it’s unpredictable what will trigger it and when. Spontaneity at its finest.

Some running-related examples of pure joy/first time happenings lately:

-Listening to Springsteen’s “Glory Days” while running over a bridge across the Cumberland River in the warm Tennessee sun. If that doesn’t invigorate you deep down, shoot son. (Okay, that video is from 1985 and fantastic. Click on it.)

-Dodging fallen tree branches (but totally splashing through the puddles) on the sidewalk after a storm from the night before. Ten points if you don’t step on the cracks!

-Sprinting up a hill just for the hell of it. (Okay, Busta Rhymes helped).

-Stopping to take a picture of  that white church steeple poking through the trees in the distance on a trail run. Love them Tennessee hills!

-Not hitting a single stoplight on an urban run. Seriously, when does that EVER happen? But, it did.

-Realizing that bipedalism is totally awesome (And other “____ is totally awesome” realizations that seem pretty obvious, but are enlightening all the same).

-Getting into a zone with new Daft Punk, and letting the legs do the work. (Next time I might actually dance AND run, thus hopefully starting a rad and vibrant movement).

-Listening to Kings of Leon (“Ragoo” if you must know) while running by their star on the Music City Walk of Fame. Mentally giving them a high five and saying out loud, “Good on ya, boys!” (screw the on-looking tourists!) and turning it up.

See, the little things are the big things. When the little things happen for the first time, they’ll never be recreated the same way; they will remain those joyful moments you can write blogs about, that you’ll remember as the first time this happened.

So, when’s the next time you’re gonna do something for the first time?

Shower the people

I wanted to take a long walk on Monday after hearing about the events in Boston just to think and be. So I parked at a trail head, left my phone in the car, and didn’t even predict when I’d be back. Okay, I know this sounds a little ‘Into the Wild’ but c’mon, I would at least take snacks. 

Usually when I’m here, I am running. I’m usually trying to crush the hills, cruise the downhills, pass the slow people, and sweat. I often don’t pay attention to the detail on the sides because I’m looking straight ahead.

Percy Warner is gorgeous right now, and I will shout it from the rooftops until everyone in the 615 goes there (preferably one at a time so it doesn’t get crowded) and agrees with me and smiles and says ‘thank you’ to whomever deity they believe.

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I MEAN LOOK AT IT.

But instead of going fast like usual in this place, I knew slowing down and smelling the roses was probably the best thing to do because it would center me in the most needed way, and hopefully help me to realize how I could just be better. Because couldn’t we all just be a little bit better?

When I tried thinking about what I could do better in life (a topic all too often occupying my brain), these things kept popping into my mind incessantly:

Be compassionate. 

Listen.

Forgive.

Be patient.

Slow down.

Smile.

Tell people whom you value that you value them. 

Say thank you.

Give.

And then this song popped into my head after, and I knew my lesson from slowing down, thinking, and being had been realized.

Things are gonna be much better if we only will.

Rave Run: Percy Warner Trails

I’ve been hankering for some trails lately.picstitch

And some hills and mud, but, duh.

I hate to admit I haven’t hit the trails since being back in Nashville after going home to Colorado (thanks to marathon training!). My legs were all: ‘Hey, this isn’t concrete/flat/stable’, so I guess that means the trails and I need more one-on-one time.

Okay, fine, if I have to!

The deets:

Mileage: 7+ miles. NikeRunning only picked up 6.66, and that was after a 12-minute warm-up.

Tunage: I recently bought Railroad Earth‘s album ‘The Black Bear Sessions.’ Key tracks: ‘Colorado’ (Of course!), ‘Stillwater Getaway,’ and ‘Railroad Earth’ but I recommend the whole thing. I listened to it almost twice through.

Trail: At Percy Warner, the Warner Woods Trail (2.5 miles), plus the Cane Connector Trail (4.5 miles). Hills, tree roots, tree stumps, horizontal trees interrupting the trail, slick rock, ravines, and mud. This baby’s got it all (and my heart).

Time: From car door to car door, it took about 1:25. Granted, I was a little slower because I stopped to catch my breath take pictures, and yes, maybe I slid and fell on my butt a time or two. But hey, not bad for negotiating washed out trails, mud, and misbehaving spandex.

This wasn’t my first rodeo at Percy Warner, but I haven’t officially professed my love for this run yet. I haven’t yet raved about it on the internet.

So, Percy Warner, consider yourself raved about. Congrats! See you soon.

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.

Every. damn. time.

I’m anticipating it getting old, but crossing my fingers and hoping on high that it never does.

It’s the chord progression. It’s the drum beat. It’s the lyrical fuzz of the electric guitar buzzing into my ears and coursing through my legs and feet. I think a smile sneaks in there, too. It must.

It’s like being in a game. You’re leaping over tree roots and skidding down rocky, leaf-strewn hills, pumping energy out your legs that can only be coming from one source: Your playlist.

During a recent night run, the glow from my headlamp bobbed a few yards in front of me as I kept pace with Tom Petty telling me about running down a dream. It’s a regular on each of my playlists, for obvious reasons.

You know that famous guitar riff I’m gonna talk about, don’t you?

“Yeah, runnin down a dream (ba-na-na-na-na-na)

That never would come to me (ba-na-na-na-na-na)

Workin’ on a mystery (ba-na-na-na-na-na-na)

Goin’ wherever it leads (ba-na-na-na-na-na)

Yeah, runnin’ down a dream”

(For those un-hip to what I’m talking about, fast forward to :47).

Those three simple chords (A, G, E) strummed to that fine rhythm has gotten me up hills more times than I’ve kept track of; it has a sixth sense of coming on exactly when I need it to. The other night, it pulled me to the front of my non-competitive running club pace group (8:00-8:30), and rendered me the first finisher. Competing or not, winning always feels pretty nice.

This 1989 Petty classic is one of many on my playlist, reserved in a special place of my soul (sole). They have that special kick that pushes me through to the next level (unarguably the best part of any run). I can’t explain how it strikes a certain chord in me (pun intended) but I don’t think there’s a solitary explanation (although, if science wants to step in and do a study, I’m all for free Gatorade, let’s be real).

Instead of tracking down the cause for the ubiquitous spirit shifters, I’ll enjoy the effect, hit repeat, and tempt fate that I get sick of it. And each time I don’t, I will be air-guitaring that A, G, E riff, without shame, running balls-to-the-wall on the questionably-safe trail until the next song starts. Every. damn. time.

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