Race Reports, Running

Route 66 Tulsa Half Marathon: A Run Down Memory Lane

In addition to being the city where I went to high school, college and med school; Tulsa is also the city where I learned to love running. Though I haven’t lived in T-town for nearly 15 years, it is home. My parents still live here and each corner of the geometrically laid out city holds a little note of nostalgia.

Nearly 20 years ago I Iived in a duplex near Riverside drive and the adjacent river parks trail system. I figured it was a waste to live so close to such a beautiful trail and not run on it. Before I knew it, I was pounding out 3-4 miles a day, and a year later I signed up for my first “long race” The Tulsa Run, a 15 k that’s put on every October.

I ran the Tulsa Run, a simple out and back course down Riverside drive, for the next 4 years. I loved the crowds, costumes, race T-shirts and adrenaline. Those were days before Garmins and I never worried about my splits. I ran to be healthy and because I liked to run (and eat cake). I didn’t worry about my time, I was simply thrilled that I had manged to run such a very long way.

Each year since I moved away, I have searched for a way to make it back for the Tulsa Run, but it never pans out. This year I realized I once again would miss my favorite race, but I would be in town for Thanksgiving–and with a little creative travel plans, I could make it for the Route 66 (Half) Marathon.

Since signing up for the race,  I have been excited about the chance to run through one of my favorite cities. While I was able to stick pretty closely to my training schedule over the last few months, my race week preparations read like a list of what absolutely not to do the week before a race:

  • Worked 70+ hours (including delivering 10 babies in 1 week…. hello ice storm of 2/2015, nice to see you again)
  • Didn’t get enough sleep
  • “carb loading” was mainly ice cream and wine
  • Day before race, drove 12 hours solo with my children and ate mainly fast food

About half way through my drive from Nashville to Tulsa,  I realized that despite frequent breaks to stretch and attempt to keep my children from beating each other, my glutes were cramped and achy. I wasn’t sure how this would effect the race, but I doubted I would be hitting sub 1:50. I readjusted my goal to finishing strong and decided to put my goal pace at 8:40. I would try not to obsess about my time, but instead focus on enjoying the experience of racing past my favorite landmarks.

Thankfully my awesome sister picked up my packet for me and had it waiting for me once I finally made it to my parents house.

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Laying out my gear the night before. With a starting temp of 25 and and ending temp of 40, picking the right clothing combo was a challenge.

 

The race started at 8 am, so I was able to sleep in until 6 which was fabulous. As an added bonus my (step)dad drove me to the race so I didn’t have to fumble around for parking and wait in the cold. Instead I cozied up in the car with him until about 15 minutes before race time. Despite my absolute spoiling of sitting in the balmy car while all the other losers were freezing in the the 25 degree weather, my toes still went numb in the 15 minutes I waited in the corral.

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Excited to start my 7th half marathon and my first race in Tulsa in 15 years.

Like most big races, the crowds were thick for the first few miles. I was in corral A (first of four starts) so there wasn’t too much weaving. I was hoping to enjoy the art deco architecture of the many familiar Tulsa skyscrapers, but instead I was too busy trying to avoid snapping my ankle in the many pot holes that have infested the streets of Tulsa. The state of Tulsa’s streets are embarrassingly terrible, I mean third world country bad. I love you Tulsa, but you need to work on those pot holes.

At about mile 3 I had found my pace. I felt good running about 8:40 and I could finally feel my toes. The new trouble was as soon as I could feel my toes, my core was too hot. I realized that I no longer needed my jacket and I had made the mistake of pinning my bib to my jacket instead of my under shirt. I should have worn a throw away outer layer, instead of a jacket. It was a rookie mistake.

The course wound through many of the older gorgeous neighborhoods of midtown Tulsa. A few streets had a spectacular golden and crimson leaves left on their trees. Half frozen spectators shivered as they rang their cowbells and held their signs like “Go Random Stranger” and my new favorite “Run like someone called you a jogger.”

The jaunt through Cascia Hall private school was great in that there were lots of spectators, water and music. It was not so great in that there were 200 speed bumps.

Next came Woodward park, which is slightly less awesome, but still gorgeous, without its azaleas in bloom. The race was well organized with frequent  water stops, including a festive one at Woodward hosted by blue cross employees.

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Favorite sign outside the Philbrook Museum of Art. (photo credit Route 66 marathon)

The jaunt down Brookside (Peoria) was rowdy. The staff from Lulu Lemon were out in full force with hilarious signs and crazy loud music. Running through Brookside was literally a “run down memory lane” with fond flashbacks of my college days of drinking heavily flavored coffee at Java Dave’s and seeing wannabe grunge bands at the IKON.

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Everyone loves a good gynecology joke. Thanks Amber.

Up ahead, I saw my own cheering station where my dad and sister were holding up signs. It is so encouraging to see familiar faces along the route, between their hugs and the GU and water at mile 7, I was supercharged for the next few miles down Riverside drive.

The course then twisted back through the neighborhoods. At mile 9 there was an unofficial block party. Residents had set up a balloon bridge over the road, Journey was blasting “Don’t stop believing'” and tables were set up with Jello shots and beer.  I was still running about an 8:30 pace and the thought of alcohol made me want to spew, but several of my comrades were partaking in the festivities and continued to pass me.

Over the next several miles I was glad I had kept a conservative pace because there was an obnoxious number of hills. Luckily I have “athletic quads”according to the skinny sales lady at Lulu Lemon, so hills don’t scare me, but they also don’t allow for a speedy finish either.

As the course headed back to downtown we ran partially across Southwest Boulevard and under the cool “Route 66 bridge”. A guy was dressed as Gandolf at the bridge holding out his staff to each runner announcing “You may pass!” He was great. I geekily laughed for half a mile.

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Photo via Route 66 Marathon

One particularly sad moment was seeing a poor lady running without shoes. She had the rest of her gear on, just no shoes. I’m not sure if she couldn’t afford shoes or if perhaps her luggage got lost. Regardless, I slipped her a $20.

The course finally flattened out around mile 12. I was tired from the hills but still felt I could finish strong. I was particularly inspired by one of the wheel chair racers who was encouraging us runners. She was so positive and inspiring, I felt like I was inside a motivational meme. As positive thinking inspired adrenaline began to surge through my veins, I picked up my pace. My positive thoughts were then quickly interrupted by searing pain in my hands and a jarring pain in my knee as I suddenly found myself kissing the pavement in what had to be quite an ugly fall. My choice phrases to describe Tulsa streets are not repeatable, but needless to say I was quite irritated. Several runners kindly stopped to help me, but it was my pride that was injured more than anything. No blood was dripping, so I got up and finished.

Between the pot holes, speed bumps and hills I think this course could officially be considered an obstacle race. All kidding aside, I really did

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Loved the zip up jacket and medal.

enjoy the race course and the scenery. I hope to do the race again next year, maybe it will be my new Thanksgiving tradition. Not sure I would want to ever do the full marathon here, but it would be particularly cool to run through the “Center of the Universe” section of the course. (This is where my husband proposed to me).

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Quick Trip is the best place to “refuel” after a race in Tulsa

 

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Celebrating with my sister at the finish line

I regretted not having more rest time before the race, but it was unexpectedly pleasant to have some downtime after the event. Also, I’m not feeling nearly as guilty about indulging in all my Tulsa favorites like Braum’s, Hideaway and Taco Bueno.

I always imagined when I grew up that I would live in midtown Tulsa, work at St. Francis, buy all my gas at Quick Trip* and run everyday on the Rivertrails.  I love my life and job in Tennessee and realize that is where I belong, but this year I’m thankful for the chance to run through the beautiful city of Tulsa.

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*I’m a little obsessed with Quciktrip

 

Race Reports, Running

Franklin Classic 10K

I love my quaint little suburban town. It’s made up of equal parts good country folk and wannabe Nashville hipsters with just a dash of California transplants to make things interesting.  At about 70,000 people, it is just big enough to have what we need, but not so large as to feel like a metropolis. Historic homes, Civil War battlefields and gorgeous horse farms make it a joy to run through.

The Franklin Classic is a race that shows off the highlights of our town as it winds a 10 K loop through the historic downtown each Labor Day. It benefits Mercy Children’s Clinic, a local organization providing free health care to children and adults at need.

A beautiful sunrise at the over the square at the start of the race
A beautiful sunrise at the over the square.

I’d been training for the race for 6 weeks by adding hill sprints and tempo runs into my routine. I ran my tempo runs at a 7:40 pace with hopes of running a sub 48:00 10K but alas, it was not meant to be.

Once again the weather was not it my favor. At 7 am the temperature was 75 degrees with 97% humidity. The air was THICK. Even as I was warming up, I was already doubting my time. My plan was to run the first mile at 8 min/ mile pace and then try to crank up my pace to 7:30, if I felt strong.

Most races I get caught up in the excitement and start off too fast, but this time I didn’t have that problem. I felt like I had to push myself to keep my pace from the start. Even so, I was right on target the first 3 miles, but honestly I just got really hot and tired. It felt like I was running through Jello.

The course was beautiful but hilly. If I hadn’t been concentrating so hard on simply putting one foot in front of the other, I might have enjoyed historic grave yards and gorgeous horse farms along the way. As always, the race was well organized and attended. Rumor has it Ashley Judd was among the runners, but I didn’t see her. The last 2 miles I dropped my pace to 8:30. Realizing I wouldn’t make 48:00, I was hopeful to get sub 50:00; but as I rounded the final turn to finish up main street I saw the clock and realized I wouldn’t make it. I was going as fast as I could go without vomiting.

Running down Main street, into the historic square is a great way to finish the race.
Running down Main street, into the historic square is a great way to finish the race.

 

I was disappointed in my time initially, but it was still a 3 minute PR for me. My goal was likely too ambitious for that course. I’ll be back next year to support a great cause and have fun, but I’ll cross my fingers for a little less humidity.

 

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Running

The 5 Most Surprising Things About My Marathon Recovery

Like the studious gal that I am, I had read about post-marathon recovery in order to avoid the pitfalls that had befallen many a runner before me. However, much like the race itself, reading is not the same as experiencing it. Here are a few of my most unexpected findings.

1. Post Marathon Depression is Real

I had read about post marathon depression, but much like R.O.U.S.’s, I doubted its existence. “Depression” is too strong a word, perhaps the “post marathon blues’ would be a better description, but whatever you call it, I was surprised to find that I did not feel like myself for the next weeks after the race. Perhaps it was the carb withdrawal (no more carrying around a bag of bagels) or maybe the lack of long run endorphins, but I felt more moody and irritable than normal. It may simply have been the normal let down after such a highly anticipated event. Luckily, I felt back to normal in a couple weeks.

2. Recovery Wasn’t That Bad

Headed to church the morning after the race

While the race itself was entirely harder than imagined, the physical recovery was not so bad. Many had warned me “that I wouldn’t be able to walk for a week” after the race. While I was sore, I was back to regular activity the next day. I followed the a post marathon taper I found in Runner’s World and it worked well.

3. I Was Ready to do it Again

I’d heard many people say that their marathon experience really burned them out on running in general and especially marathoning. Even though my experience wasn’t perfect (and maybe because it wasn’t) I definitely want to give my legs another chance to try 26.2. Not this year, the timing won’t work, but perhaps next fall, I’ll try the monster again.

4. Losing a Toenail Ain’t no Thang

I made it through the race with no major chafing or blisters, but about a month after the race, one of my toenails decided to pop off. It never turned black, it simple wiggled out like a lose tooth. No pain or drama was involved.

I'm a "real" runner now!
I’m a “real” runner now!

5. I Enjoyed Exercise Again

While the race didn’t ruin me for running, It was nice to run/walk/swim/crossfit without checking boxes or worrying about pace. While I’m still too type A to be all ‘wild and crazy’ and run without my Garmin, I’m not absorbed with mileage this summer. I’ve even slept in here and there and eaten pancakes with kids.

 

While the race itself was a stinker, other than feeling a little moody and losing a small, expendable piece of my toe, my recovery was rather harmless. Of all the many things I stressed over about the race, the recovery should not have been one of them.

Race Reports, Running

My First Marathon: A Long Post that Contains Bad Words and Unflattering Pictures of Me

 

“She’s going the distance

She’s going for speed.

She’s all alone in her time of need….”   -Cake “The Distance”

At mile 23 the dude from Cake blasted through my earbuds, telling me to keep going. Mentally and physically exhausted, I was in desperate need of this stupid race to be done. As I attempted to summon the will power to make it the last few miles, a stabbing pain sliced through my right knee.  Having never had knee issues in my entire life, I was flabbergasted. My thoughts quickly turned from confused to horrified, as the pain intensified to the point I could no longer run and just barely walk.

“Not now. Not so close to the end.” I thought. “Lord please let me finish my first marathon.” I prayed over and over. The tears of pain and frustration poured down my cheek as I hobbled along.

But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning….

The Expo

Ever since that debacle that was the Hot Chocolate Expo, I have been anxiously awaiting the marathon expo. I pictured spending the morning with my friends slowly perusing the various vendors, stocking up on GU and buying the perfect 26.2 t-shirt. Things didn’t go quite as planned. I did get to meet my buds for lunch, so I went solo to the expo.

Running for St. Jude in honor of my cousin Brittany who beat childhood cancer
Running for St. Jude in honor of my cousin Brittany who beat childhood cancer

Even pressed for time there was ONE priority: The VIP Potty Pass. Last year when I ran the Music City Half, despite being over an hour early to the race, the porta potty lines where too long for my excellently hydrated self to get bladder relief before the race. This year I was determined to start more comfortably.  If you buy $150 of Brooks merchandise at the Expo you get the VIP Potty Pass which guarantees no lines and a REAL toilet and sink. I bought an extra pair of shoes (that I will use eventually) and a souvenir hat and I was good to go. Literally.

Race day-eve

Shannon, Andrea, Deanna, Abby and Me
Shannon, Andrea, Deanna, Abby and Me

The night before the race we carb loaded at Abby’s house with pasta and sweet potatoes. It was the perfect evening to sit on the deck with our friends and husbands, nervously discussing the next morning. Abby likened the excitement and butterflies to getting ready for the prom. The six of us had spent the last 4 months logging mile after mile together, now the big day was nearly here.

Actually Nancy, no it wasn't.
Actually Nancy, no it wasn’t.

The big worry was Christina. Struggling with a stomach bug, she hadn’t been able to eat all week. She promised that she was taking fluids, but she hadn’t been able to carb load and she missed the night before party so she could rest. We fretted that she wouldn’t make the race or worse, that she would stubbornly push herself too far and get injured.

Our next fear was the heat. The forecast was projecting temps in the 70’s. We hadn’t run in any weather hotter than 40, with most of our runs in the teens. We were used to frozen bums not heat stroke.

Porta Potty Drama

Christina rallied in the morning and decided to attempt the race. She promised not to push herself, but we were still worried. We arrived downtown an hour early, getting dropped off on the far end of Broadway turned out to be perfect. The was no traffic and no line at the porta potties near corral 30.

Ready to Run!
Ready to Run!

But did I use the empty porta potty? No. I pridefully went in search of my “fancy” porta potty. Once I got to the starting line, I discovered where the other 30,000 people were hanging out. I began desperately searching through the crowds for the VIP bathrooms and couldn’t find them anywhere.  As my bladder approached its capacity, my panic escalated. All the bathroom lines near the start were at least 50 people long. After being sent on 3 wild goose chases, I finally discovered the VIP bathrooms had been moved to the convention center. I barely had time to meet up with Shannon and get back to my corral.

The Race: 26.2 Damn Miles

The wait in the corral felt like an eternity. With 30,000 people running it took 20 minutes for me to cross the starting line. Shannon was running the half and she paced with me the first 11 miles. I was a nervous mess. I couldn’t believe the big day was really here.

Minutes before I crossed the start, I got a well meaning text from husband wishing me luck and telling me not to worry that the weather would be a “perfect 75 degrees” at the end of the race. I got a sinking sensation in my stomach. 50 degrees is perfect race weather, 75 is borderline dangerous. I made up my mind to drink at every water stop and stay on pace.

Hal (Higdon- the author of the Marathon Book I read, who I like refer to in first person as if he’s my BFF) told me not to set a time goal for my first marathon other than to finish. My last half was a PR of 1:47. I felt strong and well prepared, so I proudly thought that I could manage a sub 4 hour marathon. In hindsight I wish I could go back to that starting line and slap some sense into my silly overconfident self. But alas, I set out with a goal pace of 9:20 min/miles stubbornly ignoring Hal’s advice.

We crossed the starting line at 7:20 am. The crowd of runners was thick. The first several miles were spent jockeying for position and laughing at all the spectators signs. The excitement was tangible. I tried to pick a comfortable pace but every time I checked my Garmin it was off due to the buildings. Even though I felt comfortable I started too fast with several mile splits under 9 min/miles.

My sister Amber cheered me on from OK by posting hilarious running signs to my facebook.
My sister Amber cheered me on from OK by posting hilarious running signs to my facebook.

Running through the tunnel under the Music City Center was awesome. I felt like a kid waiting in line for an indoor roller coaster with the echoing footsteps and flashing lights. We ran though the familiar landscape of music row and Belmont, on an adrenaline high. Shannon and I were having a blast. At mile 7, I saw some friends who were cheered me on and gave me a good luck hug.

Mile 7
Mile 7
A hug from Donna makes everything better
A hug from Donna makes everything better

The crowds were still thick at mile 11 when the half runners turned to ease on home and the full marathoners kept on trekking. It was bittersweet to say goodbye to Shannon as she hugged me goodbye and promised to see me at the end. (Shannon learned she was pregnant half way through our training so she dropped down to the half.)

Then with a lump in my throat, for the first time in my life, I went straight at Bicentennial Park instead of veering right. The crowd of runners thinned significantly. This was definitely the road less traveled.

Soon after the split, the heat began to get to me. Having not run any of my training runs in weather over 40 degrees, the sun felt oppressive. One extremely smart thing I did along the way was stop at the medical tent and get sunscreen, otherwise my pasty self would have been a lobster for the entire week.

Once I was on my own I pulled my ipod out of my belt. I don’t usually listen to music while I run, but I figured I could use all the help I could get at this point.  As we headed out Rosa Parks Blvd, it got desolate: no fans, no bands, merely heat and buildings. It was a nice long down hill slope. About half way down the slope it dawned on me that this was an out and back, meaning I would have to run back up this hill. Crap. I had hit my half way split at 2:04 so I was already realizing that I wouldn’t get a sub-4 and began to get down over that.

I made it back up the the Rosa Parks hill and ran briefly back through downtown. We ran beside the half runners again, those lucky devils were almost done. I hated them all. At this point I noticed a lot of my fellow marathoners starting to walk up the hills. I have always “attacked the hills”. My new mental strategy at this point was to start counting “hill kills” (the number of people I passed going up the hills). I stopped worrying about my time, my new focus was finishing.

Mile 18 is when the migrating pains started. A different part of my body would hurt for about a quarter of a mile. My pace dropped of to 10:15 and I began to fantasize about walking.  My hill kills were over a hundred at this point and it seemed too hard to keep counting. As we ran up the hill into East Nashville I was gleeful to see a water stop half way up the hill (I let myself walk through the water stops to make sure I drank enough). I begin to have moments of panic. I had not expected to feel this tired so early. I began to worry about Christina, hoping she was OK.

My Dad, Step mom and oldest son greeted me around the next turn. The water and encouragement they gave me helped me through the next few miles.

They found me again at mile 22 and 24, cheering me on to the finish.

The last hour was torture. The heat was sweltering, my legs were shot and I just needed it to be over. I realized I had made the obvious rookie mistake of starting out too fast. As we entered the uneven terrain of Shelby Bottoms, it took every bit of will power I had to keep moving. I keep thinking of the kids at St. Jude, particularly my cousin Brittany who was treated for leukemia there. She was my inspiration that last hour.

Then Cake came on my ipod:

“She’s going the distance

She’s going for speed.

She’s alone. She’s alone in her time of need….”   

 

At mile 23 the dude from Cake blasted through my earbuds, telling me to keep going. Mentally and physically exhausted, I was in desperate need of this stupid race to be done. As I attempted to summon the will power to make it the last few miles, a stabbing pain sliced through my right knee.  Having never had knee issues in my entire life, I was flabbergasted. My thoughts quickly turned from confused to horrified, as the pain intensified to the point I could no longer run and just barely walk.

“Not now. Not so close to the end.” I thought. “Lord please let me finish” I prayed over and over. The tears of pain and frustration poured down my cheek as I hobbled along. I was prepared for muscles cramps, “the wall” and even pooping my pants. I was not prepared for injury.

As I limped along, each foot strike sent horrific pain through my knee, my mind began to spiral out of control in my pain-exhaustion delirium. My thoughts quickly raced:

What if I don’t finish? What if they have to call the ambulance? What would that cost? Will I meet my deductible? What if I need knee surgery? Crap, that means I’ll miss work. Everyone will be really mad at me. My husband will never let me do this again.

Just as my thoughts were going to full blow crazy town, a fellow runner a came by and said, “Keep going. Just limp, walk, run.”

That simple advice pulled me back to reality and I kept going. After about half a mile the pain magically went away and I was able to run again. I was going slow, but I knew I would finish.

By mile 25, I had nothing left. I was physically and mentally depleted. Then an angel appeared in the form of my friend Shannon.  She popped out of the crowd and ran the last mile with me. As we rounded the last half mile, an unexpected cheering section of friends from the neighborhood made me cry tears of thanks. Equally thankful that they braved traffic to encourage us and that this stupid ass race was almost done. (Liz, Amber and Michelle: you girls are awesome!)

The last miserable mile
The last miserable mile

Then it was over. We crossed the finish line at 4:24. I had pictured my self feeling euphoric in this moment, but instead I merely felt relief that it was done.

I was a marathoner.

26.2 miles
26.2 miles

I laid in the shade and drank water until my parents found me to take me home.

As we pulled into the neighborhood, this sign made me misty eyed.
As we pulled into the neighborhood, this sign made me misty eyed.

Christina and the rest of the gang all finished. We all fought our individual demons and conquered the beast, finishing with no major injuries or incidents. (My knee has never hurt again.)

Running a marathon was the single hardest physical thing I have ever done. Perhaps picking a hilly course on a hot day is not the ideal first race, but nevertheless I ran 26.2 damn miles. Actually my Garmin read 26.7, but who’s counting.

Abby in her last mile
Abby in her last mile
Christina's husband ran the  last mile with her
Christina’s husband ran the last mile with her

 

“So how was your race?” My staff asked me as I walked into the office on Monday morning.

As I opened my mouth to answer, time seemed to pause as a multitude of adjectives leap into mind: exhilarating, beautiful, humbling, empowering, excruciating, wonderful…

Instead, I merely smiled and said, “Good. My race was Good. I finished”

 

 

 

 

 

Running

The Final Countdown

One week from today, I will run my first marathon. Four months of training, blisters, sore muscles, frozen hair and laughs will hopefully all pay off on April 26th. I can’t wait to cross that finish line.

Life has been busy and since this little blogging project is a sub-hobby of a hobby it must take a back burner to more important things, such as the 10 babies I delivered in the last week and coloring Easter eggs with my littles. But alas I wanted to document my last few long runs, for posterity’s sake in case I never do this again.

18 Lonely Miles

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I ran 18 by myself. To make the distance slightly more palatable I  broke it up into smaller chunks. I started in Sullivan Farms and ran 3 out and back into Ellington Parkway. Then I stopped back at my car, dropped off my headlamp (I had to start at 5:30) and picked up my iPod and fuel belt. I don’t normally run with music, but with 18 miles alone I needed a little help. I hate ear buds, so I ran with my 1985 walkman earphones. I looked ridiculous, but Katy Perry helped me through those last miserable miles.

I then ran through Polk Place, up Lewisburg Pike and through the Carnton Plantation. Running past a Civil War Cemetery at sunrise was phenomenal.

20 miles in Nashville

Christina, Abby, me, Shannon, Andrea and Deanna ready to run 20 freaking miles
Christina, Abby, me, Shannon, Andrea and Deanna ready to run 20 freaking miles

Twenty miles was the longest run of our training. The idea was pretty daunting so once again we teamed up with Nashville Striders who organized the course. We ran from Centennial Park to LP field and back, running most of the first half of the course. It was one of the only runs where all 6 of us got to run together.

I love running through down town
I love running through down town

Twenty miles was a challenging distance, but once again our legs took us further than we thought they could.

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 The Tulsa Run

Tulsa is my hometown, where I started running.  Running in Tulsa is wonderfully nostalgic for me, so when I realized I would be traveling home for a wedding a month before the race I was tickled to get to a run a long run on the River Trails in Tulsa.

Riverside Park Tulsa, OK
Riverside Park Tulsa, OK

With over 20 miles of beautifully maintained trails with regular water stops and bathrooms and a separate trail for bikers, its is the perfect city for runners and bikers. I got to catch up with some old friends and literally take a run down memory lane.

Running with friends in Tulsa
Running with friends in Tulsa

I am truly jealous of the park system in Tulsa. I was on such a running high after my 16 miles there I came back to my parents house and declared that we we’re moving back to Tulsa. However, my bubble was then burst when my husband informed me that this would involve us having a long distance relationship.

The Final Countdown 

For the next week I’ll carb load, neurotically check the weather and hopefully get some sleep. The weather forecast is looking hot,which makes me nervous, since we have only been training in cold weather. At least our matching t-shirts for the race are short sleeves.

back of shirt
back of shirt

If you see us on the course next week, wish us luck!

Anyone have any advice for us first timers?

Running

Month 3 of Marathon Training: It’s Getting Serious

Last week I ran a total of 36 miles.

I’ve been dreading March since I started training. The mid week runs are 5-8-5 miles. That means that now my mid week tempo run of 8 miles is longer that my first “long run”. The long runs themselves are stretching to obnoxious lengths of 17-20 miles through the month.

Of course the highest mileage week of our training also fell on a challenging week for me personally and a hectic week at work. I knew this would happen at some point in my training.  It did and I made it through. A significant part of training is overcoming the mental hurdles of the tough weeks. You come out exhausted, but stronger on the other side. The next time you look ahead to a week that seems insurmountable, you can look back at previous victories and know that you can make it.

Our naive enthusiasm has been replaced with a confident determination. With each additional long run we check off the list, that little voice inside us that says “You CAN do this” grows a little bit louder.

Lessons Learned by Running 17 Miles:

1. The Crocket Park Greenways are Gorgeous

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I’ve taken my kids to Crockett Park in Brentwood to ride bikes, but I never realized that the trail system was so extensive. Though a little hilly, the trail was beautiful as it passed alongside a small river, by gorgeous neighborhoods and through a wooded area. I probably would not feel comfortable running alone there (Brentwood is known for its gang activity*), but it was an awesome group run.

2. Kids today are silly

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I’d heard that teenagers go “all out” thee days asking their sweethearts to prom, but we saw the adorable evidence of this on our run. As we came to a fork in the trail, a boy had asked a girl to prom with sidewalk chalk, with one direction marked yes and the other marker no. I just hope she chose the path marked yes, just as Abby did as we reinacted the scene.

3. People do strange things to their dogs

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We passed a random couple with a dog that was carrying a sign that said “wide load”. That was our inspiration to keep running, so no one would need a sign like that for us.

4. You can’t “scare” away a side stitch

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Shannon, Abby and Me

At about mile 10 Abby got a side stitch. After she failed to get relief with the usual tricks I decided with all my advanced medical learnin’ that perhaps I could “scare away” her side stitch. I know that hiccups are spasms of the diaphragm muscle and we don’t really know what causes side stitches but they are near the diaphragm, so perhaps they could be physiologically related (this was my medical reasoning after running for 2 hours). I randomly just stopped and screamed at Abby and scared the crap out of her. She then she nearly punched me, which could have easily lead to my second assault charge. Luckily there was no violence, only a failed experiment  and some minor comic relief.

5. 17 miles is EXHAUSTING

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Christina relaxing in the grass after our run

The first 2 hours weren’t bad but by hour three my legs were tired. I figure this is normal. Nothing “hurt” and by nothing I mean pretty much everything ached but I could still move so I assumed I was OK. By hydrating, stretching and making friends with my foam roller on my long run days, I haven’t been too sore afterwards.

*Not really. It has the lowest crime rate in the state, but it was a very secluded trail at points.

The Marathon is about 6 weeks away. I think if we can survive March, then we should be home free for our April taper. However, that 20 miler is still looming ominously around the corner.

Running

Hot Chocolate 15k Nashville

Shannon. me and Abby "winning" the Hot Chocolate 15 K
Shannon. me and Abby “winning” the Hot Chocolate 15k

Our training schedule called for a race in February, so when we heard about the Hot Chocolate 15k it seemed like a great idea. the race boasts an adorable hoodie for swag and hot chocolate with fondue at the finish. Chocolate, running and hoodies? Sign us up.

I could hardly contain my excitement for Friday’s prerace expo. With all the chocolate hype, I was expecting the exhibit hall to look something like an 80’s Dairy Queen commercial. On arrival it was only a small room with a couple vendors. The promised chocolate was a single puny square. {Insert sad trombone.} The tables were well organized and picking up the packets was easy but my marathon training appetite was hoping for something more like this:

The morning of the race, the temperature was a bone chilling 5 degrees. Granted, we are accustomed now to running in this weather, but we are not accustomed for waiting around for an hour in the cold before we start running.

Waiting for the race. (Most of the 5,000 participants are huddled in the merchandising tents attempting to avoid frostbite)
Waiting for the race. Most of the 5,000 participants are huddled in the merchandising tents attempting to avoid frostbite.

When we finally started the race, my hands and feet were completely numb. It was the craziest sensation. It felt like I was running with 2 concrete blocks attached to the bottom of my legs.

The course started at the bicentennial mall in downtown and took Broadway down to the Parthenon. The course was hilly, but again cold and hilly is pretty much our specialty.

After about 3 miles, I finally warmed up enough to feel my extremities. All things being equal, it does help to be able to feel your feet while you are running. You may want to tweet that fine bit of running wisdom.

Overall the race was fun, enough people where running to get your adrenaline going, but it wasn’t crowded enough to effect your pace. The event was well organized, and I was floored by the number of volunteers who showed up in the cold to cheer us on and staff the ice water stops. There were 2 “chocolate stations” on the route where they were handing out the chocolate squares, however the idea of eating chocolate at mile 6 of a race was not very appetizing.

The last mile of the race was downhill and we finished strong. I set a PR of 1:21 and we all three placed in the top 20 in our ages groups. At the finish, my “land of Dairy Queen” dreams finally came true. After hydrating with water, we headed to the chocolate tent. Despite the crowds, the lines went quickly and the hot chocolate and fondue was every bit as delicious as promised. The hot chocolate was super rich. The chocolate fondue came with a banana, pretzels, rice crispy and cookies for dipping. It was truly a perfect ending to the race.

Gorging ourselves on delectable chocolate after the race
Gorging ourselves on delectable chocolate after the race

Overall, the Hot Chocolate 15k was a great race. The race course was well organized and the hoodie was stylin’. Despite the absence of chocolate rivers at the expo, I would definitely run this race again next year.

Humor, Running

The Day I was Nearly Arrested on Assault Charges

Earlier this week I found myself stuck at a “doctor-y” event. As I made small talk with a colleague, I mentioned that I was training for a marathon. Despite that fact that I am currently blogging about running and training consumes most of my thoughts, I promise I don’t talk about it incessantly to random people, but in this instance it did come up in conversation.

After I mentioned my training, her face contorted into what can only be described as a scoff. She then replied, quite condescendingly, “Must be nice to have THAT kind of time.”

My face turned beet red and my blood began to boil. Then without thinking I pulled my hand back and smacked her right across the face, leaving a bright red hand print on her left cheek. She was was stunned at first, but then her instincts took over and she kneed me in the gut. Before I knew it, we were in an all out fist fight in the middle of a cocktail party. My husband broke up the fight, but not before someone called the cops. I am currently writing this from jail. 

Ok. So, nothing in italics ACTUALLY happened (except in mind. repeatedly. for about a week). In reality I smiled and walk away, like a good girl, who didn’t want to have to explain a criminal record.

Obviously in a state of pure boredom, I decided since there was nothing else going on in my life, I would run a marathon. I’m busy and so are my running mates. The expenditure of our time is not something  we take lightly. We all have a lot on our plates, but like all things that are important to us, we are finding the time for this marathon.

How do I find the time for this?

5. Follow a Plan

We are following Hal Hidgon’s Novice 2 training program. The best way to avoid injury and reach my goal is to stick to the plan as close as possible. Each week I check off my boxes as I pound out each mile.

4. Run When I Can

The only time that works for me is mornings. Some mornings have been painfully early and cold, but nevertheless I’m out there.

3. Accountability

When my alarm goes off at 5:30 and I check the temperature and it’s 13 degrees, knowing that my friends are out in the Arctic air waiting for me is what gets me out of my cozy bed. There are 6 of us training in the neighborhood. Though we can’t do every run together, we are each other’s cheerleaders.

2. Giving Myself some Grace

I have missed a few workouts. If I’ve been at the hospital all night delivering babies and I have to choose between running and sleep, then I choose sleep. I don’t make up my runs in the evening, because that’s my family time. Yes, my Type A personality would like to follow the plan to perfectly, but life happens and that’s OK.

1. Have an Awesome Husband

Obviously, somebody has to get the kiddos ready in the morning while I’m out torturing myself, and that somebody is my super husband. You need your spouse to be supportive (or a least tolerant) of your crazy hobby when you start logging this many hours.

Long Run: 15 Miles in the Snow

Our "snowy" run
Our “snowy” run

Despite all the crazy cold weather we have had, there has been no snow in Middle Tennessee. This week on our long run we got a light dusting of snow through our entire 15 miles. It was a gorgeous treat. It melted off within a few hours, so most people who slept in that day missed the “snow” completely. The temperature was 30 degrees (warmer than what it has been), so it didn’t feel that frozen.

Shannon running with me in the country
Shannon running with me in the country

Sickness hit our little running group hard this week, so only Shannon and I made it out for the long run on Saturday. Andrea and Christina had to bust out their 15 miles on a treadmill, which I think is insane and should earn them extra awesome points for the week.

At least I managed not to slip and fall
At least I managed not to slip and fall

We felt strong through most of the run, except miles 12-14 were tough. I got a boost of energy for the final mile back into downtown and finished strong.

Next week we are doing the Hot Chocolate 15k in Nashville for our long run. Looking forward to the race (and chocolate). What better way to spend Valentines weekend?

Running

14 Miles on Sore Legs

As a OB/GYN, my life is rather unpredictable. I can’t really tell my patients, “Hey hold that baby in for another hour, while I log 4 more miles.” This week was one of those crazier weeks at the office, causing me to miss one of my runs and reschedule a crossfit workout to Thursday.

In addition to work’s stress, this weekend’s impending 14 miles long run was haunting my thoughts all week. It would be the farthest I ever ran.

My Thursday WOD (workout of the day) was insane. It included 100 wallballs, 75 burpees, and a new exercise that KILLED my quads called ‘little man in a tree’. I hate that little man. Luckily, I had Friday as a recovery/rest day.

When I took my first step down the stairs on Friday, my quads nearly buckled out from under with me. The pain felt like a  thousand tiny daggers were stabbing me in the leg. I was not injured, merely sore. So stupidly sore that I had to walk down stairs side ways.

I realized, in the famous words of GOB Bluth, “I’d made a huge mistake.”

Friday I hydrated, carb loaded and stretched to get ready for the big run, reassuring myself I would feel better by the next morning.

My Favorite Card Loading: Breakfast for Dinner {My kids loved it too}
My New Favorite Carb Loading: Breakfast for Dinner {My kids loved it too}

Long Run: Bongo to Bongo with the Nashville Striders

I was hobbling Saturday morning, but the long run was still almost perfect. After weeks of running circles around or neighborhood in the freezing dark, we got to run 14 miles in 45 degrees through the heart of Nashville.

Nashville striders organizes training runs for the Marathon, complete with water stops and signs. It was great to simply show up and run and not have to worry about the course or getting lost.

Shannon, Me and Abby (Christina was still in the car)
Shannon, Me and Abby (Christina was still in the car)

The course was 7 miles out and back from Bongo Java in East Nashville to Bongo Java in West Nashville. My legs were really sore and tired from the beginning. I was hoping they would loosen up in a few miles. While the sharp pain with each stride went away at about three miles, they felt sore the entire time.

My favorite stretch was running past LP field right after sunrise. It was light enough to dodge the road kill, but left over shimmers of pink and orange were still peaking over the horizon.(this picture does not do the view justice).

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Shannon leading the pack past the new Nashville convention center
Shannon leading our pack past the new Nashville convention center

The energy of running with the crowd (and also lots of goo) really helped me get over my tired legs and the mental challenge of running further than I’ve ever gone.

Even though it was an official race we still had a huge crowd com,e out to cheer us on. {sure, the said the were trying out for the Voice, but we know the truth}
We had a huge crowd come out to cheer us on! {sure, they SAID that they were trying out for The Voice, but we know the truth}

The course took us through the heart of downtown, so there was always something to look at, distracting us from from the fact we were running so far.

Abby and Christina
Christina and Abby
Running downtown The girl in purple is NOT me.  Though she kinda looks like me circa 1994.
Running downtown. The girl in purple is NOT me. {Though she kinda looks like me circa 1994.}

The final 2 miles were the toughest. Last weekend when we did 12, and I remembered how tired my legs were. I wondered how I could do another 2 on top of that, especially since my legs felt like crap. My friend Shannon is the training for her fourth marathon (the rest of us are newbies) and had the best advice. She encouraged me the the last mile always feels like your legs are dead, no matter if you’re running 10, 15 or 20. So much of it is mental, just push on through. The last few miles were also ridiculously hilly, but her words kept me going all the way back to the coffee shop.

We got back to Bongo Java and cooled down. I’m so thankful for them letting us use their facility, they even provided free coffee (that I accidentally poured in my water bottle as I was still in my post run delirium).

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It is socially acceptable to stretch on the floor of a coffee shop, right?

We made it ALL 14 miles. The farthest we’ve ever been. It really helps that we are doing this together. Honestly, 15 next week doesn’t seem quite so scary now.

My kids insisted since we had "breakfast for dinner" we should have "spaghetti for breakfast"
My kids insisted since we had “breakfast for dinner” we should have “spaghetti for breakfast”
Running

5 Reasons Why Running in this “Polar Vortex” is Awesome

When I chose to do a Spring marathon, I knew I would be training in the cold. Luckily I didn’t know it would be this stinking cold, or I may have rethought the whole plan. During our first week of training, the temperatures began their plummet. Most runs have been in numbingly cold temperatures (usually less than 20 degrees).

No those aren't highlights. My friend Abby's hair recently froze on long run.
No those aren’t highlights. My friend Abby’s hair recently froze on a long run.

Running in this polar vortex is the intersection between dedication and sanity. Some days, I’m not sure which side of that intersection we’re on. But it’s not all crazy frozen hair; there are a few good things about running in the cold:

5. Your Joints Feel Awesome

Your knee is sore? It will take it about 3 hours to thaw out from your run. No need to tote around an annoying ice pack.

4. Toss the Razor

Not that we’re super good at shaving in the winter, but this year we can definitely justify an extra layer of fur: we need that insulation.

3. Gatorade Slushies

No need to worry about your drinks getting warm on your run, actually the opposite has happened: our drinks freeze sometimes. When our chocolate ‘goo’ freezes we just pretend it’s a fudgesicle.

2. Butt Fleece Pants

I get to wear my fleece lined Lulu pants, and they are super cozy even in this obnoxious weather. They have an extra panel of fleece on the backside to keep your glutes extra warm.

1. 30 Feels Like a Heat Wave

When we actually do run in temperatures above 20, it feels so amazing.

This Week’s Long Run:

del rio

We are following Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 plan, and this week we ran 12 miles. We started in downtown Franklin and did an out and back on Del Rio. Wooden fenced hay fields, country bridges and gorgeous homesteads made this a beautiful quintessential Williamson county run. It was 20 degrees, which was tolerable after we were warmed up. That last mile, my legs felt heavy, like I had a toddler clinging each of them. But when we rounded the corner and saw downtown, I felt like a horse headed back to the barn. After our run, we drove 2 blocks to Frothy Monkey for lattes to warm up. Walking a step further than our Garmins told us we had to seemed ridiculous.

Next week our long run is 14 miles. This will be the longest I’ve ever ran. I’m a little nervous. I feel like our training is about to “get real.”