Category Archives: Running

Dear Nashville Country Music Half Marathon

Dear Nashville Country Music Marathon (CMM),

We need to talk.

First off, Yes, I’m aware that you have pretentiously changed your name this year and you are now preferring to be called the ” St. Jude  Rock ‘n Roll Nashville Marathon and half Marathon.” But Nashville, is the home of country music and you and I, we have a long history together. In my heart you will always be “The Country Music Marathon.” So, CMM, let’s move on.

I’m simply going to come right out and say it: I’m breaking up with you.

I would like to say that it’s not you, it’s me; but we both know that it’s you.

It’s not that we haven’t had some good times together. We have. There was 2013 when, despite the torrential rain and 45 degree temperatures, I set a PR of 1:53. When I crossed the finished line and saw my time, I was so ecstatic I could barely contain my joy. However, the hypothermia I got while waiting for my ride in the rain did put a damper on the overall experience.

This year was our fifth year together and despite my better judgement, I once again decided to race your awful course. As is our tradition, I gathered the night before with my running buddies. We planned our splits and ate Christina’s magic teriyaki noodles that we superstitiously devour before each race. My head hit the pillow meticulously early with last minute prayers for good weather and no injuries.

5 years together...

5 years together…

On race morning, I arrived at your course giddy with anticipation, only to discover there was a weather delay. CMM, I know it technically wasn’t your fault that it was storming, but it did really stink to be all carbed up and carefully hydrated only to have to wait around additional hour in the drizzle. The good news was that I was lucky enough to find a nice restroom to use at the last minute before the race in the Holiday Inn Express (thank you Holiday Inn Express, I’m totally NOT breaking up. You rock!). The bad news was I had to “identify as a man” to use it. (Ain’t nobody got time to wait in line for the ladies room on race day.)

The storm delay was finally lifted

The storm delay was finally lifted

My friend Abby and I were aiming to finish you in under 1:53. We had been training our quads off getting ready for The Ragnar Relay, and we felt great. When our corral took off we went out strong. We were trying to pace 9:00 min/mile to start, while hoping for negative splits near the end. There was just a few problems: your crowds and your hills. The course was so thick that our first split was 10:04. We were constantly weaving back and forth through all the walkers. Yes, there were people walking at 1 mile. I think the rain delay caused the racers to completely abandon the corral system leading to total chaos. While it was exhilarating to not get passed once in the race, it was also exhausting and frustrating to expend so much energy weaving around slower runners.

I know, CMM, that you think you are so awesome for attracting so many first time racers, but it’s a little annoying when they walk in a full width line in the middle of the road going uphill. It was impossible to keep my stride. Twice during the race I accidentally ran into other runners.

Which brings me to the other issue I have with our relationship: Your hills. Every year I think to myself, “I train on hills all the time, I’ll be fine on the country music course” and every year I curse you and your excessive elevation changes. You were especially nasty this year by adding that curved hill at mile 12. Because turns and hills aren’t enough on their own, you thought you would combine them in the last mile to make sure that both my lungs and thighs were searing with equal amounts of pain as I cross the finish line. I think mile 12 was when I decided that we would have this little talk.

While I did finish with a respectable time of 1:54. I could have easily been a minute or two quicker on even a slightly less crowded, hilly or weaving course than yours. My friends Shannon and Christina both finished the full 26.2. They did an awesome job despite your hilly drama, but I think they may be finished with you as well.

My friend Shannon rocked the full 26.2. (although I think she is breaking up with you as well)

My friend Shannon rocked the full 26.2.

I’m not saying that we can’t still be friends. You will always be special to me. You were my first marathon. I do love running the streets of Nashville, I just don’t love running them as fast as I possibly can. We’ll still hang out. If we didn’t, I’d miss the bands at each mile, music row, the Gulch and my favorite: the awesome retired couple that sit in their lawn in all dressed up drinking champagne while cheering on the runners.

We're questioning our sanity in this picture

We’re questioning our sanity in this picture

So sorry sweetie, we’ve had a good run, but it’s over. And, yes if you must know, there is someone new in my life. His name is Chicago and I am running him in October. Don’t worry, you will always be my first, and we have had a lot of great memories together–but it’s time to move on to a course that is doesn’t have such hilly drama. It is a long distance relationship, so that could cause some issues. I promise to keep you updated.

We are never, ever, ever getting back together. (but I am keeping your t-shirt because its super cute this year)

We are never, ever, ever getting back together (but I am keeping your t-shirt because it’s super cute this year)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

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.

wpid-wp-1448317817657.jpg

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.

wpid-wp-1448317792082.jpg

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.

12269988_468880179978982_771228726_n

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.

wpid-wp-1448317801944.jpg

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.

12224200_834554553333033_347572005_n

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

wp-1448469981145.jpg

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).

wp-1448404762636.jpg

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

 

wpid-wp-1448317383710.jpg

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.

wpid-wp-1448317260215.jpg

*I’m a little obsessed with Quciktrip

 

Learning to Breathe Again: Turning 40 in Paris

On the morning of my 37th birthday it dawned on me, much to my chagrin, that I would soon be turning 40. Obviously this is something I had always known, but for some reason 37 was the age that it sunk in that I was no longer a spring chicken. The crows feet were forming and I realized that it had been some time since a patient had obnoxiously inquired if I “were really old enough to be a doctor.” I made a decision that if I absolutely must turn 40, I would embrace it.  I wanted to mark the occasion with something fabulous and I could think of nothing more fabulous than a week in Paris.

After three years of dreaming and planning, last month I spent my birthday week in the city of light. My husband and I always like to have something to look forward to, not to “wish our lives away” but to have a focal point on the difficult days and a “project” we can be excited about together. The timing of this adventure ended up being perfect, as a recent cascade of events that ranged from tragic (death of my father) to inconveniently annoying (wreckage of my car) had lead to the last six months being the most difficult season of my life. Faith, prayer and the support of my friends and family helped me make it through the awfulness. However, there were some difficult days that the only thing that got me by was the the thought that I would soon be in Paris. 

Iceland

We flew Iceland Air to France, via Boston (since we plan our own travel it always becomes overly complicated) and spent a day in Reykjavik. Iceland is worthy of it’s own post, should I ever get the time, but to sum up, I would say it’s a quirky, gorgeous, treeless, unique and cold Island. We enjoyed our 30 hours there and would love to go back and spend more time hiking and exploring. We took the I heart Reykjavik Tour and it was great.

Russ and I touring Rekjavik. Where we looked like homeless people because we kept having to but more layers as we walked around town to keep from freezing to death.

Russ and I touring Reykjavik in our official Icelandic Guild hats. We we looked like homeless people because we kept having to put on more layers as we walked around town to keep from freezing to death.

20150719_124446

We made a day trip to the Blue Lagoon. It’s a geothermal spa. The mineral water is the craziest color of blue and 100 degrees, whereas the outside temp is 45 degrees (the lifeguards wear Parkas).

We ate in this funky place. The menu is on the left, beside the ordering line. You ask for fishkebabs (or mink whale steak), they walk around to your side of the counter and take it from the shelf, then cook it and bring it out to the family style table.

 

Paris

People keep asking me about my favorite parts of our trip, but really the best part of Paris was  simply “Paris.”  As we sat in cafes, walked along the Seine and observed the beauty of the architecture, it was as if the city’s energy was coaxing us the feel more alive. Strolling through this ancient city I felt minuscule next to its history and intricate beauty, but at the same time I felt inspired to create and dream.

The sky was so crazy blue it looked photoshopped

The sky was so crazy blue it looked photoshopped.

 

20150721_165718

Night tour in an 2CV convertible. Watching the tower twinkle at midnight gave me goose bumps.

Being in Paris was an obvious reminder of the world that exists outside my silly suburban bubble. Sometimes it takes a trip half way around the world, to one of the most densely populated cities on our planet to be able to slow down. With each block I walked, I begin to slowly feel myself relax. With each breath, I breathed a little deeper. Each step I took, felt a little lighter.

One of my take away moments was sitting at a sidewalk cafe with a local guide. As we got ready to leave I decided I wanted a coffee. As I started to ask the waiter for a coffee to go, our horrified guide quickly stopped me and looked at me as if I had just slapped his grandmother. “This is Paris” he said, ” We do NOT get our coffees ‘to go’, we sit and sip and enjoy the coffee and the company of of friends.” I laughed at my own American ridiculousness and I drank my coffee from a ceramic cup, savoring every sip.

Fun to see the Love Locks bridges before they take them down

Fun to see the Love Locks bridges before they take them down.

The food was phenomenal. Meant to be savored, not gulped.

The food was phenomenal. Meant to be savored, not gulped.

The question "Do you want a crepe?" is always a rhetorical one.

The question “Do you want a crepe?” is always a rhetorical one.

 

Versailles

Since my husband was still recovering from his ruptured his achilles tendon on our trip, we looked for ways to reduce his walking. We discovered the Blue Bike Tour of Versailles and it was truly a highlight of our adventure. We took a train from Paris to Versailles, then stopped at a local market to pack a picnic lunch. We spent several hours biking through the grandly manicured gardens of the 20,000 acre 400 year old estate of Europe’s largest palace. It was truly a marvel. We stopped for a picnic lunch at the end of the mile long the canal looking back at the palace, and much like riding the gondola in Venice, it was a crazy surreal magic moment. The entire time I’m eating my baguette and drinking my wine, I’m thinking that this has to be one of the most perfect moments of my life.

Picnic lunch on the grand canal at Versailles at the end of the mile long canal behind the palace. The canal is cross shaped with treelined paths surrounding it, perfect for biking.

Picnic lunch on the grand canal at Versailles

I’ve been dreaming of walking the famous hall of mirrors at Versailles since I was a girl. While the grandeur of the Palace was mesmerizing, it was the wind in my face as I biked the country side that was my favorite part. I see now why Louis XIV made Versailles the capital of France during his reign.

Hall of mirrors at Versailles

Hall of mirrors at Versailles

Versailles main entrance

Versailles main entrance

Palace view of canal

Palace view of canal

 

My Birthday Run

As a morning person and a runner, I knew I wanted to start my actual birthday with a run. I started at 6 am and ran from our hotel (Hotel Therese, which I loved) to the Louvre. During the day, the Louvre’s courtyard is teaming with tourists, but at sunrise it was only me and my running shoes making cadence on the ancient stones of the courtyard.

Birthday run around the court yard of the Louvre

Birthday run around the court yard of the Louvre

Next I jogged along the Seine, taking in the surreal beauty of the sunrise. I followed the Seine down to Notre Dame, made a lap around the ancient church, gazing up at her intricate flying buttresses and then forced myself to head back to the hotel.

Notre Dame later in the day with all her crowds. It was fabulous to spend some alone time with her at daybreak.

Notre Dame later in the day with all her crowds. It was fabulous to spend some alone time with her at daybreak.

I jaunted back and forth across each bridge of the Seine, running both on the street level and river level. I knew I would likely only get in one good run on my trip and I wanted to experience the city in my favorite way: at day break with a brisk jog. I payed no attention to my pace, I was too busy smiling.

Sunrise run in Paris

Sunrise run in Paris

Lunch on Eiffel Tower

Six months ago my life was turned upside down, when my dad was murdered. {Damn. Just writing that sentence makes my fingers shake.} Afterward, everyone told me to take the time to mourn. I tried, but the realities of my life and my responsibilities kept getting in the way. Over the next few months, each time life would start to creep back towards normal and I would start to feel like I could maybe breathe again, something else would happen. My husband ruptured his achilles tendon and was unable to walk for 6 weeks, upping my stress level as I then had to do all of his household work in addition to my own (side note: I will never take him for granted again!).  About the time he could walk with a crutch, my grandmother passed away, I wrecked my car and then another close family member was diagnosed with cancer. I felt like a dark cloud was hovering over my head that I just couldn’t shake.

In the midst of all the drama as we are planning this trip, Russ came up with the idea to eat my birthday lunch on the Eiffel tower at the Jules Verne Restaurant. I resisted at first, as it seemed like a ridiculous splurge, but I’m so glad we did it. The moment I sat down and peered out the window over the city, I was overcome with all the emotion and anticipation of the last six month. I began to cry bittersweet tears for the beauty of the moment, in the midst of all the heartache of this season. Thankful for the opportunity to get to experience something so amazing, heartbroken that I wouldn’t get to tell my dad all about it.

40 th Birthday lunch at the Jules Verne Restaurant in the Eiffel Tour

40th Birthday lunch at the Jules Verne Restaurant in the Eiffel Tour. We got to bypass the 1.5hr line and take a private elevator straight to the second level. We relaxed and spent 3 hours eating a meal at a Michelin starred restaurant while enjoying one of the most fantastic views in the world.

I guess at super fancy restaurants they expect you to eat with tiny utensils

I guess at super fancy restaurants they expect you to eat with tiny utensils

Eiffel tower observation deck obligatory selfie

Eiffel tower observation deck obligatory selfie

Jules Verne dessert course. Every single bite was delicious.

Jules Verne dessert course. Every single bite was delicious.

When I got back home, I spoke with a dear friend who said that she prayed for me that my black cloud would simply fall into the Atlantic as we flew across it. I loved that analogy, because that is really what it felt like. The Paris trip was a turning point and beautiful transition for us. My heart is healing. I’m now making time in the midst of the craziness of life to sit on the porch with my coffee and savor the little moments and remember what It felt like to walk through the vibrant beauty of Paris. On my morning runs, I’m beginning to appreciate the gorgeous colors of my Tennessee sunrises again. Am I still grieving? Of course. But the pain is beginning to transition from a sharp raw grief to a bittersweet ache and I feel like I’m breathing again.

 

Thank yous:

A giant thank you to our parents my for watching our kiddos while we were gone. Especially Russ’s parents who road-tripped the kids to Oklahoma via Branson.

Thank you to Wendi Mihalko who helped us plan our meals. Every place she suggested was amazing! She has since started her own of travel consulting site. If you are traveling abroad I would highly recommend her.

Thank you to our guide in Paris, Micheal @ Paris Find. He was excellent, knowledgeable, affordable and simply a nice guy. If you want to pretend you are in Paris you can follow him on Instagram where he posts the most lovely pictures of his city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

IMG_20140901_083522693

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.

Happy 4th of July

flag

With low humidity and record low temperatures, my run on July 4th was perfect. Since the marathon I have been mainly running between 6-8 for my long run. This weekend I felt antsy  to go farther, so I dug out my fuel belt, dusted off my Goo and belted out 10 miles. It felt great. I ran an ‘out and back’ from Sullivan Farms to down town Franklin. This is one of my favorite courses. It takes me through several beautiful neighborhoods and past the Carnton plantation (a civil war cemetery).

4th

The first hour I merely took my time and absorbed the scenery: bubbling brooks, the sunrise and multiple flags along tree lined streets. As an extrovert, I love running with people, but sometimes you just need to be alone with the pavement. As I ran, my mind wandered as much as my feet. I alternated between silent prayers for the many people in my life who are hurting right now and being thankful of all the many blessing that I have as an American. For most of my run the sound track was merely the cadence of my feet hitting the road. A peaceful start to a loud weekend. I’ll admit that I did resort to my ipod for the last 3 miles as I let the tunes of Katy Perry and U2 motivate me back home.

I got the feeling that my legs had been going through lactic acid withdrawal. Like a pair of big dogs who had been kept in their kennel too long, my legs were ecstatic to run so far. Yes, it’s definitely time to start training again.

Fall running plans:

Labor Day : Franklin Classic 10 K

The Franklin Classic is a fabulous race through my home town. It raises money for an excellent cause: Mercy Children’s Clinic. I have done this hilly race before and I love the finish up main street. My goal is to finish under 50 minutes. My crazy goal would be to finish under 48 minutes.

Oct. 11: The Middle Half

I ran this flat half marathon in Murfreesboro, TN last year and set a PR. I am running again this year with 12 other gals from my neighborhood. It will be a blast. I’m a little scared to try to beat last years time(1:48), but anything under 1:50 would be great.

Oct. 24-25: Ragnar Tennessee

12 women. 2 Vans. 200 miles. Sound like fun? I can hardly wait. Me, my marathon peeps and 6 other crazy ladies are running from Chattanooga to Nashville Oct. 24-25. {Assuming we can agree on a team name}. Our only goal here is to finish (and not kill each other). I’m sure I will be writing a lot more about this one.

I hope you all had a wonderful 4th as well. Anyone else doing a Ragnar this fall or training for a crazy race? 

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”