Keeping Up with Kelsey Podcast Episode 9: Leah Jones, Dopey Challenge Finisher

Keeping Up with Kelsey podcast can be found on:

iTunes/Apple Podcasts | OvercastStitcherGoogle Play 

Episode 9: Leah Jones

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Leah Jones is a marketer from Lynchburg, Virginia who is on a mission to complete 50 half marathons before her 30th birthday. Most recently, she completed the Dopey Challenge in Disney World that consisted of a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and full marathon all in consecutive days.  She shares with us her running history, goals for the future, and how she made it through Dopey. Download today’s episode to learn more about Elizabeth.

From the show:

Keeping Up with Kelsey Podcast Facebook Group

Liberty University  

RunDisney  

Dopey Challenge

Hanson Marathon Method

Richmond Marathon

Marine Corps Marathon

Blue Ridge Marathon  

Outer Banks Half

Race 13.1 Series

Lynchburg Half

 

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If you like what you hear, please subscribe and leave a (5 star) rating/review on iTunes.

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Keeping Up with Kelsey Podcast Episode 8: Elizabeth Heidal: Running for Bling

Keeping Up with Kelsey podcast can be found on:

iTunes/Apple Podcasts | OvercastStitcherGoogle Play 

Episode 8: Elizabeth Heidal

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Elizabeth Heidal is an accomplished runner from Mobile, Alabama who is on a quest to race the states. She has already completed 48 and has the remaining two states slated for 2018. She travels for her job, but still finds ways to eat nutritiously on the road and always (yes, always) gets her workouts in despite where the road may lead her. She met her husband Rich at a Ragnar race and has been a sherpa for him in Ironman events,  In 2012, Elizabeth was assaulted while running in her town and she shares this experience with us. Elizabeth has qualified for Boston on more than one occasion and has even won a half marathon before!   Find out more about my conversation with Elizabeth by downloading her episode today.

From the show:

Elizabeth’s Blog 

Ragnar Atlanta  

Deadwood Half Marathon, South Dakota 

Shiprock Half Marathon, New Mexico  

Vacation Races 

Lincoln/Springfield Half Marathon  

Hatfield McCoy Marathon  

Big Sur Marathon 

Sedona Half Marathon, Arizona

Fargo Half Marathon, North Dakota  

Missoula Half Marathon, Montana

Run the Bluegrass Half, Kentucky

Oak Barrel Half, Tennessee

Oiselle Bride Dress  

Elizabeth’s post about her assault

Run Angel

Go Guarded Runner Safety Device

Follow Elizabeth:

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If you like what you hear, please subscribe and leave a (5 star) rating/review on iTunes.

 

Signing up for an ultra!

If you remember reading my blog two years ago when I did my first marathon, you may recall that it was a horrible experience. I had put in months of solid training, done almost everything “right” and still somehow managed what I refer to as the worst race ever. Nothing went right on race day (especially the weather) and I told myself I would NEVER go through that again. Never. Ever. Ever. But somehow those words have come back to bite me.

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In case you forgot what I looked like after my marathon

For the last few years, I have volunteered at a local ultra event, The Pistol Ultra. Unlike most ultras, this race takes place on a greenway instead of mountain trails. In my time volunteering, I have worked registration, handed out medals, worked aid stations, and greeted finishers. I’ll be honest when I say that volunteering at an ultra gave me no inspiration to do one whatsoever. The runners were SO inspiring, but seeing the pain, dedication, and pure willpower that it took to be out there did not interest me at all. Especially for the ones who were doing ONE. HUNDRED. MILES. Holy cow, those people were awesome! Add in the fact that the race took place on a super cold December day, I definitely had no interest.

A few months ago, it was announced that the race would be moved to March and it just so happened that the date fell the Saturday after my school’s Spring Break. Perfect timing. I have been in a bit of a fitness rut lately. Of course I am loving my Orange Theory classes, have loved walking every week with my Momma, but I honestly just needed a goal to work toward. When I saw the date change, it jumped at me. Here I was, screaming from the rooftops that I would never do more than a half again and all of a sudden I was contemplating doing a 50k. What is wrong with me?

I talked to my Momma, husband, running bestie, and some other close friends about it, and they were super supportive and encouraging. So, I did what any normal person would do and signed up. My stomach knotted up the second I hit “submit registration” and I felt sick. BUT, this race is now on my calendar and is holding me accountable. It is terrifying and I’m trying to to think *too* hard about it because I don’t want to psych myself out, but I’m willing to work for it. People have asked why I’m doing an ultra and my answer is simple: to prove to myself that I can.   pistol

You may be wondering why I chose this specific race instead of just picking another big marathon. The biggest reason is the location of the race. It takes place less than 30 minutes from my house so I won’t have the added stress of traveling for a race. The race is also ran on a 3 loop lollipop course, meaning I pass by the “home base” area 6 different times during the race. This is crucial because I can have my family there to cheer me on, I can get refills on my drinks, I can use an INDOOR bathroom, take a rest if I need to, and do pretty much anything I need to do that I couldn’t do if I was on any other course. It is perfect. It is also on the local greenway so you are seeing people out there the entire time to keep you motivated and encouraged. Another key factor is time limit. Since the race is hosting a 100 mile option, all race participants have 30 hours to complete their respective race. This means that I literally have 30 hours to complete 31 miles. Surely I can do that!  I really could not have chosen a better race for my first (and probably last) ultra.

Right now the plan is to walk the majority of the race. During training, I may implement a run/walk interval that I could sustain for the race, but I know that for the time being I am okay with walking most of the race. In the coming months I will be updating the blog with how training is going, what is working for me, and what it is like training for an ultra as a walker or a run/walker. Stay tuned!

Friday Faves…on a Saturday

Good morning, friends! Fall is finally here in East Tennessee and I couldn’t be more happy! It seems as though we have waited forever for the temps to drop and luckily they finally have. I love living in the mountains year-round, but living here in the fall makes it so much more special. Today I wanted to share with you some things I am LOVING lately. These are my Friday Faves, posted on a Saturday because that’s how I roll.

    1. HYDROFLASK.  I’ve always been a water bottle junkie, but my Hydroflask is by far my favorite vessel that I’ve ever used. It is super durable (just ask the concrete that I’m constantly dropping it on) and keeps ice cold for over 24 hours. I chose the 40oz option because I go through water like crazy! Having the bigger bottle is also good for my teaching job since I am not constantly leaving my classroom to fill it up once it is empty. These come with a screw top lid, but they also make other lids like this sippy cup one, which is the one I use. Right now I have a mint blue one, but am eyeing a purple color for my Christmas list. IMG_1439
    2. INSTANT POT.  If you don’t have one of these amazing inventions in your house yet, do yourself and your family a favor and go order one. This pot is seriously one of my favorite products that I have in my house. It can take chicken from completely frozen to your plate in less than 30 minutes. Lately I’ve loved making pinto beans in the pot and making cilantro rice for my burrito bowls.  SO DELICIOUS! These also make good Christmas gifts for anyone on your shopping list.
    3. A Beautiful Work in Progress by Mirna ValerioI have followed Mirna on social media for quite some time and she is such an inspiration to so many. She dubs herself “fat girl running” and has made a movement from it. She is living proof that you can be “fat” and healthy at the same time. I love following her training and her daily posts. She just published her first book and I am loving it so far!   mirna
    4. CANDLES. Since getting married, we have been obsessed with candles. As soon as we walk in the front door, we light a candle. We are currently living in a cozy cabin in the mountains and having a yummy candle burning really makes our house a home. For fall, I am LOVING these scents…Leaves, Pumpkin Apple, and Mahogany Teakwood.     IMG_1437
    5. BIRKENSTOCK SANDALSIt is no secret to anyone that knows me in real life that I am a tried and true Chaco girl. I even wore them at my wedding for heaven’s sake! But right before going back to school this year, I tried a pair of the Birkenstock Mayari sandals on a whim and fell in love. I didn’t think I would like the feel of a leather shoe on my foot, but they have been a lifesaver. As a teacher who is on my feet all day, I have to be wearing something that supports my feet and is comfortable. These Birks fit the bill and I am SO pleased with my purchase! Order you some; your feet will thank you!

What are you loving lately? Don’t forget to keep checking back for updates on my podcast that will be rolling out soon! 

Podcasting!

Helllooooo out there!  I’m dusting off this blog that I have neglected for far too long to bring you exciting news! I’m starting a podcast! Yes, you heard that right, a podcast. Any podcast lovers out there?

You may be wondering how in the world I came up with this idea and why I am doing it.  Well, let’s take a step back for a quick sec. The teacher that teaches next door to me has been a podcast junkie for a while. I used to make fun of him for always listening to conversations instead of jamming out to music. He approached me with the idea of creating a podcast for our school. At first I was skeptical, but the more I thought about it, it seemed like a really good idea. I began researching and looking into the podcasting world. Before I knew it, I found myself addicted and subscribing to several different channels. Podcasting is so personal and I love listening to conversations each day!

After doing a lot of research and determining that this is something we wanted to pursue, I decided that I wanted to make my own podcast as well that focused on training, racing, running, fitness, and life in general. I haven’t published a blog post on this blog in over a year because blogging really ran its course for me (pun intended). I no longer felt fulfilled sitting down and typing out words. Combine that with the changing of the Internet. I rely more on fast and instant information now such as seeing a photo on Instagram. I don’t want to have to scroll through a long blog post to learn more about someone’s day, life, or training. It just doesn’t satisfy me. I would much prefer to listen to their voice on my morning drive or while exercising. The more people I talked to about this, the more I realized that many people shared the same sentiment that I do.

While I still love writing and will probably begin writing a few blog posts here and there again, I have to face the fact that technology changes and people prefer a new way of getting their information.

Podcasting opens up a whole new world for me and the community that I surround myself with. Instead of my personality being words on a screen, you’ll be able to hear my actual (fast paced) voice. I will also be able to bring other voices to you in forms of guests on my show. The possibilities are really limitless and I’m so excited for this new journey. My podcast is still in the beginning phases and I have a lot of work left to do, but I’m working diligently to get it off the ground and to get some episodes published.  IMG_1415.JPG

This blog has been so special to me for so long and I have met some wonderful people along the way and been given amazing opportunities that I never would have had access to without this blog. I’m grateful for the time I’ve spent with it and y’all, but it is time to branch out. My plan is to publish two blog posts a month starting in November and to also work on getting a biweekly podcast out. We will see if this happens.

So, tell me…do you like podcasts?  Are you interested in listening to mine? What topics would you want to listen to or what special guests would you like to see on the show?  I’m open to all suggestions. If you want to be notified of when my first episode goes live, be sure to comment so that I can add you to my email list. Thanks for listening and hope to be in your ears soon. 🙂

I Got Engaged!

Hello blog world!  Does anyone even still read blogs?  Since the rise of Instagram, I rarely even read my regular blogs anymore, and I obviously have completely slacked off from writing anything here in this space.  I believe my last post was around 6 months ago, but that’s okay because I just renewed my blog ownership so you are stuck with me for at least another year.

Exciting news on the personal front…I’m engaged!!!  Can you believe it?  I don’t post a whole lot on social media about my boyfriend, now fiance (!!!!), because he doesn’t have social media and doesn’t really care for his face and name to be everywhere.  I respect that, but I do get to share tidbits every now and then.  Plus, I talked him into getting an Instagram so I think we are on the right track.

If you like reading about engagements, then scroll on down and read our engagement story.  I promise this blog will not turn into a wedding planning blog, but I will share some things from time to time so I can read back on it later on in our marriage and reflect on this happy season in our lives.  So, without further adieu, here is our proposal story:

TJ and I have known for a long time that one day we would eventually be married. We visited a few jewelry stores and TJ allowed me to pick out some rings that I wouldn’t mind wearing for the next 100 years. Trying on rings made it more real but months passed and no proposal. Some of my 8th grade students would ask daily about when I would be getting engaged but I kept telling them that I had to be patient and that it would all happen when the time was right.

On April 27 we had our annual church picnic for our children’s and youth ministry to celebrate the end of the school year. We co-teach a group of about 15 middle schoolers on Wednesday night and it has long been “our” thing. I had just came from track practice and was dressed pretty frumpy.  Track shorts and a super wrinkly Columbia shirt that I had thrown on from my trunk since it was a bit chilly that evening. It was such a fun evening filled with grilling out, s’mores, chatting with friends and kids on haybales, playing football in the church field, and just making memories.  TJ arrived but acted completely normal as I sat in a lawn chair chomping on a hot dog. My friend Holly told me she wanted to get a group photo of us with our class so that we would have something to remember the year. I was almost done with my hot dog so I told her to wait a minute as I took one more bite, spilling mustard all over my mouth and a bit on my shirt. She very sternly looked at me and firmly instructed me to put the hot dog down. I didn’t think anything of it since I was so hungry but then she took a napkin and her and another lady helped wipe my face off. At this point, I still had no clue.

We lined our kids up for the photo and then Holly told the kids to step back for just a photo of TJ and I. This seemed strange since it was supposed to be all about the kids, but Holly gave me a very serious look as she said “we are GOING to get a picture of you two.” By now, a big crowd had gathered and everyone had their phones and cameras out. I didn’t know we were so pretty. When TJ grabbed my hands, it suddenly hit me what was happening. I started freaking out and looking up and to the side because I was so caught off guard. I have no idea what TJ said to me because I was in utter disbelief of what was actually happening, but all I know is that he got down on one knee and pulled out a ring box. I started crying immediately and before I even said yes and took the ring I turned to the crowd and yelled “DID Y’ALL KNOW ABOUT THIS?!?!” I took the most beautiful ring I’ve ever seen and slipped it on my finger as TJ and I hugged. We then turned around and everyone started clapping for us as we showed my new diamond off.

Oh my gosh this is happening!!!

Oh my gosh this is happening!!!

PURE JOY!

PURE JOY!

is this for real?

is this for real?

one of my favorite pictures from the night as it shows TJ breathing a sigh of relief.

one of my favorite pictures from the night as it shows TJ breathing a sigh of relief.

Madeline couldn't contain the tears all night.

Madeline couldn’t contain the tears all night.

It was the most perfect proposal for us. Having our entire church family and so many of our good friends there to celebrate with us made it so much more special. We spent the next two hours receiving lots of hugs and well wishes and plenty of knowledge and advice about wedding planning and marriage. It was seriously perfect and a wonderful start to our new life together. To beat it all, I never even got to finish my hot dog.

Right after TJ proposed, I tried to FaceTime my closest friends and NONE of them would answer!!! My phone ended up dying moments later and when I finally put it on charge a few hours later, I was greeted with an immense amount of love since my mother shared it on Facebook almost the moment it happened. TJ and I are so happy to be uniting in marriage and becoming one. Our proposal was a true reflection of us and having so many people there to support and encourage us was the icing on the cake! We look forward to sharing our life together.  IMG_4932

In the days after our engagement, I learned more about TJ’s plan.  He had been at my best friend Holly’s house before coming to church and he was a bundle of nerves and freaking out.  He even was worried about *which* knee to get down on.  Bless him.  This whole being a bride thing has been SO much fun so far and we are so appreciative for all the love and support we have been shown!

This is probably just your average engagement story, but it was so incredibly perfect for us and our relationship.  I will never forget April 27 for as long as I live.  We have really been aggressive in the planning process and have already set a date, booked a venue, caterer, photographer, DJ, and have chosen our bridal party.  We still have a long way to go, but as Type A as I am about all things wedding, I have a feeling it will go off without a hitch.

Do you have a fun engagement story to tell?  What are your favorite and least favorite wedding trends of the moment?

Race Recap: Rock n Roll New Orleans

NOLA, baby! This wonderful city has been on my travel list for quite some time, so I just HAD to sign up for the Rock n Roll race that was held at the perfect time.  Fortunately for us, I have some super sweet friends that live outside of the city in Slidell so we were able to stay with them and make a long weekend trip out of it.  We left right after work on Friday and made the 9 hour drive South. Whew, that was a lot of car time.

Saturday morning we slept late and headed to the expo.  Our friend’s husband actually works at the convention center so we were able to use his parking pass and walk right into the expo.  Packet pick up was super organized as usual.  I was able to quickly pick up my bib and t-shirt and visit all of the booths that seemed interesting to me.  As much as I love expos, there comes a point where if you have seen one then you have seen them all.  I did make my way over to the VIP booth to pick up my wristband for race day.  The sweet girl working it told me that I had to be parked and on the bus by 5:45am the next morning which kind of alarmed me, but it ended up being perfect timing on race day.  IMG_3852 IMG_3855

We rode a street car over to the French Quarter and made our way through all that is New Orleans.  I loved being able to see all of the different vendors in the French Market, going inside during Mass at St. Louis Cathedral, eating some red beans and rice at a local eatery, seeing Bourbon Street, watching the Dragon Master Showcase street performers, and eating at Cafe du Monde.   Basically everything that was touristy-we did.  It was soooo warm outside which was delightful given how cold it had recently been back home.   I truly felt like we got to experience all that is New Orleans.  IMG_3873 IMG_3861 IMG_3904

I got in bed super early that night.  Unfortunately I woke up several times during the night but I think that is common with me and my race nerves when I am away from home.  I woke up easily to my alarm on race morning and got ready in the dark since TJ was still sleeping.  Before too long we were on the road to make the drive into downtown.  We found our parking lot super easily and after a quick goodbye I boarded the comfy charter bus that would drive us to the host hotel for the VIP experience.  IMG_3931

This was my first time doing VIP for a race, but I was super happy I signed up for it since parking can be somewhat of a nightmare and I really really really did not want to be shuttled back to my car after the race.  The VIP room was on the third floor of the downtown Hilton.  They had a wonderful breakfast spread which I was so thankful for since I left my normal pre-race PB sandwich sitting on the counter at home.  I grabbed a bagel and some peanut butter and grabbed a seat at a table.  The people sitting there didn’t really talk much but once they left the nicest woman ever sat down with me along with her husband and we had a great pre-race chat!  They, too, were race the states and we had sooo much to talk about.  Hi, Dianna!   IMG_3922 IMG_3921

The best part about VIP was plenty of clean indoor bathrooms.  I’m not above using a porta-potty but if given the choice I will gladly take no lines and indoor plumbing all day long.  Since my corral wasn’t near the front, I didn’t even leave the hotel until a little after 7:30 (race start).  I slowly made my way to the start line and took in the crisp morning air and prepared myself for what was about to happen.  IMG_3934

Finally I saw my corral and hopped right in.  The crowd support near the beginning was amazing.  High fives were everywhere and music was blaring. I had planned to walk the entire race and that is exactly what I did.  We did a really long out and back on one street and I was amazed at all the sights and sounds.  Tons of people out supporting their runners, bands playing, beads hanging from trees and electric wires. It was amazing and was also a welcome distraction.  I carried my GoPro in my hand and made tons of video clips during the race that I would later turn into a movie to remember my trip.  I saw lots of “touch here for power” signs that I promptly smacked.  Before too long, the people on the opposite side of the street were coming “back” so I was occupied watching them.  So many people out there enjoying life and reaching for their goals.  I felt completely fine the entire race…no stomach pain at all which is rare for me.  For some reason, lots of people passed me and offered encouragement, high fives, thumbs ups, and pats on the back.  I totally appreciated it because I love those kind of things but I did wonder if maybe I looked bad or looked like I was failing or something.  Regardless, shout out to my fellow racers for being so gosh darn nice!

Around mile 11 my feet began to hurt.  I knew I was getting a blister on the ball of one of my feet and they just hurt in general.  This is nothing new to me so I just kept listening to my music and pressed on.  I enjoyed being surrounded by supportive people and there was still so much to look at…NOLA truly is a gorgeous place!  Before I knew it, I was inside the gates with the finish line in sight.  I looked everywhere for TJ and took time to high five people who had lined up outside of the chute.  The finish line was in a city park with beautiful trees everywhere that offered plenty of shade.  Once I crossed the finish, I got my totally awesome medal.  I loved that instead of a ribbon they actually used Mardi Gras beads…completely terrific for that race.  I was able to grab some Cheez-Its and an ice cold bottle of water and make my way out of the finishing area.  Thank goodness the chute wasn’t super long like it was in Vegas.  IMG_3956

I still couldn’t find TJ so I made my way over the to the VIP area.  As soon as I walked in I was greeted by my friend Dianna that I met earlier in the morning.  She said that her and her husband saved me a seat in the shade which was so super nice of them.  The VIP tent had a nice selection of food options.  I settled on some rice and chicken with a big old brownie.  We sat and chatted about the race and our experiences.  Surprisingly I still felt well and had absolutely no stomach pain or light headedness.  Again, super rare after a finish.  After about half an hour of good food and conversation, I left my new pals and went to find TJ.  He was patiently waiting for me and  ended up realizing that he was lined up at the marathon finish line and not the half marathon one.  Oopsies.  IMG_3935 IMG_3950

my sweet new friend, Dianna

my sweet new friend, Dianna

We made our way back to Slidell and I let my feet have a nice long soak in the pool.  It was blazing hot by this time and I was glad to have some cool relief.  We completely vegged out on the couch the entire day.  Our host family made a huge pot of gumbo that kept us full all day while we binge watched Law & Order: SVU.  I took the Monday after the race off so we made one more trip into the city to eat at Cafe du Monde and to get some pralines to take back home.  Monday was incredibly humid and I made mention to TJ that I sure was glad that  the humidity spared us on race day.  We had a long drive back home, but of course we stopped in Chattanooga to visit our sweet friends Brittney and Cameron and to grab some dinner with them.  IMG_3973 IMG_3996

Overall it was a great race and I’m so glad that I was able to knock off another state while exploring such a diverse and culturally rich city.  Both TJ and I agreed that we would love to visit NOLA again and I know for sure that I will recommend Rock n Roll New Orleans to ANYONE because it was seriously such a great race.

Race Recap: Rock n Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon

I know this race recap is a long time coming, but I am finally sitting down to hash it all out.  In 2015, I was a Rock n Blog team member for Rock n Roll Marathon Series.  Unfortunately due to other scheduling conflicts, RNR Las Vegas was the only race I was able to participate in.  It was kind of a last minute trip, but I was able to find a decent hotel deal and relatively cheap flights from Atlanta (about 4 hours away from us).  Originally I had planned to travel alone but the more I got to thinking about it, I wanted TJ to come with me which of course he was more than willing.   Side note: It was TJ’s very first flight ever and he got put next to a woman who ended up puking on him several times.  Poor guy!

got our tickets!

got our tickets!

We left ATL late Friday night ended up landing in Vegas minutes before midnight and most of the shuttle services had already closed.  We really didn’t want to pay a taxi but one last shuttle service was open and ended up taking us to our hotel in a LIMOUSINE for the same price as a shuttle.  Unfortunately our hotel, The Stratosphere, had given away our non-smoking room so we had to settle for a smoking room (YUCK) but had to wait over two hours for housekeeping to clean it.  We finally got our room keys around 3am.     IMG_1666

The next morning my body surprisingly woke me up super early thanks to the time change and we headed to Expo.  This being my very first RNR experience, I didn’t know what to expect.  It was HUGE. People were everywhere but it was super organized.  I was able to easily retrieve my bibs and packets for both the 5k and the half.  Since both races were at night AND you got an extra medal for the Remix Challenge, I decided to do both.  We made our way around to the various booths and let me tell you…companies do it BIG for Vegas.  The Brooks booth had a massive foot stomping volcano race, a mechanical shoe, and tons of cool prizes to give away.  I was so overwhelmed with all of the amazing booths!  We were sort of short on time so we did a quick walk through and then caught the monorail back to our hotel.  We spent the remainder of the day hitting up all of the hotels and casinos on the Strip before making it back to the hotel for a quick nap prior to the 5k.  Fortunately, the 5k was right in front of our hotel so I was able to grab some sleep and walk right outside a few blocks to the race area.

changing rooms in the apparel area...how appropriate.

changing rooms in the apparel area…how appropriate.

MEB

MEB

The 5k was jamming!  A company was handing out “thunder sticks” that lit up so it was one big massive party.  We hadn’t planned very well as far as spectating goes but I told TJ where to meet me when it was over and we would both have our cell phones if there was an issue.  I took my place in my corral and waited for the fun to begin.  There were lots of cool costumes all around and everyone seemed to be in a great mood.  The music playing through the speakers was deafening but I didn’t mind.   Since I was so far back, I was able to see loads of people actually finish the race before I even made it to the start line.  Once the race started, everyone went crazy cheering and clapping and banging their thunder sticks.  High fives were plenty and everyone just seemed happy to be there.  We made our way onto a long road for an out and back so I enjoyed seeing people who were making their way back to the finish line.  I stuck to mostly walking with a little bit of running bursts throughout.  I felt like I was in slow motion seeing all the sights and sounds that Vegas had to offer.  This small town girl was NOT used to big city life.  I forgot which exact mileage point it was in the race, but around the last mile, we just weaved in and out of one big parking lot.  It was kind of confusing because you saw people running on all sides of you throughout but couldn’t really tell where you were.  RNR did a great job of keeping it well lit with lots of glowy things including a huge glow tunnel, but it was a little discouraging to have the finish line be just yards away from you yet being so far from finishing.  Finally I made it to the finish line, collected my medal and a drink and went to the meeting spot to find TJ.  There was a live band playing and lots of post race entertainment but it was so late by my internal clock that I was ready to be back at the hotel.

thunder sticks!

thunder sticks!

Once we made it back and I showered and cleaned myself up, we headed back to the monorail and over to the Bellagio.  I have ALWAYS wanted to see the Bellagio fountains and they were just as beautiful in person as I have always imagined.  We also treated ourselves to the Bellagio buffet since one of our goals was to eat at a Vegas buffet.  It was a little fancy for our country palates but we did enjoy and attempted to try a little of everything.    IMG_1723

ALL the dessert.

ALL the dessert.

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The next morning and early afternoon was spent with more sight seeing. We went to see “old Vegas” and visited Golden Nugget and had our picture made with one million dollars.  Binion’s Casino takes your photo in front of it and gives you two free copies…yes FREE.  I didn’t think anything was free in Vegas.  We had lunch at a local food court and tried our hand at some blackjack.  I only wagered 20 dollars the entire time I was there but that was good enough for a couple of hours of entertainment.   For some reason I was exhausted so we took another nap before getting ready for the half marathon.  I woke up feeling sick to my stomach and groggy.  This was not good.  I tried to eat some crackers and calm my nerves but nothing was working.  We eventually hopped on the monorail to make our way to the start line.  Our hotel is the monorail’s first stop and the start line at MGM is its last stop so we boarded an empty train and by the end of it we were all packed like sardines.  The temperature had began to drop and everyone around me was wearing ear muffs, gloves, and scarves.  I started to worry that I was underdressed with my capris and tank top but I tried to focus on feeling better instead of worrying about others.  The talk on the train was the winds and that got me even more worked up.  Walking to the start line had me in a ball of nerves for some reason and the wind was really picking up.  I was cold, my belly hurt, and I felt exhausted.  I tried to keep a brave face as I kissed TJ goodbye and made my way to my corral.   IMG_1684 IMG_1680

The Heart Attack Grill

The Heart Attack Grill

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making some money, honey.

making some money, honey.

on top of the Stratosphere

on top of the Stratosphere

Originally I was supposed to be in a corral near the back since I’m currently a walker, but our plane left Vegas that night and I was terrified of it taking over an hour to get to the start line, having a long race, making my way back to the hotel, and then getting to airport on time, so I checked with the customer service reps and they allowed me to get into a single digit corral.  I know I was probably one of those people that get trash talked about on internet groups for jumping ahead to another corral but I tried to be super respectful by staying super far to the side-so far that I almost tripped on the curb several times.  I kept my head held high as I marched down the Strip.  Not too far into the race we ran by the famous Welcome to Las Vegas sign.  Photographers were there taking photos of people but since I was in a time crunch I just snapped a selfie and moved on.

Vegas sign behind me

Vegas sign behind me

The wind was atrocious.  It was blowing soooo ridiculously hard AND it began to rain.  The rain drops felt like knives stabbing your body since the wind was blowing so hard and the temperatures had dropped.  Sand that was on the road was blowing in people’s eyes and it stung my bare legs as it blew into me. I was miserable but I kept telling myself that I was in VEGAS and that it could always be worse.  The more I tried to do some positive talk in my head, the more then wind blew.  It was not fun.  The only thing that kept me going was seeing all the beautiful people dressed up in costumes as Elvis and runaway brides and to look at all the magnificent hotels lit up at night.  This kept me surprisingly entertained.    IMG_1766 IMG_1780

Around mile 6 I really wanted to give up.  We passed my hotel and I deeply wanted to just get off course and go inside and say that I’ll try again next year.  Obviously I didn’t do that but it sure was tempting.  Miles 8-10 were super miserable.  The wind was still blowing, the ground was slick, and the people had began to thin out.  I continued my power walk and reminded myself to run my own race.  At this point, my hips were hurting and my feet were cramping.  I had never experienced such pain in a race before other than my full marathon.  Around 10.5 I began to cry so I texted TJ and told him that I didn’t think I could finish.  Somehow and some way I saw him standing on the street around mile 11 and I ran to him sobbing.  He took me by the arm and began to walk with me.  I just complained and complained and complained some more and began to cry even harder.  Looking back, I have no idea why I was so emotional but between the exhaustion, the weather, and my pain, I was just a complete wreck.  TJ made it to mile 12 with me and urged me to go on.  I told him I would never make it to the finish line unless he came with me.  So he did.  All the way to the finish line.  TJ crossed the finish line with me holding my hand and my arms.  I was so grateful to be finished and to have someone by my side.

I collected my medal and slowly made my way with TJ through the finisher’s chute.  By the way, the chute was LONG.  So long.  Like probably almost half a mile long (no exaggeration).  Since I had basically stopped, I slowly began to feel the sickness creep up that sometimes plagues me after races.  My head started to spin and I could hear my ears ringing.  I told TJ we needed to get out of there ASAP and that I needed a space blanket.  I was told that they were out of space blankets but another person actually gave me theirs.  All of a sudden I felt so sick that I just needed to lay down.  Usually laying down relieves my light headed feeling and I can sort of get my bearings (read: Flying Pig) so I asked TJ to go farther down the chute to try to find me some sort of sports drink or food. He came back empty handed and the tears began again.  How could I continue feeling like this and how could we possibly make it back to the hotel on the complete other side of town?  After walking more and about four more times of lying down, we finally found some Gatorade and chocolate milk.  I chugged them both so hard to tried to lick the salt off the pretzels that TJ gave me.  I was so worried that a race official was going to bring medic to me (my biggest fear), but TJ had his firefighting jacket on so I think some people assumed that he was actually my medic.

FINALLY we made it past the chute and TJ stood in line to grab my Remix medal while I laid down on the road.  We slowly but surely made it back to the monorail and back to the hotel.  I was able to shower and put on some warm clothes and sip on some sports drink.  I only had about 30 mins to do all of this before we needed to catch the shuttle to the airport.  We received and email saying our flight was delayed but our shuttle was already on the way so we went downstairs to wait.  And wait, and wait,and wait.  Turns out, we were waiting in the wrong area and after 40ish minutes we finally figured that out.  Our shuttle had already left us and after a call to the company they said that we were a no show so we would have to pay again and catch another shuttle an hour later which put us in jeopardy of missing our flight.  Guess what?  I started crying. Again.  Can you tell that I was super emotional for some reason????  The valet guy had heard all of this and right as we were hitting the escalator to go back to our room he came running through the lobby screaming for us that another shuttle from that company had just pulled up.  We ran back to the shuttle area and talked to the driver and said his route got rerouted due to the marathon road closures and that our passes were still good for his shuttle.  It was a complete miracle!!!!  Another lady on the bus ended up originally being from Knoxville, too, so we had some great conversation on the way to the airport.  IMG_1769

After a super long delay deep into the night (like 2am), we eventually made it on our plane and back to Atlanta.  I took a nap in the airport floor while waiting for the plane to get to our gate.  Classy, I know.  It was a long four hour drive home from ATL and I was so thankful to be home in my own bed.

Overall it was a super eventful (and quick!) trip, but I’m so glad that we got to spend the weekend in Vegas and that I was able to knock off another state.  Other than the insanely long finisher’s chute, this race was very organized and I’m glad that I was able to actually run the Las Vegas Strip at night as my Nevada race.  Who knows…maybe it is in the cards for me again this year??  You should definitely add this race to your bucket list, although I do recommend staying longer than we did.

Volunteering for Ironman Chattanooga

For the past three or four years, I have had it on my bucket list to volunteer at an Ironman event.  Don’t ask me why because I really do not know, but for some reason it was just on my heart to be a part of such a legendary event.  2014 was the inaugural year for the Ironman coming to Chattanooga and unfortunately I couldn’t be  a part of it that year.  When the 2015 date was announced, I made it a point to put it on my calendar.  After checking with our Chattanooga friends as to whether or not they would want to be a part of it, I signed up.   There were a ton of different jobs and time frames to work with, but both Brittney and I decided that we wanted a morning job that put us in direct contact with the athletes.  We chose to sign up for sunscreen for T1, meaning we would be lathering sunscreen on people before they hopped on the bike.

Since the race wasn’t until Sunday, we made an entire weekend out of visiting Chattanooga.  We ate at some great restaurants, visited the aquarium, rode the River Gorge Explorer boat, and made sure that we watched the Tennessee football game. IMG_0385 IMG_0417 IMG_0390

Saturday morning we went downtown for the volunteer meeting so that we could check in and get our volunteer shirts.  I love free shirts!  It was very informal and we encountered lots of athletes along the way who were their to drop off their gear and check in.  We were told to come back the next morning with a smiling face and readiness to work.  No problem for us.   IMG_0371 IMG_0383

On race morning, we left Brittney’s house super early to get downtown, parked, and to the race site.   We took the electric shuttle and met a super nice woman whose husband was doing the race.  They were from North Carolina and she told us all about his training and how much he put into it.  We gave her some suggestions for food after he had finished to celebrate.  After getting off we wished her husband good luck and that we would be on the lookout for him.  From there we went to the changing tents and helped get our sunscreen tent ready for the athletes.  The sunscreen came with pumps but that would not be practical so we had to dump it into casserole pans.  It was the strangest sunscreen I had ever seen.  It was a weird yellow color with a snot like consistency.   IMG_0394 IMG_0396

Prior to the athletes began rolling in, we had a chance to talk to our fellow volunteers.  Most of them were volunteering so that they could get priority registration for next year’s event.  Of course we were just there for the experience.  Some of them gave us pointers on what the athletes like and don’t like so we tried to maintain their advice.   IMG_0397

Before we knew it, our first athletes were running through transition and we were ready and waiting with our rubber gloves and snotty sunscreen.  They were obviously the pros and were in and out of the changing tents in a ridiculous amount of time.  It was so impressive.  None of the pros wanted sunscreen but we still cheered like mad people and hollered for them.  I never get to see the front of the pack in an event unless it is an out and back course so it was so surreal to see these guys totally dominating.  Once the age groupers started rolling in, we were busy busy.  People would come to us and it was all we could do to lather them up really well and get them on their way.  For some people, we had to literally run with them because they refused to actually stop and waste precious transition seconds.  A lot of people wanted it everywhere so we would tag team it by one person doing shoulders and arms and another person doing their legs.  We got VERY personal with a lot of people.  Since they were still wet from the swim, it was hard to apply sunscreen since it wouldn’t rub in, but we did our very best.   IMG_0399

Almost all of the athletes were extremely grateful and kind.   I wish I had a GoPro and could have recorded the entire experience because there are so many different stories to tell.  One lady didn’t know she was chafed on her neck from her wetsuit so when a fellow volunteer slapped some sunscreen on that spot she started screaming uncontrollably and cursing and jumping up and down.  It scared us so badly so one volunteer tried to blow on her neck but it didn’t help.  I can only imagine the intense pain she was in.  Another dude said “HEY WHAT A COOL PARTY” and was dancing the entire time that we were lathering him down.  Some people were grateful for the “massage” that we gave their legs while applying sunscreen there.

I felt so bad for this one poor dude I helped…he had his body markings with something that was obviously not a Sharpie so as I was putting on his sunscreen, I totally made both of his arms black from where the marker ran.  He had to go to the tent to towel off and have his body markings redone.  I felt awful for potentially ruining his race but there was really nothing I could have done differently.  Another dude only wanted it on his nose but his helmet made it super hard to get to so I accidentally poked my sunscreen glove in his eye.  I know that had to hurt, but I was just trying to help.

The lady we met on the bus ended up coming to the spectator area by the sunscreen line and Brittney and I were the ones who got to put the sunscreen on him.  That was super cool since she had told us to look for him.  One guy had just done an Ironman two weeks ago and was doing another one.   I wish I could have had a conversation with every athlete that we helped but of course that was impossible.  I’m just happy to have had the opportunity to experience such a monumental event.

After our last athlete came through, we went home to change, eat lunch, and we ended up coming back to downtown before our river boat tour to watch some people in transition.  The pros were already coming through the transition to start their run.  We were able to see several of the pros and even a few age groupers come through before heading out to the run.  The run portion also ran right by where our boat was, so we saw several people starting their journey to the finish line.  It was amazing!  When our boat cruise was over we headed over the river and were able to see a ton of athletes running on the walking bridge.  They were moving so fast which truly blew my mind.  I was amazed at how many supporters people had there to watch them.  Many families and friends had shirts made, special signs drawn, and even those big heads on sticks of their athletes.  Although it did not put the desire in my heart to ever complete one, it was still so cool to watch happen.  We were even able to watch some people finish.  There was a 2 second difference between the first and second place finishers-literally the closest in Ironman history.  Although we didn’t get to see it in person, the video will about make you cringe because it is SO close.  Very cool moment.  IMG_0420IMG_0414 IMG_0395

I would love to have been able to volunteer for more than one position or to have been around to spectate all day, but of course that is hard since I do not live in the area.  Maybe next year.  In the meantime, I’m so happy to have gotten to experience the wonderful event that Ironman is and to see firsthand the hard work that goes into it.  Those athletes are true champions and warriors.  If you ever get the chance to volunteer then PLEASE  do it.  I promise you won’t regret it.

Race Recap: Hokie Half

Hokie Half Marathon.  Blacksburg, Virginia.  Half Marathon #23.   State #9.  Time: 3:08:49

Since Tennessee is such a short state in terms of vertical mileage, I try to find races that are close(r) to home so that I can drive to them as much as possible.  Virginia is a neighboring state so I knew that I should try to get it done as quickly as possible in order to knock it out.  Unfortunately, Virginia is a longer state so I had to do some research to find one that was within reasonable driving distance.  The Hokie Half Marathon caught my eye and after reading some recaps from other blogs, I decided to do it.  It would only be a four hour drive from my house, making it very convenient.

The dance team that I coach for had a fundraiser breakfast on Saturday morning that I had to attend, so my dad and I headed out early Saturday afternoon.  We had planned to roll into Blacksburg, Virginia around 4:30, pick up my race bib, grab some dinner, and relax the rest of the evening.  Things don’t always go as planned.  After stopping for gas about two hours away from Blacksburg, my dad noticed that my tire looked funny.  Much to my disbelief, I had a massive rip in it.  It’s a miracle it didn’t blow driving down the road.  I quickly Googled some tire stores nearby but none of them were open on a Saturday afternoon.  We decided to try and make it to a Wal Mart about 55 miles away which we fortunately made it.  Getting a new tire took about an hour and a half so I shopped around a bit, bought some snacks for the hotel, and we just sat around.  Not how I imagined the road trip going, but I’m just thankful that we weren’t hurt or stranded along the interstate.   IMG_0260

Packet pickup was held at an awesome high school in Blacksburg.  Seriously, it was at the most beautiful location.  They even had a sweet cross country course with mileage markers mowed into the fields surrounding it.  Pickup was easy and painless.  They had ran out of shirts by the time we got there, but they said they would order more and mail me one.  Hopefully they follow through with this as the shirts were really cool.  We had just missed the Hokie Bird mascot, but I still took advantage of the photo board to take a pre-race selfie.   IMG_0268 (1)

We headed to downtown to grab some dinner but couldn’t find parking.  After driving in circles for what seemed like forever, we called it quits and went to Chick-fil-a.  I really failed on finding a hotel early so we were stuck staying about 30 minutes from Virginia Tech.  Our hotel was great and I was able to fall asleep relatively early.  IMG_0272 (1)

On race morning, we had two options.  I could either ride the bus from VT to the start line, or have my dad drop me off at the start line.  I was worried about congestion and I wanted a little extra sleep, so we opted to have my dad drop me off.  I will say that they utilized charter busses instead of school busses for drop off which is a nice luxury.  Even with drop off, I still got there early.  I was able to use the bathroom (no lines!) and stretch a little.  I was nervous since I’m about 50 pounds heavier than I would like to be and because of my finish last week at the GSM Half.  I knew the course would be extremely hilly so I decided that my strategy would be to power walk all that I was able and then to run on any downhill portion.  The race began on an uphill and the entire race remained fairly hilly.  I kept a very strong walking pace and made sure to slowly run down any downhill portion.  This race did have some downhill, but the majority of downhills were either super short, or a long slow decline that made you even question if you were going downhill.  IMG_0276

The course support was amazing.  There were cops at every single turn along with at least two of the VT’s military program.  They yelled, hollered, clapped, cheered, cowbelled, high fived, and jumped the entire time.  We had names on our bibs so most volunteers called us by name.  It’s the little things, ya know?   Even the cops were yelling for us and running to high five us.  I felt like a superstar…even at the back of the pack.  Water stations were well manned and I was glad that they had signs up way before the water stops that stated which side water would be on and which side Gatorade would be on.  This really helped with the confusion that is sometimes caused with water stations.

This race had many different types of scenery.  We ran around the research campus, we ran on the highway, we ran around the parking lot of a shopping mall, we ran on a greenway path, we ran in a woodsy area (on pavement), we ran on a greenway that was split with runners come back for their final miles, and we ran on country roads next to corn fields.  I felt like I always had something to look at.  On the out and back portion, the runners near the front who were finishing their mile 11 while we were still on 8 or 9 were PHENOMENAL.  Almost every single person either said good job, gave me a high five, or a thumbs up.  There was so much encouragement from other runners which is something you rarely experience since everyone is so busy doing their own thing.  This was probably my favorite part of the race.

After mile 11, we were exposed to the sun and it was beating down hard.  Being on asphalt and wearing a black tank was not helping any.  I stopped for fluid at the mile 12 water station and then pressed onto the finish.  I knew my dad would be waiting so I wanted to finish strong since he doesn’t get to come to a lot of races.  There was a massive uphill before the downhill finish.  I was able to run strong through the finish.  Once in the chute, I collected my finisher’s shirt, medal, and magnet.  This was the first race I ever got a finisher’s shirt at so it was a pretty neat experience.  IMG_2450 IMG_0287

Immediately after finding my dad, I began to feel sick. As usual, the only relief I found was laying down. I was able to find some shade near the food tent while my dad got me some Gatorade and some food.  They had an assortment of chilis, but my belly couldn’t handle hot food on a hot day.  After a quick rest, I grabbed some candy from the candy table (BEST IDEA EVER!!!) and headed to the car.  My dad was the best spectator ever as he found a parking spot that was ridiculously close to the finish.  We were able to get back to the hotel, clean up, and head home.  My belly still didn’t feel right, so I snacked on some Goldfish the car ride back.     IMG_0277

thanks dad for this lovely photo.

thanks dad for this lovely photo.

 

Final results haven’t been posted, but my watch says I crossed in 3:08:46 which would be 21 minutes than my half marathon last week.  This surprised me given how much I walked combined with heat and hills.

Overall, this was a great race experience.  It was well organized and downright fun.  While the course had a lot of tough hills, the support and energy more than made up for it.  This is a great race for anyone looking to run a race in Virginia.