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.

IMG_1719

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

IMG_1726 IMG_1691

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.

Wake Me Up When September Ends

How is it already the middle of September?  Time really does fly and it has seem to be going extra fast here lately.  Let me begin by saying thank you for all of the wonderful thoughts and sentiments on my last post.  I received several comments, emails, and texts from various people telling me that they too have had some of the same thoughts that I wrote about.  It is so nice to know that I’m not alone and that other people have gone through similar struggles.

After my post, I received a message from a gal that I knew in high school telling me that she felt my struggles and offered to start exercising with me.  I was elated that someone was willing to get up super early with me so that if I wanted to exercise in the dark mornings before school then I would have a partner to keep me from harm.  It is pretty scary out there in the morning time.  The fact that I get to have adult conversation before work is a big motivator when my 4:00 alarm goes off in the morning.  She even joined the same gym that I go to so now we can take lots of fun fitness classes together. I’m very thankful for new found friendship and a new workout partner.

sweaty and happy

sweaty and happy

Teaching has been a great experience for me thus far.  I often feel overwhelmed and stretched fairly thin, but having a group of 90 kids each day makes it all worth it.  My coworkers are fun and lively people, and I enjoy going to work each day.  We recently had Spirit Week at school which allowed us to dress up for each theme day.  My favorite day was Decades Day since I got to have some crazy hair and comfy 80’s clothes.  Our kids were probably mortified to be in the presence of such tackiness, but I think they secretly loved it.

Rosie and a crazy 80s gal

Rosie and a crazy 80s gal

do you feel sorry for our students?

do you feel sorry for our students?

Our friends Brittney and Cameron came up to visit us a couple of weekends ago and we loved having them here!  It was their first time to Townsend, so we had so much fun “playing tourist” and showing them around town. We did a little off-roading in their Jeep, drove all over the beautiful Townsend countryside, rode two different Alpine Coasters, and had some delicious food.  We love the time we get to spend with them and it was even better that they got to see where I grew up as well as us doing things we normally wouldn’t do since we are local.  My handsome fella and I will be traveling down to Chattanooga next weekend to spend some time with them and to volunteer for Ironman Chattanooga.  It is going to be a lot of fun.

jeep life

jeep life

goat coaster

goat coaster

This past weekend I did the Great Smoky Mountain Half Marathon that was put on by Vacation Races.  It isn’t very often that a race is in Townsend, and an old friend from Nuun that I met in Seattle now works for Vacation Races so it was just a win-win.  I had an extra entry so I invited my coworker to do it with me with TWO days notice.  Yes, she’s crazy.  I obviously had not trained for the race but knew that I could walk it and enjoy it. I was able to visit the expo briefly on Friday to get my bib and talk to a few folks.  The race began on the campus of the school that I work at and went all the way past my house so it was literally like running home from work.  Crazy stuff.  It was a great race and had an awesome medal.  I carried a handheld water bottle the entire time since they don’t utilize cups at their water stops but each stop had plenty of water and most of them had things like bananas, oranges, and Honey Stingers.  After spectating last year, I was glad to see that the field had more than doubled in size, making it a great time.  I will definitely be doing this race again.

really awesome.  can you find my name?

really awesome. can you find my name?

there i am!

there i am!

my beautiful mountains

my beautiful mountains

racing for the bling

racing for the bling

Last night I went to a special event for teachers at the Titanic attraction.  It counted as professional hours but was a great experience since we got a personal tour of the ship and museum, as well as a lot of hands on training on how to incorporate Titanic in our classrooms.  We had a fantastic dinner catered to us and we felt pretty fancy with our super special VIP passes.  I’ve always loved Titanic and it was great learning about so many different people that were on board and debunking a few myths.  We even met the owner whose husband was the second person to command an exploration of Titanic.  Pretty neat stuff!

first class ticket

first class ticket

Hopefully I will be blogging more in the month of September, but if I don’t then just wake me up when September ends.  I’m looking forward to fall and seeing the leaves change with the cooling temps.  Thanks again for all of the support you guys have shown me here lately.  It reminded me of why I enjoy blogging so much in the first place.  Y’all are the best.

 

The Thing No One Ever Talks About

When I first began writing this blog, I did so with the purpose of documenting my weight loss story in real time.  Over the past four years, this blog has evolved into documenting my love for running, races, and just general life shenanigans.  During those four years I lost weight, gained weight, maintained weight, lost weight, gained weight, lost, plateaued, lost, gained….well, you get the picture.  It hasn’t been an easy battle.  I loved following blogs of others who were in the same boat as me and others who had chosen to document their struggles and triumphs on the world wide web.  My Instagram feed became littered with transformation pics, before and afters, progress pics, daily food journals, and post workout selfies.  I was okay with this because I loved connecting with others and seeing the highlight reel of their life and staying up to date on their progress.  I, myself, had posted pictures of a similar variety.  Last spring (2014) I was in a great place.  My running was stronger than it had ever been, I was fitting into clothes I had never dreamed of wearing, and for the most part, I felt confident.  However, there was still a piece of me that couldn’t be happy with where I was at.  I would look at photos and cringe at how I looked.  I would pick apart every single detail about how I could have sucked in more, or there was major cellulite bulging out of my shorts, or how my face looked puffy.  I was never satisfied.  Looking back at those photos now, I could almost cry because when I see how I looked last year I literally had my dream body.  When I imagine what I want to look like forever, THAT is what I looked like last year.  I just couldn’t see it at the time.  That devastates me.

when i thought i was still morbidly obese.

when i thought i was still morbidly obese.

So, today I want to talk about a topic that I never see talked about.  Weight maintenance and weight gain.

I never see bloggers or Instagrammers talk about this.  You may be able to tell about the struggles through a picture here and there, but it never gets discussed.  Bear with me.

At the end of last summer I began student teaching in order to obtain my teaching license.  I went out and bought a whole new teaching wardrobe since I had a smaller body.  I just knew that being on a set schedule everyday would help me stay on track and even help me become stronger in my running.  Boy, was I wrong.  Lunch trips to the local hibachi joint, candy from my students, cookies and donuts in the teacher workroom, and late night binges due to stress were not in my favor.   School started too early for me to workout before work (I don’t feel safe running alone in the dark) yet I would leave work feeling so stressed and sluggish that working out was just not on my agenda.  I gained a few pounds.  Nothing too major but it was at least slightly noticeable. In November I started training for my marathon.  I just knew that this would be the kick in the butt to help me continue my weight loss journey but it didn’t.  It left me feeling more tired, stressed, and hungry. By the time December rolled around I had probably packed on 10 pounds.

Come January I got an interim position teaching high school.  All hopes for being on a routine went out the door.  One of my student’s parents owned the local Krispy Kreme for crying out loud!  I was able to get in my weekly runs after school and during my planning period but I still had an awful relationship with food.  I couldn’t outrun my diet.  My long runs on the weekends boosted my confidence but the scale was still getting higher and higher.  I did a half marathon in February and had a time I was super happy with even being about 20 pounds above what I was when I formerly had the same time.

looking large.

looking large.

In the weeks leading up to the marathon, I just became really depressed.  I hate saying the word depressed because it’s not truly what I was, but I was just down. My clothes didn’t fit right, I was flabby all over, and I didn’t know if I would be able to do 26.2 miles.  At times I thought my body would fail me, but in reality I was the one who had failed my body.  The marathon came and went and that euphoric feeling of finishing vanished quickly.  I decided to give myself two weeks before running again because I was SO.SICK.OF.RUNNING.  Seriously.  Running seemed so pointless.  Well, those 2 weeks turned into longer than that and before I knew it, August was here and I had packed on 30 pounds.  Yes, you read that right.  I gained 30 pounds this summer. Nothing prepared me for the major emotional downward spiral that can come after a marathon.

I weighed in this week and the scale said 255 pounds.  That’s three pounds heavier than my absolute heaviest of 252.  I could cry just typing that.  It’s embarrassing.  It’s terrifying.  It’s shameful.  And I have no one to blame but myself.  I am the one responsible for every workout missed and for every calorie put into my mouth.

Nothing in my closet fits..not even my fat jeans that I kept around just for kicks.  My workout clothes don’t even fit.  I’m lucky if I can get my sports bra over my head.  I got REAL job teaching 8th grade and had to go waste more money on new clothes so that I would have something to teach in.  It pained me to pay money for clothes knowing that there is no way I should be in that size.  I am horrified to see myself in photos.

No one ever talks about this.  I have felt so alone in this battle of increasing weight.  People talk about how they are 2 pounds down this week or all of their non scale victories.  I don’t read about people struggling with their food addiction, binge eating disorder, and recently developed hatred of exercise.  Am I alone in this??  I have felt so incredibly isolated during all of this.

Why does no one talk about how hard weight maintenance is?  It seems like every time I get near my goal weight, I lose sight of my goals and gain sooo much.  Up and down, up and down.  Now I’m really up and I don’t even know how to get down.

The thing is, I know what it took to get to my goals.  I know the restrictions it took for me to look good in all my pictures from last year.  I know the hunger headaches I had from not eating enough.  I know about the 3 and 4 hour days at the gym trying to work harder.  I know about saying no to friends who want to have lunch so that I won’t be triggered into a binge.  I know about cutting out all of my favorite foods yet still constantly thinking about them.

Deciding to lose weight is a huge commitment.  Deciding to maintain your weight loss is an even bigger commitment.  It’s hard. It’s lonely.  It’s difficult.  It’s a process.  It takes time and effort.  If you have ever lost weight at all then you know that.  It is harder to keep it off than it is to lose it in the first place.  And it honestly pisses me off that no one ever gets real and talks about it because it is SO common.    Like, I’m pretty sure the stats show that a good majority of people who lose a significant amount of weight generally gain some if not all of it back.  In my case, you gain more back.

The other day I was out to eat with some teacher friends and I was struck by how darn good my food tasted.  It tasted good.  It tasted real good.  And then I thought how unhappy I was that I don’t fit into any of my clothes and how I am now at a higher weight than I have ever been at.  It almost doesn’t even seem worth it to try to lose the weight again.  What if I just gain it all back again?  What if it takes me many years to get to goal?  What if I never make it back to where I once was?  All of those questions cripple me with fear.  Honestly, it seems easier to just love and enjoy food and not worry about what my weight is.  But deep down, I know that I will never be truly happy at this size.   I won’t be happy knowing that I can’t buy clothes at a regular store.  I can’t be happy knowing that I’m not reaching my full potential.

So where am I going with this?  I’m just addressing what people who lose weight usually don’t talk about.  I’m really just airing my grievances.   I have been a total failtrain at weight loss and I’m confessing.  I’m letting you know that I haven’t been honest.  I’ve just flown under the radar and just stopped talking about all things running, health, and weight loss.  I’ve let myself down and I’ve let others down.

After a long summer and a few long weeks of August, I think I’m finally ready to dust myself off and get back on the horse.  It won’t be easy.  It won’t be pretty.  But I’m going to try.  I’m going to do it the right way.  That means no major restrictions.  No strict diet of only chicken and oatmeal and yogurt.  I’ll definitely eat those things but my life won’t depend on it.  I’ll spend a healthy amount of time at the gym which means no more 4 hour gym days.  I won’t let it be the end of the world if I have one two many rolls at dinner with friends.  I won’t allow myself to starve for the sake of shedding a pound.  I won’t beat myself up over the number on the scale.  I will lose weight at a healthy pace and not focus on the negatives.  I will set small, realistic, and worthy goals and I will reach them.  And when I reach my goals I will set new goals that include maintenance.  My lifestyle will be sustainable and not just a fad diet.  I can do this.

Please, if you have struggled with weight maintenance, falling off the train, gaining weight, falling out of love with exercise, or anything like this then please know that you are NOT alone.  People everywhere are in the same boat as you but they just don’t always talk about it.  It is easy to share the joys and the ups of your journey.  It is hard to admit defeat and failure.  But you are not alone and there are so many people struggling just like you.  And if you are in the weight maintenance stage and have been doing good, then always reach out and support those who aren’t doing as great as you. Lift them up, encourage them, and offer them your support.  We are all in this together.    Weight loss is hard.  It is super hard.  If it was easy then obesity wouldn’t be a thing.  Just know you are not alone.

I promise to start keeping it real around here with my real thoughts and emotions along with real photos that aren’t me using camera angle to look a certain way.  Honesty is the best policy.  Thanks for reading/listening to me.

Race Recap: Downhill at Dawn Half Marathon

As someone who is racing the states, I try to find races that are geographically convenient to where I live as well as factor in the price.  When a friend from a local running group suggested I join her and one of her friends on a quick weekend race trip to North Carolina, I didn’t need any convincing.  Downhill at Dawn was held in Ridgecrest, NC which was less than a 2.5 hour drive for us.  We made the trip up on a Friday and spent some time shopping at discount stores and outlet malls.  The start takes place at the Ridgecrest Conference Center and fortunately they have several housing options directly on campus that are also tax exempt so you don’t have to pay extra for fees.  We had a little dorm that was directly next to the start line (see photos below) and since it had one big bed and two sets of bunk beds then we each got our own sleeping area.  I will note that the bathrooms are very small and there is no TV in the room so be aware of that if you plan to do this race.  IMG_8456

There's the start line from our room.

There’s the start line from our room.

sleeping quarters

sleeping quarters

We ate at an Italian restaurant for our pre-race meal.  I had pizza (judge me) and it seemed to sit okay on my stomach.  The race began at 6:01 so we had to be up early but it was SO nice having the start line literally right outside the door so that you could take as long as you needed to get ready and then use the bathroom one last time.  I headed to the start at 5:57 and had plenty of time.  Such a rebel, I am.

I stayed near the back because I knew this race would take me quite some time since I had only ran once since the marathon and that run was a race.  We started and I expected lots of downhills since the name has downhill in the title.  I was wrong…BUT I did look at the elevation chart so I knew they were eventually coming.

can you find me??

can you find me??

The first couple of miles featured an out and back section so I was able to stay distracted by looking at the other runners and cheering for them.  I met two super nice Half Fanatics.  One ran up and high fived me as he was doing the “back” portion and then I was able to walk and talk with another for some time.  Around mile 4 the race begins to go downhill which was such a relief.  I was scared they wouldn’t come.

After going downhill on a main road for a bit, we cut onto this gravel/sandy road to continue the downhill portion.  Jennifer had warned me about this so I was expecting lots and lots of gravel but it was mostly compacted sand which was a welcome relief to my legs that were hurting.  Since we were in the mountains there was a lot of shade so I never really felt the sun.  I was sweating buckets but at least the brutal southern June sun was not shining on me.  I wish I could remember the exact point but around mile 9 it started to flatten out.  I enjoyed the change of pace and continued to do a walk/run although there were no set intervals.  I tried not to look at my watch because the last thing I needed during the race was pressure but I did become increasingly convinced that I was not going to make the 3 hour time limit.

There were aid stations about every two miles and the workers at them were FANTASTIC. So nice and fun and motivating.  I’ve never been the type of person to wish for a certain type of drink on a course because I’m just thankful that they have hydration at all, but the orange Gatorade they had was the BEST thing I have ever put in my mouth.  Maybe I was delirious but mannnn it was so good.  My stomach never felt “bad” but it didn’t feel enough to handle one of the two gels that I packed in my belt so I decided to solely rely on liquid as my fuel source.

running next to a geiser

running next to a geiser

I saw a dead snake at mile 11 which was a little scary.  A quick glance at my Garmin told me I was good on time and before I knew it I was making the turn onto the sidewalk to head to town.  Eventually I saw the finish line in sight and began to run a little faster.  My last two miles were the fastest of the day.  I crossed and grabbed my really awesome medal and immediately made my way to the food table.  I was desperately looking forward to chocolate milk but they ran out so I settled for some bite size Nutella packets instead.  Have you ever seen these?  They were the perfect size and I had to keep myself from grabbing a huge handful.

heaven

heaven

It should also be noted that since the race finished at a church, they had INSIDE bathrooms.  How many times does that happen after a race?  Almost never.  We waited in line for a school bus back to the start line but we got SUPER lucky and this fancy church shuttle pulled up that had cushioned seats and air conditioning.  It was wonderful.  Bonus: I had the front seat and no one sat next to me so I had lots of room to stretch out and rest for the trip back up the mountain.   IMG_8453 IMG_8468

My final time was 2:45:29 which I was extremely proud of. I had told my travel partners to start looking for me around 2:45 and I totally nailed it.  What’s crazy is that for so long I tried to get under 3 hours at a half marathon and was never able to and now I feel as though I’m in the worst shape of my life and I know I’m at my heaviest weight yet I still did a 2:45:29.  Not too shabby although I have lots of room for improvement over the next couple of years.

If you need a NC race then I highly recommend this one.  It may be completely in the boonies but it was great in terms of being next to the race start and just general race hospitality.  Thankful to have state 8 under my belt and to have completed 20 half marathons.

 

Happenings Lately

First off, let me say a huge THANK YOU for all of your kind words, comments, messages, and texts on my post about my first marathon.  I loved going back and reading so many encouraging words on what was such a crazy event in my life.  You all are very appreciated!

It is graduation season here in Tennessee and I’ve been to several.  I was fortunate enough to watch my best friend from college graduate with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from our beloved alma mater.  The high school that I taught at this semester also had a beautiful ceremony where I got to see so many of my wonderful students celebrate this chapter in their lives.  Add in my former high school’s graduation and a few elementary graduations and I am about cap and gowned out.  It really is an exciting time in young people’s lives and I really do love attending.  IMG_7843

A week or so ago, I was able to volunteer at a race held in Knoxville.  This particular series rewards its volunteers with “race bucks” so if you volunteer then you get credit towards another race in their series.  I chose the course monitor position and spent my morning standing in the rain with a cowbell making sure that 10K runners knew where to turn while half marathoners continued on the course.  It was nice to get 80 dollars to use at a future race while cheering so many people on at the same time.  IMG_7989

The weather here in East Tennessee has been beautiful and I’ve been taking advantage of getting outside.  The evenings are especially nice and so my boyfriend and I recently spent some time at the river painting ourselves with river rocks.  If you ever visit the Townsend area, be sure to spend time on the water and enjoy all that nature has to offer. IMG_8019

This past weekend I ran in the Expo 5000.  I do this race every year but this year had a new course and I was also able to volunteer at the packet pickup before I ran.  Quick story: I have this really sweet friend that I met via Instagram named Katie and last year she was in town for this race and we met up.  Come to find out this schoolyear that one of my coworkers was her college roommate.  What a small world.  She was in town again this year and so we took a picture (of course we did).  This race was literally the first time I have ran since the marathon.  My body was super confused and I totally forgot how hard running really is.  Luckily I was able to have a really nice negative split and ran mile 1 in 12:18, mile 2 in 11:02, and mile 3 in 10:33 with the final .1 at a 8:35 pace.  I was pleased with my effort given my lack of running here lately.  Hopefully in the coming weeks I will get back to a normal routine and start running again.  My body definitely needed a break and so did my mental state.   IMG_8114 IMG_8126

Memorial Day was a huge success and I teamed up with my dad, uncle, and one of my students to play in a golf tournament. My handsome fella drove around spectating. All of the proceeds go to supporting kids’ sports in our small town which is critical given how funding can be limited with such a small community.  It was the perfect day to hit the links and enjoy crushing some golf balls.  Our score wasn’t as good as last year but at least we finished under par.   FullSizeRender

Today is my sweet Momma’s birthday so wish her a HAPPY BIRTHDAY.  She means so much to me and you all probably feel like you know her because I talk about her so much.  I love her a lot and hope she has a special day today.  Happy Hump Day. y’all! IMG_2686

My First Marathon: Flying Pig Race Recap

Y’all.  I did it.  I completed a marathon.  I crossed a finish line after covering 26.2 miles.  To some this may not be a big deal, but to me it is a HUGE deal.  My body was able to do what I never dreamed of it doing and I pushed myself to accomplish a longtime goal of mine.  Warning: this post is long and has lots of pictures.  I want to remember every detail of this event.

Thursday night was spent packing since I like to wait until the last minute to do everything. My sweet friend Holly stopped by with a wonderful card that had some uplifting words including a gift card to Cracker Barrel.  Who doesn’t love a little homecoming?  Brittney had also given me a pig Pandora charm for my bracelet when I visited her a couple of weeks ago.  I am so thankful to have such wonderful friends who lift me up and encourage me to achieve my crazy goals.  Momma and I headed north to Cincinnati early Friday morning.  Luckily it was only about a 4.5 hour drive and we enjoyed seeing lots of horse farms along the way which was exciting since it was also Derby weekend.  We were able to check into our hotel super early which we weren’t expecting and we rested a little bit before heading into expo.  Tip: It is MUCH cheaper to stay across the river in Kentucky than directly in the city.  Downtown was super busy but after finding parking we were ready to explore all the fun vendors that the expo would have to offer.   IMG_7595

here piggy piggy piggy

here piggy piggy piggy

The expo was laid out a little differently than last year, but it was nicer since packet pick up wasn’t held at a separate location.  I had chills when I picked up my race packet and made Momma take a picture of this monumental moment.  I told the volunteer that it was my very first marathon and he was so happy for me and offered me lots of encouragement.  There were a lot of cool photo opportunities spread throughout the expo including signs to pose next to and a local company even offered free backdrop photos like you see below. We took advantage of all that was offered and I made a few “26.2” purchases including a cute Christmas ornament.  Asics was the main sponsor so I purchased two race shirts from their booth that was Flying Pig specific.  I’ll probably wear those shirts forever.

thanks to this nice volunteer for giving me my race packet

thanks to this nice volunteer for giving me my race packet

fun expo backdrops

fun expo backdrops

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lots of decorated pigs around

lots of decorated pigs around

mother was in bag heaven

mother was in bag heaven

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official bib

official bib

After the expo we made a trip to Target to get some essentials and last minute items before heading to eat dinner at Skyline Chili.  When in Cincy, right?  We were able to spend the remainder of the evening resting and getting ready for the exciting weekend.

Saturday morning required a super early wakeup call since Momma was doing the 5k and Bryan was doing the 10k and 5k.  We arrived early and were able to scope out some prime spectating spots for the race and check out the Great American Ballpark. I was feeling pretty tired but I enjoyed being able to support them at their respective races and it was so motivating to be able to cheer on so many runners at the finish line. This gave me a little boost for the next day. Saturday night we headed to Cheddar’s for a pre-race meal of chicken and potatoes and it was delicious.  I prayed that the meal would rest easy on my belly and that I would have no problems on race day.  Once back at the hotel, I laid out my race clothes to make sure I had everything I would need for the marathon.  I was in bed at 7:30 and I think I finally fell asleep around 8:45.

momma after her 5k

momma after her 5k

we loved exploring

we loved exploring

outfit is race ready

outfit is race ready

Sunday I woke up around 4 and was able to take a shower and eat breakfast.  My stomach was a ball full of nerves.  It was a quiet ride to the race start.  My mind was racing and I desperately wanted to be positive but inside I was terrified and afraid.  I always have a fear of the unknown and the marathon was definitely unknown.  I did not know how my body would respond to 26.2 miles.  I did not know if the weather would become brutally hot.  I did not know if my stomach would cooperate (it usually never does). I did not know if my fueling plan would be effective.  I was scared.  Once parked I stepped out of the car and had Momma help me put my bib on straight.  That’s when the tears came.  I started crying right there in the parking lot before the race had even started.  Looking back, I’m kind of embarrassed that I was so emotional but fear is a crippling emotion.  We were able to take refuge at the Bengals’ stadium where I was able to use the bathroom a few times.  Thank goodness for indoor bathrooms at races!

Before I knew it, Bryan told me it was time to head to the start.  I was still crying but I tried to remain positive in my head.  Being nervous wasn’t going to help anything.  I gave Momma a huge hug and told her I would see her in 26.2 miles.  We made our way to our corral which was wayyyyy far back.  Flying Pig does a great job of corral organization so I was very pleased with that.  We saw fireworks go off which signaled the start of the race.  After about 15 minutes it was finally time to make our way to the start line.  Once it was in view I knew there was no turning back and just like that my Garmin was on and we were running.  I was able to spot my mom on the left side of the road and she screamed and snapped a few pictures.  I needed that one last boost before truly beginning the journey of a marathon.

and we are OFF

and we are OFF

We ran for a little while and then took a walk break once we got to the first bridge.  I felt great.  So great in fact that I wondered what I had ever been nervous about in the first place.  We did our 3:1 run/walk intervals and kept a nice easy pace.  I was feeling great.  The crowd support was unreal.  People were screaming everywhere and had signs galore.  I particularly loved running past the senior citizen home where the elderly were outside with humorous signs such as “hurry up, I’m missing Bingo”.   We were surrounded by runners and everyone looked so happy.  I didn’t take fluids until around mile 4.  I will make note that the forecast had predicted unseasonably high temps so Flying Pig made sure there was an aid station every single mile which was AMAZING.  Around mile 5 I took my first gel and we began the climb up “the hill”. I”m from the mountains so I usually don’t mind hills but this hill was killer.  We mostly walked and then ran when we could.  Bryan talked strategy to me and helped me overcome it.  After finally reaching the top of the hill it was time for the marathoners to split off from the half marathoners.  I didn’t really anticipate how much this would bother me.  All of a sudden there was hardly anyone around us.  Mind you, there were actually A LOT of people around us but it seemed like hardly any compared to all the half marathoners we were just with.

We continued our run/walk and it seemed to be working out.  We had slowed down but I was totally okay with that.  I was okay with being last place as long as I finished.  The aid stations were so supportive and people were so kind.  They offered Coke, candy, kleenex, anything we needed.  It was great.  I took another gel around mile 11 and began to hydrate at every station.  I was sweating profusely and knew I needed liquid.  At every water stop I would take the gatorade cup and fill the rest of it with water to dilute it and then would drink an additional cup of water.  At first I could hear my belly sloshing but I was thankful for the calories and the hydration.  We went through a really awesome neighborhood around mile 15 that had a lot of crowd support.  One lady said “great job, you’re almost there” and I just looked at her and said “no we are not” to which she then asked the person with her how much longer that we had to go.  I found it to be comical because 11 more miles to go was obviously not almost there. Little kids were everywhere to offer high fives which I LOVED.  Little kid high fives are the best! About a mile later there was a station offering bacon.  Wow, that sounded good but I said no.   Good thing I wasn’t volunteering at that station because I would have ate it all myself.

By this point there was a lot more walking than running and that was okay.  We pressed on.  Bryan willed me to run to certain landmarks like a phone pole in the distance or to the next water stop.  We were moving forward and that’s all that mattered.

Around mile 19.5 I began to feel dizzy.  My stomach didn’t hurt necessarily but I felt bouts of nausea and the road seemed to be moving.  Bryan was in front of me and I yelled to him that I had to lay down.  Yes, lay down.  In the road.  In a race.  I’m the kind of person that if I’m going to get sick then I just need to lay down.  So that’s what I did.  I said I just needed a quick minute.  Medics came and I was so adamant about being FINE.  I was scared that if they thought I was in any kind of serious distress that they would either pull me from the course (not an option) or try to give me and IV or something.  I took a gel while I was laying there which made it slightly better.  It crossed my mind that I still had more than 6 miles to go.  I asked myself how I would ever make it that far feeling the way I did.  But, alas, I got up.  We kept going.  The dizziness got a little better and we made progress.  It was obvious at this point that running was over.  It was going to be a long walk back to the finish.  Another 1.5 miles down the road we were on a shoulder of an interstate portion.  The sun was brutal and there was no shade in sight.  I had to lay down again.  Poor Bryan probably hated me and just wanted me to get up and go.  A volunteer came over and offered me a bottle of water that I dumped on my head and it felt heavenly.  Again, medics came over but I played the “just give me a minute” card.  One medic said that the course conditions were now “code red” which meant that they were dangerous.  I did not care because I had a marathon to finish.  After continuing on we passed under a tunnel.  There was a lady there handing out cups of ice.  It was shaded and felt so nice so I decided to sit down and take a gel while we had some shade.  I used the ice to rub my face and neck and wrists.  I even stuck one piece down my sports bra.  I kept that cup of ice for almost the rest of the race.

It was very late in the race at this point and the crowds had died down, however I was so pleased to see that there were still people out there cheering.  Some people had been there since daylight and they were still there to offer support. This encouraged me in ways I can’t describe.  Other aid stations had ice and it became my saving grace.  I had one ice cup in each hand and I just chomped away as I walked.  I was going to finish this thing even if I was dead last.  Several places had misting showers with water hoses and I also took full advantage of those.

We met so many wonderful people from mile 23 on.  One guy had completed a marathon in every state TWICE and was so kind.  I met a sweet lady who was completing her 53rd marathon and she offered so many nice words.  We kept going.  Bryan just walked right along with me and I apologized over and over that this is how the race turned out but we kept going.  I was honestly surprised that my belly had held up.  It wasn’t perfect and it probably hated having so much Gatorade and gel in it but it didn’t give me trouble like it usually did and I was so incredibly grateful for that.  A medic station was handing out ice cold wash rags and it was the best thing I’ve ever felt on my body.  I wore that rage like my life depended on it.  Mile 24 is where I became pretty emotional.  Someone said “you’re almost there” and I started crying and yelled to Bryan that I wish people would stop saying that because it is a LIE.  I know they were just trying to be nice but I was a wreck at that point.  I texted my Momma at mile 25 to let her know how close I was.  at 25.2 there was a huge clock and sign that read “one mile to go” and that’s when I lost it.   That ‘s when I realized that I was really going to finish. It was really happening.  Only a mile left.  I cried and cried and cried.  A Team in Training coach saw me and came up to check on me and I just wailed that I was so happy.  He gave me a hug and we kept going.

Finally we saw the Finish Swine.  Finally.  It was so beautiful.  We were entering the white gates of the long finish chute and I could see it in the distance.  I was shocked that people were still standing around to cheer.  As we came over the last little hill I saw my Momma.  She was standing IN the chute.  We started running and I’ve never been so happy in my whole life.  I wanted to run to hug her but knew that I had to just get to the finish line.  It was the greatest moment of my life.  There it was and I was crossing it.  I cried like I have never cried and smiled so big that my face hurt.  A wonderful volunteer gave me a medal and I hugged her.  I was so elated.  There are no words to describe the elation.  My finish time was 7:13.  I can’t believe I was out there for 7 hours.  Wow.  I wanted to be embarrassed about how incredibly slow that was especially considering my paces during training but I was so freaking PROUD of that time.  Who cares how long it took?

rounding 3rd and coming home

rounding 3rd and coming home

pure joy

pure joy

After making it through the medals, Byran went to get his 4-way challenge medal and I hobbled through the tunnel looking for two things: food and my mother.  When I came out of the other side I saw her and cried even more. She thought I was upset but I was just so thrilled and my tears were pure happiness.  One Flying Pig official told us to take as much food as we wanted so I was able to stock up on Sun Chips, crackers, and string cheese.  Bryan met back up with us and we snapped a few photos.  The car was parked fairly far away so Momma went to get it while we waited on a street downtown.  I was hurting pretty bad at this point so I just laid down on the sidewalk (again).  It was so nice to just sit and bask in the moment before she came to pick us up.

sobbing and wanting my sweet momma

sobbing and wanting my sweet momma

can you see the tears??

can you see the tears??

JOY. pure JOY.

JOY. pure JOY.

so happy

so happy

Once back at the hotel I had to assess the damage.  The only issue I had was chafing along my bra line.  Even though I applied a ton of Body Glide, I did sweat more than normal and had poured a lot of water over me during the race so chafing was to be expected.  My skin also had some wicked tan lines from being in the sun all day. Thankfully I wasn’t burnt since my mom put sunscreen on me that morning.  After a shower, I felt like a million bucks.

My beautiful friend, Lindsay, came over to our hotel room once we got settled.  She had actually came to the race earlier wearing an awesome shirt to support me but had to leave for a meeting before I made it to the finish line.  She accompanied my mother and I to my post race dinner of Steak n Shake and we were able to catch up.  It was so nice to be able to talk about my race experience and have her understand since she has also been in a similar marathon situation.  Lindsay helped me put my coveted 26.2 magnet on my car which was something that I had been looking forward to ever since I signed up for the marathon.  We made plans to meet for lunch the following day before Momma and I left town.

love this girl

love this girl

the moment i have been waiting for

the moment i have been waiting for

I slept like a baby on Saturday night.  My legs ached in a way that I did not know was possible.  No amount of pain reliever medicine helped and the only thing that brought any kind of mild relief was moving them.  So I laid in bed and just moved my legs back and forth.  Sleep felt wonderful and I slept with my medal by my side all night long.

It was time for us to head South on Monday.  We met Lindsay for lunch and took a trip to IKEA before heading home.  I wore my medal the entire drive home and tried to catch up with some friends.  I was overwhelmed with the amount of people who texted, called, wrote Facebook posts, and commented on my race pictures.  I tried my very best to respond to everyone and was just thrilled with the outpouring of love that I felt.

It has now been four days since I became a marathoner and I could not be more happy. Would I do it again?  Probably not.  I just don’t enjoy that long distance. Half marathons are more my jam.  Regardless, I became a marathoner and now for the rest of my life I will be able to say that I completed a marathon.  It wasn’t pretty and it took me forever but I did one.  And that, my friends, is something worth celebrating.