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.

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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.

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.

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.

 

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

IMG_7646

lots of decorated pigs around

lots of decorated pigs around

mother was in bag heaven

mother was in bag heaven

IMG_7618

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.

Race Recap: Little Rock Half Marathon

When I began my quest to run a half marathon in all fifty states, I knew for sure that the Little Rock Marathon would be my Arkansas race.  I had read so many race recaps on this particular race and it just looked like a fun time.  They are known for their full marathon medals but their half looked fairly sweet as well.  East Tennessee suffered a massive ice storm in mid-February and it continued for a good long while.  The school system that I teach in was shut down for over two weeks.  I pitched the idea of going to Arkansas to run this race to my Daddy and he agreed to make the trip with me.  We left early on Saturday morning and made the 9 hour drive to Little Rock.  We had chosen to stay in North Little Rock (across the river) to save money on a hotel and we were fortunate enough to find a steal of a deal that was less than a four minute drive to the start line. You cannot beat that.   photo (3) photo (5)

The expo was very well organized and the volunteers were some of the friendliest I have met.  They had several themed stations set up for photo opportunities including a massive pirate ship in the center with real pirates.  My Daddy had never been to an expo before and was blown away by the fact that people were selling a pair of socks for 10 dollars.  It was quite the experience.  After the expo we took a cable car ride around Little Rock to learn the history.  I’ve never seen a cable car in real life so I felt like a real city girl riding around in it.  The tour guide noted that the USS Razorback was very close to where we were and suggested going to tour it so we took his advice.  My father is former military and likes to see things that relate to military history so he was excited about touring a submarine.  It was only about 7 dollars for an hour tour of it and the tour guide was very knowledgeable about the sub and all the history that it holds. I’ll admit that I did get claustrophobic during a few parts of it.  I would advise anyone to check it out if they are ever in the area.   photo (4) photo 1 photo 2

We spent the rest of the day lounging in the hotel and found a nearby Cheddars restaurant for a pre-race meal.  I don’t “test” out meals very often prior to running but usually chicken and a starch work well for my belly.  We even splurged and had a massive cookie/ice cream dessert.  Thankfully Arkansas is an hour behind my usual time zone so by the time 8pm rolled around I was ready for bed.  I had made a makeshift pirate costume to run in for Sunday but looming rain forecasts had me worried if I would be able to wear it.

Race morning came and I woke up before my alarm rang.  I felt rested but a little nervous.  This was supposed to solely be a training run and my only goal was to run in less than 3 hours so that I would be forced to go at a super easy pace and take multiple walk breaks.  It was drizzly on race morning when we ventured to downtown and found a parking spot.  I was able to meet up with the Half Fanatic and Marathon Maniac group and get a picture taken prior to walking to the start line.  Once near the starting corrals I made a last minute decision to jump in line for the portapotties.  I finished right as the race started and my Daddy was super concerned that I was missing it but I assured him that since my corral was so far behind the start that I would have plenty of time.  I was right. photo 1 (1) photo (6)

The race itself was fantastic.  There were people everywhere and all the fellow runners that I met were super encouraging and nice.  With a light rain sinking into our skin, it was hard not to just laugh about it.  All of the miles were very clearly marked and you could see them in the distance.  My biggest complaint early on in the race was a handcycle that had either stopped for a break or just fell behind.  He was screaming at participants to move out of his way and was downright rude.  He literally would run straight into the heels of people which had to hurt.  Obviously it was harder for him to maneuver the crowds since he wasn’t on his feet but he still did not have to be so hateful.

I was able to run the first four miles of the race and I kept at about a 12:30 pace.  There was a huge amount of crowd support that really made me take my mind off the distance.  This course is by no means flat and the most annoying part of it was that the “hills” were really just inclined but they were soooo long which made it seem like they lasted forever and then the downhill inclines seemed like flatland.  We ran past the Governor’s Mansion and he was outside with his wife (and bodyguards) high fiving runners. Several people stopped for photos but I chose not to.  It was nice knowing that a man of his political power would be out there encouraging us peasant runners.  My favorite part of the race was the Couch Potato Mile.  This portion was a strip of race that had couches lining the streets on both sides.  The volunteers were handing out tater tots, french fries, potato chips, donuts, and beer.  They even gave us all a sticker that said Couch Potato Mile.  I’ve never seen anything like that before and loved the quirkiness that it gave the race.

Throughout the race several people asked me for an arggghhhh matey since I was in a pirate outfit.  I was even able to see a friend from back home out on the course who was doing the full. I was completely soaked with rain by the 10 mile mark and walked most of the race from then on. I was able to text my Daddy at each mile marker to let him know where I was at and when to be expecting me.   photo 2 (1)

Around mile 12.5 Maybelline beauty  cosmetics had a station set up where you could get beads and lip gloss for your finish line photos.  I grabbed some beads to put around my neck and placed the lip gloss in my running pack.  That was such a cool touch and another unique thing to this race.  Finally I could hear the finish line and had it in sight.  There were people everywhere cheering and the announcer was booming calling everyone’s name out.  I spotted my dad in the crowd and hollered at him so he would know that I was finishing.  2:54:53 was my official finish time and I was elated to be complete with another race.  This makes my 7th state completed and my 18th half.

The post-race chute was incredibly organized.  I was able to get my medal, some food, and my space blanket and then make my way to the reunion area. Oh, and the post race food was “snacks” but they were so delicious and perfect for what I was craving.  Chocolate milk and goldfish may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it was just what I needed and wanted in that moment.  I was able to locate my dad and then we stopped by the merchandise table and picked up a souvenir shirt since they were marked down to five dollars. Since I had a spectator I chose not to check a bag which made me glad because the bag check line was extremely long.  Something to think about if you ever do this race.  photo 5

On the way back to the hotel we stopped by a donut shop and grabbed a bite to eat.  Our hotel allowed us an extra two hours to check out which we ended up needing so I was super glad to not have to worry about rushing out the door. Overall this was a great race (despite the weather) that I would recommend to anyone. It was well organized, a fun atmosphere, and had lots to offer runners of all capacities.

Side note: due to a port strike on the West Coast, finishers medals were stuck at sea.  The race directors contacted everyone several days before the race to let us know the situation and even worked hard to get us some plastic medals so that we would have a tangible medal upon finishing.  They are mailing all medals at no cost to us so I’ve been very impressed with their professionalism.  Do this race, y’all!

Race Recap: Run Like a Diva Half Marathon

Have you ever signed up for a race really far in advance and just sort of forgot about it?  Back in March my Momma, Brittney, and I signed up for the Divas Half Marathon in Peachtree City, Georgia.  It was a race we decided to do purely for fun and it would make for a good weekend getaway girls trip.  Race week was upon us before we knew it and I began to get nervous.  I could obviously complete the distance but the heat and humidity worried me.  It took a lot of reminding for me to come to terms that this race was for fun.

Brittney and I took a half day off from teaching so that we could have plenty of time to make it to Atlanta and not feel rushed.  Momma and I picked Brittney up and the fun began.  We made a pit stop in Chattanooga for a piece of cake at the famous City Café.  It is literally impossible for me to come through Chattanooga and not stop for cake.  Try it out if you are ever in the area.  After our brief stop, we were back on the road.   photo 2

We decided to head to Expo before doing anything else to ensure we would have plenty of time to browse and get our packets.  Packet pick up was in a field house and it was basically a cluster thanks to all the cars in one tiny area.  Luckily we found a parking spot and headed inside.  Most probably will not agree with me but I love expos.  I like to see products in person and obtain some samples and just look around.  This expo was extremely underwhelming and left us feeling slightly cheated.  They did not even have fuel which put us in a bind since Brittney had planned on grabbing some gels.  Packet pick up was efficient and the volunteers were very friendly.  Mom had decided to drop down to the 5k due to some knee issues and it was no problem. We all had personalized bibs and my Momma’s said “Go Momma Pat”.  We loved this feature.  My big complaint was the shirts.  At registration I was excited that they had sizes up to 3X because a lot of times women feel left out when they can’t order their size.  However the shirts ran entirely too small.  Brittney ordered a medium and ended up taking my 2X shirt while I bumped up and squeezed into my Momma’s shirt that she ordered.  That was kind of a bummer so hopefully Divas will work on that issue for future races. photo 1

After getting our packets we hit up one of our go-to places for dinner.  Outback never disappoints.  Our server did not know that there was a half in town so we got to explain to her what a race was and she mentioned that her and her boyfriend recently started running.  She even wrote us a sweet note on our bill.  We were all three pleased with our meal.  photo 4

Race morning came and I don’t think any of us actually wanted to run.  We were tired and not looking forward to running in 100% humidity.  Thankfully I was able to eat a peanut butter sandwich and banana for breakfast.  We stopped in the lobby to request late checkout and I sure am glad we did because it was then that I noticed that I did not have my bib.  Rookie move.  Once we got on the road we began to realize that traffic was going to be an issue.  Cars were lined up for miles and we watched helplessly as the time we were supposed to be on the shuttle passed.  Finally after what seemed like hours we made it to the field for parking.  Busses pulled up and it was every woman for themselves.  People were seriously crazy.  We made it right on time and we obviously panicked for nothing although in the future I would highly recommend  a better parking situation.

The 5k started right on time and we stood by the starting chute in an attempt to cheer on my Momma.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to see her so we wandered around to stretch and hydrate a little before it was our turn.  This race used corrals but people sort of stood wherever which was kind of frustrating but it was all for fun so we didn’t really mind.  I’m not sure if there was an actual gun start but everyone started running and we followed suit.  The first couple of miles were on roads and had a few hills.  The hills weren’t like the ones that we have in Knoxville but were more long inclines.  We decided to run the first three miles and then switch to run/walk intervals after that.  The humidity was out in full force but I’m glad that the race organizers were honest when they said that the course was shaded.  The sun was rarely on us at any point in the race.

Around the three mile mark the course switched to a cart path.  I honestly wasn’t looking forward to this section but I ended up LOVING it because you never knew what was going to come next and it felt like a casual run on the greenway instead of a half marathon.  The only hard part was a few congestion issues but even that was rare.  Water stops were plentiful.  I read on the Divas Facebook page that some women were complaining about the lack of water stations but Brittney and I would both agree that were far more than any other race we have done.  I believe we counted ten and two of them towards the end were only a half mile apart.  Given how hot and humid it was, I was beyond thankful for plenty of hydration.  The cart path allowed the race to remain shaded and we kept a solid pace with our run/walk intervals.  After mile five we took some gel and that really boosted our energy for the rest of the race.  Our run/walk intervals dropped to about 3ish minutes running to 1:30 walking.  I was kind of disappointed to see our pace drop but I can honestly say we were having SO. MUCH. FUN.  Chatting with Brittney made the time fly by and even though we were quite literally dripping with sweat, we were enjoying ourselves.  I kept commenting on how this is one of the only half marathons I have ever done that I actually had a good time at.  We texted my Momma at every mile marker since we knew she was waiting on us at the finish line and she sent lots of encouraging texts our way.  photo

Finally we were within range of the finish line.  Some local high school cheerleaders were handing us feather boas and tiaras so that we would look like true divas at the finish line.  Brittney and I both passed on the boa but took a tiara.  The finish was at the corner of a long incline.  We put our pride to the wind and powerwalked up that hill like it was our job and kept a lookout for my Momma the entire time.  Once we rounded the corner we took off and finished strong.  There was pink everywhere and so many people yelling and cheering for all finishers.  I could hear Momma screaming the loudest of anyone.  The finish line chute was fantastic.  Handsome fireman were there to hand out our medals and they had volunteers there to give us champagne and roses.  We were truly pampered like Divas.  The post race food selection didn’t have a lot of variety but it was nice to have volunteers to hand us our snacks.  We found my sweet Momma who ROCKED her 5k and made our way back to the shuttle since we were already cutting it close on check out time at the hotel.  photo (5) photo (1)

Once we showered we were on the road headed back to good ole Tennessee but not without a stop for post race refueling at The Varsity.  We ordered every artery clogging thing on the menu and didn’t even think twice about it.  We also swung by IKEA to check out some things since Brittney and Momma have never been.  It was a lot to take in but my gosh how can you not love that place?  photo (2) photo (3)

I think all three of us were thankful to finally get home and get some rest.  It was a quick trip and although the race had a few logistical issues, it was a great course with plenty of water and support and the bling was completely perfect.  I would definitely do this race again and I’m already looking forward to my next destination race.   photo (4)

Have you done a Divas race or an all womens race?  What is your favorite post race meal?

Race Recap: Spring Sprint 5k

Two years ago I did this race to celebrate my birthday and ended up getting a hefty PR.  So when the race feel the week of my birthday again I threw the idea out to Brittney and Coach Bryan that we could make this our spring goal race while the weather was still ideal and use it as a little pre-celebration to my birthday.  While we didn’t officially set an actual time we had hoped to run it in, both Brittney and myself had the goal of PRing which would be anything below a 28:36 for me and 28:10 for her.  We had both put in the hard training and while we hadn’t specifically trained just with this race in mind, our bodies were prepared to give it all we had and leave nothing out on the course.  I will be honest in saying we were hoping to have anything in the 27 minute range.

The day before the race I had some serious stomach issues and got very ill at school.  I texted Brittney while laying out in the middle of the hallway with my legs up the wall trying not to pass out and told her that this had better go away by the next morning.  Luckily for me I felt better as the day went on and I was ready for race day.

Race morning wasn’t super eventful.  I ate my usual breakfast of toast and peanut butter and then met Bryan and Brittney at the race site.  It was a smaller crowd and I was thankful to see some familiar faces and get some socializing in while attempting not to stress about what we were about to embark on.  Brittney and I chose not to wear our Garmins and to completely trust Bryan who would be pacing us.  The goal was to run consistent and even splits and then have a strong finish. After getting to the start line we realized we would have to line up fairly close to the front due to no chip timing.  This wasn’t really a problem since it was a smaller race and I never got the feeling that we were holding anyone up.

PRERACES

The course started out going directly up a long incline.  It wasn’t steep or anything but it was definitely an incline.  My favorite part about this course in particular is that it is held on the entire street so basically the course is wide open meaning little congestion.  We took our time getting up the hill and both of us commented how the pace felt a lot easier than we had expected.  It was nerve-wracking not wearing a Garmin but I completely trusted Bryan and also took lots of joy in passing some other people.  The first mile really did fly by because after what seemed like two minutes of running we hit the first water stop and the timer called out 8:55.  We were right on pace with even a little time to spare and I was ecstatic.  Slightly after that we made our way up the biggest hill in the course and I began to struggle.  Bryan reminded me that we had a downhill after it and a lot of flatness but it didnt’ help as much as I thought.  We made it up and then right around the halfway mark I lost focus.  It may have been the distress of a 7-year-old hysterically crying that threw me off but I just lost the groove and fell back.  It was completely my fault and I just watched as Brittney and Bryan seemed to get further and further away.

Prior to the race we had told each other that if one of us fell back that the other would keep going no matter what.  We also decided that even if both of us fell back that Bryan needed to maintain the pace so we would know where we were at in terms of being behind.  I tried frantically to catch back up but there was no hope.  The caller at mile number two called out 18:36 which wasn’t terrible but definitely not where I wanted to be.  I was actually surprised I had still gotten there that quickly despite the walk breaks I was forced to take.  Even though I knew a PR was basically out of the question at that point, I reevaluated my goals and decided to shoot for a sub 30.  It was around that time two years ago that I got sub 30 for the first time and it was the greatest feeling of all time.  The last time I had gotten any 5k race below 30 minutes was June 2012.  Quite some time ago.

I slugged through the final mile and came to the turn that led to a long straightaway finish.  I didn’t feel strong but I didn’t feel completely depleted either.  I couldn’t see what the race clock said but Bryan came back for me and told me I needed to push it to get under 30. Push it, I did.  Final clock time was 29:53 which was a sub 30 and I should have been happy.  That final kick took everything out of me and I walked out the finish chute and just laid in someone’s driveway.  I’m not sure if it was disappointment or just an overall emotional high from the race, but tears just poured out of my eyes.  I couldn’t make them stop.  Internally I knew I looked ridiculous and had absolutely no reason to be upset but I literally couldn’t make it stop.  Bryan and Brittney ended up finishing in 27:33 which was obviously a huge PR so I was super excited for my sweet friend even though there was that slight thought that I could have had a PR of over a minute had I been able to stay with them.

coach bryan

They had amazing post race food and I ate one of those chocolate mini-donuts.  It was lovely.  We stuck around for awards/door prizes and it was a good thing we did because Brittney actually placed 3rd in our age group and won herself a  nice little medal!  So proud of her.  Even if the race didn’t go as planned, I’m so thankful to have run a 5k in under 30 minutes and it can only get better from here.  I’m excited to see where my training takes me next.

Oh, and after the race we spent some time at Neyland Stadium for my alma mater’s spring football game.  It is dubbed the Orange and White Game (our school colors) and it is basically a scrimmage to get fans excited for the most exciting time in the South…fall football!  It was a beautiful way to spend the afternoon!

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Race Recap: 2014 Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon (Relay)

It has hard to believe that four years have passed since I crossed the finish line of my first half marathon. I felt like I died trying, but I made it there and that’s why Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon will always hold a special place in my heart. The following year I was able to run this event as part of the Biggest Winner team and then the next year I set my half PR. Last year I was able to walk it with my Momma and friend, Yvonne. Not only am I a participant on race day, I’ve also been fortunate enough to be able to volunteer extensively for event.

The week leading up to race day, my training partner/BFF Brittney and I joined several other ladies to have a “bib party”. Basically we all meet and put name labels and timing chips on all bibs involved in marathon weekend. This year we labeled over 8200 bibs. I’m happy to report that I did not get a paper cut this year which is a major success given my injuries the past three years.

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This was my third year on the Marathon Organizing Committee (MOC) and I was thrilled to be able to be part of such a hardworking group. In the weeks leading up to race day, we had a few meetings to discuss the ins and outs of race weekend and spent quite some time checking out the numbers. This year was going to be our biggest event yet! I got Brittney on board and she became the captain for Kid’s Area and was a valuable asset on Expo Day. I joined my longtime friend Robyn as a swag bag captain even though she did most of the work. Primarily the jobs involved were stuffing all of the goody bags that participants would receive as well as hand them out on race day.

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Expo was a joy to work as always and our day started promptly at 7:30am in anticipation of all the runners who would come through when the doors opened at 9:00. Expo is one of my favorite parts of race weekend because of the hustle and bustle and excitement that fills the air.   Everyone is there for a sole purpose and you just can’t help but smile. I also love seeing and catching up with so many people who I might only see on this one weekend. This year was probably my favorite Expo to date!

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As an Expo worker, I’m on my feet (on concrete floors) for almost 14 hours. That does not equate well to running the next day. When Brittney and I talked about doing the half this year, we both decided to form a team for the 4-person relay. Neither of us had done the relay yet so it was a perfect opportunity to still race and get a medal yet run a shorter distance thanks to sore and tired legs. Our “coach” Bryan was doing the half so he would be our first leg and then we recruited our friend Scott to join us also. Thinking of a team name with a theme was tougher than we thought but we settled on Green Legs and Ham. The idea was for Bryan, Brittney, and I to wear green compression sleeves and then Scott would wear red and be our “ham” which totally suits his personality. Spoiler alert: Scott’s hammy personality really shined through on race day when he showed up as Waldo. Logistically we had worked everything out and we all opted to go to exchanges as a group instead of spread ourselves out.

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The best part of race day was knowing that my sweet Momma was ending her journey on the Biggest Winner team and that she was going for a fast half marathon. Just in case y’all didn’t know…my Momma is an incredibly fast walker so add in the “shuffling” that she has been doing and she was ready to be unstoppable. I was so thrilled for her. We got up on race day and ate our normal breakfast and made the hour commute to Knoxville. It was suuuuper cold on race day so we were glad to get warmed up on our walk across town to the convention center. Once inside, we easily found our team and the excitement began to amp up. Part of being a member of the Biggest Winner meant Momma and her teammates had a personal photographer on race day. David Luttrell was on hand to capture every moment of the team’s day and I’m glad he was because he got some great pictures of my Momma and even my relay team.

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About ten minutes before the race I gave my Momma a huge hug and wished her luck as our team had to make our way to the first exchange or else the roads would close. We had so much fun taking these crazy backroads and interstates to get to our spot but it was so worth it because we got to use indoor bathrooms and soak in the excitement at the first exchange. Our first runner was Bryan and since he was doing the half he was able to tell us exactly what time he would be through. As luck would have it, he came barreling through right when he said he would and then Scott was off! We cheered a little longer before heading to the next exchange. Since we were forced to basically drive the course backwards, we were able to see ALL the people who were still running on the boulevard and we honked, hollered, and yelled at my Momma who was moving along way faster than we expected as well as other members of the Biggest Winner team. We may have been obnoxious but I love good crowd support.

Scott and I cheering runners on at the exchange!

Scott and I cheering runners on at the exchange!

Once at the next exchange, we waited for Bryan to come down the hill towards the finish so we could cheer him on to his first SUB 2 HALF! After supporting him, we went inside to hang out and warm up until Scott got there. Brittney and I both had to use the restroom and I totally assured her that we had plenty of time until Scott got there but she was so worried she would miss him. How can you miss Waldo? I went to the bathroom alone and when I came back Brittney was gone and Scott was standing there with Cameron. Good thing that she didn’t go or else she would have missed him. Scott ran way faster than he had expected but we were all so happy to see him. Before we knew it we were off again to the final exchange.

We got there super early but it was fun to wait around and cheer all the marathoners on. I started my leg around mile 21 so it was where most marathoners would be starting to really struggle. Crowds lined both sides of the exchange area cheering every runner on. Waldo provided lots of entertainment for everyone while I tried to warm up. In perfect timing, we saw Brittney’s green legs coming at us and I threw my jacket to Scott, grabbed the slap bracelet, and I was off!

It started on a downhill which got me going at a fairly good pace to start off the run. The sun was out and the temperature was perfect. I passed several marathon runners and told them great job for encouragement although I felt super guilty since they were at such a rough part in their run and I was fresh. This part of the course was totally new to me and I enjoyed being unfamiliar with my surroundings. The Island Home neighborhood had wonderful crowd support with lots of signs and several of them were wearing themed tshirts. I didn’t care about pace at all but would glance down every now and then to see my average pace at a good number for me. My only goal was to get to the finish line to see how my Momma did. The run wasn’t really eventful except for seeing fellow blogger, Amy, with a sign supporting her husband who was doing the full. I let her know that I had passed him not to long ago so that she at least had an idea where he was.

My favorite part was running through Market Square and all the cheering plus knowing that we were almost done! I came across the final bridge and saw a good friend there who offered some encouragement before I barreled down 11th street towards the stadium. Thank goodness my team had obnoxious green legs on and that we had Waldo because I could easily spot them in the distance. It was fantastic knowing we were almost done and that as a group we had successfully finished a full marathon. The last hill up Estabrook gets me every single year but rounding that corner and heading onto the field is the greatest feeling ever. Before I knew it we were lined up running towards the fifty yard line and crossed in 4:25. I really wish I could tell y’all how great this moment was and how wonderful it was to have my training partners by my side.

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We collected our medals and headed to our own VIP tent where my Momma, boyfriend, and family were waiting. It was so nice to have my Momma’s best friend since sixth grade and her kids there to watch us all finish. They are closer than family to us and after the loss of their father this year, it was great to see them get to enjoy something so much even if it was just being on the field at UT. There were TONS of pictures to be taken and I was so thankful that we were allowed to remain on the field for as long as we pleased. We talked about our race, gave lots of hugs, and took lots of pictures. I literally could not wipe the smile off my face.  We hugged and congratulated other Biggest Winner teammates and talked with them about their races, also.

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The best part? Hearing my Momma tell me that she did the half in 3:12 which is 24 minutes faster than last year!!! I’m so ridiculously proud of her. She is so successful and has worked so hard to get to this point. My only regret is not being there to see her cross but there were lots of great photos of her so I’m glad we have those.

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It was a truly memorable day and I wish that all of these words could convey the happiness that the day brought. I’m so glad to be a part of this event and I think that the 4-person relay will now be my event of choice.

This past Thursday, we attended a party for marathon volunteers at Calhoun’s on the River. They provided a wide array of delicious food and I sampled just about everything. It was so fun to set at one big table with so many people that I love and talk about the race, running, life, and good food. This is also one of my favorite events with the marathon. Oh, and the views aren’t so bad either.

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After all the hoopla and excitement we’ve had with race week it is hard to believe another year has passed. We are already planning for next year and it might just be the best one yet. Have a great week, y’all.

Race Recap: 2014 Run for the Schools 5k

If you read the race recap of the same race from last year then you’ll know that I was not a fan.  But when some of the Biggest Winner team signed up for the race this year, I decided to do it with my Momma and not even worry about time.  She used to be the queen of walking 5ks, but after training with BW team, we were hoping to get some shuffling out of her for this race.

The race was basically the exact same as last year.  It was held at our local zoo and there were a million kids there to run to support their schools.  We found some of our team members and hung out until the start of the race.  We dressed for warmth but luckily it wasn’t freezing cold like last year.  My friend Laura who is in my graduate class even came up and found me which was awesome because it totally surprised me.  We snapped some photos and then the race started.

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coach bryan

coach bryan

Momma shuffled the first little bit and did super great.  We tried to maintain a solid walking pace and shuffle on the downhills when we could.  There were kids everywhere so it was a good source of entertainment.  Just like last  year, there were a lot of very steep hills but we pressed up them and even passed quite a few people.  I’m telling  y’all…my Momma is the queen of power walking.

Originally the goal had been to try to get a sub 40 5k for my Momma but the main goal was to simply have fun and enjoy being active.  As we neared the finish line, we were right on schedule with our goal except there was a small problem…the course was short, which we later found out was a consistent problem with everyone.  Hey, that’s alright because it was for a good cause and we weren’t out there to crush any sort of PRs.  I will say that I’m so proud of my Mom who basically did a dead sprint to the finish line and I could hardly keep up.  We crossed the finish line with a chip time of 40:10 which is phenomenal even if the course was about a tenth short.  I was so very proud of Momma for running hard to the end and finishing with such a strong time.  We spent the rest of the time cheering people in and chatting about the race and future goals.  3.7.14runforschools2

It is amazing how different a race experience can be when you’re out there just to have fun.  I look back on last year’s race and almost laugh because I finished this year faster than last even though I put so much effort into the 2013 race.  After the race I compared this year’s race picture to last year’s and the difference was crazy.  Sure, I haven’t lost an astronomical amount of weight but you can tell a huge difference in my general size from last year to this year.  I’m so glad I got to do this race with my Momma and watch her cross the finish line.  Next up…Covenant Health Knoxville Half Marathon!  3.7.14throwback