Marathon Week

Hey y’all!  Wow, where has the time gone?  It seems like just yesterday that I was signing up for the Flying Pig Marathon and making it known to the world that I was going to begin my quest to finish 26.2 miles.  Ideally I would have liked to have blogged the entire process.  I know that personally I would have loved to be able to look back and see all of my thoughts on my training and just the process in general.  But unfortunately life got in the way.  I know that is no excuse but I began a new job teaching 11th grade and I just didn’t feel like sitting down to type out my thoughts.  Not that anyone cares about my marathon training but I still wish I had actually blogged about it.

Regardless, here I am.  Just three days away from a marathon.  It is mind blowing to think that this day is finally here.  I always said I would never do a marathon, but I’m glad that I will (hopefully) be able to say that I’ve completed one just once in my life.  I know that it is impossible to sum up so many weeks of training in one blog post, but I’m going to share with you some of the highlights of training.  Please excuse the random pictures I throw in here with captions explaining what aspect of training I was in.  Consider it a photo journal.

getting in a group run with some of the KTC team

getting in a group run with some of the KTC team

taking our long run to the mountains on MLK JR. Day

taking our long run to the mountains on MLK JR. Day

I loved eating a banana and a recovery shake after tough long runs.

I loved eating a banana and a recovery shake after tough long runs.

Bryan was my “coach” so to speak and kept me up to date with what I should be doing and what kind of miles I should be logging.  I was able to do most of my long runs on Saturday mornings with the Knoxville Track Club which was great because it kept me accountable and gave me some company.  Most of my long runs were done at a run/walk interval where I would run for 5 minutes and walk for 1.5 minutes.  This was so helpful to me in terms of getting it done both mentally and physically.

Saturday morning group runs

Saturday morning group runs

Thankful to have my friend Kaycee along for many of my runs

Thankful to have my friend Kaycee along for many of my runs

I was able to get most of my mid week runs on our school’s campus since it has a 1.5 mile loop around it. That was fun and there were even times when kids would take pictures of me out the window of the school and put it on social media with captions such as “Ms. Godfrey is escaping” which was always fun to come back to.  Marathon training allowed me to be a healthy role model to my students.  There was also a period of time where we had terrible snow storms (terrible for Tennessee, anyway) and our school was shut down for more than 2 weeks.  That made it hard to run at all since there was about 10 inches of snow on the ground and no power.  But hey, life happens.

Still getting in some miles during a major snow week

Still getting in some miles during a major snow week

My longest run was supposed to be 20 miles but I never made it there.  I ended up doing four 16 milers.  The first two 16 milers were amazing and I did them solo.  The weather was perfect for them and I kept a good pace then entire time.  Of course the last couple of miles really hurt and my run/walk intervals started spacing out as I added in even more walk breaks but I was still able to do them.  I learned when to take gels and when not to take gels.  I learned that you can never have too much Body Glide and that sometimes major debilitating chafing has to occur before you learn that lesson.  I learned that I have an awesome support system.  My sweet Momma got in her car and followed me at various points during one 16 milers.  She took photos of me, brought me water, cheered for me, gave me new pieces of gum, and just kept an eye on me.  My friend Lindsay sent me an awesome care package that had some cute socks and a new marathon shirt in it.  I’ve just felt so much love during this long process of training.

Major salt deposits were usually on my face after runs.

Major salt deposits were usually on my face after runs.

Major chafing.  You have no idea how much this hurt

Major chafing. You have no idea how much this hurt

Elation after completing my first 16 miler solo.

Elation after completing my first 16 miler solo.

I’ll be completely honest and say that I probably won’t ever do another marathon.  The training has burned me out and I started feeling mentally defeated several weeks ago.  I don’t look forward to my long runs because they are so long.  Here’s something funny: I read in so many books and magazines that you gain weight while marathon training.  I read it all as blah blah blah blah because I sincerely thought I was going to be *that* person who loses weight while training.   Combine that with a brand new job and other life changes and I totally failed at that.  I’ve gained several pounds during training and some of my clothes don’t even fit.  I won’t blame marathon training and I’ll save my weight struggles for another post but let’s just say this cycle has slimmed me down any.

I enjoyed using races for long runs if it fit in my schedule

I enjoyed using races for long runs if it fit in my schedule

Something else I had to get used to was slowing down.  It devastated me to do slow midweek runs and I was constantly complaining to Bryan about how slow I had gotten but he had to continually remind me that after the marathon was over that I could focus on speed and short distance again.  I can’t wait for that to happen because I’m so sick of long and slow miles.

I would like to say that I’m confident going into marathon weekend.  I’ve definitely skipped some runs and there were times that my runs were a failure and had to walk the majority of them. It happens.  I’m comfortable saying that I completed about 85% of what Bryan asked me to do.  If all else fails, then I can walk it. They are predicting hot weather and the Flying Pig directors have added water stops to where there will now be water available every single mile of the race.  My biggest fear is severe cramping or muscle fatigue and getting sick.  My belly doesn’t respond well to long distance especially when I”m fueling with gel so I often experience terrible stomach pain.  There were some Saturdays where I spent the remainder of the day in bed thanks to stomach issues.  Let’s be positive and pray that this is not an issue on race day.  I’m thankful to have my mother going with me to cheer me on at the race.  No one is more proud of me than she is.

You can sign up for text alerts from the Flying Pig website if you want. I would love to have some virtual cheers and good vibes my way.  Realistically, I think I will finish in around 6 hours.  It could be more and it could be less.  My only goal is to finish the race and that’s what I intend on doing.


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!

Certification, Road Trips, and Ice Baths

Happy Monday!  Hopefully y’all are enjoying this day because Thanksgiving is this week and I’m already thinking about everything that I’m thankful for and planning out my Thanksgiving Day menu.  I’m ready to eat, eat, and eat some more.  Thankfully (pun intended), I signed up for a 5k on Thanksgiving Day to start my day off the right way.  I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks so here is a quick catch up!  I am finally feeling better after I had to take eight days off from running thanks to a nasty head cold that made it nearly impossible to breathe.  Hooray for not being sick any longer.

I stood before my faculty panel and peers for my exit interview to present my professional teaching portfolio, and I passed with flying colors.  It was intimidating but really all I had to do was convince them that I was a worthy and eligible candidate for becoming a teacher.  I’m officially certified to teach and will now be on the hunt for a teaching job.  Keep your fingers crossed that a position will open up and that I will be employed.  I am still working on my Master’s degree and hope to finish that up in spring of 2016.  Due to the nature of classes, you can spread it out for as long as you like which is something I’m thankful for since classes are at night.  So, you can now start calling me Ms. Godfrey because that is my official title.  🙂  photo (2)

After my exit interview, I hit the road to Chattanooga to see my best friend, Brittney.  Since I was already in Knoxville, it barely took me an hour to make the drive down.  I loved spending time in her new home and seeing Chattanooga.  We ate a LOT of food/desserts and tried out several local joints.  We went to this amazing sandwich shop called Golly Whoppers which had the best sandwiches ever and then we snagged some snack size red velvet cheesecake bites.  But, of course, we had to get some workouts in.  I downloaded a free three-day pass to her gym so that I could attend some fitness classes with her while I was down there.  Since I was still battling a cold, we took BodyPump since it required more strength then cardio and then the next day we took Spin which consisted of me just pedaling on the bike.  I was glad to get in some fitness after so much time off and I was glad to work up a sweat next to Brittney since she abandoned me and moved farther South.  If you ever get the chance to visit Chattanooga, please do!   photo 2 (28) photo 1 (28)

Marathon training officially started on Saturday and I could not be more excited (and scared)!  It feels so good to have a goal on the calendar so far in advance and know that I am responsible for making that goal happen.  We kicked off training with a group run with the Knoxville Track Club who offers training for their spring race, Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon.  I ran 3 miles with a member of this year’s Biggest Winner team and then went back out for another 3 miles with Bryan.  Once I got home, my legs were hurting bad.  I attribute this to taking so much time off but hey, we all start somewhere.  I took an ice bath to help my legs but it was sort of an issue since my legs are too long for my tub. After a short nap, my Momma and I went out for a three-mile walk.  I cannot express how glad I was to sleep in yesterday.  Hopefully the next five months of training yield strong results and NO injuries.  photo (11) photo (10)

I hope you all have a great Monday!  If I don’t blog before Thursday then have a HAPPY THANKSGIVING and be sure to eat food and NOT feel guilty about it.  I look forward to hearing how your holiday went!  

Marathons and Mary Poppins

When I was in 2nd grade, my sweet Momma traveled to San Diego to participate in the Suzuki Rock n Roll Marathon for Team in Training for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  This was at a time when the running boom had yet to really take off.  I didn’t fully understand what she was doing or why she was doing it, but I knew that it was something special and something that not a lot of people had done. She had completed a marathon and earned the title of marathoner-a title not many people have. Momma still has her medal to this day and completing that marathon remains one of her biggest accomplishments.  I didn’t know it then, but this is where my interest in running/racing began.

Over the past year, I have seen so many of my sweet friends complete various marathons and have watched from afar as they shattered the goals they set for themselves and accomplished something that they may have never imagined they would complete.  This past summer, my friend and “coach” noted that perhaps I should take that next step and begin thinking about my first full marathon.  It was a laughable suggestion and I had no interest in completing a full.  I know how I feel around mile 13 of a half marathon and doing it again in the same day was absolutely not on my radar.  But the more I thought about it, the more the idea grew on me.  Doing a full marathon would sort of “complete” my story.  I could do it and show myself that I’m capable of something greater than anything I have ever dreamed.  But I was scared and a marathon was a long dang way so I disregarded it.

Bryan wouldn’t let the idea die down and we continued to talk about it.  I knew that I would want/need somebody (obviously him) to run with me to get me through the race if I chose to sign up.  Coincidentally, Bryan suggested Flying Pig since it is one of his favorite races and because I already know the first part of the course having done the half earlier this year.  The idea became more and more tempting and I was sold once he agreed to pace me for every step of the way.  The deadline for the cheapest price was on Halloween and I was still scared stupid to even register.  However when I picked up my packet for the Farragut 13.1 race, my bib number was 262.  That was the sign I needed to bite the bullet and officially register.  Before going to bed I submitted my registration form and forked over the money to endure 26.2 miles of torture.  Getting my confirmation email was all kinds of scary and the reality of the beast ahead of me suddenly sank in.  photo (1)

It is going to be a long training cycle for me since I have never ran more than 13.1 miles so I’m anxious to see how my body reacts and adapts to increased mileage.  I have full faith in my ability to stay dedicated and follow the plan that Bryan sets for me.  It won’t be easy.  It might not even be fun.  But when I cross the “Finish Swine” on May 3, 2015 it will all be worth it and I will earn the title of MARATHONER.  Crazy, I know.  Be sure to stay tuned for the torture fest I have in my future and see how training goes for me.  I vow to be honest about my feelings throughout training and to share all victories and defeats that may come my way.  It will be fun, right?

Speaking of marathons, let me tell you about another Mary.  I realize that I’m a little late to the party from posting about Halloween, but better late than never.  While Halloween is not one of my favorite holidays, I really enjoy scrolling through my Facebook feed and seeing my friends’ children dressed up in their costumes.  It is a lot of fun to take on another persona for one night.  Like last year, we had a trunk-or-treat event at my church where members handed out candy from their cars.  I had pinned a Mary Poppins costume to a Pinterest board earlier this year that I tucked away for this special occasion and I must say that it turned out very well.  The best part was that every piece of my outfit/costume is something that I already had in my closet so I didn’t have to spend a dime.  I was also surprised that my beautiful friend’s daughter was also dressed up as Mary Poppins.  We really rocked the “spoon full of sugar” look.  photo 1 (27) photo 5 (17)

Have any advice for a first time marathoner?  Did you dress up for Halloween?

Doing the Double: Two Half Marathons in Two Days

I read a lot of blogs of various people who are racing the states so it is not uncommon to see someone do two half marathons in one weekend.  Although it may be somewhat common, I have never even considered doing a double since that seemed like suicide to my poor body.  This past spring, our local track club announced an inaugural half marathon that would take place in November.  It would be the Farragut 13.1 and would run through a different part of town that Knoxville’s main marathon.  I love supporting our club and our running community so I could not pass up the chance to participate in an inaugural event.  After registering, it was announced that a neighboring town would be offering a half marathon the following day and that there would be a special medal for anyone who chose to run both.  This race was called Foothills Half Marathon and the course was primarily greenway.  Two great races and extra bling?  Sign me up!

After registering, I put these races on the back burner.  I knew there would be no way that these two races would be comfortable so I vowed to do them for fun.  Race weekend quickly approached and I began to doubt my ability to complete in two half marathons in consecutive days.  On Halloween, my Momma and I headed to Knoxville to pick up race packets.  She was originally registered to run but has had some knee pain lately and decided it wasn’t worth risking injury.  The host hotel had a nice little mini-expo and we were able to pick up some samples of things. Each participant got some nice swag in their race bags including free appetizers to Texas Roadhouse and free chili from Petro’s.  The shirts for both races were also very nice and unique.  We made a quick trip to the mall before heading home so I could get as much sleep as possible before race day.  photo 2 (27)

The Farragut 13.1 had a 9am start so I was lucky enough to get a little extra sleep before getting ready for the race. Earlier in the week, the meteorologists had called for snow so a lot of people were concerned what race day weather would bring.  We were fortunate enough to only get a light dusting on our cars but some of my coworkers had over a foot of snow at their houses (no exaggeration).  The wind was blustery and was cold enough to really make you shiver.  There was a big turn out for the race and it was very well organized although I was glad we picked up our packets the previous day.  I didn’t have a goal in mind but just wanted to finish so that I could get through the entire weekend. photo 3 (24)

I made it comfortably through the first three miles at a consistent pace but the hills began to wear me out and I took a lot of walk breaks.  So many other runners were very supportive so it was nice to socialize while out there suffering.  I ran when I could and walked when I ran out of breath or when my legs were starting to hurt.  I made it to the 10 mile mark just under two hours which was the only original goal I had set for myself.  Around mile 11 I completely bonked.  My legs refused to move forward and we were running on a cement sidewalk.  It became impossible for me to push myself mentally but I just kept the goal of the end in mind.  Finally I could see the hill that led to the finish line and I powerwalked my way up it.  There were lots of cheers from the sidelines and I was thankful for that since it gave me the strength to run the remaining tenth to the finish line.  My chip time was 2:43:26.  Not close to my best but far from my worst.  Bryan met me at the finish line and could tell that I was obviously in pain.  We headed to the food area and I was able to get some pizza, donuts, chocolate milk, BBQ, and chili.  It was the best post race food of all time.  And after a freezing cold and painful run, it tasted wonderful. photo 2 (26)

After a brief chat, I was able to head home to recover.  I stopped by the grocery store for a few items and to buy a foam roller.  Once at home, I took a nice hot shower to thaw out and then put on some compression sleeves.  I wasn’t really in pain, but my body was tired. I had Chick-fil-a for dinner and just lounged around for the rest of the day and into the evening.  My beloved Tennessee Volunteers were playing football that night but I could not even manage to stay awake for the miraculous overtime win.  photo 1 (25)

Daylight savings time became my instant best friend since I got to sleep so late the following morning.  The Foothills Half started at 2pm so I enjoyed being able to sleep in, take it easy, and mentally prepare myself for the second race.  I woke up a little tight, but nothing compared to what I had anticipated.  This race was a lot smaller and we were able to park directly next to the start line.  I will complain that this race had ankle bracelets for timing chips and those have chafed my ankles pretty badly in the past so I improvised and attached it to my shoe.  I found a group of ladies that I had done some long runs with in the summer and decided I would stay with them.  They were doing a 3:1 run/walk ratio and that was exactly what I needed to get through this race.  We were moving along and I was feeling great.  I told the lady I was running beside that I couldn’t believe it felt that easy.  The course monitors were so supportive and helpful at every crossing. photo 4 (23) photo 5 (16)

A bit into the race some of the group I was with had to take a bathroom stop.  Another lady and I continued on but the other group had the interval beeper so we decided to just run until we were ready for a walk break.  This continued on for the next several miles.  Around mile 9, my legs really began to feel the extreme fatigue.  It actually hurt worse to walk than it did to run.  We made it across the big pedestrian bridge that crosses to a new section of the greenway and I told my partner to go on without me.  From then on it was a mental struggle but I had approached those who chose to make the early start.  I made it my goal to start passing people and it kept my mind off the pain and fatigue I was feeling. Before I knew it, I was approaching the finish line.  The path to the finish was a nice straight downhill finish and there were lots of spectators and supporters lining the greenway cheering for finishers.  My finish time for this race was 2:46:27 which was only 3:01 slower than the day before. photo 1 (26)

Once I finished and collected both my finisher’s medal and my double medal, I was able to grab some food.  They were serving grilled cheese sandwiches which was DELIGHTFUL after a race, plus some chocolate milk.  Surprisingly I felt superb.  My legs were definitely aching but I felt so much better than I did after the finish on the prior day.  Maybe it was the adrenaline, but I did not feel dead to the world.  Once the sun started to go down it got pretty chilly so we took some photos and I headed home.  photo 3 (23)

I was starving last night since I wasn’t really able to eat that much before or after the race so I ordered myself a nice pizza and some cinnamon sticks.  Delicious.  After a hot shower and some Tylenol, I was more than ready for bed. This is probably too much information but I now have a lovely black toenail which I’m pretty sure is going to fall off but in some bizarre and morbid way I am glad I have it because that means that I worked hard.  I woke up in the same exact position that I fell asleep in which is absolutely not normal for me.  I woke up this morning feeling a little sore but great overall.  Today and tomorrow will definitely be a rest day and I will continue to focus on recovery before starting training again.

It is hard to believe this big goal of two half marathons in one weekend is already over.  Reflecting on this weekend, I have decided I would definitely do another double weekend which is a good thing since there will probably be more doubles involved in the future if I plan on racing every state.  If you have the opportunity to do a double weekend then I would highly recommend it…especially if extra medals are involved.

Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon (& Vacation)

Around this time last year, I pitched the idea to Brittney that there was a race in Myrtle Beach that had an awesome medal and that we should take a trip to participate in it.  Little did I know that she took me very seriously and actually registered us for the race as my Christmas present.  Can you say best Christmas gift ever?   We quickly planned our week from there and went ahead and booked a condo for four days.  Fast-forward to a couple of weeks ago when Brittney’s husband got a new job in a new city.  They bought a house and were scheduled to close on their new home right when we should have been laying on the beach so we were sort of at a loss as to what to do.  We ended up compromising so that my handsome fella and I would head to the beach on Thursday (instead of Wednesday) and then Brittney and Cameron would join us Friday night after they closed on their house.  Talk about a tight time frame.  photo 1 (2)

So, this past Thursday morning, my fella and I headed to South Carolina to start our vacation.  We were able to check in early (hallelujah) and we immediately parked our butts on the beach.  Since I had only ever visited Myrtle Beach in the summer months, I was pleasantly surprised as to how nice and warm the weather was.  There is no better  view that the vast ocean with the sand between your toes.  photo 2 (2)

Friday we made sure to be at the beach as much as possible.  I got in a three mile walk by the ocean that morning to get my legs ready for the half on Sunday and that really helped get the day off to a good start.  It was so nice to be able to lay on the sand all day listening to the waves.  Thankfully that relaxation allowed me to take a little one hour nap on my quilt.  Before heading to dinner we stopped by packet pickup.  It was in a beautiful hotel and was very well organized.  The expo was bigger than I was expecting and the race apparel was on point although I didn’t actually purchase anything.  We had received two complimentary tickets to the Medieval Times dinner show so we treated ourselves to dinner there after picking up our race bibs.   I love free things.  Cameron and Brittney made it to the condo Friday night and we all sat in the hot tub until staff kicked us out.  Vacationing with friends is so much more fun!   photo 3 (1) photo 4 (1)

Saturday was spent vegging out on the beach.  We took a break to grab lunch at one of my favorite seafood joints, Mrs. Fish, and then made sure we laid by the ocean for the remainder of the day.  It was hard to remember that we actually  had to race a half marathon the next morning but we didn’t let that damper our good time.  We braved the freezing cold water and actually went swimming in the ocean for a little bit.  That evening we headed out to take some beautiful photos on the pier before grabbing dinner.  We picked out a nice little oceanfront restaurant in the center of town and chowed down on some fantastic food.  Nothing we ordered was even a remotely smart choice for a pre-race meal but hey, you only live once.  My footlong chili dog tasted wonderful and luckily didn’t bother me on race day.  After getting full we headed back to the hotel to soak in the hot tub with some interesting Canadians we met before heading to the room for an early bedtime.  photo 5 (1) photo 1 (5)  photo (8)photo 2 (4) photo 3 (3)photo 4 (2)

Race morning came very quickly and I woke up before my alarm.  I was excited with a few nerves.  We weren’t going out there with a goal time in mind but I was scared about all the things that could go wrong during the race.  The morning was very low-key which helped calm the jitters.  Brittney and I let our gentlemen sleep in and we drove ourselves to the start line.  The start was held in a mall parking lot which was very convenient.  Everything was well organized and we never felt confused as to where to go.  I will say the port-a-potty line was the longest I had ever seen but it seemed like there were dozens of them so maybe everyone just waited until the last minute.  We lined up in the 12 minute mile corral and were totally fine with that.  The only goal was to run as long as we could at the beginning and then start intervals.  photo (7)

Once the gun went off, we made our way around the perimeter of the mall which took about one mile.  Brittney and I were running a steady pace as we headed out onto Grissom Parkway which is where we would be for several more miles.  As each mile went by I tried not to look at my watch but I did take note that we were running a consistent pace.  The water stops were very well stocked with plenty of volunteers.  Brittney grabbed water at each stop but I didn’t start taking fluids until after mile 3.  We made it to mile 4 before taking our first walk break.  It felt good to give our legs a rest and we could really feel how beneficial it was once we started running again. We made it to mile 5 and took another walk break.  This basically became our strategy for the remainder of the race.  We would run to a mile marker and then take a quick break that was usually around 1-2 minutes.  Surprisingly our pace rarely dropped due to our walk breaks.  I will chalk it up to us subconsciously running faster during the running portions to make up for the walk breaks.

There was a lot of crowd support and we both continued to feel good for most of the race.  It was a welcome relief to finally get to Ocean Blvd where we would finish the race.  The wind was strong and very chilly on our skin but it was much needed since the sun was out in full force.  Brittney and I pushed each other through each mile and just kept the finish line in mind.  Around mile 11, my legs really started to hurt.  They were heavy and hurting and that is not a good combination.  I later learned that mile 11 and 12 were some of our fastest splits of the day.  How does that happen?!?!  We could see people on the streets walking back to their hotels with their race medals so that kept us motivated to press forward.  Right around the 12.5 mile mark we saw our men standing to cheer for us. We actually didn’t notice them until we were right beside them or else we would have made a better effort for a good photo.   photo (6)

We could see the turn to the boardwalk ahead and I was elated.   The finish line had been directly next to our restaurant the previous night so we knew exactly what we were about to experience.  The boardwalk was very windy and twisted and people were cheering everywhere.  It was a truly magical feeling running the final sprint directly beside the ocean.  We finished strong and we also finished right behind a couple which ruined the photos that Cameron and TJ were all set up to take.  Seriously if we had planned better, then we would have had beautiful finish photos.  Oh well.  photo 2 (3)

After making our way through the finish chute and collecting our massive medals, we headed right down to the beach to soak up the views and to take some photos.  I think every race should finish beside the ocean.  The medal was huge but was unique in that it had a heavy magnet on the back and the ribbon was velcro so you could remove it and place it on your refrigerator.  It was definitely a medal worth running for.

Our official time was 2:35:40 which was incredible for us.  We haven’t been training for this race and given the horrendous food choices we made (hello, it is vacation), we were super pleased with the time. We had sort of imagined a 2:45 or even 2:50.  This makes it my 4th fastest half to date.  This race was also my 14th half marathon and it marked off my 6th state on my quest to do a half in every state.  photo 3 (2)

The race offered shuttle buses from the finish back to the mall but luckily Cameron and TJ drove us back.  Once we picked up the other car from the start it was back to the condo to shower, pack, and check out.  We sat on the balcony for a bit taking in some last minute ocean views.  Before leaving Myrtle Beach we stopped at River City Cafe for some delicious burgers.  I will always stand by the statement that burgers and fries are the perfect post-race meal.  My burger of choice was the fried mac and cheese burger and boy was it wonderful.  I was so glad to have my belly full before making the long drive back to East Tennessee.  photo 1 (3)

I’m taking today and tomorrow as a rest day even though I’m not really sore at all today.  I do have a blister under one of my toes but I’m keeping it doctored up nicely.  This was a great race with superb race organization.  We loved the course and the event as a whole.  The fact that we turned it into a couple’s retreat made it even better.  Today it is back to reality but I’m very thankful for a refreshing and relaxing vacation.  When is the next one?

Weekend Shenanigans

Greetings!  I hope all of you aren’t suffering from a case of the Mondays and that your week is off to a spectacular start.  My legs are still hurting from hiking Mount LeConte last week but I’m being very truthful when I say it was absolutely worth it.  I had an eventful weekend and I enjoyed following so many of my internet friends on social media as they accomplished some huge races this weekend.  Congratulations to all who raced Chicago or any other race and a big congratulations to those who got in one of their final long runs before their big fall race.  You all rock!  Since I’m sure you all are so interested in my life since I last posted, let me give you the run down on all the shenanigans that took place.

  • Townsend 10k.  I did a fun little 10k through Townsend on Saturday morning.  There were only 36 runners in the field but I love a good small race.  I did this race in 2010 before I lost weight and finished dead last with a time of 1:24:29.  This year my only goal was to finish since I still had tight calves from hiking and I am doing a half marathon this coming weekend.  The race ran down the sidewalk to the end of town and then we went through an underpass to the other side of the road and came back on the bike path.  It was a perfect course except I would have preferred we did the bike path first and came back on the sidewalk since all the hills were at the end of the race.  I started very strong and was on pace for a PR (although my goal wasn’t to PR) but I tried not to focus on the numbers and to just get my miles in.  This was the first race I have ever ran wearing a hat and I did so because it was pouring rain prior to the start.  The rain ended up stopping right before the race and the hat made me hot the entire time.  Around the four mile mark I started to struggle and went to a run/walk combination.  I watched my pace drop and knew that even though I wouldn’t come away with an overall PR I could still blast my time from the previous race and set a course PR.  The finish line saw me at exactly 1:08 which was a lovely 16 minute PR and I couldn’t have been happier.  I was so thrilled to be finished and even more thrilled that my stomach cooperated both during and after the race.  Age group awards were only given to the 1st place finishers but I finished second out of three runners in my group.  This race also had door prizes and I was fortunate enough to win a $20 gift card to a local running store.  I’m sure I can easily spend that and find something that I like so all in all the race was completely worth it.  photo 1 (1)
  • Chick-fil-a has pink ice cream.  Yes, you heard me right.  Chick-fil-a is one of the only types of ice cream I like and every now and then I will just swing in to get me a cone of that vanilla goodness.  Imagine my surprise when they handed me a pink ice cream cone.  Initially I thought that they had made it just for me since it is my signature color (I kid), but obviously they had added coloring to it for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Hopefully ALL Chick-fil-as are doing this because I think it is a grand idea.   photo (2)
  • Reflective vests from IKEA are totally not attractive.  My Momma is one of those impulse shoppers so when she saw reflective vests at our recent visit to IKEA she just *had* to buy one.  Her theory was that I could use it during my early morning runs to avoid getting hit by the paper boy.  Well, I finally broke out that fancy vest and let me just tell y’all…I could totally be a construction worker model.  Seriously.  This vest is just so flattering that I know you all will dash to the nearest IKEA and pick y’all one up for about a dollar.  Momma’s impulse buy is worth the price of safety and fashion.  photo 2 (1)
  • Volunteering at the Knoxville Zoo.  Our local zoo has an event every year called Boo at the Zoo.  It depends on volunteers to work booths and hand out candy to the kids that come.  I chose to volunteer last night and worked at a sports themed booth.  Since “cute runner girl” probably wouldn’t look like much of  a costume, I chose to wear a hockey jersey that I got for Christmas in 3rd grade.  It rained the entire time but parents still brought their kids and I was glad to get some service hours in.  My only complaint is that I couldn’t see any of the animals so hopefully next time I can check out the panda exhibit or the river otters.  photo (3)

I’m sure you all are so jealous of this exciting life I live.  One day I will look back and miss the times that a pink ice cream could completely make my weekend.  Until then, I’m going to enjoy it while I can.  Hopefully you had an exciting weekend!

Do you wear reflective gear to run in?  Do you have a zoo near you?  

Training and Mount LeConte

It is no secret that I have been struggling lately.  I have had trouble finding motivation to run, workout, and eat right and have made all the excuses in the world to why I can’t.  This past Sunday I had the opportunity to interview potential candidates for this year’s Biggest Winner team.  If you recall, this is the team that I was on when I became a runner and dropped 37 additional pounds and my sweet Momma was also on last year’s team where she shed 20 pounds and had a killer half marathon PR.  It was an interesting and eye-opening experience as I got to talk to so many wonderful and worthy candidates and hear their stories.  As I sat there and listened to their responses it was hard for me not to think about how much I am currently struggling.  How could I be an example of healthy living and running when I myself was struggling.  September was a sort of low month for me in terms of healthy eating and staying active but I went into October still making excuses and refusing to “get back on track”.  I was burnt out on running and food was just too much of a temptation for me to resist.  I settled for taking daily walks with my Momma instead of logging my usual weekly runs.  And I honestly didn’t even care because I was just sick of running. But really, that was just an excuse to not run and to not eat like I know I should.

After the interviews, I sat and spoke with Coach Bryan for quite some time and had a big heart to heart.  Eventually he told me “stop talking about it and be about it”.  This really hit home.  As much as I talked about and invested energy in the mistakes and poor choices that I had made, I could have been working hard to better myself.  He also said “It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like it.  Train anyway!”.  Again, words of wisdom.  He has always told me exactly what to do in my training but it is up to me to actually do it.  I could sense his frustration and he wasn’t taking me seriously when I told him that I was ready to get back on track.  He challenged me to prove to him that I could consistently run 3 miles every day this week (except Friday).  I knew he meant business so I didn’t dare question him.  He had my word that this week was the week that things would change and that I would get back to training with consistency and dedication.

So this week I stopped making excuses.  Instead of saying I couldn’t go run in the morning because it was too dark, I called my running partner and we met with flashlights for a morning three miler.  Guess what?  It wasn’t terrible and I felt much safer having someone with me as well as having a solid light source with our flashlight.  I now have no excuse not to run in the morning. On Tuesday and Wednesday morning it was thundering and lightening so that was an obvious damper on our running plans.  That is out of our control.  But instead of just letting that be a day ruiner, I set out to run Tuesday night after our Cross Country Championship.  Side note: I had a runner on the team that I coach qualify for the State Championship.  He’s awesome.  Thankfully Bryan came to watch the meet and ran the three miles afterwards with me so I wouldn’t be alone at night in a random park.

Wednesday night my running partner had to back out thanks to her husband’s emergency appendectomy and I could have easily bailed.  But I didn’t.  I went and got my three miles in and did them at a really decent pace plus my third mile was the fastest of the three.  Boom.  This was a pivotal moment for me because I have been making the excuse for so long that I couldn’t possibly run later in the evenings due to having worked and eaten all day.  I was wrong and it really was not that bad.  photo 1

Yesterday I took a personal day so my wonderful Momma and I could go on our annual hike to Mount LeConte.  This is a great 10 mile hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that leads to a little village at the summit.  People can make reservations over a year in advance to stay at the cabins on top.  There is nothing else of this caliber in the Smokies but it should be noted that there is no electricity at the summit so the accomodations are very primitive.  We have never chosen to stay the night so we were content with hiking up and buying a shirt, drinking some hot chocolate, and having our photo made next to the famous LeConte Lodge sign.  Having a photo made next to the sign is the proof that you were actually there.  Thanks to my Momma for spending the day with me since it was great training and great quality time.  photo 3 photo 2 photo 4 photo 5

Today is a rest day for me since my legs are trashed and I am running a local 10k tomorrow.  I’m so glad that I’m feeling like my old self again and dedicating myself to training.  This whole being a runner thing is serious business and I’ve come to realize that there will be a lot of ups but there will also be a lot of downs.  It is up to me to claw myself out of the downs and to not make excuses.  At the end of the day I am responsible for myself and my choices.  Thanks to all those who read this little blog and offer encouragement to me just when I need it the most.

Canadian Candy, Turkey Legs, and a 15k!

Happy Monday to my Internet friends (or lack thereof).  What an exciting start to October we have had here in Tennessee.  I’m not sure what the weather is like where y’all live, but it is pretty freakin’ rad here in the South.  Fall is officially here and I could not be any more excited about it. This is going to be a very busy month for this Go Girl.  I just ended my first student teaching placement at a middle school and I am now completing my new placement at the local high school.  It is a brand new adventure and quite scary at the same time but I am thrilled to have the opportunity to learn from veteran teachers and really hone my teaching skills.  On my last day we had a big celebration complete with presents, pizza rolls, and a binder of letters that students had written to me.  A student gave me a box of Smarties and originally I thought they were traditional Smarties in a box but I was so wrong.  A Canadian client that works with his parents sent them a shipment of them and he decided to share with me.  They are basically Canadian M&Ms but they were so tasty and I was honored that he thought of me to share with.    photo 1

I completed my first 15k this past month which was a scary experience.  It ran right through my little town and had an endless amount of hills but the views were incredible and so were the attitudes of other runners.  In my experience on out and back courses, the people in the front tend to not say anything to those of us who may be in the middle or back pack.  This was absolutely not the case this time and almost every single runner I encountered said “good job” or offered some sort of encouragement.  Things like this is why I love the running community.  Around mile 8 I passed my Momma’s work and she was outside holding a sign and cheering for me.  It was a nice relief to see her and her support helped me through the final mile.  Since no one else in my age group decided to show up I was able to win my age group as I was the only participant.  I really didn’t mind and took home a nice water bottle as my prize.  My final time was 1:47:04 which averaged out to a pace of 11:30 which I was very proud of.  photo 3

A week later I was able to return the favor and cheer on runners at the inaugural Great Smoky Mountains Half that was put on by a company called Vacation Races.  This course also ran right through my small town and I sort of regretted not signing up for it but I enjoyed cheering so much more.  I had two cowbells and two signs and tried my best to be a source of encouragement right at the 12 mile mark.  It is always appreciated when people cheer you on in the final miles of a hard race and this race didn’t have a lot of spectators so I felt that it was my duty to provide free high fives to any willing person.  If you ever get the opportunity to either spectate or volunteer at a long distance event then please do because runners really appreciate it.   photo 1 (1)

We also attended to Old Timer’s Day Festival here in Townsend and ate all the festival food you could imagine.  My handsome fella splurged on a big turkey leg while I had a snocone and BBQ sandwich.  The elementary school that I went to growing up has an annual scarecrow auction as their fundraiser.  Lots of locals like to come and bid on these since the money goes directly to the classrooms and eliminates little kids from having to sell candy or other junk that nobody needs or wants.  We were very impressed with the creativity that was used in the scarecrows this year and it makes me nostalgic for those days when it was my class’s scarecrow being auctioned off.  photo 2 (1) photo

I’m looking forward to an exciting month ahead that includes a half marathon or two (or three) plus a mini vacation to the beach. Tennessee football games are also at the top of my list in October.  It will be exciting to head into November with fall racing under my belt before I begin training for my next big beast.  But I will save that for another post.  🙂   I hope everyone has a fantastic Monday and that you have a great week!

Have you ever had candy from another country?  What is your favorite festival food?  

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?