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.

 

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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: 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.

momma

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.

bridge gangs

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: Wanderer’s Trail Race

Almost 2 years ago, I did a trail race and I swore to goodness that if I made it out alive then I would never do one again.  Welllll, things may have changed.  A trail race has been on my best running friend Brittney’s bucket list for awhile.  When she mentioned a local one just one town away from mine then I couldn’t turn it down.  I had a few volunteer coupons to use so the race ended up being free.  You just can’t beat free.  Plus the race was only four miles so that helped with the convincing.

The race was held at Maryville College which is actually where I attended school my freshman year.  MC has a 140-acre “forest” right behind the campus and it has many different trail paths plus a ropes course.  I spent my fair share of time in the woods during freshman orientation but I did know that the trails back there are relatively flat.  I had absolutely no time goals for this race and I was excited to just get to run in the woods.

Luckily the race was held during the afternoon so it allowed for time to get to church that morning and gave Mother Nature a few extra hours to warm up.  I started out wearing a short sleeve shirt but after Brittney and her husband got to the race they convinced me to wear long sleeves.  That was a good choice.  Thankfully TJ was there to keep the car warm and to snap a few photos of us brave “trail runners”.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Something I noticed different about this race was that there were a lot more “normal” people.  At the last trail race I did it was almost strictly elite-type runners.  Before we knew it, it was time to line up.  The start line was a big line made by sidewalk chalk and I was thankful it wasn’t going to be a staggered start.  The race directly simply said “Go” and we were off.

It began on asphalt and shortly thereafter we were in the woods.  The trail for the most part is a single track so Brittney and I took turns leading.   It was very congested at first and there wasn’t much room to go around people.  There were a few spots that caused us some slow down with huge mud pits.  Actually, I’m not sure if mud was the right word.  It was basically 1.5 foot deep “soft” mudlike stuff but wasn’t really wet.  Regardless, we did our best to work around it.  I was glad when Brittney was in front because I could focus on her feet to make sure I did not trip or fall.  Having to make sure you keep your eyes on the ground also kept my eyes away from my Garmin.  We ended up passing quite a few people and I mentioned to Brittney after the race that we never really got passed at all.  That might be a first.   1.19.14.action

The course came out to this huge field clearing that made a big circle around the perimeter.  Brittney was running faster at this point so I let her take off.  The field was my least favorite part because it was running through grass instead of trail and it was a little disheartening to see the big loop you had to make.  Once we were back on the trails I was a happy camper.  The course came out of the woods around the three mile mark and we ran by the practice football field and the real football field before cutting back in.  The last half mile was probably my favorite because the trail got super narrow and you could hear the finish line.  It made a weird loop into some asphalt and then back around to the same piece of asphalt before hitting the woods for one final time.  I could hear everyone at the finish line so I picked up the pace and tried my best to finish strong.  The finish was very short and abrupt but it was nice to be done.  My little “do not remove” tag on my bib got accidentally torn off prior to the race so they had nothing to track me by at the finish and ended up just ripping my big right off of me. That was kind of a let down because I love collecting my race bibs.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 1.19.14USEalmostthere

We made our way back up to the pavilion to grab some snacks.  I didn’t see any water in the snack area which I thought was odd since it was a race after all.  However, I was thankful for the fire pit that I got to stand beside and warm up with.  It is crazy how cold you feel after a race even if you are sweating like crazy.  It was so nice to get to do another trail race that I actually enjoyed (shocking) and to catch up with our sweet friends.  TJ was happy that this is the first race he has been to in our year and a half of dating that it has not been raining and/or below freezing.  He loves supporting us no matter the weather.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The official time for me was   51:39 although my Garmin said 50:52.  My splits were pretty consistent over the 4 miles which really surprised me even though it seemed like I was all over the place.  They were: 12:52, 12:52, 12:40, 12:37.  Not too bad to maintain a relatively even pace over four miles.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Congrats to Brittney for her first trail race ever!  She is already planning another one that is even longer.  It was a great day for a race of any kind but I’m glad I raced it and enjoyed it.  It was definitely better than my last one!

Race Recap: Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis 5k

At the beginning of the year I set a goal to run a race each month.  I stayed true to this goal all year but had some trouble finding a race in December that worked into my schedule.  The Jingle Bell for Arthritis 5k popped up and it looked perfect since it started in Market Square (great location) AND my best running pal was doing it also.

Brittney and I really did jinx ourselves by talking about hopes of no rain so much.  Sure enough race day held true to the forecast and it was in the 30’s and the sky was relentlessly pouring rain.  I’ll be honest and say that if Brittney and Cameron weren’t doing this race then I would have just went back to bed and not even have shown up.  On the way to the race we saw my Momma and a few other Biggest Winner team members out on Neyland Drive getting in their miles for the morning training run.  We honked like crazy and TJ slowed the car down enough for me to obnoxiously yell out the window.

We met in a parking garage after picking up our race packets and tried to keep warm until we had to go to the start.  The race shirts this year were awesome!  Luckily there was a huge cover that we attempted to huddle under to stay out of the rain for as long as possible.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My Momma ended up making an appearance and wishing us luck before we set off.  We lined up at the start line and the rain literally seemed to come down even harder.  At this point we were just content and ready to be running.  I looked at my Garmin and saw it had shut off and frantically tried to get it back on before the gun went off.  It finally completely loaded satellites just in time for us to cross the starting mats.  Good timing, Garmin.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

None of us had really talked race strategy or even said we were going to stay together.  Cameron took off in front of us (with his hands in his pockets) and Brittney and I sort of stayed together.  Luckily they closed the entire road so there was lots of room for runners to go which eliminated a lot of bobbing and weaving.  I didn’t look down at my Garmin very much and tried not to worry about our pace since my main goal was to try to run the whole time even though I never actually spoke of it.  There were obviously tons of huge puddles and some places forced us up onto the sidewalk because the entire road was flooded.  That was fun.  I told Brittney a little while into the run that the rain was actually helpful because it was a distraction from the cold and it gave me something to focus on.  She slightly agreed.

Brittney put it right when she said it was gently rolling.  There weren’t any steep hills but there were a few slight grades that sucked going up but was nice to be able to go a little faster on the way down.  At one point I had told Brittney I was going to take a walk break and she said she would stay with me but I encouraged her to go on since I didn’t want to ruin her race.  My internal plan was to walk a little past the turn around but we ran through it and didn’t stop.  There was a lot of mental dialogue going on with me convincing myself not to stop.  I heard my Garmin beep at each mile but I never looked down because I didn’t want the mental knowledge of knowing how fast or slow I was going.

Once we got back into the downtown area I think we all picked it up a little bit since our third mile was our fastest.  I did glance at my watch and see I would come close to a  PR for the year but at that point I was just proud of running three miles with no walk breaks. That is a big deal for me.  We rounded the corner and we were all in stride headed to the finish line like sweet little ducks in a row.  It was great to all finish together.  Not to mention my handsome fella was there standing in the rain to capture it for us.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The results show us all in order of finishing.  Cameron and I have the exact same time and Brittney’s chip time was one second faster!  Brittney and I finished 14th and 15th out of 37 women in the 19-29 age group.  Top half, woot woot!!  My official time was 33:03 which was a year PR for me since my fastest race of 2013 was 33:05 at Fireball 5k.  Hey, I’ll take it.

After the race we changed our clothes which were literally dripping.  We had planned to eat at Tupelo Honey Cafe but decided to save some money and the hour wait and drive over to Texas Roadhouse for rolls and a nice steak.  Let me just say it was the perfect meal after a race.  I’m so glad that Brittney and her husband did this race and that we got to finish the year together.  I’m also thankful for my sweet boyfriend who stood outside the entire time with no umbrella just to take pictures for us.  What a trooper.    jingle tj

Although I didn’t even come close to hitting any of my time goals for 2013, I still met my goal of one race each month and I enjoyed that.  2013 wasn’t really *my* year for running but that doesn’t mean I can’t be proud of what I did accomplish.  I’m already making my racing schedule for 2014 and hoping to step out of my comfort zone and shoot for big things that are also reasonable.

Race Recap: Ragnar Relay Las Vegas Part 3

Part 3 of the race recaps of my experience running Ragnar Relay: Las Vegas.

After eating a delicious dinner at Chili’s, we realized we needed to get to the next major exchange relatively fast since our other teammates were speedy and had shorter miles for that round.  By this time it was extremely cold.  We made it there with plenty of time to spare and chatted with the lovely people of Van 2 and waited for Brennan to run through. Major exchanges are awesome because you get to talk to “the others” and there is usually quite a few more people there to get the spirit going.

entire team (minus Nicole who is running)

entire team (minus Nicole who is running)

exhcang

Brennan came running into the exchange and Nicole took off which meant one thing: I was next.  I debated on what to wear but ended up sticking with knee length tights and a long sleeve so-neon-you-can’t-miss-me shirt.  I probably should have looked at my leg before hand but all I knew was the mileage (2.6 miles) and that was enough to make me happy.  leg14

Leg 2 was in a residential area which meant no van support but I couldn’t help but laugh when my van drove by whispering motivational things.  I was nervous going in because Zoe received a text at dinner saying that my leg had been rerouted and to ignore what the race magazine said and to just follow the signs.  If you read my post about getting lost at Hood to Coast, you will know this made me nervous.  Luckily everything was clearly marked except for the fact that this leg was also shared with a later leg so people were coming at me in the opposite direction.  It was uphill for the first part which wasn’t terrible and I ran most of it and then walked to catch my breath.   light

By this time the air seemed a lot warmer and I felt silly for being so cold earlier.  Unlike most of my teammates, I had no issues with stop signs and stoplights and got to run through every time.  Once I hit the downhill portion I ran hard and fast.  At least for me.  I didn’t look at my watch hardly at all on this leg because I didn’t want to psych myself out.  Once I saw the exchange in the distance (up a hill) I really tried to push so I could finish strong and make my team proud.  My unspoken goal before running this leg was to finish it in under 30 minutes and I ended up doing it in 30:15.  Whatever.  1 (30)

Everyone else ran their legs and it was freezing cold.  Tiredness was upon us but everyone still ran very strong legs especially our Vanessa.  She had to run 10 miles uphill through a canyon with hardly anyone around her and no van support. Not only that but her light to see went out leaving her in total darkness and her cell phone battery was on its last leg.  Talk about a trooper.  I fell asleep during Vanessa’s leg (sorry) but I believe after she was done we just went to the next major exchange to sleep.

When I woke up it was almost daylight which meant it was time to run again.  It was still freezing cold but we had to get ready to run.  Vanessa was so nice to bring me some hot chocolate and it was divine.  Chatting with van 2 made the time go by fast and before we knew it we were off again for our FINAL legs.  This is where things got super exciting because we were back in the daylight, slightly out of residential areas, and we were in the homestretch.  At the exchange waiting for Nicole to hand off to me there was an awesome dude who set up propane heaters so we warmed our bones next to it.   1 (215)

I could not have been happier to see Nicole and her watermelon self coming towards me and I took off and felt good.  This leg was uphill some too but it had promises of another downhill and I was going to run hard and I was going to have fun.  leg26

First mile was in 12:06.  Thank you tired legs, minimal sleep, and uphill.  I was pleased with that.  Second mile was 11:23 and final mile was in 10:34 plus 3:59 for my last 4th of a mile.  In case you can’t read, that is negative splits.  We were in a very busy place with lots of stoplights and gas stations but I saw two people in front of me.  I wasn’t sure if they were relay people or not so I made a goal to pass them and pass them I did.  2 kills for this slowpoke and I finished strong.   I couldn’t contain my excitement for those two kills.  Finally I felt like I contributed something to my team plus I ran negative splits on my final leg.  Take that, Ragnar.  1 (219) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA check

I apparently came into the exchange sooner than they had planned because Sandy wasn’t even ready for me.  It felt so good to be done with my legs and now all that was left was to cheer on each other.  Lots of adventure happened on the last legs like Caroline getting sick after her run, Zoe running a really tough leg but making a new friend, Nicole (and the rest of us) getting lost on the way to the exchange since Zoe was running, and us girls standing on side of the road dancing to a blasting Call Me Maybe as Vanessa ran by.  Yes, we had fun.

power arch for Zoe!

power arch for Zoe!

1 (23)

photo

One final meetup with our van 2 people who by the way are total rock stars and we were home free.  You could tell the excitement as we finished.  From there it was off to the finish line to wait for van 2 to bring it home. The finish line is in Lake Las Vegas and was gorgeous.  We ate a big breakfast at a little Mexican bistro and that in itself was an experience.  The finish area was really dusty but it was next to a lake and offered fantastic views.  We spent some time at the Nuun and PRO Compression booth showing how we stay hydrated and keep it tight.  We ended up going back to the van to just sit and relax for a tiny bit because van 2’s final legs were the toughest of the relay. 1 (52)1 (50)

After going back to the finish line and reuniting we finally saw Brennan and that fast girl didn’t even wait on us she just went on through like it was her job.  We all followed behind and got photos made.  It was getting dark so we didn’t hang around and socialize too much but we were able to check out the booths more and take in the views.  Soon we were on our way to drop Nicole off at the airport which made me so sad and it really set in that our fun adventure was over.  We hadn’t even left the terminal and I already missed her.  1 (59)

Back at the hotel we all took the most glorious shower that could ever be taken.  Caroline decided to get some rest while Vanessa, Sandy, and myself went downstairs to The Luxor Buffet which was unlike anything I have ever seen.  I ate lots of bread and shrimp and loaded up at the dessert area.  No shame and no guilt.  Thanks to Vanessa for getting us a discount.  Dinner was great and we got to all talk even more.  Something that was said that really stuck with me was people’s eating habits.  Vanessa mentioned she always loves meeting bloggers in real life and see if they eat what they say they eat on their blog.  I was relieved when Sandy was so honest and said she will eat whatever she wants to eat no matter if it is pizza or ice cream or whatever and not feel guilty.  These women get it.  They really do.  buffet dessert

We headed to the casino where the girls and I pressed our luck on some slot machines.  I got ahead by a little but cashed out.  Over the course of the weekend I only spent 15 bucks in the slots and my maximum was 20 so I did good on self-control.  Hyla, Ron, Matt, Sara, and Jenny met up with us in the lounge area and we got to talk about our experience and get to know each other more since we had barely seen each other.  I wish we could have spent more time together.  They realllllly wanted to take me to the Bellagio to see the fountains which was the only thing I cared about doing but it was a long walk and my legs were tired.  Plus I had to wake up at 3:30am (sorry, team) for my flight back to good ole Tennessee.  gamble

I’m so sad Ragnar is over but I’m more than thankful that I met and bonded with so many beautiful and talented women (plus Matt) and that we had a super enjoyable time.  The energy in our van was unbeatable and I’m a little skeptical about doing another relay without these ladies.  We all contributed something to the team be it our pace, our enthusiasm, our motherly instincts or just kindness.  I’m so thankful to Nuun and PRO Compression for sponsoring us and for creating such a memorable experience!  1 (298) 1 (251) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you like staying hydrated and keeping it tight, then use these codes on your next order with Nuun and PRO Compression:

Nuun for 20% off
Use code: ragnarvegas

PRO Compression for 40% off AND free shipping
Use code: nuunpc

All codes are good until the end of this year so keep that in mind when ordering for Christmas!  #stayhydrated #keepittight

Race Recap: Hops ‘n Hope 5k

2013 has just not been my year for running.  Call it laziness, lack of motivation, or just burnout.  Either way I just haven’t had the ability to really enhance my running.  But at the beginning of the year I made the goal of running a minimum of one race per month.  Since most of my graduate classes are on various Saturdays it was really hard for me to find an October race that fit into my schedule.  I finally found one that was not only on a Sunday (perfect since Saturdays are a no-go) but it was in the afternoon.  If you know me you know I love running in the afternoon or the later evening, NOT in the morning.  What a win-win.

I ran once last week and walked a few times but other than that I haven’t consistently ran in a few weeks.  Before the race, my Daddy asked what my goals for the race were and I obviously responded “not to be last and not to die”.  He must be so proud of the high standards I set for myself.  Anywho, the race began in a church parking lot and was super small and local.  Big plus about it being in that location was unlimited indoor bathrooms.  Score!  To be quite honest, I was slightly terrified before the gun went off.  I knew it was going to end on a massive uphill and was going to be ran along the rolling greenway.  Add this to no training and a belly full of southern Baptist cuisine, I was overcome with anxiety.

it was all smiles and giggles pre-race.

it was all smiles and giggles pre-race.

Once the race started I just told myself to make it to the first mile.  Run my own race and keep my own pace.  I rarely looked down at my watch, but when I did I was close to the mile mark.  The greenway wasn’t really congested but there were a lot of non-racers on bicycles out enjoying the weather and they were rather rude.  But I reminded myself that they had just as much right to be out there.  My Garmin beeped at the one mile mark and I looked down to see a 10:50 mile.  Not bad at all.  I made a short goal to make it to the 16 minute mark.  Crushed that goal and kept on going.  At one point I did start to wonder why the front of the pack had not come back by us yet but then I realized the course made a big loop back to the greenway to eliminate course congestion which was not only a great idea to get rid of big pile-ups but running through a neighborhood was a nice change of scenery.

I started to struggle around the 1.75 mile mark but just kept pushing.  Several people were walking and I just kept reminding myself to run my own race.  Garmin beeped at the 2 mile mark and I was under 22 minutes.  I can’t tell you how happy this made me.  Just the fact that I had ran with no walk breaks for 2 miles made me happy and that I could squeak by at a sub-11 minute pace made me even happier.  After the 2 mile mark I came upon a lovely gentleman who would walk then explosively run and then return to a walk.  I passed him, he passed me, I passed him, he passed me.  This literally continued to where I passed him over 10 times and then I stopped counting.  Nothing wrong with doing a run/walk method but I felt super distracted playing cat and mouse.  When I passed the 2.75 mark I took a 10 second walk break to prepare myself for the big hill but ended up walking a little bit of the hill also.  No shame.  That cat and mouse dude ended up passing me on the hill but was super kind and encouraging and pushed me to press on up that beast.  TJ was at the top of the hill to be my own personal paparazzi.

hey look at that form that looks like I'm walking.  I'm so cool

hey look at that form that looks like I’m walking. I’m so cool

After finishing I found a fancy patch of grass and promptly laid down.  I didn’t necessarily feel sick but was just plain tired.  TJ came over to tell me about all the people who had crossed the finish line and all the people who were talking about how horrible it was and all that jazz.  Glad I wasn’t the only one who thought it was torture.  I spoke with a few runner friends before heading out.  The awards weren’t going to be until a later time and my age group was 20-29 which is way too wide to even hope for an award, even at a small race.

thanks babe for documenting this moment.

thanks babe for documenting this moment.

I finished in 33:45 which is my second fastest of the year.  I know I technically shouldn’t be happy with that time since my goal for this year was to PR the 5k distance and rock out a sub-28 minute race but considering I have not been consistent with my running and had about 3 miles of running over the past 2 weeks then I am super proud of myself for this time and will rejoice that I finished.  Yes it was hard and yes I griped and had to continually repeat to myself to keep going during this race, I did keep on going and I finished.  All that matters.  Period.  October race, check.

Race Recap: Butterfly Fund 5k

If you read my blog three or four weeks ago, you would have found me in a really good place.  I had just ran a super fun track meet and kept a really strong pace and I was enjoying getting in some daily runs with friends.  The past three weeks?  Not so good.

Three weeks ago we had a very tragic and unexpected death in our family which put things to a screeching halt.  Suddenly my days were spent consoling family and working hard to make sure everyone had what they needed.  There was a lot of sitting and a lot of eating.  At first I didn’t eat at all.  Not for two days.  But then the shock slowly wears off and the emotional eating begins.  And that’s okay.  Sometimes when tragedy hits it is vital to put other’s needs before yourself, even if it means not exercising and not eating a proper diet.  And that’s okay, too.  That’s all I’m going to say about that.

I’ve had this race on my calendar for about a month.  It fell on my very best friend’s birthday and she was itching to run a sub 30.  I mentioned it to my other running friend, Brittney and she signed up also.  When I hopped on board for it I had planned on having some stellar runs but as I mentioned earlier, life gets in the way.  I was not excited about running this race and really thought about not doing it even though DNS-ing would leave me with no August race.  When Ashley told me she hadn’t actually registered and wasn’t really feeling up to race it made me even less thrilled.  But people were counting on me to show up and I didn’t want to break my goal of doing a race every month.

before the race when I was actually excited

before the race when I was actually excited

The night before I talked a big talk to Brittney about having a 2013 PR and we chatted about outfits and race strategy.  Race morning was a whole different ballgame.  I was excited, I was pumped, but mentally I was not in it.  Brittney and I started together but I let her run off before we even hit a quarter of a mile.  My heart was beating out of my chest, I couldn’t breathe to save my life and everything on me hurt.  Not a good sign so close in.  I repeated every mantra I could think of and begged my legs to magically get strong and carry me down Cherokee Boulevard.  No such luck.  So I eventually just sucked it up and walked.  Actually I walked almost the entire time except for little spurts where we were going downhill.  I ran when I could and then owned the fact that I was walking.

When we had less than a half mile to go, there were these awesome dudes from Fleet Feet in tutus running in the distance behind me encouraging people to run.  They were shouting things like “don’t let me catch you.”.  When I could see the finish line in sight I took off very slowly.  I was running and I didn’t care what my pace was.  Brittney was in the distance and she ran me in.  There was a lady that I had played cat and mouse with in front of me and I didn’t want her to beat me so I took off in what  I consider a dead sprint and passed her just before crossing the timing mat.   Some fantastic volunteers handed me a bottle of water and I just laid in the grass.  Brittney and her husband came over and talked to me and I wanted to kick, scream, fuss, and cry over the fact that I had just taken 38 minutes and 30 seconds to do a 5k.  But I didn’t.  Sure I complained (something I never do) but having friends there made it so much better.  Not to mention both Brittney and her husband ran superb times!

Looking back on the race I’m disappointed in my time.  But then I think about the fact that I kept with my goal of doing a race every month this year, I got to catch up with one of my best gal pals, I got to celebrate Ashley’s birthday even though she wasn’t there, and I got in a workout for the day.  How can I complain about that?   Sure, I could make excuses and blame other people or the situation that has occurred over the past three weeks but I won’t.  I didn’t do my best and I’m okay with it.  Life happens, life doesn’t go according to your own grand plan, but it’s OKAY.  I just have another 5k bib to add to my collection.

My First Track Meet: A Recap

Way back in 8th grade, I thought I would be cool and try out for the track team.  The only spot they had open for a hefty gal like myself was a thrower.  Go figure.  So I spent many a days at track practice goofing around and attempting to throw a shot while I laughed at and felt sorry for those “real track people” who had to spend the entire practice running around the oval.  Ignorance is bliss, I suppose.

Fast forward to this week.  Our Knoxville Track Club has been hosting a  track meet series called Thursdays at the Track to raise money for their annual trip to Hood to Coast.  Since H2C is near and dear to my heart, I wanted to help out in any way I could.   After a few Facebook messages, it was determined that I would run the track meet on a relay team.  Last week’s relay event was the 4X400 so I kept telling myself that I could do anything for one lap.  I also found out Meggie was in town and after a few email exchanges I was even more excited to go and meet her.  meggie2

Ashley and I made the drive over and pondered over what the track meet would actually be like.  I assumed it would mostly be elite type runners wearing short shorts and blowing me out of the water.  This proved to be true, but wasn’t that bad!  We got to watch a few events before ours so we had time to stretch and calm our nerves.   Finally it was time for our event and there was a lot of confusion as to which lane we were in, when we could switch into the first lane, and how to grab the baton.  I just followed those who were also leg 3 runners.  We cheered our lungs out for our first runner, LC!  She had a balling first lap then handed off the baton to my best friend Ashley!  It was hard to gauge how fast our team was running since we had the faster runners blowing by us but there was so much excitement in the air I could hardly contain myself!  Ashley came barreling around the corner and I stood in the lane ready to grab the baton like a champ.  I grabbed it and took off like a bat out of hell.  Since I knew there were still runners behind me, I stayed in lane 2 so that I wouldn’t slow down the faster runners.

Some people blew past me like I was standing still yet I felt like I was going ALL out and couldn’t believe it seemed so slow.  My Garmin died while waiting so I didn’t have an exact time for what my lap was but I can guarantee that it was my fastest 400 ever because there was no pacing myself, just balls to the wall, no slowing down, about to throw up running.  And it was awesome.  I handed off to Tersea who took off and finished strong for our team!    trackteam

I’m not sure what our official time was, but the other girls on my team all ran their laps around 1:40ish so I know that it had to be sub 8 which to me is AMAZING.  Yeah it was a hard lap and yeah it was my first track meet but I am so thankful I did it and stepped out of my comfort zone.  This is something I never would have dreamed of doing but hey guess what I did it and had three other awesome ladies to share a great experience with.

Have you ever ran in a track meet?  What is your favorite track workout?

Race Recap: Pilot Fireball Classic 5k

Pilot Fireball Classic 5k
Official Time:  33:05  (10:39 pace)
Age Group: 34/87

Athena Division: 16/39

When it comes to change, I’m not a fan of it.  If I find a race worth doing then chances are that I stay loyal to that race and will more than likely participate in it every year.  The Knoxville Track Club hosts a fantastic 5k race every July 3 since most people have the next day off of work.  It is flat and fast down Neyland Drive and starts at 9pm.  The late start can be a huge damper for some people but I really don’t mind.  The only downside is the heat/humidity and the hot asphalt.  The past few years the heat has been exhausting.

Knoxville has been having some crazy weather lately and I was a tad concerned for my new shoes when the radar showed a 100% chance of rain and thunderstorms for race night.   Ashley signed up to do the race with me and we both made the decision to run it regardless of weather.  Parking can kind of be a hassle at this race so we made sure to get there an hour early and it worked out great for us.  We were able to find indoor bathrooms with NO lines (you’re jealous, right?) and found a nice little hallway to get some pre-race stretching in.  Ashley’s coworker ran the race too and she got us glow sticks to wear on our wrists!  They took me back to Hood to Coast and all the glow stick memories.

the obvious before picture

the obvious before picture

It was really crowded at the start but I just got as far left as possible to avoid any potential bobbing and weaving and so I would be out of everyone’s way.  The gun went and we were off!  While I had no official goals for this race, I wanted to set a 2013 PR which would be anything under 34:10.  I wrote paces on my arm for a finish of 32:30 and tried to come as close as possible to it.  I went out slow and steady and just tried to focus on myself and not any of the other crazies around me.  I made it just past the one mile marker before stopping for a walk break.  There is a long downhill, but not steep, grade before the turn around since it is an out and back course.  I made sure to run down the hill to make up for any time I would lose by having to walk up it.  I saw lots of people I knew who were on their way back and it was fun to yell and cheer for each other.  To my surprise I was able to make it up more than half of the hill before walking.

I started running again after the second water stop and my belly started to ache a tiny bit so I just pulled my spandex off my stomach and that offered some relief.  Around 2.2 miles I took a walk break then told myself I was going to run again until I got to 2.75.  Mentally, that was really hard for me.  I was hot, but I was cold, I was tired, but my breathing was fairly good.  There was a lot of opposing forces going on in my brain.  2.75 showed up on the Garmin and I told myself if I stopped running then I wouldn’t meet my goal.  So I just kept on.  The finish line came into sight in the distance and unfortunately I could not dig deep enough to “kick it in” but I still continued to run through it.  My boyfriend was at the start of the finishing chute cheering and clapping and I wish more than anything that I could have sprinted through the line but I was running and that was enough for me.

can you see the glisten on our skin?

can you see the glisten on our skin?

At the finish line I found Ashley and we squealed with excitement over meeting our goals.  I finished more than a minute faster than my fastest 2013 5k.  Ashley ran a 30:57, close to 4 minutes off her time at Cove Lake 5k just two weeks ago.  We were so happy!  My sweet friend Brittney also found us since she had been volunteering for the pre-race festivities.  I was so excited to see her and gave her a huge hug, obviously forgetting that I was sweaty and stinky.  Hope she didn’t mind.  We stuck around for a little bit of the awards knowing we wouldn’t win but secretly hoped our numbers would be called for some awesome door prizes!  No such luck.  TJ’s friend Zach came to watch Ashley run and they suggested we go back to Zach’s pool to cool off.  Best idea ever.  Nothing like going for a midnight swim in spandex and sports bras after an amazing race!

Brittney loves when her sweaty friends hug her!

Brittney loves when her sweaty friends hug her!

This race was mentally tough for me but I’m proud of the way I handled it.  I came out with a 2013 PR in a tough race and pushed through it.  Currently I am on the lookout for my August race and I’m really hoping I can find one and knock off my next big goal!