Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas - Bullet Point Style

My Christmas season has been a busy one, so please humor me and enjoy hearing the highlights in bullet point style.
  • My last day of work until January was Tuesday. SO awesome to get a Christmas break!!!
  • I cut about 3 inches off my hair. It wasn't a lot, but it's enough to feel like it was a bit of a change.
  • I also got a massage. It. was. AWESOME.
  • We had a family dinner at this amazing Polynesian restaurant we have in town called the Omni Hut. So good. So different from anything else. We usually only go about once a year because it's a bit pricey and more of a special occasion kind of place.
  • We had another family dinner on Thursday night. Lasagna was involved as that is what we have every year at this particular dinner.
  • I bought Just Dance 2 for the Wii. This ended up being a good decision. Two of my girlfriends joined my family for dinner on Christmas Eve, and we had a blast playing it and MarioKart.
  • Christmas morning with my parents, sister and grandma was quite nice. We woke up to SNOW!!!!! I have never seen snow on Christmas, so I was pretty excited even though it wasn't very much. It was still pretty.
  • I got some nice gifts this year: some running gear, some dress pants, a few sweaters, some scarves, some money, two Target gift cards, and a few other random things. So thankful.
  • One of my coolest gifts is that my mom surprised me with a scrapbook of the first year of my life. SO fun to see all my baby pictures in an album!
  • It snowed all day on Christmas, so there was actually a decent bit when we went out to the family Christmas dinner. It's still not enough to play in, but I've really loved seeing it while listening to Christmas music. It feels right.
  • I did go for a run last week with a friend. We ran on Belle Meade Boulevard, a street known around here for having some of the more expensive homes in Nashville. It's a popular spot for runners as well. It was neat to run out there around dinner time and see all the homes with Christmas lights. Other than that, I have not been running. Rest has continued to feel like the way to go as I gear up for the Goofy Challenge.
I hope you all had as nice and warm of a holiday season as I have had so far!!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Self-Diagnosis

I know that doctors just love it when we runners self-diagnosis our ailments.

At the same time, we runners would rather self-diagnose than go see a doctor.

I've been having an ache in my butt (the left side to be specific) ever since the Flying Monkey Marathon in November. It doesn't hurt... it just aches. Most of the time, I don't feel it... but every now and then when I'm running it'll turn up.

So... I've 98% sure that I've got a little piriformis syndrome happening. I really felt this was confirmed when I was sitting in a chair yesterday and noticed that the area that flares up sometimes was tingling. This is apparently one of the symptoms.

Am I worried? No. Sure, it's annoying... and I know that it needs rest as treatment. So I'm resting a bit. I'm as trained as I'm going to be to go run this Goofy thing in a few weeks, so I figure it's more sensible to log a few gentle, short runs here and there and rest a bit than to try to get all gung ho with heavy training right now.

Part of me feels like I need to run a few more miles than I'm planning between now and Goofy, but since this is acting up a bit I feel like giving myself more rest is more helpful.

Quite frankly, I don't have time to run more than this anyways with all the holidays festivities.

So that's the diagnosis and that's the plan! And maybe I'll try to do better about some at-home yoga and stretching to kind of work things out in that area. Plus, I've booked a massage for tomorrow! I feel like babying it a bit will be the best thing for now.

I really can't believe it's almost time for Goofy. I didn't really train the way I intended, but I'm feeling mostly prepared. It'll be a fun experience no matter what!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Enjoying the Season

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this in a post of Christmas past, but my all-time favorite Christmas movie has always been Santa Claus the Movie.

If you don't know what I'm talking about (or if you think I mean the one with Tim Allen), click here to see what I mean and if it brings back any memories for you.

This movie used to come on every year on Christmas Eve, but I don't think I've seen it on tv in years. Never fear - I found it on DVD quite a while back so that I can watch it each year.

I've had it on tonight as I've been wrapping presents and making cookies for a party I'm going to tomorrow and getting excited about only having two more days of work before Christmas break... and even though I know exactly what happens and can anticipate the cheesy jokes, I still love it.

I think that this movie illustrates what I always pictured when I thought of the North Pole. And Santa Claus. And elves. Even with watching as an adult, it stirs up a sense of nostalgia regarding what I believed as a child.

I sometimes think that the newer Christmas movies just aren't as good as the old ones like this one... of course, this one was made in 1985 when I was 2, so it's truly a movie of my time. But I also love the truly old ones like Miracle on 34th Street and White Christmas.

I think that sitting and watching these movies while baking and wrapping presents is a big part of what makes it "feel" like Christmas for me. I've really been enjoying my evening.

I've been busy attending Christmas parties and making plans with friends who are in town for a few days and planning for an upcoming trip. It's definitely a fun time, and I have to say that so far it's been one of the more enjoyable Christmas seasons that I've had in a few years.

Oh, and I went for my first post-Huntsville run today. I just did a gentle 5.5 miles or so at about a 10:00 pace. I felt pretty good, though I have a nagging ache in my butt that I suspect could be a touch of piriformis. I don't intend on running a ton between Huntsville and Goofy. I'll do some short runs here and there, but I don't think more mileage will really do much other than tire me out at this point. I want to keep my legs loose but fresh. I can't believe it's only a few weeks away!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Rocket City Pictures

I got a few more pictures from my cousin of me at the Rocket City Marathon.

Here's me and my cousin's husband:

This photo was right at the start. I noticed my cousin off to the side and waved, and she was able to snap the photo at just the right moment. I'm not going to lie... I kind of like seeing the definition in my leg here. I feel like when you're in your body, you don't really get to see the effects of all the running the same way as an outsider. Photos kind of help you to step outside and take a look, and it's nice to see that my legs are looking strong.

These next two photos are right around the half marathon mark. I did still feel as happy as I look.


It's funny - somewhere during the race Matt and Liz commented on how I always look so happy in my race photos. I'm not always smiling the whole race, but I do turn it on for the cameras because even if I don't feel awesome at that moment I'm still doing something I love. And that makes me smile.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Race Report: Rocket City Marathon

This past Saturday was the second marathon in my three marathons in 3 months adventure. Matt, Liz and I headed down to Huntsville, AL to run in the Rocket City Marathon. Matt's wife Maureen was so awesome and drove us!

We got up early Saturday morning and left around 5am. I had planned to try to snooze, but I had too much adrenaline. We were being pretty chatty (and we later realized this was a mistake as we had shared our best stories in the car instead of saving them for mile 21) and were there before we know it. Well, only after driving through some pretty interesting parts of Alabama. If you've never spent much time in the south, let me just say that Alabama is a whole different kind of southern than what we have here in Nashville.

We got checked in and used a real bathroom in the hotel lobby before heading out to the start line. There was a chill in the air, but it ultimately ended up being the perfect temperature for the whole race. I wore capris, a long sleeve top and gloves and found myself to be comfortable the entire time.

My cousin-in-law Mark was there running his first full, and I managed to find him and my cousin (his wife) and another friend who came to watch. It was fun to see them before the race and snap a quick picture. I need to get it from her as well as the one she got of me near the halfway mark. Mark went on to run a 3:39! He says he's a one and done, but I'm hoping to convince him to do another and try to break 3:30. Peer pressure is awesome among runners, ha.

Here's the gratuitous pre-race start line photo of Matt, Liz and me.

I managed to find my pal Chris at the start line - he was running his first full marathon! I never got to see him again, but he went on to run a 3:43. Pretty awesome! (Oh, and forgive my sleepy eyes. Did I mention I worked a benefit until 11pm the night before? In heels?)

Before we knew it, the cannon fired and we were off. Yes, I said cannon. Welcome to Alabama. :)

We started out and just ran whatever we felt. After the first few miles, I realized we were naturally running a 9:30 pace. As the early miles went by, we were staying pretty consistent and feeling good in that general territory. I didn't want to get my hopes up too early, but it was pretty exciting to be running so well. I'll admit - I haven't run much at all since the Flying Monkey Marathon 20 days before, so I really had no idea how I'd feel.

I wore my shirt from that marathon and found several other fellow monkey runners out there. It's always neat to chat with people during a marathon, but it was especially cool to find all these other people who had run the same race as the three of us a few weeks before.

This next photo was taken around the mile 7 mark. I didn't realize it was being taken or else I would have smiled!

Unfortunately, miles 12-17ish are down the side of this one long, flat and straight road. There was a bit of wind, and this long stretch got really boring, really fast. We did run into some familiar faces from the Nashville Striders and East Nasty, so it was nice to get to chat a bit. We decided that there are probably more people from Nashville in this race than there are people from Huntsville. I did see my cousin and friend somewhere around the half, and it reminded me that it really is an adrenaline booster to see a familiar face when you're out there.

We finally turned off the long road, and I realized we were slowing down. I had toyed with the idea of trying to run a 4:10 and PR, but I knew around this time that I just couldn't hang on to it. My legs were tired and reminding me I'd run a marathon 20 days before, and I knew it was too ambitious to try to push for a PR. Honestly? I was going to be happy to just finish. That's really been the goal for doing all these races so close together anyways.

This next photo was snapped somewhere near mile 18-19. I can't really remember any more. I know I was feeling tired and had reached that point where I'm just looking for the next mile marker or water stop. The guy in the blue shirt (Paul) also ran the Flying Monkey. The gal in the white (Mary) is a new friend we picked up around this point and enjoyed chatting with for a few miles. It really helps to keep you going to find someone new to talk to in the late miles.

We did reach a point where there was no more talking, except for the occasional "this sucks" or "I'm ready to be done." One thing I am really proud of though is that we ran the whole time with the exception of short walk breaks at water stops to drink a little. I'm not opposed to walking, but it still feels good to know that I didn't walk. (I don't count the water stop walk breaks as truly walking. I just need to walk to actually get the fluids in and not spilled all over me.)

The last 3-4 miles felt like an eternity. We had all three spread out just a little bit, and I know I just wanted to get it over with. I wasn't really in pain - my legs just felt tired and heavy. I wanted to sit down and not be running any more.

Before long, I saw the mile 25 marker and tried to pick it up a bit. I had slowed down earlier to more of a 10:30 pace, but I ran the last mile in 9:40. I saw mile 26, I rounded the corner, and then I made it across the finish line as they said my name and city/state. It's always cool to hear your name!

I thought I felt fine as I crossed (and I remember thinking to try to smile and not stop my watch since I get my race line photo for free and wanted to not look awful in it), but I was a little dazed as soon as I started walking. They wrapped a blanket around me, and I noticed my friend off to the side. I was trying to let him know I'd come over to say hi while this other guy was trying to give me my medal. Then, I was looking to find out who had the hats. It was just funny... it was like my brain wasn't processing everything right. I got to chat with my friend a minute, and then it was time for the finish photo.

I had run my second fastest marathon ever in 4:19:08. I also ran a course PR (I've run this race two other times before).

Needless to say, I was pleased. Considering that I just ran a marathon, I'll take a course PR and second fastest time ever.

One of the things I love about this race is that it's only $5o and you get a nice shirt, medal, hat and your finish line photo. I can't wait for my picture to be mailed to me!

We headed inside to change clothes (it was cold when you weren't running, and some rain was moving in), and then we grabbed some food.

I think we look pretty good when you consider we just ran our second marathon in 3 weeks.

We headed to a little place in town called The Nook for a post-race beer. I tried something new, and I can't remember the name... but it was good!

We headed home in the rain (so glad it didn't rain on us during the race like we were afraid it might!), and I took a 2-hour nap. Then, I totally got pasta and cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory (thank you Curbside To Go) and went to bed and slept another 13 hours. I was exhausted!

So two down, one and a half to go! I'm glad I have 4 weeks until the Goofy Challenge. I'm taking this entire week off before I start a little gentle running. At this point, I'm as trained as I'm going to be. No sense overdoing it.

I actually feel pretty good. There are some minor aches and pains, but nothing crazy. I'm kind of tired and hungry all the time, but that's to be expected.

I'm nervous about the Goofy, but I'm also really excited. I know it's going to be slow, but I think it's going to be a blast!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter Came Early

I ran the Rocket City Marathon on Saturday. I promise there will be a full race report with pictures, but for now I'll just say that I ran my second fastest marathon ever in 4:19:08. I'll take that. I felt pretty good until the last few miles when my legs were quick to remind me I had just run a marathon (and a very hilly one at that!) just 3 weeks before. Nonetheless, I finished and am recovering well. Stay tuned for more.

In the meantime, allow me to share some photos. We got some snow in Nashville. It wasn't enough to play in or getting really excited about, but it was pretty and messed up the roads for the day.

Tucker likes watching the flakes come down.


This is out the window before it really started to accumulate.


My parents were out of town so I had their cat for the weekend. After a while, both cats grew tired of watching snowflakes. I found them curled up on the guest bed (and my clean laundry!) snug as bugs.

It's cold up in here. 18 and feels like 8! This is unseasonably cold (and snowy) for December in Nashville. On the bright side, it actually feels a bit more like Christmas now that we have winter weather.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mental Prep

I'm having a hard time getting my head in the game.

It's not really even about the marathon coming up on Saturday. Sure, I'm a little nervous about it. I know I just ran a marathon and it went fine... but I also just ran a marathon and have never tried to run a second one quite so soon after completing one. I have been having the usual mental battles... one minute I feel confident because I know I didn't run that hard or fast at the last marathon, so I should be able to handle this one just fine. The next minute I'm unsure that I won't feel tired come Saturday because it's only been 3 weeks since the last one.

Of course, I've hardly run since the last one. On one hand I think this is good because it means I've allowed my legs to recover and body to rest. On the other hand, it raises questions in my head about whether or not I'm sufficiently trained.

But ultimately, my mental concerns are about the Goofy Challenge coming up next month. Suddenly I'm not so sure I've been training appropriately. Can I really run a half marathon AND a full marathon in the same weekend?

It's really a silly question that I already know the answer to - of course I can. It might not be fast. In fact, I've never intended for it to be fast.

I think it's just the mixture of excitement and fear of trying something new. I'm pumped to be going after this goal, but I'm also nervous because I've never done these things before.

I don't want to sell myself short, but I also don't want to overdo it and hurt myself.

In the end, I know I've been listening to my body. I know I'll run this marathon on Saturday and finish. I'll allow some time to recover. I'll get some runs in. And then I'll go to Disney and do something finish something goofy.

I guess it's just the unknown... not really knowing if my body can handle this, yet believing that it can.

The marathon can be intimidating, but in the end the mental game is the biggest part of it.

I'm choosing to believe that I can do this.

The only person I'm trying to prove anything to right now with all of these races is myself. I know that when I cross that Goofy finish line that I'll be thrilled, no matter how hard the journey might end up being to get there.

I'll admit that part of me doesn't feel like I've been sufficiently training, but there's not much I can do about it now other than to count this weekend's marathon as my last long run and then go after the goal.

I know it might sound crazy, but all of this mental back and forth is part of what keeps marathon running exciting. :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Random Sharing

  • I have finished my Christmas shopping. It feels awesome. I still need to grab a few things that I left at my parent's house and finish wrapping it all, but now I can go to the mall for fun if I want and not to find anything specific.
  • I had my 4th Annual Christmas Party on Saturday night, and it was so fun. We ate. We drank. We played Taboo. We raced MarioKart on the Wii (yay for 4 wheels!). The evening ended with me feeling all warm and fuzzy. There are good people in my life, and I'm glad they were able to all come together for a fun evening.
  • I started a new position at work last week. Things have been so crazy lately that I forgot to mention it. It's definitely a fun move, and I'm enjoying the transition. I'm much happier getting out of administrative work! I'm handling cash receipts and our donor database. Good times.
  • I ran around 8ish miles on Saturday. It was my first run since Thanksgiving since I didn't have much time to run in the midst of all the family stuff surrounding my aunt's death. Honestly, the break was nice.... but my legs felt heavy.
  • I'm running a marathon on Saturday. The time since my last one on November 21 passed more quickly than I expected. I hope I'm ready.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Love of Family

Last Friday, one of my (many) aunts passed away unexpectedly.

Death is never easy to accept, but it's particularly difficult when you don't see it coming.

Over the past week, I've spent countless hours with my family. There's quite a few of us, and I grew up surrounded by them. We all lived in the same little area of the county. I was always a little caught off guard when I'd meet someone who would say they have aunts, uncles and cousins that they had never even met. I didn't know that people had family they hardly knew.

I've seen all the aspects of grief played out in the past weeks.

There have been tears.

There's been shock.

There's been anger.

There's been disbelief.

There's been story sharing and laughter.

And eating. Lots of eating. People in the south know how to feed others in times like this. The food just kept coming. We'd eat. There'd be more. It was like the never ending Thanksgiving dinner.

It's been a rough week. It's been a long week. It's been hard seeing my uncle and cousins upset. It's been sad to lose someone I've known my whole life. It's reminded me of losing my grandpa last November. And my grannie last May. And my pop pop 10 years ago today. (I'm getting a little tired of funerals. I'm ready for more weddings and babies!)

But it's also been encouraging to see the family come together. We're a large family. Like any family, we've had some ups and downs. But in the end, we love each other and know how to come together.

It's hard to know how people could deal with these kinds of things without the help of family to lean on.

As hard as the whole thing has been, I'm glad to see so much love in my family. For that, I am thankful.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

101 in 1001 Update

The months are really flying by these days! Here's what I knocked out in November.

2. Run at least five marathons - I ran in the Flying Monkey Marathon here in Nashville (I'm starting to think I wasn't being as ambitious as I should have been when I set the goal at five.)

6. Run in at least eight races I’ve never run in before - I finished this one a while back, but I'm still running new races. Flying Monkey was another new one.

8. Get a massage (or other special reward!) after every completed marathon - Massage after Flying Monkey, albeit a brief one as it was free. I've got to go simple on the marathon rewards since I'm doing three in three months.

20. Go to a Nashville Predators game - I made it to another one of these.

84a. Try 10 new beers in the States - I got close to finishing this one. I tried the Yazoo Seasonal and the Sweetwater Blue. Both are excellent.

95. Watch one new movie per month, minimum - I saw the new Harry Potter movie Thanksgiving night. It's awesome!

96. Read one book per month, minimum - I read John Grishman's The Pelican Brief.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Finding Your Passion is Like a Marathon

Today I am sharing a guest post by Sam Davidson. He is a writer, entrepreneur, and dreamer who believes that the world needs more passionate people. To help people find and live their passion, he has written 50 Things Your Life Doesn’t Need. He is the co-founder of Cool People Care and Proof Branding, and lives in Nashville with his wife and daughter. I read his blog and am pretty excited about his book. This post is part of his blog tour for the book, and you can learn more about the book itself here. I definitely recommend checking it out!

I've done two marathons in my lifetime (this pales in comparison to Melanie's eight). Each was easier than finding my passion. Let that be a lesson to you - both about marathons and passions.

It took me nearly four years to find my passion and turn it into my profession. A fair warning: not everyone needs to turn their passion to their job; it just worked out that way for me. But, everyone does need to find his or her passion.

I firmly believe the world needs more passionate people.
This is why I wrote 50 Things Your Life Doesn't Need. It's a guide to finding and living your passion that shows you how getting rid of what isn't important can help you discover what truly is. Likewise, it works in reverse - once you find what matters above all else, you can begin to let what isn't fall to the wayside.

I don't think you'll discover your passion over coffee one afternoon. The journey is too important to be over with in a single sitting. The journey is also too complex to run its course during the time it takes to watch a movie and eat dinner. Your passion is your life's work and pursuit; why do we think we can capture it quickly?

This is why they give out medals at the end of marathons. You've accomplished something. You trained. You spent much more time on this race than the three, four, or five hours it took to cover 26.2 miles. Something deeper went into it. You changed your diet, your eating habits, and your routine. You laid it on the line. You worked hard. You sacrificed.

Your passion demands the same.


In the book, I offer the reader six questions to help him or her discover his or her passion. Here are three of them:
- If I'm known for only one thing, what is it?
- What do I value?
- When do I feel fulfilled?

As you can see, answering these questions accurately isn't something than can be done quickly, nor should it be. These questions - and their answers - are meant to be lived with deeply in order to find an answer that is meaningful and true.

So - set out for this race, this journey of a lifetime. Take it one step at a time, but realize that you're in it for the long haul. It's worth it. Trust me.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Race Report: Boulevard Bolt

Thanksgiving morning found me running in the local Boulevard Bolt for the fourth year in a row.

I love starting my food holiday with a quick race. It certainly makes it more fun to indulge in yummy things like sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce and fudge pie.

I had picked up packets for me and my sister earlier in the week. When I say packet, I really just mean the shirt and race number. To the race's credit, they did switch to disposable chip timing this year. This was smart. In previous year's, you came and got your shirt and number, but then you still had to stand in line on race morning to get a chip.

Upon getting my number, I discovered my age wasn't on it... even though I knew full well I had written it on the form. I headed to get my shirt and remembered that last year that drew a giant black line through the middle of the cute little turkey on it... which really ticked me off. So before I even handed them to the lady, I asked her to mark it on the bottom part that tears off.

I then headed to a solutions table to get my age into their system. A lady there noticed the number was marked in the "wrong" place, and she actually tried to pull it out of my hand. I told her I asked them to do it that way because I didn't want someone getting in trouble, and she insisted she had to redo it because that's how they keep people from getting another shirt on race day. I wanted to launch into a list of ways they could better control the system, but instead I told her that I had no desire to steal another shirt and that I like to put my numbers in my scrapbook. I know it's a silly little thing, but it matters to me. And there are just way better ways to handle such things.

My sister spent the night, and we headed over to Belle Meade in plenty of time to find good parking. Meredith needed to use the bathroom, so we hopped in line. The race had around 9000 people, but they only ordered 10 porta potties. FAIL. By the time we stood in line 30 minutes, I had already decided I wouldn't run this race again. It's a decent race for a good cause, but it's gotten so big and the planners just don't cater to runners. It's much more of a casual affair. I'll move on to the new Thanksgiving Day 4-Miler in Murfreesboro next year.

One interesting thing to note is that it was close to 70 degrees and humid. Most years when I've run it's been freezing! I was glad to be able to enjoy being outside this time around, although it got a little warm when I was actually running.

We worked our way to the front of the start just in time for them to say go.

I had been toying with the idea of going for a PR ever since the week before the Flying Monkey Marathon. I knew it was kind of nuts, but I've been on a roll this year with PRs in almost every distance... so I kind of felt like I needed to at least try. My strategy was to go out and keep it steady, and if I started to feel bad I'd back off and let the goal go.

The first mile was brutal. My legs felt like lead and were not happy with me, and I had to run in the grass a lot to get past all of the people who started in the front that should not have done so. Nonetheless, it was about 8:03 when I hit mile 1.

The next 2 miles continue to wear on me. I couldn't get my legs to loosen up, and I struggled to keep my breathing consistent. I still hit around 8:00 for both miles. I was kind of surprised that I was doing that well because my legs didn't feel the least bit fresh.

I started wondering if I could hang on to it, but I just kept focusing on moving forward and listening to my music. I slowed down a bit and saw 8:14 at mile 4.

I started trying to do the math in my head (which we know I struggle with) and quickly determined that I had the PR in the bag. I also realized that if I pushed it, I could go sub-40... something that has been my ultimate 5-mile goal. Since there aren't a lot of 5-milers and around and since I'd already decided I probably wouldn't do this one again, I decided I needed to just go for it.

My last mile was a 7:35, and I finished in 39:50. Sweet.

I caught my breath and wait a couple of minutes for my sister to finish. I ran into a few people I know, which is always fun, and we got some water and a doughnut. (Krisy Kreme immediately following a race is almost always a smart idea depending on how the race went.)

Another interesting thing to note about the race? The GIANT water cups. No. Really. Look.

HUGE. And these are the cups they had at the water stop on the course. I am not kidding in the least. It was nuts. They didn't have them filled up very far, but when they handed me one of those I almost didn't know what to do with it. Meredith and I agreed that it was insane.

All in all, it was a great race for me. I PRed. I went sub-40. The weather was great.

I just think I'm done with this race. There's nothing truly bad about it... I've just done it several times and am ready to move on and try something else.

Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Race Report: Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon

On Sunday, I ran in the fifth annual Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon.

A race that is "Not flat. Not fast. Not certified."

A race that even the director himself will tell you you're crazy for running... that you shouldn't bother training... that nothing can prepare you for what's to come.

So of course I wanted to try it.

Plus, it's right here in my own back yard in Nashville. How could I not run the local race at least once in my life?

On August 1, I was up at 8am to sign up when registration opened. It closed in 32 minutes.

It wasn't long before the big day was finally here.

A kind of crazy thing happened on Saturday night. I was in bed by 10pm. I was asleep by 10:30pm. And I didn't wake up until my alarm went off at 6:45am. I'm kind of thinking I don't really get the pre-race jitters like I used to.

I got dressed after much debate between a tank top and a short-sleeved shirt. I knew it was going to be warming up to around 70 degrees, but this time of year it could be a warm 70 or a chilly 70. I'd come to regret my decision that I couldn't possibly need a tank top in late November.

I'll admit that I started feeling a little nervous at this point. However, I don't think it was really about this race in particular. It's more that I'm starting to wonder about my training and whether or not I'm really going to be able to do this Goofy Challenge thing... and knowing that this race was going to indicate a lot to me about my preparation for it up to this point.

I may or may not have looked in the mirror and said out loud to no one in particular, "Let's run this b*tch."

I headed to Percy Warner Park, and I realized that there really is something nice about running a marathon that's less than 15 minutes from your house.

I found Matt and his wife, and the photo taking and race preparations began.

Here I am showing off my flying monkey tattoo!

We found Liz and grabbed a quick pre-race shot.

We made our way to the start line, where I may have questioned if I really am insane. Insane for running this race. Insane for planning to do 3 marathons in 3 months. Insane for planning to do the Goofy Challenge. So on and so forth.

Oh, there may have been some monkey tailgating of sorts.

Somewhere in there Bill from Love to Run and his friend Mike found me. Bill and I have read each other's blogs for about two years, so it was pretty cool to meet him. By the way, he has a Wisconsin accent! This should not have been a surprise since he's from Wisconsin, but it always catches me a little off guard when you hear someone's voice for the first time after reading them for ages.

We found Amy, and our little group convened with the rest of the runners at the start line. There were 232 runners that completed the race, and for the way the course is laid out it was a pretty perfect number. I hesitate on smaller races sometimes because I don't want to be out there alone, but that was never a problem with this one.

Someone said go, and we were off. The race photographer got this photo of me and Chris very early on in the race (and then Melissa is there in the back). Somewhere in recent weeks Chris said he was going to need us to help him get up the hills... he left us after a few miles, and we never saw him again. :)

There was also a clever sign letting us know we'd climbed about 300 feet and only had about 3500 more feet to go.

We were all laughing and talking, and as the first few miles passed we realized we were keeping about a 10:00 pace... a little bit faster than intended. It wasn't long before I felt WARM, and I kicked myself for not wearing the tank top the entire race. I know it probably seems like it's not a huge difference, but it really is a big difference to me. Lesson learned.

We were soon on the other side of the park where Matt's wife was hanging out. You can kind of tell that's us coming down the hill into the water stop.

We really all just kind of stopped at the water stations and got drinks and started walking on. It was a pretty casual affair since none of us were really all that concerned with our finish times. I think we all agreed that we just didn't want to hit 5 hours, and we knew we could totally come in under that. I think I only skipped one water stop, and that was early in the race. Since it was warm, I didn't want to risk not getting enough fluids.

I also took 2 GU Chomps every 45 minutes until about mile 20 when I stopped taking anything other than fluids. This seemed to work well for me.

Somewhere around mile 8 we picked up Tom. He decided that we were the cool kids and that he'd stick with us. The fun thing about picking up new people is that they have stories. We listened to Tom's stories about the couple of marathons he's done and shared a few of our own about our favorite races. This really helped the time to go by.

I also spent a little time chatting with Morgan from Houston. She and her boyfriend run marathons like every weekend! She had a similar injury to her hip as the one I had a couple of years ago, so we quickly bonded over that. She told me she did a couple of marathons on crutches! Mad respect for this gal.

It wasn't long before we made a group decision to start walking up some of the bigger hills. Somewhere after the first half (our split being 2:15), Bill decided to head on his way. I'm glad he ran with us for a bit!

Somewhere around mile 16ish, we were back around to where Matt's wife was again, and she had Twizzlers! I think I might start running with these. Eating two of those at this point was awesome! I also like this photo she got of us... we had just gotten Twizzlers from her and some fluids at the water stop, and we were getting ready to head up a decent hill. I like how we're all doing something different.

Then we stopped for a group shot. I think we're all looking pretty good here.

Somewhere around this point Amy decided to head on ahead of us. The remaining four of us continued chatting and walking when we needed to do so. It kind of became a game to see who would suggest it was time to walk as well as to name a point off in the distance where we would all do so.

One of the awesome things about this race is that there are FREQUENT water stops. And Gu if you need it. It was as if every single time I started thinking, "Man, I could use some Gatorade," we'd crest a hill and find a station. Love it.

Around mile 20, we started talking about how this is where the real race begins.

And I realized I was feeling pretty awesome.

Ok, sure... I kept complaining about how my butt hurt, specifically the left side. But in general, I felt way better than I usually do at mile 20.

Around mile 22 or so, there was a downhill that seemed to go on forever. I had noticed a girl in a blue shirt that appeared to possibly be in my age group, and I decided to pass her. Next thing I know, I realized I had left the rest of my group way back. I don't know how I do it, but I can really fly down hills like it's no big deal. Fortunately, we have a standing rule that if at any time you want to take off, you do it.

I started picking up the pace. I also started feeling a little incredulous that I was picking up the pace. When have I ever picked up the pace in the last 4 miles of a marathon?

Here's a little sample of my thoughts: "Holy cow, what are you doing Melanie? Can you really pick it up and actually keep it up for the rest of the race? Hmm... it looks like I can break 4:40 if I can keep this up. But oh dang, there are still a few hills. Well heck, I used to pass people all the time on hills. I love hills. But yeah, some of these hills are NOT A HILL. They are small mountains. Why do I live in TN? Oh look, a flying monkey."

I passed a lot of people. Like, at least 15-20. I didn't really count. (I was a bit too focused on blowing my own mind that I was running 9:00 and 9:30 minute miles at the end of a marathon.) One was the race director, and he commented that I looked strong. Then I passed a few other people that were like, "wow, you look strong." And I realized that I FELT strong.

I did get to one hill that I had to walk up. I started questioning again if I could break 4:40 because that hill definitely slowed me down. I knew that if I wanted to make it happen, I needed to be a little flying monkey myself over the last 1.5 miles or so.

So I picked it up. I felt warm. And a little nauseous. And my butt still hurt. And my ankle felt a little tender.

But I passed more people. I caught up to Amy and we exchanged some encouragement which was totally helpful because I was starting to have that "do I really have it in me" kind of moment.

I came around the corner and knew the finish line was close. I passed mile 26. I focused in on the finish line. I remember seeing Bill to the side, and I know he said something that was probably encouraging... and held out his hand to give me five and I couldn't will myself to get close enough to make it happen (it was probably quite comical) so he had to stick his arm out more toward me to hit MY hand...

I crossed into the finish chute and stopped my watch. 4:38:55. (Yes, I know the clock says something else, but I started my watch at the start line and stopped it at the finish, so I'm going with mine. It's not like the official time is official anyways.)

Marathon #8 on the books.

Amy finished shortly behind me, and it wasn't long before we saw Matt and Tom and Liz. I was feeling a little dizzy (I think just from being warm and pushing it a bit), so I sat down for a few minutes.

Then, I got a massage. Let me tell you... this was the smartest thing I did after the race. The gal rubbed on my butt and really worked out a lot of the aches I was feeling in it from the hills.

I headed to the car to get out of the wet clothes and found a few texts and voicemails from friends. It probably sounds backwards, but since this race was local I didn't ask my family to come out. They go and drive around courses and wait for hours when I run out of town. I don't want to be too needy. Nonetheless, hearing from a few important people and being able to let them know how I did really made the day even more awesome.

It turns out I placed 2nd in my age group out of 10. Never in my life would I expect to place in a marathon.

We started snapping some finish photos. Here we are with Tom (no idea where Amy went for this one).

Here we are with Bill (and no idea where Liz went for this one).

And here's our little core group... I've logged many miles with these three, and goodness knows we have all shared a lot of stories over the miles. These are some of my best friends here in Nashville, and I'm so glad that we got to run this race together.

I headed home to shower and return a few phone calls before heading over to Mafiaoza's for the post-race party. I definitely had two beers. And two slices of pizza. And then ordered the fried ravioli sticks because I was still hungry. And was tempted by Amy's invite to go grab some yogurt, but by that point I just wanted to be in my bed.

We got to mix and mingle with some of the other runners, including Jeff and Melissa. I ran with these two about a month ago when I orchestrated a 16-mile training run in the park. I told them at dinner that if I ever find a good man, I want to be like them. They are such a fun couple.

Here I am with race director Trent. He's to either thank or curse for putting on this event.

Finally, a group shot from dinner.

Some other key thoughts to wrap up this review...

This is a top notch event. I really hate a lot of the mega races put on by big companies where you pay an absurd amount of money and then realize they care more about the dollar than the runner. This race is the antidote. For $70, I got two awesome shirts, a sticker, a magnet, a temporary tattoo and an incredible marathon experience.

There's just a fun atmosphere to this race. Everyone is kind of in it together, and everyone is super friendly out on the course. There are some loops and plenty of times where you pass people going in the opposite direction. It's always neat to get to see the front runners go by, and I love being able to see familiar faces who may be running ahead or behind me.

After the race, there was a TON of food. All the runners and volunteers bring something, and we enjoy a big potluck after the race. There were also 3 kegs of Yazoo beer. Free. Need I say more?

I think this felt like a typical Sunday morning training run, only I got a medal when I finished. The course support was great. The volunteers were great. The spectators were great. This is one of the few races I've run where I don't have a single complaint. Ok, so maybe I was a little bummed to not get a prize for an age group placement... but really, the bragging rights matter more. :)

And in the end... it IS a hilly course. But it wasn't so bad. I'm pretty pleased with how I did, and I couldn't have asked for a better experience.

And as for my nerves? I'm feeling a lot more confident that I'm going to be able to pull of these crazy running plans I have for the next couple of months.

If you'd like to read Amy's review, you can find it here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Monkey - The Short Version

I finished.

4:38:55.

A time that I'm pretty damn pleased with considering it's a tough course compared to other marathons I've run.

Full race report to come... a friend's wife got some photos of us at the start and during the race, so I want to collect those before I give my full report.

I actually felt really good, had a ton of fun and am only a little sore today.

There was also a very awkward conversation with a man about my boobs. I'm honestly not so sure how it got started. I was chatting about needing to change into some dry clothes, and somehow the conversation turned to ballet and I mentioned I used to be a ballerina and next thing I know he's saying something about small chests being an advantage and that he thinks depending on how you're raised you have a different perspective on what's beautiful and that he thinks small chests like what ballerinas have are nice.

Umm... yeah.

(And if you read my blog mister... I don't mean offense. You just caught me and my post-marathon brain off guard.)

I'll post the report soon.

Oh, and I'm running in the Boulevard Bolt 5-Miler on Thanksgiving morning.... just in case you're still wondering about my sanity.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Night Before Monkey

I'm running a marathon tomorrow morning.

One that is supposedly in the top 5 hardest in the country.

One that once seemed like it was a long time away, and now here we are on the eve of the Monkey.

I'll be running in the Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon, a marathon run entirely in Percy Warner Park. PWP is one of the hilliest parks in Nashville.

Yep. The 200 or so of us running are crazy.

Today I went to pick up all of my awesome race swag.

This year's theme is Peace, Love, Hills - Monkey Groovy.

Race number and tattoo (that I will wear during the race)

Hatch Print and magnet (we also got a sticker just like the magnet)

The t-shirt

Front of the long-sleeve tech shirt with my name!

Back of the tech shirt

Time goals? Bah hah ha.

Finishing is key.

A few friends are coming over for pasta for a little pre-race meal, and there may be wine... because as Matt puts it, "I think I'll need at least one glass to calm myself from thinking about the fact that we're actually running the Monkey the next day."

Stay tuned for a race report. Pray I survive.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Life with My Social Media

Sometimes I can't really remember life before social media.

When I was standing in line with two friends Wednesday night to get free Panda Express, I asked Matt how he even heard about this.

Twitter.

I questioned how we ever found out about stuff like this before social media.

"Hearsay," Chris replied.

True. And that's a southernism if I've ever heard one.

But social media really has enhanced my life in a lots of ways other than hearing about free food.

On Thursday evening, I noticed a tweet from one of the guys I follow mentioning that he had an extra ticket to see NeedToBreathe at the Ryman that night. I had wanted to go to this show but never made the effort to find someone else to go and buy tickets. I didn't have any set plans Thursday. So I decided, why not? Within 10 minutes of a couple of tweets and a phone call, I was getting ready to head downtown.

Now here's the really interesting part. I hadn't actually ever met this guy. He lives in Nashville. He runs with East Nasty. He runs races that I run. But we'd never really bumped into each other. I'd probably have been a little nervous about meeting up with a perfect stranger and his friends, but I felt like I was already pretty well networked with this guy. We pretty much run in the same circles, and it was probably a matter of time before we finally saw each other somewhere and spoke.

When we met up in front of the Ryman, I felt like I already kind of knew the guy. We have a lot of mutual friends on Facebook, and the way I see is that a friend of a friend is a friend of mine. (Welcome to the south.) I joined him and 3 others and saw an AMAZING concert.

Seriously, if you have never listened to NeedToBreathe, go now and check them out. This youtube video is for one of my favorite songs.

It was a great concert and a fun night getting to know a few new people. Thank you twitter. I couldn't have made it happen without you.

A few photos of the band...



Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Several friends and I joined East Nasty once again this week for the group run. We got around 4 miles in (it was a shorter route this week) and enjoyed some pretty decent weather.

Instead of hanging around to socialize like I usually do, several of us headed to the new Panda Express that just opened. We totally stood in line in the cold for 30 minutes to get free food.

And it was worth it. Two entrees, a side and a drink for free? Heck. Yes.

After scarfing that down and taking a shower, I'm realizing that I've been all about the deals on food this week. I went with some girlfriends to Maggiano's on Monday night, this terriffic Italian restaurant that I rarely get to eat at since it's a bit pricey. They have this deal where you can get TWO entrees for $12.95! They encourage you to have one there and take the other one home. Of course, one entree there is enough for two meals for me... so after eating part of one, I came home with the rest and the other entree. This has shaped up to be 4 meals for $12.95.

And a lot of pasta.

And then I had rice and spring rolls and kung pao chicken tonight.

Clearly, I'm eating like I'm running a marathon on Sunday.

Which I kind of keep forgetting.

But maybe that's for the best. It's one of the toughest marathons in the country... I'm crazy for running it... so maybe it's better to not think about it much in these final days leading up to it.

I'll be sure to let you know if I think all these meals end up helping me tackle the impending hills, ha!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Early Thanksgiving

Tonight I sat in a living room of a good friend, having an early Thanksgiving dinner with close to 40 other people.

I didn't know many of the people there, but I had an excellent time getting to know a couple of gals around me over a hodge podge of yummy Thanksgiving foods.

I left so full that I can't suck in my tummy.

But more importantly, I left smiling.

The past few months have been a bit of a roller coaster for me. For once, I'll admit it out loud... things kind of sucked for a while because of a boy who was surprisingly and unnecessarily mean to me. And I can't say that I am not still bothered by it, but time marches on... and even though I thought he was a great guy for a while and deep down still believe that he probably really is a great guy who just didn't act great for a while... it's not worth it to keep thinking on it.

So I've forced myself to think and talk about the whole ordeal as little as possible.

And then killed a bunch of my running PRs.

Sure, it still bugs me how things went down with him. I still hate that so much is left unresolved.

But there are too many other things in my life to keep smiling about... like jumping into last minute 200-mile relays with 11 strangers and leaving it with family, including one new friend who is quickly becoming a bright spot in my days... and waking up on rainy mornings with a sweet kitty cat curled up close to my chest to stay warm... and good friends who invite you to eat way too much at Maggiano's instead of going for a run... and good friends who welcome you into their home for an early Thanksgiving... and upcoming marathons.... and Christmas.

I could keep going.

My point is that I've been a little less than myself for a while now. I'm never capable of being 100% me when I'm a little blue. But I'm remembering tonight that there is much to be happy about in my life, even if there is still one unhappy thing.

Perspective.

Sometimes it comes from turkey and sweet potatos and laughter over dinner.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Race Report: Team Nashville 10-Miler

The Team Nashville 10-Miler is one of my favorite little local fall races. It's a steal at $25 (or $23 if you're a Nashville Striders member such as myself), and you get a hoodie instead of a t-shirt. Not to mention, it used to be a half marathon and was the first one I ever ran. Despite the change in distance, it's a bit nostalgic for me to go back and remember that cold Saturday in 2006 when I ran a 2:11 half marathon and was thrilled.

This year, my new friend from Ragnar (Chris) offered to go with me and help pace me since I was hoping to break 1:25:03 and obtain a new PR.

When I walked outside of my apartment to meet him, I had a bizarre feeling.

"It's eerily warm," I said to him. As in, it's mid-November and it didn't feel cold.

We hopped in the car, picked up Matt and headed out to the race. When we got out of the car in Goodlettsville, we found it to be a little cooler since we were outside of the city. We got checked in, picked up hoodies and then delayered and headed to the start line. I knew it wasn't below 50ish degrees and would only get warmer, so I opted for short sleeves and shorts.

It was a relatively small field of 95 runners. We were kind of cracking up because no one wanted to line up at the front.

The gun fired, and we were off!

Chris hadn't actually registered for the race, so he hopped in at the first corner. Now before anyone goes and gets all huffy over this, you should know that we felt ok about this because it was such a small race and he wouldn't be in anyone's way. He wasn't going to take anything at aid stations, and he didn't cross the start or finish line. Finally, the guy is FAST. He didn't actually race; he slowed down considerably and ran with me.

In the first mile, I ran into a gal I'd done a long run with a few weeks ago. She asked if I was ready for the Monkey next weekend, and I admitted that I keep feeling like it's much further away than next Sunday. Then, a guy from one of the other Ragnar teams that I know ran by asking me if I ever take a weekend off. I pointed out that technically last weekend was supposed to be an off weekend, but then I got the Ragnar spot. I suppose it is unusual that I'm racing this many weekends in a row.

Here's a photo from somewhere in the first mile when I was still trying to warm up and feeling pretty good.

Matt, Chris and I ran together for the bulk of the race. I had made a rule that I wasn't allowed to talk unless it was one-word answers, but I kind of broke it a few times in the early miles.

I tried to stay loose and calm. I wanted to keep a steady pace in the early miles and then pick it up if I could toward the end. We knew I needed to keep an 8:24 pace if I wanted to break 1:25.

Over the first several miles, we passed a few people here and there. I actually don't remember doing so as I was just focused on the path ahead and my breathing. I didn't run with music and could actually hear it. I knew if I could keep my breathing steady, then I might not fall apart later. I've been getting faster, but keeping an 8:24 pace for 10 miles is still a challenge for me.

We hit the really big hill at mile 5, and we just powered up it. We flew down the backside of it (that's one thing I do know how to do well) and then reigned it in a bit so that I could catch my breath before trying to get back to that steady pace.

Somewhere in there Chris asked if I thought I could break 1:24, I suspect because he was the one watching the watch and who does math well in his head... and he must have been realizing then that it was possible. All I was thinking was that he was crazy and that there was no way I had enough in me to pick it up that much and told him to stick to the 1:25 goal. HA.

Matt was feeling good and pulled on ahead at some point. We got passed by a gal who I knew was more than likely in my age group. I wasn't talking anymore at this point, but Chris was smart enough to push me to pass her back. I knew that if we could gain some distance on her before the last big hill, there'd be a good chance I could hold her off.

I knew that we were either running faster now or that I was starting to feel like crap from the first 8 miles. I just kept trying to stay by Chris's side, and there may have been a moment or two when I didn't like him so much because he kept pulling ahead of me.

Come to find out, we ran mile 8 as our fastest mile in 8:03. No wonder why I felt like I was dying.

The last mile starts with one heck of a hill. I knew that I just had to get up it to find downhill to the finish line. I knew we had 1:25 in the bag as long as I didn't die on the hill. We start up it, and I was fighting to keep my breathing calm. As we crested the very top, I had this weird moment where I couldn't catch my breath, so I kinda walked a few steps to gasp/cough and then take off. (Chris later told me he thought I was about to throw up so he stayed a few steps ahead. It's no wonder... my last mile ended up being 8:13. He pushed me up that hill way faster than I would have gone if I'd been out there alone.)

We were still a good ways ahead of the other girl, and I knew that I wasn't going to let her pass me again.

I flew down the downhill and did everything I could to not throw up WHILE running the final stretch to the finish line. (Yes, there was some concern that might happen.)

1:23:41.

It took a few moments to catch my breath, but then I found Chris and gave him a huge hug. I knew I couldn't have done this well without him pushing me. I also admitted that I hated him for a few minutes somewhere in there, haha. He clued me in to some of our splits, and it all came together about why I felt like it was so hard. I also found out we managed to negative split, and he gave me a hard time for telling him I couldn't break 1:24 and to stick to the original goal.

Thanks, Chris!

We found Matt, and he had finished in around 1:21 and was very pleased. We knew we both had age group awards, so we hung around talking to other runners we know for a while.

I ended up getting 2nd in my age group, but mostly because two of the girls in it were in the top 3 overall. I received a pretty cool water bottle. Matt also won one.

In the end, I got my money's worth for the day. Hoodie. 10 miles at 1:23:41. Killer new PR. Water bottle for 2nd out of 8 in my age group. 9 out of 48 women. 40 out of 95 runners overall. I'll take that.

We headed to Hillsboro Village for brunch to celebrate. This may just be one reason why I do this, folks.