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.


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.


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.


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.)


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.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Race Report: Ragnar Relay Part 5

I can honestly say that the Ragnar Relay is one of the coolest things I've ever done as a runner. To be even more clear, I think it may be the most fun thing I've ever done.

As I've reflected on the weekend over the past week, I've found myself smiling every time it crosses my mind. I'll even admit that I have looked for any and every moment to bring it up in casual conversation.

I've realized that even though I jumped into this race with eleven perfect strangers that they are all like family to me now. We've all been emailing back and forth all week. We've shared photos and videos and stories. We're planning a team party next week.

I think that's a big part of what makes a race like this so unique. You LIVE with these people in a VAN for over 24 hours. That might not sound like a long time, but when you're awake for almost all of it, it kinda is..

And not only that, but you're all in it together. It takes all 12 people putting in the effort to get from the start line in one city to the finish line in another. When I was out there running, I couldn't slow down or take a walk break for more than just myself and my own stubbornness... now I couldn't do it because they were counting on me, too.

We encouraged each other. We gave each other high five's. We whooped and hollered as we drove past each other going to the next exchange. We celebrated paces. We were stoked over every kill we each got. We tracked things on a clipboard and got excited over how much faster we were running than anticipated.

And we're already talking about running another relay... in June... from Madison, WI to Chicago.

Sign me up.

Some other thoughts from the race:

  • Runners have a slightly different take on modesty. I've always been pretty modest, but there comes a point where it's just not as important any more. Early in the trip we were kicking each other out of the van to change into dry clothes. By the end, the backseat was the dressing room, and everyone was instructed to not look.
  • After changing the first time, I managed to overlook my undies still sitting on the seat when I crammed everything else into a bag. Cindy was awesome and very discreetly told me, but I totally laughed at myself and wasn't embarrassed. Sure, I didn't want anyone to have to find them, but stuff happens when you're changing every piece of clothing you have on in the back of a van after every run.
  • On all three of my runs, I always felt like I was running SO slow. Then I'd realize that I could hardly breathe. It finally occurred to me that I couldn't breathe because I was running kind of fast, and it felt slow because I couldn't breathe!
  • I loved the way that most teams would cheer for other teams. We made a point to encourage other runners at each exchange and anytime we passed another runner or they passed us. I thought it was awesome that a lot of other people did this, too. It made it a really fun race atmosphere that's totally different from other road races.
Some of us have talked this week about how it was actually a little depressing to come home after the race. We had gotten used to being with each other around the clock, even if only for a short time. It was like going from one extreme to another. Hot to cold.

I'd do this again in a heartbeat. I've been saying all week that I'd do it again this weekend if given the opportunity.

If you ever have an opportunity to run a relay, take it! It's worth it for sure.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Race Report: Ragnar Relay Part 4

We were up around 3am on Saturday to take back over from Van 2. I was definitely a bit groggy, and everyone in our van was a bit quieter than we had been 12 hours before.

It seemed like time passed quickly, and before long I was up again for my final leg of 6.1 miles. I was definitely feeling a little worn down, but I was still smiling.

This is how I felt though...

When I knew it was time to get out of the van to head to the exchange, most of the people in the van were either snoozing or in the bathroom. I headed up to the line, and I quickly realized it was MUCH colder than it had been at my last run. Cindy was soon up to the exchange, and I quickly pointed out the van location to her since I hadn't seen anyone else come up to the exchange. With as many white vans as there were, I knew she might not find them without some direction.

I took off, and I quickly wished I had brought the iPod on this one. There was little traffic since it was just before 6am on a Saturday, and I had a huge shoulder to run on for the first few miles. I was COLD. I'm pretty sure it was below 25 degrees. My breath was clouding my vision.

Still, I had a moment where I realized that this was such a cool experience. In leg 2, I kept thinking about how intense it was to run out in the dark in the middle of nowhere... and how fun. During this leg, I was thinking about how crazy I am for being out in this weather... and how fun it was and that I loved that others were out there, too. Since we had taken the 2-hour delay, there were a lot more people around. I got passed by a few people, but I didn't care since all of them were men that were WAY faster than me.

I was never really able to loosen up since I was numb and SO cold. I just kept plugging along. I had a couple of decent hills toward the end, and I was thrilled when I finally saw that mile to go sign. I kept pushing, and before long I spotted Kevin ready in the exchange and Andrew to the side cheering me on. I finished in 56:30, keeping an average 9:15 pace. Not too shabby considering everything.

We had a good laugh when we got back in the van about me giving Cindy directions to the van at the last exchange. It turns out Andrew had been watching and had come out to collect her, but it was cracking us up over the change we'd gone through. At this point, it was so cold and we were so tired that most cheering came from the van. We weren't really getting out as a team as much anymore, ha.

We were soon coming into the final major exchange to turn things over to Van 2 a final time. I finally got to catch up with Wayne!

We headed downtown and parked. We had a few hours to kill, so we checked out the finish line.

We stopped into Starbucks for some coffee, and we did a little shopping at the Ragnar Store. I splurged a bit and bought a shirt, a hoodie, and the hatch print. Totally awesome and totally worth it.

After a while, we got the call that Van 2 had parked and that we were almost done!

We were all thrilled to reunite!

Before long, our last runner was coming toward us. We all hopped in and ran the final couple of hundred yards as a team holding hands. We were so excited!

The medals were pretty cool, and we all celebrated and took pictures and hugged and were basically just thrilled that we did it!

I also found Erin again!

I took a short video of the run to the finish line. Pardon the bouncing - I was running after all!

We ate some food - that we had to pay for... it was kind of annoying. I run a 5K and eat like a queen; I run a 195.5 relay and have to pay to eat at the finish line.

But whatever! We finally gave out final hugs and parted ways.

I'm not going to lie... it was a little depressing to come home alone. Spending all of your time in close quarters with other people like what we did is extreme. It felt really weird to be alone again.

Come back tomorrow for a final post on my post-race thoughts.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Race Report: Ragnar Relay Part 3

I had the longest run of leg two among the six of us in our van - 6.8 miles. Time passed quickly as Judy and Cindy got their runs done. The sun had set, and I was feeling a little nervous about running outside in the dark. We had been the very first team into a couple of the last exchanges, and it meant that there weren't a lot of other runners near us.

The volunteers warned us that there was no shoulder on the road and that it would be very dark.

I wasn't afraid... but I never run alone outside in the dark. I asked my teammates if they'd mind leap frogging me a bit on this leg just to give me a little peace of mind. I'm so glad I asked!

Here I am in all of my night gear and ready to tackle leg two - 6.8 miles!

It wasn't long before I was in the exchange and getting the bracelet. I set out and just tried to keep things steady and keep my cool. It was definitely unnerving to not have any shoulder on the road. I was just running down the white line and doing my best to make sure I was ready to move if any cars didn't get over.

The traffic definitely threw my rhythm off a few times when I got nervous about some cars that weren't moving over as much as I'd like. There was also a car or two that turned their brights on as they got closer to me. Thanks for that, cars. Not only am I running down the white line with a steep ditch on the other side of me, now I can't see anything.

My van leapfrogging me is what kept me calm. The road I was running down was in the middle of nowhere with NO street lights. Or houses. Or any signs of civilization. And I kept hearing things rustle in the bushes.

It definitely helped that they would drive ahead, let me catch up, and then drive ahead again. Before long, another van was doing the same thing and I realized there was a girl somewhere behind me. It helped knowing someone else was nearby, but I also didn't want her to pass me - especially with my team watching! Talk about extra motivation!

To help even more, Van 2 drove by on their way to the next major exchange and cheered for me as they passed.

Before long, I reached the mile to go sign. I knew I had already been pushing it, but I picked it up even more. I finished a bit ahead of the girl behind me in 56:10 - an average 8:16 minute mile pace. Holy smokes! Faster than I ran leg 1! Apparently the dark and discomfort of this kind of run helped.

I got myself changed and into the gear I'd wear on my last leg - compression tights and compression socks. Hot, I know.

It wasn't long when we were heading into Lynchburg to turn things back over to Van 2. Again, we had an issue of coming in too early. We held back a bit (which sucks, because it's a race) and managed to finish right on time so that we weren't held for two hours.

It was great to see the other teammates again! By now, it was really starting to get cold. I had also switched to glasses to give my eyes a break.

After seeing Van 2 off, we found a pizza place to grab some food. My stomach had been bothering me a bit since my last run - I think from pushing it so much. I had a weird moment where I got really hot and had to go into the bathroom and strip off some layers and cool off. I opted to eat something bland and hoped that my tummy would settle soon.

We drove to the next major exchange so that we could attempt to get some sleep. We soon heard that we'd continue to have issues with coming into that exchange too early, and we made a decision to just let it happen and be held for two hours. If there was a place to do it, it was at this one so that we could get more sleep.

I curled up on the back seat and managed to dose in and out a bit, but I never truly slept well. Nonetheless, when it was time to get going, my stomach felt normal again. Yay!

More to come about the final leg!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Race Report: Ragnar Relay Part 2

The alarm went off at 5am on Friday. I quickly dressed and headed down to the lobby to meet the rest of the Van 1 crew. The people in Van 2 surprised us and got up to see us off. True teammates!

We made our way to the start. Our team was scheduled to begin at 7am, and we had to attend the safety meeting at 6am. I was instantly in love with the race slogan.

We had some time, so we headed back to the van to stay warm. Andrew knew how to do this well.

Before we knew it, we were back at the start line.

Judy started us off - it was so exciting to be at the start line and know that we were embarking on an exciting adventure!

We all hopped back into the van and quickly realized that we had no clue where we were going. A quick consult of the Rag Mag got us on track, and we were soon waiting at the first exchange.

Cindy started getting ready, and we stayed in the van as long as possible to stay warm.

When it was getting close to time for Judy to be in, we headed out to the exchange. The air of excitement out there was so fun. Everyone was laughing and talking and cheering on the runners.

As runners started coming in, we were getting nervous about Judy. She was past her anticipated finish time, but we also heard some of the other teams saying the same about their runners. Eventually, she popped up over the hill and handed off to Cindy. It turns out that several of the runners took a wrong turn and ran an extra mile!

We hopped in the van and headed toward the next exchange, slowing down to cheer out the window when we passed Cindy. This was something that we definitely did well throughout the race. It was always cool to see how far the runner had gotten before we passed in the van.

I had plenty of time to get ready and use the bathroom one more time before it was my turn to run. I was glad that the sun had come up, even though it was pretty cloudy. I felt great, and I was excited to see how I would do.

My first leg was a 6.1 mile jaunt along the Tennessee River. It was certainly hilly, and it rained lightly for a few minutes somewhere along the way. Honestly, it could have poured. I was thrilled to be out there, and nothing was going to bring me down. I also opted to go without the iPod since we were running on open and unfamiliar roads, so I enjoyed the scenery. I also got a kill when I passed a guy early in the run.

While I was running, Kevin struck a pose in front of our van.

I really pushed myself and managed to finish in 52:10, keeping about an 8:34 average pace. I passed off to Kevin and considered the run a success!

One of the coolest things about this relay was definitely getting to check out some of the beautiful Tennessee scenery.

What I love about this picture is that you can totally tell we were cracking up. We had decided to get a group shot, and Judy thought it'd be cool to be on the fence... until it broke. Shhh... don't tell anyone.

Before long, Kevin was coming into the exchange. After a quick chest bump, Andrew was off to run one of the longer, hillier routes.

Andrew totally killed it, getting eight kills and running 8:00 minute miles. SO exciting! He passed off to Bryce, and we made our way to the first major exchange to hand things off to van 2.

The funny thing about relays is definitely that you don't see half of your team much. I loved the major exchanges because it gave us a few minutes to catch up with the six people in our other van. Granted, we kept in the loop with them pretty well. We were constantly calling back and forth throughout the race to give updates on progress and to talk strategy. Loved it.

After turning things over to Van 2, we stopped at a little Italian place in Jasper to have lunch. We headed out to drive the course to get to the next major exchange to wait until it was our turn again. This is when it started sleeting.

We pulled off for a quick stop to check out Foster Falls. (Are runners the only people crazy enough to stop and get out of a van to go see a waterfall? I think maybe we felt guilty because we knew someone on our team was out running in the weather.)
The sleet soon turned to snow. Ridiculous. Less than a week ago I was sitting on a patio eating ice cream in a short sleeve shirt.

We managed to take a wrong turn somewhere along the way, in part because of the snow/sleet making things difficult to see well. We had plenty of time so it was no big deal, and we saw a bit more of the plateau.

We were soon at the next major exchange where I finally got to see Erin! She was on another team, and we texted throughout the race to keep up with one another.

It was at this exchange that we realized we had a small problem. At some of the exchanges, if you got there too early you'd be held for 2 hours. Apparently, we were running faster than anticipated. It was a little annoying... it's a race. You're supposed to run fast. Why is this a problem? It ended up we came in right on time to not be held back, so the bracelet was passed to Judy and we were the active van again just before sunset.

Stay tuned for details on the second leg. In the meantime, here's a little video sharing our disbelief over the SNOW!