Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Six weeks from now, I will be...

running a marathon?  I'm not sure right now.

Photobombing my husband on our run today.  Running is silly.
Here's the thing.  The marathon I want to run (the only one I know...the one I ran last year) is just six weeks and change from now.  It's on Valentine's Day.

Even though I have been averaging 38 miles per week for the past FOUR MONTHS, I have been having major trouble getting in my long runs.  None of them have felt strong.

I am sick.  I know this may be coloring my perspective right now, but I have been battling this current upper respiratory illness for twelve days.  It sucks trying to get motivated for my workouts feeling the way I do.

I have to travel to China for work sometime in the month of January.  The part of China where I work (rural Sichuan Province) is absolutely 100% not a place where a woman could go running outdoors, alone.  It's just not going to happen.

Training for my first marathon was a big goal, but now that I've done that I'm sort of like...what's the point???!  All this running is certainly counterproductive for overall fitness past a certain point.  It crowds out swimming, cycling, skiing, climbing, and all the other "cross training" type activities I used to fill my weekdays with.  It leaves little room for all the plyometrics, strength training, and yoga that actually make me a better athlete.  It can be boring, especially when I'm faced with 1) an hour+ slog on the treadmill, or 2) the same hills and the same catcalls over and over.  

Sure, I can win my age group at local races, but how much more do I have to sacrifice to be a really competitive runner?  Will I keep watching my upper body strength wither away?  Will I get injured again?  (Honestly this is what scares me most, as I sense the tremendous imbalances running more that two hours at a time causes in my physical body.)

How do I get my motivation back?!!?  This is definitely something I want to work on as I move into the New Year.

Once again, I have realized that this week's long run will be a struggle.  My track club has canceled the run in favor of all the New Year's related running activities happening over the weekend.  Eighteen miles by myself?  Probably not.

I went ahead and registered for a trail 20k that takes place this Saturday.  Maybe I'll feel like an additional six miles after the race.  Maybe not.

I think this year will include lots and lots of trail miles.  More raced trail miles.  A triathlon.  Quality time in the pool.  Yoga.  A pregnancy.  Maybe a 50k or even a 50 mile race.  More happiness.  Less injury and fear.

I'm looking forward to it.

(And yes, I reserve the right to retract this post in a few weeks after I am home from my parents', back in a routine, and feeling less despondent and weird.  Maybe.)

Monday, December 28, 2015

Workouts - December 28, 2015, a Long Run, and a lot of BLAHHHHHHH

I have been so, so, so sick for the past eleven days.  I ran a fever for three days earlier this week, but now I'm fighting bronchitis and a sinus infection.  Over it.  Sometimes I feel like a hard workout makes me feel better in the moment, but it can be so difficult to get out the door and get moving.  I also dislike having to take it "easy" and not exhaust myself and delay healing.

Sick life...seriously, I'm doing all I can.

The fact that I've been sick for 30 of the past 40 days is making me reconsider whether to run an early spring marathon.  There are some longer distance trail races that get started in March, including this points-based series and this trail 50k.  They are sounding better and better to me as time passes and I live through more and more unhelpful long runs.

Anyway...here are the week's workouts!

Monday: Too sick to do anything :(

But this is waiting for me back home...all tuned and ready to go.

Tuesday: Stayed up feeling sick all night, and finally got up around 4 am.  I saw Ashtanga yoga on my gym's schedule for 5:30 am, and headed over there in the dark.  I actually felt strong and relaxed during the class, but started coughing and had to leave during the final savanasa.  Sorry everyone!  I was incredibly quiet and made sure to stay back from everyone and wipe down everything I touched with the disinfectant wipes.

All this tornado weather has made for some interesting skies.

Wednesday. 5.2 @ 9:10 around my parents' community.  They live in a very rural part of northern Mississippi, on a minimally maintained county highway with no shoulders or painted lanes.  Traffic moves VERY fast along the blind curves and hills, and you frequently have to dive down into the ditches to avoid being hit.  With all the horrible weather, the ditches are full of mud and water.  Very exciting and messy!  My husband and I both brought trail shoes for running, but I still took several hard falls on this run.  All of that combined with the 75-degree weather and humidity to make this a very tough run.

Thursday: 6.2 @ 8:42 at the Army Corps of Engineers park.  My husband and I decided it probably wasn't safe to do too much running near my parents' house, so we drove about ten minutes to a running trail on a dam spillway.  We did a 10k and called it good.  The weather was still horrible...near 80 degrees and 99% humidity.  It felt like running in a jungle.

Not a good feeling.  Especially for December.


Friday: 4 @ 8:46 around my parents' community, with my husband.  We decided there was probably safety in numbers.  We were wrong.  We also got caught in a hard rainstorm and flew back to the house at a 7:10 pace.  I sat under the porch coughing up a lung like, "WTF am I doing with my life?"

Saturday: Couldn't get motivated to do anything, which is incredibly rare for me.  Lame.

Sunday: 10.4 @ 9:05, back at the Army Corps of Engineers park.  I let this serve as my "long run" for this week, even though it wasn't anywhere close to the ~17 I had planned.  I went into this "long run" with absolutely no expectations.  I just told myself I would run at least three miles, and go from there.  I put my quart water bottle and a caffeinated gel out on my front bumper and got started. 

It was 79 degrees and 99% humidity when I started.  There was some very stormy weather moving in, and the wind across the top of the spillway was crazy.  Each time I climbed up onto the dam, I braced myself to run into it.  Then, on the other side, I braced myself to face a giant, stinky deer carcass covered with vultures.  It was a truly...unappetizing sight. On my second lap, I saw some other runners who seemed miserable and confused.  I waved at them.  On the third lap, I had my water and gel and discovered the water fountain had been turned off for "winter."  I did another two laps and decided I was getting overheated and coughing too much.

I felt pretty good the rest of the evening, so I don't think I overdid it on the run.  There is always another day for a hard long run, so I will continue being patient while I get over this plague.

Totals:26 miles of running, a yoga class, three injury prevention sessions, and two days of full rest. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

And Now for Something Much More Serious

I have started this post several times, and can't seem to select the appropriate wording.

Last week, a close family member died from breast cancer.  She made it just slightly longer than two years from her date of diagnosis.  She was young.  She had young children.  She had the BRCA1 genetic mutation (yes, the same one made popular in recent media by Angelina Jolie).

Many other women in my family also have this genetic mutation.  My own mother survived breast cancer at a very young age, and has gone on to survive two recurrences in recent years.

As you might imagine, I have been incredibly frightened of breast cancer for most of my adult life.  It is only during the past year that I have found the courage to do anything to take charge of my own breast health.

I am writing this post with the hope that at least someone who reads it will understand that fear and inaction are not the way to manage your breast cancer risk.

1.  Do your breast self-exams.  
Don't lie about it, don't put it off, don't worry about what you might feel or find.  JUST DO IT.  You can't overdo breast self-exams.  They are easier in the shower, when you are slippery and covered in soap.  Get familiar with the texture of your breasts and the way your ribs feel underneath them.  And if you find something, either call your PCP and leave a message asking to speak to a nurse, or (if you have no PCP), go to a Planned Parenthood clinic.  You can walk in, and just ask for a breast exam follow up.  DO NOT DELAY. 

2.  Ask for breast exams during your routine physicals.
Your OB/GYN should be doing these exams during your annual wellness visit.  But, you may not be visiting a women's healthcare provider annually, for a variety of reasons.  Any doctor or nurse can do this exam, during a routine physical or any other visit.  Just ask.

3.  Ask your female relatives about their breast cancer history.
Many women, those from older generations especially, keep this information private.  Make it a point to ask your mother, aunts, sisters, and female first cousins about their breast health.  Ask about their age of diagnosis, the specific diagnosis, and treatment outcomes.  Make notes.  Share everything with your PCP during a routine visit, and ask that it be added to your chart. 

4.  Know that you may need a mammogram earlier than you think.
There are new guidelines for mammography for women with specific breast cancer risk factors.  For some women with elevated risk, the recommendation is to start annual mammograms at age 35.  I had my first mammogram last year, at age 35, based on guidelines from my health insurance provider.  At the time, my only risk factor was my mother's past diagnoses.

5.  Do not be scared of a mammogram.
I have no idea why people say that mammograms are painful or even uncomfortable, unless they are particularly upset by having their breasts exposed or touched.  My experience was painless and stress free.  During a routine physical, my doctor wrote me a referral for a mammogram.  I called a diagnostic imaging center at a nearby hospital and made an appointment for the very next week.  I took my doctor's information along, so he could be sent the results.  I sat with other women, filled out paperwork, and watched an instructional video.  We were taken to a special locker room to undress from the waist up, clean our arms and chests with antibacterial wipes, and dress in special gowns.  The radiologist showed me how the machine worked, gave me instructions for how to stand, and took four images.  The whole thing took less than 10 minutes.  The machine sort of smooshes your boobs down, which feels weird, but didn't hurt me at all.

6.  Find out if genetic testing is right for you.
After speaking with my doctor, we decided that the benefits of genetic testing for me would far outweigh any of the harms (stress, worry, cost, potentially not being able to act on results right away, etc.).  In the end, we decided to use the Myriad test, but there are literally hundred of different ones to choose from.  Myriad is a kit your doctor orders, then sends back in with a single vial of blood.  We knew that at least half of the cost of the test would be covered by my insurance, and Myriad has a flat out-of-pocket cost guarantee for anything your insurance doesn't cover.  In the end, I paid about $200 for full genetic testing.  Look around, call your insurance, and know what is covered.

Just two months ago, the American Cancer Society released new recommendations for breast cancer screening, and state and federal law changed to follow suit.  That link provides all the information you need to find free or affordable screening.  It also explains how things work for Medicare, Medicaid, and self-funded plans.

7.  Don't stress or put things off.
Knowing bad news today is a million times better than being surprised by tragedy in the future.  It is better to be labeled a hypochondriac or worrywart than to go to your death wishing you had complained earlier.

I apologize for such a wordy and somber post, and I promise I will be back to regularly scheduled programming shortly.  But I truly feel that every woman needs to understand what I have written in this post.  Take care of yourselves. 

Workouts - December 21, 2015

How about a bare-bones weekly workouts update??  Yes!  Let's do it!

First, I want to show you guys a few candid photos I ran across while reviewing some tags on Instagram:

The left side is from October 2014.  I was completely focused on regaining cardiovascular fitness after recovering from pregnancy and childbirth.  The right side is from two weeks ago, at the relay exchange point for a trail race.  I have been lifting heavy weights and building a solid mileage base for about six months.  I think it is interesting to note that I weigh EXACTLY THE SAME THING in both photos.  Just last week, I was complaining about being a hard gainer, and struggling to see deltoid muscles in a lame mirror selfie.  But photos like these are so encouraging! 

Okay, enough vain silliness.

Monday - Hour-long yoga class.  My legs were not feeling so great after a weekend with a trail race and a 15+ mile run.  I took a mellow yoga class and it fixed me right up.

Tuesday - 6 @ 8:25 (speed workout), then 1.5 @ 9:49 with my dog.  The workout was a four-rung "ladder" at threshold.  It goes like this: run a two-mile warmup at "cruising speed" (for me, this is about 8:30 pace), then do 1-2-3-4-3-2-1 minutes at threshold (6:45 pace for me), taking half the amount of time to recover after each rung.  Then, run a mile cooldown.  This was actually a very fun workout, and not horrifying like some of the long intervals I have done over the past few weeks.  It's kind of cool to see the 6:45 pace on my watch, because that is territory I rarely get into if I'm left to my own devices.

Wednesday - 5 @ 8:53 hill workout on my home treadmill.  Work was shaping up to be a complete disaster, so I preemptively did a tough run on the treadmill before my family woke up.  In the dark.  With no music.  It can't always be glamorous.

Thursday - 9 @ 8:55 on the gym treadmill.  I took a short walk break in the second mile to remove my shirt, but other than that did not stop or get off the belt.  I know these treadmill runs are lame but honestly, they are what has helped me the most with stamina and mental toughness over the past several months. 

Friday - 2 @ 8:42, then an hour-long vinyasa yoga class.  I got to yoga half an hour early, and I was feeling very excited about the suddenly cold temperature (go ahead and laugh, we haven't had cold yet this year!).  I ran a quick two-mile out-and-back through this office park on a big hill, and it felt so refreshing...like a quick dunk in freezing water.  I was nice and warm by the time yoga started.

Saturday - 12.1 @ 8:39 for this week's long run, a cutback.  I felt strong the whole time, which was a welcome change from the week before.

Sunday - 3.5 @ 8:29 around campus and Railroad Park.  I woke up sick (?) in a very strange way.  My throat was all filled with phlegm, and I had a slight cough and absolutely no voice.  No other symptoms, and nothing below my neck.  I didn't really know what to think.  Working out while sick has become very tiresome for me this fall and winter...but I'm at a loss for how to keep everyone healthy with a toddler in the family.  There is always SOMEONE in the house with an upper respiratory infection, it would seem.  I waited until the afternoon and still felt weird, so I did one of those "just run for 15 minutes and see how you feel" runs. 

Totals - two yoga classes, three injury prevention sessions, and 39.3 miles of running (LOL too bad I didn't notice that and make it an even 40!).

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Long Run Report - December 19, 2015

This week was a cutback week, with only twelve miles on the schedule ("only" twelve miles, haha).  I don't have any cute photos, so I'll make do with some food pictures and this elevation profile:

The first two miles are a monster called "Key Circle Hill" and they felt great!

You can read last week's long run report by clicking HERE.

Strava Link
Distance: 12.1 miles
Weather: 30 degrees, cloudy, 55% humidity, 5 mph winds
Clothing: Full length photo print tights, medium weight half zip shirt, buff, wool cap, gloves
Pace: 8:39
Splits: 9:12, 9:19, 8:20, 8:12, 8:22, 8:14, 8:47, 8:34, 8:45, 8:46, 8:46, 8:30
Terrain: A lot of climbing in the first three miles, and on gravel trails from miles 8-10
Heart Rate: 149 average*
Suffer Score: 134*
Stops:  Four planned and one unplanned.  I stopped for water at mile 3, to wait for my pace group at mile 5, for water/Gatorade at mile 8, and quickly for water at mile 10.  Around mile 9, a woman running in front of us fell pretty hard on the trail, and my pace group stopped to check on her.
Day Prior: A little two-mile shakeout and an hour-long vinyasa yoga class
Fuel: Dinner of vegetable pizza and a beer.  Pre-run meal of a peanut butter and jam sandwich, followed by a caffeinated gel.  Two candy pumpkins (60 calories of carbs) at mile 5 and some Gatorade at mile 8.

* My heart rate monitor was malfunctioning for a huge part of the second half of the run.  I think it was the result of the below-freezing temperatures, and the extra clothing I had around my wrist.  It seems like the watch band can't form a good seal without sweat.  My heart rate was likely much higher than recorded, for huge portions of this run.

Am I the only one who plays Rorschach with run maps?  

Ratings (59/80)

Muscular Strength: 8
Cardiovascular Fitness: 8
Fueling: 8
Wellness: 7
Freshness: 5
Endurance: 7
Mental Toughness: 8
Pacing: 8

Finally!  A run that felt strong and fast.  I'm not sure what happened, but I have a lot of theories.  It could be 1) the effects of running with a group, 2) the forty-five-degree drop in temperature, 3) the shorter distance, 4) the fact that I'm four weeks out (ie. fully recovered) from the Magnolia Half Marathon, 5) the fact that my sinus infection has finally (!) cleared up, 6) better fueling, or 7) all of the above. 

But like I said, I think my heart rate monitor was having some problems during the second half of the run. When we stopped for fuel at mile 8, it said my heart rate was 72 or something ridiculous like that.  Not possible. 

My past two long runs have been weird...one at the beach and one by myself on a Sunday.   Neither one was very enjoyable.  This run felt easy and fun, and it was a huge confidence booster.

I have been having some nights where I feel extremely hungry all evening and even when I go to bed, despite eating another meal after dinner.  I know I need more calories in the front half of the day, especially on days when I run more mileage.  I woke up a bit early and made myself a peanut butter and raspberry jam sandwich, then chased it with a caffeinated gel and a quart of water.  I threw a protein bar and five candy pumpkins in my bag and figured that would give me about 700 calories if I managed to eat it all before noon.

I drove to Trak Shak and hid inside out of the cold while I waited for my friends to arrive, listened to announcements, etc.  I was NOT looking forward to running in the cold, especially since I am not acclimated to it yet this year.  I was so happy to see my friend Myrna, her boyfriend, and a few other folks I trained with for Chattanooga.  They are ever so slightly faster than me, and I felt up for a nice hard run.  (They also all speak Spanish, and participating in their conversation is just challenging enough to keep me distracted).

We set off and made it up the first big hill before the sun came over the horizon.  I love it when we run Key Circle Hill with people who are new to town.  The climb up gets everyone asking "what is EVEN happening right now?!" and then the view from the top is breathtaking...a panorama of the whole city from the top of a dramatic cliff.  I can even spot my building and see whether the windows of our apartment are illuminated yet.

We ran a strong, hard descent to Crestline Valley.  A guy in our group set the pace, while I ran beside him and navigated from printed directions.  I didn't even notice the effort until we reached the trails at mile eight.  A few people left us behind for a fast finish, and we navigated our way back to the shop.

I felt great after the run, just very happy and energized.  I chatted with one of my friends who just became a RRCA certified coach, then got some coffee and drove home.  All evening, my hamstrings were very sore and tight, particularly on the left (my "bad side").  It's to be expected when I run so many hills, especially hard downhills.  I took some Advil and spent about an hour on the foam roller.  I'm happy to report that I feel normal today (the day after), and I've been able to run some recovery miles with no pain.

With all that said, I will now share photos of what I eat on a day like this Saturday.  It's definitely more than on a "normal" day, but you will probably think it's a lot of food.  Again this week I have seen a few "what an elite runner eats" articles and click-baity lists circulating on the internet.  You know the type...Spartan recollections of meager meals full of powdered things, tomato flavored "food bars," sponsored almond butter, and not a bit of gluten anywhere.  I'll also note that aside from the things pictured here, I also cracked a can of light beer in the afternoon while I finished wrapping Christmas presents, I ate some stewed figs out of the jar because I saw them in the fridge, and I stole some animal crackers from my son.  I probably also drank milk out of the carton (don't tell my husband).  Okay, here you go:

Glamorous back-of-the-toilet breakfast at 4:30.  I didn't end up eating the protein bar or all the pumpkins. 

Following a Trader Joe's and Starbucks run with my family.  Does beet juice really help recovery?  I don't know!  I still love this lemony weirdness, and so does my son.  I seriously have to hide it from him.  The beverage is a whole milk cappuccino.  I probably drink too much coffee.  

A bagel with cheese, a few steamed eggs, and probably more than my fair share of the salsa.  This is not new juice, it's just the same juice that I couldn't finish because my son was screaming for it.  Do you guys steam eggs in the microwave?  I do, and it's a game changer.

A roast dinner I made in the slow cooker, because I am laaaaaaazy.  This is venison tritip roast that we got from my cousin.  Yes, although my husband is 99% vegan and I'm 99% vegetarian, we eat the venison my cousins give us.  We have reasons for this, but they are boring haha.

Work and television-watching snacks. 

Okay, the end.  Next week's long run is going to have to happen on the day after Christmas, and it looks like I'll be on my own again.  Probably on a 2.6-mile jogging track.  I guess that will be about seven laps?  KILL ME NOW. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Workouts - December 14, 2015

Quick post, and a day late!  My life has been busy lately, and things like this just go by the wayside sometimes.  For the past month, I've been keeping a detailed paper training log, in a cheap weekly planner.  I've been making notes about my diet, health, stress levels, and each workout.  I think it's been very motivating and insightful, so I plan to continue into the next year.

Long run this week.  Yes, it's still hot here.

So, here are last week's workouts!

Monday: 6.5 @ 9:07 on the treadmill.  This was our last day in Florida.  I was sick of running flat (haha, yeah, I can't believe it either!), so I did one of those "random hill workout" things on the gym treadmill.  It was weird, but it felt like a decent workout.  I can't believe some people only get to run hills on the treadmill...I'd go crazy!

Tuesday: Rest, driving back from Florida

Wednesday: 6 @ 8:23.  This was a workout from my ridiculous new training plan.  I hated it.  It called for ten minutes of warming up, then six-minute "cruise intervals" with two minutes of rest in between, then a cooldown, for a total of 50 minutes of running.  I read the description of the workout over and over, but couldn't exactly figure it out.  Also, how the hell do you track something like this without staring at your watch the whole time??!  I ended up running a lap in the park, then doing the intervals at about a 7:15 pace.  I jogged the rest periods at about a 9:00 pace.  It was a hard workout for sure, but it was just like seven laps of the park which was DULL DULL DULL.  Also, it was awkward passing the same people over and over and looking like a crazy person.

Thursday: 7.2 @ 8:43, then a cooldown jog with my dog (1.2 @ 9:43).  I just did a big lap around the city in my comfortable shoes.  I set my watch to show heart rate instead of distance or pace, and it was a nice break.  I also got my road bike!  I assembled it from the box, using the instructions, and I hope I got it right!  I'm taking in into a shop this week to be tuned and fit.

So help me, I know nothing about road bikes, but relied on The Internets to research and assemble this thing.  Here's hoping I don't destroy my gorgeous face in 2016. 

Friday: 90-minute vinyasa yoga class.  I remembered my husband and I were signed up for a trail race the next day, so I decided to stretch out and prepare myself mentally with some yoga.

Saturday: 6.8 @ 8:50 on trails.  I ran one leg of a four-person relay for a trail 50k.  I really raced this, and got a few miles in the 7:30ish range where the trail was less technical.  My leg had about a mile-long section of very technical climbing, which I love.  Our team came in second overall in the coed division, with a time of 4:14:10.  I'll probably recap this race, if only because it was so much fun.  Our team mates want to do more trail relays during the coming year, and I'd love that.  I'm also toying with the idea of running an ultra trail series that starts in spring.

Our team is the group of abnormally tall people on the left, and my son is photobombing the whole thing.  And yes, our other female team member removed the baby from her chest before she ran. 

Sunday:  15.6 @ 9:29 for my weekly long run.  It was a bit of a struggle after Saturday's race, but back-to-back hard workouts are something I promised myself I would do more of this training cycle.  Even though the run was a bit of a death march, I feel totally recovered two days later, which is encouraging.

Totals: 44 miles of running, one yoga class, one injury prevention session (oops), one day of complete rest. 

That's it!  Have a great week, everyone.  I'm headed out for another ridiculous interval workout, so keep me in your thoughts (haha, just kidding) (but not really). 

My "Normal" Schedule, or "Why I Can 't Blog Daily"

The soup kitchen operated by my husband's nonprofit will be hosting a huge Christmas party this week.  And every day this week, there will be homemade Christmas cookies with the meals.  I have been up to my eyeballs in cookie dough.  And, because I am a chronic overachiever, I decided to step it up and make classic icing-decorated sugar cookies...something I have never done before.  Yeah.  It took a lot longer than I intended! 


I'm also having a bit of an identity crisis with work lately.  All of my running friends get up early, do their workouts (usually as part of a group), then go to work and live out the rest of their day like normal citizens.  On the very best day, my schedule looks like this:

7 am - wake up, look at the weather, walk the dog, eat something for breakfast, get my son dressed
8 am - read all the bizarre and stressful emails that came in overnight (our main office is in China, and we have operations in Africa and Australia, so they are up working while I am sleeping), address any emergencies, do basic housework
9:30 am - run or work out, usually all alone or at a gym full of SAHMs
12 noon - lunch, or pick up my son from school
1 pm to 5 pm - run errands, plan dinner, walk the dog again, PT or chiropractor appointments, maybe take a nap
5 pm - conference calls and emails, it's 7:00am in China and my work day starts to ramp up
6 pm - cook, serve, and eat dinner with my family, do injury prevention exercises while dinner is cooking
7:30 pm - the bulk of my workday starts, just as my son gets in the bath
8 pm to 11 pm - more conference calls, Skype meetings, contract review, payroll, account audits, watch television with my husband
12 midnight - usually in bed, although I get up for scheduled conference calls or if my work phone rings (rare)

If I write a blog post, it's usually during the afternoons when I feel rested and caught up on housework.  Sometimes I work from a shared workspace near my home, so I'll write a blog entry if I'm finished with work before my time runs out. 

Those of you who blog daily, how do you fit it in?  How long does it take you to write a post?  Know any good shortcuts?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Long Run Report - December 13, 2015

Wow, you guys REALLY like these long run reports!  Hello to all my new readers, and I hope you stick around.  Thank you very much to Tricia at Missippipiddlin for her kind comments here...she and I ran the Magnolia Half Marathon together earlier this month, and I loved reading her recap.

You can read last week's long run recap by clicking HERE.  Okay, so here is the recap for this week's long run, which I did on a Sunday.

Apparently, this is the Sunday morning long run crew?  Who knew!  I'm front and center (not by design).

Strava Link HERE
Distance: 15.6 miles
Weather: 72 degrees, partly cloudy, 75% humidity, 15 mph winds
Clothing: Lululemon What the Sport Shorts, sports bra, singlet, reflective vest
Pace: 9:29
Splits: 9:46, 10:31, 9:14, 9:19, 9:04, 9:02, 9:34, 9:21, 9:16, 9:45, 9:42, 10:29, 9:14, 8:44, 9:12, 9:30
Terrain: the hills of Birmingham...what more can I say?!  Fairly extreme hills at miles two and thirteen, with a long slow climb from mile seven to mile twelve.
Heart Rate: 166 average
Suffer Score: 216
Stops:  Probably five?  Waited for the people I was meeting at mile 2.2, Gatorade at 5.5, water and a caffeinated gel at 8.5, water at 12.5, and more water when I left my friends at 13.5.
Day Prior: Race!  I ran one leg of a four-person relay for a trail 50k. 
Fuel: dinner of venison steak, asparagus, sweet potato, and red wine.  Pre-run meal of a protein bar.  Gatorade at mile 5.5 and a caffeinated gel at mile 8.5.  YAY, CAFFEINE.

Back on my home turf.

Ratings (46/80)

Muscular Strength: 5
Cardiovascular Fitness: 7
Fueling: 7
Wellness: 10
Freshness: 2
Endurance: 5
Mental Toughness: 5
Pacing: 5

As the ratings above probably show, I am still waiting with bated breath for a long run that feels effortless and strong.  They have been eluding me for several weeks.  At least I managed to keep my heart rate a little more under control, even with the hills. 

Mostly in Zone 2.  Success!

I went to bed last night like 90% sure that I wasn't going to do a long run this week.  I've been following the McMillan-based plan provided by Strava Premium, which I have mixed feelings about (more on that later).  My scheduled "long" run this week was just a 90-minute progression.  Weird, right?  On Saturday, I ran one leg of a four-person relay for a trail 50k (again, more on that later!).  My segment was 6.8 miles, which I ran at an 8:50 pace.  Aside from that part, my team had two small children, bags of gear, clothing, food, etc. to schlep back and forth from the relay exchange points at the top of the mountain.  I ended up hiking 3+ miles with gear and a toddler in a sling.  Ooof.

My segment ended with about a mile on power line easements, so it wasn't too bad.  Also, if anyone sees a copy of "Beginner's Guide to Not Looking Angry When You Run Fast," please reserve it for me. 

The race was tremendously fun, and my team won second overall coed with a time of 4:14:10.  Obviously, I have very fast friends willing to run organized events with me.  That night, as I lay down exhausted, I decided to put my running gear out just in case.  I scrolled Facebook and saw two organized Sunday long runs, mostly for people who had raced or volunteered on Saturday.  I decided that I could try to make it to one if I woke up before 4:30.  Oooof.

When the alarm went off, I decided I felt okay.  I dressed and left on foot at 5:30 to meet up with a group that was starting at 6:00, from a coffee shop 2.2 miles from my home.  I followed Google Maps pedestrian directions to get there, and ended up going up a massive (13% grade) hill alone, half asleep and in the dark, and not entirely sure where I was going.  Oooooof.

Once I met up with the group and the sun started to rise, everything felt much better.  (Of note: there was a woman who showed up in a full face of makeup.  How or why she managed that is still sort of blowing my mind.)  My legs were heavy for the first five miles, but that seemed to go away after I got warmed up and had some Gatorade.  I decided to cut some of the planned route in order to avoid running 18+ miles.  When I spontaneously turned down an alleyway behind the Art Museum, I found $20 on a storm drain!  Yay!  A long run that pays for itself!  There were no other people or cars in sight, so there was no way to determine who the money belonged to.  I pocketed it started making plans to use it for beer and ice cream.  Great mental game...I definitely recommend it.

I paused to give a woman directions to the train station, then at mile 8.5 decided to stop in the bathrooms at Railroad Park to cool down and eat a gel.  I wet my hat and hair and had a bunch of water.  I was sort of in awe that I felt miserably hot on December 13.  Unreal!

The next four miles were a long slog where I just put my head down and did the work.  At mile 12.5, I stopped in a Starbucks for some more water, which they put in a fancy cup for me (accidentally left my watch running, too).  I should win some sort of yuppie award, because I finished the run with that cup in my hand. It seemed wasteful to just chuck it, you know?  A mile later, I said goodbye to my friends and headed back down the hill for home.

And the run wouldn't have been complete without one more ridiculous interaction, right?  Less than two blocks from home, when I was exhausted and zoned out and probably looking ridiculous, this disheveled older man shouted "PRETTY LEGS!" to me.  I went into New Yorker mode and ignored him, but then he shouted "PRETTY EVERYTHING."  Nothing from me.  Then he ramped it up with "DON'T YOU HEAR ME, YOU BITCH??!"  I just said clearly, "fuck off, man" without looking up.  Well, he chased me to the front door of my building.  I used the fob and got inside without an issue, but...what?  I guess that counts as 1) a fast finish long run, and 2) another vote in favor of the Ugly Shorts.

But seriously...you would think I wouldn't still be getting violent catcalls, as I am approaching my late 30s.  I guess you never really age out of that shit.

The end.    

Monday, December 7, 2015

Workouts - December 7, 2015

First of all...I think some of my family members are pooling together to get me a road bike for Christmas!  LOOK OUT 2016 TRIATHLONS!  Or maybe, one specific triathlon?  Where I can do well at the swim, suck at the bike, and live through the run?  Yes?  Maybe?

My little bird at the beach. 

We are still in Daytona Beach for my brother's wedding and related festivities.  (There are bonus wedding photos at the end!)  I did my fourteen-mile long run this week entirely on beach sand.  Bold choice, Rheagan.  That meant that after a rest day and some minor home surgery on some new blisters, I hit up the condo gym.  Much better!

Scene on my run.

Here is 14.3 miles in a straight line.

Monday: 3.4 @ 9:20 with my dog.  This was a distance PR for her!  In the evening, I took a 70-minute yoga class that focused on hamstring stretching and lower back strength.  That was some cosmic good luck, because those are two things I really need to work on :)

Tuesday: 9 @ 9:00 on the gym treadmill.  I am working toward 90 minutes on the treadmill without pauses or breaks, and I am almost there!  I just start the thing, ramp up to a comfortable/hard aerobic pace, and hold it as long as I can without pausing, slowing, or stepping off the belt.  It's a learned behavior, but it really helps with stamina. 

You know I can't resist the allure of a good mirror after a workout.  I'm trying to get leaner and build up my shoulders some.  I'm a hard gainer, though, and I think I will always have bony upper arms. At least I'm looking a bit leaner?  Maybe?

Wednesday: 5.3 @ 8:51 on my favorite downtown loop.  Nothing much to report from this run...just a bunch of traffic and texting drivers.

Thursday: 6.2 @ 8:52 on trails, as a fartlek workout.  I dropped my son off for school and had a few hours free.  I headed to a wooded park with a 5k loop and did two laps.  After about 20 minutes of warmup (it was about 35 F, and I ran in a hat and gloves), I did one-minute fartlek intervals.  I'm trying to follow a new training plan, but I'm not sure fartlek is something you do on trails.  Maybe?  I hope so.  I took a cooldown lap around the lake afterward, and accidentally stole someone's CR on Strava.  Oops.

Friday: Rest.  Drove all the way to Florida!

Saturday: 14.3 @ 9:16, mostly on beach sand.  LOL.  We went to my brother's wedding where I 1) danced all night in five-inch heels, and 2) had two slices of wedding cake. 

Sunday: Rest, again.  Much needed.

Totals: one yoga class, four injury prevention sessions, and 38.4 miles of running, including an easy run, a treadmill stamina session, a moderate road run, fartlek on trails, and a long run.  Okay, here are the some pictures of us at the wedding:

Have a great week!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Long Run Report: December 5, 2015

This is something I plan to do through the winter training cycle.  You can read last week's long run report by clicking HERE.

This weekend, we are in Daytona Beach, Florida for my brother's wedding.  While we were making our travel plans, I made a commitment that I would make the long run happen.  I checked out segments on Strava and decided that I would be safe and happy running on the beach.  Yes, I did about 70% of this run on beach sand.  That which doesn't kill you makes you a badass, right?

My long run route for this week.  It's not a black and white photo, it's just winter at the beach.

And this was nowhere NEAR as exciting as the varied loop courses the Birmingham Track Club designs back home.  At least there were a lot of Strava segments. 

Strava Link
Distance: 14.3 miles
Weather: 75 degrees, partly cloudy, 98% humidity
Clothing: Old Navy 2" shorts, sports bra, short sleeved tech shirt (removed after two miles)
Pace: 9:16
Splits: 9:01, 8:45, 9:00, 9:24, 9:19, 9:45, 9:22, 9:47, 9:33, 9:30, 9:07, 9:17, 9:26, 8:31, 9:03
Terrain: just flat beach and boardwalk
Heart Rate: 172 average
Suffer Score: 279
Water Stops: two, at miles 4 and 10 (also took little walk breaks at miles 7 and 8)
Day Prior: rest
Fuel: dinner of cheese pizza, cherry tomatoes, a banana, and white wine.  Pre-run meal of a banana and some sweetened oatmeal.  Dried pineapple at mile 10.  NO CAFFEINE UGGGHHHH!

This is a case study in "Why Running on Sand is Hard."
Ratings (45/80)

Muscular Strength: 5
Cardiovascular Fitness: 5
Fueling: 8
Wellness: 8
Freshness: 5
Endurance: 3
Mental Toughness: 3
Pacing: 8

So.  A long run on sand!  I'll admit, this wasn't the sugary sand of the Gulf, which can often be too soft to even walk across.  That would have been real hell.  This was more compact Atlantic sand, on a beach that even gets some vehicle traffic.  It didn't feel too terrible.  At first.

I woke up before anyone else, dressed for a run, and ate a scavenged breakfast.  I was sitting around kicking myself for not bringing a gel when my husband woke up and decided to run 8-10 miles with me.  Yay!  I had been very worried about boredom on this run, especially since I have quit running with music except occasionally on the treadmill.  I put some dried pineapple in my pocket, grabbed a disposable water bottle to stash on the beach, and we let my mom know we were both heading out (my entire extended family rented one six-bedroom condo for the wedding).

We headed south on the beach and immediately saw mile markers for runners and cyclists.  Perfect.  The rising sun was very bright, and I realized I had also left my sunglasses at home.  Lame.  Three miles in, I noticed my heart rate was through the roof, so we slowed down a bit.  After four miles, we stopped at a public restroom to drink from the sinks.  Once we were done with five miles, my husband decided he wanted to turn around to check on our son and eat some breakfast.  I was just glad I would be able to get at least double-digit miles in before I was left alone.

When we turned around, we were facing into a very strong wind.  Funny how you don't notice wind until it is working against you!  It was very demoralizing.  And suddenly, we both started to notice how much of a toll the soft sand was taking on our speed and energy levels.  I felt every bone and ligament in my knees.  Each step felt like doing an abdominal crunch on a stability ball.  My husband said his lower legs were going numb...which, weird.  We saw other runners on the beach, and laughed that everyone seemed to be struggling.  Not my cup of tea!

Miles eight, nine, and ten were the slowest, and a real mental struggle.  I was dehydrated from the hot sun, needing fuel, and battling the sand and wind.  We stopped for a few moments to cool off and regroup.  Then, we counted every house number for about 200 blocks, haha.

Once we got back to the condo, we went upstairs.  I stashed my shirt, drank two bottles of water, ate a little handful of dried pineapple, and kissed my son good morning.  Once I got back outside, I decided it was time to run on a firmer surface.  Taking the first stride on pavement felt so bizarre after ten miles on sand!  It was like stepping onto dry land after a week on a boat.  I got really excited and sped up some.  Once I reached the city center, I saw that I could turn around and end up with 14+ miles, so I called it good.

I am so glad I was able to make my long run work this week.  It was a LOT slower than I intended, but I think the sand may have dragged my pace down some.  I am trying to be more comfortable with running "by feel" on longer runs.  I am trying to be okay with this "slow run."

And let me say...a long run day that ends with wedding cake is a real win!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Race Report: Magnolia Half Marathon, November 21, 2015, Meridian, Mississippi (1:52:45)

Here is a race report that was a struggle to write.  Each time I got started on it, all my memories of the race would start to crowd in and skew my perspective.  The short work week threw me, then it was Thanksgiving.  I got sick.  Suddenly, it was the weekend and I still couldn't clear my head.

Here is the best exercise I could come up with for busting my bad-race writers' block: I focused only on the positive.  I did not let my mind wander until I felt I had completely exhausted the list of reasons I am glad I ran this race.  So hold on, because all of my lame whining and excuses will come later.  First, positivity!

As Lewis Carroll said, "Begin at the beginning!"

Ten Amazing Things About This Race

1.  No doubt, this race was an awesome training run that made me both physically stronger and mentally tougher.  I am better runner for having completed it.

2.  I had the entire half day out with my husband, with no worries about childcare.

3.  My husband and I got to run about six miles of the race together, which was incredible.  I can count on one hand how many times we have run together in the past year.

4.  My husband had a great race for the full marathon, winning his age group and finishing fourth overall.  Incredible.

"...and you'll know when you're done."

5.  The weather was ideal.  It was the running weather you fantasize about...45 degrees, clear as a bell, no wind.

6.  I got to see the city where my parents live from a completely new perspective.  I got to run all the rolling hills on their weird highways that are normally too dangerous for runners.

7.  The race marshals and law enforcement support were unlike anything I have ever experienced.  The police were out in force, and traffic was controlled in places I never dreamed they could do it.  Runners who ended up running alone (me, and as it turns out, my husband) got a private police escort.  The local news ran a story about how to drive carefully around runners.  Everything was above and beyond what I imagined.

8.  I was able to support a community with a small but growing interest in running.  I know I say it all the time, but I believe running is for everyone who is willing and able.  I am honored to promote running in communities where it is unpopular.  It is an amazing way to take back your health, reclaim "dangerous" neighborhoods for pedestrians, and meet new people.  Also, where runners are common, everyone is safer.

9.  The charity partner funds research for Alzheimer's, the disease that killed my grandmother.  The race route went past the home where I saw my grandmother for the last time.  That made things very personal and meaningful for me.

10.  I ran a very fast finish, with a strong kick, and that is something I need to teach my body to do.  Again, I am grateful for the training experience I got from this race.

Okay.  Now, for the recap!  I want to start by saying that I am NOT disappointed in my time per se.  I know that many of my readers would love to finish a 1:52 half marathon (or even just FINISH a half marathon).  This is not a commentary on how a particular finishing time reflects on a person.  Instead, it is a commentary on the way my finishing time is a reflection of a poorly executed race.  Any disappointment is because I know my training should have translated into a better result.


I have always approached my training intuitively, by referring to the more popular plans (Hal Higdon, McMillan) and then developing my own goals for each week.  This fall has been so full of races, that I was a little stumped after the 10k I ran a few weeks back, and decided to check out the Strava Premium training plans.  They are based off McMillan, and mine had me reducing mileage by 25% in the final week, taking additional rest days, and running a three-mile shakeout the day before the race.  Check, check, check.  In retrospect, I'm not sure whether this was the best idea, and I probably needed more of a taper.  The week before the race was 40.5 miles, and the week of the race was 29.1.

Before the Race

We drove to my parents' house the evening before the race, and had dinner with them.  It was so weird packing my racing stuff, while my husband was also packing his racing stuff, while we were both packing our son's stuff to be "babysat."  We forgot a bunch of things like toothpaste and phone chargers, haha.  Packet pickup took all of five minutes, at a local hotel.  Everyone was smiley and encouraging and telling us they were so happy we were in town for the race.  The swag bag was one of the best I've ever seen.  It was handmade from burlap and filled with edible goodies, coupons, a voucher for a free large pizza, a voucher for a free Diary Queen cone, etc.  I think I counted seven pens in there, too haha.

My mom was practicing some of her Thanksgiving recipes, so we had a traditional turkey dinner the night before.  I stuck to the carbs and avoided the salad and veggies.  Afterward, we had a little cake for my son's birthday, so I had a slice of that with ice cream and my traditional pre-race dark beer.  Nothing special (in retrospect, probably also a mistake).

Fancy Delancey.

The morning of the race, I insisted that we get to the start freakishly early, while my husband wanted to do his normal thing and arrive ten minutes before the gun.  We compromised, but I still woke up plenty early.  Also in keeping with my tradition, I ate half a bagel and a caffeinated gel while I dressed in the bathroom.

Traditional bathroom breakfast.

I put on compression shorts, a short sleeved tech shirt, arm warmers, socks, my newest Brooks Ghost 7s, and a brimmed mesh hat with a knit beanie over (so attractive, I know).  I topped everything with gloves, sunglasses, and a cheap fleece jacket.  The same cheap fleece jacket I bought before my February marathon with the intention of throwing it away after the start (SPOILER: seven races later, and I still have the jacket).  I watched my husband sleep in and casually dress himself from what looked like a dirty bag of laundry.  Our personalities really could not be more different, haha.  Love him.

I have to do this the night before. 

The start was at a civic sports complex with lots of parking.  Once we arrived, we did a few strides and stashed our outer layers in the car.  My husband likes to line up at the front for small races (as he should), so we compromised and stood in the third row.  I made a comment that the start was uphill, haha LITTLE DID I KNOW!  The race director shot a real revolver for the start (yeehaw, Mississippi!) and we went tearing up the first hill.

The Race

My husband and I had talked about race strategy, and decided to run the first six miles together at a 8:00/mile pace.  I knew it would be a bit of a push for me, and very conservative for him.  We figured it would give him a nice, controlled start for the full, and me a good buffer for a PR in the half (SPOILER: LOL).  I've always wanted to try starting a longer race at a more ambitious pace, then attempting to "hang on" until the finish.  I'm usually too much of a control freak to risk blowing up.  And yeah, I'm also scared of the pain of hitting a wall.  It sucks.

Splits, GAP, elevation change, and heart rate from Strava. 

Mile 1 - 7:56 (GAP 7:52) I did everything in my power to keep my husband's pace reigned in by running right in front of him with my eye on my watch.  At the end of the first mile, he said, "I hope the next 25 feel this good!" 

Mile 2 - 8:02 (GAP 7:48) The crowd thinned out and the lead pack pulled away.  We weren't running with anyone at this point, and it was just the two of us on the shoulder of a four-lane state highway that was not closed to traffic.  Police on motorcycles escorted the runners along a single shoulder, and controlled the cars attempting to drive around us.  It was very cool.  At this stage, running on the shoulder wasn't bothering me yet.  It was rocky and very cambered, so I made a mental note to pay attention to my hip.     

Mile 3 - 8:00 (GAP 7:54) Half a candy pumpkin.  I started fueling early, because I knew our pace was going to burn me out.  Occasionally, a police bike would cruise past.  Cars in the northbound lane would slow down, honk their horns, and roll their windows down to cheer for us.  At first it was alarming, but after a while it was kind of fun.  The same trucks circled back over and over to cheer, and some folks even climbed into the beds for a better view.  Again, let me reiterate: yeehaw, Mississippi!

Mile 4 - 8:03 (GAP 8:09) The other half of the candy pumpkin.  At some point, I threw my ratty wool hat in a ditch.

Elevation profile for the half.  My hamstrings start to hurt all over again each time I look at this thing. 

Mile 5 - 8:21 (GAP 8:22) I was reenacting my days as a track club pacer, and attempting to "run over" the terrain without slowing.  The first four miles had five large "roller coaster" hills, and as we neared the first half/full split (mile 5.75), it became clear that I would need to slow down.  My husband told me he would probably catch me again around mile 7, where the courses joined back together.  Each turn in the course had a volunteer with a large printed sign saying "HALF MARATHON TURN RIGHT" or whatever, so it was very easy to find the route.

Mile 6 - 8:36 (GAP 8:29) This was the beginning of the Perfect Storm, a five-mile section of steady climbing.  I was running alone at this point, and trying to decide what to do with the rest of the race.

Mile 7 - 8:55 (GAP 8:29) It pains me to type out these split numbers.  One woman passed me during this part of the race, but otherwise I was totally alone.  I was on the grid of small streets downtown, where the police escorts were no longer needed.  Cars stopped for me at four-way stops, and I waved to them.  I ran past the hospital where my son was born almost exactly two years before, and had pleasant memories of carrying him home on a similar November morning.  I ate another candy pumpkin. 

Mile 8 - 9:02 (GAP 8:38) This mile was painful.  We ran past the city high school, where some of the students were cheering with handmade signs and passing out water, Gatorade, and bananas.  I was focused on climbing and didn't stop, but one of them called after me, "I really like those shorts!"  My leopard print booty shorts are very divisive...people either love them or hate them!  Glad they got good reviews at this race, haha.

Mile 9 - 9:11 (GAP 8:54) Pain.  Real, actual pain.  We ran past the house where my mother grew up, and I remembered her stories about rolling down the hill on 33rd Street.  I felt like rolling down the hill myself.  I saw 8:06 on a clock outside a bank, and I told myself I would be done in 40 minutes.  It seemed so far away!  I was incredibly frustrated, because this part of my last half marathon felt strong, effortless, and fun.  Near the end of mile 9, my husband caught back up to me.  He said he had dropped down to a 7:20 pace, and I think I actually said, "that's nice...I'm suffering at 9:00."

Mile 10 - 9:24 (GAP 8:59) This was my slowest mile.  My husband chatted with me while he ate a gel, then he left me behind.  Even on the best day, it is difficult for me to be dropped or passed during a run.  And here I was, nine miles into a race, spun out from half an hour of climbing, and my head was a mess.  It was incredibly demoralizing to be alone on the course again.  I guess I am glad I managed to pull myself together quickly after.

Mile 11 - 9:03 (GAP 9:01) At last!  The top of the hill!  We ran past the hospice center where I last saw my grandmother alive.  When I started feeling emotional, I reminded myself to channel it into finishing the race.  For a while, the course was on a stretch of undeveloped road.  There were no cars, no other runners, and no noises except my shoes hitting the pavement.  

Mile 12 - 8:51 (GAP 9:06) We turned into a gated community, where some volunteers had set up a water stop with a loudspeaker.  They were playing Smells Like Teen Spirit and dancing around.  I grabbed a cup of red Gatorade and spilled it all over myself, from my face to my shoes.  I paused and carefully drank what was left (first time I had stopped running during the race).  The course went through a gated community with some astonishingly steep hills, but at least they were short.  There were people raking leaves and taking out their trash, and they waved to me.

Mile 13 - 8:49 (GAP 8:40) Each turn near the finish was very well marked by volunteers with signs.  I started counting down the tenths of a mile until I could hear the announcer at the finish line.  Suddenly, after miles and miles of lonely running, I saw another runner out of the corner of my eye.  She was running hard and obviously trying to pass at the end.  All of my frustrations that had built up during the race suddenly sharpened into one clear thought: HELL NO.  I just wasn't willing to endure one more ridiculous moment before the finish line.  With two tenths of a mile to go, I absolutely dropped the hammer.  She yelled some profanity, but I barely heard it.   

Unrepentantly heel striking my way to the finish.

With the finish line in sight, I heard the announcer trying to read off our bib numbers.  He gave up and yelled, "IT'S A RACE!"  At the very last moment, we were still running abreast when the other woman reached out and pushed me sideways.  The announcer said, "play nice, ladies!" with this tee hee voice that made me so angry.  I have never run so hard at the end of a race.  Looking back at my watch data, I was running at a 5:37 pace through the finish line.  Race results show that I beat my nemesis by .2 seconds, and she was in my age group.  No regrets!

I know in Westerns, white hats are the good guys and black hats are the villains.  You decide. 

Afterward, I felt immediately very ill.  In fact, I have never felt so sick after finishing a run.  My vision was blurring a little bit, and I thought I was going to throw up.  I sat on some bleachers for a while while some guys ate pizza near me.  Happy to report I pulled myself together, though it was touch and go for a while.

I thought about looking for my nemesis to...I don't know?  Ask her why she pushed me?  Maybe apologize for not letting her pass?  I wondered whether I had broken some rule of race etiquette, but let it go when I realized she was nowhere in sight. 

I took a few water bottles and jogged over to the car to get my jacket.  I killed time waiting for my husband by walking around, printing my timing slip, chatting with some women from Jackson, staring at some ravens, and trying to eat.  The ravens were not interested in my bagel.  I headed over the the finish line and watched my husband come in fourth overall, first in his age group.  His official time was 3:36:30, and his race was incredibly well executed.  I took the opportunity to be a good wife and document his marathon experience with some quality photographs. 

"Sad Nathaniel Eating Pizza"

Photos that, in the moment, you do not want your wife to take but that have since become your Facebook profile picture.  You're welcome, Nate.

We chatted, mostly about hills, and waited for the awards.  The trophies were beautiful, handmade from magnolia wood and brushed metal.  I felt silly accepting an award for third in my age group.  Seems that's my normal race result lately, huh? 

I do like my legs in the photo, though.  Maybe the Ugly Shorts are growing on me?

When trail runners crash road races.

It was incredible to not have to rush away from the post-race activities to be with my family.  We really enjoyed ourselves and hung out until noon. Over all, this is a tough and unusual race, but you will not find a better small marathon experience.  Everyone was so professional, I did not notice one problem or mistake, the volunteers were perfect, the law enforcement support was the best I've ever seen at a race, the course was well marked and true, and everyone was just SO DAMN NICE.

Apologies for the parts of this recap that dragged on or seemed whiny.  I really did enjoy the race overall, and I am toying with the idea of running it hard next year.  At least I know what I'm getting into now, right?

As always, thanks for reading!

I was not compensated for this post in any way, and all opinions are my own.