Category Archives: race recap

Rocket City Marathon

I started training with my coach in June. I knew I wanted to do another marathon because I felt like New Orleans went really poorly. It wasn’t really about my time. I didn’t love my time, definitely thought I should’ve done better, but it was about more than that. It was about the fact that I started to feel bad at mile 16 and it was all downhill from there. My pace started to slip. I started to feel MISERABLE. I do feel I underperformed with a 3:26 but it was a respectable time for my first marathon.

So my coach and I discussed a fall marathon. He threw out some options and Rocket City on December 14th seemed like a good time and the course sounded great, so that became my goal race. It seems like I trained for it forever but at the same time, it went by so fast. I won’t recap all of that because it’s too much to try to catch up. But, overall, training went great. I trained so much smarter thanks to my coach and began to improve pretty quickly. When he started having me do marathon pace workouts at 7:10 pace and then started throwing around the idea of a 3:10 marathon, I almost couldn’t believe it. After running a 7:52 marathon and feeling like death, a 7:10 pace marathon less than a year later seemed almost impossible! Except that all my workouts were going great. My longer work at marathon pace, my fast finish long runs. I was hitting the paces pretty comfortably and feeling like I had something left in the tank at the end. 3:10 was the basic goal but I was hoping to squeak in under 3:10 if I was having a good day.

This was towards the end of the last mile of my first marathon. We had to come over a small bridge and the meager hill felt terrible at the time. Much to my dismay at the bottom of the bridge was a photographer who managed to capture this reaction.

This was towards the end of the last mile of my first marathon. We had to come over a small bridge and the meager hill felt terrible at the time. Much to my dismay at the bottom of the bridge was a photographer who managed to capture this reaction.

Leading up to the race, I was pretty nervous. My races had been going great, my workouts had been going great, but it was still difficult to fathom how I could really hold that pace for 26.2 miles. My first marathon was my only experience to compare to and I remembered how good I felt until suddenly I didn’t. I was terrified of running along comfortably and then the wall showing up out of nowhere.

My coach gave me a lot of great advice and strategy leading up to the race. The main things I drilled into my head were to be patient, not go out too fast, and not to get greedy too early. I had run a lot of my workouts just slightly fast but I knew for the marathon I needed to be disciplined. Even just slightly too fast early on could really come back to haunt me (and hurt me) later.

The basic strategy was to get with the 3:10 pace group and hang with them at least through the half. Rocket City has three sections. The beginning goes through downtown and then residential streets. Then it goes down a long highway for several miles which is boring and this year had a nasty headwind. Then, it turns back around mile 15ish (I think?) and it’s back up through residential streets to the finish. My coach advised me to stay with the group and shut my brain off through the highway stretch and then if I felt good, I could SLOWLY pull away.

I was nervous about the pace group and letting someone else set my pace. But, I knew how much mental energy and focus it takes to keep yourself on pace and as much of that as I could conserve for later in the race, the better.

My boyfriend was out of town for the race which was a big disappointment. He was a saint for my first marathon and he is very low anxiety which really helps balance me. I tend to get pretty anxious about the little details leading up to the race so having someone who is patient and not getting anxious too helps. However, my mom agreed to come down to cheer me on. We looked at the race map and decided to best place for her to be stationed was at the elementary school because we’d pass by there around mile 7 and then again shortly after mile 21. I armed her with gu and a water bottle with an electrolyte tablet.

Coming back by at mile 22ish

Coming back by at mile 21.5ish

When I woke up race morning, it was raining. Pretty hard. I was bummed about the rain but thankful they weren’t predicting strong winds. Rain isn’t fun but I don’t think it slows you down like wind can. Leading up to the race it was showing the rain stopping around the race start time (8 am) but the morning of the race the forecast changed and it started showing it raining through the race. I don’t think I’ve ever put more vaseline on my body before that morning and I still chafed in weird areas, like my wrist where my watch was.

Thankfully my mom put up with me that morning because I was hyper focused and not talking. I did my usual race morning stuff. Woke up and ate first thing. Normally I eat pretty light before a race, just a banana and peanut butter, but I added half of a gluten free bagel to it because I didn’t want to screw up my race by not having enough carbs. I tried to finish drinking everything an hour and a half before start. This worked well because I was able to find a bathroom before the race and didn’t think even for a second during the race about needing to use the restroom. After eating and drinking, I put on my clothes, vaselined up, and did my foam rolling. I started the tradition of foam rolling before I run when I had an IT band injury in the spring. It’s worked great for me. Also, the night before a race or a long run, I always foam roll and stretch.

This is my torture device of choice. Except on the IT band. It kills and I always end up with many bruises.

This is my torture device of choice. Except on the IT band. It kills and I always end up with many bruises.

I got to the Holiday Inn about 50 minutes before the race start. I am not sure why I arrived so early because once I went to the restroom, I just stood around. About 20 minutes before the start, I went outside and did my very very easy (seriously, like 9:40 pace) warm up jog for 5 minutes and 2 easy gentle pick ups.

I lined up in the 3:00-3:15 area. I started to get nervous because people were filling in and the announcer was telling everyone it was almost time, but the 3:10 pacer was nowhere in sight. I started to realize I might have to pace myself for this whole thing. Then suddenly, an older man in the shortest shorts I have ever seen, appeared! He was wearing a headband and he had gels stuffed into them. That was a new one for me! Several people seemed relieved to see him so I was glad there would be other people running with us. I soon found out our pacer was named George and he knew EVERYONE. Every area where people were standing someone shouted out to him by name. A local running celebrity apparently. He had run 2:38 on that course before so I guess the 3:10 pace would be pretty easy for him (thankfully-you don’t want a pacer who can barely squeak by at the pace!).

I got nervous because George didn’t seem to know how to show his splits on his watch and was asking some of the guys if their watches did that. Uhhh…have you used your watch before? I started to get nervous about the pacing but figured I’d just go with it and see where we ended up.

Before I knew it, we were off. I kept my watch screen on the lap pace but I turned auto-lap off so that I could manually hit the lap button at the mile markers and have a better idea of what our splits were. I just ran with the group and didn’t pay much attention to my watch but I could tell we were starting fast. We were sub 7 pace for a significant portion of the first mile before we settled in. My first mile measured long, 1.04, so the pace showed 7:05 but the split was 7:21, so a little slow for 3:10 which is 7:15 pace.

Early on in the race. Yes, I am stealing these pictures. Sorry...

Early on in the race. Yes, I am stealing these pictures. Sorry…

The first several miles were a blur. There was a big group running and it didn’t take long for everyone to start talking. This was wonderful and helped keep nerves and everything in check. It was really easy to just run with the group and not stress about pace or constantly check my watch. They call out the time at each mile marker which was great and kept George in check on how we were doing relative to the pace. Almost all of the miles we ran measured long and I ended up with 26.47 on my watch at the end. The course has something like 70 turns I think and running the tangents perfectly is all but impossible. The next few miles were: 7:08 (1.01), 7:07 (1.02), 7:09 (1.01), 7:06 (1.01), 7:24 (1.03-slowest mile the whole race). I took a gu at mile 5 and planned to take them at 5, 10, 15, and 20 which worked out great.

I saw my mom at mile 7 which was nice and something to look forward to. Then I saw Jackson who handed me a Huma gel. Scott was nice enough to talk to Jackson the night before and set it up and I really appreciated that! We saw a guy already walking at mile 8 so that’s pretty rough. Not sure what could’ve gone wrong so early in a race but I felt for him. There was another girl running with me named Laura. She had only run one marathon 8 years before and totally crashed so she was nervous about the race like I was. We started talking about goals. She was hoping to hold on for a 3:10. I told George I hoped to squeak in under 3:10 but it was too early to tell. He said I seemed strong and was talking like normal. Next miles were 14:32 (2.02 miles-didn’t see the mile 7 marker), 7:11 (1.01),  7:11 (1.01).

I really did feel great. I was kind of marveling at it. It took very little focus early on and I was able to talk comfortably. But I knew it was too early to get cocky so I remained conservative. Not too long after that, we hit the highway stretch. This is definitely the worst part. I got lucky and got to draft off people most of this stretch. I’m too short to really break the wind for anyone so no one wanted me up front! For awhile, George and a few of the guys were just too far ahead of pace for my comfort so I let them slightly ahead of me. They never started to break away so I felt good about that. There was a pretty nasty headwind and eventually I felt like it was in my best interest to catch up to the group and let them break the wind. It didn’t take too much to speed up just a little and tuck in behind them. The next several miles were:  7:00 (1.00), 7:11 (1.01), 7:13 (1.00), 7:07 (1.00), 7:09 (1.02). The highway stretch definitely caused us to work more and I found myself really sweaty after it. We dropped a 7:00 early and the girl I was running with was like, “wow that was 7? What is that, like a 3:05?” I decided to slow it down a little at that point because I felt like it was way too early to get greedy.

Coming off the highway stretch was such a relief. The wind stopped and the pace felt easier. Coming off the highway was kind of a milestone for me because that’s when I thought it was time to start doing some work. I had a few milestones in my head for this race. One was the halfway point. I wanted to get there without having done much mental work yet and still feeling relatively good. Another milestone for me was 16 miles. That’s where I began to feel bad in my first marathon and I thought it would feel meaningful for me if I still felt good. Then of course, 20 miles. That’s a milestone I think of any marathon and feeling strong there would mean I could start to push the pace a bit.

The next several miles I continued to run with our (much smaller) group. We had lost almost everyone. At that point it was just me, Laura, George, and one other man whose name I forgot but was from Brentwood. I kept waiting for the wall to show up. I was mentally focused and prepared to put in the work mentally if the wall did come. But it didn’t arrive. I started to feel more confident and excited as the later miles passed, but I stayed conservative for awhile. The next several miles we ran as a group and our splits were 7:05 (.99), 7:07 (1.00), 6:57 (1.01), 7:03 (1.01), 7:06 (1.01), 7:03 (1.01). After the highway stretch, we wound through residential streets. There were lots of turns but I loved that because it kept the race interesting and the sections mentally manageable. In any workout I struggle with long straight stretches. We hit a gradual uphill on mile 16 and so for mile 17 we had a bit of a downhill and we were rolling. We realized we were running well ahead of pace but we all felt good. I was still nervous to go too fast early on but my confidence was building.

I continued to run with Laura and George through mile 20. Around mile 21 I started to break away. It wasn’t a conscious decision but I was feeling strong and it was feeling like it was now or never. I was afraid to get cocky but it didn’t feel like the wall was coming. I took my last gel at mile 20. When I came back by the school, Jackson handed me another one and I held onto it just in case but never used it. I saw my mom around mile 21.5 and she handed me my water bottle. I was all smiles as I told her, “I’m doing it!”

I wanted to make sure I got plenty of fluids and it’s hard to drink out of the cups. I put an electrolyte tablet in the water bottle and drank most of it. I saw a guy standing by his car on the side of the road and I shouted to ask him if he’d throw it away for me. He agreed so I flung the bottle at him. Man, spectators can be so nice! I just couldn’t litter but I also didn’t want to hold a bottle the rest of the race.

Somewhere around mile 23 I saw that I was coming up on a girl. I didn’t realize at the time but passing her would mean coming into 5th place. She seemed to be slowing down and I was able to pass her fairly easily. Knowing she was behind me though really pushed me the rest of the race. I couldn’t let myself slow down because I didn’t want to get passed by any women.

My boyfriend loves this picture because of how happy I look with the girl I just passed in the background.

My boyfriend loves this picture because of how happy I look with the girl I just passed in the background.

I passed a ton of people in the last 5-6 miles. Lots of people were walking or jogging slowly. Unfortunately there was only 1 woman to be passed. The rest of the women were way faster than me and the top 4 were all under 3 hours.

Around mile 24 I started to feel tired but it was manageable. As I came up on a water stop at mile 24, I grabbed a cup and then quickly had to turn the corner. I ended up rolling my ankle. I panicked but after a few steps I felt fine. I had an extremely sore calf for the next 5ish days though and I think that little moment was the culprit.

Late into the race and super focused

Late into the race and super focused

I was so elated that I was actually going to run this marathon and hit my goal that I think my enthusiasm kept me going at the end. It was really emotional for me. My coach believed in me and that was a huge boost but man I really almost couldn’t believe that I was capable of running a marathon as fast as I was running it. The last mile I repeated some mantras to myself (I don’t remember specifics but just reminding myself I’m almost there and to not slow down now, etc) but I kept up the pace. As I was rounding the final turn, I heard a spectator shout to someone behind me, “Go Leslie! Yay Leslie, you can do this!” I didn’t think there was any way a woman had caught up to me but I was not chancing it. I put on the gas and ran as fast as I could towards the finish. As I was making the final steps, I was running faster than a guy in front of me. His ego couldn’t handle being outkicked by a girl, I guess, so he started to sprint towards the finish. I am not ashamed to say that I was not going to have that and so I started to sprint too. However, my legs and butt started to lock up and I couldn’t overtake him. We crossed the mat at the same time but I am happy to report in looking at the times, I beat him by 1 second based on chip time 🙂

My mom caught this one of me coming into the final stretch. I was going to overtake this guy but I guess his ego couldn't handle getting outkicked by a girl.

My mom caught this one of me coming into the final stretch. I was going to overtake this guy but I guess his ego couldn’t handle getting outkicked by a girl.

I crossed the mat in 3:06:44 gun time and 3:06:41 chip time. I was ecstatic. I never hit the wall and felt strong through the finish. My final miles were 7:06 (1.01), 7:02 (1.01), 6:58 (1.02), 7:02 (1.00), 7:01 (1.01), 7:05 (1.01), 8:14 (1.22, 6:46 pace-never saw the 26 mile marker).

I kind of couldn't believe it was already over at this point.

I kind of couldn’t believe it was already over at this point.

I felt so great about this race and I think it will continue to be one of my favorite memories. The day was really magical and everything went right. I’m not naive enough to think every race will be this wonderful and perfect. I’ll have hard races and I’ll have races where I don’t meet my expectations and I’ll have races where the last miles are a death march, etc. But I treasure how well this race went. My coach won’t take much credit and it’s true that I had to put in the work. But without his guidance and training plan, I would not have run a 3:06 marathon less than a year after a 3:26. It’s just fact. I had no idea what I was doing and going by the Blair method of training was leading to injury and burn-out. I have fallen back in love with running and it’s so satisfying that all the hard work I put in really does translate into progress.

This race has helped me get over my intense fear of the marathon. I still respect the distance, of course. You have to. It’s unpredictable and requires serious strategy. But now I know it is possible to be prepared for a marathon and it is possible to not hit the wall.

For now, I am easing back into hard training. Immediately after the marathon, I had a lot of soreness in my left calf and my right foot. I only ran every other day for the week after the marathon which was torture but necessary. I’ve been slowly building mileage. Last week was around 40 and this week is around 50. I’m doing a lot of easy running and am trying to enjoy this phase. However I’m excited to get back into harder workouts and start to get faster again.

Next goal race is ultimately Boston in April but I am looking forward to running some other races in the meantime, including the Tom King Half Marathon in March which is one of my favorite Nashville races.

Thanks to my mom for this photo

Thanks to my mom for this photo

Advertisements

My Week of Running

This week was my highest mileage week ever! And boy did I feel it on Saturday. But before I get to that, here’s the recap:

Monday

8.08 miles, 1:00:29, 7:29 pace (morning)
1.3 miles, 9:42, 7:27 pace (warm up on treadmill before Sculpt class in the evening)

Tuesday

1.01 mile warm up, 8:23, 8:16 pace
2 mile time trial, 12:41, 6:19 pace
1.06 mile cool down, 8:34, 8:04 pace

Wednesday

7.27 miles, 53:47, 7:24 pace

Thursday 

2.06 mile warm up, 17:12, 8:20 pace
5.05 miles (Boulevard Bolt), 33:48, 6:41 pace
2.01 mile cool down, 16:44, 8:19 pace

Saturday

16 miles, 2:01:05, 7:34 pace

Total weekly mileage: 45.84

Right now, I’m starting marathon training but I’m not using one particular training plan. I think when I first started out with running, I needed an exact plan every week. It helped give me structure and honestly I had no idea what I was doing. Now I have a pretty good idea of what my body needs and what works for me. I still use them as a guideline but I adapt them. I have Peter Pfitzinger’s book Advanced Marathoning and it’s an incredibly helpful book to read based on the comprehensive information it has about all facets of training-from nutrition, recovery, etc. However, the plans in the book are VERY high mileage. I’m loosely following the 18 week plan that tops out at 55 miles a week (that’s the lowest mileage plan!). The problem with the plan for me right now is that a lot of the weekday runs are LONG. I’m not used to running 12 miles on a Wednesday. I definitely want my body to get used to the longer runs but I’m a bit scared off by the prospect of having to fit 12 miles on a morning before work. He also doesn’t have speed work built in for the first part of the plan. I’m in the habit of doing speed work every week and will continue with that. I am however going to use the plan to dictate my long runs every week and when I should do cut back weeks. I want to get my weekly mileage higher and at least do one run during the week that is fairly long-but it’s intimidating to me right now to imagine regularly going on runs over 10 miles before work. I already wake up between 5-5:30!

So onto this week’s runs! I have enjoyed being a bit flexible at the start of marathon training. I went out on Monday morning with the idea to at least do 6 miles and just see how it felt. Something about that freedom, allowing myself to end it at 6 or go longer if I felt like it, really helps me mentally. I ended up doing 8 miles because my legs just felt great and I had a lot of energy. I’m not sure if I had told myself I absolutely had to do 8 miles, I would’ve enjoyed it as much.

I did speed sessions with Fleet Feet back in the winter and it’s what got me hooked on speed work! Even though the speed sessions ended in April, I’ve continued doing the workouts every week on my own since then. We did a 2 mile time trial at the beginning of speed sessions and in the middle. The first time I got somewhere around 14:10 and the 2nd time I got 13:35ish (I got a cramp 1.3 miles in and had to stop and breathe through it and start again). All of your workout paces for speed sessions were determined by your time trial. I hadn’t done a time trial since March and all of my paces were way outdated. I’d been guessing for months. I finally got my ass in gear and did the time trial on Tuesday. Ugh-they’re a certain kind of agony. It’s just really tough to run full out for 2 miles. However, I ended up getting 12:37! I shaved almost a minute off my time. I was extremely excited about that. My first mile was 6:20 and my second was 6:17. I felt like I really paced myself well this time. When I ran my first one last winter, my 2nd mile was about 10 seconds slower than my first. This time I tried to stay relatively conservative for the first mile and then was able to really push it in at the end. I do not enjoy time trials but it was so validating to see my progress! And it’ll be nice to have legit times to shoot for when I do my workouts now.

Wednesday’s run was so run of the mill (get it…hahaha…) that I don’t really remember details. Thursday was the Boulevard Bolt! It’s a Nashville Thanksgiving tradition. It’s a 5 mile race up and down Belle Meade Boulevard. Basically you run past mansions the whole way as people in Belle Meade are LOADED. This is really the only thing I took pictures of, so bear with me.

It was way too f-ing cold for that outfit. I took one step outside and turned back around and put on a long sleeve shirt.

I wanted to get more than 5 miles on the day, so I parked 2 miles away and jogged to and from the race start. This seemed like a great idea, and I still think it was, but unfortunately the jog to the race was mostly downhill, so…I kind of hated myself on the jog back. Especially after racing 5 miles. I kept my pace super conservative for the jogs there and back. On my jog there, I got yelled at by a police officer. Yes, really. Me, goodie-two-shoes, got yelled at. By a police officer. Just want to reiterate that for emphasis. It was close to the start and it was a madhouse. This year’s race pulled in over 8500 participants! I was jogging along, trying to get around people, and I had my headphones in so I wasn’t hearing what was happening around me. Apparently this police woman was trying to get people to stop at the driveway into the church (where the race started/ended) so that a shuttle could get out. Me, with my headphones in, trying to get around the crowd, was oblivious. Suddenly, out of nowhere, this woman was in my face yelling at me. I gave her the stink eye and told her that I saw her. At this point I had no idea why she was freaking out. I took out one of my headphones and realized she was yelling at me because I was trying to jog across the driveway and she was trying to get people to stop. She was screaming about how it was a police order and did I think she was just standing around for fun, she was a police officer, blah blah blah. It was so intense and so unnecessary. Granted, she must be really bored since she works in Belle Meade, the land of rich people. She was probably enjoying her brief tango with power.

The look I gave the angry police woman

Anyway, if I learned anything from running the Bolt last year, it was that you should absolutely line up right by the start line. Even though there are signs for you to line up by predicted finishing time, and people on the megaphones are yelling and reminding people who are going to walk or have small children to get to the back, no one listens. Last year I spent the first mile running through the grass on the side of the road trying to pass all the assholes who willfully disobeyed the seemingly simple rules of lining up. I learned my lesson and lined up right by the start line and thankfully didn’t have to spend much time at all dodging the rule breakers.

I have the sense of humor of a 7th grade boy but now I keep thinking the circles look like boobs. Sorry.

Running past mansions!

The race itself was uneventful. After doing a 5 mile tempo run at 6:53 pace as my speed workout a couple of weeks ago, I knew that I could do sub 7 minute miles. That was my only goal. Here’s the truth-I don’t care for shorter distance races. It really sucks to go all out. Even though it’s over quickly, it’s painful. I like going moderately fast for a long period of time much more than going super fast (relative to the individual) for a short amount of time. My splits for this race went: 6:58, 6:41, 6:44, 6:45, 6:17. I’m pretty excited by the last mile time. It’s amazing what the human body can do. Even when you feel like you just can’t give anymore, somehow your body finds the strength to give it that final push. By mile 3 I wanted to be done but somehow at mile 4 I found something within me to push it to the finish.

Shit loads of people at the finish area

After the race and jogging painfully 2 miles uphill to my car, my legs felt kind of wrecked. I decided to get a bag of ice on the way home and ice bath it. I knew I was facing 16 miles on Saturday and wanted to try to recover as much as possible before then. After the ice bath, I got decked out and ready for Thanksgiving feasting.

All the cool kids wear compression socks with flip flops

Saturday’s run was tough. I am struggling lately mentally with long runs. I decided to sign up for this marathon because I wanted to do it at least once and see if I could enjoy it. I know that I’m capable but I guess I want to be able to say I did, not just I could. I know that when I trained for my first couple of halfs, runs of 10, 11, and 12 miles seemed HUGE. They were not always enjoyable. Now, those runs don’t seem bad to me. My body and mind have adjusted. I know it’s just going to take time and patience for my mind and body to adjust to these even longer runs. I’ve been doing longer runs since the summer. I basically built up to 17 miles and then had 3 half marathons in about a month and a half so I wasn’t able to keep building. Now my race schedule is clear until the marathon and I have nothing but time to work on this. I wanted to see if I could enjoy training for and running a marathon but I have to be honest-some weeks these long runs discourage me.

I love the half marathon distance. Part of me feels like there’s this idea that to be a legit runner, you have to be a marathoner. I can’t tell you how many times I would tell people about a half marathon I ran and they’d ask me when I was going to do a full or tell me about someone they know who runs fulls all the time. Or my favorite question- “are you doing the full? Or just the half?” JUST THE HALF. YOU GO RUN 13 MILES AND SEE HOW JUST THAT SEEMS TO YOU! Anyway-all of this to say-I love the half distance. I love the push of endurance but still being able to really push the speed. Maybe one day I’ll love the marathon-but if I don’t-is there really anything wrong with that?

Now, that’s not to say I never have enjoyable long runs. I do! I had a run a few weeks ago of 14.5 miles that was great. I’ve had a few 15s that were great. But this week’s 16 was rough. Here are a few issues:

  1. I ran way too f-ing fast. You’re supposed to run your long runs significantly slower than your normal paces. But I’m too much of a damn perfectionist to let myself chill out and take it slow. I start out with the mentality that I’ll just take it easy and not push it. But then I get comfortable around miles 3 or 4 and my pace naturally increases and then I won’t let myself slow down. Something about positive splitting seems like a failure to me and so I push myself to at least keep the current pace up. It’s a problem and I know it will eventually hurt my training so I need to work on it.
  2. I haven’t had much of an appetite lately for some reason and I think probably didn’t have the proper glycogen stores built up that I normally would.
  3. Cramps. I have been cramping so badly lately. It’s happening on almost every run. I can’t seem to figure out why it’s happening. It happens on fast runs but it also happens on the slower runs. The cramps started early on this run. The started around mile 4 and plagued me until around mile 11 or 12. It’s always the same spot, in the right abdominal muscle. It only seems  to happen in the winter which makes me think it’s asthma related somehow but I also wonder if hydration/electrolytes are playing a part. I don’t fuel differently now than I did during the summer. I don’t know. I’m stumped but I’m really freaking frustrated. I guess the silver lining is I’m learning how to run through them so it doesn’t totally derail my run.
  4. High mileage week + strength training on Friday. This was my highest mileage week ever AND I raced 2 days before this run. I think my legs were just wrecked. I also did strength training on Friday morning instead of Thursday evening since Sculpt was obviously canceled for Thanksgiving. The worst part of the run was how tired my legs were. I think I just wore them out.

Not even proud of the pace because it was dumb to go that fast.

Anyway-this post is already absurdly long and I can’t imagine anyone else is really still hanging in so I’m gonna wrap it up. I got home after the 16 miler and did my regular routine of ice bath + coffee, hanging out in bed with about 800 layers because I’m fucking freezing, and then getting ready for my day. Ultimately, I know these long runs are important. Some of them will suck, some of them will be okay and doable, and some of them will (hopefully) be great. They’re important because they’re training my mind and my body. I want my body to get used to these long runs. I want them to be able to endure the strain. But I also want my mind to get used to the idea of running for so long. I want it to be less daunting. I want to be more confident in myself. I know that if I can step my mental game up, the runs will be more pleasant. Honestly-that’s my biggest concern at this point. Can I get my mind to the point where it can handle 26.2 miles? Because I know my body can get there.

Nashville 1/2 Race Report

It’s probably a bad sign if you start a blog and immediately start slacking on posting. Whomp whomp.

Since it’s been over a week since the Nashville 1/2 it’s probably time I write about it before I forget the details and can’t be bothered to recap it.

The race expo was probably more exciting if you didn’t technically show up before it was even supposed to start and breeze through and try to avoid eye contact with the eager vendors hopeful to sell you their overpriced running gear. The woman giving me my race bib jokingly asked me if I was going to win my division and I smiled and said, “We’ll see…” and it really made me want to give that biatch a reason to eat her words. Just kidding…kinda…

Women's sized small running shirts are no joke. This is sized more like something I should wear to a club.

I have a pretty standard routine for race mornings and since I am incredibly anal, type A, and rigid, I rarely stray from it. The race started at 7 so I set my alarm for 5. A check of the weather showed it was going to be high 40’s at the race start and warming to the low 50’s. By the way-that was a bit of a godsend since it had been consistently in the low 30’s in the mornings which basically translates to me being one giant snot factory. It’s unbelievable how much snot a human body can produce and then continue to replace. Don’t act like you weren’t dying for those details.

Speaking of cold weather and snot (wonder how many times I can manage to mention snot in this post?)…I forgot to vaseline up. I have about as sensitive skin as is possible and running in cold temperatures is not kind to my face. For the first few weeks after the weather gets colder, my skin is chapped and dry and just awful. It gets so thin and raw that the area around my mouth and eyes basically makes me look like Ronald McDonald.

Hi guys!

So basically, you could say forgetting Vaseline is a recipe for disaster. By the way, you people who use BodyGlide and other overpriced luxury Vaselines…why? Vaseline is $3 and I think quite literally lasts forever.

Yes. I actually took a picture of my Vaseline and pasted a picture of Ronald McDonald onto it. I don’t know.

I snapped a photo of myself in my race outfit so my mom could spot me out on the course and then I gathered my belongings. I wear a pretty sexy running fanny pack when I do long runs. I generally keep a couple of pepto tablets (sorry but ya gotta be prepared), my inhaler, gus/gu chomps, nuun tablets, and during the winter, tissues. Wow. This was a boring paragraph. Let’s move on…

Hi mom!

It never fails. If I take a picture on race morning and I actually think I’ve managed to pull myself together enough to look decent, I look at it and it looks less decent and more like this:

You know, when I read race blogs I swear I read the stuff about the race expo and race day prep and it actually sounds interesting but this is boring as hell so I’m gonna get to the good stuff. I have a habit of being perpetually early to everything (a family trait) and so I made myself wait until 6:15 to leave for the race. I found a parking spot where they were only charging $5 which seemed like a good deal until I realized how far away it actually was and how many closer lots there were for the same amount of money (or less!). I guess it was the parking attendant’s shit eating grin that persuaded me.

I have to warm up for a race. I never see anyone else doing it but it’s like…imperative. Whenever I go out for a run, it almost never fails. My first mile will be anywhere from 30-45 seconds slower than my next mile. My body just can’t get it together for the first mile. On race day, that’s not so good. So, I always try to jog for at least 10 minutes and do some dynamic and static stretching. Other race participants passing by me always seem to look at me like I have three heads (maybe this is because some of the dynamic stretches I do make me look like I’m prancing up and down the street).

I always have my first gu about 15 minutes before the start (side note: peanut butter gu is the shit, okay? Like, I have to stop myself from snacking on it). I lined up and finally saw some other sane people stretching so I felt more at home. This race didn’t have corrals really, but you were supposed to place yourself by your minute/mile pace. The fastest one was 7:00-7:59 so I lined up there…in a sea of dudes.

There were a few other ladies around but mostly just super competitive, intense dudes. We got started a little after 7:00 because they were still clearing the course. At the start of races, I have to be so careful to not go out too fast. It’s such a natural tendency but it’s also a really really stupid thing to do. The worst thing you can do in an endurance event is go all out at the beginning and not be able to sustain it. I have a natural tendency to speed up as a run goes on. I think that I willfully taught myself to negative split (each mile faster than the last) and now it just comes naturally. I know that a lot of the people so eager to pass me in the beginning I’ll be picking off later on. This day was no exception. I was hoping to clock in around 7:45 for my first mile, conservatively. It ended up being more like 7:30. This is pretty typical for me. I hold back a little on race day but always take my first mile a little faster than I intended. The first 2.5 miles of the course are pretty much totally uphill. I’ve trained those streets so many times that I wasn’t too worried about it. Not to mention that race day adrenaline is flowing like crazy at the beginning and carries me for a long time during the race.

The pack started to thin out a bit around mile 4 or 5. I had seen one woman ahead of me for the first four, almost five miles. We rounded a corner shortly before mile 5 and went up a BIG hill to cross the bridge into East Nashville. I managed to pick her off there (really wasn’t out to beat her, but it still always feels nice to move ahead). I train hills so much and try really hard not to shy away from them, so I think I manage to keep my pace strong on them which is a nice advantage. The next part of the race became mercifully flat which was a change from last year. They changed the route this year to make it more PR friendly!

We rounded LP field at mile 6 and I was still feeling strong. My pace was holding steady around 7:20 which is fast for me on any day but I didn’t feel like I was pushing too much. It felt doable so I kept going. Normally during a long run, I only “gu” (yep, making that a verb) before I start and then roughly every 6 miles. Given my issues in the winter with cramping (F you asthma and lack of oxygen), I was hypervigilant about keeping my inhaler handy and having enough electrolytes in my system so cramps wouldn’t derail my race. I took the gu’s whenever they were offered on the course-in this case miles 4 and 8. I also had some gu chomps at mile 11 when I again felt cramps threatening.

The race really started to take on special meaning when we headed into Shelby Park. My mom was going to be around mile 9, near the turn-around. This section of the course was an out and back. As I approached mile 9, other runners started to come back from the turn around point and I decided to count the women just for fun. I counted two. TWO. I cannot even tell you the surge of adrenaline that gave me. As I passed my mom I shouted, “Am I really the third woman?” and she nodded. She stayed at that same spot and so when I passed her again 5 minutes later I couldn’t help but ask her again. She again assured me it was true and I was on cloud nine.

This part of the post is conspicuously missing any pictures. Here’s a puppy!

I could feel cramps threatening from mile 9 onward but they never became debilitating. I ALWAYS cramp in my right abdominal muscle. Not a side stitch but literally in my abs. Sometimes I cramp in one of my lower left abdominal muscles but that one is easy to run through because it doesn’t affect my breathing. I tried to remind myself to keep my body relaxed and not slouch and reminded myself to breathe. Even though I didn’t feel like I was really pushing the pace, I held back and didn’t push any harder just in case. I cramped in my last race in October and several of the people I’d passed passed me as I stopped and tried to breathe through them. It was a bummer. This race really got fun after the turn around. People who were heading towards the park kept shouting to me that I was third. What a great feeling and one I never knew I’d get to experience! It really helped keep me going and helped me keep my pace.

When I got to mile 11 there was a water stop and I was desperately wanting gatorade to stave off the cramps. I’d managed to miss the gatorade almost every time. I’ll be honest-not sure I’ve ever felt like more of a bad ass. I took my headphones out and shouted, “gatorade?” (in a friendly way!!) to the volunteers and one guy seriously, animatedly whipped around and started fumbling around to find a cup and filled it up with gatorade as quickly as he could. It was cool and I felt like a baller.

The last bit of the race course was tough. We had to scale Woodland St bridge which is tough to do at almost mile 12. We got a brief respite at the downhill before having to climb from the riverfront up to 7th Avenue. Pretty steep uphill! I’ll be honest-I knew there wasn’t a woman close enough to catch me at that point. That felt pretty awesome but I desperately wanted to finish strong. I held onto one guy for awhile going up the hill and we shared a moment of encouragement with each other about the hill and then once we rounded 7th, I kicked it. I knew the rest of the way was downhill and I could hold on and give it all I had. I’ve had a lot of races where I had nothing left to give at the end but I was so glad to still have something left in the tank. Nike+ informed me I crossed the half marathon mark at 1:35:00 exactly. Although that will never be my official time, it still felt pretty awesome because I thought my 1:40:49 and 1:39:48 were pretty awesome in September and October. I ended up crossing the finish line at 1:36:43 and finishing 3rd female.

Now, let me be clear-this race was on the smaller side (somewhere around 1500 runners, I think). It didn’t have a lot of super fast women runners this time. I know that I will not always be able to place in a race or enjoy getting to stand on the podium. But that’s one thing that is awesome about smaller races. You can enjoy a little bit of glory! So while it wasn’t a super deep pool of fast woman runners, I honestly don’t give a shit. Third place feels pretty f-ing good.

Once I crossed the finish line, I confirmed that I needed to stay for the awards ceremony (award certificate and $15 gift certificate…hollllaaa) and then excitedly called my parents to tell them the good news. Hearing my dad exclaim about how awesome it was and him telling me how proud he was was really such a special moment for me. I have worked my ass off with running and I’m incredibly dedicated and it was just so nice to spend that day basking in the hard work paying off.

My mom just barely made it to the finish line in time to see me stand on the podium. The 2nd place finisher who I chatted with briefly after the race didn’t even stay! I guess maybe she wins races all the time but I don’t so I ate it up! I’ll write more later I’m sure about how running has changed my life and given me the self esteem I so severely lacked for so much of my life…but for now I’ll leave you with a couple more pictures because if it’s one thing I’ve learned from reading blogs, it’s that people love pictures. I may never have a post with as many pictures again though because it turns out I only take pictures of my cats and outfits in dressing rooms that I send to my mom for approval.

My mom took a phone call while I stood there posing

HollllaaaaOn a more serious note, I love races. They show you what you don’t even realize you’re capable of. Before this race, I wouldn’t have dreamed that pace was sustainable for 13.1 miles. Not only was it sustainable, but I never felt the wheels come off. I never felt like I couldn’t keep going. The body is an amazing thing!