TOTR: The Best Thing About Running | Six Races, One Report

Good morning and Happy Tuesday, my lovies!  I’m linking up today with MCM Mama and a couple of her cohorts for Tuesday on the Run… which is SUPER convenient for me since I already had this running-related post mostly written.  haha  Today’s topic is “The Best Part About Running.”  I shared an Instagram post a couple of weeks ago on this very thing, and since I have very little overlap between this blog and my IG, I’m using it again.  Recycled content FTW!!!!

While I was running my most recent half marathon last month, somewhere I believe around mile 4, we came out into an opening in the wildlife preserve we were running through, and the view over the water was just breathtaking. In that moment, it hit me like a ton of bricks at just how infinitely grateful I am to have found this life. Let me explain a little bit… I’ve hated my body for most of my life. I hated it when I was a kid and teenager because it was fat. Then when I lost weight in my 20s I still hated it because it bore the physical reminders that it was once fat, and I knew it had the potential to be fat again. I had a very unhealthy relationship with food, subsisting on Slim Fast and lettuce to stay thin. It’s only been in the last 10 years or so that I’ve learned to truly appreciate how strong and healthy I am (yes, even when I’ve allowed the scale to creep back up at times). And since switching to a plant based diet a few years ago, I LOVE food (REAL FOOD) instead of resenting it for having calories! Thanks to running and living an active lifestyle, I’ve been so many places and done so many things I wouldn’t have otherwise. Experiences that are priceless. I’ve explored 13.1 miles (and 26.2 a couple of times!) of some amazing places on foot, up close and personal, in a way that driving through just can’t compare. I’ve hiked into the Grand Canyon and to the top of the Manitou Incline–experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything! And the friends I’ve made literally all over the country!  Fitness has given me back tenfold what I’ve put into it, and I can’t wait to see what adventures are still to come!

And now to catch you up on some of those 13.1 adventures I mentioned…here ya go!  Six races, one report!

#1 – September 5, 2015.  The Tortoise and the Hare – Canton, Georgia (State #8):  This was by far THE HARDEST race I’ve ever run.  Marathons included.  It was also by far THE SLOWEST half I’ve ever run, coming in at 3:09:45.  But ya know what?  It was also by far THE MOST FUN race I’ve ever run!  It was 100% trail.  It was my first trail race, but it definitely will not be my last!  There were hills (oh so many hills), roots, rocks, streams, mud, and it was September in Georgia, so it was effing HOT!!!  But it was also beautiful.  I tried a couple of times to take my phone out and take pictures, but it was impossible.  My hands were so wet from sweat that my phone wouldn’t even acknowledge that I was touching the screen when I would try to swipe or tap, and I didn’t have a single square inch of dry clothes on my body with which to dry my hands.  So pics from the start and the finish are all I have of this lovely but grueling course.

9-5-2015 - Tortoise & The Hare start line
At the start.  We started and finished in this clearing.
9-5-2015 - Tortoise & The Hare Half Marathon in Canton, GA
Over three hours later…
9-5-2015 - Tortoise & The Hare finish
Proudly sporting my tortoise medal.  (It was a super cute medal.  The middle of it spins.  There’s a tortoise on one side, a hare on the other)
9-5-2015 - Post first trail run
I got muddy, so I’m officially a trail runner now!

This race kind of happened on accident.  One of our favorite comedians, Jim Jefferies, was in Atlanta that weekend, and when we were thinking about buying tickets to that, I searched for nearby races to see if killing two birds with one stone could be a possibility.  When I found this one only half an hour or so away, it was a done deal!  After the race, a shower, and a short nap, we drove into ATL for dinner, drinks, and the show.

9-5-2015 - Jim Jefferies

9-5-2015 - Jim Jefferies 2
He is fucking HILARIOUS but definitely not for the faint of heart or easily offended.

#2 – September 13, 2015, Guardian Angels Virtual Half Marathon.  I don’t know that I should even include this one here, but I’m gonna.  I signed up for this virtual race because it was for benefit of a group that helps combat veterans with getting service dogs, and of course I donated the extra few bucks to get the medal.  Because if you’re gonna run that far, it’s my belief that you should damn sure get a medal for it.  The only drawback was that there wasn’t someone waiting for me at the end of my driveway to put it over my head when I finished that day.  But here are some adorable pictures of my pups modeling it when it came in the mail a couple of weeks later.  You’re welcome, internet.

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9-25-2015 - Harley

9-25-2015 - Bella 2

9-25-2015 - Bella“Paint me like one of your French Bulldogs”

#3 – October 4, 2015, Key Biscayne Half Marathon in Key Biscayne, Florida (State #9):  Like the Georgia race, this one happened to coincide with another trip, too.  We had already planned a vacation to Pompano Beach, FL, and a few weeks beforehand I searched for races.  This one was an hour away the day after we got there.  SOLD!  It was hot AF and I was eaten alive by mosquitoes since it was still dark at packet pickup that morning, but I loved it.  The view over the bay at sunrise was just amazing.  Races like this really make me appreciate this whole “running just for fun” thing.  It’s nice to just be able to take in the surroundings without worrying about pace or PRs!   I ran the whole thing just like I’d been running all my summer long runs and was perfectly okay with the 2:25:56 finish time.

#4 – November 7, 2015, Monumental Half in Indianapolis, Indiana (State #10):  I have a friend that lives in Indianapolis that has been trying to get me to come and run the 500 Festival Mini Marathon for ages, but it’s in May and there’s ALWAYS a conflict with either a vacation or a graduation or a birthday, so I’ve never been able to make it happen (and already knew it wasn’t going to happen again in 2016!), so I gave up on that idea and went with the Monumental Half instead.  I’m not sorry at all.  It was a great race.  And despite my time of 2:22, I had a great race that day as well.  Six of those minutes were spent standing in line for a portapotty around mile 4.  That’s really my only complaint for the race at all.  It realllly needed more portapotties.  So while 2:16 isn’t a spectacular time for me, for where I was at fitness wise, I was happy with it.  And BONUS I finally got my picture with Bart at the expo!

11-6-2015 - Pam & Bart Yasso

11-7-2015 - Indianapolis Monumental Half 7

#5 – December 5, 2015, St. Jude Half in Memphis, TN.  This one is just kind of tradition now.  I’ve run it the last four years that it was held (it was cancelled due to an ice storm a couple of years ago) and will continue to run it every year.  Based on some of my tempo runs in the weeks leading up to this race, I thought I might possibly just MAYBE be able to eek out a PR at this race.  Nope.  Didn’t happen.  Although I did shave a few more minutes off of my Indy time and come in at 2:12:54, still 5 minutes off my PR.  They changed the course this year, and IMO it was MUCH more challenging.  It seemed hillier to me, but maybe that’s my lack of hill training talking.  Again, no pics during the race, except the proof I swiped.

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12-5-2015 - St. Jude Half Marathon

12-5-2015 - St. Jude half finish
A perfect, sunny day in Memphis, TN.  Finishers’ area inside Autozone Park.

#6 – February 13, 2016 – Fly with the Eagles in Marion, Illinois (State #11):  This was one of those surprises that don’t come along very often.  I chose it solely based on two things:  price and proximity.  Marion is only two hours away from where I live in Northwest Tennessee.  Pair that short drive time with the 9:00 a.m. gun time and the fact that they allowed race day packet pickup and you have yourself a hotel-less race.  Since I’m shooting for a half in all 50 states, I’m taking every opportunity I can to travel on the cheap!  Also?  The registration was $30.  Yes.  THIRTY DOLLARS.  So I honestly went into this race not expecting much.  I didn’t even really read any reviews on it.  I read just enough to make sure there was a finisher’s medal because that’s one of my self-imposed stipulations on selecting a race for a state.  Yes, I am totally shallow like that.  I was SHOCKED by this race.  Guys, it was SO well organized.  The volunteers were awesome and many, the aid stations abundant, the course beautiful, and the finish line well stocked.  This race also went down in the books as my coldest one to date.  At the finish, the temp was 14 with a windchill of 8, so the hot soup that the volunteers had waiting for us at the finish was a very much appreciated bonus.  (And the fact that they even had a separate soup for us plant-based folks?  BE STILL MY HEART!)  I found out after the race that the finisher’s hoodie is this race’s claim to fame.  It IS pretty great!  I love getting something other than an ugly t-shirt.  Oh!  And the race photographer uploaded all of the photos for us to grab FOR FREE!!!!  Seriously.  All this for $30.  I have a feeling this one will also become a yearly tradition.  It’s a gem for sure.

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And that’s a wrap!  Six races and four states, bringing my total up to 21 HMs in 11 states.  Next up–Garmin Half Marathon in Olathe, Kansas, on April 16!

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Training Recap & PFTW

Adding a new puppy to your life unexpectedly a has a way of totally upending any plans that you may have had.  Since this is Sami’s second week here with us, we’re kind of getting into a bit more of a routine.  After a largely nonexistent training week the week before last, last week wasn’t terrible.  I got in an easy run, intervals, and a long run, so I guess I got the necessities done anyway.  So let’s talk about those three runs a little bit…

The easy run was an easy 5.4 miles.  It was supposed to have been 6, but I was in a time crunch.  Not much to say about this run.  It was easy.

The intervals… well I have a little more to say about the intervals.  A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I thought I needed to reassess my goal pace.  I don’t talk much about pace specifics here because frankly I’m embarrassed by them, but I think I need to put it out there to get my point across for this one.  My 5k PR was an 8:38 pace, so until recently I’ve been happy to keep my 400s under 2:10 or so.  Well, a couple of times here lately I’ve seen indications that I may be a little bit faster than what I’ve given myself credit for.  Last track session, my 6th 400 was 1:54.  So when I went back this week for 6 x 400 again, I decided to try to keep them all under 2:05.  I kind of shocked myself by pulling off a 1:55, 1:58, 2:00, 1:57, 2:00, and 1:56 with 200 recovery in between.  Sigh Sometimes I wonder what I could do if I’d actually push myself and commit to a solid training plan.

Sunday I ran 12 miles.  They were uneventful.  At 70 degrees, it was hotter than it has been and wiiiiiindy as helllllllll.  But with my H20 hydration pack loaded with Nuun and a couple of gels, I made it through it with no issues.  Was it as fast as I’d like?  Not at all.  But it didn’t suck.  Then I came home and got the foster pup and walked her for 2 miles on the road behind my house then took her home and traded her out for my two dogs and took them to the park for three laps (2.25 miles).  I’m sad to say those are the only meaningful longish walks they got this week.  I fucking hate this getting-dark-at-5-pm bullshit.  I can’t walk them from home after dark for fear of getting mauled by the coyotes, and going into the park after dark skeeves me out because it’s just too dark and secluded, and I can’t carry my gun into the park.

So anyway, that brings us to this week… It’s race week again.  St. Jude is on Saturday.  And yet again, I am unprepared.  This will be my 13th half-marathon.  You’d think I’d have this shit down pat by now, but I have never gone into one feeling like I was properly trained.  Sure I can get through 13.1 miles.  But will I go out there and kick ass and PR and race to my full potential?  Nope!  Again.  Maybe someday…