Sunday Runday

The Pistol Ultra Run - 100 Miles

The ultramarathon.  Not many people know what one is.  In fact, very few people tend to even know the distance of a marathon.  When people ask me what an ultramarathon is, I let them know it's any distance longer than a marathon, anywhere from about 30-100 miles (sometimes even up in the 200's these days!)  Now that I'm no longer running for hours at a time most of the week and my body is starting to feel more like it should, I am able to reflect on what it's like to complete 100 miles in less than a day and a half.  

 background photo from traillink.com user jefreeinkorn

background photo from traillink.com user jefreeinkorn

Prerace -

The mini expo for this race is always the day before the race and I rode out there with some friends of mine to pick up our bibs and our swag.  The swag this year was great - a running duffel bag with a separate shoe compartment (which holds 2 pairs of my smaller shoes!), one of those towel/seat cover things that you can use to keep your car clean during a smelly run, a free pair of Injinji socks for the 100K and 100 milers, and then a "choose your own swag" table where you could get stickers, koozies, chocolate, chapstick, etc.  There was an option to buy a hoodie, tech shirt, and then, of course, they had the Pistol Store where you could buy other various merch - pint glasses, stickers, shirts leftover from previous years, etc.  Another fun option was the gear swap table, where you could leave and take things as you pleased.  I got a really awesome Pearl Izumi cycling shirt.  

Morning of - 

I was planning to wake up at 5 a.m. to have time to get ready and get picked up by my friends so I went to bed early the night before.  Unfortunately, I woke up at 4 a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep.  Since I was about to be awake until easily 2-3 p.m. the NEXT DAY I wasn't super happy about this.  I got picked up at 5:45 and we got to the race before 7 a.m.  Since this race allows you to crew out of your vehicle, we wanted to get there early enough for a good parking spot minimal distance from the actual course.  Panera Bread supplied free bagels to the runners so I was able to eat before the race.  Obviously, we took some photos before the start!  The 50K runners start 5 minutes before the 100K and 100 mile runners just to thin out the crowds a bit.  The 50K runners take off and we line up at the start.  Before I know it, months of training are now about to start working for me!

 Waiting to head to the start line while the 50K runners are lined up.

Waiting to head to the start line while the 50K runners are lined up.

Miles 0-30 - 

The first 50K of this race was great.  I ran the 50K distance last year and it didn't feel too difficult.  I ran with two other friends for most of these miles and we chatted and kept attempting to slow our pace as to keep our legs fresh.  When you're used to running a certain speed and you're slowing yourself down by nearly 2 minutes per mile it can be really hard to keep yourself in check.  Other than our first 10 mile lap, we began walking all the inclines as well.  Saving energy is so important when you know you have 24 more hours on your feet!  The morning started off gray and misty, but the sun shone brightly throughout the afternoon and during the third lap of my race the heat started to beat me up.  Thankfully, the aid stations had popsicles and ice, so that was extremely helpful!

 All smiles at mile 3...

All smiles at mile 3...

Miles 30-60 - 

The friend I came to the race with was battling nausea all morning due to the heat.  Several times I went on ahead to let him try to rest up.  By the end of lap 4 though, he was feeling rough.  I changed my shoes at the end of this lap and headed back out, trying to keep his mind off his stomach.  On lap 5 is when the weather started to turn.  It was around dinner time for most folks when the winds started to shift and the air had that thunderstorm smell.  By the end of lap 5, we were dealing with heavy rain, thunder, and lightning.  In fact, lightning struck the sidewalk at the school near the start line when we were only about a quarter mile away!  It was at this time my friend's stomach really was beating him up and he decided to take a break, so I went on alone. Lap 6 was slower for me, but I was walking at a really great pace in the 16-minute mile range.  Of course, the darkness was starting to set in and the 50 milers, who started at 8 p.m. (at the 12-hour mark) were now out on the course.   Now, the 50 milers start this late to give the 100-mile runners someone else to see out there in the dark.  For me, this was so incredibly defeating.  These runners with their fresh legs were powering past me while I was feeling sore and tired from the hot day followed by the nasty storm.  I came in to mile 60 and I was definitely not in the best head space. 

Miles 60-70 - 

These 10 miles get a paragraph all their own.  This is where I fell apart.  Since the rain had definitely stopped and the course dried out, I decided to put on my thicker-soled shoes for the padding.  When I went to change shoes, I didn't have the socks I thought I packed for these laps and I had a mini meltdown.  Then, when I went to put the shoes on, my feet had swollen so much that they physically hurt to walk in.  As I passed through the start line to head out for lap 7 I had a text from my two friends asking where I was.  I answered I was crying and changing my shoes.  They told me to cry it out and get moving.  Progress was slow to the aid station 2.5ish miles away.  When I saw my friends there they had decided to stop at 100K (they were half a lap behind me), but they were going to help me finish.  I broke down ugly crying and they told me exactly what I  needed to do to finish before the cutoff.  I cried a little more and they pushed me out of the aid station.  The next 4 miles were the most painful thing I've ever done and I was barely walking 2 mph at this point.  I was crying.  I've never felt that much pain.  At Woody's aid station, about 4.5 miles from the start point, I had been on this lap for 2 full hours (when it usually only takes me 3 to walk the full 10) and I cried some more.  The volunteers asked me what hurt and when I told them they let me know that it was COMPLETELY NORMAL at this point in the race to feel this way.  They talked me down and told me, again, how to get through the laps.  I walked another mile before sitting down on a curb because I couldn't take another step.  At this point, I knew NoKey was coming in about an hour, but I was going to quit.  The best 'trail angel' I ever met comes into my race at this point.  Rebecca, the volunteer course monitor, asked me if she should call the RD so I could quit.  I cried and asked her to help me off the ground, which she did.  She walked with me back to the aid station 2.5 miles from the start line.  We talked the whole way, and when she left me at the aid station she triple-checked with me that NoKey was coming.  I gave her his description and told her he was headed my way when he got here.  The folks at the aid station fed me ibuprofen, two go-gurts, and offered to let me warm up.  After sitting for 10 minutes or so, I stumbled away.  I later learned the volunteers were super worried and thought they shouldn't have let me walk.  NoKey met me about 1.25 miles from the start line and walked me up the hill.  By then, my ibuprofen had kicked in and I was ready to head out for another lap.  

Miles 70-90 - 

With the worst behind me, my friend who wasn't feeling well came out and walked with me for about 10 minutes.  He reiterated I should keep going, gave me a strategy, and told me I could do it.  I hugged him and NoKey and told NoKey to come find me in 3 hours.  I did miles 70-80 in 2 hours and 50 minutes, and I even managed to shuffle-run a little.  When I got back to the aid station, the volunteer who basically thought I died was shocked.  "HOLY HELL!" He said when he saw me booking through.  Everyone was super excited and it gave me renewed energy.  When I was getting ready to head back out for miles 80-90 I had slowed down a bit and I was at a mere crawl when it came to walking up the now monumental hills on the back half of the course.  The sun came up during this time as well and now I was worried I'd run out of time.  When I met up with NoKey again to walk up the hill to the start line, I told him to go in and get me a pacer for my final lap.  He told me he'd do the whole lap with me, all 10 miles, despite being in his sandals.  As I shuffled through the start line for the final time, the RD told me to keep moving and I'd be fine.  The volunteers at the start all cheered for me and told me I could do it.  

Miles 90-100 - 

The final lap was super, SUPER emotional for me.  I felt like I was hardly moving, but NoKey told me I was moving really well.  In retrospect, I honestly was moving better than most everyone still out on the course at this point.  It didn't feel like it at the time, that's for sure!  When I was headed back in for my last 5 miles my swollen feet were throbbing and my quads were killing me, but NoKey never lets me stop moving.  As we neared the aid station for the final time, the volunteers all congratulated me and the crying started again.  The hill going up to the high school felt like it would never end.  The final half mile, I was able to pick up my pace to a gentle run, and I rounded the corner to the finish line with arms raised, tears streaming, and legs that refused to quit.  My final time was somewhere around 28:40:00 (I'm not sure right now, as the race results need to be verified still).  My body and my mind were in total shock that the months of hard work finally could end.  

 Crying and running through the finish line.

Crying and running through the finish line.

Post Race - 

I was ushered inside by a volunteer, and as I was making it inside I see Rebecca, my trail angel, who had come back to the race because she had forgotten her bag.  I thanked her and hugged her, crying of course, letting her know how much she helped me in the middle of the night.  I went inside to collect my belt buckle and finisher hat only to be told I was 2nd in my age group.  I also got a coffee mug and a giant bag of chocolate!  I took my finisher photo and the photographer had NoKey come take a photo with me since he was my "crew" for the final difficult miles.  I grabbed some food and cried with some of the other participants as well. I threw on a pair of slippers for the ride home.  I got home and showered and fell into bed for a well-deserved 5-hour nap.  

 That finisher swag tho...

That finisher swag tho...

The Days After - 

My feet are so swollen they burn after I wake up on Monday.  I've got busted blood vessels in my right foot and three of the biggest blisters I've ever seen (which I equate to the swelling more than anything else).  I was fortunate enough to use a hot tub, get a chiropractor adjustment, and get a sports massage on Monday afternoon.  Monday night I'm even able to walk my dog, albeit in a pair of flip flops since my feet can't fit into regular shoes.  By Tuesday, I've got normal shoes on, the blisters are drying out, the swelling is nearly gone, and I'm able to spend about an hour at a time on my feet before getting worn out.  Three days out, I'm doing even better.  I'd say I'm only about as sore as I would be from running a really hard marathon or technical trail for around 15 miles.  

 The shirt from the race that made me question my training and the belt buckle I earned completing 100 miles. 

The shirt from the race that made me question my training and the belt buckle I earned completing 100 miles. 

The Race Itself - 

For those wondering about The Pistol Ultra, I absolutely recommend this race despite all the pain I endured during it this year!  This was my first ever ultra distance when I ran the 50K last year and I knew I wanted to use it again for my attempt to go 100 miles.  The aid stations, volunteers, and general experience CANNOT be beaten. The fact that you really only need to carry a minimal amount of fluids and really no food because of the nature of the course and placement of the aid stations really takes a lot of stress out of the planning. This is an urban ultra, so it's on pavement the entire time.  It's really tough on the body.  There's grass right next to the pavement though, so you can get some relief when you need it.  Because you're doing out-and-back "loops" on the greenway, you really get to know your other participants and there were so many people cheering for you every time you saw them.  There was so much encouragement from the participants themselves, as well as the volunteers.  If it hadn't been for the middle of the night Woody's crew and Rebecca on her bike I very well may not have finished this race.  It's the support like this that makes the race what it is.  

So, I'm only a few days out from Pistol and I can safely say I'm still not ready to say I'd ever do another 100-miler again.  I am willing to take on the Double Barrel challenge next year (the 50K and 50-mile race for a total of 82 miles, with a few hours of break time in between).  The 100-mile race really brought me to a whole other level of endurance I've never experienced before, even with doing multiple thru hikes!  I'm already planning my return trip next year.  

I want to take this opportunity to thank those who took the time to send me Instagram and Facebook messages, as well as text messages.  Every time I checked my phone I had dozens of notifications (seriously, 25-40 every time!) and so many of you supported my journey.  From corny jokes to ridiculous memes, you guys supported me so much from far away and I couldn't be happier to share my finish with you all.  

Would you ever consider doing 100 miles at a time?  Have you ever run an ultramarathon?  What is the furthest distance you've traveled on foot in a day?

Aftershokz Sportz Titanium Headphones - Gear Review

I recently received a pair of Aftershokz Sportz Titanium headphones to try out and review for my readers.  Since many people enjoy running or even hiking with earbuds in I thought it would be great to review something that both the running and hiking crowds would enjoy.  Read on to see if Aftershokz Sportz Titanium headphones worked for me. 

Aftershokz headphones are different in that instead of going in your ears and falling out (am I the only one with this problem?!) they go over your ears and rest on your face.  These headphones use bone conduction technology to keep your ears open while you're out running or hiking.  This comes in pretty handy when you run in areas with heavy traffic or you'd like to hear people coming up behind you on trail.  So, what happens is the vibration is directed into your inner ear without blocking up your ears.  Here's a quick illustration:

 The orange lines represent where Aftershokz directs the sound versus the blue - where traditional headphones direct sound. 

The orange lines represent where Aftershokz directs the sound versus the blue - where traditional headphones direct sound. 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:

The first thing I noticed about these headphones is that the plug isn't straight, but curved. Immediately I was unable to use these headphones with my Catalyst iPhone case.  Running without my phone case isn't ever going to happen - it's waterproof and shatterproof. If you've got a new iPhone that doesn't have a headphone jack, these won't work for you either.  The second thing I noticed was that they have to be charged.  ...What...? Well, the good news is they hold a charge for 12 hours.  If you're out hiking this might not be super impressive for you though, as that could be only one day worth of battery power.  

 I can't show you how this sits on the headphone jack for my phone because how else would I take a photo? haha

I can't show you how this sits on the headphone jack for my phone because how else would I take a photo? haha

USAGE:

Since I couldn't use the headphones, NoKey did.  We charged them up and then figured out you have to turn them on with the power button on the little battery pack thing.  The sound quality was really great and he could still hear me talking to him.  The downside, however, was that I could hear his music, haha!  Taking these headphones for a run, he said they were comfortable and didn't move.  They also come with a tiny clip so you can attach the wire close to your body (like on your collar).  This proved beneficial so the wire didn't bounce during a run.  The little battery pack is only a few inches away from the phone while they're plugged in, so it just went inside his pocket where he carried the phone.  The rear band of the headphones goes around the nape of your neck and has a reflective band for visibility, so that's a pro!

 He makes headphones look good :)

He makes headphones look good :)

Pros:
-They allow you to hear your surroundings with bone conduction technology
-Reflective strip on the back
-Clip included to keep wire close to the body
-If you need a microphone/call answering option on your headphones, this pair has that
-Lightweight with a carrying bag

Cons:
-They didn't fit me well. At all. 
-They need to be charged
-You have to turn them off
-Everyone around you can hear what you're hearing
-The plug is "sideways" and doesn't work with my phone case 

While these headphones we're exactly for me, you might find reviews from other BibRave Pros helpful if you're trying to decide if they're right for YOU!  Check out reviews by Jeannine, Mary Jo, and Mark David. 

Are these headphones right for you? Buy them and get a free water bottle!

Visit this link and get a free stainless steel water bottle with your Aftershokz Sports Titanium purchase. They're $59.95 and come in 2 colors (Onyx Black or Ocean Blue).  Free shipping to the US and Canada. They also have a 45-day money back guarantee.  

Do you listen to music when you're running or hiking?  What kind of headphones do you use?

Disclaimer: I received Aftershokz Sportz Titanium headphones for free to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Hot Chocolate 15K - Nashville

Pros: Easy Course, great scenery, chocolate, well-placed aid stations, free race photos, preferred corrals for your estimated race time (with proof of other race times) 
Cons: Mandatory expo, early start time (especially for those of us from other time zones!)

This is my second Hot Chocolate race this year, my first being in Atlanta. Since I ran Atlanta only a few short weeks before this one, my expectations were pretty clear in my mind. With Atlanta, I purchased a parking pass for downtown. With Nashville, I didn't because I'm more familiar with the area. Parking downtown, if you're familiar, isn't nearly as much of a nightmare as you'd think! The fact that the expo is mandatory, however, does make it frustrating for those of us from out-of-town. The expo, as compared to other HC15K Expos I've seen, was definitely lacking. I liked the venue, because it was kind of cute and kitchy (like Nashville!), but there wasn't much to see in terms of vendors. This expo also only had stale marshmallows dipped in chocolate for a "treat". In Atlanta, they had a few types of snacks and also the famous hot chocolate for samples. Atlanta also had a slew of retailers whereas this one had maybe two and they were so crammed together that even though I went when the expo first opened at noon, you couldn't even look at the merchandise.

Race day came earlier (7 a.m.) than the Atlanta race, and the weather was about the same. It was breezy, warm (60's) and a bit sprinkly. I never mind an overcast day when I'm running though! The race started and ended downtown at Bicentennial Park and I really enjoyed taking in the scenery running the loop around Nashville - my favorite way to see a city is on foot! The course was also relatively easy (like Atlanta) with only about 350 feet in elevation gain throughout the 15K.

I love running Hot Chocolate Races and I think the race management team is top notch. They are ON IT when it comes to social media and keeping participants informed. I would recommend this race series to anyone who is looking for a "big name" race to practice running in larger crowds.

Disclaimer: I received a I received a free entry to review Hot Chocolate 15K - Nashville as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Hot Chocolate 15K - Atlanta

I recently was able to travel to Atlanta to run my first ever Hot Chocolate Race - and also my first official 15K distance race.  Since I hadn't been to Atlanta since I was a freshman in high school, I was excited for the opportunity to not only run this sweet race series, I was also excited for the chance to see the city on foot - my favorite way to travel!  You'll find my race review for Hot Chocolate 15K below. 

This race was scheduled for the weekend of January 21-22.  While this would usually be a cold weekend to race, we had been experiencing quite the warm spell in this particular area for about a week and race day temperatures were going to be in the 60s by the finish of the race! I'm not one to complain about warm temperatures, but unfortunately in the south unseasonably warm weather also brings with it a chance of thunderstorms!  That's exactly what we dealt with on Saturday and Sunday in Atlanta.  Being nervous the race would be canceled, I went ahead and got in a half marathon distance run with a friend before deciding to travel down for the race expo.  Other events on Saturday had been canceled due to lightening.  After chatting with someone from the race on Twitter (@HotChocolate15K) I was more confident in the fact the race would be taking place as usual Sunday morning, so I packed up my stuff and headed down for my one-night racecation!

After getting to Atlanta I was so thankful I purchased the pre-race parking package offered on the website.  With all the events taking place in the city during this weekend (Women's March, Falcons in the playoffs, etc.) I was glad I had a place to go and didn't have to add time to driving around the city.  I was also excited to be able to meet up with two BibRave Pros - Samantha and Jessica!  We hit up an Atlanta Institution - The Vortex - for some pre-race grub.  After being up since 4 a.m. I was finally able to hit my hotel and get in bed about 10:30.  It had been a long day and I had an early wake up call for HC15K in the A.M. - race organizers recommended getting there before 6:30 a.m.!  I slept well until yet another absolutely wicked thunderstorm hit at 5 a.m.  Lightening so bright it woke me up with thunder so loud it shook the hotel (which was not easy to do being that I was near the airport!)

 Three BibRave Pros ready to run ATL tomorrow!

Three BibRave Pros ready to run ATL tomorrow!

When I got up in the morning, thanks to Facebook and Twitter updates, it was easy to see race organizers had consulted with the NWS and there was no threat of storms during the race.  I really appreciated their profession and quick updates about the weather.  Being that I drove nearly 4 hours to get there and had to stay overnight, making sure I had the most up-to-date info was important to me.  Getting back downtown was super easy and I had no trouble getting to the assigned parking lot I registered for before the race.  Getting to the race venue, however, was a different story.  Thankfully, there were plenty of people who seemed to be familiar with downtown ATL because if I hadn't followed the crowd I would've been lost.  There was zero signage to let us know where anything was.  Granted, the maps were online, but if you're in a city you've never explored on foot you aren't going to find anything.  After wandering around and meeting up with Sam and Jess one more time for photos, I was also able to meet up with a fellow Spandits!/Altra ambassador Amanda!  After this, it was time to find my corral, which was thankfully much easier than finding the race location itself, and we were off!

 The two best-dressed at Hot Chocolate 15K!

The two best-dressed at Hot Chocolate 15K!

The thing I loved about this race was the fact that you could use your times from previous races to get into "preferred corrals" and get ahead of the crowd early.  My qualifying times actually put me into the very first corral and it never felt crowded, especially because I took it easy from the beginning.  We left the Centennial Park area and ran straight toward the state capitol building.  The 5K runner split was only about 1 mile in, so the crowd thinned even more then!  After leaving the Capitol Building behind, we headed toward Turner Field.  Since I had run 13.1 miles the day before, I was in full on sightseeing mode and not at all concerned about time.  I stopped for photos and thank volunteers and spectators for coming out when we ran through the Phoenix Parks toward Grant Park.  There were a few gentle uphills and downhills during this part of the race.  We then ran toward Oakland Cemetery and skirted it for a few minutes.  

 Capitol Building. 

Capitol Building. 

We took some turns on side roads and ran close to the MLK Jr. Historic site before running into the Old Fourth Ward and back towards Emory Medical Center.  More gentle hills, but they honestly weren't that bad.  This is the southeast after all!  We should know hills are part of the deal!  We were back into downtown and running past fraternity houses near Bobby Dodd Stadium before I knew it.  It was a short and quick downhill run into Centennial Park for the finish.  Thankfully, a race volunteer saw my cell phone drop out of my pocket and chased me down to return it!  I can't say enough great things about the volunteers in this race!  The finish line for the 5K and 15K was the same, but they kept it separated with a fence - something else I really appreciated to ease congestion at the finish line!  I received my finisher medal from some happy and enthusiastic volunteers before making my way through the crowd to get my finisher mug and snacks.  

 Turner Field

Turner Field

The snacks in the finisher mug were phenomenal - the typical runner fare like bananas and pretzels, with the addition on a cup of hot chocolate, a giant marshmallow, some pirouette cookies, and a rice krispie treat - all of which were complimented by chocolate fondue!  I did some stretches with the thousands of others in Centennial Park and munched on my snacks, saving my hot chocolate for the walk back to my car.  Unfortunately, the signs back to the parking area were also non-existent and following the crowd didn't work well for me.  I had to use Google Maps to discover I had walked the wrong direction! On the way back, however, I saw a race photographer packing up his equipment and thanked him for being out this morning.  He took a great photo - the only one I have from the race - and I thanked him.  I was definitely happy to see all race photos are free from this race series, and I had notifications about photos emailed to me throughout the day. 

 My free race photo! 

My free race photo! 

All in all, here's my list of pros and cons about Hot Chocolate 15K Atlanta: 

Cons: 
-Expo is required. I hate expos. No offense. I get it though, you have to go because that many volunteers at 4 a.m. on a race day to hand out packets is hard to coordinate!
-Parking is expensive.  I purchased parking ahead of time, which was $20 for both the expo and the race.  I'm glad I did this because Atlanta doesn't have a single free parking space in probably a 100-mile radius.  I even had to pay to park at my hotel for the 7 hours I was there. 
-Signage was non-existent.  Great for locals, but not so great for out-of-towners.

Pros: 
-Great finisher swag for the 15K.  You get a hoodie with thumbholes, free chocolate at the expo, and the tasty finisher mug!  Only the 15K runners get the cute chocolate bar medal. 
-Fun for sightseeing.  Like I mentioned early on, I hadn't been to Atlanta in years. I got to see a lot of it on foot in only an hour and a half!
-Easy course.  For the 15K there was only a 380-foot elevation gain.  There was actually more downhill than uphill.  This was a relaxing and easy run for me. 
 

I loved this race so much I signed up for the race in Nashville in two weeks!  I can't wait to share my experience with you guys from that race!  Have you ever run a "fun run" race series before? What about Hot Chocolate? Would YOU run for chocolate?!

 

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to review Hot Chocolate 15K - Atlanta as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

The Pistol Ultra - Race Recap

I recently toed the line to run my first ever ultramarathon.  For those of you who follow me on social media you probably know by now that I ultimately finished the race, too!  While the euphoria of running The Pistol is definitely not wearing off any time soon, I'm about to dive into training for my second marathon, so I wanted to get this race recap up and going before I get too deep into training.  This week's Sunday Runday post will be all about The Pistol Ultra Weekend - the best way I've ever rung in a New Year!

This entire weekend basically started off for me on Friday afternoon.  I hadn't run this race and actually had never been to the location of the race before, so I headed out to the "almost mandatory" pre race meeting to pick up my swag bag and bib.  Lazarus Lake, the founder of the Barkley Marathons, happened to be the keynote speaker of this mini expo and was doing a clinic while I was there, so it was pretty quiet when I was in to get my bib as you can imagine.  This race offers four distances - a 50K, 100K, 50-miler, and 100-miler.  When I was inside there were tons of people in line to pick up for the 50K and tons of people for the 100-miler.  I guess those are the most popular distances for this race!  I was through the line pretty quick and was ushered through by helpful volunteers to pick out all my race swag - a nice water bottle from Orange Mud, some Zen Evo chocolate, and two shirts - a cotton Tee and a hoodie!  While you're in line getting your freebies, you also get your chance to attempt to win the markmanship award - given to the runner who guesses their actual finish time as close as they can.  While I ended up doing pretty well (was off by about 4:29) the winner actually was only off by FOUR SECONDS!

So Saturday morning is race day! I was glad I went to the venue beforehand because the 50K parking is actually not in the same place as the rest of the event - it's further down the road.  Since we had to leave the house at 5:30 a.m. I was grateful we weren't trying to find parking in the dark!  Prerace they offered bagels and cream cheese with fruit for the runners, so I had a half bagel and a half banana while trying to calm my nerves.  I also chewed a good handful of dark chocolate espresso beans thanks to my boss, Vesna!  Just after the sun came up, Will, the race director, ushered runners outside for the national anthem.  The 50K runners got into the chute first to take off, while the 100K and 100-milers were paced behind us a few minutes.  Almost immediately, I could tell this race was going to be different.  While in the chute I socalized with many people who were doing an ultra for the first time.  Some of them stood casually, drinking coffee, saying their only goal was to finish.  With a 30-hour cut-off, this race is more than just walker friendly - it's nap friendly!  When the starting gun went off you could tell many people were just out to enjoy themselves and take it easy.  It was so much different than going to a race where there is elbowing and vying for space on the course!

Miles 1-10

I really enjoyed that this race started off by going downhill.  I took it easy at a gentle pace and the pack thinned out pretty quickly.  This race runs loops of approximately 10 miles on the Maryville-Alcoa Greenway system, so once we left Alcoa High School we headed down and ran the Greenway following Pistol Creek the whole way (you were probably wondering where that cool name came from, weren't you?).  About 4 miles in a photographer was grabbing photos of runners jumping.  My photo is ridiculous. I apparently really need to work on those jump skills next year!  About 5 miles in was the first time I passed the famous Woody's Aid Station, which is basically a trail magic stop on steroids.  We ran a little loop in downtown Maryville before making our way back past Woody's and back to Alcoa High School.  I was feeling surprisingly good and enjoying the rolling small hills on the Greenway.  I had planned to change my shoes at the 10-mile mark, but since I was feeling alright I called NoKey on my way back to the high school and told him just to meet me with The Stick so I could roll out my legs to keep them loose.  I knew I was running a little faster than I would have liked, but I was still feeling good and vowed to not take a break until the half marathon mark.  I gave him my gloves and Buff, refilled my Tailwind, and kept on running. 

 Having fun, and looking goofy doing it!

Having fun, and looking goofy doing it!

Miles 10-20

I knew I'd need to slow down through this second lap and that it would also be inevitable I'd slow down.  I gave myself the mental mile marker of 13.1 before I would take a walk break.  Now, one thing that I absolutely hate is walking during a race.  I knew with an ultra taking walk breaks were going to be something I just DID, but telling myself it was okay was another thing altogether!  When I hit the half marathon mark I took a walk break for a little under a half a mile.  Those teeny, tiny greenway hills were starting to feel a little bit bigger now anyway and conserving energy for a strong finish was my goal.  By the time I got running again I realized my stomach was ANGRY and wanted food!  When I got to Woody's again I gave myself the goal of running back to it before stopping again.  I grabbed myself a piece of homemade banana bread and a few homemade trail mix bars and ran while I ate.  This simple act got me lots of cheers from spectators and runners alike - telling me they liked my style.  I told them it wasn't my first time stuffing my face and running!  It's like I trained for this moment during most of my thru hikes! I intermittently stopped to walk every mile or so, power walking or slow jogging in between picking my pace back up.  By mile 19 I had called NoKey to come out and meet me with The Stick, some new socks, and new shoes.  The hill heading up to the high school seemed enormous now and many were speed walking the hills to conserve energy.  I plopped on the ground and changed my socks and shoes before rolling out my quads and taking off again.  

Miles 20-30

For my final lap I didn't hear the "what the hell am I doing out here?!" voice I normally hear this late into a race.  I was oddly calm and at ease, almost like I knew I was going to finish and wasn't bothered at how slow I was moving.  One thing I did take advantage of on this lap were the benches!  I would stop at a bench to sit and stretch my IT bands or I would use it as a prop to do lunges without worrying about not being able to get back up.  Every mile or so I stretched quickly to keep my muscles happy.  On this lap the sun began to disappear and every once in a while it would sprinkle lightly.  Despite the cold and sprinkles, there were still lots of spectators out cheering and having fun.  It was definitely a morale booster!  By the time I hit mile 25 I was getting tired, but still didn't feel myself giving up hope.  Although, I did have the thought that if I were running a marathon I'd be almost finished by now!  I passed Woody's the final time and stocked back up on that delicious banana bread and trail mix bars.  A volunteer filled my water and Tailwind while another asked if I'd like something hot to drink since the wind had picked up and temperatures were dropping.  I passed on the hot drink and continued to stuff my face while running away.  While I was in the process of alternating slow jog/slow run I saw lots of other runners doing the same, people cheering us when we picked back up the pace and us doing it for others in return.  It was an amazingly supportive running community.  I called NoKey on my way up that hill (which now felt like a mountain) back to the high school before finishing my final mile.  Now I was suddenly feeling reenergized and ready to tackle that big finish!

Mile 30-31.5

After running the final out-and-back mile, I was super disappointed when I ran through the finisher's chute that they were having technical problems.  When you grab your bib at the expo they denote your first ever ultra and they told me the announcer would cheer you on at the finish.  Due to a glitch, they said I was some guy from Kingsport, TN.  I let out a loud cheer anyway and finished happily in 5:50:36.  (and that was with approximately 15 minutes of stopped time according to my Garmin!)  I was quickly ushered inside by a volunteer and, while I was waiting for my official results due to said glitch, another volunteer grabbed me a bottle of water.  Once the results finally printed out, I discovered I was 20th overall female and 52nd out of 201 runners.  Not bad considering my lack of actual training!  They ushered me off to get my medal, take my finisher photo, and then hand me my finisher visor and T-shirt.  I chugged chocolate milk and ate a banana before heading over to the Quest Therapy tent to have my quads stretched my the pros.  I was definitely thankful they were there helping us all out!

I was overall so happy with my experience at The Pistol and I would definitely recommend this race to any runner wanting to try their first attempt at ultra running!  I'll definitely be back next year and, provided I get the time to actually train, am even considering jumping up another level to a different distance.  If all of this wasn't enough to convince you to try an ultra, check out my review over on Bibrave.  

 Feeling like a boss!

Feeling like a boss!

What's the toughest thing you've ever attempted?  How did you feel when you finished?  Did it make you push the envelope to try more difficult things?

How Ultramarathons are Like Thru Hikes

On December 31st, 2016 I toed the starting line of my first ever ultramarathon.  While competing in (and later finishing) this event I noticed a ton of similarities that running an ultra and completing a thru hike have in common.  

Aid Stations Are Basically Trail Magic on Steroids

The ultra I ran was the Pistol Ultra in Alcoa, TN.  They have a famous aid station, Woody's, that provides everything a runner needs to get through the race.  From homemade trail mix bars and banana bread to salt and vinegar chips and even candy this little slice of heaven on earth will get you refueled and back to the task at hand.  Much like trail magic, seeing this pop-up tent brought forth a flood of emotions and got me energized to continue onward.  Seriously, when someone fills your water bottles for you so you can stuff your face and keep moving... that person is an angel. 

(Photos of Woody's courtesy of the Pistol Ultra Facebook group)

Hike Your Own Hike Applies Here Too

So when I tell people I've completed an ultra they say "wow I can't believe you ran that far!"  Honestly I did run a lot, but I also walked a lot too.  I stopped and stretched a lot.  In fact, according to my Garmin, I probably stopped for stretches, food, and sock changes more than 15 minutes during the duration of the time I was on the course.  When you're hiking a distance trail you might take 1 zero day or 50 zero days (like I did on the AT) and you're still going to finish.  When you're stopping to walk in an ultra no one is judging you, just like when you take that extra zero day in town.  In fact, towards the end of the ultra if you can manage to run up a hill, no  matter how small, someone who sees you doing it starts cheering you on.  That's support!

Your Fellow Runners Have Your Back

On my final lap on the way back to the finish I saw some ladies headed towards me - meaning they had about 9 miles to go.  One of the women stopped and burst into tears.  Immediately other runners stopped to see what she needed and how they could help her.  Spectators cheered you by name and asked if you needed anything.  Aid station workers, due to the cold weather, asked every person if they needed a hot drink.  We offered up our foam rollers and muscle sticks to those who were in pain.  Just like when you're out on trail and something throws a wrench into your day, others who know what you're going through offer to help you out.  

The Hunger is REAL

About 15 miles into my race my stomach was ANGRY.  I was so hungry all of a sudden I almost couldn't move.  Much like when you're on a thru hike, when your stomach tells you to eat it is time to eat!  I discovered for myself that much like a distance hike, my body responded extremely well to "real" foods versus snack bars, gels, and chews.  When I finished the race we went out for an enormous pasta dinner and I polished off a gargantuan piece of cheesecake.  I regret nothing!

Your Journey is The Destination

When I finished the AT my thru hike I was just in awe that I had finished.  From that moment on in my life I realized I can actually do difficult things.  I can COMPLETE difficult things.  Until that point in my life I often quit when things got hard and uncomfortable.  Since then, I've challenged myself outside of my comfort zone so many times.  This ultra race, for me, was proving to myself that something I once thought impossible truly wasn't.  I no longer find myself second-guessing my abilities once I'm in the middle of something.  It turns out that my first attempt at an ultra wasn't as scary or unmanageable as I feared it would be.  Much like every thru hike I complete, I come out on the other side realizing that I am capable of finishing something daunting.  

 The smile you get after eating a ton of food and being stretched out by a physical therapist after running 50 Kilometers!

The smile you get after eating a ton of food and being stretched out by a physical therapist after running 50 Kilometers!

While there are plenty of other ways running an ultramarathon reminds me of thru hiking, these are the ones that stood out to me.  Have you ever run an ultra?  Do you want to push the envelope and challenge yourself to a difficult or "impossible" feat in the coming year? 

Millinocket Marathon and Half - Race Review

Now that hiking season has been winding down I find myself with more time for running again.  I'm super excited to be back into the swing of things and this coming year I've got some lofty goals set for myself, starting with a New Years' Eve Ultramarathon!  While this is still primarily a hiking blog, much like last winter you'll start to see some running posts from me again.  This particular post will be a race review of the Millinocket Marathon and Half Marathon I ran back on 12-10-16 in Millinocket, Maine.  

Many of you already know that Millinocket is dear to my heart.  The final Appalachian Trail town, I spent six days here on my 2012 AT thru hike.  in 2013, I moved to Maine to work in the Appalachian Trail Lodge for an entire hiking season.  In 2015, when I got sick on the Finger Lakes Trail, NoKey and I went to spend a week in town during the Fourth of July between the end of that hike and the start of our Long Trail thru hike.  While NoKey was able to visit town back in August of this year when he did a canoe trip on the Allagash, I wasn't able to visit this year.  That's why I was so happy to be able to participate in the Millinocket Marathon and Half - a free race thrown by Gary Allen on behalf of the town.  The stipulation for this race is a simple one - this free Boston Qualifier event is only free in the fact that you pay no race fee to enter.  Whatever you would spend on a race of this caliber you are encouraged to spend in town at one of MANY local events.  If you can't find anything to buy, Gary recommended you tip 100% at every meal to add up to the total of a race.  

 The day before the race - posing at the finish! 

The day before the race - posing at the finish! 

We drove up to Maine over the period of three days.  Stopping in northern Virginia and Portland, Maine before heading up to Millinocket.  When we arrived in town on December 9th it was very, VERY clear the entire town was behind the idea of this race.  It was refreshing to me to see that everyone was so excited about it.  There were banners everywhere welcoming runners.  Each local business in town had a raffle going on.  We immediate drove straight to Ruthie's Hotel Terrace and checked in before heading out to our favorite restaurant - Angelo's.  NoKey got a slice and a Schlitz before we headed over to the Press Conference.  The conference was only about 40 minutes and took place at Design Lab - in the old Wreath Factory - and had a couple of people speaking.  Most notable of these people for me was Mike Wardian - a name most runners know.  We then visited the craft fair taking place at Sterns High School which also doubled as the "expo" for the race.  I had so much fun buying Christmas gifts that I actually forgot the reason we were there was to pick up our bibs!  We actually got a swag bag too containing balsamic vinegar, some samples of natural products from Vitamin Shoppe, and some free Gu from Bangor Savings Bank.  And here I was not expecting to get ANYTHING other than a bib for a free race.  

IMG_1778.JPG

The morning of the race we are able to sleep in, which is so nice!  We headed over to the snowmobile club to get a cheap AYCE pancake breakfast and headed back to the hotel to wallow in pancake bliss.  Around 9:30 we headed downtown for the race.  The temperature had risen above zero, but the windchill still read -8.  The start/finish line area had a great party atmosphere and two active bonfire pits - one of which was made by Pelletier's Manufacturing, formerly Pelletier's Logging.  After a national anthem all marathon runners were asked to line up while the half runners were asked to fill in the area around the corral to cheer on the others.  At the time of the start (which was the first race I've been to in YEARS that actually started on time!) they even sounded the horn at the fire department - the famous one that goes off every morning at 8 a.. and 9 p.m.  I was more overjoyed about this than the race atmosphere itself!

Finally, it was time for the half runners to fill in and take off.  The race immediately began by going up Poplar Street before turning and going uphill on the Golden Road.  The cold was nearly unbearable at first and it was four miles before I could finally feel my toes again!  When looking at the elevation profile of the race I wasn't super concerned about the hills, but it became very clear to me that the first six miles of the race were uphill the entire way!  About 4.5 miles in came our very first view of Katahdin and it was amazing to hear all the runners start to oooh and ahhhh!  Many stopped to grab photos while we kept running on.  About 6 miles in the race took a turn back toward the paved road and there was a great aid station with locals handing out water and gatorade, both of which were a slushy consistency.  I was happy to see the aid station because my hydration had frozen shut! (Turns out most people had this problem during the race). 

 Action shot! 

Action shot! 

At about the halfway point of the race we finally left the logging roads behind and hit the paved portion of the race again.  Just before the turn off were tons of local folks out driving around and yelling support for the runners.  There were even a couple of cute kids with signs that read "I want to be like you when I grow up" and giving high fives!  I thought once we hit the pavement we'd see some more substantial downhill, but I was WRONG AGAIN!  You don't realize how hilly Millinocket is until you're running it!  After hitting the snowmobile club we FINALLY hit some substantial downhill for what felt like the very first time.  I know this wasn't true, but it sure felt it!  Running past Sawmill Bar and Grill the road flattened out back on route 11 for a few minutes.  We passed mile 12 at Katahdin General Store and then I saw the race was taking a turn.  While other people yelled out "oh a turn!" I was internally dreading it!  I knew that turning on Bates meant one thing - one more tiny hill.  From running and biking this hill nearly every day when I'm in town I knew this tiny hill would be a ball buster.  And it was.  So many groans were let out by everyone all around me.  When we reached the crest of the hill to take the final turn onto Penobscot Ave there were two women in down parkas handing out homemade cookies and cheering us all on.  

We run down to Penobscot Ave and we're finally in the home stretch.  I checked my watch and realized that the damn sub 2-hr half was once again just out of reach for me, but I pick up the pace to finish strong anyway.  Running down to the main intersection I see the Welcome Runner's sign just before really opening up my speed to run down the middle of the main street in town.  Design Lab had lots of music blaring and people were lining the streets cheering for us to finish.  We pick up speed triumphantly and run through the middle of the two loaded logging trucks signifying the finish. NoKey and I crossed the finish line at the exact same time for a finish time of 2:04:30.  Not a PR for me, but an automatic one for NoKey - this was his first ever half marathon!

 Post race selfie! 

Post race selfie! 

Upon finishing the race someone kindly threw an emergency blanket over both of us and we headed up to the Bangor Savings Bank tent and got a free bag of pretzels and a small gatorade.  We were also able to snag a few Stonyfield Organic yogurts as well.  It was such a nice gesture to see all the finish line swag - for a free race this one sure had a ton of perks!  We went back to the hotel to shower and stretch before heading back out into town to do some more Christmas shopping and get lunch.  We cheered on the runners who were still out on the course every time we saw one.  

Being able to spend time in the town we love and being able to give back  somehow made this race worth the long drive and cold trip.  We loved the energy from all the people in town.  It was so great seeing how supported the runners would be.  NoKey and I have even decided to make this our new Christmas tradition - a yearly trip up to Millinocket for Christmas shopping and race running!  

 Me and my medal - handmade at the Moose Drop In. 

Me and my medal - handmade at the Moose Drop In. 

What's the furthest you've ever traveled to run or hike?  Would you do it again? Do you think we're insane for going to Maine in December to freeze at a race?

Knoxville Marathon Race Recap

After months of training and lots of sweat and a few shed tears race day was finally here!  I spent the day before the race leading a hike and then driving from Cosby to Knoxville and back home for the expo.  While I was kind of stressed that my entire day was consumed by only two things, it helped to keep my mind off the upcoming race.  Here is my experience running the Knoxville Marathon.  Spoiler alert - I'll be back next year!

 NoKey captured this beautiful Knoxville sunrise shot after the starting gun.  Follow him on Instagram here -  @NokeyRules

NoKey captured this beautiful Knoxville sunrise shot after the starting gun.  Follow him on Instagram here - @NokeyRules

PreRace: We arrived about 30 minutes before the start and immediately got in line for the Port-A-Potties.  I hopped back in line just in case I'd need it before the race started.  Since I've never run for that long before, I wanted to make sure I wouldn't need to use them along the course!  After queuing through the line twice, I went over to the starting line to get into my corral.  A friend of mine was running as a pacer for the 4:00:00 group, so I ran over and said hello and got some last minute advice from him ("After mile 20 it's going to suck," he says.  "Power through and look for the beer cooler at mile 22 and you'll be fine!")  The national anthem is sung and then we're off!

Miles 1-3:  I tried to stick between the 4 hr and 4:15:00 pace group at the beginning to avoid taking off too fast.  The first mile is mostly uphill and then we go down and back up.  Undulation is the theme of the Knoxville Marathon - lots of rolling hills!  I kept my pace steady for the first mile but was shocked to see I was running a sub 9-minute mile for mile 2.  I tried to dial it back a bit before we got to the Sequoyah Hills portion of the race. Mile 3 along Kingston Pike included lots of church goers in their Sunday best cheering for us as we ran by. 

 NoKey got this amazing shot after all the runners came through. 

NoKey got this amazing shot after all the runners came through. 

Miles 4-7 (Sequoyah Hills):  This beautiful neighborhood is part of the Dogwood Trail - a driving tour through Knoxville people take to see the beautiful blooming trees.  It's a nicer upscale neighborhood with the greenway system running up the middle of the street.  There were a ton of inspirational signs throughout the neighborhood including my favorite sign of the race - "This would be MUCH FASTER if you drove!"  There were tons of spectators and cheering sections, snack stops and water stations, and also the first relay exchange station.  Another great sign just after the relay exchange said "If you were running the relay you'd already be done!"  From here - we ran up a huge hill with a huge reputation - Noelton Drive.  Lots of funny signs were here too - and some spectators set up a couch and a firepit with margaritas in their driveway just in case you wanted to go ahead and call it halfway up the hill.  

 Casual Pint had some great signs (stole this post from Instagram)

Casual Pint had some great signs (stole this post from Instagram)

Miles 8-11 (Third Creek Greenway): After exiting the neighborhood out onto Kingston Pike, we ran through the Third Creek Greenway system in Bearden.  I loved being here again as I had many a nice walk on this greenway system when I used to live out in Knoxville.  The familiar territory was super comforting.  The race pack had thinned out a big after climbing Noelton Ave., and my legs were still feeling amazing.  By the time we reached Tyson Park I had high fived so many spectators and enjoyed the race so much I was shocked I had already run 10 miles.  Around the end of the stretch my stomach was starting to let me know it might be time to take a pit stop, but it wasn't bothersome so I pushed on.  

Miles 11-14 (Fort Sanders/World's Fair Park): The hills started feeling harder here.  I had been running consistently and comfortably to this point, but I could feel my legs starting to slow down a bit on the uphill here.  We ran past the site of an epic house party in the Fort, evidenced by the many abandoned red solo cups and beer bottles (this neighborhood, for those who don't know, is where college students cram as many people into one house as possible while going to UT).  There were also what seemed to be tons of turns to take in this neighborhood as we zig-zagged the streets.  I think the turns are always harder on my body than the hills are!  By the time I finally reached a good downhill stretch they were directing the half runners up the hill and the full marathon runners downhill.  I yelled to the volunteers "WHY AM I GOING DOWN?!" and they were laughing and wishing me luck.  Holy crap, the race REALLY thinned out now.  I continued running down with only 2 runners in my immediate sightline.  I crossed the half marathon checkpoint and asked the guy for the time and he just shrugged and said "I don't know? 2:04, 2:05, 2:06, something like that."  Seriously dude?

Miles 14-18 (Fourth and Gill, Old City): This is where I met the struggle bus.  I desperately needed a bathroom break but after the guy at the half point not even knowing the time (despite having the computer next to him) I was afraid to ask a volunteer where the next rest stop was.  Not knowing how much longer I needed to "hold it" probably would have wrecked me.  Thankfully around mile 14.7 there was a set of four Port-a-Potties and there were two open ones!  No waiting!  Afterward I felt much better, but was getting a bad stomachache.  For these four miles I struggled, trying to drink water and eat my Honey Stinger chews, walking a little and stretching to try and alleviate my cramp.  Around mile 17 the 4:15:00 pace group passed me and I was surprised to see them BEHIND me.  I lost them around mile 3 and thought they were ahead.  I was a little disheartened because I really wanted to keep up with them, but trying to run too hard on my stomach cramp just made me feel a lot of pain.  I alternated walking and running with a couple running their first marathon together so it was nice having some familiar faces with me.  

Miles 19-25 (Island Home): After finally alleviating my stomach cramp after alternating with the walk/run method I was finally able to keep running again.  I did stop and walk through the water stations on this stretch and I needed to stretch my legs on mile 21 and 24, but I finally was feeling strong again.  I also saw my friend who was pacing the 4 hr group and we high fived.  By the time I ran through the beautiful Island Home neighborhood (with many supportive spectators and adorable kids giving high fives), I finally felt like I was back to my old running self.  Toward the end of this section we ran up Sevier Ave. to Gay Street, and through Market Square.  All the spectators here in the square were eating brunch and cheering us on.  I also had a traffic cop start cheering for me and telling me I looked strong.  This was the rally I needed.  Hitting mile 25 there was a view of Neyland Stadium and our finish line and I started getting pretty excited!

Miles 26-26.5 (FINISH!): Running down through the starting line area there were tons of spectators cheering and yelling "almost there!"  Usually I hate hearing this, but now I couldn't stop smiling!  As we rounded the corner to head down the hill to Cumberland Ave. I remarked to another run this was the most painful downhill I've ever run in my life!  From here, there was a smaller than I remember uphill finish into Neyland Stadium.  There were a LOT of people walking in this section and I pulled out my phone to text NoKey I was on my way in while dodging the crowds.  The last .25 miles of this race were so emotional.  I felt the tears and the gasping of breath coming but tried to shake it off as I entered the stadium.  I heard the announcer say my name and hometown as I readied to run through the finish and I felt like I had run the entire race.  I remember screaming "I DID IT! with my arms raised high.  I finished with the couple running their first marathon together and hugged them and congratulated them, as I know they were struggling like I was.  

The after party involved me eating a ton of food and chatting with other fellow racers.  I met the 4:45:00 pacer and found out he and his father were also going to be running the Millinocket Marathon in December so we talked for a few minutes before heading home.  We made the decision to walk back to the car instead of taking the shuttle, which I credit to helping my legs stay loose after the race.  I also walked my dog before we went out for a huge dinner at the Chinese place here in town.  Other than a few kinks in the middle of the race, I had a really REALLY enjoyable race and I'm so happy I ran my first marathon.  The training was long and difficult, but in the end I finished strong and I cannot wait until next year.  

Credit, again, goes to my amazing coach Abby from Back At Square Zero.  Without her encouragement I really have no idea if this race would have gone as well as it did.  If you're thinking about training for a bigger than you're used to race, please check out her site - you'll be glad you did!

Sunday Runday - Week 14 of Marathon Training

My final week is here!  I cannot believe I've spent nearly 4 months of my life training for something. With this being my final week and the marathon being at the end of the week, I'm going to use this post to summarize all my feelings about the week.  I'll be doing a recap of the race for my Sunday Runday post next week.  Here's everything I got to do this week: 

Monday - ZERO MILES. I mean zero. I didn't even walk my dog today, which was fine because she took herself for a walk!  This afternoon I had a lot of posts to schedule for the blog and was outdoors testing some gear and refreshing my bear line tossing skills when my dog picked up a scent and ran off.  An hour later, NoKey picked her up running down the road with a giant raspberry briar dragging from her tail and hind legs.  We should have punished her, but she just seemed so happy to have taken an adventure that we just let it go. 

Tuesday - 8 mile work hike.  I had to hike the beautiful Ramseys Cascade Trail for work today (I know, what an awful task, right?!)  This hike is considered more strenuous, but hiking approximately 1-1.5 miles per hour isn't really strenuous for the guides.  I got my legs out and moving today, which is helping to keep me sane during my taper!

Wednesday - 3 easy miles.  I took to the greenway near my house for three easy effort miles, again, just to keep my legs loose.  I did some extra stretching and foam rolling for good measure. 

Thursday - 1.5 hour easy nature walk. Today is a big day for me as my boss finally signed me off to be a full fledged hiking guide!  It's really more of a formality being that I've already been out leading my own backpacking trips, but for day hikes we have to cram a lot of information into shorter hours.   I was given her blessing as a guide with the only feedback being to project myself more.  As a tiny lady, I can definitely stand to work on this!

Friday - 2 miles gentle hiking (work hike).  At the last minute a co-worker booked a hike in one of my favorite areas of the park - Greenbrier.  As a last minute add on I couldn't be more thrilled.  Like I said, taper madness is KILLING ME!  

Saturday - 3 miles hiking plus a long walk with my dog.  I should have run today, but my clients were an HOUR late for my hike, then I had to drive out to Knoxville to pick up my race packet. I really HATE when races don't offer pickup on the same day as the event.  It's really inconvenient when it's a 2-hour round trip drive.  I've never enjoyed race expos because I don't have all the extra money to pay for the overpriced T-shirts and stickers. I didn't get home until 5 p.m. It was a LONG DAY, but at least staying busy helped keep my mind off the event. 

Sunday - RACE DAY! I got up at 5 a.m. and was so nervous.  My first marathon... I can't believe after all this it's finally here.  I'm going to post a race recap in two weeks, but I will tell you that I finished, finished strong after a few crappy (and I mean crappy) miles in the middle of the race.  I finished in 4:25:05, but I think if I hadn't had stomach issues I could have done it in 4:15;00.  I'll be back next year Knoxville Marathon!

Well guys, that's it! My marathon training is complete.  My work schedule really makes it too hard for me to run in the spring, summer and fall.  My next scheduled race isn't until December - the Millinocket Marathon with NoKey!  He will be running his first ever half marathon then and I'm hoping to add a few 10K's or half marathons to my schedule in the fall as well.  Only time will tell how much training I'll be able to squeeze in.  I am going to run some miles here and there and I've set a goal of running twice per week for the next few months just to maintain some level of fitness for my legs.  With my job as a hiking guide I'll still be getting in plenty of miles, but something inside of me really wants to keep running.  

I'm linking up with the Women's Running Community Share-it Saturday!

Women's Running Community

Sunday Runday - Week 13 of Marathon Training

After my work schedule threw a wrench in my training plan last week I was really nervous to see if I could progress this week!  While I'm very thankful my schedule at work is starting to fill up, I really, really am wondering if I made the right decision to run a full marathon right at the beginning of the springtime hiking season.  Here's how my week in training went: 

Monday - 20 miles. HOLY CRAP!  Yes, 20 miles. And I ran them. All of them!  I was really scared to run these miles honestly.  I've done 20 mile days before on trail, but they took quite a few more hours to complete!  I kept reminding myself to take it slow in the beginning and not stress.  I actually turned my Garmin face down so I wouldn't keep looking at it and wondering how much further I had to go!  At miles 15 and 18 I needed to do a walking/stretching break for tight hips, but other than that I am really happy with how the miles turned out.  I can't believe how much I am capable of doing!

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Tuesday - guide training and 3 recovery miles.  I did an easy 2-mile, 4 hour walk today in the Smokies and then came home to run my three easy recovery miles before dinner.  I definitely needed a shakeout after my 20 miler yesterday, but I'm really impressed at how NOT SORE my body is today. 

Wednesday - Recovery day.  I had two separate hikes scheduled for today, plus a meeting with a blog follower regarding her future AT thru hike plans.  I took the day as recovery and am bumping my run plans back a day. 

 Cataract Falls on one of my hikes today. 

Cataract Falls on one of my hikes today. 

Thursday - 5 miles with strong finish.  By the time I got home from work I was starving! I decided to put off my miles until a few hours after my late lunch/early dinner.  Well, it started raining!  Thankfully we didn't get the forecasted thunderstorms, but only sprinkles with a few minutes of downpour.  I made great miles and ran 8:50 for my last mile - 25 seconds faster than the fourth mile! It felt great to be out in the rain and pushing my legs for the last time. 

Friday - 3 easy miles.  I worked a lot longer than anticipated today and NoKey was coming back home from Syracuse today.  If I wanted to have dinner with him and talk to him for a few minutes before he went to bed, that meant I wouldn't get my miles in until late.  At 9 p.m. I was finally able to get out and get moving.  The town I live in doesn't have much in the way of street lights I was surprised to find out. When I headed to our "greenway" (a wide sidewalk on a 6-lane road), I was shocked to discover there were no street lights.  I ran my way over to a tiny condo complex and ran about 12 laps around it since they had a few street lights.  I was definitely happy I was able to get my run in. 

Saturday - 10 miles taper.  I ran this by feel and I'm shocked at how fast I was going. I didn't feel like I was even putting in any effort at all.  Since I'm supposed to be tapering I'm nervous how it's going to affect me, but my legs are feeling amazing.  I also got my brand new customized Spandits in the mail today!  I ordered a longer short with an outside pocket for my hiker wallet (read- Ziplock baggie with my important stuff).  When I hitchhike I want to keep my wallet on me and this outside pocket is the best way I could think of to do just that.  I'm super excited about my new shorts!

 I'm thinking this might be my new favorite outfit. 

I'm thinking this might be my new favorite outfit. 

Sunday - Rich Mountain Loop hike.  Even though there were thunderstorms predicted for today, I've been dying to get out with my friend Shannon for a hike again.  As a bonus - NoKey will be coming with us!  Check out my Instagram over the next few days for photos!

Total mileage: 41.2 (running)! Damn!  Now I'm one week out from the biggest event I've ever tried to tackle. I can't believe all my hard work is finally about to be put to the test. 

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This week wouldn't have been possible AT ALL without the amazing Abby from Back At Square Zero!  She has been an absolutely amazing coach and been incredibly supportive of me, even when I feel like I've been a bit flaky or not trying hard enough.  My work schedule is definitely not easy on my body and it's been really, REALLY hard to train for a marathon when I'm getting in so many miles on my feet every single day.  Her method of easy/hard days for training has really clicked with me.  She's challenged me and supported me and I honestly don't know if I would be feeling this confident for my first marathon without her.  Check her out, especially if you're looking for a running coach over at BackAtSquareZero.com!

Are you training for any big events?  I'd love to hear about them!  Leave me a comment below or find me over on Facebook or Twitter to let me know how your week went. 

I'm linking up with the Women's Running Community Share it Saturday!

Women's Running Community

Sunday Runday - Week 12 of Marathon Training

I cannot believe it's my biggest week of marathon training!  I have to say, going into this week I was kind of discouraged just because my last big run day was so tough and hot... I've honestly wondered what the HELL I was thinking signing up for something so huge and then signing on to do a week-long section hike of the AT mere hours later... but here's how my week went. 

 I'm definitely feeling springy!

I'm definitely feeling springy!

Monday - 6 miles. This was supposed to be a speed work run. In reality, it was a full on struggle bus!  My legs just really didn't feel warmed up. I never hit my projected pace and was so hot I could hardly breathe!  It didn't help that there wasn't a cloud in the sky and the smells of the car exhaust and fresh mulch on the greenway were so strong.  I was just happy this run was done1

Tuesday - Rest day!  I was definitely grateful for the rest, especially since it was so hot!  It seems like Tennessee went straight from winter to summer with spring being left behind!

Wednesday -  I had a 9 mile progression run scheduled for today.  I ended up getting up too late to get those miles in and had to work all day.  I did 3 easy recovery miles right at sunset just to get some miles in because I knew Thursday was going to be crazy! 

 The beauty is called Bloodroot - the sap that runs from the stem is red. 

The beauty is called Bloodroot - the sap that runs from the stem is red. 

Thursday - 12 miles hiking with clients. We had a last-minute addition to my schedule and I hiked Mt. LeConte with some clients.  This hike took all day and I didn't get back to my car until it was dark outside.  I got in over 4500 feet in elevation gain, though... so it's not a total loss!

 My hike for Thursday!

My hike for Thursday!

Friday - Recovery. I really needed it after the long week.  Thankfully, I got to spend some time walking my dog for a nice leisurely afternoon. 

Saturday/Sunday - Backpacking 101.  I did a total of 8.2 miles of hiking for the two days, hiking at a slow speed on an easy trail.  I'll be posting more about that trip very soon!

 Hiking up Porters Creek Trail in the misty rain.  

Hiking up Porters Creek Trail in the misty rain.  

So while my week was supposed to be a huge week with a 20-miler scheduled for the weekend, it didn't quite work out that way!  I'm really glad I decided to not beat myself up over my mileage, despite the fact that I'm so close to my taper for the marathon, which is now only 14 days away!  I will be making up my long run tomorrow, so I'm hoping it goes well!  I'm so incredibly nervous to see than 20 miles on my watch!  I have done many 20-mile hiking days in the past, but running it is a whole other game!

How has your week been going? Are you training for any events? I'd love to hear about them! Leave me a comment below or find me on Facebook or Twitter to get the conversation started!

I'm linking up with the Women's Running Community for Share it Saturday!

Women's Running Community

Sunday Runday - Week 11 of Marathon Training

 

 

Monday - 18 miles. I had to make up the miles from my long run I missed Sunday due to so many circumstances!  I got a few stomach cramps, at miles 11, 12, and 17, but each time I took a minute or so to rehydrate and stretch out, so I was able to rally.  I also almost got run over by a car in a crosswalk.  It was a Mercedes... so maybe I should've just let her take me out!

Tuesday - Hiking with clients.  I had a guided hike today, so my active rest day included a slow and gentle hike in the Greenbrier Section of the Smokies. 

 A sunny hike to a waterfall! 

A sunny hike to a waterfall! 

Wednesday - 8.5 progression miles.  Damn, it was hot this morning!  I headed out to run at 10:30 a.m., but it was in the high 70s in the blazing sun by the time I got to my speedy miles.  At the very end of the run I had a half mile "all out" run and while I hit a 7:45 pace, I also hit what I call "the tinglies".  It was super hot and I was really probably a little too dehydrated. I had taken my running hydration belt with me for this run, but decided against it at the last minute since I'd be doing speed work at the end.  Big mistake. I won't be doing that again!  In other news though, I HIT A 7:45 PACE!

 Feeling strong despite dehydration! 

Feeling strong despite dehydration! 

Thursday - 3 miles slow. I started a little too fast and ended up logging a 9:35 for my first mile, but progressively slowed down throughout the run.  I went out at 10 a.m. and felt like I was going to melt to the pavement of the Greenway.  I had a guided hike in the afternoon and when I came home it was 82 degrees in my house. Yeah. What happened to spring?!

Friday - Active rest day.  I walked my dog and did a Zuzka Light Bunny Slope workout, followed by a slow vinyasa for runners to keep my legs stretched out.  I really needed the rest day today and got to spend lots of time writing!

Saturday - 18 miles.  Now that I'm back on track with my training that means I had to do a second 18-miler this week.  Unlike earlier in the week though, it was already hot when I started and I knew this was going to be a slower run.  I ended up running through a race on my route, a 10-miler, and got to see the winner with his motorcycle escort just before he turned the corner to cross the finish line!  By the time I made it to mile 4 it was sweltering.  After the half marathon mark, I had looped back around to my car and needed to refill my Nuun.  I went in to the restaurant where I was parked and bought a huge cup of ice water off them, as the water I brought and left in the car was pretty warm.  Since I was already moving slow, I decided to drive over to the other greenway and finish my run there hoping there would be more shade.  There wasn't.  The sun was blaring and the temperature outside said only 70 degrees.  When I finished up my run, the thermometer in my car said 84.  My legs were shaky and my stretches post run were probably hilarious to watch.  In fact, at mile 17 I actually yelled out loud "WHY AM I DOING THIS?!"  It wasn't funny at the time, but it is now that I'm looking back!

Sunday - Rest again!  After hiking, dog walking, and running, I had a 55-mile week.  i honestly really would rather be out hiking in the cooler temps and misty rain today, but I know my body needs the rest.  

Next week is my final big mileage week and I'm so nervous!  I'm really hoping the temperatures back off a little bit for the big race on April 3rd.  Also, because I'm a crazy person, starting April 5th I'm headed back out for a week on the Appalachian Trail starting at Springer Mountain!  While I'm excited to be back out for a section with a client, I'm again wondering what in the world I'm doing only 18 hours after finishing my first marathon!  Hiking season is already here!

That was my week in training and I can't believe my first ever marathon is only a few short weeks away.  I'm so nervous now!  Do you have any advice for a first-timer? How did your first big race go?  I'd love for you to leave me a comment or find me on Facebook or Twitter to get the conversation started!

I'm linking up with the Women's Running Community for Share It Saturday!

Women's Running Community


Sunday Runday - Week 10 of Marathon Training

As of this post being published I am one month away from my very first marathon and the nerves are really getting to me!  I cannot believe all the hard work I've been putting in the past few months is finally going to be put to the test.  While we had yet more of that strange early spring weather here in the Smokies, I still go my training on.  Here is how my week went. 

Monday - 4.7 mile progression run.  I hit the local greenway for this one, since it's relatively flat and easy to watch my speed.  First mile was a slower warm up with the next 3 miles under 9 minutes, followed by 0.7 miles of cool down.  It was a great run and I even got out there in shorts and a T-shirt because it was so sunny!

Tuesday - 7.5 miles progression run. This runw as supposed to be a steady pace for the first five miles, then a pick up for miles 6/7, followed by all out on the last half mile.  Well, I misread my Garmin.  I got all confused about what miles were which because it says "lap" at the end of the mile. What I thought was mile 5 was mile 6.  I didn't run as fast as I should've on my 6th  mile, but mile 7 and the last half mile I gave it a solid effort and ran my fastest mile in a LONG time. I also fixed my Garmin to show me my mileage in real time so I don't screw that up again!

Wednesday - 6ish miles of easy hiking.  I took my friend Shannon hiking in Elkmont this morning.  It was snowing and freezing cold, but we took a walk through an old community and even explored the site of an abandoned hotel.  It took hours to warm back up after this chilly hike!

Thursday - Active rest. I had a 3-mile easy run scheduled for today, but under the advice of someone wiser than myself, I was told to take it easy.  I took my dog for a walk and did some vinyasa yoga since my legs seem to be tight.  

Friday - 7ish hiking miles. My backpacking trip went from plan A to plan B to plan C to plan D before we had to call it a loss and scrap it.  I got in some great trail miles on a pretty day though. 

Saturday - 1 mile backpacking.  We gave it another shot on attempting a backpacking trip and this time got to where we were going.  Mother Nature has been playing with us lately here in the Smokies and Newfound Gap Road keeps getting closed due to weather.  It even snowed on us at camp and then we woke up with frozen tents in the morning. 

Sunday - 1 mile hiking plus 4 miles dog walking.  I was supposed to be doing my first 18-mile day, but it just didn't happen.  Our drive home turned from a 1.5 hour to a 3 hour trip for me since Newfound Gap Road got snow again.  I had to drive all the way around the mountain to get home.  By then I could have gotten 18 miles in, but since I hadn't had adequate food and water for fueling, I decided to put it off until Monday.  

This week threw me a lot of curve balls, but I'm excited to get my long run in on Monday.  Sorry for the lack of photos this week (and lateness posting my weekly runday post!)

That was my week in training. My very first marathon is the Knoxville Marathon on April 3rd!  Are you training for anything right now?  How was your week in running?

I'm linking up with the Women's Running Community Share it Saturday: 

Women's Running Community


Sunday Runday - Week 9 of Marathon Training

Well after the difficult and tiring week I had last week, I rallied and got back on track this week.  We have had some crazy weather here in Tennessee and I think we saw three different seasons this week, but the running went very well!  Here is my weekly summary: 

Monday - 3 miles running; This was supposed to be a warm up mile, 2.5 hard effort miles, and a half easy mile with a cool down walk.  I loved doing this run!  It was sunny and warm, so how do you not like that?!

Tuesday - 11.5 miles easy hiking; a friend of mine from the Long Trail, South Pole, was in town with her friend Susan doing "map marker" hikes.  She is trying to hike all the trails in the Smokies and needs to do strange combinations of hikes to get all the miles done.  When she contacted me to see if I'd be interested in an easy hike, I jumped right on it!  We hiked Twin Creeks Trail, Old Sugarlands Trail, and the Gatlinburg Trail for 11.5 of the easiest miles in the entire park.  We even got a little bit of blue sky considering they called for rain all day.  I'll thank my umbrella for keeping the rain away :)

 LeConte Creek. 

LeConte Creek. 

Wednesday - 7 miles running; for this run, I was supposed to run five comfortable miles followed by two very hard effort miles.  The wind was gusting at 30 mph, it would occasionally start raining heavy sheets of rain, and I ran this loop in an area where the sidewalks randomly end on high traffic roads.  People honked their horns at me more than usual on this run, probably because I looked like a crazy person running in the storm!  The final two hard effort miles were making my legs scream, but they were very enjoyable!

Thursday - 3 miles running; an easy recovery run was on the agenda for today. I chose to do them on the Gatlinburg Trail since I was up at the Park Headquarters for a meeting.  It was snowing throughout most of the run and the torrential storms from yesterday knocked over quite a few trees on the trail, so I got to practice my hurdle jumper skills!  Is it just me, or are the easy effort miles harder on your body? I was more sore after this run than I thought I would be!  After I got home I did a Bunny Slope workout on Youtube From Zuzka Light. 

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Friday - REST!  I was supposed to be on an AT Shakedown hike with a client, but we had to bump the hike to next week due to bad weather and the roads being closed due to snow in the park. 

Saturday - 16 miles running; I had one of my "you must be a real runner now" moments when I didn't even feel like I hit my stride until well into my fifth mile!  From mile 5-16 I felt strong.  I ate a pack of Honey Stinger Chews and drank Nuun and I didn't feel tired, bonk, or even want to slow down.  I'm glad I finally found something that doesn't make my stomach seize up like the Gu gels do.  I also ran what my Garmin called my fastest half marathon time.  While it's not my PR, it's the fastest I've run 13.1 since December.  I ran this half for my Level Up Virtual Run - I won a free entry from Heather over at What the Heck, Why Not?  So thank you, Heather!  I can't wait to get my adorable BB8 medal in the mail!

Sunday - 10.6 miles hiking; an active rest day today and it was in the high 50s with bluebird skies all day.  We packed up our dog and drove to Frozen Head State Park (yes, where they hold the Barkley Marathons for those of you Ultra Runners out there!) where we hiked the Old Mac Trail loop and then did an out and back at Emory Falls.  It was a beautiful day and the trailheads were full.  One thing I really enjoyed about today was seeing how many people were hiking with very young children.  Lots of young kids and lots of dogs out enjoying the parks today!

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Well, that was my week in training!  It seems like I got over my mid training slump earlier this month.  I'm still nervous about the fact that I signed up to run a freakin' marathon only about a month from now, but I'm going to stay positive!  How was your week?  Tell me all about your adventures or training in the comments below or find me over on Facebook or Twitter!

Women's Running Community

Sunday Runday - Week 8 of Marathon Training

This week saw me nursing what could turn into a nasty injury and also saw me hit my mid-point training slump.  Running is NOT appealing to me this week.  But then again, not a whole lot is appealing to me this week.  All the gray skies and canceled hikes I've dealt with since the snow last week have really put me into a funk.  Add to that the fact that we had to send our coffee maker back to Amazon and you've got one under caffeinated, tired lady. Here's how my week of training went down. 

Monday - Rest day.  I had a run scheduled, but after walking my dog I was having some peroneal tendon pain.  It had been tender since my 15-miler over the weekend and I have been rolling it out with Yoga Tune Up balls and icing/heating it.  It didn't feel strong enough to run so I took a rest day. 

Tuesday - 3.1 miles; speed work.  With the help of the ever talented and amazing Abby from Back At Square Zero I am trying to mix up my training with some new ideas.  She recommended I try doing the easy/hard method for training and today I went hard!  I did a half mile run, 2 miles of fast and hard running, and a half mile of cool down.  It was hard, I sweat buckets, and I was exhausted after.  I was also exhilarated!  It felt great, but my foot was still flaring up.  More icing at home!

Wednesday - Cross Training; Zuzka Light's Bunny Slope Workout followed by Leslie Fightmaster's Yoga for Hip Opening.  I had a 7-mile run scheduled, but I don't want to push it on my foot!  More icing and stretching today. 

Thursday - 4 miles trail running. I was supposed to have a guided hike today, but the clients were no shows.  No big deal - I had already planned on running the relatively wide and pretty Gatlinburg Trail that afternoon anyway!  It was sunny and 50 degrees.  My foot felt a lot better and I had no pain during the run.  It was a really hard run and I was breathing pretty hard, but it was also about 20 degrees warmer than it has been lately!

Friday - 3 miles guided hike, 3 miles dog walking.  I did a guided hike in the morning with a client who needed to basically cut the time of the hike in half.  We went at a nice pace and then I came home and took my dog for a 3-mile walk in the warm sunshine.  It was 70 degrees by the afternoon and a perfect day!

Saturday - 15 miles running.  Today was supposed to be 16 miles.  Remember how I said I'd been feeling run down all week? I felt kind of crappy this morning too.  I felt incredibly dehydrated, but I knew I wasn't.  I set out for my run loaded up with Nuun on my new hydration belt.  It was very windy and incredibly humid.  My run took me past an area by our enormous town compost facility and through the crowded, exhaust-filled strip of Pigeon Forge.  By mile 12 I was getting tired and at mile 14.1 I bonked.  I paused my Garmin, drank the last of my Nuun and rallied until mile 15.  I then walked the extra half mile back to my car as a cool down, scarfing down a honey roasted peanut Luna bar.  I don't consider this run failed as I only missed it by a mile and I had already walked my dog, so technically, I'd done 17.5 miles by the end of my run.  I'll call it a win!

Sunday - REST!  I did a nice 45-minute flow yoga workout and some foam rolling on my legs and feet.  Here's to hoping next week is a little bit kinder to me!

That was my week in training.  My next race is the Knoxville Marathon on April 3rd.  Are you training for anything?  How did your week go?  Let me know in the comments or over on the Facebook post!

Women's Running Community


Sunday Runday - Week 7 of Marathon Training

This week I really needed to shake off my disappointing race finish from last Saturday at the Strawberry Plains Half Marathon.  After sulking all day Sunday, I turned it around this week and, with the help of a blogging friend, I have a new plan in place for the next few weeks.  I also won a free virtual race entry from another blog, so I am planning to run a 30K the last weekend in February.  I have something in between my bad finish last week and my marathon in only 6 weeks (eeek!).  Here's how my week went: 

Monday - 3 easy miles running. I needed to do an easy run and needed to visit the laundromat today.  Lucky for me the laundromat sits right in front of the greenway here in my town.  I threw the stuff in the washer and hit the path for a quick and fast 5K.  I kept trying to slow down, but ended up just letting myself go with the flow.  It was an amazing run. 

Tuesday - Runner's Strength and Balance (Nike Training Club); 16 minutes; Leslie Fightmaster Yoga Fix 90 - Day 3 flow with Bird of Paradise

Wednesday - 8.6 STRONG miles!  It was cold today.  It was windy today. I knew I needed to get in my miles.  I ran the first 6 miles with the wind in my face, but the final 2.5 were downhill with the wind at my back.  I ran really strong and it felt great!

 Foam rolling hurts so nice...! But it keeps my legs so happy. 

Foam rolling hurts so nice...! But it keeps my legs so happy. 

Thursday - Two long walks with the dog for 5 miles.  My dog had been a little under the weather earlier in the week, but pestered me twice for some walks today.  I think she overdid it because she is worn out again at the end of the day.  

Friday - Planned 3 fast miles; instead Leslie Fightmaster's 30 minute Detox yoga.  So it snowed again, which in the south means we can't do things.  They finally cleared the roads around 1 p.m., but I knew the greenways and sidewalks wouldn't be clear so I scrapped my plan and did a total body detox yoga flow instead.  

Saturday - 15 miles running. Yeah, 15 miles.  I still can't believe I did it!  I'm so excited and impressed. I was going to do one huge loop around two of the towns I live near, but I didn't want to carry water in my hands, so I made two loops and stopped by my car around mile 8.5 for a hydration break.  I was getting kind of tired at mile 12, but kept pushing.  I was on a huge runner's high the rest of the day.  It also helped that I knew my mom was cooking a big turkey dinner as we had family in town.  I got some good recovery food on a few hours later!

 So excited about my big miles! 

So excited about my big miles! 

Sunday - REST.  Yeah. I deserve it after yesterday I think.  Today was Valentine's Day and NoKey totally surprised me by showing up with a brand new hydration belt!  I wasn't expecting him to get me a gift at all, so to say I'm shocked is an understatement!  I can't wait to test this baby out a few times next week. 

 A new piece of gear!  And it's purple/pink!  This means it pretty much matches every single outfit I own. 

A new piece of gear!  And it's purple/pink!  This means it pretty much matches every single outfit I own. 

That sums up my week pretty well!  The next race I'm training for is the Knoxville Marathon on April 3rd!  Are you in the process of training for anything?  How did your week go? Leave me a comment here or over on the Facebook page!

Sunday Runday - Week 6 of Marathon Training

This week was my taper for the Strawberry Plains Half Marathon.  As luck would have it, I had guide training at work in the early part of the week and a hike in the middle of the week.  While I didn't get much running in this week, I was able to stay active!  Here was how my week in running went: 

Monday, 2-1: Hiking guide training - approximately 3 miles hiked.  We only did a bit of walking today, seeing the shorter and easier nature trails for short hour-long programs.  We also went out to the historic homes in Elkmont and did a talk about lightening safety.  It was rainy and cold today, so it was nice we got finished a little early!

Tuesday, 2-2: Hiking guide training - approximately 1 mile hiked.  We learned some other important skills during training today - knot tying, setting up tarps, and running a few medical scenarios.  I did a presentation with facts about the Appalachian Trail and one of our guides took us up on the AT at Newfound Gap for a short walk in ancient old growth forest.  The three new guides, Bethany, Matt, and Myself finished out the day by doing a tag-team group hike around a nature trail showing off the new facts we'd learned. 

 The crazy group of talented people I get to call co-workers!

The crazy group of talented people I get to call co-workers!

Wednesday, 2-3: 5 miles.  I was supposed to have a hike today, but torrential rains overnight made our trail unsafe.  I was able to get some housework done, and did a five mile run as a shakeout. 

Thursday, 2-4: 8 miles hiking.  I did a job shadowing today with another guide.  We took one client up to Ramsey Cascade on a long day hike.  Today is the first time I've ever been up to Ramsey's Cascade and been completely alone without anyone else on trail.  I got to learn some more about different trees and identification during the winter, which was really exciting!

 The beautiful Ramsey's Cascades! 

The beautiful Ramsey's Cascades! 

Friday, 2-5: 3 miles.  I took a quick 3.2 mile shakeout run in the warm afternoon sun, just to make sure my legs still felt strong and fresh after working around my strange schedule this week!

Saturday, 2-6: 13.1 miles - Strawberry Plains Half Marathon.  I really hoped to run not only a PR for this race, but also to run a sub 2-hour half marathon.  Around mile 10 I figured out this wasn't going to happen and was absolutely deflated.  I did run my last 2 miles very strong, but ended up running 2:05:10.  I cried a little, but after I got some food I rallied for a proper finish photo. I'm really, really sad about my finish time, as I had really trained hard and remained injury free for this race.  My next half isn't until December 2016, so I have plenty of time to whittle down my time. 

Sunday, 2-7: Active rest.  All I'm doing today is walking my dog and stuffing my face with food during SuperBowl Sunday!  Next week I'll be running faster and adding in some extra mileage as I ramp up my marathon training!  

In case you missed it, I still have an SLS3 Dual Pocket Running Belt giveaway running until 2-9-16 from a post last week.  Click here to enter and, if you just can't wait to see if you won, use the link to purchase one from Amazon on sale!

I am contemplating signing up for a 30K at the end of February, but as for now my next race is the Knoxville Marathon on April 3rd, 2016.  What are you training for?  How was your week in running? Leave me a comment!

Women's Running Community


Sunday Runday - Week 5 of Marathon Training

I don't know how the weather looks where you're at right now, but here in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains the weather has been looking better each day this week!  While earlier in the week running felt like it was a bust, later the temperatures rose and the sun made an appearance to round out an active week in training.  Here's how it went: 

Monday - Active rest day.  I took the day off after my long 12-miler the day before, mostly because it seems like I've been reading a LOT lately about the importance of truly resting your muscles leading into a race week.  I did a Yin Yoga class by Leslie Fightmaster and made sure to foam roll twice today. 

Tuesday - Total Adrenaline (NTC - 30 min.) It was spitting rain all day long today and wasn't much more than freezing.  I chose to skip my run and stay indoors for cross-training instead.  I followed it with a slow vinyasa yoga video. 

Wednesday - 7 miles.  I took a new running route today and made a loop on what our city calls a Greenway.  It is what most other places would call a sidewalk on the side of a busy 6-lane road.  The smells of the car exhaust for 7 miles was kind of obnoxious, but I ended up running strong and pulled off negative splits, so I'm very happy!

 A good and easy run! 

A good and easy run! 

Thursday - 7 miles.  After running with the traffic the day before, I went back to my old faithful running path.  It was chilly, but my legs felt incredibly strong despite running just the day before.  

Friday - hiking 9.5 miles.  I took my friend Shannon hiking for the very first time on this gorgeous sunny day!  She had the day off and had never been hiking, so we did not one, but TWO hikes!  We hiked up to Courthouse Rock and Qulliams Falls before deciding we hadn't had quite enough trail and did a second off-trail hike to the stone house in the Sugarlands.  I'm so incredibly proud of my friend for being a bad ass and pulling off so many miles!

Saturday - hiking 4 miles.  Today I had hiking guide training in the Greenbrier section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The hiking today was what we describe at our company as "hideously slow." And I mean it.  It took us nearly 6 hours to complete an incredibly easy 2 mile hike during the morning.  We did a lot of interpretation and had a short lunch break before tackling a second trail - this one went much quicker as we didn't want to lose any daylight!

 Even with temps in the high 50s for a few days, the ice from Jonas is still sticking around! 

Even with temps in the high 50s for a few days, the ice from Jonas is still sticking around! 

Sunday - hiking 4.5-5 miles.  Another day of hiking guide training means I didn't have time to get in my 9-mile taper long run this weekend.  I was hoping to have the time after training, but it has been running long, unfortunately.  I did get to see some new parts of the trail and a really cool cave, and of course I got to spend the day outside when the temperature was in the high 50's and the sun was shining all day.  

Well, even though I didn't get in the running miles I'd hoped, I was active all week.  How is your training going?  Do you have any events coming up soon? 

Women's Running Community

Sunday Runday - Week 4 of Marathon Training

I apologize for not having too much in last week’s post other than training details!  I meant to write it before I published and it just slipped my mind.  Let’s delve into this week’s training by looking at the weather.  Winter is finally here in the Southeast.  We got about an inch and a half of snow at our house on Wednesday.  That minute amount of snow, however, means that the entire town shuts down. No mail, no garbage pickup, no salting the roads.  It was eerily quiet at our house up on the hill, where we usually hear traffic in the winter due to the leaves falling off the trees.  I was hoping the snow wouldn’t damper my training plan this week.  Here’s how I did. 

Monday: Strength and Balance for Runners (16 min) - NTC.  This workout was sort of yoga-lates.  It was fun with light weights and strength training. 

Tuesday - 7.5 miles in the cold; 35-minute yin yoga cool down. It was 17 degrees with a real feel of 10 when I headed out for my tempo run.  The sun was shining and there was minimal traffic.  I didn’t see a single other person on the Greenway.  I planned to run 7, but felt so good I decided to run an extra half mile lap around the park before stretching. 

Wednesday - Full Body Balance Yoga - Leslie Fightmaster (35 min).  This balancing class was tough on my legs, but I definitely could tell how much better I am getting at yoga.  Poses like twisted half moon actually stuck and my legs are getting more flexible.  I can’t believe how far I’ve come. 

 Anywhere is a trail when you have snow! 

Anywhere is a trail when you have snow! 

Thursday - 1 mile - failed running attempt.  The snow melted and the roads looked great, so I headed down for a run. After a short 0.6 miles i noticed a pulling-type pain in my Achilles tendon on my right foot.  I tried to run through it, but it continued so I quit at 1 mile. I canceled out my Garmin and started walking back to my car.  When I got to the lot I tried running again, but it definitely pulled harder, so I cut my losses and headed home to put a heating pad on the Achilles and foam rolled a few times. 

Friday - Goal Getter (18 Min) NTC.  My Achilles was still sore on my afternoon dog walk, so I decided to do some cross training instead.  This short workout got me to sweat, so I'm happy with that. 

Saturday - Walking in the snow (!) for an hour with Gracie and NoKey.  Since we were all home and we didn't have anything better to do, we took a snowy walk with the dog.  The main road near our house had been salted and since we only got about 2 inches of fine, powdery snow it made for a beautiful walk.  Below are a few photos NoKey took of the neighborhood.  I love living up on a mountain!

 A snowy scene. 

A snowy scene. 

 The road is clear! 

The road is clear! 

Sunday - 12 slow miles. This is my last run before my taper weeks before my next big race. I was starting to feel some Achilles pain around 8.75 miles, so I ran by my car, paused the Garmin, and took a water break while walking for about 2 minutes.  This breather was just what I needed to push through.  I wanted to quit at 10 miles, but I just ran two bigger loops to get the 12 done.  I didn't have what it took mentally, but somehow pulled through just fine.  I came home and did the Yoga With Adrienne runners cool down yoga and did some foam rolling to help out my Achilles. I can't get an injury now!

Well, that’s how my training went for the week.  The next race I’m doing is the Strawberry Plains Half Marathon on February 6th.  How did your training go? 

Women's Running Community

Sunday Runday - Week 3 of Marathon Training

Monday 1-11: Advanced Yoga (45 min) - Nike Training Club.  I seriously cannot wait for Friday when I'm done with this program.  The yoga on this app is terrible! On the positive side, my wrist is starting to feel better. 

Tuesday 1-12: 7 mile tempo run.  This run felt great and my times are getting faster, back to where they were before my injury. 

Wednesday 1-13: Slacker today. I was supposed to do a 30 minute NTC workout and planned some yoga afterward.  I honestly didn't feel like it and instead did a 3-mile walk with my dog and baked a lemon cake.  Worth it! :) 

Thursday 1-14: 5 miles w/cadence & step work.  This was my first ever attempt at cadence & step work!  The goal was to run 0:30 at full pace and then walk for 1:00 for six cycles.  I needed to count my steps to make sure my strides were efficient.  Bad news is I'm terrible with numbers, so I took a little tip from my WFR Training and duct taped my leg and carried a Sharpie. I was able to write down all my steps and continue running!

 Step work with a little hikertrash ingenuity! 

Step work with a little hikertrash ingenuity! 

Friday 1-15: Conditioning Corps - NTC (30 minutes).  Since I'm thankfully finished with my Nike Training club conditioning plan, I could chose my own workout.  I chose this beginner workout that used light weights and my knees were so happy without all the lunges and squats of the intermediate program!

Saturday 1-16: Long run - 11 miles. My legs were toast this morning.  I didn't want to do the run at all, but tomorrow's forecast shows temps about 20 degrees cooler with snow in the high elevations, meaning that there will be freezing rain or sleet down in the foothills of the Smokies, where I train.  I dragged myself out of the house after breakfast and put in the miles.  The first 6 felt amazing, but then the hill on mile 7 crushed my pace and I never recovered.  The run was slow, but it's done. 

Sunday 1-17: Active rest.  My body is tired after this week.  I think it's due to the weather being kind of a mess.  I took a nice hot Epsom bath and did Leslie Fightmaster's Vinyasa Evening Flow class on Youtube.  I'm hoping my paces look better next week after some rest!

 My favorite hip stretch - Cowface pose. Definitely needed after this week! 

My favorite hip stretch - Cowface pose. Definitely needed after this week! 

Well, that was my week!  How was your week? Are you training for an event? I'd love to chat with you - leave me a comment!

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