Boston 2014: My Fastest, Most Fabulous Marathon Yet! Part 2

10 May

Annnnnd, we’re back! Thanks for tuning in for Part 2 of my epic Boston Marathon recap! (You can read Part 1 here, in case you missed it.)  I’m sure you are all on the edge of your seats here, so I’ll cut the small talk and get down to the business of delivering the color commentary play-by-play.

The Race Report

My biggest concern leading up to the race was what sort of emotional response I might have returning to Boston having been there last year. I certainly had a big weepy, snotty reaction to the bombings and the events that followed.  The 1 year anniversary of those events, making the return trip, and the various tributes and moments of silence that came with it all brought plenty of tears as well. Part of me feared that I might be so overcome with feelings being back in the place where it all happened  that it might interfere with my ability to run the race. I was also worried as to what the vibe of the marathon might be like. Would it be reverent and tense, and sad, and somber? It was evident as soon as we crossed the starting mat this was not the case at all. I’m sure you have already read as much in a billion other Boston Marathon blog posts, but the crowds that lined every single inch of sidewalk from Hopkinton to Boston that day absolutely radiated nothing but joy, pride, courage, and positive energy. It was truly wonderful, magical, and completely relentless  for the entirety of those 26.2 miles. I felt tears welling up in my eyes frequently throughout the race, (and they often revisit me as I tell and re-tell my 2014 Boston Marathon story), but not at all in a sad or upsetting way. I could feel myself grinning like an idiot for what felt like nearly the whole race, swept up in a sea of dance parties, side fives, funny signs and Boston Strong shirts. (For the record, my official race photos confirm that I most definitely did not smile the whole time, and that there was in fact, some pretty unfortunate grimacing.) There are few things I love more in life than a rowdy, happy, interactive crowd, and I felt extra-connected to and inspired by this one in particular on account of all that they represented. I knew from the start that if I could just settle in and avoid my usual self-doubting marathon inner monologue, I could ride this beautiful sea of humanity all the way to finish and give Boston a really great run.

The Game Plan

I made a plan to divide the marathon distance into small,  manageable parts. The goal was to steer clear of the “I’ve run XX miles, only XX more to go!” mentality that I have found to be cripplingly overwhelming in nearly all of my marathons past. I had also had a lot of success in my training with approaching long run workouts and my tune-up half marathon simply as a checklist. Item 1:  Run miles x through x at this pace. Check. Item 2: Now run miles x through x at this slightly faster pace. Check. And so on.  My rules for Boston were to focus only on the checklist item that I was currently on, to avoid doing anything that might eff up my ability execute future items on the check list, and above all to have fun and soak up the experience.  I mapped out this  game plan for the race before leaving North Carolina…

My highly technical and scientific Boston Marathon game plan.

My highly technical and scientific Boston Marathon game plan.

Now let’s take a look at how Boston 2014 actually played out for me, compared to my very fancy plan…

Miles 1 through 8

The Goal: Keep it chill. Have fun with my Durham friends. Engage in as many dance parties and give and receive as many high fives as possible. Read all the funny signs. Just drink in every ounce of that amazing Boston energy. Do this all while running a comfortable 7:45 ish pace.

Reality: Mission accomplished!  Kara, Caren, Jen, and I danced, fist-pumped, cheered, and high-fived our way through Ashland and Framingham into Natick, chatting and laughing all the way.

Section 1 Splits:  7:56, 7:46, 7:45, 7:50, 7:52, 7:38, 7:38, and 7:42.

This pretty much sums up Section 1 of my race plan.

This picture pretty much sums up Section 1 of my race plan.

Miles 9 through 16

The Goal: Pick it up, but stay comfortable. Let’s say 7:35 pace.  Avoid going through the half any faster than 1:39. And for Pete’s sake, SMOOCH SOME WELLESLEY GIRLS!!! (My biggest regret surrounding last year’s marathon was that this magical display of all that is awesome about running and about Boston was violated by terrorists. My second biggest regret was finally making it to the number one race on my running bucket list, only to walk away with a disappointing, mediocre performance. And my 3rd biggest Boston 2013 regret was timidly letting the time-honored marathon tradition of kissing some Wellesley girls pass me by.) Wellesley kissing redemption was far and away the most important priority on this portion of the check list.

Reality: As I look back at the miles splits on the Garmin for this section of that race, I realize that I was actually quite successful in sticking to the plan. But to be perfectly honest, I just wasn’t paying all that much attention to said splits as they were happening. I loved the crowds that lined the course the entire way, but there was something especially happy about the hoards of people in Natick, where we miraculously spotted, high-fived, and dropped our very un-necessary arm warmers with Caren’s adorable parents.  We could hear the roar of the scream tunnel a good mile before we approached it, and I’m pretty sure  I commented aloud that it was music to my ears. Before we knew it, it was time to pucker up for some serious girl-kissing. My plan was to smooch the girls with the wittiest, most hilarious, and most creative signs, but I found myself coming up short on adequate brain power for both kissing and sign reading. I quickly resigned myself to simply kissing with reckless abandon. And those who I could not kiss I high-fived. I’m pretty sure Caren and Jen filled in all the kissing gaps I might have missed anyway. Later that evening as we were re-hashing our Wellesley kissing rampage over beers, Jen commented that the only thing that might have made it more prefect would have been Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” blaring in the background over a loud-speaker somewhere. I smiled and assured her that this song was absolutely cranking full-blast in my head while the smooch-fest was happening.

I kissed these girls and I liked it.

I kissed these girls and I liked it.

We came through the half somewhere around 1:42, and although not running the first 13.1 too fast was a major objective for me, I felt just the teeniest hint of concern at the fact I was a whole 3 minutes behind the half split recommended by that crazy nerd-tastic spreadsheet that calculates your every mile split for the entire race. That moment of doubt was fleeting though. I wished my friends well shortly after the half timing mat and tried to dial in the last few miles at goal pace for this section to get back on track before hitting the hills.

Section 2 Splits:  7:34, 7:32, 7:46 (this split marks a new emergency pit stop PR for me! *Self Five*), 7:36, 7:39 (all that girl-kissing hardly even slowed me down!), 7:28, 7:24, 7:16.

Miles 17 through 21

The Goal: The Newton hills were an awful festival of struggling for me last year so I set the bar pretty low: Try not to suck.  I defined “not sucking” as staying comfortable, avoiding mental breakdowns, and if things were really going well, keeping the pace under 8:00 min.

Reality: As I sped up a little in hopes of making up some time on my way through Wellesley and into Newton, I actually found myself looking forward to getting to the part of the race where all I had to do was get through it without worrying (too much) about hitting any specific pace. I poured a little out for that PowerBar lady back in Athlete’s Village when I claimed and downed my complimentary PowerGel at mile 17 and settled in to do some climbing. I was becoming increasingly aware that it was warmer than I had hoped or anticipated, but I reminded myself to just focus on the checklist and let the crowd pull me along. I tried not to look at my watch too much (I had promised myself I did not have to run any specific pace here, after all), but when I did glance down at it I would catch myself pretty much squealing with joy in my head “I AM DOING IT!!!! I AM NOT SUCKING!!!” over and over with pretty much every ounce of inflection and enthusiasm indicated by the capitalization and multiple exclamations points. Somewhere in the midst of all of this (I like to remember it as being right at the very top of Heartbreak Hill,) I came across some particularly colorful spectators bearing an enormous sign that simply read “FUCK YEAH!” My sentiments exactly! I indicated as much by heartily reading their sign aloud to them (sorry mom), and thus section 3 of the checklist was crossed off with much fist pumping and merriment.

Section 3 Splits: 7:47, 7:51, 7:18, 7:35, 8:01. (Dang it! So close to hitting my stretch goal for this section of keeping every split under 8!)

Mile 22

The Goal: Don’t be a dumb-ass. Yes, the hills were tough last year but the part where I really flushed  my 2013 goal time down the toilet was barreling down the other side of Heartbreak Hill into Boston College. I was convinced that I would be walking the rest of the way to the finish by the time I crossed the 35K mat, and I probably wouldn’t have made it there any slower if I actually had walked. I solemnly vowed not to make the same mistake this year. Nothing but conservatively holding the horses until I was through the 35K.

Reality/Splits: A comfortable and controlled 7:22 split FTW!

 35K through the Finish

Go time!

Go time!

The Goal: Ok, NOW you can go for it! Pick it up if there’s anything left. Finish strong.

Reality: I ALMOST executed this final proportion of the run to perfection. I’ve heard many reports that this was the part of the course where the crowd was the loudest and most energetic. I don’t doubt that this is accurate, but this was point where the plan started to require all of my energy and focus, and my crowd interaction abilities started to wane. I did still manage to hear a few encouraging words that were directed my way from the sidelines, (Thank you, Jeff Caron, Danielle and Amelia, and The Official Liz Hurley cheering section!) And I was pleasantly surprised to encounter some familiar faces in the form of Durham friends Amy and Rebecca on the course as well.

I was uncertain as to whether or not I was on pace to hit the 3:19:59, but I was blissfully aware that I was doing something that I had formerly believed to be impossible. I was negative splitting the crap out of the Boston Marathon! (SELF-FIVES FOR DAYS!!!) I truly felt strong and fantastic right up until the moment when the Garmin chirped out the 25th mile split. And just like that the jig was up. My rational brain suddenly realized that I had been running hard for a long time, and in warmer temperatures than I was accustomed to and it insisted that I stop immediately.  “SHUT UP, RATIONAL BRAIN!!!” screamed whatever other parts of my brain were leftover. “YOU ONLY HAVE 1 MILE TO GO, AND THIS IS THE BEST PART!!! DON’T YOU DARE EFF IT UP NOW!!!”

I had envisioned myself savoring and relishing the iconic final turns, right on Hereford, left on Boylston, but it just didn’t play out that way. Instead my raging inner monologue continued. Rational thinking vs. heart and legs.  “Who the hell put this hill on Hereford?!? I could have sworn that was here last year!” I prayed hard not to walk as the finish came into view. “OMG, they made that uphill this year too?!? Shenanigans!!!” I mercifully crossed the finish line with 3:21:xx on the watch, not caring one single bit that it wasn’t 3:19:59. I had done it. Despite coming up short of the goal time, the plan had worked. I had given Boston my very best and (expect for the last 1000 m or so) I had a wonderful time doing it. Recalling how that felt still gives me chills and brings tears to my eyes even as I type this.

The Splits: 7:16, 7:17, 7:10, 7:23 (although I could have sworn it was 12:23), and 7:00 for the final .2.

Not the glorious, flattering photo-finish I had dreamed of, but a great experience and a performance I feel good about nonetheless. #painface #rigging

Not the glorious, flattering photo-finish I had dreamed of, but a great experience and a performance I feel good about nonetheless. #painface #rigging

I was completely caught off guard at tremendous wave emotion I felt when the guy calling out finishers’ names announced to us that Meb had won. I am oddly ashamed to admit this, but sometimes I feel like there just isn’t very much of a connection between the running that I, the mid-pack social/ recreational runner am doing and that of the elites. My sole motivation for participating in races is just being a part of the humanity of it all, doing something fun that I love shoulder to shoulder with my fellow  lycra-clad kindred spirits. I suppose I tend to jump to the conclusion that elite running is driven by winning and competition, motivations that are vastly different from my own. And there is undoubtedly at least some truth to that, but as I crossed the finish line in Boston that day it dawned on me that in this race Meb’s and Shalene’s motivation were exactly the same as mine: To give Boston their best race and to reclaim the finish line.  Not to mention the fact that I’ve just been a little partial to Meb ever since last year’s Boston Marathon expo when we ran into him in the mall at the Prudential Center as he was leaving. His public appearance was over, so he really didn’t have any obligation to interact with us if he didn’t want to, but he graciously took a good 10 minutes of his own time to give me a very sincere mile-by-mile how-to-run-Boston pep talk. That one fleeting encounter I had with Meb contained enough genuine authenticity and kindness to make me feel like my BFF had just won the Boston Marathon.  I’ve watched the video clip below several hundred times now, none of them without tears. If you haven’t seen it yet, grab yourself some kleenex and take a moment to check it out.

Furthermore,  I can’t think of another time when feelings of pride and patriotism moved me to tears like they did at that moment. It seems unlikely that the city and people of Boston could have imagined in their wildest dreams a healing celebration as sweet and as perfect as the one they got on April 21st, 2014, and I know that being a part of it will always be one of my very favorite memories. And to run a race that I was proud of and felt good about, particularly after rallying from a rocky start to my day, was just the most delicious icing on the big, beautiful, multi-tiered Boston Marathon cake. Cheers to a magical, fairytale  comeback for Boston, for America, and even for me.

So there you  have it, friends! All of my warm, fuzzy thoughts on the 2014 Boston Marathon!  I’ll leave you with a few  pics of some of my favorite non-running Boston happenings…

Non-Running Boston Highlights:

  • FINALLY seeing these fabulous faces after an epic post-race trek to bag claim and back to the steps of the Arlington Street Church, and (eventually, after sorting through many challenging showering and public transportation logistics) enjoying some celebratory beers with them.
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Sure do love my BCTC run family! #rattlerattle

  • Receiving this baller finisher’s poncho, which has myriad functional uses…
Behold the vast versatility of the 2014 Boston Marathon finisher's poncho!

Behold the vast versatility of the 2014 Boston Marathon finisher’s poncho!

  • BABIES AND PUGS!!! I have a very specific, regimented marathon tapering program (you can read about it in detail here), and hugging lots of babies and puppies is a key component of it. It just wouldn’t have been a trip to Boston, or a well-executed final taper without some quality pug and baby time. A very special thank you to Amy and Inga for providing the all-important pug and baby interaction that my pre-race ritual requires. They even threw in some good conversation and Bretucci’s take-out at no extra charge. :)
BABIES AND PUGS!!!

BABIES AND PUGS!!!

  • The loveliest Oiselle Team dinner where people I had never met in person before (including Lauren Fleshman and Kara Goucher! Eeee!) felt like old friends, and hilarious conversation about marathon poop stories, questionable calamari substitutions, and a universal love of Joey McIntyre from New Kids on the Block flowed freely. Kudos to Rebecca for her gracious hospitality, and for hosting such a wonderful, memorable evening in her fabulous home. Being a part of the Oiselle sisterhood is an honor and a privilege for sure!
So much Oiselle love!

So much Oiselle love!

  • The Cheers bar. Judge me if you will, but when I travel I enjoy planning my sightseeing around landmarks from the TV sitcoms of yesteryear. The Seinfeld restaurant in NYC, the Full House house in San Francisco, you get the idea. Naturally, the Cheers bar ranked highly on my things-I-want-to-do-in-Boston list. Last year’s trip didn’t really include much sightseeing, so we scheduled a late flight home on Tuesday to allow plenty of time for Cheers bar beer drinking this year.
As it turned out, only 2 people knew my name at the Cheers bar. But it was these guys, and they're pretty cool so I wasn't too disappointed.

The only 2 people who knew my name at the Cheers bar. But they’re pretty cool so I wasn’t too disappointed.

So many thanks you to all of you who shared this experience (even if only a small part of it) with me.  It was indescribably  fun and special to be a part of it with all of you and I sincerely hope that each of you loved it as much as I did. More thanks yous still to everyone, near and far, who sent me words and encouragement and kind thoughts throughout that weekend and on race day. I felt so much love and support from family, friends, and my awesome little online running community. I also channeled all of y’all’s positive energy all the way to the finish line and it did not disappoint! And as always, thanks to all for reading!

Until next time, friends!

Xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boston 2014: My Fastest, Most Fabulous Marathon Yet! Part 1

8 May

I have now allowed myself over two weeks to digest and process my 2014 Boston Marathon experience, and I am still struggling to form coherent thoughts to explain and describe it. Someone will ask me how it went and the next thing I know I’m hearing myself spew a bunch of gibberish littered with the occasional discernible “magical”, “amazing”, or “so-super-special”. Forgive me for the big load of puppies and rainbows I’m about to unload on you here (because I usually hate that crap too, I promise!)  but it was a really great day and a long time coming. Plus it comes with a big ol side of very genuine Boston Strong love, so try to let it slide just this once.

Like many others who toed the line in Hopkinton two Mondays ago, my journey to this year’s start line started last year when the bombs went off. The day after last year’s race I received a phone call from a newspaper reporter from my hometown inquiring about my Boston experience. Rattled and shell-shocked, I sobbed and stammered through her questions. The last thing she asked me before mercifully ending our conversation was “Do you plan on coming back next year to run the marathon?” I tearfully mumbled something about needing more time to process it all and said that I didn’t know. When I read the write-up the next day in the digital edition of my hometown’s newspaper I was appalled at how lame and douchey my response to that particular question sounded. Of course I had to go back next year! How could I have ever even for a second entertained the idea of NOT going back?!? Going back was the very best way I could think of to honor the lives that were lost and the courage the was demonstrated at the finish line that day and in the tense days that followed.  Showing  Boston and the marathon my love and support was important to me.  So that settled that. I was going back. I almost called up the newspaper lady and asked her to edit and re-print the article.

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And then there is the less talked about part of the story. The part that took a back seat to the bombings, the tears, and the feelings of fear, guilt, anger, and sadness. The part where I ran a disappointing race last year. The energy and hype of the 2013 Boston Marathon did not let me down, nor did my dear teammates who kept me company through the 35K mat and/or chased me down like a banshee over the better part of 15 miles just to make sure we stuck to our plan of crossing the finish line together. The running part of Boston 2013 was epic in its own right, and more parts of it than not were actually a lot of fun, but I crossed the line several minutes behind my goal time and feeling utterly spent and unhappy with my race execution. Of course these feelings of disappointment in this, the holy grail of races that I had run my little arse off just to get to quickly faded from significance the instant the news of the bombing reached my ears, but when the time came to move forward and start training again, they were there to haunt me. I didn’t just want to go back to Boston, I wanted to go back and run it well.

Some of the more fun running moments from Boston 2013.

Some of the more fun running moments from Boston 2013.

So I decided to try some new stuff. My post-marathon 2013 spring running felt like crap in every way, so I greeted summer with some premeditated time off. I rested. I aqua jogged. I decided to try ACTUALLY DOING all of those weird and ridiculous-looking strengthening exercises my sports chiropractor had been recommending for months to correct all my problematic, achy-breaky strength imbalances. (Spoiler alert: Those things work so much better when you ACTUALLY DO them!)

Fall came and my focus shifted to getting stronger and faster and gaining confidence in my ability to work outside of my comfort zone.  I added more core work to my routine, kept doing the ridiculous-looking chiropractor exercises (somewhat) regularly, and surprised myself with the paces on my watch in many of my speed workouts. In November I came up short my goal time in the “A” race for the season. The fitness was there to do it, but the confidence still needed work. I wrote a few mildly self-deprecating blog posts about it, rested and regrouped over the holidays, and before I knew it was time to start the training cycle for The Big One.

I dialed in the goal for Boston 2014 at 3:19:59.  This looked pretty aggressive compared to my marathon PR at the time (3:28:35, run at none other than Boston 2013), but I knew that last year’s time wasn’t reflective of all that I was capable of, and that I had come a long way since then. Breaking 3:20 seemed challenging, but attainable. It was a less-pleasant-than-typical winter here in North Carolina, (but probably not as bad as the winter you had to train through in the northeast or the mid-west, or the Arctic Circle, I know.) On top  of that a job transition in February kept me busier and more spread-thin than ever as I wrapped up loose ends and trained new staff for my old position and took on the responsibilities of my new role simultaneously. I ran by myself, at odd times,  and (worst of all) on the treadmill. As an extroverted social running enthusiast, a staunch routine-monger, and a vehement treadmill hater none of this was ideal, but I was going back to Boston and I was going run it well, damnit! This kept me motivated to keep finding ways to fit it and get it done no matter what. (That’s what she said.)

I (mostly) loosely followed the BAA’s intermediate training program from the Boston Marathon’s official website. Although the workouts were prescribed at slower paces than those that I trained at for Richmond, they did not necessarily feel all that easy, and I fretted that my fitness had declined since November. I reminded myself that the BAA knows what it’s doing. (They’ve been writing training plans for this marathon for more than a century, for goodness sake!) I also reminded myself that training for a marathon is not the same thing as training for a half marathon and tried to talk myself out of comparing my current program with that of the fall.

It eased my mind considerably when I fairly easily and comfortably bested my time from Richmond by 5 seconds at the Shamrock Half Marathon in VA Beach. Not my most glamorous PR on paper, but it was really encouraging to match my time from a race that I had “raced” with a time from a race that I was approaching as a “quality long run workout”. And the VA Beach trip was a truly fabulous Oiselle Team weekend get-way to boot! I regrettably have not yet found the time to blog about it, but you can check out the short version of my VA Beach race report here on Salty Running. That race marked the point where I decided that this training cycle could in fact be going pretty well.

A little photographic throwback to our awesome Oiselle Team weekend in VA Beach!

A little photographic throwback to our awesome Oiselle Team weekend in VA Beach!

As I reviewed and reflected on the work I had put in to get to Boston in the days between completing my final long run and race day, I sentimentally and very cheesily noted (in my head)  that this training cycle had been sort of like an Irish blessing. It had enough good runs to keep it sweet. Enough hard runs to make me strong. Enough crappy runs to keep me humble.  Enough friends to make it fun. Enough solo runs to give me courage. And enough determination to keep me getting out and getting after it day after day, whether it was on my own or in good company, and whether it felt good and fun or not. Can I get an Amen, y’all?  (I further mused that this seemed appropriate because the road certainly rises up to meet you in the Newton hills, and lots of people who live in Boston are of Irish decent. But I digress…)

It scared me a little to admit it, lest I jinx myself, but when it was all said and done, I felt more prepared and ready, and less exhausted and beat up than I had ever felt at the end of any other marathon training cycle gone by.

Fast forward to race day. On Monday morning I woke up to realize that I had slept through THE ENTIRE NIGHT the night before the Boston Marathon. This was a shocking first for me and I actually was a little  alarmed that it might be a sign of inadequate hydration since I never once got up to pee during the night. I got out of bed and begin my lengthy getting ready process, the most time-consuming part of which is applying 1 million temporary tattoos (or 5, as the case was that day.) There was a knock at the bathroom door and when I opened it, a pallid-looking Allie Bigelow (who was to be my ride to Boston Common to catch the bus) announced that she had food poisoning and would be unable to drive me. I’m 95% sure that what came out of my mouth in response to this news was something of at least half-ass concern and sympathy, but the response that resounded inside of my head was more like  “OMG, YOU HAVE GOT TO BE EFFING KIDDING ME!!! WTF AM I GOING TO DO NOW?!?!” Allie, being the wonderful friend that she is told me that a cab was on its way for me, so I hastily donned my disposable mom jeans, which were generously donated by Allie’s friend whose house we were staying at, and my bedazzled Target clearance rack little girls’ XL sized hoodie, grabbed a bagel for the road and I was off.

Off to catch my cab looking neither fast nor fabulous.

Off to catch my cab looking and feeling neither fast nor fabulous.

I felt a little forlorn as I walked into Boston Common alone, forcing feeding myself the bagel (which had now been dropped on the floor of the cab) in what I’m sure was a most unflattering manner. But within about 10 seconds of arriving I heard someone loudly state my name, and I looked up from my cab floor bagel to find that I was already being hugged by  my old friend, Alex Varner. (Click the link and read his blog. He’s kind of a big deal). This was a good sign. I continued to feel more at ease as I boarded the bus and chatted with my new BFF/ seat-mate, Bob from VA.  Before I knew it, we were in Hopkinton, and I exited the bus feeling happy, centered and ready to just chill out until go time. Until the moment I realized that my 4 raspberry Hammer Gels and one emergency espresso Hammer Gel had not joined me in my bus exit. “HOLY EFFING BALLS , THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING!!!” began my 2nd inner monologue panic attack of the morning. Guys, there is a lot of food in Athlete’s Village, and it is provided by multiple companies that do in fact make gu-type products. And yet, no one but no one was giving out gels there. Holy FML. “Don’t worry, there will be PowerGel on the course at mile 17!” chirped the lady at the PowerBar tent. I prayed for the self-control not to cry or punch her in the face.  An hour later, thanks to the charity of a kind stranger in the bathroom line and a lucky run-in with Oiselle Teammate, Rebecca and her very generous friends, I was 3 Gu’s the richer, but still feeling disheveled. I knew I had to get it together and stop wasting all of this energy on freaking out or it was going to be bad news bears for sure.  I parked myself against the wall of the middle school and scanned the crowds for my friends from Durham whom I was hoping to run at least the first few miles of the race with. I didn’t see them right away, but I did see Lori, a preferred Bull City Running Company customer. She was cold and I had a baller fleece blanket, which like my bedazzled hoodie was a jackpot find from the Target clearance section. I did what any good friend would do and invited her in for some stand up spooning that would have made Holly Roberts very proud. It was starting to get late, and Lori and I agreed that we definitely needed at least one more porta-potty stop before go time, and the lines weren’t getting any shorter. But I DESPERATELY wanted to find the gang from home. Having fun with them for the first part of the race was a critical part of my game plan! Just when I thought I was going to have to throw in the towel and face the fact that this might be a day where things just weren’t going to go my way, they emerged from the crowd! I was feeling a little more spiritual than usual that morning in Athletes’ Village, and seeing their familiar, beautiful faces seemed like a sign that I was being watched over by some higher power and that everything was going to be ok.  I think I might have cried a few tears of joy and relief when I saw them. I’m also pretty sure we held hands all the way into the corral.

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The pure, unadulterated joy of being gifted energy gels by strangers and finding your friends in Athletes’ Village against all odds.

All is well with the world now.

All is well with the universe now.

Cliff Hanger Alert!

Well, fans and friends, I just caught a glimpse of the word count. Scary stuff! I have already blabbed over 2000 words and that only got me to the start line of the race!  I haven’t even gotten to any of the good puppies and rainbows parts yet! In the name of good blogging etiquette, I think I’d better go ahead and make this a two-parter. Stayed tuned for a Fast and Fabulous highlight reel of the race and the weekend in general coming soon!

 

Until then, you stay classy, Fast and Fabulous readers!

 

Love,

 

Ellen

 

The Not-so-Fast, but Very Fabulous Art of Fun Running

10 Mar

“The Big Easy” is an appropriate nickname for both the city of New Orleans and the “race” I recently ran at the Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon in this lovely town.  The key focus of my little trip to NOLA was to have as much fun as possible with two of my dearest running besties, Kara and Sarah, and to cheer Sarah to a phatty new marathon PR. Mission accomplished on both accounts! (Sarah, you are officially my marathon running hero! Way to go, you big bad-ass!)

I did some serious hemming and hawing as to whether or not I should sign up for this race. Them fancy Rock n’ Roll half marathons ain’t cheap, y’all! But when it was all said and done, I succumbed to FOMO, some good-natured peer pressure from Kara, and the fact I am also chasing down a big, hairy marathon PR and therefore needed to get a  long run in on this trip and died a little inside as I coughed up the $125 for registration. Despite my frugal grumblings, this turned out to be among the best $125 I have ever spent. Since the good ole BAA Boston Marathon training program called for “16 to 18 easy miles” on this particular day, Kara and I opted to “fun run” the race. Talk about good decisions. As it turns out, fun running is a totes amazeballs way to experience the 13.1 distance, and everyone needs to try it a least once. That’s why I have put together this handy little post for you. Think of it as your own personal guide to the not necessarily fast, but most definitely fabulous art of fun running. You can thank me later. Let’s start the party, shall we?

Preparing for Your Fun Run

First things first. Let’s talk preparation. Your fun running success hinges on being in the proper state of mind to relax, have fun, and just enjoy running for the sake of moving your body. This means letting go of the usual stressful, high-pressure, adrenaline pumping pre-race thoughts of things like time goals and pacing strategies, qualifying for this standard, running faster than that person, and so on. Trust me friends, this is easier said than done. For best results, I recommend completely throwing your typical pre-race prep routine out the window. By doing a bunch of bizarre stuff that you would never in a million years do before any sort of race you were taking even remotely seriously, you can effectively trick your brain into turning off that tunnel vision, eyes-on-the-prize, super-ODC-about-everything pre-race mode that we all know so well. I found the following activities particularly helpful for keeping me calm, cool, and not at all worked up about my upcoming “race”…

  • Walking-intensive Sight-seeing.

    Kicking off an epic 6 mile+ walking tour of  the parts of New Orleans between our hotel and the expo with this amazeballs window reflection selfie. It's ok if you're jealous.

    Kicking off an epic 6 mile+ walking tour of the parts of New Orleans between our hotel and the expo with this baller window reflection selfie. It’s ok if you’re jealous.

  • Enjoying Local Cuisine with Reckless Abandon.

    As you read on you will learn that you'll be making many stops on your fun run. What's on more for the bathroom? Crawfish ettouffee FTW!

    As you read on you will learn that you’ll be making many stops on your fun run. What’s on more for the bathroom? Crawfish ettouffee FTW!

  • Expo Shenanigans. (OK, so I would probably do this one at any race I signed up for, even if I was looking to PR my face off.) After all, you spent like a bazillion dollars of your hard-earned money on signing up for and traveling to this race so you might as well get your money’s worth by taking advantage of every silly photo-op, ridiculous interactive activity, and every single shred of free swag available at the expo!

    Turn off your competitive pre-race brain and access your silly side by doing ALL THE RIDICULOUS THINGS at the expo.

    Turn off your competitive pre-race brain and access your silly side by doing ALL THE RIDICULOUS THINGS at the expo.

  • Making Inspiring and Supportive Signs for Your Friends who are Running the Race Competitively.

    We spent hours crafting these highly supportive and inspirational signs for Sarah 'cause she's our #BFFL.

    We spent hours crafting these highly supportive and inspirational signs for Sarah and transported them all the way from NC  ’cause she’s our #BFFL.

  • Day Drinking. (This one is especially clutch. Just remember that day drinking, and the drinking of alcoholic beverages at all other times of day as well, are illegal for persons under the age of 21.  Please always day drink responsibly.)
After all the excessive walking, sign-making, and expos shenanigans we commenced the day drinking with these delicious and very classy Pimm's Cups.

After all the excessive walking, sign-making, and expo shenanigans we commenced the day drinking with these delicious and very classy Pimm’s Cups.

Day drinking, round 2. Just to make absolutely sure that no one is going to accidentally take tomorrow's run too seriously.

Day drinking, round 2. Just to make absolutely sure that no one is going to accidentally take tomorrow’s run too seriously.

You may want to further convince yourself that your fun run is really no big deal by choosing or creating for yourself a perfectly ridiculous outfit. Something that emphasizes fabulousness, but not so much speed. Something that makes it absolutely impossible for you to take yourself seriously when you are wearing it. I personally opted for and highly recommend a really glittery-ass tutu, although elaborate decorative head-wear and/or wildly patterned tights also seem to work well.

I know it's kind of hard to tell from this pic, but our tutus are really effing glittery.  So much so, in fact, that when I took my tutu and my shorts off for my post-race shower it looked like I was still wearing pants made of glitter. That's how you know if it's glittery enough.

I know it’s kind of hard to tell from this pic, but our tutus are really effing glittery. So much so, in fact, that when I took mine, along with my shorts off for my post-race shower it looked like I was still wearing pants made of glitter.

Get Your “Fun Face” on for The Big Day

Race day is here and it’s time to really get into the Fun Zone! Arrive at the race site early enough to allow time for a silly pre-race photo shoot. I am fairly certain it is a scientific fact that taking ridiculous photos (especially synchronized jumping photos) instantly increases the amount of fun you are having exponentially. And for the record, I have historically found the pre-race photo shoot to be a highly effective get-pumped-up strategy for “A” races as well as fun runs. Additionally, you may want to include some sort of dance party/ sing-a-long and/or twerking in your warm-up routine. I also really enjoy chatting up other random runners as a pre-race ritual in fun run and competitive race settings a like.

Just a few of my favorite pre-race photo shoot concepts: The jumping pic, the race bib faux-flash, victory arms, and the hyperbolicly enthusiastic high five.

Just a few of my favorite pre-race photo shoot concepts: The jumping pic, the race bib faux-flash, victory arms, and the hyperbolically enthusiastic high-five.

Obviously, everyone was very interested in and impressed by my patented twerking warm-up routine.

Obviously, everyone was very interested in and impressed by my patented twerking warm-up routine.

Also, don’t forget to bring some way of documenting all the fun you are about to be having! After all, you are moments away for the most fun running experience of your life and all of social media and posterity needs to know about it! Kara and I used a small, inexpensive, water-proof point-and-shoot camera to capture every minute detail of our fun run extravaganza. One could easily use a smart phone as well. Just remember that your iPhone’s warranty does not cover water damage, and sweating your iPhone to death while fun running definitely counts as water damage.

Once the Gun Goes Off…

  • Stop and have your picture made with all the funny signs, thematically dressed spectators, bands, and inflatables. This part will be particularly easy if you are fun running a Rock n’ Roll Series race, since they provide some form of on-course entertainment every couple of miles and, at least in my limited experience, seem to be well spectated by particularly friendly people who are also highly creative sign-makers. We made several thousand photo stops along the course that day in NOLA. Here are a few of my favorites…
    Jazz hands for the jazz band.

    Jazz hands for the jazz band.

    Those people wearing ALL THE MARDI GRAS STUFF.

    Those people wearing ALL THE MARDI GRAS STUFF.

    Hey Girl. You're so bringing sexy back in that glittery-ass tutu.

    Hey Girl. You’re SO bringing sexy back in that glittery-ass tutu.

    As Kara said in her fun run re-cap, (which you can read here) we had to stop because of the irony.

    As Kara said in her fun run re-cap, (which you can read here) “We had to stop because of the irony.”

    Um, seriously, references to "That's what she said" AND not wearing underpants?!? Looks like these guys knew I was coming!

    Um, seriously, references to “That’s what she said” AND not wearing underpants?!? Looks like these guys knew I was coming!

    A cardinal rule of fun running: All large inflatables must be posed in front of ... Especially if said is a giant rock star playing a shoe guitar.

    A cardinal rule of fun running: All large inflatables must be posed in front of … Especially if said inflatable is a giant rock star playing a shoe guitar.

    My very best Michael Flatley Lord of the Dance impression, because I'm just that awesome.

    My very best Michael Flatley Lord of the Dance impression, because I’m just that awesome.

     

  • High Five All the Little Kids:  

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    I make it a point to high-five at least some little kids at any race I do, but in fun running it is a requirement to seek out and high-five ALL OF THEM. Especially the ones that are wearing tutus just like yours.

  • Take All the Outside Aid. A major highlight for us. Just remember as you are chasing your next big PR or age group win that this technically against rules. But all is fair in love and fun running, and if you’re doing it right there will be no age group placement, podium finish, or qualifying standard in question for you today, so soak up every morsel of beer, donuts, king cake, and jello shots you can while you have the chance.

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    We’re fairly certain that this donuts and beer aid station was created especially for us!

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Perhaps our very favorite fun run stop of all, king cake and jello shots! #onlyinNOLA

*Obligatory Disclaimer: Taking jello shots from strangers (especially in New Orleans) is generally a bad idea. Don’t try this at home, kids! #YOLO

  • Thank All the Volunteers: Again, this is something we should try our best to do at any and all races. Volunteers who wake up obscenely early to direct traffic for your safety, make sure you know where you are going on the course, and cheerfully hand you water, Gatorade, and Gu for nothing more than a free t-shirt and a pat on the back are truly the dream-weavers who make events like the one that you are fun running right now a reality. Naturally, they deserve all of your gratitude, but sometimes we runners find it difficult to express our thanks because we are just trying not to bonk, barf or otherwise fall apart on the way to our next great race result. This should never be the case when it comes to fun running. All fun running should be done 100% within one’s comfort zone to allow for showering each and every race volunteer on the course with the profuse thank-yous that they deserve.

Use Proper Fun Running Etiquette

  • Be Careful with Sudden Stopping/ Veering Off the Course. I am a little ashamed to admit that I had to learn this one the hard way. True to my severe ADHD form, I caught myself careening recklessly off the course to be photographed with this awesome sign or that hilariously dressed spectator, bringing runners behind me to screeching halts to avoid crashing into me and creating massive pile-ups in my wake on several occasions. Not cool. My most sincere apologies to anyone who was unfortunate enough to get caught up in my path of destruction. Remember that one runner’s fun run odyssey may be many other runners’ big, awesome goal race. A good fun runner should always go above and beyond to be encouraging, supportive, and above all, courteous to their fellow runners. This means taking care not to cut others off and giving fair warning when veering off the course, and re-entering race traffic flow as well. No one wants to be THAT fun runner who is making the run less fun for everyone else!
  • Never Ever Stop Your Watch! As a matter of fact, your fun run would probably be an awesome place NOT to wear your watch, but if you are a to-the-death Garmin-or-it-didn’t -happen runner as I am, well friends, you best keep that watch running no matter how long you are standing still in your quest for the prefect selfie of you and the guy the jester hat handing out the jello shots. The race clock won’t stop for your various photo ops, snack breaks, and mid-race dance parties, so neither does your watch. Remind yourself again that your fun running experience is not about time or average pace. It’s about becoming re-acquainted with the notion that you love running because it’s fun and celebrating the people whom you love running with. Then after the race, march yourself to the nearest computer or mobile device and proudly claim your much-slower-than-usual half marathon time on Athlinks. I’m fairly certain that my fun running half marathon time is the slowest 13.1 result attached to my name thus far, but is it also one my very favorite race memories, and a tremendous PR in fun. And that is why everyone should try fun running at least once!
Celebrating fun running success, and huge new marathon PRs as we warm up for Bourbon Street with bottomless mimosas courtesy of Competitor Group's VIP tent. #werekindofabigdeal

Celebrating fun running success, and huge new marathon PRs as we warm up for Bourbon Street with bottomless mimosas courtesy of Competitor Group’s VIP tent. #werekindofabigdeal

I  hope this little guide to successful fun running has served as a reminder to you that there is value in not taking every single run/ race super-seriously, and that a little shift in focus and taking a break to smell the roses (or in our case, the king cake) does the mind and body good!

Much love to all the awesome, hilarious people, old and new friends alike, who made our weekend in NOLA memorable, and cheers to many more fun runs to come!

Have YOU ever run a race just for fun? Is it something you would consider doing? Tell your thoughts, for better or for worse, in the comments!

The Obligatory 2013 Round Up!

5 Jan

Well friends, the last few weeks of 2013 have left me feeling a bit blue. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed some hard-earned time off and had a lovely holiday with my zany southern family, but as I’ve reflected on 2013 it has just felt a little blah and insignificant. No big exciting career advancements, no discovering new hidden passions or talents, no riding off into the sunset with Justin Timberlake, no saving the world, and no winning the lottery. Just the same old stagnant, exhausting grind. Insert scowling Debbie Downer face and “womp, womp” sound effect here.

Next year...

Next year…

I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not to even write an end of the year wrap-up, for fear of coming off as a total whiny-ass bitch. But as I combed through the various pictures and posts of my Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feeds in search of some small morsel of accomplishment from 2013 I realized two things… (1) If your biggest end of the year dilemma is whether or not you should write a cliché, obligatory year-in-review blog post, well, then you probably can’t really call that a bad year. And (2) I have posted A LOT of pictures in the last year, probably more than you ever hoped to see, and in practically every one  of them I am doing something fun with awesome people who I love. And y’all, that is nothing be a whiny bitch-ass about. So I have decided that instead of feeling bad about all things that did not happen in 2013, at least within the parameters of this blog post, I would like to reflect on the cool things that I DID experience… You know, like the stuff that was crazy-fun, and the stuff that was incredibly inspiring and moving. Hell, I even managed to dig up a few  accomplishments and self-realizations in my little social media stroll down 2013 memory lane! Let’s talk about those too! After all, there are few things in this world I like less than a whiny-ass bitch blog post.  So let’s round-up the good stuff, shall we?

1. The Boston Marathon Restored My Faith in the Good of Humanity. 

Given the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon, you may think this seems like an unlikely thing to land on one’s annual list of “good stuff”. And of course what happened at the finish line that day was absolutely inexcusable, and nothing could ever justify or validate it. I shed many tears as I processed the Boston bombings (ugly crying is kind of my thing), and it is certainly true that plenty of those were tears of sadness, anger, fear, and maybe even guilt for so, so narrowly avoiding the tragedy that so gravely impacted the lives of many others. But I cried just as many tears because I was incredibly moved by the courage, the selflessness, the compassion, and the tenacity of the volunteers, spectators, runners, and emergency personnel who were there to respond when the bombs went off. The outpouring of love and support for the marathon, bombing victims, and the city of Boston was nothing short of magical, and months later I am still deeply touched and overwhelmed by the kind concern so many of you expressed for my personal safety. I recall commenting upon being reunited with my smart phone at bag claim after the race that the Boston Marathon had officially surpassed my birthday as my biggest social media event of the year. Boy, did I have no idea how dramatically the implications of that statement would be changing within the next half hour. I have said it before, but again, my most heartfelt thanks to each everyone who reached out to me on that day. My thoughts of comfort and healing continue go out to all those physically and emotionally effected by the bombings, and I have nothing but the highest praise and respect for the organizers of the Boston Marathon and the City of Boston for handling an awful, chaotic situation with swift, effective action and class. For all that was terrible about the Boston bombings, it is very easy to see the good that rises from the ashes, and that is the most beautiful thing I have  witnessed all year. I couldn’t be more excited to return to Boston in 2014, and you’d better believe I’ll be packing a metric ton of Kleenex, but only for crying tears of happiness and awesomeness.

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A few powerful, iconic images from the Boston bombings.

...And some of my favorite moments from my 2013 Boston Marathon experience.

…And a few of my favorite moments from my 2013 Boston Marathon experience.

2. I’ve Got My Shit Together Much More So Than I Did in High School.

Ok, if I’m being perfectly honest, I actually question the validity that statement on an almost-daily basis. But this year I found out that I can run a mile  A LOT FASTER now than I could in high school. Excuse me while I interrupt this blog post for a brief fantasy where my current self taunts my (MUCH dorkier) 17-year-old self with the most obnoxiously legendary NFL end zone-style victory dance imaginable.

Present day Ellen (left) well on her way to kicking Dorky High School Ellen (right)'s ass in the mile. IN YOUR FACE, High School Ellen!

Present day Ellen (left) well on her way to kicking High School Ellen’s  slow, dorky ass in the mile. IN YOUR FACE, High School Ellen!

I have had moments when I felt that I couldn’t rightly claim this giant (roughly 45 sec) new mile PR as a really big deal. For starters, I hadn’t even thought about racing the mile distance since high school. Furthermore, I currently run an average of 40 to 50 miles per week, vs my high school training regimen of I don’t even know what, but certainly something much less intense and much less consistent than what I’m doing now. I guess my odds of smashing the high school PR going into that mile race in September were actually pretty good, but still, the outcome was much better than I expected and that race result completely redefined my training for the remainder of the fall.

Coach Bigs, who is my running BFF and one of my many running mentors suggested that we plug my new mile PR into the McMillian Running Calculator to figure out some pacing guidelines for my training for Richmond. The numbers that this yield completely scared the shit out of me! When she sent me a workout that included 800s at prescribed pace that started WITH A TWO (!!!) I was all like “HELL TO THE NO! Homie don’t play that.” But when she sighed and rolled her eyes at me (actually, I think this entire interaction took place over text message, but I could feel her sighing and rolling her eyes,) I reluctantly agreed to give it the old college try. And then to my great surprise and amazement I DID IT! This little breakthrough was clutch in launching the intensity and volume of my training, as well as my fitness and confidence levels to great new heights this fall.

All the awesome teammates I got share The Great Mile PR of 2013 with. EVERY SINGLE WOMAN IN THIS PICTURE can run a mile in under 5:50. #badass

All the awesome teammates I got share The Great Mile PR of 2013 with. EVERY SINGLE WOMAN IN THIS PICTURE can run a mile in under 5:50. #badass

Additionally, The Great Mile PR of 2013 reminded me that the heading of this section of today’s post (the one about having my shit together more than I did in high school) really is true. As much as I have struggled this year with a severe case of “OMG, I’m 32 and What Do I Have to Show for It?!” Syndrome, I have still come a long way since high school and I can celebrate the many small victories that have gotten me here… Like being financially independent from my parents (you know, unless something really bad and expensive happens to my car), and paying off lots of debt from the poverty and bad decisions of my youth, and having lived on my own for an entire decade without starving to death, despite my lack of patience for or interest in cooking (I have mostly Trader Joe’s and The Bigelow Family to thank for this one,) and just being infinitely more confident in and aware of who I am. I know all of this is pretty basic, and none of it is earth-shattering, but it is a perfectly respectable foundation for being a responsible adult. Now it’s just a matter of leveraging it into something awesome in 2014 and beyond! So yes, I am a grown up who has my shit together! Major shout-out to The Magnificent Mile Race for reminding me of this!

3. The Best Part of Running is the People Part, and Everyone Should Do Relays.

Historically, my very favorite type of running event has been the overnight relay. I love relays because their primary emphasis is the only aspect of running that I am truly naturally good at: The people part. The part where you work as part of a team to accomplish something that you probably couldn’t do all by yourself. And better yet, the part where expectations, preconceived notions, and judgments are all checked the (van) door so you can REALLY get to know people for who they are… what motivates them, what makes them feel insecure, what makes them laugh, and of course, their deepest, darkest poop stories. There is just something magical about being in squished in a van for 26 (or even for 36) sleepless, showerless hours that breaks down boundaries and brings people together. This is true whether you are relaying with your nearest, dearest besties whom your are blessed to train and hangout with on the regular, or prefect strangers who were previously just people from your Twitter feed who sounded pretty cool. It’s an amazing phenomenon and I can’t get enough of it.

In October I was lucky enough to have two equally awesome, but very different relay experiences. The first being Ragnar DC with a bunch of fabulous Durham friends/ Bull City Track Club teammates, plus my dear college BFF and some spontaneous tangential acquaintances who bailed us out of a bind at the last-minute. I seriously had been looking forward to this race from the moment we signed up for it, and it was all I dreamed it would be and more. Just when I thought it wasn’t possible have anymore inside jokes with a group of people, or eat anymore Costco Chicago Mix popcorn in one 26 hour period, or think  of more creative uses for Shittens and plush turkey hats, somehow we still managed to achieve a whole new level of doing all of these things. Our super-cohesive, dynamic, fun-loving team reigned total domination on the competition and walked away with the award for most team spirit, as well as the win in the women’s team division, and 11th place overall. Booyah!

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2013 Ragnar DC Team Spirit and Women's Division Champions, TEAM SHITTENS!!!

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2013 Ragnar DC Team Spirit and Women’s Division Champions, the legendary TEAM SHITTENS!!!

I was recruited for relay #2, Ragnar Tennessee, from Chattanooga to Nashville, by Oiselle teammate and Ragnar Relay icon, Holly Roberts! (Check out Holly’s fantastic Ragnar TN re-cap here!) I had never actually met anyone on Team Nuunapalooza prior to the race, and when I arrived in The Noog the night before I most definitely felt like I was crashing someone else’s family reunion, but in the best possible way. I made to feel incredibly welcome and right at home immediately. Some 36 hours, several dress-up dance parties, a lot of shouting the lyrics to “Blurred Lines”, some serious stand-up spooning, a late-night Shittens power arch, plenty of hashtagging, and thousands of laughs and temporary tattoos later my 11 new BFFs and I crossed the finish line in Nashville. In my wildest dreams I could not have imagined a more supportive, enthusiastic, kind, and just all-around delightful bunch of teammates. My experience with Team Nuunapalooza 100% confirms my theory that only really fun, nice, super-cool people do relays. Much like the amazing response to the Boston Marathon bombings, but in a different way, getting to know some really genuinely wonderful new friends was a beautiful reminder that there is a lot of good to be found in the world, and that seeking it out is always worthwhile.

 All the hugs, high-fives, and HVAC swagger to my Team Nuunapalooza Insta-BFFs!

All the hugs, high-fives, and HVAC swagger to my Team Nuunapalooza Insta-BFFs! I LOVED Ragnaring it up with y’all!

4. I am Stronger and Better than I Allow Myself to Believe I am. It’s Time to Trust the Training and Go Kick Some Ass!

This is a truth that needs to be applied in my running life and otherwise. It is also my biggest, most valuable take away from my goal race this fall, the Richmond Half Marathon. Although my aforementioned epic mile comeback was a tremendous confidence boost in terms of my training leading up to Richmond, I struggled to access my new and improved running self-esteem on race day. My lack of belief in myself and trust in my training resulted in an overly conservative race that cost me my goal time. In the moment I was still quite mostly pleased with my performance and how it reflected my training. However, I can’t help but think that it seems kind of lame as look back on it, because despite missing the mark, everything about my race that day screamed that I was fit enough, strong enough, and entirely physically prepared to knock 1:29:59 out of the park. The only reason that I didn’t was that I was scared I couldn’t do it. Ugh! I have GOT to cut that shit out! Seriously!  Here’s hoping that my experience at Richmond, and the healthy side of self-annoyance that came with it will be precisely the motivation I need to conjure up a some new courage and confidence and shatter a few glass ceilings in both my running life and my personal life in the year ahead. 2014 will be a year for leaving the comfort zone and kicking ass, friends! Hope y’all are ready for it!

I came up a little short on my goal time, but I still had a great time with lots of awesome people in Richmond!

It’s hard to feel bummed about missing your goal time when your weekend includes hanging out your college roomie, a cop who loves Shittens, and awesome signage courtesy of your 8-year-old BFF. :)

PS, just in case you were wondering, my name does now appears in the official results for this race. Thanks for sorting that out, Richmond Marathon!

5. If 2013 Had a World Championship of Race Photos, I Would Have Won it!

I hate to brag, but I’m pretty sure that 2013 has been my best year yet in terms of race pictures. I mean, those pictures totally saved me from writing the past year off as a miserable failure, so they must be pretty good, right? I fancy myself to be pretty damn fantastic at hamming it up for the camera and coming with fun and hilarious photo concepts (click here for my awesome guide to your most amazing race pics ever), but I can’t take all the credit for this one. Mad props to Monte, Bull City Tracking Club’s very own official race photographer for coming to ALL of our races, near and far to patiently photograph our every ridiculous shenanigan, and kudos to my running bestie Kara for being married to Monte, thus making him obligated to do this. And as always, to all of my dear running friends, thank you for being so awesomely fun, and silly, and brilliant, and hilarious.  Y’all are also incredibly patient and kind to me when I am super-late and/ or super-grumpy. I am certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a special place in heaven for each of you because of this, and although I don’t always do a great job of expressing it, I appreciate it more than you know. The experiences we’ve had together that make up my amazeballs 2013 running photo album have truly been the very best parts of my year, and I am on the edge of my seat in anticipation of another round of epic adventures with all of you! All the love, friends! Y’all are the greatest!

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So much photographic evidence that this year was undeniably fun…

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So many great times with wonderful people!

So I suppose in the end 2013 wasn’t a total bust after all. I would be lying if I told you I am sad to see it go, and I am grateful for the fresh start that the new year offers. But I did some cool stuff with even cooler people, learned some important things about myself, and was reminded that although haven’t won the Nobel Prize or cured cancer or established world peace (yet), I’m still doing ok. The challenge for 2014 (and boy, is it a big one) is to take all these lessons learned and find the guts to apply them to doing something amazing.  I’m not entirely sure what that amazing thing is going to be or what getting there will look like yet, but I have a feeling it’s going to be really good!  So stay tuned, because I’m hopeful determined the 2014 will be a year when I really shake things up!

What were your most significant lessons learned in 2013, and how do you hope to apply them in the new year?

The Good Stuff Runners REALLY Want for Christmas: A Fast and Fabulous Gift Guide

9 Dec IMG_4296

Happy Holidays, fast and fabulous friends! Yes, today’s post is yet another what-to-get-your-runner-for-Christmas gift guide. Cliche, I know, but this gift guide is different and better than all the other runner gift guides out there because it highlights myriad exotic, luxurious, novel, and all-around fabulous items that runners desire and covet, but might feel frivolous purchasing for themselves. That’s how you know these things make awesome gifts. So this one’s for you, non-running family members, friends, and significant others of runners who appreciate fashion, function, fun, and whimsy. This gift guide is guaranteed to save you from the shame of defaulting to the generic Visa gift card and it is sure to earn you the title of gift-giving super-star come Christmas morning. You’re welcome.

Now I don’t know about you guys, but as a humble fitness professional and running store employee I must adhere to a fairly tight budget when it comes to holiday shopping. Thus, I took the liberty of keeping all the gifts featured in this post, right down to the fanciest and most fabulous, under $100. So without further ado, let’s talk about the good shit the runner in your life wants for Christmas!

The Extravagant and Luxurious: For that Special Someone You REALLY Want to Impress:

Podium Pajamas from Oiselle, $64.00 Help your favorite runner say yes to that thing they need to do more of, but most likely struggle mightily with on account of their go-getter Type-A runner personality: relaxing. Even the most tightly wound, certifiably ADHD of runners will find themselves counting down the miles of their long run separating them from chilling out these fantabulous PJs. (This is the voice of experience speaking.) Their super-soft fleecey-ness more than qualifies them as the ultimate pre-race/ post-long run napping bliss! And they come with a bonus inspirational message printed on them at no extra charge! If they aren’t already at the top of your favorite runner’s holiday wish list, then they should be!

Oiselle's Podium Pajamas. Perfect for pre-race slumber parties, post-run chillaxing, and story time with your 8 year old BFF.

Oiselle’s Podium Pajamas. Perfect for pre-race slumber parties, post-run chillaxing, and story time with your 8-year-old BFF.

Holiday Sweater Tech Shirt from InknBurn.com, $69.95 I know what you’re thinking. “$69.95 sounds like an awful lot of money for a running shirt!” And you’re right, 70 bones for a mere piece of dry fit material borders on extravagant, but trust me, this is worth it. My running BFFs and I were so enamored by/ jealous of our friend Karen’s ugly Christmas sweater tech shirt that we just couldn’t wait to order our very own. And boy, are we glad we did! The joy we get from running around in those sweat-wicking sweaters, and better yet, the looks we get from other runners as our band of merry sweater-wearers passes by are worth every penny of that $69.95. So give the gift that keeps on giving this holiday season and get your favorite fun-loving runner an over-priced, but totally worth it holiday tech shirt.

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Holiday sweater tech shirt from inknburn.com, $69.95. Endless joy and holiday-themed runs for the #1 runner on your shopping list, priceless.

Pedicures! $25.00 to $70.00 I mean, who doesn’t love a little pampering on someone else’s dime? And let’s face it, runners’ feet generally need all the help they can get. Also, I find it secretly thrilling to watch the nail tech lady wince at my sundry calluses and black toe nails and I enjoying making up stories in my head about what she must surely be saying to her fellow nail techs about how disgusting they are. But maybe that’s just me… At any rate, suffice to say that runners like getting pedicure gift certificates for holiday gifts.

An unfortunate (but festive) non-professional pedicure. Give your runner a pedi gift certificate so their feet don't end up looking like this.

An unfortunate, yet festive non-professional pedicure. Give your runner a pedi gift certificate so their feet don’t end up looking like this.

Functional, Yet Fabulous: For the No-Nonsense Runner Who Appreciates a Hint of Flair

 Progressive + Run Compression Socks from CEP, $59.99 Again, 60 bucks for socks may sound moderately absurd, but these socks are seriously the cat’s pajamas and your favorite runner wants them for Christmas, so stop being such a cheap skate. There is some scientific evidence that compression socks increase performance and expedite recovery for runners. These often-colorful knee-high socks are also extremely trendy on the race day fashion scene and they just feel downright fantastic, especially when you find yourself on your feet all day after a long run . Read all about my thoughts on them and the science behind them here. In my humble opinion, CEP compression socks are particularly awesome because they offer the best blend of graduated medical grade compression technology (more  on that here.) and fast and fabulous color options for coordinating with your every race day and/or recovery outfit.

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CEP compression socks: Medical grade graduated compression to make you fast. Fun and exciting colors to make you fabulous.

The Ulti-Mitt from Saucony, $45.00 The glove/ mitten combo or “glittens” as I like to call them (not to be confused with Shittens, which we will get to later) are a cold weather running essential in my book. These handy (pun intended) little winter accessories have got you, or at least your hands covered no matter what cold weather comes your way. Their lightweight wind and water-resistant mitts keep your hands toasty on the coldest and windiest of days, and can easily be stashed in the glove’s front pocket in more hospitable, but still glove worthy weather. Most major running apparel companies make some variation of the glitten, but I especially like my Ulti-Mitts from Saucony because they feature a convertible thumb and forefinger  (extremely helpful for glove-wearing dexterity) and they come in an exciting variety of obnoxious high-vis colors, including but not limited to pink and coral. Doesn’t your favorite runner deserve the hand warmth versatility and increased visibility of a good brightly colored pair glittens? I think we both know the answer to that question.

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Highly visible colors, hand warmth and comfort in any and all cold weather, and optimal glove-wearing dexterity! What’s not to love about the Ulti-Mitt from Saucony?!

 Arm Warmers from Oiselle, $30.00 Every runner who has their sights set on a big spring goal race needs a pair of arm warmers. Arm warmers are the things that save us the hassle of the throw-away long sleeve shirt when it is 40 degrees at the start line. They are also easily stashable or removable should the temperature climb to 60 degrees before we reach the finish.  Yes,  arm warmers are a revolutionary cool weather racing accessory, plus they just make you feel fast. Here’s proof from professional runner for Oiselle and arm warmer enthusiast, Kate Grace, and also from my friend and general workout champion Liz, who likes arm warmers so much she uses them for various basic domestic tasks as well as running. I’ve even been known to pair them with formal wear. In case you haven’t noticed, I may have a bit of a Oiselle bias, but their arm warmers are seriously baller and far and away my favorite on the market. #thumbholesFTW, plus ALL THE FUN COLORS! Well don’t just sit there, order a pair already!

Thumb holes and fun color options get the thumbs up!

Thumb holes and fun color options always get the thumbs up!

 Knuckle Lights, $39.99 Nothing says “I love you, special runner person in my life, and your safety is important to me!” quite like new set of Knuckle Lights. As the name indicates, Knuckle Lights are LED lights with the purpose of illuminating one’s low-light run that are worn, wait for it…on the knuckles. They do an excellent job evenly distributing light ahead of and to the sides of you as you run. This helps to eliminate the scary tunnel vision that can sometimes come with running with a headlamp. Knuckle Lights are comparable to a standard headlamp in terms of both light output and price point, but they offer a fresh, new perspective of what’s in your periphery and a bounce-free means of carrying your light source. They are also much handier than a traditional headlamp for sharing with friends. Brighten up someone’s holiday this year by giving the gift of Knuckle Lights! (Check out a complete Fast and Fabulous review of Knuckle Lights here.)

Knuckle lights add safety and illumination to both outdoor low-light running and pretend running in your living room. They are also prefect for sharing with friends.

Knuckle lights add safety and illumination to both outdoor low-light running and pretend running in your living room. They are also prefect for sharing with friends.

Amusing Novelty Items and Stocking Stuffers

 Runderwear Runderwear is a general term for comfy, running specific (?) underpants with cheeky running-themed saying written across the butt. Runderwear makes a fabulous gift because it is fun and whimsical and like many other options listed in this gift guide it screams “I got you this running-themed gift because I know you like running and it is important to you!”, but it is not an especially technical item like as shoes, sports bras, GPS watches etc. Of course all these products make fabulous, thoughtful gifts as well, but runners can be SUPER PARTICULAR AND ANAL about that stuff. So I say when in doubt, keep it novel and lighthearted and buy the runderwear.  Oiselle’s Randies come in a 3-pack for $48.00. Or if you are just looking for a single serving of runderwear, check out Saucony’s Runderpants at $18.00 to $20.00 a pop. I especially like the ones that say “Get used to the view.”

Randies and Runderpants take "cheeky sayings" to a whole new level.

Randies and Runderpants take “cheeky sayings” to a whole new level. Photo Source: oiselle.com and saucony.com.

 

Shwings, $7.00 to $8.95 Shwings are wings for your shoes. This fact alone makes them awesome. I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure they make you run faster, and I KNOW that they make you smile every time you look down and see them on your shoes, which is why I never race without them. The runner that you love shouldn’t have to either. Shwings come in a vast array of colors, textures, and prints to compliment even the most seemingly un-matchable neon racing flats. They can be purchased online here and here, or at your local Michael’s craft store if you’re lucky.

Shwings may or may not make you run faster, but they most definitely make your shoes look more awesome!

Shwings may or may not make you run faster, but they most definitely make your shoes look more awesome!

Shittens, $9.95 Don’t even act like you didn’t see this one coming. We all know that poop stories are the glue the binds the running community together. If the runner on your shopping list tells you any different this can only mean one of two things: (1) They are lying to you. (2) They have not yet established a group of running friends with whom they feel comfortable sharing their poop stories. It is only a matter of time until this happens. This common bond of sharing poop stories and the experiences behind said stories are the reasons that your favorite runner would absolutely delight in getting their very own pack of Shittens for Christmas. In case you haven’t read any other blog post I have written ever, Shittens are mitten-shaped wet wipes. They are useful for many things ranging from, umm, code brown situations to freshening up after a particularly dusty/ sweaty run to cleaning window marker of your Ragnar rental van. Shittens are also sure to provide unlimited holiday laughs for the whole family. Check out the catchy Shittens jingle below, and then order some right now, ‘cause poop is gross.

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Save the runner in your life from getting caught brown handed by giving the gift of Shittens.

Sparkly Soul Headbands, $15.00 to $17.00 Every runner girl needs a little bit of bling in their world.  As a lover of all that glitters, and the proud owner of a short haircut I am a huge fan of a good non-discriminatory, sparkly hair accessory. That’s why I love Sparkly Soul headbands.  They are useful and flattering for gals with all imaginable hair lengths and types! Additionally, they are the only headache free AND slip-free headband I have encountered in my running specialty career thus far. And this is coming from a person who has tried A LOT running headbands! Give the gift of bling-tastic, sans-headache accessorization this holiday season with Sparkly Soul!

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Sparkly Soul headbands: Blingy, non-slip, head ache-free hair flair adored by long and short hair styles alike!

And there you have it, folks. Eleven fast, fabulous, under-$100 gifts that your favorite runner will surely be hella-pumped to unwrap on Christmas morning. Happy shopping, and Happy Holidays to all!

What’s on your running holiday wish list? Please fill me in on any awesome stuff I might have overlooked in the comments!

Other Running Gift Guides I Like…

Bull City Running Co.’s 2013 Holiday Gift Guide Run local, shop local!

A Dose of Running’s Guide to Gifts on a Grad School Budget

Lauren Fleshman’s Fleshmaniac Gift Guide

rUnladylike’s Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Runners and Triathletes

The Obligatory Disclaimer… I own, use, and love all of the products cited in this post. None of them were given to me for free and all opinions are my own.

Words of Gratitude…

The biggest shout out to Kara and Monte for the professional level high-resolution photo shoot. Guys, The Fast and the Fabulous has never looked more fabulous! All the love to y’all for taking and being in all these pics. The only thing that separated this photo shoot from perfection was the absence of Cat Santa. Next year.

As always, love to Allie and my 8-year-old BFF Z  for cheerfully accommodating my silly blog musings. And above all, thanks to all of you for reading.

Confessions of a Sandbagging Half Marathoner: A Richmond Race Report

22 Nov

If you run an exciting new half marathon PR, but your name is nowhere to be found in the official race results did that exciting new half marathon PR really happen? Unfortunately, this is not a rhetorical question. It is what happened to me last weekend at the Richmond Half Marathon, my goal race for the fall season. The nice people at Sports Backers, the organization responsible for the timing of the Richmond race assure me that they are hard at work resolving this issue, so I’m optimistic that someday there may be official documentation that my new half marathon PR does actually exist. In the meantime, I will regale you with a little Richmond race report according to my personal recollections and the data on my Garmin.

Photographic evidence that I did in fact run the Richmond Half Marathon, and that I sometimes run with my eyes closed. I thought the word "proof" stamped across the pictures was a nice touch.

Photographic evidence that I did in fact run the Richmond Half Marathon, and that I sometimes run with my eyes closed. I thought the word “proof” stamped across the pictures was a nice touch.

But First, the Back-story…

I settled on a half marathon for my goal race this season for several reasons: Most importantly, I have a serious marathon bad luck streak that needs to be broken. Yes, in case you missed it, my 2012 fall goal race was the New York City Marathon (cancelled), and the A race for spring 2013 was Boston (bombed). I figured I would do major marathons everywhere a favor and take a season off in hopes of eradicating the Ellen-signs-up-for-a-major-marathon-and-bad-things-happen phenomenon once and for all. I sincerely hope it worked, because if all goes according to plan, I’ll be toeing the line in Hopkinton again this April. And speaking of Boston, since getting over the qualifying hump turned out to be a little tougher than I anticipated, I’ve spent the last 3 years training for marathon after marathon as I chased the BQ and finally checked the world’s oldest annual marathon off the bucket list. Needless to say, my body and brain were probably due for break from marathoning. So I set my sights for fall 2013 on blowing the doors off my old 13.1 PR of 1:32:58. I settled on a goal time of 1:29:59 because being able to say “My half marathon PR is 1:29: xx just sounds waaaayyy faster than saying “My half marathon PR is 1:30: xx.” Also, I felt that breaking 90 minutes seemed ambitious, but not unattainable. And thus “1:29:59 or bust!” has been my battle cry for this season’s training.

This is horrible. I mean… What a great challenge!

When we woke up on Saturday morning it was raining. A lot. This was weird because various weather apps on 4 different smart phones assured us that there was ABSOLUTELY ZERO % CHANCE of rain in the area at that moment in time, and yet it was undoubtedly falling from the sky. This threw a major wrench in the warm up plans for the Durham Oiselle Team/ Bull City Track Club contingency. As the intensity of the rain increased we eighty-sixed our warm up/ bag check strategies all together and huddled up in a little coffee shop near the start line with a new goal of staying as dry and warm as possible until time to go. “This is horrible!” exclaimed my (almost) always-optimistic teammate Jen as we watched what was now nothing short of a torrential downpour drench the hoards of garbage bag and plastic poncho clad runners that scurried by outside our coffee shop window. I got a few good LOLs as Jen quickly corrected her negative statement with “I mean… What a great challenge!” At about 15 minutes until gun time we decided that we could no longer postpone the inevitable, so we left the coffee shop and set out for bag check and the most frenzied warm-up jog ever. It was an action-packed little shake-out run that featured exciting guest appearances by @FoodosaurusRex, one of my favorite Oiselle Team tweeters, Kim Chapman Page, who is the coolest boss ever because she recently allowed me to launch (and also participated in!) a wear-your-prom-dress-to-work-revolution, and Nan Lujan who is essentially the esteemed president of the Bull City Running Co. women’s running community. I finally made my way to the corral towards the end of the National Anthem, and even had time to make friends with some people wearing Raleigh/ Durham race shirts before the gun went off.

The Part Where I Actually Tell You about the Race…

To run 13.1 miles in 1:29:59, one must maintain an average pace of 6:52 per mile. I’m not gonna lie, the thought of running that many miles at a sub-7 pace scared the shit out of me as I stood on the start line. I had a mostly great training cycle that yielded new PRs in all sorts of shorter distances from the mile to the 10K, and I’d been hitting paces in my Vo2max and Lactate Threshold workouts like a boss. However, I did little to no sustained mileage at half marathon goal pace and running 6:52 for the entire distance seemed pretty daunting. My plan instead was to go out at around 7:00 min pace, maintain it through the 10K, and then think about hauling ass. This way, barring any severe blow up or crisis, I would be set up for a new PR, even if I didn’t hit the stretch goal. This was the plan that I advertised to anyone who asked, anyway. But in my mind, going out 7:00 pace, and more importantly having to speed up after running 7:00 pace for 6.2 miles still seemed intimidating. So I secretly told myself that I could live with it if there were a couple of 7:05 or even 7:10 splits up in the mix, although I resolved that anything slower than 7:15 was absolutely unacceptable. I knew if I could make it to 9 miles feeling good I could bust out 4 miles at my LT pace (6:40 ish) like it was no big deal, so I started conservatively and hoped for the best.

I cruised through mile 1 in precisely 6:52 and congratulated myself for nailing the goal pace right off the bat. I also spotted Allie somewhere in that first mile and waved enthusiastically while I swore to her that this would be the only time today when I would wave. Prior to the race I received stern talking-tos from pretty much every running coach/ mentor/ guru-type-person I know who has ever observed me running race with explicit instructions to curb my spirited spectator interaction habits in lieu increasing my focus on running and executing my race strategy.

Looking fast and fab at mile 1. These are the only pics you'll see of me waving at this race, I swear.

Looking fast and fab at mile 1. These are the only pics you’ll see of me waving at this race, I swear. (Photo Credit: Allie Bigelow)

Somewhere in mile 2, one of my new Raleigh running friends from the start line pulled up to me and struck up a conversation. This caused me some minor feelings of anxiety and moral dilemma because there is absolutely nothing I love more than talking while running, and conversing with friendly random strangers has historically been among the things I enjoy most about racing. (Or perhaps I should say it has been one of the things I enjoy most about participating in races.) The problem was that I had promised all of those same people who got on my case about the waving thing that I would also refrain from chatting my face off during the race so I could just get shit done. My new friend asked what my goal for the day was and I sheepishly told him I was hoping to break 1:30 as a 7:10 mile split flashed up on my watch. I reminded myself that this pace was the absolutely slowest I was allowed to go today, and recited the Team Shittens motto a few times in my head as I dropped my mile 2 BFF with as much subtly as I could muster.

Channeling this little nugget of motivation from Kara at mile 2.

Channeling this little nugget of motivation from Kara at mile 2.

Shortly after clearing the third mile in 7:11 (Yikes!) yet another fellow runner pulled up and asked me if we had gone through mile 3 yet. I told her that we had, and when she asked what my goal was I mumbled something about 1:32 to 1:30 ish, already starting to let go of the dream and feeling strangely annoyed by my popularity on the course thus far. As it turns out, my 2nd new friend of the day, Maria, was also hoping to run something in that ballpark, and she announced that she would just tag along with me for a while since we had compatible goals and I was highly visible in my cheery yellow arm warmers and bright orange compression socks. Again, this made me feel a little anxious, since my primary objective was to stay mentally focused, but I liked Maria’s eye for style and I figured with the way things were going so far I might be needing some company to keep my mind off the suffering later. As it turned out, Maria was a perfectly delightful ball of energy from Richmond who knew the course like the back of her hand. I was very grateful for her mile by mile “what to expect when you are running the Richmond Half Marathon” commentary. And apparently she is kind of a big deal in the local running community because she got all the cheers and side fives as we ran by. I imagined that we were in Durham, and that her fans were my fabulous local running community cheering for me.

At mile 4 the course did this out and back thing where you could see the lead pack coming down the other side of the street. I yelled heartily for Heidi and then Jen as they sped by (Whoops. I temporarily forgot that no yelling was also a critical part of my race strategy), and Maria commented on how strong and speedy my friends looked. I ran 7:04 for mile 4 and 7:08 for mile 5. This was the part where I told myself that I needed to start working a little harder or 1:29:59 most definitely would not be happening. I let Maria go for a little bit, and I guess this helped me find a little more focus because miles 6 and 7 were 7:01 and 6:59 respectively. That’s more like it.

But then we hit the only significant hill on the course to speak of and I ran another 7:09, convincing myself once and for all that today was not my day to break 90 minutes. I figured my pace was crap, so I might as well shift the focus to having as much fun as possible, which meant…you guessed it…time to chat up more random strangers! Conveniently, I spotted the other half the Raleigh couple from way back at the start line. I pulled up to her and struck up the standard “What local races have you done recently?” convo, but she politely announced that she needed to drop back, which may or may not have been a nice way to say “Please leave me alone, I’m trying to run an effing race here.”

In any event, that Raleigh gal did me a tremendous favor by deflecting my chatting attempts, because that was when I had a major epiphany. I realized that I had made it to mile 9, the mile where I was supposed to drop the hammer. I was sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that 1:29:59 was officially off the table, but I figured I might as well not run the last 4 miles of the race like an utter lazy douche bag, so I reverted back to my original game plan to pick things up. I clocked a 6:57 for the 9th mile split. Sigh. Still above goal pace, but at least it was sub-7. I decided that owed it to myself and all the people who put time into sharing their training expertise with me this training cycle to at least take a shot at running the last 3 miles at goal pace. Furthermore, as I began mile 10 I realized that despite (or perhaps because of) many miles of piddling and lollygagging I was suddenly feeling pretty awesome. I nailed the 6:52 for mile 10 and continued to gain momentum in mile 11 with a 6:46.

Allie was waiting for me at mile 12 holding the sweetest, most thoughtful sign made for me by her son, who is my 8 year old BFF. This little display of support boosted me to a 6:33 split for mile 12. I was feeling pretty unstoppable and not at all like shit at this point, and friends, that is the surest sign that you didn’t run the first 9 miles of your half marathon anywhere near fast enough.

The best sign, held by the best support crew/ best sign-maker's mom.

The best sign, held by the best support crew/ best sign-maker’s mom.

The best sign-maker, my fellow thumbs up photography enthusiasts, and  8 yr old BFF, Zachary Bigelow.

The best sign-maker, my fellow thumbs up photography enthusiast and 8 yr old BFF, Zachary Bigelow.

Now I was on a mission to make up as much time and stay as close to the original goal as possible. I had definitely missed the sub-1:30 boat, but maybe, just maybe I could at least keep it sub-1:31, and update my 13.1 PR to 1:30xx. The final mile was an all-out effort, and under any other circumstances I surely would have blown up in the first 800m. But by the grace of God, the last 1200m or so of the Richmond Half Marathon is a crazy-steep, raging downhill. I still don’t even understand how this happened, but somehow my shell-shocked quads managed to keep me upright and moving forward for an unheard of (at least for me) 5:57 for the final mile! (This may not sound like a big deal to you, but that is by far the fastest mile split my watch has ever seen in a race longer than 1 mile.)

I stopped my Garmin at 1:30:52 and 13.22 miles. Interestingly enough, my average pace for those 13.22 miles was, wait for it… 6:52. Aka, exactly the pace one must average for 13.1 miles in order run 1:29:59. I suppose we may never know for sure what my chip time was, and I am admittedly bummed at the thought of not being able to claim the new half marathon PR that I trained my arse off for on Athlinks, but I am also generally happy with my time, especially given my poor execution of the first 3/4′s of the race. I collected my swag, a lovely finisher’s medal and this totally bitchin’ Anthem Richmond Marathon fleece blanket, and headed out of the chute where my sweet Richmond-dwelling freshman-year-of-college roommate Cortney T. was waiting for me! (So, so fabulous to catch up with that girl!) We hung out and watched all my new half marathon besties, Maria and the cute, nice couple from Raleigh finish and then gave them some hugs and high fives. Somewhere in the midst of all of this we were reunited with Allie, Jen and Heidi. Fast, successful races were had by all at America’s friendliest half marathon!

Fleece blankets make for excellent race swag!

Fleece blankets make for excellent race swag!

My fab former roomie, Cortney T! She's the sweetest and the cutest!

My fab former roomie, Cortney T! She’s the sweetest and the cutest!

Lessons Learned…

My #1 take-away from Richmond is that I am fit enough and strong enough to break 1:30 in the half marathon. Everything about my training leading up to this race indicated that this was true. Sadly, when race day arrived I lacked the confidence to believe it. I ran an overly conservative race (at least for the first 9 miles), and (this part is tough to admit) purposefully distracted myself from the goal because I was afraid I couldn’t do it. I am 100% prepared to get yelled at by a lot of people now that I have confessed this on the internet. It worked out pretty well in the end, but I suspect I would have run a significantly different (and by different I mean slower) time if it hadn’t been for that ridiculous downhill final mile. But the time that I did run indicates that the time I want to run is well within my capabilities, and fortunately my winter/ spring race calendar includes two more half marathons (Charleston, SC in January, and Virginia Beach in March.) I am really excited to see what I can do next with my new found confidence in my ability to hold a sub-7 average pace for 13.1 miles, improved race strategy execution, and maybe a few workouts that include sustained mileage at half marathon goal pace. And yes, I’ll probably also need some duct tape so I can keep my trap shut for the next one.

Also, I would highly recommend the Richmond Half Marathon to anyone who is looking for a fast, fun, congenial road race. The course allows you to run fast (if you can convince yourself to stop talking and just let your legs do the running), but the terrain is varied enough to avoid over-use of any particular group of muscles until you get to the last 800 to 1200m, which are a bit of a quad shredder. But don’t sweat it, that crazy downhill finish all but guarantees the fastest finishing mile splits of your life. Additionally, the race is large enough and competitive enough that I was surrounded by people at all times in the 1:35 to 1:30 pace group, but not so large that it ever for one moment felt crowded, stressful, or overwhelming. The course was also well-supported and well-spectated despite rainy weather. So if you live in the upper southeast or the lower mid-Atlantic and/or you are looking for a more low-key alternative to those wild and crazy major marathons next fall, sign up for Richmond! You won’t be disappointed.

Other Exciting Weekend Highlights…

Fantastically fun, highly efficient marathon spectating: After our merry band of half marathoners finished the race, snagged some free pizza, and orchestrated a large-scale clothes changing operation that involved and intricate network of “changing forts” fashioned out of fleece finishers’ blankets, we high-tailed it out to the marathon course in hopes of catching a glimpse of a few of friends who took on the 26.2. And boy, did we time that shit to the tee! In the brief 20 minute existence of our Shittens-themed cheer station at approximately mile 22 we spotted the following marathon super-stars…

  •  Morgan: My pre-school/ high school buddy who crushed his marathon debut, as well as his stretch goal of beating my current marathon PR.
  •  Sarah K.: My darling little Bull City Running Co. co-worker, who ran a sweet new sub-3:30 PR which doubled as a Boston Qualifier! Booyah!
  •  Rich: Bull City Running Co. Marathon Training Program alumni, and creator/ wearer of what was bar-none the most hilarious custom race bib I’ve ever seen. #nosharting

And as if all of this wasn’t enough to constitute the greatest marathon spectating experience ever, we also met a cop who loves Shittens, and this happened… Winning!

EVERYONE loves Shittens! Even cops!

EVERYONE loves Shittens! Even cops!

Watching Bigs race with the big dogs: On Sunday I had the pleasure of cheering Allie to a 2nd place Master’s Women finish at the .US Road Racing National Championships in Alexandria! We celebrated her national championship level success with a trip to IKEA on the way home to NC.

Bigs races her way to age group national championship victory and earns herself a trip to IKEA!

Bigs races her way to age group national championship victory and earns herself a trip to IKEA!

Cheering the Pros to some new world records: While Allie was hard at work out on the race course, I was busy cheering the elite super-fasties to new world record victory. So thrilling and inspiring to watch Molly and Shalene (both of whom we got to meet the day before) KILLING IT down the home stretch! Holy crap, those gals can FLY!

Molly is chasing the world record (spoiler alert: she caught it!), and Shalene is chasing Molly.

Molly is chasing the world record (spoiler alert: she caught it!), and Shalene is chasing Molly.

That time when Shalene Flanagan was sitting in the booth behind us at Bertucci's and we took a stalker-riffic photo. That's me, but my face has bee obscured to protect my identity and to spare you the very unflattering chewing face I'm making underneath that black blob.

That time when Shalene Flanagan was sitting in the booth behind us at dinner and we took a stalker-riffic photo. That’s me, but my face has been obscured to protect my identity and to spare you the very unflattering chewing face I’m making underneath that black blob. (Photo Credit: Allie Bigelow)

Shout out to Jeff Caron, legendary Saucony tech rep to the stars for the casual-cool hotel lobby Molly Huddle introduction, and sorry we interrupted your dinner at Bertucci’s, Shalene.

All things considered, last weekend was pretty much the perfect little Virginia running road trip get-away! It was so much fun to run with, cheer for, and catch up with so many great people! Many thanks and much love to all of you who were a part of it!

Did YOU run a big, exciting goal race this fall? Tell me all about it! I bet you kicked ass and it was awesome!

Hot Dog! We Have A Wiener!!!

7 Nov

Who knew that all you had to do to have a successful internet giveaway contest was embarrass yourself on the Internet for all of eternity?! You guys and gals definitely out-did yourselves with the caption contest and, as much as we would love to keep the free pair of Oiselle Flyte Shorts for ourselves, we sadly have to anoint a winner.

BUT FIRST! There was that little head-to-head contest between Grumplesiggy and RunFastandFab over who rocks the Flyte Shorts better. And man, was it a close one. RunFastandFab pulled out to the early lead, but Grumplesiggy valiantly fought his way back to within a few votes. With a final push on Monday afternoon, while Grumplesiggy was recovering from a long weekend of cheering on 50,000 of his closest friends at the NYC Marathon, RunFastandFab ran away from her male pursuant with a final tally of 69-49. Even though Grumplesiggy lost, we’re all fairly certain that he isn’t too torn up about having to buy RunFastandFab another pair of Flyte Shorts. I mean, she did look pretty good in them, right? As always, in the battle of sexes, women rule the day.

And now (drumroll please) the caption contest. Who will win the coveted pair of Flyte Shorts to show off his/her LBA to the world at large?? After much deliberation between Grumplesiggy and RunFastandFab (seriously, there were even threats of *gasp* phone calls!), the winner is:

“Did some say in-Flyte entertainment?”

Because, really, who doesn’t love a good pun? Congratulations @onplanetjenny for the huge win. One quick caveat here: as part of your victory, you’re gonna have to snap a few model poses and send them along. Because it’s not the Flyte Short Revolution unless everyone is embarrassing themselves. RunFastandFab will get in touch for you to receive your prize.

Thank you to everyone who participating in the Who Wore It Better poll and in the caption contest. And a HUGE thank you to Oiselle for providing some swag. Until the next time we decide to make a [blog] baby…

Yours in LBA,
RunFastandFab & Grumplesiggy

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