The Chicago Marathon: I Did It, and I Only Sucked a Little Bit.

Hello there, blog readers! Boy, has it been a long time! So long that I’m not even sure that blogging is still a thing that people are doing(?) At any rate, I (sort of) recently ran the Chicago Marathon and I figured that my long-lost blog was as good a platform as any to share my race  report with you. So without further ado, if you should care to read it, here it is, my own personal account of the Chicago Marathon!

First, Let’s Set the Stage…

It’s no big secret to those of you in my inner circle that I am a frequent flyer on the Depression and Anxiety Express. The six months leading up to Chicago Marathon were a particularly turbulent and extended ride for me.  (Many thanks and hugs to all of you who supported/ tolerated me during that time.) How is this relevant to my race report, you ask? It’s relevant because this marathon training cycle  marked the transition out of a not-so-good place into a better one for me. Preparing for this race became the motivation I needed to get out of bed in the morning and my source of structure and feelings of success at a time in my life  when I really needed structure and feelings of success.

In hopes of ending a year + training/ motivation slump, I decided that (as a poor person) my ultimate motivator would  be making a not-insignificant financial investment in some formal coaching. Or a training program written especially for me by a coach, as the case was for me. (The cost of actual month to month coaching is a this point, a distant financial aspiration.)   Guys. Having someone else map out every single detail of my training was SO LUXURIOUS! I loved it and I would recommend it to anyone. The mileage was big, the mid-week workouts were daunting, and the pick ups were exotic. All things considered,  I  enjoyed the plan I used. I felt largely successful at it despite perfectly wretched heat and humidity that were present for its duration, and when they hay was in the barn I was healthy and feeling reasonably prepared to take a shot at my goal time of 3:19:59.

Fast Forward to Race Week…

I arrived in Chicago feeling overtired and overwhelmed from a busy work week leading up to going out of town, my usual last-minute packing/ travel anxiety, and an obscenely early (yet very affordable) flight. Fortunately, Laura’s  Super-Baller Marriott Points VIP status  allowed  us to check into our hotel up our 9 am arrival, and after enjoying the world’s most expensive Starbucks breakfast with Anna, I was able to treat myself to a gloriously long nap. And that’s pretty much how my time in Chicago leading up to the marathon went… Nap, eat, buy all the things at the expo, nap, shower using fancy sample sized Aveda products provided by our sheeshy hotel, repeat. On Saturday night I googled a pace band for  my goal time, pondered a few of the milestone splits on it, doodled out my plan for dividing the race course into segments, painted my nails and went to bed.


View from the super-baller Marriott Points hotel room. Thanks again to Laura for the hook-up!

Fast Forward to Race Day…

I think I mostly got a restful night’s sleep, but I was up at the first sounds of  volunteer check in at 4 am, as we could hear every word of it being broadcast over the loudspeaker from our hotel. I finally removed myself from the bed around  5, and was immediately filled with optimism for a good race with an… errr… very productive bathroom visit.  A half bagel with Nutella, 24 oz of Tailwind, some bad hotel coffee, and one UCAN bar later my roommates Laura and Anna and I were out the door and start line bound. Despite the crowds we were able to locate a number of our BCTC teammates and even pose for a picture before the crowd scattered us in different directions. Laura and I checked our bags and peed among other openly peeing strangers in the park before heading for our corral.  As we approached the corral I decided that another bathroom stop was necessary, but porta potty lines were long were long and time was running short. I took matters into my own hands and treated myself to another “productive bathroom trip” behind the porta potties. As headed to the corral I was filled guilt, regret, and concern that this (probably illegal) action might have some negative bearing on my race day karma. Around the same time I casually checked my heart rate on the Garmin was alarmed to see that it was uncharacteristically high. A combination of public pooping guilt and race day jitters, no doubt.

I’m Doing It! I’m Only Kind of Sucking!

To calm myself I took some deep breaths and channeled my favorite inspirational mantras (“You’re doing it! You’re not sucking!” and “Everything is fine. Nothing is f@#%ed.” are my go-tos in high-stress race situations) as well as the comforting wisdom and hilarity of some of my favorite running friends. And before I knew it I was hitting the button on my watch at the start line. My race strategy entailed a conservative start, settling into the slower end of my goal pace range once I crossed the 10K, dropping down to the faster end of the goal pace range after the half, and giving it whatever I had left once I hit mile 22.

Of course my GPS signal vanished  almost instantly upon starting the race. I had heard from multiple people that this was a thing that would happen, but I  had also deemed myself immune to GPS catastrophes because the weekend prior my trusted friend and guy who ran Chicago really fast, Andrew McIver, switched my Garmin over to the fancy, Chicago Marathon proof GPS mode. (That’s the GLONASS for all you tech nerds out there.) I’m sure everything would have been just fine if it hadn’t been for the public pooping incident, but just as I feared I had botched my karma in a such a way that not even GLONASS could save me.

I was quite unpleasantly surprised at  how unnerved and helpless I felt without a trustworthy GPS to tell me my pace. And my alarm and anxiety were compounded when I compared splits with Laura to find that hers were VERY DRAMATICALLY DIFFERENT THAN MINE! By this time according to my watch, we were mostly right at goal pace, or else a little slower. (ie Exactly where I wanted to be at this point in the race.) According to Laura’s watch we were going significantly faster than goal pace. (Not where I wanted to be at all.) My perceived effort level seemed more congruent with Laura’s watch, but it was hard to know if that felt high because of my pace or my GPS anxiety.


Christ, Garmin! GET IT TOGETHER!!! (Also, back up off me, creepy all-black-wearing dude!)

At any rate, somewhere in the 7 to 10 mile range the paces on our respective watches seemed to shake out to the pace we were looking for. I breathed a tremendous sigh of relief and likely stated my aforementioned mantras aloud as we crossed the half mat right on schedule at 1:40:xx. I noted that I was  feeling neither especially spritely nor especially exhausted at the half and I put my best conscious effort into shaving off a few more seconds per mile over the next few miles. I suppose I was mildly successful at this, seeing as the 25K to 30K 5K was, indeed my fastest of the race. But somewhere in there Laura decided to drop back and this made me sad.

I Was Going to Have a Great Marathon Until…

With out her calming presence and strategic distraction conversation, my number one race day nemesis, negative self-talk quickly set in. By ~mile 20 my inner monologue had spiraled into a dark place and my pace had slowed enough that Laura caught up with me again. She asked me if I would be interested in making a poop stop, and although we all know that I had already done enough of that for one marathon, I happily obliged. During those glorious moments when I was not running but unabashedly enjoying a sitting break in the port potty I hatched a winning strategy to bring this marathon back from the brink of disaster… or at least get to the effing finish line as fast as possible.

Mile 20 had me like…



Exotic Pick Ups to the Rescue!

A popular element of the long runs I did in training was what I like to call “exotic pick ups”. These are pick ups of varying duration done at marathon goal pace or slightly faster in the last 60 minutes of the long run with 5 min recoveries in between. Throughout my training cycle I enjoyed these pick ups for several reasons. First of all, they shifted emphasis off counting down miles late in the run and thus made the final 60 mins fly by quickly. Secondly, they segmented out  the remainder of my run into small, manageable chunks, and I found it very satisfying to dutifully check them off my list until I was done.

So when we hit mile 21 Laura and I launched a 3 mins fast/ 5 mins recovery campaign to get us through the remainder of the race. The very kind and outgoing 3:25 pacer, whom I passed and then got passed by multiple times as I employed this strategy seemed  bewildered and (as the Irish say) banjaxed by my antics, as was Adrien when I caught him on his way to a victory in the Emergency Root Canal the Day Before the Marathon division. But it worked. I was effectively moving forward, and only sucking a little.


Mostly not sucking late in the race (sorry for blocking your face, Laura.) and moderately sucking into the finish.

My final 3:00 min effort ran out with 800m to go, and I tried to dig deep and maintain my working effort pace  for the final haul into to chute. I’m very certain that I was unsuccessful in doing this. I mercifully crossed the line in the 3:26:45, needless to say, not at all reaching my goal of 3:19:59  But I prefer to focus on what I had done. I had… (1.) Completed my second fastest marathon ever! and (2.) More importantly, slain the negative self talk and anxiety dragons that I so frequently struggle with (and not just when I’m running marathons.) In the end, yes, it was a bummer that a challenging, yet successful-feeling training cycle didn’t convert into the goal time I had hoped for. But at the same time a took a lot of pride and satisfaction from finding the mental fortitude and presence to burst through  gingerly climb over the infamous mile 20 wall when things got ugly.  And so, I will file the Chicago Marathon away as a win.



The Chicago Marathon: A mental victory that would surely make Dr. Richard Nygard proud.

In Conclusion…

Chicago puts on a terrific marathon!  It offers a flat course, amazing crowd and volunteer support, a lovely tour of an iconic, culturally diverse American city, and low stress race day logistics. Would I do it again, you ask? Does a runner shit behind the porta-johns??? Yes, it’s a race experience that I would repeat, but next time I will leave my GPS at home and just take mile splits with the trusty ole Timex. (Thanks for nothing Garmin! You can kiss my glonASS!)


Celebrating marathon (and pizza eating) success with many of my BCTC favorites!

Words of Gratitude…

My most sincere thanks to the following people…

  • Ryan Warrenburg of Zap Fitness for writing me an enjoyable, funk-crushing training program that schooled me in the art of exotic pick ups.
  • Laura Keeley for jet-setting over to Durham to run 22 miles with me and for tolerating my GPS watch-induced panic attacks for at least 16 miles of the marathon.
  • The Oiselle Volee Cheering Section at Mile 17 & Katie Ortkiese: Ladies, y’all were the most beautiful thing I saw on the course all day! All the energy, enthusiasm, and encouragement you bestowed on me made me feel like princess who could accomplish anything! I just wish you could have been at every single mile marker! Thank you!
  • EVERYONE who waited around for my late ass to show up for any given Sunday long run. (All of you are saints and you deserve much better than me.)
  • Extra-special thanks to Bill and Torrie, who were particularly loyal long run companions.
  • Everyone who sent me supportive, encouraging texts, tweets, Facebook posts, etc. (I could feel all of your positive energy and good thoughts SO HARD on race day and every once of it was tremendously appreciated!)
  • Andrew McIver, I am grateful to you for introducing me to Giphy. This race report would hardly be worth reading without the magic of Giphy. Also, I forgive you for the GLONASS debacle. 😉
  • Brett Harris, I stole that Chris Trager GIF from you. #sorrynotsorry
  • And of course, thanks to all of you for reading.

It may very well be another two years until I write another blog post, so until then, rattle, rattle, and keep running the good run.



The Moderately-Paced and the Mediocre: 2014 in Review.

Oh, hello there, Fast and Fabulous readers! Long time, no blog. My apologies for the extended hiatus. I’ve really missed you, and the creative outlet of blogging a lot, but the sad truth is that since we last spoke I just haven’t been feeling all that fast or fabulous, hence the title of this post. What I have been feeling is stressed, overwhelmed, inadequate, and probably legitimately clinically depressed. All of these feelings have been exhausting and soul sucking and they have left me with little to no bandwidth for things like blogging. Obviously, I hope to make things better and brighter for 2015, so if you are interested, allow me to share with you my 2014 highs and lows, and lessons learned, along with my plan for getting my shit together in the new year. Please know as you read this that this post is just for me. It’s my little way of processing the year, freeing up some brain space by expelling a few nagging thoughts from my head, and solidifying my commitment to my goals for the year ahead by (digitally) writing them down and sharing them publicly. Be advised that there is an excellent chance that you will find this post to be cliché, annoying, overly emotional, whiny even, and that’s ok. It is, in fact, going to be all of those things. Just remember that it’s not about you.  I am also hopeful in writing this that someone out there somewhere might find it relateable and take comfort in knowing that these things, and these mediocre years happen to the best of us.

Having said all that, I guess we might as well start with the good stuff. Here goes…

Running Highlights…

Boston: Possibly the Most Magical Thing I’ve Ever Done. Ever.

I have this theory that the reason the rest of my 2014 seemed so woefully un-fabulous is that I used up every single ounce of my annual allotment of magic on a surreally spectacular Boston Marathon experience. Although I can’t say that every detail of the day/ weekend was perfect, it was truly one of those rare and wonderful things in life that was every bit as fulfilling,  special, and fun as I had hoped and dreamed it would be. I’ve already blogged several thousand words about it so I will spare you any additional synopsis, but just in case you missed it, you can re-live it in all it’s 2 part blog post glory by clicking here, and then here. Or if the idea reading/ re-reading my gushy, puppy and rainbow-filled Boston Marathon race report sounds nauseating to you, feel free to skip the links and just enjoy this nice photo montage I made to commemorate it…

Just a few little pieces of Boston Marathon magic for your viewing enjoyment.

Just a few little pieces of Boston Marathon magic for your viewing enjoyment.

Not Doing the New York City Marathon. (Again.)

Ok, so maybe this wasn’t exactly what I would call a highlight, but I believe it was a very responsible, listen-to-my-gut, act-in-my-own-best-interest, grown up decision and I am proud of myself for making it. Don’t get me wrong, I was an over-dramatic, often-weepy, grumpy and/ or whiny little bitch nearly every step of the way towards 86-ing New York, but eventually reason prevailed, and I even managed to regroup myself enough to pull off a decent “B” “A” race when it was all said and done.

Yes friends, this November marked my second time signing up for, but not doing the New York City Marathon. The first time was in 2012, when no one who signed up for the race did it on account of Hurricane Sandy. (In the unlikely event that you care, you can read about that experience here.) I signed up for the race again this year for the sole reason that I had guaranteed entry as a result of the 2012 cancellation resolution.  I knew in my heart that making this trip wasn’t really within my means financially from the very beginning, but it was the New York City Marathon, a race that ranked high on my running bucket list, and one that I had already missed out on once. I hemmed and hawed over registering, but eventually, I caved to FOMO and wept a little as I charged the exorbitant entry fee.  I crashed hard from my Boston high and muddled through a hot, inglorious summer of mediocre to shitty running. When I couldn’t put off starting marathon training any longer, I purchased the Hansons Marathon Method book from Bull City Running Co. and dove headlong into the advanced training program. Although things went pretty well from a physical standpoint, and fitness gains seemed to be coming along just as promised (despite the fact that I recklessly neglected to actually read the book), I lamented and resented pretty much every step of my training.  I booked a plane ticket to NYC and joined a fundraising team in hopes of finding/ forcing myself into some renewed training motivation, but there was just none to be found. And then one day, maybe 12 weeks into my 15 week training cycle (modified from the Hansons’ prescribed 18 week plan) in the midst of a 9 mile tempo run, it punched me right in the face. I didn’t want to be doing this. I didn’t want to be doing this training plan. I resented how much of my time and energy it was taking and the way that it’s (perceived) obligations were limiting my enjoyment of running and my capacity to have a life outside of running. I didn’t feel comfortable with taking a big, expensive trip to New York to spend a lot of money that I didn’t have, and I sure as shit did not want to run a marathon. Uh-oh.

What was I going to do now? I sincerely didn’t want to do this marathon. I legitimately could not afford to do this marathon. But I had proclaimed on social media that I was going to do it! I SHOULD want to do it! People were probably going to judge me for being a lame-ass quitter if I didn’t do it. And worse yet, I would judge myself for being a lame-ass quitter if I didn’t do it. I mean this was the super-fabulous New York City Marathon, for goodness sake!  And the just like that (and by “just like that” I mean after another two to three weeks of angsty bitching, moaning, and obsessing about it), as that effing Frozen song blared on loop through my head, I let it go. And as I did I had what I fancy to be the very adult realization that sometimes the bravest, ballsiest decisions you can make are those to be true to your own desires and needs and no one else’s. The ones that liberate you from burdens and expectations that drag you down and make you uncomfortable. Missing the trip and the race still felt pretty sucky, but making a smart decision that was in the best interest of my emotional health felt empowering, and offered a fleeting glance into what it must feel like to be a grown-up who has their shit together.

My New York City Marathon Training Cycle Theme Song. Maybe you’ve heard of it.

Breaking 90 Minutes In the Half Marathon.

So there I was, with ~15 weeks of hard-fought marathon training under my belt and no marathon to speak of.  It seemed a shame, and also super-depressing to let all those months and miles of intense training (and complaining) go to waste, so as the New York Marathon went on without me, I signed myself up for the half at Richmond. This had been my fall goal race in 2013, and I had come up short of breaking 90 minutes then, so I figured I would channel all of my NYC angst and any fitness gains I might have reaped from marathon training into taking another crack at it this year. I had no idea what to expect since my efforts had been focused exclusively on the 26.2 distance to the point that I found it hard to fathom running anything other than, and certainly anything faster than marathon goal pace. I was feeling pretty disenchanted with running by the time race day rolled around, but I also felt strongly driven to make this training cycle something other than merely the 2nd time I trained for, but did not run the New York City Marathon.  My race that day was lonely and uncomfortable, and as I ran it I couldn’t help but think that this was a metaphor for my current life theme of having to do difficult things all by myself.  (Poor me! Cue the tiny violins!) But with the help of a few inspirational words from Allie (“Be brave, Ellen!”) and a tremendous sense of urgency to get a certain poster featuring  Nick Symmonds’ bare backside to mile 22 of the marathon course to surprise Allison, who was running the full, I somehow managed to access the grit required to get my own fully-clad backside to the finish line in (ever so slightly) under 90 minutes for an official chip time of 1:29:54. Thank God. Although I was a little disappointed that checking this milestone item off of my list of lifetime running goals didn’t feel more glamorous or come complete with a shower of confetti and a multi-layered cake at the finish line, I executed the my race plan far better (save for one tiny shoe-tying incident), and with greater confidence than last year. And I found the nerve and determination to get out of my comfort zone and get the job done, even when it wasn’t very fun.  It didn’t arrive in the shiny, fabulous package I had envisioned, but there it was nonetheless: Growth, progress, and validation for the work and life I had (reluctantly) poured into the fall training cycle. Booyah.

Gettin' er done in Richmond.

Gettin’ er done in Richmond. (Photo Credit: Allie Bigelow)

The sign that won the 2014 World Championships of Marathon Spectating Sign  Making, made a very burly Kinko's employee giggle like a school girl,  and yielded a monster PR it's intended marathoner!

The sign that won the 2014 World Championships of Marathon Spectating Sign Making, made a very burly Kinko’s employee giggle like a school girl, and yielded a monster PR for it’s intended marathoner!

Completing Beer Mile without Barfing.

My fun-loving running community traditionally celebrates the end of the racing season with a beer mile. I always participate. I always have ridiculous amounts of fun that are well-worth the wretched day-after hangovers. And I always, always throw up, sometimes as early as the 2nd beer in.  Maybe it was all the hype surrounding the recent first-ever Beer Mile World Championships. Maybe it was a burning desire to out-perform Lance Armstrong in a quasi-athletic endeavor. Or maybe I just really needed an extra-special win to close out this glaringly un-extraordinary second half of my year (More violins, please!), but I was utterly bound and determined to get through the 2014 Greater Triangle Area Holiday Beer Mile Invitational barf-free.  I can’t think of anything that I did differently at this beer mile vs. any other I’ve ever done, but this time, with a little help from Kendra and her magical sign, my lucky technical holiday sweater, and a renewed faith in the concept of mind over matter courtesy of the Richmond Half Marathon, I kept all 4 beers down without so much as a dry heave. Or at least that’s how I choose to remember it. (For the record, you get WAY more drunk at beer mile when you don’t yak up half the beer!) I don’t think I could have been more proud of my ~13 minute penalty lap-free Beer Mile result if my finish time had started with a 5. Hooray for checking yet another very important goal off the ole running bucket list!

Barf-free Beer Mile = Winning at Life. Also, my friends are cooler than your friends.

Barf-free Beer Mile = Winning at Life. Also, my friends are cooler than your friends.


Lessons Learned and Goals for the New Year, Running and Otherwise…

I Have the Most Amazing Friends.

Friends Pinterest

I think that there is a lot of truth to the above quote, which I stole from a Pinterest board that belongs to Allie Bigelow. I also think that I am incredibly lucky that my number of friends I can be certain of is a large one. (I’m talking more than I can count on both hands here, y’all!)  You may have already noticed (from spending time with me in person, or just from reading this post) that 2014 wasn’t exactly the year of my fabulous self.  Throughout the year I have often felt run down, sad, disappointed, and dissatisfied (largely over mundane, perfectly non-tragic, first world problems) and I have allowed myself to wallow in all of these negative feelings. I have cried often (sometimes publicly), and ranted, griped, and whined more frequently still. I have no doubt that all of this has been incredibly unattractive and unpleasant to be around, but do you know what? My friends have continued to love and hangout with me anyway, and this amazes and impresses me to no end. So if you sent me funny text messages with pictures of baby animals and/ or cute boys because I was sad, if you have comforted me through a meltdown of any kind (and believe me y’all, there has been an impressive variety of meltdowns), if you hugged me just because I seemed like I needed a hug or checked on me just because you thought I might need to be checked on, if you have waited patiently for me to show up inappropriately late for a group run and still been nice to me despite my chronic tardiness, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. All of this wonderful VIP friend treatment is far better than I deserve, and I love and appreciate you all to the moon and back. And I’m going to be way more fun this year. Just you wait!

A small, but mighty musical tribute to all of my wonderful, fabulous friends out there.

And Speaking of Chronic Tardiness…

Guys, I am late to everything. Work, group runs, coffee meet ups, dinner dates, EVERYTHING. I know this is not ok, and it is not something that I like about myself.  I am not doing it to be an asshole-jerk, I swear. I do it because my brain, my lifestyle, and my apartment have become so cluttered and disorganized in recent years that idea of advanced preparation for pretty much anything usually just seems to exhausting to bear. I regularly find myself abandoning simple organizational tasks such as laying out my clothes for the upcoming day, packing my lunch, and even showering in lieu of just going to sleep. Inevitably, I wake up unprepared to face the day and running behind from the moment my feet hit the floor.  In case you were wondering, I am, in fact, painfully aware  that those last 2 sentences  are nothing but a load of unacceptable, bullshitty excuses. And yet people let me get away with this! I realize that my tardiness is something that I must assume responsibility for, but I suspect that if the group run left without me, or if I got written up for it at work, or if anyone dared to tell me  how they really feel about it,  I wouldn’t do it. This year I am going to stop making excuses for being late and find a way to create the organization in structure that I need in my life and my home to get to places on time. I am committed to doing this because I could stand to free up a little more time and space in my life, and because friends, colleagues, and employers as cool as mine deserve better from me.

I'm going to have to adopt a new motto in 2015.

I’m going to have to adopt a new motto in 2015.

I Need to Work On My Relationship with Running.

There is no denying that running is a tremendous part of who I am. It’s cornerstone of my social life. An oasis of soothing structure and routine in the midst of my hectic, chaotic, piecemeal existence. It’s my primary source of feelings of purpose and accomplishment. All of this is mostly good, but I’m starting to worry that I may be developing some running co-dependency issues that are causing me to enjoy it less. It is true that running is significant part of my identity, but this year I would like to a better job of keeping sight of the fact  that is only part  of who I am. I think 2015  might be a good time to start paying a little more attention to some the other parts of  myself that haven’t been getting as much love recently. Additionally, I suspect that I am guilty of using running (along with chronic over-committment to an absurd amount of part-time jobs)  as an evasion tactic for things that make me feel vulnerable and uncomfortable… Like sorting out the future of my career path, pursuing dating relationships,  spending time with my family, and just taking care of myself in general.  Don’t get me wrong, running has giving me much, and I want to keep all of the good stuff: Belonging to a wonderful, supportive, community where I feel of sense of belonging like never before. Priceless life lessons in hard work, discipline, and perseverance. Being regularly lured from my comfort zone and seeing significant improvements as a result, and routinely engaging in fun adventures with awesome, hilarious friends. Yes, all of these positive things can stay, but this year I would like be more open to cultivating and evolving the areas my life outside of running because I suspect that those areas are probably pretty cool and fulfilling, and I regret that they haven’t been getting the attention they deserve as of late.

So there you have it, friends, all the ways (at least as far as running goes) that my 2014 was amazing, all the ways it was mediocre, and my thoughts on what it might take to 2015 as awesome as humanly possible. I have my work cut out for me here, but I think I have identified some good first steps towards pulling it off. Thanks for bearing with me on this one. I promise I’ll try to limit my future blog posts this year to fluffy gear reviews and puppy and rainbow filled race reports. In the meantime, y’all stay fabulous, and thanks for reading!




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

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 wasn’t 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 the 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 him 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. 🙂


  • 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!


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

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!






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

“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!

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

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, $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, $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: and


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.