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!




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?

Lessons Learned from the Marathons I Ran and Did Not Run in 2012

So I know I’m a little late to the obligatory reflecting-on-the-events-of-2012 blog post party, but if you are lucky enough to know me personally I doubt this comes as a surprise. Being fashionably late is a policy of mine. All tardiness aside, 2012 has been a pretty amazeballs year for me, as least as far as running goes. Highlights include (finally) qualifying for Boston,  joining the Oiselle Team Ambassador flock, an epic ultra-relay experience, the New York City Marathon that wasn’t, watching my average pace creep down from numbers that start mostly with 8’s to numbers that start mostly with 7’s, and countless hilarious stories and one-liners courtesy of my favorite running BFFs. All of it has been great really, but without further ado I would like to utilize this post to reflect on the lessons that running has taught me in 2012. I can pretty much boil it all down to 3 key take home points, but as you might have already guessed, they are a little long winded so hang on to your hat. Here we go…

Lesson #1: Tapering Works!

As a creature of perpetual motion, I’ve  never been a fan of tapering, resting, days off, etc. My natural inclination is to keep myself as busy as possible all the time. I suspect this inclination is driven by a deep-seeded innate fear that if I stop for even a moment I may never start back again, thus resigning myself to a life of depression, boredom, and/or fatness. I tend to equate slowing down with missing out on living life to the fullest. I realize that probably makes me a little crazy. It also makes resting up for race day the most daunting part of training for me, and therefore I tend to shortchange myself when taper-time rolls around. However, after 2 mostly taper-less failed Boston qualifying attempts in 2011, I gave in and added “Try Tapering” to my list of 2012 New Year’s Resolutions.


See… I resolved to try tapering!


I’ve condensed my 11-minute -marathon -PR- yielding tapering plan into 5 key components for your convenience…

1. Take as Much Time Off Work Prior to your Race as Possible! I recommend taking an entire week off if you can swing it. This part is especially critical if your job involves teaching 8 to 10 group exercise classes per week, or is otherwise physically demanding. Although I began gradually scaling back my running mileage as early as 3 weeks prior to the race, having most of the week off leading up to the marathon made it infinitely easier for me to truly rest both my body and mind in preparation for the big day. So start saving up those vacation days now friends. Your gonna need them come marathon season!

2. Sleep A LOT and Use Jet Lag to Your Advantage: Speaking of resting both mind and body, the 2nd component of my 5 step tapering program is sleep. If you are tapering for a marathon or long-distance race of another sort, please do not hesitate to take lots of naps, go to bed early, and sleep late. This will work out particularly well for you if (a) you embrace component 1 of the tapering program, and (b) you live on the east coast but your goal race is on the west coast. This way you will be inclined to go to bed early anyway and when morning rolls around you will most likely wake up pretty early without even noticing, thanks to that handy 3 hour time difference. *Note: Although I found the time zone change to be advantageous when traveling west across the Continental US, it proved to be very much the opposite for trans-Atlantic European Marathoning. International races are fabulous, but make sure that you allow yourself adequate time to adapt to the time change, and for the love of all that is good, sleep on the plane trip there!


Remember, naps are your friend!

3. Stuff Your Face with Delicious Food: You are going to need plenty of quality fuel to keep you going all the way to the finish line, so during your final taper week do not under estimate the importance of eating. A lot. Race week food choices that seemed to work well for me included  crepes, gelato, fancy gourmet BLT’s, and a sundry fare from various Italian and Farm-to-Table restaurants in the Bay Area. Use your own good judgement and intimate knowledge of your unique digestive system and dietary preferences to make food choices that are appropriate for you a week out from your race. Here are a few examples of my preferred tapering meals…


Delicious Crepes a la Mode


Best damn fancy BLT I’ve ever eaten!

4. Fill Your Week Leading Up to the Race with Fun and Relaxing Activities: Stay relaxed and focused as the big day approaches by participating in only fun, light-hearted, low-key endeavors. I especially recommend copious amounts of playing with babies (but not necessarily babysitting) and/or puppies, or otherwise surrounding yourself with cuteness. Shopping is also a good idea, particularly if you have access to multiple Sports Basements, Trader Joes’ and Whole Foods stores.


Keep race week light-hearted and fun by hugging as many puppies as possible!

5. Hydrate Like There’s No Tomorrow! My spring marathon hydration strategy was based on the 2:1 ratio. 2 bottles of water for every 1 Peet’s latte consumed, that is. In the days leading up to my race I was averaging 2 to 3 Peet’s lattes per day. This means that my daily water consumption total came in at around 4 to 6 32 oz Nalgene bottles per day, in addition to an inordinate amount of peeing. I also fortified my water with those fun little flavored fizzy electrolyte tabs whenever possible. (Seriously, I think I went through an entire tube of that stuff in the final 36 hours before my race!) Peach Tea flavored Gu Brew was my pre-marathon electrolyte-loading product of choice, but I think Nunn and Hammer Fizz are equally tasty and affective in keeping your electrolyte levels balanced and working in your favor on race day.


Drink two of these…


…for every one of these.

As it turns out, these 5 things, plus a little help from my friends (which I will be speaking more about shortly) were all I needed to ditch my 2011 marathon fun, and land the BQ I was looking for. I am confident that you can benefit from them as well!

Lesson #2: Qualifying for Boston… It Takes a Village

My 2011 running goals were pretty cut and dry: (1) Qualify for Boston (2) Procure a spot in the 2012 Boston Marathon. As you already know from reading the tapering segment of this post, I did not achieve any of my 2011 running goals. I could blame my 2011 marathon shortcomings on a myriad of things that run the gambit from international jet lag to unexpected weather conditions to boyfriend drama to pre-race stomach flu. And I have no doubt that all of these things contributed to my various race day demises on some level. However, I think the biggest Boston Qualifying obstacles for me in 2011 were self-doubt and an unhealthy obsession with my Garmin.


My 2011 marathon nemesis.

Fortunately for me, my awesome running posse rallied around me an formulated a brilliant plan to distract me from my Garmin and my destructive inner monologue. This plan was successful in landing me a fairly effortless BQ in early 2012. So, if you have patiently accompanied me on nearly every one of my long runs even though you are capable of run significantly faster than me… If you have run every step of my goal marathon with me wearing my Garmin all the while because I just couldn’t bear the thought of not having a Garmin Connect record of my race… If you ran the 4 most trying  of the race with me (miles 18 to 22) while holding my arm warmers and my water bottle AND updating all my various social media streams… If you graciously and supportively listened to me bitch incessantly about a particularly frustrating  work/ life week on any given run… If you came back for me and said nice and encouraging things to me after dropping me on a long run because I was painfully  slow and hungover and probably also making noises that embarrassed you… If you talked me out of moments of self-doubt with wildly comical swearing or tales of hilarity about jazz hands… or if you literally caught me when I fell and pressed the stop button on my watch before I hit the ground… From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!!! It has taken hard work, consistent training, and venturing outside of my comfort zone to reach my running goals in 2012, but more important and significant than that it has taken accountability, laughter, motivation, and encouragement that only the most fabulous of running friends can provide. Cheers to the wonderful people who inspire me to drag myself out of bed  to run on more days than not, and to many more laughs, bloopers, memories, and PRs to  come in 2013!


Allie Bigelow pacing me to Napa Valley Marathon success!


These are the people I cannot wait to wake up and go running with. Thanks for a fast and fabulous 2012, ladies!

Lesson #3: It’s Not the End of the World if the Marathon That You Raised a Bunch of Money and Trained Your Ass Off for Gets Cancelled

That’s right friends, I was supposed to run the 2012 New York City Marathon. I raised over $5000 for charity and trained my happy little butt off for it! I watched my weekly mileage soar to new heights while my average pace dropped significantly. With all the good will and big miles I’d been logging, I DESERVED a fatty new marathon PR and I couldn’t wait to go out and get one on behalf of all the special people in my life who are connected to my charity of choice as well as all the donors out there who contributed  money not just to fund cancer programming, but also so I could run the race.

After Super-Storm Sandy pummeled the northeast but Mayor Bloomberg and NYRR announced that the race would still go on, my teammates and I wasted countless hours of our lives on hold with Jet Blue sorting out flight cancellations and itineraries. (By the way, Jet Blue’s customer service is AMAZING and you should make sure to fly with them every chance you get.) I was super stressed out and exhausted when I arrived in NYC early on the Friday morning prior to what would have been race-day Sunday. Despite my fatigue I substituted a few extra lattes for a nap (after all, lattes were a key part of my hydration strategy for my last marathon) and we pressed on to the expo for packet pick up. Although I never really witnessed any significant storm damage, the tension in the city and at the expo was palpable. Nevertheless, I collected my bib and t-shirt and chatted it up with Kara Goucher (you know, usual race expo stuff) as I struggled to maintain a positive frame of mind for the upcoming race.


Never mind that we look like crap and haven’t slept in days. We’re hanging out with Kara Goucher!

Although no one I encountered on my NYC trip was anything other than polite and sympathetic towards me and marathoners in general, it was quite unsettling to read the mounting number of angry, negative comments that were monopolizing my various social media news feeds. The more I read, the more my stress level escalated and the more conflicted I felt about the race and my participation in it. It was genuinely shocking to me that the general public would label marathoners as self-centered, insensitive, frivolous, and so on… I mean what the hell?!? I raised a shit-ton of money for a noble cause to get here for goodness sake! And it most certainly was not my intention in coming to New York for the marathon to participate in some sort of conspiracy theory to deny hurricane victims resources and supplies that they desperately needed. Not even close! In fact, I felt quite compelled to help in whatever small ways I could. In addition to feeling drained by the conflict surrounding the race, I was also not feeling especially pumped at the thought of running a marathon with the threat of being heckled and having garbage thrown at me. But I had made a commitment to a lot of people who had donated a lot of money on my behalf to run the New York City Marathon, and since the race was on, I figured I had better do it…

And then just like that the race was cancelled, instantly shattering my ideallistic visions of a hard-earned grandiose NYC Marathon experience. And there was not one thing I could do about it. But do you know what? Nothing dramatic happened. I did not even so much as have a meltdown. I did however, have a lot of wine and margaritas and a pretty fun New York City weekend to boot! Just look at all this cool stuff I did…


Like this awesome Oiselle Team Central Park photo shoot…


… And contributing to Sandy relief efforts…


And a magically moving non-marathon Sunday run in Central Park… (So cool that I’m not even pissed that multiple people have posted this pic of me ugly-crying on the internet!)


…And pretend-winning the non-marathon…


…And impersonating statues at The Met.


…And being on The Today Show… You get the idea.

In the end, I think the right decision  prevailed and canceling the race was the appropriate thing to do, both out of respect for those devastated by the hurricane and in the best interest of  the runners’ safety. Furthermore, I am extremely grateful for the humbling perspective that I gained from this experience. It was a wonderful and needed reminder that raising money for charity and running marathons are awesome, but at the end of the day, they are only small parts of what really matters in life.  In retrospect, I think it is pretty safe to say that if the worst thing that happens to you all year is something you were really looking forward to getting cancelled for reasons that you had no control over then you can probably still call it a pretty frickin’ good year. I also cannot express enough gratitude to the fantastically positive and level headed group of people who I was lucky enough to share this adventure with. They made  it especially easy to make the best of that wild ride of a weekend!

And those are the most significant lessons that I have learned from running 2012 in a nutshell. Here’s hoping that your year of running has been every bit as fun, educational, and adventure-filled as mine has, and that 2013 holds many exciting new opportunities for all of us!