CIM, Marathon, Weekly Recap

Training Log – 09.16.18 (CIM Week 3)

Happy Sunday!

Here is what my training looked like the week of 09.10.18 – 09.16.18:

Monday – Cross Train

I started the week off with a rest day from running. Cross training was an option if I wanted it, so I decided to go with it. I wanted to move my legs around a little bit without taxing them too much, so I did an easy hour of spinning on the elliptical. I can probably count the number of times that I’ve been to the gym for cross training over the last 5 years on two hands. It’s just not something that I typically do, but I actually enjoyed my time on the elliptical Monday morning. Sometimes my legs feel worse if I just do nothing, so a gentle cross training day seemed like a good option!

Tuesday – Quality: 11 miles (7:22 pace) 

Tuesday morning was my first big marathon pace workout. The workout was a one mile warm up, eight miles at marathon pace and a one mile cool down. I was a tad intimidated by this workout, mostly because eight miles seemed like a really long workout. I’m still trying not to think about the fact that I will ultimately have to do 18 more miles at that pace! Ha.

I ended up doing a two mile warm up, just because I can’t really get myself into “go mode” very quickly in the mornings. Daniel joined me for the majority of this workout, which was certainly nice and very helpful. In fact, I think he felt better than I did. He was having no problem carrying on a conversation, but I was in survival mode the zone and could only muster up a couple of sentences and a few one to two word responses to his.

My goal pace was 6:45 to 6:50. My splits were 6:57, 6:54, 6:42, 6:47, 6:55, 6:39, 6:47 and 6:48, which ended up being a 6:48 average for the eight miles. I was working to hit the paces, but for my first big marathon pace workout, I’ll definitely take it!

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First big marathon pace workout on the #road2cim is in the books! I did a 2 mile WU, 8 miles at marathon pace and a 1 mile CD. Goal pace for the MP miles was 6:45 – 6:50 and I averaged 6:48! @dgardner56 ran 5 of the MP miles with me and then I finished it up by myself (with @myrunangel). It was 73° with a DP of 73° as well, so a bit cooler, but still super humid. I’m proud of this effort! Of course, I always need some good puppy cuddles after a tough run! 🐶 Also, in one of these pics I am texting @jpcowart who did the same workout this morning and CRUSHED it. Like averaged 20 to 30 seconds faster than we thought! 🙌🏽 #marathontraining #mckirdytrained #road2cim #runitfast #likeagirl #runlove #puppylove

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Wednesday AM – Easy: 8.4 miles (9:04 pace) + PM – Pilates

Wednesday morning I had a seventy minute easy run. My left foot was bothering me a good bit Wednesday morning. It was sore on the ball of the foot and also along the outside edge. I think that the shoes I ran in Tuesday might have contributed to the “issue,” which has thankfully turned out to be a non-issue at this point. I have a pair of Altra Torins that I have been running in periodically for about a year. They are well past their expiration date as far as mileage goes and I am officially done with those shoes.

I was a little bit nervous that I might not be able to do Pilates Wednesday evening if my foot had still been hurting, but I iced my foot pretty much all day at work Wednesday and that seemed to take care of whatever was going on. I told the instructor that my foot had been bothering me some and we modified a few of the exercises slightly just to avoid further aggravation.

Thursday – Easy: 8 miles (9:12 pace)

I was going to play it by ear Thursday morning, depending on how my foot felt. I had another seventy minute easy run scheduled, but wasn’t sure if that would happen or not. The foot was a tad tender for about a mile, but then it felt totally fine. I iced it pretty much all day at work again Thursday just for good measure.

Friday – Easy: 7.2 miles (9:21 pace) 

I had a one hour easy run on Friday. I didn’t notice my foot during the run at all, which was a huge relief!

Saturday – Long Run: 14.1 miles (8:28 pace) 

Saturday’s long run was just an easy, time on feet run. There was no hard effort involved. It was all about just getting out there and getting used to running for a bit longer than usual. I was a bit more tired than I expected to be, but otherwise this was a good run! I honestly feel like I am not doing enough to train for CIM at this point, but I feel fairly certain that things will ramp up soon. I’m used to having two to three workouts per week, but I’ve just had one workout the last few weeks. Technically a long run counts as a workout, even if there are no hard miles in it, but still … it doesn’t feel like a workout.

Sunday – Easy: 7.15 miles (8:30 pace)

Sunday morning was a one hour easy run with friends and was a nice way to end the week.

Total – 56 miles

I don’t know how I managed to end up with an even amount of mileage because I have completely given up on trying to end my runs at an even distance. Somehow it worked out this week though. I like it.

Have a great week!

CIM, Marathon, Weekly Recap

Training Log – 09.09.18 (CIM Week 2)

Happy Monday!

Here is what my training looked like the week of 09.03.18 – 09.09.18:

Monday – Easy: 6.65 miles (9:07 pace)

I started the week with an sixty minute easy run with friends (thanks to Labor Day)! It was so nice to have that long weekend. I definitely wish we had more of those!  We met at Coffee Loft in Fairhope and did just under seven miles. We did the post-run coffee conversation thing and hung out for quite a while afterwards. It had been entirely too long since I have had coffee from Coffee Loft. They have the best coffee around, hands down.

Tuesday – Quality: 8.2 miles (8:34 pace) 

Tuesday morning I had a fun little track workout. It was a two mile warm up, 5 X 1000 w/ a one minute recovery, 5 X 200 w/ a 200 recovery and a two mile cool down. Thankfully, the 1000s were done at threshold pace instead of at V02 max pace. Otherwise, I would not have referred to this as a fun little workout. It would’ve been more like a big deadly workout. Ha!

I had some good company at the track, which always makes for a much more pleasant workout experience. Jessica did the workout with me and Daniel ran the 1000s with us. Mollie was also out there doing her thing as well! My goal pace for the 1000s was 6:25. Actual paces were 6:25, 6:16, 6:12, 6:15 and 6:07. I am so used to running 1000s all out that it was a bit of a challenge to hold back. I got a little carried away on those, but I felt relaxed and I didn’t feel like I was pushing myself too hard.

My goal pace of the 200s was 5:30. Actual paces were 4:57, 5:18, 5:00, 4:54 and 5:04! I LOVE me some 200s! I even switched out my shoes mid-workout for the 200s because I wanted to test out my new Nike Vaporfly 4% shoes. I’ve never taken two pairs of shoes to the track with me before, but I think this is actually pretty common for folks to warm up and cool down in their trainers and workout in their “speed” shoes. I mainly wanted to test the shoes because I was planning to wear them for my race this weekend and I figured that it might be a good idea to at least run in them a little bit before then. They made me feel very fast!

Wednesday – Easy: 7.85 miles (8:56 pace) 

Tropical Storm Gordon graced us with its presence late Tuesday evening and into the wee hours of Wednesday morning. I had a seventy minute run scheduled. Since the weather was iffy out, I conceded to the treadmill. Not that I mind the treadmill at all. I’m actually very thankful that I have it. I listened to Lindsey’s interview with Todd Williams, a two-time Olympian and founder of Run Safer. I enjoyed this episode a lot and I’m glad that so many people are having important conversations about safety.

Thursday – Easy: 7.5 miles (8:41 pace)

Thursday morning I had a one hour easy run. Daniel and I ended up running just over an hour (sixty-five minutes). We know most of the routes by distance and not by time, so it’s been a bit of an adjustment to try to figure out how to shorten the route to not go too far over the allotted time. The temperature and dew point were both 75 Thursday, which made for an exceptionally humid, muggy run. I could actually see the air it was so thick. I don’t like it when I can see the air.

Friday – Easy: 5.25 miles (9:19 pace) + PM – Pilates

Friday morning I had a forty-five minute easy run. Daniel, Bowie and I got in just over five miles. Nothing super noteworthy to report there. I wanted to make sure that we kept it very easy, which we did, since I had a race the next day! I went to Pilates Friday evening. I typically go on Wednesday, but school was cancelled and everyone’s schedules were a bit off this week with the storm. I was a bit concerned that doing Pilates the evening before my race might not be the best idea, but it seemed to workout just fine.

Saturday – RACE: 11.7 miles (7:50 pace) 

All the details you could ever possibly care to read about have been successfully documented in my race recap post. I did just over 3 miles as a warm up, raced a 5K, did just over 4 miles as a cool down and did 1 mile with Brooks when I got home. It was a smorgasbord of mileage that added up to what I might even consider a “long run.”

Sunday – Easy: 7.75 miles (9:00 pace)

Sunday morning I had a sixty minute recovery run. I ended up with seventy minutes, but the pace was on point. Our regular route at Warehouse takes us just over seven and a half miles, so I just went with that. My legs felt surprisingly good! Hooray! Although, my coach has warned me that I might be changing my tune by tomorrow. Delayed onset muscle soreness is a real thing. I’ve got an off day from running planned tomorrow just in case those DOMS try to get me. 

Totals – 55.7 miles 

That’s it for now! Have a great week!

Race Recap

Race Recap: Hurricane Run 5K (PR!)

You guys. I am over the moon! I hadn’t run a 5K PR in over 3 years … hadn’t (past tense) … until TODAY!

I plan to give you all of the painstaking details of this race. From what I did the days and the week leading up to the race, to what I did before the race, to what I wore, etc. It’s all getting documented 1) because I just want to remember it and 2) because I want to be able to replicate it in future races!

Let’s start with the basic details:

Who? Me! Ha.
What? Hurricane Run 5K.
Where? Dauphin Island, AL.
When? September 8, 2018 at 8:10 a.m.
How? With lots of hard work (years of hard work, actually).

I added this race to my calendar a month or so ago. At the time, I wasn’t even sure if I would run it or not. I figured that it might be a good opportunity to get in a shorter race before the marathon training cycle ramps up too much. My coach was totally on board and even mentioned that I might be able to PR at this race. Hmm … very interesting indeed. Seeing as how I hadn’t run a 5K PR in over 3 years, I wasn’t so sure. I mean, I was totally willing to test this theory, but I wasn’t sold on the outcome.

Let’s back up a bit and talk about what I did the week leading up to the race. I’ll be posting my regular training log either tomorrow or Monday, but for now, here’s a super condensed version:

Monday – 60 minutes easy
Tuesday – 2 mile WU, 5 X 1000 @ threshold pace, 5 X 200 @ repetition pace, 2 mile CD
Wednesday – 70 minutes easy
Thursday – 60 minutes easy
Friday – 45 minutes easy + 45 minutes of Pilates

Two weeks prior (training log is here) was also fairly low-key with just one workout. Basically, I was well rested going into this race. While that isn’t always feasible when you are in the middle of a longer training cycle, it certainly helps you to have a better chance to run your best on race day. I’ve never been one to over-run my workouts or my easy runs. I like to save the magic for race day! You know?

I made sure to focus on getting lots of good nutrients and plenty of fluids in on Friday. I made a smoothie after my run Friday morning with UCAN protein powder and frozen berries. It was delicious! I drank lots of water with Nuun (really I do this every day). I worked all day Friday, so I was not on my feet much at all (thank you desk job). I knew that I wanted some good carbs for dinner Friday evening, so we went to Moe’s (really we do this a lot too). I got the Ear Muffs bowl, which had lots of rice, beans, vegetables, guacamole and tofu. Oh! I also had a pint of Halo Top with a few spoonfuls of peanut butter. I guess I’ll have to eat that before every race now! Darn.

Saturday morning I woke up just after 5 a.m. We had about an hour drive to get to the race and we left the house just before 6 a.m. Daniel pulled the whole bit where he bribes me to get ready on time by telling me that we can stop at Dunkin’ Donuts on the way (but only if we leave the house by (insert whatever time here)). Apparently that is all the incentive I need to get ready in a timely fashion! Coffee in tow, we made our way across the bay and towards Dauphin Island.

We got to the race around 7 a.m., which gave me plenty of time to get registered, go to the bathroom, etc. I planned to do a 20 minute warm up, but we ended up running the entire course beforehand. When we got there, I noticed that the finish was set up in a different spot than when I had run this race before. At that point, I was little bit nervous that the course was going to be different and I wasn’t going to know where to go. I’d rather be certain where I am going and if there are any tricky turns, etc. before the race so that I am not relying on a foggy, mid-race brain to make a decision about where to go. I’m glad that we did this too, because I was pretty much all alone out there!

After the warm up, I switched into my new Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% shoes. I’ve had lots of questions about these shoes. In short, I love them! This was only the second time I have worn them though. I ran the 5 X 200 portion of my workout Tuesday in them and that was it until this race. According to Nike, the shoes “feature Nike ZoomX foam (which is ultra-lightweight, soft and capable of providing up to 85-percent energy return) and an embedded full-length curved carbon fiber plate (that increases stiffness to provide a sensation of propulsion). Together, this delivers an average of 4-percent improvement in running economy when compared to Nike’s previous fastest racing flat.” I’ve not run in any of Nike’s previous racing flats in order to compare, but you can definitely feel the propulsion when you run in these shoes. It basically feels like you have springs under your feet.

After the warm up, I also made the executive decision to ditch my singlet and run without a shirt. This is actually the first time I have ever run outside without a shirt on. I know this may seem like a silly and insignificant detail, but it was honestly a big step for me. My hesitation about running without a shirt has been two-fold and has resulted from things in my past (things like being a victim of sexual assault and having an eating disorder (and just having really poor body image in general)). I made a decision to put those things aside. My body isn’t perfect and no one cares. It gets me where I need to go (sometimes quickly :)) and it has treated me well over the years even though I haven’t always treated it well. The clothes that I wear (or don’t wear) on my body do not make me safe (or less safe) when I run. It’s time to move passed all that (both in my life in general and in this blog post specifically).

The bottom line is that it was over eighty degrees. The dew point was seventy-five. I was miserable in my very lightweight singlet. I decided that I didn’t want anything weighing me down (literally or figuratively). It was time to run free! As far as other clothing items go, I wore my Lululemon Train Times 6″ shorts, a plain Nike sports bra (I think it’s the Pro Classic Swoosh compression sports bra) and my Injinji toe socks. These are my favorite shorts, bra and socks by far. The shorts are perfect if you prefer compression shorts and you don’t want them to move when you move. They also have a pocket in the back, which is a plus.

With about ten minutes until the start, I did a few strides. People have also asked about this and basically you just want to run a few short, quick intervals. I didn’t time them or even count them actually, but they are about 20 to 30 seconds each and you want to run at close to your 5K pace. The goal is to stir up the aerobic enzymes and prime the engine before heading to the start line. It helps your body to know that it’s about to get REAL.

I had an excellent pacing strategy going into the race (thanks to my wonderful coach)! I wrote the paces on my arm Friday afternoon. I find that the process of thinking about the paces and having it “tattooed” (albeit temporarily) on your body, makes me more accountable and more invested in the plan. Not sure if that makes sense, but it seems to work for me. The plan looked like this:

Mile 1: 6:00 – 6:05
Mile 2: 5:55 – 6:00
Mile 3: 5:50 – 5:55

If I ran at the upper end of the range for each mile, I would’ve been close to 18:40 and if I ran at the lower end of the range for each mile, I would’ve been close to 18:25. My previous PR was 18:23, so I really wanted to be at the lower end of the range. I had a good chat with my coach before the race and he really tried to reiterate the importance of not running the first mile too fast. As a reference, my splits for my last 5K were 5:57, 5:58 and 6:24 (insert facepalm). My “strategy,” if you can even call it that, at the last race was to start out close to 5:55 and see how long I could hold on. As it turned out, I held on for exactly two miles. That race was an excellent example of how not to race a 5K and I definitely took away some good lessons from that performance. I was all about starting conservatively and running smart this time around!

So where does that leave us? Oh, the race!

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I basically led the race from the gun. The guy in the red shirt above was in front of me for about half a mile or so, but once I passed him, it was just me out there doing my thing. I guess in the back of my mind I knew that there was a possibility that this might happen, which is why I wanted to be sure that I knew the course. I figured that I might have someone to run with for a little bit longer than I did though. I had no one to blame if my pacing was terrible. I was setting my own pace!

I told myself to be smart and I tried to run at an effort that was hard, but not all out hard. I didn’t stalk my Garmin. I didn’t want to psych myself out by seeing a pace that was too fast or too slow than what I was expecting. The first mile was straight as an arrow. No turns. No nothing. I approached the clock and saw 5:51. A tad fast, but … whatever. It is what it is. I told myself that as long as I didn’t slow down, it was fine! I still had a chance to run a smart race. I just had to run a smart, fast race!

The second mile looped around a neighborhood. There were several gentle turns and there was also lots of shade! I was so happy to have a bit of a reprieve from the direct sunlight. I suddenly realized that I probably had less than 10 minutes to go. For whatever reason, I have never thought about this during a 5K before, but that thought really perked me up. I still felt good (thankfully) and the thought of only having to hold on for 10 minutes absolutely seemed doable. Nothing super noteworthy happened during this mile. I just put my head down and did the work. When I got to the clock at mile two, it read 11:38. This meant that I had run a 5:47 second mile. I didn’t look at my watch to check the split and I honestly didn’t even try to figure out what it was. I know it seems like a simple calculation, but doing math while running is far from simple. I knew that I hadn’t slowed down and that was really all I cared about at that point.

The third mile had a couple of turns and then went straight back along the same road that we had run out on during mile one. The course was pancake flat. Once you make the turn for home, you’ve got just over three-quarters of a mile to go. I was looking forward to that final turn. It signified that I was at least headed home and that I had less than five minutes to go! At this point, you were back out in the direct sunlight, but that didn’t really matter. Even though I was starting to feel fatigued, I knew that I wasn’t going to crash. I made my mind up that I was going to finish strong! Daniel was waiting for me at mile three.

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When my watched beeped, I looked down and saw 5:53! Holy cow. I was doing it. I was actually doing it. All that was left was the final tenth of a mile and one final left-hand turn into the finishing chute. It wasn’t until I made the turn and saw the clock that I knew I was going to PR. I crossed the line in 18:12! I was ecstatic! And exhausted. If that isn’t one of the best feelings in the world, then I don’t know what is. All of those workouts, all of the hard work that goes into this sport that we all love so much, it’s all worth it.

Of course it is easy to realize and appreciate this after things all come together and you have a great race. This one was a long time coming for me though. I’ve been at a pretty consistent level of fitness for about three years now and I hadn’t had any major breakthroughs. I’m going to go ahead and call this one a breakthrough. Progress isn’t linear, but consistency pays off. Keep showing up and putting in the work. The results will come and even if they don’t, it’s still worth it.

Daniel and I ran the course again after the race as a cool down. I was still reeling with excitement. I kept saying, “I can’t believe that just happened.” I’m actually still riding the post-PR high right now even and I still can’t believe what happened. I’m even more excited about CIM now and I can’t wait to get back out there and work even harder (after a proper recovery, of course).

Whew. Well, I have successfully rambled on for far too long. Thanks for reading! Talk to you soon!

CIM, Marathon, Weekly Recap

Training Log – 09.02.18 (CIM Week 1)

Happy Labor Day!

Here is what my training looked like the week of 08.27.18 – 09.02.18:

Monday – Easy: 7 miles (8:34 pace)

Monday morning I had a sixty minute easy run on tap. I ran two miles on the treadmill while Daniel biked on the trainer and then we did five miles outside together. A lot of my runs are going to be based on time this training cycle. I’ve never trained by time before, so it’s a nice change of pace. My coach basically explained to me that our body doesn’t understand miles specifically, but it understands time and intensity of effort.

Tuesday – Easy: 8.2 miles (8:34 pace) 

Tuesday morning I had a seventy minute easy run. I accidentally typed seventy miles at first … this time thing will take some getting used to. Haha! Within the first mile of this run, an owl swooped down and almost picked me up by the ponytail! It was nuts. We saw his shadow as he came up behind us. I even commented to Daniel at how close the shadow appeared. Turns out it appeared to be close because the owl was about three or four feet from my head! Yikes. Daniel screamed at it and started flailing his arms, which worked momentarily. He came back down on us one more time though and Daniel successfully defended me again. Most of our easy runs are fairly uneventful, but this one was a bit of a hoot (lame).

Wednesday AM – Quality: 8 miles (8:13 pace) + PM – Pilates

My main workout this week was a two mile warm up, 10 X 2:00 hard with 1:00 recovery and a two mile cool down. The two minute intervals were supposed to be done at between 5K and 8K pace. On the one hand, I knew this workout would be a little bit tough since it was twenty minutes of effort at a fast pace. On the other hand, I wasn’t expecting it to be nearly as tough as it actually was. Goodness.

My coach wanted me to do this workout on the roads so that there would be some rolling hills. I was also instructed to adjust the effort based on humidity, which I definitely had to do seeing as how it was 77 degrees with a dew point of 77 at 4:45 a.m. It took me a while to settle into a good rhythm during the first few repeats (even after a little big longer warm up), but once I got going, I was fairly consistent and about where I expected to be pace wise. I got stopped by traffic with about 10 seconds to go on my next to last repeat, which was a bit of a bummer. It’s always best to refrain from running out into oncoming traffic though!

I wasn’t looking at my pace at all during this workout. I tried to focus on keeping the effort at the appropriate level. Once I got home and checked out the data, I was pleasantly surprised at the paces that I ran!

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I went to Pilates Wednesday evening. I wouldn’t recommend doing Pilates the day before a hard workout, but going the evening of the workout seems to work pretty well. I got some good stretching and strengthening in and slept like a rock.

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Thursday – Easy: 8 miles (8:51 pace)

Thursday morning I had another seventy minute easy run. My legs were definitely feeling the effects of Wednesday’s workout + Pilates combo, so I took it extra easy. There wasn’t anything eventful to report about this run.

Friday – Easy: 5 miles (8:56 pace)

Friday morning I had a forty-five minute easy run. Daniel and I got in five easy, uneventful miles. My legs were still pretty tired, but nothing was sore or anything like that … just a little fatigued.

Saturday – Easy: 14 miles (8:17 pace) 

My long run for the week was supposed to be an hour and forty-five minutes. I actually ended up going a bit over that (not by much). The weather was a bit iffy before the run, but being the stubborn runners that we are, several of us decided to give it a go anyway. We made it through one mile without any rain, but during the second mile the skies opened up and we got absolutely drenched! At that point we were already out there and committed to the run, so it didn’t really matter. I don’t know about you, but I am totally okay with running in the rain if it starts while I am already out there, but I don’t really care for starting a run in the rain.

We altered our route a bit to stay closer to the car than normal, just in case the rain turned into something more substantial. Thankfully it didn’t. The rain even cleared out for the majority of the run. It started raining on us again during the last few miles, but at that point it was actually welcomed and felt quite nice.

Running in the rain can be quite therapeutic. The only downside is that your shirt will potentially turn into a dress.

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Sunday – Easy: 6.5 miles (8:51 pace)

Sunday morning I had a sixty minute easy run and I was able to run with some of my best running friends! Love these girls so much!

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Totals – 57 miles 

That’s it for now! Have a great week!

CIM, Marathon, Nutrition

All the Small Things

Bonus points if you read the title of this post in your head to the tune of blink-182.

As I am about to embark on this marathon training journey, I’ve been thinking a lot about the little things outside of the actual running that I can do to make this training cycle, and hopefully the race that ensues, the best one ever! For me, the actual running isn’t really a problem. Don’t get me wrong, the actual running is VERY IMPORTANT. The principle of specificity tells us that if we want to get better at running, we need to … run. At this point in my running “career,” I know that I can and will do the work. I also know that there are plenty of other small things, that potentially become big things when all combined, that I have neglected a bit in the past.

I’ve been training and racing pretty consistently now for close to 10 years. Consistency has always been something that I’ve had going for me in various aspects of my life and it’s been especially beneficial with running. I’ve run over 150 races since 2010. I’ve improved tremendously since I first started running. My dad jokingly told me one day that he was surprised that I stuck it out with running since I wasn’t really very good at it when I first started. Ha! I’ve taken my 5K time from 24 –> 18, my 10K time from 50 –> 38, my half marathon time from 1:48 –> 1:24 and my marathon time from 3:24 –> 3:02.

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I’ve worked very hard to get where I am now and I am very proud of where I am. I feel like I have almost reached my full potential as a runner. While I definitely think that I have some more PRs left in me, I am not going to be making drastic improvements. I am fighting for every second of improvement at this point.

This got me thinking, what else can I do that I haven’t really done (or maybe haven’t been consistent with) in the past? I came up with a pretty good list of things!

Strength Stuff 

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I have pretty much completely neglected strength training during past training cycles. I actually have been somewhat consistent over the years with keeping core exercises as part of my regular routine, but that’s been the extent of it. I was looking for something that I could easily add to my routine that would complement my running. Enter Pilates.

I have been going to Pilates for about four weeks now and I am really enjoying it. I am only going once a week for 45 minutes, but that time will definitely add up over the course of the entire training cycle. Pilates has reminded me that core strength is not just about abdominal strength. The term “core” encompasses your entire torso, including your hips, abs, back, shoulders and neck. Your core acts as a stabilizer and a center for you to transfer forces through when you are running or doing other activities. A stronger core enables you to better produce force during activities such as running and helps you to better control and maximize the forces you are producing.

Pilates also increases your joint mobility and improves flexibility. Flexibility is definitely a weakness of mine. Specifically, I have zero hamstring flexibility. If Pilates can fix that, it’ll be a miracle! I am also doing regular stretching and foam rolling. I plan to keep that up throughout the training cycle as well.

Fueling Stuff

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Another thing that I have pretty much completely neglected in past training cycles is practicing my race day nutrition during my long runs. I know. It’s terrible and it’s basically a rookie mistake. For my first marathon (pictured above :)), I really didn’t know any better, but now … I really have no excuse. I *know* all the things that I need to be doing, but I just haven’t actually done them in the past like I should. That is going to change this training cycle!

A general rule of thumb is that you need 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates for each hour if you are running longer than 75 minutes. You should be fueling as early as 30 to 45 minutes into the run. Another general rule of thumb is that you need to drink approximately 5-7 ounces of fluid every 15-20 minutes (enough to replace fluid loss). I am terrible about carrying water with me when I run (read that to mean that I NEVER carry water with me). I drink plenty of water throughout the day, but I don’t drink it on the run. I’ve got to start practicing with both gels and water during my long runs.

I’ve had good luck with Generation UCAN for a couple of my past marathons (specifically, for my two best marathons). For both of those races I took one packet of UCAN (using a flavor with protein) before the race and then I had half a packet of UCAN (using a flavor without protein) at two points during the race (at miles 13-14 and 19-20). I got away from using the UCAN before my long runs during my last marathon training cycle after I had one run where I felt like it didn’t sit well in my stomach. Of course, that could’ve been due to a myriad of other factors and I think I will probably need to give the UCAN another try (especially since I still have a lot of it at the house).

I might experiment with taking UCAN before the run and then taking gels during the run. I used Huma gels during my last marathon and there are some flavors of those that I really like. I’ve never had an issue with them upsetting my stomach either, which is definitely a plus. Using gels during the race would definitely be a bit more convenient as well.

Another important piece of the fueling equation that I would be remiss not to mention is that it is of the utmost importance to make sure that you are eating a balanced diet filled with protein, carbohydrates and fats throughout your training. You can’t run well if you don’t fuel your body properly! I would say that I do pretty well on this front, but there is always room for improvement. My biggest concern is not getting overly obsessed with what I am eating. There’s a fine line between keeping track enough to know that you are getting enough and going down the rabbit hole of obsessing over all of the numbers. I definitely won’t be counting anything, but I will be trying my best to make sure that I am getting enough of everything that my body needs.

Mental Stuff

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I haven’t done a ton of work on my mental game in the past. I guess it’s probably fortunate that I haven’t really needed to! I am usually just thankful and happy to be running. With that being said, I know there are definitely things that I could do to up my mental toughness. I actually started reading Matt Fitzgerald’s “How Bad Do You Want It?: Mastering the Psychology of Mind over Muscle” during my last marathon training cycle and I just couldn’t get into it. The only logical conclusion I can come to is that I must not have wanted it badly enough! I’m going to give that one another shot this training cycle!

I must say though, I am really jazzed about this training cycle. I haven’t been this excited about running a marathon in a long time (possibly ever!). I feel like I am giving myself every opportunity that I possibly can in order to be successful. I mean, I’m flying across the country to run a marathon on one of the best courses in the United States! If that isn’t setting yourself up for success, I don’t know what is. I am going to approach the race with an A, B & C goal. I don’t know exactly what those will be at this point, but I will likely share them with you guys when I get it figured out. I appreciate it when other runners put their goals out there and I’ve done the same in the past.

In the meantime I will try to stay focused and patient, trusting that my training and all of these “small things” that I am doing will get me where I want to be when the time comes.

Monthly Recap

August Recap

Hey friends! Long time no talk read or write! Another month has come and gone. Let’s chat a bit!

Month Recap: August 2018

Oh, August … what a crazy month you were! Within a time span of 10 days, I ran a one mile road race, a 5K and a Ragnar Relay. Oh and somewhere along the way, I also registered for a MARATHON! Surprise! California International Marathon … I’m coming for you!

I took a down week with no stress workouts after Ragnar (which felt a bit like running a marathon in and of itself). I took a few days off completely before easing back into the swing of things. I’ve done a few workouts now, so I guess we’ll say that I am back in the saddle at this point. I took an unplanned break from writing training log posts, but when you aren’t doing any workouts there isn’t quite as much to report from each run. It’s like, “I ran. It was humid. The end.” I was almost ready to just scrap the idea of writing training log posts altogether, but I think I’ve changed my mind about that. I make no promises that I won’t change it again though.

My training for CIM will not officially begin until the middle of September (12 weeks out), but for my own purposes, I’m kind of using this past Monday as my starting date. That gives me 14 weeks until race day and with a two week taper, it’s only 12 weeks of training. Mentally, I need those few extra weeks so that I can tell myself that I have “plenty” of time to get into the shape that I want to be in.

I’ve got lots of fall races picked out to do along the way! I’d like to add a couple more as well, but for now a tentative schedule looks like this:

09.08.18 – Hurricane Run 5K
10.06.18 – TBD 5K
10.13.18 – Shrimp Festival 10K
10.21.18 – Gulf Coast Half Marathon
11.03.18 – Senior Bowl 10K
11.11.18 – Pensacola Half Marathon
11.17.18 – Turkey 10 Miler
11.22.18 – Turkey Trot 5K
12.02.18 – CALIFORNIA INTERNATIONAL MARATHON

Workouts: I only did a couple workouts this month, since the first half of the month was full of races and recovery. Once I did get back into it though, I got in some good efforts!

2 mi. WU, 8 X 300 w/ 100 recovery (66, 68, 66, 65, 65, 64, 63, 61 (5:43 avg.)), 3 mi. CD

2 mi. WU, 3 mi. (6:55 avg.), 2 mi. (6:44 avg.), 1 mi. (6:28), 3 mi. CD

2 mi. WU, 10 X 2:00 hard (6:01 avg.) w/ 1:00 recovery, 2 mi. CD

Favorite workout: My favorite workout was probably the 3 mile, 2 mile, 1 mile cutback workout. Although it must be said, I really enjoyed the 8 X 300 workout as well! The 10 X 2 minute workout went fairly well and I didn’t *not* enjoy it, but man oh man, it was tougher than I was expecting!

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I’d say it’s a good sign that I enjoyed the longer workout because I’m sure that’s exactly what I will have in store more as we progress throughout the training cycle. I’m planning to get VERY comfortable running at marathon pace. I don’t think that I’ve done enough training at my goal marathon pace in the past. Practice makes perfect and you certainly can’t expect your body to run comfortably at marathon pace if you haven’t practiced it a pretty good bit. The 3 mile, 2 mile, 1 mile workout was a good starting point as my goal for the 3 miles was just over marathon pace (6:55 was the goal there) and my goal for the 2 miles was just under marathon pace (6:45 was the goal there). Of course, goal marathon pace could change as the cycle progresses! In fact, I very much hope that it does.

Races: As I mentioned earlier, I ran 3 very unique races this month!

Race Recap: Fairground Road 1 Mile

Race Recap: Crime Prevention 5K

Race Recap: Ragnar CO “Last to Start, First to Finish … ROUND 2!”

Favorite race: I thoroughly enjoyed the one mile road race that I ran. It was a small race, but I love a small, local race. It’s also really fun to test your speed at the one mile distance (in my opinion). With that being said, it would be nearly impossible to top the experience that we had in mountains of Colorado! There is so much more to an overnight relay than just the race itself. While the race itself was amazing, it was the trip as a whole that makes this race such a memorable experience and really seals the deal as its spot as my favorite race for the month.

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Paces: My paces ranged from 5:25 (one mile race) to 10:41 (with Brooks).

Miles: 249.3 miles this month.

Longest run: My longest consecutive run was 13 miles. I did run 20 miles one morning (as an attempt to run my age for my belated birthday miles), but the run was really 13 miles with an hour or so “pause” for breakfast with friends and then 7 more miles, so I don’t think I can technically count that as a 20 mile run. While we are on that topic, I am officially putting my birthday miles tradition to rest at this point. Again, I make no promises that I won’t change my mind, but for now … it’s too much.

I attempted to run 33 miles within 24 hours twice during August. Once was at Ragnar. I was already running close to 20 miles as part of the relay, so I was thinking that an extra 13 wouldn’t really be too bad. Turns out … I was wrong. I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted from the race itself and there was no way I was running one more step after my last leg of the relay. The second attempt was much better and I even made it to 26 miles before deciding that I was done. There’s no doubt in my mind that I could’ve run 7 more miles that day, but the point was that I simply didn’t *want* to. The tradition used to bring me a lot of happiness, but this year it didn’t and that’s completely fine. I’ll find other ways to celebrate I’m sure!

Shortest run: 3.5 miles.

Rest days: I took two days off completely.

Strength training: I started doing Pilates and I LOVE it. I’m going once a week, but I really wish I could go more. I’ve been going for three weeks now. I’ve also been keeping up with my planks at home and have also added in some crunches. Somewhere along the way I forgot about crunches (not sure how that happened). I went to the gym one day and rediscovered medicine ball crunches. I don’t even think I did that many of them, but my stomach felt like it was on fire (in a good way (if that is possible)) for days afterwards! Apparently planks don’t touch some of those key core muscles.

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I’ve got a post in the works about all the little things that I am doing this training cycle (outside of the actual running) that will *hopefully* help me meet my goal (whatever that turns out to be) at CIM! Stay tuned!

I feel like I am forgetting to tell you something … oh! I know what it is. I changed coaches! The McKirdy Trained group is set up in such a way that it is very easy to request a coaching change if you feel like the coach you are assigned to isn’t a good fit. There is no doubt in my mind that any of the coaches in the group could write a perfectly wonderful training plan. A lot of the reason that I switched comes down to communication (or lack thereof) and the way the feedback was presented. I’m working with John Raneri now. I’ve gotta say, so far I am VERY impressed with his kindness, his feedback and his attention to detail. I’m glad that I stood up for myself and explored the idea that there was a better fit out there.

I think we are pretty much caught up now! Happy Friday friends!

Race Recap, Relay

Race Recap: Ragnar CO “Last to Start, First to Finish … ROUND 2!”

Hey guys! Buckle your seat belts and get ready for a wild ride!

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I wanted to get this post done as soon as possible while the memories were still super fresh, but thankfully there are TONS of pictures that help with that. After reflecting back on the entire experience, I don’t think that words will be able to do this race and trip justice. We had a wonderful time in Colorado and the race itself was just icing on the cake!

We began planning this trip almost a year ago. Initially, we tried to get in to the Hood to Coast Relay in Oregon. My understanding is that Hood to Coast is essentially the Boston Marathon of relay races. There is a lottery to get in and unfortunately, we have been unsuccessful in securing a spot the last couple of years. Looking back now, I don’t think that Hood to Coast could possibly have topped our Ragnar Colorado experience and now I am actually thankful that we didn’t get in.

The planning phase of an overnight relay is quite tedious. We had to get flights, rent vans, find places to stay at the start, along the way and at the finish, and find twelve people who were crazy enough to want to join in on the adventure. In the past, finding twelve people has been challenging, but this time we actually had more than twelve people who wanted to go. Next time we might even be able to take two teams!

Our team was pretty incredible. The thing that I love the most about our team is that it was made up of some of our closest friends. I really consider most of these guys to be more like family than friends at this point. This was my fourth overnight relay type of event. In 2011 we did Ragnar Del Sol in Arizona and came in 2nd place, in 2014 we did Ragnar Northwest Passage in Washington and came in 4th place and in 2016 we did Ragnar Tennessee and came in 1st place. 

The bar was set pretty high this year! Here’s how it went down!

Thursday

We departed from Pensacola around 7:30 a.m. and arrived in Denver around 2:30 p.m., after catching our connecting flight in Atlanta. We immediately noticed the dryness of the air! It was quite amazing. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity at the Avis rental center, we loaded up in our van (that would be home for the next couple of days) and headed to the hotel in Denver.

Once we got checked in at the hotel, we decided to make a quick trip over to Colorado Springs to check out the “Garden of the Gods,” a public park that is a registered National Natural Landmark. It was absolutely beautiful! We hiked around for a little bit and saw some deer and also some rock climbers in their natural habitats.

We made our way back to Denver, went out to dinner (the only night we would eat out during the entire trip!) and called it a night fairly early. Thursday night would be the last “real” sleep that we got for about 48 hours, so I definitely wanted to make it count.

Friday

Elena and I did a short three mile shakeout run from the hotel first thing Friday morning (my birthday!). At this point, I was still planning to try to do the “birthday miles” thing. It turned out to be a bit more challenging than I anticipated, but we’ll get to that shortly. We left Denver early Friday morning, made a quick stop to get groceries and supplies for the vans and headed to Copper Mountain Ski Resort, where the race started.

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Van 2 Fam Jam

The race covered 195 miles of mountain passes from Breckenridge to Aspen. We ran through the star-filled night, past six world-famous Colorado ski towns, through the White River National Forest and next to the Colorado River on bike paths, back roads and even a little bit of single-track trail.

It was so beautiful out there. It’s not just the elevation that will take your breath away.

Ragnar

Teams started as early as 5 a.m. on Friday and we were in the last group to start at 11:30 a.m. Each team member submits their most recent 10K time and each team is assigned a different start time based on their estimated finish time, with the goal being that everyone would arrive at the finish line at close to the same time. There were over 120 teams competing this year.

We planned to arrive at the start about an hour early, but we actually cut it a bit closer than we needed to. We didn’t even get a proper team picture before Bowie, our first runner, headed out.

Once Van 1 started running, Van 2 headed to get some lunch and tried to pass the time while semi-patiently waiting on our turn to start running. Honestly, I think these few hours were the longest hours of the entire race. We were ready to get the show on the road!

The course was designed so that Exchange 1 (the start) and Exchange 6 (where Van 2 takes over) were both at Copper Mountain Ski Resort, which made it nice for us. We hung out at Copper Mountain while we waited. Van 1 had 46.4 miles to cover before they made their way back to Copper Mountain. We put on our temporary Ragnar tattoos, had some mini dance parties in the parking lot and took pictures of pretty things while we awaited Van 1’s return.

Steve and I decided to do a one mile run just to stay loose. That mile might’ve been the most humbling mile of the entire trip. We were up close to 10,000 feet and the air was … sparse. We tried not to think about how hard it was to breathe at 10:00 per mile pace and hoped that our bodies would adapt … stat!

Van 2 officially started running at 5:00 p.m. Friday afternoon. Daniel kicked us off with a 5 mile leg that climbed straight up! The hills of Alabama didn’t exactly prepare us for what we experienced out in Colorado, especially on this leg. Daniel’s first leg took him to the highest point of the entire course. He started at 9,700 feet and finished at 10,700 feet. Y’all. That’s A LOT of climbing in 5 miles. The air was VERY thin up there and it seemed impossible to breathe. On your next run, don’t take the ability to breathe for granted! It may be humid as all get out, but at least the air is readily available. Perspective.

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Despite the terrain, DG had a great run. Things had just gotten REAL. He passed the “baton,” which was actually an orange slap bracelet off to Daniel Holley, who essentially got to run down the other side of the mountain that DG had just crested. Daniel’s leg was 9.5 miles with an elevation loss of over 2,000 feet! He absolutely CRUSHED it.

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Daniel Holley handed off to me. My first leg was just over seven miles and was one of the flattest legs along the course. I gained about 250 feet, but also lost about 500 feet. While this doesn’t sound bad, it was actually tougher than I was expecting. My first leg was actually very interesting and very diverse in terrain. I started out downhill on a two lane road and turned onto the paved bike path that ran alongside the interstate. This paved trail is where the majority of our race would be run. I almost made two wrong turns on the trail, which wasn’t as well marked as I would’ve hoped, but luckily there was another runner in the general vicinity both times and together we figured out where to go.

After several miles on the trail, I ran right through the middle of a street party in downtown Vail. There were hundreds of people milling around and I came flying through there like a madwoman. I’m sure it was quite a sight to see. Shortly after that, I made a sharp turn off of the main road and ran straight down what I am assuming was a ski slope. It was rocky and very steep, but also thankfully very short! Shortly after that, I ran past a wedding reception. The band was playing Delta Dawn as I passed. I loved that! Just after I ran by the wedding party, I finally made it to my exchange. Approaching the exchange and seeing your next runner waiting for you is one of the best feelings in the world during a race like this.

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I handed the bracelet off to Steve, who also had just over seven miles to run. Steve had some very tough legs during the race (tough legs could refer to both his actual legs and the segments of the race that he had to run :)). The first one was probably his easiest, but really none of the legs were easy out there.

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Our van was down one runner (Jessica we missed you SO MUCH), so when Steve handed off to Erin, she ran two legs back to back. Thankfully these two legs were both shorter than most of the other ones, but it was still a mental shift to go from planning to run three miles to running six miles. She also had the first true night run of the race. Steve and I had to run during “nighttime” hours (meaning that we had have a reflective vest, headlamp or flashlight and a blinking light on us), but for Erin’s leg, it was dark, dark.

We met Van 1 at sometime around midnight in Edwards, Colorado. 1 leg down, 2 to go! While Van 1 headed out to run their seconds legs, Van 2 had about 3 hours to rest and regroup before it was our turn to run again. We drove to the next major exchange at the Gypsum Recreational Center, where we would be taking back over. We were all very tired at this point, but there wasn’t really enough time to sleep, as we would be running again in less than 3 hours. We passed the time by having a disco party in our van. We had light up emoji beach balls (that we named Betty, Yeet and Jacool), rings and glow sticks! It even sounds a bit crazy to me now, but at the time, it was a blast!

For the most part, it seemed like the night legs were shorter than the other legs. Van 1’s total nighttime mileage was just over 26 and Van 2’s was just over 28 (as opposed to 46 and 35, respectively, during the first leg).

Saturday

At approximately 1:10 a.m. Saturday morning, Elena came into the exchange and handed off to DG. Van 2’s second legs were officially underway. I don’t have much of a play by play for the night legs. What I do remember vividly is that it was VERY dark and VERY lonely out there. We didn’t know this at the time, but we had passed all but 5 or so teams at this point already and runners were scarce. In past relays (except for maybe Tennessee), we were continually catching and passing people the entire way, but that was NOT the case here.

I was scared out of my mind at the thought of running by myself in the dark! I felt that way a little bit in Tennessee, but this was definitely a different, more intense fear. In other relays, the vans have been able to “leapfrog” the runners and never even really get out of sight, but that wasn’t ever even an option in Colorado (at least not on Van 2’s legs (I think Van 1 was able to do this some)). We were running on a paved trail surrounded by woods beside the interstate, but the vans couldn’t drive on the trail and also couldn’t see the runners from the interstate. Long story short, I was terrified, but my teammates really stepped it up and we were able to buddy up for the night legs!

Just two Christmas trees getting ready to run through the forest …

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I ran two short legs during the night. Steve and Daniel Holley both ran parts of the first one with me and then my Daniel ran the second one with me. This might not have been the fastest way to get it done, but at that point, safety was more important (at least in my opinion (and I think everyone else agreed)). To say that I was ecstatic to have the nighttime runs behind me is an understatement. I told Daniel that I might not be able to do another relay, as I seemed to have become a liability instead of an asset for the team.

By the time we all finished our second legs, there were only two teams ahead of us!

Van 1 headed back out to run their last leg (we were so jealous) and we headed to our hotel in Glenwood Springs. Having a midway hotel is not really a necessity, but I highly recommend it if you ever do one of these overnight relays. Van 1 was able to go to the hotel while we were out running our second legs and then we were able to go to the hotel while they were out running their last legs. We had just enough time for everyone to shower and SLEEP for about ONE HOUR (mind you, this is the only sleep we got the entire time). Our spirits were rejuvenated as we headed back out to run our last legs.

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We were also pretty pumped because Van 1 had taken care of those last two teams that were ahead of us (never mind the fact that they had started HOURS before us) and we knew without a doubt that we were in first place. Van 1 is looking very relaxed and thankful to be DONE. I must admit, I was a bit jealous of Van 1 at this point.

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Thanks, Van 1!

Daniel was on deck first! He saved his party pants for his last leg! Haha.

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DG’s last leg was only 2.3 miles, so basically he was done and to the exchange by the time we got there in the van. We were the first team to arrive at the exchange, which would be the case for the remainder of the race. The volunteers weren’t even really ready for us at some of the exchanges! Daniel Holley was up next and he also saved his party pants for the last leg!

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Daniel Holley also had a shorter leg with 2.6 miles and before I knew it, it was my turn to run again. I had 3.3 miles to do before handing off to Steve, who would then run what was deemed the “Ragnar Leg,” meaning that it was the most difficult leg of the entire race. There were a few others that were definitely in contention as well, but this is the one that the race officials decided was the toughest. He even got a special medal for completing his leg.

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Steve picked a special walkout song for his leg and as I came into the exchange I could hear “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” playing over the speakers. We talked about each choosing a song to play at the beginning of all of our legs, but I think we either got distracted or decided that the selection process would be too tough. This one was absolutely perfect though!

Would you like a side of dancing to go with that running?

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Steve ran 9.5 miles with over 1,000 feet of elevation gain. The leg was straight up. It was insane! After Steve finished his leg, I headed back out to run one last leg! Thankfully, it was only 3 miles because my legs were SO DONE at this point. I really felt like I was running from mile 23 to 26 of a marathon during this last run. The pain was real. The struggle was real. The mountains were real. It was just very REAL. I somehow survived (and by survived I truly do just mean that I completed the distance) and I handed off to Erin, who had an extremely challenging last leg.

Thankfully, it was THE LAST LEG of the entire race. We were almost done! Van 1 was already there waiting for us at THE FINISH!

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Erin ran 8 miles with almost 2,000 feet of elevation gain and 1,400 feet of elevation loss. How’s that for a crazy tough final leg?!

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Erin is a beast and she finished the race with a bang. As we were waiting, we realized that it was 11:20 a.m., which meant that we would be really close to finishing in under 24 hours, which was our loose goal going in. Almost on cue, Erin appeared at the top of the mountain. She made her way down the mountain and sure enough, our finish time ended up being 23:56:08! We were over 2 hours ahead of the second place team.

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Post-race had us feeling like … sleepy!

Seeing as how I was laid out on the ground barely able to move, I didn’t exactly complete my birthday miles. Apparently it’s not super easy to simply add on a few more miles at the end of an overnight relay at 10,000 feet with no sleep (shocking!). I actually determined that I had covered 33 miles in 24 hours if you included the walking that we did. I decided to call this good! Done and done.

Our medals are pretty sweet! When you put them together it reads, “We are Ragnarians. We believe … together we can accomplish anything.” As cheesy as it is, I truly feel like this statement embodies the Ragnar experience. Our team really came together on a challenging course and worked together to support each other and dominate in the process. Ragnar is truly about doing something together that we could never do alone.

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After the race, the real fun of the trip began! We stayed in an amazing house with epic views (special shout out to my Daniel for handling the accommodations!).

My friends surprised me with a birthday cake Saturday evening! We cooked all of our meals for the next few days at the house and we sat around the huge dining room table for every meal like one big, happy family. When I say “we cooked,” I don’t actually mean that I contributed to that. Thanks to Becca, Steve, Megan and everyone that cooked for us!

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I usually crash pretty hard as soon as we get done with these races, but this year I was able to catch a second wind and I actually stayed awake and was social Saturday evening. Our house had a pool table, a ping-pong table, a hot tub and pretty much anything else that you could possibly want or need.

Sunday

Sunday was a bit of a slower day around the ranch (our house was called Snow Bear Ranch). A few of us ventured out mid-morning for a shakeout run and a few of us also ventured out for a hike later in the day.

Other than that, the day was pretty chill. Lots of time was spent playing ping-pong (for some more than others :)), in the hot tub, and playing cards.

Monday

By Monday a few more people were ready to venture out for a morning run. Our route from the house was beautiful, but quite challenging. I don’t think there is a single stretch of road or trail in Colorado that is completely flat. I love running in new places and the area around our house was perfect for an exploratory run.

Several of us went white water rafting Monday afternoon! We went with Blue Sky Adventures in Glenwood Springs. I had a great time rafting and am so glad that I decided to go. It was quite an adventure. Our guide was hilarious and in general, we just had a good time. There are way too many pictures from this excursion, so I’ll just share a few.

Our crew!

Looking like we know what we are doing!

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While we rafted, the rest of the group went hiking from the house. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t even a trail per say, but they just blazed their own. They had a blast as well.

Tuesday

Tuesday morning was a long day of travel. We left the ranch at 6 a.m., but our flights didn’t leave from Denver until around 12:30 p.m. We arrived in Pensacola around 9:00 p.m., after a short layover in Nashville. We found it very fitting that we had to make a short stop in Nashville, the site of our first Ragnar win, on the way home from Denver, the site of our second (and arguably most epic) Ragnar win!

We all got to sit together on our last flight (gotta love Southwest!) and of course, the laughs and stories just continued. I have a feeling that they will continue for quite some time!

Until you have experienced an overnight relay, I don’t know if you can truly understand how much fun and what an awesome experience it is. This was by far the best (and most challenging) relay that I have ever done. The camaraderie was incredible. Everyone on the team ran their heart out and we were truly a team. Friendships were formed, strengthened and tested. Everyone survived the test and if it is even possible, we are all closer than ever!