Week End Wrap-Up (#2)

Hello, hello!

Here we are at the beginning of a brand new week!

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I don’t always love Mondays, but I can definitely appreciate being given a fresh start each week!

As part of my continuing (and thus far, failed) efforts to bring some consistency to this little corner of the interwebs that is my blog, I have decided to do a “Week End Wrap” at the end of each week (or I guess technically the beginning of the week, depending on how you want to look at it). And in case you were wondering, yes I know weekend is one word, but the point of the post is that is going to be at the end of the week and will be a recap of running, life and random happenings, etc. that take place each week that I haven’t had a chance to fill y’all in on previously.

I am also thinking about starting to do more linkups and/or weekly themed posts. I feel like I have shared most of the “big stuff” that I set out to share when I started this blog. I know there will definitely be more, but right now I think it will be fun to link up with some other bloggers or just have a set topic one (or more) days where I don’t have to rack my brain for content. I think the point is that my brain just needs a ‘lil break, especially before tax season begins. I will need it to be functioning at maximum capacity by then!

Here are a few that I am considering … Let me know in the comments if there are any that you would like to see me write about!

Tuesday Tunes – A music related post.
Wordless Wednesday – A post of pictures and no not many words.
Thursday is for Thinking Out Loud – A weekly blogging linkup that is a “celebration of quirks and randomness! An opportunity to take the pressure and stress out of writing by sharing whatever it is that happens to pop into your mind when you begin to type — all worries about sense and structure pushed aside. A collection of random and disjointed thoughts, just because.”
The Friday Five – The topics are selected by the hosts each week and you come up with five things that go along with the weekly theme.
Friday Favorites – Share your favorite … anything, really from the week.

Now that we’ve thought about what I might be writing about in the future, let’s get on with things and catch up over an end of the week summary. The Thanksgiving holiday made the week fly by extra quickly and a few extra days off work made for lots of fun and relaxation!

I don’t have too much to report for the first few days of the week. Everything was pretty status quo around here with a little bit of running and a little bit of working. My parents got into town Tuesday evening, and an amazing sunset greeted them when they arrived!

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It’s even more beautiful in person!

Thursday morning, I ran in the local the turkey trot (you can read about that here) and then we headed to my grandmother’s for Thanksgiving lunch. My grandmother is quite amazing and is definitely one of a kind. She is ninety and she still works pretty much full-time, selling more real estate than most other realtors in the area (and she occasionally reads the blog, so hi Nana!).

Last weekend she took a pretty nasty tumble (she went out with a friend for dinner and dancing, no joke), but thankfully she is okay. No broken bones or anything! She is tough as nails. She is black and blue, but other than that, she is doing really well and she still insisted that everyone was coming over for Thanksgiving. My cousin Jessica did most of the cooking this year and she did a wonderful job! It was nice to spend some time with family and we were extra thankful this year that Nana was okay and is healing well.

Friday morning Daniel had a group run planned with some of his training buddies and I decided to tag along. In hindsight, I probably should’ve sat this one out, but I figured this was going to be the best chance for me to get my long run for the week done and have someone to run with (Daniel had to do rounds at the hospital Saturday and Sunday). The route that Daniel picked out was really tough, with over 1,200 feet of elevation gain. I was definitely struggling to keep up with the guys and ultimately, I didn’t keep up with them. Daniel was nice enough to hang back with me though. We ended up with 16 miles at about 7:55 pace.

I actually got a good yoga session in Friday evening. Totally random, but I felt like my body needed some good stretching and recovery, especially after a race and a long run on back to back days. That isn’t *technically* recommended, by the way. It is best to put at least one easy day in between a race or workout and your long run. I am really enjoying the Runner’s World DVD set that I got. It gives you the flexibility to work yoga into your schedule whenever you can. I also like that there are some shorter sessions on there. The yoga for recovery and yoga for core strength are just over 30 minutes, which is a good length, in my opinion.

Saturday morning I woke up and hung out with my mom and dad for a little bit while Daniel was at work. We had coffee by the fire. It was time to break out the Christmas coffee cups! If we’re being honest though, we pretty much use those year round. It was still fun to use them and know that it actually ’tis the season!

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Santa cup, coffee and fire, what more does a girl need …

Then we bundled up and headed out for a boat ride. The bay was beautiful all weekend. There was an east breeze, which means that the bay is nice and calm. It would’ve been perfect skiing water. If I had a wetsuit, I’d be up for it, but I don’t. Hmm … maybe I should add that to my Christmas list? Dad dropped mom and I off at the pier in Fairhope and we walked 6 miles back to the house.

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… a boat ride and a long walk!

By the time we got back, Daniel was just getting home from work and it was time to do a little pre-Iron Bowl preparation. We headed to the store for some game snacks and to get some meat to grill out after the game. I am not a huge football fan, but I don’t mind watching every now and then. It turned out to be a really good game! It was pretty suspenseful. We grilled out some chicken, hamburgers and Conecuh sausage after the game, so basically now we have enough food to last us for several days.

Sunday morning was pretty much an exact repeat of Saturday morning. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we figured, might as well duplicate it. The only difference was that mom and I walked 4 miles home via the road and the last 2 via the beach, which was so much fun! The bay was really shallow so we had plenty of beach to walk on. We had to hop a few bulkheads and creeks, duck under some piers and do a little bit of rock climbing, but that just kept things interesting. I really enjoyed the time I got to spend with my family this weekend. I am so thankful for them!

Sunday afternoon I headed back out on the courts for some more tennis. I am really liking this new Sunday afternoon routine. It’s been good for me to play on a somewhat consistent basis and I’m actually enjoying playing doubles. My partner and I are getting into a good rhythm and hopefully we will be able to play in a league together soon. She’s awesome at the net and I like to stay back on the baseline, so we play well together.

Sunday evening was super lazy. We sat on the couch and watched White Collar for several hours. That show has definitely gotten us hooked!

Alright, guys … that pretty much gets us caught up on last week. Hopefully I will be talking to you soon! Please let me know if there is something that you like reading about or would like to see a post on. Any and all suggestions are welcome!

 

Turkey Trot Race Recap

Hey guys! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, got to spend some time with loved ones and got to eat some yummy food!

I love the idea of doing a race on Thanksgiving morning. In fact, I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that Thanksgiving is the most popular running holiday of the year. I definitely wanted to take part in that … so yesterday I ran the Turkey Trot for Hope in Mobile. Here’s a quick recap!

Daniel told me that if I got ready early enough, we could stop at Dunkin Donuts on the way across the bay. My husband bribes me with coffee to promote punctuality, and I’m not sad about it. The Christmas joy cups are officially out and I was pretty excited! This is Daniel’s, “Seriously honey?” face.

But first, coffee!

Like I was saying, we got to the race early and had plenty of time to get my number, meet up with some friends and get a good warm up in. Daniel didn’t run the race, but he ran the warm up and cool down with us. We got a team picture before the race.

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Fairhope Running Wild Cheetahs!

It was a beautiful day! The weather was a tad bit on the warm side, which doesn’t make for perfect race conditions, but it wasn’t too bad. I think it was probably mid-sixties at the start. The race started right at eight o’clock (actually it was 7:59) and we were off.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect going into this race. I am a little less than one month out from the marathon, so I didn’t know how my legs were going to react to a race effort. Apparently my coach had a pretty good idea of what to expect though. He told me that he wanted my goal pace range to be between 6:00-6:05 per mile and was expecting me to run in the mid to upper 18s.

Spoiler alert: I averaged exactly 6:00 and ran a 18:43.

I ran the first mile in 5:53, which was a tad too aggressive. It is really difficult in a 5K not to get sucked into a quicker pace that you really want to at the start. This was a decent sized race for Mobile (just under 1,200 participants) and so the start was super crowded. I was by myself a good bit during the race and so I just kept trying to catch the pack in front of me.

I eventually settled into a good pace and came through the second mile at 6:00 flat. At this point I knew I was in first place for the girls and my main goal was to catch the turkey in front of me. Seriously. There was a man running in a full-blown turkey costume. This isn’t him, but this is the costume he was in (just so you can get a good mental image here).

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I can’t even imagine how he was doing it! It was really warm and I am fairly certain the costume was fleece-lined. I was super impressed with his effort, but definitely didn’t want him to beat me. I passed Mr. Turkey somewhere in the last mile.

I fell off the pace a little bit after that and finished with a 6:07 third mile and 0:43 seconds for the last 0.1. I knew I had first placed locked in and I caught the turkey, so I felt like my work here was done.

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Daniel snapped a shot of me during the final mile.

The race benefits Camp Rap-A-Hope, which is a local organization that provides year-long programs and a week-long summer camp to children between the ages of 7 and 17 who have, or have ever had, cancer. This is such a wonderful organization and I am so glad that they had such a good turnout to support their cause! The kids make the medals, which is really special. I love unique awards like that. I also got an apple pie the size of a small child.

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I ended up first place female and seventh overall. I was pretty pleased with my time! I ran a 5K a little less than a month after New Orleans last year and ran a 19:45, which was over a minute slower than this race, so I feel like my overall fitness level has improved. I really like to be able to see tangible improvements from one training cycle to the next.

I haven’t really done any speed work post-NYC marathon, so this was a good time to get some in and it will give us a good starting point to gauge my paces for upcoming workouts.

After the race we got cleaned up and headed to my grandmother’s (apple pie in tow) for a wonderful Thanksgiving afternoon with the family.

Love my sweet Mom!

After we ate, it was (obviously) time for a little post-turkey nap.

Shh!

I feel like I have so much to be thankful for, not only on Thanksgiving Day, but also on every other day of the year. Thanksgiving can be somewhat of a bittersweet holiday for me, as that is when the attack happened (10 years ago today, actually), but it also a wonderful reminder to just be thankful.

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Every day is a blessing. There will be days that might not feel like blessings (and that is okay), but those days make you stronger and more appreciative of the other days. Happy (late) Thanksgiving y’all! Talk to you soon!

Week End Wrap-Up (#1)

Hello friends!

I can’t believe another week (and weekend) has flown by. Let’s catch up over an end of the week summary.

First things first … I know I kind of left y’all hanging the last two posts about “what’s next,” so I am gonna go ahead and put it out there. I have decided to train for the Rock ‘N’ Roll New Orleans marathon on February 28th, 2016.

I have talked with my coach about it and he feels like it is plenty of time to recover and get another training cycle in and after all, I do have a title to defend. No pressure, right? I’m also really excited about this training cycle because Daniel and two of his buddies are planning to run it as well, so we should all be able to train together. Plus it seems like just about everyone that I know from our area that runs is going to NOLA for either the half or the full. It should be lots of fun!

Now that I’ve put that out there, hopefully I will hold myself accountable to stick with my training. My motivation has been slightly lacking the past few weeks, which is fine. I needed some down time. Now I think it is time to set new goals and get back to work. Last week was officially the 1st week of my NOLA training cycle. It didn’t go exactly as planned (i.e., I completely skipped a race that I was supposed to do), but that’s okay.

Monday and Tuesday were easy runs with Daniel before work. We’ve gotten into a pretty good routine with our early morning runs. It is so nice now that we are actually working somewhat similar schedules. He used to work 12 hour shifts that weren’t always set days of the week, so it was harder for us to run together in the mornings. Now we both pretty much work 8 to 5, which makes it so much easier to coordinate our training.

Workout Wednesday found its way back into my life this week. I had a progressive tempo run (where you gradually increase the intensity and pace of the run) on the schedule. I was supposed to start the tempo portion of the run at a comfortably quick rhythm (think marathon pace) and gradually increase the intensity as I went, finishing at strong quick rhythm (think 10k pace). Coach told me it would start off feeling good but get fairly intense in last third of the run and boy was he right!

I did a 2 mile warm up, a 4 mile progressive tempo (6:58, 6:44, 6:31, 6:15), and a 2 mile cool down. The last mile of the workout was super tough! That was the first real workout I had done since the marathon though, so I guess that makes sense. I felt awesome (once the workout was done)!

Thursday was another easy run with Daniel before work. After work we headed down to the “Tree Lighting Celebration” in downtown Fairhope. I love this little tradition. They close the streets off and everyone gathers to watch the Christmas lights come on for the first time of the holiday season. It is absolutely beautiful! The lights stay on the trees from mid-November through the “Arts & Crafts Festival” in mid-March. I love that they are on for about half of the year! The picture doesn’t exactly do it justice, but you get the idea.

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Apparently some of the “locals” (or at least this lady) were upset that the crowds were large at this event this year. I must say, I am completely baffled by this. The city promotes the event and they have Santa and all the frozen characters (well … at least Elsa, Anna & Olaf) there. There is fake snow and everything. I guess I really just don’t understand why this lady would be upset that people came to support the city?!

We stayed around for a while after the lighting and ate at one of the restaurants downtown. I’m pretty sure most of the people that came did the same, so I feel like this was a good thing for the city and local businesses, but perhaps I am missing something. Sorry to get off on a tangent, but for some reason I felt like I needed to get that out there.

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Friday morning Daniel and I did yet another easy run before work. Are you noticing the pattern here? I love it.

Saturday morning I was supposed to race the Turkey 10 miler in Creola, AL. I usually love this race! It’s flat as a pancake. For whatever reason, I was just not feeling it this year. It’s a little bit of a haul to get to and I didn’t want to spend the entire day Saturday at a race. Plus, 10 miles just seemed like so far to race (says the marathoner, I know). What can I say, sometimes you just aren’t feeling it and I most definitely wasn’t, so we slept in a little and ran 10 miles at home (at about an 8:30 pace, as opposed to the 6:30 pace that I would’ve been *trying* to run at the race). Much more pleasant.

Saturday evening we had the graduation party for the Running Wild half and full marathon training groups. Missy and Mike were so gracious to open their home to everyone. It was fun to see everyone after the race and hear “what’s next” for all of them as well!

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Sunday morning we planned to do our usual group run and we woke up to a major cold front. I know the wind shows that it was 12 mph, but I am fairly certain that it was at least 20 mph (if not more). The breeze blowing right off the bay made for an exceptionally chilly run. We had a fun group and got in 15 miles at a 7:37 average, which I was very pleased with!

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I played tennis again this Sunday afternoon and the wind definitely kept things interesting for us on the courts. My partner and I won, but it was a really close, fun match. We split sets and the third set went all the way to a tiebreaker, which we managed to win. Our match last week was the exact same. I guess our teams are really evenly matched, which makes for some good tennis!

Sunday evening we had “Friendsgiving” with our small group. We had so much food (and so much fun)! Everyone contributed to the meal. I was asked to bring a salad and a veggie tray. My friends know me well (i.e., they know that I don’t cook).

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This was a very “social” weekend for us. I am so thankful for the friendships that we have made through running and through our small group.

 

Worth It!

Hello and happy weekend!

I have heard of the “post-marathon blues” before, but I don’t think that I had ever actually experienced it until after this last race. Training takes a lot of mental, physical and emotional energy and after all of the dust settles you are left with an overwhelming feeling of, “Well … now what?” Like any major life event that includes lots of brain (and body) power leading up to it, the result, no matter where it falls on the spectrum, can leave you feeling funky once it’s over and done.

I think the funkiness was especially magnified after NYC because the timing of this past training cycle also coincided with the Runner’s World cover search, the training cycle for the marathon training group that I was coaching and a busy season at work. I also think that the time change also has me feeling off. The sun sets before I get home from work most days and I definitely don’t like it. It is difficult to find any sort of motivation to do, well anything, when it is so dark out.

I had several months with a lot going on and it was wonderful, but exhausting. I was so ready for a break … or so I thought. If you know me or have been reading along for a little bit now, you probably know that “breaks” aren’t really my forte. Several months ago we took the Gallup strength finder test at work. Note: this is different from the “kingdomality” quiz that I wrote about here. The Gallup thing was an actual, legit test. It is several hundred questions and the results give your top five strengths. I really love this test because it shows you positive results (i.e., it is a strength finder, not a weakness finder) and also gives you suggestions of how to best apply your strengths in your life and work. Anyway, my number one strength is called “achiever.” The results read: “People who are especially talented in the achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.” Basically not being busy was leaving me feeling very unsatisfied.

I also realized that I was falling into the trap of basing my self-worth on my performance. I am overly self-critical, like way harder on myself than anyone else ever would think about being. It goes hand in hand with the whole people pleasing, perfectionistic tendencies. I figured some of you might could identify with this as well. It is easy to feel good about yourself when things are going well. It is also easy to get achievement confused with worth. This confusion leaves you with an unstable sense of worth that fluctuates with each “performance” that you give. Now that my “performances” were done (the race, the cover search, coaching, etc.), I was left feeling like I didn’t have a direction or purpose.

Now I know that this isn’t true, but it is definitely how I was feeling. Sometimes our feelings don’t make sense, but they are what they are, so it is best to address them and figure out where they are coming from. I think the Lord was using this time to remind me that my feeling of self-worth should come from the fact that I am His child, created in His image.

I was instantly reminded of the Casting Crowns song “Who Am I.”

Not because of who I am

But because of what You’ve done.

Not because of what I’ve done

But because of who You are.

I am a flower quickly fading,

Here today and gone tomorrow.

A wave tossed in the ocean.

A vapor in the wind.

Still You hear me when I’m calling.

Lord, You catch me when I’m falling.

And You’ve told me who I am.

I am Yours, I am Yours.

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I was also reminded of this passage from Isaiah .. Isaiah 43:1-3: “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be there with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord you God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

I guess all that was really just a reminder that you don’t have to “earn” your self-worth and our worth is not really of the “self” at all; rather, it is worth given to us by God. We are of inestimable value to Him because of the price He paid to make us worthy—the death of His Son on the cross. Our self-worth is too often based on what other people tell us about ourselves or if you are like me, what your own silly brain conjures up. The one, true authority on our self-worth is Jesus, and since He gave His own life up for us by dying on a cross, that should tell us just how valuable we really are.

So, that was the main thing that I wanted to share today, but I also want to catch up on a few fun things that have been going on, amidst the aforementioned “funkiness.” In the spirit of November and with Thanksgiving quickly approaching (how did that happen so fast, by the way), I want to share with you a few things that happened this week that I am thankful for. Take this list with a grain of salt … it’s just a silly list for fun, but it’ll be a good way to get you caught up on some things that have been going on.

Yoga. Daniel and I got to do a yoga session Monday evening. We tried another disc of our Runner’s World yoga DVD and it was really good! Basically, I was really thankful to spend some time with quality time with him and yoga has a special way of putting you into the right frame of mind to be present and grateful for what you have.

Friends. I able to get in three quality runs with Rebecca this week and one with Lizzie. We have all been busy with work and our own training, so it was great to be able to catch up over some easy miles this week.

Mail. We don’t typically get a ton of mail (and usually when we do, it is just bills, etc.), but this week I got two fun packages!

First up was a big box from Runner’s World with several copies of the December issue. It was so much fun to actually get my hands on the magazine!

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The second delivery was my Stitch Fix box, which was awesome this month! I haven’t posted a review in a few months. My September and October boxes both had more fall/winter pieces than I was ready for, so I didn’t end up keeping much of anything from those. The temperatures have finally dropped a good bit (i.e., high 40s) and this month I was happy to see jeans and a big sweater!

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Cooking. Y’all. Something is probably wrong with me, but I had a major desire to cook something this weekend. I found a couple of recipes that I wanted to try. I made turkey, quinoa and apple pilaf Friday evening. It had red and green bell peppers, onion, celery and apricots (along with the ingredients in the title). Daniel even liked it. He ranked it an 8 out of 10 (in case you haven’t been following along, a rating of 1 is the equivalent of olives and 10 is the equivalent of pizza). It looks like a big mess, but it was really good … kind of tasted like a good Thanksgiving turkey and dressing.

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Fire. Since it is finally cold out, Daniel and I decided to put the fire pit to use. He made a little fire and we sat outside for a while yesterday evening after the game. Something about a fire is quite mesmerizing and we really enjoyed getting some fresh air after an afternoon indoors watching football (I watched the entire AL game yesterday, by the way … I’m pretty sure I get special points for that). Anyway, the fire was nice and the weather was perfect! I forgot to get marshmallows this week at the grocery store, but I think I see some s’more action in our future.

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Coffee. I mean, really, who isn’t thankful for coffee? Daniel and I have an ongoing “discussion” of what qualifies as real coffee. He tends to go for the sweeter drinks and I prefer the regular stuff. He texted me a picture of his “coffee” that a pharmaceutical rep brought by their office this week. I told him that they must have gotten confused and brought him ice cream instead.

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If you like iced coffee (which I definitely do), you absolutely must go check out this recipe. It is a really funny read (yes, it’s about coffee, but this lady knows how to keep it interesting) and the iced coffee that it makes it incredible. We have a steady supply of this on hand at work and everyone in the office is obsessed. It keeps us productive.

Tennis. I got a text last night from a lady who I have played tennis with a few times asking if I wanted to play tennis this afternoon. What a perfect way to get out and enjoy the day?! It’s been way too long since I have played. I just hope I don’t embarrass myself! It’s actually probably very good timing, seeing as how now I have a good reminder that my “worth” is not based on my “performance” on the courts today!

I hope everyone has a blessed Sunday and a wonderful week ahead. Thanks for reading!

Recovering & Spectating

Hey guys!

It’s been a little while since we’ve last talked. I have been busy recovering from my marathon and watching my training group dominate their race!

We got home from New York late Monday evening and thankfully, I was able to take the day off from work on Tuesday. Tuesday evening I was worn out, but Daniel convinced me that we should go to the group run at Running Wild that evening. I should’ve known something was up at this point, because usually I am the one trying to convince him that we need to go to the group run and not the other way around. I reluctantly got out of bed (it was 5:30 p.m. #noshame) and we headed to the store.

My legs felt surprisingly good and we were able to get in 6 miles with the group. Daniel and I were planning to go grocery shopping after the run, but that didn’t happen. We got in the car and he started driving, but he passed the turn for the store. I was really confused at this point, but as it turns out, a few of my friends had planned a little “surprise party” for me after the run that evening and Daniel was in on it. I was so surprised and very appreciative of such a kind gesture! We stayed around for a while talking and hanging out with everyone. I hate that I didn’t get any pictures that evening, but I do have a picture of the banner that they made for me. Isn’t it awesome?!

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The rest of the week was pretty standard stuff, which was actually pretty nice after a couple of weeks that felt like a whirlwind. I was ready to get back into somewhat of a routine. Work, a few short, easy runs and a few rest days happened. We did finally make it to the store at some point, as well. Oh, and Brookser got a bath. He loves his baths! It is so funny to see him prance all around in his scarf after he is cleaned up. It’s like he just knows he is a big ‘ole heart throb. He was actually the only thing that got documented on my camera the rest of the week, so here ‘ya go.

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Saturday morning, Daniel and I headed back to Running Wild for my training group’s last run of the training cycle. They only had three miles on the schedule (their race was the next day), so we decided to meet a little bit later and we all went to breakfast afterwards to talk about the game plan for the race. We went to Sweet Olive at the Windmill Market in Fairhope. I have been hearing a lot of really good things about this place, so I was really excited to try it out. It definitely didn’t disappoint. They had lots of healthy “carb” options, which is exactly what marathoners need the day before a race. I think everyone either got the homemade fruit and nut granola, the organic rolled oatmeal or the breakfast quiche and everyone was happy!

Sunday morning was a very early wake up call (i.e., 3:15 a.m.). A few of us met to carpool over to the race, which started at 6:30 that morning in Pensacola. When I woke up and looked at the weather forecast, the radar was a solid green blob. 100% chance of rain all the way through the morning. I really hated that for my girls. They have trained so hard and race-day weather plays a huge part in your marathon success and/or failure. The only silver lining was that the temperatures had cooled off a little bit from the previous two days.

I was absolutely amazed and how well the group handled the weather. They stayed positive and went out there and ran their hearts out. I absolutely loved being there to watch each one of them cross the finish line. It was so exciting to catch a glimpse of them in the distance. Every time, I would exclaim, “Oh my gosh, here comes (insert runner name here)! Ahh! Yay!” I am having a hard time putting my feelings into words here, but you get the idea … I was just so darn proud of and happy for them.

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It would have been really easy for them to get discouraged or give up on the race because the conditions were bad, but for the most part they stayed relentlessly positive. They really inspired me! Not everyone got the goal that they wanted (for the most part, they actually did though), but they all showed up and gave it their all. As a coach, you can’t ask for more than that.

Watching them run was so much fun and of course, made me want to run! I had already decided that Sunday was going to be a rest day for me, so I didn’t do any actual running. BUT, I did do some actual thinking about running. I’ve officially (well, as official as you can be without actually registering for the race yet) made up my mind about the next marathon I am going to run …

More to come on that on the next installment. Stay tuned!

Anyone have any guesses?

A New York State of Mind

Hey guys! I can’t wait to tell you all about our wonderful trip to NYC! Just a fair warning, this post is going to be lengthy and include lots of pictures. I hope that’s okay …

Before we get to that though, I want to just say thank you so much to everyone who voted, shared my posts and encouraged me over the course of the Runner’s World cover search process. Your kindness, love and support has meant so much to me! In case you missed it, I didn’t win. The whole process was so long and there was so much hype about it, that by the end of the contest I had really become a lot more emotionally invested than I even realized.

I didn’t find out until the afternoon before the announcement was made live that I hadn’t won. At first I was pretty disappointed. The more I thought about it, the more that I realized that the whole point was for me to share my story (i.e., the Lord’s story). I did not need to be on the cover of the magazine to accomplish that. All of the finalists stories are going to be in the December issue of the Runner’s World (which comes out November 10th) and all of our interviews are floating out there on the interwebs for the whole world to see, so I feel like I did what I was called to do and I am happy about that!

On to the fun part! I am going to tell you about our pre-race activities, recap the actual race itself and tell you about our post-race festivities.

Pre-Race

We headed over to New Orleans Thursday evening. We stayed in an airport motel that night because our flight left for Newark at 6 a.m. and we didn’t want to wake up before 2 a.m. to travel to New Orleans the morning of the flight. We scored an awesome, direct flight from New Orleans to Newark for less than $200! It was definitely worth the extra drive for a cheap, direct flight. We met our friend Shaw-fin at the airport.

We landed in Newark and took an uber into the city and were checked into our hotel before noon, which was really nice. We stayed at the Chambers Hotel on 56th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue. The hotel was really nice and the location was absolutely perfect! I would definitely recommend it. After we got checked in, Daniel, Shaw-fin and I headed over to the race expo to pick up our bibs. That’s where the fun began!

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We stayed at the expo for a while. It was really crowded and there was so much to see and take in. I love race expos and this one was incredible! I found the Runner’s World booth and got a picture of the TAG Heuer advertisment that featured all of the cover search finalists (bottom right picture). We were also able to get a sneak peak of the December issue and get a picture with Bart Yasso holding up my page (top left picture). That was so cool!

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Another highlight from Friday was that I got to meet my coach. He is based out of Charlotte, NC so I wasn’t sure if we would ever get to meet in person. I was so excited to learn that his daughter was running NYC and that we might be able to meet in person. She is a phenomenal runner and they were really busy all weekend, so I was really appreciative that he took time to meet with me before the race. We talked some about the race day plan and talked about what I wanted to do next. That is still currently the million dollar question, by the way.

We were worn out after a long day of traveling and so we didn’t do too much else Friday evening. We made a quick stop at a little deli to get dinner and some groceries to have in the room for the rest of the weekend and called it an early night.

We headed out early Saturday morning to go over to Central Park to run a few miles. We met up with our friends from home, Ali and Melanie and watched Melanie run the Dash to the Finish Line 5K. She ran great (got a new PR!) and we enjoyed seeing her and spending the morning in the park. The weather was perfect!

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After her race we all met up with our other friends from home, Jim and Kari Ann, for breakfast at Astro Restaurant. It was a pretty small restaurant with a local, diner vibe and we loved it (you will also see this appear in the post-race section of this post). The coffee was good and there was something for everyone. I was a big fan of their Greek yogurt bar. Saturday morning I got the “Very Berry” and it was ah-mazing.

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Saturday afternoon several of us had tickets to see the Lion King on Broadway. Daniel was adamant that we were going to see a show while we were in town and I’m so glad that he had this idea. The costumes, the music, everything was simply breathtaking and refreshingly innocent. We all loved it!

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Watching a musical also made for a great pre-race day activity (as opposed to something more active). I wanted to make sure to get to bed early Saturday night, so after the play I went back to the room to get my stuff laid out and get some good rest. Daniel and the rest of the group went over to the Rockefeller Center and up to the “Top of the Rock” observation deck. They said the views were amazing. I hated to miss out on that, but after all of this training, I was determined to get plenty of rest the day before the race.

Race Recap

Sunday morning, I was up around 4:45 to get ready. I was nervous, but really excited. I was accepted into the sub-elite program, which was very intimidating but made for an absolutely incredible race day experience (to get into this program you need a 2:35 marathon or 1:12 half-marathon for men and 3:05 marathon or 1:27 half-marathon for women). We had special transportation to the start, a special staging area before the race, a clear starting position at the front of the race, and a dedicated recovery area at the finish.

We took the Midtown bus at 6 a.m. to the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex on Staten Island. The athletic complex is a brand new, huge indoor track and field facility. All of the elite and sub-elite athletes were here before the race. They had breakfast there for us (coffee, water, fruit, bagels, etc.) and we were able to stretch, warm up and stay indoors until about 30 minutes before the race start. The elite athletes were doing all kinds of warm up drills and running, but I don’t typically do any sort of warm up before a marathon (maybe I am supposed to), so I basically just sat there, taking it all in. Here is Meb!

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We lined up on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge around 9:40 and the cannon fired at 9:50 for the start of the race. The first mile of the race was straight up the bridge. The view from the top of the bridge was incredible because we could see the entire NYC skyline. The second mile was straight down the other side of the bridge. I tried to not go out too fast, but it was really difficult to reign the pace in running downhill. Mile one was 7:01 pace (pretty much exactly what I was shooting for) and mile two was 6:28 (oops). I didn’t feel like I was really running at a hard effort the second mile, it was more of just a naturally faster pace as gravity pulled you down the bridge and you tried not to get trampled by the thousands of runners behind you.

The course takes you through five boroughs of New York. You start on Staten Island and then run through Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and finish in Manhattan. I tried to settle into a groove after we got off of the (first) bridge. I was feeling pretty good and I settled into a fairly consistent pace. Miles three through fourteen were 6:43, 6:37, 6:30, 6:38, 6:41, 6:42, 6:44, 6:44, 6:42, 6:37, 6:48, 6:48.

Going into the race, I knew that the course was going to be challenging because of the hills. I did some hill work this training cycle, but I don’t think any of the hills in lower AL could have fully prepared me for the hills and bridges in NYC. I don’t know if this elevation chart really does it justice, but those darn things were rough.

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I slowed down a little bit during miles fifteen and sixteen (7:05, 7:08), as we crossed over the Queensboro Bridge. At this point I was still feeling decent and I knew that I was going to slow down some over the bridges anyway. That was part of the “plan.” I was able to pick the pace back up a little bit after we came out onto 1st Avenue and I continued to cruise along through mile twenty three. Miles seventeen through twenty three were 6:56, 6:39, 6:47, 7:02, 6:48, 7:09, 7:14.

During mile twenty four, I hit the wall (hard). I ran 8:09 for that mile. Ouch. I honestly think that my fueling was adequate and I think on a flat course I may have been able to hold my pace at least another mile or two, which would have pretty much gotten me through the finish. Perhaps that is just wishful thinking, but I’m gonna just go with it for now.

Speaking of fueling … for any of you that may be interested, I’ll share my race day fueling with you. If not, feel free to skip the next three paragraphs and continue on after that.

Pre-race I took in between 300 and 400 calories, which is what my coach recommended. I had 4 oz. of Noosa (Australian yogurt), half a banana, one packet of UCAN (vanilla protein) with 20 oz. of water, a small (probably 4 oz.) cup of coffee and a small cup of water (probably 4 oz.) with an electrolyte tablet. By my calculations, this was about 375 calories, 7g of fat, 53g of carbs and 19g of protein. This was more than I typically take in before my long runs, but we also didn’t start running until close to 10 a.m. and I usually run at 6 a.m., so I knew that I needed to eat more beforehand than I do on a typical long run day.

During the race I alternated with water and Gatorade Endurance Formula at the aid stations. Basically I tried to take a few sips of something every 20 to 30 minutes. I took water at mile three, Gatorade at mile seven, water at mile 11 and Gatorade at mile 15. Thankfully I was able to see Daniel out on the course (at mile 18) and he was able to hand me a bottle of UCAN (cranberry raspberry) that I mixed with 12 oz. of water that morning. We weren’t really sure how big the crowds were going to be and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get a bottle from him out there or not, but I’m glad it worked out. The handoff was executed seamlessly and I was off!

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I drank half of the UCAN at mile 18 and the other half at mile 20. I took a few more sips of water around mile 24.  By my calculations, this was about 200 calories and all carbs (approximlatey 50g) during the race itself.

So here we are back to the lovely mile 24 (my slowest of the day) … I didn’t really talk a lot about my goals for the race here beforehand, but basically my A goal was 2:55, B goal was to go under 3:00 and C goal was to PR (under 3:03). Somewhere in the beginning of mile 24 the 3:00 pacer passed me and that was really tough mentally. It was like I could see my goals slipping away and I wanted to catch them so badly, but my legs were just not cooperating.

The last two miles of the race are in Central Park and making the turn into the park definitely gave me a bit of a boost. I knew I was almost there! The crowds were awesome and I was able to pick the pace back up enough to manage to squeak out a little bitty PR (fifty-six seconds). The last two miles were 7:38, 7:19. Given the difficulty of the course, I am still really happy with the end result.

After the race I was spent. I got my picture made with my medal and stumbled my way over to the tent to get my gear check bag. Once I got to my phone, I was able to text Daniel and we were able to meet just about two blocks from the finishers tent. I thought I was doing okay, but quickly realized that I was not going to be able to walk back to the hotel. I asked Daniel how far it was and he said, “I’m not sure; maybe a mile or two.” I am pretty sure at the rate I was going, it might have taken us two or three hours to walk that. I sat down on the curb to rest for a second and asked Daniel if we could just get a cab. After a few unsuccessful attempts to hail a taxi, I looked over and noticed a man with a pedicab (basically a bike that pulls a cart behind it for you to ride in) just hanging out on the corner and I (strongly) suggested that we should take that. Daniel let me have my way (he is a smart man) and we took a very expensive ride back to our hotel. That in itself was quite an adventure, but worth every penny.

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We got back to the hotel and at this point I was freezing! The temperatures were in the sixties, so it wasn’t super cold out, but once I stopped running I was so cold. I took possibly the longest, hottest shower in the history of showers. After a couple of hours of rest and rehydration, I felt much better.

Post-Race

The one thing that I really wanted to do while we were up there was go ice-skating. I didn’t want to go before the race, because that seemed too risky, so we had decided earlier in the trip that we would go after the race. I don’t know how much I actually thought that through, but alas I am stubborn and had made up my mind that we were going to go ice-skating and so ice-skating we went.

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We had a great time and miraculously, neither one of us fell!

We met back up with our group after skating and we went to a post-race, celebratory dinner at Bill’s Bar & Burger. We ordered three appetizers for the table to share (fried pickles, sweet potato fries and hot wings) and all got burgers. The spectating spouses ended up with over 10 miles of walking for the day! We all earned our dinner that night for sure. After that we hobbled around Times Square for a little bit and stopped for coffee and dessert at CaffeBene.

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Monday morning we all got up early to go for one last run in Central Park. This was more of a take in the scenery kind of run and we stopped for lots of pictures and enjoyed the beautiful fall weather and gorgeous views. It felt good to move around some and my legs felt much better than I was expecting, which was a pleasant surprise.

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After that we all headed back to Astro’s for breakfast. We all enjoyed it so much Saturday morning that it just seemed like the right thing to do. We even got our same booth and everything. We pretty much felt like regulars at this point. Someone even stopped us on the street to ask for directions (Daniel told them the wrong way, but that is not the point). Monday morning I got the “Yogurtccino,” which was equally as ah-mazing as the previous order.

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While we were sitting at breakfast, we got an email from the airline letting us know to expect travel delays and increased security at the airport. President Obama flew into Newark Monday and they basically shut down the entire airport while Air Force One was landing and taking off. Everything got really backed up. We left extra early, just to be safe, but we made it to the airport and through security really quickly. Then we waited. And waited. And waited some more.

Our flight was delayed for over four hours, which wasn’t a lot of fun, but I was able to work on this post some so that ended up working out I guess. We got home really late Monday evening and thankfully, I was able to take today off work to regroup, unpack, do laundry, pick up Brooks, grocery shop, etc. We had an amazing trip with some amazing friends, but it is always nice to be back in Sweet Home Alabama. That reminds me, one of the bands in Brooklyn was playing Sweet Home Alabama as I ran by! I loved that.

Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful week!