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!

FLM, Race Recap, Relay

Race Recap: First Light Marathon

I’d like to call this race the ultimate dichotomy. It was not my day and it was my day. Confused? Read on …

I should probably start this recap at the start line of the race, but of course, I’d rather back up and start … somewhere else … perhaps at the beginning of the training cycle. If you’ve run a marathon, you know that there is so much more to a marathon than the race itself. This training cycle involved 5 friends (all training for the same race), 9 races, 35 workouts and 1,300 miles. Sharing the journey with friends made this one really special and I honestly think the camaraderie carried us to the finish line.

I started training for this race the first week in September. On paper, the training was a 9 week fundamental phase, a 9 week specific phase and a 1 week taper. In actuality, it probably looked more like a 9 week fundamental phase, a 5 week specific phase (culminating with pacing the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon) and then 5 weeks of chaos. I won’t rehash all of it, but basically I didn’t recover as quickly as I expected to from pacing the marathon, which caused me to miss a couple of key workouts and then I came down with a sickness that caused me to miss a couple of key weeks of training. No bueno.

I debated whether or not to even run the race and was |thisclose| to running the half instead of the full. In fact, I didn’t actually register until the week of the race (one of the many benefits of running a small, local race). Even when I did register, I knew that the chances of me running my “A” goal (< 3:00) were slim. I was oddly at peace with this. Somewhere along the way I realized that my time truly didn’t matter. Of course it feels great to set a goal and crush it, but it also feels great to run happy and without pressure. I went into the race with expectations of having a great day and enjoying myself. That is not to say I wasn’t prepared to work. I was prepared to fight. I knew the marathon would be tough regardless, but it was a challenge that I was ready to tackle.

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The temperature was a little under 30* at the start. I wore two pairs of socks, shorts, a long-sleeve shirt, a singlet, gloves and a toboggan (not a sled :)), oh and my Goodr sunglasses (I love those things!). I feel like I was dressed very appropriately. Part of me really wanted to run in tights, but I’m glad that I didn’t. My legs were definitely numb for the majority of the race, but I’m fairly certain that this was, in fact, a good thing.

My plan was to ease into the pace over the first couple of miles, maintain a smooth, steady pace through mile 11, run based on effort from miles 11 to 20 (the hilly section of the race … theoretically, the effort level should’ve stayed the same during this time, but the pace would naturally slow up the hills and speed up slightly down the hills) and run it home one mile at a time.

Here is what that looked like based on my mile splits:
Easing into it: 7:24, 7:05
Smooth and steady: 6:56, 6:58, 6:58, 6:54, 6:52, 7:07, 7:08, 6:50, 6:59
Effort based: 7:28, 7:24, 7:12, 7:21, 6:56, 7:28, 7:28, 7:57, 7:33
One mile at a time: 7:32, 7:40, 7:46, 8:04, 8:14, 8:21

I started the race with Alex and Young Daniel. We all trained for the < 3:00 goal and we planned to start out together and see where the day took us. We ran the first 3 or 4 miles together, which was great! For < 3:00, you need to maintain 6:50 pace for the entire race. I knew fairly early on that 6:50 wasn’t going to happen. I just couldn’t settle into a smooth rhythm where 6:50 felt comfortable. The way I see it, if your goal pace doesn’t feel comfortable for the first 10 miles of a 26.2 mile race, it’s either going to be a really long day if you try to force it or you can reassess and settle on a more manageable goal.

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I ran the first five miles of the race as part of the Grinder Gals relay team. This was my fifth year running as part of a relay team and so far we are five for five on winning our division. YAS! Having my team out there along the way was so nice! I got to see them every five miles (at 5, 10, 15 and 20) and they cheered for me and encouraged me every time. I handed the relay bracelet off to Lizzie at mile 5 and continued on my merry little way.

At this point, Alex and Young Daniel had pulled away, which was great. I knew that meant that they felt good. I saw Daniel briefly around mile 7 and I told him that I was going to reassess my goal. I didn’t really know what the reassessment was exactly, but I knew that < 3:00 wasn’t going to happen. I took a gel around mile 8. I grabbed a cup of water at the aid station and the water cup was probably 50% liquid and 50% ice. Brr!

Mile 9 was my best mile of the day. All of a sudden, I felt good! I really think it took me 9 miles to warm up. The funny thing is that the hills on the course start at mile 10 and so even though I felt good momentarily, I knew it was going to be brief. I started running based on effort (as planned) and I actually didn’t look at my watch for the remainder of the race. I knew I was doing what I could and the pace didn’t matter.

I saw Daniel again around the half way point of the race. I told him that I was good and that he should go on up and check on the other guys. He could ride up and check on Kenny and Cody, then make his way back to Alex, Young Daniel, me and Sasser. He was all over the place and took some great pictures in the process. He also deserves a special award because if we thought it was cold running, it was twice as cold on the bike. I’m pretty sure his hands were solid blocks of ice at the end of the race.

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Daniel with Young Daniel & Young Daniel’s dad, who jumped in and ran a couple of miles!

As I came through the relay exchange at mile 15, I gained an unexpected running buddy. Bowie paced Kenny for a few miles, but Kenny was crushing it and Bowie decided to drop back and run a few miles with me. I’m pretty sure my 7:20 (ish) miles felt much nicer than Kenny’s 6:20 (ish) miles at that point. Also at mile 15, my relay team caught up to me and Rebecca ran with us for a mile or so as well. You know how sometimes you are running a marathon and you are counting down every. single. mile. the entire way? I’ve been there many times, but yesterday … the miles just flew by (and it wasn’t because I was running fast by any means). I was just happy to be out there and to have friends supporting (and distracting) me.

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Since Rebecca was running her leg of the relay, she went on ahead to make the handoff to Jessica. I took another gel around mile 17. At mile 18, things got real. We came to the toughest hill of the course (half a mile at 7.5% incline). If Bowie hadn’t been there, I’m fairly certain that I would’ve been walking. Somehow I made it up that dang thing and kept on trucking.

Before I knew it, we were already at the next relay exchange at mile 20. Rebecca had just run 5 hard miles and when we came through the exchange, Bowie peeled off and she jumped in to run with me. She yelled back to our team, “Come pick me up in a few miles!” and I jokingly chimed in with, “ME TOO!” I was so ready to be done with the race. If someone had offered me a ride to the finish, I would’ve gladly accepted. The only thing motivating me at this point was that I thought I was winning the race for the females. It gets kind of confusing out there with all of the relay teams, etc. and I never had a bike escort or anyone really confirming for sure that I was in first place, but I thought I was.

Rebecca ended up staying with me for five miles. I can’t thank her enough for that. I can’t say that I was great company at that point, but we’ve run together enough that words aren’t really necessary. Just having her there meant so much. At that point in the race, my focus really was to get through one mile at a time. Every mile got me closer to the finish line and that’s all I cared about. Time meant nothing. Finishing meant everything.

Around mile 24, a girl zoomed by me. She didn’t have a bib on her back (all relay runners are supposed to wear two bibs … one on the front and one on the back so that delirious marathoners can distinguish who is who in the final miles of the race). I looked over at Rebecca and was like, “Is she relay?” We thought she was, but we weren’t sure. There was a brief pause and then Rebecca just went ahead and shouted out to the girl, “Are you relay?!” She hollered back, “Yes!” Whew. Not that I could’ve done anything about it at that point, but it was really nice to know that I didn’t need to do anything about it. Ha.

At mile 25, Rebecca peeled off and I was left with just ONE MILE. Hallelujah! One mile seemed doable. As I came down the finishing stretch, I had to do a double take because there was someone who looked a whole lot like my mom standing on the side of the road. Of course with my delirium, it could’ve really been anyone, but no … it wasn’t just anyone … it was my mom! She drove 3 hours that morning (a marathon of her own) just to see me finish the race. Apparently, she had a “feeling” that I was going to win and a mother’s intuition is ALWAYS right.

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Coming in for a hug ❤

After a brief hug, I crossed the finish line in 3:14:XX (official results aren’t posted yet) as first female! I was so happy! While this isn’t a marathon PR, it is a course PR by 9 minutes and it is the first time I have won the full marathon here. I made my way through the finishing chute and got my medal, a mylar blanket and lots of hugs from friends and family.

Shortly thereafter, I did a brief interview and I’m fairly certain this is the face I made when he asked me, “So, what’s next?” I’m pretty sure I answered with something very eloquent, along the lines of, “Oh geez. I have absolutely no idea.” Too soon man, too soon.

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I stumbled over to the car to put on all. the. clothes. and then we made our way back over to catch the awards.

I have to brag on my training buddies for a minute … Kenny finished second overall with a 2:48, Cody finished third overall with a 2:49 (a PR!), Alex finished under 3:00 (a PR!), Young Daniel finished in 3:03 (a PR!) and Sasser finished in 3:20 (his first marathon and a BQ!). Our relay team finished first overall in the female open division with a time of 3:08! I’m so proud of every single one of us. Training and racing together was truly a wonderful experience!

A friend pointed out that my time of 3:14 was appropriate because of this verse. I love it so much. Thank you Stacy for pointing this out.

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Perhaps it wasn’t just this race that was the ultimate dichotomy, perhaps it is the marathon itself. It simultaneously humbles you makes you feel like you can conquer the world.

Relay, Thinking Out Loud, Treadmill

Slight Change in Plans

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First things first … The 50K (aka the 100K relay) that I have been training for got cancelled. Womp. Womp.

We got an email from the race director (RD) late Wednesday afternoon that basically said that because it has rained a lot in the last few days, the trail would get very damaged if were to run on the trail. Instead of cancelling the event outright, the RD is actually moving the “race” to his house, but stressed in the email that it would be a fun run and not a race. It would just be running loops on the streets and/or sidewalks of the RD’s neighborhood. So technically, I guess it wasn’t cancelled. Just changed.

Rebecca and I went back and forth about what to do and ultimately decided that we aren’t going to go. We were planning to leave around 3:30 a.m. to drive 3.5 hours to get to the race in the first place. That was crazy enough when it was actual trail race, but now we would be driving 7 hours round-trip just to run around a (potentially sketchy) random neighborhood that we aren’t familiar with at all. In the middle of the day. By ourselves.

It stinks to not do the race that we trained for, but in the spirit of letting it go and rolling with the flow, we might as well make the best of the situation. I was a little disappointed at first, but I feel good about the decision that we made, especially because now we have come up with a good substitute. I’ll tell you all about that soon, but I’m still planning to get my birthday miles in!

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This week turned into a weird week training wise. Here is what I did:

Monday: 8.35 easy (half on the beach)

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Tuesday: 13.75 miles (w/ 4 miles of speed-work)
Wednesday: Off
Thursday: 7 easy + 5 easy
Friday: 8 easy

Monday’s run was awesome and so refreshing. I was supposed to have a track workout (8 X 800) Tuesday morning, but I could not drag myself out of bed. I knew that Tuesday was really my only shot at getting the workout in. At this point the race was still on and I wanted to have a few easy days before the race. We usually go to Running Wild for the group run Tuesday evening, but I didn’t want to go this week. I usually love group runs at the store, but sometimes I just can’t do it.

The bottom line is that group run at the store is primarily a social gathering, which can be an emotionally draining situation. Introverts have to expend energy in social situations, unlike extroverts who gain energy from such interactions. I enjoy one-on-one (or small group) conversation, but chit-chat is definitely not my thing. Introverts can come across as being shy, anti-social or avoidant, but we’re really not. I promise.

Tangent complete.

I was planning to run on the treadmill after work Tuesday and attempt some sort of workout. I didn’t really like the idea of doing 800s on the treadmill because the speed would have to be too fast. The treadmill is a good option for slower repeats (AT/LT work as opposed to V02 max work), but the faster stuff needs to be done on a track (in my opinion). I ended up doing a wave tempo, which basically means I was alternating between two paces. I did 4 miles of “work” alternating between half marathon and 10K pace every 5 minutes for a total of 25 minutes. I covered the same distance as I would have in the 8 X 800 workout, but it just went a little bit differently than planned.

Apparently differently than planned became a theme at this point. Wednesday we got the email about the race. By Wednesday evening I still wasn’t sure what we were doing, but the one thing that I definitely knew was that I was tired and I needed a day off. It was storming when I got home from work, so that pretty much solidified the rest day decision.

Brooks was not about to let the mini-hurricane outside deter his playtime though.

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I had to bundle up and hunker down to survive out there.

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Rocking the rainboot and dress look! Dressy casual?

Rain also made for glorious sleeping conditions. I woke up Thursday feeling like a new human. Daniel and I ran together before and after work Thursday and then Friday morning I ran with Rebecca and Jessica. After a day off and 2 days of easy runs, I feel good!

Check out this new Galatians 5:22-23 tank top that I got! You can get one here.

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This tank top with a purpose is a wonderful reminder of how we should live and love, how we should treat others and treat ourselves.

I recently found Chelsy on Istagram. She writes, “I hope this tank encourages you to seek the Fruits of the Spirit and I pray that when wearing it conversations are started, relationships are built, and others learn about the joy that comes from knowing Jesus.”

What a wonderful reminder!

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Thanks for reading! I hope you have a fruitful Friday.

Relay

Ragnar Recovery

Hello friends!

I’ve been trying to settle back into some sort of normal schedule post-Ragnar and it’s been a little tough. I haven’t been able to drag myself out of bed in the morning to run and all I want to do is sleep! I was a little bit worried that I was getting sick.

Brooks wanted to participate, so I told him to demonstrate my current state of existence.

#nailedit
Thankfully Google was able to diagnose me. It appears that I might be suffering from ragnover.

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My symptoms include:

  • Sleepiness. The struggle. Is real.
  • Confusion. I keep waking up in a panic, feeling very discombobulated and thinking that I am supposed to be somewhere running.
  • Catawampus pains. My entire lower left side (think quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, etc.) is so sore, but the right side is totally fine. I’m thinking this has something to do with running on the slanted shoulder of the road for 23 miles.
  • Overwhelming desire to pass other runners and/or break out into a little dance while running when you do in fact drag yourself out there to get a run in. There is a little glimmer of hope with every passing car that your van is coming to support you!
  • Misconception as to when baby wipes are actually an acceptable replacement for a shower.

Here are some things that are going to help me recover:

  • Sleep (duh).
This was taken approximately 30 minutes after we returned home.
  • Hydrate and refuel.

  • I went to see Dr. Justin (my sports chiro) and he got me back in line (at least physically). I’ll have to see someone else for my mental alignment.
  • Take it easy. Take a few days and just run nice and easy, or even take a day off if needed! I enjoyed a nice little run/walk with Rebecca and Savannah yesterday evening.

  • Sign up for another race! Hood to Coast 2017?! Who’s with me? I’m just joking (kind of). I’m ready for the next one for realz though.  

That’s about it for my recovery I do believe. I have successfully procrastinated the tempo run that I was supposed to do yesterday, which means that I will be doing that this evening (not super likely) or tomorrow morning (more likely).

Does anyone have exciting plans for the weekend?

Race Recap, Relay

Race Recap: Ragnar TN “Last to Start, First to Finish”

I don’t know that words will even be able to do this recap justice. We had an absolutely amazing trip to TN and the race itself was just icing on the cake!

There is a lot of planning that goes into an event like this and getting a team together. We had to rent vans, get places to stay at the start, along the way and at the finish, and gather 12 people who were crazy enough to want to join in on the adventure.

We assembled a killer team, some of whom we knew really well and some of whom we had only met a few times, and headed to TN with a pretty lofty goal. Simply stated, we wanted to bring home the win. This was my third overnight relay type of event. In 2011 we did Ragnar Del Sol in Arizona and came in 2nd place and in 2014 we did Ragnar Northwest Passage in Washington and came in 4th place. It was time to bring home the gold.

Our team ran the 189.10 miles from Chattanooga to Nashville in 21:12:08. We were the last team to start the race. We passed every other team along the course and not only won the race, but crossed the finish line first!

PRE-RACE

Thursday morning we got our rental van, loaded everyone up and headed to Chattanooga.

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We had two groups that traveled up, one left early (that was my group) and one left after work. We had several hotel rooms in Chattanooga, where we stayed Thursday night before the race. We got to Chatanooga around 6 p.m. or so, settled into our rooms (which were surprisingly nice and very large) and headed to dinner.

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We tried to hit the hay pretty early Thursday night, as this would be our last night of real sleep for close to 48 hours. The van that left after work didn’t exactly have this luxury, but they were all troopers.

Saturday morning a few of us got up and did an easy 20 minute shakeout run before breakfast. Some of us wouldn’t be running until really late that afternoon, so it was nice to stretch our legs out after sitting in the van all day the day before. We did just over 2.5 miles and got an early taste of some of the hills that were awaiting us along the course.

We hit the continental breakfast at our hotel that morning and went over some of the last minute details.

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After a quick shower (also our last real shower for close to 48 hours), we loaded up and headed to the start to check in.

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Teams started as early as 6 a.m. on Friday and we were the last team to start at 1:45 p.m. There were 121 teams total. 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.

We were able to watch the last group that started at noon. There were three teams in this wave. We had almost two hours to wait until it was our turn to start, so we headed to the grocery store to stock up on snacks and decorated our vans (and ourselves).

Coconut bras for the boys …

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Or makeshift Beats By Dre for DJ Holley …

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Grass skirts, leis and hair flowers for the girls …

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The whole gang!

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THE RACE

We started at 1:45 p.m. (EST) Friday afternoon. Ashley was our first runner.

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She actually crossed back into the Central Time Zone during her leg, so she finished earlier than she started! Fastest leg ever.

Once the race starts, the team is separated into two vans. Each van has three girls and three guys. Van 1 follows and supports their runners, while Van 2 goes ahead to the next exchange to wait on Van 1 to get there and then you switch, so Van 2 follows and supports their runners, while Van 1 goes ahead to the next exchange.

Daniel was our second runner. He had a very hilly leg, but he ran great! He lost a bet to Ali (our third runner) during March Madness this year and his “punishment” was that he had to run in British flag shorts during the relay. Shortest shorts ever.

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Daniel handed off to Ali (our team Brit). If Ali had lost the bet, he was going to have to run in a Lady Liberty costume. I think we need to come up with another bet, because that would be an awesome sight to see!

Our first few legs were right along the Tennessee River and it was beautiful! The river was so pretty.

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I started on my first leg at close to 3 p.m. Friday afternoon (read: HOT). My first leg was my toughest leg. It was 10.20 miles with close to 1,100 ft. of elevation gain. I don’t particularly enjoy running on hills, so I knew this one was going to be a bit of a struggle mentally.

At this point in the race, we were running completely by ourselves. We hadn’t started to catch any teams yet and so this was essentially a solo run on the side of a fairly busy, hilly highway. I decided to carry my phone just in case I need to call in an SOS and also so I could play some tunes.

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I ended up with a 7:13 average, which I was pretty happy with. Our team “goal” was sub-7 minute pace, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to hold that for my legs (23 hilly miles doesn’t translate into sub-7). Fortunately we had several runners that easily went way under 7 minute pace on their legs (some even sub-6!) so it all evened out.

I handed off to Jessica. She crushed her first leg (all of them actually) and before we knew it she was handing off to D. Holley (aka DJ Holley, Young Daniel and many more). Their handoff was on a busy road, so instead of passing the bracelet, they did a “virtual” handoff. Jessica did the “Dab” and D. Holley was on his way.

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After Young Daniel’s leg, it was time for Van 2 to do their thing! This meant that Van 1 had a little bit of downtime. We stayed around and cheered on a few of the Van 2 runners and found a nice little field and playground to hang out in for a while.

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You know you are only 1 leg in if you still have enough energy to swing!

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Eventually we decided it was time to head to the next major exchange where we would take back over from Van 2. This is where things got a little bit hairy. We ended up at the wrong location! By the time we realized it, we didn’t have time to get to them in time for our first runner to start. Van 2 stepped up and Becca volunteered to run another leg. She and Ashley basically swapped their remaining legs and everyone still ran 3 legs. It just didn’t go exactly as planned.

That’s one thing with relays … it is inevitable that something will go wrong. You have to be flexible and just roll with it. It’s like life, you can plan and plan and plan some more, but things don’t always go as planned and you have to accept those things and deal with what you’re given.

It was almost like this one (pretty big) mishap set off a chain of mishaps. We got back on “schedule” with our runners and it was Daniel’s turn to run. At this point it was close to 9 p.m. so it was really dark out. About a half of a mile into his second leg, he lost a contact. Now to some of you that might not sound like a big deal, but Daniel has really bad vision (like really, really bad) and this made things very tricky!

He dealt with the hand he was given and he still ended up running 6:22 pace for that leg! He handed off to Ali and the mishaps kept on coming. Ali took off and was on the right course until another team’s van told him that he was running the wrong way. He thought he was right, but he decided to turn since they told him to.

I would’ve done the same thing too. It’s dark out there and you don’t want to be lost! After we didn’t pass him in the van, we realized what happened and thankfully he was running with his phone so we were able to call him and tell him, “Turn around! Turn around!” He was the best sport about it and he stayed in good spirits. He even managed to average 6:50 pace for 9 miles!

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Ali handed off to me. Like I said earlier, I have done these things before and so I knew what to expect for the nighttime leg. I honestly wasn’t even worried about it at all. As it turns out, my leg ran down the darkest, windiest, scariest back country TN road EVER (perhaps I am being a tad dramatic, but you get the point). I was terrified! About a mile into my leg the van passed me and I told them (very emphatically), “DO NOT LEAVE ME!”

They stayed really close to me the rest of the way and I was fine, but I was definitely a little rattled after that. I wasn’t expecting to be scared, so I was a little bit frustrated with myself, thinking that I had “regressed.” Looking back now, I realize that it is okay (and perfectly normal) to be scared, anxious, etc. and as long as I am listening to and recognizing those feelings, I am doing whatever is needed to take care of myself and that is the most important thing! I was thankful to have Daniel there to make sure I was safe.

I ended up averaging 7:19 for that leg, which was slower than I was hoping for, but again, I made it through safe and secure and that’s all that really matters!

I handed off to Jessica. She and Young Daniel finished up Van 1’s second legs and then we were able to head to our mid-way hotel at this point. I highly recommend having somewhere to stop during the race if you ever do one of these things. We were only there for about an hour and a half, but we were able to rinse off and lay down for a few precious minutes of rest. It made a huge difference!

After a little bit of rest, we piled back into the van and headed out to meet Van 2 for our last leg! Woo hoo! We were so ready to run that last leg and be done. I think it was about 3 a.m. or so at this point (time starts to really have no meaning whatsoever). Becca took off and Van 2 headed to the hotel to get some rest.

Before I knew it, it was time for my last leg! The sun wasn’t quite up (I said lots of prayers that it would be), but it was on the rise. Thank you Lord! I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel going on the third leg. I was already 16.30 miles in and I had 6.80 miles to do. The third leg can definitely be all about survival. I started running and much to my surprise, my legs felt really good! We were starting to catch a ton of teams and that got me even more pumped up.

The third leg was my fastest average!

As we each finished up our last leg, our spirits got higher and higher. By the time Jessica ran her last leg, we were having mini-dance parties on the side of the road to cheer for her as she went by!


Our spirits got even higher when we found a Dunkin Donuts along Young Daniel’s last leg. Coffee was all we really needed. We met back up with Van 2 at the last exchange and found out that there were only 3 teams left to catch. Even though they had started 3 or 4 hours in front of us, we still wanted to catch all of those teams and really seal the win.

Van 2 was on fire and they reeled in those last 3 teams over the course of their last legs. Kenny was our last runner and he passed the last team about 1 mile into his last leg! He came blazing into the finish area and we were all planning to run it in with him. He was running so fast that we couldn’t even keep up!

Team Flip Flops in Porta Johns and Other Bad Decisions for the win!

POST RACE

After the race was over it was time to celebrate and REST! We had an awesome house in Nashville that was on the river. There was a pool, hot tub, ping pong table, air hockey table, dart board, kayaks, etc. It was incredible!

We had a great time hanging out at the house after the race and talking about everything that happened along the way! It’s so much fun to get everyone back together after being separated into two vans during the race. We had plenty to talk and laugh about!

There was a swan in the pool at the house and we got a lot of mileage out of that thing! Ride the Swan might have been the most used phase over the course of the entire trip! Ha.

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I went to bed pretty early. It was maybe 5 p.m., but felt like midnight. My internal clock was so off. I did, however, recognize the feeling of tiredness and exhaustion. I slept so well that night!

I woke up refreshed and ready to Sunday morning. A few of us went for a short run to work out some of the soreness Sunday morning and came back to find breakfast waiting for us!

Thanks Momma Becca and Jessica.

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We spent the day exploring Nashville! We had lunch at a really good local barbecue restaurant, Edley’s. Daniel has a few friends from a camp that he worked at in college that live in Nashville. They met up with us and were wonderful tour guides. We felt like locals.

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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 the best relay that I have ever been on! Our team was incredible (fast and just in general). There is so much effort that goes into getting the thing planned and that just makes it all the more exciting. Everyone on our team ran their hearts out and ran better than we expected, which was so cool to see. We were truly a team. Friendships were formed, strengthened and tested. Everyone was so supportive of each other and we built a wonderful camaraderie.

I can’t wait until the next one!

Tell me … what is your fondest racing experience? This one is ranking pretty high on my list right now!

Relay

Ready to RUN (Ragnar TN)!

Hey guys! We are leaving tomorrow for the Ragnar Relay in Tennessee! I am getting so excited. We have been planning this trip for a while and for a while it felt like it was so far away, but now all of a sudden … it’s here!

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The packing is fully underway and I figured that it would be a good idea to share some overnight relay packing tips in case you ever get the urge to do one of these crazy things and you are wondering what to pack.

Let’s start with the 411. Remember when that was a cool thing to say? Yeah … me too.

Who? 12 runners and friends (6 guys and 6 girls) who are about to embark on a crazy journey. Our team name is “Flip Flops in Porta Johns and Other Bad Decisions.” Um, yeah. I’m thinking the bad decision was letting the guys choose the team name.

What? This journey is called Ragnar. It is an overnight relay race. We will be split up into two vans (3 guys and 3 girls in each van).

Where? We will run from Chattanooga, TN to Nashville, TN (189.10 miles). Each runner runs three separate legs of varying distances. I am runner #4.

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When? The race starts Friday May 13th (hopefully no one is superstitious) and we will finish Saturday May 14th sometime around noon.

Why? A better question would really be, “Why Not?” There will likely be moments of uncertainty, doubt and fear, but there will undoubtedly be more moments of joy, laughter and team bonding. We are going to embrace the moments, soak it all in and have a blast!

So now that you have a better idea of what we are heading to do, let’s discuss some packing essentials. One thing to note is that organization is key. Things tend to get a little bit hectic and crazy during the actual race, so if you are prepared going into it, that can at least help to minimize some of the unnecessary stress.

Clothes –

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  • 1 – 2 pairs of running shoes (depending on how much your feet sweat)
  • 3 running outfits (shorts, tanks, socks, sports bra, etc.) preferably in individualized plastic baggies. Our team decided to coordinate our outfits, which I am pretty excited about. We haven’t done that in the past, but I think it will definitely add to the team feel.

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  • 1 pair of flip flops or comfortable shoes to wear in between legs
  • Compression gear of your choice (socks, sleeves, tights, shorts, etc.) to promote recovery in between legs
  • 2 comfortable outfits (sweatpants, pajamas, lounge wear, etc.) to wear in between legs
  • Light jacket or long-sleeved shirt in case it is cool at night
  • Costumes (optional, but encouraged :)). We are going with a luau theme. The boys picked the team name, so the girls picked the decor (and yes, I got coconut bras for the boys to wear)!

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Accessories –

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  • GPS watch
  • Hat or visor
  • Sunglasses
  • Reflective vest (every runner is required to have a safety vest at check in)
  • Headlamp, tail light and flashlight (these are also required)
  • Running belt (if you plan to run with your phone or carry anything with you)
  • Self defense item

Miscellaneous –

  • Car charger for phone, watch and any other electronics
  • Sunscreen
  • Baby wipes (3 runs and no shower for 24 hours is definitely calls for baby wipes)
  • Air freshener (see above)
  • Travel pillow and blanket
  • Towels
  • Toilet paper (in case of emergency)
  • Snacks
  • Portable massage roller

I think that pretty much covers it on the packing front! I have a few other random things to tell you about as well.

One being that I officially formed an LLC for my coaching business. I’m pretty excited to be a “small business owner.” I have some big dreams for this ‘lil gig and I hope that it works out.

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My mom texted me this …

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I was laughing so hard! She has discovered emojis now. Side note: anyone else think that thing resembles frozen yogurt?! For the longest time, that’s what I thought it was. Random, I know.

That’s all I’ve got today. Gotta finish up the packing!