The 11th Commandment – Route 66 Marathon Race Report

A few weeks ago, I made the snap decision to head back to Tulsa this year for my 3rd consecutive Route 66 race weekend. The decision was born out of a combination of my intense homesickness (can that be a thing if I don’t live in Tulsa but wish I did?), really not wanting to miss out on one of my favorite races, and a serendipitous drop in flight prices right before race weekend. So I bought my flight, not knowing which race I was going to do.

I ended up deciding to run the full marathon on the basis of needing to do 20 miles anyway in preparation for the Rehoboth Beach Marathon on December 6th. It seemed silly to do the half and then pretend like I was going to do 7 more miles afterwards while all my friends were running the full (please). So I figured I would do the full, stay with Patty and her running group as long as I could, and just see what happened. As you know, I’ve been training hard and putting in plenty of speedwork, so I felt confident I could keep up with the 4:30 pace she was anticipating for her group, at least for most of the race.

But before we got to the race, I got to do two really fun things – a special Marathon Maniacs shakeout run with Bart Yasso and speaking at the expo in the Blogger’s Forum for the second year in a row! The shakeout run started in the rain, but we had a fun group of dedicated runners, including the three founding members of the Maniacs, some familiar faces, and some new ones! Here’s a picture from afterwards – I’m the white hat behind Bart’s head. Fail.

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The official term for this photo is a #Bartie

Later in the day, I spoke at the Blogger’s Forum at the expo. This year, I was joined by my friends Sarah from Run Ginger Run and Angie from Keeping Pace, as well as a fellow alum from last year, Becky from Running Jacksons! We spent about half an hour answering questions about blogging, running, and life! I’ll be back again next year, so definitely consider checking out the forum if you are in town.

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You can tweet embarrassing questions and I will be forced to answer them!

Race morning began bright and early with our usual late arrival and missing of the RunnersWorld Tulsa group picture. Aaron, Patty and I never seem to make this one. We were able to get a picture with the running group that Patty co-leads (and the one I trained with this summer), the Dom-n-8rz!

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We are family!

This race was particularly special because we were celebrating the comeback of Patty’s co-leader, Terry. Terry was diagnosed with cancer this spring and went through chemo and radiation treatments while continuing to run as much as he could. In October, he finally received word that he was clear of cancer. Through the whole thing, he has been a constant source of inspiration to the Domz for his strength and positivity – he certainly was to me this summer! So to celebrate his remission, Patty, Aaron, Gary, Randall, and I planned to run the entire race with him. When I talked to Patty about this plan, she said that she didn’t know how fast we would be going. Terry finished Route 66 in 3:55 last year, but hasn’t trained as much as usual, of course. Meanwhile, Aaron and Gary haven’t been running much at all due to other obligations, but both were determined to cross the finish line with Terry. Whether that would happen in 4 hours of 6, we had no idea!

But first, we had to take the obligatory Maniacs photo. Except Aaron and I didn’t. We got in line for the bathrooms while everyone else was taking the picture. Let’s be honest – it’s not like you can tell who anyone is in it anyway.

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#sorrynotsorry #priorities

As we got ready to start the race, I found my friend Nathan, a reader who I met at last year’s Route 66. When I spoke to him the day before at the expo, I invited him to run with us, and he did! So starting the race, we had a group of 9 (including 2 half marathoners) ready to set out on the course. It was much (thankfully) warmer than last year’s 19 degree starting temps at around 60 degrees, and I guess it was a little humid, but I didn’t notice very much. The starting line of this race is so much fun and full of excitement!

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Is it weird that I have a friend in high school? Maybe. But he’s cool.

The first few miles of Route 66 always seem almost comically hilly to me. I think it’s because the first year I did this race, I truly believed Tulsa was super flat, as the rest of Oklahoma is, right? Wrong. There are some serious rolling hills! But we took the pace easy, walked through the water stops, and joked around. Terry would pull us back with a gentle “Getting a little fast, guys” and we’d snap out of it and slow down. I can honestly say I never looked at my watch at a mile marker because it didn’t matter. We had joked at the start of the race that our only goal was to have fun and stop for all the jello shots, but I quickly realized that was not a joke. We were stopping at every jello, beer, or other alcohol stop. This is Route 66, y’all – there are a LOT of them. It quickly became the 11th commandment: Thou shalt leave no jello shot behind! I’m sure leaving this out of the first set of commandments was a simple oversight on God’s part.

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Jello shots #1 and 2 at RunnersWorld Tulsa! These had some serious kick.

It’s not very often that I am tempted to eat something with gluten in it now that I know how it makes me feel, but I tell you, it was a struggle not to drink beer at all the stops like everyone else. Here I am, just trying to get my buzz on while running a marathon, and stupid gluten is screwing it up. Le sigh.

We decided to continue me and Patty’s new tradition of high fiving at every mile marker, and people, I have got to tell you: if you are not already doing this, please start. It is seriously so much fun. Also kind of dangerous because we almost tripped all over each other trying to get around to everyone for a high five, but really fun. It made the miles go by fast! At every marker, Terry would yell “MILE WHAT?!?!?!” and we would all yell out the number. The people around us thought we were possessed and/or drunk. Half right.

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Thanks to Lygea for the pic!

We also continuously did head counts at each water stop to make sure we hadn’t lost anyone in the group. It was very comforting to know that no one was forgotten about and we were all in it together. I have no idea what the pace was, but I know I was really comfortable. We stopped for several more jello and beer stops before the halfway point – I think I had 4 jello shots before mile 14! That might be more than I took in all of college, but then again, I was a whiskey girl.

There was only one point during the race where I felt remotely uncomfortable, and that was along Riverside, where the wind was blowing from behind so it felt like there was no breeze. We just felt the humidity at that point. It also probably didn’t help that we were coming off a jello shot/music/cheer squad high from the Brookside section of town, and everything seemed very quiet. Nonetheless, if I only felt uncomfortable for two miles of a marathon, I can’t really complain.

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It’s a major award!

We said goodbye to Sara and Karen at the half, and then there were 7 of us. The next few miles have a tough gradual uphill climb, and Nathan’s calves were bothering him. I harassed, cajoled, and generally annoyed him by running backwards and not letting him drop out of sight, and he pepped up a bit when one of the many Red Bull stops on the course came about. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen Red Bull on the course as a sponsored beverage, and I was slightly horrified, as the smell of that stuff just makes me gag. Gary, Aaron, and Nathan were all super into it though – hey, anything to deaden the pain of undertraining, amiright?

The miles honestly seemed to fly by for me. I was having so much fun, and at this point, pretty much everyone else was too. Nathan started hurting really bad, and there wasn’t much I could say that encouraged him. Probably because I am bad at encouragement. Terry dropped back and ran with him for a bit, and then I did, but ultimately we parted ways around mile 16. And then there were 6.

The latter half of the race saw a lot of walking as everyone started to get fatigued, the hills took their toll, and the training situation became noticeable. Personally, I felt great and knew I could have kept going, but I was having way too much fun with our group. Around mile 19, we passed another group of people cheering and I yelled “alcohol?” A guy holding a cup said “this is alcohol!” and handed it to me, which is I think the only time in life when it is acceptable to take drinks that a strange man hands you. The tally was now something like 5 jello shots, a mimosa, and a rather strong screwdriver. The crowd went wild!

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This may not have been the mile 19 stop, but either way, I got to make Jeanne and she was AWESOME! And done with the race way before we were, but that’s neither here nor there.

Last year, Route 66 was Patty’s 50th marathon, and the Domz had made a banner for her that hung over an overpass at mile 25.5. Terry, didn’t know it, but the group had made one for him, too. We all knew what was coming,  but he had no idea. As we turned the corner, he was overcome with emotion and started to cry – and so did pretty much everyone else in our group. Even I got a tickle in my throat. It was one of the most special marathon moments I have ever had the privilege of being a part of, and he deserved it.

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After the emotions calmed down – banner in the background

I hung back for a second and watched this amazing group run under the banner. These people have taken me in as one of their own, an honorary Dom-n-8r. And as someone who rarely feels like I belong anywhere or with anyone, I can honestly say that being in Tulsa with them makes me feel like I belong. If you’re ever lucky enough to go to Tulsa, I hope you get the chance to meet them.

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The best.

It’s not very often that I don’t want a marathon to end, but this was one of those times. The Domz still had one more surprise for Terry, though. Just before the finish line, a huge group of them were waiting to greet Terry and congratulate him.

 

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Hugs for Terry!

There were just a few hundred feet left to go. I just tried to soak up every second.

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We did it!

And despite the lack of training for some, and the hills and the humidity and the fact that a marathon is still 26.2 miles long, we all agreed – we wouldn’t change a thing. Every year, Route 66 is one of my standout races, and this year was no exception. For almost 5 and a half hours, I got to celebrate life and running with an incredibly inspiring group of people who have so generously made me one of their own. I’ll raise a jello shot to that.

Bringing Team T-Rex Shirts Back!

After many requests and much laziness on my part, I am excited to finally announce that Team T-Rex shirts are back!!

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Me in my shirt. I’m wearing a small.

Here is the information you need to know:

The shirt order cut off is Tuesday, November 25 at 11:59 pm.

To order: Send an email to thetrexrunner@gmail.com with the cut (unisex or women’s), size, and color you would like to order. Please send me an email even if you commented on the Facebook post and said you wanted one! I need your email addresses so I can take your dollarz (via PayPal).

Sizing: Here are links to the women’s size chart and the unisex size chart. Shirts run pretty true to size and I am wearing a women’s small. The shirts do not ride up and are a normal length, unlike some women’s cut shirts.

Colors: Colors can be found at the bottom of the size charts, but the most popular colors are lime green, grey, and white.

Cost: The shirts cost $25, which includes shipping. They are a technical/dri-fit fabric and are meant to be worn while running (duh). After I receive an email from you with your information, I will send you a PayPal invoice that you can pay using PayPal or a credit card.

International orders: I will ship internationally, but there will be an extra shipping cost and it might take awhile to get your shirt. I’ve sent them all around the world with no problems so far, though!

Warning: These shirts have brought epic PRs to many of the people that have bought them. They even brought me a half marathon PR and almost a marathon PR in the span of one week. If you’re not prepared to start running really fast and making new friends with all of the people obsessed with your shirt, this may not be the shirt for you.

So, to review:

  • The cut off for orders is Tuesday, November 25 at 11:59 pm. Shirts generally arrive about a week after I order them and I ship them out when I receive them.
  • Check out the Women’s and men’s size charts to see available colors and pick yours.
  • Women’s and men’s sizes are available. Children’s sizes are available too!
  • Shirts fit true to size.
  • $25 each, including shipping (unless international).
  • Email thetrexrunner@gmail.com with the color, size, and cut you want to place your order!

Note: Some people have asked if these shirts are available as singlets. As of right now, unfortunately, they are not. I am working to find a suitable material, color, etc for the singlets, but I have not been able to do so yet, mostly because the ones I’ve found are pretty expensive, and ain’t nobody got time for that. Trust me when I tell you I’m working on it! For right now, take comfort in knowing that these shirts are very lightweight and surprisingly good at wicking away moisture. I’ve worn them for several marathons and have yet to be disappointed!

Not convinced yet? Just look at all these happy customers!

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JC loved his so much he took it to Antarctica!

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Eddie and Jim looking snazzy

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Abbi always looks this happy, I promise!

Thank You, Peyton Manning.

Bear with me as I spew my thoughts upon you, as I’m thinking them almost faster than I can type. Despite the fact that I’ve been a lifelong football fan and I knew Peyton Manning had surgery on his neck a few years ago, I didn’t know what kind until today. He had a spinal fusion in his cervical spine. You may recall that I’m on tap to get a spinal fusion in my lumbar (lower) spine sometime in the next few years. I got to thinking about how amazing it is that Peyton had a fusion and went back to not only playing professional football, but if you know anything about the man, he is absolutely killing it.

“All that pain,” I thought. “All that rehab. Starting from scratch. Feeling like it would never be the same again, but he came back better than ever. That’s crazy. That is so inspirational.”

And then I realized something. I did that, too. No, not a fusion (yet), but by all accounts a pretty major surgery that had me rebuilding my body from the ground up. All of a sudden, all those trips to rehab flashed through my mind. I remembered the first few days after surgery, staying in my parents’ RV out in Colorado and taking the world’s slowest walks around the RV park. Trying to bend over and not being able to get far enough for my hands to hang down even past my hips. Walking in the pool. Running in the pool. Exercise after exercise, hours of time spent with the resistance bands, five minutes on my bike, and, eventually, my first steps back to running on the road.

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Hobbling down the streets of Boulder a few days after surgery

I’ve been so caught up in trying to get back to where I was before that I haven’t taken the time to appreciate where I have been. I’ve been busy trying to prove to myself that I can run marathons again, complete a century bike ride, and lose the weight I’ve gained (3 pounds to go!). I’ve been busy being frustrated at myself for not being fast enough, fit enough, or good enough.

Today – and knowing myself, maybe only for today – I’m just going to be proud of myself. I have come such an incredibly long way. Thinking about it actually makes me almost tear up (as close as I generally get to crying). I know that if I was watching AJ or someone close to me go through this process and recover and come back like I have, I would be blown away and so proud. So today, I am blown away by myself and proud. I can do that, right?

I will never be the fastest marathoner in the world, or even most likely in my age group. I may never be able to run the way I used to. But whether I ever set another race PR or not, the real PR is here, in the journey, the comeback, the recovery. I know one day I’ll be walking this road again, and I know I’ll be just fine. And when I get mad that I can’t bend over or run a mile without stopping, I’ll come back to this blog post and remember how I felt today, smirk at how cheesy I sound, and think, “This is gonna be one hell of a comeback.”

If Peyton Manning can do it, we can do it. Ok, fine, probably not. But we can do hard things, and we can be proud of how far we’ve come, even if we still have a long ways to go.  What’s your hard thing?

Speed Work, Self Confidence, and 18 Miles

With the Run Less, Run Faster plan that I have been doing (Now on week 5! Look at me go!), each workout has a purpose. Because there are only three runs per week, there is a goal pace for each run and a certain type of workout each day. Tuesdays, for example, are a speed workout with intervals. The workouts have progressed each week, so while I started out alternating running 1 minute fast with a 3 minute recovery interval, then progressed to quarter-mile repeats, I’m now up to today’s workout of 6 half-mile repeats with 90 seconds of recovery. The pace for these intervals is supposed to be 8:06 min/mile based on the calculator I used for my goal marathon time of 4:10.

Each week, I find myself dreading Tuesday’s workout and feeling anxious about it. Will I be able to do it? Will I feel exhausted? Will my heart explode? What if I can’t hit the pace I’m supposed to? I work myself up into a frenzy over this (yes, working myself up into a frenzy is a near daily occurrence in my life). I’ve mentioned before on the blog how I have the seemingly rare (read: insane) issue of getting really worked up over my training and then usually not caring about my race results at all. It’s totally backwards. I get so focused on hitting the correct pace during training. If I saw an 8:07 pace on my watch for an interval instead of the assigned 8:06, I would regard it as a huge failure and honestly be devastated. Yes, I realize this is stupid.tumblr_nesswsW3UP1ql5yr7o1_500

I find that as a result of being so nervous about hitting my paces, I always run my intervals too fast. Always. My pace for the intervals on Tuesdays is almost always more like 7:45-7:50. I haven’t missed a single one yet. That’s not good for my training and it makes my intervals feel harder than they need to, psyching me out even more! So what is my problem? Why, knowing that I always succeed in my speed workouts (at least, so far) do I still panic before each run?

I have been thinking about it a lot, and I think it is a self-confidence issue (duh) pertaining to the fact that I wasn’t a particularly athletic kid. I rode horses competitively but never had to push myself in a physical way to get faster or stronger – it was more a mental thing. I just don’t believe that I have the ability to run that fast. I’m disappointed in myself because I want to be more confident and I am trying to build myself up in this area. You’d think that weeks of solid workouts would make me feel better, but so far, not so much.

Interestingly, I don’t really have this problem with my Thursday workouts. Thursdays are tempo runs, and my tempo pace is 9:05-9:20 per mile. I always run more like 8:50, but even that is a pace I am mentally more comfortable with, because I have run a half marathon at a much faster pace than that, albeit a year ago. There was a time when that pace would have scared the crap out of me, but it doesn’t anymore. So, that gives me hope – maybe one day 8:06 won’t seem scary either!

Mercifully, the long runs have been fine. The paces are easy  for me (although still with a purpose) and I haven’t found myself stressing about them at all. This weekend, Amanda, Chuck and I ran 18 miles with the Governor’s Cup half marathon in the middle. I actually found myself looking forward to the run and not worried about it for once! And I was right not to be worried. We had a great time! We ran 2.5 miles (uphill, sadly) to the race start, ran the very hilly race, enjoyed ourselves, and ran back to our cars. We never worried about pace and just ran how we felt, walked at the water stops, took stretch breaks as needed, and enjoyed the beautiful weather. We ended up finishing in 2:08 and our pace for the entire run was 9:50, well within my goal long run pace range! I even got to meet a reader, which is always a nice surprise. Sorry about my excessive sweatiness/exhaustion!

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Follow me on instagram at @thetrexrunner for this photo and more gems, such as when I ate tacos for breakfast. Not breakfast tacos, taco tacos.

I’m getting excited about how my training has been going. 18 miles is the farthest I have run (besides the marathon, of course) since my back surgery and it felt easy. I’ve decided to run the full marathon in Rehoboth Beach on December 6th because I feel strong and capable and want to run with my friends! Also, BREAKING NEWS FOR TULSA PEOPLE: I am coming back for Route 66 this year! It was a last minute decision and I have no idea what race I will end up running, but I WILL be there, so holla at me!

LEAVE A COMMENT: Does speed work intimidate you? Do you have a hard time running the proper pace? What are you training for right now?

Do what makes you happy (if you know what that is)

It’s often said that life is too short to spend it doing things that make you unhappy. It’s hard  to argue with that, of course, but am I the only person who sometimes struggles to distinguish what makes me happy from what doesn’t? It feels that way sometimes.

Let me back up. I had surgery last week for a medical condition (not Ebola). I haven’t mentioned it on the blog because it’s a) not that big of a deal and b) kind of gross and I’m weird about discussing things that are gross. That’s neither here nor there. Anyway, surgery was on Thursday, and after some negotiating with my doctor, I got my return to running down to 5 days, meaning I only had to miss one long run and one barre class, thanks to some clever (read: insane) schedule shuffling on my part.  It also meant that I had a weekend full of a whole lot of nothing to do.

I get overwhelmed and stressed out kind of easily. I wish it wasn’t the case, but it is. I always get everything done that I need to, I just work myself up into a frenzy over it first and make sure to tell AJ a thousand times how stressed out I am, which is undoubtedly his favorite thing about me. That means that I am prone to scheduling myself a long bike ride, a long run, two nights of weekend plans with friends, plus a paper for grad school and normal household life (cleaning, shopping, laundry, meal prep, etc) into one weekend, leaving no time to relax. I often feel like I have to do these things for one reason or another, be it to maintain fitness, achieve a goal, keep the household running, whatever. They seem non-negotiable, so I fret.

At first glance, I was excited about not having anything to do this weekend. Finally, a weekend to sleep in! I had a paper for grad school due on Friday, so no homework over the weekend! No workouts to stress out about since I was literally not allowed to do any!  It’s a Halloween miracle! Then reality hit.

As much as I genuinely did enjoy spending lots of time hanging out with AJ and the dog, I kind of felt, well, bad about myself. I felt unproductive and unmotivated, and it has carried over in to the beginning part of this week. Normally, I’m up first thing on Monday morning making a calendar for the week, meal planning, knocking out homework assignments, etc. Yesterday, I did do all of those things, but I didn’t really want to. I didn’t have the same pep in my step. It was hard for me to get back in the groove after just a few days off from real life, and not because I had had such a great time that I didn’t want to return to normal. It was more like I didn’t remember how. Then, I felt even worse about myself because I wasn’t able to pick up right where I left off and I wasn’t being as productive as normal.

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Look I’m not saying it makes sense.

I write this to ask – is it possible that what seems to make me miserable and stressed also makes me happy? Am I just one of those people who likes being busy and has a hard time relaxing? Is this a thing? Most importantly, if that is the case, does this mean I can no longer complain about being busy and stressed if it turns out I like being busy and stressed? I’m obviously uncomfortable with losing my right to complain about things.

So, maybe I do like being really busy and packing my weekends full of stuff. If that’s the case, I need to just embrace it and move on. But back to doing only things that make you happy – well, as it turns out, my strength program was not making me happy. It had its good parts – I lost quite a few inches in the first six weeks and definitely toned up a lot. But with that came an aching back and knees from all the plyometrics, a big time commitment, and an even bigger mental commitment. The workouts were so grueling that I found myself stressed out all day about doing them! When I tried to modify them, I found that I couldn’t do it because I felt like I was cheating, even though I know that is ridiculous and I would never think someone else was cheating if they modified a workout. I am mean to myself, y’all.

Either way, I decided those workouts needed to go. They weren’t making me happy. Strength work in general, however, needs to stay! Fortunately, I have been absolutely loving the new Barre3 studio in my town. I’m going 3-4 times a week and feeling stronger and more toned, and I know I am doing great things for my core and back! If you don’t live near a barre studio but are interested in trying it, Barre3 has online videos of all different lengths and focuses that you can have unlimited access to for $15 a month. No affiliate link here – that’s just how I started doing it!

I’ve also kept up with cycling about 3 times a week and following the Run Less, Run Faster plan. I’m about to start Week 4! I’m nervous about getting back to it this week after surgery, but I’m sure it will be fine. Amanda, Chuck and I are running a half marathon this weekend in the middle of an 18 mile training run. I have no idea what pace we will be running, but I would love to see something at or below my goal race pace for the Myrtle Beach Marathon, which is 9:34. This half marathon is actually my half marathon PR from when I ran it last year in 1:50! That certainly will not be happening this weekend, though :)

So anyway, that’s the latest. I’m trying to figure out what makes me happy in my workouts and in life, and I encourage you to do the same! Have  you ever had a hard time deciphering what makes you happy from what doesn’t?

Three Years and a Century

Two things happened this weekend that I never thought would happen:

  1.  My blog turned three years old ( T-Rex Runner was born October 26, 2011)
  2.  I completed my first century bike ride – 102 miles!

Both of those things are ridiculous.

For a little trip down memory lane before I recap the century ride, I’d like to point out that this blog actually predates my relationship with AJ by about 3 weeks. In fact, when our friend Tom set us up, he directed AJ to my blog so he could learn more about me. And for reasons I cannot fathom, after reading those posts, AJ was like “Oh, this sounds like a good idea!” and then proceeded to go on a date with me. I tricked him! Anyway, you can find my first ever blog post here, along with the picture that started the whole “T-Rex Runner” thing.  Happy blirthday (blog birthday…it’s a thing) to me!

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Truth

Yes, so on to the century. I’ve definitely gotten more into cycling since my back crapped out on me, and a big part of my recovery has involved cycling. So far this season, I’ve done 50, 65, and 40 mile rides with Amanda, Chuck, or some combination thereof. I wasn’t really all that motivated to try out a century because I was about ready to launch myself off my bike and into traffic at the thought of riding even 1 more mile at the end of that 65 last month, but as is apt to happen, I couldn’t turn down the challenge. I commissioned my friend Chuck (who has paced me to two half marathon PRs and listened to more bad stories than any male except AJ) to attempt this feat with me. My back hasn’t really appreciated super hilly rides lately, so we looked for one that was relatively flat and ended up in Orangeburg, South Carolina this past week.

Where is Orangeburg, you may ask? It is literally nowhere. It is miles and miles of farmland in the south-central portion of the state. That said, they have a great event and flat-ish roads, so it was game on. I decided to approach this ride with the same mentality as the marathon: take it one section at a time, no negative thoughts. My coworker helpfully pointed out to me on Friday that 100 miles is basically the distance from my house to Charleston, SC (2 hours IN A CAR), which really did not help my confidence level.

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If you’re into looking at cotton fields for 6-7 hours, this is the ride for you!

When we checked in before the ride, only 10 people were signed up to do the full century – not a good sign! This immediately began triggering my concerns of being last, getting lost, and being marooned in Orangeburg and dying in a cotton field. I ignored the fact that this ride was being put on by and benefiting the Orangeburg Police Department when considering this as the ultimate scenario. We took off with a good group of people and the early miles passed easily as we made our way to the first aid station around mile 22 in the town of (don’t quote me on this) Bamberg, SC.

I have learned to bring my own food when cycling and running since I never know if there will be gluten-free options, but I was pleasantly surprised to find Slim Jims at the aid station, along with lots of other things I couldn’t eat. It got me thinking about the fact that I never ate beef jerky as a kid, and what an immense personal tragedy that is. Was I not allowed to eat beef jerky ( highly possible)? Did I just not like beef jerky? WHY WOULD I NOT LIKE BEEF JERKY? I had 78 more miles during which to consider these questions.

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Is there anything more flattering than cycling gear? There is not.

The metric century (62-ish miles) split off from us somewhere between miles 22-44 – yes, I know my level of detail is overwhelming. The next rest stop was at mile 44 in the town of Ehrhardt or some other spelling, which was basically what I would envision a western ghost town to look like if said ghost town was located in South Carolina. Lots of crumbling and abandoned buildings and the southern equivalent of tumbleweeds – it was actually extremely depressing. We were chatting with 3 other cyclists when a couple came up behind us looking like they were straight out of the movie Deliverance and the guy said “She want to know how far you ridin” while pointing at his girlfriend? sister? aunt? No idea. We all looked kind of stunned and said “100 miles,” which I realize now was like telling them we were riding to Mars. They just kind of looked at us, mouths agape, and said, “What?” and we helpfully tried to say that other people were riding 62 or 27 miles and only a few people were doing 100, but that didn’t seem to help. It got me wondering, what is a normal amount of miles for someone with no concept of cycling to hear that you rode? Like, if we said we were riding 10 miles, would that be deemed reasonable? 20? I honestly have no idea. These are the things that happen when you live in a fitness bubble surrounded by people who enable your addictions.

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What Ehrhardt looked like in 1900 is what it looks like now, with fewer people.

One item of note on this ride was how ridiculous nice the roads were. You don’t really appreciate a high-quality road until you’re forced to ride on really rundown, rough roads full of pot holes – aka all that is available in my county. Chuck and I probably spent a total of 20 miles how cruel it was that these roads in the middle of nowhere – literally, no houses to be seen for miles – were in completely flawless condition and we’re taking our lives into our hands every time we get on our bikes at home.

Despite the safety of the roads, there was a serious bird situation that occurred. As you know, this is my worst nightmare. We rode through a slightly wooded area  with vultures everywhere. By the time we saw them, it was too late to stop, and we had no choice but to ride through. Some flew high up into the trees, and the rest stayed low. I literally flattened myself onto my bike and peddled as fast as I could, and of course the biggest hill on the course was through this wooded area! I could hear Chuck laughing hysterically behind me and trying not to fall off his bike with laughter while remarking at how much faster I was suddenly riding. Hey, birds are dangerous shit.

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Actually, my mom laughs at my bird fear, so this would probably not be helpful.

The going definitely got tougher in the last 30 or so miles. I had been feeling nauseous for much of the ride, as I hadn’t really brought the right food and there were not a ton of things I could eat. I really needed more salt, but just had to chug as much Gatorade as possible to try and keep my levels up. Our pace did drop off a little bit, but it wasn’t horrible, and the focus was finishing. We also learned around mile 66 that we were actually not in last place, which was a huge relief to the psyche, especially when we found out that the next group was an hour behind us. Huzzah!

We kept a pretty positive attitude the whole time, but it definitely helped when the aid stations switched from being every 22 miles to every 11. We were counting down and both of us had some serious back pain going. Turns out it hurts to be hunched over on a bike for 6 hours whether you have back problems or not! Who knew? We did make a pact to make sure that no matter what, we would not get off our bikes til my computer read 100 miles, so we just really really hoped the finish line would not be short. Fortunately, we hit the finish with a little over 102 miles!

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Longest ride ever by 32 miles!

The police officers and volunteers were still at the finish with lots of food and drinks, but I was too sick to eat anything. Chuck literally swallowed a Subway sandwich whole while we stood there talking to the police officers, who were very interested to hear our suggestions for the next year. We saw the same people over and over again on the aid stations throughout the course, and they were rooting for us, so it was nice to see them at the finish line as well!

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Century finishers!!

All in all, it was a beautiful day and perfect for a ride! I’m thrilled that we were able to complete the century, and even though my stomach still isn’t quite back to normal, I’m pleased to report that my back is feeling just fine! Can’t ask for much more than that.

LEAVE A COMMENT: What did you do this weekend? Ever done anything fitness related that you thought you would never do?

Picking a Plan

One thing I’ve been struggling with over the past few months of training is the feeling that I’m not doing enough, not training the right way, and not following any type of direction. As much as the stress of following a detailed training plan with exact paces and strict workouts sometimes gets to me, I also get stressed out when I follow a plan that has very little structure at all (i.e., it just lists the mileage for each day). I’m not a running coach, and I don’t know what paces I should be running, in case you hadn’t noticed. So what’s a girl to do?

I thought about the things that have been bothering me about running since I started back up:

  1. Feeling like I’m not making progress
  2. Lack of direction in my workouts
  3. Not motivated to follow through on long runs since they’re random and unplanned (and early in the morning, letsbehonest)
  4. Mentally intimidated by running long distances

Since I can only run 3 days per week now, I thought a training plan would be out the window. I figured I would have to modify any plan that I did find and then pick and choose which workouts to do, which left me worried about being prepared for the long runs. Fortunately, a little research yielded me the Run Less, Run Faster plan developed at Furman University. Designed for people who are easily injured or don’t have time to train most days of the week, the plan uses 3 high quality workouts (speed, tempo, and long run) per week to get you to your goal time.

When I looked at the plan and thought about the issues I’ve been having, it seemed like a good fit:

  • It encourages cross training, which is important to me. I’m currently obsessing dramatically over doing barre classes, cycling, and strength workouts in addition to running.
  • Starting the plan in October, my goal race would be in February – perfect time of year for training for me.
  • The paces are very specific for each workout, and each one is planned.
  • I’d be going back to shorter distances for awhile to build my confidence.

The next question was how to choose a goal time? The paces are based on a 10k race time. The last time I was following a training plan, I was training to break 4 hours in the marathon. I had huge PRs at every distance, but my body certainly is not at that point right now, so it didn’t seem to make sense to shoot for that kind of goal.

I eventually decided to make my goal a 4:10 marathon. That is about 4.5 minutes below my current PR and is an average pace per mile of 9:34. Challenging? For me, yes, but not unreasonable. I’m targeting the Myrtle Beach Marathon on February 14th as my goal race, which has the added bonus of being my dear friend Murray’s 100th marathon!

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Gonna do this dance across the Myrtle Beach finish line at 4:09:59, BOOM

I’m a week and a half into the plan, and so far, I’m a fan! The workouts build over time, so the speed workouts thus far have been challenging without being too intimidating to look at on my paper (sadly, a big issue for me). My goal each week is to get through all of my workouts, including the long run. Some days I may run longer than my prescribed long run mileage, but my primary concern is getting the miles on my plan in at the pace that is recommended. Anything after that is a bonus.

I don’t know how this plan will go, but I’m feeling enthusiastic and ready to try. I’m very concerned about injury and burnout, so if it gets to be too much, I will take the workouts down to 2 quality runs and 1 easy run per week. That’s still 1 more than I was doing before!

I guess I’m realizing that I don’t want to stress out about running and my workouts anymore. If I don’t want to do something because I don’t enjoy it or don’t like what it is doing to my body, I shouldn’t do it. There’s no reason for it. The whole point of exercise in the first place is supposed to be wellness for your mind, body, and spirit, so it seems to me that when I get away from that goal, it defeats the purpose. Right now, I’m excited about my new plan and looking forward to see where it takes me!

LEAVE A COMMENT: Do you use a training plan? Which one? Do you get overwhelmed by training plans?

A Good Omen – Prairie Fire Marathon Race Report

I’m the worst!! So sorry for leaving you all hanging after my marathon weekend, but grad school has owned my soul even more than usual lately. But now, I’m back with the race report you’ve all hypothetically been waiting for and/or forgotten about.

As you all know, I was feeling a bit uncertain the week before the race but was determined to turn my attitude around. I spent the week before the race doing exactly what I said I was going to – repeating the same mantras over and over to myself, visualizing myself crossing the finish line, all that jazz. When the time came to actually head to the race, I felt relatively ok about it. At that point, I had done all I could do and what would be would be. The race was in Wichita, KS, which is actually where my grandparents live. Unfortunately, since I was only there for about 18 hours, I was unable to see them but hoping that being in their city would send me good vibes! As luck would have it, Patty and I had lucked into a room in the host hotel when one of the friends we were traveling with decided to stay somewhere else. We were literally 100 yards from the start and finish line! Good Omen #1.

We headed to the expo to pick up our bibs and I decided to buy a marathon sticker for my car. When I got my Jeep back in August, I refused to put a 26.2 sticker on it because I really wasn’t sure whether I would ever run another marathon. At the expo, I decided to make the leap and grab one, figuring I had to finish now!

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Patty and I at the expo! Follow me on instagram at @thetrexrunner

We headed out for dinner to a wine bar, which was really entertaining for all of us and probably really horrific for the waiter. I know nothing about wine so I really had to resist the urge to ask him to give me the one that tasted the most like Franzia – instead I just pointed at one on the menu that I couldn’t pronounce. It definitely wasn’t your standard Italian restaurant, and we all had picky runner’s stomachs, so we created quite a few custom orders. For once, I had the forethought to bring my own gluten-free pasta just in case they didn’t have any, and it paid off! The waiter generously agreed to cook mine for me with no fuss. Good Omen #2! Even better? They had a gluten-free chocolate torte on the menu that was to die for. This never happens. Good Omen #3!

Patty and I headed back to the hotel early and talked for a bit before heading to sleep. It was SO great to see her – I really miss Tulsa and living with her and Steve, so it was nice to be reunited, even if not for very long! For once, I slept like a rock before the race. Good Omen #4. Do you see where this is going?

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Me with all the Tulsa Domz before the race start! It was cold!

The race started at 7:30 in perfect temperatures – mid 40s. We had to check out of our hotel at 1, which meant we technically had 5.5 hours to finish, but about 5 hours if we wanted to shower before heading to the airport! I felt calm as we crossed the start line. Patty and I had said over and over that our only goals were to finish and enjoy the day, and I crossed the start line truly feeling that way. We planned to walk for short periods at each mile marker, but we didn’t set specific intervals, deciding instead to go based on how we felt.

The early part of the race wound through downtown Wichita, which was surprisingly cute and full of spectators! I’m always shocked when people show up to cheer for pretty much any race besides the big ones like Chicago, New York, etc. For some reason, I just don’t expect it. There were lots of fun signs and enthusiastic volunteers and a really great atmosphere!

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Crossing the bridge into downtown Wichita

Patty and I high-fived at every mile marker, which was a fun new tradition that I really enjoyed. My mindset the entire time was “take one mile at a time.” I was determined not to think about how far I had left to go, even though that normally doesn’t bother me all that much. We took fuel (Chomps for me, gel for her) every 5 miles, which also helped to pass the time. The course was promised to be pancake flat, and while that’s mostly true, we did groan on the 4 very small hills just because.

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Looking a little psychotic, but that’s a marathon for you!

 

We began to move through the neighborhoods of Wichita, which really surprised me by how beautiful and shaded they were. Some of the houses were absolutely gigantic! And of course, there were plenty more spectators, including lots of adorable kids. We also saw a lady with a huge yellow banner that said “GO TOM!” Every time we passed her, we asked how Tom was doing. I became extremely obsessed with Tom’s progress. She was everywhere on the course, so it was easy to check in.

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Made it to double digits!

Surprisingly, we didn’t take too many pictures. We were running at a steady pace and took short walk breaks at each mile marker and then longer walk breaks at the water stations. I decided that we were the “Positivity Police” and we were both responsible for making sure that neither one of us said anything negative. Realistic things were ok, such as “This is a hill.” Negative things like “I hate hills!” were not ok. I was obviously outside of my comfort zone. We ran through one particularly interesting neighborhood around miles 10-12 that was absolutely FULL of Halloween decorations. I’ve seriously never seen Halloween decorations on this level. It seemed like every yard was filled to the brim with decorations, especially giant inflatable things. It was bizarre but also very nice because it gave me something to look at.

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I mean, this is serious Halloween dedication.

At this point, I was feeling pretty great. Each milestone was being celebrated and I was feeling confident that I would finish, although I still didn’t know what time that would look like. We crossed the halfway point in right around 2:22, which I was very happy with. I became focused on getting to mile 16, because after that, every step would be a new one for me since surgery. The farthest I ran in training was 16 miles, and it was absolutely suck-tastic (I walked most of the last 4), so it was a symbolic state for me. I knew if I could get to that point and feel good, it would be a great sign and give me a lot of confidence. And we crossed mile 16 feeling great!

At 16.5, things were suddenly not so great. My heart condition started flaring up and all of a sudden, I couldn’t get my heart rate down – it was over 200 even though our pace hadn’t changed. I couldn’t breathe, and it felt like my throat was closing. I had to sit down for a few minutes while I waited for my heart rate to come down, and then we walked for awhile. I tried so hard not to let myself feel defeated. I told Patty the situation and she reminded me that our only goals were to finish and have fun, both of which we were doing. I thought about it and reasoned that my back and legs were still feeling ok at that point, and not all was lost. I just needed to do whatever it took to keep my heart under control.

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No idea where on the course this was taken, but I’m pretty sure it was not at mile 16.5.

I was able to start running again and we kept a steady pace pretty similar to where we were before. We ran for a bit and then walked, but my heart flared up again at mile 18.5. At that point, we walked for almost an entire mile. I was becoming a bit discouraged but still knew I would finish. I changed my attitude from “positive” to “realistic.” No, the situation was not ideal, but my back felt ok and I was doing the best I could. I was enjoying a beautiful day (temps were still in the mid 50s and it was cloudy – Good Omen #5!) with one of my closest friends. Things were not so bad. Of course, the fact that I only ran 16 miles on training eventually took its toll. The last few miles were a struggle, and I just couldn’t move my legs nearly as fast as I would have liked. We still didn’t walk much at each mile, I just couldn’t run very fast. I kept checking in with myself and asking if I was doing the best I could. As long as the answer was yes, I was happy with that.

For some reason, from about mile 20 on, it seemed like every spectator we passed told us we were “almost there.” As you all undoubtedly know, there is no phrase in the English language more grating than “You’re almost there” when you still have 6 miles left to run in a marathon. If I cannot literally see the finish line, I’m not almost there. Anyway, I took the first few in stride but eventually just wanted to punch everyone. I kept my head down and just tried to keep going. Patty, ever the world’s friendliest and most sociable human being, kept thanking everyone and saying hi. If I didn’t love her so much, this exuberance would have made me add her to the punch list. Still, despite my growing hate for humanity, I wasn’t letting myself think anything negative about my ability to finish the race, my speed, or anything else. I was just focused on getting to the finish line.

And get to the finish line we did.

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We did it!!

If I was a person who cries, I would have cried crossing that finish line. I got a little choked up, actually. We finished in 5:06:02, which far exceeded my wildest dreams for this event. I even had time to shower after the race! I truly thought it could be a 6 hour day and possibly my PW, but it defied all my expectations. defied all my expectations.

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Finisher shirts and medals! BECAUSE WE FINISHED.

This race felt like completely starting over. It was pretty hard to imagine that I had run 44 marathons before this. This felt like my first one all over again, and in a way, it was. I don’t know where my training will take me from here and I don’t know what my future races will look like, but I know I’m a marathoner. Turns out I always was and I always will be. Thank you all for your support and encouragement!

Negative Nancy, be gone!

I’ve been beating myself up for months now about the marathon I have coming up this weekend. I’m not ready, I haven’t trained enough, I’m going to be miserable, it’s going to be hot, a bird is going to poop on me, the Gatorade will actually be Powerade, and I’ll get a PW.

Maybe all of those things are true. Maybe they’re all going to happen. Although, I swear to God, if a bird gets close enough to poop on me, I’m going to have much bigger problems to deal with, like me completely losing my mind.  I’ve been actively dreading this race since sometime in August when I ran 16 miles and it sucked in the most epic fashion, as runs in August generally seem to do. The mindset has impacted my training, my stress level, and my mood, and it’s no one’s fault but mine. While I don’t usually mind the fact that I’m an eternal pessimist, that shit has got to stop for at least the next week.

Why, why, WHY would I run 26.2 miles if I’m convinced it’s going to be miserable and I’m going to hate every second and not have fun? Why am I convincing myself that I am only capable of running the half and have no business running the full? Is it because I’m afraid of writing another race report with a time I’m ashamed of? Maybe. Is it because I’m afraid of hurting my back? At least a little bit. But the point is, if I’m going to do it (which I am), why be miserable about it? If I am dreading it that much, I should just not do it.

So the way I see it, I have two options: run the marathon and be positive about it no matter what or don’t run it.

I read a recap of last year’s Chicago Marathon today that gave me exactly the perspective I needed. In the post, Liz says:

As I’ve pointed out a million times this was my fourth full marathon, and my best…because of my attitude.  I was so positive during the whole race. I was my number one fan. I wanted myself to succeed more than anything, and I encouraged, and cheered my way through it. I don’t know if this is simply because I’ve got older or wiser, but not a single negative thought about myself went through my head during this marathon. I was really, really just proud of myself. Proud I was out there. Proud I was running a freaking marathon. Proud I had worked myself up from barely being able to run 5km in April. I didn’t think about my weight, or how “slow” I was. Or that people may be looking up my time and thinking “is she even moving?” (that was always my thought on previous marathons), but rather I was just happy with who I was. And I think it was this difference that made this race so enjoyable.”

When I read that, it resonated so much with me. I’m not proud of myself anymore. I’m disappointed, frustrated, and annoyed with what it has felt like to come back to running. I’m embarrassed by my times and my weight. I feel like I will never be back to where I used to be. As much as I do genuinely love being active, I enter into each and every workout with the same singular focus: to lose weight. I might have other goals too, like getting faster or cycling farther or increasing my hip strength, but at the end of the day, the thing that motivates me the most to get out of bed in the morning and go to the gym is to be smaller. My motivations are completely flawed, and it makes it very difficult to ever feel satisfied with a workout, because in case you haven’t noticed – you don’t lose weight instantly. As a result, I’m constantly beating myself up and never happy with my results. For races, I can only be happy when I am capable of running faster but choose not to, not when I do my best and am still “slow.”

I tell you all of this not to tell you that I’ve suddenly had an epiphany and I no longer want to be thinner, or to make you feel sorry for me or anything like that.  That’s embarrassing, so please don’t. Rather, I realized that while reading Liz’s blog, I found myself thinking “Wow, she went from a 5k in April to a marathon in October? Amazing!” “Wow, she looks so athletic!” and “Wow, she took 6 months off before she started training and still finished in 5:26? Awesome!” What I wasn’t thinking was: “She can’t run a full marathon without walking? Must not have trained enough.” or “What a slow time…was she even moving?” or “She looks fat in her race pictures.”

But those are the things that I think about myself. Those are the things I think you and everyone I know are thinking about me. Maybe it’s true and maybe it’s not, but either way, no one else has to run this marathon but me, and no one else is going to have a positive or negative experience because of it but me.

So, for the next few days, these are the things I’m going to say to myself over and over and over:

“You couldn’t run at all until mid-June and now you’re running a marathon!”

“Three doctors told you that you could never run at all, let alone run a marathon again, and you’re doing it!”

“You did the best training you could, so run the best marathon you can and be proud of it no matter what.”

“You’ve taken great care of yourself and stayed healthy through your whole training cycle!”

“They give out really sweet prizes sometimes to the people who come in last, so it’s ok if you do.” (Kidding. But they do sometimes do this.)

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The steps of recovery: First, race walk an 8k. Next, run for the first time. Then, run a half marathon. Next up: marathon!

I have lost sight of what is important in running, marathons, and life (if I ever had sight of it to begin with). I am going to try as hard as I possibly can to be positive and have a great race experience no matter what. And I’m not going to be ashamed when I post my finishing time here, because there is no such thing as a bad finish. I’m blessed to be able to run in the first place, and so fortunate that my body has held up through any kind of training at all, even incomplete marathon training. So, on Sunday, I’ll put one foot in front of the other, at the best pace I can manage – whatever that may be – for 26.2 miles. I’ll finish marathon #45. And I’ll have a smile on my face when I do.

Remember Rest Days? Me Either.

Whew. What a weekend! And week. I worked a ton of overtime this week for a big project and it’s really thrown me off my schedule with obligations from school and my other work. I don’t know about you, but when I’ve got a lot going on like I do right now, I really struggle when I’m thrown off my routine. Everything in my life is planned more or less down to the minute until December, but of course, things never go as planned. One thing I’ve tried really hard to do is stick to my workout schedule no matter what, mostly for the matter of preserving my sanity during a rather stressful time.

So, this weekend I had another big bike ride planned. Amanda, Chuck and I were scheduled to do a metric century (62.5 miles) in Greenwood, South Carolina. The ride had been advertised as “mostly flat” compared to last week’s rather hilly 50 miler, and Chuck needed to leave at a certain time, so Amanda and I were determined to ride a bit faster than last week. As always, we arrived cutting it pretty close to the start of the event (Greenwood is about 2 hours from where I live) and rushed to get everything together before we took off. As we listened to the announcements, we heard Chuck’s number called as the winner of a prize, but we didn’t hear what the prize was, so we figured we’d find out later.

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Amanda, me, and Chuck. Cycling clothes are the actual worst.

This ride was many things, but “mostly flat” was certainly not one of them. Terms like “mostly hilly,” “mostly windy,” “mostly hard,” or “mostly painful” would be more appropriate descriptions. We were definitely riding faster, but there was only so much that could be done in the face of the wind and hills. At one point, we were riding in close proximity to a woman who not a very experienced cyclist. We were on a hilly portion of the course (although really, what portion wasn’t?) and she would race down the downhills, pull in front of us, and then proceed to barely crawl up the hill, trapping us behind her.  I don’t know if it was just the fact that we were all exhausted by this point or what, but it was extremely rage-inducing. This happened for probably 8 hills in a row and we’d have to go around her on the hill each time, so eventually we decided to just sprint has hard as we could to get away. FYI – if you currently go to spinning class, the mental image of sprinting during the fast songs is what I employed to push myself past this woman. It was surprisingly helpful.

Around mile 47-50, my neck and shoulder were killing me because I couldn’t put my head down and stretch at all. Why couldn’t I put my head down? Apparently I am allergic to cycling and had a horribly runny nose. I also came unprepared and had no towel. No snot rockets were going to help me on this one – it was miserable. While last weekend 50 miles really seemed pretty easy, for some reason adding an extra 12.5 made me want to die. Except it wasn’t only 12.5 – no, the course was actually 65 miles instead of 62.5. This basically caused Amanda and I to have a mental breakdown. Chuck had already left us by this point in an attempt to make it home on time, so we were on our own, and the hills never stopped. We had been talking about doing a century ride (100 miles) sometime in the next few months, but the idea of riding another 35 miles seemed utterly insane by the time we were done, so we may have to reevaluate. For now, we’ve got to do better on another metric century before we starting thinking about that! At least the ride was really well organized, well marked, and had great rest stops. It also had great prizes!

What did Chuck win, by the way? Oh, only the greatest bicycle EVER. My prize was half off a car wash, which is basically just as good.

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Are you kidding me? THIS IS THE BEST.

Today, Amanda and I ran 12 miles despite the shouts of hate and rage coming from our legs after yesterday’s little adventure. We spent much of our run talking about the importance of rest days and how hard it can be to fit them in sometimes. That’s something I’m struggling with right now – it seems like there are too many workouts each week that I want to do and not enough time to do them! Since AJ has not yet consented to the idea of me being a stay-at-home-fiancee, it can be challenging to fit in everything I want to do. As I write this, I haven’t taken a rest day in over 2.5 weeks. While that might not seem like a long time to some people, I can tell I’m exhausted and my body needs some recovery time. Still, the thought of taking a day off gives me insane anxiety because HOW will I get all my workouts done? As if that’s the most important thing in the world.

At this point, I’m committed to taking tomorrow completely off from working out. I’ve restructured the rest of my week and I think I can make everything work without killing myself. Of course, I can’t guarantee my friends and family won’t kill me, but it is what it is. Either way, I need to get better about scheduling rest days just like I schedule everything else.

LEAVE A COMMENT: How was your weekend? How often do you take rest days?