My 50th Marathon – 2015 Route 66 Marathon Race Report

Fair warning: this might be my longest blog post ever. Sorry, not sorry. After an emotional few days contemplating whether or not I was going to run the Route 66 Marathon this past weekend, you guys inspired me to press onward. While I knew that I was probably capable of completing the race, if I’m being honest, knowing how horribly uncomfortable and painful it might be led me to second guess whether or not I should run. But you were right – there was no way I would be ok stopping at #49 if I didn’t at least give it the old college try. I never considered not traveling to Tulsa, because I have so many friends there and I would never miss spectating, but running? That was a different story.

I arrived late on Friday night and was picked up by Patty, one of my closest friends and my second mom. I always stay with her when I go to Tulsa – I even have my “own” room, which I have successfully usurped from her youngest adult son, who now lives in Oklahoma City. I like to taunt him by texting him pictures from his room, which is either really amusing or entirely creepy, but I’ll let you be the judge. Patty’s sister, my “aunt” Donna, was also flying in late and we all headed back to Patty’s house, where we stayed up entirely too late gossiping. Who needs sleep anyway?

The next morning dawned way too early, as we headed out to see the Mascot Dash and meet up with our friend Sami (we were way too tired to get up and watch the 5k). It was freezing with gusting 30 mph winds, and with all due respect to the 5k crowd, we were glad that weather happened on Saturday instead of Sunday! We still got a few pictures with the Main Maniacs (founders of the Marathon Maniacs) and the new Maniac mascot, which was pretty excellent, if not slightly terrifying.


The mascot is disturbingly accurate based on the drawing on the back of our singlets. And yeah, I wore these boots all weekend, get used to it.

Next it was time for breakfast and to hit the expo. Now, I can get pretty bored with race expos these days. I’ve been to my fair share and most are the same old stuff. I have to say, I thoroughly enjoy ALL of the Route 66 expo, and I think it is because there are so many race booths there in addition to the standard merchandise. It is cool seeing the shirts and medals from different events! The expo is also massive and there are lots of fun photo opportunities there.


Yes, that hat says “TULSA” and it has the Route 66 marathon logo because I’m literally that obsessed with this race.

Before we knew it, it was time to head to dinner with my Tulsa running group, the Dom-N-8rz. I’ve know this group since my first Route 66 Marathon back in 2012 and I’ve traveled to a bunch of races with many members of the group, but when I lived in Tulsa in summer 2014, I really became a part of it. I did my training runs each week with them and although I don’t live there anymore, they still feel like my family. I haven’t missed a Dom-N-8rz dinner since 2012, so no need to start now!


We had a huge group of over 45 people! And only one waiter. And he got all of our food right and it blew our minds.

Race day dawned bright and early. I woke up to a text from my friend Halbert, who said he was about to send me an email, which seemed a little weird, but long story short, he sent me an absolutely lovely message saying there was no way he was letting me run alone. Although several people had offered to run with me, deep down, I felt very self conscious. I knew I might feel really bad and take forever to finish and be grumpy in the process (although I vowed to try not to be) and I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s race day. The thing about Halbert is, I’ve been with him through many bad and slow races for him, and I knew he had no qualms about being out there for as long as it took. I also knew he would talk enough to make sure I didn’t have time to think about being grumpy! So it looked like I was getting a reprieve from my solitude after all. Little did I realize just how many people would end up joining our group!

Anyway, race day once again featured our annual Route 66 Marathon tradition of arriving too late, sprinting to attempt to make it to the Dom-N-8rz group picture, and literally joining the group as the picture is being taken.


Half paying attention, whole freezing

We totally missed the Maniacs picture (what else is new) but I did get to see a bunch of my friends and wish them luck before we started. There were just a few Maniacs, Half Fanatics, and 50 Staters there.


Group picture that I am not in – not like you would know if I didn’t tell you

We headed over to our corral, and all I felt was excitement. I had taken some of my ultra strong pain pills for my back, as well as a double dose of anti-reflux and anti-nausea medicine, plus I had some with me for the road. While I would not normally advocate using medication to mask a problem(s) and run a marathon, I figured it was ok just this once. This race is incredibly well organized and started right on time with a cannon burst of confetti, and we were off! I was quickly reminded of how hilly Tulsa is – the hills grab you in the first mile and hold on for the rest of the race. I was running with Halbert as well as my friends JC and Charlotte. Although we started with Patty, I knew she would be pulling away soon enough as she was out to run her fastest Route 66 ever.


Everyone is freezing, no matter what Halbert and his lack of shirt may indicate.

The course changes a little bit each year, so we found ourselves running through Cascia Hall,  a beautiful private school that reminds me of Hogwarts, around mile 3. Their mascot was cheering us on at one of the water stops, so I jumped up to take a picture with him, as I had promised to Instagram my progress throughout the race. From that point on, I decided that taking pictures every three miles was a good compromise. I hadn’t seen Halbert, JC and Charlotte in a while, so we were catching up and chatting and the miles were flying by. I have no idea what pace we were running, but I felt great and my heart rate was steady. Things were off to a great start!


Strangely, I really love this picture

It wasn’t very long before we came across the first of about a million beer/mimosa/jello shot stops. I remember being wowed by the number of them the first year I ran the race back in 2012, but the legend has only grown from there. From mile 6 on, it seemed like there was at least one stop every mile! If you are looking to get blackout drunk while running a marathon (and obviously, who isn’t?) this is your race. Although I normally would be all about it, I didn’t want to push my luck with my stomach, so I only took small sips of mimosas at a few stops, the first being mile 6. We took a group shot about 10 feet before we saw the mimosa station, so mile 6 got a few pictures, including one with the ever-popular and ever-famous Dave Mari!


Before we realized there was something cool to take a picture of just up ahead


Mimosas with Dave!

RunnersWorld, the store that is associated with my running group, the Dom-N-8rz, is located right near mile 7, and they always provide jello shots. Being my home store,  I couldn’t resist, of course! This part of the course runs through an area called Brookside which is full of cute shops, restaurants, and bars and always has a good crowd for the race. Lululemon is there with giant speakers and tons of signs and energy, so this is one of my favorite parts of the course. Since Charlotte had never run Route 66 before, I gave her a play by play as we ran through each part of Tulsa. It was around this time that we saw my friend Jennie! She runs with the Dom-N-8rz and hadn’t done a marathon in a while, so we picked her up along the course and convinced her to run with us because we knew we would be having a blast. Spoiler alert: it was her most fun marathon ever, obviously. We also saw my friend Colleen!


Jello shots at RunnersWorld! What, your running store doesn’t advocate drinking alcohol during marathons? That’s weird.

The hills and beer stops continued, and soon we found ourselves at a giant balloon arch on Cincinnati Ave. This massive beer stop even had a picture frame set up where you could get your picture taken! This type of thing is just one more reason why this race is so special. Not only do the race directors go above and beyond to make sure there is plenty of on course entertainment, great swag, awesome medals, etc., the Tulsa community is so supportive. The race runs through many neighborhoods throughout the city, and there is no shortage of people tailgating on their lawns with plenty of food and drinks for all the runners! No, it’s not like the crowds of Chicago, but you’re pretty much guaranteed to see spectators at every corner and tons of great signs and enthusiasm. The police officers are also the best and the most friendly and excited to see runners out there. Every time we thanked them for being out there to protect us, they said “Thank you for running!” Bless.


You can’t really see my face but you get the point

Despite the fact that this race is called the Route 66 Marathon, you never actually run on Route 66. That’s because Route 66 through the city of Tulsa is a) not actually that scenic and b) not conducive to tons of runners. You do, however, run under Route 66, so we made sure to grab a picture because we were closing in on mile 12. I have taken a picture in front of this sign every year that I have run this race, so I plan on continuing that tradition.


Route 66 in the background! Not sure why, but I’m super into the black and white on this one.

At around mile 12.5, the half and the full marathon split off from each other. This is significant because a little bit after mile 12, we found my friend Christy, who was significantly undertrained and not sure whether she was going to do the full or stop at the half. I hadn’t seen her in a while so we pulled her into our group and began chatting away, and soon enough, she was on the full course with us! Running through the streets of downtown Tulsa, there is no shortage of hills, so it’s understandable if you hit this section of the course and find yourself thinking that you should have turned off at the half! I was feeling great, though, and powered up every hill. I told Halbert to make sure I took my other pain pill for my back somewhere between miles 13-15 as a preemptive strike. Although I didn’t need it at that point, I knew I would regret it if I got to mile 21 and was in searing pain! We powered through mile 15 all smiles, though.


Oh hey Christy!

By this point, we had lost Charlotte and JC was hovering around somewhere. He is super fast, so although he often dropped off and out of pictures to talk to someone, he would inevitably end up in front of us, standing off to the side and waiting for us to catch up – yes, this happened more than once. Before we knew it, we were at mile 18, now having lost Christy, who had stopped to talk to a friend. I could not believe how fast the race was flying by OR how good I felt, but I was sobered by the memory of what happened at Spinx, where I felt great at mile 18 and then promptly crashed and burned. I tried not to focus on that and instead just take it one mile at a time. I truly was having the time of my life, even though I hadn’t had any mimosas in a while (the others drank my share to make up for it).


Mile 18 and still chipper!

I did start to feel a bit sick to my stomach and told Halbert I might need the Tums he had so thoughtfully brought (thank goodness all my friends are more prepared for my life than me), but I tried not to focus on it. I distracted myself by chatting with everyone around me because I knew if I took some Tums, I would start to obsess about how my stomach was feeling. Nope, no time for that today!  We were heading into Tulsa University (home of the questionably named Golden Hurricanes), which is a really beautiful campus. The only thing about it is that you’d expect a ton of fraternities and sororities to be out cheering (or maybe you wouldn’t on a Sunday morning, who knows) but everyone has gone home for Thanksgiving break by that point, so it is kind of quiet. Nonetheless, there were a couple of water stops and before we knew it, we were at mile 21. JC was back and we had permanently picked up Andrea, who had been running in our general vicinity for a few miles. I was excited because I knew I was coming up to mile 22, home of the famous beer stop where reader Jeanne would be (and has been every year)!


Mile 21 in TU!

I had saved up my stomach’s tolerance for the stop at 22, and it did not disappoint. Beer, jello shots, mimosas, pickles, candy, fruit – truly anything you could possibly crave was available! This is probably my favorite neighborhood of the entire race because there are so many people out and about cheering. You’re nearly at the end of the race and there are still a ton of hills left to go, but the community cheers you through! Somehow, I was still feeling awesome. OK, I know how – medicine, obviously – but still, 22 miles is a long way to run, medicated or not. We made our way out of the neighborhoods and at this point, Halbert, JC, and Andrea were starting to slow it down a bit. As we approached mile 24 (up another big hill, obviously), it was just me, Jennie, and Halbert. I knew Halbert was flagging, but Jennie and I were still running pretty strong, and I looked ahead to the mile marker. There was nothing to take a picture of that was terribly exciting. Then I looked down at my watch and realized that maybe, just maybe, I could hit a post-back surgery PR if I kicked it into high gear. I made the snap decision to forego the mile 24 picture, but I wasn’t sure if I could hit the PR. I told Jennie what was going on and that I was worried about kicking too soon – after all, 2.2 miles is not that far, but it’s not that close, either. She told me that she couldn’t go any faster but that I looked strong and that I should go for it. I thought about it for a second – should I leave the people who had run the whole race with me behind? Did I want to finish my 50th marathon by myself? Did I have enough left in the tank to move faster?

I decided that I had to try. What did I have to lose? Barring some type of complete breakdown, I was definitely going to finish under 5 hours, and if I faltered at the end, I could run it in with everyone. “GO!” Jennie shouted. I went.

I lengthened my stride and took off as fast as I could go without totally losing control of my breath and heart rate. A smile spread across my face because I couldn’t believe it – I FELT SO GOOD. I passed tons of people and headed towards downtown. Now, here is where I have a confession to make. Patty and the Dom-N-8rz had made me an incredible banner that was hanging at mile 25.5 on an overpass that we ran under. It was supposed to be a surprise, but the official marathon Instagram page and taken a picture of it the day before and tagged me in it, so I knew it was there. Patty was not very happy about that, but I actually think it worked out for the best, because I had my camera out and was ready to take a picture of it as I ran underneath! Also, since it was going to be super close for a PR, it worked out well that I didn’t get surprised by it and stop. No, I did not cry when I saw it. I’m not much of a crier in general, and I’m definitely not much of a crier when I’m running! To be honest, I’m not even sure I would have noticed it because I was focusing so hard at that point and my heart rate was soaring and my breathing was labored, but it definitely made me smile and be so grateful for the wonderful people I have in my life who care about me enough to do something like that for me. Just 7/10 of a mile to the finish now!

It occurred to me at this point that I didn’t actually know what my official post-surgery PR actually was. I knew it was a 4:54:SOMETHING from Rehoboth, but I didn’t know the exact seconds. I was going to be cutting it super, super close, but as I made the final turn to the finish, I knew it didn’t matter. I had given it my all and had one of the best races of my life, so who cared whether I missed it by a few seconds? It sure wasn’t going to stop me from trying, though!

I crossed the finish line in 4:54:40, listening to the cheers of my friends who had finished before me.  I lifted my hands in victory and smiled as I crossed. I didn’t cry or tear up. I felt nothing but happy and proud.


Yes, I actually bought the race photo. #worthit

I waited in the finish line area for Jennie and figured Halbert and JC wouldn’t be too far behind. While I was waiting, reader Meghan introduced herself and (unfortunately for her) got a super sweaty hug from me. I was in a pretty euphoric state! I’m not much for hugging in general but I saw a first time marathoner crying and I went over and hugged her too. What the hell, hugs for everyone! I just ran my 50th marathon! I also saw my friend Lygea, who has been battling a hamstring injury and didn’t know if she would make it to the finish. Lygea, Jennie and I headed to grab our medals and find Patty, then head to Maniac Corner, where we could exchange our finisher medals for the special club medals we had registered for.


Jennie, Lygea, me, and Patty

The Maniac Corner was bustling with tons of people, and it was great to see everyone and hear about their races! For once, I didn’t have to leave right after the race to fly out since I was planning on staying until Monday night, so I was able to just hang out and relax with everyone. There were lots of big milestones that day – my friend Pascal’s 200th, another Maniac’s Titanium race, and my 50th! Lots of cheers to go around.


The Dom-N-8rz at Maniac Corner with our freshly exchanged medals

When we got back to the house that night (after an excellent post-race dinner celebrating me and Jennie’s 30th birthdays!) I finally got around to checking my official time and figuring out if I had accomplished my post-surgery PR or not. And you guys?

I got that post-surgery PR by 17 sweet seconds. And I negative split the race – my first negative marathon split EVER – by nearly 5 MINUTES.

If that isn’t the perfect way to finish my marathon career, I don’t know what is.




Route 66 Marathon Sneak Peek!

I promise that I am not trying to hold you guys hostage or in suspense by not producing a race report. This week has been crazy! I got back from Tulsa at midnight on Monday night/Tuesday morning, then had to be up 5 hours later for an endoscopy to try and figure out what is going on with my stomach, and between travel, my day job, and being totally exhausted, I’m a little behind on the race report, but I’m working on it. Anyway, if you follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you already know the outcome of Sunday’s race, but for those of you who don’t, I wanted to share a quick sneak peek of the results.



I finished my 50th marathon! It was one of the best days of my life and probably my favorite marathon of all. THANK YOU for your support – I could not have done it without your words of encouragement! More to come soon, I promise!

Thank You.

This is just a short post to say thank you. You guys have inspired the hell out of me in the past 24 hours. Your kindness, sincerity, and genuine good will for whatever I choose has made me feel so much better about Sunday, come what may.

I don’t know what’s going to happen on Sunday. What I do know is that I am going to do whatever it takes to cross that finish line, no matter how long it takes. I realize now that as much as marathons hurt now (certainly a whole lot more than they used to – ah, youth), this race is not going to suck, because I am not alone. You are all with me. For the first time ever, I’m bringing my phone with me and I’ll be updating from the course. Follow me on Instagram or Twitter to get the latest.

This is #50. Team T-Rex, let’s do this.

Because OF COURSE.

A couple days from now, I might run my 50th marathon.

I might.

I sit here on my couch typing this and I feel utterly defeated, like the universe is conspiring against me or maybe just trying to send me a very strong hint that I’m an absolute idiot and need to let go of this whole marathon thing. And yet, it’s just not that simple.

As you likely know, I had a great race until mile 19 at the Spinx Marathon 3 weeks ago, where my back just totally quit on me. I took recovery seriously, didn’t run for a week, and then came back to see how my back was handling it. And to be honest? It was sometimes ok, and sometimes not. My 10 mile run felt great, but 3 mile runs with AJ sometimes felt terrible and left me aching for days. But I thought “I can push through it for one more.”

Then, I got the news that Amanda is no longer coming with me to Route 66. Basically, she hadn’t trained for Spinx and that race was very challenging for her, and she hasn’t been able to run since due to hip flexor issues, so it doesn’t make sense for her to use the vacation time to go to Oklahoma and spectate. I get it – I’m super possessive of my vacation time as well – but still, there goes my running partner and the person who has been by my side for what seems like the majority of these 50 marathons. I made my peace with it, though, and realized there could be beauty in finishing my 50th marathon the same way I finished my first one – alone. There’s something to be said for having no one to rely on but yourself, and it’s been a long time since I ran a marathon completely on my own. So I thought, ” I can push through it for one more.”


Route 66 Marathon 2012, with Amanda and some absurdly photogenic guy in the background (seriously who looks like that)

But then, in the middle of last week, I woke up with horrible acid reflux. Long time readers of this blog will remember that I used to throw up in almost every marathon I did as a result of chronic acid reflux and the basically non-existent valve between my stomach and my esophagus. I had surgery to basically create a new valve back in February 2013 and it has been a miracle for me – I haven’t had reflux for more than about 2 hours since then, and only on very rare occasions. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for myself. So when I woke up with horrible reflux, I was startled, but I assumed it would go away.

It did not go away.

Over a week later and all I can taste is acid in my throat all the time. No medication helps. I had not made any changes to my diet. I haven’t been eating particularly inflammatory foods. There is no rhyme or reason for this to be happening, and the prolonged nature of it is very concerning. So, after much denial, anger, and bargaining, I finally called my surgeon and was lucky enough to be seen right away. He was very concerned that either the wrap around my esophagus has failed, or that I’m having gallbladder problems. Given that my dad and my brother have both had their gallbladders removed, either scenario is possible. I was able to get some tests done on Thursday and I have an upper endoscopy scheduled for Tuesday, and then we will go from there.

And so now, here I am, on the cusp of my 50th marathon, with a back that hates me at least 50% of the time, facing the prospect of running the entire thing alone, and with a near guarantee that I’m going to spend a decent portion of the race puking acid. You might find yourself, like the rest of my family and friends, wondering why I haven’t dropped out yet. I’m not entirely sure either. The whole idea seems completely miserable, but I hate the idea of quitting.


Route 66 Marathon, 2013 – Taking jello shots at mile 14, naturally. It was 27 degrees when we FINISHED that day and I still wore a tank top because I am an idiot.

This is the 10th anniversary of the Route 66 Marathon – one of my absolutely favorite races. So many of my friends live in Tulsa. I had this marked as my 50th marathon for a long time, and I hate to give up on the idea of it. More than that, though, I am starting to see myself as mortal. I am starting to respect my body. And I am beginning to realize that maybe, just maybe, my body doesn’t really appreciate me running 26.2 miles anymore.  My experience at the Spinx Marathon made me question what I’m doing even more, and I’ve since been preparing myself for the very real possibility that the Route 66 Marathon will be my last marathon ever.

Honestly? I’m ok with that if it turns out to be the case. I’ve made my peace with the idea. I have nothing left to prove to myself or anyone else, and there is no reason why I can’t still travel around and do races with my friends – although they might be half marathons from now on. But I don’t know if I can let go if my last marathon is #49 and it is Spinx. That is not how I planned to end this chapter of my running career. And while I realize that we don’t always get to plan how things end, I still had high hopes.  I envisioned a smooth transition from running marathons to training hard (within my limits) for half marathons and testing myself there. I envisioned going out in a blaze of glory at the 10th anniversary of Route 66, capping off 50 marathons and accomplishing a slightly modified version of the goal I laid out when I originally started this blog (to run a marathon in all 50 states by the time I turn 30).


Route 66 Marathon, 2014 – Finishing with Terry (in orange), co-leader of my Tulsa running group, as he completed his first marathon after beating cancer. One of my favorite race experiences of all time.

I turn 30 in about 3 weeks. Although I obviously won’t be finishing the 50 states by then, there’s a real possibility that I can finish my 50th marathon. The question is – do I want to? The answer to that question, of course, is yes. But will I? To that end, I’m really not sure.


True Life: I’m Becoming a Gear-Head, and Giveaway Winner!

The Qore Performance giveaway has come to an end! Thank you so much for all your comments about this awesome company. I’m incredibly passionate about what they are doing and I know you will be too once you give them a try! So congratulations to Steph F. from Wisconsin, who is our winner! She selected the slider shorts. If you didn’t win, no worries! Use discount code TRex20 to get 20% off any product on Qore’s website and test their products out for yourself! They make excellent holiday gifts :)

In fact, I’ve become a bit of a gear-head recently, which is sort of weird. I’m not typically the type of person to pay a whole lot of attention to the latest tech fabrics or boot technology or lightest-weight backpack, because it just honestly has never interested me all that much. I think that has started to change for two reasons: 1) I’m learning a lot about different kinds of really cool technology thanks to some very forward-thinking brands that I work with, and 2) I’m expanding my interests a lot more into the travel and outdoor spheres in addition to running and barre.

For example, on Veteran’s Day last week, I headed out for a hike. I’ve been dying to get out and explore more of Greenville, but it seems like it’s been raining here every single weekend for the past 2 months. That’s not an exaggeration. So yeah, it was a random Wednesday, but the weather was beautiful and I had a new pair of hiking boots in my closet to test out so I thought, why not?


HOKAS come in many forms, apparently

A big part of my motivation was wanting to get out and test out my new hiking boots. See, HOKA has entered into the hiking boot market (which makes sense since they started out making trail shoes). I’ve never really had a pair of hiking boots before – I always just wore trail running shoes, and in fact, that’s how I hiked the entire Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. But now that I live somewhere with quick access to a ton of hiking trails and outdoor resources, it seemed like it might be a good idea to get some actual hiking boots. Plus, I’ve got some more international trips up my sleeve for next year, and all of them revolve heavily around trekking and nature. Luckily, HOKA hooked me up and sent me a pair of their new boots! Holy crap, what a game changer! There is a huge difference between hiking in boots and hiking in running shoes. My ankles felt way more supported, and that HOKA cushioning was noticeable. I hiked 7 very hilly and technical miles, and although I was super sore the next day, my feet felt great. Oh, so this is what it is like to have the proper gear!


A little solo hike waterfall action

In speaking of my international travels, I’m currently on the hunt for the world’s perfect backpacking backpack (not as redundant as it sounds). I’m looking for one that includes a detachable daypack and is good for trips of about 2 weeks. I’m in the process of doing my research now and am preparing to buy one pretty soon! Same thing goes for a new camera. I am ready to bump up to an entry-level DSLR and take some lessons and figure out how to really take amazing pictures that I can share with you here. If I am going to go to beautiful places, I might as well take pictures that do them justice, right? So any recommendations that you have (on either a sweet backpack or an entry-level DSLR) would be most appreciated.

When I was growing up, my mom always emphasized “quantity over quality” – yes, literally the exact opposite of what most people heard growing up. She grew up in a family where money was tight and she didn’t have a lot of options on clothes to wear, so she bought a lot of inexpensive clothing once she could afford to, and that way, she had options. For a long time, I subscribed to that theory as well, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized the value in spending more for something that I truly love and will last a long time – something like a great backpack, camera, or hiking boots. What’s the point in being uncomfortable but having a million different ways to be uncomfortable? Sometimes that means waiting a little longer and saving up more so that I can have what I want, but it’s worth it in the end, at least in my opinion.

So to that end, I’m putting my money where my mouth is an investing in high-tech products that I think are awesome, useful, and worth the money. Qore Performance has just introduced its latest project, the Hydration Shirt, and is currently raising funding on Kickstarter in hopes of making this dream a reality.


Both long sleeve and short sleeve are available!

What makes The Hydration Shirt unique are the Pulse Point Pockets which hold the heat-absorbing inserts in place where our bodies have a high volume of blood flowing close to the skins surface. These inserts absorb heat from your blood stream so your body doesn’t have to sweat or breathe as intensely to dispose of excess heat. In turn, this keeps more water in your body, boosting hydration and nearly every other aspect of athletic performance with it: endurance, strength, mental focus and especially recovery.  Of course, The Hydration Shirt is also moisture-wicking, anti-microbial, four-way stretch, and UPF 50+. It’s amazing. ” – Qore Performance

I put my money where my mouth is and backed the Hydration Shirt campaign – I can’t wait til my shirt gets here! I purchased the short sleeve version because South Carolina is a very stupid, hot place, but I can’t wait to try it out. Knowing how much their shorts have changed my running for the better and how much other gear I’ve purchased or been given has changed my life, it is exciting to think that there is something else in the pipeline that could improve the way I stay active. Check out their Kickstarter campaign and grab one of the Hydration Shirts at a MASSIVE discount before they’re all gone!

Yes, I’m turning into quite the gear-head, and I’m fine with that. While I’ll be the first person to tell you that you don’t need a lot of stuff to get out and run, hike, or travel, I’ll also be the first person to tell you that there are some products out there that just make life a whole lot easier.

LEAVE A COMMENT: What gear can you not imagine living without? Do you have any backpack or entry-level DSLR recommendations for me?

Food, Fuel, and Feelings: An Epiphany

The phrase “food is fuel” comes up time and time again in the running and fitness communities. “You need to fuel your body with foods that help it feel good and perform at its highest level.” I’ve heard that a thousand times, and more than one therapist told me to try and view food as fuel during the darkest times of my recovery from my eating disorder. We also hear a lot of recommendations to think about how a certain food makes us  feel and use that information to decide what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat. To be honest, I have never been terribly successful at this, but I didn’t really think about why until this past week, when I had an epiphany (you guys know I love a good epiphany).


A quick google image search of “food is fuel” returns about a thousand memes and images like this

Let me back up a bit. I’ve been teaching and taking barre about 5 days a week, and of course, I’ve been training for a marathon. In an effort to eat more vegetables, I’ve started eating yummy salads for lunch each day, and I’ve bumped up my fruit intake as well, just trying to eat a more balanced diet. I’ve cut back on alcohol with the simple rule of making sure I don’t drink on more days of the week than days that I do. That’s it.  I haven’t thought about or tracked my calories at all, I’ve just tried to think about eating as many whole foods as possible and let the rest take care of itself. As a result of cleaning up my diet a bit and finding a great balance between barre and running, I have lost a few pounds, but most importantly, I’ve felt better than ever. I’m prioritizing my sleep, staying organized, and trying to keep my stress levels down. I feel truly strong and powerful but also graceful and lean, and it has been awesome!

Last week, though, I had a busy week involving a couple days in the swamps for work, a hectic morning where I thought I would be working from home but ended up having to run into the office (thereby not having any lunch or snacks), and I ended up eating out a lot more than I normally do. I got out of my routine, and I didn’t feel great.


What, your job doesn’t involve you wearing a headlight and walking in knee deep water in culverts underneath the interstate to look for endangered bats? Weird. I thought everyone’s did.

But the reason I didn’t feel great wasn’t because I felt “fat” or heavy or whatever else, which is how I normally thought about how a food makes me feel. In the past, if whatever I was eating made me feel “skinny,” no matter how lethargic or run down I felt or how junky the food was, I equated that food with making me feel good. If the food made me feel “fat” or bloated or heavy or whatever else, even if I had a lot of energy and it was good, whole foods, than that food automatically, in my mind, made me feel bad. I honestly did not have any other frame of reference for feelings that food could give me.

I realized last week that that is an incredibly oversimplified (and honestly STUPID) way to look at food. Last week I was eating foods that actually didn’t make me feel fat – they were still decent enough choices, really. Nothing too crazy. But I was eating out a lot, eating more simple carbs and less protein than usual, and I realized I was more tired and lethargic. I didn’t have as much energy! I didn’t really feel any heavier, but I still felt bad. It was a light bulb moment for me, as dumb as that sounds. It is possible for a food to make you feel bad without it making you feel fat. Whoa!


A few too many bagel sandwiches were probably consumed this week

I also found that I was a lot more hungry than usual, most likely because I was not fueling (there’s that word again) my body with the highest quality stuff, and wasn’t eating the whole foods I’ve become used to.  Nothing catastrophic happened this week. I didn’t collapse at my desk or anything, but I did realize that if I can feel really good, why would I not want to? It’s awesome (and necessary, for me at least) to indulge at times and eat foods that are just delicious and don’t offer a ton of nutritional value, but doing that day in and day out is just not how I want my body to feel and work each day.

So yeah, I guess this is one of those “OMG duh, Danielle” blog posts that I have been known to write, but I love learning more about myself and my body. It’s exciting to discover that all the things that I used to think were the gospel truth about food and body confidence aren’t necessarily the case at all, and learning to separate the feelings of “good” and “bad” from “skinny” and fat” is a pretty important lesson. Hey, the more you know!

LEAVE A COMMENT: What foods make you feel great and what make you feel terrible? Do you think of food as fuel, or is that a challenge for you also?

UAE and Oman: Expectations vs Reality

I promise this is the last post about my recent trip to the UAE and Oman! I wanted to take some time to talk about some of the observations I made on the trip, some things I learned, and other things I found interesting as compared to what my expectations and perceptions were before I visited. Before I left, I got a lot of concerned questions and comments from friends, family and coworkers, most of which centered around the theme of “Are you CRAZY? Aren’t you worried about terrorists??” and “Don’t they hate women over there? You won’t be safe!” I was very confident that I would be safe in the UAE and Oman (they are some of the safest and most politically stable countries in the world) but I wasn’t sure how I would be received as a (blonde) woman and an American, since those reactions have been different in each of the countries I have visited so far. I was excited to find out, though! Note: these are my opinions based on my experiences during my trip. By no means am I attempting to speak for all people who visit, or all countries in the Middle East, or all Muslim nations!


I did not expect it to look like this. That was an excellent bonus.

1. Expectation: The dress code is noticeable and applied to women only

Reality: You would barely notice the dress code if you weren’t paying attention

Although it is not required in most places except malls and mosques, laws and customs in both the UAE and Oman require both women and men to dress modestly – meaning you are covered from your shoulders to your knees. Lauren and I erred on the side of caution always and never wanted to draw unnecessary attention to ourselves or offend anyone. Many of the websites and blogs I read said that you can wear whatever you want, particularly in Dubai, and while that might be true, you would definitely stand out and honestly kind of look silly. Some women do wear abayas (traditional overgarments) and headscarves, but plenty of people wear street clothes as well. In Dubai and Abu Dhabi, you honestly would not notice that people are dressing “modestly” aside from the men and women in their overgarments, because everyone else dresses very fashionably. It’s not weird looking or out of place at all. In Oman, men and women both dress more traditionally than the UAE, but again, we never felt weird or out of place. I personally was glad that we stuck with t-shirts and maxi skirts with the exception of our dolphin cruise, but there were only tourists/ex-pats on our cruise and therefore no one to offend. That said, I don’t think anyone would have said anything to us either way.


These outfits were totally appropriate for the mall (one of the more conservative places) and we fit right in

2. Expectation: Women are segregated into separate facilities by force

Reality: Separate facilities are a choice and are pretty excellent

As soon as we left the airport in Dubai, we noticed that there were pink taxis and discovered that there are optional separate taxis for women and children. Women can take any taxi they want, but if they prefer, they can hire one of the pink taxis, which are driven by women. We didn’t opt for that but I thought it was awesome! The subway also has separate cars that are only for women and children. Again, women may sit anywhere they choose, but they have the option of standing away from men, who are fined for violating the law and entering the car. This was seriously the best thing ever. It was SO nice to be able to sit down (or stand) and not have to worry about being rubbed up against, stared at, whatever. I would love it if we had this in the U.S. No offense, male readers, but some of your gender are not representing you well.

I think in the U.S., we hear about separate facilities like these and think women are forced to ride in separate cabs or metro cars, and at least in the UAE and Oman, this is not the case. Is it in other countries? Probably (I haven’t been to them!), but the point is that we felt nothing but respected and honored by these rules. Lauren and I both came away from the experience feeling like women received a lot of respect and were almost placed on a pedestal in both countries – not what we expected to find at all!


Hanging in the women and children only metro car! The best!

3. Expectation: Most of the people in the UAE and Oman are from there

Reality: A huge percentage of both countries’ populations are expats and guest workers

In addition to the expats that many people know about, there are also a ton of migrant workers in the service industries in both countries. In the UAE, nearly every server, shopkeeper, tour guide, hotel employee, etc. that we spoke to was from another country – usually India, Pakistan, or the Phillipines. Our guides explained that many Emirati people are very wealthy and the country was originally full of nomads, so the Emiratis do not like to live in cities and do not need to work in the service industries. I was expecting lots of European expats, but was really surprised by how diverse the population is in both countries. Nearly 25% of the population in Oman is made up of expats! We loved talking to everyone and finding out where they were from, why they moved, and about their lives back home. Some of our favorite experiences from the whole trip!

4. Expectation: Like most countries except America, the cars are tiny

Reality: It’s like being in the USA

One of the first things many Americans notice when traveling abroad is how tiny the cars are by comparison to what we have here. That’s certainly been my experience everywhere I’ve gone so far. Not the case in the UAE and Oman! Full-sized pick up trucks and SUVs were everywhere, and hey, why not? Gas there is subsidized and about 50 cents per gallon. Oh right, climate change. That little thing.

5.  Expectation: People would have negative opinions of Americans due to our foreign policy issues in the Middle East

Reality: Everyone just wants to ask about New York City

Everyone always asked where we were from, and people were very excited when we said we were from the U.S. As always, they said “Oh, from New York??” and we had to disappoint them and be like ehh….not exactly. People are very into New York. I don’t think a ton of Americans travel in that part of the world, at least not as often as people from Europe do, because people often seemed surprised to see us. Our guide in Oman, Khalid, told us that he loves having Americans on his tours because they are always so friendly, and a British expat that we sat next to on the flight back from Oman asked us lots of questions about American culture and then told us Americans are the most polite people in the world. A BRITISH PERSON SAID THAT. I was just as shocked as you undoubtedly are. He was serious.


The owner of this shop was from Pakistan and spent a good half an hour giving us samples and talking to us all about his village and asking us questions about New York. We should probably learn more about New York before our next trip.

6. Expectation: Omani people are traditional and not super welcoming

Reality: Omani people are the friendliest people in the world

Ok, I actually did not think Omani people would be unfriendly at all (I had no reason to think that whatsoever), but I definitely did not expect them to be this wonderful. I think I say that about every country I visit, but in all seriousness, every Omani person we met was the nicest person ever. Endlessly polite, accommodating, kind, and enthusiastic about their country. It was easy to see how much they love their sultan and their home and are excited to show off all the wonderful things that Oman has to offer. I know that it is not a popular tourist destination (at least for Americans) but it should be! I have never felt more welcome anywhere that I have been so far, and that is the honest truth. GO TO OMAN RIGHT NOW.


We bought shirts from this guy and he was like “Selfie?” and we were like “Obviously”

7. Expectation: There is no alcohol allowed except in hotel bars

Reality: There is no alcohol allowed except in hotel bars. On a related note, both countries are really into juice.

Because both the UAE and Oman are Muslim countries, alcohol is very tightly controlled. There are no liquor stores, restaurants don’t serve alcohol, and the only bars/places where you can buy alcohol are inside hotels. Despite going out quite a few times on our trip to Japan, we did not go to any of the bars in the UAE and Oman.  We did drink a ton of fresh-squeezed juices, which are advertised on the restaurant menus as “cocktails.” Bless. I’m not a huge juice person – Lauren is – but sometimes she would order one that was so good I had to get it myself. For the low price of about $8 (!), you too can drink the delicious juice. At that price, it might as well be beer.

8. Expectation: It’s a desert, so it must be a dry heat and therefore fine

Reality: It is indescribably hot. It is humid like South Florida in August. It is the literal weather definition of hell.

I grew up in South Florida. I lived in central South Carolina for 6 years. I have traveled to 49 states and 15 countries and you guys, Dubai is the hottest place I have ever been. It is like being on the surface of the sun…and we were there in October. It was over 100 degrees with 95% humidity and a UV index of 10 EVERY DAY. There are no clouds, and it is 40 degrees hotter than that in the depths of summer! Honestly, I have no idea how or why anyone lives there. We started sweating from the second we walked out of our hotel and did not stop until we showered (sometimes for the third time) before going to bed at night. It is ridiculous. Basically, if you go in any month but January, just embrace the fact that you will never stop sweating and all of your pictures will be terrible. There is no way around it.


“Oh, it’s hot. You know what’s a good idea? Let’s go to the top of the tallest building in the world, closest to the sun, and see how hot it is up there. Good idea.”

9. Expectation: I had a completely open mind and would form my own opinions

Reality: It is easy to let other peoples’ perceptions of a place color your experience when you’re there without even realizing it

I got a lot of heat about my trip before I left, and many people were concerned for my safety, primarily because I was visiting a predominantly Muslim country and we hear so much negative news. I’m pretty good about keeping an open mind, and I honestly wasn’t worried at all – after all, both the UAE and Oman are very stable, wealthy countries with low crime rates. However, on our first morning in Dubai, Lauren and I visited the gold souq (market). It was a Friday morning, which is the holy day for Islam, so most of the shops were closed. However, a few were open, and the male shopkeepers and some friends were hanging out outside the stores. As we walked through, we were two of very, very few tourists and attracted a lot of attention from the shopkeepers trying to get our business and asking us to come into their stores. I was immediately overwhelmed and found myself panicking and walking as fast as possible to get the hell out of there. At the hotel later, I thought about my reaction and why I had felt unsafe. No one had said anything offensive or lewd to us, and no one had touched us or tried to grab us. Yes, they were aggressive, loud, and demanding of our attention, but really, it was more something that should have been annoying than scary. I realized at that moment that, without even knowing, I had been internalizing all of the negative comments and questions I got about my trip. I thought I was keeping an open mind, but really, I went in with my guard WAY up, and I overreacted. I made a point to relax when we returned to the souqs the next day and evaluate the situation from a logical perspective, and we were never unsafe. Was the behavior something we would approve of or expect to see in America? No, but it wasn’t dangerous, either. I learned how easy it is to let other people’s opinions impact your experience in a place, and I will definitely be aware of that in the future. I hate to think I would not give a place a far chance based on the opinions of people who had never even been there!

10. Final Thoughts

I’m not totally sure what my expectations were for the UAE and Oman. I did not have much experience with the Islamic religion or Middle Eastern cultures, especially living in the South for most of my adult life. What I found was that I was pleasantly surprised by how respected and safe I felt the entire time. I ended up actually really loving how it felt to be dressed modestly, especially in an abaya, and I felt so comfortable with a head scarf on that I wore them without needing to sometimes while I was there. I just liked how it felt to be seen as a person rather than an object. I also loved how friendly everyone was and how welcoming people were upon finding out that we were American. If anyone acknowledged tension between the U.S. and their home country (like I said, many of the people we spoke to were from Pakistan and some from Afghanistan), they frequently made the comment that “the people of our countries are great friends. Our governments sometimes are not,” and then laughed. And it’s true! The light in people’s eyes was genuine and we did become friends.  I never felt unsafe or disliked or targeted or anything else.


I got a little attached to the head scarf and wore it even when I didn’t have to

Before I left, many people told me that they had no interest whatsoever to go to the Middle East and didn’t understand why I would want to go. With all the negative press we see and with the turmoil going on in some of the countries in that region, part of me understands why. But my overwhelming takeaway from this trip was that it’s a waste to categorically exclude a country from your travel list because it happens to have a certain predominant religion or be located in a given region. I would have missed out on an incredible trip if I had skipped the chance to go to the UAE and Oman just because of where they are on a map or the religion of the people that live there – and hey, they have a lower crime rate than the US! So I guess the point here is that if you’re interested in visiting a place, do your own research and form your own opinion. Let your mind be open and let the people surprise you. You never know what you might find!

Fall Favorites and a Qore Performance Giveaway

I’m the kind of person that either loves something or doesn’t bother with it. I don’t hate it, per se, it’s just not worth my energy to seek out an activity or product that I’m not crazy about. As a result, I’ve developed a weird aversion to trying new products sometimes. But every once in a while, I either purchase something or am offered a free item to review that literally knocks my socks off and I have to tell everyone about it right away. Between becoming a certified Barre3 instructor, putting in a full training cycle for a marathon, and traveling abroad in the past few months, I’ve found some new things that I can no longer live without. It’s fall, people, and I’m in love. But don’t worry – I bought all of these items myself except for one (which I’ll note) and my love for them is true and pure. Check out my fall favorites below! I linked to the websites where I personally purchased each product.

1. This day planner (Etsy)


As you can see, I love checking things off a list.

This planner has given me life! I was feeling so overwhelmed at trying to keep track of my freelance deadlines, my barre3 schedule (and which workouts I taught), and other details. Although I never missed a deadline or appointment, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before I did, and that stressed me out. I am NOT a planner person – previously, I had put everything in my phone – but something had to give. I was not prepared to spend $50+ on a planner (and I really don’t get the whole sticker thing) so I found this weekly planner on Etsy. For $15 it is a steal, and it has held up so well! Please get this for the disorganized person in your life. They need it.

2. Compression Sleeves and Socks (Vim & Vigr)




Full disclosure: I was sent a pair of compression calf sleeves and socks from Vim & Vigr for my review. This line offers “fashion” compression socks – that is, socks with fun prints for men and women who still want medical grade compression in their socks. To be honest, I wasn’t super excited either way. I almost never wear compression socks and have never really felt like I needed them. However, after a couple months of training on the hills around here all the time, I figured “What the hell, why not?” and gave them a try. I ended up sleeping in the calf sleeves when my legs were sore from my long run, and WOW – what a difference! These have been a game changer for me. I now regularly sleep in the calf sleeves (my feet get too hot in socks at night) and wear the socks around the house in the evenings after I run. No, I’m not wearing them out in public, but I usually wear pants anyway. Point being – these have changed recovery for me since I moved to Greenville and started running on hills regularly. I can’t recommend them enough! Use code VIMVIGR15 to get 15% off the Vim & Vigr site now through November 30th!

3. Toms Womens Nepal Boot (Cognac Suede Textile Mix) (Toms or Amazon)



BRB never taking these off

I saw these boots on a travel blog the other day and oh my goodness, I fell in love immediately. I do not think of myself as having a particularly cool or bohemian style in any way, and I would normally feel like I couldn’t pull boots like this off, but when I saw them, I had to have them. I ordered mine on Amazon because they were significantly cheaper in my size, but check both Amazon and Toms for yours. They come in brown, black, and grey, and I get multiple compliments on these things every time I wear them. I recommended sizing up a full size because the instep is shallow, but I absolutely love mine and can’t stop wearing them. You’ll be seeing these as pretty much my only footwear besides running shoes now that the weather is cold. Sorry, I’m not sorry.

4. ACURE 100% USDA Organic Moroccan Argan Oil (Acure or Amazon)


When AJ and I got married in Key West last year, the woman who did my makeup gave me a major wake-up call: I was not using enough moisturizer on my skin! She suggested that I put oil on it. OIL?? I was shocked. Gross! My skin doesn’t need oil on it! Wrong. I was sent Acure Organic Argan Oil long ago but never used it because I didn’t want my skin to break out. After the advice from the makeup artist, I dug it out and started using it. It has been a major game changer for my skin, especially in the winter, and even AJ uses it from time to time. There is no greasy feeling and it won’t stain your pillow at night (something I was weirdly concerned about), nor does it cause your skin to break out. I put it on my face and the backs of my hands at least twice a day and go through this stuff constantly. I’ve been a loyal customer for a year and will never go back.

5. Qore Performance Compression Shorts (Qore Performance)


Run. Eat. Qore.

Ok, this one isn’t new – but my giveaway is! It’s no secret that I absolutely love Qore Performance and their wearable hydration technology – I’ve been wearing their shorts religiously on my runs for the past year and a half. If I’m not wearing tights, I’m wearing Qore Performance shorts. They keep me hydrated and comfortable year round and offer a surprisingly flattering take on the traditional compression shorts. But shorts aren’t all this company has to offer! They also have half sleeve and full sleeve systems that can keep you hydrated in the summer and winter. So I want to give one lucky reader a chance to try the item of your choice, on me!

To enter: Check out Qore Performance’s website and LEAVE A COMMENT HERE telling me which item you would want and why  OR which items you are loving this fall that I need to know about. Must be a U.S. resident and use a valid email address! Winner will be picked at random from the comments! I’ll be accepting comments now through Wednesday, November 10th at 11:59 pm EST.

Spinx Marathon Race Report – “Be brave. Be thankful.”

I woke up the morning of the Spinx Marathon feeling a little nervous, but ready. I knew I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and I knew that that could be painful and scary. I had found a new mantra thanks to Swim Bike Mom: “Be brave. Be thankful.” I thought it was perfect for the day ahead.

The best thing about doing small races, especially those close to home, is that the logistics are super easy. We were just a 15 minute drive away from the start line, and the race didn’t start til 7:45 anyway, so we didn’t have a super early morning. We got to the start line in plenty of time and promptly froze to death because we’re stubborn and refuse to check bags at gear check for reasons that seem logical at the time and then seem incredibly stupid when I’m freezing to death before and after the race.


Possibly the best pre-race photo we’ve ever taken. Probably due to the hats.

As you can see, Amanda had purchased us excellent Halloween hats. I planned on wearing it until it got uncomfortable, but it actually never did and those hats got us many, many cheers and compliments along the way.

The course starts out running about 6 miles through downtown Greenville – a rather hilly start. There are some big hills in this section of the course. I did not wear my Garmin so I would not have known our pace anyway, but I did have my heart rate monitor on and we decided that we would just set out at a pace that felt comfortable and manageable based on the course and then check where we were at the halfway point. No point in going out too fast, right? The first few miles flew by since we had to constantly pay attention to what felt like hundreds of turns and changes in direction. The course was well marked, but we still saw plenty of people go off course and need to be pulled back in. There were definitely some confusing sections!


Annnnnd not the best mid-race photo we’ve ever taken

After going through downtown, we got on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, which is our lovely local multi-use path here in Greenville. It’s almost 19 miles long and is lined with trees and has some cute cafes and stores along the way. This time of year, the fall foliage was absolutely beautiful and we really enjoyed the view. Of course, the only bad thing about running on a multi-use path is that you’re essentially just running in a straight line for a rather long time. We took a turn through Furman University around mile 11, which I had never seen before. There were some hills in this section as well, but I was feeling really strong and had been pumped up by seeing the race leaders heading back down the trail. If there is one thing that really puts me in a good mood, it’s cheering people on during the out and back sections of a course. I absolutely love it!!

Around Furman, my left glute, which had been kind of tight since the beginning of the race, started to really seize up and start sending pain down to my calf. I tried to change my stride to engage my glutes more and forget about it, since it was way too early in the race for that nonsense. Amanda was feeling a little worn out since she hadn’t trained for this race at all, with the exception of the one long run we did together about a month and a half before this. She definitely was feeling the hills! We did really appreciate the support from all the kids at Furman, though, as plenty were out cheering the runners on. It’s a beautiful campus! We crossed the halfway point while on campus and I checked my watch: we were at exactly 2 hours and 30 minutes.

At that point, I knew that my dream of a post-surgery PR was out the window, because it meant I would have to negative split the race by 6 minutes. Not happening. I have run even splits on a couple of occasions, but that would put me at 5 hours. Strangely, I wasn’t really upset – I knew that we had run at a pace that was smart and sustainable, and just because I wasn’t going to hit my goal didn’t mean I couldn’t still push myself for the last half of the race. We headed back onto the trail from Furman at mile 14 and I got to resume cheering for all the runners heading back to town, but now there were a lot more of them! I was in such a great mood, because we only had two miles until the turn around point in Traveler’s Rest, where AJ would be waiting for us! I was having so much fun cheering and high fiving people. Amanda seemed to be having a lot less fun than me, but she was hanging in there. Before I knew it, I saw AJ straight ahead!


Hooray AJ for taking running pictures!

He was pretty amazed by my great mood but was excited to see my in such good spirits. As I’ve said before, AJ is not much for actually cheering during races. He stands there while holding coffee and waits to see me run by, but that’s sort of his personality anyway. He hasn’t been to a race of mine in a long time, so it was pretty exciting.


Yayyyyy husband!

We reached the turn around and headed back towards town, and as we did, I noticed Amanda didn’t have one of the yellow wrist bands they had handed me. There were no timing mats at the turn around, which seemed weird, but they were apparently supposed to be handing out these wrist bands. We weren’t sure if she needed one or not, but thankfully one of the volunteers stopped her on the way out and gave her one and explained that we would need them at the finish. Totally fine, but there probably should have been some type of mention of that at some point during the pre-race instructions…just saying.

Now we were headed back to town and had basically 10 miles to run back down the trail. I wasn’t really looking forward to that part, but we did get to cheer people on who were still heading out for a while. I was feeling pretty great and encouraged, and I was pumped to keep running. Amanda was not. She said she thought the race would be more enjoyable for her if she could walk a bit more, and that she didn’t want her lack of training to hold me back. It was a hard decision for me, because we always finish together, but I had promised myself that I would push myself during this race and see what I could do. Still, the thought of running the last 8 miles of myself kind of scared me. Then I thought “No, BE BRAVE. You can do this. BE THANKFUL that you had someone to run 18 miles with and now get after it.”

As I left Amanda at 18, I thought to myself, “Ok, let’s see what you’ve got.” I picked up the pace a little bit but mostly just wanted to keep a steady running pace. I have a bad habit of finding myself in pain (especially back pain) at the end of a race and walking a LOT, as you know. I really didn’t want to do that this time.

As I passed mile 19, I started having really sharp pain in my lower back. “NONONONONONO” I thought. “NO!!!” I really needed to bend over and let my spine decompress, but whenever I tried to do that, I got really dizzy and disoriented, so I kept running. I took it one mile at a time and just tried to get to the next mile marker or water stop. I also really, really had had to pee since about mile 10 of the race, but there were no bathrooms anywhere along the course. There was also Gatorade at only 3 of the stops, and one of the aid stations ran out of cups at mile 17. I was pretty surprised by that because this even is put on by one of the local track clubs, and you’d think it would have been more runner oriented. Fortunately, I had carried my water bottle and some extra Chomps with me, so I was ok, but had it been a warm day, it would have been tough.

Anyway, I kept pushing and running turned to shuffling. The miles dragged by so slowly, and with no one to cheer for or talk to, I was losing my enthusiasm. I was determined to think positive thoughts and tried to just think “Be brave. Be thankful,” over and over again and remind myself that this is what I had trained for, and how amazing it is that I am still running after 48 marathons.

I’m not going to lie, though. As the pain got worse and worse, I got angry with myself. Why am I torturing my body like this? I only get one body, and my back had shown me signs over the past few weeks that it wasn’t entirely thrilled with what I had going on. I have had some pain and stiffness after my last few runs since my long run, but I ignored it. Now, at mile 22 of the marathon, I just felt so bad. Bad physically, yes, but also, mentally. Why is it so hard for me to let go of something that my body clearly doesn’t appreciate?

Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. Keep pushing. Walk as little as possible. Stretch quickly, keep going, PUSH YOURSELF. I pushed. I really did. Around mile 24, a woman caught up with me (I had still somehow mostly been passing people at this point, because most other people were walking), and she said “Come on! We can catch those walkers!” I laughed and said I wasn’t so sure I could, but that I would try. She was running her 10th state that day and was about to join the 50 States Marathon Club, so we chatted about that for a little while until we came to the aid station at mile 25 and she left me in her dust. I was inspired by her positive energy, though, and she seemed so strong and happy. I remembered when I used to feel like that at mile 25, too.

As we wove the final mile through town, I was just praying for the finish. I heard a cheer from the sidewalk and one of my clients at Barre3 said “Keep going, you’re almost there!” HEY, that’s my Barre teacher!!! Go Danielle! Only 20 more to go…19…18…YOU’VE GOT THIS!” and that made me laugh, because that’s how I countdown in class and I guess I deserved that one. Definitely brightened my spirits. There were far too many turns before we got to the finish line, but the finish was pretty cool – we ran a lap around our minor league baseball team’s field before finishing at home plate! As we turned towards the stadium, I really gave it everything I had and charged the last quarter mile to the finish, passing a lot of people in the process. Might as well, right? AJ was there in the stands, waiting for me.


Kicking it to the finish!

I crossed the finish line and immediately just wanted to bend over and then lay down, but I had no idea where Amanda was or how long she would be. I trudged up into the stands and then laid down on the concrete floor between the seats and froze to death (due to lack of gear check because I’m an idiot) while AJ stared down at me and confirmed again that he will never, ever run a marathon. We waited for Amanda and about 15 minutes later, she ran into the stadium and crossed the finish!


Also an excellent post race photo!

I finished the race in 5:16, far past my time goal. I did, however, meet my other goal – to push myself and not to quit. I did push myself as hard as I could and never gave up. I didn’t walk it in. I kept going even when it hurt and I didn’t want to. Where the results what I hoped for? Definitely not. But I can’t say I didn’t try, and I don’t have to wonder what would have happened if I had just pushed myself a little harder, because I truly could not have. There is something satisfying in that, even if I ended up in a lot of pain as a result.

At the end of the day, I finished marathon #49 and am proud of the effort I put in. I was brave. I am thankful.

Pre-Race Thoughts and Goals

On Halloween, I’ll be running my 49th marathon right here in my new hometown of Greenville, SC. I’ve been training in earnest (long runs and all) since early August and put in the closest thing to a full marathon training cycle as I have in years. That’s kind of weird, because I’ve previously been known to sort of hate full training cycles, but here we are.

AJ asked me last night (while we were watching a reality tv show about some sort of arranged marriage, as we are often apt to do) if I have any goals for the race this weekend. I thought he was asking as a means to stimulate a deep conversation about my running-related hopes and fears, but then I remembered that a) we’ve been dating since shortly after I ran my 4th marathon and, 44 marathons later, he’s no longer that concerned about it and b) he is actually planning to meet me along the course on Saturday and therefore just wanted to know approximately when I’d be seeing him. Oops.


My sweet husband used to come to races a lot before he figured out that they aren’t really very fun if you’re not running. Bless his heart.

I know I have been saying here on the blog that my only goal for this race is to finish feeling strong and happy, and for a while, that was true. Of course, those are still the most important things to me, but honestly? I kind of want to see what I can do out on the course. I believe I am in shape to run a “post-back-surgery-PR,” which I’ve decided is a thing. That would have me coming in under 4:54, which I believe is fully doable based on how my training has gone recently. Will it be easy? No. Is it a guarantee? Not at all. But I think that if I take it out slow and stay steady, it is possible.

Not that I was ever really the type of person to be devastated by not meeting my goal in a race – I’m honestly just not that competitive, especially when it comes to anything athletic – but this time, it even seems less important. It is kind of a weird feeling to set a goal but be perfectly ok with not reaching it while still knowing I will work as hard as possible to try. Normally, I just wouldn’t bother setting a time goal at all. This time, I feel inclined to give myself something to aim for while still being accepting of the fact that hey, stuff happens sometimes. But dammit if I am not going to try!

No matter what the results are on race day, I’m grateful for this training cycle. It has taught me a lot about my body (like foam rolling after a hilly run is a must) and has given me some degree of confidence again that running can be enjoyable. Furthermore, my back has held up pretty damn well through all of this, and I’m proud of myself for the way I’ve trained – I’ve listened to my body but still pushed myself when I can.

So I write this to say that maybe tomorrow,  I’ll find the balance between pushing myself and still having fun. That’s been a tough thing for me to achieve sometimes, but as I get older and possibly wiser, it seems to be the most sustainable way to move forward without getting bored OR frustrated. So, wish me luck as Amanda and I take on the Spinx RunFest Marathon tomorrow! I’m notoriously late on race reports, so follow me on Instagram or Facebook to find out how it went first!