Crossing bridges in Chattanooga

I'm about to run one of the hottest races this Saturday in Nashville. The Hillbilly Half in June is always expected to be insanely hot and sunny, but you hope for weather at the end of April to be manageable at the least. It's starting to seem like it will be a scorcher, and the best thing to hope for is to just finish. Which is the exact reason I am not a fan of spring races.

Spring race training is AWESOME. You get to run in cold temperatures for most of your program which makes you feel like a really incredible runner most days. Fortunately, spring races help bring you back to earth and keep you humble. At least that is my experience as someone who runs "hot."

But fall races, those are incredible. In fact, let me tell you about my favorite fall race memory.  

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October 2015 I drove to Chattanooga, Tennessee on Friday the 16th. I had never been to Chattanooga before but was excited about my third full marathon taking place there the next day, and running a Ragnar Relay from there to Nashville the following week. I had trained all summer in horrible heat and was feeling very mentally defeated knowing that I had spent summer training miles much slower than my spring training, and even many of those mile walking. I decided I was going to run with the 4:30 pacers and hope for a PR down from my 4:45:50 spring race.

The start took place before the sun came up, and I can remember running over a bridge or two before there was even the slightest sign of the sunrise. I was running with a group of about 7-8 people, and we were all pretty quiet aside from the advice of how to take on certain hills from our pace leaders. It was a quiet morning, with only 412 full marathoners it seemed very different from my experience with the Rock n Roll race series from the spring Nashville race. 

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In my foggy runner's high memory I believe we started to have conversations around the 17 mile stretch. A girl I had been running with was from NYC and now lived in Georgia and told me how difficult it was to find places to run that weren't hilly there, which made me think of all of my training in Nashville. The last race she had ran left her with a bad injury so she wasn't expecting to do that well here in Chattanooga.

Somewhere around mile 20 we all started to make our own strides and find the pace that felt best at that point. Somehow I had walked so many miles through summer training and now my feet still felt light after 20 miles. I started to pick my pace up a little more and soon found myself pretty distant from all the other people I had been running with in the 4:30 group. Mile 23 came and all I could think was "this is all going by too quick, I need to really take this race in and enjoy every second because it has been perfect and Chattanooga is BEAUTIFUL!" But my legs still carried me almost effortlessly. At the time I only used MapMyRun on my phone and kept it in my pocket so I had no idea what my average pace time was up to that point, and being such a small race there weren't any mats or clocks, just mile markers as stickers on the ground. All I knew was that this marathon was truly fun!

 

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We ran across the pedestrian bridge near Coolidge Park and I could see the area where the finish line was, but I still wasn't sure how far was left to go. Spectators started to be more frequent and the noise was driving my legs even quicker. I turned the corner off the main road and saw the finish line just yards away. I sprinted and could feel the biggest smile on my face as I saw the clock read something around 4:19 and I knew that meant I had earned a huge PR. I saw the girl I had been running with from Atlanta waiting at the finish realizing this meant she too earned a PR and overcame the injury she was worried had ruined her as a runner. It was an awesome victory, and the finish meant pancakes and the largest medal I've ever gotten at a race. 

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When all was said and done and the times had been calculated, my time was 4:16:39, 29 minutes faster than my previous PR. A month later I went on to hit a new PR of 4:11:53, but the Chattanooga Seven Bridges race still stands out in my mind as the best race day I've ever had. A small but mighty race, with sights so beautiful during fall in Tennessee. 

In three days I'll be running a very hot race, but I'll keep in mind that races like this one are earned by the work that I put in when the weather isn't so nice. 

 

Little Red Wagon - Miranda Lambert 

I just had to add this slightly older Miranda song to the playlist. Yesterday I ran 400m repeats and this song made my legs feel weightless for a good number of strides. Take a listen, follow the playlist, and enjoy this next add in its silly but effect ways.  

The year I fell in love with running

2016 sucked.

For a lot of people. And for a lot of different reasons. December 3rd, 2016 I ran the St. Jude memphis Marathon for the third year in a row. Somewhere near mile 20 a spectator held a sign that read "F@ck 2016!" to which runners all around me agreed. I don't recall a year that was collectively thought of with a sigh the way it seems 2016 is remembered. And I feel thankful that I'm not alone in the idea that 2016 wasn't the best year ever.

I started 2016 by taking my first full-time, 9-5 day job. I started to struggle with time manage and stopped making time for the things that made me truly happy. I missed the first 10 weeks of my spring marathon training program and tried to jump back in on week 11 - an 18 mile run. I began the training run with the 4 hour group but got left behind after just 5 miles. Around mile 15 I was struggling when the 4:15 group caught up to me. And passed me. Just four months before this, November 2015, I had ran a marathon with a personal best of 4:11:53, and now a training run was causing me to feel I was no longer a runner. DEFEAT.

As a back story, 2015 was a great year for me and running. I became a Marathon Maniac (#12090) by running 7 Bridges Marathon in Chattanooga in October, The Nashville Marathon in November, and the St. Jude Memphis Marathon in December. Sprinkle in a Ragnar Relay and a Zooma half marathon (another personal best) and you would have the happiest version of myself that has ever existed.

My spring marathon eventually rolled around and I struggled, both with the actual running of the race and with enjoying it. I ran a half marathon a few weeks later and didn't find it as exciting as it once felt. I had high hopes for the Chicago marathon, my 7th marathon, and felt that a sub 4 hour marathon was in my reach with such a flat course. But my motivation was gone and I started to tell my running friends that I was burnt out on running. Chicago, the most incredible experience marathon I've ran, came and went with improper training and a lack in personal best to accompany it. Two months later I ran the St. Jude Marathon and beat my personal worst time by only 13 seconds. I felt like 2016 was the year I gave no importance to training and in return received no reward.

2017, the year I fell in love with running.

This is what I have planned for this year. I want to find the passion I once had for running and remember why I love this crazy sport. Music is also an important aspect of my life and my running. Each week I plan to draw on the building blocks of running - training, workouts, running sessions, gear, fuel, races, and the songs that helped me get through that week of running.

Runnin' Just in Case - Miranda Lambert

I love this song for the place I'm at currently with my running. Between the rhythm of the song that makes my feet want to run, to the line that reminds me that running can help me achieve something that I may not be directly focused on.

"It ain't love that I'm chasing / but I'm runnin' just in case"

Running sucks. I know this. It can be so rewarding, but it can also be so difficult. I run in weather that is too hot, or too cold. I've ran at hours that are too early when I'm so tired, and I've ran too late when I have to speed to beat the setting sun. Sometimes I set out to run three miles and I finish wondering how I ever ran a marathon. But I've also had some great laughs while running alongside my best friends. I've raised thousands of dollars for kids at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital who are fighting cancer. I'm planning on finding my love of running again this year, and maybe my goals are out of reach, but I'm still runnin' just in case.