2017 Boneshaker Pace Bend 10k Race Recap

As is the case with a majority of my PRs, the 10k one has been collecting dust for six years. I can run a 5k any given weekend of the year but for some reason races of this distance are few and far between. So on Saturday I made the hour drive out to Spicewood to run some rolling hills around Lake Travis. Not entirely sure why I willingly keep running all of these hilly races but whatever, it is what it is.

This was the inaugural year for the Pace Bend 10k and it drew roughly 100 runners. Small crowd for sure but likely due to the fact it’s pretty far from Austin city limits. There was plenty of parking and from start to finish everything was really well organized.

Miles 1 (9:33) and 2 (9:50) were relatively uneventful. There were definitely rolling hills but they weren’t horrible. There also was a bit of a headwind which sucked but I tried to tuck in behind a tall guy pushing a stroller. Really, I enjoy being slower than people pushing their children. It’s great for the ego. Anyway, I was happy with these paces given the course I was working with.

And then mile 3 happened.

Oh, mile 3. You were a bitch. There was an extremely long gradual climb that wound around corners so just when you thought your quads were done burning, you were surprised with another hill to climb. Everyone around me was walking which was (1) motivation to keep moving + pass them but also (2) made me consider taking a short walk break. I gave myself a quick profanity-laced pep talk and decided to keep running. This unfortunately was still my slowest mile at 10:19.

It took a few minutes for my legs and lungs to recover from mile 3, but once I did? It was time to drop the pace. Miles 4 (9:24) and 5  (9:37) were much kinder to us, with a sweet downhill and several long flat stretches.

Mile 6 by some miracle was my fastest at 9:09. The finish was UPHILL and so goddamn rude. My previous PR was 1:01 so obviously anything under that I would have been okay with. HOWEVER. My 10k goal for 2017 was 59:xx. My pace felt so slow coming up that last hill and I knew it was going to be really freaking close.

Official Finish Time: 59:51

And with that, I can check another PR off of my list for the year! All I could think on the ride home was “what if I had been on an easier course?” and wondered if I could chip away at that PR a little bit more. Not even 30 minutes after crossing the finish line and I was already wanting more. Runners are a crazy breed.

 

Wake Me Up When It’s All Over

Alternate Titles:

  • Official Confirmation – I was Delusional
  • 2017 Mercedes Half Marathon Race Recap

Yes, I was a little overzealous in assuming I could pull out a PR on tough course in less than ideal conditions. I knew halfway through mile 1 when my 9:30 pace felt like an all-out sprint that, today? Was not a PR day. It was a “Please God let me survive this” day.

Rachel and I were 110% not interested in running this race when the alarm went off at 4:15. We were completely on board with going back to sleep but by some miracle we got out of bed. MIRACLE. We made it downtown around 6:45, which gave us the perfect amount of time to stroll to the start, jump in our corral and not have to wait around for too long before the race kicked off at 7:03.

Miles 1-3

As mentioned above, mile 1 was when the 93% humidity smacked me in the face and brought me back down to reality. Rachel, Erin, and I all started together but I dropped back during the first mile because I knew I needed to slow down. I made the decision early on to walk through every water stop to both drink and dump a cup of water on myself to stay cool.

Miles 4-9

I came up on Rachel around mile 6 and she did NOT look happy. We ran together for about a mile and then parted ways again. The hills in this race were no joke but to be honest, they weren’t as bad as expected. They were long and gradual, but had a beautiful downhill on the other side. My legs welcomed the changed in elevation since it gave me a chance to vary muscle groups. Side note: if you had told me two years ago I’d be happy about rolling freaking hills during a half marathon, I’d laugh in your face.

Miles 10-13.1

I didn’t have anything concrete in ways of goals but basically it was (A) PR (B) 2:15 (C) 2:20 (D) 2:25. Aside from the PR at 3M, my second fastest time in recent years was 2:25 so I just wanted to come in under that. This race FLEW by (why can’t they all be like that?!) and I cruised into the finish at 2:22. Incredibly happy with this time considering how warm, windy, and hilly the course was.  The course support was great and it was fun to race somewhere new!

I felt stronger in the final 3 miles of Mercedes than the final 3 of 3M. Likely because of not pushing the pace as hard, but 3M is a MUCH easier course than Mercedes and I should have been dying.

The post-race party was pretty awesome. You had your choice of a BBQ pork or turkey sandwich from a local BBQ restaurant, Jim ‘n Nick’s, with coleslaw, chips and a fruit cup. I could have done without the slaw/fruit, but those salty chips hit the spot. Local brewery Good People set up shop in the auditorium, serving complimentary Bearded Lady + Urban Farmer beers. We didn’t hate it. Nick Saban made an appearance on stage before the overall + AG awards were given out.

We got back to the house around noon and broke out the champagne for celebratory mimosas. Rachel napped while Erin + I crushed an entire pizza in record time.

Thoughts on Running

I talked about this a bit in previous posts, but over the past year my running has taken a turn in an extremely positive direction. From 2012-2015, running was a chore. It went from something I did for myself, to something I did with my significant other. Don’t get me wrong; it was nice for awhile. But having to share a hobby with someone else who didn’t enjoy it as much as I did took a lot of the appeal away. I’m glad I’ve come full circle and it’s become something I truly enjoy again. So much so that I may be running two full marathons this year.  More on that later once I pull the trigger on registration.

While Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” was a song I’d play endlessly on repeat while running in 2016, this year it’s Aviccii’s “Wake Me Up”. It reminds me how far I’ve come in the past couple years, which makes me really happy.

“So wake me up when it’s all over, when I’m wiser and I’m older. All this time I was finding myself, and I didn’t know I was lost.”

3M Half Marathon 2017 Race Recap

I’ve been sitting on this half marathon PR (2:14) for five years now. FIVE!! To be honest, I’m still not sure how it happened in 2012 because I never trained for the paces I ran in that race. The only explanation is I was coming off of a strong marathon training cycle and in somewhat decent shape.

In the past year, I’ve run 3M Half (2:25), Austin Half (2:41), Best Damn Race Orlando (2:30), NYC Half (2:27), and Rock n Roll Las Vegas (2:27). The only one I intended on potentially PRing at was Vegas and it was really adorable I thought I could drop some fast miles while in Sin City. And by adorable I mean dumb – very dumb.

So I set my sights on 3M this year. It’s a fast course, but just like the last five times I’ve run it – training fell off during the holidays. Before Sunday’s race the last time I had logged any miles was December 26th. SMART. Thankfully my obsession with spin classes kept my endurance up.

Race Day

The weather was a little warm for my liking (around 60) and there were some lovely 30mph winds (NOT at our backs) which made running pretty goddamn difficult. But in any case, I decided to just wing it and see how I felt.

Miles 1-4 :: 9:52, 9:26, 9:42, 9:42

I really had no business running this fast this early in the race but it was comfortable so I went with it. I started doing the math after mile 4 clicked by and thought maybe by some sort of miracle I could break 2:10.

Miles 5-8 :: 9:40, 9:55, 9:44, 10:21

When I hit the 10k mark I realized I broke my 10k PR and had two thoughts: (1) I really need to run a 10k soon and (2) Melissa you’re probably going too fast, don’t die. I was taking water at every stop but when it came time to take a gel I couldn’t get it out of my FlipBelt. I knew if I stopped to figure out where the hell it was hiding I’d likely lose momentum. Around mile 8 they were handing out Clif gels on the course so I grabbed one from a volunteer. I wanted to take a salt pill at this point but again couldn’t get it out of my belt. I pulled over, untwisted the FlipBelt and dug one out. I think I lost ~45 seconds here and logged my first mile with a 10 in front of it. Shit.

Miles 9-13 :: 10:09, 11:01, 10:35, 10:29, 10:46

Annnd the wheels fell off. Despite the course being mostly downhill, there are a few hills in the later miles that feel a lot steeper than they actually are. At mile 10 the 2:10 pacer passed me and I started to mentally give up. I busted out the math again, trying to see if there was even a slight chance of eeking out a PR. The sad, soul-crushing truth: it would be goddamn close.  My quads were dying, my arches were pissed, and the wind was still being a little bitch. I legitimately thought I was going to blow away while running behind the UT football stadium.

Rounding the corner heading to the Capitol building I realized I had less than a minute to get to the finish if I wanted to PR. Less than a minute with dead legs. NBD. But I somehow found another gear, kept pushing, and crossed the mat in 2:13:37.

Do I think there’s a faster time in me? Yep I sure do. But am I happy with this time? Yep I sure am. I have the Mercedes Half Marathon coming up in three weeks but have zero expectations to PR. There are a fair amount of hills and with my luck it’ll be summer by then in Alabama. So this spring I’m going to work on the 10k + 10 mile distances, and hopefully knock out a faster 13.1 in the fall.

Onward + upward!

 

Downhill to Downtown to Deep Eddy

The 3M Half Marathon would be the first half I’d run solo in almost three years. Not even sure I can count the number of lackluster 13.1s on two hands in that span of time but holy crap, they were all terrible. I went into each just hoping to survive and finish with my legs still attached. Training for those was half-assed and the pace was slooowwww. It was a time in my life where I didn’t give two shits about running and really just did it because it was something I had always done. I lost the spark, the desire to really push myself, and those race times really reflected that.

But 3M was going to be different. Sure, my training could have been better and long runs, well, longer. But I don’t think there’s been a single training cycle which coincided with the holidays that went according to plan. I didn’t stress over it and convinced myself that, YES, I could do this. I would put in a solid effort and see what the past few months of Orangetheory + running really did for me. The bar wasn’t set high with hopes of a PR so the pressure was off in that department. I wanted to cross the finish line with a respectable time and not have to take any walk breaks. Seemed easy enough.

On Thursday Paula trumped my prior last-minute decision with an extremely last minute decision and booked a flight to Austin to run 3M. She joined me Friday night at happy hour where we discovered the magic of Deep Eddy Sweet Tea + Peach Vodka shots, and continued the party down on Rainey Street at Bar 96. Ended up being a later night than it probably should have been, but .. #YOLO [yes, that’s making a comeback]

Bar 96

Saturday we hit up the expo so Paula could actually register for the race, had mimosas at Moonshine, and then lunch at Silo on 7th. After inhaling a couple burgers we walked around at the Domain, bought things at MAC we didn’t need, and picked up groceries for dinner. The rest of the day was super productive – we started the most recent season of The Mindy Project and proceeded not to go to bed until finishing the entire thing. Overachievers.

RACE DAY

So many factors were working against me at 3M: I wore something new, didn’t eat breakfast, and didn’t take any gels / chews during the race. Basically [stupidly] threw caution to the wind. Race morning was a chilly 39 degrees but didn’t stop me from wearing a short-sleeved top and skirt. I had a throwaway zip-up hoodie but it lasted all of a 1/4 mile before I ditched that thing. So on to my race plan… I started much further back than I wanted, probably almost at the back of the race. I’m well aware of my propensity to haul ass in the first mile, try to hold on to said too-fast pace, and then burn out around mile six. So I marched myself to the back of the corrals in an attempt to rein it in and race smart for once in my life.

Miles 1-6 were uneventful. Here’s the thing: the 3M course is boooooring. It’s through residential areas, side streets, and pretty much wherever there’s nothing to look at except runners around you. Still for some crazy reason I love this goddamn race. It’s net downhill but don’t be fooled – there certainly are some hills. And each one crushed my soul a little. The one on 45th was more painful than I remembered in previous years. I focused on keeping an even effort on the uphills and recovered on the downhill.  After we hit mile 6 my brain slipped into a bit of a dark place where all I could think about was how I had to do the distance all over again – and then some more. My iPod volume was forced up a few notches and I kept moving.

The second half of the race was tough, but doable. I really didn’t want to walk but my right calf was super tight and desperately needed a stretch. After the water stop at mile 8 I pulled over to the side to give the calf some relief on a curb. I limited myself to about 25-30 seconds but it definitely helped. Once I hit mile 10 I started to get hungry but it would have been too late for a Gu to actually do anything – so I didn’t bother. Still not really sure how I made it through without breakfast or any fuel during the race… Also around mile 10 was where I resolved not to walk, even though when we were heading through the UT campus nearly every person around me had slowed to walk. So I kept running and took advantage of the opportunity to pass a ton of people. The final hill up MLK hurt like a bitch but the finish was just around the corner so I threw on my pain face and kicked up the pace.

Official Finish Time – 2:25:33

3M Half Marathon

Like I said, not a PR, but overall one of the strongest races I’ve had in recent years. This is my 2nd fastest half marathon ever [plus a negative split!] and I’m still not sure how I pulled that off. Coming off such a great time at the Rogue 10K, I’m still really high on running and excited for the next few races coming up. I have two weeks until the Austin Half, where I will likely walk 30 times and also cry a bit while crawling up the hill on Enfield, but if I can somehow squeeze out a course PR – I’ll take it!

Post-race we spent many hours at Jack Allen’s Kitchen destroying their buffet and enjoying pineapple mimosas followed by Deep Eddy cocktails.

IMG_1575

Mid-afternoon Paula rudely forced me to take her to the airport so she could head back to Florida. I only agreed because there’s already a Southwest flight booked to Orlando in March for another weekend of running, eating, and drinking.

My legs and liver cannot wait.

2014 BCS Half Marathon Race Recap

10401509_682998915098996_8724804038291868205_n I’ve heard nothing but good things about BCS over the past few years and decided in 2014 I’d finally make the trek out to College Station to see what the hype was all about. It’s touted as the “Best Race in Texas” by MarathonGuide.com and spoiler alert: it was pretty damn awesome.

College Station is roughly two hours from our house so initially we had planned to leave Austin super early on race morning. Unfortunately race day packet pickup was non-existent so we ended up getting a hotel room that night. Since it’s a college town there were plenty of options to choose from and we ended up booking a room at TownePlace Suites which was approximately 1.5 miles from the start. The full kitchen allowed us to have breakfast and coffee in the room on race morning – super convenient. Two hotels were already sold out when I was looking in September so I’d recommend booking early to be safe.

BCS Marathon Finishers Shirt

Race Registration: Once we finally pulled the trigger on registration in October it was $90. This is generally more than I like to spend for a half but in hindsight it was a great value. Registration included a long-sleeved cotton participant shirt, a short-sleeved technical New Balance finisher’s shirt, medal, a pair of Swiftwick socks, beer and food [more on that later] at the finish. I would gladly pay that price again, but when registration opens in May the fee is much cheaper. Sign up early and save yourself a few bucks!

BCS Marathon Expo

Expo: It was small and efficient. We picked up our shirts, bibs and socks in less than 5 minutes despite it being pretty busy. I gave a couple pairs of Hoka One Ones a test drive but ended up not buying either. We probably spent 20 minutes total at the expo and it was more than enough time to see everything.

IMG_20141213_202005

Race: The course is flat and fast, running through and around the Texas A&M University campus. Spectators in the last two miles were a little sparse which was disappointing but we were still riding the high from the crazy students screaming on campus. There were plenty of water stops and all of the volunteers were great. The finish is a sweet, sweet downhill and it was glorious. Both of us were pretty happy with the course and definitely will be back to run it again in the future.

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Post-Race: This was probably the best post-race party I’ve experienced. There were pepperoni pizza rolls, a variety of breakfast tacos, cheeseburgers, margaritas, and beer. And not the crap beer that most races have; this was real, legitimate beer like Karbach’s Hopadillo Black IPA and Mother in Lager. And everything was free – EVERYTHING. It was fantastic.

Overall: I can’t recommend this race enough. Austin has a couple super hilly races in December but I don’t care for either of them [Decker has forever traumatized me]. BCS is held the same day as the Dallas Marathon so if that’s your usual December race I’d encourage you to stray from your comfort zone and give this one a try. The race director pours his heart and soul into this race, updating the Facebook page updated daily and personally responding to every question. Every aspect of this race is excellent.

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photo credit: BCS Marathon Facebook Page

2014 Reach the Beach Relay: From Cannon Mountain to Hampton Beach

It’s safe to say I’ve been bit by the relay bug. Or I’m certifiably insane. I’ll let you make the call on that one. Ragnar Cape Cod was an absolute blast and blew my expectations out of the water, which only made the excitement level rise for Hood to Coast in August. I soaked in every moment on each of my three legs in Oregon during HTC since it’ll probably be the only time I’m lucky enough to run that race. And by the time my flight home from Oregon touched down in Austin, plans were already in the works for relay #3 in 2014.

New Balance extended an invitation to be a part of their media team, Pumped Up Kicks, for the Reach the Beach Relay in New Hampshire. There were only three weeks between the two relays and while my legs were screaming “I don’t think so!” I just couldn’t turn down the opportunity. They went above and beyond all weekend, from outfitting us head-to-toe with apparel + shoes to making sure we had everything we needed [vans, snacks, safety gear, etc.] to get us to the finish line successfully. Every possible detail was taken care of and it made the race much less stressful than it could have been.

Now, let’s meet the members of Pumped Up Kicks!

Team Pumped Up Kicks - New Balance Factory

[Van 1] Jess // Carrie // Theodora // Gia // Christine // Melissa

[Van 2] Allie // Caitlin // Marissa // Melissa // me // Lorraine

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From Cannon Mountain to Hampton Beach

Reach the Beach -  Starting Line

RTB - Pumped Up Kicks Van 2

Leg 1 – 4.8 miles

I don’t know what my problem is, but for  some reason I get unreasonably nervous before my first leg of each relay. The thought of being Runner 1 or 6 seems absolutely horrifying. This was my first time being in Van 2 and… can’t say I loved it. There was a lot of ‘hurry up & wait’ and it felt like we were sitting around for most of the day. Needless to say, I was really anxious to get the hell out of the van by the time it was my turn to run. Melissa handed off the slap bracelet to me after finishing her leg uphill on a grassy knoll [rude] and I took off in the other direction.

The first half mile was a steep uphill and even though I wanted to haul ass to the top to get it over with, I kept a steady pace and tried not to waste energy. At the top we turned left on Chocorua Rd and then right on White Mountain Highway, where I’d stay for almost the rest of the leg. The views were GORGEOUS. I wanted to get my phone out and snap a few photos, but I knew I’d either [a] trip/fall trying to get my phone out of my belt or [b] have to stop to walk and never be able to start running again. Yes, I realize how dramatic option b is. My nerves were trying to get the best of me but I focused on the beautiful New Hampshire views and chatted with fellow racers along the way. I couldn’t get over how great I felt. I mean, the miles felt hard but my legs were handling them well and it was impossible to wipe the perma-grin off my face. Ahh, running. Sometimes you are oh-so-amazing.

The miles ticked away and before I knew it we were turning into White Lake State Park towards the transition. I came in slightly under my projected time [which previously felt a little ambitious] and sent Lorraine on her way to finish out our van’s first set of legs.
 Reach the Beach

Leg 2 – 8.8 miles

I mentioned in my Hood to Coast recap just how much I loved the night leg and wished it was longer. Welp, ask and you shall receive! We didn’t find out our leg assignments until the week before the race and when I saw the almost 9 mile leg, it instilled quite a bit of fear in me. The last time I ran that far was… January? My projected pace definitely felt ambitious for a leg this long, but I tried not to think about it.

Side note: I have to commend my vanmates for their dedication to support each runner during these night legs. Everyone was beyond tired and borderline cranky, but we all took turns driving and making sure the runner who was ‘on’ had everything they needed. 

I broke the leg up mentally into three 3-mile sections which somehow made it seem manageable. My teammates leapfrogged me in the van, waiting at miles 3 and 6, which gave me something to look forward to every half-hour. The first six miles were a freakin’ breeze. It was pitch black out and there were red blinky lights lining the road as far the eye could see. My legs were starting to feel a little fatigued at this point but the sun was starting to come up and I tried to just focus on the view to keep me moving along. By some sort of miracle I managed to cruise into the exchange right on time – despite all of those negative thoughts about the pace being too fast for a leg this long. Allie was the only one awake when I got back in the van so she was the lucky person who got to hear about how much I OMG LOVE RUNNING for 10 straight minutes without taking a single breath. 

New Balance RTB Relay - Team Pumped Up Kicks - Van 2

Leg 3 – 3.4 miles

Not even going to bother sugarcoating this: my last leg was MISERABLE. Sure, it was the shortest, the least hilly, and the sun was perfectly hidden behind the clouds. But it also came when my legs already had 13+ miles on them. They were done running, they had had enough. I boarded the struggle bus and slogged my way to Exchange 35, handing off to Lorraine for the last time and sent her on her way to Hampton Beach.

Reach the Beach - Pumped Up Kicks - Finish Line


Team Pumped Up Kicks - Van 2

 

I have to extend a HUGE thank you to New Balance [especially Mary + Caitlin, the dynamic duo who made the magic happen] for the opportunity to be a part of their media team for this year’s Reach the Beach Relay. They put together a stellar team of women to document the journey from Cannon Mountain to Hampton Beach and I couldn’t have asked for a better group! 

Hood to Coast: The Main Event

Race morning, as they all do, started bright and early. I had an alarm set for 3:45am but was awake well before that due to paranoia of missing the alarm. This is pretty much the scene that plays out the night before every single one of my races. Elisabeth, Sean, Jenny, Eric and I sleepily met in the lobby to wait for Casey and Arielle from Nuun Hydration. They picked us up from the hotel at 4:30am and we were off to the starting line at Mt. Hood!

HTC Relay - WB Van 1 - Drive to Mt Hood

HTC Relay - WB Van 1 - Start photo credit: Arielle

The energy at the start was electric and I just could not get over the fact that I was about to FINALLY run Hood to Coast. Only a certain type of runner will get excited to spend 30+ hours in a van with sweaty strangers. The weather was a little foggy and overcast so Mt. Hood was hidden behind the clouds the entire time we were at the top.

Elisabeth was our leadoff runner and took off down the mountain at 10:15am. She cruised through her 5.65 mile leg under the projected time and then Jenny set out on Leg 2, followed by Eric, Sean, and Arielle.

HTC Relay - Exchange 1

HTC Relay - Jenny and Sean - Leg 1

Leg 1 – 6.97 miles

In the weeks leading up to the race I tried to read recaps of the legs I’d be running and review tips on HTC’s Facebook page from runners who had tackled the same miles in years past. One recurring comment was to prepare for traffic leading up to the exchange and this was no exaggeration. From the point where I got of the van until the actual exchange, it was about 3/4 of a mile. Casey walked with me and the one thing I remember distinctly is being incredibly quiet. For some reason I was ridiculously nervous and this was causing my heart to race. 80 degrees with 90% humidity at 3:45am in the dark is what I’m good at. Having the mid-afternoon sun beating down on you, despite how warm it is, is another animal entirely.

Arielle had [unsurprisingly – she’s a total badass] beasted through her leg and came flying into the exchange just after 2pm. She slapped the bracelet on my wrist and I set off to conquer my first leg. A majority of the first mile was spent trying to get my heart rate down and breathing under control. By mile 2 I was in good shape and riding my “I’m running Hood to Coast!!” high. Just after my watch clicked over to 4, the wheels fell off. It was a struggle from there on out and I was so damn happy to see all 11 of my teammates at Exchange 6 and hand off to Kevin.

Jenny navigated us to Laurelwood Brew Pub for dinner and our first real meal of the day. She then skyrocketed her way to the top of everyone’s “Favorite Person Ever” list by offering up her house as a place for us to rest, shower, and basically enjoy the extra room that the van sorely lacked. I spent a majority of the time there laying in the hallway with my legs up the wall and my eyes shut.

HTC Relay - Portland ExchangeExchange 13 in Portland
photo credit: Rachel

All of our night legs went off without a hitch, with the exception of a random man who barked at Elisabeth during her leg. There were some interesting characters in that particular area of Portland. During Sean’s leg I started to get really tired, so when Arielle [and Casey] took off for her leg we made a stop to grab ice for the drink cooler and some sort of caffeinated beverage for me. I settled on a Starbucks Double Shot Coffee that ended up being too sweet and too heavy, but overall got the job done.

HTC Relay - WB Van 1 - Exchange 17

Leg 2 – 5.23 miles

I don’t know if it was the legs up the wall or what, but this leg was magical. It felt like my first run of the day. Sure, there was a lot of climbing but it was only 60 degrees so I really didn’t care. The quietness of the night was so peaceful and I kind of wished it was a couple miles longer. We weaved through a neighborhood a few times and I was so grateful for all of the volunteers working through the middle of the night, letting us know where to turn. I loved every minute of Leg 18.

Walking back to the car someone mentioned to prepare for a shitty ride to Exchange 24 [where we would sleep + wait for the handoff from Van 2] and I didn’t quite understand how the traffic could be that bad at 3am. At some point, for a reason that’s still unknown, the exchange was shut down and no longer letting any vans inside. We sat in the same spot for over 2 hours. I would sleep intermittently and every time I opened my eyes we hadn’t moved an inch. Casey somehow managed to keep himself occupied in the driver’s seat the entire time – I don’t know what we would have done without him! We should have had 3-4 hours to sleep at the exchange but by the time we actually pulled in and parked? It was only 30 minutes.

With it being everyone’s last leg, we made a point to stop mid-way on each runner’s run to cheer and cowbell excessively for them, providing an energizing boost to help them push through the suck. And after Arielle crushed a monster hill on one of the hardest legs of the course, we set up finish line tape made of toilet paper for her to break through [the video at the end caught that gem]

HTC Relay - Eric - Leg 3
Leg 3 – 5.43 miles

This wasn’t pretty. I take that back – the actual leg was GORGEOUS and definitely the most scenic of the three I ran. My legs were toast at this point and the only thing keeping me going was the fact that the finish line [ahem, beach + beer] was oh so close.

And with that, Van 1 of Team Wild Berry was officially DONE!

HTC Relay - WB Van 1 - Team

HTC Relay - Leg Check Marks

As glorious as a shower sounded once we arrived in Seaside, everyone opted to venture down to the Biergarten instead. Hashtag priorities. A couple Widmer Upheavals later we heard our anchor, Liz, was almost done so we headed to the finish to cross as a team. This was an incredibly bittersweet moment: so proud + happy to have those 200 miles behind us, but so sad our HTC experience was coming to a close.

HTC Relay - Team Wild Berry - Finish Line    photo credit: Eric

HTC Relay - Team Wild Berry - Finish Line Beers photo credit: Eric

And the TL;DR :: My teammate Eric put together the video below that recaps our race fantastically in a short 3 minutes:

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An Ode to Nuun Hydration

I have to thank Megan Fay for one of the best weekends of my life. She worked tirelessly throughout the year to ensure a successful experience for all of the ambassadors. If any issues or problems arose, we knew nothing of it. From the second I stepped off the plane in SeaTac on Thursday to my sad departure back to Austin on Sunday, every single detail was taken care of and perfectly executed by Megan. She worked her ass off to ensure everything went off without a hitch and I know every single one of us appreciated her hard work.

Nuun Hydration was the key to our success throughout the entire race. A company is only as strong as their team and I have to say – Nuun has an incredibly strong group of people working for them. [Kevin – hold on to ALL of them!] I hesitate to use the word “working” because every single person seemed to sincerely enjoy what they do. And that’s the dream, right – to love what you do? They’re a perfect example of this.

Thank you to our excellent van drivers – Casey, Jay, Kevin and Vishal – who signed up to be the navigators and had to deal with some of the worst HTC traffic in recent years. Thank you to the Nuun employees – Arielle, Megan, Zoë and Kim – who completed each of our vans and rocked every single leg. We couldn’t have made it across the finish line without each and every one of you!

I am so honored to represent Nuun Hydration and grateful to have been offered a spot to race with them at Hood to Coast. It was truly the experience of a lifetime.

2014 Ragnar Relay Cape Cod Race Recap

If you had told me five years ago I wouldn’t think twice about flying across the country to meet a group of strangers and proceed to spend 30ish hours in a van with 6 [we’re fancy & had a personal chauffeur] of them, I’d undoubtedly declare you crazy. Since the idea was tossed around back in the fall, our team went through several iterations and the final Flock You Like a Hurricane runners who met up at Union Fish in Plymouth the night before race day were Ali, Anne, Rebecca, Amy, Danielle, Carolyn, Jess, Jessie, and our team captain Stacey. Kelly was coming down on Friday morning, Lindsay was dealing with horrendous travel delays out of Dallas, and Deb would be meeting up with Van 2 at Stacey’s on Friday afternoon.

Union Fish - Group Photo

Our team started at 10am on a super foggy morning in Hull and Ali was our leadoff runner. This girl had just run a marathon [and PRed!] the weekend before and absolutely crushed all of her legs. Anne and Amy were seriously fast and as many times as they said they were going to “take this leg easy”, they flew from exchange to exchange ticking off miles consistently in the 7s. I loved Rebecca – her last leg was tough and she was definitely hurting, but was still all “I LOVE RUNNING!” Wish I could kidnap her and run with her in Texas every day. Kelly displayed her impressively strong running skills as she powered through a hilly first leg and finished out the race with about 32 miles under her belt.

Van 1 Runners
I went into the relay with a twisted left knee and achy right shin, both courtesy of a nasty fall I took when Sox cut me off during one of our early morning runs. The knee was my main concern because shin issues are the bane of my running existence. My first leg went off without a hitch and as runner 6, passed off the slap bracelet in Duxbury Beach to Van 2’s first runner – Lindsay.

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod - Duxbury Beach

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Van 2  Runners

Our van had a break from 2 to 8ish, so we grabbed a quick lunch at Driftwood Publick House and then attempted a nap in a field at the exchange where we’d start running our second legs. Napping is a skill I’ve never been able to master so I spent the downtime Stick-ing my calves and following Van 2 via the #FlockYouLikeaHurricane hashtag on Instagram. We kept in touch with the other van through text message but Instagram was a great way to follow along and see which runner was currently out there knocking out their miles. Despite not being able to nap, it was still nice to take my shoes off and just stretch out the legs. Once nighttime fell, it was time to dress head to toe in reflective gear and prepare to send Ali on her way!

Van 1-2 Night Exchange
The night leg seemed to be everyone’s favorite so I was super pumped by the time 11pm rolled around and it was time for me to run. However, my right shin was less than enthused and throbbing only a mile into it. I decided to walk/run to keep it somewhat happy but running quickly turned into a shuffle. My gait started to change in an attempt to relieve the pain in my shin and then I felt the strain on my other knee. The last thing I wanted to do was bail on the leg, so I grabbed some ibuprofen at mile 3 and Kelly jumped in to keep me company. She was a lifesaver and kept my mind off of running while we finished out the leg together. After the handoff to Lindsay in Hyannis, Anne grabbed me some ice from the aid station and we set up some sleeping bags in a ditch [no, seriously…] near a school to sneak in a couple hours of rest.

Van 2’s night legs weren’t that long so we only had a few hours before it was time to run again. Shaun (Kelly’s husband and our fantastic driver) woke us up and we tried to quickly get our shit together after realizing we weren’t even at the right exchange. I had a minor meltdown when I realized my phone was missing, but while we were driving to the exchange Amy found it rolled up in one of the sleeping bags. Crisis averted. Once we pulled in, Ali hauled ass to the exchange and made it there just in time to grab the slap bracelet from Jessie as she ran in.

I spent the next couple hours trying to convince my teammates I could run my final leg, since it was “only” 3 miles. The response was a resounding “NO” and eventually I accepted it would be for the best if Kelly picked up the mileage. After she was done, we handed off to Van 2 for the final time and headed to brunch in Wellfleet. This was followed by a killer cheer session on either leg 33 – or was it 34? This is what I get for not writing the recap right away. We positioned ourselves at the top of a huge hill and busted out the megaphone and cowbell, blasted music from the van, and yelled at the top of our lungs for every runner that came by. Definitely a lot of fun and one of the highlights of the weekend.

It was also at this point where we started playing #SELFIE by The Chainsmokers on repeat. I entered the weekend with an extreme hatred for this song, but now every time I hear it I think of Van 1 rocking out and it makes me happy. But first … let me take a selfie! We made it to the finish in P-Town around 12:30 and just after 3pm Van 2 joined us. We backtracked on the course to find Jessie and then jumped in with her to cross the finish line together! Pretty sure this one is going in a frame – so many freakin’ amazing women in one photo:

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod - Finish Line

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod - P-Town
I have to send a HUGE thank you to Kelly’s husband, Shaun, for being our chauffeur all weekend. He navigated us from exchange to exchange flawlessly and surprisingly didn’t seem irritated at all to be stuck in a van all weekend with a group of girls he barely knew. He also was our professional photog, snapping 200+ pictures of us on our journey from Hull to Provincetown. He was a rockstar and made our lives so much easier.

Also a big shout out full of gratitude to Stacey, who despite being unable to run stayed on as captain and helped keep our team organized over the past several months, as well as through the weekend. She was Van 2’s driver / photographer and provided a place for Van 2 to stay between legs 1 & 2. She also took in 6 internet-turned-IRL-friends on Saturday night, which all of us appreciated SO MUCH. Her and her husband cooked us dinner, all while keeping the champagne and wine flowing as we recapped the incredible race. Best hosts ever, hands down.

I had always heard that team relays were a life-changing experience and couldn’t help but write it off as an exaggeration. How could spending almost 30 hours in a van with people you didn’t know be enjoyable? All of my skepticism flew right out the window while we were dining at Mamma Mia’s on Thursday night. The conversation flowed effortlessly and everyone’s passion for running caused us to bond instantly. The transition from ‘strangers’ to ‘friends’ was almost instantaneous. I couldn’t have asked for better teammates – each and every one of them are phenomenal. A reunion [Ragnar location: TBD] for 2015 was already in the works before we had even left the cape.

 And I absolutely cannot wait.

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod - White Crest Beach

All photos courtesy of Stacey Hedman, Shaun Gallagher, and Jess Clarke.

2014 Aramco Houston Half Marathon Race Recap

I’ll start with this: going forward, it’ll be tough deciding whether to run 3M or Houston every January. 3M has always been one of my favorites: a net-downhill course, comfortable field size (6-7K), perfect weather, affordable registration fee, and a start line less than 20 minutes from my house. Living in Austin, running 3M is a no-brainer – especially if you’re interested in a PR.

Then Houston happened and I’m not sure I can put into words how awesome this race was. From the beginning it seemed like your standard “big box” race in a busy city, complete with the pricey registration fee and a lottery for runners not meeting the qualifying times. But “big-box” race it was not. It was the complete opposite of what I expected.

Aramco Houston Half Marathon

Pre-Race: Our original plan was to take the rail into downtown on race morning. Then the Pats/Broncos were announced as the early game on Sunday and we wanted to be on the road back to Austin ASAP post-race. We ended up parking in a garage near the GRB / finish area. I used the distance to the start as a warm-up jog and settled into Corral B just before it closed.

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Race: Well, this was certainly the most painful race I’ve ever run. My arches were killing me pretty much from the get-go, an issue I haven’t run into since last March. I’ve been running/training in the same shoe model (Brooks Ravenna) since April and my current pair has ~100 miles on it, so they should have been fine. No idea what the problem was on race day. I saw Brad (and Luke!) cheering on the side of the course in the first mile or so and somewhere during mile 2 heard a familiar voice yelling my name. I turned to see Courtney on the right side of the course running with her friend Cateline. Seeing her smiling face was just what I needed at that moment because I was super pissed about my arches ruining the race for me. We chatted excitedly for a couple minutes before wishing one other good luck and heading our separate ways. Wish I could have stuck with them for the rest of the race!

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Despite the fact I was hating life, I fell in love with this race. It was flat, shaded with beautiful trees, and the spectators were packed deep along both sides of the course. I truly believe the friendly & enthusiastic spectators are what kept me moving forward in the race. My arch pain resulted in the internal “do you want to run this race or do you want to run forever?” debate. I REALLY did not want to end up injured. Around mile 7, I stopped attempting to run (which was more like a shuffle at that point anyway) and worked on perfecting my power-walking skills. And took the opportunity to pet every.single.dog I came across. And cheered on the marathoners hauling ass to the finish, trying to qualify for Boston. If I couldn’t run, I was going to enjoy the final miles and race experience in Houston. And it was in those final miles where I decided I’ll be entering the lottery for 2015.

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Crossing the finish line was bittersweet because while I was super happy to be done, I was also disappointed in my finish time. But it is what it is.

Post-Race: Immediately after the finish line, you’re ushered into the GRB where you can grab food, collect medals, pick up your finisher shirt, etc. Everything was really spread out and not congested at all, which was great.

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After receiving the medal for the half, I grabbed a bottle of water and an ice cream sandwich <—- weird, but it tasted amazing that morning. Then I waited in line to pick up my second medal for running both the half and the 5K on Saturday. The booth behind it was for the finisher shirt so I picked that up and made my way to the HEB Food Court for the free hot breakfast. Eggs & Sausage > Doritos & Granola Bars

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Overall: I’m struggling to come up with anything negative about this race. For such a large event, they seem to have all of logistics nailed down. I’ve run comparable sized races which have fallen short in countless departments so I went into Houston with low expectations and ended up very impressed. The Houston Marathon and Half Marathon is everything the Rock n Roll races should be but can’t figure out how to execute.

The lottery opens on June 4th for the 2015 race … who wants to head to Houston with me?

Weekend in Houston & the ABB 5K

On Friday afternoon we headed down south to Houston for the weekend. We should have been pulling into the race expo around 4pm but due to congested highways and the population of Houston being incapable of operating a vehicle correctly, it ended up being just after 5. When traveling somewhere new, you should definitely experiment with using the maps app on your phone without turning the GPS on. Turns out all of the GPS usage and iHeart radio streaming on our road trip to/from Florida in December drained the crap out of our data for the month and we had to navigate downtown Houston GPS-less. It was REALLY fun.

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The expo was massive and super organized. I loved how a volunteer could scan the barcode from my confirmation email on my phone rather than having to print out a hard copy. We picked up our 3 (5K x2 & the half for me) race packets in less than five minutes and were released out into the sea of vendors. I chatted all things Oiselle with Sara at the Fleet Feet booth, browsed the USTAF merchandise, and pretty much breezed through the rest. Skechers, a new sponsor for this year, provided all of the official race merchandise. The LE shoes created specifically for Houston were pretty cool and a lot of the apparel looked great too, but I wish there would have been other items like pint glasses or magnets. Something cheap that wasn’t clothing-related. A Skechers employee working the area said they’d keep it in mind for next year. Luckily on our way out I saw Chevron putting free magnets out on their table so I snagged a couple.

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I saw the Nuun booth but it was pretty busy so I skipped over it, only to realize later that night they were giving out Texas-specific water bottles with the purchase of two tubes. Now I need another water bottle like I need a hole in the head, but guys: this one said Texas on it. Somehow this justified the purchase and we went back the next morning to grab one.

Nuun Hydration - Run Texas

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After the expo we made our way to the hotel. Initially I booked the Residence Inn downtown so we wouldn’t really have to drive at all and could walk to the race start both mornings. After a little research, I realized I could move us out to a SpringHill Suites near Reliant Park and save $300 on the hotel/parking. It was about 10-15 minutes away and only two blocks from the rail station. I don’t regret this decision at all – $300 is $300.

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The next morning was the ABB 5K, which was by no means a goal race for either of us since Brad was coming off a sprained ankle and I had the half the next day. We grabbed coffee in the lobby and took the rail downtown.

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The race was a super flat out-and-back and the weather was perfect. Beautiful morning for a run! We were pretty surprised with how many spectators were out cheering but it got me excited for crowds the next day. The National Guard handed out medals at the finish, which I thought was pretty cool.

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We had lunch at Freebirds and then went to see Lone Survivor. Okay, so I had heard this movie was pretty intense. I imagined intense like Act of Valor. Definitely teared up at the end and it was sad, but I was able to compose myself in less than five minutes. Let me just say that “pretty intense” does not even begin to describe Lone Survivor. I don’t cry at anything (owner of a black heart) and no amount of sniffling or deep breaths could get me back to normal before the lights came on. It was heart wrenching. Incredible movie, but heart wrenching.

For dinner I had my heart set on Italian and luckily there was a Carrabba’s only a few blocks from the movie theater. Once we cracked open the menus I realized we were at the most expensive Carrabba’s in all the land. Had I done a little research I might have noticed that this was the original restaurant and not under the same management as the chain. But since we were already there and every other Italian restaurant in town was probably swarming with runners, we stayed. At a normal Carrabba’s our exact dinner would have cost us $54 plus tip but at the original we were hit with an $85 bill. Good thing I saved a few bucks on the hotel.

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After dinner we returned back to the hotel so I could buy more songs on iTunes, tweak my playlist for the billionth time and try to get to bed early. Pretty sure Brad fell asleep before I did, but what else is new?

Next up, the Aramco Houston Half Marathon Race Recap