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.

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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

2013 Shiner Beer Run Race Recap

Shiner Beer Run

We almost didn’t run this race. All week the forecast called for high winds, cool temperatures, and rain. 38 degrees isn’t exactly standard Texas weather, considering it was 89 on Thursday evening as I drove home from work with the A/C on. And I don’t mind running in the rain when it’s warm, but when it’s that cold? Eh, not really that interested. I took a few polls on Twitter and changed my mind more times than I can count between Wednesday and Saturday. Crazy thunderstorms Thursday night had me saying “no freakin’ way!” but the calm, somewhat dry morning on Saturday at 3:30am helped me make the final decision: we were heading to the Shiner Beer Run.

Race Day Wear: Poppy Lux Layer, Oiselle singlet, Lesley Knickers; also added a throwaway sweatshirt and gloves, neither of which I was able to toss. Definitely warmed up in a mile or so, but once we started running into the wind there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d part with the extra layer.

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The city of Shiner is two-ish hours from our house so we left at 5:30. Packet pickup was available during the week at 2 locations in San Antonio or the Shiner brewery itself, but since we live so far away we opted for race day packet pickup. The ride out to Shiner was long and boring, with a lot of country roads and views like this:

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Pre-Race: We were able to score a perfect parking spot across the street from the brewery, allowing us to sit in the car until 5 minutes before the start. This was clutch. Also pre-race I made a quick bathroom stop and somehow the drawstring of my pants disappeared inside of the waistband. Massive fail. I spent the ENTIRE RACE hiking up my pants. ugh.

Swag: Awesome, some of the best I’ve seen. The shirt was a Brooks Podium tech tee and I loved the design – AND the color. Glad some races are starting to move away from white shirts. We also got koozies, an iron-on decal, bandana, and pretty sweet cups at the finish line to hold our beers. And it should come as no surprise that the finisher’s medal doubles as a bottle opener.

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Race: Ugh. The first two miles were through town and neighborhoods, but after that? Absolutely boring. Very hilly with lots of cows, horses, and farmland. Miles 2-6 were uphill into the 20mph wind. Even though you were running, you actually weren’t moving at all. We ran with our heads down, holding onto our hats and headphones. The wind was an issue pretty much the entire time (unfortunately never at our backs) and light rain came in later miles. The race coordinators had reminded us repeatedly of what to expect at mile 6/7 and I expected to hate it… but it was actually my favorite part of the course. They were on a gravel/dirt path and my legs welcomed the change from the asphalt. The last 3 miles of the course resembled the final miles of ZOOMA Texas and were basically a death march. To be honest, the entire race was a death march.

There was a fair amount of spectators lining the course despite the weather and the course being somewhat inaccessible to cars. Everyone was super enthusiastic, offering high-fives and words of encouragement. There were plenty of water stops and two fuel stops: one had GU gels and one had GU Chomps. The course was clearly marked, with markers at every mile and arrows painted on the ground to ensure you wouldn’t make a wrong turn.

Post-race: What we’d been looking forward to for 13 miles!

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Each runner gets 4 (yes, 4!) beers at the finish. Shiner had a few of their regular brews on tap, as well as limited edition White Wing and seasonal Shiner Cheer. I loved the options!

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As for food, everyone received two huge smoked sausage links: one on a french roll and one in a tortilla. Strange, but hey – this was a Texas race. There was also potato salad but I wanted nothing to do with food that wasn’t warm.

We went on a tour of the Spoetzl Brewery and had the rare opportunity to see production in progress (usually it’s shutdown on Sat/Sun, but was kept open due to the holiday next week).

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After the tour we grabbed another round of beers and checked out the race merch tent. It was all Brooks items so while that meant great quality, it also meant higher prices. Last year’s race tees were on sale for $10 but seemed like an odd purchase for someone who didn’t run in 2012. Our final stop was the brewery’s gift shop, where we were able to grab a beanie and two coasters for $20. Pretty affordable for touristy items!

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Overall: Unless you’re a freak of nature and hills are your jam, this really isn’t a PR course. The weather is Texas is so unpredictable (as previously mentioned, comparing Thursday to Saturday) and last year’s race was hot and humid. My recommendation is to approach it as a fun run with friends and enjoy the post-race party. It’s super organized for only being in its second year. If you love Shiner Beer, you’re going to love this race – PR or not.

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2013 Challenge Nation Austin Race Recap

Challenge Nation   Austin Challenge

Last weekend Brad and I headed downtown to take part in Challenge Nation’s event here in Austin. It’s not any ordinary race though: it’s an urban scavenger hunt similar to the “Amazing Race” which can be completed in teams of 2 or more. In any normal race, speed is most important. But for Challenge Nation, you have to figure out the clues quickly and strategize the best route – and THEN speed comes into play.

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Check-in ran from 11:30 to 12:45 and since there were over 140 teams registered, we arrived at Scholz Garden around noon just to be safe. Everything was organized very efficiently: pick up your bib, sign a waiver, grab a shirt, done. Quick and painless.

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Just before the start of the race at 1pm, all team captains gathered outside of Scholz Garden to receive the clues and go over the rules. Basically you receive a list of 12 clues and you must complete 11 of 12. You can run or use public transit (in Austin’s case, this is limited to buses) but no taxis, cars, bikes, etc. All of the captains counted down from 10 and then were allowed to (walk, not run or trample) rejoin their team members.

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I started at the top of the list and Brad started at the bottom. Once we had an answer for each clue (except for the one we planned to skip), we hit the ground running.

Here’s a few of the clues we had to solve:

“This is a clue that’ll ask you to be creative: for four decades, one of the most famous and well-attended festivals in ATX was the Aqua Fest, which last was held in 1998. To complete this clue, recreate the Aqua Fest with your team: take a photo with at least one teammate in an active fountain, in a shower, in a lake… or if you can’t find those, simply dump a bottle of water on a teammate’s head in the photo.”

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Thank you fountain on UT campus, sorry to disturb you. Check!

“This Challenge will test your team’s ability to make friends and coordinate: with one other Challenge team, pose in front of any theater in town and act out any scene from a movie set in Texas with the whole group.”

Friday Night Lights, coming right up!

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“THIS CLUE IS ONLY AVAILABLE UNTIL 2:30. Between the statues of two Confederates in Texas history – one you’ve probably heard of before and one who shares a last name with a more contemporary President – you’ll find a Challenge Nation staffer with some rings to play with. Have everyone on your team grab one, making sure this iconic Austin feature is in the background of your photo, then do the obvious activity for 2-3 seconds.”

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“Texas is the live music capital of the country, and to mark that fact, you’ll need to find these props at one of the four gates to the Capitol. Which one? You’ll find a Challenge Nation staffer at the gate along the street that matches the # of the President who won office by promising to annex Texas. Once there, grab your neon-colored guitars and find your team’s inner rockstar when posing for this photo, with the Capitol in the background.”

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We were down to our final clue and ran into a bit of trouble finding it. We definitely wasted too much time searching for it and then even trying to get creative with it, so we ended up having to go back to solve the one we initially planned on skipping. After a bit of Googling, Brad found out it was right around the corner from the finish line. Wish we would have figured that out from the beginning (the race started at the same place) because it would have saved us a TON of time.

It took about an hour and twenty minutes from the time we started working on the clues until we crossed the finish line. The official results aren’t posted yet so I’m not sure what place we came in, but it definitely wasn’t in the top 5 so no prize money or free bar tab for us. We grabbed a couple beers and chatted with a few fellow racers before heading home.

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Overall, we enjoyed the race. We only went south of the Capitol building once and 5 or 6 of the clues were all on UT campus. I guess this works well if you’re trying to win the race, but I would have liked to see a little more trivia about the rest of the city. On the other hand, a few of the clues were things you really had to search for (like someone wearing a shirt with a city name NOT in Texas and NOT sports related – this one was hard, especially when all of ATX is decked out in burnt orange on Saturday) and we liked how challenging those were. The time constraints on a few of the clues also made it interesting.

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If I had to choose between the Urban Dare and Challenge Nation, I think Urban Dare would have a slight edge. Although, registration for Challenge Nation is more affordable. Both races are a lot of fun and a great way to break up your normal race-for-a-PR schedule. It’s nice to rely on your brain every once in awhile before you rely on the speed in your legs!

Interested in the Challenge Nation? Find out here if there’s an upcoming race near you!

Live in or near Orlando? Enter Paula & Michelle’s giveaway by midnight tonight (10/23) for a free entry to the race on October 27th!

2013 IBM Uptown Classic 10K Race Recap

Last weekend was the 19th Annual IBM Uptown Classic and my 4th time running the 10K. This was one of my very first races in Austin back in 2010 and I make a point to run it every year. The weather is always great, the course is fast, and it’s the perfect event to kick off the fall racing season.

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The morning started off fairly early since we needed to pick up this girl from downtown. She mentioned possibly taking a cab to/from the race and I immediately suggested being her chauffeur for the morning. That would have been a pricey trip and I was fairly certain Amy wasn’t an axe murderer. Can’t really say what she expected of Brad and I, but there wasn’t much hesitation as she hopped in my car at a downtown street corner. From internet friend —> IRL friend, in .05 seconds. I’m always surprised how awkward it isn’t when you meet someone IRL and already know everything about them from their blog and/or Twitter. I mean, it should be really weird – but definitely isn’t.

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We met up with Jeanette and Trinity pre-race and talked about how last year at this time we were just starting the Austin Distance Challenge. Overall that was a really fun experience, but I’ll never do it again unless Decker pulls a Houdini and disappears. That half marathon stole a significant piece of my soul.

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Brad and I didn’t have a race plan since we were using it as a training run, so we took it mile by mile. We spent much of the race leapfrogging Jeanette and Trinity, crossing the finish just behind them. No PRs for any of us but it was still a great morning. I specifically remember cruising along at mile 4 with a giant smile plastered on my face, truly enjoying every step of the race. It’s runs like these that remind you just how much you love the sport.

One note on the course: it definitely changed from last year. I remember seeing a note about it on the website and at packet pickup, but didn’t look into it. The race usually starts at the IBM complex, runs through the Domain, and winds back around to IBM. This year’s course was in the same general vicinity but unfortunately doubled back on itself several times. Definitely wasn’t a fan of that.

I’d like to think this will be fixed for 2014 but have heard rumblings this might be it’s last time at the Domain. Not sure why, but I have a feeling it has to do with the race being a part of Run Austin’s plan to turn the city into a premiere racing destination.

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One of the reasons I like this race so much is that it isn’t downtown. Not as far from my house and the course is different. Don’t get me wrong, I love downtown – but a majority of ATX races (Austin Half, Cap 10K, Turkey Trot, etc.) run the exact same route. This girl is a fan of variety!

Either way, I’ll be back next fall. If this one isn’t on your racing calendar, it needs to be.

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2013 Austin 10/20 Race Recap

On April 14, 2013, I ran the second annual Austin 10/20, a ten-mile race in North Austin featuring twenty live bands along the course.

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I crossed the starting line with a bum arch, low performance expectations, and a killer playlist. The race was only a few weeks before the Long Branch Half so I needed to get in 10 miles, but this definitely violated my “quality over quantity” racing rule I put in place for 2013. Oops.

2013 Austin 10 20 Start   YouTube

Weather: 61 degrees and 90% humidity (apparently Garmin Connect logs the weather now?) The humidity was surprisingly bearable despite how high it was but once the sun came out later in the race it felt a bit warm.

Course: The course was very similar (if not identical) to last year’s, although I don’t particularly remember the out-and-back on Mopac. I’ve made it pretty obvious that out-and-backs are my least favorite so you can imagine how *pleased* I was around mile 8ish. Especially since that’s when the sun decided to come out. In any case, it’s possible I completely blacked out during the Mopac portion of the course last year.

The course is partially a combination of the IBM Uptown Classic 10K and 3M Half Marathon, starting in the Domain, running through the IBM Campus, out on the Mopac access road and finishing back in the Domain.

If you’re interested in a course tour, I uploaded all photos to a race album on my Facebook page.

One of the best things about this race is the amount of local, energetic bands spread out over the ten miles. Unlike most of the big box races I’ve done, all of the bands on the Austin 10/20 course were actually playing when you ran past them. What a novel concept.

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Candlebox played at the post-race after party. Did you know they were still together? And releasing albums? I had no idea.

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I met up with a couple friends at the finish to watch the band but we dipped out shortly after in favor of a bottomless mimosa brunch. I’m fairly certain we replenished our calories (and then some) in record time.

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Overall: Once again, the Austin 10/20 put on a fantastic race. I’m not sure how they do it, considering they’re only in their second year, but it’s quite impressive. If I had one complaint it would have to be that they ran out of wet towels on the course. It didn’t bother me this year since it was still pretty cool at that point but had it been any hotter I think runners would have missed them.

Last year I said I’d be back in 2013 for redemption. With my arch issues I wouldn’t exactly call this year redemption. Maybe there’s a shot in 2014. Third times the charm?

California friends: the 10/20 race series is coming to SoCal! The course runs through Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas. Registration is $65 and race day is February 16, 2014. Austin 1020 California

2013 Long Branch Half Marathon Race Recap

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The Long Branch Half Marathon was initially slated to be my spring goal race. I ran into an issue with my arch in March and scaled back on running so things wouldn’t get worse. Obviously it was a disappointment to realize Long Branch wouldn’t be a PR race, but I was happy to be returning to run the shore nonetheless.

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Race day started super early with a 3:30am wakeup call. The half kicks off at 6:45am and traffic starts to build pretty early on local roads. I made sure we were out the door, hit Dunkin Donuts (one of the 35 trips I made while visiting NJ) and on our way to Oceanport by 4:45am.

We hit traffic. It wasn’t terrible. I read plenty of complaints on the Facebook page about how traffic was horrendous and some even said they’d never run the race again because of it. Had they been paying attention to the many race director emails and daily (seriously, DAILY) posts on FB to arrive early, maybe they wouldn’t have had that problem. Just sayin’.

My longest run prior to race day had been 10 miles during the Austin 10/20 a few weeks earlier and I was oddly okay with it. Usually I’m antsy at the starting line of a race I don’t feel particularly prepared for. Instead of antsy and nervous, I was completely at peace and actually excited to hit the streets and run 13.1 miles through Monmouth County.

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By 6:35 I was tucked into my corral, thankful for body heat from fellow runners that kept me warm on the chilly 40 degree morning. Starting around 6:50 (slightly late start), each of the five corrals were sent off with the traditional bugle Call to Post (since it started at Monmouth Racetrack) followed up with Sweet Caroline (for Boston) and Born to Run (by Bruce! for Jersey!).

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My race strategy was to run 3:1 intervals and simply take it one mile at a time. No need to go crazy and push the pace. My only goal was to enjoy the miles and wrap up spring race season with a smile on my face, on the Jersey Shore where I grew up.

Most of the half is on residential streets…

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and over a couple small bridges.

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The course support was great! So many families were out very early Sunday morning to cheer us on, offer us screwdrivers/mimosas/jello shots, and blast Bruce Springsteen + Rocky from huge speakers at the end of their driveways. Race volunteers were amazing as well, positioning themselves before each water stop with a megaphone letting runners know which tables had water and which had Gatorade.

My father works near Mile 10 so my family was able to park there and walk to the mile marker to wait for me. I thought I’d be sad to have to wait so long to see them but it actually helped since it gave me something to look forward to! By that point my Nuun water bottle was empty and I was DONE carrying it. I tossed it to my mom, thanked her, and kept running.20130505_091045

The half/full split. I let out a little sigh of relief to be heading to the left of the barricades as we made the turn onto Brighton Ave.

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Once on Brighton I knew it was only a matter of minutes before I’d see the wrath of Hurricane Sandy. The boardwalk portion of the final miles was no longer intact, the beach had shrunk, and many homes had been destroyed due to the massive storm that hit my home state last October. IMG_20130505_093257_082

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The headwind on Ocean Boulevard was pretty brutal so I tried to keep my head down and hold a steady pace.

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Half marathon #13 – DONE!
Spring race season – DONE!

NJ Marathon Finisher

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After last year’s DNF in the full marathon, I really had no desire to return to this race. This year’s race had a different feeling to it. It could have been returning to the hometown race post-Sandy. Or maybe it was the way all of the runners banded together that day dressed in blue and yellow, with “Boston Strong” and “Run for Boston” shirts, singing the lyrics to Sweet Caroline. Maybe it was that I toed the line without an ounce of stress weighing on my shoulders. The only thing that showed up that morning was my desire to run.

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And for all those reasons, I ran one of the best races I’ve had in a long time. This is probably the worst time of year for me work-wise to take a vacation, but I’m almost positive I’ll be back to run this race again in 2014. And if the stars align, I will be running alongside my sister during her first half marathon! Ahem, Kylie, go register. NOW! Please and thank you.

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Long Branch, I hope to see you next year.

Run. Restore. Rebuild.

Jersey Strong.

2013 ZOOMA Texas Race Recap

Last weekend was the Texas edition of the ZOOMA Women’s Race Series. It was the culmination of months of training by our Muscle Milk Light Athletes and Ambassadors alike.

Race day started at 4:30 for me since I wasn’t staying on property. I definitely recommend staying at the Hyatt Lost Pines if you can! The resort is gorgeous and you can stay cozy in your bed right up until the last minute on race morning. If you don’t stay at the Hyatt, there are several parking options for you.

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I parked at Cedar Creek High School around 6am and hung out in my car for a bit to stay warm. The forecast has called for a warm, humid day with a chance of thunderstorms. However, it was a windy, chilly (for my Texas blood!) 50 degrees that morning. I dressed for the former, which would come back to haunt me later. Close to 6:30 I hopped on a shuttle over to the Hyatt.

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A few of us met up at the information tent pre-race for a photo op:

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Caroline, Erika, me, Kelly, Rhonda

Before we knew it, it was time to head to the start! Everyone (with the exception of Ashley and I) was running the half so they jumped into the starting corral and got ready to go.

ZOOMA Countdown

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About a week before the race I made a decision to run the 5K instead of the half. After a hill workout on the treadmill my right arch was giving me a little trouble. I had the same issue after Philly and Decker, but fixed the problem by changing shoes. Then it came back. So anyway, I dropped my race distance down to the 5K just to be safe.

ZOOMA Texas 13.1 and 5K Course Map

The 5K course isn’t nearly as hilly as the half, but still enough to be challenging. It obviously wasn’t going to be a PR day with my angry arch so I took it easy. It’s been a long time since I took on such a short distance – last summer maybe? I actually kind of miss it. In fact, this resulted in a 5K race registration for Brad and I on April 21st.

Anyway, back to ZOOMA

When I made the right onto Pope Bend, I saw someone in the not-so-far-off distance pickup the Mile 1 sign that had blown away and put it back on the side of the course. I don’t think this was exactly where it was supposed to be because when I passed the marker, my watch registered 0.75 miles. Now I know there are all sorts of things that can alter Garmin accuracy, but to be off a full quarter mile seemed a bit much. IMG_20130323_075042_929

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When I passed the Mile 2 marker, my watch beeped simultaneously. So we were back on track! Just in time for this beautiful hill.

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After that it was pretty much flat for the remainder of the course so I cruised along and rocked out to my music.

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Passing the start line on the way to the finish…

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Done! Official finish time was 39 and change. Not my fastest showing but I really enjoyed the race. The atmosphere of ZOOMA races just can’t be beat!

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I positioned myself at the finish line with Erika and watched for a few of our friends to come through.

Here comes Carmen, a member of last year’s HEB Girlfriends Program:

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And fellow ambassador Ashley:

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The wind was really whipping at this point and after stopping running, it was really cold (again, it’s all relative – my southern blood has a different interpretation of “cold”). It was time to hit the post-race refreshments and grab a cup of coffee.

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But I got distracted on the way…

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If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, this shouldn’t surprise you in the least bit.

Wine at 8:30am? Don’t mind if I do!

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And THEN I made my way to the coffee. My priorities are certainly in order.

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I downed two cups in attempt to warm up a bit before heading out to spectate the half marathon but with no luck. T-shirt and shorts was perfect to race in, but not so much for hanging around afterwards!

Erika and I camped out near mile 10 near the entrance/exit of the golf course so we could see runners at both spots.IMG_20130323_095731_794

Lisa, from Growing Up Mo

Once all of our Muscle Milk athletes and ambassadors had come through, we headed to the finish.

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Love this shot of Nora’s daughter
running in with her!

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Muscle Milk Athlete Nora and ZOOMA Ambassador Lisa

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ZOOMA Ambassador Missy

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Kelly, Rhonda, Shannah, Nora, me, Lisa

I am so proud of all of the Muscle Milk Light Athletes and Ambassadors. Every single one of them has inspired me over the past few months and I’m so thankful to have met them. They are all amazing!

Please check out their ZOOMA Texas race reports to hear how it went:

Nora In the Books
Missy Race Report, Sort Of
Lisa ZOOMA 2013 Race Report – A Calling
Leigh Ann ZOOMA Texas Half Marathon Recap: Battling My Demons to the End
Caroline ZOOMA Texas Half-Marathon – I did it!
Jennifer Race Recap: My Take on ZOOMA Texas

And a huge congrats to fellow ambassador Jennifer Fisher who won ZOOMA Texas!

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It seems this year’s ZOOMA training and race flew by SO fast. While I ran the half last year, the 5K was a fun change of pace. I’d highly recommend either race distance. Don’t be discouraged by the hills – I saw quite a few women walking around with PR medals.

What other race will give you a water bottle AND a yoga mat in your race packet? This year’s tee is an awesome color and the fit is PERFECT (not too short or super tight). I’ve been using the cute bag to carry my lunch to/from work.IMG_20130331_085031_748

Grab a few of your closest girlfriends and register for the 2014 race!

Texas « ZOOMA Women s Race Series

2013 LIVESTRONG Austin Half Marathon Race Recap

Yesterday morning I ran my third LIVESTRONG Austin Half Marathon.

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223I’m going to end up buying this one once all the photos have been uploaded, so don’t get upset that I borrowed it, MarathonFoto.

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While 3M may be my favorite race in town to really race, LIVESTRONG Austin is my favorite race to run. It starts just north of the Capitol building, runs south on Congress past many amazing restaurants + bars before turning to come back into the city on South First, heads west on Cesar Chavez to Mopac and then takes 15th Street back east to end up finishing just south of the Capitol building. It’s an awesome way to see this amazing city!

LIVESTRONG Austin Half Marathon Course

The course isn’t flat or fast, in fact, it’s pretty damn tough. Rolling hills miles 1-3, uphill miles 3-6, downhill 6-9, uphill 10-11.5, a little downhill followed by a hill that will make you cry at mile 12, a little downhill to recover and then back up the San Jacinto hill to the finish.

LIVESTRONG Austin Half Marathon Elevation

The weather was absolutely perfect yesterday – 42 at the start and roughly 55 at the finish, with beautiful blue skies and bright sunshine.

Miles 2-6

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Miles 6-9

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Miles 9-12

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Mile 12 (where “The Hill” lives) – Finish

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From my 2011 recap:

Austin Half Marathon Enfield Hill

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What I thought of the Enfield Hill:

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Austin Mile 12

Austin Finish 2

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And, DONE!

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Austin Finish

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Overall, I highly recommend this race, whether it be the half or the full. It might not be your goal race for the year or a super speedy PR-producing course, but I can promise you will NOT be disappointed. Everything from the expo to the finish line is incredibly organized and well executed. There may be hills but the course is scenic so there’s a lot to keep your mind off of the elevation side of things.

Never been to Austin? Sign up for the race, book a hotel downtown, and take in all this great city has to offer. You will eat the best food you’ve ever had in your life while you’re here. Yes, IN YOUR LIFE. No exaggeration. You’ll fall head over heels for the Live Music Capital of the World – I guarantee it!


The finish line of the LIVESTRONG Austin Half Marathon also marked the end of the Austin Distance Challenge. Brad and I covered 61.7 miles worth of races between October and yesterday, side by side, stride for stride. (I still feel bad that his first half marathon was Decker. Yikes!)

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If Brad thinks he’s going to hide four chocolate chip cookies behind his back in the picture and not get caught, he’s clearly mistaken. Busted.

I loved every minute and mile covered together over the past few months. I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish in the future!