Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Moving From Georgia to Washington

The last time I posted, I subtly mentioned, "moving to Washington" among a bunch of race recaps. I wanted to expand a little, but we were in the middle of selling our house in Georgia and spilling the details online seemed inappropriate.

So...yes, Tim and I sold our house in Georgia. The one we moved from Hong Kong to build. The one that taught us both how to use table saws and grout tile and put together IKEA furniture. (Just kidding. No one ever actually learns how to do that last one. It's a gamble every time.)

#nofilter #justkidding #somanyfilters

It absolutely was our dream house, and I am so thankful that we had the opportunity to tackle such a big project together. Tim discovered that he loves designing and carpentry, which are two things he never would have really had the chance to do much of in Hong Kong.

Unfortunately, there just wasn't a whole lot for us in Georgia. We had friendly neighbors and plenty of space, but the long drives to get to civilization and the lack of work opportunities for my husband made the decision easier for us to make. Plus, my job fits in my laptop and comes with me, so we were in the position to move and still have guaranteed income.

Just like we kind of randomly picked Georgia to call home, we kind of randomly picked Washington. I don't love the extreme hot or the extreme cold (call me Goldilocks), and the Pacific Northwest obviously has some incredible scenery, so it was a top contender. The Seattle area also has a number of colleges and universities with international students, which is ideal for my husband's line of work. Plus, Vietnamese food. Everywhere. And sushi. We went to the same sushi place the first three or four days after we arrived because we were so deprived.

From our first hike in WA: Poo Poo Point Lookout
Seattle it is! Technically, we are outside of Seattle in a place called Bellevue. We haven't purchased a new home yet, and we are definitely playing it by ear to see what we like and don't like about various areas before we decide.

Like: Kinda pretty, I guess.

Don't Like: Posturing weirdos on hikes

Anyway, I'm really out of practice with this blogging stuff. I can't remember where I put the oatmeal pictures and whether you need to see my Garmin stats or not. Running-wise I'm completely unmotivated and over it. Burned out, big time. Which is perfect, because I am supposed to be running a 50k on Saturday. That should be fun. (Insert sarcasm here.) Expect a post post-race where I either swear off running forever or sign up for a billion marathons.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Race Recaps: 8 Months of Races in One Surprisingly Short Post

Trying to recap a single race in a standard blog post is tough, but trying to recap eight months of races at once? Nearly impossible. Thankfully, I have forgotten most of the details about the races I've completed since March, which you'll appreciate since it cuts down on the reading.

If my calculations are correct (they probably aren't), I ran 6 races between March and October. These varied from a one-mile race with a field of eight to a full 26.2 on trails, and they took place in Georgia, Tennessee and Washington.

1 Mile: Market Street Mile, Chattanooga, TN, June 2013 (6:48)
I don't know why I thought this was a good idea. "I hate 5ks, but what could be better than running for less time and wanting to puke even more? Yes! A one-mile race!" It was actually kind of fun because they did it in heats, so I was only racing against other women between 20-29. I, uh, lost. I don't remember what place I took - out of 8 - but I distinctly remember it being toward the end.

5k: Run For John, Dalton, GA, April, 2013 (23:58)
This is known as a super-hilly course in the area, but the downhills were nice so it wasn't as bad as I imagined. It rained slightly, but this was still a 5k PR for me, with a 7:43 pace. Plus, I got second in my age group. (Ahem, this was out of four. I'll take it.)

10k: Riverbend Race, Chattanooga, TN, June 2013 - DNS
This is embarrassing. I picked up my packet a week in advance, and then ignored the date. I thought the race was on a Sunday, until I saw people posting their results on Facebook - on Saturday morning. Good times.

15k: Chickamauga Chase, Ft. Oglethorpe, GA, April 2013- (1:16:44)
This was a fantastic race! I got there late and didn't get a chance to warm up, but I don't think it mattered much in the end. 8:14 pace overall was fast enough to get me second place in my age group, which was framed artwork depicting the Chickamauaga Battlefield (where the race takes place).  I really loved this distance and would like to do another one. Not painfully fast, but short enough to recover from quickly.

13.1: Tehaleh Trail Half Marathon, Bonney Lake, Washington, September 2013 (2:12:38)
I raced this about a week or two after we moved to the Seattle area, so it was a pretty great way to experience running in the Pacific Northwest. Obviously, it rained. A lot. But most of the course was pretty, if laden with mud puddles, and I came in fourth out of 14th in my age group.  Also, this will be remembered as the race where photographers took insane amounts of photos, and one makes me look hardcore. The other 14 will not be shown on the blog. 1 out of 14 isn't bad for race photos, right?

13:1: Ft. Steilacoom Trail Half Marathon, Tacoma, Wa, October 2013 (2:05:16)
I had so much fun at my first trail half in Washington, I immediately went home and signed up for another in the same race series. (Evergreen Trail Runs) I'm in love with them - small, cheap and you only have to show up 15 minutes before the start. Heaven. This was a pretty flat-ish trail, and I snuck in as 5th out of 20 in my age group.

26.2: Scenic City Trail Marathon, Chattanooga, TN, May 2013 (4:44:41)
This is the third time I participated in this race, but in 2011 and 2012 I just did the half. The full was, as you might imagine, twice the fun. Amazing course, scenic, challenging and fantastic. I wish I could run it again!

Post-Race at Scenic City Trail Marathon

If there is one thing you notice about all of these races, it is that they are small. The reasons for this include:
1) I'm cheap. Small races = cheaper race entries.
2) I'm lazy. Getting to the race 15 minutes before the start? Yes, please.
3) I'm full of myself. Placing in an age of group of four is a lot easier than in a field of 1,000.

What to do you prefer? Big races or small races?
I will say that I like the swag at big races. The smaller races generally don't give out bling, which I am a big fan of. Expo crap I can do without, but I love the medals.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ragnar Las Vegas (Subtitle: I Think I'm Back?!)

Although I like to pretend that you have all been waiting around with bated breath, the reality is that many of you might not have noticed that I have stepped away from blogging, has it really been eight months? Crazy.

In that time my work has ramped up big time (don't worry, I still get to write from home in my pajamas), I have had the chance to run some great races and I even moved, with husband and three cats in tow, to the Pacific Northwest.

So, what brought me out of my self-induced blogging retirement? Ragnar Relay Las Vegas. This was my second chance to run a relay (first being Hood to Coast 2012), and it was every bit as fantastic as I had hoped. Unfortunately, that isn't because I secretly love being cold and cramped in a van for 30 hours. It is because I like being surrounded by awesome people who want to eat, breath and sleep (or not sleep) running.

If you aren't familiar with the typical relay set-up, it involves a team of 12 running 36 legs, which totals anywhere from 185-200 miles. This particular adventure started on Mt. Charleston, just outside of Las Vegas, and ended in Lake Mead. My van of six consisted of:

Runner #1: Nicole
This woman just gave birth four months ago, but you would NEVER guess it.  She was incredibly fast and tackled the very first (hilly!) leg of the race. However, I have a feeling she had an advantage. From the little I know of parenting newborns, a nap in a van is basically equivalent to a full night of sleep for her, right? Nicole lives near me now, so I plan on getting her expert opinion on races nearby.

Runner #2: Kelsey
I used to live 90 minutes from Kelsey, and she is a complete sweetheart with one of those adorable southern accents. Seriously, she could be insulting me straight to my face and I would just be picturing Scarlett O'Hara and a big 'ol glass of sweet tea. I can't remember how many times this past weekend Kelsey said, "This is SO MUCH FUN!" I love how much joy she brought to the group.

Runner #3: Sandy
I was super excited to meet Sandy! She has a clear goal for running, and has had one for some time. Hey, her entire blog is named after getting to Boston! I really appreciate how hard she works to accomplish her dream, and she doesn't shy away from knowing what she wants. She totally underestimates how fast she is, and I really can't wait to see her succeed.

Runner #4: Caroline
Sweet Caroline! This lovely lady has been in my van twice out of two relays, so it has become clear that I am incapable of running an event like this without her. Thank you, Caroline, for your incredible playlists, fantastic photography skills and hilarious personality.

Runner #5: Zoë
Serving as both driver and runner of the MOST MILES on the team, Zoe pretty much put all of us to shame. After little sleep and lots of running, I can barely walk in a straight line, but Zoë managed to maneuver that van with style.  Plus, being the mother to perhaps the cutest little girl ever bumps her up even further on my list. Zoë: I am a fantastic babysitter. I work for hugs. Call me.

Runner #6: That's me!
I won't give myself a descriptive paragraph, because that's just odd.

Pure joy at being finished!

Alright, now I am going to try to recap the awesomeness of the relay as quickly as possible. Ready?

Thursday: Flew into Las Vegas, checked into a pyramid. Overpriced frozen yogurt. Water bottles that cost the same as bars of gold. New and old friends. Sleep.

Friday Morning: Relay begins! Drove to Mt. Charleston. Ears popped at 8,000 feet elevation. Snow. Let me repeat: Snow. In the Nevada desert. Confusion.

Friday Afternoon: Um, night. Not used to this early sunset thing. I ran my first leg in the dark, which was rerouted at the last minute. Four miles at 7:56 pace - obviously some downhills! Dinner at Chili's. Good times.

Friday Night: My leg two was a midnight uphill 10-miler through Red Rock Canyon. Apparently, it looks like this during the day:

 For me, it looked like this:

My knuckle lights died after mile 2, I had a near panic attack and my phone battery was dying. Basically, I am completely unprepared and a giant baby. I called my husband to tell him I might die in the desert, cried at the finish and then forgot about it altogether within minutes. Running is fun!

Saturday Morning: My final leg, and it was in daylight! Hallelujah. It was just under 3.5 miles, a lot of it was downhill, and my pace was 8:05. I was spurred on substantially by a van full of crazy ladies with cowbells signing "Call Me Maybe" on the side of the road. Oops, did I say crazy ladies? I meant fantastic teammates.

Saturday Afternoon: Finish Line! We waited around at the finish so we could watch Van 2 of our team come in. It was hot, sunny and absolutely beautiful.

For full disclosure, I have to say that the team was sponsored by Nuun and Pro Compression. It isn't really a secret that I love Nuun, but Pro Compression was kind to me. I have to admit that prior to this weekend, I had never wore their compression socks at all. Normally, I wear Swiftwick compression socks because, uh, I'm a cheapskate and they are the cheapest ones I can find that work.

Anyhow, Pro Compression has kind of converted me. I have to say that the two brands (Swiftwick and Pro Compression) are still pretty much equal in my opinion, but Pro Compression has cuter colors/patterns. I think that Pro Compression socks are normally $50 - kind of pricey - but you can almost always find a discount code for 30-40% off.

P.S. For reading this entire post, you get a prize! Kind of. Nuun and Pro Compression have discounts, and they are as follows:

Code: ragnarvegas
Good for: 20% order
Expires: 12/31/13

Code: nuunpc
Good for: 40% off + free shipping
Expires: 12/31/13

Also, I have to say that, obviously, six women does not a 12-person team make. Van 2 was a great group of five women and one sparkly-skirt-wearing man. Although I didn't get to spend as much time with this group, they all seemed pretty fantastic.

The whole group!
Next up, I attempt to recap all of the races from the past eight months in a single post. (And you thought this post was long!)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A 2-Mile PR and Some Festive Socks

On Thursday night, I ran a small 2-mile race that was just about 30 minutes from home - the Dalton St. Patrick's Day 2-Miler. And, uh...I really don't know how to make a post out of a 2-mile race. I ran hard, and it was over quickly. The end.

I guess I'll elaborate, because otherwise there really is no point to this blog, is there?

It was a weird race time - 6:30 p.m. I had a pretty regular day of work beforehand, and ate normally but avoided veggies for the day, just in case. Then I pestered my husband and made him get up, go outside and take a series of pictures to prove that I dressed up for a race. He loved it. He really loves when I make him take pictures of me for the Internet. It's his favorite pastime.

I got to the race, registered on the spot and met a friend of mine to run the course as a warm-up. I think we ran the two miles at about a 10:30 pace, taking it really easy, but we did throw in a few 10-second strides at a faster pace.

The race takes place at a local church and is really family-friendly, which means that there are a lot of kids. Luckily, they made a big deal about only letting people who could run 2 miles UNDER 15 minutes at the front, which stopped some of the younger kids from getting caught up in the start and making things too chaotic. (For the record, I didn't join the speedy folks at the front, despite *spoiler alter* eventually finishing under 15 minutes).

At the start, I had my eye on a lady who typically finishes ahead of me and tried to stick with her. The first mile was 7:04, which made me so excited, because part of it was uphill. Clearly that wore me out, because even with the corresponding downhill on the second mile I slowed right down. It was hard. I was out of breath. But it was awesome.

Photo Courtesy of the Photographers at the Local High School

Final time: 14:54, 1st place in my age group, 5th woman overall (7:27 pace)

Yep, I'll take that. I had a goal of 15 minutes for this race, and I got there with a few seconds to spare. It took me a couple of minutes to breathe properly afterwards, which I think means I worked for that time. Isn't that the best case scenario? Wanting to die during the race but feeling amazing after the fact? Perfect.

Of course, scooping up some bling was fun too. Loved that part a little bit.

My friend Julie and I and our AG medals

Anyone else run a St. Patrick's Day race this weekend?
I know a few people who were in Atlanta for the Publix half and full, which I ran last year (the half!) 

Just a heads up...I had someone email me about running a race this with IT band pain, which is a valid question! I understand that I am treading a fine line between resting, strengthening the area and maintaining my running fitness. I feel lucky that I have almost no pain as long as I foam roll before a run and warm-up properly, but that isn't the same for everyone! 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Things That Kicked My Ass This Week

Life has a funny way of forcing you to slow down, doesn't it? I ran a half-marathon PR in September, a marathon PR in November and then another marathon PR in February. When I write it all out like that, an injury doesn't just seem possible, it seems probable.

The last couple of weeks have involved some IT band pain and some slight knee pain, but every day it gets better. The key (anecdotally, I'm no doctor) seems to be the magic of the foam roller. I know not what kind of sorcery is contained in that foam cylinder, but I love it.

My cats like to stretch with me :)

I was supposed to run a 12-hour race on Saturday, but I knew that doing so would be a terrible idea. Instead, I worked out hungover on a hotel elliptical for 20 minutes. That's the same as running for 12 hours, right? Right.

Thankfully, I never had a chance to be sad about the DNS (did not start), because Tim and I ended up having a fantastic weekend. On Friday night, we went to an all-German birthday party. I took no pictures, ended up with blisters thanks to ridiculously sexy and uncomfortable shoes, danced my ass off and stayed up until 4 in the morning. Hence the 20 minutes on the elliptical the next day feeling like death.  I also refused to speak German until the second (or was it third?) bottle of wine, which is when I become a professional translator. I assume that slurring is understood universally.

I thought it might be interesting to share my workouts for the last week, if for no other reason than the fact that it included things besides running.

Monday: 25 minutes of foam rolling, 4 miles on treadmill
Tuesday: 30 minutes of foam rolling, 6 miles on treadmill
Wednesday: 30 minutes of Pilates at home
Thursday: 4 miles running outside with a friend, easy pace (9:30)
Friday: 20 minutes of foam rolling, 3 miles on the treadmill
Saturday: 20 minutes on the elliptical. Also, I lifted one of those weighted medicine balls in the hotel gym because it made me feel buff. It was heavy. I stopped immediately.
Sunday: 30 minutes of foam rolling, 9 miles @9:24 pace, FLAT - hills still bother my knees a little

On Wednesday I did a Pilates video on Youtube, and it was quite possibly the hardest thing I have ever done. It's from the blogger behind Blogilates, who I had honestly never heard of before until I searched "Pilates" on YouTube. Anyway, can't vouch for the blog, but I will say that the video is pretty tough. It's just under 30 minutes, and it is mostly abs/upper body. I'll probably continue to use it for cross-training. Theoretically.

This was far from a coherent post, so I will leave you with the following list of things that have kicked my ass in the past week:

-High Heels
-Running without 30 minutes of foam-rolling first
-DNS-ing. It just sucks.
-Pilates (AKA: using my core)
-Remembering to take pictures. What kind of blogger am I, damn it!

Does anyone have any recommendations for workout videos from YouTube?
I'm also surprised when I remember that there are some good ones on there. I just hate when I find a great one that lasts, like, 4 minutes. Great workout there, buddy. 

Have you ever had to DNS a race?
Sadly, this isn't my first time. The worst one for me was in Hong Kong, when I has plantar fasciitis and had no idea was it was (pre-blogging, obviously). I was convinced that my foot had broken or something.

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Bad Case of Cocky Runner

There goes my comeback. Pretty sure last week's post was full of unicorn gum drops and happy vibes post-PR, and I may have mentioned a few upcoming races where, obviously, I was going to kick ass and take names.

I may have to rethink my strategy. Last week's total running mileage? Six miles. SIX. Not 60. SIX.

So, what happened? I came down with a bad case of cocky runner. You ever heard of that? Symptoms include overconfidence, a refusal to abide by the scientific laws of recovery and a distinct lack of stretching and foam-rolling. I got cocky runner BAD, you guys.

After my marathon two weeks ago, I did some active recovery - 15 minutes or so of biking or elliptical, took a full rest day and then ran 4 miles on Wednesday. That, my friends, is mistake number one. I felt okay, did some minor cross-training, and then ran 12 miles on Saturday. Mistake number two. I felt fine, but sometimes I forget that the consequences of stupidity are often delayed. It's a classic case of too much, too soon. Some bodies can handle that after a marathon, but mine clearly can't.

Last Monday, I ran three miles that just felt off. Tuesday, I started feeling pain in my left knee that I quickly realized was due to IT Band tightness and crazy tight hamstrings. Let the foam rolling commence! I didn't run at all until last Friday, and even biking was a no-go. Instead, I did lots of foam rolling, stretching and pilates. You know, all the stuff I probably should have been doing all along.  I'm able to run now, but I have to foam roll for about 25-30 minutes first and then take it easy. At this point, I'll be happy if I get away with a couple weeks of babying my legs.

On the plus side, less running leaves time for more cat videos on YouTube, so there's that.

So- any overly cocky runners out there?  
You can join my club if you want. I'm thinking about making T-shirts. 

In seriousness, does anyone have any IT band pointers/suggestions they can share?
Right now I'm doing a few strengthening exercises I found online, taking ibuprofen and icing, but the biggest thing has been foam-rolling. I find that rather than attacking the IT band itself, working on my hamstrings/glutes really helps to loosen me up so that I can run with no pain - although I do slow down and only run on flat surfaces right now.

*After the first couple of comments I realized I have to add this - I didn't draw these! I merely customized my avatar to stick in there and added speech bubbles. Lest you believe I have any form of artistic talent, remember this post? That's what I though.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

I Apologize in Advance

You know that feeling of dread that sneaks up on you when someone wants to show you pictures of their family vacation/wedding/new baby? Well, you should be feeling that right now. I have missed out on over three months of splashing the interwebz with pictures of me with my hands on my hip, in the right light and at the right angle. And now, we are going to make up for lost time.

The above is only slightly true. Partially. Mostly. Whatever. I actually just wanted to post about what I was up to over the past few months.

I turned a quarter-century old and celebrated with a beautiful hike and the world's largest gummy bear:

Tim and I also spent Christmas in Hong Kong. I was still technically working while we were there, but I got away with mostly half-days and we got to do some great hikes and runs on the trails. This is perhaps my favorite picture of all time, because it shows just how gorgeous Hong Kong can actually be when you get away from the city:

Seriously amazing, right? That's part of the trail connecting Discovery Bay/Lo Fu Tau to Mui Wo on Lantau Island.

Of course, going to Hong Kong also meant something pretty amazing: I wore high heels. Not just once, either. We're talking 4-5 times. I know, I know. That alone is something worth writing a blog post about. I wore dresses, too. ON NUMEROUS OCCASIONS. It was just a big 'ol party in the big city. I had a great time seeing family and friends and celebrating Christmas.

Christmas Eve champagne and nibbles

If it looks like that, it's not really work!

Cutest Munchkin in the world

And then during January, I did nothing. Okay, not nothing, but...nothing of interest. Work. Running. Eating. The occasional trip outside. Just go-go-go, you know? Alright, I think you're all caught up on my life after a three-month blogging hiatus. I'm not sure what's worse - the fact that I think people care, or the fact that I can sum it up so perfectly in one tiny blog post.

Since I have been only half-participating in the blog world lately, fill me in on the best thing that happened to you over the past few months. Or the worst thing. Or if you have ever had a gummy bear bigger than mine.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Let's Try This Again

This past week has been so bizarre. I was on such a high after running in Myrtle Beach, and all I could think about was the marathon. I actually had a hard time sleeping (despite the fact that my body was exhausted!) because I kept replaying the final stretch in my mind and seeing the numbers 3:51:15 float by every time I closed my eyes.

Yes, that makes me sound crazy. I get that. But I really was on cloud nine.

And then....the inevitable crash. It sucks, doesn't it? An amazing PR, a new distance record or an incredibly fun race can often leave you on a roller coaster of feelings. After the rise, the weeks or months of anticipation and then the event itself, you find yourself at a loss. What am I supposed to be doing now? What am I supposed to be eating, sleeping, training?

Monday through Wednesday was basically me being a whiny bitch, struggling to focus on my work, eating far too many bags of mini eggs (early Easter candy FTW!) and finding ways to fight with my husband.

I turned a corner today and decided to stop regretting the great things that are over and focus on the great races I have coming up. Plus, you know, my happy marriage, adorable cats and great job. I guess they count too. So here are the races I have to look forward to:

Delano 12 Hour: (2 Weeks from now!) Well, this should be fun. It's a timed race, so I can run as much or as little as I want. The race takes place on a one-mile loop (unpaved but flat) and I can stop at any time. I'm excited to push myself a little and see just how far my legs can take me in that time period. Plus, it was just $45 - that's just good value per mile, if you think about it.

Scenic City Trail Marathon: (Mid-May) I've run this for the past two years, but I have only run the half. This year I'm excited to tackle the full. It's a pretty fast, as far as trails go, it's organized well and it's just beautiful. Plus, it's 45 minutes from home. Can't beat it.

Jill & I post-race in 2012

Same race in 2011

And, uh...that's it. It feels weird not to have races planned for the next year like a lot of runners do, but I am happy to be taking it just one step at a time. Come May, I may decide to focus on speed, tackle longer distances or maybe take a break, and I'm happy to wait and see how that works out.

Do you like being signed up for races months in advance, or it is stressful/a burden/a potential waste of money?
I wish I could sign up for races at the last minute. Although having them on the calendar helps me stick to a training plan, I don't like shelling out $ so far in advance. Big races require some serious commitment!  

I feel that a lot of runners put all their eggs in one basket when it comes to being happy - does that make sense? Do you agree?
When I'm stressed, I run. When I am worried, I run. So when you can't run/are injured/aren't supposed to run, what replaces that for you? Other types of fitness, or something else entirely? 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Myrtle Beach Marathon Recap: Sub-4!

What's up? Long time no type. The last time I posted (in November) I had just completed the Chickamagua Battlefield Marathon with a time of 4:05 and I was incredibly proud of myself. If you told me that I would be able to cut 14+ minutes off of my PR in the three months after that, I would have thought you were crazy. Somehow, I finished the Myrtle Beach Marathon with an official time of 3:51:15 this Saturday, and I could not be happier! Here's the recap, or as much of it as I can remember.

Pre-Race: Tim and I decided to drive to Myrtle Beach on Thursday afternoon so that we could relax a little on Friday and not worry about rushing there in time for the expo/packet pick-up. Also, nothing says love like spending Valentine's Day in a car for 8 hours, right?

We woke up on Friday morning to incredible views of the beach from our insanely cheap hotel room, and all I wanted to do was go exploring all day. Alas, that is a terrible, terrible idea before a marathon. Instead, we met up with Victoria and her friends for lunch, chanted sub-4 several times (only kidding! kinda), hit up the expo and then did just a LITTLE walking on the beach. Myrtle Beach is gorgeous, but I imagine it becomes exponentially less gorgeous as the population and summer crowds increase.

At Pier 14 in Myrtle Beach

Baby Tigers at the Race Expo!

I went to bed super early (9:30), stared at the ceiling and imagined crossing the finish line about 100 times, and then woke up before my 4:30 a.m. alarm. Awesome.

Race Day: There were shuttles that went straight from a few area hotels to the start, so I hopped on one around 5:20 and got there far too early. However, that was intentional - it was the only chance I had to hang out with Beth! It was wonderful to catch up a little, and I barely noticed the cold with all the chatting. For the record, she killed it and had her best half-marathon time in 5 years!

I found Victoria and her friend Rachel a few seconds before the start, ran past the giant elephant - really - and covered the first mile in 9:01. That's EXACTLY the speed I was hoping for the entire race. As luck would have it, that was actually my slowest mile for the entire marathon. To be completely honest, after that first mile I knew I could go faster than I had planned. I sped up and had an incredible first 10 miles. It was beautiful, I was happy, and I couldn't think of anything better than doing exactly what I was doing.

Victoria and I found each other around mile 10 and ran together for a while, and we even passed Tim who managed to take a picture as we flew by. He actually just had to step directly out of the hotel lobby to take a picture, since the hotel was right on the course. Awesome for spectators!

Running With Victoria around Mile 12

I stopped to refill my water bottle at mile 14 and told Victoria I would catch up. Spoiler: I never did. I tried to, but it was too fast for me that early in the race. I didn't want to burn out!  She went on to a 47 minute PR and finished almost 4 minutes ahead of me. The rest of the race was definitely challenging from then on. The sun came out, there were a few miles along major roads and I had to dig a little deeper to keep up the pace. However, I never had to hit anything slower than an 8:58, and that felt so motivating. I never hit a wall, or felt terrible. I had to repeat a little mantra in a my head a few times, but overall I felt surprisingly great.

The last .2 I sprinted my little heart out and managed a 7:48 pace. Final time - 3:51:15, which puts me at 111th woman overall and 14th in my division with an 8:50 pace overall. Also, I believe I have entry the sub-4 club. Feels good.

Post-Race: I couldn't breathe for a minute after the finish. Honestly, I was really scared. The final sprint combined with the emotions of seeing Tim at the finish and realizing my time left me hyperventilating, and I freaked out. Thankfully it was nothing, and I was absolutely fine in 60 seconds. I smelled kettle corn and was eating a big bag of it within 5 minutes of finishing, so I guess you could say I recovered pretty quickly.

I walked a couple of miles back to the hotel, showered and headed out for food. Wait - first I used every method of social media that I know about to brag. THEN I went out for food. I had a bacon cheeseburger on a gluten-free bun (!!!) and fries. And then sweet potato fries. And then a couple of margaritas. Every bit was delicious.

Obviously wearing my marathon shirt right away.

Because I know some people are curious about this stuff, here are the nitty-gritty details-

What I Wore: The same stuff I always do. I have race/long run favorites, BIG TIME. I had on my oldest, nastiest New Balance shorts. They were given to me as hand-me-downs 8 years ago, and they are quite literally falling apart at the seams. But I love them. I also had on the Nike shirt from Hood to Coast. It is incapable of chafing anywhere, and I will never stop wearing it. I also wore Swiftwick Compression socks, and my calves weren't sore at all the next day. However, it's worth noting that the completely flat course may have had more to do with that than the socks.  I also wore my Nuun visor - made by Headsweats and really comfortable.

What I Ate: I carried my handheld water bottle (Camelbak) the whole time, which is standard for me. I always drink Nuun for long runs, so I don't want to risk anything else for race day. I had three tablets of Kona Cola flavor, which has caffeine, and I just put one tablet every time I filled up my bottle at an aid station. I also had two packs of Shot Blocks, which is about 400 calories total.

I had a great race on Saturday, but it's really important to note that the course was incredible. It's not 100 percent flat, but it's pretty close. The temperatures were also amazing - 40 at the start and 55 at the finish. Had the conditions/course not been so perfect, I'm sure I could have added a little extra time to my finish. I still didn't manage the ever-elusive negative splits, but my first half was only slightly faster than the second half - 1:55:29 vs. 1:56:16, so I'm improving! (Also: yep, that's a 1 second half-marathon PR there, and I will gladly take it!)

Man, I let this thing get away from me. So typical. I stop blogging for three months and then feel the need to make up for it all in one post.

Thanks so much to everyone who congratulated me on Twitter, Daily Mile or Facebook. You all make me feel like a rock star, and I would be lying if I didn't say that it makes me feel amazing. I truly appreciate every kind comment.