Race Recap: Chicago Marathon

So. Last Sunday I ran a marathon. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise as I feel it’s all I’ve been able to talk about for the past few months. When I signed up to run the Chicago Marathon with a charity team, I knew I had to do something different than I did when I ran the Space Coast Marathon in 2016. Basically I knew I had to train. If you’ve followed my journey you know I started training earnestly this summer. I live in South Florida, so it basically sucked. I learned so much about myself, what I could do, what I needed to do to take care of myself, how hard marathon training is.

BUT – it definitely paid off.

 

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Post race pic, but I thought I’d start with something happy.

 

Last Thursday I took a half day off work and my mom, sister, and I got ready to fly to Chicago. It was typical hot weather here on the Gulf Coast, with a few showers. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 5:00 and we ended up being delayed until 6:50. It was about 8:30 Chicago time when we landed and we ended up taking a shady cab to the city. I’m not going to go a lot into the city and trip because I feel like there’s so much of the race to talk about, but we had a great time. It’s been sweltering down here recently and the change of weather was nice. Even if it was rainy and cloudy, it was better than suffocating in the heat. A true testament to my taper diet was the fact that I had to try on all my jeans before I packed to make sure they fit. Don’t worry, I also packed leggings…just in case.

We did the sightseeing thing Friday and Saturday, making sure to see the good stuff. We walked the streets, rode an architectural tour boat, and ate some good food. On Friday I met Michelle at the expo so we could pick up our packets. We also picked up some t-shirts, headbands, nuun – the essentials, ha! A lot of you also know that I signed up with the American Heart Association and I finally got to meet the team leaders at the expo. It was nice to talk to them about my story and to finally put a face to their names. I reached my fundraiser goal a week before the race, so that was a huge weight off my shoulders!

Saturday night Michelle and I planned to meet at the hotel restaurant for some last minute carbs, only to find it was closed for a private event. We took the opportunity to go to a pizza place around the corner to grab a slice (okay a whole pizza) and drinks. Beer and pizza seems to be our pre-race ritual, so this was spot on. (We did not get deep dish as it would have taken an hour to cook and I was starving.)

After dinner I went back to my room to prep and make sure everything was ready to go. And to set up my Flat Ash pic, of course. I went to be early, knowing I wouldn’t sleep well. Every time I woke up it felt like I’d been asleep for hours, until my alarm finally went off at 5AM. We’d planned to meet at 6 for breakfast and a walk to Grant Park. Our hotel was full of runners doing the same thing so we hung out a little bit in the warm breakfast area before getting ready to brave the cold.

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I know I said the cold was a relief, but not really when you’re running in a skirt and tank top. Michelle’s brother walked with us to the start line and we parted ways as we got ready to enter our corral. The crowd was already huge and it was only 7AM. Our start time was 8:35! We filed into gear check with everyone, sloshed through the mud, stood in line for the porta-potty, and finally shuffled into our corral. The energy just waiting to start was intense. Everyone was in sweaters and ponchos, taking pictures, and having a good time – in the rain, by the way. I met two Skirt Sport Sisters and chatted for a few minutes before we got shuffled up to the start line.

Our wave finally let out at almost 9AM. It had stopped raining by this time so I’d shed my poncho but kept my sweater for a while. We started out slow and steady, keeping a good pace with everyone around us. I chucked my sweater around Mile 1 because I was starting to warm up. About that time I – literally – ran into my Internet Friend Maura. We’ve known each other on Twitter for years and had been keeping up with each other’s training these past few months. I joked that we would “run” into each other and we did! (She also crushed Chicago, by the way.)

I’m not sure when it started raining again, but I seriously regretted throwing my sweater and poncho when it did. It got cold quick and didn’t let up for a while. Besides the rain, the course at the beginning was great! When you read that there are 1.2 million spectators you can’t really visualize that. But when you finally see all the people on the sidelines it gets a little overwhelming! The first few miles seemed to go pretty fast, even if my running wasn’t that fast. We made sure to stop for water and Gatorade and kept up with our fuel. Seeing so many different parts of the city was so much fun and the people at each turn were different in so many ways.

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At Mile 8 I met another Internet Friend with her amazing sign. We hugged for like two seconds then I ran away.

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By this time it had stopped raining, but I was definitely starting to slow down a little. We’d been running full (kind of ) speed and my body just wasn’t used to it. At Mile 13 my mom and sister were on the sidelines with hugs and a super fun sign for me. (Captain America is my favorite superhero so my mom had a nice Chicago resident make a sign for me.)

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Technically this is an after pic, but whatever.

A little after 15 I started to slow down a lot. I told Michelle to go on without me. I was sad we were getting separated but I just couldn’t keep up with her pace. My hips were killing me and there wasn’t enough BioFreeze in the land to make it stop.

Going on by myself was tough, but I managed. I set my phone to do intervals so I could take some walk breaks. I knew I had to keep a 15:00 pace so every checkpoint I peeked at my app to make sure I was scheduled to finish on time. We had chosen not to track through any running app (I usually use Nike Running) because we were told the GPS would mess up and we didn’t want to kill our phones, knowing we’d need to find everyone at the end. I let my sister and Mer know that I was on my own (and Twitter). Everyone’s encouragement was amazing and I knew that I had to get through it, if not for me it was to not disappoint others. I hate doing that. As we continued to move through the neighborhoods some of the crowds got smaller, but they were still enthusiastic. By this point pedestrians were trying to cross the street in the middle of runners, which I didn’t really care for. I know that life must go on, but some of them were a little reckless. My legs weren’t working that well and I didn’t want an injury when I was so close!

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I remember texting Mer when I was close to the end and visiting one last BioFreeze station. It was basically something like “I just BioFreezed my butt” to lather up my hip. I’m usually pretty modest, but I was dying. At some point it started to sprinkle again and I’d kind of lot track of where I was, mileage wise. There were bananas on the course and I ate a couple in the last few stretches. My friend Lily was tracking me and tweeting my progress, and Mer was texting me encouragement. Without them I probably would’ve ended up walking and not caring about my time. People around me were struggling, but there were still so many people behind us. I always makes me feel better knowing that I’m not the only one suffering!

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When I hit the Mile 26 mark I almost cried. Mostly because there was a big hill at the end and I wanted to die. But also because it was over. As I rounded the hill to come into the finish a girl next to me was crying. I told her “You got this!” and she said “I know, I’m just so happy!”

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That’s a marathon, y’all. It hurts and it sucks. It takes six months of your life and then suddenly none of it matters because you’re there and you’re trying not to cry or throwup or quit. It’s hard. I admire people who do more than one every couple of years. Whether you’re Sir Mo running your sub 5 or you’re me and my crew struggling to keep your 15 minute mile. You’re awesome.

So, back to the race. Coming across the finish line I felt a lot of emotions. I felt strong, tired, hungry, and delirious. Michelle was waiting for me right after medals, so we took pics and got our free beer. We sloshed our way through the mud to get our gear and WALKED DOWN THE STAIRS to get out of Grant Park. My mom and sister were waiting with the crowd outside and we grabbed and Uber with Michelle and her brother. It was fun piling into someone else’s car all gross and smelly for once.

Everything after that is kind of a blur. I took a nice Epsom salt bath while my mom went across the street to grab me food. It was still early in the day, but I stayed in my pajamas and ate a cheeseburger and fries in bed. I answered all my texts and tweets, assuring people that I was still alive in some way. After it all I managed to pack my suitcase to prepare for leaving the next day. I even walked to the Nike store the next day on my own, albeit slowly. My flight was excruciating to say the least. I got stuck with a middle seat and we were pretty much confined to our seats due to turbulence the whole flight. There were some inhuman noises from me once I was able to stand up.

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Once we got home Monday afternoon I didn’t move from the couch. I elevated and binged Brooklyn 99 while my sister brought me things so I would stop moaning and groaning every time I got up.

Everyone at work this week has been amazing. They are all so congratulatory and don’t care how long it took you or if you walked any of the race. Sometimes the kids ask “Did you win?” and you just have to laugh. This past Wednesday my class talked about setting goals and it was really perfect timing! They’d known all year that this was my goal and it was something I got to share with them. As far as my race goals are concerned, I was really hoping for a sub 6. I ended up with a final time of 6:26 and some change. While I didn’t reach my goal, it was still a 33 minute PR! I’m pretty proud of that.

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BioFreeze cheers from my people.

If anyone is thinking about running a marathon, I’d definitely look into Chicago. The course was amazing, the people were great, and the city is beautiful. Even if the runners totally destroyed it.

Thanks to all of you for following this journey and all of your kind words!

Don’t ask me if I’m ready for another one.

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The Road to Chicago

Happy Independence Day/Wednesday! I hope you’re all having a nice holiday/week/summer/day/whatever you’re doing. This past weekend my running buddy and I did our longest run yet for our Chicago Marathon training. It was a tough one, but we pushed through with a good, steady pace. (Even if we did get a little lost and almost had an encounter with an alligator.) Marathon training during the summer definitely has some challenges, but it’s going pretty well. You can listen to me ramble about it below.

High of 90? We got this.

 

Sorry for the TMI. Don’t you just love running?

Post run refreshments are a necessity.

Be Cool, Sodapop

Summer! Don’t you just love it?

Okay, I know it isn’t “technically” summer just yet, but I live in south Florida. It’s the land of perpetual summer. Except when it’s hurricane season.

This week I tried a vlog to talk about how to stay cool and hydrated this summer. Apologies in advance for being super awkward.

 

I love this Cool It skirt!

Leave me some comments about how you stay cool.

Princess Half Recap

Actually, how far I went was a little over 13.1 miles, but I wanted something cute to start off with!

This weekend was Princess Half Marathon Weekend at Disney World and I participated for the second time, running my seventh half marathon. Princess Weekend consists of three races: a 5K, 10K, and a half marathon. Running all three race is on my bucket list, but I’m just not there yet. (I mean, have you every paid for a runDisney race?!)

Since Princess Weekend starts on a Thursday with the expo my friend and I took Friday off from work and drove the three hours to Orlando. We spent the afternoon at the expo in ESPN Wide World of Sports. It’s a lot of fun just kind of walking about and checking out all the great running and fitness stuff that on display, not to mention all of the official runDisney merchandise that, of course, I purchased.

Now, Michelle and I weren’t running until Sunday and were fully aware that we didn’t really need to go up until Saturday for the expo and packet pickup, but we did anyway. Our job is stressful, we’re both annual passholders, and a day at Magic Kingdom is a cure-all. I’m not kidding. We spent most of Saturday at Magic Kingdom riding rides, dodging crowds, and stuffing our faces with delicious food- er, race fuel.

Flat Ash with a Princess Anna/Frozen theme is ready!

Saturday night was an early bedtime, of course. Anyone who has ever done a Disney race knows that while races start at 5:30ish, it’s best to be at the venue at least an hour in advance. My outfit was all set thanks to my Skirt Sports Lioness skirt and my friend JD over at Harpo Graphics. Princess starts at Epcot and since we weren’t staying on Disney property we left our hotel at about 3:30AM. Traffic is also pretty horrendous due to some construction, so we ended up getting to Epcot around 4:00AM. We hung out in the car before trekking into the welcome area. We’d had coffee at the hotel and bagels with peanut butter in the car, which is my go-to race day breakfast. I usually pair it with a banana, too.

We knew the weather was going to be rough. Early that week there was an advisory about heat and humidity. As south Florida is our home and normal running place, we weren’t too worried. I did start hydrating with Nuun on Thursday and made sure to drink plenty of water all weekend. We had plenty of time to take pictures and visit the porta potties and nothing felt rushed at all. I guess that’s a perk of waking up at 2:30 in the morning!

At the start line!

Once we made it to the corral there was a lot of waiting. My friend and I are not fast runners, so we were in one of the last corrals that also happened to be a very large group. There were about 25,000 runners on Sunday morning, so it was packed! If you read my post about training fail then you know I was not at all prepared for this race! I signed up last summer with the intent of training and things just did not work out for me. I won’t make excuses because it was all me, for sure.

The thought of “faking” a half marathon was pretty daunting but we were ready to run, walk, and have a little bit of fun. The weather was nice for the first few miles…until the sun came up. We had a smooth first half and the sun was coming up just as we were entering Magic Kingdom. One of the greatest things about a Disney race is the characters on the course. There are, in true Disney fashion, always long lines. Don’t worry. You can just take selfies.

My Princes await…but so does the finish line.

Now, the sunrise is Disney is great, don’t get me wrong. It’s the heat that comes with the sun at miles 7-10 that were killer! About mile 8 my legs started to get heavy and I was doing more walking than running. Thank goodness Michelle was there to push me (as always). I had a Gingerade GU to try and perk me up as I was starting to feel hungry, too.

Volunteers were handing out sponges to help runners stay cool.

Mile 10 started with a fairly intense cramp that I couldn’t seem to shake. We were making decent time for a not setting an actual pace and doing some walking, so we took it easy for a little while. The crowd was still pretty thick around us and once we hit an overpass you could still see a sea of runners behind us. It sounds mean, but as a “back of the pack” runner I’m always glad when people are behind me! Coming into Epcot means coming up on the finish, so Spaceship Earth was a lovely sight!

Always be on the lookout for Disney photographers for your fun pics!

I love running through the parks and seeing all of the people there. Even if they are actually there cheering for you, they are still cheering! Unless they are just park goers who had no idea there was a race. Then they are just looking at you being all sweaty and weird. Running is such a fun sport because there are so many different levels of it, but everyone is still very encouraging. One of my favorite things about Disney races is seeing everyone’s running outfits and just the joy (really) of running through Disney.

When no one gives you high fives, you smile anyway.

I made sure to high five the choir for Meridith (no pics, sorry) and that is how you know you’re in the home stretch! Rounding the final corner to the finish line is exhilarating and exhausting. I almost tried to stop, but Michelle pulled me through and we finished at a little over three hours. Our goal is to do a sub three one day, but this was not the race for that.

Once we stopped moving I felt a little queasy. It was nothing a runDisney snack box and some ice didn’t fix. The race was as tough as I expected it would be. My legs were screaming at me afterward as we headed to Disney Springs to eat all the food and then head home. It was a great weekend of fun, even the running part of it. I will always recommend a Disney race to people just because it’s such a huge event and it’s always a lot of fun.

Even if you don’t train for it.

Always get the castle pic.

Convert to Skirt

When I started getting into running and fitness I decided to really focus on what was important: what do I wear?

I went through a lot of brands and styles until I found things that I liked. For the most part, I became pretty partial to racerback tanks and form fitting pants. I don’t like sleeves getting in my way when I run and I like my pants to “hold it all together”, if you know what I mean.

That’s pretty much how it went on for a few year: me shopping around and finding things I liked here and there, but never really committing to any particular brand of bottoms or tops. I’m 4’11” so finding pants that are short enough and capris that don’t look like pants is hard.

It wasn’t until recently that a friend turned me onto the brand Skirt Sports. Skirt Sports is a brand created by women for women. It’s about feeling pretty and feminine while getting out there and doing the dang thing. For some people it might sound silly but I love getting all cute and then going out and running my face off. I’m single, okay?

I was kind of iffy about running in a skirt simply because I’d been stuck on wearing compression pants and shorts for years. My body just liked them. They were comfortable in them. We had become one, the compression pants and I.

THEN – I was recommended the Lioness skirt by my BFF and RBFF (Running Best Friend Forever). It’s short and ruffly with built-in shorties.

Y’all.

It.

Has.

Pockets.

Michelle and I rocking our Lionesses after the Disney Wine and Dine 10K.

In fact, most of the Skirt Products have pockets. And I’m not talking about that tiny little key pocket in the back that gets all sweaty as soon as I step outside into the blazing Florida sun. Pockets on each sides to keep your phone, your fuel, your keys. Heck, probably even a tiny book. (Yo, if you find any tiny novels let me know.) It also has the little pocket in the back, in case you were wondering.

After my Lioness, I fell in love. I bought a couple more and now I’m a girl that runs in skirts.

My friend, Sarah, killing it in her Sidewinder Lioness during her lunch break because #REALwomenmove, y’all.

Me, rocking the same print on a balmy run because, also, real women take selfies.

Skirt Sports is more about skirts, though. There is a huge variety of fitness wear for all types of bodies. Their mantra is #REALWomenMove and, as of Feburary 1st of this year I’m so proud to serve as an Ambassador for this awesome company (with some friends too!). On top of being in the company of some amazing women athletes (like our very own Jenn), I also get a pretty sweet discount and a code to share with others!

Since I became an Ambassador I’ve been on a bit of a shopping spree. Well, technically it’s only been a couple of weeks, but I’d known for some time and decided I need to add to my collection a little. My thinking is that, if I’m going to share and love the brand then I really need to live the life, right?

The Lioness is definitely one of my favorite items, but I’ve also become smitten with the Gym Girl Ultra. It’s got more of a classic, straight feel with built in shorts and, of course, pockets.

As far as pants go, I’m loving the Pocketopia capri. They’re light and breezy with pockets on each side to hold all my important things: my phone and maybe some snacks (or a key if I’m out on a run). I’ve worn the Pocketopia on a walk/run and for a workout and they’ve been awesome both times. The Redemption capris are also super comfy and I snagged a pair in a gorgeous print. They don’t have pockets on the sides, however, and that’s what made me fall in love with the brand.

Loving these Pocketopia capris in Perseverance!

I’m seriously looking forward to loading up my cart with some awesome sales this weekend on some old prints and some newer stuff. If you’re into cute, good quality workout clothes, and empowering others check out www.skirtsports.com.

 

You can use the code 920Veal for 15% off your purchase!

Race Recap: 2017 Vacation Races Rocky Mountain Elk Double

For the third consecutive year, I ran my favorite race; the Vacation Races Rocky Mountain Half in August. Because I am an ambassador for the race series, I did receive a free entry in exchange for this post, so let me tell you allllllll about it! If you’ve been reading our little blog for a bit, you’ve likely seen my previous recaps of this race here and here. But this year was different for a few reasons, and none of them were easy.

Lake Estes and the glacier topped peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park

Like last year, I completed the Elk Double, which means I did the 5k race on Friday evening and the half marathon on Saturday morning. About a week before the race, I was told my beloved dog, Archie the Pug, had a spleen tumor and might only have thirty days left with us. All my race plans and thoughts went out the window. I almost decided not to run the race at all in favor of spending every minute with Archie. The problem was that after all these years of running, I had inspired some family members to sign up for the 5k too (a post about that is in the works, because it’s the coolest feeling). All of this meant I had an obligation to them to be there, they were counting on me. My husband and I decided that we could maybe include Archie in the race by buying him a bike trailer/pet stroller and we would push him through the 5k and dedicate our race to him.

A few days before the race, we decided to get a second opinion about his tumor because it just wasn’t adding up with what we knew about him and his symptoms. He’s been struggling with some other serious health issues this summer, and we wanted to be positive about his prognosis. Low and behold, he didn’t have a tumor at all, but an enlarged liver! Not a good thing, but certainly not terminal! THERE WAS SO MUCH REJOICING.

At that point, we were all in for the race weekend we had planned months ago with family. I knew this race weekend would be pretty pathetic for me as far as performance was concerned. As you may have heard me say previously, Archie’s health issues require 24-hour care and that means my time for training over the summer vanished when he got sick in June. Although, carrying a 32-pound dead-weight dog to get water, to potty, and to eat does work the core and back muscles.

I had NO expectations for myself other than to finish the races in the allotted time, but a last-minute half marathon course change an unexpected foot issues had other ideas for me, but more on that in a sec. Race weekend arrived and we excitedly departed for a weekend of camping on our property, racing. And of course, looking cute on the course.

Flat me for the weekend, and all in Skirt Sports, of course!

We arrived at the expo and met up with my sisters-in-law and their husbands. After chatting for a few, I headed off to volunteer at the expo. Since all Vacation Races events are cup free, I pitched in at the Hydro Pouch booth to give runners their pouches they’d bought in advance. Showing people how to use the nifty little Hydro Pouch was fun, and I got to encourage lots of runners and welcome them to Colorado and Estes Park. After my stint at the booth finished up, I swung by the merch booth to buy another patch for my Toasty Girl Vest. I can’t wait to add all the Vacation Races patches eventually!

2 down, many more to go!

The 5k followed the same course it has since its inception and took us around Lake Estes’ paved bike path at sunset. One of the things I like about this race, and all Vacation Races, frankly, is the race size. There are usually around three thousand runners give or take, and it makes for the perfect level of comradery between runners and a comfortable race experience. No waiting too long for port-a-potties or being packed in your wave like a runDisney runner.

On the course, Archie was a big hit in his stroller, but my goodness, he HATED being pushed. He actually howled and whined and cried and made other runners laugh, and look at us funny, and some, I’m sure, wondered if we were torturing him. It was pathetic, and funny, and slow going. My husband, who never runs, kept outpacing me with the stroller and at one point was far ahead of me. After playing catch up to him, we kept a brisk walking/running pace, which was a mistake I paid for the next morning. Through it all, Archie looked cute, as he does, and when we finished with a horrible time, we gave him our medals.

Archie’s a finisher! I think he just wants my banana, and Lily (left) just wants a ride.

The half is not only my favorite race, but now it’s also my ‘hometown” race since it’s the biggest race near where I’m building my house. It was so awesome to get up pre-dawn and drive the beautiful drive from my property in Allenspark to the start line Estes Park, a distance of about 20 miles. I saw deer and elk on the drive, and it was so much better than getting up a 3:30 to drive an hour and a half like I had to do in previous years. I’m claiming this race as mine!

My strategy with this race is always the same; run the downhills, walk the uphills, especially the big hill that lasts foreverrrrrrrr. I knew they had changed the course, but the announcement went out the same week as the race and I didn’t have a chance to see what changed.

The start was chilly, it was in the low 50’s, and the music was loud. Coffee, hot cocoa, and bananas were staged at the start for runners and spectators. Warm drinks are always welcome at pre-dawn starts, especially at 7500 feet elevation where there is always an early morning nip in the air. I was feeling good and was ready to walk/run the race. I was having no pain as I waited, and no concerns about my race at all. I expected I’d finish around 3:20. Runners from all over the country come to this race, and their excitement is catching. People posed for photos while they moved around to stay warm.

Finally, my wave started and I was right behind my pacer. Almost immediately, I knew there was a problem. Not even a quarter mile in, the top of my left foot was not having it. I could feel a pinching pain deep in my foot with every footfall. The impact of running was too much. I was in trouble, and started to wonder if I would finish at all. It hurt, and I wasn’t even up the first hill yet.

This is the kind of selfie I take at 5:30 in the morning

About that hill. Remember all the folks from out-of-state who were so excited at the start? Those same folks are walking up the first hill too, angry with themselves that they’re already walking and that the elevation is more of a challenge than they expected. I see it happen every year. This is when I try to engage with them and ask where they’re from. No matter what their reply, I reassure them that the elevation is hard for locals like me, too, because it is. 7500 feet of elevation is no joke, and no amount of training can fully prepare you for it. When you take on challenges like this, be kind to yourself when things don’t go as you hoped or planned.

Just keep smiling!

The half course is all on paved surfaces, and follows the 5k course for the first mile which takes runners on the wide bike path that hugs Lake Estes. The course was the same as previous years for the most part, but in order to avoid having runners cross a major highway, they routed us a little differently. Now, we used a new bike underpass under the highway that took us to the beginning of the dreaded long hill. This course change made the race more safe, but it had a drawback mentally for those of us who’d run this race before. What used to be mile six was now mile two.

I made it to mile three where an ambulance and two EMTs waited to help runners in distress. Unfortch, they didn’t have any Biofreeze for my foot. I stopped for a potty break and to fill my hand-held. Before heading out again, I ran into two of my Skirt Sisters, Deb and Jennifer, who nursed me through the race. Deb was also recovering from an injury so the three of us stuck together the rest of the way. Honestly, without them, I doubt I would have been able to finish. Going it alone and in pain was getting to be totally not fun at all.

We kept trucking along and made our way through the race. Aside from my foot, this was the most mentally tough race for me to date. The reason was the course changes. As we came down a slope that used to lead to mile marker eleven, I could see the aid station next the new mile marker; mile seven. I’ll tell ya, when you’re brain sees scenery it remembers from last time and thinks you’re almost done, but you’re not, it’s a punch in the gut. We trudged on, talked a lot about running injuries and treatment, how much we love the scenery, and of course our devotion and love for all things Skirt Sports. Having friends to race with is always so much better.

Mt. Meeker on the left, Longs Peak next to it.

Fighting through the pain was tough, and after describing my symptoms to Deb and Jennifer, we concluded it sounded like I had pulled a tendon in my foot. Not much I could do but bear it. Luckily, Jennifer did have a packet of Biofreeze that she gave to me. Oh, what a wonderful, cooling miracle that green goop is! It helped me finish for sure.

The new route had us backtracking a bit to get back to the underpass and the lake. Mile eleven was finally in sight! We turned onto the Lake Estes bike path and followed it around the western curve of the lake. For me, this was the longest part of the race. You can see and hear the finish line, and it seems like these last two miles are never going to end. We kept asking (rhetorically) where the heck the finish was. That’s what happens when you take almost four hours to finish, you just want it to be OVER.

Worst race time ever, but worth every moment with great people.

 

Still love Vacation Races medals most!

I was never so happy for a race to be over, and although it was a terrible showing on my part, I’m proud of myself for sticking it out. I’ve been known to quit things, and I didn’t quit. I may have hobbled and grumbled a smidge, but that’s okay. I made it, and had to remind myself that even though this is my “hometown” race and in my backyard, it’s the most challenging course in the Vacation Races circuit in terms of starting elevation and hills. Plus, there’s always next year to chase that PR!

Medal Haul

I’ll do it again next year. The challenges I faced were mine, and part of that is learning how to mentally deal with curve balls like course changes. Even though I didn’t finish like I wanted to (my goal back in February was to beat my PR for the race by ten minutes), I learned some great things about adversity and how to listen to my body. This race was a great experience this year. I always recommend Vacation Races events!

How to Trail Run

Trail running is something I’ve been wanting to take up and do more of. For the last several years, I’ve lived a thirty to forty-five minute drive to the good trails in my nook of Colorado. It was a lot of effort that took way too much time; get up super early, dress, eat, drive forever, get at least an hour run in, drive home. That’s half the morning gone! I should have tried harder.

But now that I’m moving to a rural area of the mountains and will be doing all my training runs in my new neighborhood of hilly (understatement) dirt roads and U.S. Forest Service trails, I knew I needed to learn how run safely in the high country. It just so happened that my favorite local running store/brew pub (yes, you read that right), Shoes & Brews, was hosting a trail running clinic with Salomon Running. PERFECT. It was providence for sure!

My new neighbor, Mt. Meeker the Fourteener!

I’m so glad I went. It was helpful and informative, and it took some of the fear out of trail running for me. Here are some of the things I learned. Thanks, Salomon!

  1. Stay Upright Leaning forward constricts your airflow, so keep your torso upright and your head up despite the urge to lean into the hill.
  2. Stay on Your Toes Forget the heel strike. Staying on your toes makes you more agile through the rocks and other trail obstacles.
  3. Run on the Rocks If the trail is dry, go for solid surfaces over loose gravel when possible
  4. Run In The Water Don’t be afraid to run in the rivulets because there’s more loose sediment in wet conditions for your shoes to grip. In wet conditions, rocks can be slippery.
  5. Look Ahead Look 2-4 steps ahead of you to see where to step safely. Your brain can remember up to about 4 steps so stay safe by staying focused of your footfalls.
  6. Hip to Nip Move your arms like you normally would making sure they arc from your hip to your nip.
  7. Power Hike I didn’t know what this was until the clinic. It’s hard to explain, so go check out this great explanation from The Long Run
  8. Flail Like a Fool Flailing arms downhill is totally acceptable. No one will judge you for keeping your balance and not falling!
  9. Slow it Down Walking during trail running is a-okay! Even the pro who was with us, Courtney Dauwalter (who just broke a record for running 155 miles on a track in 24 hours) said so! It’s okay, really!
  10. What Goes Up On the downhill, lean forward a little to let gravity help you, but no so much you fall forward easily.
  11. Baby Steps Take smaller steps if you feel like you’re going too fast

Here’s Ester from Salomon with more tips

 

The trail we did was not for beginners, but it was a fun time and I met another Skirt Sports Ambassador, Becky! Making new friends is always fun, too.

Skirt Sisters!

The group at the top

It’s safe to say that I’m hooked. I’ve been posting gorgeous shots of my recent trail escapades on our Instagram all week. I cannot wait to get out there again this weekend and run where I play!

 

Do you run trails? Where do you run? What’s your biggest piece of advice for beginners? Share it all with me, I’m in desperate need of wisdom!

Kyle is a Four Athletics Ambassador!

I don’t know about you, but if I could wear workout clothes every day, I would. I think I bring this up at least once a week at work, lamenting the fact that our dress code doesn’t include athleisure wear.

Consequently, I’m pretty sure I own more workout clothes than normal human clothes, primarily because my time spent away from work is either at the gym or doing something active outside. Also because I really just like wearing leggings and short shorts on the regular. They’re so much more comfortable than jeans or jorts. And they can look just as cute.

Unfortunately, my habit gets expensive – why does sweat-wicking spandex have to be so pricey?! It’s just unfair that Run Times shorts and Wunder Unders (yes, Lulu, I’m looking at you) have to cost more than a week’s groceries. (Side-eyeing so hard right now.)

I need to save myself from myself.

www.fourathletics.com

Wouldn’t you know that one of my favorite podcasts had a solution for me. The ladies at Girls Gone WOD Podcast, Joy and Claire, always talk about Four Athletics – one of their favorite apparel companies. I’ve been listening to these ladies for a while and not only are they super hilarious and smart, they also take their conversation beyond just working out… and when they endorse something, it’s because they use it, and genuinely believe in its quality.So, when they mentioned Four Athletics, I was immediately interested. Primarily because I love workout clothes, which we’ve established. When they added that Four Athletics had started an ambassador program, I was really interested. I said to myself, “self, get thee some of these clothes and figure out if you want to ambassador them.”

As fate would have it, I LOVED what I received. I grabbed a pair of running shorts (that are JUST like Lulus and even better in my opinion), and a tank. The shorts are exactly what I wanted – and significantly more affordable. The tank is soft and comfortable and good for all types of workouts and even when worn as a shirt to work. Ahem. Oops.

This tank is THE BEST. And these shorts are too. I wear them All.The.Time.

Four Athletics has an incredible brand statement that I am 100% behind:

We knew there had to be a better way. Premium active wear was becoming increasingly overpriced and the affordable options were not holding up to our rigorous lifestyles. To top it all off, we found almost no options that were made in the USA. We decided to do something about it.
Four uses crowdfunding to match up supply and demand, ensuring that costs the product is high quality while costs stay low. Economics was hard in high school, but this equation is one I actually get – and it’s cool!
We only make what is wanted, eliminate waste, cut out the middleman, and deliver a premium quality product at a fraction of the retail price. It’s more efficient, more responsible, and USA made. It’s a better way.
It should come as no surprise that I joined the ambassador program, so that I could reap the benefits of spreading the word about Four Athletics and get all my peeps on board, too.

I ordered these beauties and now I’m just waiting for them to get here. I can’t WAIT.

In addition to their core collection, they’ve just released printed and colored leggings. Dude. These are too fun and I need them in my life… and my gym. Stat. So do you! Go check out Four Athletics today, and feed your need for comfortable, affordable, stylish, American Made workout gear.
If you use my ambassador code: kpjennings15, you’ll receive 15% off your purchase.

#REALwomenmove

#REALwomenmove

Real women move.  Yes, they sure do.  But what does this mean to me?  It means that it doesn’t matter what your body shape, size or fitness level is.  It means that you are getting off the couch and doing something.

When you think of an athlete do images of super fit people in Runner’s World come to mind?  Do you think of someone with either huge muscles or no body fat?  That is what media wants us to think.  But to me, it is someone that is strong.  Someone that has the willpower to get out there and try to weather their storm.  Someone who will try  to run their first 5K or a marathon, it doesn’t matter as long as they are becoming a better version of themselves.

There is a giant tree near my home.  I run by it as much as possible.  It is America’s largest Bebb Oak on record.  Some call her Grandma Bebb Oak.  She has her own Facebook page.  To me, she is strong.  Her limbs are heavy and her bark is brittle, but she still stands.   She is said to be well over 200 years old. To me she is strong and she is real.

I used to be a slave to the scale.  If a certain number didn’t come up, I wasn’t happy.  If my pant size wasn’t the right number, I was disappointed.  Now I realize that my body is strong.  I might not have the perfect amount of body fat.  I might be slightly overweight at times.  I have never been accused of being skinny.  On the flip side, I have been labeled as determined, hard core, and relentless.  My legs are more like tree trunks, like that Bebb Oak tree.   But those tree trunks get me to the finish line of 100 mile races.  I think that if you can believe it you can achieve it.

So get out there and do the impossible.  Do what you think you cannot do.  Don’t let others establish your limits because they see you in a different light.  Redefine yourself. Accept yourself, love yourself.   Prove people wrong.  Be strong and prove that #REALwomenmove!

#REALwomenmove is a new campaign by my favorite clothing company, Skirt Sports.  It is based on REAL women, REAL bodies, REAL inspiration.  Skirt Sports believes we all can and should embrace fitness and health.  We should be strong, confident and not judge, but rather encourage other women.  You can read more about #REALwomen move and check out their great running skirts and other great clothing items at skirtsports.com/realwomenmove

***Disclaimer: I am a brand ambassador for Skirt Sports.  They provide me with discounts on their products.  Regardless of this, I would wear their products and sing their praises.  It’s a company I believe in and am I’m proud to be a part of their family.

Sandy is an Ultra runner who’s on state 35 of her 50 state quest! She loves to push herself and encourage others to dare more than they dream. Sandy shares her running adventures on her blog, TheUltraFreak 

Fall Racing – VA, PA, NJ, and DE

I know, I know. Summer just started. So why, oh why, am I writing about fall racing? Well, quite frankly… I don’t race in the summer and there aren’t all that many races in my area at this time of year.

The one summer race I’m doing is on the 4th of July with my older son. ‘merica!

If a summer race comes along that woos me with fun stuff (wine, amazing medal, friends participating) I’m sure I’ll sign up. That’s just how I roll. Other than that I’ll be embracing summer training (and praying that I don’t melt along the way) in preparation for the fall!

My fall race schedule is filling up and I’m excited to say that it’s mostly with new-t0-me races. Which ones? Oh, so glad you asked…

September 2nd – Vacation Races, Shenandoah Half Marathon (inaugural)

When my awesome friend Rachel was looking for a race and travel buddy for the Shenandoah Half, I was happy to join her! Jenn has raved about Vacation Races as an ambassador (here, here, and here).

While I’m a little nervous for the “challenging uphill course” that the race description boasts, I figure that as long as I am with Rachel, it will be all good! I’ve never run a race in Virginia before and if Ragnar, PA taught me anything it’s that the scenic views from the top will be well worth the hills.

If you’re interested in challenging yourself in Shenandoah Valley, registration can be found here.

September 16th – 17th – Rock n’ Roll Marathon Series, Philadelphia Half Marathon

This is a race that I ran in 2012 and am looking forward to returning to 5 years later! I’ll be honest, the first time that I ran this I didn’t train the way I should have so I struggled through the race. It was a tough one for me so this will hopefully be redemption!

Prior to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Race Series taking over in 2010, it was known as the Philadelphia Distance Run and this will be the 40th consecutive running of the race. Race weekend has been expanded in recent years to include a 5k and 10k (this year is the inaugural 10k) on Saturday, while the half will take place on Sunday. Of course, that means that there’s the opportunity to run more than one race in the weekend. I’m currently floating the possibility of adding another race because GO BIG OR GO HOME, right?

Registration for Rock ‘n Roll Philadelphia can be found here. Which distance would you chose to rock? If you go for the half, the code “BIBRAVE15” will save you $15 until 8/27.

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia race as part of being a BibRave Pro. They’re currently looking for more BibRave Pros so feel free to learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews. You can tell them I sent you!

October 8th – Good Day For a Run, Run the Vineyards Destination Enoteca 5k

While I have not raced this particular location before, I am a huge fan of the Run the Vineyards series! Not only have I run the Run the Vineyards 5 miler twice, I’ve also volunteered with the race series as well. This local series knows what runners want and it’s always a good time to run and then be rewarded with wine and entertainment. And free race photos!

I’m particularly excited for this race because a group of my local friends have registered for it as well, so I know I’ll be seeing lots of familiar faces during the race and after! Without a doubt, it’s going to be a good time.

The space for the Run the Vineyards events is limited (this one is capped at 300 runners) so if you’re interested in registering, earlier is always the key.

October 15th – Run Inspired 10k for Operation Warm

The 10k is my favorite race distance, which is only one of the reasons why I’m pumped to run the Run Inspired 10k.

Winterthur, DE is less than an hour drive from my home in New Jersey and I’m looking forward to my first ever DE race. This is a young race, last year was the inaugural run. The course will be beautiful and challenging through Winterthur’s 1,000-acre natural preserve and it’s one that I’m really looking forward to running.

Run Inspired supports the Operation Warm which distributes coats to local children living in poverty and the thought of that is something that will keep me pushing over those hills during the race. The Finishers Party sounds like it’s going to be amazing too!

If you’re considering running this race, register now to get the Early Bird registration. Prices jump on July 1st! And you can use the code “BIBRAVE” to save 10% on your race entry.

Disclaimer: This is another race that I’ll be running as a BibRave Pro, I received an entry to the Run Inspired 10k through BibRave. Want to learn more the BibRave Pros (ambassador)? Be sure to click the links and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews. You can tell them I sent you!

Will I be seeing any of you in September or October at these races? November and December are usually hectic so I’m actually trying to keep a little less on my plate as far as races are concerned but I’m always open to suggestions!