May 22, 2015

Challenge yourself! (+ a Spartan race giveaway)

Nerd alert: I cannot handle how much I love the show Survivor. Like never-ending, if-I-could-only-watch-one-show-for-eternity love. Obviously, I would want a rotating cast for that eternity of Survivor watching. And BTdubs, I am dying to play that game once in my life. Every time a season ends, I go and read the application requirements again, but I can't convince myself that my family can live without me for 39 days. So I wait.

One of my favorite moments of this season was after the final challenge, the last four players are so exhausted during the challenge that they can barely drag themselves up a set of stairs and are weaving as they walk over to put together the final puzzle. After the challenge is over, one of the contestants who lost sits down exhausted, shaking his head, and says, "Never in the 42 years of me living have I ever been tested like this before. This game has changed me. I want my daughter to know that anything you do in life, if you give it your all, your mama and daddy are gonna be proud of you, whether you fail or not." Followed by, "We did it. We left it all out there."

That right there is exactly why I race. There is a certain fulfillment that you get in racing, knowing that you challenged yourself. You threw yourself against a wall and either broke through or got knocked down. And if you got knocked down, you got up and tried it again. If you fail, if you don't win, who cares? At least you tried hard things. At least you didn't coast through life. At least you tested your limits, and inevitably, you'll find out that you're capable of more than you thought. And the failures teach you how to change and how to grow.

So if you're looking for something new to try, Spartan races have a great deal going right now, 40% off race entries with the code MEMORIAL, expires 5/27.


Spartan is basically the perfect Survivor training. Watch this video to learn more about what you're up against when you sign up for Spartan. My favorite quote from the video: "Life is meant to be lived and experienced. And I'm just getting started."


And the folks at Spartan have been great enough to give me another free race opportunity to pass along to you! It's super easy to enter -- so basically the opposite of the actual race.

Here's how to win.


Spartan is providing the free entry for this giveaway. I am not receiving compensation for this post, and all thoughts and and opinions are my own. 

May 21, 2015

Refresh your running playlist

Heading into your weekend race and need a jam or two to get you through the why-am-i-doing-this-and/or-when-will-this-be-over times? And don't forget the heat and humidity if you live near me. It will be a blasted almost-90-degree day for my Memorial Day trail race. So I will be packing extra fluids for sure. Not that it won't get worse later this summer, but right now my body is still trying to remember what it's like to sweat like a fire hose.

To prep for this race, I've been alternating between skipping weekend long runs to sleep in and hang with my family (this weekend was a total run bust -- but I swear to my coach that I otherwise followed the plan!) and wearing myself completely out with hilly runs in my neighborhood. Now I'm ready to sit back and rest up my legs for race day.

Because this race is basically straight up and straight down a mountain, I'm going to need music to keep me moving up the hills and to make me feel like flying on the way down.

So for my fellow runners seeking musical pain intervention, here are the latest additions to my race playlist.

1. Don't Drop That Thun Thun by Fanatticz. Just like the title suggests, this song doesn't really make any sense, but I heard it in a movie a few weeks ago and could not get it out of my head. The beat is just so dang catchy, and you can basically convince yourself that "thun thun thun" means whatever you want. Like don't drop that trash onto the ground because that's littering especially in the forest, or don't drop that Hammer gel because you need to eat it, or don't drop that hammer (as in fast running) too soon, or don't drop that pace or do because you went out too fast, or don't drop that electrolyte tablet because it's really hot and you already had heat stroke once this century so give it a rest. See what I mean! It means anything and everything just when your weary mind needs it.

2. Cecilia and the Satellite by Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. "If I could fly, then I would know what life looks like from up above and down below." Songs that include nature references just work for me. It's also kind of romantic and stuff, so for you love birds out there, your eyes can gloss over with romantic visions, but not so much that you trip. "For all the things my hands have held, the best by far is you." I mean, get a room.

3. Shake Me Down by Cage the Elephant. When he sings, "I'll keep my eyes fixed on the sun," it's like a rocking motivational banner waving to my weary trail runner soul. And he repeats "not a lot of people left around" about a hundred times. Which could be the anthem for the second loop of every Southeastern Trail Series race. The swinging from calm to angsty energy makes it just like running and worth adding to your list. Also I added their song Cigarette Daydreams to my playlist -- more mellow, but just as lovable.

4. Who Gon Stop Me by Jay Z and Kanye West. If you want a song for soldiering forward when you're in a dark place, this is the one. Like most Kanye songs (or just Kanye in general), there are some controversial lyric choices, but, dang, it helps me march on when I'm feeling low.

5. Get Low by Dillon Francis and DJ Snake. For when you need to get in a rhythm with running. It literally says the same thing over and over and over again. No need to think when this song comes over the headphones. It's freaking addictive and also perfect for impromptu dance parties -- on sidewalks, in parking lots, in your living room, while cooking, all around your room while your husband is trying to go to sleep (that may or may not have just now happened).

6. Fire It Up by Modest Mouse. Besides the fact that they sing "fire it up" again and again, which is my favorite, it also includes the made-up word etceteraenough. I support made-up words when they are sandwiched between sweet guitar riffs. But mostly it's just a chill song that makes running through the trees feel magical.

7. GDFR by Flo Rida. Pretty much the opposite of the chillness of Fire It Up, but perfect for when you want to buckle down and get your serious race mojo on. I'm sure they don't mean running when they say "it's goin' down for real," ahem. But I made it that in my mind. "I know what you came here to do [run, right?]. Now bust it open let me see you get loose [as in loose because otherwise you will hurt yourself running so fast down a hill]." See, pretty much all about running.

8. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part 1 by The Flaming Lips. Back to chillness. See how that works with alternating hype and chill songs for race day balance. This song just makes me laugh because it's all about a girl who fights evil robots. So +1 for girl power and +1 for robot battles. "She's gotta be strong to fight them, so she's taking lots of vitamins. Cause she knows that it'd be tragic if those evil robots win. I know she can beat them." All with perfect space-agey electronic beats. 

9. Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars. This song always makes me smile because of the memory of a bunch of kids at my gym who flash mobbed to it. Right in the middle of the night-rush-packed weight room. Is it super cheesy? Of course! But it is totally addictive with an awesome beat. If you hear this song and don't dance spontaneously, you might as well go home, wrap yourself up in your Snuggy, tune in to a Netflix marathon of Melrose Place, and fart yourself to sleep. Wait, that actually sounds like something I might do after the race on Saturday. Everyone on the internet, look away -- nothing to see here. 

10. I Bet My Life by Imagine Dragons. I am in love with songs that alternate between slow and easy and rock-splosion. If you've heard this song you know what I mean. If not, listen now. 

11. Come Get It Bae by Pharrell Williams. Nothing in this song can even pretend to relate to running or enduring pain, unless you count standing around acting seductive as an endurance sport. It probably is hard. That's what she said. Oh, and the song has a great tempo. Or something like that. 

12. I Lived by OneRepublic. Ok, back to a song that may actually have lyrical ties to running and the pursuit of happiness (instead of just pursuit of Pharrell -- not that that's bad, if you're into it). And, yes, the song. These are the lyrics that speak to me. "I owned every second that this world could give. I saw so many places, the things that I did. With every broken bone, I swear I lived." Ahhh, it just screams, go out to the woods and run until you can't stand up anymore! But dang, it kind of bothers me that they don't separate One from Republic with a space in their band name. Can we just agree that those two words would be better off separated? Like Al and Tipper. 

13. Riptide by Vance Joy. Another fun, happy, loving-life song. Nothing deep or mysterious here. Moving right along. 

14. Needing/Getting by OK Go. Just this song. I love it so much and listen to it about 100 times a day, so it just makes sense that it would be on my running playlist. "Needing is one thing, and getting, getting's another." 

15. Rolling by Soul Coughing. I had to reach way back into the vault for this one. This song is older than all of my children. Possibly all of them added together. But it is also the perfect hill descent song. Perfect as in a couple of steps below Jesus. There is no way to slow-boat it down a hill with Mike Doughty's "i'm rollin', i'm rollin', i'm rollin', i'm rollin' now" in your eardrum. "I've gotta slip it up until the rush gets gone. I've gotta feel it with the hot mind on now." I can't promise much on this blog, like entertainment value or factual information. But I promise that this song will turn you into Kilian Jornet on the your next descent. 

______________________

So do you prefer slow chill beats or dance-y funk beats for your running jams? Gotta go with a mix on that one. To match the highs and lows of racing.  

What percentage of songs on your current running playlist are from the 90s? I'm going with 15% because of the Beastie Boys. 

And just a public service announcement that everyone should watch What We Do in the Shadows.

May 7, 2015

Run for Kids (and Nepal) 50K: How I Overcame PTRD

Even though I made up PTRD (post-traumatic race disorder -- aka peeturd), I swear it's real. Maybe you've had it? It's that thing that happens when you almost die at the same race the previous year. So when you sign up for the same race the next year, you've got that sketch feeling that you can't shake. Go here for my own near-death experience, which I downplayed for the blog. Mainly because I wasn't really ready to admit to myself how touch and go that was. Not fun times. Probably should have gone to the hospital but didn't.

I knew I would take on Run for Kids Challenge because it's part of the series, but I decided to cut it back a notch from the 12-hour to the 50K, which I felt was survivable. After last year's race, "survivable" is now one of the determining factors of whether or not I would run something. That makes racing sound so fun. Like, is this better or worse than stabbing dull daggers into my eyes? 

But look at these fun people (down there ). They seriously force me to keep running with their awesomeness. And also that I love running helps. 

Photo by Marathon Runs.

But dying I don't prefer for myself at this time. In my favor (you know, of not dying) during this race: that I had already run a 50K in November (post PTRD event) on a more difficult course and survived. Not in my favor: temps in the 70s. Can we just go back to 2013 when we had cold rain at this race? Cold rain while miserable at the start of a race actually makes me not want to die. Except when I get in the shower afterwards and realize all the nether regions that chafed. 


A lot of folks who signed up for the 12-hour race were being completely awesome and getting people to donate money per mile they ran for Camp SAM (race proceeds go to this camp for kids with cancer -- plus a portion to Nepal this year). Why would you not run this race?! And this year, the race directors, David and Marye Jo, set up a contest for the person who raised the most money. I just love my runner people so much for using their talents for good in the world. Cause the world sucks sometimes. But these people are like the raddest ninjas fighting for good. But instead of clothes that make them blend in with walls, they wear neon colors for visibility. So that they can live to do more good works. 

Me, Tanya, Sally = pigtail brigade. 

Hairstyle choice for the day: because you all totally were wondering about that. High double buns so that I could fit my visor under them. Also, I decided that I'm going visor instead of hat this summer. I was wearing a hat all last summer for the anti-tick factor, but to heck with the ticks, I just can't with the extra heat a hat creates.

Going in for the pre-race Tailwind fill-up.

Salomon pack update: the raddest pack on the planet. I cannot say enough good things about it. Not one single chafe from the 50K. Not one!! Not one ever in wearing it. I only used the bladder this time around (no front bottles), and I liked it because I could put a ton in and not fill up for several laps. I did have an issue with it flipping upside down once so that I had to reach back and apply pressure to the bladder every time I wanted a drink. Pretty sure that is user error. That is my one complaint, that I wish it had a user manual with it so that I knew what they had in mind when creating all the hooks and pockets and strings and business. But bonus-ville, I was able to shorten the pack by pulling a set of straps at the top and tying them off. Not sure if they were created for that, but I was able to use them for that. So the pack is not too long for my shortness and really does fit perfectly. Like February on this year's calendar. 

So satisfyingly fits.

My shoe choice: new pair of Altra Olympus. Because I love how wide the toe box is. No lost toenails for me. Although I did go get a pedicure for some healing-ness after this race, and the lady worked my big toes over and dug out some ingrown toenails that I did not even know existed. A. How long have those been there? And B. Seriously, I almost vomited watching the extraction, which was about 20 minutes long. So of course I wanted to share with y'all. Because that's what friends do. Meaning friends tell each other their grossest bodily stories so that the other friends feel better about their own gross bodily mishaps. Let's get real, if you're reading this far into this post, there is about an 89% chance you have peed your pants within the last year. Running related or otherwise. I can't make other guesses because that's your business and your story to share to make your own friends feel better about themselves. 



Wait, did this section start about shoes? Oh yeah, the Altras are awesome. No achilles complaints, but I did have some general foot soreness. But hey, that's what not following the whole training plan and still jumping into the 50K will get you. 

Training: could have gone so much better. My best training for this race was back during spring break (think March) when I ran a long run and then turned around the next day and ran a negative-split half marathon. I knew going into it that this one would be like waiting until the last night to cram for the final. Just because my miles had been so down in general. But then even as my mileage went up on my schedule, things kept getting in the way. Awesome things, but still things. Like the women's trail running retreat, which I haven't written about yet but was the equivalent of summer camp for adult girls. But the rad summer camp where you leave with 30 new friends, not just the summer camp where you came home with scars from scratching mosquito bites and a complex from that one girl who told you your faced looked weird. 

Race: Despite the less-than-ideal prep (but isn't that always the case), I felt decent on race day. I knew the temps weren't ideal for my best time on that course, but from the beginning, I just went by feel. No watch at all. Just counting laps (this course is a 3.3 mile loop with some extra at the beginning), which is surprisingly time consuming for a number that only goes up to 9. So nine loops for the 50Kers (12-hour racers fit in as many as they can in, obvi, 12 hours), and I must have spent 80% of each loop talking about the loop number, discussing the remaining loops, deciding that loops aren't bad, immediately after that hating the loops, back to not being bad once I was halfway through the loops, and then some more counting the loops. 

My friend did it right/write by counting on her arm with a sharpie. And she ran 47 miles that day, you know, no big deal. 



By the end of the race, you have a hefty set of mental markers for yourself. Like the rocky hill, the one downhill that I fell on last year, the pee tree, the metal art tree, the tree you jump over, the switchback where you can see other runners, the spot where I got hit by my brother's snot rocket. And they all put you one step closer to the end of the loop. 

After my third loop, some friends (including my coach!) jumped in and joined me, and holy hello, thank you for that. There is nothing that can cheer a runner up like a few friends along for the journey. Not that I was sad, but I was just happier with friends. 

When my friends split off to go pick up their awards (they had already dominated the 10K before coming back and running with me), I looked up and thought I was hallucinating. It seemed too soon, but hey, you never know. Really the undrugged hallucination potential is kind of why I love this sport. But right there ready to run was my brother all dressed up in his sportiest bike riding gear. I literally yelled for joy, I was so happy to see him. Like not a short polite yell, like a long obnoxious yell that made everyone consider that I might be hurt, or maybe won the lottery, or maybe just found out that Beyonce and Jay Z are having another baby. Something really important like that. Nope, I just really like running with my brother, ok. Enough to yell about it. 

Turns out that even though he didn't respond to my "hey, you should come run some loops with me tomorrow" text, when he got to Oak Mtn to bike that morning, he realized that the race that I was talking about was there. So he biked over to hit a loop with me but soon realized that he forgot his running shoes. No shoes, no problem. Just like they saved the day for me once when I forgot my shoes for a race (really, who does that? oh right, me), the Salomon shoe rep was there reppin'. Dang, I love them for saving me for the second time. First with footwear for me, and second with footwear for my bro so that he could run with me. 

After that, the loops just kept ticking off. My legs felt average and were able to move, so that was a solid check in the plus column. 

For nutrition, I stuck with Tailwind (the new trail series nutrition sponsor) the whole entire race. Nothing else at all. I wasn't hungry. The one time I drank one of my magic yerba mate drinks, I had some stomach rumbling. And the Tailwind got sloshy in my gut at times, but otherwise, solid. No bonks, and I didn't throw up. Both good things to avoid. And both things that I tend to do when I go the distance. 

My finish time: 5:30:37. About 9 minutes slower than my 2013 time, but I'll take it. First place for the ladies and second place overall. First place overall finished an hour and a half before me. So there's that. 

Me and race director David Tosch. Super cool metal awards this year.

Friend reports: Basically, this was the race of firsts for a ton of people. More than I remembered to take pics of for sure. But I was so happy for all of the first-time 50Kers out there. 

This girl (below) was one of them, and her daughter ran the last lap with her. You may remember this mom from the I-don't-train-for-marathons-but-I-run-them post. She's back at it again with a 4-mile training run (yes, just the one) to prep for the 50K. I love her guts.

Melissa after running 50K with pretty much zero training.

Samm (below) ran her first marathon, then proceeded to run 13 more miles. 

Samm at the marathon mark. About to go out for more.

And Bob here, who is my neighbor and friend, ran his first 50K. Last year at this time he was in cancer treatment/recovery, so I'd say he nailed that recovery. 

Bob getting his relax on after his first 50K.

When you sit around after a race long enough, you get to see all the amazing moments. I stayed until an hour before the gig was up and wish I could have stayed until the end. 


Why is it not boring to watch people run in circles?

Because Doodle's brings you free, amazingly delicious sorbet.


And these people. Did I already say 100 times that I love my runner people? Well, here's 101. I love them.




So here's to not even coming close to dying at Run for Kids. I'll see you next year, loops. 

Overview: this is the perfect race for a first-time 50Ker. You have 12 hours to complete it, so you don't have to get nervous about cut-offs. And your entry fee goes to help kids with cancer attend an amazing camp. And if you do a shorter race, you get hours to cheer on the other runners. If you don't do this race, I feel sorry for you. 

April 29, 2015

Tranquility Trail Race: the VIP edition

The first race of the Southeastern Trail Series was like the first day of school. Even though you had fun lazing around watching cartoons and going to the city pool all summer, the prospect of the upcoming work is still not real yet, and the friend-reunion excitement overshadows any test-taking dread. So race one, Tranquility Lake Race was mostly fun with a shortish splash of hard work. 


"Shortish" because it was still a 10K, but the next race in the series will be 50K (BTdubs, that is optional for series points -- you can get full points for the 10K as well). So in comparison to that, it's short.

Race morning started with a little relaxation in the Resolute Running VIP tent. Purpose of the VIP tent: to give our runners a place to hang out and relax before and after the race. 

Some Resolute runners getting amped for the day.

And I've stocked the tent with some VIS (Very Important Stuff) that they might need for race day. Surprisingly (ok not really), I spent a lot of time explaining what a "poop packet" is. And, no, it is not a bag to deposit your poop in to carry with you! If you too are wondering what the freak that is, come see me this Saturday at Run for Kids, where I will be expounding on the ways of the poop packet.

My second-loop pacer ^^.

Thing I'm also loving right now: Resolute Running's new Run Dirty shirts. Some people run happy; we run dirty. And with Alabama pretty much leading the effort on Most Rain in Any State Ever this month, the trails are really bringing the run dirty factor. 

G-Dill, Lisa, Dean. 

Getting some relaxation on before getting the run dirty on.

So back to the actual race part of the race. It all started with some directions from Mr. Tosch and a gun shot start. Every time a gun shot starts a race, I scream. Even if I know it is coming. There is just something about gun shots that will always produce an uncontrollable yelp from me. 

Gun smoke at the start.

I didn't go in with a race strategy other than to not blow up on the first loop and to push harder on the second loop. 

It was easy to take it easy on the first loop because I got behind a group that was keeping a nice pace. But as the second loop loomed, I started to get a little worried that I let myself get a little too far behind to catch up. 

Enter my friend and second-loop race pacer, Michael. At this point, I really had no idea who was in front of me or behind me. Other than I knew that a ton of people were in front of me. Michael, who had already raced the first loop, offered to jump in as I passed the start line for the second 3-mile loop. A few things went through my mind at that point. First the paranoid thoughts of, Oh crap, what if I have to talk. I might not have enough lung capacity to talk. And, Oh crap, what if he wants to run fast, and he is depressed when I'm out of breath, not talking, and slow. Followed quickly by a, Yay, someone to talk to and help me run faster. Running is so bipolar.

We fell in behind another person who was using the second loop as a cool-down with their dog after racing the first loop without the dog. And they were hard to keep up with. So it's always slightly depressing that a person on a cool-down loop with their dog is happier looking, much less out of breath, and faster than you. 

My pacer did not take it easy on me that day. When I wanted to laze up the hills, he told me to get moving. When I went the wrong way (yes, that happened on the second loop of a 3-mile course), he said, "Hey, you're going the wrong way." Thanks for that. Then ten seconds later, I fell down a hill. This is not a joke. But it confirms the theory that if you don't fall, you're not running hard enough. Running hard means missing footing and sometimes biting the dust. Running carefully and slowly can keep you upright, but where's the fun in that.

During the second loop, I was able to make it into second place for the ladies, and I was about 20 paces behind Dean (my RR buddy). I was definitely trying to catch up to him by the finish line, and he was definitely not letting me catch up to him. Speed work for the win! Well, for him anyway. But I think we were both trying to channel positive speed work memories/energy at the sprint to the finish. 

Honored to be part of this group of rock stars. I need to collect autographs next time. 

Overall, I'm really looking forward to the taking on the Southeastern Trail Series for year three. This year, I'm going in with a slightly different strategy. Instead of wearing myself out completely at the beginning of the season (like with the MS 50 and the 12-hour race right at the start of the series last year), I am going to go with the idea of the gradual build. We all live and learn in our own time. I've registered for a 50 miler redemption race (Lookout Mountain 50 in December), where I will test whether or not I should ever attempt that distance again. And hopefully it will serve as my gateway to the 100 miler. If it goes well.

My new fave shirt!

So final finish time for the Tranquility Lake 10K: 53:27, second place female, 19th overall. And my back was sore the next day = lots of arm pumping to race to the finish and a good sign that I worked hard.

My new fave hat! Available at Mtn High Outfitters.

Because I waited so long to write about this race, I am only a few days out from race two of the series: Run for Kids, which is a fundraiser for Camp Smile-A-Mile. This year, proceeds are going to be split between Camp Sam and Nepal. So get your buns out there and run!

April 1, 2015

Balance Bar Giveaway!

You wake up in the morning, rush the kids off to school one by one, like dominoes stacked for a long, spotted fall. Except with hundreds of other cars that sometimes don't know, or pretend not to know, the carpool rules, your smoothly orchestrated plan hits some bumps. Carpool rage is a thing. But what's worse than morning carpool? Hangry morning carpool!

When I got this box of Balance Bar samples, my favorite thing to do with them was to stash them in all the places that I might need an emergency snack. To prevent the hangries.


Hangry snack hiding places:

  • In the driver's side door pocket of the car. 
  • In the passenger's side door pocket of the car. 
  • The gym bag!
  • Any and all purses.
  • At the bottom of the grocery bag.
  • In your plastic race bin (used for ultra runs). 
  • Under the church pew. 
  • By your long-run water stop.
  • In your kid's backpack. Kids get hangry too.

The Dark Chocolate Crunch and the Caramel Nut Blast were my favorite hanger-fighting flavors. 


So The Balance Project is Balance Bar's way of saying, hey kids, get your life skraight. And quit having road rage.


And if you seek balance, hopefully you'll realize this.


And here's your chance to get balanced. One reader will win a Balance Bar tote bag, notepad, iPhone card holder and a box of (15) Balance Bars!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


This post is sponsored by Balance Bar and their balance loving ways. All thoughts and opinions are my own.