My 2016 Chicago Marathon (Part 2)

I remember laying in bed on Saturday night, unable to sleep. I had done the work. I was true to the training plan. I had done everything I was supposed to do. So why was I so afraid? I stared at the hotel ceiling thinking of the words a friend told me just hours before, “You’re about to do something great. Enjoy the end of this journey.” I drifted off, and before I knew it, my 4:30am alarm was going off.

I don’t why, but I was assigned to the final corral, K, which was Wave 2. Wave 2 had an 8am start time, but we were all advised to arrive by 6:30 to allow enough time to get through security. It was still dark and cold as we made our way out of the hotel. I was fortunate enough to book a stay about a mile from Grant Park, so we didn’t have to worry about driving or transportation. There were already a lot of people headed to the start. We made it to the Congress Hotel at 6:30 where I was able to finally meet and chat with IG friend, Myrna, who was running her first marathon. I chatted with her and her family for a bit, and were able to share in a few laughs and hugs before having to head out to our gates.

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When IG friends become friends in real life

I made my way to Gate 5. After some final words of encouragement from the family, I said my tearful goodbyes, and off I went.

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There is no turning back now

With no gear to check, I went through security pretty quickly. Maybe 5 minutes? All the porta potty lines were long, and since I didn’t feel the need to go, I made my way to Corral K by 7:25. I had no cell phone reception standing and waiting among the tall buildings. This meant I couldn’t get on social media, nor could I call or text anyone.

I really didn’t know where to line up. My fastest marathon had been 5:39, and I had really wanted to hit 5:20. But after sustaining a knee injury earlier in the year, and being advised I shouldn’t run this race, I knew I couldn’t hit 5:20 and that this race wasn’t going to be about a time goal. So maybe somewhere with the 6 hour pace group? While I debated about where I needed to be, I had the urge to go to the bathroom, but knew it was probably just the cold wind…and the nerves. So I ignored it, and lined up, ready to go.

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6:00 Pace Group

Finally, 8 o’clock came around, and the corrals in front of us started moving. I eyed the porta potties, but the lines were still long, and the corrals really started moving quickly. Afraid to miss my start, I just kept moving. It was cold, I was starting to feel stiff, so I just wanted to keep moving. Finally, at 8:30, Corral K was at the front. I took my sweatshirt off, tossed it onto the pile of other sweatshirts on the sidewalk, and off we went. Official start time: 8:35am.

I was cold, and I immediately regretted not going to the bathroom. I pushed it out of my mind, and tried to get into a groove. Somewhere around the first mile, we went through a tunnel. When I got to the other end of the tunnel, my Garmin stated I was at mile 4. WHAT?! Clearly, that was wrong. So I was going to have to pay attention to the mile markers to keep track of my fuel.

I saw my family for the first time at mile 2. Excited and overwhelmed, I started to cry at the sight of my daughter jumping up and down. Hugs and kisses, and I was off again. The porta potties at mile 3 had some insanely long lines, but I was hurting and knew there was no way I could continue like this. I stopped and jumped in line. TEN minutes later, I was back on the road.

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I see you, boo!

I was feeling good, too good. I told myself there was no way I could keep this up for 26.2 miles. I knew I had to run smart, and that I needed to slow down if I wanted to avoid the meltdown I had at my last marathon. I took the sights in, read spectator signs, and kept repeating to myself that I had to stick to my plan. I saw my family again shortly before mile 10. They had water, Tylenol, Kleenex, and Chapstick waiting for me. More hugs and kisses, and off I went.

Before I knew it, I was at the halfway mark, and still feeling really good.

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We’re halfway there!

My daughter texted me to tell me she would be at the Merrill Lynch cheer station at Mile 16. That would be great, as I had some more IG friends at the same cheer station. I kept trucking along, listening to music, reading signs, just really enjoying the race.

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MORE than halfway there

Things got kind of crazy as I approached mile 16. Crazy, as in, the crowd noise level was incredibly loud. I could no longer hear my music. So, I turned it off, and enjoyed running without it. So many people. So, so, so many people with noisemakers, bells, horns, screaming and cheering. I couldn’t find my family anywhere. I couldn’t find my friends anywhere. I was sad about that, but the crowd support was the absolute best!

I met the family for the final time at mile 18, and I exchanged looks with my daughter. She knew exactly what I was thinking, and simply said, “No. You’re not going to hit the wall. See you at the finish line.” Off I went, with just one goal in mind: You will not fall apart.

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Time to start fighting

Mile 20 came, and the discomfort started. Mile 21 came, and I was in Chinatown, fighting back tears.

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Approaching mile 22, and I started to unravel. I was tired. I was sunburned. My calves started to quiver. I had some serious nausea. I wanted to stop. At this point, my phone was buzzing with notifications. My daughter texted me stating she found a spot, she was waiting for me at mile 26, and I needed to hurry up and get to her. That was when I started to go fishing: I focused on someone ahead of me, reached said person, and then worked on roping the next person. I continued to do this up and down the only hill of the entire race. I kept repeating to myself, “Stick to the plan. You are so close, just stick to the plan.” Mile 24 brought some calf cramps, and I kept telling myself to just stick to the plan.

I approached mile 26 and, exhausted, I could not find my family. I’m sure I couldn’t find them even if they held a sign flashing my name! So many people! I couldn’t stop running at this point. I was hurting entirely way too much. So I pushed forward. I saw a sign ahead reading: 1200 meters. “I can do this.” I told myself. “That’s 3 laps on the track. This is your final track workout. You can do this.” 800 meters. 2 more laps. 400 meters. The final lap. I turned the corner. 200 meters. “Just half a lap on the track. Go.” I caught sight of the finish line, and let out an audible sob. I cried. A race volunteer ran beside me and asked if I needed medical attention. I shook my head, no. I ran. I cried. I crossed the finish line at 1:42pm.

In a daze, I walked through the finishers chute. I remember a volunteer placing my medal  around my neck, giving me a hug and saying, “You made it.” I received my mylar blanket, and took my finishers photo.

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2016 Chicago Marathon Finisher

I made my way to the Mile 27 finishers party. That was when I received about 8 consecutive text messages from my dear friend, Angela, back at home telling me that I finished in 5:06.33!! No. That can’t be right. I wasn’t planning on hitting 5:20, let alone 5:06! I looked at my Garmin. It was reading that I ran over 28 miles, so that unreliable. I didn’t believe her. I made my way to the timing tent, and they confirmed my time. Oh my word! That means I just ran a 33 minute personal best. My family had caught up to me at this time, and that was when the real crying started.

We walked, and we talked, and I cried, and I finally had to sit to digest everything. I was no longer tired. I was confused. I was overwhelmed. After a while, I got up, and we made the long walk back to our room. Talking, and laughing, and crying some more. We got back to the room, I showered, and we were off to dinner with my new friend. IMG_0129.JPG

We decided to avoid the long lines at the neighboring restaurants, and dined at the hotel restaurant instead. To be honest, after 5 hours of energy gel, water, gatorade, and a piece of a banana, I had more nausea than I did hunger. I ate a little, but just wanted to lay down. After dinner, we went back to the room where I was able to foam roll and get into bed. I was able to finally chat with friends and family about my experience before I drifted off to sleep.

I was up bright and early the next morning to get a short run in. I knew the key to reducing muscle soreness was to keep moving. Besides, I was still on cloud 9, and wanted to get out there and run this city one more time.

After 3 miles, I headed back to the room, where the family had already gone and put our names in for brunch. By the time I arrived, the wait was 40 minutes for us, 2.5 hours for people just walking through the door. This morning was a completely different story. I. Was. HUNGRY. We ate, I ate some more, and then headed to our architectural boat tour. If you are in Chicago, this is a MUST.

After our boat tour, we made our way back to NikeTown so I can have my medal engraved.

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Lunch was, once again, Shake Shack, where I had a burger the size of my face. Afterwards, we headed over to Millennium Park to visit Cloud Gate, AKA, The Bean.

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I spent the rest of the day eating before heading back to our room to pack, sleep, and head home on Tuesday.

Now, the follow part of this blog entry is the reason it has take me over 2 months to recap this race:

In the days following the race, I received an email with my race pictures. Some were good, others were not, but there was one picture in particular that made me gasp. When I first saw this picture, I thought, “OMG. Is that how I look?” All I could zero in on were what I considered to be my flaws. I showed this picture to my trainer, who asked me why haven’t I posted it. I immediately said, “Do you see what I look like?” He asked me about my reaction in the picture. “Well, this was when I saw the finish line for the first time. I know this because that was when I began to cry.” “Well, why were you crying?”

“I was tired. My stomach was hurting. I was in a lot of physical pain. But when I saw the finish line, that no longer matter. I felt an overwhelming amount of pride. I was about to complete one of the hardest things I will ever do. It made all the gym sessions, speed workouts, early morning long runs, 100 degree heat worth it. I was in amazement of what I able to accomplish.” “Post it,” he said. So I did.

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In the days and weeks that followed, this picture was shared over and over on different social media platforms. Even last week, it was shared by Women’s Running Magazine. No one saw what I saw when I first looked at this picture. Everyone saw what I felt: A woman on her way to completing a freaking marathon! I am completely in awe and humbled by the number of messages and emails I’ve received from people thanking me for my vulnerability, congratulating me on my race, and messages of women letting me know that I’ve inspired them to step out of their comfort zones. I am ashamed when I think about how hard I was on myself. Who cares what I look like? I’m about to do something that not many people can say they have! I am about to complete a 26.2 mile race. What I look like does not matter. I fought and overcame obstacles to get to this race. I pushed on when I thought I couldn’t. I ignored that voice in my head that begged me to stop. I became a marathoner.

I want to thank the countless number of people who left me a kind note, word of encouragement, sent a message my way, for opening up my eyes that the only requirement to being a runner, is that I run. Running doesn’t know weight, or measurements, or speed, or distance. I am a runner. I am grateful that this body of mine is strong and healthy and has allowed me to get to where I am. This race set the foundation for a pretty amazing fall racing season for me. Since this race, I was able to PR the 5K, 10K, and half marathon distance twice!

If there’s one image that sums up my race experience, it is this one. I fought hard. But it was so worth it. I had so much doubt of what I could do. I learned so much about myself in training for, and running this race. I know that I am capable of so much more than I give myself credit for.

If there’s one marathon you must run, I hope that you make it the Chicago Marathon, and I hope that, like me, you have the race of your life! I can’t wait to return in October 2017.

Thank you for following in my journey.

xoxo

Esmeralda

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My 2016 Chicago Marathon (Part I)

Testing…Is this thing on?

My deepest apologies for my 9 month hiatus. Life got really busy once my training began for the Chicago Marathon. Speaking of Chicago, let me tell you a little about my experience.

Our flight departed nice and early from Chattanooga, arriving in Chicago by Noon. Once we arrived to our hotel, it was too early for check in, so I literally paced. Too excited to be there; too nervous to eat; too anxious to sit still we left our luggage with concierge and headed to the expo. There was a shuttle departing every 15 minutes, and lucky us, the line was already incredibly long. img_9912-3

The school bus arrived, we hopped on, and all I could do was sit on my hands. I kid you not, I could have probably used some sedation at this point. We arrived at the expo shortly before 3PM, and IT. WAS. PACKED.

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Abbott Health & Fitness Expo

The first order of business was, of course, bib pick up.

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Does this bib make me look ready?

Up next was visiting vendors and, OH MY, were there vendors. If there was anything a runner needed, it was there. Forgotten at home, it was there. Simply wanted, it was there. We spent the most time at (surprise, surprise!) Nike.

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After what felt like days, we boarded the shuttle back to the hotel. Checked in and unpacked, I settled with having dinner at the hotel restaurant so I can unwind and head to bed early. After all, I had a 5K to run in the morning.

It was a lot colder than I had anticipated for the inaugural International Chicago 5K. But you’re only cold if you’re not moving, right? Leaving the hotel, I had no idea where I was headed to, so I did what any runner would do: follow the group of runners wearing your matching bib. I made it to the starting area with about 15 minutes to spare. I made my way to the start, the gun went off, and off we went.

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Marathon Starting Line

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The best part was, yes, getting to run past the marathon starting line. Kind of gave me butterflies in my stomach thinking about what was going to take place the next day. I received my finishers hat, grabbed a hot drink, and made it back to the room to do some foam rolling.

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Finishers beanie

We went to grab brunch at a restaurant across the street from the hotel. Estimated wait time: 3 HOURS. It was PACKED. I was getting hangry and I really didn’t want to, nor was I in the mood to, wait around that long. We headed over to the Magnificent Mile, where we were planning on doing some shopping, and grabbed a burger and fries at Shake Shack.

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There was a reminder everywhere you looked about the next day’s race. Signs, billboards, merchandise everywhere we went. I spent more time on my feet than I probably should have, but the alternative was probably pacing in my room. We visited every store and shop up and down The Magnificent Mile. But we spent the most time, you guessed it, at NikeTown Chicago.

I mean, what’s not to love about 4 stories of workout stuff? Am I right? 🙂

We made the long walk back to our room, then headed down for dinner at Giordano’s. Lucky for us, the wait was only 40 minutes. The catch? You better know what you want to eat because it’s then a 90 minute wait until your pizza is made. To be honest, I am not a fan of deep dish pizza. My stomach can’t handle the red tomato sauce. I had the Fettuccine Alfredo, while the family had pizza. I won’t lie. The pizza looked and smelled great.

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This is a small pizza. Spoiler alert: we had leftovers

It was now a little after 7PM. I was tired. Nerves were starting to set in. I felt overwhelmed. We went back to the room so that I can get my things ready and have some quiet time. After all, tomorrow will be a big day.

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Race Ready

 

 

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Good night, Chicago

xoxo,

Esme

 

Blue Angels Rock N Fly Half Marathon Race Recap

  

(Photo Credit: Ricky G)

I don’t know if you know this, but I love to run, and I love to run with friends. I met Jodi and Rick when I ran Mercedes in February, and had such a great time, that I decided to join them in Pensacola, FL for the Rock N Fly Half Marathon. After all, I had just wrapped up the Chattanooga Marathon and needed something to cure my post race blues. 

This race fell on a Saturday, which was new to me. All of my previous races have fallen on Sunday. So Friday night, we headed to packet pick up. This was not your typical packet pick up. It was at a local restaurant/pub, so there was no expo. We picked up our packets, and were out the door to go eat. We dined at O’zone, a local pizzeria. Ricky G swears the place is haunted (former hospital mortuary turned restaurant), but Jodi reassured me that it was actually a former hospital cafeteria turned restaurant. 

 
The menu had a lot of options, and it definitely offered something for everyone. We snacked on the spinach and artichoke dip, while we waited on our pizza.  

 

Spinach artichoke on warm pita bread
 
 
 
Pesto Vecchio add pepperoni – Ricotta cheese, spinach, Roma tomatoes, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, topped with basil pesto
 

We ate. We talked. The waitress brought me a pickle spear on a plate. We laughed. We shared stories. Then we made it back to the house to get race ready. It was raining significantly, and there were rumors of a possible race delay/cancellation if the weather continued to storm. I can train and prepare as best as I could, but I cannot control the weather, so we were just going to do it. At least, that’s what I kept telling myself. 

4am came around way too quickly, and it was still raining. We were out the door by zero dark 30, and made it to the race by 5:30am! Yes! We were early! But I’d rather be early, then late. We hung out in the car, scrolled through social media, and did what we could to pass the time. 

Daybreak came, so we got out of the car, stopped at the restroom, then stopped at Starbucks so that Jodi and Rick can get their coffee. We made it to the staging area, where I got to meet some superstars.  

 Ricky G, Jodi, Valerie, and FB friend, Lisa. 

  

  

Running friends are the best kind of friends 

 Before we knew it, it was go time.  

 

Starting line shenanigans with my favorites 

The rain held off (hooray!) but it was hot and humid. Very humid. I was ready to ditch my sparkle skirt less than 2 miles in bc it became damp and heavy and got on my last nerve. The course was relatively flat, but slanted. I tried to avoid the side of the road, but run on the middle or the top, but so was everyone else. So my bad knee was already angry. 

The course offered some pretty awesome sights. Not being in the military myself, meant I was able to see this for the first time.  

    
   
 

Chasing Old Glory at the halfway mark  

   
 

I started to lose steam approaching mile 10. My calves started to cramp as well. It was humid, so I made sure to hydrate. However, this is the first race I’ve ever done where Gatorade is not provided until the aid station near mile 10, and then we hit it again reaching mile 12. Hopefully this will change in future races because, as humid as this race was, it was necessary. 

The final 5K took us through some rolling hills. Nothing too serious, but I was just hot and tired by this point. 

   
Finally, the finish at 2:33:37. Which meant that I was, once again, 4 minutes shy of a personal best. At first I was disappointed, but now I’m not worried about it. I’m getting closer with each race, so I know that PR will get here soon. 

At the finish, I ran into Debra/IG: HAPPYRUNNINGSOLE and loved chatting it up and getting to know her. Afterwards, we all got together for a sweaty selfie because it’s what runners do. 

  
The post race party had something for everyone. But I was all about the pizza.  

 We then said our goodbye to our new friends, headed home to shower, and then out to eat. We visited the Ruby Slipper Cafe in downtown Pensacola, then walked around the beach and local shops. 

  
  
We then went back to the house, where exhaustion started to set in, and we were all falling asleep by 9pm. Overall, it was a great race and trip. Beautiful course, full course support, great volunteers and entertainment. I can’t wait to do it again. 

  
 
Until next time. 🤘🏼

XOXO
 

Chattanooga Marathon Recap

  

2016 Inaugural Chattanooga Marathon 

When registration was announced that my city was hosting a marathon, I knew it was a race I had to run. But let’s back up for a minute here. When I registered for this race, I was neck deep training for my first marathon, the WDW Marathon as part of the Dopey Challenge in January. So that means I would be completing 2 marathons only 8 weeks apart. Haha! Color me crazy! 

Racing locally meant I didn’t have to worry about travel costs, so I went down to the First Tennessee Pavilion on Friday for packet pickup.  

 
I signed my waiver, picked up my bib and tshirt, and walked around visiting vendors. There were some vendors that you expect to see at races. Vendors that sell compression sleeves, tshirts, foam rollers, skirts, chiropractic care, headbands, fuel, etc. But then there were some vendors that I wasn’t quite sure about, such as windows and siding for your home? I didn’t get that. But moving on, I ran into my running friend Jessica, who was running the half and I got to chat with her for a bit.  

 
Then I took a look at the course map and elevation change for the first time.  

 
I don’t like to study the course map. A lot of people say that I should know what I’m getting myself into, but I know myself, and I know I will over analyze every mile. I mean, would you blame me? Just look at the elevation change! 

I woke up on Saturday morning with every intention of getting in one last shake out run. But anyone that knows me knows that, if there’s a 5K going on, I am there. Not wanting to miss the registration cut off, I got dressed, and drove as fast as I could to Finley Stadium. Success! I’m in!  

 
The morning was very cold, so I stayed in the car until the last possible second. The course took us just about down Main Street and back. My shins were bothering me, so I tried not to push it. My official time was 34:54, so I was happy with that. The bling was nice, too.  
 
I laid low the rest of the day, determined to not let the next day’s race get to my head. So I ate, napped, painted my nails, laid my things ou, and went to bed early. 

Now on to the marathon. Sigh. This race is why it’s taken me this long to write a race weekend recap. I’ll try to get through the remainder of this post with minimal crying. 

We drove down to the finish line staging area at the First Tennessee Pavillon, where we were then shuttled to the starting line at the Tennessee Aquarium.  

 
We met up with some IG friends, did some light stretching, lined up at the start, watched someone perform the Star Spangled Banner, and were off shortly after 8am. Once again, my shins got the best of me. It was cold, my legs were tight, but I knew it was too early for this nonsense. Both marathon runners and half marathon runners took off together until the split at mile 1.56. What?! I looked behind me and a huge majority of the runners took off towards the half marathon course. So I found myself quite lonely at this point and knew, right then and there, that this race was going to be a fight. 

I turned on my music and pushed forward. Before I knew it, I was passing mile marker 5. I got a text from my best running friend/turned running coach, letting me know I was at the one hour mark. Ok. Good. One hour down. I can do this. 

 
By this point, I was feeling good. I felt strong.  I got a text at the halfway mark telling me I reached the halfway at 2:31, and my estimated finish time would be 12:58pm. That would be a sub 5 hour marathon finish. I knew I was going fast. I knew I would burn out. I knew I needed to save some in the tank. But I struggled slowing down. I was feeling good. I would soon come to see that I made a huge rookie mistake! 

I kept running and, boom.  

 
Every turn was boom  

 
At mile 17, I began to question whether I could pull this off. The sub 5 hour finish time was getting further and further away from me. Which was fine because I never really had a time goal, but at this point, the wheels began to fall off. I had my 3 best running friends texting me, telling me to finish what I set out to do. I was trying. I really was. At mile 20, I. Was. Done. I was done with this race. I was done with the pain in my feet. Done with the sweat in my face. Done with the pain in my foot. I didn’t want to be there anymore. I was reduced to a shuffle when my phone rang. Who’s calling me in the middle of a marathon? 

I answered the call. On the other line was my best running friend, turned running coach, turned best friend. I didn’t talk. I simply listened. “You can do this. You got what it takes. I believe in you. Finish the job.” On the other end were my running friends texting me to keep pushing forward, and my family texting me to not quit. I shuffled my feet. I cried. I walked. I cried.  

 
The end was near.  

 
This felt like the longest mile ever.  

 
But with some more encouragement, and another phone call, I made it. Official time was 5:39:12. A marathon person best by almost 2 hours! I cried. A lot. I sat in a chair, trying to process the trauma I just put my body through, and the high of becoming a marathoner again. I don’t remember much about the rest of the day. The free food was great, and the company was even better.  

 
  

I hobbled the rest of the day. I slept. I ate. I rode the high of what I just accomplished. That is, until the next day. 

Rumors began to circulate on social media in reference to the course length. Specifically, it was short. While the course certification was correct, the barricade placement was not. The course was, in fact, 25.9 miles. So that means, on paper, it was not a marathon. 

I struggled with this for a while. I became upset. “How can this again happen? Why did this happen? My race no longer means anything.” These were some of the things I told myself over and over. But, as the day wore on, I was reminded that this does not erase all of my hard work. This doesn’t mean I didn’t run a marathon. This doesn’t take away from the fact that I was out there doing the dang thing. So, yes. I am a marathoner! 

Will I run this race again? At first, the answer was a firm, “heck no!” But time heals sore feet, and all wounds. Ask me today if I’ll run the race again, and the answer is, “Yes! See you in 2017!”

Until next time. 

XOXO 

Monday Must Have

Ok, girls. This one’s for you:

  
Do yourself a favor and invest yourself in a good sports bra. I mean, a legit good one. When I first started running I bought whatever looked good, had cute colors, or was on sale. Not a smart thing to do. 6 miles into my first half marathon, the pain in my chest was unbearable, and by zero means am I a “big” girl. 

I own a number of different kinds and styles. If I’m going to crossfit, I wear any one of them since, unless we’re being tortured by sprints, the running is minimal. But my go to sports bra for running is definitely my Nike compression sports bra. I know it sounds, constricting.  But it isn’t. You get all the support, minimal bouncing, and zero pain. I was able to find this one at Academy Sports for $25. They come in a lot of colors, different levels of support, and different styles as well. 

I highly recommend looking into one if you haven’t already. The ladies will thank you. 

**Non sponsored post. Just sharing my favorite product review from one runner to another. 

XOXO 

Mercedes Benz Half Marathon Recap

A few months ago, a friend told me I needed to come down to Birmingham, AL for one of the best races I’ll ever run: The Mercedes Benz Half Marathon. Best race? That definitely sounds interesting. I registered and booked hotel accommodations; excited to run “the best race ever.” I felt good in the months leading up to this race. Until mid January, when I came down with who-knows-what after my trip to Walt Disney World. Once again, I was sidelined and missed a few weeks of training. My doctor advised me I should probably pull out of this race because it takes me a while to bounce back after an asthma episode. But anyone who know anything about races knows that everything is always non-refundable, there was no question about it: I was going.

I made the short drive down to Birmingham in almost 3 hours because, yes, I got lost. No surprise there. My first stop was packet pick up at the expo:

Everything was very well organized and I picked my things up in less than 5 minutes. I spent some time walking the expo, meeting new people, and visiting vendors. I kept my hands out of my purse, and walked away without buying anything. Shocking, I know! I didn’t stay long. I was tired and wanted to get settled in to my room early because of the last minute 5K I registered for on Saturday morning.

Saturday morning was COLD. Temperatures were hovering around the freezing mark, so that really wasn’t the problem. The problem was the terrible head wind in the Downtown Birmingham area.

Regions Field Birmingham, AL

The race was very fun, and it was nice seeing so many people dressed up in their favorite costume. I met up with a good friend who was there to pick up her bib for her first half, raced, picked up my medal, met up with another friend, and got out of there. It was cold. For dinner that night, I met up with a group of friends at a local burger joint, where no one thought of having a group picture taken. What were we thinking, Jodi? But it was a good evening, and we shared a lot of laughs.

Once back in my room, I got all the morning’s race gear laid out, packed my bags, and got myself to bed. This is where things began to unravel for me. I couldn’t sleep. At all. I tossed and turned, got up to change the thermostat FIVE times, went to the bathroom a handful of times, and sat straight up in bed for hours with a stomachache. I wanted to cry. I knew morning would be rough if I didn’t get some sleep. Finally, a little after 2am, I dozed off only to be awoken by my alarm at 4:45.

My head hurt. My stomach hurt. I felt sick. I sat at the edge of the bed wondering what should I do. I decided to eat something slowly, and get ready slowly, and see how I felt once I got down there. Only, I didn’t bring my true and tested bagel and/or peanut butter. All I had was a Clif Bar that I purchased the day before at Starbucks. I don’t like to try anything new on race day, but I had to eat something. I nibbled on my Clif Bar, sipped on my Nuun, and was out the door by 5:45. I turned my GPS on, and Siri could not find the starting line. 

Zooming into the map, I saw all the surrounding roads were closed off. I, somehow, managed to make it down there, got into the wrong lane, begged the car behind me to let me in, parked the car, and made it to our meeting point, sobbing into my friends arms. It was a rough morning, I was late, I had less than 3 hours of sleep, and somehow I was supposed to get through 13.1 miles. 

Once I was calm, we made our way to the starting line, and I realized I left my sunglasses and Chapstick in the car. Then I became separated from 2 of my friends. I was so upset because I wanted and needed to be by Sherita for her first half. Suddenly, the gun went off, and I’ve also yet to use my inhaler or take in my fuel. I literally crossed the starting line swallowing my GU, and washing it down with water. I then stopped to use my inhaler and blow my nose. I couldn’t find Sherita so I began my lonely run.

It was cold, but not as cold as the previous day. I began to get hot at mile 3, so I shed my scarf and tossed it. I felt good at this point. I focused on my music and the people and sights around me. I saw the clock at mile 5 and realized I was running faster than usual and maybe I should slow it down because there’s no telling how long I could keep this up. I tried to slow down but kept finding myself speeding back up. I hit the halfway mark in 1:10:19. Again, faster than I’ve run in a long time, and I wondered if I could pick it up some more and run off with a PR (something I was not planning for at ALL).

But then we hit the UAB campus, and the hills and turns started. Now, the hills weren’t TERRIBLE, but enough to where my foot was wanting to shut it down. I hit the 15K checkpoint at a slower pace, and was way off the mark for a PR. But I was determined to run hard the last 4 miles. After all, what goes up must come down, right?

The course began to go downhill, so I was able to pick some speed up. I remember reading once that if you’re able to cross the finish line at a sprint, you didn’t race hard enough. So my goal was to race hard right now. My foot began to yell at me at mile 11, and I began to yell back at it. I couldn’t stop. Not now. Not this close. I hit mile 12 at 2:23:18. I’d need to wrap this race up in less than 6 minutes if I wanted to PR. I knew that wasn’t going to happen, but I ran as fast as my aching legs and burning lungs could take me. Rounding the corner, hearing the crowd, hearing the race announcer call my name, with the finish line in sight, tears began to sting my eyes.

2016 Mercedes Benz Half Marathon 2:33:31

I crossed the finish line 4 minutes shy of a PR. So why was I as ecstatic as I was? Why was I ugly crying? Because I can honestly say that I gave it my everything. Because I ran my fastest, and my hardest, since undergoing back surgery in September. But also because I ran on less than 3 hours of sleep, and had a crazy emotional morning.

I collected my things, and hurried into the auditorium to meet up with everyone, eager to hear their stories. One at a time everyone made it in and lots of sweaty hugs and stories  were shared. Then the after party started.

After The Party Is The After Party

Let me tell you about this race: the after party alone is worth the trip down here. They had something for everyone: free massages, BBQ, beer, soda, chips, fruit, live music, and dancing. I spent time with friends, and made some new friends:

 

We shared stories, race tips, celebrated success stories, and I laughed until my sides hurt. I always knew my race routines and OCD will one day catch up with me and be my downfall. It is true that you can never truly be prepared for every situation possible. 

I had a complete turn around from the morning I had, and I know this group had a lot to do with that.
Not every race will be a PR, but I am pleased with how I raced. I am excited to begin to train hard and work on my speed, because that PR is right around the corner.

Thank you, Mercedes Benz Half Marathon! I will see you next year.

  
 XOXO

Monday Must – Have

My friend and fellow blogger, Jodi, blogged about her Monday must have and it got me wondering, what is one thing I MUST have to run/workout with? Believe me, I’m the type of person that doesn’t like “winging it.” I am a planner by nature. So that means I’ve tried and tested many products in the short time I’ve been running, and I stick with what works for me. No deviation. Some say that’s a recipe for disaster because I can’t plan for every single scenario that can present itself. True, but I don’t mess with what works.

So…my one thing, tried and true, that I must have, are my Powerbeats Wireless Headphones.


These things are lightweight, but pack an amazing sound. With a 6 hour rechargeable battery, they connect wirelessly to my mobile device, as well as my Apple Sport Watch. They are also waterproof, which is awesome because I have ruined 2 sets of Apple earbuds with my sweat. Gross, I know. They’re a bit on the pricey side, but worth every penny, in my opinion. I love not worrying about a tangled cord while running. I canNOT run without these.

So tell me, what is your running must have?

XOXO