Running On Average

Knoxville Marathon Recap

The Expo:

The Knoxville Marathon expo wasn’t huge, but it was really nice. I got my race bib and swag bag with no trouble at all. The chip timing was attached to the bib itself, so there was nothing to stick on your shoe, which was nice. The bag included a Bear Naked bar, which was oh-so-delicious, and a small bag of rice because…carbs. I also love that the marathon shirts were different than the half marathon shirts. And the full ones were yellow. Winning!

After we picked up my essentials, Dave and I wandered around a bit, enjoying samples that included chocolate and glass bottles of water.

Work follows me everywhere!

Work follows me everywhere!

I talked to the pacing group to learn a little more how pacers work. Because of my stomach, I ended up not using one, but I know for next time. Dave talked me into buying another shirt, too. We were stuck between two. He liked the one that said “It’s not just a hill, it’s a rite of passage,” but after much debate, I settled with this one. It had a cool back side and the other one didn’t.

That was kind of it for the expo. It was fun and pretty chill. There was nothing overly wow-ing about it, but it suited me. I have to find out where I can buy those Bear Naked bars, though!

The Marathon:

WARNING: I don’t take photos during races. So, not many pictures, but some fantastic written imagery. You’ll love it.

On Sunday, I woke up briefly at the unholy hour of 3am, afraid of missing my alarm. I re-woke up at the equally unholy hour of 4am, this time intentionally, and dragged my butt out of bed for breakfast. I made a peanut butter sandwich and sat on the hotel room floor by the bathroom, so as to not wake Dave up by turning on the room light. I wasn’t hungry and found myself irrationally angry at the poor sandwich. It wasn’t the peanut butter’s fault. The bread didn’t do anything wrong. I just wanted to go back to sleep. But I forced that sandwich down, sans crust, and made sure to drink enough water first. Then I tried to get another hour of sleep, but without lying completely down so my food would, ya know, digest. It took some finessing and a lot of pillows, but I finally fell asleep again.

Then 5:30 hit and the real alarm sounded. It was go time. Up, showered and dressed, feeling nauseous the whole time. Like seriously-I’m-going-to-puke-right-now, nauseous. I will say that my body was kind enough to let my colitis alone on Sunday, probably one of the best days it’s been in a while. And I am incredibly grateful for that.

Why am I doing this again?!

Why am I doing this again?!

Bib, check. Hat, check. Nathan bottle with nuun, check. Extra nuun, check. Swedish Fish, check. Tissues, check. Tampons/pads because yeah I got that lucky, check. I had everything. My Under Armour bra was stuffed to capacity. After about the 10,000th trip to the bathroom, we left the hotel a little after 7am to make our way to the starting line (and porta johns). I don’t know if it’s because I have a nervous bladder, colitis, or it’s just normal for runners, but race mornings are basically just a series of bathroom stops with getting ready interjected in between. Apparently I’m all about the TMI today.

Anyway.

The corrals were labeled A-E and I was in Corral C. The weather had cleared from Saturday so instead of being rainy, it was overcast and cold. It was 34 degrees, but was supposed to hit the mid 50s over the course of the run, so there I was standing in a Nike running skort and long sleeve Under Armour HeatGear, freezing my butt off. Dave kept his arms around me until the National Anthem was sung and the starting gun had gone off. Then I scooted into my coral and was amazed at how quickly it moved! Definitely quicker than any Rock ‘N’ Roll race I’ve done. I was across the line within 2 minutes of the gun start.

Me with my personal blanket. I mean, Dave.

Me with my personal blanket. I mean, Dave.

Ready, Set, Run!

Ready, Set, Run!

American Flag with a neon color back drop...'Merica!

American Flag with a neon color back drop…’Merica!

There was a brief dip as you crossed the start line, then the uphill began.  It really wasn’t bad. I kept an easy pace, taking in the buildings and the scenery. It was still grey outside and there is something s cool about running a race in the early hours. Yes, the waking up early sucks, but having this big event going on while so many are still sleeping is something special.

The first porta john didn’t come until mile 2.5. Made a stop and was on my way. The sun was rising by this point and the temperature rose into the mid 40s (I’m guessing) and it was perfect. I absolutely loved the first half of the race- every bit of it. People were out front of their houses cheering us on, one man had Krispy Kreme doughnuts if we wanted them (no way, José!) A house had a sign saying that runners could drop their jackets there if they were hot and pick them up later. Southern hospitality for the win!

Around mile 4 we reached an area called the Sequoyah Hills. ABOSLUTELY BEAUTIFUL. Nice houses, green yards and trees, a gorgeous view of the Tennessee River. Of course, as we turned into the Hills there was a giant sign that read, “Welcome to Sequoyah Hills – Where All That Hill Training Pays Off!” Consider us warned. But Elizabeth was right. The hills were rolling and encouraging. I was listening to Rob Thomas, jammin’ out, air guitaring, drumming, having a grand old time. I later realized I should have saved this energy for miles 20-26. Hindsight is 20/20.

The signs in the Sequoyah Hills were fantastic. Some were naughty! “Blah Blah fuels with (picture of a chicken) Breasts!” “Blah Blah gets a nipple massage!” “Blah Blah isn’t a virgin anymore! (with a  picture of cherries)!” I’m assuming the last one was for someone’s first half or full. Anyway, the signs cracked me up. Then came a mile or so stretch with a series of signs. The first sign was a picture of a dog’s head, the next sign “Goes,” the next sign “WOOF.” Then a picture of a cat’s head, “Goes” “MEOW.” Going through a whole string of animals. Do you know where I’m going with this?

You got it! At the end there were signs saying, “But there’s one sound” “No one knows.” Then “What” “Does” “(picture of a fox)” “Say?” Then a shit ton of posters saying “RUN!” At this point there was a big crowd with people cheering, some with fox stuffed animals, some dressed as foxes, all yelling and having a blast! I cracked up at this point. It was just too good. They put a lot of effort into it! Right after that was the relay exchange, followed by another poster that said “If you were running the relay, you’d be done by now!” Yeah, thanks!

Mile 6.8-7.3 was THE HILL. It is a 150 ft. climb in ½ mile. But it’s not gradual. It’s up – brief reprieve – up again. But dammit, I did it, and I passed so many people. Thank you Pittsburgh for your awful hills! This thing was no match for me! But I was grateful for the following downhill.

Thumbs up, running strong

Thumbs up, running strong

At the end of mile 8, we were running through a wooded area, when signs started popping up saying “Git ‘Er Done!” “Mile 8 – It Gone!” “Hey, Jack!” And so on. The water station at mile 9 was Duck Dynasty themed and it was friggin’ amazing. The volunteers were dressed in camo, with duck calls, handing us water and cheering us on. I had to laugh again. Too funny. And definitely fitting.

A little before mile 12, I saw Dave in the distance and got stupidly excited. I waved and he actually saw me and waved back. Around a bend and down a hill.

Where's Waldo? We found him!

Where’s Waldo? We found him!

All smiles at mile 12

All smiles at mile 12

When I got to him, I saw him holding this absolutely fantastic sign.

Bacon as motivation? Yes!

Bacon as motivation? Yes!

Each member of my family is a strip of bacon! He made my little sister, Ronnie, a small strip. (She is teeny.) He high fived me, and I grabbed him for a quick kiss, then kept running. We ran around a loop so at mile 13, I saw him again. So I posed this time.

Keeping it classy at mile 13

Keeping it classy at mile 13

13 miles to go

13 miles to go

At the halfway point, I was doing good, but the mass of runners was really thin. Mile 16, I wanted to take a walk break, and I walked for literally one step, before going “NO! You are not doing this!” And tagged onto a girl, trailing her up a hill, nice and steady. It was a long ass hill.

Running running running. I don’t know if the course profile lied to me or I was just getting tired, but the second half of the course definitely felt more hilly than the first half! Running running.

Mile 19, I saw Dave again at the bottom of a hill, holding this sign.

There is a Reese's cup on that poster. It surpasses bacon. Yes, I said it.

There is a Reese’s cup on that poster. It surpasses bacon. Yes, I said it.

Where are the other runners??

Where are the other runners??

7 miles to go! Running on the highway with cars driving by was wild. They blocked off 2 lanes, so it felt pretty safe. And it was a lot of downhill. Hallelujah! After the highway, some ladies were handing out fruit. I know the rule, don’t try anything new on race day, but I took an orange slice and it tasted DIVINE. A chatted with some older guy from Kentucky and we plodded along. This was a long out and back strip and it was actually pretty flat.

IT WAS THE WORST PART. I found that I definitely preferred the hills and the twists and turns. They gave me small chunks to work with. One long flat stretch and my oomph and motivation began sinking. I took another orange slice on the way back. Then a few minutes later *bam.* Sharp pain in my stomach. I walked a little and luckily it went away. Onward. I did have to stop in the middle of a bridge and just stretch out my hip because it was killing me.

Still smiling at 23!

Still smiling at 23!

At mile 25, I made my final pit stop and then went for it. I almost wanted to walk a downhill past our hotel, but my inner self put a quick stop to that. “A DOWNHILL? Wtf is the matter with you? Coast this puppy.” So I did. And walked bit of the evil final uphill. Then, there in front of me was Neyland Stadium.

Home Sweet Neyland Stadium

Home Sweet Neyland Stadium

26 point freakin 2!

26 point freakin 2!

I ran into the stadium and they announced my name and I got to watch myself cross the 50-yard line finish line on the jumbotron. It was so freaking cool.

Picture3

 

And I was so happy because I got a shiny new metal and a shiny new PR! IMG_3892

My 2nd marathon is in the books!

My 2nd marathon is in the books!

 

Dave met up with me in the stands afterward and we got some pictures on the field, then had food! YEA FOOD!

Couldn't have done it without this guy

Couldn’t have done it without this guy

Feeling like a superhero with my marathon blanket

Feeling like a superhero with my marathon blanket

Afterparty fueling

Afterparty fueling

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So I didn’t make the time I wanted. And I had a total of 8 bathroom stops along the course, so my time didn’t match the clock. But I ran a 4:35:55 by my watch and I am so happy with that. And what’s better is that I really enjoyed this marathon. Way more than DC. Yeah, there were points where I was like “ok, this needs to be over now,” but there were people I ran with and talked to who were so much older than me and still getting out there and that was so inspiring.

If I did repeat marathons, I would do this again in a heartbeat. Knoxville, you rocked my socks! I am already looking for my next race.

Did anyone else run the Knoxville Marathon? What did you think of it? Did you conquer Noelton hill?

My Weekend Down South – Knoxville, TN

This past weekend was my marathon in Knoxville! It was amazing, but I am definitely relieved that it’s over. I love racing, but I was so stressed and frustrated this training cycle, that it’s nice to just breathe and relax. But the marathon is another post. This one is for the actual Knoxville experience. Finally, a traveling post for the win!

Dave picked me up from work at 4pm on Friday and we headed over to Pittsburgh Airport to find that our flights had changed and we were now leaving over an hour earlier. Good thing we got there when we did. It also changed our connection from New York to Atlanta and our layover time from 40 minutes to a few hours!

My office building from the air. Buh-bye, work!

My office building from the air. Buh-bye, work!

Once we got into Atlanta, we got on a wait list to take an earlier flight and met up with another girl our age heading back to Knoxville. She was awesome, giving us tips on where to eat and assuring me that Knoxville’s hills were the good kind where, “just as you start to get tired, you reach the top and feel really accomplished.” I can handle that!

None of us got on the earlier flight so we waited in the airport, chatting and getting to know each other. Our flight turned out to be (way) delayed. Around 9:30 Dave and I finally gave in and hunted down some airport food.

On the airport floor with much needed food. He's gonna kill me for this one. ;)

On the airport floor with much needed food. He’s gonna kill me for this one. 😉

We landed in Knoxville sometime after 11 and Elizabeth was so kind as to give us a ride to our hotel so we did have to take a cab.  We stayed at the Four Points Cumberland House Hotel. The staff was so friendly- even at midnight! Plus, they had a signed Peyton Manning jersey framed in the lobby! <3

My sister is so jealous

My sister is so jealous

We didn’t fall asleep until 1am and since sleep before the marathon is sooo important and because, well, I like sleep, we slept in until 10am on Saturday, then got up and ready and headed down to the hotel restaurant for an early lunch.

Fruit, carbo-loading...and bacon!

Fruit, carbo-loading…and bacon!

Our waiter really delivered, too. When I asked if I could have 4 pieces of untoasted white bread to go for an early breakfast the next morning he brought them out and only charged us half. Score! He must’ve thought I was A) really strange, B) a runner or C) both. (correct answer: C) But hey, I need my pre-race peanut butter breakfast sandwich!

The Four Points was a hop, skip and a jump from the expo and starting line, so we walked over and picked up my bib and T-shirt. More on the expo in the marathon recap. 🙂

It was rainy on and off and we had no umbrella, so we meandered back to the hotel, sightseeing along the way.

Dave loves trains. Maybe too much...

Dave loves trains. Maybe too much…

The Sun Sphere at the World's Fair Park.

The Sun Sphere at the World’s Fair Park.

As soon as we got back to the room it started pouring, so I didn’t feel bad that we just relaxed, enjoyed the Harry Potter marathon that was on ABC Family, and I hydrated like a champ.

Mountain Valley water was at all the marathon water stops.

Mountain Valley water was at all the marathon water stops.

For dinner, we went to a pizza place called Dazzo’s that we found on UrbanSpoon. The rain had stopped, so we walked since it was only a little over ½ mile away. On the way, we passed the Starting Line that they had already set up.

Panic at the Start Line!

Panic at the Start Line!

Downtown Knoxville

Downtown Knoxville

I don’t do pre-race pasta. I tried it once or twice, but it always makes my stomach turn wonky. I’ve learned that pizza, especially the thick-crust Sicilian style, is usually my best bet. What a pity. At Dazzo’s, we ordered it Sicilian style, half with just cheese and half with bacon. Yummmmm.

Dave and pizza! With bacon. Bacon forever!

Dave and pizza! With bacon. Bacon forever!

Dazzo’s was fantastic. The service was great; the pizza was delicious. There were tons of framed concert posters covering the walls. We sat at a table that had Willie Nelson posters from the table to the ceiling! I love Willie Nelson.

I also have to mention the bathroom. It was trippy! Big, bright and bold paintings that looked like they were celebrating Dia de los Muertes. But none of the rest of the restaurant had that theme so…I don’t know?

Whatever floats your boat, Dazzo’s, as long as you keep up the good work with the Sicilian.

Whatever floats your boat, Dazzo’s, as long as you keep up the good work with the Sicilian.

IMG_3888

We timed it right and the rain had mostly subsided for our walk back (it poured again during dinner), so we took our time and enjoyed the sights.

IMG_3891

When we got back, I picked at some of the leftover pizza we had brought with us and we continued our HP marathon until we decided to hit the hay around 9:30.

Sunday was the Marathon! AHHHH!!! Stay tuned for my next post on that, but read on for the afterward. 🙂

I’ll be honest, after the marathon, I was kind of a bum for most of the day. Dave said that was justified because, as he said, “You ran a fucking marathon!” He got me ice from the vending machine for my legs, while I made coffee. Three cheers for Dave being the best! And three more cheers for coffee! IMG_3909

I tried to take a nap, but it only lasted about 20 minutes, so I just relaxed with Dave and continued with HP. We rarely watched so much TV, but the background noise was nice and I was perfecting the couch potato look. I also acquired an old lady walk from sore arches, hamstrings and incredibly sore hips. Dave laughed. Hard.

Eventually I showered and we decided on a place called Calhoun’s On the Water that one of the other race supporters suggested to Dave during the marathon. I requested we take a cab, so we did. It was my first time in a cab. Our driver was nice, inquired about the marathon, and told us to give him a call when we needed a ride back. I think I now have high expectations for cab rides.

We sat outside for dinner since the weather was so nice and it was a gorgeous view. We ordered fried pickles, or as I like to call them Frickles, for an appetizer and I got strawberry lemonade while Dave tried a local beer. Almost every post-race, I order a burger because they’re freakin’ delicious and it’s a totally guilt-free opportunity, but it really wasn’t appealing to me that night, so I got a prime rib sandwich au jus, served with French fries and horseradish. So a burger in a different form? It hit the spot, though!

I'm smiling because food is on the way!

I’m smiling because food is on the way!

Frickles!!

Frickles!!

Yes. That'll do.

Yes. That’ll do.

Tennessee River at sunset.

Tennessee River at sunset.

We took our time as the sun set, then got a cab back to the hotel. On Monday morning, we left the hotel by 9:30 and a cab took us back to the airport. I rocked my new T-shirt and my beloved ProCompression socks. On the way we got to see the Smoky Mountains and they are incredible!!

Smoky Mountains in the distance

Smoky Mountains in the distance

The plane trip back to Pittsburgh was another lesson in patience. We got to Michigan (our layover) at 1:30, right on time. But our flight that was supposed to take off at 5:30, got bumped back to 7, then 7:30, and ended up not taking off until 7:45, so we didn’t get to Pittsburgh until 8:30, two hours after our scheduled time. We flew Delta the entire trip, and they just did not have their act together. NOT COOL, DELTA, NOT COOL.

Flight times aside, it was a great trip and the whole time I just kept thinking about how lucky I am to be able to travel and do things like this. Long weekends, races, traveling, conquering the map. And to be able to share so many with Dave. I am so blessed and I know it. Knoxville is such a quaint, yet spunky city and the people are some of the friendliest, relaxed, most personable people I have ever met. And the backdrop is beautiful. It reminded me a bit of Alaska’s mountains, though on a much smaller scale.

There is a refractory plant (or something) outside of Knoxville that does the same type of work that Dave does and we toyed with the idea of, “yeah we could live here.” It’s just talk, but I think I could definitely live in a place like that.

Have you ever traveled for a race? Have you ever fallen in love with a place, if only for a weekend?

A Brief Reprieve

I know I haven’t written in a few weeks, and there’s a simple explanation. When I decided to start this blog it was supposed to be about my running and traveling adventures. However, since then my colitis has taken on a mind of its own which makes my running stories redundant and whiny. I’ve considered pulling out of the marathon, especially after my last 20-miler where I averaged a 10:46 pace and kept doubling over with stomach pain and cramps. But I did finish the run and last weekend ran a 10-miler which an average 9:36 pace. Sooo onward to Knoxville?

All hail the taper!

Anyway, I finally got in to see a doctor on Monday and hopefully the medicine he prescribed will help and I’ll be feeling okay by next weekend. HOLY CRAP, IT’S NEXT WEEKEND.

Also, I’ve learned my lesson that I cannot NOT take medicine for extended periods of time.

So now I am just in panic mode until the marathon. A large majority of me is freaking about my stomach and the hills and being tired and keeping good time. But a small SMALL part of me is just like, “I got this. I’ve run a marathon before.” Confidence for the win? Right? lol

And for anyone who has tapered before, you and your loved ones understand this:

Run on, runners!

Pittsburgh’s Hills

On March 30th I will be running my second marathon! Yea! It’s the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon. I looked at the 2013 course before I registered and I knew it would be a hilly course, but stupid is something I do well. Or determined. So hills be damned, I decided to run one hilly-ass marathon.

Knoxville Marathon 2013

Knoxville Marathon 2013

KM2

Luckily, I live outside of Pittsburgh and my home is surrounded by hills. Saturday I had a 12-miler in wind and cold with slushy and icy roads. I did the first 7 3/4 miles on my own in my Mizuno Wave Rider 16’s, then I came home, changed into my spankin’ new Mizuno Wave Inspire 10’s, picked up Dave and we ran the last 4 1/2 miles together. I was dying the last few miles and whining like a baby, but we finished it. Came home again and propped my feet up on the wall for a few minutes. It drains the blood out of your legs and feels fantastic.

Old Riders, New Inspires, Happy Feet

Old Riders, New Inspires, Happy Feet

I had some almonds, a tangerine, and some nice HOT COFFEE for a snack while Dave cut up and added some bell peppers to a frozen pizza and put it in the oven for lunch. We were both really hungry, so I forgot to take a picture of the pizza, and only got the last, lone slice.

Yummm snack

Yummm snack

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Pizza!

We decided to have a date night on Saturday night and went to see Wolf of Wall Street, which we both agreed was a horrible movie. It was out of control, and I guess it was based on a true story, but it was too much for me to handle and became uncomfortable to watch. Afterward, we decided to try Bubba’s Burghers for dinner. I got a buffalo chicken burger and fried pickles. And a Black & Brew beer. I’m a sucker for a good stout. It’s such a fun and spunky sports bar and the food was all AMAZING. But not at all healthy. Life is all about balance. Run 12 miles. Eat like King Henry…on occasion!

My goal for my second marathon was a 4:03, but with the hilly course I’m not so sure I’ll be able to achieve that. I’m going to try, but my back up is basically to PR and get under a 4:30.

How do you handle hilly runs? Cold runs?
Do you change your goal time depending on course difficulty?
What are your thoughts on The Wolf of Wall Street?