Hope you and yours had a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year! It's been a while since I have blogged, so on this first weekend of 2014, I wanted to take the time to look back over my year and reflect on some of the high points of 2013.
10. Finish on the 50 Half Marathon, April 27, 2013
Finishing my first half marathon on the 50-yard line of Jordan-Hare Stadium was an experience I'll never forget. I'd never raced more than a 10k; in fact, the first time I ever hit double-digit mileage on a run was in training for this half, so it was very much a first for me, in many ways.
It was far from a perfectly organized and administered race, as evidenced by the feedback from racers after everything was said and done, but the thrill of running through the streets of the city where I went to college, met my Hubs (at an Auburn game!) and where we now share a home is one I'll always treasure.
Two great tracks I'll always remember being on my first half marathon playlist:
The TV on the Radio track is a special one for the Hubs and me, and I felt his presence big time out on the course when it came on.
The Calvin Harris/Ne-Yo is one of my all-time favorite power songs; it generally makes an appearance on all my race playlists near the end/finish line. Seriously though, if you have never bothered to pay attention to this track's lyrics, check these out and apply them to your running life. ;)
Make no excuses now, I’m talking here and now. Let’s go! Your time is running out, I’m talking here and now. Let’s go!
It’s not about what you’ve done, it’s about what you doing.It’s all about where you going, no matter where you’ve been. Let’s go!
There ain’t no better time, I’m talking here and now. Let’s go!
Right now is where you shine. I’m talking here and now. Let’s go!
Scenes from the finish at the best stadium in the SEC, and stopping by to see Mr. Heisman, along with our Heisman winners, Cam, Bo and Pat!
9. Shorter races
While 2013 will mark the year that I was bitten by the half marathon bug, I enjoyed some shorter races too. I posted about a number of them, including the Cotton Row 10K in Huntsville, AL, the Run for the Rings 5K in Auburn, AL, the Big Dog Auburn 5k Trail Race and the 1st Annual Roo Run at Bonnaroo 2013.
In 2014, I definitely want to make getting faster at the 10k distance one of my primary goals, so I will be looking for some good ones to put on the calendar.
8. "Sightrunning" ... sightseeing a city on a run!
For my money's worth, the very best way to a city is on the run. Not only do I get the training in for the day, but I can see the sights and get close enough to locals in a way that keeps me from feeling uber-touristy. Here are some highlights from my travels where I didn't race in a formal event, but just got in a "sightrun":
San Francisco, CA (where I was fitted for and bought my Kinvaras!)
Abingdon, VA (Virginia Creeper Trail)
New York City
7. Montgomery Half Marathon, October 12, 2013
My third half marathon of 2013, I ran this as a training run a few weeks before my goal race of the year. I traveled down from Auburn to Montgomery with my best local running friend Katie ("KBC") and her husband Brandon. It was a fun (and pretty early) way to start a busy day, as I had to rush back to Auburn to tailgate with my college roommates/housemates who had travelled to town for AU's Homecoming; KBC had an out-of-town wedding to hit. So, not a lot of time hanging out at the post-race party, which was pretty cool.....held on the field at Riverwalk Stadium, where the Montgomery Biscuits play, with beer and barbecue.
The MGM Half is a fun local race, with less than 1,000 participants. While you admittedly hit some industrial areas early in the route that aren't really the nicest in town, you also get to run through some lovely downtown neighborhoods, as well as the Huntingdon College and Alabama State University campuses. The ASU drum line, cheerleaders and dancers were even out to support us as we ran by!
KBC and I finished together, and I'll always remember this finish for a few reasons: (1) there is a TOUGH hill around mile 10 to cross the interstate that really took the wind out of our sails, but we got a nice downhill near the state capitol building as a reprieve; (2) once we made it back downtown, we could see the stadium finish area in front of us, but the course kept on turning at every corner to pick up milage and we were like, "WHEN IS THIS OVER?!?" and (3) we didn't realize that this was only a chip-timed finish, and not a chip-timed start (there were timing mats at both areas), so we lined up pretty far back to start the race, and ended up with an official time showing 17 seconds over the 2 hour mark, finishing 288 and 289 of 848 finishers. So, very likely that we actually hit our sub 2 hour goal at this one, but we both decided we couldn't claim it since it wasn't "official."
This was also my first race wearing the Oiselle Volée team singlet! (more on this later....;)
6. Half Moon Bay Half Marathon, September 29, 2013
My first destination half marathon; I looked forward to this one all summer. A well-administered race with some truly incredible scenery to enjoy for 13.51 miles (yes, about .4 of a mile too many, thanks to a measurement error for which the organizers promptly recognized and took the blame). The race also offers a BQ-full option as well, with the course taking marathon runners to the famous Mavericks surfing area. For half-marathoners, we mainly stuck to the local running/bike path that ran beside the ocean, then went inland through some park-like areas and beside big pastures with horses watching us cruise by. Other than one very small residential section and 2 small stretches on the highway, I enjoyed this course a lot.
A smaller race which has sold out every year in its 3 year-history, this race still attracted runners from a big pool: runners from 40 states and 6 countries participated in 2013. While there isn't much crowd support other than at the start and finish, there are lots of volunteers making sure things go smoothly. Highlights were the amazing weather, lots of ocean views, a fun post-race party with beer specially brewed in honor of the race by the Half Moon Brewing Company, and catered food for purchase.
The Hubs and I enjoyed great food and fun times with local friends for this event; after the race, I stopped with them on the way back north to San Francisco at Gray Whale Beach and enjoyed some of the best cliff and surf views in California!
5. Rock 'n' Roll Savannah Half Marathon, November 9, 2013
The race which became my goal event for 2013, Savannah was actually put on my race calendar on the evening of April 27, 2013 -- yep, the day of my first half in Auburn! I was so excited to have finished that I immediately wanted to sign up for another one. My friend Emily (who ended up placing 4th female in the 26.2 with a time just over 3 hours) recommended this race to me that night as a good event worth traveling to.
I had been to Savannah before, but always stayed in hotels. For the race, the Hubs and I stayed with Emily, Will and their little boy Miles in a great townhouse in walking distance to the start and finish lines. Our little home away from home was built in the mid-1800s on Jones Street, purportedly one of the most haunted streets in a very haunted town!
The Savannah Half and Marathon is a Rock 'n' Roll event put on by the Competitor group. While they've been in the running industry news this year for good and bad, I will tell you that my individual race experience (first Competitor event) was a positive one. We moved very quickly through a crowded and busy expo and everything started on time race morning. They put together a well-staffed course, and I found good fuel at aid station and as part of recovery at the really cool post-race party in Forsyth Park.
Since it was my "goal race," I am pleased to report that with my training plan from Coach Hadley, I achieved my time goal of finishing under 2 hours, coming in at 1:58:30. So, made my goal, finished with a smile on my face and injury-free in a beautiful city....I finished this race feeling very excited, fortunate, and thankful.
Early in 2013, I found the Oiselle brand of running apparel when I searched for women-specific clothes and gear. I fell in love with not only some great pieces, but also the brand philosophy. I sported Oiselle pieces at a number of my spring and summer races and always got compliments on them, but more importantly, they served their functional purpose and kept me focused on what I was doing, not whether my shorts were riding up.
In the summer of 2013, I applied for an opportunity to join the Oiselle team: a group of women runners from across the country (and a few based internationally) who proudly represent the Oiselle brand in training, racing and everyday life. I figured it was a long shot, but thought that it might help my application next year to be able to have had some experience going through the process.
When I received word in August that I had been selected, I was really in shock. Far from the fastest in the pack, I was amazed that I was now teammates with some truly amazing women who had been racing and training all of their lives. And, I was happy to find out that there were also several team members like me -- far from elite, but hooked on running, racing and experiencing the personal growth and challenges that face us every time we lace up our shoes. I now follow all of my teammates on twitter, and regularly stay in touch with them through their blogs or Facebook.
You can read up about the awesome year that was 2013 in the life of the Oiselle team here. And, I already have 2 destination group meetups with my team on my 2014 calendar, so I look forward to seeing us "go fast and take chances" in the coming year!
3. Being "Matched" with Froggy
Emma did a great post one day at her former blog featuring the I Run 4 organization. I hadn't heard of them, so I checked the group out, filled out a form to be matched and was matched to the cutest, sweetest little Texan ever, Oliver -- also known to family and friends as "Froggy."
Running for him these past few months has given me a perspective I lacked before, and brought a great new family into my life. Over the last few months, I have gotten to know Froggy's parents Blanca and Felipe over Facebook, where we keep each other up to date with what's going on in each other's lives.
I always love getting updates on Froggy, who loves pro wrestling, eating popcorn and wearing race medals that Mrs. Ashley earns for us to share! A picture from Froggy always makes me smile :)
For my first half in April 2013, I trained during the winter months using the Hal Higdon program available online. It served its purpose and got me through the race with a decent finish time for my first half - and the price was right (f-r-e-e).
However, once I knew that I wanted to do another one, I realized that I wanted more from a training program, one customized to my strengths and weaknesses, and was willing to make that investment of time and money. After reading tons of blog posts about runners who had found their own online coach, then googling a number of the running coaches mentioned, I found Coach Hadley. I am planning a post in the future as to my thoughts on why I think that all runners -- regardless of ability level -- should seek a coach if they want to see some significant improvement in their running and put some "insurance" toward running injury free (no guarantees). Until then, I will say that for the amount of experience, wisdom, knowledge and accountability I get from our coaching relationship, Coach Hadley's "Premier Program" is a bargain. If you have a goal race in 2014, do yourself a favor and check out the options that he offers to runners based anywhere. Simply stated, his progam works.
1. Runners World Half and Festival, October 18 -20, 2013
This was my first-ever "running weekend" festival, with events spanning from Friday to Sunday. The Hubs and I travelled to this one together, and spent some time in Philadelphia as well. What an amazing time to see the city of Bethlehem, with its fall foliage and crisp but not cold weather welcoming visitors from all over the country. Checking out the historic Stacks where we started and finished each race was a highlight.
In addition to the main three races, there were running movies, lots of seminars, a kid's race, a DOG RACE (yep!) and a nice expo. If you missed it, here's a great video recap.
I ran the Five and Dime this year (Saturday's 5 and 10k races), but beyond the running, I had such a blast with the other attendees at the Festival. Thousands of age-group runners like me, some big-time bloggers and even celebrities in our sport were in attendance. Highlights were meeting Karen, cldem, Monica and Oiselle teammate Catherine!
I can't put into words why I loved this event so much -- maybe it was visiting Bethlehem, PA in the fall, maybe it was having an unexpected and fun way to celebrate my birthday (Friday of the Fest) with the Hubs, but whatever it was, I will be back again and I'll be doing the whole 5k, 10k and half marathon shebang (the Hat Trick!).