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Image  —  Posted: 01/23/2016 in Uncategorized
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My friends, it is quite possible that G-town was the last rodeo for these shoes. Trail shoes wear so differently than road shoes. *sigh*  I love these shoes.*

2016 kicked off with a trail half-marathon – an inaugural run at Kercher Park in Germantown, Ohio – for which I was woefully under-prepared. I’ve been running pretty regular, but since my PR at Iron Horse last October, I haven’t gone further than 7 on trails, less on pavement.  In other words, I knew this was going to hurt.

But it was the first ORRRC run of the season (Eric & I just joined)

And it was my friend Lance’s first gig as an RD, so I didn’t want to miss that.

And we hadn’t been to Kercher Park before…I love new trails!  (which if I’d had my head on right, is really bad logic for signing on to a 13.1 you haven’t trained for). And, and, and…

And so even though I knew this was going to hurt, off we went. To the hurt. On a beautiful morning in January – it wasn’t sunny, but about 50-degrees. Lots of mud – rain earlier in the week had made things slick, so most of what we ran in was that kind of mud that makes a sucking sound when you lift up your foot. It sticks to your shoes and every step is like lifting an extra 2 lbs of weight from the suction.

Later I would ask Lance “Why do you hate the dry land, Lance?! What did dry land ever do to you?” because SO. MUCH. MUD.

The first almost mile was a paved park trail, a nice warmup since we got there literally, in time to make a U-turn and start the run, courtesy of my crappy navigational skills. We started LAST. Like, the very last 2 people to cross the line. Though chip-timed on finish, the start line was manually set at 10:00am start.

After the first mile, we turned off pavement and the trail started to climb. Forever.

Kercher Park is freaking BEAUTIFUL! Eric & I were talking about how much we wanted to come back to the trail before we even got to the car after we were done. IT. IS. THAT. BEAUTIFUL!  But WOW! Does it climb! Garmin says 1560+ ft in elevation gain, 1506 ft of coming back down. There is not much flat at all. The uphills are long and twisting, the downhills are fast and steep – meaning you spend a lot more time climbing than you do descending. But there are moments in those climbs, running alongside streams and reaching overlooks, that will take your breath away if you pause to look up.  Especially with it being January, when you can see between the trees. I am sure I would have finished much faster if I hadn’t stopped to absorb so much nature into my eyeballs.

Later I would ask Lance “Why does the trail only go UP, Lance?!” I don’t think he took me seriously, but it was a real question.

Also, I would have finished faster if I hadn’t stop-drop-&-yoga’d a couple times in miles 10-12. Leg fatigue. I needed to stretch to keep going. On trails, once you pass the water stops, there is no DNF – mainly because no one is coming to get you unless you’re bleeding. And honestly, I’m not sure how that would work either. Maybe that’s how woodland gnomes are made. Trail runners that DNF’d between water stops.

Water stops were at miles 3 & 10 – which were the same as the course is a loop (water & gatorade), and 7 (H2O, gatorade, snacks).  Very well placed with more than enough when I came through at the back of the pack. For back of the pack runners, stops being packed up or out of supplies is a concern – so there being plenty for me when I knew I was pulling through 5-6th place to the end is important for me to note. My BOTP friends, you are not abandoned here. The cutoff to mile 10 is also a very generous 4-hours. I had concerns about it knowing that I would be moving slowly, but I hit the cutoff with an hour to spare.

Some things to be proud of –

  • Through almost the whole race, I stayed in a really good place mentally. I saw the stirrings of what I dub “fuck soup” – that moment where a porridge of ‘fuck this race’, ‘fuck this mud’, ‘fuck running’, etc.,  begins to coagulate into a blob that spins ugly in your head. Giving it a name helps me have some power over it and when it came up, I told myself I was NOT. GOING. THERE.  New trail, fresh year. I was not going to allow it a start with beating myself up.  Instead I looked up, I looked around, and I told myself that going more slowly wasn’t going to make it hurt any less. Keep moving. I smiled and laughed and let the joy in, of just being and doing what I was doing.
  • I spent a lot of the race alone. In a long race, I think you meet yourself several times. Let’s just say that at Forget the PR Mohican 25k, I met myself in a very bad way being alone in the woods for an extended time. It’s good to have the ghost of that out of my head a bit and realize that this time, I didn’t even realize how long I’d been out of sight of other runners for quite a while. I was in my own race.
  • A woman said to me “You’re pretty good at the mud” when I slogged past her as she was picking carefully through a downhill.  We’d been leap-frogging for half a mile at that point through some serious slop. Lady, that comes with practice! Mud is less my enemy now than it was at the WORST F*ING RACE EVER at East Fork last Summer. I’m learning to manage it. Slog through it. Minimize it slowing me down. She was right, I’ve improved greatly at handling mud.
  • My nutrition was SPOT ON! I’ve struggled with this a bit on trails.  A piece of cinnamon toast on Oatnut Bread 1.5 hours before the race. An apple in the car 45 minutes pre-run. Every mile, a decent sip from the hydration pack (I took in about 1 liter from the pack, total.) and a shot of H2O and gatorade at each water stop. A strip of dried papaya after mile 4. Half a Gu before mile 7, where I had 5 gummy bears. Somewhere between miles 8-9, a tablespoon of nuts from my pack. At mile 10, I put the best thing I’ve ever eaten on race in my mouth – half a slice of dried pineapple. OH MY GOD!  IT WAS PERFECT! Not too much sugar, and solid – so it didn’t make my stomach sloshy.  On the whole, that doesn’t sound like much for a 13-mile run, but it was exactly what I needed. Note to self: Pineapple, nuts & papaya should always be in the hydration pack!

Everything ached and screeched at me by the time I finished, but as I said – I knew I’d signed on for the hurt.  Slow, but done – and a great start to the season!

ORRRC does 2-3 runs per month, most of which appear to be trail runs. They are either free or dirt cheap if you’re member – and still cheap even if you’re not. We paid less for a year’s membership for the two of us than it would cost for one of us to register at most 5k’s now. Go check out their calendar! See you in the woods!

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*(Sidebar: Brooks, I’m side-eyeing you on where these are failing. I know a couple other runners with failures in the same spot on their Cascadias.)

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It’s not as early as yesterday. The sky is already starting to lighten up, though it is not readily apparent whether today will be blue or gray. I am listening to the start of the day.

I’ve mentioned before that I like to write in the morning, but often times I’ve already been awake for at least an hour before I get started. There’s no specific reason for me to get up well before I need to do anything at all, except that once upon a time it started with a 5:30AM bootcamp and then it evolved into just liking the quiet.

Listening to the early time is like sharing a great secret with everything around you. I do not think anything is capable of denying it’s true nature in the first moments of waking up.

There are the normal routines of waking and tending dogs which occur. Every single morning I spare a second for tadasana about as soon as my feet hit the floor after the last snooze. I open my palms wide and sweep my hands up with a giant breath that looks like a yawn and stretch – but I feel it more deeply than that. It calibrates me somehow.

Eventually, though, on as many days as possible (there are still some days I run off to the gym at crazy-ass-early), all paths lead to a cup of coffee and staring out into space.

It’s my morning meditation.

Once upon a time, I used to watch the news before work. Catch glimpses of stories and traffic between putting on pants and putting on eyeliner. I felt very well informed when I picked up my carpool buddy. At some point the news no longer served me well and so I stopped watching it some time after 9/11. I’m not sure when or how related that is, but my brain keeps making that connection.

Now, I tuck my feet up under me, not in any formal meditation posture, but just a way I am comfortable, I cup my hands around my coffee mug, and I let my mind wander. It feels like a rebellion against the noise. Sometimes my thoughts go through the upcoming day. Sometimes a specific thing comes up, sometimes nothing at all. Today I observed that Fred already smells like feet again even though she just had a bath – courtesy of the deluge of rain in the past week. I don’t make pretense that my meditations are profound. Then I switched into thinking about some upcoming yoga studies and picked up a book. Which led me to thinking about meditation and the meditation which I chose for an online yoga group this week – “An Introduction to Sitting”.

As I sit and begin writing.*

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*Afterword: When I picked up writing the blog again, it was after a period of realizing that I wasn’t writing the way I like. I had tried to be formulaic and clearly define a more narrow focus on running & race recaps. I really don’t know what end purpose that was trying to serve – but it was an experimental failure in that it made me not want to write what I needed to write for the structure (as an example, I never wrote about Mohican 25k, which was one of my best running lessons in all of 2015), and it constrained me away from writing what I wanted to write about – which is essentially, whatever the hell I want. So, in picking this back up, expect more randomness and just as much running stuff, probably more yoga stuff, and my waxing philosophic about my coffee here and there.

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My friends, I am obsessing with the thistle in this damn picture (a trail at my office I try to spend my lunch on running once a week). I wanted to post a few close-up shots I took of it, except…I already did. A few posts ago – down there vvv.  In fact, the picture I am specifically obsessing about is that one. I have no idea why other than that there has been some type of monsoon hitting Southern Ohio and the gray and rain just. WILL. NOT. STOP.

This picture is not gray and rain. If I reach for it, I can smell the perfect weather air around this thistle. It smells like warm with that slightly dusty feeling. I run past the foreground at the top of this section of trail before turning a corner to go over the bridge you see. At far left, that hill is a steep set of stairs which lead up to an overlook before heading back into the buildings of our office complex. All in all, this section is probably just over a tenth of a mile, but it marks the usual halfway point of my lunch run. I always stop at the overlook. I like to breathe there and look for deer and birds down in that pool of tall grass. Remind myself for a moment that I am more than spreadsheets and cubicles. Then I turn around, head back down the stairs and return whence I came – back past the thistle and through the woods on campus back towards the building where waits my cubicle and spreadsheets.

It is early, on a Tuesday and I am with my coffee. I have a new coffeemaker – it has a “bold” button. A BOLD button. There is now a button with BOLD on it in my life. That I can push. And be made BOLD by dark beverage.

I am sore. And I woke up STARVING! which is annoying. I do not like waking up to my stomach complaining.

After an entire week of too much excellent food and missing workouts for work, my body was begging for movement. So yesterday lunch came with a treadmill and no thistle, because rain & gray. (Did I mention it just won’t stop raining?) A 30-min progressive run following by 10 more minutes of bringing it back down gradually on pace.  Then I hit up a Slow Flow yoga class after work. I needed that bad! But slow is a speed, not a skill level – so it was a good workout too. Today = sore, and probably a pool day this afternoon. I need to get back in the water too.

Germantown Gem 13.1 is in less than 2 weeks and I need to get my ass moving if I’m going to feel even remotely ready for that. Eric & I joined ORRRC for 2016 – which is RIDICULOUSLY CHEAP for membership. So add those to the races I’ll be doing regularly.

It’s also time to start training for Run the Bluegrass 13.1. I’m pretty excited to be run-ambassadoring for that again for 2016 and leading the yoga classes at the hotel the next morning. Every time I think Eric & Rachel can’t possibly come up with anything new to add to race weekend, they add more. This year, a big addition is Running Nannies – people who watch your children while you go run. How awesome is that?!

The Topo Winter Series has already passed race #2. Race #1 was back at East Fork. After some rain earlier in the week, it was muddy but WARM.

Friends, some day I will run East Fork when it is not a muddy mess.

Can you even believe running a trail race in Ohio in December in short sleeves?! 60-degrees! I’m proud of how I did on it. Eric took Fred’s leash and started with her at the very back, then quickly caught up to me. We ran most of the 5.2 mile loop as a family, with me setting pace and finishing together. So that was really cute. When I looked later, I’d beaten my Summer series race time on the same loop by more than 6-minutes!

Topo #2 was at Big Bone Lick State Park in Ky. We bagged that one because of rain and gray and weather radar that looked like Pac Man was about to gobble up the course. Friends who ran said it didn’t start to rain until the last mile, but photos tell me it was still a mudpit of a run.

We’ll miss Race #3 because it conflicts with Germantown.😦

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It’s like a weight-loss commercial – before & after.  Toes take a bit more than the usual abuse when running trails.

Cynthia Running Rule #1: ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS take care of your feet.

Topo Series kicks off in 2 hours. 

It is just before 7am again, with coffee and snoozing dogs. I like to write in the morning. Mornings set a precedent for the rest of the day in that way that they come before everything else.

By 10am, I usually know whether or not I am going to kick that day’s ass.

My body is sore this morning. An ache across the neck and shoulders, and what feels like a sense of phantom fatigue through the ankles and shins. That’s after the chiropractor and a full day’s rest on Monday – other than training work with Fred, which involves numerous climbs of stairs at the moment. Some walking and yoga yesterday.

That’s the result when you venture into a 7-mile trail race after two months of slacking in the 3-to-4 mile distance range.  Fact: you can’t cram for a race. It just doesn’t work. And it makes your training-run-skipping ass sore.

On Sunday, Eric and I had put a race on the calendar. Eric a 13.1, me the quarter at 6.55 miles.

The day dawned pretty enough – a chill 28-degrees when we left the house with “freezing fog” that was starting to burn off. The sky looked like it was going to go blue, and eventually it did. As we picked up packets and got settled, big drops of water began to fall from the trees as the frost melted, slicking up the trail a bit.

My friends, when you’re short-cutting through foggy woods, and sunlight begins to stream through the fog, sending big droplets of nature down onto your head, it’s like the universe is telling you a pretty awesome secret. Most people don’t get to see things like that.

The run was at East Fork Lake – which is GORGEOUS – but has also brought me my WORST, MOST AWFUL, I HATE ALL THE RUNNING THAT IS MADE OF RUNS run earlier in the Summer.  At another trail series, I did an 11.8 miler there in calf-deep mud that about broke me. Thinking about that, and the slick below my feet, I had to shake off some negative head shit – a dullness from 2 margaritas at dinner and a migraine starting up – remind myself that I was only going 6.55 today. I’d survive.

Wave start put Eric on course 10 minutes before me. The first mile was on pavement to let people sort themselves – I really would’ve like less pavement time, but I can’t argue that it kicked off my first mile with a solid split.  Then it was off into the woods. East Fork rolls. Few flat spots in it. Several kinda challenging uphills which are offset by long slopes of down-hill. It’s a GOOD course for making time if you can handle the uphill consequences that go with those long downhills. I heard some people talking about what a rough course it was, but I guess after Mohican and Rugged Red, my definition of a tough uphill is altered.

I was still keeping good time through mile 2, but into mile 3 the wheels started to come off in the form of nausea. The migraine was starting to up it’s game. I backed off to a 3:1, then let that go to a ‘do what you can do’ after stopping to help a runner that twisted her ankle and then wiping out myself.  East Fork is also mostly single-track, so once the fast marathoners started lapping me, I had to keep stepping off course to let them pass.  It’s a courtesy. And also, you’re kind of an asshole if you don’t.

Not feeling well at all, I decided to focus on enjoying the scenery, get the demons out of my head. Even with the slickness – it’s not very technical in my opinion. A few spots for tricky footwork, but not a lot of climbing over things or navigating rockbeds. There are moments when the sun breaks through the trees, hits the mud on the ground and reflects that slick surface as if the trails were made of gold. Nature can make mud dazzling.

Nothing impressive on the finish. On the whole, it wasn’t an awful run – more in line with numbers I put up when I first started trail running than the ones I’ve been putting up lately. Slow. SLOW. Amazingly I did not finish last. I knew there was at least one person behind me, but frankly, there were a few more people back there than I knew about – so that made me feel better when I checked results. After the run, I pulled the car closer and got changed into warm clothes while I went to wait on Eric’s finish, hang out with my Team RWB peeps and listen to my head pound. My entire focus shifted on getting some migraine drugs and going to bed.

The good news, is that I get a second shot at it this upcoming weekend. Hopefully without the migraine, and definitely without the pre-race margaritas. Topo’s actual trail series kicks off back at East Fork on Saturday 12/12.

The Topo Adventure Winter set is a series of trail runs going through some of the more interesting trail systems in the area. It starts with a signature marathon, with a 13.1 and 10k option, that has all the frills of shirt, medal, pint glass, timing but still manages to keep it cheap at $40 for the 13.1 and $25 for the 6.55.

After the marathon, there are six (6) no-frills trail races – $15 a pop regardless of distance, no swag and hand-timed. Most offer 5-or-10 mile options. The first one is back at East Fork Lake this upcoming weekend.

One for fun. One for work. One because I have too many beads in my house.

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Continuing ed yoga class on the afternoon agenda. Did you know yoga teachers had to do continuing ed after a certain level? They’re supposed to. Many don’t.

Shakeout run for tomorrow’s trail race before that. 

Right now, coffee and a book. Or 3.

It’s just after 6:30AM Cincinnati time, which means I’ve been awake about an hour already. And done absolutely nothing productive – which is more rare than you’d think. As I was snuggling coffee and settling into my couch, it occurred to me that today was the first day in over a month that I didn’t have something to do almost immediately after my eyes opened -discounting the dog-related tasks (that’s every morning). I mean, like get on the computer and work kind of stuff.

So of course, blog.  :)

It also occurred to me that my bed is a perfect little cocoon and that Friday was a complete asshole for dragging me out of it. I wish I could blame it on the alarm, but truth be told, it’s not unusual for me to wake up anywhere from 10-45 minutes before my alarm – at least long enough to notice the clock time and go back to sleep. Which, because, and probably only because it’s 6:40AM now, I have a profound question:

Absent some biological calling (bathroom, hunger, thirst), why do we wake up at all?  I know about circadian rhythms, so that’s the boring answer.  But seriously, why do we need to get up and go do? From a cognitive efficiency standpoint, wouldn’t it be much easier on the brain to only wake us up to serve a biological need, then put us back to bed?

I could really use a few more Z’s.

Again y’all, it’s early in Cincinnati. When I am caffeinated, I probably will want to delete this.

ANNNY-WAY – been thinking about this place. What to do with it. Why I haven’t been writing in it. Feeling like writing again, but also like I need to clean some things up, so change is coming. Not too much ’cause I still like the paint on the walls, but change. Re-invention.

In full disclosure, I had 2 other blogs before this one, which for reasons I felt right about at the time, I retired, locked down and forgot about. One of them came back around at me a few weeks ago and I stopped to peruse – realizing there were some things I’d like to keep. But I don’t want to keep them where they are. The other fucked up thing, is I logged into WordPress this morning and signed in, and wrote this entire post into a blog I didn’t remember having.

Friends, I WROTE THIS POST IN A BLOG I DIDN’T EVEN REMEMBER and then had to move it over here.

So maybe there are 3 out there, or maybe I just don’t remember the name of the second one correctly. Oops. Probably a result of trying to clean up some Google Account stuff the other day.

In other words, if someone has some tips on bringing shit from Blogger over to this blog, can you help a girl out?  It’s time to consolidate. And dust. Fucking dust. Having more blogs out in the world than I can keep track of is a problem. A creepy, creepy, dusty problem.

I suppose it would help if I could remember the web addresses and passwords to those blogs, too…sheesh, you’re asking a lot. Wait, that could be me that’s asking a lot.  All that to say that if you start seeing some weird pictures of my feet from 2010 in here, be alarmed. Pictures of my feet were a 2011 thing.

 

IMG_3484It’s Saturday. A slow coffee kind of day, starting with a movie on Netflix and afternoon-ing some miles in with both dogs. Despite just finishing up two weeks of vacation, recent life has felt fast. There was a trail 5k I wanted to do about an hour East, but my legs are still tired from last weekend, and frankly, a day of quiet is in order. Soul feeding quiet. Observing my friends’ FB feeds fill with results from a local pavement 7k/14k.

This is how I think of races now – pavement or trail first, then the rest of the details.

Somehow the year of being 40 turned me into a trail runner.

Since Run the Bluegrass, there were 2 shorter pavement races – Joseph House 5k (which was an EXCELLENT little race & I highly recommend doing again) and the Flying Pig 10k, where I stepped in to fill a bib for a friend at the last minute.  Beyond that, the Summer has been spent on a slew of trail races to good and hard result. I can’t say a day on trail is ever bad, just good or hard, or good AND hard. There was…

Forget the PR, Mohican 25k, which began April with a great big DNF. A heck of a way to kick off a season. A HARD, but fantastically beautiful course with long, steep hills that never seem to end. I learned there’s a thing you find out when you run trails and you’re slow, and that thing is what ALONE feels like in a whole new way. Lonely and ALONE are verrry different. In this race, I found my limit on being alone at mile 12 and I simply didn’t have another 5 miles in me. DNF.

A week later, the local Dirt Days Trail Series started. This is where Eric joined in the fun. After a Winter of mulling, a decade of repairing me after races, and some time spent watching the snow fall from the treadmill, he got his own bib for the Ault Park Switchback run – and every race thereafter. We did 5 of the Dirt Days races together – from a HORRIBLE, NASTY, (humbling), MUDDY MUDDY MUDDY 11-miler at East Fork that *still* makes me shudder, to a repeat of the Powder Keg 5k where I beat last year’s time by 9 minutes.

Somehow the year of my being 40 turned Eric into a trail runner.

Interspersed with DD, was the Topo Adventure Sports Summer Trail Series. A good, no-frills race setup. I like it. Also, these guys stay till the last runner comes in with a smile. I really like how they handle their show. Through these two series I learned that if the trail is wet, you step in the first mud puddle you see. Get it over with. Your feet are not going to stay dry, so find a way to be happy about it, and take the race that comes to you. Also, Body Glide on your feet is GOOD.

Finally, though the season still isn’t over, all of these efforts culminated in running The Rugged Red last weekend.The HARDEST terrain I’ve ever run. 1700 feet of elevation gain, some of climbing on all-4’s up round-edged sandstone. I came into the finish line to find my husband and a crew of my RWB peeps who’d waited over an hour for me to come in. People, that is some love right there! I still can’t believe I finished it – which was one of only two goals I had  – (1) finish and (2) beat the sweeper. I beat the sweeper with only 10 minutes to spare, but I did it. I’m not sure how. And that guy that kept trying to pass me again after mile 9-10, I kept him behind me. It might’ve been a full on goddamn sprint at the finish to make it happen, but it happened.

Somehow the year of being 40 upped my level of badassery just a little bit.

Recovery from all of these beatings came in the form of swimming and yoga (which I’m still teaching, but at a new place now). The training sessions at Caesar’s Creek last Summer taught me I was a pretty crappy swimmer. A new gym membership came in December and twice a week 6AM swims started in March with a friend training for her first half-Ironman. Swimming lessons followed to build the skill set, and while I’m working on strength and endurance, I’ve started to do decently in the pool. At some point I went from dreading the water to looking forward to a good swim.

Somehow the year of being 40 turned me into a swimmer.

My house is usually a mess because we’re too busy training. The dogs are usually stinky because four legs get muddier than two on trails. The number of pairs of running shoes in my house has almost doubled. Some of them aren’t even mine.

And I started giving my bike the side-eye about 2 weeks ago…when I turned 41.

Wow! People – I would love to sit here and say OMG – how is it already the end of March and RTB has passed again – EXCEPT that it’s already the middle of April. Time is moving FAST FAST FAST these days – and I say that AFTER I just finished up a week of vacation! Isn’t vacation supposed to be a slow-down time?  Nevertheless, it IS mid-April and two weeks have passed by since RTB was logged into the recordbooks. Some races, you write about right away. Others, you need to let soak in. RTB is a soak-in for me. Even with being a race ambassador (or Race AmBADASSador, as we call ourselves) again this year, there are so many details which Eric Marr (RD) and Rachel Crabtree (ARD), as well as their bevy of volunteers, invest themselves in, that I think they warrant a few moments of just absorbing the big picture of the event.

The Race:  Billed as America’s Prettiest Half Marathon, Run The Bluegrass starts and finishes at Keeneland Racecourse. Options available are 13.1 & 7-mile distances, run simultaneously. The 7-mile race splits off of the half-marathon course via a cross road and joins back up with it again before the finish. Race date is usually the last Saturday in March, which was 3/28 this year. The date has moved to the first Saturday in April – 4/2 – for 2016.

The Swag:  Swag has it’s own special personality at RTB, which is one of the things I LOVE about it most. Included in the race fee is a t-shirt, an option for a personalized bib, and your medal. I’ll admit, on the surface, this doesn’t sound like much – until you also add in the meet-up tents & INDOOR areas pre-race, the post-race PARTY, then the post-post-race party later that evening. There’s also the fact that this race is NOT a crowded melee like many others are these days – worth a premium to me. Other race organizers please note – capping race attendance is NOT a sin!

This year, there was a problem in shipping with the Nike shirts which would have delayed receiving them until after the race. For Eric & Rachel, this wasn’t an option – they knew runners would be disappointed and no one wants to see a sad runner. They sprang into action and got in some super soft hoodies! A lighter-weight version than the winter hoodies, I think I like it better than a shirt! (Especially since I’m trying to thin out the herd of shirts in my running wardrobe right now.) It’s unique and an awesome option to have available to throw over running or yoga clothes for post-workout beers. All of the runners I spoke with LOVED the hoodie and several were already sporting it at yoga the next morning.

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Also, they don’t skimp on the medal for this run. The medal is GORGEOUS!!! Beautiful detail and it weighs a ton! If you are into race bling, this should be one you seek to collect.

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The rest of the swag available is at your discretion – you have a menu to pick and choose what means the most to you in the form of one-of-a-kind experiences that you buy tickets for – thoroughbred farm tours, distillery tours, race course tours, excellent pre-&-post race dinners. I’ve done many of these experiences myself and this is swag you don’t forget. Last year, I got to pet a foal that in another year, I’m likely to see competing at Keeneland, making its name as a champion. I also learned all about making my own hooch distilling bourbon and found a new love in bourbon cream (who knew that existed?!). Um, I hear there’s also a yoga class the next day at the race hotel…I think I might know the teacher.🙂  (And yes, I customized my bib to promo the yoga class.) You can EASILY make an entire weekend of the race, scheduled with events at a pace to suit you.

The Tag: Registration cost is on a sliding scale, depending on when you register. Registration for 2016 was already available at the 2015 Expo for $50 – RIDICULOUSLY LOW – for this run. Discount codes were emailed out to race alumni. Current 2016 registration is $70 for 13.1 and $60 for 7-mile distances. It pays to register early, though I don’t recall fees going over $85 for 2015 – which is still a decent price compared to the experience you get up against a higher fee for RnR races which are way too crowded to enjoy half as much.

The Course: As it says when you open the webpage, RTB is “One of America’s 20 standout, must-do half-marathons” per Runners’ World – and you know RW don’t lie! The course on this race is AMAZING – 13 miles of rolling green hills – pastures – farms. Million dollar horses watch you pass by. At one point in mile 11 – we saw SIX PAIRS of mothers & foals standing side-by-side in a pasture. On a blue-skied, Spring day with all the greenery beginning to emerge, this course is Americana at it’s finest.

It is also HILLY AS F-…hills can be. I have to be honest about the fact that this is NOT an easy course – you will be challenged by it. But that’s also what makes it majestic and completely worth the effort. It’s like running through a postcard. A very pretty, but also sweat-inducing, postcard. There’s a gopro of the course on youtube here. I’ll admit, I didn’t watch all of it because – 90 minutes, but next Winter when I’m training, this will be nice to throw on the iPad and watch from my view on the treadmill as an inspirational tool.

Of Course: Guys, I teared up at the start line. Normally, that’s a finish line thing – but honestly, I was doing my best not to take a minute just to sob it out at the start of my 13.1. Not for any awful reason, but because being able to do this race for the 13.1 distance was a hugely emotional thing for me. This was my 3rd attempt. In year 1, I dropped to the 7-miler at the expo because I was undertrained for the race. Year 2 – the knee injury had me hobbling around taking pictures. I had to admit that there was no way in hell I could run it, not even the 7-miler, a week before the race. After having an entire year to prepare, that sucked. So at year 3, and a year after that injury sidelined me, to just be standing at the start line was a victory in and of itself. Whatever happened on the course was gravy.

My Day:  Eric & I opted against getting a hotel this year. We’ve done a hotel the past 2 years, to varying degree, but Lexington is only 80-90 minutes from my house and an EASY drive, so we decided to try handling the experience without one. This would let me rest & recover in my own bed, and keep us from having to book a dogsitter. We drove up for packet pickup on Thursday – the first opportunity. The expo was not crowded and was set up with a walk-through flow that kept you moving. I was able to pick up packets for myself & several RWB friends who were running. Eric & Rachel were both there, greeting runners and helping out. There were a LOT of other local races there and part of what was nice was that you actually had time to stop and chat with the booth people about the runs – as opposed to being hurried due crowds. We stayed for dinner, grabbing a great burger and beer at the Shamrock, then back home.

Race Day started by being out the door at 6:45 with RWB Rebecca joining us for the drive down. We made a pretty seamless drive, got through Gate 2 to park and made it to our RWB tent at 8:35. In that venue, 25 minutes to a race start is PLENTY of time to get where you need to be – except that the porta potty lines looked LONG, but we’d already taken care of that on the way.

Wave starts kept the running crowd from being overwhelming, although I think RTB has done a great job choosing a 5000 runner cap on this race. Then we were off! I had strategized to do a 3:1 interval for this race and not worry about the clock. As I said before, I planned an aggressive Spring racing season – and I wanted to be able to race the whole season, not off myself in the first one. It was perfect running weather for me – I set my dial to HAPPY and got moving. The first 1.5 went by nicely and I was setting up for a great run. Around that point, I came across my friend Jenn. Jenn & I swim together twice a week and she’s on my short list of great training buddies. She was walking and I decided to walk with her – not really sure how or when both of us decided that was the thing to do – we’re pretty good at pushing each other – but we ran a little and walked most of the rest. Keep in mind, other than driving it – I’d never seen the 13.1 course the way it needed to be viewed. And Jenn ran in 2014, in that HORRIBLE weather – head down, don’t look up, kind of freezing cold rain – so she hadn’t really seen the course the way it should be viewed either. Seriously folks – YOU DON’T RUSH YOUR EXPERIENCE ON THAT KIND OF GORGEOUS. For the next 3-hours, we took the time to soak in how beautiful the route was – stopping to take some pictures, chatting, talking training plans for triathlon season. Both of us have our competitive, PR-driven sides, but there was this mutual agreement that happened which threw that out the window for a minute to really see this run. We were enjoying the day, and that was AWESOME!

On meeting Eric at finish, he commented that this was the first half-mar he’d seen me look genuinely happy crossing the finish line.

We took advantage of drinks and food, and the massage table lines were short by that time, so I took advantage of that too.  I hugged a few friends and then it was time to ride back. RWB Rebecca had PR’d significantly on that hard course, so it was fun to swap our race stories on the way home. I declined going to the post-post-race party that night as I had to prep to teach 2 yoga classes at the race hotel the next day.

The Ending Line: As I move more into trail running, it’s getting harder to hear the call of pavement, so I’m not sure what will happen in terms of my choosing to run this race next year. It’s likely that I will, but weather made training this past Winter a miserable endeavor. It was tough to get the mileage in that I needed to really make a go of this race. So lots to mull over there. Trying to decide whether the 7-mile option might be better for me, though missing some of that scenery in the upper miles of the 13.1 is a heartbreaking thought too… There’s also the camaraderie I’d miss from the RTB friends I’ve made through being a race ambassador and yoga teacher, as well as the RWB Chapters that showed up from Chicago, Cincy & Lexington.

The Next Race: Um, the next race was this past Saturday – so I’m behind a full race recap on Forget the PR Mohican 25k.  Trust me when I say, I need to write that one up! Lots to say about that. Two weeks into the future, I’ll be doing a girls’ weekend at Country Music Half-Marathon in Nashville.