The Turkey Sandwich Duathlon – a new holiday tradition!

At our house, the weekend after the big turkey day is usually spent visiting with friends and family, watching football, and maybe raking some leaves. This year, however, we added in a new tradition- the Turkey Sandwich Duathlon. Some of my friends and I were chatting one night about the lack of duathlons in our area. We are part of a large women’s only running group and many of the ladies in the group like to bike and/or swim. We started talking about the overall lack of duathlon options in our area, which jump-started the idea: “Why don’t we just run our own self-supported duathlon in November?”.  My friend quickly came up with the concept- a 12-mile bike out and then back, with a 10K run (at Turkey Run Park) sandwiched in between.  And, voila, the Turkey Sandwich Duathlon was born! We settled on a start time and then put out the call for other ladies in our group to join us.

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The morning of the race, the weather was great-a sunny 45 degrees with a slight breeze. We gathered at the trailhead start with a little chatter and bike check and then we were off!  The 12-mile bike out to our transition area is mainly flat with a few smaller ascents and one larger descent.  Our members broke up into packs of 2 or 3 and chatted as we made the ride out.  One long, flat part of this route is called “The Strand”, personally one of my favorite parts of the park to run in, and we took in all of the beautiful scenery this portion of the ride had to offer as we made our way through.

At the transition area, everyone waited for the last rider to come in, we racked our bikes and then took off for the 10K portion in Turkey Run.  This part of the course had the most elevation change and our legs were feeling it! I took off with the lead pack at a swift pace but ended up pulling back after the first major hill to a more comfortable pace.  The sun was out and it started to get warm, so I took off my buff, gloves, and jacket to get more comfortable.  At this point, I was running by myself and it was nice to have some quiet time in the sun, just running and enjoying the morning.  At the 3 mile turnaround, I caught sight of the runners in front and back of me (thanks, hills) and made a detour to the Silo at the top of the hill–I climbed the silo and yelled out to my fellow runners below. The view was stunning!  On the run back to the bike racks, I ran back with my husband and we saw several large deer.  We both agreed it was a beautiful day to be out at the park.

 

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This is me at the top of the Silo at mile 3.
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A gorgeous silo top view of our 10K run course.
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Wonderful bridges and landscape views during our run.

 

Once back at the bike racks, we waited for all runners to come in, and then we jumped back on our bikes for the 12-mile return ride.  At this point,  my legs were getting tired and I wasn’t sure how I felt about the ride back!  I reminded myself that it was mostly flat and I had done harder things and off we went.  Little did I realize, when we were in the hills running, the wind picked up.  I was glad I put my gloves back on before we started the windy ride back-it seemed we were riding with a cross-wind now. Then we hit the first larger ascent! The lady I was riding with and I were laughing so hard because we were having so much difficulty getting up that hill! I think we were slightly delirious because it was no laughing matter–it was some hard work, for sure.  We did make it up the hill and then only had 6 miles or so to go, thank goodness. Our last half mile, we hit the second larger hill and promised ourselves we would not walk the hill. And we didn’t! I was very proud of both of us, considering this was my first “longer” ride in 2 months, I had completed a two-hour spin class two days prior, and this was the first duathlon my friend had completed!

 

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Our elevation on the ride back…that last half mile was a doozy.

 

Our finish line party was quite the soiree, complete with pizza, beverages and finisher medals! I look forward to making this an annual tradition.  Not only was it a great way to get out and challenge ourselves after the holiday, but also it was great to do this with such an amazing group of women and athletes.  (Oh, and we forgot to pack leftover turkey sandwiches as part of the finish line party, but there is always next year!)

 

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Showing off our medals.
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Proud finishers of the 1st Annual Turkey Sandwich Duathlon!

 

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It is time to make 2018 running plans! How do you decide?

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Have you ever been at that point in your running journey where you cannot decide what is next?  Recently, I and a good running friend realized we had such great race experiences in 2017, we were not sure how we could top them in 2018! Where to start? What do I focus on–there are so many options including, roads, trails, duathlons, and tris!  I sat down several weeks ago and started looking at my 2018 calendar, wondering just how I could fit it all in…In 2017, my race calendar filled up quickly as I signed up to train/race with friends or because I decided to give triathlons a try.   While I did them all of these races with glee, I really felt like my training was scattered and I was not focused at all. I needed to settle down and get serious about 2018 goals!  So, I did what every MotherRunner would do; I sent my Fairy God Mother Runner a text asking for help! After I explained my dilemma and heard her advice, I came out of that conversation knowing that I would plan to train for two major races in 2018.

Ultimately, I have decided to give my first ultramarathon distance a go.  I love long distances! There is something about running all of those miles that makes me giddy.  So, here we go, I have already signed up for the Pistol Ultra 50K in the Spring and am researching other options for the Fall. I hope to also keep up my cross-training in the attempt to throw in a few sprint tris in for fun along the way!

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So,  I am curious how do you decide which races to sign up for in any given calendar year? Do you plan it out well in advance or register for things as you see them pop up?  Do you have an “A” race that you set a max goal for or do you sign up for several races without a predetermined goal?  I am always interested to hear how other athletes set their plans and create training schedules, so if you have any wisdom to pass along, I am grateful.

Here is to happy running for the rest of 2017 as we look to the future and what 2018 holds!

 

 

What is your “why”?

After 7 months of training for races, I found myself not signed up for one race for the rest of the year.  I have to admit, 2017 has been epic in terms of race experiences– I’ve already completed a half marathon, Ragnar Trail Relay, a full marathon, my first duathlon AND my first triathon, along with a few others thrown in the mix for fun!  I was able to run with friends, run happy, and run injury free.  But now, here I sat, running maybe 40 miles a month and wondering which direction to go next…I needed to make some decisions and start to build my running base again.

Without clear direction, I did what every mother runner does, I sent my Fairy God Mother Runner a text message and asked her what I should do next. I told her I may have lost my running mojo and wasn’t sure which direction to turn or what race to set my sights on next…and maybe, just maybe, I had lost my passion for running.  Her immediate response back to me:

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I was stunned. I was upset.  My inner dialogue kicked in:  “Why is she asking me this? Maybe she thinks I have lost my running mojo, too! *gulp*  I have plenty of reasons to run! Dozens! Is she doubting me?”  I had to stop and think–> don’t be defensive. She is asking you this for a reason. Tell her why!  So, I immediately started making a list of the reasons why I run on my phone note pad. Here is the abbreviated version:

Top 10 reasons why I run:

  1. I run for my health (physical, mental, and emotional).
  2. I run to model a healthy lifestyle in the hopes that my children pay attention and maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout their lives.
  3. Running is a way for me to think without interruption; some days it is my only quiet time.
  4. Running makes me feel strong.
  5. I run for Jessica.
  6. Running has allowed me to meet amazing people who help support and motivate me.
  7. I run to help motivate other women in my running group.  I want them to see they can set and reach goals they once never thought they could.
  8. I love to learn. Running is a teacher. I am the student.
  9. Running allows me to set (and crush) new goals. Nothing better than checking off an item most people would never attempt to even write down on their list in the first place.
  10. Running links me to a place in my mind I’ve only ever been twice before in my life–during the labor and birth of my children. Nothing else gives me that feeling!  It is the adrenaline rush and I am a junkie.

I typed out more than this, but decided to only include 10 here. My point is, my Fairy God Mother Runner knew what she was doing when she asked me this question. Certainly, I cannot get on with the what or how before I know the why!

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I challenge you to write down your whys and put them in a place you can see daily or easily reference.  When you start to doubt yourself or question your direction, read the list. Remember why you run.  It is only then that you can light the fire to set new goals and start the next leg of your running journey.

For the love of running,

BluegrassBAMR

 

What makes a “good” runner?

I am part of a local running club in my town. I LOVE it. It is a group for women ONLY and their running experience varies from novice to seasoned veteran.  I love the group for so many reasons, but one of my favorite things about this group is the enthusiasm the runners have for one another.  There is a sisterhood present and so steeped in the desire to motivate, encourage, and see other women meet their goals — it makes me so happy!  I revel in the goals these ladies meet each week — running without stopping for a mile, hitting a PR, completing a first 5k (or 50k!). Let me tell you, these women are amazing.

BUT, let me tell you about the crazy day that made me write this post in the first place.  I was going for a 4 mile run and started thinking about how LONG it felt to run 4 miles. I thought, “Why is this so hard?”.  The first four months of the year, I had ran over 100 miles each month. I ran a marathon in April, for Pete’s sake. So, what was I doing out here feeling like I was running ten times farther than my actual distance…? And as I pushed forward, I started thinking all I want to do is be a “good” runner.  

Wait. What?

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Being a “good” runner – What does that even mean? 

So, for the rest of my run, I pondered this idea-what makes a “good” runner.

Oftentimes, I will hear runners emphasize their pace or distance.  By that, I mean, “faster” or “longer” runs are “better” or define a “good” runner (yes I am using a lot of quotation marks here, I know).  But I started thinking about that more. My pace is fair and I’ve ran two marathons at this point. Maybe that makes me a good runner. Maybe not. But, I do know that I always want to improve and find new challenges.  I started thinking about other runners I know.  Some are not as fast as me; some have run distances far past 26.2 miles; some run happy every time they run; some never give up, even through injury or personal conflicts.  And that is when I realized, there is no singular definition of a good runner.  But, based upon my experiences with my local running community, I think there are some key elements that one should possess to be a “good” runner. Here is the attributes list I came up with while running; I made it from the main attributes of people I know here in my local running community that I would place in the GREAT runner category.

  • Heart – Running  isn’t for the faint of heart. If running was easy, everyone would do it.  We all start out as new runners; oftentimes out of shape or inexperience. If your heart isn’t in it, it is easy to make excuses and stop.
  • Determination/Courage – Running makes you face your fears. It can take you places you never thought you could go.  There are days you can doubt yourself or think you can’t do it, but good runners still lace up and get out there, despite the odds.
  • Goal-setter – The goal is always based upon the individual runner, but always there is a end goal. The good runners are stating their goals, making a plan, and meeting the end goal.  Oftentimes, they are encouraging others to do the same.
  • Finds joy in the process – Some of the best runners I know that have been running for years can still find joy in the process.  Part of that is probably because they are always setting new goals, but the other part may be that they can appreciate running for what it is.  If you are running, at any pace or distance, it means you are healthy and able–certainly there is JOY in that!

So, if you can see any of these attributes in yourself, then you can guarantee I think you’ve made the list when it comes to what defines a “good” runner. Running as a sport is a fluid concept, much like life. There are times we will have good running days, and there are times when we will have not so good running days. The point is to enjoy each day as it comes and know that you are worth the challenge.  

every day

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women and the hats they wear…

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So, the photo is just to get your attention. Sort of.  But it is also illustrates the juggling I do every day–as a woman, mother, wife, and daughter.  I am a runner, a sister, an aunt, a friend, an employee, a student, a care taker, a mentor….the list goes on and on. Think about it. If I asked you right now how many roles you played (“hats you wear”) in a day, what would your “hat count” be in total?

I really started thinking about this “hat count” when I saw a conversation recently in a Women For Tri group.  The original post was from an athlete talking about finding, and losing, a balance of her roles when training for an Ironman.   She poured her heart out on camera, in the middle of her living room floor with piles of laundry, a dirty floor and  mounds of back to school paperwork surrounding her. She had just returned home from her race the day before and was exhausted.  Instead of eating, resting, recovering, this woman was faced with the task of picking back up where she had left off weeks, probably even months, ago.  She broke down on the camera and said she just wanted to revel in the one thing she had ever done in her life for herself–train and complete an Ironman–and she could not because, well, life was calling.  She was very frustrated, but at the same time, she was very proud to have accomplished a life-long dream, all while being a single mom, raising a child with special needs, and working full-time during her training.

The comments that poured in to her were amazing and supportive. Women who did not have children, women who had supportive families, women who were going through the same things she was–they were all there saying “Keep your head up.  If you can do that, you can do anything.” “You are amazing.” “You are inspiring.”  “Let the laundry wait.” “Who can help you with the paperwork?”  “Stay strong.”  It gave me hope. Hope for this woman to eventually get her child enrolled in a new school, find her living room floor again, and even rest eventually.

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The other thought I had when reading this woman’s story and the comments, was “Wow. These women are amazing.”  The women coming to her support were all different levels of athletes, but they were surrounding her and lifting her up in a way that I personally don’t see women do enough.  We are talking women with MANY hats. They didn’t have to be there supporting this woman, but here they were, telling her she CAN do it. Telling her she WILL do it.  Telling her to BE KIND TO HERSELF.  Telling her to STOP and REVEL in this one thing, even just for a moment. These women are the kind of women I want to be like; the kind of women I try to surround myself with for so many reasons.  They were not saving her by telling her to take off some of her hats (i.e. giving up something she loves being), they were gently reminding her how to balance her hats.

Her post reminded me that even on the days when I might struggle to balance training with all of the other things life hands me, I can do what I need to do to meet my goals and not necessarily have to give up any of my roles. 

So many times we are busy taking care of everyone else, we put ourselves last. I am grateful I have a supportive family, but I am also grateful for the women I have met through my local running group.  The ladies of Moms Run This Town/She Runs This Town in Louisville GET ME. They know what I am trying to do and they have my back on the days when I am having the hardest time keeping all of my hats balanced.

Ladies, if you are struggling and don’t have women like this in your life, go find them. They are out there waiting for you. They will understand and appreciate you far more than you realize.  And, they will help push your hats back up on top of your head when they see them leaning a little too far to one side.   

 

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Trying in Indy- my first sprint triathlon!

If you’ve been following my journey this summer, you know that my first attempt at a triathlon was unsuccessful (due to weather the swim portion was cancelled-read more about MingoMan Triathlon here)! So, I decided to give it another “tri” and headed to Indianapolis for TRI Indy.  I signed up for the sprint distance again as this was my first attempt and I didn’t want to bite off more than I could chew!  Turns out, I surprised myself in a few ways…

 

My husband I arrived in Indianapolis and headed straight to packet pick-up, which was a breeze. We snuck into the 101 course for newbies and listened to race organizers give last minute tips and tricks and tell us about the course. I recommend if you are new to the sport or aren’t familiar to the course to attend a clinic if they offer it at your race. You will learn at least one thing that is helpful for your race day!  After the beginner’s clinic, we headed to find my training partner and her husband and walked the course to get familiar with the swim portion and the transition area.  The swim is in the canal through downtown and both Transition 1 (T1) and Transition 2 (T2) are in the same grassy area of the park. The course is actually quite beautiful! After walking the course, my training partner and I were a little sad we didn’t sign up for the Olympic option as my husband did.  After walking the course, we went back to our hotel to get some rest.

Race day morning was uneventful in terms of logistics–parking was a breeze and getting our bikes racked only took minutes.  We had read that the swim start was a walk so we made it there early and took our time. I walked my husband to the Olympic swim start, said good luck, and headed back to find my training partner as we did not start for another hour.  We were able to watch the Olympic racers swim by, which was exciting!

 

The weekend had been cool and the water temp for that morning was around 72 degrees at 7:30 am, making it wet suit legal. For the swim portion, you corral yourself in a line and then every 2 seconds, someone jumps from the platform into the canal, so it took us a good 20 minutes to get into the water. As you are in the line waiting, you were given the option to get in the water to warm up. Neither my training partner nor I had on a wet suit, so we declined the warm-up as people were in the water with teeth chattering.  Looking back, this could have been my first mistake!  Finally, it was our turn to take to the platform and jump in-my friend went first and I quickly followed suit behind her.  As my body hit the water, I immediately realized I was not prepared for how cold the water actually was and it immediately took my breath away. For the next 250-300 meters I struggled to find my breath and swim correctly – it was HORRIBLE.  My friend’s husband was walking along the canal and could see that I was not happy and came back to walk along beside me and talk to me.  I was so grateful for his support and his encouragement to keep going forward.  I stopped twice to flip over onto my back and catch my breath: once I even stood up in the canal to try to calm my heart rate down! Finally after what seemed like 40 minutes, I got it together and swam correctly the remainder of the way, but it was still slower than I wanted.  I am not a fast swimmer, but was hoping to do my swim in less than 15 minutes. Instead I got out of the water in a little over 19 minutes! Regardless, I was done with the swim and ecstatic to move on to the bike and warm up.

My T1 time was at two minutes and then I was off on the bike!  I loved this bike course, mainly because after my last race my friend helped me make a minor adjustment to my gears, which made a huge difference this time! The bike course is a 12 mile loop and it is quite rough.  They do warn you about this, so mentally, I was prepared and just hoped I didn’t pop a tire.  I smiled most of the bike, knowing that the swim was behind me and I was one leg away from finishing my first tri!  I said hello to people on the course, thanked the volunteers and police officers (they had a great presence on the course) as I rode by, and cheered on the runners as I came back into the transition area.  My bike time was at 39 minutes, totally smashing my average pace and speed from my last race!

In transition, I jumped off of the bike and threw my visor on and went for it!  I did not take any nutrition during the race up to this point, so I did take advantage of the aid stations during the run portion (one each mile with lots of smiling faces).  It was hot and I wanted to make sure my strongest event stayed that way! The 3.1 mile loop was beautiful, although a little tight in the beginning.  After the first mile, I got through some of the Olympic racers on their second loop and felt more comfortable.  The run was not my PR for a 5K, but it was certainly right where I wanted it to be for race day, thanks to my brick work-outs.  A respectable 26 minutes and smiling the whole time due to the exhilaration of knowing I was finishing my first triathlon-it was an amazing feeling for sure.  My friend and her husband were waiting for me at the finish line. We had done it and we couldn’t stop grinning!

 

Lessons learned from this race:  I think I should have taken the option of warm-up prior to swim start. Looking back, if I did get in for warm-up, I might have given my body time to adjust to the water and it would not have shocked my body so badly when I jumped in to swim.  I need to think about investing in a wet suit if I am going to do other races with open water swim.  I also need more practice in OWS, which I already knew, but this race was a good reminder to get out there during training and put myself in conditions similar to race day.  I might also consider taking some nutrition on the bike portion of the race so that I don’t need to worry about that during the run portion of the race, especially if it is a hot day.

Most importantly, I have learned that triathlons are really about the individual athlete.  It is different than a single event race!  I had women in front of me that dusted me on the swim, but I passed them on the run. I had men behind me on the swim that passed me on the bike. You cannot compare yourself to another athlete in these cases; everyone has strengths and weaknesses, but one thing is for sure, we are all there to improve in the ways that we can during race day.  Overall, I placed 5th in my age group with a time of 1:42:46.9 and I am happy with the outcome. Moreover, I am ready to take on more races like this with hopes to take what I’ve learned and apply it for an even better finish.

 

Things I wish they had told me about triathlon training…

Well, it happened. I signed up for my first sprint triathlon this past December, with a race date of June 25th. I had been curious about the sport and thought it would be a great way to ring in my 41st birthday (the same weekend of the race).  Little did I know how much I was going to learn about the sport, and about myself, in the process.   Full disclosure:  the most swimming I’ve done in my life included a lake, some floating chairs and a cold adult beverage.  I mean, I could stay afloat or swim casually to the other side of the banks, but I was in no means trying to break any records.  I had never, ever, set foot in a lap lane before I started triathlon training.  As for biking, well I had owned a few bikes in my lifetime, but never anything that was going to carry me through a road race (think banana seats and mountain bikes up to this point).  I say these things because I never, ever though in a million years I would do a triathlon. Never say never.

Here are a few things I wish other people had warned me about before I started training. I am passing them on to you in case you are thinking about training for a triathlon (because if you have the yearning and will to do it, you will):

Swim with the big dogs. (And I don’t mean doggie paddle).

  • It is intimidating to go to the pool and start your training.  At first, I tried to find the times when the pool was the least crowded. I didn’t want to have to share a lane at all.  Guess what? You need to get over that.  Whether you are doing an open water swim or a pool swim for your race, you need to try to recreate the elements as best you can. This means crowded, choppy waters in a less than best case scenario.  So, go to the pool when it is crowded. Jump in the lane with the chick who has the Ironman swim cap on or when the swim team is practicing (or both!).  Find swim/tri groups in your community that have open water swim practice for added safety.  You need to be able to swim in water that mirrors race day conditions, so seek it out and go for it. It will build your confidence and make you best prepared for race day.19055350_10212933734956664_1888282938666851018_o

Don’t worry about how you look in  your race attire.

  • Great news – You don’t have to spend a fortune on race attire if you don’t want to, especially if you are starting out with a sprint or olympic tri. At this level of racing, you will see everything from swimsuits to skinsuits to sports bras & capris to tri kits.  Pick what works for your budget.  Practice in it often.
  • Even better news — NOONE cares what you are wearing or what you look like in it on race day.  Do you know why? Because you trained just like they did and you showed up to do an amazing race very few will ever attempt to do.  You have arrived.  And you are going to rock whatever you are wearing, regardless of your shape and size.  

Don’t underestimate the bike portion of your training. That old saying, “It is just like riding a bike” is misleading.  It is NOT just like riding a bike. Unless you are actually riding a tricycle or a bike with no gears and a basket on the front, it is MUCH HARDER than JUST riding a bike. It is riding a bike at what feels like breakneck speed, knowing when to gear up/down, sometimes in traffic, with Ironman contenders flying past you.  Don’t underestimate it. Find a group to ride with on your training rides; learn the rules of the road, even if that means finding a safety course, and respect the bike portion of the tri.

You may feel out of your league when you arrive on site for race day.  My friend and I showed up for our first triathlon and looked like wide-eyed children at Disneyland for the first time. Keep in mind, between the two of us, we had run our fair share of foot races up to marathon distance.  We had been training for many months.  The race atmosphere is magical, but also overwhelming. There were so many people there with expensive gear. There was transition set up at 2 separate sites at our race.  There were many classified as elite racers using this race as Ironman training.  My friend turned to me and said “All of the sudden I don’t feel like I belong here.” I turned to her and said, “Not yet. But you will soon.” Don’t let that feeling shake you on race day. Remind yourself you have put in the training time and you belong there like everyone else!

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Remember nothing is impossible!  A good friend of many in the local running community, herself an Ironman, reminded us in the days surrounding this first triathlon:

“Don’t surround yourself with limits, but be realistic about your weaknesses to improve them. If you want to do one {Ironman/triathlon} (or any other scary goal)- put in the training, learn from others, be optimistic….” ~Jeanette Dunlap

 

This is some of the best advice I’ve received from another athlete, and it really applies to any goal in life.  Happy Running my friends. Here is to the next goal!

Endnote: My triathlon on the 25th was changed to a duathlon due to high waters and flooding. You can read the full race review here.  At the time of publication, I am signing up for my second triathlon, with hopes to finally get that open water swim under my belt as part of the race.  

 

 

 

Team Clowns in the Woods – Ragnar Relay 2017

The Ragnar Trail Kentuckiana Relay 2017 was amazing! My team members were some of the most amazing women and men I could know. As their captain, I have to say I assembled quite a super team.  If you haven’t experienced a Ragnar Relay race, there are trails or road options and I highly encourage you to try it once.  We had a blast! I could write about it, or you could watch the short video below and see all you need to know.

Click here to see Team “Clowns in the Woods” experience!

 

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