Race Recap: Three Bridges Marathon 2017

I’m an enormous fan of the small races put on by local running clubs that benefit the local community somehow. There is just something about being Erin and not runner bib number 13,572. So, while I was in Little Rock, Arkansas last March, local runners were raving about their little community marathon and mentioned that it ran along the trail next to the Arkansas River. They promised me it was flat. LOL I put it on my list of races and signed up the moment it opened.

img_0473You see, the timing worked out beautifully. It was a week after the Dallas Marathon and I knew that I would be working that whole weekend at Dallas, making the idea of running a marathon a really bad idea. But it was just a week later, which meant my training schedule could still line up nicely with my training group and I would just extend my taper by a week. Bada bing. Bada boom.

I didn’t have any idea that this would be my final marathon until late in the summer when my health challenges became great enough for me to relent and agree with doctors that maybe these long distances weren’t a good idea for me any longer. If I knew that it was going to be my last, I would have probably chosen a big bucket list race – New York or Chicago or Houston. A big race with a big race atmosphere. But I was committed, so Arkansas it was.

Since it was really tough to find good race recaps on this small race, I thought I would give some insight on the whole weekend. It should be noted that the race is a marathon ONLY. No chance of dropping to a half or having the majority of the runners finish before you and taking all the post-race goodies! Everyone there was going to slay 26.2 miles that December morning.

img_0740Packet pickup was at a local running store. It was efficient and full of volunteers. We got a bib with a timing chip and a long-sleeved shirt. The store had a super good sale on all winter gear being marked down 50%, which I took advantage of since it was wicked cold when we arrived. In and out in just a few minutes and there were no problems with picking up the packets for my friends that had not yet arrived.

The race provides a six hour time limit. However, if you think you’ll finish in 5 1/2 hours or longer, they encourage you to take advantage of the early start. They have a fairly large group that starts early, so it isn’t like you’d be the only one out there. There were a bunch of Marathon Maniacs and 50 Staters that took advantage and I would estimate it was around 75 people. Not too shabby. Because you start at 5am when you start early, you need to carry what you need for a couple of hours, as aid stations are only just then getting set up, and you MUST have a headlamp. Seriously, that trail is completely dark.

There is no parking at the race site, so you MUST take the shuttle from a church about a img_0479mile away. The shuttles were warm and roomy. Not much more to say, other than door-to-door service was kind of nice. When we jumped off the shuttle, we headed straight to the portos (there were plenty so the wait wasn’t long) and then into the big food tent that had some of the best portable heaters I’ve ever seen. They looked like jet engines and put off enough heat to handle the 20* weather outside.

Despite the early start, we were treated to exactly the same start line experience that the regular runners were given, so it was still special.

img_0745The race is called three bridges because, duh, you go over three different bridges. The first one comes up about mile 1.5. The Big Dam Bridge is the longest pedestrian-only bridge in the United States and is really beautiful at sunrise. That takes you over to a very wooded area with a narrow paved trail that you follow along, through a new neighborhood being built (I can’t help it, I window shopped new houses while I ran!). The only issue we ran into was when we got dumped onto a street. The course could have been marked a little better. We faltered a little and guessed, hoping we were going the right way for about a quarter mile. Thankfully, there were other runners out there that knew the img_0742course and confirmed that we were still good to go. The street was my least favorite part of the course, because it was a deserted area that was industrial and full of warehouses. It felt like it dragged on forever. We finally came to the next bridge about mile 9 1/2. Yeah, all that and it was only the first 9.5 miles. This next bridge was the Clinton Bridge which was also a pedestrian bridge paved with bricks of all the donors to the Presidential Library. The course dumped us right at the library, through the cul-de-sac, and then backtracked all the way img_0743back to the start line. At mile 19. Yep, the ultimate test of mental strength is to have to be that close to the finish line and still have seven miles to go. The course has a north loop that takes you across the Two Rivers Bridge and onto a sort of wildlife sanctuary island. It wasn’t really an island, but felt like it. There were no roads, just trail – lots of deer and bunnies and beautiful paved trail. This final loop takes you to the finish line and the FOOD! There are not a lot of turns in this course, so there is plenty of opportunity for some fast times if you’re up for it.

Aid stations are plentiful! The race has water stops about every mile and a half and almost all of them included water, Gatorade, and food of all sorts. Those last seven miles I was like a mountain goat. I took in pickle juice, just because I hadn’t ever done it before and wanted to try it, Oreos, candy, orange slices, banana slices. It was a miracle my body didn’t revolt and insist on a porto mid-race.

 

The post-race was all in a large tent and the food was insane! It was an all you can eat buffet of sandwiches, chips, cookies, crackers, candy, sodas, water, coffee, pastries, and cup-a-noodles with hot water. I felt like I was at a trail ultra marathon, not a road marathon! There were lots of tables and chairs and just a lot of hanging around. The shuttle stop was right outside of the tent, so when we were ready to head to the car, we just grabbed a shuttle and went straight to the car.

There was only one small disappointment about the course – there is an absolutely stunning, wide paved trail on the other side of the river from where we ran for a large portion of the course. That part of the trail has gorgeous sculptures and gardens and I was hoping we would run through that. This course was a little more natural and rugged.

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All in all, this is a great local race that attracts a lot of runners from all over the country. Thirty-three states were represented in approximately 350 runners in 2017 and I would definitely encourage you to add it to your list of races to run.

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What Inspired You to Begin?

I get a little emotional the second Sunday in December. That’s the date of the Dallas Marathon, my hometown race.

I have lived in the neighborhood that the course runs through since I moved to Dallas. Oh, how it would piss me off to see my streets blocked on a random Sunday morning, making brunch plans impossible. To say I wasn’t a runner was an understatement.

In 2011, I topped out at 75+ pounds overweight. I was miserable. I was sedentary. I was on blood pressure medication and cholesterol medication. I was headed down the same damn path that so many take. It was my primary care doctor that just made an off-hand comment about how “this is as good as it gets” and “it’s all downhill from here.” I hated him at that moment. But a few weeks later, sitting on my hotel bed watching tv after a long day at work in another city, room service carnage all around me, something snapped. I literally, out loud, said “GET UP!”

I walked over to my laptop and joined Weight Watchers. I found a meeting at a location nearby and walked out of the hotel room. I stopped by the concierge desk and instructed them to remove the television from my room before I returned. They looked at me like I had three heads, but they said they would get it done. I sheepishly slinked into that first meeting to figure out if they could help me take control of my life. I was overwhelmed, but there was this insane drive to just make the change. I stopped by the Sports Authority that I saw on the way and bought a pair of workout pants and a pair of clearance shoes that I now know were nowhere near the right size. But the beauty of buying a pair on clearance was that no one had to help me, which meant I could remain as invisible as a fat middle-aged woman could be in a store she never thought she would be in. When I got back, I put those Nikes on told myself that if I was going to watch tv, it would be while walking on a treadmill.

But I digress… this is about the MARATHON!

So, fast forward a few months and it’s an insane, cold, stormy December morning in 2011. The family slept in, as usual, and we went out for a lazy Sunday meal. We went north, to Panera at North Park Mall, rather than our usual spots south of us because of the street shut downs. As I unapologetically ate that macaroni and cheese (side note: that stuff is amazing! All 950 calories of it!), the door opened. In walked a guy all bundled up and a woman who had just run the race. She was drenched, shivering, wrapped in a heat blanket and wore a medal.

She seriously looked like hell. Most would feel sorry for her, because seriously, it was COLD and WET that day! But all I saw on her face was exhausted confidence. She finished! She had an air that said she could conquer anything.

I turned back around and looked Sean right in the eyes and said, “I’m going to do that race!” His eyes widened and the concerned look came over his face.

“You know what race she just ran, right? I mean, do you even know how LONG the marathon is??”

“I don’t know, but I know I want to do that race. I want to know what that feeling is like. She looks like she can do anything!”

I hadn’t run a single step, but at that moment, I became a runner. I spent the next year tackling 5Ks and 10Ks and registered for the Half Marathon. I eventually ran the Dallas Marathon a couple of years later. Now, it’s a permanent spot on my calendar, either running or volunteering. I love this race and I love the people in it.

But the weekend always brings back that sense of nostalgia. I have no idea who that girl was. I don’t know if she ran the full, the half or even the relay. Maybe she was a “one and done-er.” But every year, I am reminded that the power of one person can profoundly change your entire life’s trajectory. So, my annual “thank you” goes out to her. Thank you for bringing me a confidence that I never had before. Thank you for helping me turn my entire family into a family of runners. Thank you for the amazing people that have been brought into my life. Thank you for showing me how awesome running and friendship could be. Thank you.

Medal Monday: Cane Field Classic 2017

OK, it’s not exactly Monday, but it’s close enough, right? So, let’s jump right in.

I had a planned trip this past weekend to sherpa for my son at Ironman 70.3 New Orleans, so when I saw that the Cane Field Classic was the day before his race, I kind of jumped on the registration. You see, last year my friends, Susan, Erika and Kim, did this race and had such a great time, they insisted that I put this on my list for consideration in the future.

I believe it was kismet that the races were on the same weekend.

So what is the Cane Field Classic? It’s actually three races. The first is called the Sugar Mile and it’s a one mile race on a dirt path. The second race is a four mile race on trail, a little more technical and really pretty through tall sugar cane stalks. A little more technical, but nothing bad. The third, and final, race is called the Rows of Hell and is two miles through very tight, shoulder-high sugar canes. The sugar cane stalks are sharp and the dirt between the rows are rutted out and only wide enough to put one foot directly in front of the other, otherwise, your ankles are rolling in the whole time. When you complete all three races, you earn a machete!img_6906-1

Packet pickup was pretty standard. A bib and a shirt. The shirt was a super soft cotton that came in a variety of colors. I chose the blue shirt and Sean chose a red one. The car dealership gave out reusable water bottles and made sure there was plenty of water for all of the runners each time we went through the start/finish line.

img_6834Because they are three back-to-back races, I was worried about maintaining a pace that would allow me to finish in time to start the next race. I was assured it wouldn’t be a problem. Come to find out, the group didn’t start the next race until the last finisher came in from the previous race! It was such a great experience to see all of the runners, including the fasties, cheering on every single finisher. This was truly more of party than a competitive race, which was evidenced by the fact that the kegs were tapped before the first race began. LOL We received a dog tag at the finish line of the last race, and then turned in our wristband for the customized machete.

img_6830The post-race party was a blast! They had jambalaya being made while we ran, so there was delicious food to be washed down by the beer. The weather was actually really good Saturday morning and didn’t rain, as had been predicted a few days earlier. I understood why they recommend a pair of long pants for the last race. My legs were torn up a little bit and stung like crazy. Note to self: seriously, wear pants. On the plus side, I did put on a pair of knee-high compression socks that morning. Despite the fact that I thought I looked a little dorky, they were a godsend out there because the tall grass squick me out. 

Verdict: I had a great time! The Rows of Hell was truly the hardest 15 minute miles I have ever run, but it’s hard not to laugh and sing the whole way with the rest of the runners. I would totally do this race again if I find myself in Baton Rouge on race weekend. I met some great people out there and decided that I *might* need to buy a pair of trail shoes soon. Uh oh! I hear some dirt calling!img_6844

 

 

Find the friends that pause your Garmin…

I love my little “Time Hop” app. I take a bunch of photos (most of which don’t show up anywhere but my phone) and I love to be able to see a glimpse of where I was a year ago or longer. It’s my way of celebrating life every single day. But I noticed over the last several days that I had NO photos pop up from a year ago. Sure, I had them from further back, but it was crazy that I had none from this week last year.

Then this one came up this morning…

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And it all came rushing back. I was in the hospital again, fighting. I was praying that I could just get back to my usual daily level of pain. I was, frankly, a little worried about my family because it was the first time that I felt like maybe this kidney wasn’t playing games. An infection had free reign to cause all sorts of havoc and not one of my internal organs had the strength to fight anymore. It traveled through my blood, making a pit stop in my heart and lungs, which was my ticket to an all-inclusive stay at Baylor Hospital, where I can assure you, the food doesn’t taste like it does on the beaches of Mexico.

img_6570I don’t talk a lot about this particular incident because it’s the closest I’ve come to completely shutting down. When even the infectious disease doctors are telling you they are throwing everything at it and your body isn’t responding, and they are talking about ICU and days not years, you know crap’s about to get real. Clearly, the smart doctors were able to synthesize an IV-cocktail of nuclear bomb proportions, because a year later, I get to tell this little story, so silver lining and all…

 

But this is probably one of my favorite photos of two friends that wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and came to see me and cheer me up. They stuck by me before and after this photo. They paused my Garmin when I collapsed on a training run (seriously, only the best of friends remember to do that!). They helped me joke with the nurses that they were there to help spring me from the joint so I could go for a run (apparently they took that seriously, because they had a nurse stationed outside my door 24/7 after that). They cried with me when my marathon six weeks later fell apart and I had to walk the final 14 miles after again, blacking out mid-run, because I didn’t want my daughter to see me as a quitter. We don’t talk about the fact that I *might* not have been cleared to do this race. And we don’t talk about the fact that I know, looking back, that I should not have run.

But looking back at all of this, this photo represents something even bigger for me. It has been an entire year since I have been in the hospital!!! After this last brush with a bright light, my kidney doctor played around with my medication and we have found something that has been able to generally keep it from doing anything nutty. I’m not quite sure what to do with all that money I’m not spending in deductibles this year. Maybe new sunglasses? LOL

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Find the friends that pause your garmin when you fall…

 

What Does it Mean to be #epic?

It started out harmlessly as a phrase – the “epic fail.”

img_6514Somehow, it really morphed into my little mantra, my hashtag, a few years ago. But really, what does it mean?

For me, epic is the act of throwing it out there and living life as it was meant to be lived. Sure, it could result in an “epic fail.” But it could also be amazing. To be epic is to step out of comfort zones to try new things, meet new friends, choosing joy over all else.

To be scared, but to do it anyway. Yeah, it’s probably very public, too. LOL

img_0720I have what will be my last marathon coming up in a few short months. Yep, I said it – final. I’m truly petrified that it will be a crash and burn. Why not – the last one sure was. It’s been a heck of a ride, but my health challenges have caught up to me and I made a promise to my doctors that I would dial it back really soon. They promised to keep me patched together with duct tape if necessary, for a few bucket list items I really want to do, so 2018 is planned out to be a big blow out with a half Ironman and one ultra marathon in one of my most favorite places. In other words – EPIC.

It’s all good, I can’t wait to see how much I can improve on the short distance stuff. Even better? Less training and more FUN! 😉

So the biggest question is – are you waking up every day, deciding that it will be EPIC? Jump right on out of that comfort zone and dream really BIG! Join a new group, take up a new skill, enroll in a class, do something that absolutely terrifies you, take the risk, and JUMP! Sure, it might not be perfect. Life rarely is. But man, what a ride.

xoxo

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Friday Favorites: Lip Color

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OK, this is totally girly and high maintenance, but there is something about having lip color on. I don’t wear makeup pretty much ever (unless it’s a special occasion or some big business meeting that I need to attend). I’m really just a brush my hair and go kind of girl, because I like sleep and training too much to care.

img_1366But yeah, the lip color. I’ve always had to have some sort of color on my lips, even when I’m out there running. I used the Cover Girl lip stain for years because it generally would hold up for most of the workout. But as I was standing in line waiting to swim at my first triathlon this year, a girl standing next to me noticed my lip stain and asked if it was LipSense and what color it was.

I gave her this really puzzled look because I had never heard of that stuff before, but like most things I don’t know about, I just smiled and made a note to look it up later. Flash forward to the end of the race and of course I couldn’t remember a stinking thing. Whatever…

But at a road race a few months later, there was a lady at a tent selling this stuff! It was like it was karma telling me I needed this lipstick. I blindly handed over my credit card after being told it wouldn’t ever come off until I wanted it to come off. Well, we’ll see.

img_6245She was right! I am completely hooked on this stuff and have eight different colors for all of my moods. AND THE GLOSS! I have PINK.GLITTER.GLOSS. The key is to use it exactly as the directions state. One coat, wait til it dries, another coat, wait til it dries, then a third coat and wait til it dries. Then go crazy with the gloss from the same company because it locks it in.

I have worn it for open water swims of an hour and it still looks like I just put it on. I have worn it for three hour long runs and all the water stops and eating that goes along with it, and it still looks like I just put it on. I have women make comments at the end of triathlons at the finish line about how I MUST have put lipstick on before I crossed the finish line and where the heck did I carry it.

I don’t sell this stuff, and you could likely find someone local for you, but if you want a really sweet gal who is a public school teacher looking to make a little extra cash, send me a message and I’ll introduce her to you!

Favorites Friday: Running Skirts!

Whoooshhhhh…

Man, this poor little blog is a little dusty.

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Since the height of fall marathon season has kicked in here in Texas, I thought I’d start off my renewed commitment to the written word with (cue the music…) “a few of my favorite things.”

I will begin this particular post with the disclaimer that I am an Ambassador for Skirt Sports. I don’t get paid and I don’t get any sort of commission, but I get a little discount on the items I can’t live without as well as a discount for all of you in exchange for spreading the skirt love in my little world. Now that we have that out of the way…

When I first started on my journey to lose weight, oh sometime about six or seven years ago now, I began to walk. Walking turned to runs. It was pretty awesome. But I was genetically gifted with, dun dun dun…. CHUB RUB. Come on ladies, most of you don’t have that thigh gap, and YOU NOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT. First it begins with the thighs that kind of catch when you’re mid-run. But then the sweat starts to give it a little lubrication, and you think you’re out of the woods. But no. About a mile later, you’ve got a little heat that has built up and (sorry men, it’s not THAT kind of heat). Before you know it, there is a little stinging involved.

imageMy options included giving up the idea of wearing shorts and just resigning myself to those running capris. But I’ve got to tell you, it’s darn hot here in Texas and humid to boot. If I could run nekkid and get away with it, I would! So I began my quest for something better. A random post all those years ago on a weight loss message board was ultimately what introduced me to the running skirt, specifically, Skirt Sports. I was promised that those skirts would change my life.

I was all about changing my life at that point, so I took a look. Back then, the selection was just a couple of styles, so it was easy for me to grab a gym girl ultra skirt and be done with it. The company promised that the little compression shorts would hold all of me in there (yeah, that was a concern at the time) and were long enough to cover all the way down to that little piece of meat on the thigh that was causing all my angst. Verdict? Well, there is a reason I ONLY run in Skirt Sports running skirts.

But enough time in the old way-back machine… let’s talk about the here and now.

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My friends are as diverse as their favorite skirts!

The skirts have come a long way and there are so so many to choose from, it’s almost dizzying. So, the big question is… what features are important to you? Coverage of the leg? Length of the shorts underneath? Adjustability of the waistband with a drawcord? Pockets to fit your iPhone or run nutrition?

When my friends ask me which skirt to buy for their first, I almost always tell them “gym girl ultra” because it’s a tried and true classic. But I scoured through the website this morning and put together this little handy-dandy table of all the features of the various skirts being currently sold in the hopes that it helps all of you decide which skirt is your soulmate…

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Oh, and as I talked about earlier, my friends get a discount on their Skirt Sports order! This code (FWS20) is good only once per customer and expires 9/30/2017 and can be used at www.skirtsports.com. We get new codes every quarter, so you can place an order every quarter with discount codes!

So, do you have a favorite style? I’ve been challenged to break out of the old comfort zone (I mean, really, I have more than 30 gym girl ultra skirts alone!) and try a different style I didn’t think I would like. I’ve bought a Happy Girl, a Jette, a Peek-A-Boo and a Mod Quad. Which one should I try next?