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 Holiday Sanity?

It’s December 21st and I still don’t have a tree up.

Yep, I seem to be winning as a mom, yet again. I mean, I got the elves out, so that counts for something, right? Let’s not really talk about the fact that the only reason the elves are img_0554-e1513893588192.jpgout is because the nine year old “reminded” us. And save for the one morning that it was discovered that they didn’t move from their location the previous day, which resulted in a voodoo-like ceremony complete with cinnamon sprinkled on an antique secretary desk, we’ve generally done pretty well.

img_0553I bought the stupid book that gave me ideas on all kinds of crazy elfin shenanigans, but really, they are just hanging from the same old ceiling fans and fireplace mantle. The creativity has just gone. OK, side note, I haven’t accidentally cooked the elves in the oven yet, so there is that, right?

I’d like to say that it was the marathon I ran this weekend that was the culprit for adding holiday stress, or the half marathon we directed, or the fact that Sean is opening up a pie shop. But really, this is nothing new. We seem to always be overbooked and looking for Texas A&M to hurry up and perfect human cloning so we can do everything we somehow commit ourselves to.

Parties.

Extra swim lessons to make up for the lessons missed on holidays.

Holiday treats for the nine year old’s class.

A new cat and not really sure how to put up a tree and not deal with the ensuing disaster that I hear cats are capable of with a tree.

Yep, my house is a wreck and the only way you know it’s Christmas currently is the slightly more frequent Amazon prime deliveries on the doorstep.

Sound familiar? Of course it does. We are all stretched way too thin this time of year.

So how do I plan to make it to the home stretch of December 25th without losing my crap?

img_0535For me, I choose to live in a sort of delusional parallel universe that if I’m not at the house seeing how much I need to clean, or the fact that the lights in the front yard were, in fact, placed there by said nine year old, then Christmas can be put off until I’m ready… next June… 😉

img_0353Yep, I go for a run. It doesn’t fix the fact that nothing is getting done, but it’s a great stress reliever! I am living in my little run skirts so that I can head out for a run at a moment’s notice. We are also using our Instant Pot like crazy to make sure dinner happens. I’m also trying to stick to my usual early morning swims so that I am at least getting something done before my day gets taken hostage by whatever crisis is coming my way.

Let’s see, what else?

img_0552Well, for starters, I have learned to take advantage of that Amazon Prime membership. Every time I think of something else I need, I just order it and voila, it shows up on my doorstep, many times the very next day. Even the toilet paper. Down to one roll? Open the app and order a case. If it can’t be Primed, chances are it’s not getting bought right now.

I quit getting creative with Christmas as well. I asked my kids for a list of all the little consumable crap they are always wanting. Clarinet reeds, extra bike tubes, CO2 cartridges, Pokémon cards, all of it. I made a list for each of them and added “gift cards” for two or three of their favorite stores. I purposely made sure the lists had even items that were less than $5. Then I took a photo of the lists and sent them to all the family members. But here is the kicker: I told the family that if they didn’t give me a list like these, they weren’t getting anything. This is the year of me NOT being creative and NOT going to the mall to just browse til I find that one gift. (insert eyeroll here)

img_0162We finally decided that we can’t be everywhere. It was hard to only show up for a party for thirty minutes, or not at all, but for the sake of our sanity, we had to draw a line in the sand. When the nine year old has on her wish list that we would spend more time with her, it made it super easy to walk out of that party. We have given ourselves permission to have a cluttered house and to let a lot of things go this year. But we have plans to finally go buy that Christmas tree tonight. And if we are lucky, get some plastic ornaments so that when the inevitable happens, and the tree falls due to a spastic cat, we can just pick right back up and keep moving forward. With grace. And a whole lot of laughter.

 

 

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.

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!

What’s Cooking: Cookie Balls

It’s no surprise that I love food, specially snacks and sweets, I mean, even the ol’ Instagram name is “erinrunsforcake.” LOL

So I have spent the last year or so testing out all sorts of recipes that would be nutritious and help me fuel for long training sessions, but also satisfy the sweet tooth and watch my calories. This has been my go-to snack.img_6237

Cookie Balls

  • 1 c. raw oats
  • 1/2 c. oat flour (I use raw oats and grind them up)
  • 1/2 c. ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1/2 c. natural peanut butter
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. mini chocolate chips

I seriously just dump all of the ingredients in a big mixing bowl, and with clean hands, mix it up and then make little 1″ balls. No baking, no cooking, nothing for me to screw up. Easy-peasy! They sit in an airtight container for several days, although truth be told, they don’t last that long because everyone in the house will walk by and grab one to snack on.

I usually pack two of them in a small container for my after lunch snack and that keeps me away from the candy machine at 3pm. They will seriously fill you up!

If you give this recipe a try, let me know how you like them!