The View from the Back of the Pack – Mercedes Marathon Recap

By February 25, 2015 Birmingham, Race Reports, Running
Mercedes Marathon, marathon, back-of-the-pack runner, race volunteers

This will be a different type of race report than the one I had originally planned to write. This is more of a rant-y one, a call-to-action. You’ve been warned.

The hubs and I ran the Mercedes Marathon this past weekend. This was my fourth year running it, and it is such a good race. Home turf, well-organized, full of friends, impressive medal and after party.

Mercedes Marathon, marathon, back-of-the-pack runner, race volunteers

The only Mercedes emblem I want to own

Originally, I was going to pace the hubs to a PR. But he had been battling bilateral Achilles tendonitis for a few weeks, and his ankles were obviously hurting. So my plan shifted to keeping him relatively uninjured and upright as he crossed the finish line.

Mercedes Marathon, marathon, back-of-the-pack runner, race volunteers

What a miserable little monkey

Because of this, we ran/walked and finished in 5:32:47, making us back-of-the-pack runners. Now, I’m usually a midpack runner, so this race was a whole new experience for me and opened my eyes to some things that made my blood boil. As we were running the final miles of the race, a lot of organizations and spectators started to leave. Before all the runners had passed. The fuck?

Mercedes Marathon, marathon, back-of-the-pack runner, race volunteers

Is this a race? Where are the people?

The hubs was too mentally checked out at this point to really notice or care. But it fired me up for my good friend Rachel, who was a few minutes ahead of us and running her first marathon. She and all the runners around us were missing out on cheers and smiles of encouragement—all things runners need and appreciate while running 26.2 miles.

Mercedes Marathon, marathon, back-of-the-pack runner, race volunteers

This girl is a marathoner!

I want to make it perfectly clear that I’m not referring to the official water stops—they were still up and running and well-supported. You all rock! I’m talking about some of the cheer stations who were either packing up before our eyes or were long gone when we ran past on the second loop.

Mercedes Marathon, marathon, back-of-the-pack runner, race volunteers

Signs Resolute Running put out for their runners

Do you know what message you give when you break down early? That slower runners don’t matter. That they don’t deserve the same enthusiasm and support and encouragement as faster runners. And that’s terrible. Back-of-the-pack runners are not any less of a competitor. They pay the same race fee, put in as much, if not more effort, and spend the longest amount of time on the course.

Mercedes Marathon, marathon, back-of-the-pack runner, race volunteers

Thankful for volunteers and moon pies at Mile 24

Put yourself in that runner’s position—you’ve spent hours on your feet, you’re cold, tired, hungry, wet. Despite all this, you’re excited to be out running and determined to finish the race. But there’s no one there to share your excitement with. The street where the music once blared is empty, the cowbells and cheers and funny signs missing, the faster runners long gone to the comfort of their hot showers. What a buzzkill.

Mercedes Marathon, marathon, back-of-the-pack runner, race volunteers

Fuck it – we cheered for ourselves

To add insult to injury, at one point late in the race an acquaintance ran past me and asked what I was doing “all the way back here,” because I am “usually so speedy.” Right in front of the hubs and Rachel, who at that point were exhausted and giving 110%. I regret not swinging at said runner. It infuriates me that we’ve developed into such an elitist society that being “slow” is a bad thing. And. And! Who has the right to define what “slow” even is? AGH!

Mercedes Marathon, marathon, back-of-the-pack runner, race volunteers

This group is not “slow” – we’re awesome

This is a huge reason why I gravitate toward trail running—there is no “slow,” and pace doesn’t matter. We’re all there to support each other. Runner #1 will win and hang around to wait for the DFL (dead fucking last) runner. The BUTS proved this unwavering support with their rocking aid station at Mile 10/23—right when struggling runners need an uplifting. The group was doing just as much singing, dancing, bubble-blowing, high-fiveing, and loving five hours into the race as they had been at the start of the race. And everyone appreciated it.

Mercedes Marathon, marathon, back-of-the-pack runner, race volunteers

Dancing with the BUTS

All cheer stations and spectators need to adopt this mentality. Right now. When you leave early, you are telling back-of-the-pack runners that they aren’t important. That their efforts aren’t worthy of celebration. That if they want support, they need to speed up. And that’s so wrong. If you’re going to go cheer at a race, do it right. Commit to the entire race. Don’t peace out when you decide the race is over.

Mercedes Marathon, marathon, back-of-the-pack runner, race volunteers

Thanks We Run Huntsville for great photos – you guys are good volunteers

I’m sure these people didn’t do it to be malicious. And I appreciate all cheer stations and spectators, I really do. It’s equally exhausting to be standing in sometimes crappy weather for hours handing out water and high fives and cheering until throats are sore. They make races fun and worth running. They can turn an entire race around.

Mercedes Marathon, marathon, back-of-the-pack runner, race volunteers

This superstar stood in the rain all six hours with this kickass sign

But we can do better—we need to do better. Let’s show runner #5001 as much love as runner #101. Because in the end, we’re all running the same race.

Mercedes Marathon, marathon, back-of-the-pack runner, race volunteers

Done and done!

Mercedes Marathon, marathon, back-of-the-pack runner, race volunteers

My adaptation of a “Flat Tanya” pre-race photo – I missed the Runner’s Rapture…

Mercedes Marathon, marathon, back-of-the-pack runner, race volunteers

Rachel and I photobombing a live race interview

Mercedes Marathon, marathon, back-of-the-pack runner, race volunteers

Accent nails. Because I’m so fancy.

Mercedes Marathon, marathon, back-of-the-pack runner, race volunteers

What our last 10 miles looked like

Mercedes Marathon, marathon, back-of-the-pack runner, race volunteers

Smile, dammit!

Mercedes Marathon, marathon, back-of-the-pack runner, race volunteers

Mile 26 – we made it!

What Exactly is Outdoor Retailer?

By February 21, 2015 Travels
Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports

To all the people who wonder if I actually have a job, this post is for you.

A few weeks ago, I went to Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Salt Lake City. And ever since, I’ve gotten numerous questions about what I do, where I was, and why I was there. So here ya go:

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports

OR? Are you in Oregon?

What is OR—OR stands for Outdoor Retailer. It’s one of the largest outdoor trade shows in the country held twice a year in Salt Lake City. Companies go and bring elaborate booths to display their products, and retail buyers and media wander around eyeballing said products. It’s like a week-long Christmas with new products, more free swag than you can carry, free-flowing happy hours, and parties.

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports

Oh hey mountains

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports

OR happy hour-gone-wrong

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports, Brooks Running

Hanging at the Brooks Running party

Ok, so what do you do—My company, Keen Communications, goes to Summer and Winter OR twice a year to exhibit our outdoor guides so that retailers can carry them in stores. They asked me during my interviews if I’d be interested in coming along. Um. Yes? Do bears like honey? Actually wait, do they? Winnie the Pooh does, so I’ll roll with it. I go to meet with our advocacy partners, hang with current and potential authors, organize book signings, and give Trekalong, our blog and social presence, a face.

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports

Hanging with our superstar Utah author Greg Witt

It looks like you just play—That’s a statement, not a question. And an inaccurate one at that! I leave my hotel before 7, come home late at night, and am on my feet all day long running from meeting to meeting or manning our booth. But yes, it involves a lot of play, too.

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports

Because you’re never too old to go sledding on a track with hairpin turns

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports

Always one of my favorite parts – the Conservation Alliance breakfast

Do you test new products—Oh yeah! That’s what All Mountain Demo is forgetting to try all the latest and coolest gear. Plus, the cool booths set up eye-catching product demos.

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports, Tubbs Snowshoes

I fell in love with Tubbs Snowshoes this trip

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports

Playing on an ice block

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports

Testing some Native sunglasses

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports

Stripping down for a Helly Hansen base layer

What’s your favorite part—Meeting people face-to-face. Hanging out with other people who love the outdoors as much as you do. Mountains. Swag. Llamas.

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports

Snowshoeing with Twitter pals

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports

Cats on leashes

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports

Meeting badass Dawn Wall climber Kevin Jorgeson

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports

This being my office

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports, Cotopaxi

Winning a ski coat from Cotopaxi

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports

Llama selfie

So that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. The longest and most fun two weeks of the year for me. Jealous? Come join me next time!

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports

Indoor snow!

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports

Throwing snowballs for charity

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports

Columbia had an ice bar and beer mugs made of ice

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports

My headless body on the Brooks Running booth

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports

Where the hipsters were quarantined

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports

In case you thought I was kidding with my previous comment

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports

They know their target audience

Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Salt Lake City, Trekalong, Keen Communications, Greg Witt, Teton Sports

Until August, bye OR!

The Time I Won a 5K – Decked Out Dash Recap

By February 17, 2015 Race Reports, Running
Decked Out Dash 5K, Oak Mountain State Park, racing a 5K,

From the unpublished archives—since I have the Mercedes Marathon this weekend and another race report looming, I figured I should get this one out:

Decked Out Dash 5K, Oak Mountain State Park, racing a 5K,

Dad-of-the-year right here!

Things I will probably only say once or twice in a lifetime—I ran a 5K for fun and was #1 female, 5th overall. Boom.

Decked Out Dash 5K, Oak Mountain State Park, racing a 5K,

What just happened?!

Yes, it was a small field. Yes, the course was almost .5 short. But a win is a win is a win, and I’ll own that shit.

Decked Out Dash 5K, Oak Mountain State Park, racing a 5K,

It’s not a finish unless I have an awkward photo to prove it

My friend Jenny works with the Arc of Jefferson County, who put on the race, and asked if I wanted to run with her. I’m not fond of 5Ks and usually try to steer clear of them. They’re short, hard, and you don’t even get bling. Usually. But a race with costumes and friends in my favorite park? Sign me up!

Decked Out Dash 5K, Oak Mountain State Park, racing a 5K,

Hooray for Santa hats to keep our heads warm

I went into the race with zero expectations. Go out, have a good time, help a good cause. I warmed up for a mile and threw some strides in to wake my legs up. All felt fine. But then, like a newbie, I lined up at the front of the pack and took off chasing Runner #1. With a 5:40 pace. Genius. I immediately felt like shit. My stomach was revolting against me something fierce. I started dry-heaving after a quarter mile, and finally stopped to puke after half a mile. Smooth, T.

Decked Out Dash 5K, Oak Mountain State Park, racing a 5K,

Know what my watch says? SLOW DOWN.

While I felt better after leaving the contents of my stomach in the grass, I didn’t want to push too hard in case I got sick again. I gave up trying to chase down the four runners in front of me, and settled into an easier pace. I was cruising along when I spotted the finish line growing suspiciously close. I crossed in 20:04, which would have been a PR had the course not been short. Boo!

Decked Out Dash 5K, Oak Mountain State Park, racing a 5K,

Hanging with my bud, Frosty

Funny moment of the race—toward the end, I saw a teenager in front of me slow down to a walk. I ran up next to him and said, “We’re so close! Are you going to let me beat you?” That got him moving and he took off as if I had been standing still. Showoff.

Decked Out Dash 5K, Oak Mountain State Park, racing a 5K,

Jenny placed in her age group too!

After the race, Jenny, her friends, and I did the one-mile fun run, then hit the trails for a few more miles. We finished the morning with some celebratory Waffle House. Because, waffles.

Decked Out Dash 5K, Oak Mountain State Park, racing a 5K,

Always a terrible good idea

Overall, I was thrilled with winning the race and more importantly, regaining confidence that I can still be somewhat speedy. Maybe now I can actually train for and race a 5k…

Decked Out Dash 5K, Oak Mountain State Park, racing a 5K,

My favorite part of the day

TRX – The Christian Grey of Workouts

By February 13, 2015 Birmingham, Cross Training
TRX, Resolute Running Training Center, cross training for runners, running coach, failure with integrity

The other day I wrote a sappy love letter to my new boo, yoga. And I meant every word. Yoga is the yin to my yang, the peanut butter to my jelly, the calm in my fast-paced life.

But as we all know, sometimes we crave something different. Something harder. Something that makes your muscles shake and you cry out in pain. Something that leaves you breathless, but satisfied.

Enter TRX. The bad boy of the workout circuit. The hour of straps and squats and hip hinges. Keep your butt tight and pelvis lifted, because TRX isn’t forgiving of poor form. These classes aren’t going to cuddle you and whisper sweet nothings in your ear. You’ll scream expletives until you’re hoarse and melt into a puddle of your own sweat when it’s all over.

TRX, Resolute Running Training Center, cross training for runners, running coach, failure with integrity

Keep those hips high in the air

I started going to TRX classes at my gym, Resolute Running, so that I can finally get that beach bod I’ve always dreamed about. I kid—I just want to look better than you. That was also a lie—I need to be in shape for when the zombies come. Bingo. And fun fact—Resolute Running is the first gym in Birmingham to be TRX qualified. In other words, go there to get your pain on.

TRX, Resolute Running Training Center, cross training for runners, running coach, failure with integrity

The torture chamber

So far I’ve done two classes, TRX Power and TRX Strong. Both have equally whupped my ass, and I have no doubt the other four classes will as well. The workouts remind me of Insanity, and, if you’re a true All In Stride fan, you know how much I love me some Shaun T.

What’s nice is that the coaches give you a quick introductory lesson so that you don’t tangle yourself up too badly. Plus, you can then waltz into your next class and hop into those straps looking like a pro. Whether that’s good or bad, I haven’t decided.

TRX, Resolute Running Training Center, cross training for runners, running coach, failure with integrity

Look at Coach Ann pretending to be all sweet and innocent…

TRX is a beast. There’s no crying, sympathy, or safe word. You don’t stop when you’re fatigued, you fail with integrity. Say what now? The point of the workouts is to work to true muscle failure, which will ultimately lead to greater strength gains. So yes, you work out until you literally.just.can’t.

TRX, Resolute Running Training Center, cross training for runners, running coach, failure with integrity

Look of pure hate in my eyes

Another TRX saying is, “All core, all the time.” Every single move you do engages your core. I mean, how can they not? You’re hanging off the ground in straps! So even when you’re working on getting those big guns, your abs are engaged. And you know what a strong core helps with? Uh huh.

TRX, Resolute Running Training Center, cross training for runners, running coach, failure with integrity

Strap yourselves in, friends, we’re in for a wild ride

Don’t feel the burn right after class? No worries, TRX gives you long-term lovin’. Just wait until the next morning when it hurts to blink. But you’ll go back for more. Because you’re a masochist and the pain feels oh so good.

TRX, Resolute Running Training Center, cross training for runners, running coach, failure with integrity

Why do you hurt me, TRX?

So if you want a little of your own 50 Shades of Grey this Valentine’s Day, sign up for a TRX class. Your significant other will thank you.

TRX, Resolute Running Training Center, cross training for runners, running coach, failure with integrity

No caption needed.

Why I Fell in Love with Yoga

By February 10, 2015 Cross Training, Positive Thoughts
yoga, yoga for runners, free yoga Birmingham, Westin Birmingham, Kelly Creel, yoga practice,

A few months ago when I rolled my ankle and Fat Foot couldn’t run, I started yoga classes. Like a lot of love stories, our relationship took time to grow. We started out wary of each other—yoga was calm, quiet, reserved. I was loud, energetic, full of anger.

Slowly, we became friends and I looked forward to my weekly practices. And then one day, I missed a class. And rather than feeling indifference, I felt sad, empty. Somehow, without my knowledge, I had fallen hopelessly in love with yoga.

February is both Heart Month and gushy Valentine’s Day, and last week my teacher and good friend Kelly said that our practices will focus on opening our hearts and chests and loving ourselves. So, yoga, I’m taking this opportunity to tell you why I love you:

You’re making me bendy again. To someone who had danced for 17 years, you have been a wonderful return to that old, flexible life. But it’s not that simple. Each week is a humble reminder that I am not as young and elastic as I used to be, and certain poses take more effort. But you are teaching me about patience and to appreciate how much my body can do. I may not be able to forward fold as tightly as I used to, but I stretch a little deeper with every practice.

yoga, yoga for runners, free yoga Birmingham, Westin Birmingham, Kelly Creel, yoga practice,

My old dance teachers would be disappointed, but I’ll take this split 10 years post-classes!

You’re not as easy as you seem. I admit, I misjudged you at first. I thought that you were easy, and I would have no trouble mastering all of your poses. Uh, wrong. It takes a lot of effort and skill and practice to contort myself. My muscles tremble, I fall, I laugh, I fail. And then I try again. There is no “mastering” you—our relationship will forever be a work in progress.

yoga, yoga for runners, free yoga Birmingham, Westin Birmingham, Kelly Creel, yoga practice,

If a tree pose falls in yoga class, does anyone laugh?

You still my 150-mph mind. It sometimes takes every ounce of strength to quiet my mind of outside nonsense and just focus on you and my breath. I’m like a rambunctious puppy learning to walk on a leash—my thoughts are going in a million directions. It’s hard to rein them in. Whether it’s undiagnosed ADD or a wild imagination, I am always thinking of at least three things at once. While singing a song. And sometimes dancing. But the second I step onto my mat, the world melts away and the only thing that matters is you.

yoga, yoga for runners, free yoga Birmingham, Westin Birmingham, Kelly Creel, yoga practice,

Child’s pose is my absolute favorite for feeling safe and loved

And Kelly. I don’t have words worthy enough to describe Kelly. People toss around the word “love” too freely. But I genuinely love this woman. She is such an inspiring teacher, mentor, friend, human. Her positive attitude and sense of humor shine through in her practices. I can come into class feeling like shit, and bounce out of there reenergized and ready to tackle the world. She can make me laugh and cry and question and love myself.

yoga, yoga for runners, free yoga Birmingham, Westin Birmingham, Kelly Creel, yoga practice,

My beautiful teacher

Speaking of. I had a realization last week—I love my body most when it is active. I live for the moments when I’m covered in sweat and dirt and blood and am questioning whether I can take another step without collapsing. I love feeling the warmth spread through my muscles as I sink deeper into a difficult stretch. Despite my year of injuries, my body has yet to let me down. And I love it for that.

So yoga, let’s make this official. Will you be my Valentine?

yoga, yoga for runners, free yoga Birmingham, Westin Birmingham, Kelly Creel, yoga practice,

I’m literally falling head over heels for you

If you want a great (and free!) yoga class with the best teacher ever, come to The Westin Birmingham on Wednesday nights at 6:30 p.m.

yoga, yoga for runners, free yoga Birmingham, Westin Birmingham, Kelly Creel, yoga practice,

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