Saturday, January 3, 2015

Run. All. The. Races.

This particular blog was originally written for the running group that I am so blessed to be a part of called the Daily Run Club! This post holds a lot of meaning to me so I wanted to share with everyone.

Run. All. The. Races.

A goal is defined as the object of a person's ambition or effort, an aim or desired result. At the end of 2013 I made a goal for 2014 that I wanted to run at least one race each month. To say that my goal was achieved would be an understatement. After completing 25 races in 2014, I crushed my goal!

There is something about running races that I love. The excitement of signing up and putting a set goal date on the calendar, the training plan that holds you accountable each run day, the push and drive to become the best you on race day, and the nervousness that occurs when the day finally arrives. Getting up early to travel the distance to the start line, lacing up those shoes that you have put many miles on, the comradery of other runners waiting for that anticipated "go" makes it all worth it as you cross that finish line and realize you just achieved another milestone!


What better way to kick off my goal than to sign up for a race on January 1st. The Commitment Day 5k started at 10 am.  It was a chilly morning so we stayed inside the vehicle until the last possible moment.  Either I'm really good at talking my friends into races or she is just as crazy as me, but Casey joined me to kick off the year in the best way. The race started at Soldier's Memorial as you will see that many races do.


After a night of major snow storms and freezing rain, we were waiting for a decision to be made on whether the Run For Chocolate would happen. It did, so we layered on multiple articles of clothing to run in 9 degree weather. The race was cut down from 4 miles to about a 5k but Casey, Jamie, and I still ran and earned the finish line party. They had chocolate candy along the way and a chocolate fondue bar at the finish line. Thankfully the after party was inside!

A destination race was next in line for the year. This was a race that Ashton, Casey and I had paid for almost 6 months in advance and had been planning and anticipating for so long. We were flying to Florida so that Casey and I could run the Disney Princess Half Marathon and Ashton would run the Enchanted 10k. We each chose a princess to replicate and I picked Jasmine. Tutu and all, I was ready for a magical experience! The race took us on an unbelievable journey through parks, passed Magical Kingdom, and with sightings of many Disney characters along the way. The option for pictures with all the characters were available but we just chose to save time and take selfies with them instead of waiting in line. Disney makes it easy to function at the finish line by giving you a bag for all your belongings and a box that includes all the finish line foods. The rest of our days were spend exploring the theme parks until the very last minute before we unfortunately had to board a plane back to reality.


The fourth race of the year was the Race to the Rocker. This was a point-to-point race that started in Cuba and finished at the World's Largest Rocking Chair. Four chilly miles with several of my friends. With pretty much an entirely flat course, my friend Nick and I paced each other and pushed each other to finish with a 9 min per mile average.


The Go! St. Louis organization is one that I'm very fond of, so signing up for the 5k was no question. The plan was that Ashton and I would run the Go! STL 5k on Saturday and then volunteer with my mom at the marathon/half on Sunday. By this time of the year I was already tired of wearing pants and long sleeves to race, but it was another chilly morning. It was a nice course that looped through Forest Park. Handing out medals to the finishers on Sunday was just as rewarding as crossing the finish line myself. Being able to give a medal to my cousin and to my chiropractor was pretty awesome. I love being on the other side of it all and experiencing what it takes to make race day possible.

The Color Run is a race I have done many times, but when anyone asks me to do a race I usually do not say no. Thankfully, it was not raining like it had in past times and wasn't scorching hot either. This race is essentially just a large party with a 5k added in. Sweatbands, tattoos, color powder, loud music, and dance parties make for a very colorful and fun experience.


Almost every race has a charity attached to it but this hometown race, The Ray Day 5k, held a little more meaning because the charity dealt with breast cancer. Breast cancer is very common and I've had relatives battle it. The survivor that started the race had a very touching survivor story that made it easy to want to help out by signing up. It was a 5k around Hermann and I was slightly afraid I might get lost if there were not very many people. I ended up finishing in the top 10 and 1st in my age group! I won a bottle wine and a Hungry Girl Cookbook for my age group win.

I was slightly hesitant to do the Rivertown Run 5k because I knew that I would be celebrating a friend's birthday the night before. It turned out to be a beautiful morning.  With a slightly rough ending to the course and little sleep from the night before, I still finished 3rd in my age group despite not feeling the best. It is not possible to have a race in Washington without some hills along the way.

I love a good holiday run because it usually allows me to fit in a race on a weekday. This past Memorial Day I decided to sign up on a whim for The Grape Run at Chandler Hill Vineyards. I knew absolutely nothing about this race or even actually where it was located. There was a 5k and 10k option, but reading about the hills I opted for the 5k. Man oh man were there some hills and some heat! Surprised as all get out I won 1st in my age group here as well. As anyone could guess the prize was wine! The finish line food was pretty fancy as well with a buffet of fruits, danishes, muffins, breads, champagne, and the normal water and Gatorade.


Everything about this race started out as a fantasy and quickly became reality thanks to some frequent flyer miles from a friend of my mothers.  My mom would travel with me and we would take an extended weekend trip to Boston!  As an avid reader of Runners World magazine, I always see so many amazing races and dream of traveling to them. This particular issue I was reading all about the Heartbreak Hill weekend. It's a race stocked with multiple distance races and even races for children and dogs.  I had read that you could do the 5k followed by the 10k, which they called the Five & Dime.  I was sold.  I did what I could in the cheapest way and next thing you know all the plans were set.  Back to back races were tiring but my spirits were so high with all the excitement that my only regret of the weekend was not doing the half marathon the next day to make it a Hat Trick as they called it. Highlights of the weekend were passing Shalane Flanagan on the 10k course, running Heartbreak Hill which is also in the Boston Marathon, and getting to see Boylston Avenue. A medal for each distance and one for doing both, I came home with three medals to hang on the wall.

The All-American 5k still stands as my fastest 5k to date. This was my third year running it and my finishing time was 24:59. That time was the exact same as the first year. I will break that time eventually on the point to point course that is known for its downhill elevation. A highlight of this finish line food is the ice cream you are given and this year it was Ted Drewes Frozen Custard!

My first Y Series run was probably the most memorable one I would run because it was the I Run 4 "Buddy Run".  I run all my races in honor of Colby but this one especially was for him. Since being paired with him on Marathon Monday in 2014, he has helped me see life in a different way. Almost all YMCA races finish on a hill and I didn't know that until this day. I received first in my age group and was able to send an extra medal to Colby as I do with all my other races. This was also my friend Josh's very first race ever. He and I were both signed up for a marathon in October and this race would actually kick off my training season.


The Fourth Of July is my favorite holiday and another chance to get in an extra race. This time I traveled to Kansas City to stay with my best friend and her husband and run the Stars N Stripes 5k. The finishers medal was about the size of my head! The course wasn't all that exciting as it just circled around a shopping complex, but it was a different experience for sure.


Honestly my main drive for signing up for the Fair 5 Miler was that my gym, Snap Fitness, was one of the main sponsors. By signing up I also received a Snap Fitness tech tee in addition to the one given from the race. Just like any other race in Washington, it was hilly. It was a foggy morning, but many of my new running friends were there to run as well. They offered fair foods after finishing which were pizza, ice cream, and beer.

KT 82 was a lottery drawing race that we had entered months before and found out we got into in February. It was a team of six, 18 legs, and a total of 82 miles. It took us about 14 hours and covered both technical trails, KATY trail, and some road running. It was one heck of an awesome and long day that I hope to do it again. My three legs got progressively easier and my average pace got faster as well. I loved the push that each leg gave me trying to do better than the one before it. They gave you almost a full meal at the finish line with two beers and wine tasting. We recieved finishers medals and finishers hats along with a t-shirt! We are in the lottery for 2015 already and keeping our fingers crossed.


Labor Day weekend I traveled to Kansas City again to run the Plaza 10k with Ashton and Nick. This race would begin the training for her first half marathon and my fifth. I was in the middle of marathon training, so two days before this race I had run 19 miles. My knees were kinda shot, so during this race I aimed to keep a comfortable pace, not pushing myself. It was a nice downhill course finishing in a shopping plaza with another large finisher medal.


This race kicked off four weeks of racing every weekend. My kind of party.  It began with the Run to Read 5k. The course was set by the Washington High School cross country team and the race started and finished at the local library.  The course went up one of the most dreaded hills in Washington. You were allowed to pick out a book after the finish. I won first in my age group. I don't recall there being too many people in my age group.

Next for Casey, Jamie and I, was the fourth annual Halloween 10k.  This year we decided to dress up as Brains, Beauty, and Brawn. The costume part of the race is always the favorite part and most years it's a last-minute decision.  It was a cold and dreary morning and misty the whole run, but the course around downtown STL is always a good one. Chocolate is always given at the finish line and this year there were full size candy bars. The pretzel roll was my favorite after-race treat. Beer is always given at this race too, but we were all too cold and wet to enjoy it. Unfortunately, we didn't win or even place in the costume contest. We will try again next year as this is a race that automatically goes on the schedule each year.

For three years now I have gifted myself a race entry into the Rock 'N' Roll race that takes place the weekend of my birthday. This year I decided to celebrate 26 years passed by running 26.2 miles on my 27th birthday! Months and months of running more miles than I ever could imagine came down to one morning. I had no set goals in mind but to just have fun and enjoy every step of way. The morning felt colder than expected, but sure did warm up fast and I could have dressed a little differently. When the corral I was in got to the start line I shed a few nervous tears. After a hug and some encouraging words from my mom telling me she loved me and I could do this, I was off. Everything felt good. I tried not to pay attention to my Garmin and just run by feel and keep it nice and slow to begin with. I was actually running below 10 min miles and it barely felt like I was moving. The people, cheering, and bands helped along the way. Next thing I knew, we were at the separation point of the course. I knew once I went right and everyone else went left there was no turning back! The crowds and cheer stations became fewer and farther between and my knees started hurting. At mile 17 I saw a friendly face. Stephanie, who I had only met for the first time ever two days before marathon day, was there with her husband cheering me on. She joined me for short bit asking how I was feeling. Just seeing her there and encouraging me put a little pep in my step. I was told that mile 20 - 22 were the hardest and I was determined to make it past that point. At mile 23 my pace had definitely slowed, my knees were aching fierce, and I realized I had been holding a tinkle since the start line. I decided I didn't care about finish time so I made a pit stop at an empty john. With very few people around there was no waiting in line. After that stop I knew my time might suffer but I did more running and walking intervals. The whole race my spirits were so high and my endurance felt wonderful. I never hit a wall and always carried a smile on my face. With about a half mile from the finish I caught up to Josh. I was sad to see him at first because that meant he didn't make his time goal but it was also amazing to see a friendly face. I assured him we were too close to the finish line to walk now and so we took off running together. We chatted all the way to finish line and just before crossing we saw our friends and my mom. It was the most rewarding thing to see all those people there cheering for us. As my feet crossed that finish line my hands went in the air and I yelled "yes...I did it" and tears streamed down my face. I allowed the kind volunteer to place the medal around my neck and posed for some pictures by the race photographers before handing off all my gear and going through the finish line for food. The pumpkin spiced cake Dunkin Donut that followed the race could never have tasted more delicious than after 26.2 miles.  The rest of the day was spent wearing a huge smile on my face.

With just a week having passed since my marathon, I wasn't sure I would actually be able to run the Trunk or Treat 5k at the YMCA. It was set to be a practice run of our GOTR race so I thought it would probably be a run/walk and I could muster through. I ended up running alongside Belle and we ran almost the entire thing. She did such an amazing job and pushed herself at just the right times! We were all so proud of the girls because each one of them finished with a smile on their face. We knew that on race day they were going to be ready. Belle finished with first place in her age group and because of her I finished with first in mine as well. Many of the other girls also placed. It was a wonderful evening.


After weeks of after school practices at Clearview Elementary it was time for the 3rd through 6th grade girls to put all their hard work to good use. It was very chilly morning but we all bundled up with just the right amount of clothes and headed to Soldier's Memorial. The girls were going to run the official Girls On The Run 5k that they had been waiting for and practicing. Once again all of the girls did so absolutely wonderful and we couldn't have been more proud. It was a nice course around downtown with people cheering loudly almost the entire way. Their support for those girls was so touching and the cheer stations were very encouraging. Following the race there was a very large dance party in the middle of the street, which was a perfect touch to add to the excitement.

This would be my first year participating in an official Turkey Trot and I chose the local 10k at the YMCA. I had wanted to run a turkey trot both of the years preceding, but at the time I didn't have running friends who wanted to join me and I was hesitant to do it myself. Also, I do not like the cold weather so getting out there alone was a stretch. But this year was different and there were so many people I knew who were participating! My heart jumped with excitement knowing I would get to do my first trotting on Thanksgiving Day. Another hilly course as expected, but my average pace was just at 9 minutes per mile and I was shocked. Was I actually getting faster or was it just a really good day? The finish line was on a hill which I don't particularly like but for some reason it makes me feel a little tougher having to climb that last hill to get to finish. With everyone watching, you can't help but try to push yourself a little harder to reach the top and then sigh with relieve as you cross that line. They had all the fixings of a turkey dinner afterwards and winners in their age group even won pies. I can't think of a better way to kick off another holiday.


Months before this day would arrive, my best friend Ashton had decided she wanted to run her very first half marathon. I was so extremely happy for her and I told her to pick one and I would be there right alongside her. She decided on the St. Jude Half Marathon in Memphis, Tennessee. Shortly after picking the race we decided we wanted to be St. Jude Heroes and commit to raising at least $500 for the hospital. Between the two of us, we raised over $1400 for St. Jude Children's Hospital. Although the entire week before the race I had a cold that turned into a sinus infection, I tried to keep my hopes up that when race day came I would feel 100%. Race day came and that didn't happen, but I changed my mindset and decided to just fully enjoy every minute of this race. The temperatures did not get as warm as we expected and the wind was blustery. We made the best of everything and enjoyed all of the spectators. There were more people on this course than in any other race I've done. I shed a few tears multiple times out of joy for running, excitement and proudness for my friend Ashton, and for all the children that we were helping out and the children we saw along the way. It was the most inspirational and moving race I've done.  I'd love to be able to do this race every year. The finish line was stocked with lots of goodies including pizza, Krispy Kreme donuts, soup, iced tea, beer, and the normal banana, Gatorade, and granola bars.

My last race of the year would be a new one for me. It was a 12k and I had never done one of those before. This race was the first weekend of a series of races that occur every other weekend as part of The Frostbite Series. Casey, Tyler, Danielle, and I drove down that morning a tad early to pick up our bibs. Danielle was going to do the 3k and the rest of us, the 12k. The course consisted of two loops around Forest Park with lots of hills that needed to be conquered twice and came out to be about 7.6 miles. I started out super fast for me and worried about the rest of the miles but was able to hold a decent pace and finish in 1:09. It was another chilly morning which seems to be a reoccurring situation here but we rewarded ourselves for a job well done with Strange Donuts afterwards.

As the year draws to a close, I pause for a minute or two and reflect on the year that has passed with a huge smile of accomplishment. There is only so much time I can enjoy the completion of this year's goals before the clock strikes midnight and it becomes 2015. I can't help but ask myself:
What are my goals for 2015? Will I meet or exceed them as I did this year?

Further, I ask you: Did you meet your 2014 goals? Do you have goals for 2015?

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