Tag Archives: races

Writing about February & March in honor of April.

Some highlights from life as of late.

My old man actually became an old man. C-money turned 30, and, as far as we can tell, still has the metabolism of an 11-year old. Being the doting, selfless wife that I am, I up and got sick for his actual birthday and spent four hours of that evening sleeping. He made himself a nice steak dinner, which he got to enjoy in spurts while chasing after our toddler. The lengths I will go to to get out of cooking…astonishing, really.

Not pictured: raging nausea.

Not pictured: raging nausea.

We rode that celebration train into the next couple of weeks, though, and gathered a bunch of our friends for a brew hop. (That’s not a thing, you say? Not so, according to the dazzling invitations.)

 brew hop invite

We started the afternoon at Cigar City Brewing, not listening to the tour guide and perking up whenever we heard the terms “free” and “beer” in close proximity. It was lots of fun to hang with our old college pals and felt exactly the same except for how much slower we all moved, how much less beer we could consume and still function, the presence of some friends’ baby, and the undercurrent of stories of our own kids that lasted throughout the evening. So yeah, identical to 2004.

C tori wes cab

 nat C goggles

After CCB we headed to Tampa Bay Brewing Company for dinner. Twenty sweet friends came out, and my little hubs was pretty blown away. Not to mention, my SIL helped me surprise him with a cookie cake for dessert. Does anything say mature, responsible, professionally successful father better than a gigantic chocolate chip cookie covered in frosting? Didn’t think so.

cookie cake

We even after-partied for a bit, serenaded by a middle aged Irish tribute band with a heavyset guitarist of indeterminate gender. Rock on, Noa’s. Rock on.

 nat C gaspars

Over the course of the last six weeks, we also celebrated my mom’s 60th birthday, my brother’s birthday, my best friend’s birthday and my dad’s birthday. It’s enough, people. Stop aging, for the love.  

Everyone whined about daylight savings, meanwhile over here Addison has been sleeping past 8 a.m. nearly every morning since. Parenting win! 

Speaking of…there is an 18 month update post sloshing around in my head that maybe one day will see the light of day. Two months late, it still ain’t even close to finished. There is A LOT to talk about with this one, let me tell you. She is far, far from boring, and she keeps us all laughing hysterically and sprinting to stop her from doing a whole host of ridiculously unsafe behaviors on the reg.

Seconds before standing upright in a moving wagon with no safety restraints.
Seconds before standing upright in a moving wagon with no safety restraints.

I don’t really say “on the reg” in real life.

My bracket could not be more disastrous, but I feel like that’s a pretty common sentiment this year. Clayton is still in the running towards becoming America’s Next Top Bracket Champion at his office, so fingers crossed there.

I’ve still been running, but not really training for anything major. The several months of distance training burned me out mentally for now. I did run a 15k the weekend of Clayton’s party with my Jacksonville friend who was way too easily talked into running 9.3 miles.
Actual conversation
Me: Come a day early and run a 15k with me.
Her: Ok.

 tori nat 15k

I had some goals initially, but knowing that I hadn’t trained properly made me more realistic about what I should expect. And, shocker, I did not hit those goals. But I tried hard—and am still trying–to focus on the positives: my overall pace was a wee bit faster than my half marathon PR, and I was definitely middle of the pack in my age group, as opposed to back of the pack. Sounds silly, but that is a big improvement from when I started running seriously.

I was also so very tempted to call it a day when I realized my goal time was unattainable; I walked a few steps and that felt niiiice. But I told myself to get over it and run, there were strawberries to eat and beer to be gulped and cookie cake to be demolished. I needed to burn some mad calories heading into that weekend, so I kept on and hit my secondary goal of not being a pansy.

run addict
Taken less than 72 hours after I’d sworn off running for-ev-er.

The current plan is to do more speed work and focus on smaller distance races, mainly because come May, there is not a race over 5k to be found in Florida. We would all melt and perish trying to run more than three miles in summer. The first hard workout of this plan was this past Saturday when I had a hot date with some hill repeats. I loved it. It’s crazy and masochistic, but I love the challenge. Plus, the miles and the time go so much faster. 

We caught a Braves spring training game and were hooked up with some free Dave & Buster’s games. The rest of our group left after dinner. Our foursome (with a focus on one 30-year old in particular) hung around until stupid o’clock high on the “but it’s free! and you can shoot stuff!” endorphins.

C Brant Rambo

Those are all the big time bullet points from the last few months. I feel like my life is decently exciting until I try to write about it. Hello, snooze fest. But there you have it. Maybe that Addison post will be coming your way shortly because, let’s get real, she’s awesome and you need to know about it. 

Holiday Half Recap Re-do

I kid. One more post about this race.

Here are a few things to note about the Florida Holiday Halfathon apart from my self-involved recap hinging on Gu consumption.

  • The course is point to point. I enjoyed this because, for me, it added to the bad ass-ness of running 13.1 miles. Finishing in a completely different city than where you started directed those miles toward a destination rather than running for two hours and finding yourself in the exact same location.
  • It is small and no frills, and I was concerned about the “please bribe your friends and family to volunteer because we don’t have enough people” email I received two days before the race.
  • I don’t know if it’s due to the aforementioned lack of volunteers, but I was very glad I brought my own water because I am a camel and need water every 15 steps and also because the water stops seemed very spread out. Like every two miles I think, which felt like a long time to wait after mile 7.
  • The race is flat except for one forgettable bridge at mile 3.5ish and two short but steep overpasses while on the Pinellas Trail.
  • Even though the course is near the ocean, you can only see it if you have x-ray vision that works through concrete. Half of the course is residential and the other half is on the Pinellas Trail. I liked running on the trail because it was prettier than strip malls on a main road, but it became a little monotonous after a few miles. There was a surprising number of people along the course cheering. Not thousands, but more than I’d expect for such a small affair.
  • Packet pick-up was available a few days the week before the race in Tampa, which, in theory, is extremely convenient for those of us running who live across the bay. In reality, I missed all of those opportunities and still had to cart my family 45 minutes over to Madeira Beach Saturday.
  • You’d think cops would let you off with  a warning the morning of the race if they saw your bib and panic face, but you would be wrong.
  • I am always deathly afraid of bathroom emergencies during races, even though I’ve never even had to pee during one. Still, in case that’s your burden, I think I saw three port-a-potties on the course but lots of greenery along the trail if you were desperate.
  • The medals are super cute.

I think that’s all (and way more) than you could possibly care about. I would absolutely run this race again and recommend it to anyone considering a holiday half, especially first timers. It was walker friendly and didn’t feel overly competitive. I swear when the gun went off, the entire race field was running at the same pace for the first mile, which was my pace, so you know it wasn’t that hard core.

Happy running to all those whose hip flexors don’t hate them! I’m jealous and decided I hate yoga.




Florida Holiday Halfathon Recap

I know it seems like I’ve  become delusional and only post about races like I’m a running blogger, but I swear there will be a healthy break from that starting yesterday.

I registered for the Florida Holiday Halfathon simply because I did not want to throw away three months of training, which is what I felt like I’d done at the St. Augustine Half Marathon. I knew I could run faster, but, more importantly, I knew I was mentally tougher than what I’d shown in that race.

As the days passed, though, my body began to let me know that this training cycle was nearing its end whether I liked it or not. I started getting more sore and achy after my runs, and my knees started hurting during every long run. I added more icing, more meds, more foam rolling and more prayers to my regimen, getting increasingly nervous that my legs might not be able to give me the redemptive race I wanted.

While I rode a PR high for a solid week after the turkey day 5k, it probably wasn’t the  best plan to throw that into the mix between half marathons, either.

All this to say, by the time race weekend came around I was not feelin’ it. At all. I was prepared for absolute disaster. In addition to the breakdown of my hips and knees, Addison and Clayton shared their colds with me the week before the race. I hosted a cookie exchange the weekend prior and had been feasting on sugar-filled garbage ever since. My “easy” two-mile shake-out run the day before the race was a horrendous, gasping-for-air mess that I cut a quarter mile short.

So a new plan emerged that gave me an out if I needed it. Saturday, the fam and I drove over to pick up my packet and–veteran alert–actually drove the race course. We scouted a spot near mile 8.5 where Clayton could park and either 1. hop into the race with the jogging stroller and run the last leg with me or, most likely, 2. pick my lifeless body up off the course, throw me into the car and take me somewhere that served giant pancakes. I had made my peace with either ending.

She loves me, slow or not.

She loves me, slow or not.

When my alarm went off Sunday morning, I immediately decided I didn’t want to run, turned it off and went back to sleep. Probably the most decisive I’ve been in my entire life. Luckily I’d anticipated this morning mind game and set a second alarm, which did the trick. I had paid for this thing, after all.

I was more nervous getting ready and driving over to the start than ever before. Maybe more so than the day of my wedding. Clayton getting a ticket for an expired tag (true story) actually broke the ice and provided a much appreciated distraction. Don’t worry; I intend to invoke obligatory nagging about it later.

That little hiccup did put us behind schedule, but I still had enough time for a brief warm up and Winn Dixie bathroom stop since, again, I half read race info and the start was 7:35 a.m., not 7:30 a.m. I should have known things were looking up when all these miscues were turning out to be positives, but I was mainly focused on not vomiting on other runners’ cute Christmas outfits. Seriously.

Magically, my nerves completely subsided when I lined up and turned on my brand new playlist. From the very first few steps, I felt immensely better about this race. There’s not much to talk about from the race itself because it flew by. It helped that I knew I had friendly faces and a vehicle waiting for me at mile 8. I started out telling myself to just make it that far, no pressure. If I decided to keep going, it meant I was having a good race. If I stopped, it meant I didn’t have to trudge through 5 more miserable miles. Both victories.

Would have been fun to actually see this during the race, but it's the thought and gas money that count.

Would have been fun to actually see this during the race, but it’s the thought and gas money that count.



Well, guess who was nowhere to be found at the clearly marked meet-up spot? My hubs. I was still feeling strong and had spent about two miles trying to come up with a clever way to tell him to start running and not warming up the car. But all that work went to waste. In his defense, he had texted me, but I’d decided about three steps into the race that my phone was staying out of sight. I glanced each direction twice, didn’t see him, and kept right on going. A part of me knew that I reached this point earlier than expected by a tad, and that felt pretty dang exciting. There was no chance I was stopping to wait for him.

Since we drove the course together, I figured there were a few more spots where I might see him. As I passed each of those intersections expectantly, it became both confounding and a little hilarious that we still hadn’t met up. Mentally, it was a nice distraction up until the “if all else fails, he’ll be here” location, where he was still MIA. That was mile 11, and I’d been struggling in my head a little between miles 9 and 11 (even though these were some of my fastest). I began counting down until mile 11, when I was certain I would see Clayton, Addison and my sister in law. But I saw nothing familiar, except the huge lake I knew I had to run around before finishing.


I was able to shake off the fact that I would not be finishing with Clayton and became very thankful that I didn’t actually feel like I needed him at that point. I knew this was going to be (and already was) an awesome race, and I had enough to finish well. Much like missing me at the initial meet-up, I got a thrill thinking that maybe he kept missing me because I was so ahead of schedule. Look, you’ve got to keep your head in the game out there somehow; if it’s all lies, so be it.

I had a decent sprint through the finish chute and, as usual, couldn’t stop when everyone was yelling at me to. It’s so crazy to me that all the runners can just come to a complete stop after that final sprint without keeling over. Mama has to cool down for at least five minutes before hoisting my foot up into your lap. Deal with it.

Still not seeing Clayton, I sent him a profane text (funny cursing, not angry cursing) and finally located the support team. They missed the finish, but I was too high on endorphins and dehydration to notice.

It was a 16-minute PR. Holy. Crap.

high five half

And that’s it, gang. I am so content with that race and my time. I finished with just a little nausea brewing, so I know that I worked hard up until the very end. On the conservative to ambitious goal spectrum, it was right in the ambitious zone, and I could not be happier with my paces for every single mile. Plus, it was the first time I used two Gu packs, and they didn’t send me hurling into the bushes. Success!

Mandated by my knees and IT band, a necessary, much anticipated break from pounding the pavement is in full effect. It’s scary to think I’ll lose all of these gains, but I know I won’t get anywhere except an orthopedic office if I try to maintain this schedule. Any advice for not completely sacrificing your speed improvements during a break in training is welcome! Do I have to re-rejoin the gym? And while we’re on the advice train, I’ve been cramping nonstop since I got home Sunday. Going on three days. Totes worth it, but still curious if this happens to anyone else?

I am being very intentional about not browsing races while still ridiculously euphoric. I’m not even able to stand upright yet, but still very likely to do something utterly ridiculous like register for a 15k in February. (But just to get a head count, anyone considering Gasparilla?)

My mom hung my medal in our tree. I didn't stop her.

My mom hung my medal in our tree. I didn’t stop her.

Turkey Gobble 5k

After the half marathon from hell, I registered for a Thanksgiving 5k for me and Clayton. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to hit my sub 30:00 goal, but after the disaster of St. Augustine, I tried to keep expectations to a minimum. Temperatures dipped Wednesday night and I figured there was no hope of hitting my goal pace while freezing. I told Clayton when we went to bed Wednesday that sleeping in was sounding better and better; I decided I would be a game time decision when my alarm buzzed at 5:30 a.m. Thanksgiving morning.

gobble 5k

Without much struggle getting out of bed, I figured I could at least keep Clayton company for the ride and burn a few calories before feasting.

We missed approximately 17 turns to find the right parking lot. We pinned bibs, shed our extra layers and put on Chapstick in the car, knowing we were cutting it very close. Clayton grabbed a spot along the street and, thinking I had time for a port-a-potty stop, I started jogging to the start while he fed the meter. Everyone was lined up and there wasn’t a p-a-p in sight, so I hopped in the middle of the pack and waited for Clayton. The race started, and he still hadn’t shown up. Wife of the Year over here decided to hang back and wait for him…but not without shouting down the sidewalk for him to RUN! Why he was taking his sweet time to begin with, I have no idea.

All's well that ends with a PR

All’s well that ends with a PR

We crossed the start line with only a couple of strollers and dog walkers behind us. Actually pretty standard race procedures for me. But we took off, and I felt good. Really good. I was aggravated by the crowds, so I wanted to get into some space. And you know what’s fun? Passing people. Foreign to me, but I highly support it now.

“Why are you going so fast?” Clayton asked.

Now, I have never, ever, ever been asked that question except when I have to pee and am on the hunt for a public bathroom. So all of a sudden this became THE race. I wanted that PR and I decided I’d ride that “so fast” pace as long as I could, expecting to peter out around mile 2. Maybe if I banked enough time, I could still have a slow last mile and come in under 30 minutes.

Except I didn’t peter out. And I even had a little kick at the end when I heard a group of girls point out a sign about 0.1 mile before the finish, saying they were going to sprint when they got to it. I had not been passed up to this point because I was like the last person to start (fail proof strategy to avoid being passed). Frankly, I didn’t want to get passed at that point. So I started my sprint a tad before the sign.

Maybe I crossed the finish line and had to cool down a ways from the crowd so no one would notice the, uh, sweat dripping from my tear glands.

I know it was a silly, stinkin’ not chip timed 5k. But it was a big moment for this novice runner. A runner who desperately needed a good race to help put a terrible one to rest. A never-imagined finishing time to remember that goals don’t just loom over our heads to make us feel disappointed and incapable but help us push ourselves to be and to do more.

And to leave me wondering what else may be possible from this rickety, nearing 30 body.

I was not even trying to be fun or cutesy with those socks. They were the only option to cover all the exposed skin below my capris.

I was not even trying to be fun or cutesy with those socks. They were the only option to cover all the exposed skin below my capris.

26:13. A new 5k PR by over four freaking minutes! (Ignore that the race was 0.05 mile short.)

garmin 5k

Then I came home to some sweet snuggles that were possibly more satisfying than a PR. Or a close second at least. A snug

I hope you also had a Thanksgiving full of simple surprises that made you sweat a little out of your eyes.

St. Augustine Half Marathon Recap

The St. Augustine Half Marathon, aka my second half ever, is complete. Woohoo…is what I wish I could be saying, but instead I am me and being Debbie Downer about the whole thing.

The good news is that it’s done. My feet covered 13.1 miles for the second time in my life, and I have the shiny medal to prove it. Which may have stayed on during lunch 100 miles away from the race site.

The tough-to-digest part is that this course was bananas, and I had no idea. It’s not like I had eight weeks to study the course map posted online or anything. Instead, I chose to show up and be all, “oh, there’s bridges?” And the course was all, “UM. FOUR OF THEM.”

Those miles across water? Wishing now I would have swam them.

Those miles across water? Wishing now I would have swam them.

The friend that I’d trained with and planned to run with ended up getting sick last week and decided race morning to not put herself in the hospital by attempting a half marathon feeling like death. I hated it for her, of course; I’m not a completely horrible person. She even came all the way to St. Augustine for two nights to not run. But, frankly, I hated it for me, too. Two weeks before my first half I begged and pleaded with Clayton to run it with me because I didn’t know if I could push through on my own. It was quite a stunner to plan for having a partner with me, and then realize that wouldn’t be the case an hour before the race. (Missed you, Kelly!)

High hopes on race eve that we'd be crossing the finish together.

High hopes on race eve that we’d be crossing the finish together.

I was way nervous in the morning and couldn’t finish my usual breakfast or coffee. Clayton, Addison and I left about 10 minutes later than we’d planned, but we were staying so close to the race that I didn’t think much about it. When he dropped me off and I realized the start line wasn’t where I thought (seriously, eight weeks of non-map studying), I started freaking out a little about missing the start. I jogged to the big mass of people, made a quick as lightning bathroom stop on the way, and just as I asked someone if this was the half marathon start, the gun went off.

And there I was, running. I had very little time–okay, zero time–to steady my head or stretch or get my bearings. The first five miles were lame city. We ran over the Bridge of Lions immediately, and then spent the rest of the time on a major highway passing strip malls and Sunday morning traffic. I really wanted to hold off on listening to music in case I needed a boost later, so it was just engines and feet out there. Luckily, there was a decently funny guy behind me that kept me entertained with sardonic commentary. We’re all idiots for doing this, let’s just embrace it.

My pace for those first five miles was exactly on target. I’d wanted to keep it somewhat conservative but not start too slow to the point where I couldn’t ever increase to my loftier goals. Turns out, that ol’ increase would never take place, so that became a moot point. It was a positive split parade after six miles. But at least for five miles I stuck to the plan.

Around mile 5 we hit the second bridge (the Bridge of Lions was the first), which was long and long. I felt pretty good going over it and saw my speedy friend coming back down the other bridge (numero tres, if you’re keeping count). She looked really strong and that was exciting. I saw Clayton twice around this point and his lanky torso hanging out of the car trying to snap pictures was too much cute to handle.

Such a beautiful highway view with a line of drivers giving you angry stares for making them late to brunch.

Such a beautiful highway view with a line of drivers giving you angry stares for making them late to brunch.

Once we descended bridge two, it was maybe 0.1 mile before we turned around and ran up the third bridge. And this was my coffin. I seemed to have lost all steam going up that beast. Trying desperately to be funny and encouraging, I made some comment to a girl that was walking. She passed me less than a half mile later, so I doubt I’ll be throwing out any more hilarious and obviously effective words of wisdom at any future races. I’ll probably invoice her for coaching fees.

I tried to remember my friend telling me that miles 3-8 were going to suck. Just get past that point, I thought. But mile 7 was it for me. It was the last time I felt any sustained strength. From that point on, I battled against quitting and walking my pissy butt back to the car. My initial strategy was to turn things up at mile 9. In real life, this was the point I vowed never to do a full marathon. Honestly, the only reason I didn’t stop at the mile 10 marker was because I knew how long it would take for me to walk back and there was no shortcut. I had no other motivation to keep running other than I’d finish slightly faster that way.

I had to walk a few seconds here and there but got so annoyed with myself I started back up pretty quickly. [Text to husband somewhere around this point: "Babe it's over". Dramatic much?]

There was actually a sad little pack of us who would run some and then stop to walk and then try to run again between miles 10 and 12. Clearly, this was not our day, and I felt bad for all of us. We never envisioned this would be our race. Womp womp.

I got a text from a friend when I was feeling especially womp-wompy that said “hope the run went well today!” After I got over the boiling rage of her thinking I’d be done when I still had two more miles, I realized there were a lot of people who knew about this race that were going to ask me about it. I could not imagine saying I gave up at mile 11, so I kept going out of sheer stubbornness. But I wasn’t happy about it.

We had to go back over the Bridge of Lions at the last mile. Four bridges would be an accurate summation. Luckily, that was the easiest of all of them and wasn’t too awful at that point. Life in general was looking rather dismal so a little incline wasn’t going to swing that vote too much. I was able to pick it up ever so mildly at the end when I saw my fast friend–2nd place in her age group and 9th woman overall, wha?!?!–and her fam. A little farther down towards the finish line I spotted Clayton and Addison’s huge grin, which was indescribable. But more than anything, I was glad that it was over. I was so hoping to finish feeling more than that.


I wasn’t impressed or anything after I finished, but having that six-mile mental battle so fresh in my mind, I was proud that I pounded it out. As the hours dragged on, and I looked over and over at my terrible splits, and the official times were posted, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed.

I don’t know if I had more in me during those hours, but I am bummed that this race was the culmination of a totally healthy, really strong, 12-week training cycle. I felt great after every long run and did speed work consistently every week. My long run paces were all better than what I ended up with at this race, and my long runs had always felt easy. That is so, so frustrating. I was hoping, planning and training to race this thing, and all I could do was finish.

But hey, I did finish.

Lunchtime bling.

Lunchtime bling.

Other positive notes: technically I did reach my very basic goal of beating the time from my first half marathon (by 6 minutes) and Miss Black Shirt was all about trying to pass me in the finish chute and did not, thank you very much. I didn’t even know anyone was near me until I looked through the pictures.

I may not have finished before many people, but I did finish before her.

I may not have finished before many people, but I did finish before her.

Plus, mom bonus: I ran a half after baby birthing. When I remember that first two-mile run a few months after having Addison, it’s hard to believe I conquered (okay, tolerated) 13.1 miles. Those first few weeks were u-g-l-y.

Oh, speaking of ugly.

Boy, she sure is having fun and looking good doing it!

Boy, she sure is having fun and looking good doing it!

So what now? Well, I am going to sulk and eat cookies for another day or two. I’m going to join my sister in law for a pedicure and wine date. And then I am going to put my big girl tempo shorts on and get ready for


The definition of insanity...

The definition of insanity…

I am certain I have a better race in me, and I am not wasting this training on that miserable half.

At least we know one person was glad I made the trip to St. Augustine. (Total accident, by the way.)

Just me and MJ, rounding third base.

Just me and MJ, rounding third base.

So, anyone feel like running a half in December???

Moderate Effort, Maximum Embarrassment

This morning Clayton and I woke up nice and early for a 5k at our local zoo. I “accidentally” waited until last night to inform him it was a 7:30 a.m. start, not 8 a.m. Oopsies, we already paid! My bad, Dollface.

Unreasonably, I decided to shoot for a PR/check off an item on my Under 30 wish list, despite a serious lapse in training. Meaning I did not train. I know better than to assume I’ll push myself to a PR effort, especially going Garmin-less; I absolutely will not. So my secret weapon in this run was Clayton’s snobby athletic superiority and his claim that I can “definitely” go faster if I try harder. I’m still not quite as convinced as he is, but if he’s next to me or, better yet, a few steps ahead, at least I’ll definitely move quicker than normal just to shut him up.

The race probably started earlier to beat the heat and humidity. In theory, anyway. To actually beat the humidity it would have to start in Rhode Island. The race started about 10 minutes late. Not the way to the heart of Floridians already drenched in sweat walking from their cars to the start line. Even that little window allowed the humidity to climb from miserable to haha why are you idiots outside in running clothes.

My sister in law was on Addie duty, and the four of us had just moseyed on down near the start, fake stretching and ignoring that feeling of having to pee a sixth time, when all of a sudden the big crowd of people surged forward. I didn’t hear an announcement or gun. Just a rush of hot air whooshing by and a sudden moment of panic that the world was ending because we missed the start! Yeah, the world wasn’t ending. We just walked like four steps and got in the middle of the pack. Sometimes I’m a stickler for rules.

The course was pretty narrow for the number of runners, and I missed most of the view of the Hillsborough River dodging people in front of me. Running through the zoo may have been cool for people without annual passes that don’t go once a week, but Mama has seen that same monkey 15 times and would love for you to not stop abruptly to look at it. Again, very narrow with LOTS of zigzagging.

I was struggling at the end. It was muggy and we were running through a boring parking lot. Clayton somehow talked me into booking it the last 0.1 mile. Bad. Idea. I ran through the finish (picking off Miss “pink visor” that Clayton kept pointing out as our target, might I add), slowed for about 1/8 of a second in an attempt to have my shoe timing chip cut off, and realized things were about to get real up in that zoo. And also up in my throat. I jerked my foot away from the kind and understanding race worker and jello-walked to a cluster of bushes right next to the finish line. I then proceeded to complete about four cycles of dry heaving/pacing back and forth behind a stranger’s car. I may never reach that level of attractiveness ever again.

I heard the race worker tell Clayton two more times that he “needed” my race chip. Dude, you NEED me to not puke on your crisp, orange, zoo-issued polo. I assure you that is your most pressing need right now. It was both mortifying (it’s not like I busted out 6 minute miles…talking to you, GI system) and gratifying to experience that running rite of passage. Would I have preferred to experience it alone, hunched over foliage in my own yard? Sure, but where’s the fun/blog entry in that?

You see where I’m going with this, yes? Leading with all the excuses so that the big let down at the end seems expected and justified.

Oh, and I have exercise-induced asthma.

And I didn’t properly warm up.

While I did technically PR (as a Noa; who knows what those college 5k times were, before I discovered brown ales and hosted another human in my loins), I didn’t hit my goal time. By 25 seconds. That doesn’t sting at all. I made a fake-puking, chip-stealing loon out of myself to miss my goal by 25 seconds.

I’m still pumped to have broken a 10 minute/mile pace without really running beforehand. Certainly not impressing anyone, but it just sounds so much faster to me for some reason. And when scrolling through the results, I’ll be honest: it was thrilling to see my name before the pace number jumped to double digits. I hate talking about times because I know I’m slow, but dang it, I’m not the slowest!

Once I could see and stand straight, I turned over my apparently invaluable timing chip and waited as my husband grabbed every free item at the post-race party. Granola bars for toddlers even though we don’t have a toddler? You bet! Tiny packets of strange spreadable sunflower butter? Pack it up! Gargantuan moldy oranges that have no place to be stored in our fully loaded stroller? Two, please!

We met up with my sister in law and Addison for some necessary photo ops with livestock and an abbreviated tour of the zoo, mainly just to see the baby elephants. I wasn’t crying when they locked trunks in sweet baby elephant love, they kicked up dust in the air, I swear.

Just when it couldn't get any grosser after that run.

Just when it couldn’t get any grosser after that run.

zoo 5k fam

Normally, I don’t wear pink.

But life is full of exceptions, now isn’t it? Sure wouldn’t be the first time I pretentiously turned my nose up at something only to find myself eventually embracing it.

Facebook. Emoticons. Drinking on the weekdays. All kinds of stuff, really.


Maybe it was knowing that Saturday morning I would be donning the brightest, most glaring shade of hot pink that kept me in an undeterred good mood Friday. Whatever it was, mama had a really, really great day.

It started with interviewing the world’s sweetest couple for an ad campaign I’m working on. Their spirits filled the room with joy, and when they told me they had just celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary, well, then I had to fight to keep myself together and not get all high-pitched-squeaky-baby-voice all up on them. I almost affectionately touched the woman’s cheek. Thank God I reeled that in. Also, they have a dog named Salsa. So yeah, I’m not exaggerating their awesomeness.

After filling out the necessary paperwork to officially adopt them as grandparents, I had another stop to make.

PA132308Got some sweet swag and my lucky bib number. Just kidding, 282’s not really my favorite number. It’s 337.


I swear there’s an excellent explanation for that photo filminess. I’ll get to that in a minute. I fall in love with Williamsburg every time I head up there, and since I had to pick up my packet in the ‘Burg, I stayed there and worked for a few hours. Coffee and free wi-fi would make my day under normal circumstances, but where I headed next was anything but normal. 

Braving the expected crowds and snobby salespeople, I took myself to Verizon with my two-year old Droid. And then I took myself home with an iPhone 4s and made technological love to Siri. This is what happens when my husband leaves me alone to handle my phone upgrade. It’s his own fault. So that bib photo? The protective film is definitely still on the camera lens. I am so not ready to own an iPhone.

And maybe you have a lot of self-facing camera lens photos comin’ your way in the next few weeks. I just can’t stop.

Case in point:


When I was in Williamsburg, I found an article I wrote in a local magazine! Of course the byline will tell you otherwise because copywriting is sneaky like that. I was pretty jazzed since it was so unexpected; I turn those suckers in and the powers-that-be make the publishing decisions.

So me, my article and my iPhone (probably going to stop capitalizing that “P” from here on out, fyi) hunkered down for a night of pre-race fueling with pizza and beer and Dateline. Love me some weekend Dateline mysteries.

It might help you to know that Clayton is on call this weekend, explaining his conspicuous absence from most of my life for about 72 hours. He had a brief spell free from the on-call chaos Friday night, so we slipped out and found a case for my precious Siri. I’d already dropped her twice. When we came back home, we made the regrettable decision to not park 2.5 miles away from our apartment on a public street and parked next to a curb in our complex. Not blocking anyone, just minding our own illegally parked business. That would be the beginning of the end of my good mood.


Clayton’s phone rings at 1 a.m. We are all really happy about it; it’s so annoying how people’s life-threatening traumatic injuries are, like, so inconvenient for me. He needed to go to the hospital for a surgery. About two minutes after I hear the door shut, it opens again.

Clayton: Nat, did you move the car?

Me: What? Why would I do that? No.

Clayton: Crap. Then it got towed.

And that’s when I committed to never, ever, ever living in an apartment or townhouse complex again. Ever.

He didn’t have a choice to handle that little snafu at the moment, and I certainly wasn’t going to be bothered with the whereabouts of our leased motor vehicle during my beauty rest. But at 5:30 a.m. we had to deal with the situation because we needed two cars this morning. I sort of half dressed for the race, half didn’t brush my teeth, and we headed to the Land Where Reasonable Regulations Go to Die, aka the towing company storage yard. We made a pit stop at the ATM, of course, because tow companies only accept cash and profanity as forms of payment. After Clayton selected, “Other Amount” and typed “Firstborn Child,” we had enough to cover the fees for the four hours our car was professionally stored.

You’d think that I would harbor less resentment after having my car towed at FSU on the first day of every single semester for five years.

I had to get my sleepy tail home to finish prepping for the race (okay, to take more self portraits that I’ve since decided aren’t exactly high quality content). With the towing hold-up and my getting lost—don’t blame her, I didn’t ask Siri for help—I arrived at the race 15 minutes before the start.

September 20114

The run itself was gorgeous and brutal; nearly 4 miles of the 6.2 were on hilly trails. Williamsburg is pretty, but she sure is a beyotch to run with. Luckily, and without the intention of “training” for this race, I’d done a few trail runs since the half marathon, which I think made a huge difference. All time goals were kicked out the window along the first uphill stint on gravel, but at least I didn’t want to keel over at the end. Plus, there were walkers aplenty, so I finally wasn’t bringing up the rear of a road race.


Since it was a 45-minute trek back home, I rehydrated while still in Williamsburg. Official race day tradition? Most definitely.



I feel like I should give you fair warning that this post is nearly void of humor and serves as one gigantic “you go girl” high-five. To me. From me. With an exaggerated back pat. Wearing a foam “number one” finger. During a parade in my honor. If that doesn’t sound like a party you’d like to attend, I recommend skipping this one and maybe spending that time writing an ode to yourself. It’s indulgent and fabulous.


Big day for the Noa hip flexors. I registered for my first ever half marathon. Even though it’s 3 1/2 weeks away, I’m a big fat pansy and you probably won’t find out about this until long after I’ve iced my aching knees and downed my free beer. I really like having a non-accountable window of opportunity to completely flake out and forfeit my $30 (it’s a really, really small race, like 56 laps around someone’s backyard).

While I initially just typed “I don’t know why I’m afraid to talk about this milestone,” the absolute truth is that I know exactly why I don’t want to share the details of my attempt at a long distance road race: I’m obnoxiously competitive. And I’m just plain terrible at running. I don’t want you to know that I’m so very slow, and that it may take me three hours to finish that beast. I don’t want you to know that, because the race is so small, there’s a very high probability I’ll cross the finish line to an empty parking lot because everyone’s already gone home. I’m embarrassed and prideful and would never admit that I might take a walking break or five before finishing those 13.1 miles.

But that’s a heaping load of crap. I’ve worked my slow butt off, achieving things that I never imagined, like looking forward to a five miler as an easy run, pushing myself to keep moving when every single muscle from my waist down screamed at me to stop, getting back on the pavement after knee pain sidelined me for two weeks and doing what it took to stay there.

Week after week, I got up, put on my Mizunos, and ran. I could never have pressed “Confirm Registration” if I stopped doing those three little things when I was tired. Or when my muscles hurt. Or when I preferred to eat my weight in chips and salsa. Or when it was inconvenient. Or when my family asked repeatedly why I would ever run nine miles for no reason at all.

I’ve been an athlete my entire life. I can genuinely say that running is the hardest sport I’ve ever been a part of. I started noticing recently that all the running blogs and running friends I know are classic Type A personalities—driven, organized, structured and disciplined. You cannot run with any kind of success without all of these components. Being a solid middle-of-the-roader when it comes to personality, sticking to and improving my running was a true challenge. It demands consistency, and sometimes every single step is a mental and physical battle.

For the past five months, I’ve won. I beat the voice in my head that said

You can’t run because you’ve never done it.

You can’t run because you’re slow.

You can’t run because you won’t win.

You can’t run because you have asthma.

You can’t run because no one understands it.

You can’t run because it hurts.

You can’t run because it’s hard.

I told that voice to shut the hell up. And I ran.

For 2.5 really, really tough miles. And then for 3. And then for 5,6 and 7.

And then twice, I ran for 9 miles. This weekend, I’ll go for 10.

And in a little less than a month, I’ll finish 13.1. Without any expectations of how it will look, or how long it will take, or what the “real” runners will think of me. I simply expect to do what I’ve done for five months: to get up, put on my Mizunos, and run.

Running Collage



Dunzo. Kiss it goodbye, put a fork in it or smack it on the butt as it scoots by. 13.1 miles are D-O-N-E.

I might write a detailed recap, I might not, but trust that it didn’t take me 3 hours (even though that would have been fine with me, but better for my Achilles that it didn’t) and I didn’t stop to walk (even though that would have been okay, too).

The only reason those two things happened was because my husband ran with me. Step for step, for every mile. He wouldn’t let me work that hard and throw it away at mile 11, when I really, really, really wanted to walk straight off the course and into a tub of ice mixed with Heineken. He was there to hold my water bottle when it was time to take some Shot Bloks. And as soon as we put that bickering match that occurred between the starting line and the first quarter mile behind us, it was basically smooth, aching sailing.

And then we got to walk for days back to our car. Yeah, I should probably do a detailed recap.

But for now, I’m just thinking about what a very lucky girl I am. Now, about that Heineken.

half marathon