It’s been a while since I’ve posted any fun playlists, and I couldn’t think of a better reason than now. For anyone who says you can’t run to country, look them right in the eye and tell them they’re crazy. Country tunes give me my running swagger, I like to think, and they can pump you up more than enough to get you to the finish line strong. If you’re looking to add a little twang to your next playlist, check these out. They’re the tunes I listened to for two hours and 11 minutes on Saturday while I was trekking through the hills of Nashville. Just give me some boots, a cowboy hat and I’d be all set.
“Ready to Run,” Dixie Chicks (Yes, I’m cheesy and made this the first song)
“Where It Is,” Carrie Underwood
“Better Than Revenge,” Taylor Swift
“Wild At Heart,” Gloriana
“Watchin’ You,” Rodney Atkins
“No Reins,” Rascal Flatts
“If Ever I Could Love,” Keith Urban
“Heads Carolina, Tails California,” Jo Dee Messina
“It’s America,” Rodney Atkins
“Stuck Like Glue,” Sugarland
“Cowboy Cassanova,” Carrie Underwood
“Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” Jake Owen
“Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy),” Big & Rich
“Where the Blacktop Ends,” Keith Urban
“My Kinda Party,” Jason Aldean
“Farmer’s Daughter,” Rodney Atkins
“What Was I Thinkin,” Dierks Bentley
“Before He Cheats,” Carrie Underwood
“All I Want to Do,” Sugarland
“Gunpowder & Lead,” Miranda Lambert
“You Belong with Me,” Taylor Swift
“If Ever I Could Love,” Keith Urban
“Dirt Road Anthem,” Jason Aldean (I only put this song on for Dustin, but it ended up being great for all of the hills)
“Undo It,” Carrie Underwood
“Should’ve Said No,” Taylor Swift
“Something Like That,” Tim McGraw
“Honeybee,” Blake Shelton
“The Story of Us,” Taylor Swift
“Crazy Town,” Jason Aldean
“Drunk On You,” Luke Bryan
“Come Back Song,” Darius Rucker
“Me and My Gang,” Rascal Flatts
“Hit the Ground Runnin,” Keith Urban
“She Wouldn’t Be Gone,” Blake Shelton
“Home Is Where the Heart Is,” Lady Antebellum
“Songs Like This,” Carrie Underwood
“Fearless,” Taylor Swift
“Something More,” Sugarland
“You Gonna Fly,” Keith Urban
“Alright,” Darius Rucker
“Summer Nights,” Rascal Flatts
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” Miranda Lambert
“Kiss A Girl,” Keith Urban
“Best Days of Your Life,” Kellie Pickler
“Ladies Love Country Boys,” Trace Adkins
“She’s Got It All,” Kenny Chesney
“Mayberry,” Rascal Flatts
“Long Hot Summer,” Keith Urban
“What Was I Thinkin,” Dierks Bentley
Your turn: Tell me all of your favorite country tunes!
Holy heat and hills, batman. The fact that I earned this just makes me extremely proud:
Before I delve into how the race actually played out, let me just say that completing this race without ending up in a medical tent is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve never pushed myself so hard, mentally and physically, and I can say with 100 percent certainty that I left every single thing I had left in me on that race course. Did I accomplish my sub-2:00 goal? (SPOILER!) No. Did I PR? Again, the answer is no. But I’ve never felt so good about myself because I didn’t give up and I simply kept moving when I thought I couldn’t anymore.
So let’s go back in time, to 4:30am, when my alarm sounded.
I pounced out of bed, raring to go. I woke up a few times throughout the night, but felt completely rested and ready to race. I ate my Clif bar and banana for breakfast, drank some water and finished up my goals blog post so y’all had something to read while I was pounding the pavement (Or in Jocelyn’s case, something to read before she kicked some serious asphalt ).
Dad, Dustin and I drove out to Centennial Park at 5:30am, easily found a parking spot and relaxed for a bit. I used the porta potties, which didn’t have very long lines, stretched a little and chatted to keep my nerves at bay.
I sent the boys packing a half hour before the start so they could get to their watch posts and I could do my warm-up in peace. I jogged around the park to loosen up, then did dynamic stretches for about 10 minutes. Walking lunges, hip openers and knee raises became my best friend. I felt loose, light and more than ready to go after my goal.
Rock ‘n’ Roll started right on time and the wave starts went off without a hitch. I was in corral 8, so I didn’t wait very long before it was our turn. Just like in D.C., I got to toe the start line for a few seconds before the gun went off for my corral. That feeling is so awesome, and one of the many reasons I love Rock ‘n’ Roll’s start protocol.
The first mile was great, but I constantly checked my watch to reign myself in and make sure I didn’t go out too fast. I kept things in check and clocked a 9:03 pace. My goal was to maintain between a 9:00 and 9:15-pace for the first 5K, which I ended up nailing.
The big thing that needs to be mentioned about this race is the HILLS. There are a ton of them. Remember when I said in my goals post that I wasn’t underestimating them? Yeah, I thought I wasn’t. I knew there would be a decent amount, but I did not fully understand just how many. They never stopped. And they didn’t all lead to a glorious downhill. Sometimes it was an uphill, flat ground, then another uphill. I know this is good in the long run (pun!) because it forces my body to use different muscles, giving others a break, but man, the constant change was tough on me mentally. When they started rolling out in the first mile, I thought it was different but that the hills were probably front-loaded early on in the course and the end would be more flat. WRONG.
The second 5K went fairly smoothly, but I could tell I was already feeling hot. I took in much more fuel than I normally do and started keeping an eye out for volunteers with salt packets. I kept double checking my forehead to make sure I was sweating, but I had a gut feeling I was going to need it later.
By the time I hit mile six, I was extremely hot and felt thirsty the entire time. I was supposed to see Dustin and Dad at mile 3, but missed them because they couldn’t cross the street. Which means I didn’t get some extra water and I wouldn’t see them until mile nine. I grabbed an orange from a volunteer, then decided to grab a Gatorade at the next station.
I should have known better.
My stomach doesn’t react well to Gatorade during races. It never has. I tried it once during my first half-marathon and swore it off after that because it made me feel funky. But I was so concerned about the heat that I wanted to get something more substantial than water in me. I hadn’t found a salt packet yet and didn’t want to take any chances. So I drank half of a cup of Gatorade and my stomach felt off the rest of the time.
The hills were still rolling and there wasn’t much shade, but there was a ton of crowd support. I give Nashville a lot of props for this – the volunteers were fantastic and the crowd was amazing. So many people thanked the volunteers for simply coming out to be there, and there wasn’t a single area of the course where I felt like there could’ve been more people cheering. In the more quiet, homely areas, people were out in their front yards, sitting in lawn chairs and blowing bubbles to cheer us on! One man even set up his garden hose as a spray so we could run through it. What a blessing.
Around mile eight, I finally found a woman with salt packets. I desperately grabbed two and tucked one in my pocket. The second was immediately ripped open and dumped in my mouth. That was my first time taking just pure salt and I could tell I needed it. I don’t ever put salt on my food because it’s just too strong for my liking, but this tasted like pure gold to me. I could’ve easily taken the second packet in but wanted to save it for later.
At mile nine, I did some quick math and registered that I could still grab sub-2:00, but that I would have to push for sub-9:00 miles. I simply wasn’t sure if I had it in me because I was pushing as hard as I could to maintain a 9:30 pace. I started looking for Dustin and Dad, knowing they would have water and a pick-me-up, but they were nowhere in sight.
And then I saw Dustin at mile ten and it was the most glorious moment ever.
He must have seen me coming because he already had the water undone and was ready to hand off. I asked him to run with me for a bit, so he ditched Dad (don’t worry, he picked him up after) and went a few blocks. I carried the water, which funnily had a koozie attached to it, and tried to get my breathing back in check. Dustin told me I was still running a good pace and the 2-hour pacer was right with me, so I just needed to push. I sent him back to my dad, digging deep , praying the hills would stop so I could get that time goal.
I set my sights on the 2-hour pacer and vowed to hang on for as long as possible. Up and down a few more hills we went, in the complete sunshine, and then the heat finally started to slam down on me. My pace slowed more at mile 11. I tried every mental game in the book: only 2 miles left, you’ve gone this far, cranking my favorite playlists, my favorite song, encouraging myself, scolding myself, dedicating the miles to my coach, etc. I pushed and willed my legs to move faster, but the damn time on the clock kept getting higher, instead of the other way around. I dumped the other salt packet down my throat and prayed I could just finish the race. Another hill came and I could no longer see the 2-hour pacer.
We hit the last mile and it turned into a game of Just. Keep. Running. I only talked to myself about the next .05 of a mile, telling myself to forget about the rest. Run the next .05. That’s manageable. You can do that. One foot in front of the other. If you get to a downhill, then you know you can do .1 of a mile. Forget about the rest. Eventually the finish line will show up; just focus on the next .05.
It got really scary in the last mile. A lot of runners simply dropped like flies, passed out in the middle of the course. I was sprinting my heart out (or at least, I thought I was). I couldn’t force myself to move faster. My legs felt heavy, my head was spinning, my stomach was in knots and I felt like I was going to throw up. I told myself to just keep going. You can’t stop when you’re this close to the end. The faster you run, the faster you’re done. It’s OK if you feel like you’re going to vomit. It means you’re working hard. You’re almost there, Sam. Ignore your stomach. RUN.
And then I threw up.
I’ll spare you the details, but it happened at 12.63 miles, with less than half of a mile to go. Luckily, I was on the side of the road already (I tend to stick to the right side of the course) and there was a gap in the crowd. I kept telling myself I wasn’t actually going to puke; I just felt like I was. With less than half of a mile to go, I just needed to push a little harder and I’d be done. And then I lost it. I blame the damn Gatorade. I shook my head, held back my tears and started to jog again. Fortunately, someone in the crowd had a bottle of water they let me have (thank you again!), so I rinsed my mouth and kept moving. Focusing on .05 at a time, at this point, I just didn’t want to pass out. My A and B goals were gone; I just needed to finish.
I saw the finish line and pumped my arms and legs as hard as I could to get there. I’m sure I looked like I was dying and in no way do I think I’m going to have any sort of attractive photos from this race. But I made it. I didn’t see Dustin and Dad as I crossed, but they were there once I was in the corral. I immediately started sobbing and forced my arms above my head to keep from crumbling to the ground.
So yeah, I didn’t get my sub-2:00. In fact, I ran my second slowest half-marathon. But I’m completely OK with that. I gave this race every single thing I had. I didn’t even let myself think about DNFing, and even when sub-2 was long gone, I kept repeating it to myself so that I would move as fast as my legs would take me. I finally know what it feels like to push my limits and leave every single thing I have out on the course.
And the other great part? I now know for a fact that I have a sub-2 in me. Someone get me to a flat course with slightly cooler weather and I know I can crush that time. I wasn’t so sure of that going into Nashville, but I’ve left more confident in my body’s abilities than ever before.
What about you? Did you race this weekend? A ton of my friend’s KILLED it this weekend on the pavement. Send me links to your recaps, or just tell me all about your adventures!
It’s almost time to race! But before we get to goals, here’s how the rest of yesterday went down:
After two flights and a one-hour layover in Charlotte, I arrived in Nashville with Dustin. My dad and step-mom were waiting for us at security.
He’s so cute, isn’t he? Like father like daughter
Oh, and that picture isn’t staged. Dustin whipped his phone out to take a picture because he knew I’d like it for the blog. Also, I’m as white as a ghost.
We immediately went over to the expo so I could pick up my bib and check out the other goodies floating around. I nabbed some nuun samples (hydrate!) and munched on the other goodies floating around.
I also became a sucker for marketing and signed up for the Disney Wine & Dine Half-Marathon. I’ve been contemplating it for a few weeks, but once I saw that processing fees were eliminated, I hopped on board. Dustin nodded approval, the race is eight days before my birthday, the price goes up in a few weeks and today was payday, so there really was no chance in hell I was going to say no. I guess I’ll be experiencing my first night race (start time is 10p.m.) this fall!
And then the next most important thing happened: food. I’m taking my pre-race carb loading serious this time around. First, I wolfed down a monstrous Brooklyn bagel with triple berry cream cheese (hey, there’s fresh fruit in there!) at the airport. I wish I could say I only ate half, but then I’d be lying. In fact, I ate all of mine and a little bit of Dustin’s, too. I blame it on the fact that I usually eat breakfast once I wake up and today I had to wait a good hour and 45 minutes before inhaling any carbs. No bueno.
Dad took us to Applebee’s for lunch, which I have quite the soft spot for. I shared boneless buffalo wings with Dustin (my fave) and the fiesta lime chicken dish with a blue moon on the side. Luckily, I have a pretty strong stomach so I don’t have to be too careful about what I eat the day before the race.
We spent the rest of the day relaxing at the hotel. I made sure not to walk around too much so that I have rested legs and my foot is ready to go. I iced my foot before bed and slipped on the oh-so-sexy hot pink compression socks so they could work their magic while I got my beauty sleep.
Dinner was originally scheduled to take place at Maggiano’s because I requested an Italian feast, but there was an hour and a half wait. It was getting close to my bed time, so we quickly left. All of the local spots we wanted to try had the same problem, so we ended up at the Olive Garden. I had one breadstick, a small portion of salad and three-quarters of my monstrous plate of ravioli with marinara sauce. ‘Twas delicious.
My race outfit is chosen (I brought three options) and was laid out last night as if already on my body. My Garmin and iPod are charged and my full-blown country playlist is ready to rock.
So how do I plan on tackling this race? Here are my goals:
A.) Run a sub-2. If that clock reads 1:59.59, I’ll be a happy girl.
B.) Run at least a 2:07. It’s my current PR and I’d like to not run slower than that, if at all possible.
C.) Finish. I’m not underestimating the heat and hills, and I know I’m not running this in my peak physical condition. A lot could go wrong, but good God I need to at least cross the finish line, regardless of time.
This is how I plan on accomplishing at least one of these (or all three!) goals:
- Hydrating and taking in salt. Usually my salt levels aren’t a concern, but I’ve also never raced long distance in the heat. Dustin will have salt packets and a water bottle with him in case I need some in between water stations. I was going to carry a fuel belt with me, but mine has mysteriously disappeared. I tore apart my bedroom last night but still can’t find it. I’m comfortable going water station to water station because that’s what I’ve always done, but Dustin will have extra stuff on hand, just in case. Anyone running in the heat tomorrow, remember, if you’re running but not sweating, that means your body is overheating. Get some salt and water in you, stat.
- Not psyching myself out on the hills. Every single time I told someone which race I was trying to sub-2 on, their eyes opened wide and they said some variation of, “Oh, wow. Um, I’ve heard it has a lot of hills.” Yes, I’m aware of that. And it will probably suck. But when I brought it up to Abby, she said, “Screw the hills. You’ve been training in Central Park. And you know what? If it goes uphill, it has a downhill. Focus your energy on powering up the hill, then cruise the downhill.” I agree with all of those things. You so smart, coach!
- Pacing myself. This means not going out too fast, which I am notorious for. I get so excited and caught up in the crowds. I see a great split for the first mile and I think, “Woohoo, I’m a rock star!” Yeah, OK, Sam. Things are fantastic and then….I poop out. Womp womp. But not this time! My plan is to find the 2:10 pace group and stick with them for the first mile or so, then push ahead when I’m comfortable and not so high on life.
- Running hard. I’m breaking the race into 5Ks: first 5K, stick to a comfortable pace around 9:05-9:10. Second 5K: Hover around 9:00-minute miles. Third 5K: Pick it up so I’m feeling uncomfortable the entire time, aiming for 8:45-8:50 paces. Fourth 5K: Maintain that uncomfortable pace, but push harder. I probably won’t see a time increase, but I need to push harder to stay at the same pace. Last mile: BALLS TO THE WALL. Sprint as hard as I can, leaving it all out on the pavement, feeling like I want to give up, vomit or die. Doesn’t that sound pleasant?
- Remembering why I’m running. This race is going to be tough for me. I know it is. I’ve never pushed myself to truly race before and I need to mentally stay in the game and be OK with being uncomfortable. Too often I don’t give myself enough credit and think I can’t maintain a faster pace because it feels uncomfortable. Remember, Samantha, it’s not supposed to feel comfortable. Running is easier than racing. I can do this. And when I really think I can’t, I’m going to remember exactly why I’m running this. It’s personal and all sorts of secret for now, but I’m sure I’ll go over it in the recap.
And there ya have it, friends. Yes, I have an injury and am not in the best shape to tackle this race. But I’m ready to push harder than I ever have before. If I come out with a sub-2 PR attached to my name, I’ll be stoked. But honestly, the best part of this race is that my family is there. My dad has never seen me run and I know I’m going to tear up seeing him cheering for me on the sidelines. No matter what the outcome, I’m going to enjoy this weekend.
Who else is racing in Nashville? Rodney Atkins and Gloriana are rockin’ the stage post-race and you know I’ll be there. Good luck and get your country on!
Helloooo, from Nashville!
But wait, Sam…you live in New York City….what the heck are you doing in Nashville?!
Obviously, it’s been a while since I’ve updated. I know. I’m not even going to bother giving excuses anymore. Let’s just say I’ve been living life outside, rather than behind a computer screen. After all, if I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t have any good stories to tell. And we don’t want things to get boring around here, do we? (BECAUSE IT’S NOT BORING ALREADY!)
Anyway, I’m in Nashville for the weekend to get my race on. Way back when (nearly a year ago…holy crap), I signed up for the Country Music Marathon on April 28, 2012. You read that right – the Country Music MARATHON. As in 26.2 miles, not 13.1. I was super excited as I bought my ticket and watched the money in my bank account disappear. Nothing was more exciting to me than the thought of spending 4+ hours (because you know I’m not going sub-4 on my first mary) pounding the pavement in the hot Nashville sun with my dad and Dustin on the sidelines.
Of course, I didn’t really think things through. Nashville has hills? Psshh. It might be 80 or 90 degrees on race day? Whatevs. I just wanted to ruuuuuun!
Clearly, I’m a bit naïve.
So after a few more races, including a half-marathon, and a wee bit of hip pain, I was ready to start training. Six to seven months of long runs, building up 20 miles until the welcoming relief of taper town (no, I don’t go crazy during taper. I’m totally one of those runners who loves it). I hired coach Abby to guide me through, which ended up being the best decision I made through this entire journey. She coached me well; every run now had a purpose and strength training was reintroduced into my life. We were focusing on getting me strong so that my body would be ready for all the sweat-filled pounding that was about to go down.
But then my knee started to hurt.
Oh yes, we can’t forget that now, can we? The awful long runs, the tears and the total breakdown in the middle of Central Park. If you’ve forgotten, let me remind you. I sure as hell will remember it for a long time. Tendinitis is fun!
After a lot of careful contemplation and discussion with coach Abby (read: me sitting in Starbucks across from Abby bawling my eyes out while she tries to calm the crazy person down so people will stop staring), we decided it was best if I drop down to the half-marathon. If you want to know all of the reasons why, check out this post and try to understand my brain a little. It’s complicated, I know.
Just because I was moving to 13.1 doesn’t mean I couldn’t go after another goal of mine, though: sub-2. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and truly believe I’m capable of it. First step: physical therapy. So I packed up my bags (OK, I’m exaggerating) and paid a visit to Ken at Recovery Physical Therapy.
I can’t say this enough: Ken is a great physical therapist. He doesn’t run himself, but he gets me as a runner. He doesn’t make me do things I don’t want to do, like give up running, and he worked with Abby to stick as close to my new training plan as possible while still building the strength back up in my knee. But more details on that in another post.
I spent my mornings therapy-ing and my evenings running (not on the same days), with some strength and cross-training in the mix. Oh, and a lot of icing, foam rolling, compressing and stretching. A few weeks later though, a dull pain popped up in my foot. Nothing too crazy at first, but noticeable enough. I told Ken and we started modifying exercises and ultrasound-ing the crap out of my foot tendons.
But it didn’t get better. It got worse. Figures.
A few days and a diagnosis of tendinosis due to overuse later (that’s early stages of tendinitis, in case you were wondering) and my mileage was reduced to help heal. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), the tendinosis developed right around the time taper period hit. I choose to view it as a blessing because I could drop down on the miles I was logging without seriously compromising my training. More icing, ultrasound and electric stimulation began and soon enough it was time to cruise until race day.
Phew, I think you’re caught up now. I’ll be back tonight or tomorrow with my goals for race day and how I actually feel about these hills now that I’m staring at them up close and personal.
Now you tell me: Have you been dealing with an injury? Tell me your secrets to recovery! And are you racing this weekend? We have a good number of awesome NYC bloggers tackling the country music half on Saturday, so no matter what, it’s going to be a great time!
Hi everyone! For those of you who actually came back yesterday looking for another update, I thank you. And I apologize. I got distracted by the train wreck that was The Bachelor finale…and the subsequent After the Final Rose episode. Meaning, I wasted three hours in front of the TV, but it was a great reminder that my life isn’t nearly as crazy as it could be.
See, that show serves a purpose, Mom!
And for all you other Bachelor lovers who also love HIMYM, here’s a beautiful thing found via Pinterest (where else would I find it?)
Second, I want to thank all of you who left comments and sent words of encouragement after my last post. It really, truly means a lot to me.
Now, let’s pick things up where we left off on Sunday.
I headed to Central Park for a long run after taking many days off. And when I say days off, I mean complete rest. Only walking to and from work. The rest of the time, I was simply stretching, icing, compressing and taking naproxen. I thought I was going batty from a lack of sweat.
It takes about 20-30 minutes to get to CP from my apartment on the weekend, and as I rode the train, I thought a lot about this run. No matter how much I tried to envision myself cranking out 15 miles with ease, I just couldn’t do it. For some reason, I knew that it just wasn’t going to happen. Chalk it up to a big dose of reality setting in? I have no idea. But, as cheesy as it sounds, I knew I had to try. Otherwise I’d drive myself bonkers wondering if I would’ve been able to do it.
Once again, the first few miles were fine. I went at an easy pace, and strapped my watch on so that it was difficult to check my pace. I just wanted to run. Shortly after two miles, I realized I had made a rookie mistake: I overdressed. I knew it was going to be shorts and a tank weather, or shorts and a long-sleeved shirt at the most, but I let Dustin psych me out when he went out for bagels in the morning and said it was pretty chilly. Nervous about being too cold, I put on crops and a long-sleeved shirt. After two miles, the sleeves were rolled and I was cursing Dustin justalittlebit (NOTE: Do not listen to your non-runner boyfriend when he tells you about the weather. His views are very different from yours).
I pushed on, moving with the rolling hills and thinking about Nashville again. And then out of nowhere, my knee gave out. No slow, building pain that comes and goes like normal, it just plain gave out. I looked at my watch, saw seven miles and decided to stop. I walked for a bit and the pain only came back a little, but I still decided to stop. Call me crazy, but I made the conscious decision to have a good day.
And I’m so proud of myself for that moment.
I realized something. I’m so tired of having crappy weekends because of all the bad long runs I’ve been having. It’s one thing to have a bad run here or there. But to have one on every single weekend for at least a month? That’s not right. Heck, it’s probably a sign from the running gods trying to tell me that this is not my race. So finally, my stubborn head decided to listen. I was (am?) ready to agree: this is not my race to conquer 26.2.
As much as I want it to be, it just isn’t. Like I said in part I, I don’t want to finish my first marathon limping, in pain and hating every single moment. I want to conquer each and every one of those miles, feeling strong, confident, powerful. I want to feel like I’m a badass, not like I got my ass kicked fifteen times over.
But most of all, I don’t want my first 26.2 to be my last. I’m only 22 and I just started running a little over a year ago. I have a lot of miles left in me. Sure, I have a torn meniscus, a reconstructed ACL and a blood disorder that slightly complicates things, but who doesn’t have problems? Everyone has hurdles to jump over; these are mine. There’s no reason to add another one.
If I ran the full 26.2, I’m scared that I would end my running career prematurely.I remember what it’s like to not be able to run for over three months. It’s NOT FUN. It’s mentally demoralizing and if I can avoid it, I’m sure as hell going to do everything in my power to do so. I suppose I’ll finally start believing what others have been telling me: there are other marathons waiting for me.
So am I done with Nashville? Not quite. My family is still there, my dad still hasn’t seen me race, and I’ve already coughed up the money, so I’m still headin’ South come April 27. I’m just going to run the half-marathon. My new plan is still in development, but in general, I’m going to throw myself into physical therapy, focus on strength training and speed work, and aim to PR the sh*t out of that half.
My plans for this weekend’s St. Paddy’s Day National Half? Come back tomorrow!