TO FUEL OR NOT TO FUEL

Fuel

Do you eat before you run?

Okay. I mean. Most say that you should fuel up before a run – ESPECIALLY before a race – but why? We all know that it helps to sustain your energy, keeps you going, helps to ensure sure you don’t crash mid-run… but I’m a morning runner – and I don’t always LIKE – or have TIME – to fuel up before I head out.

But what’s actually best?


Here are a few things to consider when figuring out what is best for YOU:

TIME:

How long do you need to digest your fuel?

And, according to Mayo Clinic – digestion time varies between individuals and between men and women. What does this mean for you? It means that IT DEPENDS. You may need to experiment and explore with different foods, times, and combinations before you find what’s best for you personally. What else does this mean? It means that when someone is telling you exactly what you should do – BE CAUTIOUS. Nobody knows what’s best for you except for…well… you.

Whatcha been eating all week?

Fueling up isn’t only about the pre-run snack or meal – it can also include everything you’ve been eating for days prior – and EVERYONE’S NEEDS ARE DIFFERENT. For me personally, if I eat too big of a meal the night before my race – I’M GOING DOWN. Seriously. I’ve had to move my “pre-run” meal to the entire week before the race. If I eat too late – say, carb-loading the night before the race – personally, my body definitely does not have time to process what I’ve eaten. When this happens, I get sick, have more cramps, and sometimes have a “heavy” feeling that keeps me from running as fast as I can. Finding what works best for you takes time though, and lots of trial-and-error. It’s taken me 6 years to figure out what’s best for me personally, and I’m still learning (and my body is always changing). So make sure you consider the fact that your body is using fuel that it has stored over time – not just from the morning of the run or race.


TYPE:

What type of run are you doing?

Long runs?

Lizzie Kasparek, R.D., sports dietitian for the Sanford Sports Science Institute – suggests “eating two to four hours before a long run.” Long runs require much more energy – which means you may not have adequate fuel in your system to keep you going without a little pre-run snack or meal. However – with this fuel – comes a digestion time. It’s important to consider how much you’ve eaten and how much time you’ll need to digest it before you head out for that longer run!

What about shorter runs?

According to Vishal Patel, chief sports nutritionist at Nuun, if you’re going out for a short run (say 3-4 miles) – you can likely “skip the pre-run meal or snack.” Why is this? Because your body may actually have enough energy stored up in the form of carbs and nutrients to get you through the run. HOWEVER – AGAIN – it is all about your personal preference and needs. If you find that fueling up before a short run best enhances your performance – GO FOR IT. Everyone has different nutritional needs, and you know those needs best.


FOOD:

What are you fueling up with & how much?

It’s also important to fuel up on the RIGHT KIND of foods if you’re going to be eating that pre-run snack or meal. And not just the right kind – but the RIGHT AMOUNT as well. We all know what high-fiber foods do… so maybe lay off the broccoli & beans before you go for your run. But fueling up on some carbs & protein – Kasparek suggests – can be quickly turned into energy to use on those runs. A little oatmeal, some toast and peanut butter, a power bar – just a few options to keep that energy high. But make sure you’re consuming an amount that optimizes your performance. Personally, I eat a power-bar a few hours before a race. It’s light enough that it doesn’t feel like a huge meal – but it gives me enough energy to get me through.


BOTTOM LINE:

It’s all about finding what’s best for you. And it will take a little bit of exploration and experimentation. Everyone has different needs, bodies, and schedules – and therefor, we all have different pre-run preparation. Finding what works best for you is an ever-evolving process, and that’s okay! Just keep exploring and enjoying the process! Share your pre-run fuel plan below!




SOURCES:

Heather Mayer Irvine Freelance Writer Heather is the former food and nutrition editor for Runner’s World and the author of The Runner’s World Vegetarian Cookbook. “Unsure What to Eat Before a Run? These Ideas Fuel Every Distance and Sit Well.” Runner’s World, 3 Apr. 2020, www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-weight-loss/a20853304/what-do-i-eat-before-my-race/.

Laurel Leicht Updated August 14, and Laurel Leicht. “What to Eat Before, During, and After Running.” Health.com, www.health.com/fitness/what-to-eat-before-running.

Luff, Christine. “Why Should You Eat Before a Run?” Verywell Fit, 2 Apr. 2020, http://www.verywellfit.com/should-i-eat-before-a-run-2911547.

RUNNER’S SHARE: STRANGEST MID-RUN THOUGHTS

Runner's Share

After sharing my own (very strange) mid-run thoughts in my most recent blog post, I couldn’t help but wonder whether I was alone. I COULDN’T POSSIBLY be the only one who has the absolute strangest ideas, experiences, thoughts, and visions pop into their head 3-miles into a run…right? Well, I took it to Instagram to find out – and here is what runners shared when I asked them,

“What is the strangest thought or experience you’ve had while running?”


“How funny it would be if every step I took I farted, so the faster I run the more I’d fart.”
@jimmystixruns

“Running along a lake and a guys fishing hook hooked my shoe!”
@lindseyandrew

“Would it hurt if I “accidentally” jumped off the bridge into that river…?”
@dil.handy

“Those gnats who just died on my sweaty legs really have a sad existence…”
@solideogloria_runner

“If I faint… try to look graceful.”
@lyphil

“I wonder if I would still run if I could fly…”
@jessecale

“What if I flag down the next car and hitch a ride back to my starting place…?”
@queen_authentic

“The only reason I’m going to stop is if a deer runs into me.”
@seh.millar

“I can hold it… oops maybe not!”
@montrealrunner1

“I’m so cold… how am I going to pull my pants off in the porta potty?”
@thejourneysofjen


So, let me just say – for the record – that I am CLEARLY not the only one who has wild and crazy thoughts while running. Huge shout out to all of you who helped me to feel a little better about my mid-run thoughts – if you want to check them out yourself, click HERE. I know these aren’t the only brave souls willing to admit their craziest running thoughts – so don’t forget to leave your craziest running thoughts below!

Washington

States

Seattle, Washington

State #23

Location: Seattle, Washington
Half: Mud and Chocolate Half Marathon
Date: April 15, 2019
Finish Time: 1:36
Who’d I travel with? Brett
Pre-run meal? Chocolate. Just kiddingggggg. But honestly… I don’t know, probably because I had too much chocolate. 

MUD AND CHOCOLATE (LOTS OF CHOCOLATE):

From Louisiana, to St. Louis, to Seattle. Three months, three races, three states, three adventures. Seriously. At this point, I was banging out 13 miles left and right and hopping on and off planes as if I knew what I was doing, or knew how to actually navigate an airport. Seattle, Washington – state #23. I was traveling with Brett, and, since he’s quite the planner (thankfully, because I am not), we had a ton on our agenda already – he had already looked up the best places to eat, to drink, to play games – we (he) had everything planned out. Until approximately 10 minutes before landing; at which point, we realized, Seattle, Washington has legalized some things recreationally that, well, aren’t necessarily legal elsewhere. 

NOW. I AM NOT SAYING THAT WE ENGAGED IN THIS TYPE OF RECREATION. GOSH. WHO DO YOU THINK I AM. Also, not sure if you read my post on my Arizona adventure already (if not, check it out for a better understanding) but, again, I will say that I really, really, enjoyed Seattle’s fine chocolate and gummy bear selection. And again, I consumed WAY TOO MANY FREAKING GUMMIES AND CHOCOLATES. I’m just trying to live my best life here, okay guys? Anyways, as I was saying, we had everything all planned out. Until we found chocolate. And gummies. 

We were Air B&B-ing it again this trip. So we found our place, settled in, and ate chocolate till we passed out. When we woke up, it was finally time to explore Seattle. But first, a 5 mile run through the Seattle forests. This trip was unique because, for this particular race, there were two races: a 5 mile race on Saturday, and the half marathon on Sunday. Brett really wanted to do the 5 mile race. So, like the supportive girlfriend I am, I ran it with him on Saturday before my own race on Sunday (did I mention there was MORE free chocolate at the end of the race? I mean, it wasn’t quiteeeee like the chocolate we already had back in our room, but it was still some damn good chocolate). It was pouring out, but underneath the tall trees you couldn’t feel a single raindrop. We were completely sheltered by the forest canopy, and I couldn’t get enough of it, any of it. It was absolutely unbelievable– the trees, the paths, the leaves and pine needles all over the ground. Honestly, I couldn’t wait to be able to explore 7 more miles of it the following day. I got first female in the race – scoring myself a nice coffee mug and some more free chocolate (chocolate seemed to be the theme of my Seattle trip). After our race, we finally showered and got ready to explore the city of Seattle (but first – another piece of OUR chocolate —– bad idea in hindsight). 

Guys. Don’t get me wrong. Seattle is absolutely unbelievable. But. I’m not going to lie here. This day will go down in the history of my life as one of the funniest days I have ever experienced. I mean. Here we are. In this city that neither of us have ever been to. On the furthest reach of the US. Completely confused and lost. And laughing at literally everything. Except the guy who we thought was a security guard at the Space Needle – he wasn’t funny until after we realized that he wasn’t going to arrest us for anything, but rather, was just going to point our dumbasses in the correct direction to go up it. We explored everywhere (I’m not sure how we navigated our way around the city, but the picture evidence says that we made our way around pretty well). We went to the Gum Wall (who knew that was there???), the Space Needle, and the Pike Place Market. At the end of our day-long adventure, we got some food and finally made our way back and crashed to recharge for my race in the morning. 

It was the morning of the race and we were in the middle of the forests of Seattle…completely soaked. It was raining from the moment we got to the registration table until the moment they blew the whistle for us to begin racing through the mud to the finish line. Luckily for me, once I start running, everything becomes background noise. From previous experience, I decided it might be a good idea for me to start near the front of the pack to avoid bobbing and weaving around people as I passed – this ended up being a very good idea. As I started running, I realized that I was quickly ahead of the pack – the whole pack. Literally. I couldn’t see anyone in front of me, and nobody had passed me yet.

This race was a 4.5 loop, which means I had to run the same route three times before finally detouring to the finish line. As I started my second loop, the man at the water counter shouted, “KEEP IT UP YOU’RE IN FIRST!” And in that moment, I decided, I was going to win the damn thing. I was flying through the woods, cutting corners, weaving between trees, conquering hills and speeding down the slopes. With just a mile left, I knew I was still in first place, and I wasn’t going to stop now. I kept going, maintaining my pace and my focus, until the finish line was in sight. And when I saw it, I sprinted through, shocking everyone because a female had won the race (WOOHOOOOOO!). It was my first overall win, and I couldn’t have been more proud, or more excited; because, like I said, there was free chocolate at the end of the race, and I got first dibs. 7:30 minute miles, 1:36 finish time, first female, first overall finisher, YES. 

I shoved chocolate of all kinds in my face as my body finally started to calm down from the rush of excitement. After a few more cupcakes, it was definitely time to celebrate. After a long shower to get the mud off, we drove back into the city to explore, and continue, our adventure. We went to Rachel’s Ginger Beer (SO. FREAKING. GOOD), got a sundae at Shug’s Soda Fountain (because I really needed more chocolate)and played connect 4 as we watched the sunset at a little wine bar in Pike Place. It was absolutely perfect. State #23 will always be remembered for it’s first place finish, mud, and-of course- the chocolate. 

Virginia

States

Lynchburg, Virginia

State #6

Where? Lynchburg, Virginia
State?  #6
Date?  July, 2016
Race?   Lynchburg Half Marathon
Finish Time?   1:50:00
Pace?   8:20/mile

HOT, HUMID & HEADPHONES

State #6, otherwise known as I’M MORE THAN HALF WAY TO 10! #6 was in Lynchburg, Virginia. Who knew Lynchburg was hilly? Not me when I signed up, that’s for sure. Who knows Lynchburg is 98 degrees with 95% humidity in the middle of summer? Not me, that’s for sure. But like I’ve said before, every single state is an adventure and an irreplaceable step in this journey.

This was also the first half marathon that my mom wasn’t able to come to (cue the sad music). My boyfriend at the time agreed to come be my cheerleader for this race. He lived in North Carolina, so we met in Lynchburg. In addition to being the first half marathon that I traveled to alone, this was also the first hotel room I had ever rented on my own… and probably the last that anyone will ever let me rent on my own. He got to the hotel first and called me in horror, “Amy, what the hell were you thinking?” I didn’t see the problem… it was just for one night. While checking into the hotel, the lady at the front desk asked us if we would be using the fridge or T.V. I must not have been hiding my confusing because then she explained how “they cost extra”. I didn’t even know hotels could charge you extra to use the fridge. Anyways, not the best hotel I’ve stayed at during this adventure, but it probably won’t be the worst either.

One of the absolute best parts of each and every trip: dinner. Where? OLIVE GARDEN. As you can probably tell, I love Olive Garden. Nothing says pre-race meal  like free breadsticks and a big ass bowl of pasta. Not to mention the bottomless salad. Our waiter introduced himself as “Batman.” No, I am not kidding. We ate 3 baskets of breadsticks, 2 bowls of salad, and I got spaghetti and meatballs. I’d say I was efficiently carbed up and ready to run the next day.

That next morning, I woke up, had some caffeine, put on my race bib, and walked outside to see how it felt. It was HOT. I’m talking the kind of hot where everything feels disgustingly sticky and damp, where your hair sticks to your neck, the kind of hot where you can barely make any movements without sweat dripping down your back. PERFECT (yes, that is sarcasm).

So, it was hot. 98 degrees to be exact. On top of that, add 95% humidity as the cherry on top. But, like usual, my “it’s fine” mentality pretended that everything would go exactly as planned, I’d run my usual time with ease, finish another state, and smash some pizza afterwards. WRONG.

I was cruising along, got past mile one, got past mile two, and then my headphones started to slip out of my ears. I put them back in, they fell back out, back in, back out, in, out, in, out… WHAT THE HELL. Yes, you’re probably reading this and thinking, “well…. what did you expect when it’s 95% humidity and you’re sweating like a pig?” Moral of this disaster: BUY HEADPHONES WITH EAR HOOKS IF YOU ARE COMMITTED TO RUNNING IN ANY TEMPERATURE WHICH MAY INDUCE MASS SWEATING. For real though, I had to finish the race by listening to music out loud (sorry everyone).

The other major memory from this race: the elevation (which I did not mentally prepare for whatsoever). The race was flat for the first 3-4 miles, perfectly paved path with a few twists and turns, beautiful bridges….and then it happened. A massive, wrap-around, mountain of a hill. I’m talking the kind of hill that goes on so long that it wraps around and around and around, and you can’t see the top until you’ve finally reached it. When I got to the top, everyone around me had started walking. I tried to keep going, tried to keep my momentum… but I had to slow down. I didn’t stop, not quite yet at least, but I slowed down considerably. I ran miles 5-9 SLLLOWWWWWW. I’m talkin like fake-jogging at some points, the kind of jog where you’d be better off walking because you’re going to damn slow. But I FINISHED. It might not have been pretty, but it was #6.

TAKE AWAYS:

  • BUY HEADPHONES WITH EAR HOOKS
  • HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE
  • Maybe a massive pasta, bread, dessert type of dinner isn’t the best pre-race meal????

Texas

States

San Antonio, Texas

State #19

Location: San Antonio, Texas 
Half: Rock and Roll San Antonio Half Marathon 
Date: December 2, 2018
Finish Time: 1:38
Who’d I travel with? Mom
Pre-run meal? Carbonara 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, Y’ALL 

I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO GO TO TEXAS. No joke though. For some reason, I have always wanted to go there, and for a while, I even wanted to move to Texas (despite the fact that I had never actually been there). And guys, Texas did NOT disappoint. For real, San Antonio now ranks pretty high on places I’d love to live. Prior to my trip, when people said, “you should definitely go see the Riverwalk,” I was thinking there was a cute little river that you could see from the city, like seeing the Ohio River from Cincinnati. I didn’t know that the river literally IS part of the city, running right through it and offering it’s own underground downtown. San Antonio reminded me of why this adventure is so amazing – because I get to see, and explore, places that I never may have known existed. 

The first day of December – usually a pretty chilly day in my experience (between Wisconsin and Ohio). But the first day of December in Texas? 75 and nothing but sun. It was love at first sight that morning – between the weather and my first walk down the river, I was nothing but smiles. If you’ve never seen the riverwalk, please see the pictures below, because it doesn’t do it any justice when describing the shops and restaurants lining both sides of the river, the cobblestone paths and bridges that twist and turn with the waters edge, the trees and shrubs which stretch over and across the water. Being December, the trees and restaurants were strewn with ornaments, lights, and tinsel, giving you the feeling of Christmas in July. 

We walked down the paths, stopping only for tacos and margaritas. And because we could, because it was DECEMBER and now approaching 80 degrees, we decided to lay out by the pool for hours. Nothing feels better than being poolside in winter. I stretched my legs and rested my mind and muscles in preparation for the race the next morning. But, being Amy, something is always left unprepared. Honestly, I am the most disorganized “serious” runner ever. Refusing to get new shoes for far too long, the day had finally come when my shoes were literally tearing at the seams. There was no possible way that they were going to last another 13 miles without falling apart, or causing an injury. So, of course, I do the ONE THING that they highly recommend you NEVER do the day of the race – try out your brand new running shoes. 

But come on, they were tie-dye rainbow running shoes… WHO COULD BE WORRIED ABOUT TIE-DYE RAINBOW SHOES? Not me. The night before the race we got all dressed up and went out for a beautiful Italian dinner. Honestly. It was beautiful. They filled our water glasses and then brought over a freaking plate of cucumber, orange, lemon, lime, and grapefruit slices – offering to flavor our water. Like what the heck? Hell yeah I’ll take some cucumber and lime water. And our waitress offered us some local advice – that we needed to go somewhere called the “Pearl.” After dinner, we walked to the Alamo, which, if you haven’t seen, is pretty unbelievable. I admittedly didn’t know much about the battle before San Antonio, and it was honestly extremely humbling and moving to see where so many individuals lost their lives defending the people of our country. It’s these small things, these places I never considered I would see or explore, that make this journey with every single step.

The race was UNBELIEVABLE. Honestly. It was the absolute perfect running weather – 65, sunny, no wind. I was in my pink tank top and tie-dye shoes (which, worked extremely well btw), and I ran my own race at my own pace without a worry in the world. And more than that, I did well. I ran as fast as my legs could go that day. And my finish time ranked somewhere in the middle of my overall times. 

Afterwards, obviously, my mom and I explored every place in San Antonio that could offer us an after-race drink. Following the advice of our waitress, we sought out the place she had suggested – the Pearl. It was its own little nook of shops, restaurants, and greenery which all encompassed the Pearl brewery. It was beautiful. A large grass area where you could sit and sip your mimosas, shops which you could explore while enjoying your craft beer, ice cream and food which we probably would have tried, had we not gotten a bit distracted. I’m not sure how all of this escalated, but I do know that it started with two small dogs wearing boots, sunglasses, and football jerseys.

These two dogs had been adorably attached to their male owner as we watched and laughed about their little boots. But I’m not exaggerating when I say that these dogs went absolute ape-shit when another, larger, dog walked by. Honestly. They attacked this dog so fiercely that their boots flew into the air. The owner of the larger dog couldn’t help but burst into laughter with everyone else as these dogs surrounded him and his pup. After the battle was finished, the two guys approached us with their dog to share in the laughter of the entire scene. They asked us where we were from/what we were doing/the normal stuff. And then offered to show us a few more local spots on our walk back down the river. As we walked with them, they stopped to show us two hidden gems – a brewery with swings that overlooked the river, and a Veterans bar which offered music and a historical feeling to our trip.

After dodging their attempts to flirtatiously continue into the evening together, my mom and I went our separate way for dinner. We ended our trip with an amazing dinner on the river. Sharing a bottle of wine, we reminisced on all of the places we had been together, and all of the places we have left to go. It’s nights like these, conversations and experiences like these, that I will always look back upon with a full heart. It fills you up, reminds you of why you’re here in this world, why you’re so lucky to do life with the ones you love. It shows you how much you have, and how much is yet to come. 

Tennessee

States

Nashville, Tennessee

State #12

Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Half: Nashville Best Buddies Half Marathon
Date: Saturday, September 2nd, 2017
Finish Time: 1:42
Pace/Mile: 7:39
Who’d I travel with? Emily Alestock and Sunny Smith
Pre-run meal? Veggie primavera pasta, lots of bread, and a Caesar salad 

ONE DOZEN DOWN!

State #12 was completed in Nashville, Tennessee on September 2nd, 2017. Since this particular place in Tennessee just so happens to be one of the top party places in the USA, and it was also happening on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend (a long weekend); I decided it was the perfect race to do with the support of my two best friends: Sunny and Emily. Sunny and Emily are two of my best friends from college, we all graduated together from Ohio University and taught together in our early childhood placements. It was the perfect opportunity to see each other, catch up, and drink like we were still in college.

We traveled to Nashville on Friday afternoon: Emily drove in from Cleveland, Sunny from Dayton, and myself from Athens. As I made my 6-hour drive, I tried to remember to hydrate and nourish my body with fruits, vegetables, proteins, and carbs for race day the next morning. One of the hardest parts of running in each of the states is the effects of traveling on my body and health. It’s always harder (for me at least) to eat well, maintain hydration, and sleep well when I’ve been on the road for several hours (especially since heavily hydrating leads to making a million stops to pee). Anyways, once I arrived I checked in, relaxed, and waited for the other girls to get in. They got in around 10, we caught up briefly but then decided to turn out the lights pretty quick in order to get some rest for our early morning on Saturday.

My alarm went off at 5 a.m. because unfortunately I had missed the packet pick-up time the night before (evidently I made one too many stops to pee). So I had to wake up and get to the race about an hour early to get my packet; not my favorite part of this trip, but it did give me some time to prepare for the race – both mentally and physically, which is something I don’t always make time for myself. I stretched, hydrated, listened to some pump-up music, and (not so patiently) waited for the race to begin. Sunny and Emily found the park about 10 minutes before race-time, just in time. They grabbed my sweatshirt and keys, took a quick pre-race photo, and sent me off to run with their good luck wishes.

As I began to run, I tried to focus on maintaining my pace (which is crazy, because pacing is something I can just never seem to successfully do). Going into half #12, I knew I wanted to slow it down a bit for this race. I have been finishing about one race/month for the past 4-5 months which has been really hard on my body, my legs have been in some pain, my shoes are worn out, and I need to keep my body strong. So, with this in mind, I knew that my pace for this one wouldn’t be as quick as it was in March or April, and that was more than okay with me; especially because I had a longggggg weekend of celebrating with my friends ahead of me.

The race was absolutely beautiful; in fact, it was probably my favorite course so far. I ran down the streets of Nashville, starting and finishing downtown in Bicentennial Park. We ran a few miles out of the city, passed the Titan’s practice fields, ran through a small local park, and then finished the race by running along the river back into the city. It was pretty flat with the exception of about 2-3 long, but not too steep, hills. It wasn’t even a “down and back,” THANK GOODNESS (especially after Georgia) and it had a lot of twists and turns to keep things interesting. It was great, and the flat course made focusing on my pace somewhat easier to achieve.

I maintained a pace of about 7:40 per mile, beginning the race closer to 7:45 per mile and getting a little quicker as the race progressed. I found my “flow” around mile 8 with a pace of 7:39. As I got closer to the finish line I began to text the girls: 3 MILES LEFT, 2 MILES LEFT, I’M ALMOST THERE. My last message: “Wboutvyo fijish”…. I suppose it was supposed to say “About to finish,” but I knew they would understand, and I didn’t exactly have time to correct it. I sprinted the last 200 feet, grabbed my metal, and was greeted with hugs and congratulations from both of my friends (regardless of the sweat-drenched shirt I still had on). It was the perfect race, ONE DOZEN DOWN!

And now for the fun part: the after party… Oh boy. This trip was definitely one of the most memorable (or least, depending on how you look at my intoxication level for the majority of the visit). We went back to the hotel, showered, got ready, and the after-party began. By 11 a.m. we were back downtown and beginning our day with bottomless mimosas at a brunch place called City Fire (highly recommended). When you start the day with 13 miles and bottomless mimosas, can you really go wrong? The answer is no, no you cannot. The rest of the day was perfect: we got pizza, finished about 4 mimosas each, went to a concert in the park, met up with Sunny’s aunt at the concert (who led us to the Tito’s tent for a drink), walked around downtown and watched lots of live-music performances while we continued to day drink our Saturday away. We danced, we laughed, we took really ridiculous photos, we drank some more, and finally landed ourselves at the Wildhorse Saloon for dinner.

Now, the Wildhorse Saloon looks like it’s a tiny bar from the outside, much like many of the surrounding bars located on the crowded streets of Nashville. But when you walk in it opens up to a HUGE dance floor, hundreds of tables on various levels, balconies, its own gift shop (whaaat?), and a large stage with huge video screens displaying a close-up of the performer. It was incredible. We ordered some more drinks (shocker) and some dinner and then hurried out to the dancefloor to learn how to square dance.

The best part about the Wildhorse Saloon wasn’t any of the surprising aspects of its atmosphere, it was our departure. Sunny and Emily had ordered huge Coronaritas (Coronarita: a margarita with a corona sticking out the top of the glass). After a long day of day-drinking, they couldn’t quite finish their drinks, but also didn’t want to waste them. “Amy, you should get a to-go box for your food,” Sunny requested, as her and Emily continued to devise a plan for taking their nearly-full drinks with them. “My mom does it all the time,” she said, as she poured her liquid drink into a cardboard to-go box (I know what you’re thinking, because I was thinking the same thing). To nobody else’s surprise but her own, the box began to leak as soon as we stood up to leave. As we walked out, Sunny left a trail of Coronarita all over the Wildhorse Saloon floor. We walked back into our hotel room around 6:30, “I’ll set my alarm for 7:30 and we are going to go back out!” Emily said as we all closed our eyes for a quick nap… we woke up around 8 a.m. the next day.

“I just want a bloody mary,” Sunny and I were on a mission, 10 a.m. Sunday morning, to find a place with Bloody Mary’s. I’m pretty sure we found the closest possible one too. We went to the Opryland Mall and sat down at the bar of the Aquarium Restaurant, which, IS AWESOME by the way. There were huge aquariums all around us, a glowing blue light throughout the entire restaurant, and of course, there were Bloody Mary’s.

After a few Bloody Mary’s and a quick shopping trip we drove down to Sunny’s Aunt’s house for the remainder of the afternoon. We had some watermelon vodka slushies, some snacks, and a lot of great conversation. We chatted about work, boys, school, anything and everything that we needed to catch up on. As the drinks continued to flow, our chatting became mostly giggling, then it led to singing, and terrible piano playing, and before I knew it I was trying on her aunt’s wedding dress (nope, not kidding). It was a complete girl’s day, but soon it was time for us to make our departure, we had missed our “late night out on the town” on Saturday night when we passed out around 7 p.m. so tonight was the night.

Makeup done, hair finished, shoes strapped, outfits on, pictures taken: we were finally ready for our night, ready to soak in the Nashville night life. If I can say one thing that sums up how much fun we had on Sunday night it would be the fact that when it was time to leave, I threw an absolute temper tantrum. The live music, everyone singing and dancing, the streets bursting with people having a great time, girls looking ridiculous in their bachelorette party accessories, it was absolutely incredible. Nashville is a one of a kind place to visit (especially if you happen to be over the age of 21).

As the trip came to an end, I reflected on how thankful I was to be able to visit this place, with two of my absolute best friends, and also finish a piece of my running adventure. State #12 was one for the books. 

Pennsylvania

States

IDK, Pennsylvania

State #5

Location: Buttfuck nowhere, Pennsylvania… no but seriously, the middle of absolutely no where.

Half: Ghost Town Half Marathon (fitting, I know)
Date: ​April 30th, 2016
Finish Time:
Pace/Mile:

Who’d I travel with? Mom 
Pre-run meal? I don’t even know where to begin… Italian, I think?

FIRST FEMALE FINISHER! (Spoiler, sorry)

So, state #5… a very interesting adventure. I signed up for this race because it was convenient. It was a quick, easy, trip and one more state to knock off the list. I had no idea where this place was, and I knew this couldn’t be a “big” race based on the previous year’s results, but I was still excited to go somewhere new, race somewhere new.

My mom and I took to the road and began our trip to Pennsylvania. When we arrived we decided to stop in at the packet pick-up to eliminate the need to wake up 30 minutes earlier the next day. As we drove around in circles searching for the park where we were supposed to pick up my packet, we realized that we were truly in the middle of absolutely nowhere. There were no major streets, a few houses here and there, no promising places to eat for dinner later, and to top it all off: there was no sign of life at this park where we were supposed to be receiving my packet. So, we decided that maybe we missed the pick-up, and drove to our hotel.

Our hotel was shockingly beautiful. It was right on a scenic golf course, had a hot tub (YES!), and turned out to be a great spot to stay for the night. However, as I mentioned, there were absolutely no restaurants to be seen yet. We drove around forever looking for somewhere to eat and we finally stumbled upon an “Italian diner.” As the waitress brought us our meals, my mom prepared her fork to dig in. After she took her first bite the waitress returned. She said, “Oh I’m sorry I brought you guys the wrong food” and took my mom’s plate right from the table (remember, she had already taken a bite). She then hand-delivered this plate to a gentleman sitting across the restaurant. Obviously he hadn’t seen my mom dig in, because he took a big bite and continued eating his (or my mom’s?) meal. It was unbelievable, a memory I will remember forever.

So, the race. That morning we arrived at the park, picked up our packet finally, and then I was told to get on the bus. Evidently this was not a down and back or a 13-mile loop, this was a straight 13.1 miles. We piled onto the bus, drove 13.1 miles away, and got off. We lined up on the paved path which led into the woods, found our spot in the 50-100-person group, and took off.
As I started to run, I realized that I was quickly passing most of the people around me. I was now very close to the front, just a few males in front of me. The group started to thin out as some sped up and some slowed down. I had been running for a few miles, and I could see just one other person now, a guy about 300 feet in front of me. At mile 6 I saw my mom standing on the side of the street, shouting. I took out a head phone and heard, “YOU’RE THE FIRST GIRL KEEP GOING!” Easy for her to say, when she doesn’t have 7 more miles to uphold the position. But I was so excited and motivated from hearing that, my legs pumped harder, my heart sped up, my hands tingled. I COULD FINALLY WIN FIRST FEMALE.

I did it!! I won first female. My reward? A growler, a beach towel, a beer from a random man I didn’t know, a tank top, and a beer glass. Yes, you heard that right. I received a shit-ton of random gifts, but no medal. I am a medal snob. I get so excited to finish and receive that medal, hang it with the others, and add to my collection. I was crushed. However, I didn’t let that stop me from getting what I earned. I took the red, white, and blue ribbon that I had tied around my shirt during the race and untied it. Then I bought a penguin’s bottle opener at Walmart (classy, I know, but it was the only thing with a Pennsylvania symbol). I put the ribbon through the keychain on the bottle opener and there it was: my medal. FIRST FEMALE. 

Ohio

States

Columbus, Ohio

State #3

Location: Columbus, Ohio
Half: Columbus Half Marathon
Date: August 8th, 2015
Finish Time: 1:47:33
Pace/Mile: 8:11
Who’d I travel with? Mom 
Pre-run meal? Uh… I had barbeque dipped fried chips, a Caesar salad, pasta, and dessert 

What the actual fuck…?

​Oh boy… this one, yeah, this one was interesting. First things first: DO NOT GO FOR YOUR PERSONAL RECORD THE DAY BEFORE A HALF MARATHON.

Also… DO NOT RUN 6 MILES THE DAY BEFORE A HALF MARATHON.
Also… DO NOT EAT FRIED FOOD LESS THAN 12 HOURS BEFORE A HALF MARATHON.
Lastly, DO NOT SIT IN A HOT TUB THE ENTIRE NIGHT BEFORE A HALF MARATHON.

​Anyways, if you follow those basic rules, you won’t have as much trouble as I did during half marathon #3. Unless, of course, you realize that it’s a down and back shit-storm of a half marathon around mile 6.5. Then you’re pretty much just as fucked as I was (pardon my language, but come on).

So, not my best performance. But it was a race, and I am ever-thankful for each step I have traveled on this journey. But on a serious note, what was I thinking? There’s unprepared, and then there’s completely fucking yourself over (yes, that’s where I was). I am known by all for being somewhat air-headed and slightly unprepared, but I was a complete mess for this one (also, I had signed up for an 8-hour shift of serving which began approximately 4 hours after I ran this race). But hey, each race teaches me a little something new.

North Carolina

States

Durham, North Carolina

State #7

Where? Durham, North Carolina
State?  #7
Date?  October 18th, 2018
Race?   Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon
Finish Time?   1:40:00
Pace?   7:40/mile

Don’t Wait to Poop…

The perfect time of year for a half marathon? September and October without a doubt. I finished state #7 on October 8th. It was the perfect weather, a perfectly drivable distance, somewhere around 6 hours (far, but not too far). AND I had just gotten a NEW PAIR OF RUNNING SHOES (extremely exciting).

First let’s talk about the drive from Athens, Ohio to Durham, North Carolina. It is absolutely beautiful, especially in fall. The rolling hills, the vast display of trees which were in the middle of changing their leaves, the crisp air in the morning which transformed into warm air by the afternoon, and back to crisp, cool, air again by evening. It was an amazing, beautiful, time to travel for a race.

This half was BIG. It had an amazing pre-race expo set up with all kinds of booths: physical therapy, massages, goo packets (LOVE), everything you could imagine. The city was buzzing with people traveling in to run in one of the many races offered this weekend.

For dinner we ate at an adorable little local Italian restaurant. I get extremely excited for the “bigger” races. There’s a whole lot more adrenaline and anxious energy the night before a big race than before a small, locally held, race. Not to say that they aren’t both exciting races in their own right, because there is something exciting about each and every state I’ve traveled to, but something about the bigger races gets me really pumped to run.

I had quite a close call on the morning of race #7. Just I questioned in my post from half marathon #1, I found myself wondering again… WHO KNEW EVERYONE HAD TO POOP RIGHT BEFORE THEY RUN A HALF MARATHON? UGH. I should have known this by now… I mean it wasn’t my first half, or second, or third, you get the picture. Yet much like the rest of the runners, I waited until I arrived at the race to get in line for the bathrooms, BIG MISTAKE. “5, 4, 3…” With just 3 seconds left in the countdown I sprinted out of the porta-potty, down the sidewalk, I jumped over the railing and took off with the other runners. Noted: DO NOT WAIT until the last second to poop.

Somewhere around mile 4 or 5 I felt something odd happening in my left leg. It wasn’t painful but it was more-so uncomfortable and unfamiliar. It felt weird, but I didn’t think it was too serious so I pressed on. Somewhere around mile 10 the discomfort grew into pain. The back of my left leg was throbbing, all the way from the top of my hamstring to the back of my foot. But I couldn’t quit, I couldn’t stop, not after making it this far. I pressed on. After finishing I realized how much pain I was in, my leg was pounding, almost like it had its own heartbeat. I could barely walk, I started limping around and hobbled over to my mom and my boyfriend to help me walk.

Even with the pain, I was absolutely elated. I had finished my seventh half marathon, I was with people I love, the finish expo had a beer garden (YAY!), and it was absolutely beautiful outside. I ignored the pain through our post-run pizza, I ignored the pain as we walked around the beautiful city of Durham. But… I couldn’t ignore the pain during the 6 hour ride home. You can see my tips section to find out more about what was causing me so much pain, and what I did to help myself heal before half marathon #8 in March.

New York

States

New York, New York

State #18

Location: New York, New York
Half: Bay Ridge Half Marathon 
Date: October 6, 2018
Finish Time: 1:44
Who’d I travel with? Mom
Pre-run meal? Italian 

WELCOME TO NEW YORK 

Ever since I saw the movie Enchanted, where the princess gets stuck in New York City and falls madly in love with some guy she barely knows, I’ve wanted to go to New York. AND I FINALLY DID. 

But, like, what’s up with people in New York being on a completely different time schedule than the rest of the world? We landed in New York around 11 p.m, checked into our hotel, and decided to walk around Times Square for a few minutes before heading to bed. Being from Ohio, usually they stop serving dinner anywhere around 9 pm. But it was midnight as we walked into an entirely packed Italian restaurant. AND IT WAS A THURSDAY. SINCE WHEN DO PEOPLE GO OUT TO EAT AT MIDNIGHT ON A WEEKNIGHT? Anyways, I was baffled. But, also slightly appreciative, of the fact that we could get a Caesar salad at midnight. 

The next morning we started the day with a walk around Central Park. CENTRAL PARK. I WENT TO CENTRAL PARK. It was absolutely perfect. Starbucks, Central Park, and 70 & sunny in the beautiful city. We strolled through, sipping our coffee, talking about life, and planning the rest of our day. With my half marathon the next morning, we couldn’t go getting into anything too crazy that night. So, in true Preschool teacher fashion, we went to see Frozen on Broadway. Well, first we walked about 10 miles around the entire city. We walked to the High Line, we walked through China Town and Little Italy, and then we got ITALIAN (of course). I had never been to a Broadway show, and Frozen did not disappoint. At all. It was breathtaking. The set, the characters, the songs; it was absolutely everything I could have dreamt of and more.

The next morning we woke up and took a taxi over to Brooklyn for the race. It was chilly, rainy, and not at all what I expected. The race course was a 3 mile down and back – meaning you had to complete the same down and back TWICE. WHAT KIND OF PERSON DESIGNS A DOUBLE DOWN AND BACK??? Still recovering from my hip injury, and not necessarily pumped up about the weather or the race design – it wasn’t exactly my best race. In fact, it was one of my absolute worst races. However, if you don’t have “downs,” you can’t have any “ups.” And I wasn’t going to let the time on the clock effect the rest of my trip to NEW YORK CITY.  

My mom always finds the absolute best things to do – seriously. I don’t know how she does it. But, after the race, we took a ferry across the water, past the Statue of Liberty, and over to the Brooklyn Bridge. We walked across the bridge, back to the city, after narrowly avoiding being hit by several bicyclists that – in my opinion – shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the bridge. First order of post-half-marathon business: mimosas and carbs. Next, we walked around the World Trade Center before going back to the hotel room and showering for our second night out on the town (and this time we could actually drink)! 

You know those fancy restaurants that serve a spoon-sized appetizer to cleanse your pallet or some shit? The kind of place where wine is like 30$ a glass and you can’t pronounce a single thing on the menu? That’s the type of place we got dinner at; wine, Ahi-tuna, dessert. LIKE, WHO AM I? It was, excuse my language, fucking awesome. After that, we went to our second Broadway show of the weekend: Wicked. And I thought Frozen was good…

It was absolutely the BEST half marathon trip I have taken thus far. I got to see, and experience, so many things in such a short amount of time. Although it wasn’t necessarily the best race course, or my best performance, it was the best experience I’ve had. And there is something special about each and every one of these adventures.