SUMMER ROAD TRIP

Running

States #31, #32, #33, and #34

I AM SO EXCITED! Well… it pretty much goes without saying at this point – but – 2020 has been QUITE A WILD RIDE. I had so many running plans for this year – plans to travel to several states, plans to compete in ACTUAL RACES in Missouri, New Jersey, Colorado, South Dakota, Massachusetts… and more, plans to have at LEAST 36 states checked off my list by the end of the year. But hey – life is ANYTHING but predictable, and I had to change course.

After running state #29 in Little Rock, Arkansas on March 1st (in an ACTUAL RACE) – I was on my own personal little running CLOUD 9. I was the first place female finisher in a HUGE race – the biggest race that I’ve ever even placed in, and I actually WON. I beat my personal record by shaving 4 MINUTES off my previous record of 1:29 – this time running 13.1 miles in 1:25 (a freaking 6:30 minute average). I was SO FREAKING PUMPED about this year – so excited to keep going and building on my progress… but… again, life changed! So I had two choices: I could either get frustrated, discouraged, and wait until things opened back up (which would take WHO KNOWS how long) – OR….

I could take control of my journey.

I could readjust, replan, and rearrange my year. And that is JUST WHAT I DID – starting with STATE #30. I ran state #30 in South Carolina (Myrtle Beach) on June 5th. Sure, there wasn’t an “actual race” going on – but that was just fine with me. I packed my bags and road-tripped all the way down South to run my OWN 13.1 miles on the beach – my own, personal, homemade race (and guess what? I WON!). So now, I’m going to keep the adventure going by taking another summer road-trip to conquer states #31, #32, #33, and #34 this AUGUST. While I can’t compete in real races – it’s so important to me that I embrace the challenges and unexpected changes in life. Why?

Because my running is NOT about competing – it is NOT about setting records, winning first place, or always have to be the best – and I feel like I almost started to forget that when I won in Arkansas. My running is about ENJOYING it, it is about having FUN, it is about TRAVELING and EXPLORING and ADVENTURING, it is about the love of running itself. And nothing, not even COVID, can stop me from driving, exploring, or running (safely and socially distanced of course)!

So, here’s the game-plan…


IOWA
(Des Moines)

Des Moines, Iowa

DATE: AUGUST 4th, 2020


NEBRASKA
(Omaha)

Omaha, Nebraska

DATE: AUGUST 5th, 2020


COLORADO
(Colorado Springs)

Colorado Springs, Colorado

DATE: AUGUST 7th, 2020


KANSAS
(Topeka)

Topeka, Kansas

DATE: AUGUST 10th, 2020


I am SO excited to take this trip and challenge myself to try something different. I have NEVER traveled by myself, so this adventure will really be something completely new for me, and for my running journey. As you all know, I am ALWAYS looking for places to explore, things to see, and what to eat whenever I take a trip – so if you know someone who lives/has been to any of these cities – PLEASE leave some suggestions below!! And feel free to subscribe to get updates on the story of each state once I get home!

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.