48 hours in Nashville

For the last three years, I’ve gone down to Asheville for Siblingsgiving with my brother (2011 and 2012 recaps). He moved back to Indy so we did the family thing Thursday but wanted to make the most of the weekend and go somewhere. Our criteria: Close, cheap, fun, new. We settled on Nashville, Tenn. We aren’t big into country music but we’re up for adventure and several friends have visited and loved it.

We stayed at Nashville Downtown Hostel. It was budget-friendly and perfectly located just blocks away from the main strip. The staff was very friendly and helpful and I loved hearing so many different accents in the lounge and hallways from international guests.

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Our tourist to do list wasn’t very long, partly because we didn’t have much time, partly because we wanted to save money and mainly because we had zero interest in the Country Music Hall of Fame-type stuff. We visited the Parthenon before checking in. It’s incredibly random, especially having been to the real thing in Athens, Greece. You can walk around the park for free but it’s $7 to go in and see Athena.

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As an art addict and design lover, I was really excited to visit Hatch Show Print. The tour is $15 but worth it to learn about the history of the shop and see the letterpresses up close. Their motto is “preservation through production” as they aim to keep the art of letterpress alive.

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My brother’s goal was to “get weird with some locals” and that we did Friday night. I’ve heard the city referred to as Nashvegas and I can see why. Broadway Street is lined on both sides with bars that all have live music. We hit up Rippy’s open air second floor (horrible drinks but fun band), the rooftop at Tootsie’s (awesome view of the strip), Tequila Cowboy (because I wanted tequila) and the rooftop at Acme Feed & Seed (more awesome views and a great DJ). The country bands weren’t so bad but I was definitely more in my element at the last two spots. We danced our asses off and ended the night at a hot dog stand so it was pretty perfect.

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The hot dogs were delicious as were the rest of our meals. Broadway Brewhouse offered classic pub fare with a Cajun twist and some local brews of course. Jack’s Bar-B-Que served up some savory meats. The cheesy potatoes in the brunch buffet at Puckett’s were unreal. And by far the highlight of the trip was Merchants, where we enjoyed seasoned popcorn, duck fat tater tots and mac ‘n cheese with fried chicken on top. Total food coma.

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To offset some of that, I did manage to squeeze in a three-mile runsploration Saturday morning across the Cumberland River pedestrian bridge and around LP Field where the Titans play. Tennessee is the 13th state I have ran in to date!

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All in all, Nashville definitely lived up to the hype and we barely scratched the surface during our short, budget-conscious trip. Not sure where we’ll end up for Siblingsgiving 2015 but it’s got some big boots to fill.

 

A monumental PR

I already wrote at length about where my head was at the week of my fourth half marathon. The short version: I was stressed, exhausted and convinced I would fail. Fast forward to the morning of: I woke up smiling, dancing and ready to race.

The weather conditions weren’t looking great. I prefer cold temperatures but was worried about the wind. It ended up being about 30 degrees with 15 – 20 mph winds. I planned on wearing a throwaway shirt but also bought some throwaway gloves and a head wrap for my ears at the expo Friday. At the last minute, I put on a scarf, intending to toss it at the start but ended up wearing it for the first mile. I lost the gloves in mile three and wore the throwaway shirt all the way through mile 8.

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My plan was to start out somewhat fast but not too crazy. Fellow runner Meggie and I talked about this at one point during training – negative splits are ideal but if you start out too slow, it can seem impossible to get up to where you need to be later in the race. My goal was 10:40 for the first mile and work my way down from there.

I clocked in at 10:20 as we passed Lucas Oil Stadium but decided to keep going strong. In mile three, my Garmin was acting super weird and said I ran an 11:45 mile, which I knew wasn’t right. I decided to ignore my watch at that point, listen to my body and gauge where I was at compared to the running clock at each mile marker.

With every mile, I realized I was running pretty consistently close to a 10:00 pace. Part of me was nervous I had gone out way too fast and would crash in the second half. But part of me was super excited, felt great and told myself to settle in and hold on as long as I could.

I made it to Meridian Street, which all Monumental runners love and dread as you know you’re in the homestretch but it’s a straight shot for about 2.5 miles til the final few turns. I couldn’t believe I was still maintaining my pace and realized for the first year I wouldn’t get passed by the full marathon leaders.

At 13th and Meridian, I saw my friend Julia and her band. I got super excited and shouted at her, then yelled at myself to conserve my energy for the final grind. I can’t tell you enough how much it means to see friends out on the course. If you have runner friends, I encourage you to get out and cheer them on.

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Once I turned onto New York Street, I couldn’t wait to get to the end. All the fears about failing were washing away with each step I took toward the finish line. I dug in and gave it all I had into the turn onto West Street. I heard my family screaming for me, gave them a big wave and sprinted across the finish line.

2:11:09

That’s 5:29 faster than my previous half and a 10:01 average pace. INSANE. My goal was 2:15 but I thought maybe if everything came together perfectly I could get close to 2:10. My race was about as perfect as it could have been. Sure, I maybe could have pushed it harder in the last few miles to shave off a little but I was ecstatic with that time.

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As always, I have to give a big shout out to my friends and family who supported me, listened to me obsess over each training run, talked me off the ledge that last week and braved the cold to greet me at the finish line. I may have been running alone but you were all with me every step of the way.

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What’s next?

I’ve got the Derby half in April, which will be my first out-of-town race. I’m sure there will be some smaller races between now and then. And now that I have access to treadmills at my company’s fitness center, I’m hoping this will be the first off season I actually maintain my base (like I always say I’ll do…).

People keep asking when I’m going to run a full. I’m always looking for the next challenge and that’s certainly next up when it comes to running. I’m just worried about the time and energy it takes. I was really stressed out this training season balancing a busy work schedule, travel, and more and that and was just for a half. I don’t know that there will ever be an ideal time to train for a full though so I may just have to get over it and sign up for the Monumental full in 2015… (!!!).

Did you run the Monumental? How was your race? What’s next for you in the off season?

Reset your mindset

Motivated. Self-driven. Competitive. Intense. Obsessive. Freak of nature.

These are all (accurate) words that have been used to describe me.

While these traits have contributed to many of my successes, they’ve also contributed to a stupid amount of pressure I put on myself.

Enter running.

When I first started running, I was happy just to run one minute without stopping. Then a mile. Every run was amazing because it was something I hadn’t done before. Eventually I got crazy and signed up for a half marathon. My goal was survival and there was zero pressure (Check).

But of course me being me, I didn’t stop there. I immediately signed up for the same race and set my sights on running the whole thing without walking (Check). Then I got greedy and wanted to PR for my third half (Check). Tomorrow I will run my fourth half and my goals are even loftier based on how fast some of my training runs have been. It’s going to take a lot of work and pain to get there, but if everything comes together, I have the potential to get a major PR.

But I also have the potential to fail. This training season has been one of the craziest for me. I got in all my long runs, even going up to 11 miles for the first time in training. But I missed some mid-week runs because of my busy schedule. I had an amazing 9-miler but a super shitty 10-miler. Every day I vacillate between knowing I’m going to crush it to thinking it will crush me.

This week in particular has been crazy. Super busy at work and I had a last minute trip to a conference yesterday. I was worried about flying too close to the race and knew it would be a long 24-hour trip. But I got excited mapping out my final two-miler on the Hudson RiverWalk overlooking NYC across the bay.

My flight was delayed and I had to reschedule to fly out early the next morning. I had a bit of a pity party on the drive back home. I was exhausted, worried about missing my last run and bummed about potentially not getting to see NYC for the first time.

In that moment, all I could envision was sucking during this race. But what if I did fail? What if I didn’t PR? Would anyone even care? Would they be disappointed or let down? Realistically, no. The pressure is 100% self-inflicted.

There’s a lot you can’t control in life but you can control your attitude. And as quickly as I can get negative, I can get pretty majorly positive. I woke up yesterday morning dancing to Bruno Mars in my head (yup) and decided it was going to be a good day. I’d get through this work trip, sleep in Friday and reset my mindset.

The conference was great and re-energized me with a lot of takeaways I’m excited to share with my team. At lunch I snuck out to see the most amazing view of NYC. And when I got home, I was surprised to find a package from a running friend with a Mizuno hoodie and the sweetest note. It was a long, exhausting day but it was a good day.

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I’m going into tomorrow ready to race. Ready to give it all I’ve got and leave everything on the pavement. I will repeat positive mantras for 13.1 miles: “Run smart. Run your own race. You’ve done this before so you know you can do it again. Remember how good that 9 miler felt and channel that. Get to Meridian Street and grind it out. Don’t stop running and start booty poppin when Ms. New Booty comes on.”

Will I be disappointed if I don’t PR? Of course. I’m me (see above traits). But if I give it my all and stay positive, that’s all that matters.

Barbells for Boobs 2014 campaign

Last year everyone’s generous donations combined to help me raise $2,000 for Barbells for Boobs. That paid for 25 people to get mammograms who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to. I completed the crossfit workout “Grace,” lifting up all the women in my life (and theirs!) who have been affected by breast cancer. It was a day I won’t soon forget! You can read all about it here.

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My gym is participating again this year on October 18 and is part of the National Pink Bra Tour because we raised so much last year. Unfortunately I will be out of town but this cause means so much to me that I’m committed to raising funds. And one of the coaches has agreed to stand in for me and do the workout twice that day if I hit my goal. That’s how much Crossfit Naptown supports this initiative!

I know a lot of people complain about October and breast cancer awareness. They are over everything turning pink and wonder how donations to “awareness” efforts impact any real change. What I love about Barbells for Boobs is that your money goes directly toward prevention. Every $80 raised funds one mammogram and as you likely know, early detection is critical with breast cancer.

I hope you’ll consider donating and sharing with anyone else who might be interested. Any amount you can give is greatly appreciated!

Here’s the link to my fundraising page: https://fundraise.barbellsforboobs.org/fundraise?fcid=339204

 

Any given run day

“Look at your body. You’re built for the long haul.”

Someone once said this to me. I realize it sounds harsh but I understood what they meant. I know I’m not ever going to be a speed demon. I’ve always been happy to hover around a 10-something mile pace and set my goal for this year’s Monumental half at 2:15, which would be a one minute PR at a 10:18 pace.

My body apparently wants to prove me wrong. This training season, I’ve been averaging closer to 9:30 minute miles, even clocking a sub 9 average on a few shorter runs. I’m not entirely sure what’s changed. I haven’t even been following a super strict training plan. For my last three half marathons, I had a calendar with 3 – 4 runs a week and I would get anxious if I missed a run. This time around, my schedule has been insane and I’ve just had to get in runs whenever I could, while making sure to increase my long runs each week. I even reached double digits earlier in training than I have in the past.

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It’ll be interesting to see how this laid back strategy pays off on race day. The anal, over-thinking, planner side of me is kind of freaking out a little. But I know how great my training runs have been and I feel really in tune with my body right now. I have a better handle on how to conserve/push my energy than ever before. So…I’m going with it.

A few notable moments so far this training season:

  • Running in shorts for the first time, which I wrote about at length here.
  • 9 miles at a 9:46 average pace! The first long run in (slightly) cooler weather and it was an absolutely beautiful day. I ran smart and my legs felt strong. I’ve never been sub-10 at that distance before and it had me considering adjusting my race day goal to 2:10, which is insane.

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  • The worst, most un-fun 10 mile run that made even my 2:15 goal seem laughable. It was a good reminder to control what you can. I drank wine and stayed out too late the night before. I didn’t have my usual pre-run Cliff bar. I had two water bottles on my fuel belt originally but took one off, which I regretted later since it ended up being hotter out than my 9-miler the week before. It was an all-around hot mess. But the miles count the same!
  • Corporate Challenge 10k in 56:13 (9:01 average pace). This race was absolutely unreal and I was on such a runner’s high after. It was at the IMS so we got to run on the track. I didn’t realize how fast I went out but I felt good so I kept pushing. The last mile was rough and I thought I was going to throw up after but it was worth it to record that time. So crazy/awesome/ridic!

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  • Corporate Challenge 6-mile cycling time trial. It was my first bike race and I had no idea what to expect. I was aiming for 24:00 and finished in 20:36, a 3:26/mile average! They let us go on the Major Taylor Velodrome after, which was scary but cool. Check out the video here.

What’s next? This weekend I’ve got the Back on My Feet Relay. Then I want to do 11 on the 11th, partly because I’m nerdy but also because I felt like my endurance was lacking at the end of the Carmel half. I’ve always peaked at 10 miles in training so I want to see if going up to 11 changes anything. Then it’s taper time until race day.

I’m hungry for a PR and based on how things have been going, it should be within reach. But you never know what’s going to happen any given run day.

What are you training for? Do you keep a strict plan or just go with whatever you can get in? Share your updates below!

Beer Quest 2014

On Saturday a group of friends and I went on a quest. A beer quest. Our mission: Bike around Indy to check out some of the new craft beer players in town, with stops at a few trusted favorites along the way. Yes, it was as awesome as it sounds. And no, this wasn’t the first time we’ve done it. I missed last year due to Woods Go West (where I bought the perfect shirt to rock this year!) but you can read all about the inaugural Beer Quest here.

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Our group was a little smaller this year and changed up at each stop. One friend and I biked up from downtown to our starting point in Broad Ripple. Two friends met us later in the route and used the Pacers Bike Share. Others drove and met us for one or two stops. We were on the Monon Trail, the Cultural Trail, bike lanes on downtown streets and more. I biked close to 25 miles with five official stops plus three extras we tacked on to keep the party rolling.

Before I get into reviews, I have to give a disclaimer. I have very particular beer preferences. I rarely enjoy IPAs, stouts, porters, etc. I go for blondes, cream ales, lagers and kolsch. Some beer snobs out there will scoff at that but I know what I like and I drink it. I will sample everything though and did on Saturday. Just keep that in mind.

Stop 1: HopCat
The hype has been building for this place to open for weeks now so I had high expectations. With 100+ beers on tap, the selection certainly didn’t disappoint. I ordered an Alabaster (Belgian white) by local Oaken Barrel Brewing and enjoyed it. The space itself is nice too with tons of tables and booths.

The one problem I foresee is the potential for servers to not be able to keep up with the constantly rotating tap list. The menu is broken down by style, which is helpful, but I couldn’t quickly find any kolschs on the list. I asked our waitress and she basically admitted to not knowing what they had. To her credit, they ran out of at least three beers while we were there and loaded up different ones in their place. So I’m sure it’s crazy to stay on top of but if you want super knowledgeable staff who can make recommendations, this may not be the place for you.

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Stop 2: Flat12
Flat12 has been around for a long time but we love it so it’s a Beer Quest regular. They have a great deck out back and it’s a nice break after the long ride down the Monon before moving on to downtown. The Penrod 22 I had was pretty standard.20140906_140843 20140906_141716

 

Stop 3: Two Deep
Not a lot of people have heard of this brewery yet but it was one of my favorites of the day. The location is a little random (on Capitol near Walnut) but the tasting room is awesome. I loved the vibe and décor, especially the Indiana-shaped flight board. They had a diverse lineup and even offered wine and liquor, which our one non-beer drinking friend appreciated.

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Stop 4: Tow Yard
If this place is successful, it’ll be because of its food and great view of downtown, not necessarily because of its beer. Nothing really stood out to me on the beer list and the shandy variation I went with (The Hook Up) wasn’t great. Keeping in mind my personal preference, others may enjoy their beers more. I doubt I’ll be back though.

 

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Stop 5: Chilly Water
Virginia Avenue has come a long way in the last couple years and Chilly Water is a great addition to keep the momentum going. The Built to Last pilsner I had was refreshing and the food was delish. Skip’s balls are a must order (just trust me on this one). The lighting fixtures were also very appropriate for our group.

 

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Overall it was a great day with great friends biking around a city I love. Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping it real

There was a post floating around last month about what the author Instragrammed versus what was actually happening when the photo was taken. She went into detail about the extensive set up for each photo and the number of attempts to get exactly the right angle. We’re all guilty of this and I’m no exception.

On Monday, I posted this picture to show off my new running gear:

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Of course I moved my body around trying to find just the right twisted angle to make my stomach look flat, my boobs/butt stick out and my legs appear muscular. Behind the scenes of the picture, I was freaking out about my donut (my affectionate name for my stomach) and my thunder thighs. Some of this stems from leftover fat!Melanie issues that linger in my reflection. But I struggled with body image issues long before that.

Monday was the first time since high school volleyball that I ran in shorts. From a practical standpoint, I’ve avoided wearing shorts because my thighs rub together and chafe. Super uncomfortable. From a purely superficial standpoint, I’ve avoided wearing shorts because I don’t have super skinny, “legit” runner legs. I looked stupid and didn’t want to think about my thighs jiggling around. So I always rock three-quarter length tights and endured the heat.

It’s been stupid hot/humid this week in Indy, motivating me to get over my weird hang-ups and just buy some damn running shorts. Monday I ran 2.5 miles in them, 1.5 before crossfit then 1 mile as part of the WOD. At first I was really uncomfortable and self-conscious. I kept pulling them down, fully aware of how exposed my pasty, thick upper thighs were.

But guess what? The world didn’t end. No one stared and laughed. And thanks to a generous application of body glide (and sweat during the WOD…), I didn’t suffer much chafing. I lived to run another day.

Running in shorts may seem like a little thing to some people but for me it was huge. It was a big step toward embracing my body as it is – something I fear will be a lifelong battle, for me and for many others out there.

I need to remember that these thighs powered me through three half marathons and will take me across the finish line of my fourth in November and my fifth in April. These thighs gave me the strength to deadlift 245# and back squat 165#. These thighs pedaled me through a 40-mile ride up and down the Monon.

As with my other posts, I didn’t write this to solicit “your thighs are perfect just the way they are” comments. I just felt compelled to be honest, with you and with myself. The “me” you see on social media isn’t always the “me” that’s behind the scenes. I refer to my weight loss as a journey because it’s just that. I’ve managed to keep the weight off for 2.5 years but I’m still trying to figure out how to be confident with how I look. It’s not always easy and it’s not something I feel like you can speak openly about without appearing like you are seeking compliments.

One run in shorts isn’t going to magically change my body issues, but it’s a start.

So here’s to embracing your thunder thighs, donut or whatever body part you obsess over. Here’s to taking whatever small step you need to stop letting that hold you back. Here’s to keeping it real.