Friday, July 13, 2018

Double century weekend

Last weekend as part of my training for the Ironman and overall quest to do big things that scare me but make me stronger, I rode double century rides. 100 miles on Saturday and 100 miles on Sunday. About 13 hours on my bike overall between the two days and a huge sense of accomplishment to have completed it! It's a milestone I am pretty proud of.


So how did this come about?

Well, a few weeks ago, I met with my coach Jerome to talk about the next couple months of training. July is a bit of a crazy month for me and I was nervous how I was going to fit everything in. He let me know that we would have a big bike build at the beginning of the month and my goal would be to get in as much biking as I could in the first couple of weeks of July.

I had a good streak going and rode 109 miles on June 23, 103 miles on June 30th, and each day did short easy rides the day after. Then in discussing the weekend of July 7-8, Jerome had mentioned to me that there were organized supported century bike rides on both Saturday and Sunday. The year before he and a few others rode the centuries both days - something that I was very familiar with because I remember hearing about it and thinking that it was such an insane, crazy thing to do. At the time last year, I hadn't even ridden 100 miles before, so the idea of doing it two days in the row seemed next to impossible. Even this year, with a few centuries under my belt, when Jerome tossed the idea around, it seemed crazy!

I committed to riding long both days but I wasn't sure if doing full century rides each day was something I could do. It just didn't seem possible.

Because I wasn't sure if I would actually go for it, I didn't tell many people I had this idea in my head. However, I couldn't stop thinking about it. I became mentally obsessed with it. I knew I wanted to do it and go for the 100 both days. I felt excited about it. Excited and scared and nervous and eager to try it out. I didn't know many people that had done this before so the idea of doing something not many people had thrilled me a little.

So, I started to do what I always do when something scares me, I started to plan for it. I registered for both organized rides and reached out to the people I knew had done it before to get advice. I mentally planned the logistics of what  I would need to do for this to be possible. I thought about sleep, nutrition (before, after and during the rides), recovery from day to day, clothing,  how to protect and preserve my "undercarriage," and which of my bikes I should use for the two rides.

I did everything I thought I could to be prepared and as the weekend got closer I was excited to attempt this. So, how did it?

Friday

I am able to work from home on Fridays so I was able to spend some of the day helping to get ready. I prepped my food. I lay out my clothes. I charged my lights. I charged my bike. I put out my water bottles. I made snacks for after the ride. I wrote out a timeline for the morning. And similar to when I rode the Gaps in June, I set out a number of goals for myself for the weekend.

1. Have fun
2. Stay positive and confident
3. Be friendly
4. Take my time
5. Ride 100 miles each day

I ate pasta for dinner on Friday night, even if I didn't truly need it, I liked the idea of carbing up before the big weekend and went to bed early, ready to go for the next day.

Saturday

Saturday I was planning to ride with a group from ITL, who all were doing an organized ride in Senoia, GA called the Southside Century ride. I treated the day like any normal long bike day, getting up and having breakfast, and driving to the start with plenty of time to get ready. It was the last long ride for the group that is doing Ironman Canada and my friend Michelle's birthday. There was lots of blue at the start and it was a good crew!


As often happens with these rides, we started rolling a few minutes before the official organized ride started. We started out together, chatting and riding easy, but it wasn't long before the group started to thin out and I was in the back per usual, but not by much. I was still right with the group.

UNTIL we went over some railroad tracks right before mile 5 and when I did, EVERYTHING toppled off my bike. My aero bottle, water bottles, flat tire kit, EVERYTHING, went flying. With no other choice, I stopped to collect my things and by the time I did, the group was out of sight. Since we started ahead of the official start, there was nobody behind me either. I was just by myself.

I started to ride again and tried my best to gather my thoughts mentally. Being alone freaked me out. You can do this, I told myself. You can do this century ride today on your own. In fact, I tried to convince myself, it might be better this way because now you can completely go your own pace!

Although I had expected to be separated from ITL for a portion of the day, as everyone going to the ride was much faster than me and not people I expected to wait for me at the aid stops. I didn't think I would be alone so quickly. And I thought there would be plenty of other non-ITL riders around (which is why one of my goals for the weekend was to "be friendly.") Without anyone in front or behind me, I felt so alone and I felt myself getting a bit emotional.

I kept giving myself pep talks, remembering to stay positive, to take my time, and that I could do this.

I kept riding.

At around 10 miles, I saw another cyclist for the first time since I had lost the group. It was someone coming towards me though! I saw pink shoes pedaling in my direction and realized that it was my friend Lauren. I was so happy to see her that I got tears to my eyes as she rode up to me and then stopped and turned around. As we connected and started to ride together I asked her "What's going on? Is everything okay?" I don't know what I was thinking. But she just kept riding next to me and said, "We're doing this together today." and I started to cry a little.

From that mile on, Lauren and I rode the next 90 miles as a team. Just like so many rides we did last year, I chased her up the hills, and she pushed to keep up as I caught her on the downhills. When I was struggling, she encouraged me. And when she needed a boost, I offered it back. We chatted about training and life and relationships and I had the best time riding with her. It seems like such a little thing, but I am not sure how much I can express how much it meant for me to have her turn back and find me and to ride the day together. It was Lauren's last long ride before Ironman Canada and a big training weekend for me, and it was so nice to ride together.

Part of my plan for the weekend was to utilize the rest stops as much as possible. I had brought some of my own food, but I also wanted to use what they had and had written the miles on my arm of where the stops would be. For this ride it was 19, 33, 55, 73, 81, and 95. We stopped at the first aid station so I could refill my bottles, which had emptied when they flew off my bike. We stopped at miles 33 and 55 again, grabbing some snacks of Chex Mix, rice crispies, peanut butter pretzels and using the bathroom. I know at some point I will have to stop relying on these stops during rides, but right now I am enjoying them.

I felt good most of the day, just trying to take it easy. I fueled and rode, remembering that I had the next day to think about as well. There was a section from miles 55-75 of the ride that was climb after climb. I worked to try and take them easy and Lauren would get ahead of me a bit as she is stronger on climbs even when I am pushing hard. I told her she could keep going if she needed to, but she insisted on staying with me. She is a good friend.

The roads were bumpy, which was unsettling to ride on, and there was NOBODY else out there. It was an organized ride so I would have thought there would be more people on the road, but I feel like we only came across a handful of them. It was a quiet day and we made a comment that it felt suiting that this was the area of Georgia where they filmed the Walking Dead. It felt like it was just Lauren and I out on this thing the two of us. Despite getting rained on for a small portion, the weather was nice, there was pretty scenery, the volunteers were fantastic and so friendly and nice, but overall, it was not my favorite course. It felt very isolated and I wasn't a fan of the bumpy roads.

At one point towards the end, we had to wait quite a while to cross a main road, and then shortly after we went through a section of unpaved road. Having unpaved road on an organized bike ride seemed totally odd to us both, so we stopped to review a map and the cue sheets to confirm that we were on the right path, which we were. I also dropped my chain once, which was a small pause for me to fix it (I was proud of myself because for the first time I put it back on all by myself!) Otherwise, we kept moving during the second half of the ride, skipping the aid stops at both miles 73 and 95.

We came into the finish at 102 miles, ready to be done. Coming in to the finish, I didn't do what I normally do and leisurely hang about. I had a plan of what I wanted to do after the first day's ride. I wanted to get out of the sun as soon as possible, eat the food I brought for myself, and change out of sweaty clothes. I only said hi to the people who were still around briefly before beginning what I considered part of my recovery for the next day. However, I did pause for a few pictures. I wanted to document this weekend.


Also, they had a nice little photo op set up available so I made use of that for sure!


At this ride, there was a building we could go into in the finish, so although I didn't leave right away, I did get out of the sun and into the AC. I hung around after changing to chat with some friends and get a massage from the post-ride masseuse they had! I lay down for about 10 minutes and had her work on my neck and shoulders. It was really awesome that they offered that, because I had earlier been thinking about potentially getting a massage in between the two bike rides.

This weekend I didn't make any plans to try and see friends, my boyfriend was out of town, and the whole thing was just about me and what I needed to do to accomplish this goal.

After going home and cleaning up, I took myself out for dinner to get a burger and some french fries and tried to work on my mental approach for the next day. At some point in the evening I started to get freaked out a bit and negative thoughts and doubts crept into my mind. Could I really ride 100 miles again the next day? Only really strong, fast, more advanced people do something like this right? There's a reason why more riders that are my speed and level don't do this, right? Who do I think I am?

Even though I was feeling good about how the day first day had gone and everything was going according to plan, I started to feel scared. I got some reassuring words from friends, boyfriend and coach and then was in bed by 9:30 p.m. to get ready to get up and do the same thing the next day.

Sunday

Sunday morning, I woke up and did my normal Saturday routine to get ready for biking. Sunscreen, cereal, fill my bottles, etc. I told myself mentally, "It's Saturday. You're just going out for your normal Saturday ride."

I head out to Roswell and parked with ease, feeling thankful that I had done the ride once before and knew where to go. I also was a bit taken aback because what had slipped my mind was just how many people come out for this ride! There were cyclists everywhere you looked. Even before I got there, as soon as I was on the highway, there were tons of cars with bikes on the back of their vehicles heading in the same direction I was.

After checking in and getting set up on my bike, I met up with my friends Phil, Alyssa and Peter, who were all doing the ride as well. I waited as long as possible before actually hoisting myself onto the seat of my bike - one of my bigger fears about finishing these two days of riding was how my uh "seat" would hold up. I have been having some issues feeling comfortable the days after my long rides and wasn't sure how this back-to-back long rides would go.

We got together and lined up for the start of the route at about 7:00 a.m. There are TONS of people that do this ride and we were about as far back in the line of thousands of people as you could be. Probably not the best place to start, but all of us were going into the bike ride with just one goal - to finish it - so we weren't necessarily concerned at the time about our placement in the group start.


The first 10 miles of the GA 400 ride are slooooow. They are PACKED with people were you are literally just crawling along trying to balance on your bike so that you don't topple over. There are a lot of inexperienced riders who don't know cycling etiquette or how to control their own bike that well. I saw many people topple over, stop in the middle of a long line of cyclists causing people behind them to swerve, or even someone with a helmet on backwards. It's a bit of a zoo, so the first 10 miles the main goal is really just to stay safe and moving forward, navigating through and around the traffic of cyclists. (Where's Waldo points to those that can see me tucked into that pack of cyclists right in the middle!)


What makes this ride so popular is that for a section of about 2 miles you get to ride on the GA 400, a major highway throughout Georgia. It is a pretty cool thing to ride your bike on a highway and that gimmicky aspect of it brings out a lot of people to just do one of the shorter ride options (such as the 10 mile route!) in order to have that experience. I think anything that prompts people to be active is a cool thing, but it does make it challenging in those early miles.



Our group of Phil, Alyssa, Peter and I had previously agreed that we would stop at every rest stop along the route. There were aid stops at miles 9, 26, 34, 49, 64, 79 and 92. When we got to mile 9 it was total chaos and we had all been pretty much just coasting for the first 9 miles navigating around people, so we just said let's keep going and rode past.

Unlike the Senoia ride or some of the other organized rides I have been doing lately, this route takes you through a lot of main roads and city roads that aren't completely shut down. This means that you are at the mercy of stopping for car traffic, red lights, etc. The route is very well marked and in these earlier miles through the city streets there are still lots and lots of riders out, so you do tend to feel pretty safe though. It is still just hard to get into a groove because there are a number of turns, clipping in and clipping out to stop and wait at traffic lights, and navigating all the other groups of riders out there. We were moving pretty slowly through the miles but the good thing was that my "seat" was getting a good break when I would have to stop now and then.

We kept moving and riding until we got to Mile 22 aid stop. I had needed to use the bathroom since before the start but everywhere the lines for the bathroom were so long. This stop was no different, but I needed to use it here! I chatted while in line, was feeling strong and confident, thinking "Almost a quart of the way through. I got this." I texted Jonathan, which is not something I usually do in the middle of the ride, but wanted the encouragement this day. Also the rest stop had a buffet of all his favorite foods with brown sugar cinnamon Pop-tarts and Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches.


The next stop was relatively close and we kept moving forward, nothing super eventful happening. I got to mile 34, where I knew my friend Kristin was going to be there volunteering. I felt happy to have someone to see and chat with, I still felt really good and was confident with how the day was going. One of my friends upon giving me advice told me that I would be surprised at how good I felt - and I was feeling good!


We rolled out of Mile 34 aid station and not too long after that there was the moment of truth split off, where the 62 mile route went one way and the 100 mile went another. Not that there was any question at this point - but we passed the split off and were committed for 100.

I swear, as soon as we passed that point, I felt like I hit a wall. I went from feeling strong to feeling miserable. We were hitting what felt like hill after hill after hill and I felt like I had nothing in me. The wind started to pick up a bit and I felt like it was blowing me backwards. I started to really struggle mentally and physically, feeling exhausted.

It happened so suddenly that I was all of a sudden in a bad place. Everything hurt. I felt like there was no relief from the hills and the wind. All I was doing was counting down the miles until I got to 49, but at the same time I just kept thinking... even when I get there we won't even be halfway done?! My friends all got ahead of me and I felt like I was just dragging. I didn't think I was going to be able to finish the whole ride feeling this way. I started to get scared and doubt myself quite a bit. I wanted to cry.

During one of the climbs, I caught up to a guy who had been in my sight for a bit and I had been slowly gaining on. As I rode past, I was too out of breath and too much in a negative space to even say anything to the rider but then I heard, "Is that Katie?"

I answered a bit abruptly saying "It's Katelyn." ... because a) was in bad place b) was climbing c) I didn't actually think I knew anyone out here! But as I turned out it was a running friend of mine, Jerome (not my coach), who I had last seen when I was in Berlin for the marathon! I've seen via Facebook and Instagram that he has been getting more into cycling but was still new to it and thought he was such a badass for being out there on this tough course riding the century as a new rider!

It seemed like the miles CRAWLED by as I got myself to Mile 49 aid stop and I immediately got off my bike, used the bathroom, and went over to grab some food. This was a lot point for me in the course and I was in a mood and needed to get some sugar or calories in me or something. I nearly had a face off with the man who was running the aid station because he was standing IN FRONT of the table, blocking my view of what they had to offer, and then insisting that he pick up the food off the table for me and hand it to me. I am all for sanitary precautions, but I am not going to touch every one of the mini PB and J squares before selecting my own! I can pick up the individual sandwich off the table myself, thank you very much.

I snapped at him a bit and was fumbling to figure out what I wanted to eat and he asked if I needed medical. I told him, "No! I just need calories." and had him give me a few of the sandwiches and snacks. I also ate some of my own snacks that I had brought, pulling out a reserve of sour cherry gummy candies that seemed to do the trick and perked me up a bit.

I was hoping that I would get a mental boost after we left the aid station and I was past the 50 mile half way point - knowing that I just had to get myself home from that point forward. The fact that we weren't even halfway there was so demoralizing to me.

Right before we rolled out from the aid station though, the friend I had passed on the climb, Jerome came in and we chatted a minute. I don't know much about his story, but I do know that over the past couple of years he has been recovering from cancer and working to regain his running and fitness capabilities one mile at a time. This also reminded me of my friend, mentor and role model, Nancy, who is currently undergoing surgeries and treatments to regain her health. I thought of my friend Kelly P who passed away a few years ago, who last told me to "run for her" before a quick and tragic fight for cancer.


As we rolled out from mile marker 49, and I struggled with the thought of completing 51 more miles, I reminded myself that I GET to do these things. I am healthy and able enough to be out here pushing my limits and testing myself, riding my bike on a sunny summer day. I get to do this. Nobody is forcing me. I have the privilege to have the means and health and I reminded myself that no matter how much I am hurting there are people out there sick, injured, (and at this I smiled a little when the thought hit me) or tapering that would love to be doing what I am doing right now.

This perked me up again and I kept pushing, before I knew it, arriving at Mile 63 aid station. Everyone at this stop felt a bit social and people were chatting. There was one girl, Isabelle, who I had now been seeing at a few of these different rides. Just the day before, in Senoia, she had been volunteering at an aid station and introduced herself, having recognized me from the Velo City Century bike ride we'd done earlier that year, where she had been volunteering as well. She said that she loved seeing female cyclists out and commented, how many have you done this year?! Three? Four?

When I saw her the day before, I hadn't mentioned I was doing another century the next day, so she was so surprised to see me out, this time she was riding herself. Her comments to me that I was badass and how impressed she was that I was doing double centuries gave me a bit of a boost and from there out I was NOT humble in conversation with the other riders at the stops!!

I started chatting with a group of men, who were complaining about being sore and wanting to be finished and get a massage. I casually mentioned, "Yeah - the bike ride that I did yesterday had a masseuse at the end, it was great!" To which I gladly answered their inquiry of how far I had ridden the day before, letting them know this was my second century for the weekend. Everyone seemed so impressed and I am not going to lie, I loved that attention and recognition and used it to carry me forward.

Leaving station at mile 63, I told myself that pretty soon I would be in the home stretch. I was almost to the point where I was almost there! I always get such a boost from the "almost there" adrenaline, whether it is running or cycling, so this little trick of being "almost there" to "almost there" is something I do quite often. Right out of the aid station though, there was a TERRIBLE super steep incline that knocks you out since your legs are still tight from having stopped and you don't have much momentum built up. I nearly had to walk up it and was so thankful I made it over with toppling off my bike.

The next few miles were sort of crappy roads with narrow, winding, bumpy roads, with trees casting shadows that made it really hard to see if the dark spot in the road was a shadow or a pot hole. It was a tough section, ride-ability wise (is that a word?) and was thankful when the roads opened up and cleared out a bit more. I almost ran off the road at one point trying to navigate traffic, other riders, hills, and a giant pot hole. I felt like my comprehension was sort of dipping a bit as I got fatigued and popped some salt tabs and drank some water to keep myself going. Taking in more salt when I felt my head start to get a little loopy.

At mile 79 I used the bathroom again, grabbed some salty Chex Mix like snacks, and at this point, just wanted to get home. There were lots of cyclists sitting in the shade, taking long breaks, etc. but I just wanted to get to the finish. My friend Phil, who was the only other person doing the double century this weekend, was right on the same page with me. Our other friends were starting to drop off a bit, dealing with fatigue issues of their own, needing to stop more frequently. We all decided to split up at this point and just to get in to the finish. There was one more rest stop at Mile 92 but we made the decision at 79 to skip it and just get home.

The GA 400 century ride, which starts off slow and friendly to amateur or newbie cyclists, is a really challenging ride when you get into the longer distances. You aren't out in back country roads for a lot of the route, having to navigate small shoulders, traffic on the roads, and some pretty steep climbs. Up until that point in addition to the climb coming out of the rest stop, there had been a few other pretty steep inclines that are just pure grinders where you're huffing and puffing and wishing you had more gears on your bike. For the first time ever, I had to stand up on my bike to get myself up some of the hills because I just didn't have enough power or momentum to get through them sitting down.

We knew that in the last 20 minutes of the ride, there were still quite a few hills to navigate as well. Particularly, the three climbs affectionately called "the three sisters." Now, I had done the metric century of this organized ride two years prior, and on that day, had done the three sisters. I remember that I was able to get up them fine two years prior when I was a FAR more inexperienced cyclists so I actually did not feel too nervous about them. I figured I would handle them as I had been handling everything else this day... just take them slowly, take my time, and never stop freaking pedaling!

As we rolled out of the aid station at around mile 80, all of a sudden Phil and I saw a blue ITL shirt going the opposite direction and riding a bike towards us. As he got closer, we realized that it was our friend Clayton, who lives in the area, and had decided to come out riding the course to see if he would come across anyone he knew! He stumbled upon Phil and I, and turned back around, helping pace and ride us through the next 10 mile section. Having done this route the year before and also living in these neighborhoods, Clayton knew the area really well and he was such a huge help as we rode our way through the "three sisters" - shouting out to me in advance to let me know when they were coming and giving me feedback on the ride. It was SO nice to have some fresh energy and Clayton was such a boost for miles 80-90 as we rode through the last neighborhoods.


(See me way behind Clayton climbing up that hill in the picture above?? Getting a little further up the hill in the picture below!)


The sisters were tough, and the miles surrounding the sisters are no easier. You get a break from finishing a big climb by having a bunch of other mini climbs all around it. There are a number of hills that very well could be "sisters" themselves in my opinion, but it would be one heck of a family I guess, so it's just left as "three" big climbs through the end of this ride. I was proud of myself for continuing to ride strong through these climbs and as expected, the adrenaline of being "almost there" was pushing me forward as well. I did have to wind back and forth a couple times to get myself up the hills, but I made it and was still smiling.



After you making it through the three sisters, Phil and I rode through the aid station at mile 92 as planned. The final miles take you through downtown Roswell, along a really cute road called Canton Street that I have eaten at and hung out at a few times before.


At this point, the ride is mentally challenging because you feel SO close and that the end is near, but you are riding through very populated city roads and you have to take it slow and easy. There is foot and car traffic, heavily populated roads with street lights, and narrow roads with little to no shoulder. It is a slow finish, as it was a slow start, but for different reasons.

The majority of the day we had really ideal weather for riding bikes as well, with cooler temps in the morning and cloud coverage. However, at this point in early afternoon the sun was hot and high in the sky and these last miles went by slowly. We missed a turn at one point and had to stop and backtrack a bit. We'd gotten into the zone a little too much and were unable to recognize and navigate the turn fast enough.

There were a few more climbs at the very finish, because of course, and the "Finish" shoot that they had set up and the parking lot with our cars was eventually in sight!

However, there was one small snag. And that was that my watch only read 98.5 miles. We were slightly short.

I had warned Phil of this earlier as we'd gotten close to the finish. I wanted my darn watch to say 100 before I could feel complete about this accomplishment for the weekend. I had let him know - if we're short - I am going to keep riding! And I was true to that, riding PAST the finish, continuing down some of the access roads, trying to get that additional 1.5 miles. Phil followed, eventually making a U-turn and returning to the finish line with my watch ticking to 100 just before. We crossed the finish with my watch at 100.12 miles.



I could not have been happier to get off my bike that day and to be through this challenging weekend! We had done it!


Phil and I took some celebratory photos, checked out the finishers area, and sort of stood around wondering "What now?" Our friends were still out riding and the food that they had didn't look quite that appetizing (pasta - that had been sitting out all day.) There was music playing and lots of people sitting under the canopy tents at tables they'd set up, but although my legs were aching, I just did not want to be sitting down right away. My "seat" was aching more. Managing that was one of the more challenging parts of the ride that day, with the bumpy roads, getting on and off my bike at stop lights, etc. reminding me over and over how uncomfortable I was. I did NOT want to sit down.

After seeing some of the other people come in that I had been riding with, including many of the people who I had been "casually" letting know I had ridden back-to-back centuries, I got out of the sun and head home. I ate my snack of rice cakes and peanut butter, had drank a Diet Coke at the finish, and decided it was time to get cleaned up.

I spent the rest of the evening relaxing, eating food, and not worrying about any of the dishes around my apartment or mess of things laying around. Usually I hate to have clutter and dishes and I unpack my biking things right away, putting them where they need to go and doing laundry, etc. But I just let it all be for this day. I relaxed on the couch, looked through pictures, and was just overall so happy and so proud of what I had accomplished.

I pushed myself to do something that weeks before I didn't think I was capable of. I had an awesome time, creating memories and bonding with my training partners and friends. I tested my limits and faced fears, working to build confidence and strength. I am so thankful to the people that rode with me both days, to my coach and my boyfriend. I'll never forget this weekend and how it felt.

This is what Ironman training is all about.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A weekend trip home and Ironman training

This past weekend I was home for a few days in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, as my family did a delayed burial for my grandmother who had passed in December. The winter was cold and dreary and we wanted to wait for a beautiful spring/summer day, which we had this past weekend. We all miss her so much and she would have loved that everyone was together, laughing, swimming, eating, and playing with kittens. It was the perfect day to honor her and it felt like she was there with us in some way. We love you Gram.


As I get further along in Ironman training, traveling poses some challenges - especially on the weekends - as I am away from my bike and can't get in long rides when I am away. This past weekend was one of those weekends. It was a trip that I wasn't going to miss, and that I also wasn't going to compromise to try and borrow/rent a bike and go out on my own. The weekend was about family and getting to spend as much time with my family as possible.

So how does that work with training?

Well, it starts for me with strong communication with my coach. Weeks in advance I let him know my dates of travel and had that built into my schedule and marked on my TrainingPeaks as soon as I knew the dates and had flights book. He then builds my schedule around that. The weekends leading up to my trip had long, challenging bike rides built into them. I rode the Gaps two weeks before, and followed that up with a 5:00 hour bike ride on Saturday the 9th. Everyone else that was riding that Saturday had 3-4 hours on their schedule and a number of people asked me why I had that extra hour!

It was a long, hot day for me and I ended up riding the furthest I have ever gone on an unsupported ride. The long rides I have done have had built in rest stops every 10-15 miles (that I have taken advantage of!) or even ITL-supported SAG vehicles. On this day, there wasn't even an official ITL group ride, I just went out with my friends to ride bikes for 83 long miles. Knowing I had about an hour longer than everyone else, I started early and got in 30 minutes before we planned to meet, tried to keep moving as much as possible even when we stopped to regroup, and then kept going at the end of the ride when everyone else stopped for the day.

I followed that 5:00 hour ride with a 20 minute run, leaving me as the last person from our group in the parking lot for the day. Hot, sweaty, tired, but feeling really proud of myself.


And that bike ride wasn't even the only challenging portion of that week! Leading up to the 5:00 hour ride, I had actually ridden my bike 1:30 hours the day before and had a number of challenging swims and runs built in. Enough so, that I had my first mini-breakdown of Ironman training, where I got into bed at 8:30 feeling overwhelmed and completely exhausted from training, work and life commitments that left me needing to disengage from communication and conversation for a bit (despite the fact that I had driven an hour to go see my boyfriend, and then immediately after running and ice cream decided I needed alone time and shut down.)



The day after my long ride, I had a 2:00 hour run scheduled. I took it nice and easy, getting in 12 miles. I started at 6:30 a.m. to do an hour on my own and Jonathan joined me for the second hour of my run. Going at what must have been a turtle's pace for him, he stuck with me and helped keep me distracted.


The week stayed full after that, going right into long swims, track and an insane amount of lunges, and long trainer rides throughout the week before hopping on a plane Thursday night to head home. When I tell you that literally sitting down to go to the bathroom was ridiculously painful, I am not even joking. My legs were so sore from lunges on Tuesday, that when I saw my trainer ride on Wednesday evening included getting off the bike and doing squats in between intervals, I thought my legs were going to buckle just reading that.

My priority for going home was seeing family.

When I go to New Hampshire, I always stay at my mom's house. And every time I am there, I have the same challenge. I arrive around midnight, and then my mom leaves for work at 6:30 a.m. the next morning. Unless I am renting a car, I have to coordinate if I am going to get up SUPER early and have little sleep but get a workout in before my mom leaves so she can bring me to my sister's. OR I can wait until my sister has the chance throughout her day of managing her flock of babies to come get me. Or I can just hang around at my mom's house all day by myself.

This trip was so short that none of these things were going to be an option for me, so instead, I planned ahead and brought my hiking backpack. Why? So that on Friday morning I could incorporate seeing family into my workout, and threw some clothes and flip-flops and snacks (duh... I didn't know what my sister would have at her house!) into my bag and head out on foot from my Mom's to my sisters. In reality, it was just a bit over 8 miles, which is a normal run for me, but it felt so fun and funny to run the distance from one place to another and make my training functional. Thinking of seeing my little niece and nephews was honestly really amazing motivation and I had a very strong run for myself on Friday. Despite wearing a backpack for the first time ever while running and tackling a hilly back half of the route.



Saturday I planned to have off from training in order to totally devote to family and the reason I had flown up, as it was the day of my grandmother's burial. But then back on Sunday, I had another run on the schedule for 1:30 hours.

As we got off the highway at my mom's exit in New Hampshire around 10:00 p.m. driving back from Massachusetts, we saw a sign tacked to a poll advertising road closures for the "Ribfest 5 Miler" road race. I looked up the run online, and did a little research to learn that it was a little over 4 miles from my mom's house and right around 11:00 p.m. (an hour before online registration closed) I signed up for the run the next morning!

One of the things I am trying to focus on with this training is fun. And although I wasn't going to race the race, incorporating an organized 5 mile route into my run sounded like a top more fun than spending 1:30 hours on the same roads that I have been running every time I go home for the past few years. Roads that I got really tired of running back in December when I was home for 2 weeks in the heart of marathon training.

I left my mom's around 7:30 a.m. and ran the 4.2 miles to the start of the race, checked in, then continued to run around until my watch hit 5 miles. I ran into some people that I knew at the race, got an awesome race T-shirt, and was impressed with the size and number of people that were out at this Ribfest 5 mile race!

We started at 9:00 a.m. and I loved the energy and atmosphere of this race! The route was an out-and-back on some of the roads I had just run on to get there, it was unshaded and hot, but there was music, aid stations, lots of energy, and some beautiful neighborhoods. Out-and-back routes can be fun as well because you get to look at and cheer for other runners. I felt comfortable and happy and pushed the pace a bit, but also stayed in control as I knew this was supposed to be an "easy" run day and not a day to race.

The best part was that my mom came out to cheer and meet me at the finish line, which, absolutely made for a much better running day than what I would have otherwise done! I felt strong, I actually had a great run for me (I guess this is what it is like to run on legs not tired from biking!?) and did I mention I really liked the shirt I got?? It was an all around successful run that is now super memorable for me.




I flew back to Atlanta on Monday morning and was back to training regularly on Tuesday. Sometimes I stress over feeling like I need to be tied to my bike and have to sacrifice life things for training. And it is true, many times you do. But I am really thankful to have a coach who encourages me to book the trips I want to book telling me "we'll figure it out." I am thankful to have a super supportive boyfriend who helps me through my freak-outs and encourages me to take the time I need to do things, even if it means less time together. I am thankful for my family and mom who help me build my hobbies into our schedule, come out to cheer for and take pictures of me on the side of a hot highway in the summer heat. And I am thankful for all my community in this sport who help make it so much fun, even when I am tired and exhausted.

Ironman Chattanooga is 14 weeks away!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Return to the Gaps

Last year one of the more challenging days of training throughout the summer and a day that had an entire blog post dedicated to it was my first ride at the Gaps. As a quick recap, the Gaps are a series of climbs in the North Georgia mountains that are frequented by cyclists and triathletes in Atlanta. Biking in the Gaps means a lot of beautiful scenery, gorgeous views, curvy roads, and long climbs UP mountains with fast, sometimes scary descents down afterwards.

Last year when I went, it was a challenging day for me physically, but also mentally, as I struggled with anxiety throughout the day, cried multiple days, and left the Gaps feeling a bit defeated. The Gaps had gotten the better of me on that day.

I knew that returning to the Gaps was something that I needed to do. I wanted that revenge on the mountains and wanted to prove myself there. But I had also been putting it off a bit as well.

I wanted to feel strong when I went back and wanted it to be a positive experience. I went last year in mid-June after having been biking regularly since the beginning of the year. This year, it wasn't until the end of April that I really started spending time on my bike. And although I did ramp up quickly and have had some strong rides, I haven't really felt that I have been in great biking shape. When going to the Gaps has come up in conversation this year, I've put it off as something to do later in the summer when I was feeling stronger on the bike.

Last week, in a group chat with other ITL athletes that I am a part of, it came up that the group ride was going to be taking place in the Gaps that weekend. I immediately started to panic a little and told myself, maybe we aren't actually going this weekend and I can put it off for longer. It came from pretty reliable sources... but I still went to my coach to confirm that I'd be going. So I started shooting text messages to him.

"Are we going to the Gaps this weekend??"
"Am I ready for that??"
"Do you want me to be biking in the mountains??"
"Do you think I can do it??"
"Really though, do you think I can do it??"

Yeah, I am a fun athlete to coach.

In addition to all of the questions for confirmation and reassurance, I also let him know that if we were going, I wanted to have an actual discussion about the overall approach to the day. When he confirmed we were going, I first went back and re-read my blog post from last year. I recalled a few things that I didn't remember before and I knew the questions to ask. I prepared a list and talked with Jerome about what the day would be like. One of the things that was important that I remembered from reading my blog from last year was that although the climbs were hard - I could do them - that my challenges from the day were a lot mental. I knew the things that I needed to do to prepare myself mentally and after talking through all my questions with my coach, I felt ready to return to the Gaps.

He helped give me an understanding of what I could expect in the route. We talked through the names of the various Gaps, the distances, and the times it might take me to climb them. Talking to him made me feel much better and turn my nerves into a bit of excitement. Before going to bed on Friday night, I put together a last minute list of my goals for the next day, which simply consisted of:
  • Ride mindfully and be in the moment
  • Practice good nutrition
  • Don't pay attention to the numbers
  • Have fun
  • Smile a lot (a last minute add by my coach!)
I went to bed feeling ready but a bit excited.

The plan was to be wheels down at 7:15 a.m. and it was an hour and a half -ish drive. I arrived around 6:45 and was surprised that we just sort of basically parked on the side of the road. I recognized portions of the drive there, so things were looking familiar, but parking on the side of the road was new. I got my bike ready and chatted with friends, greased up my bike chain, and waited to get started.

One of the things that I had discussed with my coach the night before was which of my bikes I should bring to the Gaps - my road bike or my triathlon bike. I was a little nervous to bring my tri bike because I can feel a distinct difference in climbing on my road bike vs. my triathlon bike. And I definitely feel more comfortable and stronger on the road bike. My coach advised me to bring that one then and said it was far enough away from my race that we could go back to the Gaps with my tri bike sometime and for today, he was okay with me choosing comfort. I also am not racing such a hilly route, so I don't need to be doing that much climbing on my tri bike.

At 7:15 we were rolling - with the plan to do the loop that Jerome and I discussed the night before, which consisted of 3 Gaps - Neels, Wolf Pen, then Woody's Gap. As we head out someone told me that from where we were starting to the top of Neels was exactly 13 miles. Having that target in mind made me feel really good.

I stuck with my friend Kevin, who is also training for his first Ironman in Chattanooga with me. We agreed on a plan of "slow and steady" for the day and went into Neels Gap feeling positive, with our friend Joni riding at a much easier pace than she needed to, in order to stick with us on the climbs. I was so thankful to have Joni there with us as she chatted away on the entire climb up Neels, which helped take my mind off of how long we were going and helped keep me at a comfortable and conversational pace. Slow and steady.

I recognized points along the route from last year, and at this point in the day traffic passing by wasn't too bad. When we did this climb the year before it was later in the day and lots of cars and motorcycles were zipping by us which had frightened me. Aside from a few idiots who honked at us and drove by obnoxiously, the roads were pretty clear.

I felt comfortable climbing. There were a few points where I got out of breathe, but then settled back in. I used my gears whenever I could, but otherwise just kept pedaling in my lowest one. Slow and steady. As we got closer to the top, or I guess after we had been riding a while (since I didn't know where the top was), I started looking at my watch, trying to see how far away we were from reaching 13 miles. I also knew we were getting somewhat close as people started to loop back for us multiple times and pass our little group pedaling away. I CHOSE not to allow the people looping back or the fact that we were the last ones in the group let me feel bad. Just kept going my pace and having fun talking to my friends. Thank goodness Joni was there. Slow and steady as we climbed.

Eventually we made it to the top of Neels! I felt relieved. I had done it. And it wasn't too terrible. Neels was the climb last year that had broken me a bit and what I was most nervous about going into today. It was our 4th climb out of 5 last year and I was exhausted and started crying when I got to the top. My coach had made me take a picture with the view in the background amidst my tears because he knew it would mean something to me later, so I went back and took a picture while people had snacks and went to the rest room, regrouping at the top of Neels.

June 2018
June 2017

At the top of Neels I started to eat some of my snacks, possibly overeating a bit since it was still early in the ride. But I had brought yummy snacks for the occasion, and the year before I had gotten hungry early in the ride, so did not want that to happen again. We had a SAG vehicle, but it was mostly just holding extra things for the group that was riding 6 hours (I had 4) so everything I had brought was stuffed into my baggie on my bike.

The descent down Neels was fun - I don't mind the descents that much, whereas I know a number of people are terrified of them. I just hold onto my brakes and take it easy but also enjoying the reward of not having to pedal after a long climb. We rode passed Vogel State Park - which is where I had been back in March when we supported/crewed Jonathan's friend at the Georgia Death Race ultra-marathon. It made me feel even more comfortable with the day to be able to remind myself that I wasn't in totally unfamiliar territory - I was becoming more familiar with and accustomed to the mountains of North Georgia. I was an old pro at this area of the state! ... Although in reality I do not know my way around whatsoever, it was something I told myself to help feel more comfortable, which it did.

The next Gap started at the bottom of the descent of Neels. Wolf Pen is a 3 mile climb, which feels short after doing Neels right beforehand, which is 7 or 8. But it is a bit steeper. I had been feeling good tackling the one that seemed most scary to me going into the day, but came back to reality a bit because Wolf Pen is still challenging. Joni stuck with me again, back of the pack, and I just kept my own pace and focused on what I was doing. Slow and steady.


We chatted more and I tried to stay in the moment, observing the beautiful views, waterfalls, trees, and skyline that poked through. It was a really gorgeous day out and aside from getting a bit chilly on some of the downhills, I felt very comfortable temperature wise.

I checked my watch throughout the climb up Wolf Pen, knowing to expect about 3 miles. It helped me to have that to plan for and definitely relied on that quite a bit. We made it to the top and found the group up there waiting, a few people having turned to loop back. We regrouped there, filling up our water bottles from our amazingly helpful SAG vehicle, took some pictures, and then continued on.


The next Gap was Woody Gap. I knew it was really short, but it was also the only one on this route that I had not done before and was not sure what to expect. We rode over, regrouping at a gas station before getting into the climb, and then regrouping again at the top of Woody. The climb there really wasn't bad at all! It was the first one that I did on my own, and I thought back to my goals for the day of "not paying attention to the numbers" and set the mini-goal for myself to not look at my watch and check how far I had gone up the climb at all. I just wanted to ride until I got to the top - which I did! Slow and steady.

The top of Woody has one of the prettiest views. I recognized that we had actually stopped there when driving through the year before and I had taken pictures at the top of Woody. I took some more with friends and was honestly just feeling really happy and really good about the day. I had just ridden the 3 Gap route and was still feeling strong. My goals and my approach to the day all seemed to be working for me... except maybe trying to focus on nutrition. At this point I was shoving Cape Cod potato chips into my mouth with no shame. I wasn't getting hungry though and was going through water, so I felt happy with that.



When we finished the 3-Gap route, we were at about 2.5 hours into the ride. Our coach, Adam, suggested that we stay together as a group for a bit longer before splitting up (people were trying to ride a range of 4-6 hours.) He suggested we turn around and descend down Woody the way we had just climbed and turn down a road that we don't usually ride down but, he said, "is really nice, shaded, and a pretty ride!" He told us to descend, then keep going straight until we got to a big country store that we wouldn't miss, and then turn around and go back. He thought it would add about an hour to the ride.

It sounded good to all of us so we turned and rode down Woody the way that we came up, and continued down the road that Adam mentioned... and when I say continued "down" the road... I literally mean DOWN. After the descent down Woody, we kept going a bit and then continued to go downhill for mile after mile. It was a pretty road and it was a shaded road, as Adam has mentioned, but he had NOT mentioned that it was straight downhill! Which meant this out-and-back add on to our ride, was also going to be taking us UP this road.

There were some pretty steep seeming sections and I was cursing Adam in my head the whole ride down, wondering when it would level out or when this big country store would appear.

Eventually I started seeing people come back up, so I knew the end was in sight. I reached the store and with a few of my friends said to one another, "What in the world did we just ride down!?" and complained a minute... but then did what we had no other choice to do, but ride back up.

As we started up, at first I was grumpy. Why did he have to make the last hour and a half so hard?! He hadn't even given us any warning! I felt frustrated and annoyed, but then all of a sudden the voice of one of my friends who I had asked for advice the day before came into my mind. She had told me to go into the day knowing it would be hard, BUT that this was just one step on my way to becoming an Ironman.

All of a sudden I felt like I had a bit of clarity and remembering that advice started to give me perspective. I told myself, don't be mad because this is hard - you KNEW this was going to be hard. You are here because of that. The reason that you are doing this is BECAUSE it is hard. To get stronger. You signed up for an Ironman to do something challenging. And not just on the day of the race, but in the months of training beforehand. I stopped being mad at the fact that we'd gone a way that was "hard", turned my mindset around, and just rode my bike up that hill. Slow and steady.

Adam passed me on the way up and I said to him, "How is this not a named Gap!?" and he said, "It is! It is Skeenah Gap!" ... I have never heard of this Gap and it is not one of the 6 that people talk about, but I felt a little validated that I wasn't making up that it was a big climb! When I looked at my elevation profile at the end, it confirmed that I wasn't making it up either.


I hadn't tracked on my watch how long we had been going downhill so I wasn't sure how long I had to climb up it, but I just kept going. I stayed focused and kept in the moment and just pedaled away. When I got to what I thought might be the top, I even did something I never thought I would do -- I turned back around. Turning back around was scary because I wasn't sure how much climbing it would add. But it was also scary because it meant that when I got to my friend who I was turning back for, I would have to stop riding, turn around, and then start riding on an uphill. That made me nervous, but I did it.

I turned back down Skeenah Gap until I got to my friend and helped encourage him up the last of the climb, and we made our way to where the rest of the ITL group was waiting at a gas station by the bottom of Woody. At this point, I was still feeling SO happy and was really proud of myself. Not for how fast I climbed or anything - but because I was still having fun and still happy. I had gone through a huge mental challenge with the unexpected part of the route throwing me for a loop, but I was able to find a mental place where I was strong and get through it with a positive attitude.

Even though we still had one more Gap to ride up, Woody again, I felt victorious. There was music playing at the gas station and I was smiling and dancing (and eating more chips.)

The group split up at this point and the 4 hour crew head back up Woody and towards the cars, while the people with longer rides head off on a different route. Woody Gap seemed longer this second time climbing up it, but I continued with not looking at my watch at all and just staying in the moment, riding until I could see the top.

Once we all go there and regrouped, we started downhill. I knew it was a long descent, very twisty, on a smooth newly paved road that would literally dump us right back at our cars. It was a 5 mile downhill that although was a bit scary, was also extremely pretty (I had to keep reminding myself to keep my eyes on the road.) I was back at my car with my watch at exactly 4:05 on a 4:00 hour ride planned. Pretty darn perfect.

My elevation for the day was 5104 feet of climbing, over 4:05 hours riding and 50.3 miles. For perspective, Ironman Chattanooga, what I am training for, has 4808 feet of climbing over 116 miles.

I never tried to push the pace. I told myself over and over "slow and steady." I laughed and had fun with my friends. I encouraged other people and accepted support when I needed it as well. I reversed bad self talk in the moment. When the ride went unscripted, I faced my fears. I was mindful and focused on the present. I had fun. And I smiled a lot.

It was a good day and I really feel like on this day, I conquered the Gaps. Not because I was faster or rode further or stronger than last year but because I embraced the toughness and I used it to make me stronger. Understanding what the day at the Gaps was going to be like was really key for me. I felt so much more comfortable having a sense of what it would be like. But even when it came to a part of the day where I did not know what was happening, I turned my attitude around and found the right mental self talk to get me through it. One more step on my journey to becoming an Ironman.


Looking forward to more tough things to come.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Cooper River Bridge Run Race Recap

Back in early April, I traveled to Charleston, South Carolina with my friend Brick and her husband G to take part in a race in a new state and a bucket list race for Brick and I - the Cooper River Bridge Run 10K. This race is the 3rd largest 10K in the world (with the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta being #1... we Googled it.) There are about 44,000 people that run every year and we have heard lots of good things about the experience.

We had made plans to run this race and signed up back in the fall, but then life happened and we put together our trip somewhat last minute. Things have a way of working out though and despite not a ton of research going into our planning, it ended up working out perfectly. The race took on a lot of different meanings and motivations throughout the months from when we signed up to when we actually went to go run. It was something I am so proud of Brick for accomplishing and a fun weekend all around so I wanted to be sure to recap it all on the blog.

We left Atlanta midday on Friday, April 6 and drove across Atlanta into South Carolina, about 6 hours in total for the drive I'd say. We planned to go right to the expo since we were arriving with about 30 minutes to spare before the end of the event. 

Arriving at the expo was pretty easy, since I think most people had made it through already. The location was only a bit busy (and more colorful!) due to a Jimmy Buffet concert taking place right next door. We walked the Expo with high expectations of free samples and vendors to explore (we are both NOT the in-and-out type of expo attendees.) However, the race expo was already shutting down and a number of the booths had already packed up or were in the process of packing up. A little bit of a let down, but it was okay. We were tired from the drive and knew we had a long day ahead of us. Plus, we hadn't had dinner yet. We snapped some pics and figured out where we needed to be in the morning and then head over to our hotel.


By some stroke of luck, our hotel was actually right in the same complex as the race expo... literally just 2 minutes down the road. What made this really lucky was that the expo spot was one of the locations for bus pickups the next morning. Since it is a point-to-point race, you need to take a shuttle to the race start, very similar to the New York City Marathon. By total coincidence, we ended up having an incredibly logistically easy morning ahead of us, which took a lot of weight off our shoulders.

After having some pizza at a delicious spot right by the hotel and expo, we head to bed just to get up in the morning and walk over to the shuttle bus pickup. Our hotel was awesome and had breakfast bags with fruit, muffins, granola bars and water for runners and the pickup was extremely organized and very smooth. There were a few ITL ladies who were also in town from Atlanta to run the race and I had made plans to meet up with them in the morning at the race start. Again, by pure coincidence, even with 44,000 people at the start, we were able to find them really easily.

Brick and G were going to be walking the race, so we all hung out together at the start and made our way to the corrals but then I moved forward with some of the girls who we all planned to run the race together. None of us had any goal paces and all were planning to run for fun and take it easy, enjoying the experience of this large race!


The run itself actually starts in Mount Pleasant, and at about 2 miles in, you start to head over the bridge. The portion on the bridge itself is about 2 miles, before you enter in to Charleston and finish right in the historic and beautiful downtown area of King Street. The race start was pretty uneventful. I had no hype up dancing and no nerves, it was not a goal race for me so I was just planning on running it like I would a regular weekend run.

The first thing that I noticed when the race started was that there weren't a lot of spectators. Given that a large portion of the race is on a bridge, there of course are not spectators along that portion, but overall I was a little surprised at the fact that there weren't more people out spectating. As we got into Charleston, there were more crowds. However, races with similar numbers of runners (NYC Marathon, Chicago Marathon, Peachtree Road Race, etc.) have people lined all along either sides of the street rows and rows deep. This was less crowded but still lots to look at with the beachy towns, music along the route, and lots of runners in costume along the course. Plus, I was running with my friends, which is not something I have done in a race environment in a long time. We stopped to take some pictures along the route and were continually checking around for one another.




I personally felt like I was having a hard time maintaining what should have been a comfortable pace. I have been having a hard time running in general since my marathon and even though this was only a 10K and it wasn't at any record setting speeds, it felt hard for me. I was happy to see the miles ticking by but at the same time tried to enjoy the experience since I knew it was a bucket list race.

As we head into Charleston and King Street I tried to take in all of the different restaurants and shops. I hadn't been to the Charleston downtown area yet so it was my first time scoping out everything around us and take in the cuteness of the area. I hadn't been to the coast in a while or a coastal town in the south, so I was enjoying seeing the palm looking trees and the cute beach-y feel of the town.

We made two left turns into the finish line and just like that the race was done! Unlike any of the races I've ever done there was no rushing to stop my watch and see what my time was. There was no gasping for air and feeling of excitement or disappointment at how I did. It was just done and I stopped running and laughed and took some pictures with my friends.



There was a great finish line and as we made our way through we got medals, water, and then were dumped into the finish line festival area. There was BBQ, watermelon, muffins, fruit, Gatorade, water, etc. and we tried to stock up on snacks and also hopped into a Panera to use the restroom and get coffee before heading back out to the race course to see our friends who had walked make their way in to the finish.

When Brick and G came through, I jumped back into the race and walked the last .25 miles with them, hopping out of the race before they went through the finish and took pictures as they crossed. I was really proud of Brick for starting and finishing this race, despite seemingly the odds being stacked against her. This race was a goal of hers and the reason I signed up and it wasn't about time for either of us but the experience. She always impresses me!


The one thing I will say about the race is that the finish line party was not well prepared for the people who finished at the end of the race. By the time that Brick came through there was no BBQ, watermelon, or good snacks left. I don't like when races only cater to the people who come in first and don't have enough supplies for everyone. Everyone paid and participated so they should plan to have watermelon for all 44,000 runners in my opinion!


We didn't stay long in the finish party not surprisingly... there wasn't a ton left to do and Brick was ready to be off her feet. With everything sort of crazy and busy in the finish area, we stopped at a cookie shop and grabbed some cookies before making our way back to the hotel to shower and figure out a plan for the day.

The weather had held out for the time that we were at the race, but unfortunately the rest of our Saturday was filled with on and off TORRENTIAL downpour thunderstorms.



We proudly wore our medals around the city and explored the food and sights of Charleston, SC for the rest of Saturday. We tried food and sweets from numerous restaurants and enjoyed some drinks as well before falling asleep early and getting up to make our way back to Atlanta. It was a fun weekend exploring and running in a new city and state and with some of my favorite people. I have no idea what my time was at the Cooper River Bridge Run and I am A-OK with that. I highly recommend it for a fun race experience!