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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Yeti Spaghetti Trail Marathon (or whatever).

When I found out that I would be in Atlanta for Christmas, the first thing I did was try to find a race or group run to crash while I was there. I love meeting new runners and know that Atlanta has a great running community.
Someone had mentioned that the Yeti Trail Runners were hosting a trail marathon on December 28th. I did not have Georgia on my states yet, so this was the perfect opportunity to get another marathon in and the best part about this race was that it was FREE (sort of, as each participant was asked to bring 3 bottles of beer or food to share)!
I stalked the Facebook page for info about the race and found out that this was just a low key, beer and food party with some trail running thrown in, and with 183 people saying they were coming, this looked to be a blast. Was it ever.
The race took place in Douglasville, GA about a 40 minute drive from my sister's house in Tucker. It was pouring down rain and she had no interest in driving me out there. I lucked out that her friend of probably 20+ years, Javier DeJesus, is a bad ass trail runner, lives around the corner from her, and was going to the event, so I was able to hitch a ride out with him! THANKS JAVI!!
Javi picked me up a 6:30am and we drove in the pouring rain. I started to wonder if anyone would even show up in this kind of weather, but to my surprise, there were a lot of people there. We got there, brought our offerings to the cooler and before we knew it Race Director, Jason Green was giving instructions about the course and we were off.
Waiting to start!

This was going to be a wet and muddy run!
People waiting for the start.

The beer bounty! Not a Diet Coke in there! Ha Ha!
This race was really not a race at all. There were no winners as people could come and go as they pleased, running as many loops as they wanted. The marathon was a 4 loop course. Each loop was a little under 7 miles (except the last loop, which was shorter (I heard). Most of the course was single track and with all that rain, the trails were nice and muddy. There were also lots of leaves covering them, so you had to be very careful not to trip on the rocks and roots below.
The course was beautiful!
Early into the run, I hooked up with David and Rebecca. Two local runners who knew the course really well. David was giving me all the history of the trails we were running. He told me how we were running on what once was Indian land, about how Tyler Perry now owns a bunch of it and he even showed me an old broken down moonshine still nestled way back in the woods.

David and Rebecca at one of the many water crossings we had.
By the time we had finished our first loop, the rain had let up. As we came into the aid station/finish, there were already a lot of people just hanging out eating pizza and drinking beer. At this point I though I had lost David and Rebecca, so I headed back out for loop #2. Within a couple minutes David and Rebecca had caught up to me. David still carrying a full can of beer! Ha Ha!

Rebecca and I crossing another little lake!

Please note the huge mud spot on my butt where I fell on loop #1 coming down one of the muddy hills!

Climbing one of the hills. I think this is the hill that David opened his beer...

...and enjoyed it for a while longer!

It was so fun meeting new people on the trail!

This was part of the old moonshine still I mentioned earlier.

Whatever you do David, DON'T DROP THE BEER!!

Mid-creek selfie!

By the time we hit the 3rd water crossing on the 2nd loop, I could feel a huge blister forming on the bottom of my big toe on my left foot. It was fine at that point, but I was wondering how bad it would get on the 3rd or 4th loops. 

Water was the word of the day!

I was having a blast though!

Oh look! More water!

Sweetwater Creek

Gorgeous trails!

This hill was so slippery! I pretty much slid down it like I was skiing, and grabbed that tree to avoid falling. These ladies used the buddy system.

This was Indian land way back when.

I always forget how much harder (yet much more fun) trails are than roads. After the second loop the party had started. I saw Javi and he said most people only do 2 loops and then the drinking and socializing begins. He was right. Since he was my ride and he was already done doing his 2 loops, I decided to stop at 2 loops so he would not have to wait for me. He did say he would wait, but once I saw the food and all the people, I was OK stopping at 2 loops for a nice 13.8 miles. This was not a timed event so it would not count towards my 50 States anyway, so I just joined the party!

There was food on top of food!! The pizza was good and the baked goods were amazing! Thanks everyone!

My new pal David and I at the finish!

This is some of the best swag I have gotten from a race (a buff, pint glass and a hilarious koozie), and this race was free!!
I had an incredible time at this race. If I am in Atlanta (or Nashville) next year, I will definitely do this again! Thank you Jason Green and all of the Yeti Trail Runners for making this happen and letting this out-of-towner crash your party! I had a blast!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Lord Help Me! I Just Signed Up For My First 50 Mile Ultra!

Yes, folks that's right! After talking about doing this race with a friend for a couple months now, I finally bit the bullet and registered before the cost went higher or it sold out (those would be the PERFECT excuses NOT to do it).

This is one of my many lofty goals for 2015. I really want to be excited, but I am more scared right now.

I used miles for my flight and booked the car and hotel. There is no turning back now. All I need is my friend to be there when I finish and all will be OK.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

#87- The St. Jude Memphis Marathon!

I have always heard great things about the St. Jude Memphis Marathon. Not only did this year's race raise 7.5 million dollars to go to the children at St. Jude's hospital, the race is in Memphis, Tennessee, where some of my favorite people live!
I got into Memphis on Friday night and went straight to my hotel.  I thought I was booked at the DoubleTree downtown,  but when I plugged in my information on the GPS, I realized it was the DoubleTree near the airport. No big deal. I dropped my bags off and headed to the expo.
Entrance to the Expo.
After picking up my packet, I walked around the expo to see if I could find anyone I knew. The first person I saw was my friend Houston Wolf. We hung out and walked around seeing other Maniacs we knew and killed time before the scheduled Maniac dinner.
It was pouring rain and I was still at the expo by the time the dinner was supposed to start. Since we didn't have a reservation anyway, we decided to just eat at one of the hotels. 
After dinner I went back to my hotel and went right to bed. I was really hoping to get some sleep, but I woke up at 1:30am with a little headache. I eventually got a couple of hours of sleep and was up at 5:00am to get ready for the race.
Houston being a local, told me the best place to park in the morning. That was a time and money saver. Most of the lots next to the Auto Zone Ballpark (where the race finishes) were charging $10-$15 to park. Houston told me where to park for free, but before I got to where he told me to go, I found a lot a little closer that was only $2 and only 3 blocks from the finish! THANKS HOUSTON!

Houston, Andy and I at the Auto Zone Ballpark before the race.
I scheduled the Maniac photo for 7:30am in front of the stadium. It was a little confusing as the best background was in front of the stadium, but it was so crowded, so we moved down to where the corrals were and took the photo on the stairs.
We took the first photo at 7:30am sharp. On my way back to the gear check line, I saw another group of Maniacs headed down, so we took two group photos.
Maniac group photo #1 
 Maniac group photo #2
My pal Scott Dahl ran with this Teddy bear to give to one of his Medals 4Mettle recipients that was waiting as we ran through St. Jude's Hospital! I would have loved to see that child's face when he ran up with that Teddy bear!
After the photos, I hit the gear check and the restroom and went looking for the 4:00 pacers. Once I found the right corral I settled in. Just getting back to 100% on this injury has been a slow process. My long runs have suffered not only physically, but mentally. I have been nervous to really push it too fast for fear of re-injuring myself, so I wasn't sure how long I would be able to stay with the 4:00 group, but I was going to hang on as long as I could. If anything it would be good training.
I found a couple Elvi at the start!
Waiting to run!
Our corral is next to go!
My corral was so crowded, I couldn't get to the 4:00 pacers at the start, so I started about 45 seconds behind them. If there is one thing I could recommend to the pacers, it would be to hold those signs up (not by your side) so people can see them. Once we started, it took me forever to find and catch the pacers because I could not see them. The signs were also the same color as the gazillion St. Jude singlets out there which also made them hard to spot. That neon green the pacers were wearing would have been good for the signs too!
Running down Beale Street!
Beale Street! (Photo by Katie Nelson)
It was so fun to meet my Facebook friend and fellow Maniac Kaci on the course! She ran a nice PR. Way to go Kaci!
We really lucked out on the weather! Friday night it was pouring rain, but by Saturday morning the rain had stopped. The day was overcast with some wind, but overall good running conditions.
 (Photo by Mike Davis)
(Photo by Mike Davis)
Between miles 4 and 5, we got to run through the St. Jude Hospital campus. This was probably one of my favorite parts of the race. Seeing the children, nurses, doctors and spectators was pretty special.
 Entering the St. Jude Hospital Campus (photo by Mike Davis)
I must admit, it was hard to fight back the tears when I saw this little guy! (Photo by Mike Davis)
 Every mile corresponded with a letter of the alphabet. This was N. N is for Nurses! So sweet!
Now, I had lost the 4:00 pacers around mile 14, but since I had started behind them, I was still on pace for a four hour marathon until about mile 17 or 18. The wind had picked up and I got passed by freaking Chewbacca!! This is when I thought it was all over for me! It was entertaining but COME ON!!
Chewbacca and fellow Maniac, Felix! (Photo by Felix Shipp)


I thought there was a fire fighter aid station on the course until we saw that there was a house fire! What bad timing, but I did like that the Fire Department left enough room in the street for us to keep running!
After mile 20, the whole race was a blur. It got pretty windy and I was not sure I loved it or hated it. I mean to be running in December in a tank top was awesome and the wind kept things cooled down, but the head wind could be a killer if you were climbing a hill, especially in those last miles.
I was tired, but I still had a little left, but my will to live came and went minute to minute. I knew I would be close to my PR but just didn't know if I would make it.
Is this Santa really Tony Phillippi (MM #3) in disguise? Check out those open toed boots! Ha Ha!
It was hard for me to judge how far I REALLY had to go because my Garmin was not exact. Once I hit the 26 mile marker that's when I knew that I was going to have to kick it in to get that PR. As I came down the ramp into the stadium I could see the finish line and I ran as fast as my legs could go! When I hit my Garmin and saw that I had beat my previous PR by 3 seconds, I broke into tears. All the feelings, disappointment, fear  and happiness I felt that weekend were running down my face at that moment. It didn't matter that it was only officially a 2 second PR, it was a triumph for me and it was all mine.
So happy after running a PR! 
When I finished, I was so happy! Houston was the one who kept telling me to go for a PR. I was nervous to push it out of fear re-injuring myself, but he just kept telling me I could do it. I could not wait to tell him that I did do it and to thank him for having faith in my ability when I didn't. I am very lucky and grateful for friends like that.

Houston was pacing the 4:25 group. I told him if he caught me, he had permission to hit me upside my head with that sign! Luckily, he didn't catch me!
My Garmin time.
My official time. 19th in my Age Group and 715th overall out of 3,219 people. I'll take that!

St. Jude Elevation Chart.
After the race I headed back to my hotel and got a shower and a short nap. They were doing construction at the hotel and the noise was so loud, I called down to the front desk. They comped my room for the night, which was great and which is why I will always return to the DoubleTree or Hilton property.
I really wanted to go out and celebrate after the race, so I put out a post asking who wanted to go out. A bunch of folks were headed to Beale Street, but since I didn't even see the post race food anywhere, by the time 5:00pm came, I was STARVING!
Fellow Maniac, Idiot and Streaker Mike Davis sent me a message and said he and some of his friends were hitting a BBQ place which was only 10 minutes from the hotel. That sounded good to me!
The plan was to eat dinner there then hit Beale Street after dinner. Of course after I ate, I was so tired I just wanted to go back to the hotel and sleep. I had only slept 2 hours the night before the race, so I was beat!
Of course I fell right to sleep and was up two hours later. Luckily (or unluckily) there were Downton Abbey re-runs on to keep me company (Season 5 is going to be awesome).
I took a selfie to show the world how tired I was. Why?! Boredom and exhaustion has turned me into a selfie person!! I need an intervention!! Help!!
When talking to a few locals, I was told that Shelby Farms was a nice place to run in Memphis. It was 9 minutes from the hotel so the day after the race, I got up and drove down there to do a short recovery run. I went a little over 3 miles and felt great! It was really a pretty place to run.
Shelby Farms is a great place to run while in Memphis, just watch out for the Pterodactyls!
After my run, I went back to my hotel, showered and hit the local running store Breakaway Running, where the staff and selection of running stuff were great! They have developed quite the community which is awesome. 
I then made my pilgrimage to Graceland, home of Elvis Presley! The last time I was at Graceland, I went by myself. This time just felt sadder for some reason. Maybe it was that I had very little sleep, but while waiting to get into the Archive Presentation, a video of Elvis singing "The Wonder of You" (one of my favorite EP songs), came on and I became very emotional and broke into tears (for no reason at all). I then started laughing as people started looking at me and I realized they probably thought I was crying over Elvis being dead! I was kind of a mess that day!

As a huge Elvis fan, I love Graceland.

 The next morning, I had breakfast with my dear friend and did a 3 mile run before heading to the airport.
I really wanted a cookie, but was good!
I had a really great, but strange trip to Memphis. I love Tennessee, maybe it's because my mom was from there. I hope to come back soon. St. Jude was a great race for a very worthy cause and the race is a big deal in Memphis. Do it if you get the chance!
Tennessee in the books!
PS: THANK YOU to everyone that let me use your photos for this post. I was on a PR mission and did not have time to stop for pics. Without your help, this post would be pretty boring!