If you follow me on social media then there is really no way that you missed my weekend trip to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, this weekend. In fact, sorry not sorry, for all the posts where I showed off my fantastic girls weekend with Keara.
Thanks to the kind folks at Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, we were offered a sponsored trip to Gulf Shores to run the Big Beach Marathon. I ran the half, Keara ran the full. While we were in the gorgeous Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, we got to explore all of the wonderful food, activities, and nature that this lovely hidden gem has to offer. In case you don’t remember, I did the triathlon here back in 2016.
I am super happy I got to return for a running event this year! The trails in this area are fantastic and supplied a perfect half marathon running course. In case you don’t know, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is located on the northern Gulf of Mexico between Pensacola, FL, and Mobile, AL. You’ll find 32 miles of white sandy beach here, which is also quite gorgeous in the spring and summer!
For our trip this time, we stayed in a Lucky Bird Vacations cottage, which was steps from the beach and so stinking’ cute! The photo I posted on instagram had someone asking if I redid my guest room! I wish I had – it was that adorable! Our cottage, Kissed by the Sun, was a three bedroom, three and a half bathroom. It had all the amenities and again, just across from the beach. It’s also a perfect location to all there is to see and do in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach.
Upon arriving in town Thursday at 3 AM, we went straight to bed at the cottage since we’re dummies who drove through the night. The bed was so comfortable and cozy! I fell asleep dreaming about what our adventures would be on Friday…
After a delicious breakfast, where Keara ate a burrito covered in gravy and I pretended I would eat more healthily on this trip which lasted all of one meal, we headed to my favorite part of the whole weekend. The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo! Don’t get me wrong, there were so damn many highlights to this trip, but as an animal lover this stole the show. We were so excited to do the sloth encounter (for a mere $10) that we didn’t pay for the lemur encounter (also only $10). However, after seeing other folks with the lemurs we practically ran back to get our tickets to meet these little monkeys. They were just sweet little babies who wanted to smell your dirty shoes or hats and hold your fingers. And sloth fans, don’t get upset – they were fun too…expect well, they you know, just sleep. *shrugs*
The zoo has a ton of other animals and encounters. It’s also called “The Little Zoo that Could” due to the fact that it’s faced some hardships during hurricane season. But not to worry, it’s being moved to a larger plot of land to become even more awesome!
Please excuse my red eye and stare at the adorable lemur instead.
With the zoo experience behind us, we headed to lunch at Picnic Beach. I stuffed my face with an acai bowl that rivaled the many I have enjoyed in Tampa. At Picnic Beach, what we began to notice more than how good all the food was, was that everyone was REALLY nice. They weren’t nice because they knew we were coming or anything, they were just nice everywhere! The gas station, the grocery store, the tourist shops, the zoo, etc – this is probably the most friendly place I’ve ever been! I mean, I think even unfriendly places, like I dunno, the DMV is probably friendly!
By this point, we were definitely tired so we went back to the cozy warmth of the cottage for a quick nap. I woke up not having a clue where I was or why Keara was knocking on my door. I am pretty sure she got a first hand look of my morning stank face before I realized what the hell was going on. Sorry girl.
You know what the best thing is for post nap grogginess? Yoga. I swear! We headed to Orange Beach Yoga for a beginner’s class. Now, I am not truly a yoga beginner, but I felt like a refresher course would be a good idea. And I was right. As per usual. Ha! It was just what I needed after the previous day’s long car ride. I even learned some great modifications and was really happy that one of the instructors was not all Bendy Barbie. It made me feel less insecure about my own lack of flexibility. Oh, and guess what? They were super freaking nice.
Yoga was followed by a great dinner at GT’s on the Bay. We again had service that was stellar and over the top friendly. But not in a fake way. Our server was just awesome and the giant fish tank/pond in the center of the restaurant was very cool. (I ate fried pickles, ribs, and tots. And they were deeeelicious!)
Saturday meant sleeping in and packet pick up/shake out run. We got to meet Jeff Galloway at packet pick up and run along some of the race course. The Big Beach Marathon course runs through the Gulf State Park so we did our shake out run there. After our shake out, we headed to Tacky Jack’s for breakfast. And – no surprise – the server was as nice as could be and our food was great. Two words: real grits!
For the rest of the afternoon we headed to the beach for a walk and explored some of the tourist shops around town. I fell in love with a hermit crab I named Bat Crab but decided not to take him home. I thought Florence may get jealous and the big warning signs around the crabs pinching may have also given me pause. Heh.
Ok, so here’s where things get interesting. Our itinerary for the weekend included dinner at the Flora-Bama Yacht Club. I thought, dinner at the Flora-Bama? Is that a thing? Apparently, it’s two things. The Flora-Bama is a destination bar on the – you guessed it – Florida and Alabama state border. Since I am not much for staying up past 9 PM these days, I have never been, though I’ve heard lots of folks say it’s a must stop. I was skeptical. What the heck am I gonna get out of a bar the night before a half marathon? Boy! I was way wrong!
Upon arrival, we stupidly walked into the Flora-Bama bar and were told the Flora-Bama Yacht Club was actually across the street. Oops. But! As with everything else in this community we were pleasantly surprised when the Flora-Bama cowboy host, named, Country, escorted us across the street. Talk about Southern hospitality! Country gave us a little bit of history while taking us across the street where we were promptly greeted and seated.
The menu had a lot of great options for a pre race meal and I had the biggest piece of ahi tuna I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t even finish it. Me! Clean plate club queen was defeated by sushi grade tuna. Our excellent server even gave us samples of the famous drink known as the Bushwacker. Trust me when I say, I would have been hanging by the rafters if I had more than a sample of that bad boy!
Dinner was consumed and we decided we had no choice but to head back to the Flora-Bama bar across the street and check it out. As it turns out, it’s much, much more than a dive bar. In fact, I don’t think it’s a dive bar at all! I had no idea! (And I apologize for my dive bar snobbery. I used to dive bar with the best of them in my 20’s.)
Our new BFF Country was waiting at the door when we arrived to greet patrons and he offered to give us a tour inside. We were shown the numerous bars and told all about the regular events held at the Flora-Bama, like mullet tossing and bingo. They even host church service on Sundays. It’s a one stop shop in that regard. Wink.
We saw some of the band playing that night, Big Earl and the Sex Biscuits. They were really good and really funny. I’d be remiss if I again didn’t point out how nice everyone was. Country was the best hype man for a place I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure what the F-B is paying him, but it should probably be more. (And for the record most of these nice people didn’t know us from Adam. They are just legit really nice!)
Our night ended fairly early and we headed home for pre-race water chugging and sleep! The weekend was such a whirlwind and I wasn’t racing for any specific time so it was nice to feel relaxed the night before and morning of the race.
I’m gonna zoom through this race part, because, well there isn’t much to say. I have been rehabbing a grade two hamstring strain and I was given instructions to take the race easy. I haven’t really been doing any long runs lately so this was a true to test to see how the PT was coming along. The weather could not have been more perfect. Perfect for me is cold and overcast. I started with the two hour pace group and it felt really comfortable. I stayed with them until about mile eight then decided I felt great and wanted to be done before two hours just for the heck of it. I finished in the official time of 1:55:57. The last mile was tough but I think I am out of the woods on this strain. (I’ll leave Keara’s race report up to her.)
I’d fully recommend this race and the many other races they have in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Big Beach Marathon had tons of post race food and entertainment. The course was flat save one overpass and most is on a paved trail, with some boardwalk. (I was also eyeing some races they host out of the Flora-Bama! I think I’d probably be good at that mullet tossing too…)
Again, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach has outdone itself! This destination is perfect for an active vacation…or just a vacation where you wanna get real toasty on bushwackers on lie on the beach! I plan to return with the S.O. and have spend $100 on lemur and sloth encounters. I also want to go back to the Flora-Bama and order the meals I would eat when I wasn’t running a half marathon the next day. Ha!
Special thanks to the people of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. You all are some of the nicest folks I think I will ever meet! I can’t wait to return.
Happy New Year! I love looking back at my stats for the year and – wow, I am impressed by my running miles. I beat 2017 by 200. On the other hand, I’m super underwhelmed by what I did swimming and cycling. I am going to beat those numbers in 2019.
Swim – 40,480 yards (23 miles)
Bike – 250 miles
Run – 1200 miles
Strength – Once per week
In looking back at 2018, it was definitely a running year. I set a new 10K PR and while my marathon was a big disappointment, I learned a lot about fueling (hello, more iron)! I really want to increase my strength training this year and plan to attain a personal training certification.
Here’s what I raced:
Two trail races (25K and 7 Mile Night Race)
Three half marathons
One swim meet
One Olympic Tri
I’m not running a fall marathon this year, or maybe ever again. Running in the summer in Florida, sucks. I do plan to get myself in the pool again to hit up the aquathlon nationals this year. I am also thinking some sprint tris over the summer will be a blast! And I want to see my athletes race as much as I can!
Now on to my list!
10 Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2019
1. First and foremost – Growing my coaching business. This year, I’m focusing a bit more externally and seeing how I can better help my athletes. My rebranding from Discombobulated Running to I Heart Finish Lines was the first step in that process. I’d like to grow my business even more, but also really focus on helping my athletes get to where they want to be. I believe in them so much and if I can get them to believe in themselves even more, I’ll be one happy camper!
2. Reading more! This is super nerd status right here but I read 15 books this year, and while I know that’s not a ton, I really enjoy reading and look forward to more knowledge and entertainment. (I beat 2017 by 2 books.)
3. Travel gets bumped up this year, though I’m not sure how we are going to top Iceland! Hopefully we can go to several new places and explore.
4. Meditation and yoga. I fell way out on yoga and I’ve recently returned to it. Not a lot, but by dipping my toes into gong and meditation recently I think it’ll be a push to get to the mat a lot more often this year. I also started using the 10% Happier app and it’s really helpful. You only need to meditate for a minute to feel the benefits.
5. Healthier eating! Oh man, I started 2018 off so strong and lost a few pounds, but then I fell off that wagon. HARD. I know that I cannot coach people to being the best version of themselves when I’m not doing it for myself. I feel better when I eat better. It’s a no brainer. (And, I’m not making ANY sweeping statements about “no sugar” or “cut carbs.” I’m just going to eat better. The end.)
6. TV I can’t wait for – Game of Thrones and Stranger Things! Plus, The Good Place and all the baking shows!
7. Movies I’m looking forward to are: Avengers, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Men in Black, Where’d You Go Bernadette, and Zombieland 2.
8. More time with family and friends – as per usual! My nephews are growing so quickly and I hope to spend more time with them in 2019, you know, they really like fart jokes right now and I think this will be a great year for me as an Aunt.
9. Mental health. This goes along with my meditation but I have started some therapy again and I plan to keep checking in on my mental health as the years get going. I vote you all do that same – no matter how “ok” you are.
10. I’ll keep this one the same for 2019 … more blogging! I promise to do my best to get a post up at least once a week. Seems I’m off to a good start. Ha!
Here’s to 2019 everybody! What are you looking forward to in 2019?
I always see folks post about how they want to start running in the New Year but aren’t quite sure how to go about it. If 2019 is the year you want to start running, I’ve got some tips that can help you! Before we get into that, let’s talk about the benefits of running.
- According to a study done in 2017, “runners have a 25%-40% reduced risk of premature mortality and live approximately 3 years longer than non-runners.”
- Running, and other aerobic exercises, are mood boosters and can help with depression according to this study.
- In this study of 2,637 participants, both male and female, running was shown to actually improve their knees by keeping their BMI’s in check.
- It’s good for your bones.
- It can help your brain as you age.
Ok, so those are just some of the benefits. And I’ve linked to the studies themselves, versus just some Joe Schmo saying how much running has helped him. Though, as a Joe Schmo runner, I can attest to it helping me. Ha!
I have cyclical depression. Or seasonal. Or whatever term the therapists are using these days. I’ve had it since I was a pre-teen and while I strongly believe in therapy and medication if needed, I also believe that physical activity of any kind can help. Running is my go to as nothing else gives me quite the same mood boost both during and after.
The author, shown here, happy as a clam while running.
Anywho, if you are looking for any of the aforementioned benefits or you just want to see what you can do, here are the tips on how to get started running in 2019.
Start slow and short. If you can’t have a full-on conversation, then you are running too fast. And as with anything you have to uh, crawl before you can walk. Or in this case, run for a short period before you can run for a long period. Start with a half mile, then do that a few times, preferably within the same week. Then bump it up a bit. The general rule of thumb for building distance is no more than 10% overall increase in mileage per week.
Run with a friend! Accountability is HUGE in any type of exercise and I find that meeting someone for a run gets me out of the door much better than heading out solo. Bear in mind you want someone who will enjoy it with you and not dissuade you, into say, going for coffee instead. You need a buddy who’s into this just as much as you are. Then after you run, you can go grab that coffee.
It’s probably gonna hurt. Don’t get discouraged! At least at first, it’s not going to feel comfortable. Runners aren’t out there pounding the pavement thinking, “Gee this feels like being caressed with a feather.” Running is hard and even on the slow and short build up, it’s probably not going to feel like a hug. But! Stick with it and it will start to feel easier. Plus, again, so. many. benefits.
Have fun with it! Don’t be afraid to try various workouts. From fartleks, to track workouts, to learning warm up drills – there are countless ways to mix it up and maybe even a have a bit of fun! Even fartlek is fun to say! Say it. FARTLEK!
Set a goal. It doesn’t have to be a race. You can set the goal to run a mile without stopping. Or to just run three times per week for a month. The point of the goal is to keep you motivated – not make you feel bad! Make it something attainable and after you hit that one, you can bump it up.
Ok, so running ain’t for everyone. Gasp! How is this a tip? Well, quite frankly, if you just flat out hate it after giving it a few weeks, it just may not be your thing. For example, I don’t love cycling. For me, cycling is an activity stuck in the middle of swimming and running in the triathlon and I do it for that reason. But I just do not love it. And that’s totally fine! I am saying try it. And then if you decide you hate it – hit the pool or the bike or group fitness. Whatever works! We are not all meant to love running.
Well, low and behold, you find out that you love running! If this is the case, after you’ve given it a whirl, feel free to get all the gear. Fancy shoes (they just have to feel good!), a GPS watch, hell, even a coach! If this running stuff is your jam, then live it up and let it take you to see places and meet new people. Welcome to the community, Runner.
I know the year isn’t quite over yet, but I wanted to go over a few things I’ve learned as a coach in 2018. I feel like I’ve really hit my stride as an endurance sports coach this year, and while I definitely don’t know everything I feel confident that I can help others reach their goals. Here’s my list for five the things I’ve learned about coaching in 2018.
1.Be Flexible. As a coach of adult athletes, I have come to truly realize that life happens for all of us. (No matter what perfectly curated social media images say!) And unfortunately, life is hard. I aim to be flexible with the athletes I coach as I understand that working full time and getting in the training is tough – not impossible, but definitely challenging. I would love my athletes to complete their workouts every week, every day, but I know that sometimes it’s just not gonna happen. From sick kids to sick pets, to maniacal weather – there are more important things than getting a green box in Training Peaks.
2. Ya Can’t Force Motivation on Someone Else. I recently spoke at a company about run coaching as part of their health initiative. As part of my talk I asked what the number one reason for hiring a coach was. One of the first responses I got was motivation. And man, I wish that was the case! I can’t force someone to be motivated. I don’t believe that is my job. Motivation comes from within. As much as I want everyone I coach to succeed if the drive isn’t there internally, there’s not much I can do. My answer to that question, by the way, is accountability. And accountability is much different from motivation.
3. Every Coach Has Their Own Method, But You Can Still Learn From Them. I have been fortunate to work with a slew of outstanding coaches and while I don’t agree with every methodology or philosophy out there, I have learned a lot from other coaches. I love to work with different coaches and discuss training with them. I also enjoy seeing athletes coached by others succeed. Successful athletes only help raise the sport and community for everyone else. In addition to learning positive styles and training tips from other coaches, I’ve seen some stuff that I don’t want to do. It’s less than the good stuff I’ve seen, but I will acknowledge that sometimes bad examples are still examples to learn from.
4. Athletes Change Coaches and It’s A-Ok. In the adult world, breakups happen. Firings happen. And at the end of the day, an athlete needs to do what is best for them. I myself have switched coaches and mostly it boils down to what my needs as an athlete are at that particular time. I will never be angry with someone who wants to move to a new coach. In fact, if they aren’t progressing with me, I encourage it! I wholeheartedly believe that the athlete-coach relationship is a collaboration – not a dictatorship.
5. My Athletes Teach Me. Being able to coach a variety of abilities and people from a lot of different backgrounds is a real blessing! My athletes are always teaching me things. Coaching is just as much a growing process as it is a teaching one. If I ever say I know everything – please throat punch me. I feel like athletes make the coach and not the other way around.
I am looking forward to 2019 and I will have a New Year’s post for you. Plus, I’ve got another trip lined up for the Gulf Coast at the end of next month! Who else is running Big Beach?!
After much thought on my next marathon, I’ve decided to downgrade to the half marathon at Jacksonville in December. I had intended to run the full but in light of some new discoveries, my coach and I decided it would be best to push that next full into a different race for 2019. So, what’s the story?
Well, let’s look back at Chicago. And my training. I did all of the training – in the Florida heat and felt pretty tired through most of it. I felt like garbage in Chicago and after. And I still feel really wiped out after long runs. My coach suggested I have my blood work done to see if I am low on iron and/or ferritin. And, as it turns out, I am. And I’m not. Wait, what? Let me explain.
*First up, what’s ferritin? According to the internet, it’s an “intracellular protein that stores iron and releases it in a controlled fashion.” In reviewing my blood work, my ferritin was at 33. Now, for normal people, meaning non-runners, the levels are quantified as 12-300 for men and 12-150 for women, so this would mean I was good to go. Right? Eh….
The internet says that this number with regards to performance feels different for everyone and that the recommended numbers are probably different from those who are sedentary. Iron, in general, is needed by everyone but a surplus is good for runners as without it, we experience fatigue and that can cause a drop in performance. (Please understand I am not a doctor, this is just all internet research and working with my coach.)
Everyone loses iron in the same ways: through their feet from striking the ground while running, through sweat (ah, hello, Florida), and through the intestines (AKA pooping). But we women are especially lucky and also lose it through our monthly visitor. Apparently, female runners are more likely to be iron deficient because their dietary intake of iron tends to be poor. I mean, I like red meat now and again, but I am pretty terrible at leafy green vegetables. And to top it all off, training induces an additional loss of iron. Awesome.
I’ve read that ferritin levels in some studies for women suggest the minimum be raised to 40, and that elite runners try to get their ferritin levels up into 70. Some of this is trial and error and having blood work done regularly throughout training. Now that I know mine could use an increase, I will take a supplement and wait for the two to three months for it to raise my levels to see if I feel better. Unfortunately, since it is getting cooler out it may be tough to decide if I feel better due to the ferritin or if it’s just no longer 11 billion degrees. The true test will come next summer.
I’m not sure why this wouldn’t have been a problem for me before now, but I ain’t no spring chicken and we do know how things change as we age. I am not sold on this being a magic bullet and all of the sudden I start crushing races like I’m Mo Farrah, but I don’t think the iron supplement can hurt. I plan to take it with Vitamin C for better absorption and pay attention to any side effects I may encounter. I will keep you all posted on this as I start taking the supplement this week. Fingers crossed.
*Again, not a doctor. These are just my opinions and research on this matter. If you think you have low iron/ferritin, go get blood work done. See a doctor.
Iron Deficiency in Runners
Iron Level Upkeep For Runners