Not first, not fast: A case for racing just to finish

By The Tennessean

My friend Andrew and I rode 62 miles Saturday in Nashville’s big annual group ride for cyclists, the Tour de Nash. We started in a parking lot at Vanderbilt, cycled north through Metro Center, east through Inglewood and Shelby Bottoms, took the Greenway all the way to the Percy Priest dam and back, then back across the Korean Vets bridge from East Nashville, north again to the Bicentennial Plaza to Charlotte, to Sylvan Park, to Belle Meade, up through Percy Warner, and back to Vanderbilt with many meandering, pretty excursions along the way.

That is a long ride.

Hilly.

Trafficked.

Scary at the end when a thunderstorm caught us on the last several miles.

Many friends cheered us on; others called us crazy. Why do we do things like this?

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Advice from a marathon rookie

The starting line at last year's Country Music Marathon.

I run because the endorphins balance my mind and the time outside soothes my spirit. When I haven’t run in a while, I am more easily frustrated and restless. I don’t sleep as well at night, nor do I focus as easily during the day.

It’s ironic, then, that the week before my first big race, I’m not running much at all. I need sleep before a half marathon, right? I need focus. I don’t need crabbiness and frustration, nor do my friends and family! Continue reading

It’s like these roads were paved just for me

I ran Spencer Creek, even in the snow.

The dark never stopped me from running after work, nor did the cold or snow. I returned home more than once with ice on my eyelashes and wind-whipped tears frozen on my cheeks. But beyond the warmth that spring brings, I’m delighted by the extended daylight. Continue reading

Ten morning happies

At some point in the last year, I decided to make mornings a luxury. They had become exhausting, a mad dash whose finish line was just the beginning to the “real” (and often very long) day ahead. I wanted more sleep. Lily wanted eggs. Neither of us could find a matching sock. And so it went. Then, in an effort to shave some time one morning, I opted for a quick dip in the bathtub instead of washing my hair in the shower. As I ran the water, I raced downstairs for my coffee cup. While I was there, I cranked up my “Mad Men” playlist on itunes. (It’s full of Perry Como and Julie London.) As I sank into the water, I felt calm. As I climbed out, I felt confident. In the months since, I’ve added (or reinstated) several other happies to my morning routine. I rarely accomplish all of them, but I have a much better shot at a lovely day if I can pull off at least three. Here are 10:

1. Wake up to something pretty.

My friend Courtney Seiter gave me this for Christmas.

Hanging to the right of my side of the bed is a photograph of a strong, sexy woman strutting straight through the middle of a jazz quartet. It’s the first thing I see when I wake up each morning, and it inspires me to be strong (and show the boys who’s boss!).

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I love you more when I’m running

The dang Kentucky fans were all over town, but Ladonna Bowers needed to get her orange blood pumping. Today’s crisp, breezy weather was perfect for many Nashville runners – including my new friend Ladonna. Despite her allegiance to UT (Kentucky’s rival in today’s SEC Tournament at the Bridgestone Arena) she hit the pavement and soared through the Blue Mist.

A bit later, after UT lost the game, my disappointed husband snapped off the television and tied on his running shoes. He slumped out the front door, but returned home 45 minutes later a better man. It did seem that everyone who makes Nashville Nashville was out there tearing up the road together today. Writer Randy Elrod joined musician Spence Smith for a long run in Franklin. My lovely sister-in-law Catherine was among those projected on the JumboTron at Titans Stadium when she raced across the finish line at today’s Tom King Classic Half Marathon.

While I prefer to run alone, I never feel lonely when I am running. In his book, “Born To Run,” Christopher McDougall makes the point that people who run ultra distances can’t possibly pull off 20, 30, 40-plus-mile runs and *not* get outside their own heads. I am only beginning to add double-digit distances to my routine, but I already know this to be true. I’m definitely caught up in my own crap for the first mile; it hurts, I can’t get my breathing right, etc. I’m often still navel gazing into the second and third miles, too, but it’s more a mental thing than a physical one: “Man, I really wish I’d not said *that* to my mom,” etc.

But by the fifth or sixth mile, I’ve moved on. I’m thinking about you – not me. I’m thinking about my friend who has a hard time saying “goodbye”, my brother-in-law whose injury has him stuck inside, my cousin who is finally pregnant after so much sad waiting. My boss asked me, “Why so much running?” and I knew he would understand when I answered, “Because if you get to eight or ten miles and you are still worried about that stupid thing that happened at work last week, there is something deeply, deeply wrong with you.” It’s like drinking to oblivion, except instead of being hung over when it’s finished, you feel even BETTER.

Even if the wrong team wins.