The race that was supposed to be the best ever and my journey going Garmin-Less

After a heartbreaking spring racing season during which I barely missing my sub 1:30 goal in the ½ marathon during 2 different races, I decided I still had a bone to pick with this crazy distance.


1/2 from earlier this year

Because summers in Tennessee are literally hotter than the pits of hades, Beth, Julia and I decided on Rock’n’Roll Chicago. Flat fast course, weather cooler than Tennessee, and a fun girls’ road trip all made me really excited for this race. I worked hard this spring and summer, and I thought I could probably go sub 1:30 if the conditions were right. I was ready.

Leading up to the race, I put in a lot of solo training. From our two week road trip out west, to moving to a new city, I did pretty much all my workouts by myself, and as a result, felt really mentally strong. I had no idea what I was capable of, but I had a quick chat with my coach on Thursday leading up to the race. He knew the paces I was hitting in the workouts; he encouraged me to “be conservative and go out at 1:28 pace.” HA. Conservative?!  “I haven’t even broken 1:30 yet!” He told me it didn’t matter because he knew I was definitely capable of that, and he wouldn’t lead me astray. So, that was my plan going into it.


one of the many solo runs from this summer

Beth, Julia and I hopped into the car after work on Friday, and drove through the night to Chi-town. Man, I miss those girls. We caught up, snacked on our favorite foods, drank coffee and chugged water while we figured out our strategies for Sunday. It was a fun drive. When we got to Chicago, we met up with Blanche, my best friend and resident of Chicago. We owe her all credit for the great day we had Saturday.


Blanche, Beth and Julia at the Farmers Market on Saturday.

To give you a little background info, Beth has a pretty fast half-marathon time (1:25), so we talked about pacing each other for the race. We kind of went back and forth on whether we should each just race by ourselves or run together. Ultimately, we decided she would run with me and help me get under the stupid 1:30 barrier.

Race morning was ideal. Perfect weather (60 degrees) and I honestly felt great. We jogged about a mile from the hotel to the starting line; I did my typical dynamic stretching, used the bathroom, and met Beth at the start of corral 1 (Julia’s goal that day was to go sub 1:50, so she was a little ways back).

IMG_7721.JPGMy personal plan for the race was really just to go off effort. Like I said, I trained the majority of the time by myself this summer, and I think when you do that, your perceived effort becomes pretty spot on. Your senses are heightened because you have no distraction or anyone to talk to. I knew what 6:45 pace felt like, and that was what I planned on running for at least the first 6 or 7 miles. Beth was on board for the pace, and we said we would just see where we were after the first mile, and dial into that effort together. We agreed we would stick together.

Before we knew it, we were off! Let’s rock’n’roll!

And here is where everything fell apart. Yep. Mile 1. Ha.

I told myself I was only going to look at my watch once during the race. I said I would make sure I wasn’t going out too hard by glancing at it towards the end of mile 1, and then I would relax and run the race at what felt good. Now, before I tell you the story, let me ask you a question. Be honest with yourself:

What if you were in my position, the official mile 1 race marker was off and your Garmin lost satellite due to all the skyscrapers? What would you do? Be honest.

That’s exactly what happened. Part of the first mile was under bridges and through tunnels, and the Garmin lost satellite. I wasn’t too concerned, and in fact I suspected that would happen, but what about when you get to what is supposed to be the first mile, you feel great and feel as though you are going to have an awesome race, and the large official race clock says this:


What would you do? Would you speed up? Would you brush it off and tell yourself the distance must be off and to keep your effort the same? You have to decide fast. Maybe this has happened to you before. WHAT DID YOU DO???

And this is one of the lessons I learned. YOU HAVE TO GO BY EFFORT IN A RACE. You can’t worry about your watch, you have to let external factors be nonexistent, and you have to focus on YOU. I don’t remember much, but Beth and I sped up. A lot. In my head, I became so obsessed with the fact that we were behind goal pace, I literally just started sprinting. Rookie mistake FO SHO.

Second mile?



with the boys during mile 2. Ha we look so strong.

Yikes. Way too fast. At that point, I was majorly freaking out in my head, knowing I was a dumb ass for doing that. Why didn’t I trust myself during that first mile?

And then the doubts rushed in.

“You aren’t going to be able to do this now that you ran a 6:10 mile. Katie, do you realize that’s your 5k pace? You are doomed. Race is done.”

Next? I developed the worst side cramp of my life. Literally. I know it’s because I was anxious, nervous, freaking out in my head, probably not breathing deep enough. Let’s just call it a mild panic attack for the fun of it, shall we?

Wanna’ know how the next 11 miles went? The next 11 miles I had a debilitating cramp. I couldn’t get my breathing under control, I had negative thoughts, I kept looking at my watch while I witnessed my pace get slower and slower and slower, and then finally, at mile 7, I sat down at an aid station and cried. LOL. We’ve all had those moments, haven’t we?

If you haven’t, don’t tell me.



Miles 8-13 were pretty much a blur, because by that point, the 1:30 pace group passed me, and I knew my goal was out of reach. I sulked as I trudged (read: JOGGED WITH AN ATTITUDE LIKE A TODDLER) the next 5 miles. I was pissed and being overly dramatic. By mile 10, my sulk-fest was over, and Beth was still with me even though she felt fine and could have gone on (I know I know, what a friend), and we laughed about how dumb we can be during races, and decided to let this one roll off, because my wedding was in less than a week, and who had time to be sad during such an exciting time?

Once again, like the last three half-marathons I’ve ran, I swore off this distance again. Ha. I know all you marathoners think I’m crazy, but really, this distance is so hard for me. I know it takes time and patience, but the half-marathon race is one of those about which I have a mental block.  I know I’ll get there eventually. I’ll keep working until I do.

So, in closing, what did I take away from this race? I think there is ALWAYS something to be learned from each life experience, some more than others. This one I learned a LOT. I’ll put it in bullet points 🙂

  • The first mile in a 13 mile race does not in any way determine your final outcome. (I mean, if you walk, yes it probably will, but if you’re off by a few seconds as in my case, then
  • The watch/clock can be your greatest enemy if you let it. Since this race, I’ve actually not depended on my watch much, especially in races (spoiler alert: I ran a great 5 miler a few weeks after this half while NOT having my gps watch turned on, and had a phenomenal race…recap to come ;))

running strong without using my watch!

  • It’s obviously clear my stomach cramps are related to nerves in some way. Understanding that and taking steps to prevent those unnecessary fears and doubts is important for me. This may come in the form of pre-race meditating (this is one on YouTube I’ve been enjoying lately). Additionally, for me personally, I can’t feed too much off of someone else’s energy. This includes those around me in a race. Beth was an amazing friend that day; she stuck with me through it all. But I think we both got carried away with worrying about everyone around us speeding up or slowing down because of the incorrect clocks.

There are probably other things I learned and still learning about that day. It’s a learning process, right!? This was one day, one race, and there will be more. I think it’s important to recap not only the great days but also the crappy ones, too. We seem to learn a lot from the crappy ones. 🙂 Pura Vida 🙂


Why getting back on the oval is fun and shattering my high school records.

As runners and even as humans, I believe there is something inside each of us that makes us fearful of trying to conquer a past personal best because we are afraid of not living up to the previous standard we set. It’s part of our human nature to fear. Of course, when you read “personal best”, I know you probably think of PRs and races and records, but I mean personal bests in other aspects of life, too.

It’s that whole pseudo-mentality we all have that says somehow age makes us incapable of bettering previous moments in our life. Do you have that, too? In running, I think about races or certain distances or even courses at which I’ve done really well, and something in me is a little bit afraid to go back and try it again because I’m afraid I won’t do as well or better. And who wants to get worse in life, anyway? So we avoid them. We avoid hard situations and places and people.

This post is about facing hard situations head on rather than turning from them. I could list a lot of moments in my life when I either decided not to face something, or didn’t want to because the fear of failure is oftentimes stronger than the will to try it.
Babe Ruth said, “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”

Let’s take a look at my high school records on the track. I was by no means phenomenal, but for my small town and small school, you could say I was a big fish in a little pond. So, even though a 12 minute 2 mile is probably average for most well-trained high school girls in large cities and schools, to me, it seemed blazing, and the one time I broke 12 minutes (11:56) in 2006, I thought I was flying. After my track career ended in high school and I was no longer training at “that level”, breaking 12 minutes in the 2 mile ever again seemed so farfetched.
When I stepped on the oval this summer at a dinky little free community track meet, I had very little confidence I would actually be able to break 12 minutes. I tried it a few summers ago and could barely muster sub 13. I know I’ve put in a lot of work since then, and my fitness has improved drastically, but sub 12? Really? It was one of those decisions to face my fears of failing. I told myself, “So what if I don’t break 12! Stop putting so many expectations and boundaries on yourself, Katie. Have a great time and see what you can do.” So that’s what I did.


ohhhh, the high school days

I got to the track for the Memphis All-comers meet on a Thursday after work, and was surprised at how cool it was for being dead-of-summer in Memphis. I did my typical warm-up of about 2 miles, with dynamic stretching and form drills. I felt good and calm! Let’s do this!
And thennnn I saw some girls warming up around my age that looked super fit, sports bras and spandex and all, and I was like, “grreeaatttt.” Haha. I walked over to my coach and said, “Soooo, umm am I going to come in last in this race? Like, how fast are those girls?” Haha, typical Katie question. His response? “Just worry about Katie. You’re fine. You’re going to do great. Now, I want you to only look at your watch at the 200 meter mark of the first lap. After that, don’t look at it again. Dial in to what feels right, and crank down the last mile. You’re fit. You’re going to do great.”
I trusted him. So, as scary as it may seem, I did exactly what he said, and this is the story of what happened:


I don’t even remember my split on that first 200. I remember going out and after the first lap, I was in third place overall, and 1st for the females. “WHAT!? What about those girls with 6 packs? Where are they?” I don’t know where they were but I was in front and I couldn’t believe it. I dialed into what felt comfortable and let loose. The first mile I just kept saying to myself, “Don’t race yet. Get into a groove and then the last mile let’er’rip.” I came in through the first mile and I heard the race director say, “5:52, first female, Go get those guys!” “Wait what?! I just ran a sub 6 minute mile…okay, hold on, please don’t let the wheels fall off. 4 laps to go, here we go!”I would hear my coach yell at me each lap, “Katie, you’re doing great. You look strong.”


Then, with 2 laps to go he said, “You’re going to break 12 minutes. Just crank it down!”
From a distance I heard Jon (my husband) say, “GOOO KATIEEEE; THAT’S MY GIRL!” (Which is the greatest thing ever, btw)
With a lap to go, I literally just ran as hard as I could. 400 meters! Anyone can run hard for 400 meters.
I came through, stopped my watch and looked at it for the first time.

I couldn’t believe it. “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” I was in shock. I just broke an 8 year record of mine by 20 seconds??
It was a great night for sure. Who doesn’t love winning and running fast? However, more so than that, I truly believe I learned more about facing my fears than anything else. What if I decided not to race the 2 mile because I was afraid I could never break 12 minutes again? We now know that’s silly, but at the time, my own boundaries I put upon myself could have held me back.
Glad they didn’t.

My first win with prize $ and why tying for first place is fun.

A friend told me about a “Twilight” 5k race literally 2 blocks from my apartment. “Seriously?! I’m in.” I had already raced two 10ks over the last 3 weeks, with one being a 4 minute PR, so I wasn’t expecting to knock this out of the park or anything.

Furthermore, my good pal and training partner, Beth, whom you’ve all heard about, said, “Let’s run this one together–we can tempo it and it will be a good gauge of our fitness.” I said, “Sure! Sounds good.” I didn’t think twice about it, and the day of the race, jogged over from my apartment to register. I wasn’t nervous, because, “We were just going to tempo it, right??!” Beth and I even were super cheesy and matched for the race 😉 IMG_5725.JPG

We lined up for the race actually in a parking garage. Of course, if you’re a gps wearer you immediately know what this means. The “Oh shoot. Garmin’s bout to lose satellites!” moment. And yep, it did. We said we would start the race off at a comfortable 6:45 pace, and just try to work down from there, shaving hopefully 5-10 seconds off per mile. Honestly, at the time, that’s where I felt my fitness was and what a good tempo effort would be. I didn’t even do the math or calculate in my head what the final time for a 5k at that pace would be, but going into this race, my current 5k PR was 19:23 on a course about 15 seconds short. You can imagine my shock when we rounded the corner for the finish line and saw this . . .


I don’t know what it was about that night, but the miles clicked by. Beth and I settled into the first/second place positions overall for both male and female (it was a small race, but I’m not complaining! 😉 ), and because my watch lost satellite, I honestly had no idea our pace. I saw Beth look down at her watch a few times, but in her sneaky manner, she never said anything. The course was a little hilly, too, but you know those races when everything comes together and even the hills don’t seem to phase you? That was that night for me. When we ran under the bridge you see below, and were about 100 meters from the finish line, I grabbed Beth’s hand so we could finish together hand-in-hand. That was the deal. Besides, it was my last race in Jackson, before making the big move to Memphis. It was sentimental for us.


We worked together that last sprint to the finish. It reminded me of all those early mornings running a lot of miles together. That night was a good night in our neighborhood. Her hubz and kiddos were at mile two right at the corner of her house cheering “Go Mommy and Katie!”, and my fiance was at the finish-line with our running friend Tiffany (in the blue shirt below) yelling loud, too. Guess what else? We didn’t even realize we won $75 until the end! That was just the icing. A fun summer night with fun people, indeed.


Time Changes Everything

I think it’s in our nature to apologize for leaving the blogosphere and failing to post for a good 2 months. I’m not going to do that, though. I knew eventually when life calmed down and I had a minute, I’d pick back up the writing. And I have.

As you may know, a lot changed this summer. I quit my job, took a 2 week road trip out west with the fiancé, rented a UHaul and moved to a new city (Memphis, TN), started my new job the day after moving, began running with a new training group and coach in Memphis, got married (wahoo!), graduate classes for Jon started two days after our wedding, and now I’m out of breath.


Mr. and Mrs. Taylor!

The next few posts are mostly going to be catching up on the last few months. Hopefully this will get me back in the writing groove—if nothing more than for myself so I can look back on this crazy time and not forget it all!


Soaking up some of that California sun on our road trip.

New City, New Friends

The past two years spent in Jackson, TN completely blew me away. When I moved home two years ago, I was dreading it (moving back to your tiny hometown after college sounds sooo delightful, right??). I never in a million years thought this time would be so fruitful, but it was. I met and became friends with some amazing people. I ran with the same four people every day at god-awful hours of the morning, but that’s what makes you stronger, right?? I laughed and cried and told stories with these 4 people. They became my best friends. Needless to say, I was sad about moving to Memphis, mostly because I’m not super outgoing, and I like routine. Once I make friends, we are usually friends for life. Change can be hard for me.


2 of the 4 people I trained with every day at home. I’ll miss them.

I started my job right after moving, and truly truly love it. It isn’t something I ever thought I’d be doing, but it pays the bills, is stimulating for my mind (I hate being bored), and it’s from 8-5, which allows me to get in a routine with training.

Speaking of training, I jumped straight into the Memphis heat (IT.IS.AWFUL), and decided to embrace it. I didn’t think I would have a ton of personal bests this summer with racing due to the heat, but the spring training must have had its perks because this summer has been phenomenal for me in terms of racing (I’ll get to that in a minute).


Can barely breathe in this heat. Eli hates it, too.

As I said in a previous post, I started working with a coach out of Memphis, so I am really excited to be in the same city as him and the other people he coaches. They are super strong runners, so I know it’s only going to make me better. The style of his coaching is different from how I trained in the past. It’s not for everyone, I realize. If you thrive on hitting a certain mileage each week, prefer long-runs over short interval sessions, and can’t imagine a day running fewer than 4 or 5 miles, then you probably wouldn’t like this style (Nothing right or wrong about either! It’s all about what you thrive better on). For me, this style has worked. I’ve consistently gotten faster the last 4 months.


New training buds! These girls are STRONG.

I am excited to recap some of the races over the last few months. I really surprised myself with my fitness level! Stay tuned for race recaps from the 2 mile to the half-marathon. I’ll be posting those soon. (promise I won’t wait 2 months, this time!)

Happy Friday, everyone!