It’s About That Time. . .

It’s that time of year again. This week, I dug up the marathon training plan I followed for last year’s Pikes Peak Ascent. Today, I sat down to count backward from race day to determine what week my official training should start.

It’s a pivotal moment, at least for me. It’s the moment that I realize that my running freedom of choice will soon end. I will no longer be able to get away with tacking a few extra miles onto a long run in secret self-justified compensation for cutting a speed workout short or skipping it altogether. I will no longer be able to take an extra day off when I feel like it ‘just because.’

Soon, I will wake every morning and think, “What’s my plan got me running today?” with a goal for race day in mind rather than “How hard do I feel like running today?” Soon, I will have to psych myself up for tough runs, hills, and speed work, knowing that every step run is a step closer to the starting line on August 18th.

Race goal aside, my first and foremost goal is to step to the Pikes Peak Marathon start on that day, bouncing and shifting my body weight from one foot to the other, right hand on my watch and right index finger on the ‘start/stop’ button, taking a few last deep breaths to relax and to focus before the gun, knowing that I had done everything I possibly could to prepare myself for the 26.2 awaiting.

To my relief, “soon” is a little later than I’ve been thinking the past few weeks. I won’t have to start officially training until the week of April 28th, exactly one month from tomorrow and about two weeks further down the road than anticipated. This means I won’t have to wake extra early to squeeze in a morning run while in either Seattle or San Francisco for two conferences I’ve got coming up for work. Perfect!

I’m feeling pretty good about my training for my first-ever marathon attempt already.

For four months begging on April 28th, I will memorize my training plan’s running regimen at the beginning of each week and draw a single straight line through those numbers at the week’s end. I will go to bed a little earlier, knowing that I will wake with that day’s run on my mind.

I will remember the feeling that my registration confirmation e-mail brought on March 13th, will relive the quiet excitement of a new goal to be met with a subdued grin to myself.

I will picture the very top of Pikes Peak as seen from I-25 through Colorado Springs, the finish line then but now my half-way mark to accomplishing the feat of my first-ever marathon:

View of Pikes Peak from I-25Oh yeah. I can already tell 2013’s gonna be a great year. . .

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., studies child development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a long-time road and trail runner. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

Great Advice from One of the Greats

I am a very lucky girl. Part of the reason for this is that I meet amazing people – people with whom I connect and often greatly admire – everywhere I go, many of whom I now call friends.

On Wednesday, I had the great fortune to meet a running elite – Dick Beardsley. If you aren’t familiar with his story, you should be. He’s best known for his infamous ‘Duel in the Sun‘ with Alberto Salazar in the 1982 Boston Marathon among many other running accomplishemnts and records that stand today. Although definitely a highlight of his presentation, this wasn’t necessarily the most notable thing I took away from his words.

Following a more than impressive professional running career, Dick returned home to Minnesota to live on his farm with his family. Within only a few years, he endured a number of setbacks – a near deadly farm machinary accident, a devastating car accident, being struck by a truck while out for a run, falling off a cliff while hiking, and lastly - but certainly not least detrimentally – an addiction to pain killers.

All of these misfortunes amounted to numerous hospital visits, some for 20+ surgeries, and what I can only imagine must have been the harshest reality of drug withdrawal and recovery. No matter how significant his ordeal or how long he was unable to run, he always returned to it and even said he enjoys it more now than during the height of his professional career.

What a life! And what an amazing spirit he has! And he had many, many anecdotes of people he’d met, some with whom he’s developed life-long relationships, along the way. I listened intently, laughed loudly, smiled often, felt lumps in my throat, ‘Awwwed’ to myself.

Even my greatest running accomplishments pale in comparison to what Dick would consider a bad run. I will likely never achieve a running goal anywhere near the caliber of even one of Dick’s career feats. Still, I thought of parallel points in my own running - wins and losses - as I heard stories of his; and I knew exactly what the feelings they evoked were like.

And as I listened, Dick made me want to try to be gutsier, to run harder, to be bigger and a better runner, to be more.

He is 16 years sober and never takes a single day of it for granted. He and his wife Jill even founded the Dick Beardsley Foundation in 2007 to encourage young people to lead healthy lifestyles and to promote chemical dependency education. All proceeds – 100% – from purchases from either the Foundation or Dick’s website go directly to the Foundation to fund these efforts. He’ll even autograph a book for you!

As if all of this - merely a fraction of Dick’s presentation – wasn’t inspirational enough, he concluded with a bit of advice: “I’ll leave you with four things. Every day, I try to wake with a smile on my face, enthusiasm in my voice, joy in my heart, and faith in my soul.”

He was, of course, generous with his time to sign autographs for everyone and even to pose for a few pics for for what was surely over an hour following his two-hour presentation. And, of course, we took full advantage of it! I mean, it’s not like it’s every day that us average runners have a conversation with a running legend!

One for the record books!

One for the record books!

How could we possibly end such an already awesome night? I’m glad you asked. We went for a run. We went just a quick 4 miles around campus, but I think it was the most awesome four miles ever. How could we not be motivated for a run after all of this?

As much as I would love such a life, I may never be well known enough a runner to write books profiling my career, to travel the country sharing motivational words gained through one-of-a-kind experience, to inspire runners and non-athletes alike with my running ambitions and accomplishments.

Still, I have a great life, make amazing connections with others, love to run. I have a lot in common with Dick Beardsley. If I can wake with a smile on my face, enthusiasm in my voice, joy in my heart, and faith in my soul, I’ll consider myself a success too.

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., studies child development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a long-time road and trail runner. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

Listen to Your Body Part II: Validation

I left you last walking the white sands of Myrtle Beach, SC, on a beautiful, sunny day. I wasn’t feeling bad about skipping a run that day given how horrible I felt the day before, but I was thinking about my workout regimen for the week.

Typically, I run 5 1/2-6 miles with my roommate Jess on Monday nights. Last Monday night, though, we didn’t run. Jenny, Jenny’s friend Lauren, Melissa, and I had so much fun in Myrtle Beach on Sunday after our beach time that Melissa and I didn’t want to leave! Back to reality – and work the next Morning – or a few beers and lawn games with local peeps? No contest! Needless to say, we got home pretty late that night.

Par-tay lay-days!

Par-tay lay-days!

I was surprised that I felt somewhat attentive throughout the work day on Monday despite my lack of sleep the night before, but it wore off and into an achy back (a SURE sign that I’m tired) by the end of the day on Monday. Was I going to run? No. And, the gloomy drizzle of the day was just enough to bump that ‘No’ up to a ‘Hell no!’

Then came Tuesday. Jess and I usually do a ‘deck wreck’ workout at the gym. Jess decided she wanted one more day to be lazy; so I checked the gym class schedule to see if anything piqued my interest. Nothing did. I’m still a little tired, but I should go do a quick deck by myself. Did I? Any guesses? Hmm? If you said ‘Yes! You did!’, I am sorry to disappoint you.

I went shoe shopping instead.

Along comes Wednesday, the first day of spring and the last day that Melissa had to run 4 x 1 mile repeats according to her marathon training plan. I was not looking forward to it, especially since the last time I had done any running – or working out, for that matter – was the previous Saturday that I cut my beach run short because I felt terrible. Gulp.

We started with a two-mile warm up, which I assumed we were doing pretty slowly. I was most pleasantly surprised, though, when we came to our turn-around point and I glanced down at my watch – 8:16! Not only had I chatted with Melissa the entire time, I felt just fine – no strain, no struggle, no feeling like each of my legs weighed 800 pounds. I felt back to normal.

And that was only the beginning of the validation for my time off. Neither of us was too enthused to do the workout, but we went straight down to the track before we could dwell on it too much. I kept up with Melissa for the first mile, which we ran faster than any of our past attempts for the same workout.

My watch was not working when I hit the ‘lap reset’ button at the beginning of the second mile. By the time I gave up toying with it, I was 100 meters in and so ran about an extra lap at a recovery pace, then ran an 800 instead.

For my second mile, I started with Melissa and kept up with her until about two laps in. She was slowly speeding up, and I instantly assumed that meant that I was slowing down. When I looked at my watch, though, it affirmed that I was maintaining the same speed. I was able to maintain it, and, although Melissa beat me by about 10 seconds, I ran that mile only slightly slower than the first!

Two miles and an 800. I think that’s enough for today. I feel better but don’t want to overdo it before I begin training. Buuuuuuut. . . I wonder if I can run a third mile that fast. . .only one way to find out! Did I? Any guesses? Hmm? If you said ‘No!’, I am sorry to disappoint you.

Validation for a little time off is the best beach view ever.

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., studies child development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a long-time road and trail runner. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

Paradise Lost. . .Well, Almost

One of my Ragnar gal pals, Jenny, invited Melissa and I to Myrtle Beach this past weekend – MORE than a suitable alternative to staying in Chapel Hill since I couldn’t be at home in Denver for St. Patty’s Day (for the first time in five years, mind you, sniffle sniffle). Green beer plus beach bodies-slash-eye candy? Um, YES, please!

Saturday morning, we woke up to a beautiful, sunny day. I felt rested and ready for 12 miles on the beach – six miles down the coast, six miles back to the hotel. As much as I do love Colorado - and you know that I do - we don’t have scenery quite like this:

DSC05869

And this was only the beginning of a full day sure to be nothing less than AWESOME. It was St. Patty’s weekend. I mean, how could the day be anything less than amazing, right?!

The first mile or two were great! A bit slow, but just fine given the new venue and the distance. Quickly, though, I wasn’t feeling so hot. I felt like I was fighting a bit more to warm up than I should have to after such a short distance. It is kind of warm today. I should have had more water before we started, that’s all.

I had some water, and it did help a bit. So I kept trudging away. Soon, though, I caught myself looking at my watch waaaaaay too often. My first flask was empty. “Do you mind if we just go five out and back? I can always run another mile with you in the other direction after that and back to hit 12 miles.”

Despite the serentiy of the waves and the packed sand surface, I continued to struggle, was not at all enjoying the beauty surrounding me, and finally stopped for a second in the shade of the next pier to catch my breath. We had only gone 3.89 miles.

“Can we turn around at four miles? That’ll get us back to the hotel sooner to refill. I think I just need more water.” “Sure,” Melissa said. “One mile out and back from the hotel the opposite direction, and I’ll have 10 miles.” I just need to hit 10. Ten’s good for today.

We hit four miles then turned back. Just the little bit of wind now coming directly at us made me wonder if we missed the memo about a hurricane hitting the beach. Each of my legs felt like they weighed about 800 pounds. I couldn’t keep up.

“I think I’m going to walk/run for a bit. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. You go ahead.” Melissa had forgotten her charger for her running watch; so I gave her mine to track her milage for the remainder of the run without me.

I stood and watched the waves and breathed heavily for a moment. Melissa didn’t get too far before turning back to ask me a question about my watch. “I think I’m OK. I feel better. I’m going to try to run back to the hotel with you.” And so, we trotted off again. By now, my second flask was nearly dry; so we moved to the boardwalk in search of a water fountain on the way back.

We filled up and decided to continue on the sidewalk along the street nearest the beach, thinking the soft surface of the sand was also taxing me. This seemed to work for about another mile and a half until I started falling behind again. That time when I stopped, I started to feel a little dizzy. I knelt over and rested my hands on my knees to keep my balance and told Melissa to continue on without me.

I headed back to the beach to take a few pictures as I walked the last two miles back to the hotel. I had run only six miles.

Was my hydration belt on too tight? Did the softer sand really make that much of a difference? Was I dehydrated? Maybe I didn’t eat enough last night or that morning before the run. I probably needed more protein. Why did I feel so awful? I hate to have to stop, and I VERY rarely do. Why couldn’t I run?

I was disappointed but then cut myself a little slack when I realized that, even with only six miles that day, I was up to just over 30 miles for the week, an acceptable distance since my first week of training included 25 miles and was still about a month away.

I took of my shoes and socks and walked near enough to the water so that the waves washed over my feet before retreating again. The walk-slash-photo shoot was nice at first, and then I started feeling tired again. The sand felt harsh on my feet, and my back was aching. That was the longest two miles ever. If just walking was starting to hurt, I don’t want to think about how running would have felt.

I was happy I stopped running when I did.

The next day, we woke again to beautiful sunshine, clear skies, and, of course, the beach! I was feeling back to normal but stayed behind when Melissa and Jenny took off for a six-mile jaunt.

I am no expert when it comes to running, but I am not a novice either. I have run enough to know when to say ‘enough is enough.’ If I am to have a strong four months of training and a successfull first-ever marathon in August, I had to play it smart. So I took the day off.

That walk on the beach was much more enjoyable.

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., studies child development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a long-time road and trail runner. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

Why Pikes Peak?

August will mark the 58th time that runners will take on ‘America’s Ultimate Challenge,’ the Pikes Peak Marathon. This year, it will double as the USA Trail Marathon Championship course. These and lots of other fun facts, like the ones you are about to read, can be found at the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon website.

These races are no joke. The starting line is at 6,300 feet above sea level, and runners climb 7,815 feet more to the the finish at an elevation of 14,050 feet (just shy of the summit at 14,115 feet). The math figures out to an average of 11% grade from the starting line to the top.

See the very top of the pinkish mountain in the background? That's the finish line

See the very top of the pinkish mountain in the background? That’s the finish line for the Ascent and the turn-around point for the Marathon

And, of course, let’s not forget the fact that the air considerably thins and gets drier as you climb. Air pressure at 6,000 feet is 620 mm Hg - 18% less than air pressure at sea level. The air thins at 12,000 feet to the extent that trees no longer have enough oxygen to grow. At 14,115 feet, air pressure is 430 mm Hg - 43% less than at sea level air pressure. Humidity is generally less than 15% and is much less above 11,500 feet.

The last two years have brought amazing running weather, but lesser lucky years have threatened racers and spectators with lightning, storms, and even snow – in some cases severe enough to enforce extended cutoff times or even call off the race right in the middle of it.

Why would I – among roughly 2,600 other runners composing both the Ascent and Marathon – voluntarily subject myself to such an endeavor? Three reasons.

First, I like a challenge (and might be juuuuuust a tad massochistic). And not just the challenge of the race itself. I mean the challenge of the consistent dedication required to properly train – hundreds of miles, thousands of feet of elevation gain on trails, and proper nutrition for months (TOTALLY worth it to be thin and toned just in time for bathing suit season – a fun side effect!).

Second, the opportunity to spend time with your fav running peeps, both during training and at the top to celebrate your efforts. . .

Dakin & JD - Two of the bestest running buddies a girl could ever ask for!

Dakin & JD – Two of the bestest running buddies a girl could ever ask for!

. . .and to meet new ones. I first met Ben a couple miles into the 2011 Pikes Peak Ascent, which marked a first attempt for us both. I actually had enough breath at the “flat” part of the Ascent – the short portion of the course of only 5% grade – to sputter out the words, “Nice ink.”

Just finished our first Pikes Peak Ascent!

Just finished our first Pikes Peak Ascent!

We both ran the Ascent again in 2012 and will attempt our first Pikes Peak Marathon in August.

I also met Runner’s World Magazine’s Chief Running Officer, book author, and running-slash-training extraordinaire Bart Yasso at the 2012 Pikes Peak Ascent.

Blurry CHEESE!

Blurry CHEESE!

This was an especially awesome moment for me, as I followed the intermediate marathon training program Bart wrote for my Ascent preparation. I think I earned a quick pic after all of those ‘Yasso 800s,’ even if it was a little blurry!

And these are just the peeps I actually had a chance to get to know a bit. Runners are different, and trail runners are a different breed of runner. I’ve had the pleasure of acquainting several others during the race, some by name, some not.

All, though, were very positive and made the experience all the more fulfilling, whether we shouted encouragement to each other while playing a passing game of ‘leap frog’ along the course, or whether a runner moved aside so that I could pass and said, “I’m going to let you go ahead. You’ve got some really good energy, I can tell.” Not every sport has participants like trail running, and no trail race rivals Pikes Peak.

Third and finally, Pikes Peak, to me, marries one of the best parts of Colorado – the beautiful mountains – and one of my true life passions – running – while challenging me to set my sights on bigger goals each year. Being able to do all of this in my backyard is simply bliss. And to this Colorado girl, that means everything.

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., studies child development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a long-time road and trail runner. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

Pikes Peak or Bust, Baby!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013. I’ve been waiting for this day since Saturday, August 18,PPA & M 2 2012. Today, registration opened for both the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon. I went to bed last night and woke this morning with that single fact at the forefront of my mind.

The races typically fill up fast, as a very limited number of spots are available for both waves. On top of that, you are assigned to one of two waves for both races depending on your qualifying time. So there was no time to waste!

I had a busy day at work but took all of the proper precautions to ensure that I’d be ready for registration at exactly 3:00 p.m. EST, including:
  • Yesterday: E-mailing my supervisors to say that I might need to leave the 1:00-3:00 p.m. meeting a few minutes early for ah, um, a conference call ;) Priorities, peeps! But seriously, sshhh. . .
  • 12:47 p.m. – Loading two browser windows with the exact same page with links to registration. The second was insurance so that I wouldn’t have to open another window and retrace my steps to get to the login page in case the registration link was not immediately functional at exactly 3:00 p.m.
  • 12:57 p.m. – Ensured my desk was clear so that I could walk in, drop my books and notes, and sit at my computer without work stuff in my way.
  • 12:58 p.m. – Scrolled down in both web browsers so that the link I wanted was the very first item on the very top of the screen so that I wouldn’t have to look for it. Left my cursor about 3 centimeters to the right of the link so that I could access it pretty much immediately upon logging back on to my computer.

Am I painting a picture for you yet? I meant business! It has been a bit of a bumpy road the past few weeks; so I wanted to be sure things would go without a hitch. An unsuccessful registration attempt would have REALLY bummed me out for, well, now until at least August.

I did pretty well in the two hour meeting. By “well,” I mean I didn’t start obsessively checking the time on my phone until 2:15 p.m., one hour and fifteen minutes in. That’s longer than I thought I would last!

I started figdeting at 2:50 p.m. but actually made the entire meeting, as it wrapped up at 2:57 p.m. Luckily, my office is about 20 feet from the conference room where we met. I bolted out the door and was back in my office, door closed behind me for my conference call (tee hee!) within the same minute.

I only hit one small glitch when I was choosing my country of residence from the drop-down menu on the registration page. The screen flashed; and I was brought back two pages before, which left me starting from scratch. It only invoked a momentary “Aaahhh!” I just started filling in the fields again: name, address, birth date. . .

I made it through the second time then finally made the final ‘click’ to submit my registration and payment information. Now came the real wait for the confirmation e-mail. Once you get that, you’re golden.

I was indeed golden just a minute or two later. Thank you, active.com, for having your act together! One e-mail confirmed my payment for the race, and one confirmed my successful registration for. . .wait for it. . .wait for it. . .The Pikes Peak. . .Marathon!!!

I told myself before the 2012 Ascent that if I met my goal of reaching the finish line in under 4 hours, I’d register for the marathon in 2013. I worked really hard and figured that I would indeed meet that goal. Still, when I did, it was one of my first cognizant realizations once blood was again circulating to all extremities and I was thinking clearly. Oh s&#!. Guess this means I’m running the marathon next year.

The truth is that even though I knew that my Pikes Peak comrades, Dakin and JD, were running the Ascent again, I’ve been leaning toward the Marathon versus the Ascent the whole time. I got validation for my decision in the past few days leading up to registration when I realized that I would be pretty disappointed if I didn’t get one of the 390 slots for wave 1 of the Marathon.

So, those confirmation e-mails were the end of the waiting – and most recently pretty anxious waiting - and the beginning of the 156 days of preparation remaining until the gun. And, arguably more important at the moment, those confirmation e-mails meant that after a two-hour meeting and about 20 ounces of water, I could finally pee!

Ten years ago, I was hesitant to put the Pikes Peak Ascent on my ‘bucket list’ because it would mean actually having to attempt it. Two years ago, I felt a notable pang of nausea like a closed fist straight to the stomach immediately after finalizing my registration for my first Pikes Peak Ascent. This afternoon, I smiled a sigh of relief when I got confirmation of my Pikes Peak Marathon registration.

The road from here to Manitou Springs in August ought to make for some interesting food for blog-worthy thought. . .

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., studies child development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a long-time road and trail runner. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

Ragnar Relay Florida Keys Down, Numerous Races To Go!

My running agenda is plagued with uncertainty, but one item on it unmistakably screams loud and clear: PIKES PEAK! Registration for both the ascent and marathon open this Wednesday. Mid March already on WEDNESDAY!!!

August is a bit down the road, but it’s never too soon to start preparing for it. With only about a month before I start training, I could use a little motivation to get my head back in the game.

Focusing on what I’ve accomplished so far this year will help me to do just that: Ragnar Relay Florida Keys. I spent the first weekend of 2013 running from Miami to Key West with 11 other runners, plus a few crew driving and supporting us along the way. If you’re not familiar with long-distance relay races like Ragnar, allow me to color a canvas on which your mind’s eye may feast. . .

Logistics: Six runners each assigned to two vans, each runner assigned three legs of varying distance along the course, vans played a game of ‘leap frog’ to pass the baton in the form of a slap bracelet – yes, just like the ones with which I was obsessed the 5th grade!

Application:

  • Spent 30+ hours in a van with 5-7 other people – zany, hilarious, awesome perfect strangers in my case:
50 - Stephan's Stick Brings Out his Inner Captain

Stephen doesn’t always use his stick. But when he does, he poses like Captain Morgan first.

  • Took pit stops at high schools to shower and to get what sleep was possible in either the van or around the school among over two hundred other teams:
43 - Second Major Exchange

I’ll sleep in the van, thank you. . .

  • Played the game of ‘tag or be tagged’ in an all-out team to team war of van decor:
Oh, the carnage!

Oh, the carnage!

  • Running at ALL times of the day and night:
Night-time

Night time running brings a whole new meaning to the caution “Watch your step!”

I can’t imagine a more AWESOME way to start a new year!

My second leg was my favorite. All besides the 4:44 a.m. start, that is. I managed to snore out some high quality Z’s before it was my turn again, and it proved invaluable. I ran faster than expected and just a few seconds slower than my first leg!

Much of the leg was run on a paved path between tall trees, highway on the other side of the vegetation on my left, hiking trails and open space beyond the vegetation to my right. My head lamp was a lifesaver in the pitch black of my first few miles. I looked up at one point in the run and saw a beautiful sky full of dimly-lit stars and smiled to myself. This is why I run. Hmmmmm. . . Bliss. . .

I finished right around 6:00 a.m. and knew that the team was tired and ready for our final pit stop of the race. So, I jumped right back into the van - without stretching or even much walking around – pretty much immediately after passing the slap bracelet along so that we could all get some much needed rest. BIG mistake.

After only a short nap on the way to our next stop, I was up again and ready for shower #2. The second was my only non-daytime run, but there was still no escape from the humidity. I was nearly dripping when I climbed into the van. Disclaimer: Hey, I never said that running is pretty. I’m not out there for a beauty contest!

Up and at ‘em, or so I thought. The second I tried to stand, I fell right back in to my seat. My feet had tightened up so much that I couldn’t hardly stand. Body weight was almost too much. I think it took me about 5 minutes of alternating between standing and sitting before I thought I could walk.

I finally did get out of the van and made my way over to the building. I kept my eyes on the door and willed myself to reach it, both of my feet aching with each slow and careful step. I finally looked around when I hit the few stairs leading to the front door, only to find a handfull of people staring at me. “Are you OK?” one asked. “Yes, just a little tight, that’s all.”

That may have been my worst and best shower ever all rolled into one. It was painful enough shifting my body weight from foot to foot to allow each some relief. The scalding hot water, though, was a bit over the top. Still, I was beyond grateful not to reek of hard earned sweat afterward. Thankfully, I did something smart. I brought my lacrosse ball to use to roll my feet. That and a long nap with my legs elevated did the trick.

My third and final leg was not as enjoyable. As did the first, it fell in the middle of the afternoon. Only, this time, it brought no cloud cover and very little relief from the sun’s intense rays. What it did offer, though, made me wonder just how sleep deprived I really was:

What the bleep?!

What the bleep?!

Fact: Roosters are Florida’s stray dogs. Huh. Imagine that.

With about 2 1/2 miles to go, I saw something even more worthy of a dropped jaw than the rooster: an AID STATION!!! My team was not able to meet me mid-way through this run to hand off a few Swedish Fish (my hard run sustenance staple) and a bottle of water like my first two legs; so this was an unexpected paradise before my very eyes.

I actually stopped and chatted with the two women manning the station for a few seconds, something I never do during races – stop. A sincere ‘Thank you! You saved my life!’ and a few trigger pulls of one of those water bottles with the fan attached to the spout later, I was off for the finish line.

Alex, the team captain, told me after my first leg that the team would be waiting so that we could cross the finish line together. I had only one response: “Well, you’d all better keep up with me then. I’m not slowing down for you!” At the end of the day, I’m a competitor. Seeing the finish line means one thing and one thing alone: Muster up whatever you’ve got left and sprint!

Team 'Drinkers with a Running Problem'

Team ‘Drinkers with a Running Problem’ at the finish line

Long-distance relay races are no joke. All of it – the heat and humidity, lack of sleep, pushing through barely being able to walk let alone run - was worth it. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. I had such a GREAT time! And, who can argue with a new technical shirt and medal that doubles as a bottle opener?

180

As Dave Grohl once sang, “Done, done, and I’m on to the next one.” First, though, registration for Pikes Peak. Wednesday. . .

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., studies child development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a long-time road and trail runner. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

2013: More Q’s Than A’s in Oh So Many Ways

A good friend of mine recently reminded me of the clarity and organization of thought that LISTS can provide. I don’t mean the kind of lists that have become the myriad of blue and gold Post-it Notes that have dictated my life since September:

Keep in mind that these are in addition to the notes actually written inside the notebook. . .

Keep in mind that these are in addition to the notes actually written inside the notebook. . .

I mean the kind of lists that help you to set longer term life goals rather than a mere weekend chore agenda that will inevitably include one or two remaining items come Monday morning. Lists that set the stage for the ‘bigger picture’ thinking needed to ensure a strong finish to reaching a goal. The kind of lists that serves as motivation.

So I gave it a ‘go.’ A list of races I’d like to run this year. Easy, right? Ha! Not so much.

Let me give you a little more context. Before I left the most practically perfect city upon which I will ever embark, I had a clear racing agenda. And I had a handful of awesome peeps to help me to check each race off the agenda. Up until I came to NC, my race agenda has always been chock-full of Rocky Mountain highs and some damn good microbrews.

Naturally, then, my ’2013′ racing list looks like this:

Holy punctuation, Batman!

Holy punctuation, Batman!

Every race except for the first (more to come on the Ragnar Relay Floriday Keys very soon!) takes place in the Denver metro area. Two have already been struck from my 2013 cut, as flight prices home for the month of March have proven too much for my feeble wallet these days. Enter GIANT SAD FACE here.

In fact, only two races are a definite ‘Yes’ for the remainder of the year – Jodi’s Race for Awareness, a 5K fundraiser sponsored by the Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance, and, of course, Pikes Peak. Jodi’s Race is a MUST this and every year (except 2011 since that was unfortunately the weekend before I started my first job in NC) to support a great friend and wonderfully spunky cancer survivor of eight plus years now, Nana. “We run for Nana Flora!”

And Pikes Peak? Well, I’m glad you asked. You will hear aaaaaaaall about Pikes Peak if you stay tuned to the blog. . .

Everything else on my list – and lots and LOTS of things in my head for at least the past two years – can be best summed up with a single symbol: ? I miss the mountains, Cheeseman Park, trail running just outside the city. I miss my family and friends. I miss home.

It’s only Tuesday, but it’s already been a long week.

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., studies child development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a long-time road and trail runner. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.