Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012: The Year I Became a Runner

happy new year! 

Not saying I wasn't a runner before - I do subscribe to the thought that if you run, you're a runner. I think this year I become a runner. What a year. If you don't care to bother reading my full edition, I'll give you the pop culture recap:

 This year was insanely busy, looking back. May and October were the only months I wasn't on a plane, and most months involved at least two flights to somewhere. I wish I had kept track of all the miles flown, but I can tell you it was way too much to not feel exhausted. Races, flights, weddings, family things, life things... crazy year!

The month that started it all - not that I started my training then, but the first half marathon closed out the start of the new year (is that awkward?). On January 29, I ran my first half marathon at Callaway Gardens. And then I got hooked. Not even a week after that, I signed up for the second! And you know where the rest of the year goes to.

January was the month that I feel like this blog really got started - I talked about my training here and there in the fall prior, but with the race and feeling like I was finally in the mindset of being able to do a race, the blog had to come along with it. And here we are!

 One of the largest community events in Athens is the Taste of Athens weekend, with a 10K on Saturday and a food and wine festival on Sunday. Something like 50+ vendors come out on Sunday and for a (not so reasonably priced ticket), you can taste and sample your way through the city (condensed into a convention center). It's supposed to be great, but I'd rather run than spend $50 to sample foods, thankyouverymuch. I ran the 10K, coming off a nasty cold, but PRed and had an awesome run.

Two weeks later, I was off to Phoenix for the weekend for Tina's bachelorette party! I felt so fortunate that I was able to make it out there for this (thank you Air Tran for screwing up in December and therefore compensating me a free ticket). Still can't believe she's (now) married! The weekend kicked off with a 5K, as her sister, former roommate, she and I have all become running junkies and we thought it'd be a unique way to kick it all off.

Our family matriarch. December 2011.
Lake Velence, Hungary.
I haven't written this out, though I fully inteded to blog (even privately) about March. I'll never forget it - I was sitting at the gate at Sky Harbor in Phoenix, fresh off (and slightly hungover) from an amazing night celebrating Tina's soon-to-be wedding, and half-napping when my dad called. When I missed it, he texted. And called again. Now, my parents are of the sort that they don't call over and over again unless something's up, so I was obviously startled. And then my dad told me everything - my mom was en route to the airport to get to Hungary, that my grandma had had a heart attack and was in the hospital... halfway around the world. She had been back not even two weeks from her Christmas trip to California with us. And she passed away three days later. I still tear up at the thought of this experience, I can't believe we just celebrated Christmas with her, and now we won't get to. I bought an airline ticket on Wednesday night, and Thursday morning, was en route to Hungary, where I hadn't been in nearly 12 years - talk about a mind-trip - and spent almost two weeks at my grandma's home, reliving a lot of memories, crying with the family (we all slowly came together over the course of the first week), laughing at memories, and celebrating the stubborn, happy lady she was. Man I miss her.

Needless to say, March was a little chaotic. At least it ended with some really positive weekends, that definitely boosted the way things had been going (for me, at least). Not even a week after being back from Hungary, I was on a flight back out to Phoenix to celebrate Tina's wedding - she's one of my best friends, and probably my closest friend from college, and I was so honored to be part of her wedding day. Certainly the personal morale booster I needed to re-collect and jump back into real life in the States again. My mind was all over the place.

March ended with the Happiest 5K on the Planet, the Atlanta Color Run. Heck yes, so needed, so happy, so wonderful! I loved doing this race, though I don't know that I'll pay $40+ to do it again, it's definitely an experience to do at least once. I ran with Team Flair for Theatrics, a random compilation of Jennifer (running friend from another race), a few of her friends, Heather and two other sorority sisters, my boss, his wife, and the graduate student I work with. Stupendous. That is all.

Half marathon number two!
 April was deemed to be rough, too, as my family gathered in LA for my grandma's memorial. While I was dreading the weekend on one hand, I was almost looking forward to it - seeing and being with folks who I've known since I was born, who could be more of a comfort than anyone before. I took the opportunity to speak, to share some silly memories, and crack a few witty comments that I knew my Nagymama would appreciate. I love her, I miss her dearly, and this Christmas was certainly not going to be the same without her.

But April also brought... half marathon #2! Zooma Women's Half Marathon up at the gorgeous Lake Lanier Islands. And probably one of the toughest races ever. I know there will be races in my future that will be tougher, harder, more painful, but for a newbie half marathoner, this race was the toughest thing I'd done. Eating asphalt at Mile 4, running with a road-burned knee and hand until the end, and I was just grateful to be done. Done and done. I survived.

Warrior Dash - Mountain City, Georgia
May brought to a close the end of my first academic year at the University of Georgia. What a year, but I survived! Bring on year 2! May also brought on my first obstacle/mud/something other than running race - Warrior Dash! So glad that we ran that for fun, for a good time, and just to enjoy it. It's definitely a race worth doing, though I'm not sure I'll do the exact same one again. Looking forward to finding another fun one to do!

Overall, May was pretty lackluster, but a welcome break from the chaos that March and April were, all things considered. I welcomed a few mellow weekends in comparison and got ready for the fun that summer had in store! Realized that May was one of only two months that I wasn't on a plane this year... insanity.

Mom & loved the Coke Bear... Dad maybe not so much. ;)
June was a month my family and I had been looking forward to for quite some time - cruise month! After the emotional and semi-chaotic spring we had had, this was our time to finally gather for happy reasons: a trip to the Bahamas! Yes please!

This was my parents' first visit to Georgia as well (aside from Dad moving me), so we spent a few days around Atlanta doing World of Coke and the CNN Center, and they got to check out Athens while I finished up two days' of work before we drove up to Charleston for the cruise.
At port in Grand Bahamas.
My sister flew down from New York to Charleston, where we spent a half-day cramming the Charleston experience in as much as we could before boarding the ship. This was my sister's and my first cruise, so needless to say... we were a little excited. Good, quality family time. I can't get enough of that this year.

I was really sad to see my parents leave after we got back to Athens, but so grateful that we were able to make this family vacation happen (for almost a few years' in the works). Happy, happy times and a great way to continue into summer. 

July brings about one of the biggest running traditions in Georgia: the Peachtree Road Race (10K). After submitting our names into the 80,000 person lottery in April and originally not getting in, Heather and I finally managed to get our hands on some bibs from runners who weren't going to make it - so hi, I was Ashley for a day. A ton of our sorority sisters were running, so we had a great time meeting up with them, getting some Coca-Cola perks (a few of them work for Coke) and running in the blazing heat of a Georgia summer. The course isn't spectacularly hard, save for one massive hill (Cardiac Hill), but aside from the bobbing and weaving, it's a great race, and one that I was excited enough to finish in just 40 seconds shy of a PR (something that basically never happens on this course for 'normal' runners like me because of all the bobbing and weaving you gotta do! I mean, imagine running a 10K running through downtown Atlanta with 60,000 other friends. You get the picture.

Salt Lake City memories.

Shortly after the 4th of July, I was off to Salt Lake City for my sorority's National Convention. I hadn't been since 2007 in Jacksonville, so I was more than excited to finally be back with some of the finest women I know. A beautiful city, great sisters and friends to re-unite with, and an amazing trip. I found myself pretty over-emotional here, and it wasn't until a sister pointed out that it was the first time I had been full-fledged into our organization in five years (aside from visiting chapters), and that was a lot to take in! True story. I was also provided the great honor of being elected our Vice President for Membership, which I have slowly been settling into this fall semester and getting my feet wet and comfortable. I can't wait to be back with my sisters next year in Pitt and to continue on some amazing work we were able to start!

August was the only month this year I didn't have an in-person race, though I participated in the virtual Twitter Road Race, held by Doug Cassaro. So, really, I had at least one race every single month! Amazing!

August's only adventure was a quick weekend jaunt to Nashville (another new place for me) with the sorority National Executive Board for the annual fall meeting, one of our three meetings each year. After the meeting was over on Sunday, we got to do a little play time and ventured to downtown and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. I'm not a die-hard country fan, but I can certainly appreciate the history and cool things they have on display there. Definitely recommend it!

An overall amazing month -- started my training cycle for Wine and Dine, got to do a few awesome races, made one trip home to LA for my cousin's bridal shower, had a great time overall! September kicked off with the ATL Running Nerds 20K relay that I did with Brandi, Heather and Antoinette. My first true dress-up experience for a race and it did not disappoint. We were Team Will Run for Cupcakes, and dressed to the occasion (funfetti, oreo, strawberry and key lime). My first relay race and the beginning of the mental prep for Ragnar.

Team Four Score and Seven Miles Ago : Ragnarians!
Oh, Ragnar. The most magical, ridiculous, exhausting, unbelievable, sleep-deprived, insane, frenzied weekend of my life, and consequently, the most amazing weekend ever. Obviously. 9 new friends (because I already knew two), running shenanigans, new state lines, nearly thirty-one hours of sheer insanity. Pushing personal limits with a 2 am run in the middle of nowhere in pitch black countryside, and never feeling more accomplished, ever, in my life. Will I do it again? You bet. Give me awhile to financially recover. I kid. I kind of.

This was, amazingly enough, the quietest month of the year, at least in terms of travel and shenanigans. It ended up being the only other month (aside from May) that I wasn't on a plane. Ridiculous. I pulled off the first two of three half marathons in six weeks and therefore qualified for Half Fanatics. Excitement! I also kicked butt at a few races, but most noteworthy are these two:

Atlanta 13.1 down in northwest Atlanta. The first half since April, and the one I wanted to run only semi-seriously because a) I had won the entry fee and b) I had Athens two weeks later, and that's where I really wanted to PR for the year. But I figured I'd see what I could do - after apparently running ahead of the 2:10 pace group most of the way, I set a nearly 6-minute PR at 2:13:35. Baller.

Athens, two weeks later. The course had changed drastically from years prior (not that I had run it), and it was ensured to be more flat and more PR-friendly this way also. Knowing this, when I registered in August, I knew I'd want it to be my key race for the fall and try and finish out the year with a sparkly, shining new PR to end it out. After PRing two weeks prior, I knew there was work to do, but was confident I could come close (to make sure it wasn't a fluke) or do better (to prove that I had it in me!). Put my legs to work - and took another 4 minutes off that time from two weeks prior. New half PR: 2:09:59. Yes!

October also kicked off marathon training in its full, on my birthday (the 1st), no less. And here I am, it's been almost three full months since then and I'm just five weeks away from the Surf City start line. Can't even believe it myself. Seriously.

The first weekend in November kicked off with my cousin's wedding in Austin - another great, happy reunion with family and of course the boyfriend. <3 I got to visit some of my old colleagues and students for  a whole day before wedding shenanigans kicked off, but it was a beautiful and wonderful weekend. I was honored to be a part of her wedding and was so glad to spend so much time with the family, and saw a whole ton of people I hadn't seen in a long while (years, for some of them).

November's other big highlight was Wine and Dine, obviously. Heather's first half marathon, a great friends weekend reunion, and an overall amazing first RunDisney experience. You'll just have to read my post, I could gush on and on about it all, but know that W&D is an amazing experience, RunDisney rocks, and I'm dying for more and am seriously contemplating Coast to Coast for 2013. If only all the finances in the world could come raining into my bank account! But anyway - slowest half marathon by far, but one of the most fun I've had by lightyears. So proud of Heather (yes, still) for finishing, and finishing strong, and thankful for a wonderful weekend with some outstanding people.

It's the end of the year already? Well, if you're reading this, we all survived the end of the world (whew!) and now we can all finally move on to the next time the world is scheduled to end (just do me a favor and let me know when that is).

I signed up for a very impromptu, inaugural half marathon down in the country about 30 miles south of me in Walton County. I figured it was a small race, would be a great testament to how my intervals were working in marathon training, and would be fun to get out and make the first 13 of my scheduled 16 miles that day part of a race! 4-1 intervals, along with pacing a super sweet lady to a PR, contributed to another 30-ish seconds off my PR again!

I also experienced a race first in December - a 5K, nothing out of the ordinary, but ran an entire race in a torrential downpour. Seriously? Fun times! It wasn't until I cooled down inside that I realized how cold I was. Final 5K of the year, a PR, and an age group award is always a good time! Thanks Bethlehem!

Post-Operation Jack Half!
One last half marathon for the year - Operation Jack Half Marathon, down on the beach (literally on the boardwalk between the water and the back fence of LAX!). I signed up for this race in September, excited because it was just about 5 weeks out of the full marathon and would be the final, ultimate test of how my training had been going. No PR, but given the chaos of the week prior, a pretty darn good showing.

2012 is over. I guess you could say that's it. An amazing year. A hard year, at times, but an amazing year. When I look back at these races, and these frequently changing PRs, and all the travel I was blessed enough to be able to do, I realize just how lucky I am. Broke, certainly, but what's a little fun in comparison to an extra $30 in your checking account? Not much. ;) Looking forward to so many incredible adventures to come in 2013 - a full marathon, new races, perhaps that Coast to Coast business, weddings to attend, and random other adventures that may come my way. Here's to another year, happy, healthy and full of adventure!

Happy New Year, y'all! Thanks for reading, following along, and making my year amazing!


  1. I loved reading your 2012 recap - especially about the Warrior Dash since I just registered. I'm hoping 2013 is the year I become a runner (underlined). Happy New Year!


    1. Thanks for stopping by Meghan! I hope you have a blast with Warrior Dash. It really is a great time and can definitely be a fun experience! Enjoy!

  2. What a great year you've had. I really enjoyed reading about it as well.
    Running is addicting for sure. Races are too. But like you, I would rather spend my money on that then other stuff ;)
    Good Luck with the marathon!!!

    1. Thanks Stacey! I appreciate you stopping by and reading all the craziness! :) Racing is WAY addictive, but such a great time, it's (usually) worth it!

      Happy 2013 to you!

  3. Wow that is a lot of race!!! Congrats on an amazing 2012. I know there were some challenging times for you during the year, but you also have so much to celebrate and be proud of. here's to a wonderful 2013 ahead! ~Jesica (runladylike.com)

    1. Thanks Jesica! LOTS of racing and looking forward to more. Wishing you a wonderful 2013 as well!