2016 Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon Race Report

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Wooo boy. Where do I even start with this one? First things first. I DO NOT ENDORSE RUNNING A MARATHON ON NO TRAINING. It was not a smart thing, in fact it was probably a very dumb thing. DO NOT GET ANY IDEAS FROM THIS, okay guys?

I’ve not been very healthy for the past several months. I struggled with my mental health through the summer, I had hand surgery in August, and in September I had surgery on my back which resulted numerous complications and left me unable to run or do any form of exercise for over 4 weeks. The longest run I’ve had in MONTHS was 8 miles, and even that was more than I was probably ready for. Suffice it to say, I’ve been a total couch potato (not without good reason, but… a couch potato nonetheless).

I had every intention of showing up at this race and not finishing it. Normally this is not something I would do– but this was a special case. The Flying Monkey operates on a l

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Bandit’ed up pre race– it was cold!!

ottery entry. I and three of my running girlfriends had entered together and ALL of us got in. In the weeks leading up to it I started to feel desperately sad about missing out on the fun, especially since I wasn’t sure if this was something that would happen again next year. So I decided to go, hang out, run a little, and just enjoy the atmosphere. There was a point in the race around mile ~13 that looped back by the start and would be an easy place for me to drop. After all, I had already paid my $90, might as well go and enjoy what I could, right?

On Saturday night I drove up to our hotel in Tennesee with Kim and Colleen and there we met Kara. So there was me, the untrained wonder, Kim and Colleen, who were doing what our group refers to as the #dizzymonkey (Dizzy 50k on Saturday, Flying Monkey 26.2 on Sunday) and were running on post 50k legs, and Kara, who was probably the healthiest of all of us but not without her share of struggles including a broken elbow. As the old saying goes, misery loves company. We spent the evening laughing about our collective ridiculousness, had some delicious local fare for dinner (aka Chipotle because we are basic like that), and went to bed early with images of monkeys and our imminent doom haunting our dreams…
The next morning we got ready quickly and headed over to the early start. It was the coldest I have felt all year, thanks to an incredibly mild Alabama fall, and I was grateful that Kim had allowed me to borrow her buff and given me some of her hand warmers. I had also completely forgotten to bring any sort of race food or electrolyte supplement. Have I mentioned yet how woefully unprepared I was??  I CANNOT MAKE THAT CLEAR ENOUGH. 7am came quickly and we were off with the other early starters– through a grassy field and into the hills of Percy Warner park.
It was a stunningly clear, gorgeous morning and the scenery was to die for. I have never done a more scenic or beautiful road race before. The constant hills gave way to never ending beautiful views, and the woods were bursting with glorious fall colors. It was like running through a Thomas Kinkade painting you guys. That combined with the company of my gal pals, and the miles were just flying by. There is little to no flat ground on this race course. It boasts an elevation change of ~7500 feet over the 26.2 miles, meaning hills upon hills upon hills upon HILLS. But we are trail runners, and we love hills; our race strategy was to walk the ups and run the downs. That provided an easy pace that kept me feeling surprisingly good for a while, despite my body’s complete unpreparedness. I started to toy with the idea that maybe, just maybe I could do this. It would be crazy and stupid, NO DOUBT, but when have I ever claimed to be sane?? THE BODY REMEMBERS, RIGHT???
Around mile 10 or so Kim asked how I was feeling and I said something along the lines of, “I think I’m just going to stick with it???” Even with that said, I wasn’t 100% sure and

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This sign was my favorite. My face says it all. 

planned on revaluating at the drop point in a few miles. On we went, up and down and up and down and up and down… There was just so much to enjoy about this race. The hills, the foliage, the hilarious signs calling us names and saying that this was the “last hill” (it
was never the last hill), the phenomenal aid station workers (I have NEVER been to a race with more enthusiastic volunteers), and of course, the company of my running buds and all the people around us. We came to the first aid station stocked with food and I greedily stuffed three or four Oreos in my mouth at once– I was REALLY excited about the Oreos. At one point we got passed by what appeared to be a child no older than 7, a man in a literal monkey suit, a person dressed as a banana…

After a while I looked at my watch (which had been buried beneath my glove and thick long sleeve for the entirety of the race up until this point. I realized we were around 16 or 17 dsc_7523miles in. “Um… guys… I think we totally missed bail out spot.” Somehow we had obliviously run past the drop point, even though there was a BIG sign in chalk that said “DNF” with an arrow… How even??? Oh well, decision made, I guess? It was then that the reality of what was to come set in. I was still feeling shockingly strong. I surmised to my friends that we were over the “hump,” for now, ticking down the miles didn’t seem so hard. At mile 22 or so? Different story, but for now, all was well.
At mile 19 I had a shot of whiskey at the best aid station ever. I was starting to feel blah and that perked me RIGHT up! Thanks to our slow pace my biggest complaint was really just my toes at this point– they weren’t at all conditioned for the pounding of running and especially not down all those hills. My back was a little achy, but nothing some Tylenol couldn’t handle (thanks Kim!).

I had been holding the urge to pee for several hours now, waiting to find a porta potty. At a certain point you stop caring about common decency and just pee where ever you can, which is how I ended apologizing to an old man who saw my butt. He wasn’t amused. I’M SORRY OLD MAN, I JUST REALLY HAD TO GO. At mile 22 or so I decided it was time to
break out the music. I don’t normally listen to music while running, but sometimes you just need the power of Celine Dion and co. to get you through.

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These are our awesome running poses. 

With lyrics like, “I KNOW I CAN, BE WHAT I WANNA BE” blasting in my ears, the last few miles rolled by quicker than seemed possible. I had to apologize to several people around me for singing to myself, but they all assured me that my tone deaf show tunes were providing plenty of entertainment. I power walked up the final hills like I have never power walked  before. I was about to finish 26.2 miles, dammit!! As we rounded the corner with the finish line still in sight, Colleen pointed out that her ipod was playing “these are the best of times.” Only with friends like these could running an unplanned marathon be the best of times.
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Overall, I will probably always maintain that this was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done. But I sure did have a hell of a lot of fun.
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