Knoxville Half Marathon Recap (Part One)

A couple of weekends ago, Rachel and I headed up to Knoxville, Tennessee to run the Covenant Health Knoxville Half Marathon. This race was exciting for 2 different reasons…

  1. Knoxville is Rachel’s birth place and she is a huge Tennessee Football fan. Plus, this race ends on the 50 yard line in Neyland Stadium!
  2. One of my running goals is to run a half or full marathon in every state, and this race checked off the state of Tennessee.

We headed out on Saturday morning from Atlanta. Knoxville is only a little over 3 hours away, so we decided to only stay one night up there. Once we got into Knoxville (a little after lunchtime), we checked in to our hotel and made our way over to the race expo. We ended up getting a hotel literally less than 5 minutes from the expo and starting line. This turned out to be a great decision!

The expo was fairly small, but actually had a pretty decent amount of booths to check out. Once we grabbed our race numbers and shirts, we made our way around the expo and actually picked up a few additional things. Sometimes expo can be hit or miss, but I thought this was one of the more successful ones for us.

After the expo, we headed over to the Sunsphere, which looks like a giant microphone. The Sunsphere is one of the only things left from the 1982 World’s Fair, which was hosted in Knoxville. We took the elevator to the top and got a cool 360° view of the area around us. It was really cool!

After the Sunsphere, we dropped our stuff in our hotel room and headed back out to explore more of the downtown Knoxville area. We walked over to Market Square, which has quite a few stores and restaurants. One of the nice things about the day is we were expecting quite a bit of rain, but the weather held off (for the most part). We were able to shop/sightsee for several hours. And although it was a little colder than we would have liked, it could have been much worse.

After a few hours, we found an awesome pizza place – The Tomato Head – and grabbed an early dinner before heading back towards the hotel. Since the NCAA Basketball Tourney was still going on, we decided to call it an early evening and rest up in the hotel room. Fortunately, we didn’t have a brutally early morning, as the race had a 7:30 am start time and we were only a 5 minute walk from the starting line. After a few more hours, we headed on to bed. It was time to rest up for the Knoxville Half Marathon!

Stayed tuned for part two of the Knoxville Half Marathon Recap with Rachel taking over the reigns!

 

5 Years…

Yesterday was the 5 year anniversary of my mom’s passing. 5 years. Doesn’t even seem possible that it’s been 5 years since I’ve seen or even talked to her. In some ways it feels like yesterday and in other ways, it feels like decades ago…

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As I think back over the past 5 years, so much has happened with our family. Just a few major things off the top of my head…

  • Rachel and I bought a house and moved to Brookhaven.
  • After 20 years of Youth Ministry, I moved into a new role in the church world as Director of Activities.
  • Rachel was promoted (twice) and now is a Director at her company.
  • Julie (my sister) had another baby girl (Emma).
  • Will (my younger brother) received his doctorate.
  • Dad met a wonderful lady, Suzanne, and they were married last August.
  • Our grandmother (Billie) and step-grandfather (Reeves) passed away.
  • My brother-in-law (PJ) and sister-in-law (Deanna) both lost parents as well.
  • Warren (my older brother) and Melissa now have 2 kids in High School, including one who will graduate in May and head off to college next year.

And honestly…these are just a few things off the top of my head.

Since it was 5 years yesterday, I ended up spending the day down in Auburn with my sister, Julie, and her family. It was a welcome distraction and a wonderful time just being with Julie’s family, including 3 of my favorite nieces. My mother loved our family so much and I know her number one priority was making sure we were all happy and that our family remained strong. I can honestly say we are as strong as ever. And though every day I wish she were still with us, I am so thankful for the legacy she left in all of us.

Here are a few pictures from my time in Auburn yesterday.

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Allen’s 2018 Running Journey…So Far

Happy April everyone! As you may remember from my last blog post April Goals…one of my goals for April is to blog at least 2-3 times a week. Welcome to my first post of this week/month!

So…I wanted to start the month off with catching everyone up on what’s been going on in my running world in 2018.

  • 100+ Monthly Running Miles  One of my typical running goals for each month is to hit around 100 miles for the month. Some months I get above 100 and some months I hit just below that number. So far I’m 2 for 3 in regards to hitting above 100 miles. (In fairness, February does only have 28 days…) As of this morning, I’m at 295 miles for 2018.
  • 2018 Races After a busy race schedule in 2017, I intentionally decided to make 2018 a little lighter on the races. Of course…I started off this year by completing my second Dopey Challenge (48.6 miles over 4 days) at Walt Disney World, which doesn’t necessarily seem like a lighter schedule. But, after Dopey, I didn’t run another race until 2 weekends ago in Knoxville, Tennessee for the Knoxville Half Marathon. (Recap of the race weekend coming soon!) I still have several races lined up for 2018, but, at the moment, I don’t have another race scheduled until the July 4th Peachtree Road Race. I’m enjoying having a lighter race schedule and I know our bank account appreciates it, too!
  • Increased Speed/Pace Over the past 6 months or so, I’ve seen my overall pace increase to levels I haven’t seen in quite a few years. Running injury free (especially in the knees) helps this tremendously…which leads to the next thing…
  • Running Injuries Unfortunately…and this is the part of running that can be super frustrating…knee issues have plagued me for the past 3 years. And 2018 is no exception. In the last week (really since the Knoxville Half Marathon), my left knee has begun to bother me quite a bit. My overall pace and distance has dropped the last 3 runs. And I fear I may need to take some take off to allow the knees to rest and heal. This (as my wife will tell you) is not something I’m good at. And honestly one of my April goals was to hit 100 miles again for the month…and that seems more and more unlikely. Fortunately, I don’t have any races scheduled over the next few months, so I do have time to allow my knee to fully recover.

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All in all, my 2018 running journey has seen its share of ups and downs. But I’m grateful to be able to get out there and get in the miles. Looking forward to getting healthy and finishing the rest of the year strong!

April Goals

It’s been a while since I’ve done a blog post on my monthly goals/dreams. So as the weather is finally turning warmer…let’s take a look at my goals for the month of April.

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  • Blog Posts Honestly, I’ve been super busy with work and life, and the blog has taken a backseat. My first goal for April is to blog 2-3 times a week. I’ve actually got several things I want to talk about, so hopefully this will be an easy goal to hit.
  • Running April is one of my favorite months for running. Typically the weather is almost perfect. Not too cold or too hot. My next goal is to hit at least 100 miles for the month. Now, I’ll be honest, this isn’t that much of a stretch for me, as I typically average 100 miles a month already. So to add more to the goal, I want to try to hit 100 miles for the month, while only running 4 days a week. This will require more longer run days as I really want to use more days for rest or cross training during the week.
  • Reading This has definitely taken a backseat recently. I usually read at least a few books each month, but I have definitely dropped the ball. So my next goal is to finish 3 books in April. I’ve got several books lined up, so I’m ready to tackle this goal head on.
  • Quality Time With Rachel It’s no secret that marriage takes work. Rachel and I are pretty intentional about spending time together…but sometimes the time gets spent just watching TV or sitting around playing on our phones. My next goal is to have some time throughout each week for quality time with my wife. Whether it’s just taking a walk through the park, or spending time talking at Starbucks, I want us to have some time away from all the other distractions around us.
  • Connecting With Friends Another goal of mine is to take some time each week to connect with friends who I haven’t seen/reached out to in a while. It’s super easy to get comfortable with the circle of people around you, but I want to make sure I stay connected with those friends who mean just as much to me.
  • Limited Social Media Time This goal is going to take some work. But I really want to limit the amount of time I’m on social media this month. I’m not trying to stay off it every day…just limit the time I spend on it. I have found myself spending way too much of my day looking at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc…
  • Random Acts Of Kindness My final goal for the month of April is to look for a few ways each week to do a random act of kindness for someone. Not sure exactly what this will look like yet, but I want to take some time each week to make someone’s life a little brighter.

Setting, goal, vision.

Anyways…I’m looking forward to a great month of April. I’ll definitely let you all know how it goes!

Friday Favorites

Been a while since I’ve done a Friday Favorites…so without further ado…here are a few things that I am excited about in my world.

  • Osprey Nebula Backpack I’m a huge fan of the Osprey brand. I’ve had a Osprey backpack for quite a few years now, plus I’ve been using their running hydration belt during my longer runs, and their quality is off the charts. So when it was time to get a new daily backpack, the only question was which Osprey backpack I would get. I ended up settling on the Osprey Nebula and I love it. I can’t wait to bring this piece into my everyday life.

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  • Nike Epic React Flyknit I’ve been wearing Nike shoes for most of my running journey. I’ve dabbled with some other brands, but find myself always going back to Nike. So when Nike started promoting a new shoe that even after logging 300+ miles, it will feel like new, I knew I had to give it a try. I ended up scoring a free pair of these shoes and have already taken them out for a few test runs. I’m loving the look and especially the feel of them. The foam cushioning is so lightweight, but feels durable and soft at the same time (if that makes sense). I have a feeling these are going to be some of my favorite running shoes ever.

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  • Dopey Finisher Jacket After the runDisney marathon weekend, Rachel and I had the opportunity to order finisher jackets for our respective races. I ended up ordering the Dopey Finisher Jacket, and after almost two months, it finally arrived! And…I love it! Honesty, I was worried about ordering it when I hadn’t seen it in person, but it’s the perfect size and fit. Can’t wait to show this off!

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  • Dopey Race Pins One of the great things about having friends who are Disney Cast Members is getting to visit the Cast Connection store when we are down there. The Cast Connection is a store for cast members and their family/friends (as long as they are with the cast member) to buy Disney parks merchandise from previous seasons and races at a crazy markdown. I ended up scoring a full set of the 2018 Marathon Weekend race pins at like 80% off the normal price. Very happy to have these souvenirs from the Dopey Challenge!

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  • Basketball Season Ending Finally, my last Friday Favorite is….my schedule returning to normal! As I’ve mentioned before, one of the big things we do in my gym is a basketball league. Basketball starts in late October with practices and ends this coming Monday night with playoff games. It’s been a wonderful 4+ months, but I’m super ready to get my weekends back.

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Checking In With Allen

So believe it or not…I’m still here! As we hit the middle of February, it’s time for a quick check in on everything going on in my world.

  • Basketball Season One of my favorite and busiest seasons is during January and February with our Youth Basketball league. We run basketball games all day every Saturday (except this coming weekend) for these two months. It’s a great outreach to the community, but takes a lot of work and time. We’ve been fortunate to have over 160 kids participate this season. We wrap up everything the weekend of March 3.

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  • Disney Trip Since we don’t have basketball games this weekend (President’s Day), Rachel and I are headed down for a quick weekend trip to Disney. We will leave on Thursday morning and come back Sunday. We are staying on property at the Pop Century Resort for the first two nights and with our friends on Saturday night. The weather actually looks to be quite warm. We are looking forward to having a few days in our happy place!

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  • Running Journey After finishing the Dopey Challenge back in early January, it’s been nice to have a few months just to run with no races or goals in mind. I continue to get my mileage and longer runs at a respectable distance, so I’m able to run a half marathon at any time. But it’s nice to just run for the sake of running. Rachel and I are looking to add a few races to our calendar in the next few months. Stay tuned!
  • Taxes Last weekend, I finished our 2017 taxes and we are actually getting back a pretty nice refund this year! After owing money to the federal government last year, it was nice to see a positive number. Vacation fund will see a nice bump!

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  • New Nephew (Coming Soon) Another super exciting piece of news, Rachel’s brother and sister-in-law are expecting their first kid! We just found out it’s going to be a little boy. We are excited to become an aunt/uncle again and this time on Rachel’s side of the family!
  • Fractured Elbow And finally, just a quick update on my fractured left elbow…it’s doing much better. After several weeks of physical therapy, I have seen significant improvement, especially with my range of motion, which has helped my guitar playing.

All in all, it’s been a busy, but good start to 2018. How has your year been going so far?

2018 WDW Marathon Weekend: Post Dopey Days

Hello friends! Welcome to my fifth and final recap of the 2018 WDW Marathon Weekend. Check out parts one, two, three and four here,  here and here and here. As you may know, I participated in my second Dopey Challenge, which includes running a 5K on Thursday, 10K on Friday, half marathon on Saturday and full marathon on Sunday for a total of 48.6 miles. Without further ado…here is my last last recap post…Post Dopey Days.

After running for 4 straight (and very early) mornings, I was very happy to have 2 more days to hang at the parks with Rachel and friends.

On Monday, the plan was to hit up Epcot for the day. We had several things on the agenda for Monday, including lunch at the Biergarten Restaurant in the Germany pavilion of the World Showcase with our friends Ivie and AJ and grabbing dinner with our friends Justin and Devin. Plus, the College Football National Championship was that night and Alabama was back again for the 3rd straight year!

Once we got to Epcot and walked around for a little bit, we caught up with AJ and Ivie and their crew. They had decided to Drink/Eat around the World Showcase, including our lunch stop at the Biergarten Restaurant. We were happy to walk around and explore all the different countries.

By the time we got to our lunch reservation, I was definitely hungry. Lunch was a buffet, with a lot of different meats and sausages. Those of you who know me well, know that I’m quite picky, but I actually tried a lot of different things and it was all pretty good! The best part of the meal was the environment, including the musical show every 45 minutes. We had a great time for sure!

After lunch, we walked around some more before splitting off from the group to head over to the Norway pavilion to see our friend Hollyn. Hollyn was one of my former students who is now living in Orlando and working at Disney. She is actually now playing Elsa in Norway at Epcot! I am so proud of her! It was great to see her again even for just a few minutes.

After meeting Queen Elsa, we met back up with our group for a few more hours before heading out to meet up with Justin and Devin back over at the Wilderness Lodge for dinner. We ended up eating at the new dining location, Geyser Point Bar & Grill, which is outside by the water. It was excellent! We also were able to catch the first half of the National Championship game before heading back to the condo to watch the rest of the game. Needless to say…I was quite pleased with the outcome!

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On Tuesday, we headed over to the Magic Kingdom for our last full day in Orlando. One of my goals for the day was to get some good pictures with the castle and all of my Dopey medals. I was able to get some great pictures throughout the day! Disney PhotoPass is the best!

We spent most of the day in the Magic Kingdom before heading back over to Epcot for our dinner reservation at Le Cellier Steakhouse in the Canada pavilion of the World Showcase. Rachel and I were super excited to eat there as we had heard great things about it. The atmosphere was awesome and the food was pretty good too!

After dinner, we walked around for another hour or so, before calling it at day. After 6 straight days, we were ready to get back to the condo to pack up and get a good night’s sleep, before heading back to Atlanta bright and early the next morning.

All in all, it was a great couple of days after the race weekend just being at Disney and hanging with great friends. Dopey Challenge #2 (and more than likely my last Dopey Challenge) was a huge success!

2018 WDW Marathon Weekend: Full Marathon Recap

Hello friends! Welcome to my fourth recap of the 2018 WDW Marathon Weekend. Check out parts one, two and three here,  here and here. As you may know, I participated in my second Dopey Challenge, which includes running a 5K on Thursday, 10K on Friday, half marathon on Saturday and full marathon on Sunday for a total of 48.6 miles. Without further ado…here is my Full Marathon Recap.

After three early mornings/races…I was finally at the big one. Fortunately, the weather was going to be absolutely perfect with cooler temperatures, but nothing like the first few days.

My plan for the race was to take it easy for the first half and then see what I had left in the tank. I knew I needed to be smart as I had already run 22 miles over the first 3 days and my left elbow was still technically on the mend. 

As the race got started, I found a nice groove and began the journey to 26.2 miles. As I got to miles 3-5, I found my friends AJ, Ivie, Dani and Jen. I ended up running with them for a little bit.

Once I got to Magic Kingdom, I stopped for a few pictures (and the bathroom) before continuing onward. At this point, I was feeling really good and enjoying the course and crowd support.

As I got to the Animal Kingdom, I knew I was getting to the halfway point and I was very pleased with my overall race so far. I knew I needed to stay smart and not push myself too much. I even found myself stopping a few times to take pictures with characters and random spectators.

As I got to mile 18, I knew my least favorite part of the race was near…ESPN World Wide of Sports.

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This part of the course is most Disney marathon runners’ dreaded spot. I think it’s because the next 3 miles are all in the ESPN area and it feels like you aren’t really going anywhere. Plus, miles 18-20 are typically around the time a runner hits the dreaded “runner’s wall.” I was definitely starting to feel it for sure.

As I finally got through the ESPN area, I felt like I could see a light at the end of a tunnel. And once I got Hollywood Studios, I knew I was going to make it! If I had to walk the rest of the way…I was going to cross that finish line!

The next 3 miles felt like a blur to me. One foot in front of the other. And once I crossed into Epcot, I knew I had roughly a mile to go. As I ran around the World Showcase, stopping for a few more characters, I texted Rachel to find out where she was going to be. 

I found her (and Nick who was so gracious to drive her) right near Spaceship Earth. I was so happy to see both of them and more importantly, I knew I was less than half a mile to the finish line.

Once I crossed the finish line, so many emotions came over me. Every marathon is a challenge and this was no different. From breaking my elbow just 3 weeks earlier to running 4 very early and very cold mornings, I was very very happy!

After grabbing all 3 of my medals (Marathon, Goofy and Dopey), I headed over to the character spots to get my finisher picture with Dopey. Rachel and Nick found me a few minutes later waiting in line. And while it took almost 45 minutes to get the picture…it was totally worth it!

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Later that day (after getting a shower, some food and resting), we headed over to the Wilderness Lodge to see our friends, Justin and Devin, and their new baby, Dash. It’s always so good to see them!

Then we made our way over to Nick and Ciara’s house, where Nick grilled his “world famous” pizza. It was the perfect dinner to celebrate running all 48.6 miles! They are indeed some of our closest friends and we are so grateful for them!

After a while, I was ready to finally get a good night’s sleep after 4 early mornings. Plus, I was very happy to have 2 more days to spend time in the parks with friends.

Stay tuned for the fifth recap…Post Dopey Days.

11 Year Anniversary

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11 years ago I married my best friend. 11 years. There’s no one I’d rather do life with for sure. Rachel is easily the most wonderful, compassionate, sweet, caring and beautiful woman in the world. I’m one lucky guy for sure!

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Below are some of my favorite throwback pictures from our dating years and wedding day. Enjoy!

2018 WDW Marathon Weekend: Half Marathon Recap

Hello friends! Welcome to my third recap of the 2018 WDW Marathon Weekend. Check out parts one and two here and here. As you may know, I participated in my second Dopey Challenge, which includes running a 5K on Thursday, 10K on Friday, half marathon on Saturday and full marathon on Sunday for a total of 48.6 miles. Without further ado…here is my Half Marathon Recap.

After waking up at another ungodly hour…we made our way over to Epcot to get ready to run the third part of my Dopey Challenge. Just like the 10K race, I had Rachel with me for the half marathon. The weather was still quite cold and windy like the mornings before. We ended up sitting in the car again for a good 10-15 minutes to stay warm.

After walking over to the corrals and waiting for another 45 minutes or so, we were off! The nice thing about having Rachel with me was that I still had a full marathon to go at that point, and she is always good about pacing me during a race.

We ended up finding a great pace/speed and just enjoyed being together while running a very familiar course. (This was the 6th time I’ve run this particular half marathon course.)

The course takes you around Epcot through the Transportation and Ticketing Center, up to the Magic Kingdom (including running through Cinderella’s Castle!) and back down to Epcot.

Quite a few of the miles are just on the roads, but Disney does a good job of spreading out numerous cheering sections, high school marching bands and character picture stops along the way.

As we crossed the finish line, I couldn’t help but be very grateful to have 3 of the 4 races out of the way.

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After grabbing our medals and water/runner’s boxes, we actually headed over to the Disney character area and got a finisher picture with Pluto and Goofy!

We ended up seeing our friends Nick and Ciara at the end as well. They are always so sweet to come see us during the races. Unfortunately, the wind/cold was still very present, and after a few minutes, we were ready to get back to the condo and clean up/warm up.

The agenda for the rest of the day was pretty simple…Disney Springs for a few hours and the #werunsocial meet-up, and then back to the condo to rest up for my last big race!

We ended up getting to the Disney Springs area around lunchtime. After grabbing some food and walking around for a bit, we headed over to the #werunsocial meet-up.

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One of the best things about running is the community, and #werunsocial is about just that. It is a group of passionate runners that love to meet up and support each other. So, when the chance to get together arises, that’s what we do. In fact, I’ve made several great friends through this community. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

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After spending some good time with running friends, we made our way back over the condo for the rest of the afternoon/evening. We grabbed some pasta (CARBO LOAD!!!) later that afternoon and I began to get ready for the final race, the marathon!! At this point, I was 22.2 miles down and 26.2 miles to go to finish my second Dopey Challenge!

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Stay tuned for the fourth recap…WDW Marathon Weekend: Marathon.