Tag Archives: Tennessee

Four Triathlons in 2014

RenManTriAs I sit on my couch watching Rudolph on CBS, I don’t feel like a good triathlete.  However, much of this year has been devoted to training for one specific triathlon.  So how could I continue the theme of Mount Rushmore of things without first hitting a major component.  In the 12 months prior to Ironman Chattanooga, I competed in three sprint triathlons, three Olympic triathlons and three half distance triathlons.  So let examine the “full body of work” to see which are my final four picks.

Quad City Sprint Triathlon in Davenport, Iowa is my yearly pilgrimage to the home of John Deere and to race with my friend Rhonda Cox.  This was such a special race this year because of an hevent that happened later in the summer, which I am sure that will come up at some point later.  This race is run by a few other humans each year.  However, this was the second year that Rhonda, her sister Leigh-Ann and I have run this race on Saturday and then driven to Joliet, Illinois to compete in Warrior Dash, IL. The best part of the triathlon is the turn around point on the out and back run, a John Deere tractor.  The best part of Warrior Dash is Portillo’s Italian Beef sandwich.  Yes, food is that big of a deal that I would endure mud!  The Quad City Triathlon was important this year, and I am sure it will be just as important in 2015!

Renaissance Man Olympic Triathlon was probably my best run event this year. My bike was was consistent, my swim was strong and the run was HOT but I managed to finish without having a redheaded heat stroke.  This is a great event!  Florence, Alabama makes for a wonderful venue for a triathlon as it is tucked along the Tennessee River and home to many historic places.  The start and finish location is a majestic cliff guarded location which will stir the blood of most any veteran triathlete.  The bike is long and flat with some challenges but for the most part fun!  And the run energetic and historic.  I loved running by the Frank Lloyd Wright home just miles from the campus of the University of North Alabama!  If you are ready for an Olympic distance triathlon and in the region, don’t wait, sign up for this race. (Photo Credit to Katie Beth)

Ironman 70.3 Raleigh was great!  I loved the town, loved the food, loved the course and it was a fantastic road trip!  This was thanks to a lot of supporting cast.  This one probably made the top four because of the food, friends and fun I had along the way.  I struggled on the swim, liked the bike and the run seemed longer than 13.1 miles.  You can see why the adventure was better than the race itself.  However, I really like the point to point race!  Raleigh was an awesome venue and you couldn’t ask for better than the Oak City!  I really wanted to try Raleigh in 2015, however, I need to harass children that weekend!  Raleigh 70.3 was great!

Ironman Chattanooga will be a memory I take with me for many, many years.  The volunteers were fantastic and who could ask for a better swim!  This was the race I focused so much of my time on in 2014.  Hearing the words, “Ruth Marie Oliver, you are an Ironman” and having Dana DeBardelaben give me my finisher’s medal was worth all the foot blisters and long hours on the bike.  The coolest thing about Ironman Chattanooga was that people were cheering me on, event though they were not on the course.  Thanks guys! Whether you were in Chattanooga or on some social media portal cheering me on, thanks from the bottom of my heart!

That is my year in triathlon! Sprint, Olympic, half and full, these were the best four and one from each distance… couldn’t plan it any better!  Atomic Man wouldn’t make the list any year!

The Ragnar Effect

AOBJ 3This weekend I had the pleasure of joining eleven other athletes to run from Chattanooga to Nashville for the third straight year.  There is something about the relay experience that is unique and special.  To say the experience is simply a chance to run, drive, sleep and then repeat would be omitting the best part of the experience, which is the team.  Your team encourages you, motivates you and shares all gross and sweaty things with you.  Over the days and weeks that follow this experience, you run faster, walk taller, and preform at a higher level. You try to explain to everyone you come in contact with about the adventure you had while crammed into a van.  This is called the Ragnar Effect!

What is the Ragnar Effect?  The Ragnar Effect is running further than you ever have before, because your team is counting on you.  It is running up a giant hill with little to no training. The Ragnar Effect is knowing when your teammate needs a pace runner and when you should just let them blow off steam. It is also setting a personal record in their next race or two. It is having a bond with people who you have little to nothing in common with except for 30 plus hours in a van together.

I was somewhat apprehensive about Against Our Better Judgment 3.0.  It seemed like we were a rag tag group of misfits.  We really didn’t have a lot in common.  We had new runners, half marathoners, friends, colleagues and a hitchhiker or two.  But in a relay, it doesn’t matter your running pedigree.  What matters is can you work as a team.  Can you push harder on the run for those driving in the van or sleeping on a gym floor?  Can you suck up your pain and focus on encouraging others?  Can you find joy in running slower to help a fellow runner make it to the next exchange in the dark?  This group of AOBJ runners did all of that and more.  I feel like I personally learned more along the way!

We don’t show up to win, we come to encourage and grow! Each runner of Against Our Better Judgement has tons of fun and along the way we push ourselves to run faster and farther than we thought we could.  I may have rambled in the post, but it truly is amazing how much I love every single miserable moment driving through the hills of Tennessee!  I am amazed by my teammates and love each and everyone of them!  The Ragnar Effect is the closest I will ever be to being a superhero!

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I have spent the last year training, and now that the long day of the race has come and gone, I have had time to reflect.  I have read a lot of race reports and seen hundreds of Facebook or other social media commentary about Ironman Chattanooga. I am taking a different approach to my race report since I am quirky and have my own blog site. I spent the last year being self-absorbed with all things triathlon and what is more self-absorbed than a blog post.  I feel I learned more about myself and have become more appreciative of my family, friends and fellow racers.

Q&A with Ruth Marie Oliver, Red Bull, racer 1009:

Was there a time that you thought you couldn’t finish? 

Heck, yes! Coming back into Chattanooga between mile 100 and T2 my lower back was hurting so bad. It was a tight ball of frustration and hurt.  At around mile 110 someone yelled at me, “You can do this! Riding 116 miles in an Ironman will only be done by y’all!” I started to tear up because most unique sports stories make me cry and the four extra miles made Chattanooga different than all other Ironman races.  I knew if I let my emotions take over, I would surely wilt.  I checked my watch at mile 112 and I still hurt, however someone said while passing me, “I am ready for a different kind of pain”.  This tortured my mind, something else will hurt, there will be a new kind of pain on the run. I rolled into T2 and gingerly trotted to the changing tent.  I sat in a folding chair which felt like a LazyBoy recliner to ready myself for the run.  First, I walked slowly one foot in front of another, then I trotted, then a slow jog on the the run course.  Seeing all the Huntsville volunteer girls gave me hope and encouragement on the run!  Only then, I felt like I could finish the journey to becoming an Ironman.

Did you pee on yourself?

No! I peed at the second to last aid station on the bike course and the in T2.  Next question!

How was your first marathon? 

WOW! I can’t believe I survived run in only 5:39.  Along the way, I was encouraged by the runners, the spectators who lined the course, the volunteers and my personal support team lead by Sandy & CK.  I ran with a lady from Richmond, Virginia named Jessie.  She and her husband were both competing in Ironman Chattanooga.  She gave me a dose of encouragement and bravery to keep running.  I ran with her for miles on the back half of the marathon course and then met her again in the finisher gear tent the next day.  I also loved all the yard parties being hosted in the north shore neighborhoods.  I would high five the former frat boys while “Red Solo Cup” or “Eye of the Tiger” bleared from their audio systems and promised to return for one victory beer after the race.  I hope they are not still waiting.  I also was reminded on the course that run, walk or crawl across the finish line, they would call me an “Ironman”.  I am sure the next marathon I run, I will not act like a ham as I cross the finish line.

Ironman Chattanooga FinishWas there anything during your training that gave you the extra confidence to keep going? 

I think this is a trick question looking back on the year I have had.  I was definitely inspired, motivated and encouraged my by friend Rhonda Cox.  Jen DiCarlo and Amazon have been there almost every step of the way giving me the courage to keep going.  Of course Sandy Henson planted the Ironman seed in my head, gave me a few tons of fertilizer and gallons of water to grow the Ironman dream into maturity.  One more encourager was Lara Fiscus, a complete stranger to me until this year.  I met her after a long swim at the Southeast YMCA in February.  I was discouraged and being an Ironman finisher seemed too lofty of a goal of me to achieve. Lara, a two time Ironman finisher, encouraged me that day and each time I saw her throughout the year.  There are countless other encouragers that came into my life this year.  But most of all, my parents gave me resilience and tenacity to do almost anything my little brain could conceive.  I feel like training started on the cotton farm many years ago!

Will you run another Ironman?

If you asked me the day before Ironman Chattanooga I would have said, NO!  And the day after my answer would be… maybe.  The thing I really want to do next year is volunteer at Ironman Chattanooga.  The volunteers made the race for me.  I know that Ironman brand races are a multi-billon dollar business but they wouldn’t happen without thousands upon thousands of volunteers.  I was helped and encouraged by volunteers.  Heck, the team of volunteers from Huntsville made my race so memorable. I want to be a volunteer to give that joy and encouragement to other racers.

Are you getting an M-Dot tattoo?

Maybe, need to find the right place to put the darn thing! I want Isaiah 41:10 ESV incorporated into to the tattoo. That verse is “fear not for I am with you”.

The course for Ironman Chattanooga was longer than the traditional 140.6 mile course.  So obviously it would have more controversy and drama leading up to race day.  There was a hotel scandal, a bike course controversy of extra miles, heck the sun didn’t seem to rise early enough to start the race at the traditional time. During the race some crazy person in north Georgia put tacks and oil on the bike course.  All of this made the stories more epic and the memories more vivid.  The extra miles were hard and my body did hurt. When the day was over I crossed the finish line, I thanked God for getting me that far and was pleased with my over all time, 13:39:21.

Against Our Better Judgment

It has been a week since our team completed the Tennessee Ragnar Relay.  It took months to prepare for our Ragnar adventure.  So it is fitting that it took me a week to write about this experience.  Our team was made up of families and friends.  Whether we were all close friends or met for the first time last Thursday, we now have a connection which is rooted along the highways that lead us from Chattanooga to Nashville.  There is a mutual respect and gratitude we have for each of our team mates.  Let me tell you just a bit our our epic adventure.

I had never heard of Ragnar until I stumbled across a race brochure in Fleet Feet here in Huntsville for this crazy adventure.  I had heard from Sandy a few months before about Hood to Coast, the grandfather of all 200 mile relays.  But really, I was completely uneducated by what this relay would be.  Sandy and Snapper immediately committed to forming a team. I knew my friend Amazon would surely join the insanity, because at the time she was riding her bike from Maine to Key West! She and her bother Rob would soon commit.

It wasn’t until a Sunday afternoon dinner in Madison where the Ragnar team became a reality.  Snapper and I talked about this possible adventure while sitting on her aunt’s front porch. This is when Chris and her friend Barb committed to running. Kitten would soon join the team. On a whim I started text messaging counselors and staff from Space Camp.  Ham thought it was a 200 meter relay.  Sometimes text messages can be deceiving.  I asked Marcia to join our team. Surprisingly she said yes without skipping a beat. It didn’t take much to convince Ham and Shaggy joined our team.

Now we had a team, next up was a team name and logo. The logo was a joint project by Snapper and her Uncle Russ which would take some time, because we needed a name.  Our first option for a team name was the Chuck Drivers, because Sandy and Marcia’s husbands both named Chuck would be our van drivers.  This name didn’t catch on. Eventually, Marcia would suggest Against Our Better Judgment.  I think at that moment I really felt like we had a team and would make it to Chattanooga.

For me training didn’t come easy.  I had a knee injury in mid August that would side line me for weeks.  I only swam for weeks and didn’t start running again until the Racin’ the Station duathlon in late September.  I honestly think that I wouldn’t have been ready to run if I had not started to work nights at Space Camp in mid October. I ran in the mornings and worked at night.  I was ready, but still not a lightning fast runner.  Amazon, woke up one morning during her training and ran a half marathon.  Let’s be honest, Amazon is a freight train!

November finally arrived.  Hotels were booked, rental cars secured, training was over and our team was making their way to Chattanooga.  We replaced a runner at the last minute for an injured team member.  Dena would be a tremendous asset to our team.  Ragnar goes through her home town, so for years she had wanted to run this crazy relay.  She would get her chance and we were thankful! Wow, I am at 567 words and I haven’t got to the running.

The morning of the race came.  Van 1 was at the start line with Sandy leading off the race for Against Our Better Judgement.  It was foggy in Chattanooga and not the best conditions for running in morning traffic.  Sandy was a trooper and we quickly learned the routine of supporting our runners.  Really nothing except starting the relay could prepare us for this adventure.  The miles clocked by and it was Snapper’s turn to face the climb up to the Cumberland Plateau.  She muscled up the mountain passing many runners.  Barb smoked down the mountain Snapper climbed.  Barb passed the baton to Chris, who would pass it to me.  It was now my time to run.  The whole reality of Ragnar was not real until the orange slap bracelet was around my right wrist.  It was my time to take our team further down the road.

As I finished my run, I would learn quickly that I loved to see Marcia in the exchange shoot.  She would cheer me on the final few meters of my run and off she would go.  My next step was chocolate milk and the car chalk to dot my first leg.  We kept track of our progress by marking off boxes on the van windows.  Van 2 would mark off the miles after their runs.  Running this crazy Ragnar relay is really just completing one small step, followed another small step.  Progress was marked by our victories along the way.  It was so motivating to finish a leg and cheer on the next runner.  After Marcia completed her leg Van 1 was off and Van 2 would continue on.

The exchanges between Van 1 and Van 2 were far too brief.  We loved seeing our team mates and wanted to know more about their adventure.  We enjoyed hearing about the play list of van 2, the fact Rob ran each of his legs shirtless, and the fact Amazon got blue all over her from a porta potty… yuck!  Van 1 would drive along the relay route to a Dollar General and then rest in a field behind a middle school.  It would soon be our time to run again and darkness was upon us.

Darkness was the one variable we really didn’t consider.  I think we all felt like there would be more light, more people and more comfort along the dark roads.  It was tough running through the night.  I took the baton near Lynchburg.  I enjoyed running in the dark because I felt like I was on the county roads near my home in Mississippi.  I saw opossums and two deer along the way.  There were some scary dogs, but I tried not to let them bother me.  I have heard dogs smell fear.  It was on this leg that I got my only road kill. Forgive me team, I am slow!

We would see Van 2 quickly at Moore County High School and there we would start our off time.  It wouldn’t be a long off shift, Van 2 smoked through their legs.  Our naps would be cut short and we were running again.  These early morning legs were very difficult but our runners rallied together.  Chris had the darkest and coldest leg of all the race.  Seeing her commitment to the team to push on was awe inspiring.  Others on the team ran along side her, Barb ran the first 2.5 miles along side Chris, then Sandy and finally Snapper. The greatest thing I experienced during this adventure was the commitment each runner had to the team.  We couldn’t let any of our team down.  We had to make it to the finish line.

Van 2 would take over shorty after I finished my last leg.  They had the sun beating down on them while Van 1 made our way to Nashville and the finish line.  We showered, which was a team sport as well.  Marcia and Barb showered in the fitness center showers sharing hair products and mascara.  Sandy, Snapper, Chris and myself rotated through the shower in our hotel room.  I am not sure about Chuck, but he was clean when he joined us. I remember being so eager to make our way to the finish line.  I wanted to see the rest of our team mates.

I think my team mates would all agree with me, the hardest leg for each runner was their third leg.  We were mentally and physically exhausted.  To complete our finial legs, we had to pull our strength from somewhere else.  One of the most touching memories I will carry forward is Rob, Amazon’s brother, running to join Amazon to finish the race.  We all needed a little bit more to finish the relay.  Hymns and Bible verses, cheers and chats pushed our runners along the final stretch.  We did it! We finished the relay.  Twelve friends joined together to get us from Chattanooga to Nashville! It is one of the coolest things I have ever done.  Thank you team! Thanks for every memory!

Err McNair

Other than Texas and maybe a few other states, Mississippi is a power house in the football world. No, we don’t produce National “Titles” like other NCAA schools and most of our talent comes from historically black universities and conference USA schools. But when you produce Walter Payton, Brett Favre and Jerry Rice you can brag. California doesn’t produce all of USC’s great. But the fertile Magnolia State has produced a few stellar athletes. True, we don’t know if Favre is a former or current great.

Since Saturday I have been consumed with the press surrounding Steve McNair’s death. Why would a former NFL star who is married want to date a waitress from Dave & Busters? Why would you want to do that when you have a wife and four kids at home… OK lots of men and women are unfaithful. But when you portray the role of “good guy” why would you buy another woman a Cadillac Escalade? I am sure the service at Dave & Busters isn’t hat good!

Living in Mississippi, I cheered for Air McNair and the Alcorn State Braves. We wanted to see a Division I-AA star win the Heisman Trophy. After Hurricane Katrina we all stood behind McNair and the Manning brothers to support the residents of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Good guys doing good things will be what I will remember. But now the memory of Steve McNair is tarnished. Will he be a hall of famer? That doesn’t matter anymore.

When hearing of the death of Michael Jackson, I wasn’t that shocked. I was a little shocked after hearing Billy Mays passed away. There goes Space Camp’s chance to have him market our product. But hearing that squeaky clean McNair was shot to death was unrealistic! Married, kids, and good guy doesn’t fit murdered next to mistress. It didn’t make sense? If I had heard Michael Vick, T.O. or Ray Lewis was found shot I would not be surprised. But now, good guy, Mr. Tennessee Titan, NFL MVP, and small town boy turns out to be a cheat, loser, and jerk!

What we all should learn from this tragic death is everything matters in the end. If we are to be taken from this world right now, what will be are legacy? What will the world remember us for? Will we be remembered for our performance in the spot light or our life in the shadows? Will people remember how we lived our life on the mountain top or how we preferred the valleys? Will we be remembered as Roger Clemens or Lou Gehrig? Now matter if you are a flea or a moon walker, you will leave a finger or foot print on this universe. What will be your impact? What will be your legacy?