Dollywood’s Light the Way 5k + Two PRs

When I was little I, like most everyone else my age, loved to watch Where In the World is Carmen SanDiego? I remember the game format, the host, the chief, the villains, and that memorable theme song by the ever-talented Rockapella. I was never very good at the game show as my geographical knowledge was limited at best at the time, but it was still a fun show. One thing I’ll never forget is when they asked the question about Dollywood.

While I can’t remember the question verbatim, I do recall it was basically “What is Dollywood” and the multiple choice answers consisted of “A Theme Park in East Tennessee owned by Dolly Parton,” “Dolly Madison’s Birthplace,” and “A Wooden Doll Museum”. Contestant 1 rang in and chose option 3. -WRONG- Contestant 2 rang in and chose option 2. -WRONG- Contestant 3 got it right simply because “A Theme Park in East Tennessee Owned by Dolly Parton” was the only answer that hadn’t been chosen yet – neither of the contestants had ever even heard of Dollywood! Now that I’m an adult I realize that I’ve taken for granted the fact that I’ve lived so close to Dollywood and the tourist mecca that is Pigeon Forge that Dollywood resides in.

For my friends abroad and for any readers outside of this area that have never been, Dollywood is a theme park that originally opened in 1961 as Rebel Railroad and featured a small amount of tourist attractions with an American civil war, pro-confederacy theme. Rebel Railroad was sold and became Goldrush Junction in 1970 before it was sold again in 1976 when it then became known as simply Goldrush. Another name change came in 1977 when it became Silver Dollar City and it kept this name for nearly a decade. In 1986 the lovely country music star and actress Dolly Parton bought a large share in Silver Dollar City and renamed it Dollywood. In the years since, Dollywood has more than doubled in size, serves about 3 million visitors each year, and has become the largest employer in Pigeon Forge, a town where nearly half of all jobs are in the tourist entertainment industry and grossed an astounding $105,828,353 in the month of August, 2015, alone (last recorded).

Needless to say, Dollywood is a pretty big deal in east Tennessee (one more quick stat: Dollywood is the biggest ticketed tourist attraction in the entire state). Over the years I have visited Dollywood’s park more times than I can count, especially when I was younger. We now live in Dollywood’s back yard (or is Dollywood in ours?) and we don’t visit it often, but we have (mostly) fond memories of the park, itself, their rides, their expensive food, and (this is important) their yearly Christmas light extravaganza. Every year around late October/Early November the park puts out thousands – maybe even millions – of Christmas lights throughout the park along with probably hundreds of Christmas trees and other visuals that celebrate the traditions of a southern Appalachian Christmas holiday.

We’ve visited the park many times during this time of year – sometimes in the crippling cold – always sipping some of the hot chocolate they make so tasty, sometimes nibbling on a nice, warm cookie from one of the many bakeries, but always in awe of the beauty that can be created by an overwhelmingly large number of Christmas lights. One thing we’ve never done, though, is run in the park – let alone a 5k – so when we were presented with an opportunity to do so, we leapt at it.

Dollywood’s annual Light the Way 5K rolled into Pigeon Forge on Friday night with a start time of 11pm. It was pretty nippy out and there were a LOT of people in attendance but a race starting so late with the promise of gorgeous Christmas lights and accompanying music to guide us along our path was invigorating and I was very excited despite the fact that my teeth were chattering and my bare legs were so cold they were angry.

Erin and I met up with six of my coworkers at the gate and were soon ushered up to the starting line where I got my first dose of just how many people were there – 1,759 total. Due to a late packet pick-up and many of us taking last minute bathroom breaks we were a little bit late getting lined up, but we were still really excited. After a quick team photo, we braced ourselves for the start of the race.


Team Scripps ready to rock!

And here’s where my griping begins. A few weeks before the race I was following the official Facebook event page and noticed a lot of people were asking if it was okay to walk. No big deal, really, everybody has their first 5k experience and don’t know what to expect. What I wasn’t ready for was the crazy number of people who were not only there to walk, but also lined up IN THE FRONT. And 1,759 people is a lot of bodies to line up at a starting line without the use of a corral system. I spent my first mile trying my best to navigate my way around walkers who were walking 5-6 wide on an already slender path, often forcing me to go “off road” to pass them.

Going off road isn’t a problem for me, most of the time, but this was particularly difficult because it was very dark. Weird to say it was dark at a race whose claim to fame was the route it took you around the park to see the Christmas lights, no? Well, it’s true. In fact, it was nearly 1.5 miles into the race before we encountered any lights. LAME.

On some positive notes, it was still a great race for me for many reasons. Though still in the dark and working to pass lots of walkers and slower runners, I was surprised to hear my Runtastic say that at the one mile mark my time was 10:50. I’ve been both surprised and impressed with myself for bringing my pace down closer to 10:00 than it’s ever been, so I was motivated to keep it up as I moved along. Once you reached the area where the lights were it was, indeed, probably the most gorgeous race I’ve ever gotten to run. At that point the walkers had all been left behind and I had found a small group of people that were all keeping a pace similar to mine so I was able to relax and take in as much of the lights as possible. My mile two was finished with a pace of 10:05! What was happening to me? Mile three was the best yet made up of all lights and passing through the bits of the park I’ve always been so familiar with. The first half was mostly uphill but when I thought I was going to have to slow it down I passed the biggest Christmas tree in the park right when the loudest music of the night kicked in with something triumphant and lifted my spirits and had me nearly sprinting toward the narrow path that indicated the end was near. As I began the winding downhill path that lead to the finish my Runtastic said that at mile three my time was 30:27. My previous PR was at the Fireball 5k and was 33:05 – my goal for this race was anything less than 33:00 so when I heard my time was just a shade under 31:00 with only 0.1 miles left, I kicked it into high gear and sprinted to the finish.

My Runtastic says the course was 3.2 miles and that I finished with an unofficial time of 31:48 averaging a 9:55 min/mile (6:10/km) pace. It also says my third mile was 9:21 – my first sub 10-minute mile EVER! My official chip time for the race was 31:53, a personal best by a whole 1:12!

Some of my coworkers ran, others walked/ran, others walked, but we all finished and we all rocked it very hard. Erin, Allison, and I celebrated with a 2am run to Steak & Shake before the short ride home putting us in bed around 3:30am. Saturday was, therefore, lost to sleeping until noon, having lunch, and then napping until the early evening.

And so now I need to bring up my infamous “one run per week” routine I’ve apparently created. I’m not going to say “do it”, but all I’m saying is I keep adding mileage to my long-run (next week is 8.5 miles) and I beat my 5k PR by over a minute AND ran my first sub-10 mile, all while only running once per week. If you’re also going to the boxing gym 4 times a week, maybe you should go for it, too :-)


But for real – I did run today, too. A very slow 4 mile trot with some sprint/walk intervals thrown in, mostly just to work out some of the remaining soreness in my feet/ankles. I really do intend to change up my 1 run per week routine, but we’ll just have to see how well I handle it.

Before I post the tables, I just wanted to tell everyone to come see me at Title Boxing Club Knoxville this week! I’m training the 5:45am class on Monday and the noon class on Wednesday as well as simply attending the 5:45am on Wednesday, the 7:00pm on Thursday, and the 5:45am on Friday!

My week looked like this:

This Week’s Mileage 7.2 Miles (11.59 km)
This Week’s Avg. Pace 11:17 Min/Mile (6:01 min/km)

And my YTD looks like this (with race times added again)

2015 Running
Time Period Total Distance
Runtastic Runs (1/1-4/15) 56.51 Miles
5k-to-10k (4/15-6/21) 87.52 Miles
Runtastic Runs (6/23-Present) 153.07 Miles
Total Yearly Miles: 297.1

Miles Left Until 2015 Goal (350 Miles): 52.9

2015 Race Times

Race Time
Calhoun’s New Year’s Day 5k 2015 No official time
Zen Evo Chocolate Lover’s Valentine’s 5K 2015 33:10
Barley’s St. Patrick’s Day 5k 2015 34:34
Covenant Health 5k 2015 33:39
Pilot Fireball Moonlite Classic 5k 33:05
The Man Run 10K 01:12:43
Light the Way 5K 31:53

On Mantras, Sports Watching Exercises, and Another One Run Week

Last night and the night before that, our beloved Knoxville Ice Bears traveled to Pensacola, FL to take on the Pensacola Ice Flyers. Being season ticket holders, we’re not going to miss very many home games, but there’s no reason for us to not pony up a few bucks to order the away games and support our boys from afar so that’s what we did this weekend.

A while back I drafted up a blog post about Under Armour, why I hate it, why I don’t wear it, and why I’ll likely never wear it. It remained as a draft for a few weeks and then I finally just deleted it. Why? Because I didn’t think it served much of a purpose other than allowing me to be a dick about something (else). On top of that, Academy Sports has achieved a shopping level with me like Target or Old Navy so I love going and lately I’ve noticed a LOT of cool stuff being put out by Under Armour. Enough to make me want to spend $40 for a t-shirt? Nope. But I have to admit to liking some of it so suddenly my draft was void of authenticity. Lame.

What it boils down to, though, is that I associate Under Armour with either elite athletes or fat, lazy people that think that if they spend enough money they’ll appear as though they’re active (mostly this). I am neither one of those people and do not want to be confused as one of those people if I can help it. Piggybacking on this pet peeve of mine is when I go to Academy – a sports store – 90% of the shoppers are those morbidly obese Under Armour buyers. People shopping for clothing made for physical activity when the only sport they participate in is Monday/Thursday/Saturday/Sunday football on TV in their recliner.

And that’s ugly for me to think, I know, but knowing this makes me feel like a total slob if I watch a sporting event on TV and do nothing but drink beer and eat junk while doing so. So I devised a fun little game to play during hockey away games that we watch at home: For every goal WE score, I have to do 10 push-ups, 10 crunches, 1 pull-up, and give Erin a number of kisses equal to the number of points we now have. If the other team scores, I have to do 10 squats, a 30-second plank, 1 pull-up, and again give Erin a number of kisses equal to the number of points they have.

Sounds fun, yeah? On Friday night we lost to Pensacola 2-5. That equals 50 squats, 2-1/2 minutes of planks, 20 push-ups, 20 crunches, 7 pull-ups, and 18 kisses over the course of the game. Last night we pulled out a win 6-2, equalling 60 push-ups, 60 crunches, 20 squats, 1 minute of planks, 8 pull-ups, and 24 kisses. Suddenly I no longer feel like a slob while watching hockey from the comfort of my own home!

With one win and one loss over the weekend, we are currently tied for 4th in the league with Pensacola, each having records of 3-2.

Another fun game I get to play during hockey is building my weekly workouts for Title Boxing Club. I’m on the schedule this coming week to train for Monday at noon and Wednesday morning at 5:45am. If you’re in Knoxville and want a workout like you can’t get anywhere else, come hang with me. I’ll also be there just taking class at 5:45 on Monday and Friday!

So, again, I only ran once this week. No real excuse and if we’re being honest it was because I was lazy. I try to make Tuesdays a rest day so my only other non-Saturday run day is Thursday and with a Thursday evening class (that’s now over) in the evenings it’s either run Thursday morning or bust. This week I busted. I still knocked out a Saturday morning long-run of 7.75 miles and I was mostly happy with it – in fact, my pace is somehow getting even better though I’m not sure how that’s working, really. I had two miles that were sub-11 minutes which is weird for me but I’m complaining zero.

I mention mantras in the title because I think I found a new one. Up until now my mantra was adopted from Rocky IV. Rocky is in freezing cold Russia training as hard as he can, maybe harder than ever, with his recently deceased and very dear friend Apollo’s former trainer Duke urging him on through dragonflags and sit-up variations with the constant mantra “No pain! No pain!” I have used that mantra throughout my workouts whether they be boxing, running, spin class, or weight lifting. Any time I get tired, no pain, any time I have doubts about my ability, no pain. And it’s worked and will continue to work.

Yesterday during my run I believe I felt the affects of poor pre-run fueling. Sometimes before a long-run I become more focused on not needing to shit during my run or having my run cut short thanks to stomach cramps so I load up on coffee so I can spend some time on the throne before heading out and forget that I need to eat something of substance. Yesterday I had two cups of coffee and two “fun size” packs of Whoppers leftover from our Halloween cauldron. Whoppers are a great sugary snack but they’re not sufficient pre-run fuel and I think I was feeling that around mile 5. I was suddenly feeling like I wasn’t going to make it much longer. Miles 6 and 7 showed me that I was very tired suddenly and was even feeling like I was about to pull a muscle in my chest. I needed to walk and so I did. After a few moments I looked down at my phone and saw I was at 6.75 miles – one mile left. I had it in me, surely. No pain after all. At that moment I said aloud (nobody thought I was profane or crazy because it was raining pretty bad so I was by myself most of the morning) “Stop walking. It doesn’t matter how slow you go, just run, motherfucker!”

And so this motherfucker ran and finished strong. I was covered in sweat and rain from head to toe. My shoes were soggy, my feet were cold. But when I looked at my reflection in my car window while stretching I saw a guy that’s just THIS MUCH closer to hitting that 13.1 mark. I set out to run a 5k and so I did. I set out to run a 10k and so I did. I set out to becoming a trainer at Title and so I did. Now I’m out to run a half marathon and it’s. going. to. happen. Just run, motherfucker!

Anyway. Here’s what this week looked like:

This Week’s Mileage 7.75 Miles (12.47 km)
This Week’s Avg. Pace 11:19/mile (6:57/km)

And the YTD:

2015 Running
Time Period Total Distance
Runtastic Runs (1/1-4/15) 56.51 Miles
5k-to-10k (4/15-6/21) 87.52 Miles
Runtastic Runs (6/23-Present) 145.87 Miles
Total Yearly Miles: 289.9

Miles Left Until 2015 Goal (350 Miles): 60.1

26 Percent – Eat, Train, Sleep, Repeat

This week in half-marathon training was a short, slow week and I was thankful for that. After a few days of fall-like weather we got a few days of surprisingly hot weather and I think it really threw my body into a state of confusion. I was feeling pretty worn out most of the week yet somehow kept up with three days of boxing, four days of weights, and somehow got in three runs this week. My training program is now 26% complete.

Not a lot of new stuff worth adding re: this week’s training, really, except I’m another step closer to becoming a trainer at Title Boxing Club. Not a lot to tell just yet but I’m hoping to have more news next week. I’ve been working my ass off lately and eating a lot better and while last week’s weight loss numbers looked great, I somehow ended up gaining a pound this week as my Sunday weigh-in put me at 223 lbs. I’ve spoken with some people recently that sort-of feel that my desire to lose more weight is questionable but I’ve learned that your road to reaching your fitness goals is usually a road you travel alone. I’ve accepted that but I’m still going for it. 200 lbs before half marathon. Definitely doable, so let’s do it!

I mentioned last week that I was hoping to participate in an obstacle run for next year so I felt this was appropriate to share. Savage Race, whose closest stop to here appears to be Dallas, GA, popped up in a sponsored Facebook ad this morning touting their newest obstacle, Wheel World. Wheel World is just like monkey bars that go over a pond only instead of a straight line of stationary bars, the obstacle is made of rotating wheels you have to navigate to get to the other side! If I went out to do that right now there’s no way I’d accomplish it but with enough determination and hard work I could definitely get there by spring of next year, which is when the Savage Race lands in Georgia. Check out the new obstacle in the below video from this year’s Savage Race in Pennsylvania. Wheel World makes an appearance at about the 1:12 mark.

In non-health related happenings I figure it’s worth mentioning that I was given the opportunity to play a part in my company’s upcoming Cyber Security Month video. I’m in a scene with a whole cast of extraordinary characters that gain access to the building with proper identification including a garden gnome, a cheerleader, a golfer, Batman, a storm trooper, UT mascot Smokey, and a slew of others. I played the role of a Parrothead-style vacationer that not only is likely still a little too under the influence to be coming to work but also is still carrying his (now empty) tiki cup complete with hula dancer straw.

Before I post the weekly table I wanted to show off this new shirt I picked up from the muscle heads over at Muscle Club Apparel. These new shirts went on sale last Friday so I picked this one up since it accurately describes the secret three-step process I used to beat diabetes:


As for this week…

This Week’s Mileage: 6.51 Miles (10.48km)
This Week’s Avg. Pace: 11:31/mile (7:09/km)

And as for the YTD: (temporarily taking out the race times just for space-saving purposes…)

2015 Running
Time Period Total Distance
Runtastic Runs (1/1-4/15) 56.51 Miles
5k-to-10k (4/15-6/21) 87.52 Miles
Runtastic Runs (6/23-Present) 121.92 Miles
Total Yearly Miles: 265.95

Miles Left Until 2015 Goal (350 Miles): 84.05

Enjoy your week, boys and girls. You’re all doing great.