Bill Snyder Highway Half Race Recap

A few months ago, on a whim, I decided to sign up to pace my local half marathon, the Bill Snyder Highway Half. I had heard that it was a good race with an interesting route, but since it was the weekend after Colfax, I decided that it was best if I paced it. After talking to the pacing coordinator, he decided to put me with the 2:25 group, which would keep a pace of about 11:00/mi. Come race day, I was pretty happy to have a nice easy pace since I was still a little sore from the marathon the weekend before.

I woke up around 5:00 am, had some coffee and made it to the parking lot by 5:45 am. Since this was a point-to-point course, they had buses that took you out to the start line way out of town on the Bill Snyder Highway. The buses were very easy and I even found another pacer to chat with on the way out!

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On the bus with a fellow pacer!

Before the race started, I talked to a few friends, hit up the bathrooms and made it to the start line about 15 minutes before the gun. I met my co-pacer, Megan, and we decided that I would lead to bring people in just under out 2:25 goal pace, and she would follow to bring people in a minute or two later. By the time the race started, we had a group of about 20 people following us, chatting and having fun. Several people were running their first half and a few others were looking for a PR. We kept the mood light and it seemed like everyone was having fun. I intended to stay with Megan for a few miles before stepping it up to bring people in just under 2:25.

Unfortunately, at mile 2, I had to make a bathroom stop, and promised to catch back up to the group. I had about 5 people who followed and we figured we’d make up some serious time during the downhill sections later in the race. We ended up back on the course just as the 2:30 group was passing us. We upped the pace, but it took about 2.5 miles for us to catch back up to Megan. We managed to make up time without loosing anyone.

Since I was the lead pacer, I decided to crank down the pace a little and take a group that was ready to go out ahead. By mile 6, we were about a minute behind pace, which we made up during the second half of the course.

By mile 8, the course went from out on the highway leading into Manhattan right into the downtown area (we actually passed my house). The crowds were getting a bit thicker and a lot of the people around me were getting to see their families. I could tell that people we starting to feel the miles, so I talked to them about my cats, Frank, and just anything that seemed light and happy. I reminded people to smile at volunteers since that would help keep the endorphins high.

One of the girls that had been running with me since the beginning, Gabby, was going through a bit of a rough patch. She was starting to slow and I could see that she was hitting a bit of a wall. I reminded her to walk through water stations, drink lots, and try to take in the race atmosphere. I told her that rough patches come and go, and she would soon break through (she did).

Mile 10 clicked on my watch and I told everyone around me that we had just a 5K to run. People were starting to get excited, and a few girls who were feeling good took off to get a faster time. By this point in the race, I was noticing that a lot of people were walking and I tried to convince them to come run with me. A few people looked pretty frustrated to see my pace pass them, but most tried to run with me for at least a little while.

At mile 11, the course got very hilly with a lot of uphill sections left. People were starting to fade and a few of the girls who had taken off at the 5K mark were falling back to my pace because of the hills. I met a girl, Tina, who was on course to PR, but was definitely struggling. We talked a bit about how the race was going and I told her that this was my first time pacing, but that it was a really fun experience. Off in the distance, I saw Frank on his bike. As we passed him, Tina told him that I was “an awesome pacer” and that I was helping her a lot. I gotta say, it was definitely really fun to hear that.

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Almost to the finish line!

As we got closer to the finish line, I could see the crowds and started to convince more people to run it in with me. The course was definitely hard and people seemed like they needed a cheerleader to help up their spirits. A few girls saw me coming and tried to up the pace to go out ahead of me. I caught up to a few more of the girls who had left at the 10-mile mark and they picked up the pace to stay with me.

We rounded the last corner and made it into the final stretch. I had a group of about 8 people with me and we ran it in together with smiles on our faces. I think everyone was happy to see the finish line and get their medals. I ended up coming in at 2:24:31, less than 30 seconds under my assigned pace. A few of the girls hugged and thanked me for helping them get a new PR (YAY!).

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I gotta say, pacing was a hugely rewarding experience. I loved being on the other side, as I have used pacers several times and had used one during Colfax. The energy was fantastic and, for the most part, people are so happy to have you cheer them on and bring them in to the finish line. Pacing is definitely something that I want to do again!

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Very beautiful medal

Have you ever paced a half marathon? Did you find it to be a fun experience?

Weekend Adventures: Exploring the Kansas Underground

This weekend Frank and I did a little bit of everything! I paced a half marathon, we met up with the Kansas Speleological Society and went scouting for some caves on the Kansas Oklahoma boarder and went on a hike out at the Tallgrass Prairie. Basically, we had a great time.

Friday afternoon, Frank and I went straight down to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve for a 6-mile hike. The preserve is managed by the National Park Service and is probably some of the best hiking in Kansas. It has approximately 40 miles of marked trail where you can get rather far out into the Prairie. After Friday’s hike, we have officially covered all of the trails in the park!

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Nabbing the last trail at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

We got home in time to go on a bike ride with some friends and tried to hit the hay early. I had an early wake up the next morning for the Bill Snyder Highway Half Marathon!

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Bringing my group in to the finish line!

Saturday morning, I was up and ready to pace some people to their half marathon goals! I’ll write up a recap of the experience, but it was tons of fun!

After the race, Frank and I loaded up into the car for the Kansas Speleological Society (KSS) meeting in southern Kansas. We have done a lot of caving in the past, and really the only way to get access to new caves is to join one of these groups. Kansas isn’t known for good caving, but it has some stuff here or there. Luckily for me, I enjoy going into very small and tight caves, which is probably all that Kansas has. We spent Saturday afternoon out on a pasture, digging up sinkholes in hopes of finding new and unexplored caves. We found one with potential, but we still don’t know if it goes anywhere.

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Since I was the smallest of the group, I was sent in to see if the sinkhole lead to a cave.

In the evening, we camped out at a recreation and fishing area. Although Kansas is not overwhelmed in public land, it does have plenty of state recreation areas where there is free camping. We definitely take advantage of this Kansas perk.

The next morning, a few of the members of the KSS offered to take us to a cave on the Kansas-Oklahoma boarder. They were not too sure how far back it went and warned us that it was a wet and miserable crawl. We usually are not too picky about caves, so we took them up on the offer. This cave was a little deceiving. It had a big beautiful entrance, which lead to a tiny hole with flowing water. Frank and I loaded up with flashlights and kneepads and dove right in. I gotta say, this was probably the most miserable cave I’ve ever been in. I was face down and crawling in mud and water up to my elbows. Every time I thought “well, this can’t get any worse”, it actually would. There was even a section where we had to swim through cold and murky cave water. I always prefer dry caves, but I absolutely HATE swimming in a cave. The hole went about 1000 feet back and after an hour of army crawling through the miserable cave mud, we turned back. It’s always a joyful experience to see the literal light at the end of the tunnel when you’re in a wet cave.

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The entrance to the most miserable cave in the world.

When we got back to the car, we dried off and headed home. Overall, a successful weekend! Plus, after living in Kansas for a year, I finally made it back into a cave!!

How was your weekend? Any fun adventures?

By the way, I am going to be adding some more posts to my Weekend Adventures series including some “How tos” on backpacking, climbing, and caving.

A1A Half Marathon Race Recap!!

Wow… it has been a long time since I raced. I was hurt in September last year, which put an early end to my fall season. Luckily I am back, healthy, and back racing! On Sunday, I ran the A1A Half Marathon in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I had intended to PR and was even shooting for my first sub-1:50. Unfortunately, it was not my day, and that is not how the race went. It was a grueling 13.1, but I learned a lot and I feel more confident heading into the 6th week of my full-marathon training.

Saturday

I went to the expo in the morning to pick up my bib. A1A always has a large expo with a lot of freebies and deals. I walked around, picked up some free food, and then went out to lunch with Kristina and Ali. It was great to meet them, and it kind of felt like I was meeting a celebrity or something! My mom had come with me to the expo and hung out with us at lunch as we discussed the pros and cons of Ali running the full marathon (and she did! She even PRed!).

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Kristina, Ali, me, and my mom all enjoyed some good pizza (and snacks) at Pizza Fusion!

After lunch, my mom and I made it home and we watched the Marathon Olympic Qualifiers. I gotta say… I need a friend like Amy Cragg. It was incredible how she pulled Shalane Flanagan through the end of the race and even caught her at the finish line. Seriously, Amy needs to be my training buddy!

For dinner, my parents and I went to a local Italian restaurant. This is probably where I screwed up my race. I typically eat a plant based diet and mostly keep to a vegan diet. I occasionally eat eggs, and very occasionally will eat something milk based. I decided to order pasta with a crème-based sauce, since it sounded really good. I can’t think of a worse thing to eat for someone who rarely (if ever) eats crème-based foods. And so it was not to my surprise when I woke up in the middle of the night with terrible stomach cramps. I told myself that they would subside, went back to sleep, and woke up at 3:30 am to get ready to race.

Race Day!!

I knew that my stomach did not feel right, but I figured it would probably go away after a few miles. I took a few trips to the port-a-john (which helped, for sure), and then got to my starting spot. I saw Ali as she was heading over to the corrals and tried to calm my nerves while talking to my parents.

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Ali and I hanging out at the start line. I was pretty nervous here!

Miles 1-5

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At promptly 6:00 am, the race began and I walked my way up to the starting line and took off. I wanted to hold just over an 8:30 pace for the first 5 miles, and then my plan was to take a few seconds per mile off for the rest of the race in order to PR. The only problem was, over an 8:30 pace felt labored and hard. I tried to hold it for the first three miles, but my stomach cramps kept getting worse. I pulled the pace back a bit for miles 4 and 5 in hopes to work out whatever was going on.

Miles 6-10

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By the 10K mark, I knew that I was not going to PR, so then I just told myself that I wanted a course PR. Despite the cramps, I held it together, but couldn’t stop thinking about how hard this pace seemed for me. Mile 10 was just over a 9-minute pace, which is normally a pretty chill pace for me. It did not feel chill at all. I had gotten to the out and back portion and kept telling myself that if I saw Ali or Kristina on the other side, I would take a 10-second walk break. I never saw them, but instead stopped at each water break. I usually run through the water stops, but I couldn’t keep myself from walking. By mile 10, I was starting to get worried that the 2-hour pacer would catch up to me.

Miles 11-13.1

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The last 5k of the race is along the beach with some beautiful views. I kept at it, pushing myself to get my course PR. I turned up my headphones, hoping that I could drown out my own thoughts (which were seriously telling me to just walk to last three miles).

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Even though I wasn’t feeling like I could run really fast, I did enjoy the scenery!

I looked at my watch and figured I could maybe eek out a very small PR if I busted my butt for the last three miles. I’m not actually sure if that is true. On a good day, maybe I could squeeze out a few 7:30 miles… I did at Rocky Mountain, but I was not going to manage that here. I told myself to just keep it comfortable-ish and finish. During the final mile, I saw my PR come and go. I didn’t care too much, and I was focused on just finishing. I saw my parents, Frank, and his parents by the end, and I barely had the energy to wave. I just gritted through and finished. After crossing the finish line, I doubled over hoping that would give my stomach some relief. It was definitely my most labored race finish ever.

My official finish time was 1:54:24, less than 3 minutes off my PR.

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Happy to be done!

 Post Race

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My whole family was there at the finish line. Even though I was tired, we managed to get this cute shot!

I got my medal, grabbed some Gatorade and found my family. I’ve gotta say, there is nothing like a whole lot of suffering to appreciate a race medal. I ate a little bit, hung around the finish line and even got to see Kristina finish!!

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I was glad to see Kristina cross the finish line!

Overall, I had a fun race, even though things did not go as planned. I’ll have other chances at PRing in the half marathon. For now, I am focusing on Colfax. I have a few tune-up races in between, but none of those will be PR attempts. I am concentrating on slower longer mileage and making sure that I do as well as I can out at Colfax. I think this race was a good lesson and if nothing else, was an opportunity to run a little faster and hang out with my family!

Colfax Week 5: Racing, Fun, and Travel!!

Another week gone… another week closer to the Colfax Marathon! This week was a great effort. I kept to my training even while traveling to Fort Lauderdale, AND I raced a half marathon. Now that the A1A half is finished, I feel like the marathon grind is in full gear, and I’ve gotta say, I am actually pretty happy about that. The long slow paces feel good on my legs, and the slow increase in mileage has been really encouraging. I feel like my training is really helping out a lot. I attempted to PR at A1A, but missed it by about 3 minutes. It was just one of those days where you really can’t get your legs to move. I’ll talk more about that later in my race recap.

I did get to see Ali and Kristina, though! And it was totally fun. They were both incredibly awesome people. AND Ali got a PR!! Go Ali!! They both had incredibly awesome races. Congrats to them both!

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We thought something was very funny!

 

Monday: Rest Day + Yoga!

 Tuesday: 4 miles chill pace on treadmill + really tough yoga class

I started the morning with a yoga class that pretty much kicked my butt. I knew that I wanted to get out to run, but it was pretty chilly with some tough winds, so I decided to just hop on the ole’ dreadmill. Pretty much as soon as I got on, I was regretting my decision of not running outside. I stuck it out though, and it was miserable!

Wednesday: Goal Marathon Pace Tempo Run 5 miles

I went out around lunch for a quick 5 mile run. It was really a perfect day out with the sun shining and it was chilly, but not cold. I did a 1-mile warm up and cool down with 3 miles at goal MP. It felt easy and fun! Previously, I had been having trouble keeping at MP, but would instead run a little too fast and tire myself out. I was pretty glad to hit the right paces and feel really strong. I then went to the airport, where I waited forever for my plane and didn’t make it to Fort Lauderdale until around 11:30 pm.

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Perfect running weather.

Thursday: 4 mile easy run with fast finish

I went for a pretty chill run around my neighborhood. I kept the pace slow, but still wanted to see how I was going to feel in the heat of Florida. I have been training in Kansas, where it is consistently around 30 degrees. I wanted to make sure I could still run fast in the warm, so I busted out a pretty quick final mile. It was actually pretty fun!

Friday: Rest!!

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Even though I was resting, I did get to see some manatees!

Saturday: Rest + met Ali and Kristina

 

Sunday: A1A Half Marathon

I’ll talk more about this in my race recap. I went out hoping I’d get a PR, but I knew from the very first mile that it was not the day. I spent a lot of the race suffering, when really I shouldn’t have been. But I kept strong, finished, and still ran the 2nd best half I’ve ever run. I could have done without the suffering though.

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Tired and happy to be done!

Total: 26.1

Overall, it was a great week! After the race, I’m glad to be getting back to my marathon training. I can’t wait to get out there and do more goal MP runs and go longer than I ever have before! Colfax, here I come!!!

Next Week:

M: Rest

T: 6 miles goal MP

W: 4 miles easy

T: Some hills and speed (7 miles)

F: 5 miles easy

S: Rest

S: 14 miles LSD

Thanks for all of the encouragement heading into my race. I have a trail race coming up in April. I love racing on trail and I am really looking forward to it.

Anyone else racing this weekend? How did your training go? Any fun stories?

Made it to south Florida!

I made it to Florida! The way here was certainly not easy! My flight was cancelled and I was forced to change my entire itinerary. I didn’t make it home until about 11:30 pm, but after a good night’s rest, it seemed pretty worth it. It is nice to have some warmer weather AND I get to hang out with my favorite dog.

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I woke up him to take this picture. He has a case of bed head here.

Oh and my parent’s cat too (she doesn’t cuddle like Elly).

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I do miss Elly!

I’ve been doing a bit of a taper heading into A1A. On Tuesday, I went for a run on the dreadmill because it was just way too cold! On Wednesday, before my flight, I managed to get myself out and moving for a marathon paced tempo run, despite the cold. I finally managed to feel comfortable holding my goal pace for Colfax.

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The river was looking super nice!

I am definitely feeling a little nervous heading into A1A. I feel tired and a bit overtrained and I am just not sure if I can hold a PR pace for 13.1 miles. Although the extra mileage that I’ve been putting on my legs during marathon training has certainly improved my fitness, I’m not sure that it has improved my SPEED. I feel like I am ready to run a super long distance… but just not very fast. Maybe I’ll wake up Sunday morning with super legs. It’s just hard to imagine holding under 8:30 paces for over 13 miles. I know that I tend to show up strong at races, but I do tend to feel inadequate during training. Unfortunately, there will be no pacers to help me reach my goal of under 1:50:00.

Whatever happens… happens. Regardless, I plan on having a good time!

I am excited to see both Kristina and Ally on Saturday! It’s going to be great to finally meet and wish them good luck on their races. Also, Lizzy is doing the LA marathon on Sunday, so wish her good luck nabbing that new marathon PR!

Anyone racing this weekend? Do you usually feel unsure of yourself heading into a PR attempt?

Colfax Marathon Training Week 4: Upping the speed!

Well… I didn’t see Sage Canaday this week, but that’s to be expected since I don’t think he visits Kansas much. I did have some solid training and put up 34 miles in my last week before the A1A half. Some miles were good, some were ok, some were pretty miserable. I guess that’s to be expected though.

Monday: 4.1 miles at easy pace + yoga

It was pretty nice out, so this was a rather enjoyable run. Since I had run 12 miles the day before, I treated this like a recovery run and took things really slow. It felt good and easy, and I really think I was good about keeping it at an easy pace.

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Downtown looks so pretty with the sunset!

Tuesday: 6 miles tempo run at (hopefully) half marathon pace + yoga

This was a pretty tough run. I went out with one of my friends that is a bit faster than me. There were a few miles where I was thinking I’d have to slow down, but I pushed through and I am glad that I did. We even kept our last two miles under 8 minutes (which is more like 10k pace for me). This was an incredibly confidence building run. I felt that in a race and on tapered legs, I might be able to hold that pace for A1A… which would result in a pretty substantial PR.

Wednesday: Rest – I taught 7 yoga classes, so I think that should count for something!

Thursday: 4 miles easy + yoga

I went out in the afternoon for an easy paced run. I kept it chill and felt totally comfortable the whole time. I think I’m getting better at pacing these easy runs!

Friday: 6 miles – Fartlek run 1:2:3:2:1 (5k:10k:half:10k:5k)

This was a HARD fartlek. I went out for a mile warm up on a gravel path that loops around town. I then did 1:2:3:2:1 minutes at (5k:10k:half:10k:5k) with a slow jog in between each pace. I did this pattern twice… and the second time around, pretty much everything felt hard. However, my 5k pace got faster on the second time, so go figure. I definitely suffered a bit, but it felt good to go out there and push the paces a little.

Saturday: Hiked 6 miles, no running

Frank and I went out with some friends to a trail south of town. It was a slow hike and it felt good to walk off some of the soreness from the fartlek run the day before.

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Hiking out on the prairie.

Sunday: 14 miles LSD

Holy cow… this run was a beast. Frank and I hiked in the morning, so I didn’t get out until the afternoon. This was a huge mistake. There were 40 mph winds that brought me to a halt several times. Even when the wind was to my back, it was still hard to run. I felt like I was thinking about keeping my form together the whole time and I often times felt like I was terribly slow. By the end, I was really tired and stiff. Basically this was a sufferfest. Hitting 14 miles before a half marathon is a big milestone for me. I don’t like to go into a half without overshooting the mileage by at least a little. I actually usually prefer to do 16, but I didn’t quite make it. Despite that, this run was still hugely helpful for my confidence heading into next week.

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Frank and I on our morning hike. He thinks my hat looks dumb, but I think it makes me look like a rugged explorer!

Total: 34 Miles!

This is my biggest mileage week in a long time. It felt great to be back to heavy training. I think the workouts I did this week will really help me at A1A. Hitting some quick paces on my tempo run made me feel like I actually have a chance at a big PR. I, honestly, don’t think this week could have gone better.

Well next week is race week, this is what is up for me:

M: 5 miles easy pace

T: 6 miles with 4 at MP

W: Fly to Florida

T: 3 miles easy pace

F: Chill + some yoga

S: Rest

S: A1A Half Marathon!!

Total: 27 miles

How did your week go? Anyone have any races coming up?

A1A Half Marathon Goals

One week from today, I’ll be heading down to South Florida for some warm weather, family time, AND to run the A1A Half Marathon. Although I have been focusing on my training for the Colfax Marathon in May, I think it might be time to talk a little about my goals and expectations about this race.

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I’m not sure if it can get any better than last year’s race!

Original goal when signing up for A1A: 1:45:00

When I signed up, I had imagined that I would have had a full training cycle devoted solely to this half. I thought I would be fresh off the Chicago finish line and ready for some faster races. However, that’s not how it happened. I got hurt, sidelined, distracted, and a little discouraged by my ankle injury in September. I did not devote a training cycle to this race, and I am in the middle of my training for Colfax. I have been training for longer, slower times… not the quick ones that would get me that goal time. I have not been practicing 8-minute miles or anything close to it. And really… even if I could do that pace, I am not sure that I would want to. I think a very fast time would burn me out and make it hard to continue my training for Colfax the next week.

So what now?

My PR is 1:51:48. Now, you probably think (for all of the reasons listed above), that I am in no shape to go for a PR in the half. However, my current half marathon PR was in less than favorable conditions and during my training cycle for the Chicago Marathon. The race was in Estes Park (7000 ft above sea level) with 1000 feet of elevation gain throughout the race. The night before the race, I was camping and sleeping on the hard ground of Rocky Mountain National Park. The race was fantastically beautiful, which I am sure helped me get that time, but it was not a race most people would go for a PR at.

A1A is at sea level and is a pancake flat course. It runs along the beautiful Fort Lauderdale beaches AND my entire family is going to be there. I’ll also have the luxury of a good night’s sleep on a bed the night before. Although I am not sure if this is going to be a PR blow out, I think I have a chance to sneak just under 1:51:48.

These are my goals for A1A:

 A: 1:49:59 – 8:24/mi pace – a little unattainable… but maybe if I have a crazy awesome day

B: PR – so anything under 1:51:48 (8:30ish/mi)

C: Course PR – Under 1:56:48

The way some of my training has been going lately, a sizable PR is possible. But my legs are tired and I’m deep into my training for Colfax. This race suddenly isn’t as important as I thought it would be a year ago.

So, I guess next Sunday begins my race season for 2016. Hopefully it begins as well as 2015 did and that I nab that PR. Either way, I’m going to go out there and have a good time! I’ll be enjoying some much needed time with my family, some sweet weather, and I get to see Ally and Kristina! PR or not, A1A is going to be a ton of fun!