Bad Day: Not So Normal Half Marathon Race Report

“Sometimes the system goes on the blink
And the whole thing turns out wrong
You might not make it back and you know
That you could be well oh that strong
And I’m not wrong

Cause you had a bad day…” – Bad Day, Daniel Powter

Warning: This is going to be an entire post about First World running problems. I realize that I choose to do this to myself and that some people around the world have to walk the distance of a marathon every day just to get clean water.  The thing is, it just stresses me out, because I know my body can do this and, do it well but, things just have not gone according to plan during the last two races. Y’all know I don’t like it when things don’t go according to plan! It also scares me for the Ironman 70.3, which is coming up on May 31. I was using the Not So Normal race as a training run for the Ironman relay so, the fact that the wheels came off the bus, makes me really worried. When a training run does not go well, it makes me think the race will not go well, either. Did I mention that fatalism is one of my flaws (hey, when the zombies come, everyone in my family will be happy that we have lots of bottled water and that I learned how to kill zombies from watching every episode of The Walking Dead)?

About the race: this was the first official half marathon to be held in Carrboro. It was a great hometown location with a 5K and 10K, as well. Carly ran the 5K all by herself while I was out on the course, which makes me immensely proud. She also picked out her running outfit (love the shirt – wish I could get away with it). A running buddy of mine from Fleet Feet was the race director. I think he did a great job organizing the race and making for a fun event. I agreed to be a Ringleader – meaning I was out on the course making sure everyone and everything was OK. The course itself was pretty brutal. Carrboro tends to be pretty flat but I think he managed to find every major hill in the tiny little city limits and run us up it. I do a significant number of my training runs in town and I, for the most part, avoid the hills he ran us up unless it is Hill Repeat Day and I am intentionally looking for hills. Also, the course was not properly marked, which means some of the people running the race ran 13.4 miles and some of us might not have gotten to 13.1. I was having such a bad run, I don’t even care if I did not make it to 13.1! I also was so addled (read: trying not to puke in front of all the spectators) after I crossed the finish that I forgot to turn off my Garmin as I wandered around the Fleet Feet parking lot for 10 minutes so, I have no idea how far I did or did not actually run/walk. It doesn’t matter and it was still a lot of fun but I think I will volunteer next year and not run. Mid-May in North Carolina is a crap shoot from a weather perspective but the default is usually that it is too hot for my liking to race.

IMG_2913 Carly, looking fly.

So, what was so bad, you ask?

1. My clothing. I was wearing the Ringleader shirt which just was not cut for a chunky runner girl (see, Exhibit A, below). It was super cute and I loved the color but the darts and the seams and the non-wickiness of the shirt just make me hotter than I wanted to be. It was clinging to me before the race started and, if I had not been in my hometown, I might have stripped it off and run in my sports bra but, because I knew a significant number of spectators, I spared y’all.  For the record, it looked super cute on all the other ladies so, clearly, the problem was me and my non-traditional runner body. See, First World, problem? Y’all know I am super-picky about my running clothes because I HATE TO BE HOT. Shit needs to breathe or I am not wearing it.

IMG_2907 copyHeather, looking cute and volunteering. Me, not so much.

2. My hydration pack. I am now using Tailwind, exclusively, on my long runs which is a mildly flavored electrolyte mix dissolved in water. In a nutshell, it does not make me puke so it gets to be the winner. The downside is that I have to take a lot of liquid and that requires some sort of pack, which I hate wearing. I really just want people to stand on the side of the road and give me bottles full of Tailwind while I am running like some sort of elite runner or something. Since that is not going to happen, I am forced to experiment with all different packs. My latest pack is the Orange Mud HydraQuiver. I like it because it has a full size bottle instead of the bladder and the tube, which I find kind of gross. I hate it, now, because the damn thing is just not adjustable enough, hence, the chafing on my neck. Let me just tell you that raw skin and salty sweat makes for a miserable combination for 9 miles (I realized my neck was raw at mile 4). Much like rubbing salt in a wound, haha. I ordered a new pack yesterday so I can write about how much I hate it, too, after a few marathon training runs.

1F628E81-3E26-46B2-8FB7-92F660986400 See how high the pack rides (and how badly that shirt fit)? See how good I am at faking that I am having a good time when, really, I feel like shit?

3. Pace. Or lack thereof. Mine and Sissy’s mile splits were all over the map. The graph looks like an EKG readout of someone with a serious heart condition. We went out too fast (shocker) laying down 10 minute splits, only to slow ourselves down to 11 minute splits (still too fast for the heat) only to end up with 13 minute splits when I was forced to walk or risk passing out. I must nail this pacing thing once and for all. Here is where I think intervals would have helped. Intervals force you to slow down and pace yourself. Should have run them yesterday but I always think I know myself better on race day than I actually do.

4. Pollen. The trees have been trying to kill me since the middle of April. I am fiercely allergic to hardwood tree pollen and the trees have been spitting it out in record amounts this year. Yesterday (as is today) was a red alert pollen day meaning, stay inside with the air conditioning if you are allergic to tree pollen. Instead, I chose to be outside for 4 hours. Breathing is kind of essential to running. Today, I am paying the price with eyes that were so swollen this morning, I had to put packs of frozen peas on them just to get my contacts in.

5. HEAT. It was hot and muggy. If marathon training in the middle of a hot Southern summer taught me anything, it should have taught me that I need to take it easy in the heat. Apparently, I am a slow learner. Around mile 6 is where I really started to think “Man, it is really, really hot”. Sissy and I were not having a good run and were having trouble getting in a groove.  Sissy NEVER walks. She was taking some walk breaks so I knew it was bad. At about mile 9, I started to feel a little dizzy. Not the “I’ve ingested too much runner food and I might puke” woozy (which I am very familiar with) but the “I would kill someone for some air conditioning or an ice bath right now before I pass out” dizzy. Sane people would stop exercising, at this point, but runners who have never DNF’d a race are not sane people and keep moving forward. The walk breaks got longer and longer. At mile 11, I started to have chills. I thought to myself “Wow, how can I be cold when I am so f#$king hot?” but I kept trying to run. My arms, hands and feet started to swell and I had to loosen my Garmin because it became too tight. At about mile 11.5, after experiencing sudden stomach cramps and then, leg cramps, it occurred to me that I might just need to walk and find as much shade as possible or risk some health issues because I felt horrible. I think the walking is what saved me and cooled me down enough to finish. I managed to move along at a brisk walk until I hit mile 12.5, at which point I started to run, again. I ran to the finish but it was not much of a run and, I was pretty sure I was going to puke but, I made it across in my second-to-worst finishing time, EVER. I felt so bad, I did not even drink the free beer so y’all know I was not myself.

IMG_2909 After my “recovery” which was really just standing in the shade for about 15 minutes.

I googled all of these issues last night because the best medical advice comes from the internet.   After Ironman last year and my hyponatremia fun, I have learned to electrolyte load before a race so I don’t think that was it. I had the Tailwind in 24 ounces of water, the majority of which, I consumed so, I don’t really think it was dehydration or low blood sugar, either. Some form of heat exhaustion? Likely. I was really hot and probably not acclimated to the heat because I’ve been having to run inside due to the pollen and my asthma. So, if Mother Nature could turn down the heat and lay off the pollen when I hit the course at mid-day for Iromman 70.3, perhaps, the wheels will stay on the bus, this time, and I won’t feel like the Staypuft Marshmallow man (from all the hyponatremia swelling), lumbering down Hillsborough Street, laying waste to NC State’s campus, which is what I looked like last year. I realize all this sounds crazy but I do listen to my body when the wheels start to come off the bus, and, while I usually refuse to quit, if it got really bad, I would quit and I do make game time decisions while out there. I don’t have so much pride that I won’t walk, really slowly, or even sit down, if I have to.

If you’ve made it this far into my post, congratulations, and if you have had any experience combating any of these things (not the clothing issue – I gotta work that one out on my own), I would love to hear some advice!

In My Mind I’m Going to Carolina: Tarheel 10 Miler

“In my mind I’m going to Carolina. Can’t you see the sunshine, can’t you just feel the moonshine?
Ain’t it just like a friend of mine to hit me from behind? Yes, I’m going to Carolina in my mind.” – In My Mind I’m Going to Carolina, James Taylor

IMG_2828 The crew!

I was born and raised in Chapel Hill. I am truly Tarheel born and Tarheel bred and when I die, I’ll be Tarheel dead. My husband thinks it is a little bit crazy to pay race entry fees to run a race on streets I run on at least twice a week for free but there is nothing quite like having those streets closed and running down the middle of them with thousands of other runners. There is also no other race where I can run down the street and see my high school history teacher cheering the runners and shout out “Mr. Kiger” because old habits die hard or see so many of my classmates from the Chapel Hill High School Class of 1989 out on the course.

This race is one of my favorites because it is my hometown and the place I currently call home. The race is hilly. It is hard. It is crowded. There is a hill at mile 8.5 to mile 9.5 called Laurel Hill that has an elevation gain of 123 feet during that one mile. The name of my hometown has the word “hill” in it and it is true to its name. There is also free beer for all the runners at Top of the Hill Brewery after the race. I love beer. I really love free beer.

I was slightly concerned about my performance for this race having just come off of a PR performance at the equally hilly Rock N Roll Raleigh Half Marathon. I only did a short 3.5 mile shake out run with Fleet Feet on the Wednesday before the race mainly because there was free beer and empanadas after the run! I needed to rest my quads, which were still sore after Raleigh. My only goal for the 10 Miler is that I wanted to beat my time from last year even if was only by one second but I had no other aspirations.

Saturday morning was humid. Crazy humid. There was a lot of cloud cover before the race start. Let me diverge here for a moment, and talk about the start of this race. It is a clusterf*%k like no other race I have ever been to. There are no corrals. There are thousands of runners running a 4 mile race or the 10 mile race. They release the 4 milers first but there is no real order to this. Then, the 10  milers are supposed to go. There are thousands of people trying to cram into one area of the street. There is no way to get back to your pace group because of the massive wall of people all trying to get to their pace group and the narrow sidewalk. Someone had the not very bright idea of putting up a barricade between the sidewalk and the street meaning, the only way to get in your pace group, other than climbing under or over the barricade, was to push your way all the way back to the end of the barricade on the extremely crowded sidewalk packed full of people who can only shuffle in a forward motion and then, push your way all the way up to your pace group. It was like a mosh pit where no one was having any fun. People were getting grouchy. People were pushing. Being a slower runner, I sincerely wanted to make it to the back but there was no way to move back. Faster runners sincerely wanted to make it to the front of the pack but there was no way to move forward. What did this mean? I ended up getting in line with the 9 minute mile pace group. I got passed for the first two miles like I was standing still. Not a big deal for me but frustrating for those people trying to pass me, I am sure. It was so crowded we could not all stay together and we lost everyone in our group except for me, Sissy and Heather. Endurance Magazine, get your starting line better organized next year! You can’t add more runners to this race if you don’t figure this out!

IMG_2831 The mosh pit. Don’t these people look happy?

Once I made it out of the mosh pit, things evened out a bit but we were flying because we were being pushed along with the stream of faster runners. Heather and I slowed our roll a bit but Sissy kept right up so we lost her. Around mile 4, we got into our groove and headed up Franklin Street. The clouds parted and the Carolina blue sky was revealed as we hit West Franklin Street – totally fitting! There was a band up near the Top of the Hill distillery. Last year, they gave out shots of liquor but no shots this year. At about the 5 mile mark, we saw a man being picked up in an ambulance by EMS. Then, we saw two women throwing up on the side of the road. Did I mention it was really humid? I was sweating from every pore. My shirt, visor and running skirt were so wet, it looked like I had jumped in a pool.

The course took us back through campus and into Gimghoul, the first set of big hills. Heather and I powered up them all and were making great time. We caught up to Sissy and Laurie on the downhill on Raleigh Road and stuck with them until we all were separated again on Laurel Hill. We saw a couple of more people throwing up. I guess you’ve figured out by now that it was hot. At the bottom of Laurel Hill, Sissy, Heather, Laurie and I all agreed that each woman was for herself on this hill. Whatever we had to do to make it up the hill, we would do and we’d see each other at the finish. Heather pulled ahead. I powered up the first steep incline but, by the time I reached the man playing the giant horn in lederhosen, I had to walk. It was a fast walk and I was passing people but still, a walk. I ran the flats, only to walk, again on the steepest part. My first and only walking during this race. I ran the rest of it – no intervals. I hit the top of Laurel Hill and I could still see Heather but I could not catch her. Sissy and Laurie were just a little ways behind me.

After Laurel Hill was behind me, I headed down Ridge Road and was really missing the big finish in Kenan Stadium since it was being renovated. When I was right in front of Bosahmer Stadium, I started to think that I wasn’t feeling too well. “Just finish the damn race” I told myself and kept running. I turned the corner onto Stadium Drive, knowing the finish was near, only to discover yet another hill. In the full-on sun with waves of steam coming off the street. Now, I really did not feel well. I felt dizzy and nauseated but I just kept running (I am sure that you have figured out that runners are like lemmings and we just keep moving forward, despite pain, puking, dizziness). I saw the finish and the clock and sped up to beat my time from last year. I hit the finish line and, immediately, the world started to spin and I feared I was going to faint. Orange County EMS was lined up at the finish intently watching runners. I must have had a look on my face that they knew because, almost immediately, an EMT had his hand on my arm and said “M’am, are you OK?”. “No” I said, “I might pass out or throw up or both”. He took me in the medical tent, made me sit down and put my head between my knees and he got me Gatorade. The world stopped spinning but I started shaking, uncontrollably. Then, I got chills even though sweat was rolling off my body into a puddle on the ground. Another runner came in and puked all over the tent. A third person was being transported to the hospital because her heart rate would not go down. It was, basically, carnage in the medical tent (and apparently, a HIPPA-free zone since people’s Private Health Information was being bandied about).  They weren’t really sure what was wrong with me. I was clearly overheated but did I have low blood sugar, was I dehydrated, did I have an electrolyte imbalance?

IMG_2835 See the Carolina blue sky?

After two Gatorades and a bag of pretzels, I felt well enough to leave the tent and go get my medal. I finally found Heather and Lesley and we wandered over to the results tent. I looked at the paper they handed me – I had beaten my time from last year but well over a minute! A new PR and a near death experience all in the same five minute time span! We walked over to Top of the Hill and got our free beers. Blueberry Wheat is my favorite! I never felt great for the rest of the day and night. I don’t know what was wrong with me. This is not the first time I have nearly passed out at a finish. It is also not the first time I have had electrolyte issues. I really need to figure this out before marathon training begins.

IMG_2839 Free beer is the best beer!

All in all, it was a good race. I am happy I shaved a respectable amount off my time from last year. I am still getting faster. I’ve had two training runs since the race and I am still getting faster. I am mentoring the Not So Normal race training groups at Fleet Feet and getting ready for half marathon #10 on May 17!

IMG_2827 All black, like Batman.

 

It’s Only Rock N Roll (but I like it): Rock N Roll Raleigh Half Marathon

“I said I know it’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it
I said I know it’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it
I said I know it’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it, like it, yes, I do
Oh, well, I like it, I like it. I like it…” – It’s Only Rock N Roll – Rolling Stones 
IMG_2821 Corral selfies – Fellowship of the Ring
I ran the second annual Rock N Roll Raleigh Half Marathon with my Fleet Feet training group this past Sunday. I ran this race last year as my second half marathon, ever, and hated it. It was HOT and humid (82 balmy degrees). It was hilly (hello, miserable f-ing hill in Boylan Heights at mile 12). I was wearing the program shirt Fleet Feet gave us which was black and itchy. I hated that, too. I was stuffing ice down my sports bra at the aid station at mile 8 and seriously considering taking off the shirt, running in my sports bra and exposing myself to the good people of Raleigh. I mean, it is not like I knew any of those people and I was running by myself, at that point, so no one on the course knew me, either. Y’all know it must have been bad if I was going to expose my most hated body part (my stomach) to the world! I swore I would never run this race, again. Well, you know I went back on my word because I would not be writing this blog post if I had not! That Fleet Feet peer pressure is a powerful thing.
Sunday’s weather was perfect for what was my ninth half marathon. It was cool at the start and only warmed up to 64 by the time I crossed the finish line. I wore the neon green program shirt to the race. I hated it, too, but I was a mentor this time around so I felt like I should show some team spirit (there goes that peer pressure, again). Neon green is not flattering to pale, blonde Irish girls and the neckline on that shirt was like a turtleneck! Heather did not wear her shirt so, of course, Heather looks cute in all of our race pictures and I look like a big green blob. That is neither here nor there because this was an awesome race and none of that really matters. I had so much fun during this race.
I made Heather meet me in the parking deck at the Duke practice on Page Road at 5:00 AM (Heather likes to take a more leisurely approach to race start times than I do). We hit traffic as soon as we got off Capital Blvd and parked the car in the first private lot open and taking money. Heather ate her full breakfast buffet of Rice Krispies with milk and even sliced her banana in the car. I would much rather walk than sit in traffic before a race. Heather and I had both purchased new Brooks running shoes so we were given VIP passes to the Brooks Port-a-Potty. This portable trailer is a miracle of modern science. It was a portable bathroom with real flushing toilets, running water and soap. I am spoiled forever. One of the things I hate most about running so many races is having to use so many port-a-potties. I mean is there much else in this world that is as gross as a port-a-potty? They have a Brooks VIP Potty at the Marine Corps Marathon so Heather and I will be saving up our money to buy Brooks race gear to get that pass, too!
IMG_2819 Most awesome people in the world.
We met our training group in front of the performing arts center for a group picture, which turned out pretty well. I know I have said this before but I am going to say it, again – I LOVE MY FLEET FEET FAMILY! The people who run the programs, coach the programs, mentor the programs and participate in the programs are some of my favorite people in the world. If you have ever thought about joining a running group, PLEASE come down and join one at Fleet Feet. You will make the most wonderful friends and have the best time running with these groups. I can’t imagine a time when I am not going to be in one of the training groups. All my old friends keep coming back but, each season, I make new friends.
My pace group, Fellowship of the Ring, headed to Corral 17 to wait for our start time. I have to give the Rock N Roll race crew props. This is my third RNR event. They do a great job with the corrals and with making sure everything starts on time and is organized. The loud rock music pulsing through the speakers, the MC and the countdown for each corral makes for an exciting atmosphere. Before I knew it, we were crossing the starting line. We stuck together for most of the first 4 miles but Heather and I lost Sissy and Alison at one of the water stations. The race was pretty crowded so it was hard to keep track of everyone, even with the neon shirts!
IMG_2814 Sissy, me and Heather
Heather and I were fast. Just like in Quantico. Something about the two of us just makes us run fast! At one point, I looked down at my Garmin and we were running at an 8:40 pace. Too fast so we dialed it back. This run felt really good. Everything was syncing up and I had a feeling I was on my way to a PR. We started walking some of the hills towards the end but we brought it in strong. The course still sucks (I’m probably not going to run this race, again, next year). The terrain did not change but the cooler weather and Heather’s company made it better than last year. In RNR races, there are bands every couple of miles. For some reason, most of the bands were taking a break when Heather and I ran by so that part was not any fun. The Wear Blue Run to Remember veteran’s group was at mile 10, again, right after the nasty hills through Dorthea Dix. Heather and I teared up a bit, here. I just kept telling the folks who lost loved ones during the wars “thank you” as we ran by and they held American flags over our heads. I have heard that there is a lot more of this during the Marine Corps Marathon. Heather and I acknowledged that there might be some crying during that race.
With the last mile, I could tell Heather had a little more in the tank than me so I told her to run ahead. I kept her in my sights the entire time but ended up finishing about 30 seconds behind her. At first, I thought I had missed my Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon time, which was my prior PR, so I was bummed but still impressed with my time on a challenging course so soon after running Wrightsville and the 17.75K. It was only after I got home and looked at my official time that I realized I had set a new PR! My time was also 20 minutes faster than my very first half marathon! We stayed with Nora to cheer our full marathoners from our training group in to the finish. I love watching people finish a marathon. I could stay until the last person crosses.
IMG_2815 We skipped the lukewarm Michelob Ultra
My race results have been improving recently and I am trying to figure out what I am doing differently so I can keep doing it. Here are the three things I think are working for me right now:
1. Weight training – Heather and I started a pretty serious weight training program. We go to the Y on our lunch break three times per week (great people watching, btw) and lift for 45-60 minutes with some mat core work thrown in. After 8 weeks, I can say it is making a HUGE difference in my running form, which I think is letting me run faster. I am not hurting during races and my glutes hurt AFTER the race – I have finally learned to fire the right muscles to run. I am absolutely keeping this up through marathon training.
2. Eating – I called this “eating” instead of nutrition because I don’t want to imply that it is always healthy. When I first started training for a half marathon, I was doing Weight Watchers hard core. I lost 70 pounds, which is great, but I don’t think I was eating enough of the right stuff to fuel my running. I was living on spinach salads and shunning carbs and healthy fats. I also refused to take in nutrition on long runs, thinking I was torching calories so why add them back. Mistake. I have drastically changed my approach. I have not lost any more weight since I started marathon training (in fact, I’ve gained some but let’s pretend it is muscle) and decided to keep up high mileage after the marathon but I have fueled my running. I eat lots of eggs, avocados, nuts, protein, complex carbs and fruit. I also take in nutrition before and during a race. I have eaten a bagel before the last three races and have run my fastest times, yet! I have an 80/20 rule – I try to eat food I prepared myself with fresh, healthy ingredients 80% of the time and allow myself “cheats” 20% of the time. Most of you know one of my major cheats is nachos or tacos! I’ve never met Mexican food I did not like! Am I 100% happy with my weight? No. I am 100% happy with the progress I see in my running so I’ll take it! You can’t win them all with my crappy metabolism.
3. Weather – it is not hot yet. When it gets hot, it gets ugly. I suspect my times will slow down but I am going to try to remain positive and remind myself that running long distances during the hottest part of the year will make running a fall marathon that much easier when the temperature on race day at the MCM is in the high 50s to low 60s.
I am really happy with my running right now and I am so excited about my busy Spring race season. I run the Tarheel 10 Miler tomorrow, the Not So Normal Half on May 17 and the running leg of the Ironman 70.3 on May 31. MCM training starts on June 13. I’m not doing so many training runs during the week since I have so many races. The marathon training will be tough, at first, when I can’t just decide to bail on a run. I do best when I am diligent so the training plan will be good for me. In the meantime, I’m just enjoying running with the most awesome people I know!
IMG_2811 I found a crafter on Etsy who makes tote bags out of old race bibs for $20. Winning! I absolutely love this!

Over The Hills and Far Away: Marine Corps 17.75K Trail Run

“Many dreams come true and some have silver linings
I live for my dream and a pocketful of gold.

Mellow is the man who knows what he’s been missing
Many many men can’t see the open road.” – Over the Hills and Far Away, Led Zeppelin

Heather and I ran the Marine Corps 17.75K Trail Run on March 28. I’m a little late with this post but better late than never! In case you are bad at math, like me, 17.75K translates to 11.03 miles. The race was through the Prince William County forrest in a lovely park. The purpose of the race was to earn entry into the Marine Corps Marathon in October. If you cross the finish line, you get an access granted card with a special code to gain entry into the marathon. The 17.75K sold out in 7 minutes but Heather and I were lucky to get entry. Running the Marine Corps Marathon is on my bucket list. This is truly a dream come true!

We headed up to suburban DC on Friday morning and were fortunate enough to be staying at the host hotel for the event, meaning the shuttle buses to the race picked up and dropped off right in front of the hotel. It does not get much better than that! Packet pick up was at a local running store and the race director was there warning all the runners about the potential for bears on the course. Apparently, this race really is in the woods! Have I mentioned yet that I don’t trail run?

We had a great dinner of beer and nachos which has become our standard pre-race meal. I am sure that Meb and Shalane eat nachos and drink beer before every race. This meal is the secret to running squarely in the middle of the pack! We also did some serious shopping at Potomac Mills outlet mall.

10397990_10153275071072147_2211215911678607123_nDinner of Middle-Of-The-Pack runners. It is the secret to our success.

In the days leading up to the race, my allergies were horrible. By the time we got to Woodbridge and checked into the hotel, I sounded like a two pack a day smoker. My voice was raspy, my nose was completely stopped up and I was coughing up a lung. Heather told me if I coughed all night, she would smother me with a pillow. We are good friends but I know she would do it! I took the recommended daily dosage of allergy medication and we went to bed. The NCAA tournament was on but we fell asleep during the Duke game.

As usual, the 5 AM wake up call came too early. We checked the weather, again, and saw that it had not changed. Thirty degrees with 30 mile per hour winds. We obsessed over how many layers to wear. We did not want to get too hot. Ha! We jinxed ourselves with that sentiment. “Hot” was not a word I would utter again until I used it in conjunction with the word “shower” on the bus on the way back to the hotel!

The wind hit us as soon as we exited the hotel and headed over to the bus line. Some people were wearing shorts. They were unhappy. The F word and cold were used in the same sentence a lot. The bus was nice and warm and the ride to the start was quick. The bus let us off in the middle of a field filled with other extremely cold people. The wind whipped through us. Have you figured out yet that I was really, really, really cold? We noticed a little church on the other side of the field where runners were filing in. We flocked to it like lemurs! I was fortunate enough to fall in line behind an extremely tall man who blocked the wind! I told him that I was sorry that we did not know each other but that I was going to stand really close to him – like closer than is socially acceptable. He laughed and was a good sport. We crammed into the vestibule of the church and stood huddled with other runners for about 20 minutes, which was great, until Heather announced that she needed to use the port-a-potty.

The port-a-potty line was in the middle of the field with no shelter. Heather and I stood facing each other with our heads on each other’s shoulders to stay warm. The announcer was counting down the time to the race start and the potty line was not moving. Finally, we made it to the front of the line and ran to the back of the race line! We always line up in the back when there are no corrals, anyway. Better to pass other people than to be passed by hundreds of people in serious runner shorts! The start was crowded and the path in the beginning was pretty narrow. You could only go as fast as the person in front of you and the people in front of us were not moving very fast. It reminded me of the start of the Disney Princess Half Marathon.

Heather and I had no goal in this race other than to finish in the allotted time and earn our entry. Given how crappy I felt and how cold it was, I had no preconceived ideas about our time. There is something about racing, though, that gets the adrenaline going and we started passing people the first chance we had. Heather and I just pace really well together.

This course is notorious for being hilly. After the first two hills, I took my ear buds out and said to Heather “This really is not so bad”. Ha! Jinxed myself, again. At mile 4, there was a hill, the likes of which we don’t even see in Chapel Hill. Hills in Chapel Hill tend to be long with gradual inclines – think Laurel Hill or Columbia up to Franklin. The hill at mile 4 was an incredibly steep incline. It was painful. I run up half of it but had to walk in the middle (yes, I moved to the side of the course). Heather took her ear buds out and said “Jesus, I can hear your breathing over my music. Are you OK?” No, I was not. By now, my stopped up nose was no longer allowing air to move through it and I was breathing cold air into my asthmatic lungs. I was having a hard time catching my breath and I had no inhaler with me. I told her we just needed to keep moving. Runners, ignoring pain and dangerous medical conditions on a regular basis!

I needed to switch to intervals to catch my breath in between running. As is often the case when I run intervals, my running time was much faster and my overall pace was better. It just works for me. All along the course, Marines were out manning the water stations, the medical tents and monitoring the course. They were cheering and encouraging, saying things like “Good job, m’am” or “You’re almost to the next mile marker, m’am”. It was hilarious! I’ve never been called “m’am” by a race volunteer before. There were also signs out on the course with sayings like “Marine Up”, “Is that all you’ve got?” and “OOORah”. It was cool. It was also a beautiful course through the woods and we did not see any bears.

There were two more really awful hills at miles 9 and 10 but we made it up them. I don’t know why but the miles just flew by. This race passed so much faster than any other race I have done. At some point during long races, I often think to myself “Geez, when is this going to be over?” but the miles in this race seemed to fly by. It felt like a 5K despite my labored breathing. Maybe, it was because I could not feel my hands or feet because I was still freezing. Maybe, I was distracted by the Marines (sorry, but some of them were cute). Maybe, I was too busy watching the trail in front of me, making sure I was not going to break my ankle, to notice the miles. At any rate, the flats at mile 10.5 were a welcome sight. We did a little dog leg out and back and, the next thing I knew, we were rounding the corner and sprinting to the finish. People were holding funny signs like “Get your Golden Ticket” and “We don’t need no stinking lottery” referring to the guaranteed entry to the MCM. We crossed the finish and a Marine who was probably young enough to be my son handed me a medal and my access granted card. I looked at the clock and my Garmin and was SHOCKED by my time on a hilly, trail run. I beat my 10K PR and my Tarheel 10 Miler time through the course of the race. I had no intention of running so fast, I just did. I think I can definitively make the statement – I AM GETTING FASTER! I am still slow by other people’s standards but I see some serious improvement in my overall times. This makes me so happy. Not only can I go the distance, I can get faster. Even when I am sick. Of course, the weather is about to warm up, a lot, and I am sure I will be humbled, again, when I can’t run so fast because I am dying from the heat. Runners are rarely happy with the weather!

17418_10206277364072610_851988395945339856_n My golden ticket!

Heather and I were instantly cold, again. All we wanted was to get on the bus and get back to the warm hotel. They handed out these Hazmat looking suits for us to wear instead of mylar blankets. I prefer the mylar because you can fashion a shawl or a cape out of them but we put those Hazmat suits on, including the hoods, because we were so freaking cold. No one cared what they looked like. We just wanted to be warm. We got back to the hotel and I registered for the MCM while Heather was in the shower. I don’t even think I had the access card in my hand for an hour when I was all signed up. I am so excited! The Marines put on a great a race and I can only imagine how much fun the marathon will be. I am so happy that I get to run it with Heather and the women from my regular running crew, who also got into the marathon.

IMG_2936Heather in her Hazmat suit. We also got free bananas.

All in all, this was a great race. If you want to run the MCM, this is a fun way to earn your entry. There is a sense of pride in having earned my way into the marathon with a tough 11 mile trail run, taking me outside my comfort zone. The Marine Corps 17.75K, the only race where your prize is, you get to run 26.2 miles!

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On Sunday, I run the Rock N Roll Raleigh Half Marathon and the next Saturday, the Tarheel 10 Miler. I’ve got a busy race season between now and June 1. MCM training starts June 25. Just the way I like it.

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes: Wrightsville Beach Marathon Relay

“It’s these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
With all of our running and all of our cunning
If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane” – Jimmy Buffett, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

IMG_2916

I ran the Wrightsville Beach Marathon as a three woman relay team on Sunday with Heather and her friend Lesley. In my mind, I decided I wanted to run my 5.5 mile leg of the race at a pace with a 10 in the front instead of an 11, the pace of my usual long training runs. Typing my pace in this blog feels more scary to me than telling y’all how much I weigh. Slower runners often feel self-conscious about their pace. It feels so personal. Given how last week went, when I just did not feel good on any run, I was worried that I would not be able to make my goal. Not that Heather or Lesley would have cared but I did. Every time I toe the line at a race, it has absolutely nothing to do with any other person at that race. It is about beating myself and about whether or not I can achieve my goals.

Saturday afternoon, Heather, Carly and I loaded three dogs into the car (Heather is dog sitting for her parents) and headed down to Heather’s parents house in Wallace, NC to meet Lesley.  I had my typical pre-race dinner of a Guinness and split an order of nachos with Carly.

The wake up call for the race was 4 AM. Brutal. We got to the start at 5:50 and let Lesley out. She was all chipper and ready to go. She had the 11.3 mile leg. I was grouchy because I had not had coffee and had about  4 hours of sleep. Fortunately, the parking for the relay teams was in the parking lot of a coffee bar. We made Carly go stand at the door so she would be the first person in line when they unlocked the door at 6:30. I got a latte and a bagel. I never eat bagels (even though I love them) but I was not feeling it so I thought I might need some nutrition. Watching everyone get ready for the race, I was so happy that I was not running the full marathon on my own. The mental place you have to get to to step up to the start of a full takes a while to get to and I am not there yet.

The course consisted of several loops from Wrightsville Beach into Wilmington. Our exchange spot was at about mile 3 of the first loop, mile 11 of the second loop and mile 16 of the third loop. Carly, Heather and I headed out to stand on the median to watch the first runners come by. The first pack came through at about a 6 minute per mile pace. These are the people who don’t drink beer and eat nachos the night before a race! These people were in it to win it. They looked good (seriously, there were some seriously hot dudes in this race – we were well rewarded). Lesley came through at about an 8 minute mile and we waved and cheered. That girl is fast! Lesley texted when she got to mile 10 so we knew she was on her way – running and texting at her pace is quite a skill. She came into the corral, we exchanged the bib and I was out on the course before I knew it.

IMG_2913Waiting to exchange.

Remember, I was out with the 8-9 minute per mile group so I just jumped right in and kept pace with them. As I headed up the drawbridge, I looked down at my Garmin – I was running 8:40. “Slow it down” I said to myself, “I know this is fun but leave some in the tank”. The course was flat. Like pancake flat. At home, I normally run up Franklin Street, MLK to Franklin, Hillsborough Street, Laurel Hill, the Gimghoul loop, Manning Drive, Columbia to Franklin past the medical school. Hills, hills, hills on every run. On this flat course, I felt like I could fly. The entire elevation gain was only 35 feet. Yes, 35 feet and that was up the drawbridge. I just had such a good attitude once I was out on the course. There was no negative self-talk in my head.

I focused on the scenery. I got the most scenic loop. Lesley passed the intercoastal waterway and the beach but it was dark when she went by. I was running in light even if it was overcast. The humidity was high, though. I was dripping sweat by mile 1. I crossed three bridges. People waved at us from the balconies of their beach houses. My Garmin peeped to alert me to my first mile spilt – 9:10 and it felt really good. “What the hell”, I thought, “go for it”. I kept the pace for the first two and a half miles. Before mile 3, it started to feel harder but I repeated a mantra to myself “Run the mile you are in, run the mile you are in.” I dialed it back a tad but kept going. Each time my Garmin counted down a mile, I was so surprised there was a nine in the front. When there was only a half mile left, I went into a full on sprint. I have no idea how fast I ran that last half mile because I had no time to look at my Garmin but I would not be surprised if there was an eight in front of it!

I handed the bib off to Heather and she took off. I did not even see her go. I was too busy looking at my Garmin. Not only did I meet my goal of running my leg with at least a 10 in front of it, I blew it out of the water by running mileage with a 9 in the front! It just goes to show you that you never know what running is going to be like on any given day. I had struggled all week. I had little sleep. Was it the coffee and the bagel before the race? Was it the fact that I was running at 8:00 and not at the ass crack of dawn? Was it because it was such a flat course? Was it the excitement of the race? Was it the faster runners on the course who made me push myself? Was it because I was at the beach, I changed my latitude? I’ll never know for sure but all I know is that those 5.5 miles were some of the best miles I have ever run. I felt like I was flying. I felt like I could run forever and that, my friends, is why I run. I put up with all the shitty miles for that handful of miles that feel so good. There is no feeling quite like it.

Carly, Lesley and I headed over to the finish to wait for Heather. We got there in time to see the 3 hour marathoners come in. These were the people who were qualifying for Boston since the Wrightsville Beach Marathon is a Boston qualifier. We also saw people miss their time goal and that was sad. The more time that passed, the worse the folks coming in were starting to look. I got a little emotional seeing people finish. I know exactly how it feels. It feels freaking amazing but it also hurts like hell. I cheered, loudly, for all of them. We left Carly up at the start to take pictures of us and Lesley and I headed around the corner to look for Heather so we could run in with her. I saw her as soon as she rounded the corner. I would know her stride anywhere even if she was not wearing a matching bright pink shirt! I could tell she was hurting but she was giving it her all. Heather hates to run in humidity and it was humid. We ran in and gave Heather a few minutes to catch her breath. We headed into the food tent, picked up pizza and then went to get our free beer. We went back to the start to cheer the 5 plus hour finishers. Us slow runners need the crowd to stay and cheer. The faster runners work damn hard to be fast but us slower runners work our asses off and stay on our feet for so many hours to get it done and there is never a crowd at the end. Only our friends and family stay to see us come in.

When the results were in, I was 8th for my leg of the race. I say this not to brag. For me to come in as the 8th fastest person in anything is shocking to me. I have never been athletic. I never competed at anything until I started running. To hit my goals as a runner at the age of 43 is such a surprise to me. Two years ago, I could not walk from the parking garage to my office without getting out of breath. Now, I can actually post a respectable time at a race.

I am so proud of all of us. Lesley and I, despite having never met, hit it off really well. We’re all going to run the Tarheel 10 Miler together. Rather, Lesley is going to run really fast and wait for me and Heather at the finish line to go get beer! It was so much fun and it was such a great race. The water stations were really well manned (props to NC State who had the most engaged and best manned aid station on the course – hey, UNC where were you?), the event organizers were nice and very clear with their directions, the pre-race e-mails were informative, the expo and post-race festival were great. All in all, this was a fabulous race and we’re already planning on doing it again next year. Only next time, we’re going to come in in the top 10 instead of number 16!

1959556_10153260874482147_9186891048285159517_n Free beer is the best beer and even better when wearing an aluminum blanket.

On to the Marine Corps 17.75K Trail run on Saturday. Where the forecast is calling for snow, the race is all uphill and I won’t be posting my fastest mileage ever! Keep running, friends.

 

Back In Black

“I got nine lives cat’s eyes
Using every one of them and runnin’ wild
Cause I’m back
Yes I’m back well I’m back” – Back in Black, AC/DC

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.56.31 PM My new obsession – the Fitibt Dashboard. Clearly, that Blake dude is kicking my ass.

AC/DC makes you run faster. It is a scientific fact. By “scientific fact” I mean Heather and I discovered it while running on Saturday so that makes it so. Runner logic is like that. Kind of like “my foot really hurts but I will run 17 miles on it anyway because I am sure the pain will go away after a few miles” (it kind of did) or “I don’t really need any more running clothes but these are on sale so I need to buy them” (I did).

We had 17 miles on deck on Saturday with the Fleet Feet group. I questioned the wisdom of ramping up the mileage because we have not been able to meet for two weeks because of the weather and most of us were unable to increase our mileage to the 15 miles we should have achieved to reach 17. No matter. We did it, anyway. Runner logic.

After missing so many outdoor runs, I was pretty giddy on Saturday. There were about 19 of us who headed out in the Fellowship of the Rings group (we’re all named after movies – it is really unfair that I was not in the Star Wars group but they are faster than me). We were tackling different distances and ran on a loop. I was in for all 17. I don’t always listen to music when I run with the group but, I decided that, for 17 miles, I was going to need some help. Once the group thinned out and I was with my semi-regular crew, someone mentioned that we needed a song. No worries. I sang some of my playlist. I’m sure I annoyed everyone but I was in a weird mood. I think high mileage will do that to you. That is how Heather and I discovered that AC/DC makes you run faster. “You Shook Me All Night Long” came on my playlist and we sang it, outloud. We ran so fast we got too far ahead of the group we had to stop and wait for them. “All Summer Long” by Kid Rock makes you run, faster, too because it WAS 1989 and I WAS 17 but that is for another blog, one entitled “Middle Aged Mom Remembers Her Youth and The Time When She Used to Have The Really Bad Kind of Fun, Not the ‘My Kids Are So Cute’ Kind of Fun”. Taylor Swift will also get you going. Blank Space, baby.

We finished the run but it was hard. I have forgotten how hard it is to push past 13 miles.It was cold at the beginning of the run and warm at the end. It was like a not-very-sexy strip show as we shed layers on each loop. I am really sore. The top of my foot hurts. My Achilles hurts like hell. I am beginning to wonder what I was thinking agreeing to mentor the full marathon group when I have no intention of running a full this Spring. I know I am addicted to the long run but I question if I can handle it. Knowing me, I will do it anyway. I have a runner’s brain and you guessed it, runner logic.

IMG_2886Post-run breakfast because I am all about that bass, no treble, and it is pretty clear I ain’t no size 2.

Heather and I have added in weight sessions at the gym which we are squeezing in during our lunch hours. I just got back from our first session. I am seriously hoping this will help with my injury-prone self. Plus, I want Smurti to love me and think that I am her best PT patient, ever. I have no idea what I am doing on the machines at the gym so I hope my picture does not end up on some rando’s Facebook newsfeed as a “what not to do at the gym” post! I know Ironman is coming up and I always decide I need to workout more for Ironman. It is still just a half marathon but I think it is all those super-fit tri people who intimidate me just a little bit. My Vo2 max and resting heart rate put me in the “athlete” category for my age group on all the charts but the package those lungs and heart sit in doesn’t look like an athlete. See the Irish Creme Whoopie Pie, above (for the record I did not eat the whole thing).

I also got a Fitbit Charge last week and I am crazy obsessed with my stats. I wear it in lieu of my watch.  I am lapping my house and office to get my 10,000 steps, which I guess is the point. It also tracks my sleep which is a joke but I already knew that. Just how little sleep I get is shocking. Thanks, Fitbit, for letting me know why I drink so much coffee but can you find me about four extra hours each day to get that 9 hours of sleep you say I should be getting?

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Next week, we are on tap for 18 miles. I’m running 6 tonight, 4 tomorrow and 5 on Thursday. To quote  my new BFF, Taylor Swift, “You can tell me when it’s over if the high was worth the pain”.

Take the Money and Run

“They headed down south and they’re still running today
Singin’ go on take the money and run
Go on take the money and run” – Steve Miller Band, Take the Money and Run

Pretty much.

 

I’m feeling mad about race entry fees today.  Mostly, I’m just feeling mad because I am broke. Why are race entry fees so damn high? Even a local half marathon can cost upwards of $100. Now, I know I don’t have to run races all the time but where is the fun in that? When you stop doing things for fun, you might as well be dead. I no longer lose weight from running (I can maintain my weight but my body figured out what I was up to and hangs on to the fat for dear life, now) so I now run for mental health but I also run for bling. I run races to compete with myself except, I always seem to run faster in training runs. I need to figure out why that is but that is a post for another day. I also realize that these are First World problems and I should probably just shut up but it is my blog and I can bitch if I want to.

I have a plethora of races to register for on the horizon and a lack of funds for race entry fees in my bank account. First up, registration for the new Not So Normal Run, which is a half marathon through Carrboro. I’ll get a nice discount because I am a mentor at Fleet Feet and agreed to keep an eye on folks out on this course but it is still money. I just registered for the Tarheel 10 Miler because they offered a “free” t-shirt if I registered early. On March 11, registration opens for the Marine Corps 17.75K, which I really hope I get into so I can get an automatic entry into the Marine Corps Marathon in October. Only, if I finish the 17.75K, I have to immediately turn around and register for the marathon and, even if I don’t get into the 17.75K, I have to go into the lottery for the MCM and give them my credit card number. I registered and paid for the 2015 Raleigh Rock N Roll Half Marathon 10 minutes after finishing the 2014 race so I don’t have to pay for that race right now. I really question my sanity because that course majorly sucked. I finished it and thought “No fucking way I am running that again” but there I was in the damn registration tent, handing over my credit card. I think I do suffer from some sort of runner’s high after races that majorly impacts my judgment. I’ve bought a lot of race gear in the high moments after finishing a race.

I'm just going to relax & enjoy   a quiet evening at home.     Mainly because I can't   afford to go anywhere  or do anything. I spend my   “extra” income on – yep,   you guessed it – race   entry fees.

My biggest dilemma? The Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon registration opens on March 17 and will fill up in a matter of hours. I have a deferred entry into this race since I did not run it last year due to the Philadelphia Marathon so I’m paid. Carly, however, is not. If I was not already paid up, there is no way I would even consider registering for this race. I’m feeling some mixed emotions about signing Carly up for the Wine and Dine. Y’all will remember that she did not train one bit for the Rebel Challenge. We made it to the finish line of the half marathon but it was not pretty and I don’t think she had a lot of fun after about mile 7. She swears she’ll train for the Wine and Dine this time but she swore that last time, too, but never did (and the race before that and the race before that).

Disney races are some of the most astronomically priced races on the face of the Earth. I won’t say how much I paid for the Rebel Challenge for the two of us because y’all would be horrified. The Wine and Dine fee for Carly will be $195. I told her, after the Rebel Challenge, that I was not signing her up for any more races until she could demonstrate that she would run on a regular basis. When I told her yesterday that I was thinking of taking her to the Wine and Dine to spectate but not run with me, she was really upset, which kind of broke my heart but, at some point, I have to be all parental and teach a lesson (money does not grow on trees, if you don’t put forth effort I’m not spending money, blah, blah, blah). If she runs this race, she will earn her Coast to Coast medal and I think that is a big deal to her.

I’m not running anymore Disney races. After Wine and Dine, I will have experienced all that Disney theme park races have to offer. Don’t get me wrong – the races are fun but they are just way too expensive and there is so much more I want to do. I’m going for scenic beauty from here on out (think Dublin or Yosemite). That, and opportunities to run locally with my friends. We’re suckers for local races which is the way it should be since I am lucky enough to live in such a great running community.

Sign the kid up or not? I just don’t know. I need to win the lottery so I can pay all my race entry fees. You know how they hand the lottery winners those big checks and ask “What are you going to spend your winnings on?” I’d say “Race entry fees! I’m going to run ALL the races”. I also need to rotate out some of my running shoes and replace them with new ones. We won’t even talk about how much those cost now that I am no longer sponsored by a shoe company! Running, the most expensive free sport in the world.

Healthy Tipping Point — When Everyday Decisions Add Up to Something Amazing

Sweet Dreams

Sweet dreams are made of these, who am I to disagree? I traveled the world and the seven seas. Everybody is looking for something- Annie Lennox, Sweet Dreams

So, this week’s post was supposed to be about the Krispy Kreme Challenge – a dozen donuts, 5 miles. I was supposed to be telling y’all about running through the streets of Raleigh with Heather and dodging piles of frozen puke but, alas, I can only write about my very uneventful 5 mile run on the treadmill that just happened on Sunday – the first run in 7 days. It was an uneventful run, except for my best canine running friend laying next to the treadmill for an hour, giving me the canine version of the stink eye because I did not choose to run outside and take her with me. Too cold and I’m still a little sick.

This week, my family was visited by the plague, also known as, Influenza Strain A. It seems the flu shot we all got was for Influenza Strain B. It all started on Monday when Colin’s preschool called at lunch to tell me he had a fever of 101 and had to be picked up. They kindly reminded me, as I was hustling him out the door, that he could not come back until he had been fever free for 24 hours without the aid of medication. Ha. They had nothing to worry about. None of us was going anywhere for days. Mike and Carly were sick by Monday night. I came down with it on Tuesday night. It was so miserable. I would not wish this on anyone. Tamiflu is one of the greatest inventions of modern medicine. I am upright and running on Sunday because of it.

Since I could not work and I could not run, I binge watched two seasons of Reign on Netflix. If you have not seen the show, it is about Mary, Queen of Scots and her time at the French Court of King Henry I, waiting around to marry Francis, the Dauphin of France, in some kind of political alliance because the French hate the English and the English hate the Scots. I am kind of surprised I watched this show because it airs on the CW Network (I don’t think you are allowed to watch that network if you are over 30) but I am scraping the bottom of the barrel on Netflix offerings. I am a Game of Thrones, The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad kind of girl. I am not into romance. If cupid wants to shoot his arrow, it had better hit someone in the eye and nail their head to a tree. Seriously. With that said, I kind of liked it (there is plenty of sword fighting and some torture) but I don’t know why Mary pines away over that pasty, skinny, blonde Francis. Give me Sebastian, the King’s bastard son, with his dark hair and blue eyes, any day. Or even randy King Henry, who is more age appropriate (the actor who portrays Henry is 43), and who is pretty fly for an old guy, with his 5 day old stubble and those black leather pants he wears in 90% of his scenes. Anyway, (spoiler alert but it is history so you already know they end up married) Mary spends most of Season 1 pining for scrawny Francis until she marries him and most of Season 2 pushing him away for stupid reasons. It required very little thought from my fevered, achy brain.

When I was not rotting my brain with Reign, wondering if I was ever going to stop coughing or  tending to one of my sick children (Mike was on his own, man – every grown up for himself), I did read about running (I read Runner’s World, Running Times and Women’s Running) and pinned a bunch of stuff on Pinterest related to running. I also dreamed about running. I found out that fevers of 103 give you some pretty vivid dreams.

I dreamed I was running in Asheville. I have never run in Asheville (only Boone) but I have wanted to for a long time. It was the perfect temperature and the leaves were green. I also dreamed I was running in Paris. I blame all that French court intrigue for putting that idea into my head. I dreamed I was running from zombies but that was probably more like a nightmare and less like a dream and possibly related to the fact that I determined that, since Colin and I got the sickest from this flu, when the zombie apocalypse comes, we won’t make it past the first wave. It is just as well. We are high maintenance and lack the survival skills Mike and Carly possess. We like warm beds, internet and won’t eat yogurt one day past its expiration date.

Asheville

This prompted me to spend some time thinking up my running bucket list because I had nothing else to do. Where do I dream of running? Some of these races/destinations I will likely experience. Some of them are pipe dreams but I believe in dreaming big.

In no particular order:

Marine Corps Marathon, Washington, DC

Dublin Marathon, Dublin, Ireland

Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon, Napa,CA

Yosemite Half Marathon, Yosemite National Park, CA

Rock N Roll New Orleans Half Marathon, NOLA

London Marathon, London, England

Big Sur Marathon, Carmel, CA

New York City Marathon, NYC

Key West Half Marathon, Key West, FL

Red Rock Canyon Half Marathon, Las Vegas, NV

Asheville Half Marathon or 10K, Asheville, NC

Blue Ridge Relay, Roanoke, VA to Asheville, NC (pipe dream because I am not fast enough and don’t have 11 friends crazy enough to do this race with me)

The Bear Foot Race, Boone, NC – 5 miles straight up Grandfather Mountain, finishing in McRae Meadow in the middle of the Highland Games, representing Clan Pollock. I can’t throw a telephone pole but I can run and rock a cute running skirt made out of the Clan Pollock tartan (yes, they make performance tartan – no wool for me).

I wager I would look cuter in my skirt than this dude.

I would not, however, look cuter than this girl in just a sports bra, running up Grandfather Mountain.

Now, I just need to win the lottery and quit my job so I have the time and money to devote to traveling all these places and training to run up a freaking mountain. Talk about hill repeats.

I am happy to be well. I am happy to be able to run, even if it was only 5 miles. I am sad I missed my donut race. The forecast is calling for snow to begin tomorrow afternoon. We will likely be cooped up all together in this house, again, for a few days. Amazon just announced a new show based on some detective books I’ve read so that should hold me over. The treadmill will help me get my runs in but won’t get me out of the house so let’s hope we all survive. I almost bought a pair of Yak Tracks running spikes at REI today just so I could make an excuse to get out of the house and run in the snow. Then, I remembered I like warm beds and the internet and I am not into snow so I put them back. I did buy fresh yogurt, though, so no one will have to eat the expired stuff.

 

 

Waking Up in Vegas

“Shut up and put your money where your mouth is
That’s what you get for waking up in Vegas
Get up and shake the glitter off your clothes, now
That’s what you get for waking up in Vegas” – Waking Up in Vegas, Katy Perry

IMG_2685 New York, New York, at dawn

What did I get for waking up in Vegas? Three amazing runs on the The Strip at the ass crack of dawn because I was on East coast time and could not sleep past 4 AM, Vegas time. I logged 15 miles in three days so you know I must have liked it.

So, I have mixed feelings about Vegas. I’ve been before with my husband and had a good time but was sick of it after 48 hours. I went for conferences both times but Vegas with your spouse and Vegas with your co-workers are two totally different things. I was with co-workers this time. Co-workers I consider friends but still, a much different experience.

A little Vegas goes a long way and there is a lot about Vegas that is just plain gross. Vegas, to me, is like that one sorority sister we all had back in undergrad. She always pre-gamed a little too hard. She always wore a really short skirt and she always wanted to go to that one fraternity house where things usually ended in debauchery (shout out to all you Pi Kappa Alphas out there). In the light of day, you knew you should not go out with her but you usually did it, anyway. At the end of the night, you either ended up holding her hair back and listening to her cry or standing next to her in your own very short skirt, taking tequila shots in the frat house and looking forward to the debauchery. Vegas can go either way. This time, it went the tame way for me. I still talk to that sorority sister and I’ll still talk to Vegas, too, but I might not see either in person, again, for a good while.

IMG_2689 View from a pedestrian bridge, at dawn.

But, this is not a blog about the olden days when I used to have a lot of fun and was not a responsible adult, it is about running. When I travel, I love to run. It is the best way to see a city or town. You get to see things you would not if you were not out of a car or public transportation. Running is also the washing machine of my mind and it allows me to clear my head. Because I was without the responsibility of having to get my kids ready in the morning, I was able to run as many mornings as I wanted while I was there. It was freedom, personified.

The Strip, in the morning light, is such a different experience. I headed out all three mornings right when the first light came up over the mountains beyond the Strip, which is a beautiful sight. Vegas is in the middle of the dessert, surrounded by mountains. It can actually be a pretty town if you see it at sunrise. Mike was convinced I was going to be abducted so he made me promise to wait until there was some sunlight but I did want to run while it was still dark and the lights were still on but I did not.

IMG_2682 Paris Hotel and Casino

I must have been trying to burn off something because my pace was fast. Really fast, for me. I put in my head phones and Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and One Direction provided the soundtrack for my run, music fitting for Vegas. Running the Strip is like an obstacle run. One cannot simply run down the Strip. Casinos want you inside, not out on the street. They don’t make it easy to get from point A to point B without seeing the inside of the hotels. There are also a lot of dangerous intersections so there are a lot of escalators, stairs and pedestrian bridges (yes, I always took the stairs). I loved the challenge of figuring out a route each morning. I did not plan it and just went with it each morning when I hit the street, hesitating at the sign in front of the hotel – Las Vegas Blvd, North or Las Vegas Blvd, South. I found, I preferred South.

IMG_2677 A view of the Venetian from a pedestrian bridge.

These were my favorite things or the funniest/most like Vegas things I saw:

People gambling at 6 AM – I stayed at the Vdara, right next to the Aria (which I highly recommend), and had no casino (and no smoking, thank god – what is with all the cigarette smoke, Vegas?) but that did not mean I could get right out to the street. I had to cut through the casino of The Cosmopolitan (the neighboring hotel, which looked like someone had hit every surface with a Bedazzler) to get out to the Strip. I cut through the casino in my running clothes and saw folks still drinking and gambling. Props to those folks (or I am sorry your life is so sad, you have to drink alone, gambling at 6 AM – it was hard to tell with some of them). Y’all are hardcore.

Homeless people – there are ton of homeless people in Vegas. There tend to be a lot of homeless people in warmer climates. It is sad. I wish this were not the case. The homeless people in Vegas, though, work pretty hard to be entertaining. They made funny signs. They put sunglasses on their cats (yes, they did). They sang the Rocky song as runners ascended the stairs. They told the female runners they had nice butts and admired tattoos. They played music. They told jokes. No one takes anything seriously in Vegas.

Other runners – so, there were a lot more runners out than I expected. Runners, in general, share a kinship but runners who get up at the crack of dawn in Sin City to run on the Strip have an even greater mutual admiration. Most of the other runners were male. I only saw three other women. Everyone waved, smiled or nodded. We also struggled with how to navigate the stairs, crosswalks, bridges and casinos – even giving each other a heads up when we encountered a dead end. I met the same guy twice in the fountain garden at Caesar’s Palace. He was from Maine and was still super excited that the Patriots won the Super Bowl. I love runners. They’re just good people.

Beauty – if you can look past the places selling sugary, alcoholic drinks by the yard, or the dudes handing out hooker trading cards (yes, that is a thing) Vegas has a lot of beauty. The architecture of the hotels is lovely. The grounds are well kept (I know because, each morning, I encountered numerous grounds crews out hosing off the sidewalks and sweeping up all the cigarette butts). From an interior, I loved the Bellagio best. It was decorated for Chinese New Year and it was visually stunning. From the exterior, I love Caesar’s Palace the best. They have a fountain garden, which is lovely. They also have Roman statutes, fountains and waterfalls all around. It is just a beautiful place to run. The Wynn is also stunning from the outside.

IMG_2699 Conservatory in the Bellagio, with Chinese lanterns

 

 

IMG_2692 Fountains at Caesar’s Palace

 

 

IMG_2707 The Wynn and the Encore

So, I loved running in Vegas. I highly recommend it. I highly recommend running during all your travels. See things you have never seen, before, and get off your butt.

IMG_2674 View from my 43rd floor window

Now, it is time to get serious. I must clean up my eating (says the woman who is going to run the Krispy Kreme Challenge next Saturday – 12 donuts, 5 miles – although, I am in the non-competitive division, meaning, I don’t have to eat all 12 donuts before I cross the finish line. That is a very good thing.) I have 4 races between now and the end of April (maybe 5 if I get into the MCM 17.75K) and the Ironman in June. No more Bloody Mary’s, Maker’s Mark and ginger ales, Margaritas and buffets. Just kale and the occasional glass of red wine, because, allegedly, it is good for your heart (and it tastes better than kale).

In the meantime, happy running, friends.

Girls Just Want to Have Fun: runDisney Star Wars Rebel Challenge

“Some boys take a beautiful girl
And hide her away from the rest of the world
I want to be the one to walk in the sun
Oh girls they want to have fun
Oh girls just want to have” – Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Cyndi Lauper

Medals

From the minute runDisney announced Star Wars themed races with a teaser video of Darth Vader and some Storm Troopers emerging from Sleeping Beauty’s pink castle, I had no doubt that I would run those races. When I found out they were at Disneyland, I knew I wanted Carly to run those races with me. We both love Star Wars. We both love Disney. Only one of us loves running. When the races were announced and I saw there was a Rebel Challenge consisting of a 10K on Saturday and a half marathon on Sunday with an extra medal, I did not hesitate to register. I figured Carly would be OK running just this once. I was right. She was OK for 19.3 miles and we had the time of our lives!

First, let me diverge here for a second (this is my blog, now, so I can). I absolutely positively loved Disneyland. I have been to Disney World more times than I can count. I love Disney World but I think I love Disneyland better. At DL, everything is so close together. Park hopping is actually possible. No buses, no transportation needed. We walked everywhere and I loved it. We stayed at the Hotel Indigo, which was great. It was  a short 8 minute walk to all things Disney. I know DW has 4 parks but Epcot pretty much sucks for kids and, unless you want to eat your way through the “world”, I find it lacking so I don’t really count it as part of my regular DW routine. I love the Magic Kingdom but Disneyland is pretty much MK. What really sets DL apart is California Adventure. California Adventure is one of the best amusement parks I have ever been to. If I lived in Southern California, I would go there all the time. I’m going to retire to Disneyland. Just saying. We also met the nicest people in the world. Runners are really nice people. Star Wars fans are really nice people. Travelers to the Happiest Place on Earth are really nice. Put all three together, and you’ve got a great crowd. We made friends in every line we stood in.

Merru Go Round

I’ll skip the lead up to the races from March 2014, when I registered, until January 2015. Suffice it to say, I am in good enough running shape to be able to pull off 19.3 miles with no real training. I maintain half marathon racing status year round and could probably run one whenever I felt like it. Carly, on the other hand, only did 3 training runs. None longer than 5 miles. Sheer stubborness got that girl through those two races. There is something to be said for that kind of stubborn. It is hard as hell to parent but it might pay off for her in the end!

We flew into LAX on Thursday and took the Disneyland Express Bus to Anaheim. We made some friends from New Jersey on the bus. We dropped our bags at the Hotel Indigo and immediately headed to the race expo. We picked up our packets, bib numbers and shirts (they were ugly – I’m so disappointed). We bought some headbands and hit the race gear tent. We did some damage to our Disney Gift Cards here. The stuff for purchase was much better than the shirts that came with the race. Gee, you don’t think Disney does that on purpose, do you?

Race numbers

 

We then walked down to the ESPN Zone. We shared ginormous nachos and I had a Guniness in the recliners down front by the huge TVs. We went back to the hotel to get ready for the Wookie Welcome Party which was being held in Tomorrowland with the park only open for those with tickets to the event. We had the best time. We met so many Star Wars characters. Carly rode Space Mountain three times with no wait. Of course, we rode Star Tours!

Wookie

 

Friday we spent all day and all night in the parks. 13 hours. Of walking. Of standing in line. Of not sitting down. Did you know they serve local craft beer at California Adventure? It made it more bearable. Friday night, we had lobster nachos. Carly and I love nachos. We split them all the time.

The 3:30 wake up call for the 10K came very early. For us, it was not so bad because we were still sort of on East coast time so it felt more like 6:30. Our costumes were Darth Vader and R2-D2. I’m going to have to give DL the leg up over DW as far as race logistics and course go. At DW, you have to ride a bus from the resorts out to the parking lot at Epcot. You then have to walk about a mile to your corral. The corrals at the Disney Princess Half Marathon were much larger than the ones for this race. Add on at least an extra hour of crap at a DW race. At DL, we walked right out of our hotel, down two blocks to cut through Downtown Disney and over to the race start. It could not have been easier. Our corral was easy to find (I felt pretty good about our corral time I earned – Disney races tend to be slow so it makes me feel just a little fast). The announcers set the corrals off and soon, we were out on the course. The course at DL is so much better than DW. For the Disney Princess, I’ll bet we were in Magic Kingdom for one mile. The rest of the course was the side of Florida highways. Boring. At DL, we ran through both parks and when we weren’t in a park, we were behind the scenes and the Disney Cast Members lined the back alleys to cheer us on! The characters on the course were plentiful but the lines were really long for pictures so we skipped most of them.

Main Street

 

I don’t care who you are or how much you don’t think you love Disney, running down Main Street USA in the early morning during a Disney race is an experience you will never forget! Carly did really well during the 10K. We did a good job keeping up with our intervals and there was a fair amount of running. I was not worried about the 10K. I knew the half marathon was where things might get ugly.

We spent the rest of Saturday in the parks, wearing our medals (all the cool kids do it after a Disney race). A 12 hour day. No sitting. I had to make Carly go back to the hotel at 8:00 PM. We did get to see this super cool Pixar parade. And we met Elsa and Anna because, really, when are we ever going to do this, again? We did skip the Frozen sing-along. Colin watches Frozen about every other day so nothing about Frozen is the “first time in forever” at our house.

Parade

 

By Sunday morning’s wake up call for the half marathon, Carly and I were both really tired. She was hard to wake up and she briefly considered not starting the race. I told her the choice was hers to make but I feared that she would regret not doing it and we were not ever going to have this moment, again. She decided to do the race but I worried that we might not make it to the end. I reassured her this race was hers, not mine, and we would take it as easy as she needed to. The start was even easier to get to from our hotel than the 10K. Kudos to DL for making this so easy.

The excitement in the corrals was much higher than the day before. People really went all out on the costumes. Disney showed an extended clip of Episode VII, and, when they showed the Millennium Falcon, people went crazy in the corrals! Seriously, this was amazing. They counted down each corral with this sign, which was super cool, and when we actually passed under it, it changed to look like we were entering warp speed.

Run

 

We headed out with two couples dressed like X-Wing pilots. The women had orange tutus and they were so incredibly nice to Carly for the first few miles. Clearly, they were parents. The amount of attention Carly generated during this race kept her spirits up. She is incredibly small for her age so I am sure people thought she was younger than she is but so many runners shouted encouragement to her that it made my heart full. Runners are really kind people. Runners who see someone doing something amazing, like running your first half marathon at middle school age, dressed like Chewbacca with you mom dressed like Hans Solo, are even more encouraging. Cops on the side of the road high-fived her. The paramedics and the firefighters cheered for her. This is my favorite picture from the entire trip. We loved Paradise Pier.

DCA

We ignored our intervals about 3 miles in. We were tired. We had spent so much time on our feet since Thursday. I let her set the pace. We had no time goal other than to not get picked up by the sag wagon. The first 7 miles were through the two parks and they were entertaining.We turned out of California Adventure onto the main road through Anaheim. There were tons of high school bands and cheerleaders on this part of the course. They were so enthusiastic and kept us entertained. Once we passed this part and were in the neighborhoods around Anaheim, Carly began to struggle around mile 8. Every runner struggles around mile 8 of a half marathon. This is the part where you have put in a big effort but you still have a big effort in front of you. I suspected she wanted to quit but I doubted she would. She did not complain. She put one foot in front of the other and kept moving forward. Then, we found the Empire on a street corner in the middle of suburban Anaheim. The 501st Legion (that is what they call themselves, after Darth Vader’s guard). Who knew there was an entire world renowned group of cosplay folks who make their own Star Wars bad guys costumes and show up places for free to entertain people? I am in awe of these people. I kind of want to be one of them. That Bobo Fett costume was made out of real metal.

Vader

 

Sand

These guys helped us forget that sometimes racing sucks. Nice job, 501st Legion. The last 4 miles were hard for Carly but she did it.  We were clearly in the back of the pack. No one was even attempting to run anymore. As we hit the parking lot at Disneyland right before mile 13 to head to the finish, the struggling runners around us started crying, cheering, walking faster. I often forget that finishing a half marathon is not a given for everyone. There was once a time when I did not think I could do this, either. I cried at the finish line of my first half marathon, the Disney Princess. I cried at the finish of my first marathon. This is kind of a big deal. I love seeing people you would never expect to finish a race at the finish line. It renews my faith in people. I made Carly stop for this picture. Yes, we were very slow (the sign is gun time, not chip time, but still). This was my slowest finishing time but it was also one of my favorite races, ever, because of what it meant for Carly.

Mile 13

She was so tired but I was so proud of her. Not once did she complain. We ran in the finish and I gave her a huge hug. We had to go to a special tent to get our Rebel Challenge medal.

Carly

We then went to Build-A-Bear in our costumes to make a Toothless dragon for Colin because isn’t that what everyone does when they finish a half marathon?

Bear

 

We showered and changed and were back in the parks by noon. Yes, we are crazy. This was a once in a lifetime mother/daughter trip and we did not want to miss a thing. We rode all our favorite rides, again. We met some more cool people. I drank some more local craft beer. We ate some more Dole Whip. We stayed out until 9:30 (remember, we got up at 3:30). We made some amazing memories.

On Monday, we boarded the Disneyland Express Bus and were dropped off at LAX where we stayed in an airport hotel for our last night in California (don’t recommend that, BTW. Rookie mistake).  We rode the Big Blue Bus down to Santa Monica. That was a memory. A man decided to change his pants right there on the bus. Anyhoo, we loved Santa Monica. I see why people want to live there. I want to live there (but maybe not all the time). On Tuesday, we flew home to NC, me, with my 7th half marathon medal, Carly with her 1st half marathon medal and the two of us with incredible memories to cherish of that times we wore Star Wars running costumes and ran through the Happiest Place on Earth.

Mickey