April 15, 2014

Tranquility Lake 6 Mile: where I hurdled a snake

When I finish a marathon, I walk like a cowboy the rest of the day and am usually sore in my hips for a couple of days. When I finish a 10K or 5K, I feel completely normal afterwards, but my obliques kill the next day. 

This tells me that I need to rock some oblique workouts to get stronger in these short distances, especially on the trails. 

Tranquility Lake 6 Mile was no exception. Oblique killer! 

Still smiling post race. Probably because their obliques are stronger than mine. 

This is the first race of the Southeastern Trail Series, where participants can choose the short or long series. The long series builds up to a 50K for the final race, so along the way, you are slowly graduating to longer distances. The only exception is the Run for Kids Challenge, which is next month, that has a 50K and 12-hour option. 

I'm in for the long series, which is why I went with the 6-mile option on Sunday. Plus it jived better with my training plan. 

As always, these races feel like family. There are a lot of the local Birmingham Ultra Trail Society runners who come out, but it's also not uncommon (and is very cool) to see some regulars from around the state and surrounding states.

The course: This course has some gentle curves and hills. For the most part it is very runnable and great for a beginning trail runner (shout out to my friends who made this their first trail run and only fell once!). I didn't have my watch synced so I don't know the exact distances on things, but there is one steeper, longer climb about halfway into the course that I decided to hike. But I ran the rest with no regrets. 

Course designer and race director, David Tosch.

While it's a relatively easy course, you still get to run around the lake, through some rocky single track, and over some bridges, giving you enough variety that it isn't boring. The longer distance is a double loop, so be prepared to hike that big hill twice.

Race director and results coordinator, Marye Jo. 

My race: I was going to use my watch for this race, but the GPS on my Garmin never synced. So I went out completely on feel. Was I breathing to hard or not hard enough? Were my legs burning a little or starting a small fire? I felt like I was pushing my edge the whole time, but I wanted to be careful not to go over it because six miles is still six miles. Not short enough to go all out and not long enough to warrant being conservative. Basically, my plan was to totally wing it and try not to see too many people pass me. Unfortunately they didn't work out too well on the second loop. A lot of guys passed me, but fortunately they were guys and not girls (minus the rockstar 3-miler girls who passed me on the first loop). So I came out in the first place slot for the 6-mile ladies in 53:03. I really wanted to try and speed up with the guys passing, but I also didn't want to burn up and regret it in the last mile. I'd love to go back and see what would happen if I attempted to run the one really giant hill instead of hiking. Boom or bust?

Scariest moment: My first time jumping over a snake that looked ready to strike. On the first loop, we passed some cabins with kids out on a little patch of asphalt riding their bikes in a circle in the middle of our path. No big deal, free obstacle for us to weave through. On the second loop through, the kids had cleared out and were sitting with their adult chaperones on the cabin porch watching the runners fly (a very generous description of my own performance) by. As I neared, I saw it. A black and red striped snake that was rearing its head to strike. See below for an idea of how it looked. 

Almost exactly what I imagined witnessed.

I saw it about two steps before its fangs were poised to sink into my ankle, so I jumped over it and yelled "SNAKE!" to warn the children so they wouldn't die. 

The rest of the mile or so to the finish line, I day dreamed about how brave I was to leap over a snake and how this probably counted as some type of trail runner graduation, like now I was in middle school for trail runners since I had successfully navigated past a striking snake without hesitating. Bonus points for simultaneously shouting out warnings to nearby possible snake victims. 

I crossed the finish full of the joy and anticipation that surrounds an impending dramatic telling of your own heroic tale. But before I could spill how cool I was, I heard someone say that the kids at the cabins had planted a fake snake. So instead of them being grateful to me for warning them of a possible snake attack, they were laughing their butts off at how gullible I was. Laugh it up, kids. One day you'll be the pansy adult screeching and leaping over fake reptiles and rodents.  

Best moment: Watching our friend Bob cross the finish line of his first race back after months of chemotherapy. Look at the smiles on everyone's faces. The happiness radiating from him in that moment was totally contagious. 

Overall: Do this race if you are wanting to build up to a 50K through the series or if you are looking for an easy way to break yourself into trail racing. Also do this race if you are just looking for a really fun Saturday morning with some cool people.


And now for a totally unrelated Boston update. The weather forecast for Monday/race day is my perfect marathon weather. Kind of makes me wish that I actually had a time goal in mind, but I'm still really into my goal of getting the most high fives. I just wish there was a way to prove that I win this.

April 11, 2014

Tomoka Marathon 2014: my first time real deal pacing

The one sure way to get myself to run the 22 miles on my training plan during spring break is to sign up to pace a marathon. What's four more training miles, right? Especially when you lazed out on (that means completely skipped) all of your other runs for that week. There is pretty much no way in the hottest place you can think of that I was going to do that long run without the push of some people counting on me to pace them. 

Running in the USA (love that site) told me that there was a new race just a little over an hour from Ocala, FL, so I looked it up. When I saw that the course ran through Tomoka State Park, I was in. If you can't have trails, running through a state park is the next best thing. Because I knew that I wasn't going to be racing this event, I contacted the pacing group to see if they needed any more volunteers, and luckily they did. 

So just like that, I was going to pace the 4:15 group. The weather, which was perfect marathon weather the whole first part of the week, threw us for a little bit of a loop as race day approached. First it stormed like crazy the night before. No big deal for us runners, as long as you stand beside a taller person when the lightning strikes. Then the next day it was going to be in the 70s. Again, not a huge deal if we had been training in the summer going into a fall race but a pretty big deal for runners who aren't trained for higher temps. They decided to increase pacer times by 5 minutes. Then someone else wanted to switch with me so that they could bail earlier. In the end, I got the 4:40 group. Good, I thought. This will be easy, I assumed. Always assume that assuming anything about marathons will be easy is a mistake. Got it? Good. 

Thanks to my mom, I was able to take off the night before the race and spend the night in Ormond Beach with my friend.

Grandma babysitters, making marathons possible all over the world.

This friend (below) just ran her first half marathon in November, and a couple of days before the race, she decided to just go ahead and all willy nilly join me for the Tomoka Half. So let's get this straight: new to marathoning, already spur of the moment racing, and got a PR that day. Somebody is on running fire. 

Me and my I'll-just-run-a-half-marathon-on-a-whim friend.

Travel: The drive from Ocala was insanely easy. Ormond Beach is not a crowded town at this time of year, and there was never a problem with parking anywhere we went. Also, the morning of the race, we had a volunteer pass to park at the Casements, so there was no problem there for us either. We saw other people walking from a few blocks away to the start line. Still not bad.

Swag: Shirts for this race were gender specific.

And I'm forever glad to see a sweatband in my swag bag. I may or may not have definitely worn it to the club the next night. 

Here are the medals. Trees!

Race morning: I got in my usual nutrition of some nut better, grain (rice cakes instead of oatmeal on this day), maca powder, hemp hearts, chia seeds, and a granola-style energy drink. 

We got to the race in plenty of time for me to pick up my 4:40 sign and file into our self-appointed corrals, meaning the pacers staggered themselves with their signs to give people an idea of where to stand. Several people in the corrals talked to me about their goals for the race. It seemed as if the majority of runners surrounding me were attempting the half, but I also talked to several people who were attempting their first marathon that day. 

During all the chitchatting, I noticed that the 7 a.m. start time came and went. And went and went and went. There was something going on, possibly road debris from the storm the night before, but I never actually heard what it was because the announcer wasn't easy to hear in my section. Eventually we started near 7:30. 

Waiting for action. And waiting and waiting.

Runners during the anthem. 

The course: If you want canopied trees and tranquility, this is your race.

There were even a couple of miles on trail. It wasn't technical, but it also wasn't standard road running. Because of the rain the night before, the trail/jeep road had some large puddles that we had to hike into the brush at times to avoid. Not sure it mattered much in the end because I sweated so much that it was as if I had stepped into the ocean anyway. 

Trail portion.

There was also a lot of water to ease our marathon minds, something soft and fluid to balance out the pounding of our feet. 

If the weather was a little cooler on this day, I would say that this is a perfect PR course. Enough change of scenery that you don't want to stab your eyeballs, but the course is also very flat with the exception of the one bridge at the beginning. 

And aid stations: plentiful, about every mile, and well stocked. My only complaint there was that they carried Powerade gels, and I pretty much can't stand any of those, just personal preference. Some of the aid stations had Swedish fish and pb&j sandwich squares. A lady was even holding out Swedish fish in her hand for us to grab as we ran by. Normally I would not take candy from a stranger's bare who-knows-where-that's-been hand, but marathons lower all standards of germaphobe-ness. 

Also, towards the end of the race, the safety of the course seemed to decline. At one point, we were just running on a two-lane road with no cones in site and cars trying to come around us. In my foggy marathon brain, it seemed like the beginning of the course had one of the lanes marked specifically for us with cones. 

Last, the mile markers were on point, visible and always there!

Pacing: My favorite part of this race!

Here are some notes that I sent in to my pacing group leader after the race:
We started out a little slow but caught up by the half. My group wanted to walk through aid stations, so I went with that option. Some miles had more than one aid station, so that slowed down those miles slightly. The heat/humidity was intense that day, so I'm glad we went with slower times for our pacing group/leaders. Nobody had an easy pacing job on Saturday! 
We started with a group of about 10 or more. More than half of those people split off to head back for the half marathon. I lost my last person from my original group around mile 20. The hardest part is pulling away from those runners who have shared their goals and hopes with you.
Plus, those last few runners who were with me really liked to sing, so I missed the human stereo system. Luckily, I was able to pick up some more people along the way to the finish who had been walking, usually for just a short time before they needed to walk again. One of my personal favorite parts of the race was trying to push runners to a strong finish, even though we didn't start together. In the last mile, there were a couple of runners who I encouraged to not let me pass them again (I had passed them once, and they made their way back around me). They took the challenge and picked up the pace to the finish. That was really fun to see. As this was my first time pacing strangers (as opposed to friends), I am amazed by how rewarding it was, even though I crossed the finish line alone. I'm really glad you covered that in the instructions because it was the opposite of my natural instinct.

Shout out to my singing buddies Tim and Sylvia, some of the funnest people I've ever run with. This was Sylvia's first marathon, and she finished very close to her goal time. Go, Sylvia!! If you ever read this, I loved running with you!

On a more personal note, even though I was pacing what would supposedly be an easy time for me, I found it very challenging. Is it the change in stride length or just the mental toughness of focusing so hard on keeping an even pace? In other marathons, I usually just go with what my legs can offer on any given day, within reason, but I was very focused this day on trying to keep the pace totally. Whatever it was, I was sore and ready to finish by the end, and I walked out of there all stiff and awkward like a cowboy on stilts. My feet also had tons of blisters from all the sweating. 

Anyone else ever had this experience with pacing? 

For those wondering, the sign is not heavy at all to hold, but when we got the winds off the water, it got a little crazy to hold onto. It basically turned into a kite when the wind swept through, so I just tried to hold it close to my chest when the wind picked up.

I swear that I was trying to make a normal smile face. #crazymarathonfinishface

Random note: At the finish, one of our non-runner friends said watching the racers come through made her tear up a little bit, and she agreed to run with us in Savannah this November. Running recruitment win!

Me standing with my friend who already had time to PR and shower.

Favorite quote of the day: One of my pacees made this comment after we lost some of our original group around the half. 

Marathons are like life. You start with one set of people, meet a lot of different people along the way, and end it all alone. 
And that's exactly what happened to me that Saturday.

Post race: They had great snacks at the finish and a surprise (to me) pancake breakfast in a building across from the finish line. When I came through, the announcers and volunteers were all still there cheering runners on, no premature packing up of the finish line.

Even though they had great grub, I still had to get my standard post-marathon burger on. Not a marathon for me without a burger after the finish.

And I cannot confirm or deny that later that night I was doing a lot of random dance moves on the karaoke stage. Awkward karaoke dance moves, just another way to flush lactic acid. 

Have you ever been an official pacer for a race? I had only ever paced for friends before this, which is definitely different and easier to me. With a friend, you go with what they want and need. With the official pace group, you stick to the pace no matter what. That can get a little lonely at times if you lose your group. 

What's your standard post-race meal? I always crave red meat. Iron deficiency?

Give me your go-to karaoke song. I need a standard. I switch it up every time, and sometimes that turns out much worse than I could have imagined (e.g. George Michael's "Faith").

April 5, 2014

It takes a village to run long (plus more Boston Marathon gear!)

Some Saturdays, it takes a village to get the long run done. My husband wasn't available this morning, which means that I had to get creative on this whole long-run-with-kids business. This is where marathon training gets the most complex. Running the actual marathon is easy compared to figuring out how to fit in long runs around family schedules.

I had 17 miles on the books today, so I went to the gym for the first 11. Thank you, kid care department!

One of my coping techniques was staring at the trees in the distance and pretending that they were surrounding me. Imaginary trail running at its best. Also, I varied the incline in .5-mile increments. Up, flat, down, up, flat, down. Luckily these treadmills decline as well as incline, which I feel gives a more realistic representation of the roads. 

I would have done all of my miles there, but I ran out of babysitting time.

So my next plan was to finish up the last six at a track, where the kids could play while I ran. But my brother saved the day by agreeing to let the kids come play with him while he was at the Darter Festival at Railroad Park. Then I could run around the park instead of at the track. Live music, hooping, plenty to see = so much better than 24 loops on a track. 

The village got this 17-mile run done. Now to taper for Boston. 

And I got my B-town jacket. It took about two minutes to get here. Really, it was two days later. Pretty stinking fast. I love it so much -- the colors, the relaxed fit, the reflective Boston Marathon emblems on the front. The only thing it is missing for me is thumb holes. 

It passed the jump test too, so sold. I ordered a bunch of other random items to test too. In case you are looking at this stuff, I'll tell you what I thought.

The Boston Marathon Supernova Tee was cute, and I had high hopes because I liked the colors and fabric. But the fit was horrible on me. Tight on the waist, loose up top. If you are shaped more like Barbie, this will be perfect on you. If you are shaped like a 12-year-old boy with a poochy belly, then this will not work for you. 

I really liked the Response Hoodie. Soft and so comfortable. The only thing I worry about with this one is that the design on the front is that velvety puff stuff (we only use official names for things on this blog), and I feel like that might not hold up very well. Still deciding if I should keep or return this. 

The Boston Marathon Graphic Tee is going back. It fits like the supernova tee, tight on the waist and loose in the bosoms. Not flattering on me at all. The stripe around the neck is actually the color of the emblem on the front and not orange. I really wish this one fit better. I would definitely have kept it if it did. 

The Boston Marathon Official Race Tee is not a tech shirt. It's a cotton tee. It probably mentioned that somewhere on the site, but for some reason I was expecting it to be a tech shirt. The fit of this one was better than the tech tees above, but I'm still not sold completely on $30 (plus a 20% off code) for this shirt. It gets a meh from me. 

The Boston Marathon Runs as One Tee is also a cotton tee. Again, it fits me better than the tech tees. The logo is printed in a reflective silver, which I thought was kind of cool. I will probably keep this one. 

Yes, I did go a little crazy with ordering, but I had the 20% off coupon code and can return whatever doesn't work (which turns out to be a lot) for no extra charge. 

What is the craziest arrangement you've ever had to make for a long run? 

Air conditioned treadmill or hot muggy trail run? Definitely hot muggy trail run. Unless you include definite snake sitings, then I might go for treadmill. 

Do you go crazy for certain race gear, or are you able to keep yourself in check? I usually don't go crazy at all for race gear, but every once in a while, I'll purchase something besides the shirt that comes in the race packet. At Mt. Cheaha 50K, I bought the cotton tee because their tech shirts didn't fit me very well, and the design was cute. I'm so happy I bought that one because I wear it on the daily (almost). 

April 3, 2014

About to be breakin' in this Boston jacket

First, if you haven't heard the story of how I met my coach, it's featured on the Resolute Running site today in a segment called Thank You Thursday. It still amazes me that out of the 30K people at the Nashville RNR, I somehow met the person who would be my future coach. 

Second, there's finally a Boston jacket I can stand behind. It just popped up recently on the Adidas site, maybe as an apology for that cruddy official race jacket. Fingers crossed that it's as cool in person as it looks in the pictures. Just ordered it last night, so I'll give you the rundown when it arrives. When I look at it in the online pics, I see myself breakdancing in it, which is a win. 

I sent the previous (the official) one back because of the crooked printing on the back. Can you see that it's off in the pic below? It's closer to the left seam than the right. Not a huge deal, but for the amount of money they charge for these jackets, they should be able to get the printing centered. If it was a $5 thrift store jacket, I would totally live with it. 

I still liked the embroidery on the back and the colors, but I'm going to wait to see if I can get one that isn't crooked at the expo. I really think that I'll wear the other blue track jacket every day of my life, and I would wear this one when I need to be seen on the streets (i.e. while dawn running). 

Speaking of the dawn, did I tell you guys that I started teaching a new class at the gym? Dawn Patrol on Mondays at 6. With me not being a morning person and all, this was yet another paradigm shift that running has created in my life. The first one was early morning Saturday runs. 

The class format is running meets boot camp. We'll be using these stairs A LOT. When I first saw them right beside the path we use for our class, there might have been a light shining down from heaven upon them and a choir of angels singing hosanna. Yes, I was excited about the torture potential of these steps. If you live in the area, the class is free, so come join us. We meet at the front doors of Life Time, and we leave at exactly 6 on my watch. The class is only 45 minutes, so we have to squeeze in every little bit of work we can before we hit the road to start our day. 

This week we did a hill workout, and we had some random guests show up. Not the people, the horses. 

What's your favorite class at your gym (or in general)? What makes it your fave?

Do you run stairs regularly? Once I did it for an hour (on a set of stairs at the gym, not on a stair machine) in place of an actual run because running in a straight line hurt my hip but running up and down stairs didn't. A more boring hour could not exist. No offense, stairs, but you are best when mixed with other exercise. 

Have you ever tried breakdancing? I was really determined to study it at one point after an inspired viewing of Breakin'. I got as far as collecting and spreading out a giant mat of cardboard on my living room floor. Turns out that breakdancing is really hard, and I quit about five seconds in. 

April 2, 2014

Rumpshaker 5K 2014: free the tutus

With all of the hoopla (can I change it to tut-la?) surrounding SELF's tutu bashing, I thought it would be appropriate to finally get around to blogging about that time I wore a tutu to a race. If you are just now getting on this SELF stinks train, here's a synopsis. SELF asks girl if they can publish a picture of her wearing a tutu. Girl excitedly says yes! When the magazine is printed it reads, “A racing tutu epidemic has struck NYC’s Central Park, and it’s all because people think these froufrou skirts make you run faster. Now, if you told us they made people run from you faster, maybe we would believe it.” Ouch. And to top it off, the girl pictured makes those tutus to sell to raise money for Girls on the Run, and she was undergoing chemo for brain cancer at the time of that race. Wow, let us all watch as SELF tries to back peddle on this one. 

Here's my theory: who gives a crud what people wear at a race? And if it motivates someone to go run, have at it. If you like colored cornstarch showering around you as you run, do it. If you like swimming through a sub-zero pool of water and stomping through mud pits during your run, do it. If you like bubbles covering you like a blanket as you run, do it. If you like 5Ks, do it. If you like half marathons, do it. If you like 100 milers, do it. Who cares what people do for recreation?! Minus crack and meth. If you are out there doing something that makes you healthier, you are winning. Period. 

Am I a frequent tutu wearer? No. This was my first time wearing one to a race, although I love running skirts in general, which aren't too far removed from a tutu. 

For the Rumpshaker 5K, my friend Melissa had the idea for us to all get together with the our local trail society, BUTS, and dress in tutus and BUTS shirts. And raise a load of cash for cancer research! 

The irony of the tutu wearing in this pic is that the girls wearing the "froufrou skirts" are some of the toughest girls I know. A couple of them probably eat nails for breakfast. Not confirmed at time of publishing. 

They can look sweet and all in a tutu. 

But underneath that tutu, they're just a bunch of sweaty animals. 

And we weren't the only ones dressed up for this race. 

Even though this race doesn't provide obstacles and colored cornstarch, it's high on fun. 

Exhibit A: the trophies. 

Exhibit B: the photo booths/props. 

Giant colon.

Toilet seats, hopefully unused.

Exhibit C: lots of tom foolery and laughing. 


Even the boys joined in on the fun minus the tutus, although they aren't above that like some people, ahem SELF ahem.

And if you're looking at this to figure out if you should run Rumpshaker to try and nab that PR, go for it. The course is flat except for the bridge which you will get going and coming. Otherwise it's pancake flat.

Some people had a hard time breathing and staying conscious on the bridge portion (points to self).

My I-can't-feel-the-ground-with-my-feet-anymore face. Hypoxic.

I didn't get a PR, but I still felt great about my time considering how heavy my legs felt.

What's the best race photo prop you've ever seen? 

Would you ever wear a tutu? 

Do you care? Are you over it? 

I was not quite over the freedom of tutu expression because we decided to show those tutu naysayers who's boss by wearing them at my Life Time run last night. 

Tutus: making wider shadows a thing.

It's my party, and I'll wear a tutu if I want to (but most likely I won't because they aren't as comfortable as pajamas, which I wore to the last party I went to).