Samantha’s Harvest 5K, 10 June 2018

What: 5K

Where: Reading, Massachusetts (course map)

Who: Me and the Bairn (his first race outside of the womb!) and a ton of Shammies

Benefited: Samantha’s Harvest

Time: 38:09

Splits:
-Mile 1: 11:08
-Mile 2: 12:44
-Mile 3: 13:18
-Mile 3.1: 1:15

Background:

I’d been wanting to run this race for a few years. It’s one that always has a big Shammie representation, it’s in a town I hadn’t run in before (see my race maps which badly need updating!), and it benefits a great charity. Unfortunately, it almost always falls on the same day as the Worcester Firefighters 6K… until 2018, that is! (Dang, this recap is waaayyyy overdue.)

Pre-race:

Drew had a soccer game at the same time as the race, so I didn’t have my usual personal cheering squad. Feeling like part of an especially sporty family, I loaded the Bairn and the jogging stroller into the car and set off for Reading High School. By the time we got there, there was already a sizeable Shammie crowd; I don’t often show up at races alone, so it was nice to be met with so many familiar faces! Bib pickup was super easy, and the Bairn and I milled around and socialized a bit before gun time. (Warmup? What warmup?) After a quick Shammies group photo:

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Shammies representing

all the runners were led off the high school campus to a cul-de-sac, where the race started.

The race:

The Bairn and I brought up the rear as the gun went off, and Shammie E kept us company for the first half-mile or so, until I just couldn’t keep up anymore. (Those of you who’ve read this blog before may remember Shammie E, who kept Fetus Bairn (is that too weird of a name?) and I company at the Beach 2 Beacon 10K!) This was my first time ever pushing the jogging stroller while running, and I wasn’t even really in 5K, non-stroller-pushing shape to begin with, so I was content to run as slowly as I needed and take walk breaks whenever. I didn’t want to hold E back, so we waved goodbye as she sped off.

The road guards for this race were mostly high school students, and they did a great job (for the most part). There was one confusing intersection where the Bairn and I took off up a hill, because one road guard gestured in that direction as his friend was texting someone, and then the friend looked up and yelled at us that we were going the wrong way. Eh, it wasn’t like I was gunning for a PR or anything, right? I was only mildly annoyed because the hill was so frikkin’ steep!

Honestly, I don’t remember too much else about the race, which I guess is unsurprising as it’s now almost 9 months later and I’ve got a bad case of Toddler Brain (like Pregnancy Brain, except it’s accompanied by a ball of energy who throws tantrums at the drop of a hat). I do remember being excited to see the high school track, where the finish line was, and hearing a random Shammie yell “Yay, go Shammie!!” at me.

When I saw 38:something on the clock as I crossed the finish, I had a teeny pang of disappointment as my competitive-with-myself part of my brain was upset I hadn’t miraculously PR’d. Mostly, though, I was chuffed that I finished in under 40 minutes, considering I was doing my first-ever stroller run on an unfamiliar course when it was kind of hot!

Post-race:

I freed the Bairn from his stroller and let him wander around a little. He mostly wanted to escape the fenced-in track area to explore the open fields, but I was trying to chug water and focus on making my face less red. Several people complimented his “crawl walk run” shirt, which he wore special for race day.

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A partial view of the Bairn’s race day shirt. You can also see his blurry wee hand as he spins the stroller wheel

Post-race activities seemed pretty low-key. Awards were given to overall and age group winners (the Shammies cleaned up nearly every category), then people just kind of dispersed. I may have been so distracted by Bairn wrangling that I didn’t hear any announcements, but that’s just as well. I did notice some Shammies enjoying post-race beverages in the parking lot, which would have been fun to join in if I hadn’t been a) lugging a Bairn and b) driving said Bairn home.

Once home, I did luxuriate for a while in the shady part of our backyard while the Bairn played with his water table:

watertable

It was a cool experience running with the Bairn (even cooler than running with him in-utero, because we got to chat and I could see him sitting up and taking everything in), and something I’d love to do more. I did manage one more stroller run last summer, but it was *such* a crazy hot summer that I opted for slow stroller walks with iced coffee way more often. Here’s hoping the snow and ice melts soon so we can hit the pavement together again!

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Fort Hill Brewery 5K, 15 April 2018

What: 5K

Where: Easthampton, Massachusetts (course map)

Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew (and two Shammies running the half)

Benefited: Easthampton High School’s track and cross country programs

Time: 32:39

Splits:
-Mile 1: 10:13
-Mile 2: 10:47
-Mile 3: 10:33
-Mile 3.1: 01:17

Recap:

This was my first race post-Bairn! I originally signed up for the half marathon back in November, but after training went awry, I switched my registration to the 5K and am quite pleased with how it all played out. Especially because we got a fun weekend of travel out of the deal!

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Fort Hill Brewery*

Bib pickup happened the day before at a fitness studio in nearby Hadley, and was super easy and quick. I had signed up early enough to get a free shirt, which was a tech shirt with gender-specific sizing – always a plus! There was also bib pickup the morning of, but as we were out and about with the Bairn the day before anyway, it seemed prudent to get it done with.

The race itself was held at and around the Fort Hill Brewery in Easthampton, with parking onsite, on a nearby street, and at a community center next door. The brewery looked like an old farmhouse near Mount Tom (which you can see peeking out on the left of the above photo), and felt very picturesque.

We arrived just before the half marathon runners took off at 10am, and we took shelter in the brewery as we waited for the 10:30 start for the 5K. In addition to not feeling trained or physically ready at all for a half marathon, the fact that it was in the low 30s (with wind chill making it feel like the 20s) with freezing rain in the forecast made me even happier I had dropped to the shorter distance! It was awesome having the brewery to shelter in, especially since I had a Bairn in tow.

Maker:S,Date:2017-11-11,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

Checking out the ambulance with the Bairn, pre-race

A little before 10:30 the runners were summoned down to the starting line. It was frikkin’ freezing, guys. I’ve run in colder temps, but it had been quite a while, and my body was not happy with me for making it hang out in, and warm up in, such conditions. I did some half-hearted warmup jogs and dynamic stretching, then stood shivering with the rest of the 95 runners as we waited for the start.

We got some directional instructions before the start, as well as a reminder to take deep breaths and be in the moment, then the starting gun went off and we were away running. I started near the back of the pack, and had intentions of taking it pretty easy, but I was so cold that I found myself running faster than planned just to try to warm up. Also, my recent training runs have all started out fast, so I think that’s just what my body was used to.

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Before the 5K start*

Maybe halfway through the first mile I checked Simon Mark II and saw I was chugging along at a 9:– something pace. I knew that wasn’t sustainable, but I was feeling okay, so I picked a runner near me who was wearing a sparkly skirt and decided to try to pace her. I managed to stay with her until the water stop just before Mile 2, when I took the opportunity to walk as I drank and she ran out of sight. While I was disappointed to see my pacer disappear into the horizon, I was pretty pleased that I had made it nearly 2 miles without needing a walk break.

The water stop was the last(ish) part of the race that was on roads – until then we had been running mostly residential roads near the brewery. After the water stop we turned onto the Manhan Rail Trail, which was beautifully paved (no potholes or rough patches like on the roads!) and which looked like it would be such a cool trail to have at one’s disposal. Not long after hitting the trail we passed behind an old, run-down mill building and I wanted to stop to take a picture… but I didn’t want to stop, as I had just started running again. So I wrestled with my ArmPocket to get my phone, and took a shot of the creepy-looking water tower attached to the mill:

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It didn’t come out great, but it was cool-looking in person, I promise

I had been leapfrogging the guy in the blue hoodie in that photo, and at the time of the picture I had pretty much given up hope that I’d catch him again. The arm at the very far left of the photo was a lady I ended up chatting briefly with (we commented on the not-so-pleasant smell of some kind of factory or stream we ran past) before awkwardly passing her when I got my second wind.

Since I hadn’t warmed up properly, my first mile in this race was pretty much a warmup… as in I couldn’t feel my legs because they were so cold, and they didn’t warm up until the first mile had ticked by. I struggled a bit for the second mile… likely because I wasn’t hydrated (I am me, after all)… but then after taking that walk/water break, I had a few minutes and then BOOM my second wind appeared. I’ve written before about races where I’ve felt like I turn into a machine at the end, and that happened again in this race. Once I passed that lady, I felt like I couldn’t stop or slow down if I wanted to.

I got to a point on the trail where I recognized the community center that’s next to the brewery, and I knew I was almost done. I had about a half-mile to go, but I ate that half-mile for breakfast. My jets turned on and while I didn’t sprint, I did pick up speed, and I felt strong. I even caught up to and passed Blue Hoodie, and left him in my dust. I picked off a few more people as the trail ended and we turned onto the road that leads to the brewery.

Maker:S,Date:2017-11-11,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

Cresting the last hill

The very last bit of the race was a cruel uphill to the finish line, but I ate that hill for second breakfast. Maybe I was just so excited to be done, or maybe I had energy stores galore from the breakfast sandwich and tasty coffee I’d had before the race (ordinarily I don’t eat that much or drink coffee before races), but I tore up that hill, waved excitedly at Drew and the Bairn who were waiting for me near the finish, and crossed the line with a much faster time than I had expected.

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Done!*

As a bonus, a race volunteer placed a medal around my neck after I crossed the finish line (according to all the race info, only half finishers were going to get medals, so bonus bling was awesome!), I grabbed a banana, and wobbled off to find Drew and the Bairn. I was well chuffed with my race, especially the last third or so, and also very glad that I didn’t have 10 more miles to run! The 5K was the right choice for me this time for sure.

We hung out in the brewery for a bit so I could warm up and guzzle some water, then we opted to leave early and skip the post-race party. The brewery was going to be serving beer, a local pizza place was already handing out slices to the runners (I think I’ve written before that I have a hard time with “real” food right after a race, especially things like pizza), and a DJ was ready to spin some tracks, but bad planning on my part meant we had no Airbnb to return to and a long ride home with a tired Bairn, so we bolted. The party pics on Facebook make it look like it was a fun time though!

Even though it wasn’t the half marathon I had planned on running, I’m glad I dropped down to the shorter distance. My training runs had gotten up to 5 miles so I knew I could grind out 3.1, and knowing my family wasn’t killing a long time in the cold eased me of guilt. I ended up feeling strong and finishing faster than expected, so I’d say it was a pretty successful return to the world of road races!

And I’m already putting feelers out for my next race…

*Photos with asterisks by Donna Gulow*

 

Shamrocks on the Rocks 5K, 13 March 2016

What: 5K*

Where: Lunenburg, Massachusetts (course map)

Who: Me and a bunch of Shammies

Time: 29:30*

*For those of you keeping score at home, this time should be a 5K PR for me… however, it turns out the race was only ~3.01 miles according to everyone’s Garmins, not 3.1… boo!!

I ran this race with Colin two years ago. We chose it for its swag and bling, and also because it takes place where Whalom Park – the now defunct amusement park of my childhood – was. Ahh nostalgia.

I had only just joined the Shammies at that point, and proudly rocked my shiny new run club singlet at the race, which felt fitting as it was the Shamrocks on the Rocks race. That idea stuck with me, and this year I shared the race app with my club in hopes that I could rally some interest. The name did drum up some intrigue, as well as the cheap registration fee ($15) and promise of swag and a fun road trip, and a decent crowd of Shamrocks descended on the small town of Lunenburg for a day of fun:

sotrMuch like two years ago, there was a small field of runners (just over 100), and there was a cold wind whipping off the lake. Unlike last time, however, it was a downright tropical 61*; 2014’s race fell in the middle of a polar vortex and it was in the 20s as well as windy. I much preferred the weather this time around! (Even if it did result in my getting sunburned…)

2014 (left) vs 2016

2014 (left) vs 2016

The “on the rocks” part of the race name comes from the sports bar located near the start/finish line – On the Rocks. Packet pickup and registration was held there, as well as the post-race party, and they provided ever-wonderful real bathrooms for us – awesome! We spent a good chunk of time before the race hanging out in the bar, mainly to get out of the wind, until it was time to warm up.

The race started at 1 (something I hate during the summer, but really love during the winter… slightly warmer!), and I tried to take a picture of the runners taking off from my spot near the back, but my phone decided it didn’t want to cooperate. So here’s one I found on facebook (my friend E and I are lurking behind the 3rd dude from the right in the tan shirt):

Photo by Michelle Haggstrom

Photo by Michelle Haggstrom

E and I had decided we’d run-walk the race together – me because I’m just starting my gait retraining stuff all over again, and she because she’s coming back from an injury. However, any time E and I have decided to walk something we always end up running it (case in point: Thanksgiving), so I don’t know why I went into the race expecting to run-walk. Of course we’d run it.

When I first signed up, before my dodgy knees started acting up again, my goal for the race was to beat my time from 2014 (33:08). That had been my second fastest 5K at the time, but as I was doing speedwork again and in the middle of a training program, I thought I’d be prime for a course PR, if not an overall PR. Going into the race – when I still thought I’d be run-walking it – my only goal was to have fun and not get hurt.

Me and the fabulous E, who kept me going the whole way! (Photo by Michelle Haggstrom)

Me and the fabulous E, who kept me going the whole way! (Photo by Michelle Haggstrom)

E and I started at a decent pace, probably faster than I would have chosen, but it felt alright so I kept it up. I didn’t look at Simon at all except for when he beeped the mile marks, because I didn’t want to tempt myself into pushing too hard. I know how competitive I can be with myself!

I was also trying to run the way Jen (Gait Retraining Guru) wants me to run, and how I had run twice during the week leading up to the race. I had managed two 1-mile treadmill runs just to test things out, and both had felt great. So I focused on driving my knees up (rather than flinging my shins forward using my toes, as is my style), and lifting my feet up behind me (rather than just pendulum-ing them around), taking shorter strides, and trying to lean forward a bit at the ankles. (I also tried proper breathing but that was a hot mess.)

My more proper running style made me travel a bit faster than usual – as I found during my last C25K experiment – and so all 3 miles clocked in under 10:00 (!). This only happened once before (well, officially… the Moby Dick PR race has unknown metrics), at the LA race I ran and PRd in back in January. At that race, I started out fast and got slower, having to walk for a bit. This time, however, I negative-split the race, didn’t have to walk once, and was even able to sprint to the finish! Boo yeah!

The sprint to the finish (photo by Jim Fay)

The sprint to the finish (photo by Jim Fay)

E totally carried me mentally through this race. She kept reminding me to breathe, talked me up the Hill of Terror (which I had to walk up in 2014), and kept the pace. When we were approaching the final 100m or so, she mentioned that we were about to break 30 minutes. Even though I had seen the speedy paces on Simon at the mile marks, I hadn’t dared to do the math.

I was so excited at the prospect of breaking 30 that I asked her if I could go for it, got her blessing, and took off at a full sprint. With the speedier Shammies cheering me on from the sidelines, I flew over the finish line at 29:30… and then was forced to come to a complete and immediate stop so that the volunteers could record my time (it wasn’t chip-timed). Ugh. It was all I could do to not keel over, especially because my ribs were angry; they had started feeling funny during the last mile or so, and the final sprint probably wasn’t the best idea in hindsight. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

After staggering around to find water, having E keep me walking a bit so that I wouldn’t actually keel, and stretching (hey! I remembered!), we all crowded into On the Rocks for celebratory beers and the prizes. Every Shammie had run an awesome race, and most people thought they had placed in their age groups. The race was so small, though, that they only gave prizes to the top 3 male and female finishers – Shammies took 2nd place male and 1st place female! And despite lack of age group awards, we swept the raffle prizes, and the beer was cheap, so we were all winners!

Post-beer pizza party!

Post-beer pizza party!

Overall, I’m so pleased with how this race went. I am proud (and a little surprised) that I was able to run with more-or-less proper form for the whole distance, and super pumped that I managed a good time and didn’t have to walk once! I do have to admit, though, that I’m pretty bummed it wasn’t a full 5K… I really want to know if I would have finally broken 30! Regardless, it was a fun road trip with the Shammies, and everyone had a blast and is already talking about running it again next year. Maybe I’ll run it even faster in 2017!

(Want to know more about the race itself? Read my review at BibRave!)

Nuun Year Dash, 7 February 2016

What: Virtual 5K race

Where: on the treadmill

Who: me and David Bowie*, running virtually with other Nuun fans around the country
*David Bowie did not actually run with me… obviously

Benefited: Challenged Athletes Foundation

Time: 40:42

Note: This post is a bit rambly. TL;DR? I ran a virtual race and you can see my fancy results page here. Scroll to the bottom of this post for my more substantive thoughts!

——

Last summer, Nuun hosted a virtual running/cycling race for its Nuunbassadors and sponsored athletes. Always a sucker for bling, I jumped at the chance to take part and ran my race around the Ballona Wetlands in Los Angeles (you can read my recap here):

photo(16)A few months back, I got an email from Nuun that they were hosting another virtual race, but this time it would be open to all runners and walkers, regardless of Nuun affiliation. Once again, distracted by the opportunity to get another shiny medal (and another sweet t-shirt… the one for Run Ride Hydrate (seen in the photo above) is one of my faves – so soft and fits perfectly!), I signed up immediately.

At the time I signed up, back in November, I was still in the midst of recovering from injury, and thought a virtual 5K would be a nice way to start the year – a gentle return to racing and something to look forward to. I didn’t know at the time that I would have already made a victorious return to racing, or that the 5K would clash with my training schedule… oops.

Fast forward to this past weekend: race weekend. My training plan dictated a “long” run of 2 miles – this being the first week of said plan, which is nice and gentle – and yet here I was facing a 5K race. It definitely seemed doable, but after my plethora of injuries of late I was hesitant to over-do it and send myself down another spiral of injury and resting sadness. However, I had already paid for the race, I already had the swag in hand, and not doing it seemed like a waste. So I decided to run the full 5K, but very, very gently.

...but not quite this gentle (source)

…but not quite this gentle (source)

Sunday – long run day – arrived, and I got amped for my virtual race. I donned my spiffy new Nuun shirt, hydrated properly (#nuunlove!), picked out a good playlist on the ‘pod, and shuffled off to the gym. Despite the relatively warm temps (low 40s), the sidewalks were still a slushy, icy mess from Friday’s snowstorm and I didn’t want to take any risks.

Being Super Bowl Sunday, the gym was gloriously not crowded, and I had a choice of treadmills. Huzzah! I fired up the belt and walked for 5 minutes to warm up, flipping through the channels on the treadmill TV for something I wouldn’t mind staring at. Usually I end up watching a basketball game I don’t care about, or HGTV, but the stars aligned this day and gave me the gift of a David Bowie documentary on VH1. (Although, except for the part when they explained how “Heroes” was made, I listened to my iPod instead of the documentary, since I wanted to run to music and not talking.)

Once I was warmed up, I restarted the treadmill and hit the belt running. Slowly(ish). I kept the speed set to between a 12-13-minute pace in the name of taking it easy, but holy mackerel – running a 13-minute pace on a treadmill feels just as intense as running a 9- to 10-minute pace outside! To me, anyway. I felt like I was putting in nearly the same effort as I did in recent races where I finished around 32-33 minutes, and yet this run took about 8 minutes longer. Treadmills are weird.

Anyway, as I was running and trying to figure out how I could drink water without stopping, but also without dribbling down myself or tripping/flying off the machine, I got a brilliant idea – to stick with my training plan, I’d run straight for 2 miles, then slow the belt down for a walk-and-water break, and then determine how I felt about going the remaining mile and change. That way, I’d still technically be keeping myself on the plan, while also giving myself a way to hydrate safely and (in theory) without embarrassment.

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2 miles with the Thin White Duke in 25:33

I hit 2 miles in just over 25 minutes, which was a little self-esteem boost since the day before I had gone 1.8 miles in the same amount of time. It’s the little things! I slowed the belt down and walked for a bit, downing some water and enjoying the breeze from the little treadmill fan, and made a mental systems check. I felt good! I felt like I could keep going, so after about a tenth of a mile I sped up again to run the last mile of the 5K.

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3.12 miles in 40:42

Dude. Treadmills make me feel so slow. I seriously felt like I had just put in the same effort as I did in the Dockweiler 5K where I PR’d, and yet this time around I was going so much slower. I tried not to focus on that too much though; there were a few spots during the run where I noticed how strong I was feeling, or how I’d hear a song that matched my cadence perfectly and made me feel like I was unstoppable. It felt awesome.

Plus, I had already seen a bunch of Nuun Year Dash results online, and it wasn’t like I was going to win any speed prizes, so I opted to just bask in those few moments of strength and awesomeness. I walked some more to cool down, stretched, and drove home feeling awesome. And thirsty:

Bling bling!

Bling bling!

So, after that rambly tale of my treadmill adventure, what about the race itself?

Pros:
-I love the swag. Super soft, nice-fitting t-shirts are awesome, and bling is always fun.
-I like running for charity, and the ones Nuun has chosen for their virtual races have been ones I feel good supporting.
-It’s really cool following the other runners’ exploits on social media. My facebook feed was teeming with fun photos from all over the country, and I loved getting to see the diversity of places as well as the runners/walkers themselves.

Cons:
-As much as I loved following the races of my fellow runners, the social media aspect turned into a bit of a deluge. However, this could have been easily remedied if I had chosen to unfollow the event on facebook; it was much more manageable on instagram and twitter. I felt like a bit of a spoil-sport unfollowing the event though, so I just ended up ignoring my phone put up with all the alerts.
-If you want to be eligible for prizes, you have to submit a link to your time on the results reporting page – so a link to Garmin connect, MapMyRun, Nike+, etc. If you’re like me and you ran on a treadmill, but don’t have the fancy accelerometer foot pod things to track your distance on the ‘mill, then you have no way of proving your activity. Like I said earlier, I didn’t run fast enough to be anywhere near a prize category, but it was still a bummer to be unable to submit “legit” results.

So, to sum up? Nuun – and FitFam, the virtual running organization who took care of the race logistics – puts on a fun virtual race, probably the best I’ve done. (To read recaps of my other virtual races, you can go here, here, here, or here.) Compared to the others, Nuun’s races definitely have had more of a sense of community, which is impressive given that it’s a virtual event. The others I did were basically just an excuse to get a medal… there wasn’t really any connection with other participants.

All that said, I think I’m going to hang up my virtual racing shoes, at least for now. The first three I did were honestly just a way to get more running bling, but I’ve come to feel that bling earned virtually just doesn’t feel as awesome as bling earned in person. Maybe it’s because the medal tends to arrive in the mail before the run even takes place? Whatever the reason – and not to knock virtual races at all – I think I’ve reached a place in my running where I don’t need the bling incentive to make me go out and run; I’m finally doing okay getting out there on my own, and prefer to share my races with other people (IRL, not virtually). Race day atmosphere is something you really can’t replicate virtually! I mean, never say never, but… I think I’ve officially hit the “been there, done that, got the t-shirts, next!” phase with virtual races.

What are your thoughts on virtual races – yay, nay, or eh?

Christmas 2 Give 5K, 19 December 2015

What: 5K

Where: Los Angeles, California (course map)

Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew

Benefited: Back on My Feet… possibly a few other groups that I don’t remember

Time: 33:10 (course PR!)

Recap:

I ran the Christmas 2 Give 5K back in 2013 (read my recap here), and was totally taken by surprise at the intensity of the “moderately challenging” hills described on the website. I found it very challenging, had to walk most of the course, and ate a big slice of humble pie after scoring PR after PR after PR in the months prior. Regardless, it was fun to run in a new state, and the views of LA were fantastic:

After finishing the race in 2013

After finishing the race in 2013

As my injury-laden 2015 was coming to a close, I knew I’d be visiting the in-laws in California for Christmas again, and my mind turned toward those killer hills at Elysian Park. At the start of November I set this race as a goal to motivate me to get back running and doing my PR exercises, but – given my terrible luck with DNSing races this year – I was hesitant to register in advance, just in case.

By the time we arrived in LA and were met with hyped-up nieces and nephews and seemingly non-stop plans for our time there, I threw worries about my dodgy metatarsal to the wind and signed up… the race was a good excuse to get the heck out of the house and have some much-needed running-to-clear-my-head time, injuries be damned!

Hello hills, I have returned!

Hello hills, I have returned!

The morning dawned bright and early (and smoggy), and we drove the near-empty freeways up to the park. Bib pickup was mostly easy; I had pre-registered too late to be in the system, but they took my word for it (and didn’t even look at the confirmation email I brought up on my phone), and had me fill out another registration form, without having to pay again. I got my bib and my shirt, then wandered off to warm up.

Super excited to be warming up in Elysian Park

Super excited to be warming up in Elysian Park

It was chilly enough for my legs to be super goosebumpy, but I knew once I started running it would be the *perfect* temperature… low- to mid-50s at gun time.

I was keeping an eye on my metatarsal as I warmed up, but I should have been paying more attention to my formerly dodgy knee… as I was running in place and chatting with Drew, I got a sudden shooting pain in my right knee. It was painful enough that I couldn’t put weight on it for a few minutes, which was not a good sign! I was determined to do this race though – I couldn’t face another DNS, and I wanted the medal at the end! – so I resigned myself to take it easy and walk if needed.

Waiting for the gun...

Waiting for the gun…

I positioned myself at the back of the pack and started the race nice and easy… for a few seconds anyway.

I think this is my "Take it easy take it easy take it easy" face.

I think this is my “Take it easy take it easy take it easy” face.

I hadn’t accounted for the walkers, so I gently maneuvered my way through and around them, and then found myself cruising along comfortably. However, the beginning of the race is mostly downhill, so I was cruising comfortably at a pace between 8:30 and 9:30. Oops. Not exactly taking it easy, but it felt amazing. My knee had stopped hurting, my foot felt fine, and it felt good to run, so I just went with it! I couldn’t stop smiling like a goofball.

I kept thinking how different the race felt from 2013. Maybe it was because I knew about the hills I’d be facing this time, whereas last time they were a surprise, but the race felt so much easier this time around. In 2013 I had to stop and walk halfway up the first hill, but this time I ate those frikkin’ hills for breakfast! I didn’t have to take a walk break until somewhere around the Mile 2 marker, when the course becomes a series of switchbacks climbing up a ravine:

Blue arrow shows crazy cutbacks

Blue arrow shows crazy switchbacks

Before that part though, I was all smiles. Here I was, dodgy foot, dodgy knee, hadn’t been running or training, like, at all (in 2013 I had been running quite a bit leading up to the race), and yet I was steaming up these hills like no one’s business. Was it all the hills I was scaling in my MiniYeti challenge? Was it the tiny bit of strength training I’d done with my PR exercises (compared to the absolute zero strength training happening in 2013)? I don’t know, but it was awesome.

Conquering the first hill - easy peasy lemon squeezy!

Conquering the first hill – easy peasy lemon squeezy!

I'm still running! So happy!

I’m still running! So happy!

So happy! And pointing!

So happy! And pointing!

One thing I enjoy about this race (and Christmas in LA in general) is how bundled up nearly everyone is. Apart from me and a few high school/college cross-country runners, everyone else was in sweatshirts, hats, tights, etc. My favorite was the third guy from the left in the picture below… I heard him before the race telling someone “Today is the perfect day to bust out my man-tights!” as he pulled up a gaiter around his face. Dude, it was like 55. It’s all what you’re used to, I guess. Gotta love LA.

cold

About to scale Hill #2

About to scale Big Hill #2

I scaled it! I'm still running! I'm still smiling (kind of)!

I scaled it! I’m still running! I’m still smiling (kind of)!

After that second big hill, which totally killed my mood in 2013, the course hits a few more big downhills which added to my giddy momentum. But I knew what was coming… the climb up the ravine. I gave it the ol’ college try, and made it farther than I did last time, but my quads were dead after scaling all the previous hills without stopping. Plus, the course shrinks down at the start of the climb, making it impossible to pass people without shoving them into the brush, and I got stuck for a bit behind two guys who were walking. I took it as a welcome break, and then when the path widened again I passed them and tried running. I run-walked the rest of the switchbacks.

Drew caught me (dead center of the picture) during a small burst of running

Drew caught me (dead center of the picture) during a small burst of running

After the switchbacks, the course takes a sharp turn straight up a steep hill that ends at the paved area where the start/finish line is. In 2013, Drew snapped a picture of me crawling up that hill (it may have been posed, but it accurately reflected how I felt!). This time, I stuck out my tongue and sagged my shoulders, but I was still upright! I walked up the hill, took a few swigs of Drew’s water bottle, and walked the rest of the flattop to catch my breath.

Walking the flattop, totally oblivious to the water stop on my left.

Walking the flattop, totally oblivious to the water stop on my left.

At the other side of the flattop was a nice steep downhill, and I knew I was about a half-mile from the finish. I ran the downhill, letting the momentum give me some speed, then struggled as the course flattened again. I knew that if I could only keep going I’d beat my time from 2013, something I didn’t think I’d be able to do with all my injuries and lack of training, and that’s what kept me pushing.

The last little hill took everything I had in my tank, so it was all I could do to make it the last few yards to the finish. I set my sights on the young girl ahead of me, just trying to keep up with her. I didn’t have anything left for my traditional sprint to the finish, but the “32:–” on the finish clock lifted my spirits enough for an arm pump:

IMG_20151219_083909472_HDRAnd then I was done!

Amazingly my form looks pretty good here!

Amazingly my form looks pretty good here!

Here, not so much. But it's a great shot of Dodger Stadium.

Here, not so much. But it’s a great shot of Dodger Stadium.

That Rudolph medal felt earned, man.

That Rudolph medal felt earned, man.

I was also pumped to wear my “Runners Republic” shirt Drew got me for my birthday… only fitting to christen it in California!

And a picture on the other side of the hill, to get the rest of the view

And a picture on the other side of the hill, to get the rest of the view

I totally had a runner’s high at the end of this race. I’m always competitive with myself when it comes to finishing times, but I didn’t expect to beat 2013’s time so soundly, especially after my knee niggle right before the race. I also didn’t expect to feel so fantastic for the first 2 miles! When I saw the finish line clock at 32-something I was so pumped – outlier PR aside, my fastest 5K time is 32:43, so I was utterly stoked to be getting so close to that time, given my lack of fitness and the course’s monster hills.

My official time ended up being 33:10, which, while still amazing considering everything, totally bummed me out. The race was chip timed, so since the clock read 32-something when I crossed, I figured it would be a few seconds in my favor, having crossed the start line several seconds after the gun. Oh well. I feel better about the result now, but when I first saw it, it harshed my runner’s high pretty severely. What can you do?

Anyway, as I donned my medal and basked in the glory of conquered hills, my knee started hurting again. Kind of a lot. I hobbled around the various tents by the finish line, searching for ice or a medical tent or something, but to no avail. I had to make do with a cold protein shake, which actually worked pretty well:

Improvised ice pack

Improvised ice pack

I’m happy to say that, after proper icing sessions later that day and the next, my knee now feels fine. My dodgy metatarsal hasn’t been any more dodgy than usual, and I picked up no other niggles, despite charging around that race at a mental-for-me pace. Huzzah! I’d say this race is one goal that was met emphatically 🙂

Run Ride Hydrate, 3 July 2015

What: Virtual 5K race

Where: Los Angeles, California (course map)

Who: Me and Drew, running virtually with other Nuun Athletes

Benefited: Girls on the Run

Time: 40:16

Splits:
Mile 1: 12:27
Mile 2: 11:54
Mile 3: 14:40
Mile 3:1: 1:16

Recap:

A few months back, I got an email from Nuun about a virtual race they’d be holding for Nuun Athletes/Nuunbassadors. You could sign up for a 5K run, 10K run, or 15-mile bike ride, and get a swag pack with a t-shirt, medal, temporary tattoos, stickers, and a Nuun tab. Unable to resist swag and having much #nuunlove, I signed up right away, and even roped Drew into (unofficially) running it with me.

photo(9)The dates for the race, July 2-5, fell during our vacation to California, and I was excited to blaze new-to-me trails in LA-LA Land. And, since Drew’s legs protest mightily whenever he runs on hard surfaces, the trails we’d blaze would be literal trails. Trying to find Drew-friendly trails that weren’t a ridiculously long drive away took some research, but we finally settled on the Ballona Wetlands near Playa Vista.

photo(16)The morning of the 3rd started out nearly perfect for a run – low 60s and cloudy – but we soon realized that the humidity wasn’t messing around; it clocked in at a soggy 93%. After walking to warm up and some dynamic stretching, we set off on our run. I was planning a 5:1 ratio of running to walking to test out my knee, and that seemed to work pretty well for both of us.

photo(11)Navigating the wetlands was a little trickier than we had anticipated… Drew thought there were trails that looped through the area, and there were, but many seemed to be off-limits. We logged most of our mileage along the open path that ran around part of the perimeter, and may have accidentally ran through part of an off-limits trail because the gate on one side was open (oops!), which makes for a somewhat awkward course map, but miles is miles, right?

photo(10)The first mile was a little slow but comfortable, and I got a bit cocky and picked up the pace for the second mile. It was around that time that the marine layer decided to burn off, leaving us running in full sun and still nasty humidity. All that combined meant that the third mile was TERRIBLE… we walked more often and made a long stop at the car for water before pushing ourselves to just get it over with. I think I cheered when Simon finally said 3.1 miles! We trudged a half-mile back to the car as a cool down, posing for an exhausted selfie along the way:

photo(15)Going against my unfortunately usual routine of late, I was good and made sure I stopped to stretch as soon as we found a tiny patch of shade. I was rewarded by not having any weariness or soreness in my legs at all, not even the next day! Huzzah!

photo(18)It was fun to follow the hashtag #runridehydrate on Instagram to see how other Nuunies were doing and where they were running, and the virtual race was the motivation I needed to make sure I got at least a little exercise during a vacation that involved a LOT of sitting in the car! Plus, the few hiccups that popped up before the race (getting my packet sent to me in LA and getting my account set up for reporting my results) were fixed in a quick, friendly manner by the folks at Nuun and Gametiime. Cheers, guys!

And now I’ll leave you with a few photos of my views from the run in the Ballona Wetlands:

photo(12)photo(13)photo(14)photo(17)Have you ever accidentally (or not-so accidentally, I won’t tell!) run in off-limits areas when exploring new trails?

The Worcester Running Festival was a Wash… Literally

Back in April I signed up for my second half marathon – the Worcester Running Festival half. I felt like it was far enough away that I could train for it, and I always like running races in my home city (like the WFD6K and Canal Diggers, both of which I’ve run twice).

When my knee went wonky on me, it took me a while but I realized that the half would be out of the question. Even if it felt better in time to run the race, I wouldn’t have trained at all. So a few weeks back I switched my registration to the running festival’s 5K, and after a successful WFD6K last week, I was looking forward to another test of my knee. (Plus, this race had bling to look forward to!)

wrfRain lurked in the forecast, and by Saturday it was looking like it was going to be one wet race – 100% chance of rain and thunderstorms in the morning. Gun time was set for 7:15. I packed all black running kit so that I wouldn’t be a soaked, see-through mess, plus SmartWool socks, a visor with a big brim, and a rain jacket. I had studied Running World’s piece on dressing for the rain, and I was ready!

Drew and I arrived in Worcester Saturday night, and the sky was already spitting a bit. Given the super early gun time, we had splurged for a hotel a few blocks away from the starting line in order to avoid a 5am (or earlier) departure time from home the morning of. After a quick supper at Uno’s, I read and tried to psych myself up to run in the rain, which was sounding more unpleasant to me the more I thought about it. Plus, I’d likely be running with a headache, since I had been fighting one off all day and it didn’t show signs of subsiding.

What my evening looked like

I got an email from the race director around 5:30 saying that bib pickup and the post-race party would be held in a underground parking garage – instead of on the common – in an effort to keep everyone as dry as possible. That sounded altogether unpleasant as well… thousands of sweaty runners crammed in a small, low-ceilinged garage in thick humidity. Ugh. But better than standing in the pouring rain, I suppose!

After a night of not-great sleep on a hard hotel bed with trains blowing their horns relentlessly at 5am directly across the street, I dragged myself out of bed when my alarm went off at 6am. With a just-shy-of-blinding headache sitting over my right eye, I changed into my Ninja Kit (TM) and stared out at the pouring rain for a bit:

View out the hotel window, taken the night before when the streets were significantly less wet

I was really not feeling this run, but I really wanted that medal, and I wanted to run again, dagnabbit, dodgy knee be damned. On a whim I checked my email, and there it was – the cancellation. It had landed in my inbox at 5:55am, 5 minutes before packet pickup was about to begin:

The weather has changed for the worst with lightning predicted for the duration of the event. I cannot send runners and volunteers out into an environment where someone could get hurt. Again I am extremely sorry to have to announce this at such late notice. I will reschedule the event as soon as possible and let everyone know the new date as soon as possible.

For a brief second I was disappointed, then that changed to a flood of relief. I didn’t have to run in the driving rain with a searing headache! I didn’t have to feel bad about making Drew and my dad huddle under umbrellas as I ran! I could go back to sleep!! I threw my PJs back on and got another 3 hours of suboptimal sleep and it was glorious.

Also glorious was the peanut butter, Fluff, and banana french toast I had at the Miss Worcester diner, where we took my dad for Father’s Day brunch:

Look at this! The diner had a separate menu just for french toast!

Unfortunately I was unable to finish this thing of beauty… WAY too much food!

Despite my giddy relief about not having to run yesterday, I’m still a little disappointed that I didn’t get my sweet medal. And, given my luck with these sorts of situations in the past, I’m assuming I won’t be able to run the rescheduled race. I suppose we’ll see. For now, my Worcester Running Festival experience was a wash, indeed!

Have you ever run a race in the pouring rain? How did it go? Any tips to share?

Which stuffed french toast would you pick off that menu?
It was so hard to choose!