Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park 10K, 3 September 2016

What: 10K

Where: London, UK (course map*) aka, my first international race!

*This wasn’t the exact course we ended up running, due to another event being set up for later in the day. We ended up going down by the stadium on the “Old River Path” a few times.

Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew

Time: 1:17:49

Splits: none, because Simon failed me, losing all memory of the race as soon as I paused him at the end. Boo.

Note: This recap is way overdue. Please see my last post for excuses!

Background

You may be asking, “What the heck were you doing running a race this far afield? London??” That is a good question, observant reader(s). A few days prior to this race, I was attending a conference for work in Wembley…

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Quick pause for a Wembley Stadium selfie!

Having attempted to run an international race a few years back but being thwarted by a race cancellation, I really wanted to fit one in this time around. However, I didn’t want to take over an entire day of sightseeing or what-have-you just so I could get some foreign bling, plus I wasn’t sure how ever-more-pregnant me would handle a 10K. I figured I’d see how Beach 2 Beacon went, and would decide then. Since B2B went quite well, and with Drew’s supportive “you never know when you’ll get another chance to run a race in London… go for it” in my head, I searched for races and landed on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park 10km Series.

The race sounded pretty cool – running around a park where Olympians roamed four years ago?? – and came with bling and a goody bag, so I was won over pretty easily. I signed up, found a hotel close to the Overground which would allow for easy transit to the race, and eagerly awaited the big day.

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A view of (part of) Olympic Park

Pre-race

After I carboloaded with some tasty ramen the night before, race day dawned not-so-bright and early. I was pleased with the overcast sky that looked like it would spit rain at any moment… at home it was still in the high 80s and I had been looking forward to cool race weather!

Drew and I hopped on the Overground and made our way to Hackney Wick, then strolled to and through Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. We had stayed nearby a few years ago, when the park was still at the early stages of reconstruction, so it was fun to see all the work that had been done since. We had the ArcelorMittal Orbit (the weird reddish tower in the above photo) as a homing beacon, and it led us to the race start area and packet pickup. Pickup was super easy and quick, and I spent the rest of pre-race time trying to both stay warm and poke my own pin holes through the bib, which didn’t come with any pre-made.

After a very half-hearted warmup on my part, a man with a megaphone (who shall henceforth be referred to as Megaphone Man) started strolling through the crowd of runners, reminding us all to double-knot our laces and treating us to witty banter in a Cockney accent. He then led us all in a group warm-up:

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(Note the not-so-overcast sky in those pictures… I was beginning to regret not bringing a hat or sunglasses at this point.)

After some butt-kicks and jumping jacks and sky punches, we made our way over to the 2012 Walk, where the start/finish line was. It was nice and shaded, and looked charming, and I had hope in my heart that it would be a lovely race:

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The start from Drew’s point of view…

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…and from my point of view at the back

The race

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Drew caught a picture of a bunch of charity runners dressed as monkeys

I wanted so badly to take off with most of the rest of the pack when the starting gun went, but I forced myself to hang back and take it easy. Though B2B had gone well, a month had passed since that race, and I was now carrying more baby weight and was unsure of how my body would handle running 10k.

The first little portion of the race was decent – down the shady flat path, marveling at the fact that I was actually running a race in another country – and both Drew and the race photographer caught me looking chuffed to be running:

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Photo: Drew

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Photo: Basil Thornton

Not long after those smiley pictures, however, things went downhill. It was hot. And sunny. I was thoroughly unprepared for hot and sunny. I hadn’t hydrated enough (surprise!), hadn’t brought water like almost everyone else had, and hadn’t brought sunglasses or a hat, so I was squinty and worried about sunburn. Plus, I was really feeling the extra baby weight. Things were more jiggly and, as a result, quite sore, and I also got out of breath very quickly. I had to stop to walk before the first mile clicked by.

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Stopping to walk meant I could take pictures!

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And then I started to run so I could take a running selfie. I was all ready to be done!

The course was mostly exposed to direct sun, so I was hot and red and sweaty and unhappy pretty quickly. There were also more hills than expected; the race description mentioned “slight undulations” but we had to scale some steep ramps to get onto bridges, and our detour included more hills than the usual route. I walked a lot, more than usual (with my midwife’s “listen to your body, stop whenever you get any pain” echoing in my head), and found myself soon getting lapped by the lead runners.

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About to get lapped by fast people

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Trying to muster a smile for Drew

Right after the above picture was taken, the course took us past a huge crowd of cheering people. Drew later told me that Megaphone Man had rallied a bunch of random passersby together so that we could have a cheering section! That was a fun little surprise.

The first water stop wasn’t too long after, and I savored my drink as I took a slow walk break in the shade. I had two laps to go, and I was mentally and physically done already. I strongly considered stopping, since I knew Drew was close by, but then I thought of the finisher’s medal and how I didn’t want to have my first international race also be my first DNF. So I soldiered on.

I started to hate the scenery. Three laps of the same thing gets very old when you no longer want to be running, no matter where you are. I kept taking frequent walk breaks, pausing every now and then to shove a Percy Pig – my chosen fuel – in my gob. (While tasty, those little suckers are hard to chew while walking, let alone running! I missed my Honey Stingers.)

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Struggling up a hill on the last lap

Two of the course marshals helped me carry on – one saw me struggling during the first lap and yelled out encouragement, then remembered me on subsequent laps and kept saying awesome things to me. The other saw the Shamrock on my singlet and said things as I struggled past, but her Irish accent was so thick I couldn’t make out her words! They sounded friendly though, and I like to think she was looking out for me especially because of the Shamrock. Seeing Drew at the end of each lap was a huge help too!

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Struggling up the last hill!

I can’t even express how happy I was to crest that final hill, knowing the finish line was close! I considered trying for a sprint finish, but the worrywart in the back of my head didn’t want to overdo it.

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Nearing the finish!

And then Megaphone Man appeared. I was a little ways behind the lady in front of me, and as he saw the two of us approaching, he started yelling that we should “make it a race!” and have a photo finish. The other lady had earbuds in and didn’t speed up at all, despite his goading her:

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Megaphoning into her ear

So he turned his megaphone on me and started shouting encouragement, urging me to beat the lady in red. So I thought, what the heck? I enjoy the first picture in this next series (all courtesy of Basil Thornton), because you can see the exact moment I tried to kick it up a notch – arms flailing and goofy look on my face:

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Clearly I didn’t beat the lady in red (she was going just a little too fast for me to catch up, though I did get close!), but I did manage to remember what Megaphone Man told us all we had to do at the finish – put our hands up. He joked that results wouldn’t count if our hands weren’t up, and that made looking through the race photos pretty fun – almost everyone has their hands up!

I made a bee-line for the water table, sucked down a couple cups’ worth (I was one of the last finishers, so didn’t think taking multiple cups was bad), and then stumbled off to get my goody bag and bling.

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So red, so sweaty, so tired… so happy to be done

I then made Drew hang out for a bit so I could hop up on the podium they had set up. Clearly I hadn’t won anything, but other people were leaping up for photo opportunities and I decided it would probably be the only time I’d have a podium picture, so darnit, I was going to make it happen:

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I can almost safely say that I was indeed the first place preggers American!

Mission accomplished, we set off for Stratford tube station, making a quick stop at Marks and Spencers so I could get some food to refuel (the recovery drink in the goody bag had sucralose in it – boo!). I got some interesting looks as I stood in the corner of the mall between M&S and the tube station, sweaty and wearing tiny shorts while pounding a milky coffee beverage and shoving chocolate in my face, but whatever – I had just finished my first international race despite really wanting to DNF, and was enjoying my runner’s high.

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Bling

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Goody bag contents

In the end, I’m so happy I opted to run a race while in London, even if I had been cursing myself while running the thing. I may have finished 313th out of 327 runners (91st out of 99 ladies), but I finished! And, once the runner’s high kicked in and my body forgot about the pain and exhaustion, I realized I’d even had a bit of fun too. It was a cool experience to run through an Olympic park, let alone experiencing an international race for the first time, and it will be fun to tell my wee running buddy about it someday 🙂

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Worcester Running Festival Half Marathon, 19 June 2016

What: Half marathon

Where: Worcester, Massachusetts

Course Map:

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Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew

Time: 02:42:50

Splits: (according to Simon)
Mile 1: 11:21
Mile 2: 12:33
Mile 3: 13:25
Mile 4: 11:57
Mile 5: 12:12
Mile 6: 12:22
Mile 7: 12:42
Mile 8: 12:45
Mile 9: 13:16
Mile 10: 13:14
Mile 11: 12:39
Mile 12: 11:25
Mile 13: 11:18
Mile 13.1: 1:59

To read a nitty-gritty race-specific recap, check out my review on BibRave!

To read about my pre-race (mis)adventures and neuroses, check out my last post.

Quick background: This was my second half marathon, and I didn’t train properly at all. My longest training run for it was a mere 5 miles, and the farthest I’d run in 2016 was a 10K. So it’s fair to say I was a little nervous going into this race!

I was grateful that I had splurged on a hotel room close to the start, because not only did it mean extra sleep before the 7am start, but it also meant I didn’t have to suffer the porta-potty SNAFU that happened before the race. Rumor had it the porta-potty delivery man got lost on the way to the race, and there were no porta-potties on-site until right before the race started. Oops! They opened up City Hall so the runners could use the bathrooms in there, but I heard there weren’t many stalls, so the line was ridiculous. It ended up delaying the race start by 10 minutes, as the race director wanted everyone to have a chance to use the loo if they needed.

At last everyone was gathered at the start, and after Beyonce sang the national anthem (recorded, unfortunately… would have been ridiculously awesome if she had been there!) we were under way.

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Eventual winner leading the pack on the left.

It was forecast to be about 87* F (30.5 C) by 11am, so I was also grateful for the early start! It was in the low 60s at start time, and I was almost a little chilly in my minimalist kit. I wasn’t complaining!

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As usual, being goofy after crossing the start.

In addition to my run club singlet, I was rocking my Under Armour shorts that are so light and cool that they feel like they’re not even there… only without the awkward naked feeling. I love them.

I was also trying out an EnduraCool multi-cool thingie (the wicked bright orange scarf thing around my neck), which one of my Shammie friends had been raving about in recent weeks. Knowing how terrible I am in the heat, I liked the idea of having a cool thing to put against the back of my neck to keep my temp down. It was a little awkward and floppy, and the part against my skin warmed up pretty quickly, but all it took was a quick adjustment and it was cool again. Plus, when kindly locals were handing out ice along the course, it was a perfect place to store it, and kept it from melting for way longer than I expected. That was pretty sweet.

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Is that an excited smile, or a grimace-smile trying to mask my worry?

The first mile was through downtown and had a nice downhill section, and I was feeling pretty good. Mile 2 was also decent, and had some shady bits near Elm Park which were nice.

My plan going in to the race (or, at least the one I sort of came up with as I ran the first mile and realized I should have a plan) was to stop every mile to have a short walk break and a chew, and to take water at every water stop, along with another walk break. Also, I told myself it was totally okay to walk anytime I started feeling even a little bit fainty… having not trained, and knowing how hot and hilly this race would be, I knew I wouldn’t be gunning for a PR. My only goals were a) to finish, however long it took, and b) to stay conscious, even if it meant walking slowly for most of the race.

There were a good number of runners near me for the first 2.5 miles, and I was leapfrogging with several who were also run-walking. One of my worries going in was that I’d be the only run-walker and that I’d finish last, but that worry was completely unfounded. And anyway, there’s no shame in finishing last… I’ve done it before!

The feel of the race changed a bit between miles 2 and 3, when I hit The Hill. Worcester is known for its hills, and I knew going in that at least one of its famous hills would be part of the course. Thankfully the hill came early in the race… at first I was annoyed that I hit it so early, but then I tried to think about how much worse it would have been if The Hill had happened in Mile 12! Yeesh.

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Google Street View of the start of The Hill. Notice the lovely shade and an example of the giant houses that line the street!

Against my better judgment, I tried to run The Hill. Slowly, but still. Maybe it was all the hills I ended up accidentally scaling during my training runs, but it didn’t feel too bad, at least for a while. I made it maybe halfway or 2/3 of the way up before I needed to walk the rest, and that was enough to put me in front of all the runners I’d been leapfrogging. I ended up being on my own for a few miles starting at this point, which was a weird sensation. Especially when I’d come upon a turn without obvious course markers and had to cross my fingers that I was going the right way.

Luckily The Hill was shady and populated with giant, gorgeous houses that I could look at and distract myself with. And, when I got to the top, there was a small group of people with cowbells cheering me on, offering high-fives, and shouting “You’ve beaten the hill! That’s the worst part of the race!” That was awesome!

The next mile consisted of winding my way downhill through quiet, shaded neighborhoods. I liked the downhills, but it was a bit boring and lonely for that stretch. That is, until I took a walk break and a guy came out of nowhere to pass me, yelling “Pretty far from the pond, eh?” and pointing at my singlet. I was silent with confusion for a second or two, then he yelled “You’ve been pacing me this whole race so far! Keep it up!” and took off. Turns out he was the only other runner from my city in the race, and – as I found out later when I caught up with him – he does most of his running at my favorite pond path. Small world!

The next mile was pretty uneventful, except for the sparkliest water stop I’ve ever seen. There were tables on both sides of the street (this part was out-and-back, so the lead runners were starting to pass me going the other way) that were decorated with shiny streamers, and people were ringing cowbells and cheering. One lady had a giant bucket full of ice, and I took some to tuck into my EnduraCool, where they melted slowly and kept me cool for a few miles. One of the neighbors had his sprinkler going for us, too. I loved these people.

At the end of this street, just before Mile 6, we turned onto Mill Street for my least favorite stretch of the race. We ran right on Mill St. for a while, then turned around and ran the other way for a long time, then turned around and ran back. For nearly four miles we were on an endless, nearly shadeless, stretch of road that had nothing to look at along it. Well, at one point there was a pond with a little beach, but that was it. It was all woods, fields, and abandoned-looking buildings, with a few houses in the middle bit. It was bleak. Some of my slowest miles happened along this stretch, and I walked a lot. It was also open to traffic, and cars were coming awfully close to our narrow little coned-off running section. I didn’t love it.

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A particularly bleak stretch of Mill St., courtesy of Google Street View.

The only bright spots along this stretch were 1) the aid station that had Honey Stinger gels, and 2) my pond-runner buddy. I caught up to him early on during this stretch, when he was walking. He grinned and said “welcome back!” and we chatted for a bit as I took a welcome walk break with him. Turns out we had both missed the race last year and had taken the deferment, but then neither of us had trained beforehand, him due to injury and me due to, well, me being me. We ended up leapfrogging each other a few more times, each time shouting encouragement to each other. That definitely helped me get through the Mill St. stretch!

My chews ran out at Mile 9, and I stopped at Mile 10 to take the gel I picked up at the aid station. I’d never had a gel before – chews have always been my fuel of choice – and wow. (I know, I know… never do anything new on race day.) I should have taken it near a water stop because I almost choked on its sweetness and it made my mouth so sticky. But, it also gave me a serious kick start; once I started running again after taking it, my legs didn’t feel as tired and my energy levels definitely went up. It was like a miracle gel. Cheers, Honey Stinger!

The rest of the race from there was a repeat of earlier bits of the race, so I had an idea of the terrain and knew how many more water stops there’d be. Other than those water stops, I ran (and somehow negative-split) the last 5K. I think I just really wanted to be done running at that point!

As I got to the last .1, I kicked it as hard as I could without wanting to faint. I turned the last corner and spotted Drew, making sure to make another goofy face at him:

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Plenty of porta-potties by this point!

I have a memory of smiling big at the photographer at the finish line, but my picture says otherwise:

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Sigh. I made this pic small because it’s much too terrible to look at larger.

I was handed a bottle of water and a medal immediately after crossing the finish (yessss!), wandered off to some shade, and tried to stretch. My legs were so wobbly. Drew found me, and together we waited for my race buddy to cross the finish so we could cheer for him. Then I wobbled off to find a snack – there was plenty of pizza (at 10am, ugh) and a handful of bananas left, so I grabbed a banana before attempting stretching again. I also posed for a hometown pride photo:

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Wormtown represent!

…then wobbled off back to the hotel for ice cold water, a protein shake, and a much-needed shower. I had finished! And, somehow, despite the heat, the hills, and the lack of training, my finishing time was only 5 minutes slower than my other half, which was run on a cool day in October on a flat course. Not too shabby!! However, despite pulling off a surprisingly decent race, I think next time I’ll make sure I train. And… maybe no more summer halfs. I think one was good enough.

On Actually Completing a Challenge

Readers, I did it! I actually finished a challenge! Please excuse me while I do a brief victory dance:

Where was I? Ah yes. This accomplishment feels particularly sweet because I generally have such a hard time following through with goals and challenges and such (see my last post… as well as many of my others), and this time I actually did it! I saw it out to completion and achieved official MiniYeti status!!

I first mentioned my MiniYeti challenge back at the start of December. My gym has these fantastic pieces of equipment called Expresso Bikes, which feature tv screens and allow you to basically play video games while you ride. It’s awesome.

I had noticed a few challenges pop up in my email after I signed up for an Expresso account, but never paid them much attention… partly because I didn’t feel like I was going to the gym enough to complete one, and partly because, well, I know myself and know I don’t do well with these challenge things.

This time was different. I was recovering from a dodgy metatarsal, had the OK from my ortho to ride bikes, and was actually going to the gym regularly enough where I felt like I could do it. Plus, there were different levels of the Yeti challenge, and the MiniYeti (completing 6 hilly courses) seemed doable.

MiniYeti courses complete!

MiniYeti courses complete!

I cruised through the first 4 courses relatively well, and was all cocky and “Oh, I only have 2 more to do before the end of December. This was easy peasy!” And then Drew and I went to California for over a week, and then suddenly it was December 30 and those two courses were still sitting there, minus check marks. Well, crap.

I had New Year’s Eve off from work, and decided I’d get to the gym no matter what to finish my challenge. I was like a woman possessed… I did not want to fail at yet another fitness challenge! Drew and I had to do some fancy juggling of our car, but he dropped me off and I made a bee-line to the bikes, which were thankfully unoccupied.

At this point, as I did a warm-up lap of the virtual track, I started to get a bit intimidated. The two courses left were both over 5 miles, and I hadn’t ridden much more than 5 miles at a time on the bike, like, ever. I had my trusty bottle of Nuun and a packet of Honey Stinger chews in case I started to feel fainty, and dove in to Billy Goat Falls. Holy hills, Batman! At one point I was going up a 47% grade… even having recently conquered real-live hills didn’t prepare me for this particular ride on the struggle bus.

Simon Pegg = me, basically (source)

Simon Pegg = me, basically (source)

When I finally crossed the finish line after having slowly climbed up a snowy, virtual mountain, I was questioning my sanity a bit. Was my excessively elevated heart rate and sweaty, huge, red face (that was attracting double-takes from almost everyone who walked by my bike) worth completing a silly little challenge?

Yes. Yes, it was.

After a few swigs from my Nuun bottle, I selected the next course and jumped right in. And you know what? I kicked arse. Maybe it was because Broken Spoke was a more gradual incline and so felt easier after Billy Goat Falls, maybe I was just warmed up, or maybe I just hit The Zone, but I totally cruised that level. It was like my final mile of that half marathon I did last year, when I felt like a machine and couldn’t have stopped if I tried… I was a total bike machine!

And what made the whole machine-like feeling even better? The giddiness that came from knowing I was finally finishing a challenge, and not giving up after a few half-hearted tries like I’ve been know to do in the past. I was totally getting the runner’s high feeling, but while riding a stationary bike and knowing I still had a few miles left to go. I felt great! I felt proud. I felt strong. It was awesome.

I finished that level and half expected some kind of fanfare… maybe just an email from Expresso like “Hey! You did it! You’re a MiniYeti!” Instead, I drank some more Nuun, cooled down a bit, stretched, and walked home like a boss. I completed the challenge, I surpassed 10 miles on the bike, and I now know that the walk home from the gym isn’t too bad. Plus now I have a cool little yeti dude under my avatar on my Expresso profile. So that’s neat.

My virtual challenge trophy case is empty no more!

My virtual challenge trophy case is empty no more!

It’s pretty cool knowing I’m starting 2016 having owned a fitness challenge at last! Now that I know I can actually do it, I may even be looking for more…

Have you ever completed a challenge and felt totally badass about it?
Or are you like me and generally quit and/or avoid them?

Are you doing any fitness challenges at the moment, or have any coming up?

Tales of Turkey Trots and News Good and Bad

Happy Monday! I hope you all had an excellent weekend, and that those of you who celebrated Thanksgiving had a happy one!

Now, where to start?

I guess I’ll start with the bad news: I may have reinjured my dodgy metatarsal.

Sigh... (source)

Basically my reaction to this news. (source)

Let’s backtrack real quick to two days before my Treadmill Run of Glee. I was at work, doing normal worky things, when I started feeling ghost pains on the ol’ metatarsal. I knew I was going to try my first run that weekend, so the timing was pretty crappy. It lasted maybe 5 minutes… ever-so-slight twinges that were almost not even noticeable. I tried to stifle a sense of dread and went on with my day.

I carried on with my plans to run because the pain didn’t return after that one instance… I thought hoped it was a fluke. Then I got the same ghost pains on the way home from that run. And then the next morning it hurt to put my sock on. Nooooooooo. 😦

I emailed my ortho and may have threatened to chop off my foot. He chose to ignore that threat and told me “no impact for a week,” and that if it still hurt he’d see me again to check it out. Not a bad diagnosis given the 6-8 weeks I was just off, except…

Thanksgiving was during that one week of no impact activity, and Thanksgiving was the annual Shamrock Turkey Trot! I’d been so excited to run it, and had even had bought a silly turkey hat for the occasion! Plus it was also my birthday, and I really wanted to start the day off with some Shammies fun. Boo.

Well, every cloud has a silver lining, right? I emailed my friend E to see if I could still partake in the (in)famous after-party if I didn’t run, and turns out she got injured too, and was also under doctor’s orders not to run for a while. We made plans to walk the Trot together, and I felt so much happier about it all.

Thanksgiving dawned bright and early (the Shammies meet at 6:30am for this run!) and I was instantly so happy that I dragged myself out of bed so early. I’ve missed these people!! I donned my festive hat:

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…layered up in preparation for a chilly walk, and then everyone took off on a 4-mile run:

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Running off into the gray morning

E and I were at the back of the pack with N, a fellow injured Shammie, and I started walking only to have E and N start jogging. Wait, whaaa?

Okay, sure, this is fine. It’ll be good to test out my foot to see how it feels. We’ll go slowly and gently into this good morning. No worries. … Yiiiiikes.

We all agreed we’d take it easy, and if anyone started hurting we’d stop and walk the rest of the way. And you know what? My foot didn’t hurt at all! Not during, not after. This injury is a curious one.

All in all we ran 1.68 miles and I managed to run the whole way. I was huffing and puffing and felt so incredibly out of shape, but it felt so good to run, even if it was against my better judgement! With E’s encouragement I even ran all the way up the Hill of Doom, which I’ve never been able to run up without walking before. Boo yeah!

It was pretty awesome running around town in that turkey hat. One lady actually stopped, even though she had a green light, to let E and I cross in front of her, laughing and yelling out her window that she’d never hit a turkey on Thanksgiving. I got lots of waves and felt like a celebrity!

The rest of the club trickled back into the parking lot and our Turkey Day feast began. One guy opened the back of his truck as a table and we tucked in on all the pastries and, um, “special” coffee and other beverages people had brought. I met some new-to-me Shammies, learned that a few share my home city (Woo represent!), and caught up with people I haven’t seen in months. It was fantastic.

I love these people (source)

I love these people (source)

And now I’m in the midst of my no-impact sentence. My foot has felt fine since the day after my treadmill run, so I’m kindling yet another flame of hope that it was nothing and that I’ll be okay to continue running soon.

And the good news (in addition to my naughty Turkey Trot)? I got word that I’ll continue to be an ambassador for both Nuun and Honey Stinger next year! I was so pumped… I love both brands and am so happy to be able to keep representing them in 2016!

Have you ever had an injury that just wouldn’t go away completely? 

How was your Thanksgiving?

Worcester Firefighters Memorial 6K, 14 June 2015

What: 6K (~3.73 miles) road race

Where: Worcester, Massachusetts (course map)

Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew and my dad

Benefited: Worcester Firefighters Scholarship Fund, Community Harvest Project, Genesis Club, American Society for Suicide Prevention, and NEADS

Time: 43:44 Personal record!

Splits (according to Simon*):
-Mile 1: 12:27
-Mile 2: 11:43
-Mile 3: 12:10
-Mile 3.6: 7:26
*My splits are a bit off because I started Simon late

Race swag:

I love the design of this year's shirt but - again - the small is way too big for me!

I love the design of this year’s shirt but – again – the small is way too big for me!

Recap: This was the second year I ran the WFD6K (you can read my recap of last year’s race here). As I explained in last year’s post, this race means a lot to me as it’s a memorial for the Worcester 6, the six firefighters who gave their lives protecting their city (my hometown) during the Cold Storage Fire in 1999. This race has been run in their memory every year since 2000, and has grown every year; this year there were 1500 participants, according to the race director.

Thankfully it wasn’t as hot for the race this year as it was last year… last year (if I remember correctly) it was in the upper 80s and very humid. This year, the temperature at gun time was 78 and it wasn’t too bad humidity-wise. It was definitely still a hot race to run – especially with a midday start, a high in the 80s, and not much shade on the course – but it certainly wasn’t as bad as last year. This year I made sure to hydrate properly, downing 96oz of water and Nuun the day before, as well as 32oz before the race. I remembered my red, throbbing head from the year before, and I wasn’t messing around this time!

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Before the race

Packet pickup was a breeze. Each preregistered runner got an email a few days prior with their bib number, saying to hang on to the email to make pickup quicker. The bibs were organized by number, so knowing yours beforehand definitely sped things up (they also had everyone’s numbers posted in case people weren’t sure). The registration tent this year was actually down in the park adjacent to the start/finish line, whereas last year it was on the sidewalk and very crammed. Much better this way!

With our bib we got a tech t-shirt (see swag above), which unfortunately ran very large. I went back to the shirt people to ask if they had anything smaller than a small, but the guy just shrugged and told me to eat a few ice creams before wearing mine. So Drew will inherit yet another of my sweet race shirts. Oh well! With our shirts we also got bags full of papers – ads, coupons, race apps, brochures… basically a small tree.

Worcester Firefighter Pipes and Drums marching before the start of the race

Worcester Fire Brigade Pipes and Drums marching before the start of the race

I sought out some shade to pin my bib and don sunscreen, then waited in the long but fast-moving porta-potty line (there were maybe 9 or 10 porta-potties total), and, again remembering how rough last year’s race was, started warming up. Last year I didn’t warm up at all and my right calf gave me grief for the entire first mile. This year I made sure I had plenty of time to do some high knees, butt-kicks, skipping, quad-stretch-toe-touching-thingies, toy soldiers (or “Hitler walks” as Colin used to call them), hackey-sacks, and the leg-swinging stretches. I’m still working on fine-tuning my ideal warmup routine, but felt pretty good about this one. My dad found us about 10 minutes before gun time for a good-luck hug, and then he and Drew set off one way while I made my way to the back of the pack at the starting line.

My view of the starting line from the back of the pack

My view of the starting line from the back of the pack

The one complaint I have about this race is what happened next. Around 11:15/11:20, the lady on the PA was telling everyone to get to the starting line, as gun time was set for 11:30. The vast majority of people obeyed and we all milled around, finding good spots in the crowd, and waited for the start. Then, at 11:30, announcements started. The race director talked for a while, then handed the mic over to a few others. Balloons were released in memory of the Worcester 6, some more people talked, and then the national anthem was played. And then they requested a moment of silence. And then, after some more talking, the fire engine horns signaled the start of the race… 15 minutes after the race was supposed to start.

I understand that this is a very special event for the city of Worcester and for the firefighters and their families. That’s the whole reason why I run this race! Moments of silence and ceremonial gestures are special parts of the event. But if you’re going to make announcements and thank sponsors while all the runners are standing in the beating midday sun, for the love of god, please don’t ramble on for 15 minutes! Had I known that there was going to be that amount of talking, I would have moved off the course and stood in the shade. People around me were beading with sweat just standing there. Plus, being in the back, we couldn’t hear about two-thirds of what was being said anyway… most people around me didn’t even join in the moment of silence because they all started talking excitedly after the national anthem and didn’t hear the announcement (either that or they were just rude, but I like to think not). By the time the race finally got going, any warming up people had done before toeing the line was probably moot. It was a little ridiculous.

And we're (finally) off! I'm 4th from the left, looking super serious.

And we’re (finally) off! I’m 4th from the left, looking super serious.


Drew caught me (circled) a few minutes later, giving a thumbs-up and happy to be running once again

Drew caught me (circled) a few moments later, giving a thumbs-up and happy to be running once again

My plan for the race – in addition to the general rule of TAKE IT EASY – was to run-walk a ratio of 4 minutes to 2 minutes. My PT had recently bumped me up to 3:2 (running for 3, walking for 2) and I figured I’d try a 4:2 at the start to see how it felt.

The first half-mile or so was spent dodging so many people. Knowing I’d be walking part of the race, I started at the back, but in front of people who were talking about walking the whole thing (there were no pace signs). I was amazed at how many walkers had started so far up the pack, but as I was clearly not gunning for any time records, I just calmly bobbed and weaved (gently) and did my thing.

During my first walk break I was passed by some firefighters in their gear

During my first walk break I was passed by some firefighters in their gear

Despite my best intentions with my warmups, my right calf was a jerk again for the first mile – just like last year. (Though, to be honest, by the time the race *actually* started, did my warming up even matter?) However, I was chuffed at how I felt otherwise… I felt great! Landmarks that had felt so far into the race last year were appearing way faster than expected, like the hairpin turn and the fire station with a hose out to spray runners. I felt like I could run for more than 4 minutes at a time, but didn’t want to overdo it.

Drew and my dad were waiting just before the course crosses at Mile 2. They were in the same spot last year, when I had to force myself to run when I saw them… I was already struggling in the heat pretty bad by that point. This year, however, I was feeling amazing and greeted them with my arms in the air and a huge grin:

Arms aloft in victory

Arms aloft in victory

Just past this point in the race, the faster runners started passing us on the other side of the street, and we dipped down into a lovely, shaded tunnel for a bit. I high-fived a few runners going the other way, and I was keeping my eyes peeled (with no success, sadly) for Day of the Dead arm sleeves so I could yell “Go LunaSea!!” I ran through the second water stop, high-fived some firefighters who were road guards, and was chugging along quite happily until about Mile 3.

Mile 3 was when I realized my head was throbbing and that I was quite warm, actually. The one thing that was keeping me going was that I knew a water stop was coming up… except by the time I got there the water was hot. Not refreshing at all! So I steeled myself to just keep going until the next spot where firefighters the year before had been spraying runners with a hose… except they weren’t there this year. When I realized that, I slowed to a walk and broke out my packet of Honey Stinger chews that I had brought just in case.

What I forgot was that at that point in the race, I was so unbelievably close to the finish line! Simon had turned off during the epic pre-race announcements (even though I had managed to save him from power-saving twice) and I didn’t get him started until I was already a ways past the starting line, a fact which I had forgotten by this point and I still thought I had quite a distance to go before the end. I struggled with the packet of chews for a bit and was just stuffing the first one into my gob when I realized that I could see the finish line. I crammed another chew or two in and then steeled myself to run the rest.

Flashing Drew a smiley thumbs-up as I approach the finish line

Flashing Drew a smiley thumbs-up as I approach the finish line

Last year I had managed to sprint the uphill finish, but this year I didn’t want to exacerbate my knee problems so I just cruised relatively easy up the hill. A cluster of people were in front of me, crammed over on the right side of the road, but the finish line stretched the whole width so I moved over, passed the little cluster, and felt like a rock star with half the course to myself:

Huzzah!

Huzzah!

I floated across the finish, slowed to a walk, and made a beeline for the water table and, of course, the giant misting fan. A million thank-yous to the Sutton Fire Department for bringing that thing to this race each year! After standing in the cool mist with a huge grin on my face, I met up with Drew and my dad and we walked off to the post-race party to get some snacks.

Post-race party in Institute Park

Post-race party in Institute Park

There was an ice cream truck giving out free ice cream (yay!) so I grabbed one and then found a quiet, shady spot behind the bandstand where I could sit and ice my knee, which had bravely carried me the distance:

Ice packs and ice cream

Ice packs and ice cream

We sat for a while, enjoying the cool shade by the pond, and I couldn’t stop smiling at the fact that I had just run (run-walked, but still) a race after 5 weeks of only the most minimal bouts of running since being diagnosed with patellofemoral syndrome, and that my knee wasn’t hurting! We heard the pipes start up and wandered over to the other side of the bandstand to watch the WFBP&D play:

photo(12)My dad ran over to the posted results to see how I did, and came back with a report of 43:something… I had PR’d even though I was taking it easy! As it turned out, I finished about 3.5 minutes faster than last year. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to run it injury-free!

I love the WFD6K. I don’t like that it starts at 11:30… if it were during the winter I’d be okay with that, but mid-June? Ugh. I also didn’t like the long-winded announcements at the start of this year’s race. Otherwise, it’s awesome. I love the course, I love that the road guards are mostly firefighters and that they applaud and thank the runners (many of whom thank the firefighters too), I love that the fire station we pass puts out a hose to cool us down, I love that runners high-five each other when our paths cross at the tunnel, I love the Pipes and Drums, I love the post-race party, I love the charities that benefit, I love that we run for the Worcester 6… I love it all, and I hope to run this race every year for many years to come!

Running Favorites

I have a few posts that are overdue, including a race recap, but haven’t had the time to sit down and bang them out yet. Remind me again why I thought taking a class during a super busy chunk of my life would be a good idea?! Oh, that’s right… because when I registered for the class I didn’t know 80 other things were all going to happen at once. So it goes.

Anyway, in lieu of those posts, here’s a quick and fun running questionnaire as a placeholder to remind everyone (including myself!) that I am indeed still here 🙂 Thanks to Fallon at Slacker Runner for the tag!

Running Favorites:

1) Location: Trail, Road, or Indoors?

Can I be diplomatic and say all three, depending on the time of year and weather conditions? I do most of my running on roads/sidewalks, and I like that just fine. However, during the winter (especially this past winter we are only now slightly emerging from) I’m not quite badass enough to deal with the ice and running in the roads, so indoors tends to do the trick. I do prefer indoor tracks to treadmills, though. And trails… how awesome does a nice, shady trail feel in the middle of summer when the roads are sweltering? So nice.

Stopping for a photo in the middle of a lovely, cool trail run last year

Stopping for a photo in the middle of a lovely, cool trail run last year

2) Time of Day: Morning, Noon, or Evening?

Evening. I’m not a morning person, and noon running just brings to mind thoughts of midday sun and red, throbbing faces (read: mine). I do most of my running in the evenings, so it’s what I’m most used to. However, I’m not opposed to a nice runch (lunchtime run) when it’s not a hot, summer day and I actually have the time, nor would I turn down a morning run if I could actually haul myself out of bed.

3) Weather: Sunshine, Mild or Hot?

Mild! I do not do well in the heat. My ideal running weather would be cloudy and low-50s, even upper-40s.

4) Fuel: Before, After, and sometimes during?

I try to fuel before but usually don’t do a great job (excepting the amazing job I did with fueling before my half last October!) If I’m grabbing fuel before a workout it’s usually a Honey Stinger waffle or some sort of energy bar, or if it’s before a race it’s usually something along the lines of a bagel with peanut butter and a banana. Mid-run I’ll opt for Nuun or, if I’m running for longer than an hour, I’ll usually bring along a packet of Honey Stinger chews. After a run I’ll typically grab a chocolate milk… and if it’s after a race and there’s a diner nearby, usually chocolate milk and banana pancakes!

5) Accessories: Music, Watch & More?

Definitely my Garmin (pre-Garmin it was my phone and MapMyRun) and my RoadID bracelet. That’s usually it. 99% of the time I ran it was with Colin and we’d chat as we ran so I never brought music along, and just got used to running without it. Sometimes I’ll bring headphones if I know I’m going out for a long solo run, but my earbuds tend to bounce out of my ears anyway so it’s more of nuisance than a help.

6) Rewards: Food, Wine, or …?

Food for sure! See above comment about banana pancakes 🙂

Or blueberry pancakes. I'm not picky.

Or blueberry pancakes. I’m not picky.

Also, lounging on the couch is a pretty nice reward too.

7) Type of run: Long, tempo, intervals, hill repeats, progression, or recovery/easy?

Oof. You know, I might have to go with intervals. They appeal to my natural preference for short distances and allow me to run faster than I usually do, which makes me happy. I always feel like I’ve accomplished a nice, hard workout once I’m done too, which is a nice feeling.

I nominate…

Darlin’ Rae

2 Generations Running

redfacedbutrunderful

Jess Runs Happy

Run Away With Me

And anyone else who wants to take part, either in the comments or in a running faves post elsewhere!

Adventures at the Gym: Take 2

Nearly a year ago I wrote about a little adventure I had at the gym on campus during last year’s Get Fit challenge. It wasn’t an exciting adventure by a long shot, but it did involve what I incorrectly said was my first treadmill run (I had forgotten about that one time I ran on the treadmill during college), as well as tourists taking my photo through the window while I got very red and tried not to faint, and then I took classy selifes in a random basement bathroom:

photoSadly, that adventure was my lone excursion to the gym last year… talk about an absurdly expensive gym visit! Even with the significantly discounted trial membership… holy smokes! When Drew and I joined a gym in our city last month, I made the conscious decision to not let such a colossal waste of money happen again.

And then we went the rest of the month without going to the gym. Good job, guys!

Well, last night we finally christened our memberships, hoping that at least some of the New-Year-New-Me people would have slowed down their resolution gymming so we could actually fit inside the building. It was still a bit crowded, but we were able to get our gym on, so I consider that a success.

My gym history is a bit checkered:

  • Tried out the high school gym once during the winter, which really meant draping myself on the equipment with my friends while we chatted, only to be chased away by football players who actually wanted to work out.
  • Went to the gym with my roommate about 3 times sophomore year of college, which consisted of her hogging the single elliptical machine while I either embarrassed myself on the rowing machine or rode one of the stationary bikes.
  • Took a weight training class senior year, during which I was left unsupervised to figure out my own circuits. Mostly used the elliptical machine I never got to use sophomore year.
  • Got a trial membership during Get Fit ’08. Ran around the indoor track once or twice, then played around on the elliptical the two other times I went. I am clearly obsessed with elliptical machines.
  • Joined my local gym in the last town I lived in. Took the introductory personal training session in an attempt to figure out what I was doing. Almost fainted due to the intensity. Returned to the gym one or two more times, but was turned off by the level of meat-head-ery that was present.
  • Got another trial membership last year. My solitary visit is chronicled here.

…so, as you can imagine, I was a bit overwhelmed last night as I tried to figure out what I should do. I had googled “good gym workouts for runners” on my phone during the ride over, but failed to get any advice on the sort of machines I should be using. Thankfully Drew was there to give me some pointers.

I warmed up with 2 miles on the stationary bike, which was a) awesome because it has a tv screen with a little course you can follow that includes inclines and stuff, and b) not a very gentle warmup because my competitive side took over and I wanted to beat all the little computerized cyclists on the course with me. So basically I wore myself out within my first 10 minutes in the gym.

After Drew and I had cycled for a bit, we stared at all the machines and tried to work out a plan of attack (read: Drew did that while I chugged Nuun and tried not to collapse thanks to my jelly legs). Drew figured a legs day would be good (despite the fact that I already had jelly legs), so he took me around and showed me how to adjust and use each machine. We worked on quads, hamstrings, calves, hips, and our backs for good measure before stretching and calling it a day.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Holy weak hamstrings, Batman! My hammies were my hardest workout, and the only part of my legs I couldn’t complete reps for. This is good – now I know just how desperately I need to work on them!
  • This wasn’t news to me at all, but my calves are tight. Tighty-tight-tight. Stretching my left calf – even as gently as possible – at the end of the workout made my eyes water. This needs to be fixed.
  • For my next legs day, I need to remember to wear compression shorts under my regular shorts… or 2-in-1s. The hip abductor machine is not so much fun without them. Thank God that machine faces a wall.

    Hip abductor machine (source)

    Hip abductor machine (source)

  • I need to eat better and properly hydrate before gymming it up. I’m embarrassed to admit what I ate for lunch yesterday, and I felt pretty dehydrated leaving work. That meant I was guzzling Nuun and shoving plain spaghetti in my face before scarfing some chews on my way to the gym. Not the best approach.
  • Leg workouts of the type I was doing yesterday might not be the best idea when I’m recovering from tendonitis in my foot. I may have set myself back a bit again 😦

I have a feeling my gym adventures will be much more plentiful than they were last year, which bodes well for my Get Fit minutes! (It helps having a husband who wants to work out too, because with our powers combined we managed get ourselves out the door.) I’m looking forward to working on my arms and core too, especially after doing so poorly with my pushup test at the Get Fit kickoff event on Wednesday, as well as seeing how this cross-training helps my running!

How do you fuel/hydrate before going to the gym?

Do you have any good workouts/circuits you’d recommend to a newbie?